Top State Stories 2/23
IL: Illinois governor signs sweeping criminal justice overhaul
Illinois is the first state to enact legislation abolishing cash bail, beginning in 2023, under criminal justice legislation Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law. The bill also will require police officers statewide to wear body cameras by 2025 and create a more robust statewide system for tracking police misconduct and decertifying officers who commit wrongdoing.
HI: Suicides in Hawaii have declined during the pandemic
Preliminary data from Hawaii health regulators shows that fewer people died by suicide in the last year. Early decisions to increase medication and the rapid expansion of the use of telemedicine for psychotherapy, as well as an increased awareness about the need to seek help, may have contributed to the decline.
VA: Virginia death penalty abolition bill awaits governor’s signature
Virginia is a signature away from eliminating the death penalty after sometimes emotional debate in the General Assembly. In 22-16 and 57-42 votes, largely along party lines, the Virginia Senate and House, respectively, passed identical death penalty abolition bills backed by Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to end centuries of capital punishment in Virginia that have led to nearly 1,400 executions since 1608.
AR: Arkansas Senate votes to pass near-total abortion ban
The measure, which now goes the Arkansas House, would prohibit all abortions except for those performed to protect the life and health of the woman, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The bill’s sponsors want to force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its precedent in Roe vs. Wade, in which the court held a woman’s right to an abortion.
UT: Utah House OKs bill shielding government workers from required COVID-19 vaccines
Government agencies could not require Utahns to take the COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment or participation in a government-sponsored activity or event under a new bill that passed the Utah House. It now heads to the Senate.
CO: Colorado’s rural counties are vaccinating people faster than urban ones
The Colorado Sun found rural counties leading in the number of doses administered per 1,000 people. The ten leading counties, all rural, averaged roughly 425 doses administered per 1,000 people in last week’s data. By comparison, the seven counties in the Denver metro area averaged 192 doses administered per 1,000 people.
MA: Massachusetts legislature questions governor’s vaccine rollout
The Massachusetts legislature, which has seemed content to allow the executive branch to lead the state’s fight against the coronavirus, is poised to assert itself this week, summoning Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and his top aides before a new oversight committee to demand answers about the state’s coronavirus vaccine rollout.
GA: Georgia House approves bill that would limit municipal mandates on energy
Members of the Georgia House approved a bill that would prevent local governments from limiting the type of energy that can be used in buildings and homes.
WV: West Virginia leads nation in power outages following winter storms
Several days after last week’s deep freeze, West Virginia still had more than 26,000 outages Monday afternoon, more than any other state, and its statewide percentage of customers without power, 2.67%, was more than twice as much as the state with the next highest clip, Mississippi.
ND: North Dakota House approves bill to prohibit mandatory mask use
North Dakota’s Republican-led House endorsed a measure that would prohibit state or local governments from mandating face coverings. The bill also prohibits “making use of a face mask, shield, or covering a condition for entry for education, employment, or services.”
NE: Nebraska governor: M available to help renters affected by pandemic
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts held firm to his decision to prioritize age in the allocation of COVID-19 vaccinations while turning a spotlight on pandemic-related federal rental assistance that is available to Nebraskans.
SD: South Dakota House leaders weigh impeachment of attorney general in car crash
South Dakota lawmakers are considering impeaching the state’s Republican attorney general as he faces misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car, GOP legislative leaders said.
CT: Connecticut vaccine rollout will be based primarily on age
Connecticut Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration confirmed that priority for COVID-19 vaccination will now be determined by age, with a carve-out for educators and others who work in schools. Residents aged 55 and older, as well as teachers, will be eligible beginning March 1.
IN: Indiana House backs mandate on abortion procedure ‘reversal’
The Indiana House has approved a proposal that would require doctors to tell patients about a disputed treatment to stop a drug-induced abortion after a woman has taken the first of two pills for the procedure. The Republican-dominated House voted 67-29 in favor of the bill, sending it to the state Senate for consideration.
ME: Maine will likely vaccinate 65-year-olds next week
Maine is on pace to begin vaccinating residents in the 65-to-69 age group as early as next week amid a continued downward trend of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
SC: Big corporations push for South Carolina hate crimes law
Heavyweight companies are throwing their support behind hate-crime legislation, asking the South Carolina legislature to pass the measure more than eight months after the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests over the unequal treatment of Black men and women. The companies include Walmart, IBM and UPS.
WA: Washington expects to collect more than B in marijuana taxes
For the first time since voters approved recreational pot use nine years ago, the state of Washington is expected to collect more than $1 billion in marijuana sales taxes and fees over the course of its next two-year budget cycle. Money from legal cannabis sales amounts to about 2% of the state operating budget.
OR: More prescribed burns could be approved in Oregon
The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment for rule changes that would allow more smoke in Oregon from prescribed burning on forest lands. The goal for the revisions is to keep air quality levels below the federal government’s air quality standards—while also finding a balance with increasing prescribed burns and protecting public health.
ID: Idaho bill appears to eliminate coronavirus as an emergency
Legislation defining pandemics that would appear to eliminate the current coronavirus pandemic from qualifying as an emergency in Idaho headed to the House. The measure sets a minimum death rate at 1.5% for an epidemic or pandemic to qualify as an emergency.
CA: ‘Low-cost’ plan for a California bullet train brings M in overruns, big delays
A 65-mile section of California’s bullet train through the San Joaquin Valley that a contractor assured could be constructed much more cheaply—with radical design changes—has become another troubling and costly chapter in the high-speed rail project.
FL: Florida’s vaccine equity is probed
A former Florida Republican governor is accusing GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis of funneling coronavirus vaccinations to wealthy supporters. Charlie Crist, now a Democratic U.S. representative, said some vaccination sites are targeted to those with political connections.
NJ: New Jersey governor signs legal marijuana bills
More than three years after he took office with hopes of legalizing marijuana in 100 days, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills that together launch a marijuana industry in New Jersey and put an end to thousands of drug-related arrests.
OK: Oklahoma’s GOP lawmakers aim to invalidate Biden’s executive orders
More than 60 Oklahoma House Republicans support a bill that would allow their state to challenge orders from the federal government and declare those actions unconstitutional through a majority vote of the GOP-controlled state legislature. They cited the dozens of executive orders President Joe Biden has signed in his first month in office.
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