Top State Stories 4/19
ME: Maine State Police keep secrets about disciplinary actions
In discipline records that provide one of the only public windows into officer malfeasance, the Maine State Police include so few details about its troopers’ misbehavior that the public cannot know what the officers did wrong. The practice defies the intent of the state law that makes discipline records public, according to those who helped craft the statute 30 years ago.
AK: Alaska to offer vaccines to visitors to boost tourism industry
Alaska will offer tourists vaccinations starting June 1 as part of the state’s plan to assist tourism-related businesses. State officials think that the United States’ relatively high vaccination rate compared with other countries could make Alaska’s offer attractive internationally.
KS: Kansas governor vetoes GOP legislature’s tax proposal
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, rejected millions of dollars in tax cuts and increases, sending the package back to the legislature where prospects for overriding her veto are uncertain.
MT: Montana governor signs bill requiring elected officials to OK health measures
Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a major piece of legislation revising how local public health officials can respond to the pandemic or a future public health emergency. It came out of several proposals that all aimed to limit the power of public health officers and was ultimately refined by a legislative committee as a compromise measure.
ID: Idaho governor signs bill making it harder to bring voter initiatives onto ballots
Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has signed a law that will make it significantly harder for voters to get referendums or initiatives on ballots. It requires that 6% of registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts sign a petition before it will be accepted by the state.
MA: As Massachusetts expands vaccine eligibility, experts and advocates urge greater equity in distributing doses
As everyone in Massachusetts 16 or older becomes eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, health officials cautioned the state must do more to deliver doses to communities of color, which have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.
CO: Colorado police must wear body cameras by 2023 and want more state money to do it
Lobbying associations representing Colorado’s police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and county commissioners say it’ll cost an estimated million by 2024 to get one-third of the state’s 64 counties up to speed with the mandate.
OK: Meet Oklahoma’s first Muslim, nonbinary lawmaker
Democratic state Rep. Mauree Turner is Oklahoma’s first Muslim lawmaker and the first openly nonbinary state legislator in the country. Turner, who is also Black, is perhaps the state’s most diverse elected official.
MD: Maryland lawmakers, advocates tout ‘huge’ health wins during legislative session
During this year’s session, Maryland lawmakers established health equity resource communities to help eliminate geographic disparities; provided young adults subsidies to enroll in the state’s health insurance program; and preserved telehealth as a viable mechanism for patient care.
LA: Louisiana moves to stop school corporal punishment
Efforts are underway in the Louisiana House and Senate to make it illegal to use physical force to discipline public school students. Thirty-one mostly Southern states allow the practice.
WY: Wyoming governor won’t accept unaccompanied migrant children
Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, released a statement on social media saying Wyoming won’t participate in housing migrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, though he added that there are no federal plans that include the state.
DE: Delaware lawmakers are returning to in-person sessions
The Delaware House of Representatives will hold its first in-person session April 29. Lawmakers will still convene virtually, but from their respective offices in Leg Hall. Legislative leaders say they chose now to return in person because of increased access to vaccinations for legislators and their families. But lawmakers won’t be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine before returning.
AR: Arkansas treatment ban creates uncertainty for trans youth, families
Arkansas passed a law prohibiting gender confirming treatments for minors, the first state to do so, which will take effect late this summer unless opponents are successful in blocking it with a lawsuit. It’s already created confusion, sadness and pain for hundreds of transgender youth, as well as their families and health care providers.
ND: North Dakota governor signs Ten Commandments school bill
North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed a measure aimed at shielding schools and teachers from lawsuits arising from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
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