Top State Stories 8/20
MI: Michigan to pay M in Flint water crisis settlement
Michigan is expected to announce a $600 million settlement in civil cases filed by Flint residents over the city’s water crisis, a number that far outpaces other large lawsuits settled by the state in the last decade.
CA: California wildfire crews and equipment already ‘depleted’
California’s ability to fight wildfires, already compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic, is being severely strained by a rash of lightning strikes and a stupefying array of new fires.
MA: Most Massachusetts students will be required to get the flu vaccine this year
In what is believed to be a first in the nation, Massachusetts mandated that nearly all students under the age of 30 get a flu vaccine by the end of this year amid fears that concurrent outbreaks of influenza and COVID-19 in the fall could overwhelm the state’s health care system.
HI: Hawaii increases virus tracing program but health director says it’s too late
The spread of COVID-19 is so pervasive that even a beefed-up state contact tracing apparatus probably won’t be enough to contain the spread of the virus, Hawaii Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said.
UT: Utah students, staff who don’t wear masks in schools can be charged with misdemeanor
The potential criminal penalty for violating the order was confirmed by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert’s office. Spokeswoman Anna Lehnardt said it’s up to leaders of schools and charters to decide whether they want to seek charges as they respond to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
FL: Florida models smooth mail-in election
The votes were swiftly counted, winners were declared, and by about 10 p.m. most of the results of Tuesday’s primary election — one with large numbers of mailed votes — were known in Florida. The state was, in some respects, a model for a pandemic-era election.
IA: State teachers union, district sue Iowa over in-person learning requirement
A statewide teachers union and the Iowa City Community School District are asking a judge to block enforcement of GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proclamation requiring at least 50% of classes be held in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.
OH: New Ohio order allows limited spectators at sporting events of all levels
All of Ohio’s sports teams will be permitted to have fans in attendance for games, albeit with limited capacity, under a new sports order released by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.
OR: Oregon’s coronavirus watch list provides mixed results
Seven weeks ago, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said the state would prioritize assistance to counties on a newly designated “watch list.” The surge strategy that the watch list designation prompts has provided a mixed bag of results so far, officials across the state say.
NY: State troopers sue New York City over criminalization of restraint techniques
The union representing New York state troopers alleges that New York City’s new codes conflict with state laws that give police officers the authority to “use physical force when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary” to make an arrest, prevent an escape or defend themselves or somebody else.
ID: Idaho governor sets date for legislature’s special session
Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, officially announced that there will be a special legislative session starting Aug. 24. Legislative leaders will head to Boise to discuss two main topics: the coronavirus pandemic and the November election.
UT: Utah’s lawmakers won’t extend COVID-19 state of emergency
Citing a lack of support among House and Senate leadership, Utah lawmakers said that they will not extend the governor’s state of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic before it lapses at the end of this week.
NE: Every registered Nebraskan will be invited to vote by mail in November
Every registered voter in Nebraska will receive an invitation to request an early ballot for the Nov. 3 general election if they wish, and that’s a move that is likely to prompt a record vote in Nebraska conducted substantially by mail.
AL: Judge allows lawsuit on Alabama’s curbside voting ban to proceed
A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit intended to allow Alabama counties to offer curbside voting to make voting safer and easier for people who are disabled or at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 can proceed.
IA: Iowa sends counties PPE, M to help with Nov. 3 elections
The personal protective equipment for Iowa counties will include face shields, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and social distancing markers. The $2 million comes from Iowa’s allocation of CARES Act funding and will go to each county based on the number of precincts.
PA: Law shields Pennsylvania administration from scrutiny of its coronavirus response
Pennsylvania officials are routinely citing the law to deny public records requests, but legal experts say the state can be more transparent — if it wants.
MO: COVID-19 cases in Missouri prison system increase 50% in less than a month
State figures show 333 new cases among Missouri offenders and staff since the beginning of the month; the department had reported 661 total cases until that point.
MI: Michigan prison staff must get tested
Michigan Department of Corrections staff who work in prisons will be required to get tested for COVID-19 under an emergency state order. All prisoners have been tested but staff testing was voluntary before the order.
IL: Illinois police agencies obtained .7M in military gear in 3 years
Since August 2017, Illinois law enforcement agencies have obtained 1,319 items worth $4.7 million through the military surplus program, according to a Tribune analysis of federal data. That includes several armored vehicles, assault rifles, combat boots, tactical vests that hold ammunition, night vision sniper scopes and “advanced combat optical gunsights.”
PA: Pennsylvania lawmakers worry ‘guidance’ for schools could lead to COVID-19 lawsuits
Potential liability should Pennsylvania students or staff become infected with COVID-19 at school is a top concern among some education leaders.
RI: Nearly 1 in 10 recent COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island had visited a restaurant or bar
Almost 9% of people who tested positive for the coronavirus over a week in early August reported having recently visited a bar or a restaurant, according to a Rhode Island Department of Health analysis. Many of them also may have overlapped with other activities, like social gatherings.
MD: Maryland’s highest court rules against food trucks
Maryland’s highest court ended a four-year legal battle by upholding Baltimore’s “300-foot rule,” which prohibits mobile vendors from operating within 300 feet of a competing retail establishment.
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