Top State Stories 3/19
NY: Battered by scandal, New York governor leans on Black leaders
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has actively sought the support of Black leaders and elected officials to serve as a buffer against calls for his resignation or impeachment. Many of Cuomo’s achievements, such as raising the minimum wage and passing paid family leave, have made him popular among Black voters.
TX: Paperwork failures worsened Texas blackouts
The winter storm surge in Texas in February exposed a regulatory blind spot. Dozens of natural gas companies failed to do the right paperwork, so utilities cut their electricity right when power plants needed fuel.
MT: Montana Senate advances bills targeting transgender youth
The Montana Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance two bills targeting transgender youth despite overwhelming testimony opposing the measures. The measures would ban gender-affirming surgeries for transgender minors and ban transgender athletes from participating in school and college sports.
IN: Indiana legislators balk at business accommodations for pregnant women
Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has been pushing lawmakers to pass legislation that would force businesses to make certain pregnancy accommodations for women. This year, lawmakers are considering legislation that many advocates consider to be a watered down effort that would offer little true support for women—not exactly what Holcomb had in mind.
VT: Vermont governor calls for more refugees to be sent to his state for settlement
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, is calling on the federal government to resettle more refugees in Vermont, describing it as integral to his plans to grow the state’s economy and workforce.
LA: Louisiana extends vaccination to workers
Starting next week, tens of thousands of essential workers in Louisiana will be eligible for coronavirus vaccines. The list includes people with face-to-face jobs in education, food, hospitality and other fields.
MD: Maryland might ditch its pro-Confederacy state song, after repeated tries
For 82 years, Marylanders have listened to a state song that is a bloody call to arms in support of the Confederacy. But now Maryland lawmakers are poised to vote to abolish “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song, avoiding the contentious issue of what, if anything, should replace it.
AZ: Arizona Senate will count 2.1M Maricopa County ballots by hand
Republicans who control the Arizona Senate announced they now intend to do a complete recount of 2.1 million ballots in the state’s most populous county to ensure that President Joe Biden’s November win was legitimate. A full hand-recount will require scores of people and observers.
NJ: In historic settlement, ghost gun distributor won’t sell to New Jersey
In a first-of-its-kind settlement, a California-based ghost gun distributor has agreed to halt sales to New Jersey residents and pay the state ,000 to settle a lawsuit brought against it by Democratic state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, his office announced.
NE: Nebraska advances press protections for student journalists
Nebraska lawmakers advanced a bill that would extend free-press protections to student journalists and their advisers following incidents in which school administrators censored school newspaper articles that they deemed too controversial or unflattering.
MO: All Missouri adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines April 9
GOP Gov. Mike Parson said Missouri will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to nearly 2 million more Missourians in the coming weeks, with all adults becoming eligible April 9. Parson said the state would activate Phase 2 of its distribution plan March 29, allowing workers in construction, critical manufacturing, higher education and other sectors to receive vaccines.
ME: Maine bill would seal convictions of minor marijuana infractions
The Maine legislature is again contemplating a bill that would seal criminal conviction records on minor marijuana-related offenses that are no longer crimes following the state’s legalization of adult-use cannabis in 2016. “To state it simply, if there is no victim, there is no crime. It’s just weed, bro,” state Rep. Justin Fecteau, a Republican, told members of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
WA: National Guard will help Washington clear unemployment overpayment notice backlog
The National Guard will again help Washington dig out from under a pandemic-related backlog in its unemployment system. Fifty National Guard members will bolster efforts by the state Employment Security Department to contact the tens of thousands of Washingtonians who have been hit with overpayment notices for jobless benefits.
OR: Hundreds hope to have cases retried after Oregon’s nonunanimous jury system was ruled unconstitutional
Hundreds of people convicted by nonunanimous Oregon juries hope to have their cases retried after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Louisiana case last April that such verdicts are unconstitutional. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, has argued that the ruling shouldn’t apply retroactively, and she is choosing to litigate these post-conviction relief cases in civil court until the Oregon Supreme Court delivers a ruling on whether the decision applies to past cases.
ID: Idaho senators kill bill that would have decreased property taxes
Idaho senators killed a bill that would have decreased property taxes by limiting local governments’ budget growth. Local elected and public safety officials had decried the measure that would have placed new caps on local governments’ property tax budgets.
HI: Hawaii dams will take years to fix or remove
Many of Hawaii’s dams—most built in the 20th century and privately owned—were long neglected as relics of the once-thriving sugar plantation era and will take years and potentially millions of dollars to remove or upgrade. Thousands of people living near the obsolete embankments may suffer the consequences, their fate largely left up to emergency plans, which are only required to address potential flooding, not prevention.
MS: Mississippi lawmakers pass ,000 teacher pay raise
Legislation that would offer Mississippi’s public school teachers a pay raise of about ,000 per year is headed to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves after the House passed it. The proposal provides a ,110 a year pay raise for teachers with three years or less in experience, to bring their starting salary with a bachelor’s degree to ,000.
AL: Alabama House passes bill that would ban transgender athletes on public school teams
The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban public school sports teams from allowing transgender players. The bill, supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, passed 74-19. It moves to the Senate.
CO: Judge says Colorado cities can’t enact their own gun restrictions
A District Court judge blocked Boulder from enforcing its two-year-old ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in the city, setting up the chance for the state Supreme Court to review whether Colorado cities can create their own restrictions on gun ownership.
UT: Utahns 16 and older can start making COVID-19 vaccine appointments next week
Republican Gov. Spencer Cox announced that the state will open up COVID-19 vaccine distribution to every Utahn 16 and older next week. The state had previously anticipated vaccines would be available to all adults on April 1, but Cox said the decision to open up eligibility sooner was prompted by 15% of appointments available for next week not yet being filled.
WI: Wisconsin unemployment call center will be open around the clock by fall
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ administration expects to launch new technology within six months to improve its call center to help residents receive their unemployment benefits. The Department of Workforce Development has secured .4 million in federal grant funding to begin the process of overhauling the state’s 1970s-era computer system.
MA: Civil rights groups urge Massachusetts to change ‘discriminatory’ vocational school admissions to lottery
Massachusetts vocational schools’ admissions policies are “discriminatory,” favoring college-bound students and depriving many disadvantaged students of the chance to learn valuable skills that could help them enter the middle class, a coalition of civil rights groups said.
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