Top State Stories 12/21

By: - December 21, 2020 12:00 am

US: Voting was made easier in 2020; states ponder keeping the changes

More voting by mail, expanded early in-person voting and other changes states adopted for the pandemic helped a record number of Americans cast ballots in the 2020 general election. The nation is now debating what changes will stick and how voting might differ.

VA: Workers remove statue of Virginia Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from US Capitol

Months after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, requested the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that represented Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, workers took it down, laboring in the wee hours of Monday morning. Since 1909, Lee and George Washington have stood as Virginia’s representatives in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, where every state gets two statues.

PA: Pennsylvania misses deadline to spend M in rent, mortgage relief from CARES Act

Pennsylvania tenants and homeowners missed out on roughly million of million in federal coronavirus relief because state programs distributing the funding made it too hard to access, Spotlight PA has found. The remaining money will be redistributed to the state’s Department of Corrections.

CA: Working group greenlights Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for use in California

A working group of scientists and experts representing Western states endorsed the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, clearing the way for it to be distributed throughout California and much of the West.

NY: Marijuana legalization looms in New York as deficit balloons

New York’s Democratic leaders, who control the state legislature, back legalization. But they disagree on what the state should do with the tax revenue from the marijuana industry, which is expected to generate around million annually when the program is stabilized, according to projections from the state.

VT: Vermont hunting, fishing licenses reach 30-year high

In 2020, thousands more Vermonters fished and hunted than at any time in the past 30 years. About 87,000 Vermonters bought fishing licenses this year, about 16,000 more than the 71,000 in 2019. As the pandemic limited travel, nonresident fishing license sales dipped to about 37,000, down from 43,000 in 2019.

TX: Texans face tamale shortage

As COVID-19 ravages families, it threatens a cherished yearly tradition in Texas: homemade tamales. But many will head to the kitchen and fight on.

OR: Renters and landlords have concerns about Oregon’s special legislative session

In a special session, the Oregon legislature will consider a bill that would extend the state’s emergency eviction moratorium and provide funds to tenants and landlords. The bill has earned the support of renters and tenant associations for the extension of the moratorium alone, but organizations on both sides of the issue say it doesn’t go far enough to support those facing desperate times.

AR: Arkansas employers debate vaccine requirement

Arkansas businesses are assessing whether to declare coronavirus vaccinations a condition of employment. “There is a lot of inclination to require it,” said Randy Zook, president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, adding that the chamber will hold a webinar on the subject in January.

OK: As the CDC discourages holiday travel, Oklahoma governor solicits tourists

As Oklahoma has seen a surge in new daily COVID-19 infections and a record number of people hospitalized due to the virus, GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt is making a direct pitch to boost tourism in the state. Stitt stars in a 30-second promotional video encouraging those in neighboring states to visit Oklahoma.

WY: Many of Wyoming’s jobs can’t be done remotely, contributing to COVID-19 surge

Many of Wyoming’s mining jobs come with long commutes and around-the-clock operations, leaving workers and mine operators with little choice but to stay open. The state’s robust fleets of coal, oil, bentonite and uranium facilities have not shut down over the past nine months.

WV: West Virginia lacks racial data in a third of COVID-19 cases

The absence of data on COVID-19 infections by race is leaving a hole in what the public knows about the spread of the virus in West Virginia and could be costing communities emergency grant money. The patient’s race is unidentified in 17,824 cases, a third of the state total.

NJ: New Jersey to open six vaccine mega-sites in mid-January

New Jersey plans to open six vaccination “mega-sites” in early January, including at the Meadowlands racetrack, as the campaign to inoculate residents expands beyond hospital employees to other health care and essential workers. The six sites are expected to provide 2,400 vaccinations per day for health care workers through mid-February.

MO: 1,500 coronavirus cases have plagued Missouri’s mental health centers

More than 1,500 coronavirus cases have been reported across Missouri’s Department of Mental Health offices and facilities since the start of September—a figure that’s nearly five times larger than the previous six months combined. The outbreaks have affected care, and at least 11 patients have died, including seven deaths since mid-November. Four staff have also died.

AL: Governor’s study group says Alabama could raise up to M with lottery, casinos

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy estimated that Alabama could raise million to million from a lottery, casinos, and sports betting if voters approved a constitutional amendment expanding gambling in the state.

NH: Outbreak grows at major New Hampshire addiction treatment center

New Hampshire health officials say there are now more than 100 cases of COVID-19 linked to an outbreak at one of the biggest residential addiction treatment centers in the state.

KS: More Kansans going hungry amid COVID-19 crisis, including some you wouldn’t expect

The pandemic has brought an increased number of people in Kansas seeking help getting enough to eat. Those who help feed the community say it’s largely due to job losses as well as people working fewer hours and making less.

ID: Idaho employers earn break on taxes to support workers who lost jobs

Idaho businesses won’t have to foot the full bill for unemployment compensation paid to workers furloughed or laid off as the coronavirus gripped Idaho. The nation’s taxpayers will, eventually.

HI: Hawaii governor: there’s no money to ‘sustain government as it existed’

Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, is expected to unveil his next two-year budget proposal and it seems likely there will be something for everyone to hate. The administration set a goal of cutting million a year from the annual state operating budget, and Ige said making cuts of that magnitude has proved to be extremely difficult.

FL: Florida governor faces backlash over pandemic defiance

All in all, it has not been a jolly holiday season for Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor. DeSantis has taken a pugilist’s approach to COVID-19 restrictions, preferring to paint a sunnier picture.

MI: Michigan toxic sites await cleanup

Michigan law assigns responsibility for contamination to those who caused the pollution, however long ago. Some 14,000 of the state’s contaminated sites have no identifiable responsible party.

NM: New Mexico energy industry rebounds

Oil prices have rebounded, and activity is picking up in the Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. That’s good news for New Mexico’s fiscal health, which depends on oil and gas for nearly one-third of the state budget.

ME: Maine police union group to start legal defense fund for officers

A statewide police association plans to start raising more than ,000 a year to help defend Maine officers who may be charged with crimes or sued for conduct on duty, a response to high-profile shootings in other states that led to charges against police.

NC: North Carolina judge receives rare censure

A member of North Carolina’s second highest court was publicly disciplined for contributing to a “toxic work environment” in his office in which his female clerks were sexually harassed, subjected to profane language and threatening behavior, and publicly demeaned.

WA: COVID-19 death rate twice as high in eastern Washington

COVID-19 has killed more than 1,000 residents east of the Cascades, a per capita rate double that of western Washington counties. The deaths were part of a broader surge of illness that has hit much of rural America this fall.

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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.