Top State Stories 2/4
VA: Virginia Senate backs bill that would abolish the death penalty
The Virginia Senate, in a narrow vote along party lines, approved a bill that would abolish the death penalty in the state. If the state House passes it as well, Virginia could soon be the first Southern state to abandon the death penalty.
CA: San Francisco sues its school district to reopen during pandemic
San Francisco, California, resorted to the “drastic step” of suing its own school district to try to force the reopening of public schools for in-person learning. “It’s a shame it has come to this,” said Democratic City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office is seeking an emergency order to compel the district to act.
FL: Nearly two-thirds of Florida nursing home staffers have declined coronavirus vaccines
All of Florida’s nursing homes now have offered COVID-19 vaccines to their residents and staff, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Nearly 68% of residents and nearly 36% of staffers chose to receive vaccines. The state is not requiring the vaccinations.
MS: Mississippi has lost B by not expanding Medicaid
Estimates put the amount that Mississippi has already forfeited for rejecting Medicaid expansion at about billion. If the state continues to reject expansion, it would forfeit another billion.
IA: Democrat wears banned jeans on Iowa House floor to protest lack of mask mandate
Iowa’s Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley has repeatedly said during the latest session that he can’t require lawmakers to wear masks on the House floor. So one Democrat decided to find out how he would enforce the chamber’s dress code by wearing jeans on the House floor all week.
TX: Texas prisons have doled out thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses—but none to prisoners
The Texas prison system has administered more than 5,500 doses of coronavirus vaccine, but none has been given to inmates who qualify for the shot under the state’s current phase of the rollout. And the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has repeatedly refused to provide information on when or how its older or medically vulnerable incarcerated population will be vaccinated.
NJ: New Jersey lifts curfew on restaurants despite higher COVID-19 rates
On Nov. 10, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order putting limits on bars and restaurants, including a ban on indoor dining after 10 p.m. As Murphy lifted the ban ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl, the seven-day average for new cases was about 40% higher than when the ban went into effect.
MT: Montana House gives initial OK to sanctuary city ban
With the backing of all 67 Republicans, the Montana House gave initial approval to legislation that would prohibit local governments from enacting policies to not engage with federal law enforcement when it comes to immigration issues. All Democrats voted against the bill.
OK: Oklahoma Senate panel rejects bill that would classify abortion as homicide
In a rare bipartisan vote, an Oklahoma Senate panel unanimously rejected a bill that sought to prohibit all abortions in Oklahoma by classifying abortion as homicide. However, the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee advanced several other bills that could limit or restrict abortion access.
PA: Pennsylvania governor asks for tax increase on state’s top earners amid pandemic
In one of his boldest budget proposals since taking office, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is asking the Pennsylvania legislature to significantly boost funding for public schools, legalize recreational cannabis and approve the first major tax increase in nearly two decades.
IN: Indiana lawmakers halt bill that would prevent employer-mandated vaccines
Indiana lawmakers are pulling the plug on a bill that would prohibit employers from requiring workers to get immunizations against COVID-19 or any other disease. The measure would have allowed employees to decline vaccinations for medical or religious reasons, or reasons of personal conscience.
ID: Idaho health system opens lottery system for vaccines
Eastern Idaho Public Health announced a lottery-style system for priority groups to receive COVID-19 vaccines. With a limited supply of vaccines and high demand, many residents found it impossible to schedule an appointment on the first-come, first-served online and phone system.
OR: Overpromises mean it could be months before all of Oregon’s teachers are vaccinated
Oregon has far more early learning and K-12 employees than Democratic Gov. Kate Brown estimated, meaning it could take four weeks to provide only a first shot to early learning and K-12 workers—and that schedule assumes virtually no vaccinations for adults age 80 and older.
WI: Wisconsin Republicans put off repealing mask requirement
Assembly Republicans shook up their plan to repeal Wisconsin’s mask requirement, at least temporarily delaying the effort as they try to make sure the state doesn’t lose about million in federal food assistance every month.
NY: New York repeals law that critics say criminalized ‘walking while trans’
New York’s anti-loitering law was designed to discourage street prostitution but was viewed by LGBTQ advocates as a cudgel to harass transgender people. The repeal comes in the wake of the 2019 passage of legislation that prohibited discrimination based on gender identity or expression and banned so-called conversion therapy.
UT: Utah domestic violence shelters seek more state funding to meet need during COVID-19
Utah’s domestic violence shelters are asking the state legislature for more support, as they face significant cuts in federal funding that could affect their ability to respond to the increase in people needing help during the coronavirus pandemic.
NV: Nevada parole officers are overloaded with cases
The Nevada Division of Parole and Probation does not have enough officers to adequately handle its parole caseloads, leading to more officers leaving the division, less effective supervision and more offenders not complying with the terms of their parole, a new state audit found.
WY: Wyoming lawmakers defeat teen suicide prevention legislation
Wyoming lawmakers defeated legislation intended to help reduce spiking levels of teen suicide in the state. The bill would have required school districts to provide mandatory training for students to recognize peers at risk for suicide.
MI: More than 19,000 Michigan residents apply for tuition-free community college within 24 hours of program launch
On Tuesday afternoon, Michigan officials launched a program aimed at helping people over 25 without college degrees pay for community college or skilled trades training. As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, more than 19,000 people had applied.
ME: Maine community colleges’ ‘COVID-19 readiness’ effort trains over 10,000 people
A community college program to teach fundamental job skills to Maine workers has been transformed into a broad effort to help businesses and employees weather the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
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