Top State Stories 4/8
NY: New York budget deal includes more than B for undocumented immigrants
The most contentious provision in this week’s $217 billion New York state budget deal is a $2.1 billion “excluded workers” fund designed to provide cash payments to undocumented immigrants who were ineligible for other federal and state benefits such as unemployment insurance or stimulus checks. The policy is the first of its kind in the nation.
MI: Michigan tops hospitalization stats
Michigan rate of utilized hospital and ICU beds for coronavirus patients leads the nation. The latest spike is the largest since last spring.
IN: Indiana lawmakers dial back wetlands bill
State lawmakers watered down a controversial measure seeking to remove protections from Indiana’s already diminished wetlands amid mounting criticism that the proposal could cause damage to the state’s waterways, wildlife and vegetation.
MD: Maryland lawmakers send landmark police legislation to governor
The legislation sent to Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan would rewrite how officers accused of misconduct are disciplined and create a new statewide standard for when officers can use force. It also would impose new potential criminal penalties—including up to 10 years in prison—for officers who use excessive force and grant public access to some police disciplinary records.
IA: Iowa governor strongly opposes vaccine passports
Iowa must “take a stand” against vaccine passports, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said while pledging to back legislation or use executive action to restrict their use.
AR: Panel advances bill that would let Arkansas teachers talk creationism
An Arkansas House committee advanced a bill that would allow teachers to discuss creationism alongside instruction about scientific theories in public schools in Arkansas. Opponents argued the bill puts matters of faith in schools and doesn’t match up with the state’s curriculum-forming process.
VA: An ounce of marijuana and limited home cultivation will be legal in Virginia starting July 1
Virginia will legalize possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana for adults this summer, an accelerated timeline meant to curb the disparate impact of prohibition on people of color in a Southern state remade by its Democratic legislative majority.
NC: North Carolina GOP wants to require ‘balanced’ political discussions in schools
Some North Carolina Republican lawmakers want to require school districts—but not charter schools—to provide “balanced political discussions in classrooms” and to list their instructional materials online.
ND: North Dakota Senate OKs bill that would prohibit state from requiring masks
North Dakota’s Republican-led Senate endorsed a measure that would prohibit the state from mandating face coverings although the pandemic persists. Senators approved the bill 30-17, but amended it to give local governments, schools and employers the option of requiring masks.
SC: South Carolina legislature moves to expand open carry of guns
The South Carolina House passed its second expansion of the right to carry firearms this year, this time in a measure that would allow people to carry handguns openly regardless of whether they have a permit.
OK: Oklahoma will offer COVID-19 vaccines to residents of other states
Oklahoma will offer vaccines to people who reside in neighboring states and beyond. The Oklahoma State Department of Health said increasing supply and progress in the state’s vaccination efforts allowed for the change. Oklahoma is among the first states in the U.S. to offer their vaccines to nonresidents, according to the health department.
ME: Maine will launch mobile units to boost rural access to COVID-19 vaccines
State and federal health officials will launch the first of roughly a dozen mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics next week as part of a larger push into harder-to-reach communities across Maine.
KS: Kansas moves toward modernizing its unemployment technology
The Kansas Department of Labor took a step forward in its effort to modernize the unemployment insurance system, state officials announced, an effort that could eventually speed up payments to out-of-work Kansans in future economic downturns.
AZ: Republican state senator sinks sweeping Arizona abortion measure
A Republican state senator broke with his party to block a controversial measure that would have criminalized abortions based on genetic abnormalities and extended personhood “rights, privileges and immunities” to fetuses at any stage of development.
WI: Wisconsin GOP plan for spending federal stimulus may not be allowed
The majority of Wisconsin Republicans’ plans for spending $3.2 billion in federal stimulus money either may not be allowed under the law or might have to be repaid. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said it appears that the federal law would not allow for the proposals to retire $250 million in bonds used for transportation projects; $308 million in loans for local road projects; and $68 million to replace a statewide public safety communication system and expand the number of psychiatric beds at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.
ID: Idaho legislature OKs tougher process for getting citizen-led initiatives on the ballot
The fate of Idaho’s citizen-led initiative process now rests in Republican Gov. Brad Little’s hands. Idaho House members approved a bill that would make the petition process to place an initiative on the ballot more challenging.
NH: Provision to bar funding for teaching about systemic racism clears vote in New Hampshire House
The New Hampshire House passed a state budget along party lines, but the sharpest debate, and closest vote, of the day came on a part of the budget unrelated to finances. At issue was a provision that would bar tax money from flowing to entities that teach race or sex makes people inherently oppressive or victimized. Democrats fought to strip the language from the budget.
WA: Delayed repairs threaten Washington bridges and highways
Washington fails to spend enough money maintaining and preserving its 7,000 miles of roads and bridges. The state would need to spend an estimated $14.8 billion over the coming decade to achieve “minimally acceptable condition,” which is twice the current spending on preservation.
CO: Rural Colorado is footing the bill for February’s deep freeze
Surcharges from the February freeze week have already hit 18,000 co-op customers in Colorado’s rural Grand Valley, even as direct customers of Xcel on the Front Range are shielded by the delays and protections of a Public Utilities Commission storm investigation and intervention by consumer advocates.
NM: New Mexico governor signs civil rights bill
Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation that grew out of last year’s protests against racial injustice. The fiercely debated law allows lawsuits against agencies and officers that violate rights.
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