What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/24
US: Math scores fell in nearly every state, and reading dipped on national exam
U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to an authoritative national exam, offering the most definitive indictment yet of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on millions of schoolchildren.
FL: Judge tosses challenge to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill
For the second time in about a month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation restricting teaching on gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
LA: Louisiana Supreme Court won’t allow new trials for ‘Jim Crow’ split-jury verdicts
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago that felony convictions could no longer be secured with a non-unanimous jury in Louisiana and Oregon, the last two states that had such a threshold. But Louisiana’s highest court has handed down an opinion that said the ruling doesn’t apply retroactively, meaning some 1,500 felons currently in prison on split-jury verdicts won’t get a new day in court.
ID: Federal prosecutor announces task force to target COVID fraud in Idaho
U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced the creation of the District of Idaho’s COVID-19 Fraud Task Force, made up of “a broad group of law enforcement agencies, with prosecutors who will work jointly to hold accountable criminals who unjustly enriched themselves at the expense of taxpayers by defrauding economic aid programs.”
IA: Iowa-made pasta sparks lawsuit over alleged ‘Made in Italy’ marketing
A pair of consumers are suing the owners of Iowa-made Barilla pasta, claiming the company falsely suggests the products are made in Italy. The federal lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed by plaintiffs who allege they purchased Barilla angel hair pasta and spaghetti last year, believing it was made in Italy with “authentic” Italian ingredients.
VA: Virginia directs 60K voters to wrong polling place for midterms
State elections officials directed more than 30,000 Northern Virginia voters to the wrong polling place in mailers sent ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, an error they acknowledged and blamed on the private printing company that produced the notices.
WA: Heartache, anger in Central Washington over drinking-water wells tainted by 'forever chemicals'
Yakima Training Center is one of five military installations in Washington state where PFAS was used and then later detected in drinking water wells in neighboring communities. Since the summer of 2021, the Army has been investigating the spread of these chemicals to residences around the training center by paying to test wells.
OR: Many Oregon school districts launch plans to boost 3rd graders critically behind in reading
Confronted with evidence that huge shares of elementary pupils read significantly below grade level after years of pandemic-impacted schooling, Portland-area school districts are mounting varied approaches to boost literacy in the earliest grades. An overwhelming number of Oregon’s third-graders showed extremely low reading and writing skills at the end of last school year.
MI: Michigan's Proposal 1 would alter term limits and require financial disclosure for some officials
On Nov. 8, Michigan voters could make some big changes to how the legislature functions with a constitutional amendment altering term limits and introducing rules for financial disclosures for some elected officials. Proposal 1 would modify term limits for Michigan’s legislature to allow legislators to serve a combined 12 years in both the House and Senate.
AK: Alaska Federation of Natives delegates say lack of veterinary care is an ‘ongoing public health crisis’
The Alaska Federation of Natives wants federal officials to recognize that a lack of veterinary care in Native communities is a public health issue. At its convention in Anchorage, delegates to the state’s biggest Native organization adopted a resolution that calls on federal authorities to make a declaration that could lead to veterinary services through the Indian Health Service.
MT: Montana State Prison suspending visitation due to staffing shortage
Visitation for inmates at the over-capacity and short-staffed Montana State Prison will be suspended Oct. 31 until further notice. Employees have said the conditions are unsafe for both staff and people who are incarcerated.
NE: Supporters say Nebraska minimum wage hike would lift thousands out of poverty
If passed by Nebraska voters in the upcoming election, the proposal would raise the state’s minimum wage in steps from the current $9 per hour to $15 per hour by 2026. The measure also would provide for annual cost of living increases, starting in 2027.
SD: Voters on South Dakota Reservations report problems, despite recent lawsuit
Early closings still plague voting sites on South Dakota reservations. There was hope for improvement after a National Voter Registration Act lawsuit announcement last May.
TN: Tennessee to add 1,900 electric-battery jobs with aid of $490M in federal grants
Three new Tennessee factories will mass-produce lithium hydroxide and other battery parts used by electric-car makers as part of a larger federal effort to reduce the industry's reliance on Chinese companies.