Top State Stories 5/3
OK: Oklahoma’s legislature has a history of passing unconstitutional laws
Oklahoma laws on worker’s compensation, trains stopped on the tracks, liquor distribution and medication abortions all have something in common. Local state and federal courts have found these laws, crafted by Oklahoma’s legislature, are partially or wholly unconstitutional, though some of the rulings are still under appeal.
AZ: Experts call for federal monitors of Arizona Senate election audit, citing violations of voting laws
Election security specialists with high-powered policy groups are calling for federal monitors to oversee the Arizona Senate’s hand recount of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County. Four security specialists cited violations of voting and election laws in an April 29 letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.
VA: Virginia health leaders say vaccine demand has peaked
Virginia’s top health leaders said demand for COVID-19 vaccines has changed in the Commonwealth and a new strategy is needed if the state wants to reach herd immunity.
SC: South Carolina bills aim to educate voters on how legislators draw their own voting lines
Legislation introduced recently in the South Carolina House and Senate would let voters know upfront how politicians determine who their constituents are, before the decennial redrawing process starts this fall.
AL: Alabama Senate approves bill that would allow mobile hair, nail salons
The Alabama Senate passed a bill that would allow mobile hair and nail salons. If the legislation is signed, the Alabama Board of Cosmetology and Barbering would have until January 2022 to implement rules.
IL: Illinois attorney general’s office was warned about weak cybersecurity before ransomware attack
A state audit released earlier this year warned that the Illinois attorney general’s office had “weaknesses in cybersecurity” that potentially left sensitive information on the agency’s computer network “susceptible to cyberattacks and unauthorized disclosure.” Three weeks ago, a hack resulted in data being stolen from the office in a ransomware attack.
ID: Some Idaho child care centers will close to protest legislature
Child care centers across Idaho are scheduled to be closed May 3 to call attention to million in child care funding that the Idaho legislature has not approved. Child care providers say the funds are the difference between staying open and closing their doors.
IA: Iowa governor signs law ensuring landlords can reject Section 8 renters
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a law ensuring landlords can turn away renters who receive assistance through the federal housing choice voucher program, known as Section 8. The new law will remove cities’ and counties’ ability to prevent landlords from taking such action.
OH: Antisemitism is on the rise in Ohio; COVID-19 scapegoating may have exacerbated hate
The increase in the number of incidents of antisemitism in Ohio is consistent with national trends. In Ohio, Jewish institutions were targeted 167% more than they were in 2019, according to a new report, with only three incidents at institutions such as synagogues that year and eight in 2020.
MT: Montana GOP is in high spirits after 2021 legislative session
The 2021 meeting of Montana lawmakers was defined by Republicans’ ironclad majority in both chambers, the backing of the first GOP governor in 16 years and the continuation of work that began during a pandemic. They passed bills on party lines that provide tax relief, expand concealed firearm carry rights, limit abortion access and narrow the power of public health officials during states of emergency.
WY: Wyoming backs coal with .2M threat to sue other states
While most states pursue ways to boost renewable energy, Wyoming is doing the opposite with a new program aimed at propping up the dwindling coal industry by suing other states that block exports of Wyoming coal and cause Wyoming coal-fired power plants to shut down.
KS: GOP Kansas lawmaker arrested on charges of battery
Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican, condemned the “deranged rantings” of state Rep. Mark Samsel, caught on video talking to high school students about religion, sex and suicide. Samsel said that he “didn’t do anything wrong” following his arrest last week on allegations of battery after students filmed his rant during class that included him getting into a physical altercation with a student.
AR: Arkansas session marked by culture wars, coronavirus fights
The 108-day Arkansas legislative session that wrapped up last week was dominated by culture war issues and the coronavirus pandemic, but lawmakers took up a long list of other items, including voting law changes, an increase in teacher salaries and tax cuts.
DC: Washington, DC, is working on a plan for a transformed city
If the vision is carried out, it could turn Washington, D.C., into a place where fewer people drive cars, more pavement used for parking shifts to outdoor restaurant seating and some people even pay a toll to drive downtown.
LA: Bill that would restrict transgender youths’ sports eligibility advances in Louisiana Senate
The Louisiana Senate Education Committee passed a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams. The bill now heads to the full Senate for debate.
ND: Numerous coal, oil bills clear North Dakota legislature
The North Dakota legislature passed several bills that would alleviate challenges to the oil and mining industries. Some of the legislation includes administering loans and grants to provide monetary relief or eliminating sales tax on carbon dioxide that the coal and oil industries store underground.
WI: Wisconsin GOP lawmakers will remove Medicaid expansion, legal pot from governor’s proposal
Republicans plan to strip out nearly 300 items from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ two-year state spending plan, including expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana and freezing enrollment in private voucher schools. The GOP plan also won’t restore collective bargaining for public employees, make Juneteenth a state holiday, create a red flag law for gun owners or adopt maps from the governor’s redistricting commission.
MN: Minnesota’s criminal justice fees often fall hardest on poor
Fees, surcharges and fines are woven into Minnesota’s criminal justice system. They are used to punish people and cover state and local government expenses. They can also indebt the poorest Minnesotans to the state, disproportionately burden people of color and ensnare people in the criminal justice system just as they are hoping to leave it.
DE: Vaccine disparities in Delaware worsen
After analyzing newly released trend and race data, The News Journal found that not only is the COVID-19 vaccination gap between Delaware’s Whitest and Blackest ZIP codes growing, but also, the communities of color within those ZIP codes are receiving a smaller share of available vaccines.
FL: Florida legislators pass bill that would bar local governments from regulating home-based businesses
On the final day of the legislative session, a bill that would prevent city and county governments from imposing new regulations on home-based businesses was passed after the Florida Senate narrowly approved.
NC: State workers’ disciplinary records would be public under GOP bill in North Carolina
A North Carolina government-transparency bill would make police, teachers’ and other public employees’ disciplinary records public.
NM: Transgender woman seeks legislative seat in New Mexico
The first openly transgender person to seek a New Mexico legislative seat, Bunnie Benton Cruse, 48, announced her intent to replace Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat, for the state’s District 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat was vacated after Deb Haaland left to take the federal position as Interior secretary.
VT: Fraud prompts Vermont to disable online unemployment filing
A spike in fraudulent unemployment claims has prompted the Vermont Department of Labor to stop accepting first-time unemployment claims that are filed online, the department says.
CT: Groups file federal lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s law ending religious exemptions for vaccines
Two organizations and three parents opposed to the recently enacted law repealing Connecticut’s religious exemption from mandatory school vaccinations are suing the state and three local boards of education, saying the new policy violates their rights to privacy and medical freedom and to exercise religion.
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