Top State Stories 3/18
WA: Washington health officials race to vaccinate farmworkers
Washington is kicking off a campaign to vaccinate a broad wave of frontline workers in food processing, agriculture and the seafood industry. This new immunization push—which also includes workers in public transit, corrections and grocery stores, along with pregnant women and those with disabilities that put them at high risk—comes as vaccine supply expands.
CO: Colorado bills seek to shield immigrants from ICE, provide legal representation
Colorado lawmakers have introduced several bills this session that would shield immigrants from being arrested over civil immigration violations—measures that would ban state agencies from sharing personal information with federal agencies and make it illegal to extort someone over their immigration status.
UT: Protection against hidden rental fees is written into Utah law
Utah renters finally have their “truth in renting” law after a rough and rocky journey. After undergoing some targeted tweaks, it finally made it across the finish line and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox.
HI: Hawaii’s unemployed must clear up earlier benefit snafus before getting federal dollars
An untold number of unemployed Hawaii residents continue to face overpayment issues, where snafus involving just a few hundred dollars have prevented claimants and their families from receiving thousands of dollars in additional payments. Anyone trying to advance from the state’s regular unemployment insurance system to the federally funded Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is going to run into problems if they’re flagged for overpayment.
MD: Maryland lawmakers approve M to settle HBCU lawsuit
Maryland lawmakers gave final passage to a measure that would pay million over 10 years to settle a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination and underfunding at the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities. An attorney described it as “one of the largest pro bono civil rights settlements in history.”
MS: Mississippi lags in tracking virus variants
Mississippi lags much of the nation when it comes to tracking the spread of coronavirus variants in the state, but the department of health hopes to make improvements soon. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said that Mississippi is testing only 75 samples per week for variants.
AZ: Arizona bill would shield businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits
Arizona lawmakers have advanced legislation offering a broad shield from lawsuits related to COVID-19, saying businesses and health care providers deserve protection for doing their best during a challenging time.
NV: Nevadans 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in April
All Nevadans 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5, while those of the same age group with underlying medical conditions can get their shot as early as next week, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced.
PA: Hopes dim that Pennsylvania lawmakers will pass emergency relief for clergy abuse victims
Prospects are dimming in the Pennsylvania legislature to employ a rarely used, emergency tactic so voters can decide this spring whether survivors of decades-old sexual abuse should have a chance to sue the perpetrators and institutions that covered up the crimes.
KS: Kansas Senate GOP leader turns over some duties after arrest, regrets the ‘distraction’
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, a Republican, said he is temporarily relinquishing “the bulk” of his formal duties, a day after he was arrested and accused of driving under the influence and leading police on a chase down the wrong lane of Interstate 70, provoking calls from alarmed motorists to 911.
IA: Bill that would Iowa landlords to reject applicants for using Section 8 heads to governor
In two years, landlords in three Iowa cities could once again start turning away renters who pay with Section 8 housing vouchers, if Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill that now awaits her signature.
FL: Florida governor attacks race theory in schools
While promoting civic education, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, called critical race theory an “unsanctioned narrative” that is “not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.” Critical race theory explores institutionalized racism in American society.
TX: Texas expands vaccination—but not for essential workers
Although Texas expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include those 50 and older, countless essential workers are not yet eligible for the vaccine, despite federal guidelines. The state says it is concentrating on those most likely to be hospitalized and die.
MI: Michigan COVID-19 cases surge again
COVID-19 cases have doubled in Michigan in the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and test positivity are also up. New strains of the virus may be the cause.
OK: After Oklahomans waited hours to vote, lawmakers look to extend early voting
After some Oklahoma City voters waited two or more hours to cast early ballots in November, state lawmakers are looking to allow early in-person voting the Wednesday before a presidential election, in addition to the current early voting days on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday prior.
NJ: Committee approves New Jersey bill that would give civilians more police oversight
A group of New Jersey lawmakers approved a bill that would give residents more power to investigate local cops, after dozens of people from around the state testified they’d lost faith in police departments’ ability to investigate their own.
AR: Arkansas House panel advances renter’s rights bill
A bill that would create a minimum habitability standard for renters in Arkansas passed out of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee. Prior to the vote, the sponsor of the bill reminded his colleagues that Arkansas is the only state in the nation without such standards.
OR: All Oregonians will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines May 1
Oregon’s top health official said the state would comply with a federal order and make all residents 18 and older eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine May 1. Oregon was reluctant to commit to that timeline last week.
ID: Idaho Senate passes higher education budget amid debate over social justice programs
After spirited debate about campus social justice programs—and whether a ,000 funding shift sent enough of a message—Idaho senators approved a higher education budget. Much of the debate centered on a ,000 shift from Boise State University to Lewis-Clark State College, to take away dollars Boise State had spent on social justice programs.
ME: Rising number of younger Mainers account for COVID-19 cases
The recent uptick in new COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks has been driven in part by younger Mainers who won’t be eligible for vaccines for several weeks. People in their 20s now make up the highest percentage of positive cases, 18.1%, followed closely by those under the age of 20, who account for 15.7% of all cases, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
NC: North Carolina governor says all adults will be able to get COVID vaccines by May 1
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said he’s optimistic that all adults in the state will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, the deadline set by President Joe Biden last week. “North Carolina will be ready to meet this challenge,” Cooper said at a news conference.
SC: South Carolina House approves ‘open carry’ with restrictions
South Carolinians could soon openly carry a handgun with a permit under a proposal passed by the state House. The House passed the legislation in an 82-33 vote, after attaching new requirements that outline where a trained gun owner could carry in the Palmetto State and blocking an attempt to expand the proposal even further by removing the permit requirement entirely.
ND: North Dakota lawmakers OK bill shielding businesses from virus lawsuits
The North Dakota legislature has passed a bipartisan bill that would shield businesses and health care facilities from lawsuits over customers’ or employees’ COVID-19 exposure.
IL: Some Illinois pharmacies will provide COVID vaccinations to nursing homes
Now that a federal program to vaccinate nursing home residents has wound down, Illinois officials have launched a plan for pharmacies that serve long-term care facilities to provide shots to new nursing home residents. Initially, there were just eight pharmacies to handle roughly 1,200 long-term care facilities.
WY: Wyoming coalition hopes to end the death penalty this year
Two years after a GOP-led bill to repeal the death penalty in Wyoming failed, the repeal effort has again taken root. Republican state Sen. Brian Boner’s repeal legislation advanced out of committee to the Senate floor. The House of Representatives, meanwhile, preemptively passed a budget amendment to defund the state’s death penalty program should the Senate choose to repeal it.
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