What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/22
CA: California’s governor promised 1M COVID-19 vaccinations. The state can’t tell if he hit his goal.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Californians to “hold me accountable” to a goal of administering 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in 10 days, but nearly two weeks later a series of data collection problems have left state officials unable to offer clear evidence of success or failure.
DC: All overweight District of Columbia residents will get priority for the vaccine
The District of Columbia plans to give priority for coronavirus vaccines to the broadest possible swath of people with preexisting health conditions—a decision that will make hundreds of thousands eligible for doses of the scarce vaccine and that some public health experts say might not make medical sense.
WA: Delayed software launch hindered Washington state's vaccine rollout
Washington's vaccine process was supposed to be streamlined by specialized mass vaccine software, but the state Department of Health didn’t launch it until Jan. 15, more than a month after the first COVID-19 doses arrived in Washington. The delay meant that pharmacies, doctors’ offices and hospitals were responsible for setting up their own systems.
TX: Texas governor pushes for ban on city police cuts
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott urged the Texas legislature to step in and forbid cities from cutting their police budgets. He also renewed calls to resist changes to city bail systems aimed at reducing imprisonment of poor people.
OK: Oklahoma lawmaker files bill to establish Bigfoot hunting season
The bill from Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey would direct the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to promulgate rules establishing the annual dates of the season and creating any necessary specific hunting licenses and fees. Humphrey said he doesn’t want people to actually kill Bigfoot, so he will be working with the state wildlife and tourism departments to craft final language for his bill that specifies only the trapping of the creature.
NE: Proposal would give Nebraska health officials more power
Local health officials across Nebraska could gain more authority to impose restrictions related to the coronavirus under a bill in the legislature. The bill would allow local public health departments across the state to impose restrictions related to the virus or other infectious diseases, without seeking state approval.
IA: Iowans 65 and older will soon be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines
Iowa will expand the groups who can get a coronavirus vaccine to people ages 65 and older, among others, starting next month, even though the federal government hasn’t yet sent the state more doses, officials said.
KS: Kansas seniors, essential workers are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines
Kansas seniors 65 and older and some essential workers such as teachers are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, said Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s office. The state’s Phase 2 covers about a third of Kansans, and includes those living or working in group settings, such as prisons and homeless shelters.
MI: A historic $641M settlement is reached in Michigan's Flint water case
A federal judge gave preliminary approval to the $641 million settlement agreement between Flint residents and the state of Michigan over the city's water crisis. The landmark settlement is likely the largest in the state’s history.
MO: After a COVID-19 outbreak at the Capitol, Missouri lawmakers announce an on-site clinic
Missouri legislative leaders said they are planning to open a rapid COVID-19 testing clinic inside the Capitol, after the annual session began with an outbreak of the disease. The clinic, led by a nurse, would be open to lawmakers, staff and others who regularly work in the Capitol, such as lobbyists and journalists.
OR: Oregon explores giving businesses a break on unemployment taxes
Oregon employers, facing three years of sharp increases in unemployment taxes, could get a break under proposals laid out at a state Senate committee hearing. The Oregon Employment Department had previously resisted curbs on the payroll taxes that fund jobless benefits, but now says it’s open to significant changes in light of the unique circumstances created by the pandemic.
MD: Maryland governor calls for students to return to classrooms by March
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the state school superintendent called on all Maryland school systems to bring students back to classrooms under a hybrid program by March, saying too many children are struggling to take part in their education and thrive.
CT: COVID-19 cases plummet in Connecticut nursing homes
Coronavirus cases in Connecticut nursing homes were down sharply for the second straight week, state numbers showed, possibly due to high rates of vaccination among such facilities’ residents. The state reported 238 new nursing-home cases from Jan. 13-19, down about 24% from the week prior and about 50% from the week before that.
MT: Montana lawmakers take up direct primary care
A bill heard in a Montana Senate committee would set into law that contracts directly between patients and doctors or other health care providers will not be regulated as insurance in Montana.
NY: New York lawsuit seeking NRA’s dissolution can go forward
A New York judge denied the National Rifle Association’s bid to throw out a state lawsuit that seeks to put the powerful gun advocacy group out of business. The lawsuit, filed by Democratic Attorney General Letitia James last August, seeks the NRA’s dissolution under state nonprofit law over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for trips, no-show contracts and other expenditures.
VA: Emergency legislation aims to speed up Virginia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout
A bipartisan group of legislators is sponsoring a piece of emergency legislation intended to accelerate the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine in Virginia. Virginia lags most other states in the percentage of its residents who have been vaccinated. The reason for that delay, said state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, a Republican who is a medical doctor, is an inability to mobilize a vast army of volunteer workers to put shots in people’s arms. His bill would do that.
FL: Florida limits coronavirus vaccines to residents
Citing a scarce supply, Florida is limiting the availability of coronavirus vaccines to state residents. A new order by Florida's state surgeon general reverses previous rules.
ID: Idaho House approves measure for legislators to call themselves into special session
Idaho House members, in a 51-18 vote, approved a constitutional amendment that would allow lawmakers to call themselves into special sessions. Republican state Rep. Steven Harris said legislators “all experienced a bit of angst” when they found themselves unable to call a session during the COVID-19 pandemic without the governor.
CO: Colorado town fights to keep Bureau of Land Management headquarters
President Joe Biden’s first day in office spurred to action a team of Mesa County “first responders” who are working to keep the federal Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado, amid concerns the new administration may move it back to Washington, D.C.
AK: Alaska has $200M for rental assistance, but applications aren’t ready
The money from December’s federal coronavirus aid package is 20 times the amount distributed last year to Alaska renters and homeowners. This time around, only renters are eligible.
WI: Wisconsin moves closer to finalizing Phase 2 of its coronavirus vaccine rollout
Almost 1.6 million Wisconsinites—including teachers, grocery store workers and prisoners—could be eligible for coronavirus vaccines in the next phase of the rollout, which goes to the state health department for a final decision this week.
DE: Delaware’s state Senate approves a constitutional amendment banning racial discrimination
The Delaware state Senate has unanimously passed the second leg of a constitutional amendment that bans discrimination based on race, color or national origin, adding the language to the Equal Rights Amendment. All members of the Senate also asked to be added as a co-sponsors of the measure, further signifying its unanimous approval prior to roll call. It now moves to the lower chamber.
ND: North Dakota Senate fails to hold oil executives responsible for environmental damage
The North Dakota Senate has rejected a bill that would have allowed the state to hold liable any corporate officer responsible for oil- and gas-related violations.
VT: Top Vermont officials back gun restrictions; state Senate action uncertain
Statewide, several Vermont officeholders threw their support behind a bill that would ban guns in hospitals, child care facilities and publicly owned buildings. But it’s unclear whether the legislation will attract the votes it needs to make it to the floor of the state Senate.
SD: South Dakota governor gifted Trump a bust of Mount Rushmore that includes his face
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said she gave former President Donald Trump a $1,100 bust depicting the president on Mount Rushmore last year because she knew it was something he wanted to receive.