What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/3
NJ: New Jersey will accept Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian invasion
New Jersey “stands ready and able” to accept refugees from Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s military invasion of the country, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden. “We are a state built on the contributions of those who came here in search of safe harbor after leaving desperate situations,” Murphy wrote.
MD: Maryland health officers describe abuse, threats
Public health workers from different corners of Maryland told state lawmakers they felt threatened by residents and undermined by leadership at the state health department during the pandemic.
WA: Washington state to use controversial facial recognition system
Washington state is getting ready to roll out the ID.me facial recognition system dropped by the IRS last month over privacy and equity concerns. Washington’s Employment Security Department says it doesn’t use ID.me to verify the identities of people claiming jobless benefits—but plans to start doing so in June.
SD: South Dakota plan for Indigenous education stalls
South Dakota House lawmakers dismissed a proposal to fund two new schools structured around Oceti Sakowin language and culture, dealing a blow to Native American educators who have tried for years to get state support to rethink schooling in their communities.
FL: Florida governor chides students for wearing masks at his news conference
At a news conference in Tampa, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed irritation that a group of high school students standing behind him were wearing masks and urged them to remove the face coverings.
OR: Oregon residents often denied workers compensation for COVID illness and death
An Oregon employee’s chance of receiving workers’ compensation benefits for a COVID-19 claim depends heavily on the insurer their company has. Private insurance companies and self-insured companies have accepted less than 60% of the 1,531 claims they’ve reported.
MI: Michigan AG: Law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation
Michigan businesses must not be allowed to refuse service to clients simply because customers may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, argued Attorney General Dana Nessel before the state Supreme Court. The debate underscores what could be a foundational case in Michigan: whether the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, passed in 1976, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
MT: Dangerous levels of lead found in half of Montana’s tested schools
About half of Montana schools that had tested their water by mid-February under a new state rule had high levels of lead, according to state data. But the full picture isn’t clear because less than half of the state’s school buildings had provided water samples six weeks after the deadline.
MA: Massachusetts says it has 29K pending waiver requests for unemployment overpayments
In its most-detailed public accounting of unemployment insurance overpayments, Massachusetts said it had nearly 29,000 pending requests for waivers from workers who were later found to be ineligible for benefits or got bigger checks than they should have.
MN: Minnesota group home capacity shrinks amid staffing shortages
Minnesota lost 32 group homes in the last quarter of 2021, with 3,858 homes licensed to provide care to people with disabilities. Because their pay rates are set by Minnesota law, group homes find it difficult to compete with retail and other industries where hourly wages are increasing.
MO: Missouri prisons could soon have nurseries for incarcerated women’s infants
The Missouri House gave preliminary approval to legislation allowing incarcerated women to remain with their infant children while they are behind bars. In an emotional debate, lawmakers say the proposal will reduce recidivism and keep families together after a mother is released.
IL: Illinois ex-House speaker indicted on federal racketeering charges alleging array of bribery schemes
Illinois’ former House Speaker Michael Madigan, for decades the most powerful politician in the state, was indicted on federal racketeering charges alleging the political operation that the Democrat built was a criminal enterprise that provided personal financial rewards for himself and his associates.
CO: University of Colorado pulls investments from Russian companies
The University of Colorado is severing ties with publicly traded Russian companies, pulling money invested by the university’s foundation and treasury pool as an act of support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. The value of the investments is “negligible overall,” according to the university.
UT: Utah Senate moves to block cities from regulating ATVs
A Utah bill was expanded so that it would block cities from imposing any additional rules on businesses that rent or sell all-terrain vehicles, including side-by-sides, or UTVs. The amendments appear to be aimed at Moab and Grand County, whose elected leaders have imposed rules on the use of ATVs on city streets in response to residents’ complaints about the growing noise and emissions.
TX: A year after feds approve funds, Texas launches program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure
Texas is launching an $842 million fund aimed at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—a year after U.S. lawmakers approved the funds. Twenty-five states preceded Texas in getting federally backed programs up and running.