Top State Stories 8/18
SC: South Carolina Supreme Court says colleges are allowed to require masks on campus
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the University of South Carolina has the right to require all students to wear masks inside to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
TN: Nashville district attorney won’t prosecute Tennessee teachers for defying governor’s mask order
Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, a Democrat, said he “will not prosecute school officials or teachers for keeping children safe,” despite an executive order issued by Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee requiring school districts to allow students to opt out of mask-wearing. Meanwhile, Nashville school officials are exploring potential legal challenges to Lee’s order.
MS: Mississippi school district announces 2 week shutdown due to COVID
The Smith County School District in Mississippi announced all schools in its district will be closed for a two-week period as a result of high numbers of COVID-19 cases and quarantines.
RI: Rhode Island toughens vaccine mandate for health care workers
If health care workers at state-licensed facilities in Rhode Island aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Oct. 1, and they don’t have an approved exemption, they won’t be allowed in the building, according to regulations the Department of Health announced. The formal regulations are more stringent than Democratic Gov. Dan McKee’s administration had originally explained when they were unveiled a week ago.
AZ: Lawsuit seeks to block new sweeping anti-abortion law in Arizona
A coalition of doctors, medical groups and civil rights organizations have filed a lawsuit seeking to block new restrictions on abortion in Arizona before they take effect Sept. 29.
DE: 13 Delaware state workers made 6 figures just from overtime in 2020
Eleven of those 13 Delaware employees brought home more than ,000 last year when counting their regular salary and “other” pay, which refers to stipends, health care cost supplements or other miscellaneous earnings. Eight are state police officers, four are psychiatric nurses and one is an officer at the Sussex Correctional Institution.
CT: Connecticut students must wear masks in school through September, governor says
An executive order requiring K-12 students in Connecticut to wear masks in schools will remain in place for the first month of the coming school year, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced.
UT: Utah mayor plans to declare mask mandate in Salt Lake City schools
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall signaled her intent to issue a mask mandate for schools in Utah’s capital during a City Council meeting, suggesting that she thinks she has the authority to do so—regardless of the legislature.
OR: Oregon governor admonishes school leaders who plan to flout mask rules
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, told school leaders that one of the few sure ways to keep students out of classrooms come fall is for teachers, families and school boards to defy the state’s indoor mask mandate. The Oregon agencies that monitor workplace safety and certify the state’s educators will be the tip of the spear in the state’s enforcement efforts in schools.
WY: Wyoming governor says he won’t impose mask mandates
At a news conference, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, reiterated that he will leave it to local government entities to decide whether a mask mandate is necessary.
FL: Florida education commissioner seeks enforcement on school mask mandates
Florida’s education commissioner is formally recommending the State Board of Education “use its enforcement powers” against two school districts for violating the state’s mask orders, though he has not said exactly what he wants the punishment to be.
NM: New Mexico governor sets mask mandate, requires vaccination
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she will be reinstating a mask mandate for all public indoor spaces in New Mexico, as vaccination rates remain stagnant and infections increase. Her latest public order also will require that more people get vaccinated, such as workers at hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile justice facilities, residential treatment centers and other places that the state deems as high-risk.
MD: Maryland ‘nudges’ employers to require COVID vaccines
In order to improve coronavirus vaccination rates, Maryland hopes employers will require workers to get the shot. The state plans to “nudge” employers rather than require the action.
KS: GOP claims Kansas governor is spending COVID funds illegally
Top Republican legislators in Kansas are accusing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration of illegally spending at least million in federal COVID-19 relief funds by not getting their approval first. The dispute centers on relief funds that agencies received before the state’s current 2022 budget year began July 1.
CO: Colorado’s far-right pushes to close primaries
Donald Trump loyalists within the Colorado Republican party want to get rid of open primaries, which would remove unaffiliated voters and all but a few thousand Republicans from having any say over which candidates the party nominates for federal offices, the governorship, other statewide offices and seats in the state House and Senate.
NJ: To replenish unemployment fund, New Jersey governor raises taxes on businesses
New Jersey businesses are poised to pay an additional million in taxes this year—and potentially three times more overall—to help refill the fund for unemployment benefits after the COVID-19 pandemic drained billions of dollars from it, according to the Department of Labor.
NH: New Hampshire expands prison sentences for repeat drunken drivers
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, signed the Tyler Shaw Law, named for a 20-year-old Concord man who died in April 2018. It allows judges to hand down longer prison sentences to those convicted of negligent homicide who have previous drunken driving convictions.
VT: Environmental groups sue Vermont over protection of endangered bats
Two Vermont environmental groups are suing the Agency of Natural Resources, saying the state failed to adequately protect five threatened and endangered bat species from pesticides sprayed to eliminate mosquitoes.
VA: Virginia’s redistricting commission struggles with partisan pressures
Virginia’s new redistricting commission, approved by voters to create political maps with bipartisan consensus, is under so much political strain that some members worry it won’t be able to carry out its mandate.
WA: New Washington laws aim to break foster care-to-prison pipeline
Each year roughly 550 young people are released from Washington’s juvenile rehabilitation facilities—40% of whom have histories with the child welfare system. A pair of new laws provide funding for a “community transition” program for young people now serving time in one of the state’s three juvenile detention centers, while increasing educational opportunities for youth in juvenile detention, as well as those who’ve been released.
MI: Facing a pandemic, more Michigan workers turned to unions
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15.2% of Michigan’s wage and salary workers were union members in 2020, up from 13.6% in 2019. Experts say that as the way people work changes—from wage increases to remote work—one way employees seek to gain power in the workplace is by organizing.
IN: Indiana farmers get green light to shoot vultures
Indiana farmers are dealing with terrifying vultures that can kill cows, but the birds had been protected by hunting regulations on migratory birds.
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