Top State Stories 3/5
SC: South Carolina educators who resigned due to COVID-19 are having their teachers’ licenses suspended
At least six teachers in South Carolina who resigned due to the pandemic have had action taken against their licenses. The state Board of Education ruled on two such cases in January and four more in February, choosing to suspend five of the teachers’ licenses and publicly reprimand a sixth.
OK: Oklahoma House passes controversial data privacy bill
Data privacy legislation passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives includes an “opt-in” provision that would require social media and telecommunications companies to obtain explicit agreement from individuals before harvesting their information. The bill is opposed by several industry voices and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, but has almost 40 House co-authors and passed 85-11.
MO: Missouri moves closer to allowing guns on public buses and trains
The Missouri House gave preliminary approval to a measure that would allow some passengers to carry guns on public buses and trains. The proposal would apply only to people who have a state-issued concealed carry permit for firearms.
CA: California will reserve 40% of COVID-19 vaccines for disadvantaged areas
In a major shift in policy, California officials said they will now devote 40% of available COVID-19 vaccines to residents in the most disadvantaged areas, a move designed to both slow the spread of the coronavirus and speed up the reopening of the economy.
SD: South Dakota governor weighs in on special session process for attorney general impeachment
South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem said that the legislature could easily convene to consider impeaching the state’s attorney general for his role in a fatal car crash, putting her at odds with the Republican lawmaker overseeing the proceedings.
AL: Alabama’s Republican governor extends face mask mandate
Breaking with other Southern GOP governors, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended her state’s mask order for another month but said the requirement will end for good in April.
KS: Kansas labor department plans to more than double unemployment call center staff
Unemployed Kansans and victims of fraud have complained for months of jammed phone lines at the Department of Labor. Now the agency is more than doubling the size of its call center.
PA: Vaccination clinics for Pennsylvania teachers could open as soon as next week
Vaccination sites for teachers and school support staff will begin operating as soon as next week, Pennsylvania officials said, while thousands of additional doses will be earmarked for child care workers through private pharmacy partnerships.
CT: Connecticut dramatically rolls back COVID-19 restrictions
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he will soon roll out an expansive reopening plan for Connecticut, including allowing restaurants to operate at full capacity, loosening rules on sports and entertainment venues, and lifting the travel ban. Most of the changes will go into effect on March 19.
RI: Rhode Island will ease restrictions on funerals, gyms; restaurant capacity is increased
Rhode Island will begin easing capacity limits on restaurants, gyms and funerals. Restaurants will be allowed to seat customers indoors at 66% capacity, gyms can have one customer per 100 square feet indoors and funeral homes can host up to 30 people for indoor wakes.
MA: Massachusetts scrapped its mass vaccination plan despite refining it for 2 decades
Just days after federal drug regulators authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December, Massachusetts abandoned its blueprint and instead entrusted a handful of private companies with running its mass vaccination sites.
AR: Arkansas governor, court split on vaccine eligibility order
Arkansas’ highest court ordered the state to immediately make coronavirus vaccines available to judges, prosecutors and other court employees, but GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson said they’ll have to wait if they’re not already eligible for the shots.
NJ: New Jersey governor signs bill protecting LGBTQ, HIV-positive seniors in long-term care facilities
Long-term care facilities in New Jersey cannot deny access to, discharge, evict or transfer LGBTQ and HIV-positive seniors based on their identity after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights into law.
CO: Colorado governor and his longtime partner reveal engagement
Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and his longtime partner, Marlon Reis, have kept their Dec. 6 engagement mostly private for the past three months. The governor popped the question as Reis was preparing to leave for the hospital to be treated for COVID-19.
UT: Utahns age 50 and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines
Utahns age 50 and older can start making appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccinations next week, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox announced. Cox also said Utahns over age 18 with certain health conditions, including diabetes and obesity, can now seek a vaccination.
ME: Maine will open vaccinations to school staff regardless of age
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, announced that pre-K-12 school staff and child care providers will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines regardless of age. The news was welcomed by educators who were frustrated with the age-based plans, though the state said the decision to prioritize teachers could slow the effort to vaccinate those 60 and over.
NC: More North Carolina Republicans switch parties
More than 15,000 registered North Carolina Republicans have switched parties since the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, with 85% of them becoming politically unaffiliated. North Carolina Republican Party spokesperson Tim Wigginton said that small swings in a pool of more than 7 million registered North Carolina voters are not that concerning to the party.
TX: Texas cities will keep mask mandates
Mayors in some of Texas’ biggest cities will still mandate the use of masks in municipal buildings, even after the statewide mask order ends next week. Libraries and convention centers in those cities won’t allow visitors without face coverings.
WA: Washington state law enforcement, firefighters, grocery workers can soon get COVID-19 vaccines
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, expanded the list of Washingtonians eligible for vaccine doses in the coming weeks to law enforcement, public transit and grocery workers, and to incarcerated people, people experiencing homelessness and people with underlying medical conditions.
OR: Oregon hotels pay to settle wildfire price-gouging allegation
Four Oregon hotels will pay ,600 in penalties and reimburse at least 100 customers to settle allegations of price gouging during last September’s wildfires. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, said the hotels have agreed to settle price-gouging allegations by paying financial penalties.
MS: Mississippi opens vaccines to all people age 50 and older
Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, expanded the number of people in Mississippi eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, adding anyone ages 50 and up. Previously, the ages 65 and up were considered eligible.
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