Top State Stories 7/29
US: New CDC guidelines set off rush to reimpose mask mandates
New guidance from the federal government set off a cascade of mask rules across the nation as cities, states, schools and businesses raced to restore mandates and others pushed back against the guidelines at a time when Americans are exhausted and confused over constantly shifting pandemic measures.
NY: New York governor mandates vaccines for state workers; unions push back
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, took what he called “dramatic action” to address the escalating rates of COVID-19 in the state tied to the delta variant by requiring 130,000 state employees to be vaccinated by Labor Day, with certain exemptions and with stiff opposition from some of the state’s largest unions.
CO: Colorado’s COVID-19 rent assistance program sees delays, fraud
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national eviction moratorium is set to end Saturday, the threat of fraud is just the latest issue causing delays in Colorado’s rent-assistance program, which has been overwhelmed all year.
US: Justice Department warns states on voting laws, election audits
The U.S. Justice Department sent another warning shot to Republican state legislatures that have initiated private audits of voting tabulations broadly viewed as efforts to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election. The agency said that auditors could face criminal and civil penalties if they destroy any records related to the election or intimidate voters in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1960.
OR: Oregon state employees required to work in-person during pandemic will get hazard pay
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has agreed to award state workers who were required to report to work in person during the pandemic one-time “COVID hazard payments” of up to $1,550 under new tentative labor agreements.
KS: Kansas governor requires masks for state employees
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly opted only to require masks for state employees and visitors to state buildings in counties with high and substantial transmission of COVID-19, even though a recent court order granted her the power to issue a new 15-day state of emergency and gave local health officers the authority to issue unilateral orders.
KY: This group of Kentuckians lags the state average in COVID vaccinations
As Kentucky struggles to boost the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19, those covered by Medicaid—a group that makes up one-third of the state’s population—lag the rest of the state with hundreds of thousands unvaccinated.
NV: Nevada state judge temporarily blocks portion of new law banning ‘ghost guns’
Key portions of a new Nevada law aimed at blocking the sale and production of unregistered “ghost guns” have been temporarily suspended by a state District Court judge.
WI: Wisconsin regulators vow to improve water quality despite industry, lawmaker pushback
Wisconsin health and environmental regulators say they will meet the state’s most pressing water quality challenges head on despite pushback from lawmakers and industry over efforts to address nitrates, lead and PFAS. The campaign comes after Republican lawmakers on the state’s budget-writing committee stripped hundreds of proposals from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ budget.
VA: Virginia governor announces proposal to spend M on mental health hospitals and resources
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam proposed spending $485 million on Virginia’s behavioral health system, including funding to alleviate unprecedented staffing shortages in the state’s adult mental health hospitals that led to closing doors to new admissions earlier this month.
GA: Georgia seeks dismissal of DOJ suit against voting law
Georgia asked a judge to throw out a federal lawsuit against the state’s new voting law, saying the case by the U.S. Department of Justice is based on “political posturing rather than a serious legal challenge.”
AR: Arkansas issues coronavirus guidelines for schools
New COVID-19 guidelines call for Arkansas schools to maintain as many virus precautions as possible—including mask use in classrooms where children are under age 12 or where vaccination status of students cannot be confirmed. The guidelines acknowledge that a state law enacted this year bars mask mandates for students or employees.
MO: Federal court says Missouri owes .1M in legal fees for voter registration case
Missouri taxpayers must foot the legal bill in a lawsuit the state settled in 2019 over its voter registration practices, a federal appeals court has ruled.
MS: Mississippi sees drastic increase in personal income during first quarter of 2021
U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis data showed that Mississippi had the highest personal income increase of any state during the first quarter of the year. Of the 89.3% increase, federal stimulus checks accounted for 85.5% of the growth.
CA: California urges indoor face coverings as COVID variant spreads
After weeks of rising COVID-19 cases, California public health officials recommended all residents wear face coverings in indoor public settings regardless of their vaccination status.
AL: Judge allows challenge to Alabama Democratic Party rules changes to proceed
A federal judge ruled that former Alabama Democratic Party officials can intervene in a lawsuit settled 30 years ago to pursue their claims challenging new bylaws adopted by the party in 2019.
WA: Washington governor urges vaccinated to wear masks indoors in certain counties
Washington will follow current federal guidance for the use of facial coverings amid the COVID-19 pandemic uptick, but won’t impose new masking requirements, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced. But as virus cases again begin to rise, Inslee said fully vaccinated people should consider wearing a mask in public indoor spaces in counties deemed to have substantial or high transmission of the virus.
LA: Wasted COVID vaccine doses spike in Louisiana amid hesitancy
Louisiana Department of Health data shows that unused, discarded COVID-19 vaccine doses grew from only 1,500 in April to more than 79,000 doses by July 23. About 161,000 doses are expected to expire in two weeks.
NJ: New Jersey ‘strongly recommends’ indoor masks regardless of vaccination status
A day after federal officials tightened coronavirus mask guidance, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s top health official said that all people in the state, regardless of vaccination status, are “strongly recommended” to wear masks indoors in settings where there is “increased risk”—but they stopped short of mandating face coverings again.
OH: Ohio Parole Board facing lawsuit over ‘unwritten’ policies to deny release
Criminal justice reform advocates are suing the Ohio Parole Board, accusing it of following an unwritten rule to denies parole to inmates who previously spent time on death row.
MN: Addition of climate effects to Minnesota’s environmental reviews may be delayed
A yearslong effort to incorporate climate change impacts into Minnesota’s environmental review process could face delays. Climate activists say the changes are overdue. But there’s been some pushback from business groups, farmers and local governments, who say they would be burdensome and would raise the cost of building projects.
DE: Delaware nursing homes still struggle to get workers vaccinated
Less than half of all nursing homes in Delaware have reached or passed the 70% COVID-19 vaccination threshold for its workers, according to federal data. At a handful of those facilities, less than half of workers are vaccinated, and some are as low as 35%.
SC: Let parents make decision whether to mask their child in school, South Carolina governor says
Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said parents should be responsible for deciding whether their child is masked in school—not the federal government, the state or the state’s Department of Education.
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