Top State Stories 12/22
CA: California once quelled COVID-19 with a stay-at-home order, but the latest one isn’t working as well
It has been two weeks since a second stay-at-home order was issued in California, but the infection rate has not leveled off. This may be because the newest restrictions are looser than those in the spring, and because many Californians are so fatigued by public health orders—or so militantly resistant to them—that they are interacting with people from outside their households.
US: COVID-19 fuels drop in US life expectancy
U.S. life expectancy inched up last year, but could decline in 2020 by the largest amount since World War II, as COVID-19 becomes the nation’s third-leading cause of death. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that life expectancy rose to 78.8 years in 2019, an increase of one-tenth of a year. But the gain will be erased by a large drop in longevity when the government releases 2020 figures next year.
NJ: New Jersey cops will only be able to use deadly force as an ‘absolute last resort’ under policy changes
New Jersey police will soon have new guidelines determining when they can hit, chase or shoot suspects under rules announced by the state attorney general’s office, the first overhaul of the state’s use-of-force policy in two decades. The rules prohibit cops from using force to speed up an arrest, ban using police dogs on suspects who are only resisting arrest and require departments to review every incident where force was used.
OR: Oregon lawmakers kick off third special session as right-wing group protests outside
Oregon’s third special legislative session of the year got off to a contentious start, with a Republican senator ripping off his mask on the chamber floor and a group of demonstrators forcing their way into the Capitol. Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, called lawmakers back to Salem to extend the state’s eviction moratorium and address other issues.
PA: Pennsylvania election officials are burnt out and leaving their jobs after 2020 ‘nightmare’
The people tasked with running Pennsylvania elections are drained from dealing with regular verbal attacks from angry voters.
NY: New York is ousting older judges to save money. They’re fighting back.
Dozens of New York state judges are being forced to retire to close a pandemic budget gap. They have sued the state, claiming age discrimination.
AK: Alaska interest groups clamor for COVID-19 vaccine
An Alaska state committee’s work on prioritizing vaccines is now entering a more delicate phase as additional doses become available. Nonprofits, trade associations and even state agencies have sent the committee letters hoping to assure their place in the state’s vaccine line.
MD: Autopsies in Maryland show a much higher rate of COVID-19 than expected
A new study suggests that far more Marylanders have been infected with COVID-19 than in any area except for New York City. Johns Hopkins University researchers reported that their look at 500 autopsy reports from several weeks in May and June in the state found 10% had antibodies for COVID-19.
NE: ‘Frivolous’ election lawsuit prompts complaint to Nebraska Supreme Court
Two Nebraska elected officials continue to feel the repercussions of their decisions to support a Texas lawsuit that challenged the 2020 presidential election results in four states. Omaha state Sen. Ernie Chambers, an independent, filed a grievance against Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and Secretary of State Bob Evnen, both Republicans, with state Supreme Court Counsel for Discipline Mark Weber.
VA: Virginia man among first convicted under new state law boosting penalties for leaving gun near a child
A Virginia man who had his gun rights restored in June has been convicted of leaving a loaded firearm near his young son, who accidentally shot himself in the hand, in one of the first cases to be prosecuted under a new Virginia law that boosts the penalty for “recklessly” leaving guns near children.
ME: Dozens of Maine schools are using COVID-19 rapid tests
Nearly 50 Maine schools and school districts are now using rapid-result coronavirus tests on symptomatic students and staff to quickly identify positive cases and to improve the contact tracing and quarantine processes.
VT: Vermont Chamber of Commerce aims to reform short-term rental regulations
Reforming the state’s short-term rental regulations will be a top priority of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce in the coming legislative session. The association aims to level the playing field for members that operate traditional lodging businesses.
NC: North Carolina governor allows cocktails-to-go for bars
Bars and restaurants in North Carolina will soon be allowed to sell margaritas, martinis and other mixed drinks to go under a new executive order announced by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. The measure, Cooper said, offers relief to the ailing restaurant industry, without allowing larger gatherings.
SC: Mask agreement, testing set for South Carolina Senate’s return in January
All 46 South Carolina state senators have agreed to wear masks when the General Assembly returns to work the second week in January, Senate President Harvey Peeler wrote in a memo outlining new COVID-19 protocols amid mounting pressure from inside his chamber to avoid a potential virus outbreak. The state House does not have such an agreement.
ND: Vaccinations on tap for North Dakota long-term care centers
A major pharmacy and health care chain said it will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines next week at long-term care facilities in North Dakota, where the death rate due to complications from the virus is among the worst in the country.
IA: Iowa Senate Democratic leader defends promotion of lawmaker previously accused of sexual misconduct
The new Iowa Senate minority leader said that Democrats have promoted a senator previously accused of sexual harassment to a leadership position because he was re-elected and is knowledgeable about labor issues.
KS, MO: Kansas, Missouri using ‘honor system’ to stop people from cutting in line for vaccine
Beyond relying on human decency, Kansas and Missouri have no plans in place to stop line cutters during this intermediate period of vaccination before shots are available to the public at large.
WA: Washington governor issues new travel limits from nations with coronavirus mutation
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, announced new travel restrictions for people arriving from the United Kingdom, South Africa and other nations where a new variant of the novel coronavirus has been reported. Early estimates indicate that the new mutation of the virus, while not more deadly or vaccine resistant, spreads faster and more easily than prior strains.
ID: Home sales surge in Idaho resort towns as buyers seek open spaces amid pandemic
A growing number of people are buying second homes in Idaho resort towns. They’ve come from California, Oregon, Washington and other states looking for quiet spots where they can escape the rat race and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
HI: Hawaii governor unveils reduced budget
Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, unveiled a COVID-19 era state budget that “represents sudden, sharp reductions to revenues,” he said. Faced with projections of .4 billion deficits over each of the next four years, Ige’s budget for the 2021-2023 biennium calls for .4 million in reduced operating spending in fiscal year 2022.
MS: Some Black Mississippi residents are skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccines
Researchers, doctors, nurses and even social media influencers across Mississippi are racing to try to rebuild trust to address Black Mississippians’ concerns about coronavirus vaccines. Researchers are partnering with grassroots community health workers to reach Black, Choctaw and Latino communities around the state.
FL: Florida tax outlook improves
Florida saw better-than-expected sales and corporate taxes to close out 2020, despite high unemployment and record savings. State economists made rosier projections for the state’s general revenue.
TX: Texas lawmakers want state control for Austin police
In an ongoing fight over funding, Texas lawmakers have drafted a bill to put Austin police under state control. The state capital cut million from the police budget.
WY: Wyoming governor provides tax relief to employers
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, signed an executive order that will prevent large increases in unemployment insurance taxes for businesses that were directly affected by the statewide health orders enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19.
MO: Missouri governor pardons 24, commutes the sentences of 4 offenders
Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson granted his first pardons, saying this is the time of year for forgiveness. But he did not release the names of the 24 individuals who were pardoned, nor did he name four people whose sentences he commuted in the days running up to the Christmas holiday, saying it was a matter of privacy.
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