Top State Stories 3/16
MS: Mississippi governor opens vaccine eligibility to all residents
Mississippi is opening up vaccine appointments to everyone, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted. Mississippi is the second state in the U.S. to open up eligibility to all residents, after Alaska.
OK: COVID-19 hit rural Oklahoma communities harder than urban ones
Data from Oklahoma State University’s Center for Rural Health shows rural Oklahomans have been dying of COVID-19 at disproportionate rates compared with their urban counterparts, reflecting long-standing health disparities between rural and urban areas.
MO: Missouri youth protest bills to ban transgender sports, medicine
For the second time in two weeks, transgender youth and their parents flooded committee meetings in the Missouri state legislature hoping to block bills that would ban youth from getting gender reassignment treatments or playing sports on teams that match their gender.
MN: ‘Time to play catch up’ on vaccine race gap in Minnesota, officials say
The latest data show that Black residents make up 6% of Minnesota’s population but 3.5% of its vaccine recipients. The recent vaccine expansion to 1.8 million Minnesotans offers a chance to even that out, health officials say.
VA: Virginia governor gets Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, opted for a shot manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. The COVID-19 vaccine, which consists of just one dose, has faced some reluctance from the public due to perceptions of less efficacy. Virginia officials, however, welcomed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a way to reach herd immunity more quickly.
CO: Colorado is changing state standardized tests for elementary and middle school students
Under a Colorado bill, students in grades three, five and seven would be tested in literacy, but not in math; and students in grades four, six and eight would be tested in mathematics, but not in literacy. Assessment in science and social studies would be canceled for all grades. The test results wouldn’t be used to evaluate teacher performance.
MA: Hundreds of Massachusetts State Police declined COVID-19 vaccines
Thirty percent of the Massachusetts State Police, totaling nearly 850 members in all, have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 at department-run clinics, reflecting a hesitancy that has lingered even among frontline law enforcement.
AZ: Judge orders Arizona GOP to pay thousands in legal fees
Calling its lawsuit challenging 2020 election procedures “groundless” and “disingenuous,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah has ordered the Arizona Republican Party—and its lawyers—to pay the state thousands of dollars in legal fees.
MD: Maryland’s mass vaccine sites will set aside appointments for nearby residents
Under pressure to improve striking disparities in Maryland’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state-run mass vaccination sites will set aside thousands of appointments per week for residents of Baltimore, Prince George’s County and other jurisdictions where the clinics are located.
WV: Bill that would protect Confederate monuments advances to West Virginia House floor
Legislation that would make it illegal to remove or relocate Confederate memorials or monuments from the West Virginia Capitol and other public locations around the state is headed to the floor of the House of Delegates. The House Government Organization Committee approved the bill 19-6, with all Republican members voting in favor and all Democrats opposed.
WI: GOP bill mandates Wisconsin prisoners’ stimulus money goes to restitution
Under Wisconsin Republican state Sen. Julian Bradley and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo’s bill, any federal COVID-19 recovery money sent to someone incarcerated in the state would have to go toward any restitution the prisoner owes. Bradley called the bill “a common sense proposal.”
UT: Utah lawmakers want to pour millions into mental health
In an effort to lower the state’s persistently high suicide rate, Utah lawmakers passed a slate of bills that increase access to mental health services, limit firearm access for people in crisis and boost prevention programs. The legislation comes at a time when many mental health advocates say the pandemic has laid bare the vast amount of need.
WA: Legislation that would address Washington state child care shortages moves forward
A broad legislative proposal that would address child care shortages and prices across Washington state passed its first major hurdle last week. The bill would expand child care access for families and improve support and subsidy rates for providers through a newly created funding account.
ID: Idaho House panel approves prohibition on mask mandates
Legislation to prohibit mask mandates by government entities in Idaho is headed to the state House. The House State Affairs Committee voted 10-2 along party lines, with both Democratic representatives opposed, to approve the measure that’s a reworked version of previous legislation that banned mask mandates at medical facilities.
PA: Pennsylvania lawmakers cashed in big on meals, lodging in 2020
A Spotlight PA analysis of legislative records found that Pennsylvania lawmakers requested and received ,877 from the beginning of March—as the pandemic emerged—through the end of 2020 as reimbursement for lodging and meals while traveling to and from the Capitol or other meetings across the state.
AK: Alaska lawmaker urges peers to disregard mask rules
In remarks an Alaska House Republican gave before removing his mask, he described legislative leaders’ enforcement of COVID-19 safety rules as a “thinly veiled power play.” He said that leaders have not always followed these rules and noted that the Senate allows members to stand and take off their masks when they’re speaking, in contradiction of the rules.
DE: Delaware lawmakers look to restrict use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam
A toxic class of chemicals used in some firefighting foams made its way into drinking water in several places throughout Delaware. A Senate bill would require any facilities training with firefighting foam containing a class of toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, to implement containment and disposal measures to prevent contamination.
AR: Arkansas legislature passes bill to allow medical providers’ conscience objections
A bill to allow health care workers, hospitals and insurance providers to decline to provide services that violate their conscience has passed in both chambers of the Arkansas legislature, though it needs one final Senate approval. The bill would allow providers to opt out of procedures they don’t agree with based on their religious or moral beliefs.
KY: Kentucky Senate’s pension plan would require some teachers to work longer, pay more
The Kentucky Senate added new restrictions to an already controversial teacher pension bill that would reduce benefits for new hires.
IL: Pandemic prompts Illinois to offer break on overdue traffic fines for low-income residents
Under a one-year deferral program, low-income Illinois residents who owe outstanding fines or fees in Chicago and many suburbs won’t have the money taken out of their state income tax returns this year, officials announced.
CA: California governor won’t ‘take this recall attempt lying down’ as Democrats launch defense
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at the effort by critics to remove him from office, calling it a “Republican recall” fueled by backers of former President Donald Trump and warning that it could stymie California’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.
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