Top State Stories 12/18
US: CDC tells states they’re getting fewer vaccines than expected, some governors say
The move has sparked confusion in states, which need to alert hospitals and nursing homes how many doses to expect. The news has also raised questions about communications between the federal government and states, and whether the Trump administration can meet its goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of the year.
NY: New York spent B on virus supplies. Now it wants some money back.
At the start of the pandemic, New York state rushed into .1 billion in deals for medical supplies and equipment. Now state officials want to claw back the millions they paid to vendors who failed to deliver on time and extricate the state from deals for supplies the state no longer needs.
SC: South Carolina lawmakers want to limit COVID-19 vaccine requirements
As health providers across the nation scramble to distribute the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, some South Carolina legislators are taking steps to prevent mandatory vaccination.
MI: Bill would stop more Michigan pandemic restrictions
The Michigan legislature that has fought executive orders from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer all year has now dealt her another blow. The state Senate moved to suspend any executive order issued before the next session starts.
CA: ICU availability in Southern California at 0% amid deluge of COVID-19 patients
The availability of intensive care unit beds throughout Southern California reached critical mass, with 0% open, the latest sign of how the worst wave of the coronavirus is hammering hospitals and pushing health care systems to their limits.
NJ: New Jersey lawmakers pass legal weed bill in historic vote
Years after they began efforts to legalize marijuana, New Jersey lawmakers have passed a historic bill that establishes rules and regulations for legal cannabis sales and makes the Garden State the first in the region to overhaul its pot laws. The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy to sign.
MS: Mississippi prison audit reveals gross misspending
A state audit uncovered gross misspending at the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Highlights included burned or destroyed accounting records, improper purchasing of massage chairs, rugs, art, Himalayan salt lamps, CDs and improper reimbursements for thousands of dollars in travel.
OK: Oklahoma halts bonus unemployment payment
State officials have halted a plan to pay a bonus to thousands of unemployed Oklahomans from excess Lost Wages Assistance program funds. A key state official said she is worried that if Congress approves another round of pandemic-related unemployment benefits, the money would have to be sent back.
CO: Colorado will let counties loosen restrictions on businesses
Colorado officials will let counties offer businesses a path to expand their capacities beyond the limits set by their county’s color level on the COVID-19 restriction dial. To participate, businesses would have to implement safety measures beyond what is already required by public health orders and guidelines.
UT: Utah will relax COVID-19 guidelines for public schools
Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said that Utah will no longer instruct public schools to quarantine students just because they’ve been in close contact with a classmate who tests positive for COVID-19. Going forward, these students won’t have to quarantine if everyone was wearing face coverings at the time of their interaction.
MD: Maryland governor issues order banning nonessential travel
Under an emergency order issued by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, state residents who travel outside of Maryland—and anyone who travels to Maryland—must either obtain a negative COVID-19 test result or quarantine for 10 days.
WI: Incoming Wisconsin Senate majority leader wants earlier ballot counting
The incoming Republican majority leader in the Wisconsin Senate wants to pass a bill early in 2021 to change state law to allow for the counting of absentee ballots before Election Day, a change he tried to get passed with Democratic support last year but never came to a vote in the legislature.
MT: Montana legislature will meet in person, defying pleas for a remote session
Republican members of the Montana legislature voted to hold the upcoming session in person and with no precautions like mask use, distancing or testing protocols, though there is the option to participate remotely.
NH: Staffing shortages and COVID-19 surge shut down more schools in southern New Hampshire
Most of New Hampshire’s biggest school districts have gone largely remote as coronavirus cases have continued to rise. Of the state’s fifteen largest districts, the majority held virtual instruction at some point this December.
CT: Connecticut governor says eviction moratorium will be extended
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced that Connecticut’s eviction moratorium, which was set to expire on Dec. 31, would be extended through Feb. 9.
HI: Vaccine skepticism grows in Hawaii
Skepticism of COVID-19 vaccines is intensifying in Hawaii, a troubling trend that could undermine efforts to inoculate the majority of the population. A November survey from the University of Hawaii’s Public Policy Center found that just 44% of Hawaii residents said they planned to take a vaccine.
AL: Alabama governor awards .9M coronavirus relief grant to program to help veterans with PTSD
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has given a .9 million grant from Alabama’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to a program to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who have been directly affected by COVID-19.
WA: Washington to receive 40% fewer vaccinations next week
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation will be reduced next week by 40%, according to Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. “This is disruptive and frustrating,” Inslee said.
ID: Idaho National Guard tackles COVID-19 tasks
To assist health care workers, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has increased the state’s National Guard support to 250 members and also issued an extension of their service, authorizing Guard members to serve through March.
FL: Florida in driver’s seat for environmental regulation
The Environmental Protection Agency is giving Florida the authority to regulate development on protected wetlands. The move, which environmentalists have fought for years, could threaten wetlands.
NC: Narcotics officers arrest 21 North Carolina drug dealers connected with universities
Nearly two dozen people, including current and former students at the University of North Carolina and Duke and Appalachian State universities, have been charged in connection with the investigation of a large-scale drug ring, local and federal law enforcement officials announced.
MN: Minnesota housing aid will help build or preserve 2,400 affordable homes
The state housing finance agency announced that 73 projects across the state, including some that will serve the lowest-income Minnesotans, have either been selected to receive funds or are advancing for further consideration.
KY: High court denies Kentucky religious school’s plea to reopen
The Supreme Court refused to block an order by Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear that bars in-person K-12 education until early January in areas hard hit by COVID-19, rejecting a plea from a private religious school.
OH: Nearly a quarter of central Ohio child care providers could close by early 2021
As Ohio child care providers continue to experience critical revenue losses and dwindling resources, nearly a quarter of them could close by the end of January 2021, a new report says.
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