What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/8
US: Mask mandates go away in schools, but parent worries persist
More major school districts are allowing students into classrooms without masks for the first time in nearly two years, eliminating rules that have stirred up intense fights among educators, school boards and parents throughout the pandemic. Parents, teachers and principals face a complicated balancing act in navigating the new rules.
UT: Utah’s school COVID testing goes from national model to abandoned failure
Utah legislators systematically chipped away at the state’s Test to Stay program until it had little hope of catching outbreaks before the virus spread between students, according to data and records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune and nonprofit news organization Documenting COVID-19.
TN: Corruption scandal forces Tennessee lawmaker to resign
A Tennessee lawmaker from the Chattanooga area resigned amid a federal corruption probe. State Rep. Robin Smith, a Republican, has been charged with one count of wire fraud, becoming the third legislator in recent months to lose her job.
FL: Florida says healthy kids shouldn’t get COVID vaccine, contradicting CDC
The Florida Department of Health is poised to officially recommend against giving coronavirus vaccines to healthy children. The state’s surgeon general said his department’s recommendation would be the first of its kind in the country.
US: States aren’t waiting for US Supreme Court to tighten abortion laws
Both sides of the abortion debate anticipate that come July, the U.S. Supreme Court will have overturned Roe v. Wade. But from Florida to Idaho, Republican-led state legislatures are operating as if Roe has already been struck down, advancing new restrictions that aim to make abortion illegal in as many circumstances as possible.
WI: Wisconsin treasurer calls on state to divest $90M in Russian assets
Wisconsin’s state treasurer said it should "immediately identify any direct investments in Russia held by the Wisconsin Retirement System, the State Investment Fund and other state trust funds" and develop a plan to divest from them.
NC, PA: Court rejects GOP redistricting plans in North Carolina, Pennsylvania
In a victory for Democrats, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned away efforts from Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to block state court-ordered congressional redistricting plans.
KY: Kentucky public pensions hold $62M in Russian investments, officials say
Kentucky has about $62 million invested in Russia through its major public pension funds, which cover several hundred thousand people, officials told an oversight board.
PA: Pennsylvania governor asks for $2M to resettle Ukrainian refugees
Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called on the General Assembly to set aside $2 million for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to support Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression. Wolf said the funds would help community-based resettlement agencies get services to the people who need them faster.
MI: Former Michigan governor plans to plead the Fifth in Flint trial
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, has moved to quash his subpoena to testify at a civil lawsuit related to the Flint water crisis and says he will invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination if required to take the stand.
TX: Women are finding other means to abortion despite Texas crackdown
The number of women leaving Texas to obtain abortions has grown tenfold since lawmakers here banned the procedure after early pregnancy, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.
WA: Washington state legislature stalls on efforts to preserve salmon habitat
Every year, more salmon habitat in Washington state is lost to development, setting back their survival despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent to save them. Yet two bills proposed this legislative session to preserve and help repair salmon habitat have failed.
KS: GOP looks to limit governor’s power on Kansas election laws
Republican lawmakers in Kansas support a measure to prevent the governor from entering into legal agreements that change state election practices without getting approval from the GOP-controlled legislature or its leaders. The bill responds to an agreement Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly reached in October with voting-rights groups to head off a lawsuit.
OH: Ohio governor offers millions to help find, replace toxic lead pipes
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced that more than $4 million in state funding will be used to find and replace toxic lead water pipes in communities around Ohio.
SD: South Dakota governor's projects held up
About $950 million in state projects favored by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem are mired in a legislative standoff with fellow Republicans. They include water and sewer projects, workforce housing, a cybersecurity campus and a shooting range.
AR: Lawsuit challenges Arkansas congressional redistricting plan
A federal lawsuit challenges Arkansas’ new U.S. House district lines, claiming the new boundaries violate Black voters’ rights and weaken their influence by splitting the Little Rock area among three congressional districts. The suit was filed by six residents, including two Black Democratic state lawmakers.