Top State Stories 2/5
WI: Wisconsin governor issues new mask mandate an hour after GOP lawmakers eliminated old one
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a new health emergency order requiring face masks in public indoor places just an hour after Wisconsin Republican lawmakers voted to eliminate the same mandate—it was the first measure the legislature passed related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MT: Montana COVID-19 liability bill heads to governor’s desk
The Montana legislature is sending Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte a bill that would provide liability shields for COVID-19 exposure at businesses, churches and other organizations. He’s said he’ll sign it.
NC: Split North Carolina board OKs new rules for teaching social studies; opponents outraged
North Carolina has new social studies standards that supporters say are more inclusive of different groups and critics maintain are anti-American. The State Board of Education’s Democratic majority voted 7-5 to adopt new K-12 social studies standards that include language such as having teachers discuss racism, discrimination and the perspectives of marginalized groups.
CO: Fentanyl overdose deaths spike in Colorado
Colorado overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled in 2020, rising 111% to 452 deaths last year from 214 in 2019. All overdose deaths, including from heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, totaled 1,223 in 2020, up nearly 20% from 1,062 the year before, according to state health department data that is preliminary and expected to rise.
NE: Auditor cites B in errors, puts rare disclaimer on Nebraska’s financial report
Nebraska’s end-of-the-year financial report contained more than billion in errors, according to a management letter released by the State Auditor’s Office. The office took the highly unusual step of putting a disclaimer on the report, saying state auditors were unable to verify its accuracy.
NY: Inmate advocates sue New York officials over vaccine plan
A petition, filed in the New York Supreme Court in Bronx County by several groups on behalf of inmates in state prisons, calls for the immediate inclusion of inmates in the 1B vaccination phase, labeling their exclusion “arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.” There have been more than 5,100 COVID-19 cases in state prisons, roughly 9% of the incarcerated people who have been tested.
TN: Tennessee housing authority will provide rental relief to tenants statewide
Tennesseans struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic may soon receive help through the state’s housing authority, as part of a statewide rental assistance program that is currently underway.
IN: Indiana lawmakers could seize sway over governor’s orders
Indiana legislators would gain the authority to immediately overrule any public health emergency orders issued by the governor under a proposal advanced by a House committee. The move to give the Republican-dominated legislature greater oversight comes amid conservative discontent about the 55 coronavirus-related executive orders GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb has issued.
SC: South Carolina school superintendent says local virus severity should not influence reopening decisions
Citing growing evidence that schools are not the COVID-19 breeding grounds they were once feared to be, South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced that schools should no longer consider the severity of coronavirus infection in their communities when deciding to reopen full-time.
OR: Oregon hospital system offered insiders early vaccine access
Providence Health & Services gave early access to COVID-19 vaccines to some members of its Oregon governing and foundation boards. Lisa Vance, CEO of Providence Oregon, said the practice amounted to preferential treatment for insiders, some of whom are also donors.
KY: Judge halts new COVID-19 law that changed Kentucky’s reopening rules
A Kentucky judge temporarily halted a new law that allows businesses, schools, nonprofits and churches to stay open if they meet COVID-19 guidelines set by either the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Kentucky’s executive branch, whichever is least restrictive. The lawsuit was filed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
ID: Idaho bill would fine vaccine distributors that don’t administer doses quickly
Idaho lawmakers introduced a bill that would require vaccine distributors to administer 70% of doses within two weeks of receiving them. Distributors would need to inform the state if they don’t meet that quota, or else face a ,000 fine for every day they don’t disclose it.
RI: Rhode Island loosens limits on businesses as COVID-19 crisis eases
Rhode Island will ease business restrictions, allowing more people to dine at restaurants together and raising capacity restrictions on gyms, offices and weddings.
WA: Washington could become the 2nd state to decriminalize drugs
State lawmakers and advocacy groups in Washington state announced a plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine and other drugs. The measure would also pour state money into treatment and community-based intervention programs, where drug users and people with mental health problems would be referred instead of jail.
VA: Virginia House votes to force public colleges to reckon with ties to slavery
Under a bill passed by the Virginia House, five public colleges and universities in Virginia would be required to detail as much as possible their ties to enslaved Black individuals who worked on their grounds and toestablish scholarships or economic development programs to benefit communities descended from those people.
AZ: Arizona Senate panel approves ban on abortions for genetic problems
A proposal that would make it a felony in Arizona for a doctor to perform an abortion because the fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome was approved by a state Senate panel. The measure also would add a slew of other provisions to the state’s already restrictive anti-abortion laws.
HI: Influenza cases in Hawaii are near zero
Hawaii has so far dodged what health experts feared could be a “twindemic”—COVID-19 combined with the flu. The last case of influenza in Hawaii was detected in July.
VT: Vermont gets M in COVID-19 relief money to boost public transit
The Vermont Agency of Transportation has received a million federal injection for public transit, GOP Gov. Phil Scott said, offering a lifeline to a hobbled transportation network.
AL: Alabama House approves tax exemption for coronavirus relief benefits
The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill to make payments and benefits from the coronavirus relief bills passed by Congress exempt from state income taxes.
NV: Blockchain company proposes semi-autonomous Nevada county
A proposal created by Blockchains LLC and circulated in the Nevada legislature describes the fantastical contours of a plan to create a semi-autonomous county that slowly assumes the powers of the county it’s based in and is supported by a cryptocurrency known as “stablecoin.”
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