Top State Stories 3/12
NY: New York governor faces impeachment inquiry led by fellow Democrats
New York state lawmakers opened an impeachment inquiry into Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the surest sign yet that the governor was seeing his party turn against him amid growing scrutiny of a recent series of sexual harassment accusations. After a three-hour emergency meeting, the State Assembly announced that it would give its judiciary committee broad jurisdiction to investigate allegations of misconduct against Cuomo, including the sexual harassment claims and his administration’s handling of virus-related deaths of nursing home patients.
MD: Maryland has spent millions on vaccine contracts—with little public disclosure
Maryland health officials have signed at least two emergency contracts to improve the state’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, committing taxpayers to spending tens of millions of dollars without detailing how the money would be spent. Emergency contracts do not go through the normal process of soliciting and analyzing bids from multiple vendors.
MO: Missouri House approves bill that would limit power of local health departments
The Missouri House passed a measure that would allow local public health authorities to order closures to stop the spread of disease for only 15 days. After that, extensions of the order would require the approval of two-thirds of elected lawmakers, such as city or county councils. After 45 days, another extension would need unanimous approval.
AZ: Effort to block clean energy rules stumbles in Arizona legislature
Efforts by Republican lawmakers to strip elected utility regulators of their power to require utilities to increase the use of clean energy sources have hit a big bump, with the Arizona’s largest utility opposing the move.
AL: Alabama House votes to lift ban on yoga in public schools
The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill to end the state’s almost 30-year old ban on teaching yoga in public schools. The state Board of Education banned yoga from K-12 schools in 1993 because of its connection to Eastern religions.
OR: Oregon governor will consider trimming prison sentences for inmates who fought wildfires
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, signaled she will consider reducing the sentences of inmates who helped battle historic wildfires last year, including some violent offenders. The Department of Corrections has identified 164 people who are eligible.
VA: Virginia state coffers are suddenly flush with cash
Virginia state revenues are up by more than billion as almost billion in new federal relief funds are likely slated for state and local governments. The state has collected almost .1 billion more in the first eight months of the fiscal year than the same period a year ago.
PA: Pennsylvania seniors are ‘at their wit’s ends’ trying to get coronavirus vaccines
Two months into the coronavirus vaccine rollout, many of Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million seniors said they have not been able to get an appointment for a shot, according to a statewide AARP survey. Their frustration with the process has mounted amid the news of a second-dose shortage and controversy over the southeast region’s vaccine supply.
NJ: Despite eviction freeze, New Jersey renters are still being locked out by landlords
Eviction cases are occurring throughout New Jersey, despite the protections the governor put in place. Housing experts have urged state leaders to condemn landlords who flout the executive order and the law that requires a warrant for removals.
WI: Wisconsin residents with certain health conditions will be eligible for vaccines March 29
Millions of people with certain high-risk health conditions will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in the next phase of Wisconsin’s rollout, state health officials announced. By May, everyone ages 16 and older in Wisconsin will be eligible to get vaccines.
OK: Oklahoma governor will lift coronavirus restrictions, despite CDC warnings
Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he will roll back his few remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including limits on public gatherings and a mandate that masks be worn in state buildings.
CA: Most California indoor dining rooms and gyms could reopen by next week
Most California counties could find themselves out of the state’s strictest coronavirus closure tier within the next week, setting the stage for a wider economic reopening than has been seen in months.
NC: North Carolina moves those with medical conditions up its COVID-19 vaccine list
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said that some members of Group 4—including those with medical conditions that leave them at risk from COVID-19—will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines a week early. Group 4 includes anyone 16 to 64 years-old with one or more high-risk medical conditions for severe disease from COVID-19, as well as people living in close group settings.
UT: Utah bill would make it harder to get a voter initiative on the ballot
Supporters of a bill that would tighten the rules for ballot initiatives argued that the measure would protect Utah from the influence of outside interests. But the bill was promoted by a shadowy out-of-state group called the Foundation for Government Accountability.
SC: South Carolina lawmakers strip LGBTQ protections from hate crimes bill
A panel of South Carolina lawmakers stripped explicit protections for members of the LGBTQ community out of a hate crimes bill that was advanced by members of the state House. If the bill passes, the protected characteristics named in the bill would only be actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, national origin and physical or mental disability.
MS: Mississippi governor signs bill banning trans competition in women’s sports
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, signed a bill designed to prevent transgender girls and women from competing against female athletes in public schools and colleges, though he could not cite any instance of that occurring in the state.
SD: South Dakota Senate scuttles governor’s medical marijuana plan
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s push to scale back a voter-approved measure to legalize medical marijuana failed after senators from her own party defied her. Noem had argued that her administration needed more time to implement the program, but the senators reasoned they owed it to voters to end marijuana prohibitions in some form.
TX: Texas lawmakers seek reversal of storm costs
Dozens of Texas lawmakers support a push to reverse billion in costs incurred by market participants during power failures in last month’s winter storm. But the state’s top utility regulator has rejected the idea on grounds that it could upset the free market, chill new investment and trigger lawsuits.
ID: Idaho bill would allow concealed carry for school employees
A bill that would allow Idaho school staffers to carry a concealed weapon is one step closer to becoming law. House members approved the bill, which would permit school employees with an enhanced concealed weapons license to carry a firearm on school grounds.
NH: New Hampshire considers banning life without parole for kids
New Hampshire juveniles convicted of homicide would no longer be sentenced to life in prison without parole under a bill before a House committee. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., already have enacted similar legislation.
MA: Massachusetts vaccination rates lag for Latino residents
New data reveals striking disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates in the 20 Massachusetts cities and towns hardest hit by the pandemic, especially among Latino residents, whose inoculation rates lag those of other racial and ethnic groups.
KY: Kentucky House lays out which COVID-19 orders it would keep. Masks aren’t one of them.
As a legal case over Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive powers moves through the Kentucky courts system, the Kentucky General Assembly is considering legislation that specifies which of his executive orders and regulations dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that it would— and wouldn’t—extend.
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.