Top State Stories 1/14
US: ‘A real nightmare’: State capitols race to catch up to the far-right threat
As the U.S. braces for the next round of armed protests in the days leading up to Jan. 20 and beyond, the biggest threat posed by right-wing extremists is not in Washington, D.C., but in state capitals, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former law-enforcement officials, local authorities and domestic-extremism experts.
IL: Illinois General Assembly approves sweeping criminal justice overhaul
Illinois lawmakers passed a sweeping overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system that would end cash bail and eventually require every police officer in the state to be equipped with a body camera.
MS: Some Mississippi hospitals run out of vaccines as appointments fill up
Mississippi Coast residents are clamoring for COVID-19 vaccines and unable to schedule appointments a day after Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said shots would be immediately available to anyone 65 or older or with pre-existing conditions.
TX: Texas lawmakers change rules to protect Republicans
The Texas Senate voted to lower the threshold of support required for bringing bills to the floor. The maneuver protects Republicans’ ability to propose bills without Democratic support despite the party losing a seat in the elections.
TN: Tennessee lawmaker wants a Dolly Parton statue added to state’s Capitol grounds
A Tennessee state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would add a statue of Dolly Parton to the Capitol grounds in Nashville.
US: Calls to reopen classes grow as teachers get vaccinated
State leaders around the U.S. are increasingly pushing for schools to reopen this winter—pressuring them, even—as teachers begin to gain access to the vaccine.
OK: Oklahoma legislators advised to avoid state Capitol this weekend
State legislators and state employees have been advised to steer clear of the Oklahoma Capitol this weekend after law enforcement officials warned of protests across the country.
NJ: New Jersey includes 2M smokers in huge expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility
An estimated 2 million smokers in New Jersey are among those between the ages of 16 and 64 considered to have a high-risk health condition and may begin to receive a vaccination for the coronavirus as soon as this week as part of a massive vaccine expansion, state health officials said.
CO: After lawsuit, Colorado lawmakers backtrack on helping minority businesses
Colorado’s state legislature is facing a lawsuit over a million effort to boost minority-owned small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, and plans to largely undo its work this week.
AR: ‘Stand your ground’ bill clears Arkansas Senate committee
Arkansas Senate Republicans advanced legislation that would remove the duty to retreat from Arkansas’ self-defense laws, clearing a hurdle for the proposal that has long been a goal of gun-rights proponents and the National Rifle Association.
UT: Utah legislative session will begin with Capitol closed to the public
The worry over violence surrounding the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden is prompting the closure of the Utah Capitol to the public for the first part of next week as the 2021 legislative session is scheduled to get underway.
WI: Wisconsin Republicans shoot down governor’s plan for overhauling the unemployment system
The Republicans who control the Wisconsin legislature shot down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ million plan to start upgrading the state unemployment system, arguing he can begin to address the problems using existing funding.
MO: Missouri lawmakers quarantine amid COVID-19 outbreak
The Missouri legislature is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 in its ranks just a week into its annual session. The Republican-led House rejected a proposal to require all 163 members to wear masks on the floor. A majority of Republicans do not wear masks while they are in the chamber for business.
HI: Hawaii to use private tutors to help struggling students
In what appears to be a first-of-a-kind arrangement for the state, some public schools in Hawaii will begin offering small group or one-on-one tutoring starting this month through the end of the calendar year via private agencies paid with Title I or other existing funds. The strategy underscores a top-level concern that many students are experiencing academic decline due to the challenges of distance learning.
PA: Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers want the power to end governor’s emergency orders
Republicans in the Pennsylvania House are advancing a measure that would give the legislature more power over the executive branch, the result of long-festering resentment against Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf over his actions to control the coronavirus pandemic.
LA: Louisiana scrutinizes police practices
A Louisiana task force studying police practices will debate trimming police protection against lawsuits, requiring automatic dashboard cameras and other changes. Lawmakers authorized the study after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
MA: Massachusetts secretary of state, others propose ways to speed up vaccination
With data showing Massachusetts lags behind other states in vaccinating residents, Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, and others are proposing ways to speed up vaccine distribution—among them, giving shots where people vote.
IA: Iowa governor calls on legislature to ‘immediately’ send in-person education bill to her desk
The Iowa legislature should immediately pass a bill requiring schools to offer 100% in-person classes for students and another to provide parents with “education savings accounts,” giving families more choice in education, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said.
CA: California allows COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 65 and older
Residents 65 and older are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations under a major expansion of California’s guidelines announced by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, but the decision to make millions more eligible raised new questions about how the state will accommodate an influx in demand given limited supplies and the slow rollout thus far.
ME: Maine schools sift through confusing health advice on sports
Officials in youth sports programs in Maine have been confused by guidance from state officials about whether they can safely resume activities for hundreds of young athletes in counties designated as “yellow” during the pandemic. The guidelines appear to apply to both school sports and recreational leagues, but some have interpreted them to exclude the leagues.
VT: Vermont legislators report dozens of messages to police following D.C. riots
Vermont legislators have reported dozens of messages sent to police in the wake of the D.C. riots to police, but none has been deemed a direct threat, or risen to the level of a “threat or criminal behavior,” police said.
VA: Legal marijuana could be available in Virginia in 2 years, under governor’s proposal
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, unveiled legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Virginia, proposing a 21% state tax on the drug and a licensing program meant to ease entry for people harmed by the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws.
NY: New York opens 3 mass-vaccination sites
New York opened three new mass-vaccination sites in Manhattan, Syracuse and White Plains, although the amount of vaccine the state is receiving is being outpaced by the number of people eligible to receive vaccinations in the first two phases of the rollout. The state plans to eventually have 20 mass-vaccination sites in operation.
WV: West Virginia lowers vaccine eligible age to 70
Before now, only West Virginians 80 years and older in the general population could receive a vaccine. Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced the change, saying it will help get more vaccines into more arms at a faster pace—and suggesting the eligibility age could drop to 65 next week.
ID: Idaho teachers can be vaccinated now
Idaho teachers are now eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines, according to a new schedule for the vaccine rollout from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Idaho’s latest coronavirus vaccine rollout schedule shows that first responders and safety workers, teachers and staff who work with children from infancy through high school, and correctional facility staff may now start getting vaccinated.
NE: Governor authorizes 230 Nebraska National Guard members to be sent to D.C. for inauguration
The Nebraska National Guard says the number of personnel it is sending to Washington, D.C., for next week’s presidential inauguration has increased to 230.
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