Top State Stories 3/11
NJ: Only half of New Jersey nursing home staff are vaccinated, putting residents at risk
One out of every two people working at a nursing home in New Jersey are still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, raising fears among public health officials that residents may continue to be at risk despite infection rates plunging at the facilities.
CO: Colorado lawmakers announce M stimulus package
Colorado’s main political leaders are walking back some of last year’s budget cuts in the early days of the pandemic, calling a newly announced $700 million in proposed one-time spending a “bold stimulus package” that’ll invest in things such as infrastructure, small-business tax relief, agriculture and broadband access.
IL: Illinois schools can cut social distance limit from 6 to 3 feet under new rules
The long-standing 6-feet social distancing rule for Illinois schools has been halved to 3 feet, part of loosened guidelines unveiled by state education and health departments that say the new rules are needed for a rapid return to the classroom.
MO: GOP lawmakers move to make it harder to change Missouri constitution
Citizens pushing for changes to the Missouri constitution would have to earn support from two-thirds of voters to succeed under a proposal given first-round approval by the state House. As it stands, a simple majority is required. In recent years, voters have expanded Medicaid, legalized medical marijuana and changed ethics rules through the process, but none of those efforts earned a two-thirds share.
AZ: Hundreds of people enter Arizona marijuana license lottery
People applying for a shot at new marijuana retail licenses in rural Arizona counties had to pay a $25,000 nonrefundable fee to enter what amounts to a lottery for the licenses next month. That means the state collected about $9.4 million from the nearly 400 applications.
FL: Florida moves to restore some felon rights
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis approved automatic restoration of the right to hold office and serve on a jury for Floridians with felony convictions. Voting rights were restored by a voter-approved amendment in 2018.
HI: Hawaii governor declares emergency as heavy rain wreaks havoc
Enormous amounts of rainfall in a short period of time across Hawaii caused life-threatening situations and damage. Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, signed an emergency declaration that will free up state funds to help those across the state hit by the heavy rainfall and flooding.
TX: Texas will drop its vaccination eligibility age to 50
Texans ages 50 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting March 15. Vaccine availability is ramping up across the state, but appointments are hard to find because the number of eligible recipients outnumbers the vaccine supply.
IN: Indiana expands COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers
Next week, teachers and other school employees will be able to get COVID-19 vaccinations through Indiana’s shot clinics across the state. State health officials said that the eligibility expansion comes at the direction of the Biden administration.
OR: Oregon Democrats want to give renters more time to repay missed bills
Oregon tenants who have fallen behind on rent due to the coronavirus pandemic may not have to make up those missed payments until 2022, under a proposal floated by legislative Democrats. The proposal would extend the grace period for renters to make up those missed payments to Feb. 28, 2022.
NV: Nevada vaccine groups are not changing, despite unused appointments
Nevada health officials would not say whether they are considering Clark County’s plea to lower the vaccine eligibility age to 55. Thousands of vaccine appointments in Clark County—home to Las Vegas—are going unfilled.
NC: North Carolina governor, GOP reach deal on school reopening
The deal between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and leaders of the Republican-led North Carolina legislature will require school districts to provide full-time, daily in-person instruction to elementary school students. Reopening for middle school and high school students will be optional.
AL: Governor reopens Alabama Capitol to public; cites vaccines, fewer COVID-19 cases
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has reopened the Alabama Capitol to the public, saying that the rising number of vaccinations and a downward trend in COVID-19 cases make it safe to do so.
KS: GOP lawmaker pushes plan to undo Kansas policy on vaccines
A Republican lawmaker in Kansas outlined a measure that would overturn Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s policy of withholding doses of COVID-19 vaccines from counties wanting to move to a new phase of inoculations before the rest of the state.
MS: Mississippi House kills medical marijuana bill
After bitter debate, the Mississippi House killed a Senate bill aimed at creating a legislative alternative to the medical marijuana program voters overwhelmingly added to the state constitution last November. Now the question of whether Mississippi will have a medical marijuana program anytime soon rests with the state Supreme Court.
ID: Idaho House defeats bill outlawing protests at private homes
Legislation that would make it illegal to demonstrate at private residences in Idaho was defeated in the state House. Backers said the measure was needed to prevent mobs from intimidating and terrorizing families in their homes.
IA: Journalist acquitted in Iowa case seen as attack on press
An Iowa jury acquitted a journalist who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by police while covering a protest, in a case that critics have derided as an attack on press freedoms and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.
SC: South Carolina bill would block doctors from giving gender-affirming treatment to transgender youth
A South Carolina Democrat has filed a bill that would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming medical procedures or medication to transgender youth. The bill has bipartisan support and is part of a wave of similar bills being debated in states across the country.
WY: Conservative Wyoming lawmakers debate ‘cancel culture’ bills
Wyoming lawmakers are considering multiple bills aimed at reining in social media platforms and the perceived stifling of First Amendment rights. One bill would prohibit firing workers over off-site activities, including protests and social media posts. Another would penalize Twitter and Facebook for restricting users over offensive posts.
ND: North Dakota bill would increase penalties for drug dealers in overdose deaths
North Dakota law enforcement agencies urged state lawmakers to support a bill that would enact harsher penalties for drug traffickers. The bill would make it a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison for someone convicted of trafficking drugs that cause a death.
MA: Massachusetts unveils vaccine preregistration system to ease appointment frenzy
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a new online preregistration tool to make it easier to book an appointment at seven mass vaccination sites, a bid to ease the mounting frustration over the frenzied competition to secure a COVID-19 shot.
KY: Kentucky senators stall bill punishing late utility payments
Two skeptical Kentucky state senators managed to stall a controversial House bill that would protect utilities’ right to charge late fees and to terminate service to customers who fall behind on payment.
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