Top State Stories 3/8
SC: South Carolina governor scraps mask requirements in restaurants, state buildings
Under Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s latest COVID-19 order, South Carolinians will no longer be required to wear face masks inside state-owned buildings or inside restaurants when not eating or drinking. McMaster also asked state agency directors to submit plans to bring employees back to offices full-time.
WV: West Virginia governor removes capacity restrictions for many businesses
There no longer are any capacity limits in place for West Virginia bars, restaurants, gyms, retail centers or museums, Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced. Justice said he rescinded the limits because West Virginia’s virus case load continues to fall and vaccination rates are increasing.
MO: Rural vaccine surpluses around Missouri spark frustration and questions
Rural counties across Missouri haven’t been able to find enough residents to use up coronavirus vaccines sent to them for mass vaccination events in recent weeks, leaving thousands of surplus doses, even as the state’s urban residents drive hours to get in line.
OR: Oregon businesses are, by and large, still open
The pandemic’s ultimate toll on individual businesses in Oregon may be less severe than feared. Bankruptcies were down last year, in Oregon and across the country, despite the sudden recession, and just 5% of bars and restaurants surrendered their Oregon liquor licenses in 2020.
TX: Crisis looms at Texas border
Democratic leaders of Texas border communities are putting pressure on President Joe Biden to act as a wave of migrants has started crossing into Texas. The coming migration surge could be on par with those in 2019 and 2014.
US: GOP pushed bills to allow social media ‘censorship’ lawsuits
Republican state lawmakers are pushing for social media giants to face costly lawsuits for policing content on their websites, taking aim at a federal law that prevents internet companies from being sued for removing posts.
WA: Washington state Senate approves new tax on capital gains
Profits on the sale of stocks and bonds in excess of ,000 would be subject to a new tax on capital gains under a bill narrowly approved by the Washington state Senate. The measure passed a 25-24 vote after more than four hours of debate in the Democratic-led chamber.
IN: Plans curbing Indiana governor’s emergency powers face doubts
Indiana legislators have advanced bills that would curb a governor’s authority to impose emergency restrictions through measures such as mask rules and business closures. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and others question whether those proposals, written by members of his own party, are allowed under the state constitution.
FL: Florida vaccine rules cause confusion
Many Floridians are eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines but are being turned away at vaccine sites that are imposing arbitrary thresholds for eligibility. Some sites failed to approve enough people to use all the available doses.
UT: Utah’s mask mandate will lift April 10
Utah’s statewide mask mandate will end April 10 under a law passed in the final hours of the legislative session. “We anticipate that by April 1st every adult in the state of Utah will be eligible for the vaccine,” Republican Gov. Spencer Cox said on Fox News.
MA: Massachusetts unions push governor to back plan for firefighters to vaccinate educators, school workers
Unions representing teachers and firefighters expect to meet with Massachusetts’ Health and Human Services secretary to discuss their proposal to have firefighters administer vaccine doses to thousands of school workers—a program they say would facilitate a more timely and convenient inoculation of educators.
OK: Oklahoma extends COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to homeless shelters, prisons
Oklahoma is expanding vaccine eligibility to roughly 40,000 more residents, including staff and residents in congregate locations and worksites. Those locations include homeless shelters, prisons and jails, some manufacturing facilities without appropriate space for social distancing, and public transit systems.
WI: Wisconsin nursing homes see a 97% drop in COVID-19 cases
New coronavirus cases in Wisconsin nursing homes have taken a nosedive since the first week of vaccinations and were in the single digits in the latest week reported to the federal government.
VT: Permanent, universal mail-in voting gains support in Vermont legislature
Vermont lawmakers began mulling permanent expansion of voting-by-mail after election officials mailed a ballot to every registered voter in the state this fall. The move helped to drive record turnout in the Nov. 3 election.
ND: North Dakota lawmaker expulsion reveals policy problems
After the North Dakota House voted to expel a lawmaker accused of a long pattern of sexually harassing women at the Capitol, attention has turned to a policy that inadvertently may have made harassment harder to stop.
MD: After decades of secrecy, Maryland might make police disciplinary records public
A bill passed by the Maryland Senate would make completed investigations of officer misconduct releasable in many cases, regardless of whether they resulted in discipline. Officials could still withhold records by deeming their disclosure “contrary to the public interest.”
NY: Top New York Senate Democrat calls on governor to resign
New York state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called for Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign amid widening sexual harassment allegations that are being leveled against him, making her the highest-ranking Democrat to call on the governor to step down. Minutes later, Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie also called for Cuomo to consider stepping aside.
VA: Virginia governor seeks to ‘institutionalize’ diversity at state agencies
Among Virginia’s 57,000 classified state employees, Black workers are underrepresented in leadership positions, and Hispanics are hardly represented in the state workforce. Those are some of the issues state officials hope to address through a new statewide plan that would require equity, diversity and inclusion efforts at every state agency.
WY: Wyoming lawmakers must find a way to fund schools
Right now, there’s a roughly million shortfall for education and education construction costs in Wyoming. Officials have begun calling that shortfall a structural deficit.
AK: Alaska now spends more on prisons than its university system
Alaska now spends more on its prisons than its university system, a reversal of longtime practice, and the gap would widen under the draft budget being considered by the state legislature.
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