Top State Stories 9/20
TX: GOP elections bill gives Texas secretary of state vast new powers
The new GOP elections law gives broad new powers to the Texas secretary of state, and by extension Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. When the law takes effect Dec. 2, the secretary of state will be allowed to audit years’ worth of county elections, among other powers.
NC: Voter ID is blocked for now in North Carolina
A trial in state court over North Carolina’s 2018 voter photo ID law ended with the law being struck down as unconstitutional racial discrimination against Black voters. But that is far from the end of the fight.
MI: Michigan lawmaker secures protection order against fellow legislator
Michigan state Rep. Mari Manoogian, a Democrat, has secured a personal protection order against GOP state Rep. Steve Marino, with whom she previously had a relationship and now is accusing of domestic abuse, her lawyer said. That order in theory could prevent Marino from being on the floor of the House at the same time as Manoogian.
MT: COVID surge leads Montana hospitals to ration care
Montana hospitals are instituting or preparing to institute a “crisis standard of care” under which medical services and supplies are rationed.
DE: Delaware outlaws releasing balloons into the sky
Delawareans can no longer release balloons into the sky, thanks to a bill that Democratic Gov. John Carney signed.
WV: West Virginia’s COVID surge leads to difficult treatment decisions
West Virginia’s rate of new COVID-19 cases is forcing weary health care staffers to make difficult decisions about who gets treated as intensive care beds dwindle.
AK: Alaska’s inundated hospitals face impossible choices
Workers in Alaska’s medical community say they’re watching the hospital system stumble under low staffing levels and a crush of COVID-19 patients spurred by the highly infectious delta variant.
MD: Maryland overbilled toll customers
Maryland legislative auditors found that glitches in the state’s cashless tolling overbilled motorists thousands of dollars. The issues could be more widespread.
TN: Tennessee hospitals are desperate for military aid amid COVID surge
More Tennessee medical facilities than ever are requesting support from the National Guard as a surge of COVID-19 patients spreads health care workers thin. Nearly 400 National Guard members were deployed to 31 hospitals and eight antibody infusion sites as of last week—more than doubling deployment numbers from just three weeks ago.
KY: Nearly half of Kentucky prison staffers remain unvaccinated
Nearly half of Kentucky Department of Corrections employees remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, despite a rule requiring workers without a vaccine in the state’s 13 prison facilities to be tested up to twice per week.
OH: In 1 week, 32 Ohio school districts adopted universal mask requirements
In the past week, 32 Ohio school districts have enacted universal masking requirements as the number of COVID-19 cases in schools and hospitalizations among youth continued to rise. Those districts educate about half of all K-12 public school students in the state.
AL: Alabama bill would allow employees to sue over COVID vaccine side effects
Three Alabama lawmakers proposed a bill that would allow employees or families to sue employers for any adverse reaction they might have as a result of employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccines.
OR: Oregon’s chief justice orders all judges and court staff to get vaccinated against COVID
Oregon’s top judge has issued a mandate requiring all judges and court staff in the state to get their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1 or be tested for the virus twice a week.
FL: COVID-19 deaths continue at Florida prisons, yet agency no longer reports them
At least two men recently died of COVID-19 while serving prison sentences in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel confirmed through medical examiners. The state department of corrections has stopped reporting such deaths and cases.
ND: North Dakota National Guard will aid COVID contact tracing, state lab
About 50 North Dakota National Guard members are assisting the state health department with contract tracing. About 80 Guard members are currently serving on state active duty for the mission, including operational and administrative support.
CO: Colorado will open 4 new mass COVID vaccination sites
Colorado will open four new mass COVID-19 vaccination sites in an attempt to meet potential increased demand as employer vaccine mandates kick in this fall, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
GA: Georgia voter ID requirement burdens people without driver’s licenses
About 272,000 registered Georgia voters lack a driver’s license or state ID number on file with election officials, meaning they’d have to provide a copy of other identifying documents when requesting an absentee ballot for this fall’s local elections.
NM, TX: New Mexico joins Texas in opposing nuclear fuel storage
Top New Mexico leaders say they’re open to “most anything” that would prevent spent nuclear fuel and other high-level waste from being stored indefinitely in the state, including legislation like a measure recently adopted by Texas to prevent the shipping and storage of such waste.
NY: New York governor announces plan to address school bus driver shortage
New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced a multiagency plan to try to get desperately needed drivers into school buses across the state. The effort includes reaching out to already licensed commercial drivers to gauge their interest in being hired by school districts and independent bus companies, as well as using Department of Labor information to possibly recruit drivers who are currently unemployed.
KS: Rural suicide rates are rising in Kansas
A new Kansas Health Institute analysis shows that suicide rates climbed in rural and frontier counties by roughly 55% and 60%, respectively, from 2000 to 2019, significantly outpacing the increases in mid-sized cities and urban areas.
WI: 10% of Wisconsin restaurants went out of business during the pandemic
An estimated 10% of Wisconsin restaurants went out of business during the pandemic, according to the state’s restaurant association, and those that remain open continue to struggle.
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