Top State Stories 2/18
US: Severe weather hampers vaccine deliveries, distribution
The icy blast across much of the U.S. injected more confusion and frustration into the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive just when it was gathering speed, snarling vaccine deliveries and forcing the cancellation of countless shots. Across a large swath of the nation, including Deep South states like Georgia and Alabama, the weather either led to the closing of vaccination sites outright or held up the necessary shipments.
TX: Texans face water shortages after winter storm
After enduring days of freezing temperatures, city officials across Texas warned that water levels are dangerously low—due to faucets being opened to prevent frozen pipes—and the tap may be unsafe to drink from. Nearly 12 million people may be affected.
CA: Californians with low incomes will receive checks under COVID-19 economic package
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced that they have agreed to provide low-income Californians a state stimulus payment to help them weather financial hardships during the pandemic, part of a .6 billion economic recovery package that also includes .1 billion in grants for small businesses.
NC: North Carolina legislature sends school reopening mandate to governor
The North Carolina state legislature sent the governor a bill that would require the state’s K-12 public school districts to offer in-person learning again, after nearly a year of remote learning for some students.
IN: Indiana House overrides governor’s veto of landlord-tenant bill
The Republican-led Indiana House voted to override Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of a 2020 bill that would prohibit Indianapolis from regulating relationships between tenants and landlords. The Senate approved the override last week, meaning the measure will automatically become law.
WI: Wisconsin GOP adds virus provision to unemployment measure
Republican lawmakers dramatically reshaped Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to upgrade the state’s antiquated unemployment claim technology, eliminating guaranteed funding for the project and absolving businesses and schools of liability for COVID-19 infections.
MS: Mississippi bill would allow voters to decide on gas tax increase
A sweeping transportation bill filed by one of the most powerful Republican leaders in the legislature would allow voters to decide whether to temporarily increase Mississippi’s tax on motor fuels to pay for specific improvement projects on highways.
CT: Connecticut residents would avoid millions in double taxation under proposal
More than 80,000 Connecticut residents with pre-pandemic daily commutes to New York and another 30,000 with jobs in Massachusetts are still being taxed by those states—though the coronavirus has kept them working remotely at home. A new proposal would put a stop to the double taxation.
MN: Minnesota recreational pot bill passes committee
The battle to legalize recreational marijuana gained new life at the Minnesota Capitol after a measure to permit adult cannabis use survived its first committee test. Supporters of the measure described it as an important racial and criminal justice measure that could also bring millions of dollars in new revenue to a state that’s been hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IL: Illinois governor goes after Republicans in budget speech
Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed a .6 billion state budget that takes on Republicans for leading the opposition to his graduated-rate income tax plan by recommending cuts to nearly billion in business tax breaks. Cutting the breaks, he argued, would help balance state spending amid the ongoing pandemic.
PA: Pennsylvania State Police will escape legislative scrutiny in 2021 budget process
One of the nation’s largest statewide police forces, the Pennsylvania State Police, will not be subject to annual budget hearings, shielding the department from lawmakers who have used the forum in the past to question officials and hold them accountable.
MD: Maryland sees rise in opioid-related deaths amid pandemic
Between January and September of 2020, there were 2,025 unintentional intoxication deaths involving all types of drugs and alcohol in Maryland, a 12.1% increase from the same period in 2019, according to a report from the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center.
AR: No approval needed for gatherings up to 100, Arkansas governor says
Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that the state Department of Health has revised its rules so that indoor events with up to 100 people can once again be held without submitting a plan to the department for approval. Since Jan. 2, organizers of events with more than 10 people had been required to submit plans.
SD: Without access to South Dakota banks, future marijuana businesses could only use cash
A bill that would allow future marijuana shops and hemp businesses to use South Dakota banks will move forward to the House floor after a unanimous vote of approval by a House committee.
AL: Alabama lawmaker wants rioters to face felony charges, inability to hold elected office
Rioting, looting and other violence similar to what was seen in Birmingham over the summer would become felony crimes under legislation that will be introduced when Alabama lawmakers return to the capitol next week.
AK: Alaska law requires more disclosure of hidden political dollars
Groups on both sides of last year’s battle for control of the Alaska legislature spent substantial amounts of money from entities that don’t disclose their donors before the election—or at all. But starting this year, that practice will be banned: A ballot measure approved in November requires groups trying to influence the election of candidates to disclose the true source of all their donations greater than ,000.
UT: No-knock warrant bill stalls in Utah
A watered-down version of a bill seeking to rein in the use of controversial no-knock warrants—which allow police to burst into a home without warning to make an arrest or search for evidence of crimes—has stalled again in a Utah House committee. The bill would primarily prohibit no-knock warrants when their aim is solely to preserve evidence.
AZ: Arizona Senate panel OKs legalizing drug testing strips
An Arizona Senate committee has unanimously approved a measure that would legalize the use of test strips that can detect the presence of the potent opiate fentanyl. The test strips are now considered illegal drug paraphernalia.
HI: Hawaii lawmakers weigh bill that would affect control of state’s beef industry
Hawaii lawmakers are considering whether it is beneficial to the state for one person to own approximately 70% of the state’s capacity to process beef. A Senate bill would impose several restrictions on the meat processor, an Idaho billionaire.
NH: New Hampshire debates the future of absentee voting
Expanded absentee voting eligibility helped propel New Hampshire to a new voter turnout record in 2020, despite much uncertainty around how the pandemic would affect the election. Now, policymakers are split—largely along partisan lines—about what the future of absentee voting in New Hampshire should look like.
MO: Missouri bill would permanently allow curbside cocktails
Missouri lawmakers advanced a bill to make permanent a temporary rule allowing curbside cocktails during the pandemic.
IA: Republicans seek to shorten Iowa’s early voting period
Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate are advancing bills that would shorten the state’s early voting period by 11 days, limit absentee ballot collection and create new criminal charges for county auditors who fail to follow state rules.
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