Top State Stories 12/17

By: - December 17, 2020 12:00 am

OR: Judge rules Oregon correctional officials not shielded from liability for the coronavirus spread in state prisons

A federal judge has ruled that a suit against Oregon’s governor and state correctional officials, alleging they’ve failed to protect prison inmates from the spread of the coronavirus, can proceed. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman found that state leaders can face liability claims if they didn’t carry out safety measures according to policies adopted to stem the tide of COVID-19.

KS: Kansas mayor resigns over mask mandate backlash: ‘I do not feel safe’

Former Dodge City, Kansas, Mayor Joyce Warshaw is one of many public officials to resign over pandemic-related threats. She worried for her safety after aggressive phone calls and emails from Dodge City residents following an article by USA Today highlighting the Kansas town’s struggle with COVID-19 and the city’s mask mandate.

WA: Washington governor issues new standards, encourages reopening of some schools

In a push to get hundreds of thousands of Washington students to return to in-person learning, Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, announced new, less-stringent state standards that aim to push local school districts to reopen schools. The new standards emphasize returning the youngest students to schools first.

AR: Pandemic causes increased wait time for psychiatric care in Arkansas

Arkansans in a state of psychiatric crisis may find themselves waiting up to a month to secure a bed in an inpatient psychiatric facility. The wait is due to an increase in people seeking help with symptoms of anxiety and depression amid the pandemic.

TX: Texas sues Google over ads

Texas is suing Alphabet Inc.’s Google for anticompetitive conduct. The case marks the second antitrust action against the search giant after the U.S. Justice Department filed a landmark monopolization case against the company in October.

HI: Election officials want to tweak Hawaii’s mail-in voting law

Hawaii Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago plans to ask the legislature for changes to Hawaii’s mail-in voting system that could make it easier for officials to open more in-person voting sites and give voters more time to fill in their ballots.

UT: Utah lawmakers may deny bonus to Salt Lake City educators

Utah lawmakers are planning to add at least $400 million to the state’s school budget this year. Included is a $1,500 one-time bonus for licensed educators. But teachers in the Salt Lake City School District may be left out, due to a provision prioritizing bonuses to teachers in districts that offer an in-person classroom option.

CT: Connecticut House Republicans propose $50 million grant program for restaurant industry

Connecticut House Republicans announced a proposed relief package that would establish a $50 million grant fund for businesses with qualifying monetary losses and implement a yearlong suspension of liquor permitting fees. 

VA: Virginia governor’s budget protects school funding and teacher raises

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, would spare public schools the loss of more than a half-billion dollars from a drop in enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic under the new two-year budget he proposed.

ID: Idaho Democrats ask to postpone legislative session

Idaho’s House and Senate Democratic leaders have asked that the coming in-person legislative session, scheduled to begin Jan. 11, be postponed for at least three months, until a COVID-19 vaccine is more widely available.

WV: West Virginia begins drive to vaccinate all nursing homes within three weeks

West Virginia, which has one of the oldest and most at-risk populations in the U.S., is prioritizing giving vaccines to its care center residents alongside health workers. Officials are working with small and local pharmacies to reach long-term care communities across the rural state, leapfrogging most states that are relying on a partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

MO: Missouri’s 2nd vaccine batch is smaller than anticipated

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams said it now appears that Missouri’s next batch of the Pfizer vaccine will be 25% to 30% smaller than originally expected. He said the variance was “not unanticipated” given the vast rollout nationwide, but he’s still trying to determine from federal officials what changed. 

OK: Oklahoma expected to make teachers higher priority for vaccine

The first vaccinations in Oklahoma were administered to health care workers. State officials are expected to announce that teachers will be made a higher priority than they were in the state’s original vaccination plan.

CO: Colorado task force unveils plan to support districts as they reopen schools

Colorado education leaders and public health officials think they can successfully reopen schools to in-person learning for the spring semester by expanding rapid COVID-19 testing, prioritizing teachers for vaccinations and implementing other prevention strategies to create a safe classroom environment.

NJ: New Jersey seeks K in fines from gym that refused coronavirus closure order

New Jersey is trying to collect on $123,900 in fines against the owners of a gym it says has been in “noncompliance and contempt” of state executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. The owners of the Atilis Gym have turned their defiance into a cause célèbre, have vowed to not pay the fines and said they do not accept Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s authority over them.

NH: Anti-Semitic post brings calls for New Hampshire state representative to resign

A Laconia, New Hampshire, rabbi and the head of the city school board say residents have swamped the board with emails and messages demanding a New Hampshire state Rep. Dawn Johnson, a Republican, resign after posting a link on Twitter last week to an article with an anti-Semitic image from a neo-Nazi website.

IN: Indiana state revenues expected to tick up in years ahead

Indiana state government revenues are expected to rise modestly over the next couple of years as the state recovers from the COVID-19 economic fallout. However, the increases won’t give lawmakers much extra money to work with as they craft the next two-year state budget during the 2021 legislative session.

MS: More kids in Mississippi caught COVID-19 at social events rather than school

Mississippi children and teens who tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to have attended social gatherings or had visitors over compared with those who received a negative result, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MI: Michigan DUI, juvenile expungement bills approved

The bills would further expand record expungement in Michigan, allowing records to be cleared of first-time drunken driving and some juvenile offenses. Proponents said the bills will help people facing job discrimination.

AZ: Arizona governor urges public to limit gatherings, but doesn’t announce new restrictions

Doses of COVID-19 vaccines will reach every county in Arizona by the end of the month, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said. He urged Arizonans to limit gatherings during the holidays, but held off on instituting any new measures to stop the spread of the virus.

WI: Wisconsin releases action plan to reduce PFAS chemical use

Wisconsin must prevent pollution from a group of chemicals known as PFAS, often described as forever chemicals, while developing ways to reduce the chemicals’ use, according to a 25-point action plan released by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration after a year of study. The report does not outline the projected cost of implementing the recommendations.

MA: Massachusetts health officials prepare for a new challenge—snow

As the first major snowstorm approached the region, Massachusetts health officials prepared for the first weather-related challenge to the state’s COVID-19 testing system, which largely relies on a web of tented outdoor sites that will likely be shut down amid the coming high winds and heavy snowfall.

KY: Legal experts say bill would ‘destroy’ Kentucky Open Records Act, violate First Amendment

A bill pre-filed in the Kentucky legislature would make it a felony to post the name of any current or former judge, prosecutor or law enforcement official, or the names of their immediate family members.

MN: Minnesota governor loosens restrictions on bars, restaurants

Indoor restaurants and bars will stay shut down, but fitness clubs and other venues will reopen under a new plan by Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to limit the spread of COVID-19 and buy time for vaccine distribution. Minnesota’s infections rate has been declining since Nov. 11, but Walz said restrictions are needed, particularly in group settings that have fueled the broader spread of COVID-19.



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Stateline staff
Stateline staff

Stateline’s team of veteran journalists combines original reporting with a roundup of the latest news from sources around the country.