Top State Stories 6/29
OR: Oregon hospitals struggle with jammed emergency rooms after exodus of nurses
A combination of understaffing and a tidal wave of seriously ill patients who have deferred health care for months has made life hard in Oregon emergency rooms. Many employees argue that a penny-pinching mentality causes the understaffing.
MI: Michigan governor blames flooded freeways on climate change, infrastructure
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, toured a flooded Detroit freeway by air and on the ground, calling it “a devastating moment” for many metro Detroit residents. She blamed the flooding on climate change and a lack of political will to fund needed infrastructure repairs.
MS: Federal court revives lawsuit targeting Mississippi’s Jim Crow-era felony voting ban
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear a lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Center for Justice to overturn the state’s lifetime voting ban for people who are convicted of certain felonies. This law disproportionately affects African Americans in a state where 16% of the voting age population cannot vote.
AK: Alaska House votes to avert government shutdown
The Alaska House voted to avert a state government shutdown, allowing the budget bill to go into effect July 1. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, will have to decide what step to take next.
GA: After cancellations, many Georgia voters re-registered and voted
Nearly 44,000 voters who lost their registrations four years ago re-registered and cast a ballot in November’s election—8% of those who had been canceled, according to a comparison of cancellation lists and voter history data.
US: Western governors will meet with Biden to discuss heat, drought, wildfires
President Joe Biden is convening a meeting at the White House to discuss drought and wildfires with the governors of California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming . Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, will participate by phone.
CO: Colorado will give in-state college tuition to members of American Indian tribes
A new law acknowledges that American Indian tribes were forced out of Colorado and requires higher education institutions to give in-state tuition rates to students who are members of the 48 known Indigenous tribes that were in the state. Only two tribes in Colorado, the Southern Ute Tribe and the Ute Mountain Tribe, are federally recognized.
WI: Wisconsin birth forms will include gender-neutral options for parents
Wisconsin birth forms will soon include gender-neutral options for identifying the parents of a child, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced. The forms that are used to generate birth certificates will include options for combinations of “mother and father,” “parent and parent” and “parent giving birth” starting July 1.
IL: Illinois bill, scholarship would provide more support for immigrant students
Immigrant college students in Illinois will likely have additional resources to help them navigate school next year thanks to a new state bill and a new scholarship fund. The bill, which awaits Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature, would require all college campuses to “designate an undocumented student resource liaison” by the 2022-23 school year.
AZ: Arizona Native Americans brace for more challenges to casting ballots
Indigenous voting rights advocates in Arizona, including tribal leaders, argue new voting laws will suppress the Indigenous vote, and are part of a nationwide effort by GOP-controlled state legislatures to purge voter rolls.
CA: California remains racially segregated despite growing diversity, research shows
Even as Los Angeles and other American cities have become more racially diverse over the past few decades, segregation and its resulting inequities have endured, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley.
OH: Final Ohio budget deal would cut taxes, expand broadband, boost school funding
A final state budget plan that’s being unveiled by Ohio lawmakers is adopting an education component that eventually will boost K-12 funding by billion annually in what will be a major overhaul to how the state funds its schools.
MN: Minnesota governor uses executive power to make police changes
Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said he would use million in COVID-19 relief money to fund community violence prevention grants, increase data sharing from the state’s police licensing board and order state-level law enforcement agencies to share body camera footage of deadly police encounters with relatives within five days.
RI: 3 Rhode Island gun control bills advance, but one is withdrawn in protest
The Rhode Island House and Senate advanced bills that would outlaw “straw purchases” of guns and prohibit firearms on school grounds, but Representative Justine A. Caldwell, a Democrat, withdrew a bill that would have required the locked storage of guns not in use, after it was changed to provide tax credits for gun safes.
CT: Connecticut will spend an additional M to fight rise in gun violence
Connecticut will spend an additional million in federal money in response to a sharp rise in gun violence, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced.
AL: Alabama mayors will consider COVID-19 relief funds to combat gun violence
Mayors in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, Alabama, pondered using COVID-19 relief funds to potentially combat gun violence and invest money into technology and programs to support law enforcement.
LA: Masks will be optional in some Louisiana schools
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, lifted the mask mandate in schools in late May, opting to allow local school districts to decide. The superintendent of Baton Rouge schools says mask wearing is optional in the upcoming school year.
FL: Masks are off in Florida, but legal wrangling continues
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in early May blocked cities and counties from requiring people to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But that hasn’t stopped legal battles over mask mandates.
PA: Pennsylvania’s poorest school districts will get more money next year; critics say still not enough
Pennsylvania’s Upper Darby School District is poised to receive an additional .8 million from Pennsylvania this coming school year, a big boost for the district, one of the state’s poorest. Still, Superintendent Dan McGarry says the infusion, negotiated in the new state budget deal, isn’t going to reverse Upper Darby’s fortunes.
NJ: New Jersey won’t require masks in schools in the fall, governor says
New Jersey will not require students to wear masks in school when the next academic year begins, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced in a major change to the state’s coronavirus education guidelines—and a reversal of comments he made earlier this year saying face coverings were likely to remain.
ME: Compromises fueled Maine’s new bipartisan budget deal
The unanimous vote on the two-year budget from the Maine legislature’s appropriations committee came after major compromises. The .5 billion budget lawmakers will likely approve is slimmer than the proposal unveiled by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills nearly two months ago and includes some major policy changes.
IA: Iowa governor extends pandemic-related rule waivers for some industries
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, extended the lifting of weight limits for certain truck loads, breaks on the usual limits on how long truck drivers can operate a rig, the minimum required contact hours for community college instruction and certain licensing requirements for a variety of professions.
MT: Montana reports increase in fentanyl-related deaths
Most people who died in fentanyl-related overdoses in Montana this year are in their 20s and 30s. There’s also been an increase in opioid overdose calls to emergency medical services, the health department said. Last year, Montana averaged 45 opioid overdose calls per month. So far this year, the monthly average is 54.
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