Top State Stories 2/11
FL: New virus strain takes root in Florida
Even with COVID-19 cases waning, Florida’s future is shadowed by rapid spread of a more contagious variant of the virus. The state has become ground zero for the B.1.1.7 or “U.K. variant.”
TX: FEMA-run vaccination site will target underserved Texans
Before the end of the month, Texas will open three federally run mass vaccination sites aimed at underserved communities in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. They are pilot sites in the national effort to speed up vaccine distribution.
MD: Maryland may repeal first-in-the-nation police ‘bill of rights’
Maryland lawmakers are launching a historic effort to get rid of police protections such as the bill of rights, a decades-old statute that was the first in the country to codify workplace protections for officers accused of misconduct.
OK: Oklahoma governor signs virtual meetings bill
Oklahoma government boards, commissions, city councils and more can resume meeting virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation to temporarily modify the state’s Open Meeting Act to allow teleconference or videoconference.
NH: Tensions rise in remote New Hampshire legislature meetings
A lack of close contact is making things difficult for almost everyone who does business in the New Hampshire Statehouse these days.
CT: Connecticut budget calls for legal marijuana and betting
Connecticut Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget seeks to close $1 billion deficits through budget reserves, federal aid and targeted new revenue sources like legal marijuana and sports betting, while avoiding significant tax hikes or spending cuts.
IL: Illinois expands vaccine eligibility to preexisting conditions
Illinoisans younger than 65 who have preexisting health conditions will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine beginning Feb. 25. This comes as the state continues to struggle to quickly vaccinate the roughly 3.2 million residents 65 and older and frontline essential workers.
NY: New York sporting events, concerts can resume
Arenas in New York state that host sporting events and other entertainment will be able to begin reopening later this month. They must limit attendance to 10% of capacity and require fans to provide a negative COVID-19 test.
NJ: After slip-ups, New Jersey suspends vaccine hotline
New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccine call center will stop booking appointments temporarily because agents were making too many mistakes, such as double-booking patients.
ME: Maine bill would require race data on traffic stops
Maine lawmakers will take testimony this week on a bill that aims to curb racial profiling by requiring police agencies to keep demographic data on people involved in a traffic stop. The legislation is based on recommendations made by Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, a Democrat.
NM: New Mexico Senate approves bill that would offer pandemic relief
Three pandemic relief bills that would provide New Mexico residents and business owners an economic lifeline cleared the state Senate with bipartisan support. The bills would give assistance to small businesses and give tax rebates to lower-income residents.
ND: North Dakota may recognize Juneteenth
A bipartisan bill in the North Dakota legislature aims to recognize Juneteenth as a ceremonial holiday in the state. North Dakota is one of only three states that do not recognize the June 19 holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.
SD: South Dakota governor delays medical pot
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem promised she will honor the will of voters to legalize pot for medical use, just not this year.
AK: Pandemic mandates could expire in Alaska
When GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s disaster declaration expires this weekend, Alaska will lose its wide range of special powers to respond to COVID-19. At stake is everything from planning the distribution of vaccines to testing requirements.
MN: Minnesota falls behind in equitable vaccine distribution
Minnesota clinicians, researchers and organizations raised concerns that the state has not prioritized vaccines for Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian residents.
DE: Delaware commission: housing needed to fight overdoses
The Delaware Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission reviewed 130 overdoses from 2019 and found most victims were men, more than a third had inadequate housing, more than one third experienced a traumatic event and about 40% experienced at least one previous overdose.
GA: Georgia grapples with vaccine equity
Georgia officials vowed to more equitably distribute life-saving vaccines for a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color, though the push for more balance is bogged down by limited supply and little data.
TN: Tennessee governor opposes transgender athletes
Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said allowing transgender female athletes to participate in school sports under their chosen identity would “destroy women’s sports.” Meanwhile a state House bill advanced requiring students to participate in sports under their gender assigned at birth.
KS: Kansas schools rush to vaccinate teachers
Kansas school districts are rushing to vaccinate their teachers in preparation for an eventual return to a full reopening of classrooms and before a more contagious strain of the coronavirus can spread throughout the state.
VT: Vermont will help pay data breach damages
Vermont will pay a $250,000 insurance deductible for identity protection services promised to people whose Social Security numbers and other information were sent to the wrong addresses in late January.
ID: Idaho lawmakers take aim at crowd size limits
Legislation taking aim at limits on how many people can gather during the coronavirus pandemic cleared the Idaho House, but it doesn’t appear likely to have any force. Lawmakers are angry over restrictions on crowd sizes set for the girls’ state basketball tournament this month.
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