Top State Stories 2/24
CA: California’s coronavirus strain looks increasingly dangerous: ‘The devil is already here’
A coronavirus variant that emerged in mid-2020 and surged to become the dominant strain in California not only spreads more readily than its predecessors, but also evades antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines or prior infection, and is associated with severe illness and death, researchers said. The study helps explain the state’s dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
WI: Republican lawmakers seek to restrict voting access in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Republicans want to require absentee voters to provide an ID for every election, limit who can automatically receive absentee ballots for every election and create more paperwork for those who vote early in clerks’ offices. The proposals also would put new limits on when voters are considered indefinitely confined because of age or disability.
MO: Missouri Senate gives preliminary approval to new police protections, protester penalties
The Missouri bill’s provisions include what supporters call a “law enforcement bill of rights” for officers under investigation, increased penalties for protesters who block traffic or vandalize monuments, and the right for taxpayers to obtain court orders against municipalities that cut police budgets much more steeply than those of other departments.
MA: Massachusetts governor wants elementary students in school five days a week in April
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and top education officials unveiled a proposal to force districts to reopen their schools for in-person learning five days a week, a move that immediately ignited passions across the state and raised questions about local control.
CO: Alcohol to-go could become the norm in Colorado
Some Colorado restaurants and bars will be able to indefinitely offer alcohol for takeout and delivery if a bipartisan bill passes in the legislature this year. A major liquor store group opposes the plan.
UT: Utah lawmakers push for M in tax relief
Utah House and Senate leaders have announced a million tax cut package that targets families with dependent children, Social Security recipients and military retirees. Last week lawmakers announced they would have an extra .5 billion to spend this year, mostly due to the state’s rapidly improving economy.
AZ: US Supreme Court denies a hearing for an election lawsuit by Arizona GOP chair
The U.S. Supreme Court will not consider Arizona Republican Party leader Kelli Ward’s claim she was denied due process when challenging the state’s presidential election results. Nor will justices review Ward’s constitutional challenge of the federal safe harbor deadline, the cutoff by which states must resolve election disputes to guarantee Congress will count their electors’ votes.
MI: Michigan vaccination effort shows racial disparity
Initial Michigan data on COVID-19 vaccination rates shows disparities in race despite state efforts aimed at equitable access. About 8% of the White population has been vaccinated, compared to 4.1 % for Black, 5% for Asian and 5.4% for American Indian and Alaska Native residents.
NV: Nevada still ranks near the bottom for COVID-19 vaccine allotment
Nevada health officials are still awaiting answers about why the state has one of the nation’s lowest COVID-19 vaccine allocations from the federal government. As of this week, the state remained ranked among the bottom 10 states in terms of vaccine allocation per capita.
OK: Oklahoma House passes bill that would let governor appoint US senator
The Oklahoma House passed a bill that would allow the governor to appoint a person to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat, rather than holding a special election. The governor would pick from a list of at least three names submitted by the House speaker, and state Senate confirmation would be required.
NJ: New Jersey governor unveils .8B budget with no tax hikes, big money for pensions
Without raising or adding any taxes or fees, New Jersey would make its first full contribution to the public pension system in a quarter century, while boosting aid to schools and providing income tax rebates to hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income families. The state’s finances are in better shape largely because of big borrowing this fiscal year and an improved revenue outlook.
WA: Some Washington state providers will get double delivery of vaccine after storm delays
Some providers in Washington are slated to receive twice as many COVID-19 vaccines this week, after ice and snow delayed last week’s shipments across the nation. Many vaccine providers across the state are focused on providing second doses this week.
OR: First doses of vaccine have reached almost all Oregonians in long-term care
Oregon quietly reached a monumental milestone last week in the fight against COVID-19: First doses of the vaccine for COVID-19 have reached almost every nursing home, assisted living and memory care facility in the state, according to the pharmacies distributing it.
ID: Idaho could soon offer compensation for wrongful convictions
Idaho House members unanimously approved a Senate bill that would offer individuals ,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration or ,000 for every year wrongfully spent on death row. Senators unanimously approved the bill early this month.
HI: Hawaii grapples with how to use stockpile of rapid COVID-19 tests
Some 720,000 rapid COVID-19 tests nearing their official expiration date in March sit in a Hawaii state warehouse. Since their purchase last year, the tests have been used during COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes, care homes, prisons, housing complexes and hospital facilities.
MS: Mississippi teachers, first responders will be eligible for vaccinations in March
First responders and K-12 teachers and staff will soon be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced. Tens of thousands of open appointments are expected to be added to the state’s scheduling system in the coming days to accommodate the expansion.
IA: Iowa Republicans square off against labor groups over plan to cut unemployment benefits
Union and industry representatives are at odds about how a proposal to cut unemployment benefits could affect Iowa’s broader economy. The Republican-led Iowa House Labor Committee approved the legislation.
KS: Kansas Republicans seek amendment for legislative veto over regulations, state agencies
Kansas Republican lawmakers, seeking more power over what one dubbed “a fourth branch of government,” are calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow them to veto regulations issued by state agencies.
PA: Voters may lose right to choose Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor candidates
The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing a measure that would give the state’s political parties final say over candidates for lieutenant governor, taking that power away from voters.
IN: Indiana Senate moves bills aimed at law enforcement control
Indiana state senators advanced measures that would allow police to determine what use of force is reasonable in some cases and would let the state’s attorney general appoint special prosecutors to handle criminal cases that local authorities decide not to pursue. Both bills are now headed to the House.
IL: Illinois governor calls for loans to help municipalities hit with high utility bills
Severe cold and heavy snow in February that spurred a sharp increase in utility bills prompted Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker to call for a million low-interest loan program for municipalities affected by high natural gas prices.
MN: Southern storms could cost Minnesotans up to in higher heat costs
At a special meeting called by the Minnesota Public Utilities commission to examine a national surge in gas prices after a historic cold wave hit the South, the state’s largest gas utilities announced Minnesotans will pay up to more for their February heating bills. The commission voted to start a formal investigation.
VT: Vermont lifts travel quarantine for vaccinated people
Since November, anyone traveling in or out of Vermont has had to isolate for two weeks upon entering or preparing to leave the state, or for a week if they received a negative COVID-19 test result. Now travelers who have been vaccinated may freely come or go without isolating.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.