Top State Stories 6/9
NH: New Hampshire’s vaccination rate was inflated
Over the past few months, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and other state leaders touted New Hampshire’s apparently booming COVID-19 vaccination rate, pointing to a range of numbers to portray the state as a leader in the race out of the pandemic. But as state officials were boasting about New Hampshire’s progress, the state’s own vaccine totals veered widely from those reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NM: New Mexicans receive debit cards for unemployment benefits they never applied for
New Mexicans have been getting unemployment debit cards in the mail that they never applied for. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions said the state has stopped at least $172 million in fraudulent claims before funds were released but would not tell KRQE News 13 how many fraudulent claims there have been. KRQE News 13 reported last month how the state overpaid tens of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.
FL: Five years after Pulse shooting, Florida’s gun laws haven’t changed much
Gun safety advocates vowed action after 49 people were killed in the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, five years ago, but since then state and federal leaders have accomplished little toward that goal.
NC: North Carolina state legislators are paid $13,951 a year. Is that too low?
For years, legislative pay has been the issue no North Carolina lawmaker wants to touch. But the current salary and long hours limit who serves in the House and Senate.
MA: Massachusetts moves to extend pandemic alcohol-to-go rules
The Massachusetts Senate is retaining legislation that would extend a series of pandemic-era rules into next year and beyond, including allowing expanded mail-in voting until December, letting restaurants sell to-go cocktails until March 2022, and keeping certain eviction protections until January 2023.
VA: Former Virginia governor McAuliffe wins Democratic nomination again
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe won the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, pulling away early from four rival candidates to win every city and county in the state as he pursues a second term in office.
MO: Attorney general says Missouri lawmakers can refuse to fund Medicaid expansion
Missouri lawmakers were not obligated to fund Medicaid expansion, and the courts cannot force the state to pay the medical bills of people who would be eligible under an initiative that amended the state constitution, the state attorney general’s office argued in court documents.
IL: Illinois Senate heads back to capital to vote on energy package
Illinois’ Senate president is calling members back to Springfield next week to vote on an energy package negotiated by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The legislation would include hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies for nuclear plants owned by the parent company of scandal-plagued Commonwealth Edison.
SC: South Carolina electric vehicle drivers may see fee hikes to make up revenue shortfall for roadwork
Lawmakers are considering increasing fees for electric vehicles in South Carolina to help offset the growing gap in taxes that the state’s drivers don’t pay at the gas pump.
CO: Colorado will ban plastic bags and plastic foam containers
Colorado lawmakers voted to join the growing list of states that ban plastic bags and polystyrene carryout containers at stores and restaurants. It will take a couple of years before Colorado’s ban takes effect, however, and the measure comes with a major exemption that interferes with the original intentions of legislators.
CT: Connecticut state Senate approves recreational marijuana bill
After five years of discussion, the Connecticut state Senate made history by voting 19 to 17 to approve a bill that would regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older. The House is expected to take it up before adjourning.
TN: Tennessee governor fights with Biden administration over unaccompanied migrant youth
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee and GOP lawmakers are promoting a narrative that the federal government recently bucked Republican state officials’ wishes and began housing unaccompanied minors in Tennessee, a practice that in fact began under former President Donald Trump.
TX: Biden administration threatens to sue Texas officials targeting migrant children housing facilities
The Biden administration is threatening to sue Texas over its plans to stop state-licensed facilities that are contracted with the federal government from housing migrant children, with a federal attorney calling the state’s move a “direct attack” on federal refugee resettlement efforts. The federal response comes after GOP Gov. Greg Abbott ordered last week that Texas child care regulators revoke the licenses of state-licensed facilities that house migrant children.
AZ, AK, GA: Alaska and Georgia lawmakers plan to visit Arizona ballot audit site
A few Alaska and Georgia lawmakers are expected to visit Arizona’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the state’s recount continues. Florida-based technology firm Cyber Ninjas is overseeing a subcontractor conducting the hand recount and a ballot inspection process that may be inspecting ballots for watermarks or bamboo fibers, which election officials have dismissed as conspiracy theories.
RI: State leaders, advocates call for Rhode Island General Assembly to prioritize gun safety
In the wake of a rash of shootings in the state, Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee and his cabinet members joined lawmakers and leading gun violence prevention advocates to call on the General Assembly to pass “common-sense gun legislation” before the legislative session ends in a few weeks.
AR: Arkansas governor urges parents to have children vaccinated
Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, noting that public school and higher education students who are fully vaccinated no longer must quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.
LA: Louisiana lawmakers support abortion pill ‘reversal’ bill
Louisiana lawmakers passed a bill that would recommend doctors who are providing abortion pills to provide a statement to women that may discourage the abortion. The statement includes references to the pill not always being 100% effective and indicates the abortion could be reversed, a scientifically disputed claim.
CO: Agricultural workers in Colorado could soon get minimum wage and overtime
Democratic sponsors of the Colorado bill say agriculture workers do grueling work during long days but are not fairly compensated or do not have recourse against retaliation. Opponents say the bill will harm the state’s $41 billion agriculture industry.
WY: Wyoming governor will relaunch program that encourages oil, gas projects
Republican Gov. Mark Gordon is dedicating up to $12 million in federal CARES Act funds to relaunch the Energy Rebound Program, which is designed to get more people working in Wyoming’s energy industry. Currently, there are nine drilling rigs operating in Wyoming, down from more than 30 in February 2020.
WA: Washington middle schoolers get vaccinated as districts expand access
Since Washington state expanded COVID-19 vaccine availability on May 13, more than 109,000 Washington residents 12 to 15 have received shots. The effort also comes as the state pushes schools to have full, in-person classes in the fall.
WI: Wisconsin budget balance grows by billions as tax revenue surges
Wisconsin’s financial situation grew even rosier as the legislature’s nonpartisan budget office projected state tax revenues would grow by $4.4 billion more than previously expected. The revenue estimates left state government with more money available than during any budget cycle in recent memory, a stark change from just last year when policymakers worried the pandemic could sink revenues and force deep spending cuts.
DE: Delaware legislature votes to repeal youth and training wage
Delaware state senators repealed youth and training wages, undoing a bill passed by Republican lawmakers during a 2018 budget showdown. That provision allows employers to pay workers under 18 or those less than three months on the job 50 cents less than the minimum wage.
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