Top State Stories 4/16
NJ: New Jersey governor proposes ‘sweeping’ gun laws in wake of shootings
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy proposed a host of new gun policies, including giving permits only to New Jersey residents who pass gun safety classes and raising the purchasing age from 18 to 21. The proposals follow the surging number of homicides in the state and several mass shootings in the country.
FL: Florida Senate approves ‘anti-riot’ bill over strong objections
In what marked one of the most emotional moments of Florida’s 2021 legislative session, Senate Democrats called on major Republican political donors to pressure GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis to stop “anti-mob” legislation they deem racist, unconstitutional and partisan.
AL: Alabama lawmakers pass bill to ban transgender athletes from public school teams
Legislation to prohibit Alabama public schools from allowing students to compete on athletic teams that conflict with the gender on their original birth certificate has moved closer to becoming law. It now goes to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey.
CO: Colorado will lift time limits for victims to sue child abusers
Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed into law a measure that was decades in the making: removing the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual abuse to sue. The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2022, and it doesn’t apply retroactively.
MT: Montana legislature postpones floor sessions, goes remote due to COVID
The Montana legislature, which is nearing the end of its session, is canceling House and Senate floor sessions and not allowing in-person committee meetings after a “member of the government affairs community” tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from the legislative COVID-19 panel.
ND: Transgender sports bill goes to North Dakota governor
Legislation that would restrict transgender girls in K-12 sports in North Dakota is set to land on the desk of Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign it into law.
TX: Texas House gives initial approval to allowing people to carry a gun without a license
The Texas House gave an initial OK to a bill that would allow handguns to be carried without a permit, marking a win for gun rights activists who have for years pushed the measure but a blow to El Paso Democrats who have been fighting for gun safety measures since the 2019 massacre in their hometown.
HI: Hawaii sees ‘startling’ increase in the number of children facing hunger
More Hawaii children are at risk of going hungry than ever before, new federal data shows. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Hawaii’s hunger rates were lower than national averages, but the Aloha State’s situation is now worse than national levels—a striking shift.
KY: While thousands waited for help, Kentucky state workers took jobless benefits
While tens of thousands of Kentuckians were forced to wait interminably to apply for jobless benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a small cluster of state workers who never lost their full-time employment gamed the system in order to claim unemployment benefits for themselves, according to a state report.
NC: North Carolina police organizations largely back policing overhaul bills
North Carolina legislators filed three criminal justice bills with bipartisan support this week, as momentum grows for changes to policing. Groups that advocate for the state’s police chiefs and sheriffs are largely on board with the overhauls, too, which aim to enlist officers in cracking down on bad policing and procedures.
AZ: New casinos, more slots and sports betting coming to Arizona
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed historic agreements with Native American tribes in Arizona that mark the most significant update to gambling in the state in decades. The amendments were tied to a sports-betting law that Arizona lawmakers approved Monday.
ID: Idaho sees increase in case numbers and hospitalizations
Idaho reported a surge of COVID-19 cases, adding 437. The state also added six deaths and recorded one of the largest spikes in hospitalizations to date, with 172 new hospitalizations reported.
NV: Mass vaccination site in Southern Nevada to close as demand wanes
Public health officials in Clark County, Nevada, have announced the May 5 closure of a mass vaccination site at Cashman Center, where Thursday morning there were no lines and plentiful open appointments. Officials say some of the decline in numbers at the site, which can accommodate more than 7,000 daily appointments, could probably be attributed to concern over vaccine safety.
NH: New Hampshire governor to drop mask mandate, lift most other pandemic restrictions
Virtually all statewide limits on businesses and public activities due to the pandemic will be lifted in New Hampshire within a matter of weeks, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu announced.
WA: Jobless claims surge in Washington
Thousands of jobless Washingtonians have collected their 52nd week of unemployment benefits and must now refile to keep that assistance coming. That grim anniversary shows up in a recent surge of new claims for unemployment benefits.
OR: Oregon House reaches deal to avoid legislative slowdowns
Lawmakers in the Oregon House reached a deal that will significantly speed up the pace of the 2021 legislative session. Democrats had been openly frustrated with the GOP insistence that most bills be read aloud in their entirety, but Republican leaders agreed to stop stalling legislation in exchange for an additional seat on the House’s committee on redistricting, giving them an equal number of members as Democrats.
WY: The most vaccine-hesitant counties are all in Wyoming
Wyoming is home to the 11 most vaccine-hesitant counties in the nation, according to statistical modeling conducted by an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Thirty-two percent of residents in those counties are thought to be hesitant toward the inoculations, more than any other counties in the United States.
MD: Maryland agrees to provide vaccines, cleaner conditions for inmates to end lawsuit
Under the settlement between Maryland and detainees at the Chesapeake Detention Facility in Baltimore, state officials will enforce social distancing and mask-wearing requirements, sanitize common areas and maintain quarantine and isolation units for residents who test positive. All detainees will be offered coronavirus vaccines by May 1 and the facility will undergo monthly independent inspections.
VT: Vermont House poised to vote on ‘cloud tax’
The Vermont House is set to vote on a sprawling tax bill that includes a proposed 6% sales tax on “cloud” software and services. Among the products that would be taxed under the proposal are those offered by TurboTax, Dropbox, Mailchimp, and website hosts such as Squarespace and WordPress. Tech representatives oppose the bill.
AK: Alaska would be first state to use blockchain voting system under proposed bill
Alaska would become the first state to adopt blockchain technology statewide in its voting security system under a proposal by Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower. The bill would require most voters to use an added step to verify their identity, known as multi-factor authentication. Blockchain is a form of database used in digital currencies like Bitcoin.
MS: Mississippi ends license requirements for some beauty jobs
Mississippi no longer requires professional licenses for people who offer low-risk beauty services, a change that will save residents thousands of dollars and hours of time spent on training. The new law removes certification requirements for people who work as eyebrow threaders, eyelash technicians or makeup artists.
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