Top State Stories 1/21
TX: Texas warns of a new pandemic peak
As Texas now reports an average of more than 300 new deaths a day, state officials are warning the COVID-19 pandemic is at its worst. Texas must avoid an additional surge because hospitals can’t handle much more.
UT: Utah lawmakers push to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations
Utah legislators are pressing the state to expedite its massive COVID-19 inoculation effort by depleting its stockpile of booster doses and by promising to abolish mask mandates and emergency orders as soon as enough people achieve immunity.
CO: Xcel Energy looks to avoid Colorado wildfires
Xcel Energy wants to charge its Colorado customers .7 million during the next five years to reduce their risk of causing wildfires, but consumer advocates aren’t buying it. Xcel’s subsidiary, Public Service Company of Colorado, has cited the catastrophic wildfires in California started by Pacific Gas and Electric as motivation for the proposal.
NJ: Hundreds endure frigid temps and long lines seeking service at New Jersey city’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic
Residents from across the state are applauding New Jersey’s third-largest city for its unorthodox vaccine program, perhaps the only in the state with so few barriers, since no appointments are necessary. Paterson is offering walk-in vaccines to eligible New Jerseyans first come first served.
AK: Banned from the Alaska Capitol, lobbyists try other routes
The Alaska legislature opened its session amid a deadly pandemic and a huge budget shortfall. But if you think lawmakers’ job is tough, consider, for a moment, the plight of the lobbyist. They’re paid for access to and intelligence on what’s happening in the Capitol—but for now, they’re banned from the building.
MO: Missouri Republicans try to wrest pandemic power from local health officials
Local health officials could be stripped of their power to control a deadly pandemic under a package of proposed changes under consideration by Missouri Republicans. The Senate Health and Pensions Committee opened debate on a series of pro-business proposals that would put roadblocks in the way of county officials seeking to close businesses or religious services during a public health emergency.
RI: Rhode Island attorney general’s office reviews who gets COVID-19 vaccines
The Rhode Island attorney general’s office is looking into whether the state Department of Health is adequately supervising the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines being dispensed by the state’s two largest hospital groups. This comes days after The Providence Journal reported that some of the groups’ board members have been offered vaccines even as most seniors in the state may have to wait until February or March.
CT: Connecticut governor moves forward on plan to legalize recreational marijuana
Connecticut Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont is positioning lawmakers for a robust debate this year on legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana for recreational use. The administration has begun seeking agency feedback on a draft bill that would tax dry cannabis flowers, trimmed marijuana plants and wet cannabis.
AR: Arkansas lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19
Arkansas state GOP Rep. Lanny Fite became the third state lawmaker to test positive for COVID-19 since the regular session started Jan. 11. He said he sits next to another state lawmaker who tested positive for the coronavirus a week ago.
OK: Oklahoma’s choice for health information exchange draws concerns from feds, 13 local groups
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has approved a contract with a global software company for its new health information exchange despite protest from a local nonprofit that bid nearly million less, as well as federal concerns that the decision might adversely affect health care in the state.
MS: Mississippi lawmakers test positive for COVID-19
At least one Mississippi state representative and one senator tested positive for COVID-19 this week, according to officials in the legislature. None of the affected lawmakers has been identified.
NM: Many New Mexico health workers decline coronavirus vaccines
Up to 30% of medical staff at New Mexico’s largest hospitals have declined to be inoculated for COVID-19. Some are waiting to see the side effects in co-workers and others outright refuse.
TN: Tennessee Republicans threaten to withhold school funding if districts don’t offer in-person instruction
Tennessee lawmakers want to allow the state to withhold funding from public school districts that don’t offer in-person instruction, a measure so drastic it has not received the governor’s support even as he calls for all schools to open their classrooms.
OR: Oregon opts to keep using the Moderna vaccine despite a small number of adverse reactions
The Oregon Health Authority is recommending use of nearly 27,000 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine despite reports in Oregon and California of a small number of adverse reactions among people inoculated from the same batch of the vaccine.
ID: Idaho legislator wants to ban state funding for abortion
Idaho legislators will make another attempt to defund abortion providers this year. State Rep. Bruce Skaug, a Republican, introduced a bill to deny state funding to abortion providers—or social workers who refer clients to abortion services.
ME: About 4,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses sent to Maine became spoiled
More than 4,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine delivered to Maine clinics this week were set aside and not given to patients because the boxes became too warm during shipping, officials said. Additional doses to replace those that were set aside were expected to arrive later this week.
WI: Wisconsin lawmakers introduce police overhaul package
Two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation designed to change police use-of-force policies and investigations in Wisconsin, including proposals that would ban training on chokeholds, punish municipalities that defund police departments and create a board to investigate officer-involved deaths and injuries.
AZ: Arizona measure would expand tax funds for private schools
Arizona lawmakers are considering legislation to quadruple the size of a program that allows people to use tax money for private school tuition for foster children and students with disabilities. The measure is the latest proposed expansion of Arizona’s wide-ranging programs to aid private and religious schools with public money.
NE: Nebraska bill would give a K tax credit for stillborn child
Women who deliver a stillborn baby could get a ,000 tax credit from Nebraska state government under a bill introduced in the legislature.
IA: Pork exec whose company got coronavirus aid gave K to Iowa governor
An owner of a large pork production company that disproportionately benefited from an Iowa coronavirus aid program recently donated ,000 to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ campaign, a new disclosure report shows.
MN: Minnesota pharmacies want to enlist in the vaccination rollout
Minnesota pharmacies and health care providers are asking to be tapped to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine as residents clamor for a coveted appointment at one of just nine administration sites scattered across the state.
MI: Bowling alleys struggle in Michigan
Bowling alleys are planning to sue over restrictions on indoor recreation that have caused many to close. Many owners have sold out or gone through personal savings trying to stay open.
VT: Vermont officials decry a lack of flexibility in a federal rental assistance program
Vermont is going to receive million for rental housing stabilization out of the federal budget that was passed late last year. But the new program comes with an array of complex federal rules that will make it more difficult for renters to apply and for state officials to administer, said Richard Williams, executive director of the Vermont State Housing Authority.
MT: Legislature continues attempts to change Montana’s COVID-19 response
The Montana Legislature continued its push to change the way the state responds to the pandemic, with two more bills debated out of a slew of legislation around the actions taken by the state government over the past 11 months.
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