Top State Stories 12/16
NV: Court stops Nevada from imposing capacity limits on churches
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of a Nevada church that argued Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s pandemic restrictions were a violation of the First Amendment, reversing a lower court’s ruling and prohibiting Sisolak from imposing further restrictions on churches.
OR: Oregon governor calls 1-day special session
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown will call Oregon lawmakers into a one-day special session to pass additional COVID-19 and wildfire relief legislation. Brown is asking the legislature to allocate $800 million to relief efforts, which could go toward helping tenants and landlords, as well as providing funding for vaccine distribution, contact tracing and wildfire prevention and preparedness.
ME: Maine nursing homes say some staff, residents reluctant to get vaccinated
Maine’s effort to vaccinate thousands of nursing home residents and employees against COVID-19 could take months and likely won’t lead to reopening long-term care facilities anytime soon, in part because some people in those groups have indicated they aren’t willing to be inoculated.
CO: Colorado schools missing 29,900 students
Colorado schools lost more than 29,900 students—a 3.3% decline—compared with the last school year, according to preliminary state data. The drop in enrollment means schools could see funding cuts and raises concerns about the well-being of children who haven’t been seen or heard from in months.
MS: Mississippi governor sparks debate after asking when leaders should receive vaccine
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, sparked a debate after asking the public whether state leaders should be among the first to receive a vaccination for COVID-19. In a tweet, Reeves said he’s received several messages from skeptics asking him why he hasn’t taken the vaccine himself, but he does not want to “be accused of cutting in line.”
CA: California orders more body bags and begins a vaccine safety campaign
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a public vaccine campaign and said the state recently purchased 5,000 additional body bags to be distributed in San Diego, Los Angeles and Inyo counties. He also noted that 60 refrigerated storage units are currently standing by in case of overflow from hospitals and morgues.
DC: District of Columbia Council approves bill that prioritizes rehiring laid-off hospitality workers
Many employers in the hospitality industry will soon be required to send job offers to workers they laid off during the pandemic as positions become available again, under legislation that passed a final vote in the District of Columbia Council.
SC: University of South Carolina could fine students who don’t take COVID-19 tests
The University of South Carolina will begin charging a fee to on-campus students who do not take monthly coronavirus tests. The fines, approved by USC’s board of trustees, would follow a warning, and students ultimately could be suspended.
NY: Poor New Yorkers wait out the health crisis in rundown public housing
Though the New York City Housing Authority has long struggled to keep up with repairs and maintenance at public housing developments, during the pandemic its backlog has soared from 375,310 open work orders in March to 474,790 in November.
IA: M in coronavirus aid to Iowa funds state police officers
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration is using $10 million in federal pandemic relief funds to pay the salaries of Iowa police officers, who have played only a small role in Iowa’s virus response.
OK: Oklahoma general revenue continues to beat expectations
COVID-19 and a global oversupply of oil and natural gas continue to weigh down Oklahoma’s state general revenue receipts, but not quite as heavily as budget-makers expected. General revenue totaled $446 million in November, which was 4.9% above the estimate but 4.5% below the value from the same month a year ago.
NJ: New Jersey religious leaders can challenge coronavirus restrictions, U.S. Supreme Court says
The U.S. Supreme Court told a lower court to reconsider a lawsuit brought by a New Jersey pastor and rabbi over their rights to conduct services despite limits on gatherings. In an unsigned order, the justices told lower court judges to take into account its November decision rejecting New York’s attempt to restrict religious gatherings.
WA: Washington governor unveils climate proposals
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, unveiled a new climate change package that includes a renewed push for a clean-fuels standard and capping some greenhouse-gas emissions. Other proposals would further electrify Washington’s ferry fleet, reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and bring equity into environmental policy.
HI: Study shows Hawaii’s pre-travel COVID-19 testing program found few positive cases
A state-commissioned study measuring the program’s impact on the spread of COVID-19 in Hawaii found few links to positive cases but also room for improvement. While nearly 346,000 people arrived in Hawaii between Oct. 16 and Dec. 1, the study period, the state has recorded just 226 known positive coronavirus cases.
NC: North Carolina governor seeks information from feds on vaccine distribution
North Carolina officials say they’re not getting enough information from the federal government about how many vaccine doses the state will receive in the future. Officials expect that this week the state will receive 85,800 doses of the first vaccine. But Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said the state won’t know until Friday morning how much it will receive the following week.
MI: Michigan lawmaker punished for election violence threat
Fellow Republicans in the Michigan State House quickly condemned Rep. Gary Eisen’s on-air radio comments, which they described as a violent threat. They stripped Eisen’s committee assignments for the rest of the legislative session.
PA: As coronavirus rages in Pennsylvania, GOP lawmakers shift messaging but still reject mandates
Despite the worsening coronavirus surge, Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers largely have not changed their position on how the state should approach the crisis—emphasizing personal responsibility, not state mandates.
WI: Most Wisconsin nursing homes likely to wait two weeks for COVID-19 vaccine
State officials hope to have the majority of Wisconsin nursing home residents vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of January, but for most facilities the process of obtaining the vaccine won’t begin for at least two weeks.
LA: Louisiana school board rejects coffee tax break
Orleans Parish School Board members rejected $2.9 million in tax breaks for The Folger Coffee Co., exercising new rules that allow for a more critical look at controversial exemptions that have long been in place across Louisiana for industrial development.
MO: Missouri police academies to add lesson on history of policing in minority communities
A two-hour lesson on the history of policing in minority communities in America will be added to the curriculum for all recruits at Missouri police academies, a state police board decided. Topics like police enforcement of racist Jim Crow laws and recovering escaped slaves in early America will likely be part of the course.
MA: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules law banning panhandling violates First Amendment rights of homeless people
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said a state law, enacted in 1930, singled out and banned panhandling homeless people from public streets, while it exempted people from criminal charges if they were flagging down motorists to sell newspapers or roses.
MN: Millions in COVID-19 relief to move quickly to Minnesota residents, businesses
As soon as Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signs the relief bill, state and local officials must quickly identify and dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to thousands of businesses across the state. They need to extend unemployment insurance to more than 100,000 Minnesotans whose benefits are set to expire after the holidays.
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