Top State Stories 3/9
WA: ‘Mandatory measures’ under consideration to combat coronavirus in Washington
Washington state officials are considering mandatory measures for social distancing to combat the coronavirus outbreak, said Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. Inslee didn’t disclose many details about the actions being contemplated but did say “social activities” could be curtailed.
GA: Lawsuit settled, giving Georgia voters time to fix rejected ballots
Georgia voters must be quickly notified when election officials reject their absentee ballots, allowing them time to correct problems and have their ballots counted, according to a settlement with the Democratic Party.
PA: Pennsylvania governor wants power to declare public health emergency
As concern increases in Pennsylvania over the spread of the coronavirus, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the legislature to give him the power to declare a public health emergency.
IN: Indiana governor would sign bill that could oust attorney general
Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he supports an elections bill that could prevent the state’s embattled attorney general from holding office. The proposed legislation was amended in the House in response to an Indiana Supreme Court disciplinary case against Curtis Hill, which alleges he inappropriately touched four women.
AL: Bill would lift yoga ban in Alabama schools, but don’t say namaste
Alabama state lawmakers might lift a decades-old ban on yoga in public schools, but the bill would keep the greeting “namaste” on the forbidden list. The bill says that local school systems can decide if they want to teach yoga, poses and stretches.
CA: California governor warns capacity to handle cruise ship outbreaks limited
California should expect the number of coronavirus cases to keep rising statewide, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said, as the state prepared to receive a cruise ship bearing some passengers and crew with the disease. The governor warned the state does not have the capacity to handle many more cruise ship outbreaks.
NY: New York governor calls on federal officials to allow private labs to test for coronavirus
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow state-approved private labs to handle coronavirus tests, saying New York state’s seven labs could handle 1,000 to 2,000 tests a day. Cuomo also called on the federal government to allow the tests to be done by automation.
RI: Rhode Island legislators seek to draw line in sand
Rhode Island state lawmakers propose a bill to bring clarity to the age-old question of access to the shore. The House measure would carve out a new exemption in state criminal trespassing law: People wouldn’t be arrested for trying to exercise their constitutional privileges within 10 feet of the most recent high tide line on the sandy or rocky shore.
MO: Hundreds show up at Missouri Capitol to protest and praise library bill
Drag performers and LGBTQ advocates gathered at the Missouri Capitol to protest a bill that could prohibit drag performers from reading at children’s story times in Missouri public libraries. It would prohibit “age-inappropriate sexual material” in public libraries across the state. Librarians who violate the act could be fined $500 and be imprisoned for up to one year.
VT: Governor’s tax credit proposals draw mixed response from Vermont Democrats
Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s budget includes about $8 million in new tax credits and economic development incentives. But many don’t look like they’ll gain traction this year.
MN: Minnesota legislature may have found way forward on emergency insulin
A new Minnesota Senate bill aimed at helping diabetics who can’t afford insulin might break a months-long deadlock over the issue.
TX: Texas university cancels in-person classes
Texas’ Rice University in Houston canceled all in-person classes and undergraduate labs this week to avoid spread of the new coronavirus after an employee tested positive. The development came days after Austin canceled the massive South by Southwest festival.
AK: Alaska employee wins suit over transgender surgery
An Alaska legislative librarian who is transgender paid thousands in out-of-pocket costs for surgical treatment because the state’s health insurance won’t cover sexual reassignment surgery for transgender employees. Jennifer Fletcher argued this violates Title VII — the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination. A U.S. district judge agreed.
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