Top State Stories 3/26
US: At least 31 states are giving all adults access to vaccines by mid-April
States are racing to vaccinate as many people as possible as the United States’ coronavirus infection curve continues its plateau for a third week. At least 31 states have pledged to make vaccines universally available to their adult populations by mid-April, and many more have announced plans to expand eligibility on or before May 1, a goal set by President Joe Biden.
GA: Georgia governor signs sweeping changes to election rules into law
Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes, prohibiting the distribution of food and water to voters in long lines and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race. One Georgia lawmaker was arrested as she interrupted Kemp’s livestreamed announcement.
MO: Republicans vote down funding for voter-approved Medicaid expansion in Missouri
A voter-backed mandate to expand Medicaid in Missouri was thrown into chaos after a key House committee gutted funding for the program. The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee voted down a .6 billion, first-year spending plan for the health insurance program, which 53% of voters said in August should be expanded to include an additional 275,000 low-income residents.
AR: Arkansas governor signs law banning transgender women, girls from women, girls sports teams
Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a bill that bans transgender women athletes from participating on girls’ and women’s sports teams. In announcing his decision, the governor said he had “studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue.”
ME: Maine savings bank offers employees incentive to get vaccinated
It pays to be vaccinated, and for employees of Maine’s largest state-chartered bank, the benefits go beyond protection from COVID-19. Bangor Savings Bank announced that it will pay to employees who are fully vaccinated. The company is not requiring its 1,100-plus workers to get vaccines, but it does hope to incentivize the shot for anyone considering it, officials said in a press release.
NY: Access to coronavirus tests for New York governor’s family added to impeachment process
An impeachment investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo widened to include revelations that the Democratic governor’s family and other influential people were given special access to state-run coronavirus tests early in the pandemic. The judiciary committee of the New York State Assembly has been looking into several allegations of sexual harassment made against Cuomo, as well as the manipulation by his senior staff of data related to nursing home deaths.
MI: Michigan GOP lawmakers offer dollars for dirt on Democratic health policies
Republicans in the Michigan Senate want to offer .25 million in grants for county prosecutors who pledge to investigate nursing home health policies under Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.
NJ: New Jersey legislature approves early in-person voting bill
Under an early voting bill passed by the state legislature, New Jersey voters would be able to cast their ballots in person up to 10 days before an election. Early voting would begin 10 days before November general elections, six days before presidential primaries and four days before nonpresidential primaries.
WY: Wyoming election changes pushed by Donald Trump Jr. fail
Wyoming lawmakers rejected a measure that would have required candidates to win a majority of votes in primary elections to avoid runoffs—a change endorsed by Donald Trump Jr. in his campaign to undermine Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. The state Senate defeated the proposal with a 15-14 vote after lawmakers raised concerns over the cost of adding more elections and the burden that doing so would put on voters and local officials.
DE: Delaware lawmakers pass bill to put pads, tampons in school bathrooms
Legislation passed by the Delaware Senate would require all public and charter schools serving grades 6 through 12 to place the hygiene products in at least half of their bathrooms. It also would require schools to publish on their websites and post in common areas the locations of the bathrooms where feminine hygiene products are available. The legislation now goes to the governor.
NV: Nevada casinos get more gamblers, but revenues still lag
Casinos are getting more gamblers back a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, but house revenue for the Las Vegas Strip still lagged in February, Nevada regulators said. The state took in .8 million in revenues based on the February tax figures. That was down slightly from January, and down by about 36.5% from a year ago.
DC: More than a third of D.C.’s older adults aren’t booking vaccine appointments offered by the city
Older adults in the District of Columbia are lagging other eligible groups in booking coronavirus vaccination appointments through the city’s preregistration system, with 35% failing to secure an available slot after getting an invitation from the city.
MA: As many Massachusetts workers resist COVID-19 vaccines, calls grow for state to make shots mandatory
Large pockets of first responders, frontline health workers and other public-facing employees are so far refusing COVID-19 vaccination by the thousands in Massachusetts, prompting calls for state government and private employers to make getting shots a condition of hiring.
IN: Indiana lawmakers require civics class for middle schoolers
A bill incorporating civics education into Hoosier students’ middle school curriculum is headed to Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk after House lawmakers voted to pass the measure. The legislation requires every student in the state to complete a one-semester course in civics education in either sixth, seventh or eighth grade.
WA: Legislature passes bill to restore voting rights for Washingtonians with felonies
Thousands of Washingtonians with felony convictions will have their voting rights automatically restored upon their release from prison if a bill passed by the state Senate gets Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature. An estimated 20,000 people would immediately regain the right to vote.
OR: Technical issues cause delay in getting assistance to Oregon landlords
Oregon will give landlords who applied for assistance earlier this month until March 30 to finish submitting necessary documentation after a faulty state website made it impossible for some to complete their applications on time. Landlords complained that the website was distorting data or failing to allow them to upload necessary documentation.
WI: Wisconsin’s prison, jail populations plummeted during pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the inmate population at Wisconsin’s local jails to decline by more than one-third in 2020, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum. There are several reasons for the decline, including an emergency order signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in March 2020 that put a moratorium on new admissions to state prisons.
HI: Hawaii lawmakers advance bail changes
Hawaii lawmakers may be closing in on a political compromise this year that could finally reduce the number of people held in jail because they cannot post bail for low-level, nonviolent offenses. The bill would eliminate the use of monetary bail for at least some people accused of traffic offenses, nonviolent misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor crimes, and some low-level non-violent felonies.
MS: Mississippi increases monthly assistance check
Mississippi families receiving federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Family benefits will receive a monthly increase in payments of under legislation Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law this week. The increase is the first since 1999 for families in Mississippi receiving the benefits.
ND: North Dakota Senate snuffs out recreational marijuana proposal
North Dakota’s Senate soundly defeated joint bills to legalize and tax recreational marijuana. The Senate snuffed out House Bill 1420, brought by Rep. Jason Dockter, a Republican, on a 10-37 vote after more than 30 minutes of debate. Dockter brought the legalization bill to be “proactive” against citizen-initiated measures to legalize marijuana through the state constitution, as South Dakota voters did in 2020.
MD: Maryland wants some unemployment benefits back
More than 44,000 unemployment insurance claimants received overpayment notices totaling more than million in the six months from September through February, officials with the Maryland Department of Labor said. The notices warn of legal action to collect overpayments from claimants if they do not repay what the state says is owed—and many who are still receiving benefits are seeing their weekly allocations reduced to go toward the debt.
WV: West Virginia House approves anti-abortion measure
The West Virginia House approved a bill that would require a patient undergoing a medication-induced abortion to be informed that it may be possible to stop the effects of the procedure after taking the first of the two drugs in the recommended regimen, an action that doctors point out could cause significant medical complications.
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