Top State Stories 10/26
FL: Feds threaten to stop Florida from withholding school districts’ aid over mask mandates
The U.S. Department of Education jumped back in Florida’s mask mandate battle, this time warning the state that it will intervene if the Florida Department of Education sanctions school districts to offset federal grant awards.
CA: California isn’t testing unvaccinated state workers as required
Three months after California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom required state workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing, many public agencies face low vaccination rates, and most state-run workplaces have failed to test unvaccinated employees.
AL: Alabama governor directs state agencies to resist federal vaccine mandate
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey issued an order directing state agencies not to enforce a federal vaccine mandate scheduled to go into effect Dec. 8 and cooperate with efforts to overturn the requirement.
OR: Oregon police issue few tickets under new drug decriminalization law
Nine months into the nation’s first-of-its-kind experiment to decriminalize hard drugs, Oregon’s new approach has done little so far to connect people with treatment, via tickets for small amounts of drugs, even as the state is on track to reach a record for opiate-related overdose deaths.
IA: New study finds ‘forever chemicals’ in streams across Iowa
The study found evidence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—also known as PFAS or “forever chemicals”—in nearly a third of the 60 Iowa streams that U.S. Geological Survey field staff sampled in 2019 and 2020. It was the first-known statewide attempt to determine the prevalence of the chemicals in largely rural areas.
NC: North Carolina prisons scan letters, cards to disrupt smuggling
A new method for delivering mail to North Carolina prison inmates will help foil drug smugglers, state officials say. But critics worry that the change will further fray connections between prisoners and the outside world.
MT: Montana county officials say state is withholding COVID money
Missoula County officials say they haven’t received any response from Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, about .4 million in federal money that’s supposed to help with contact tracing.
CO: Colorado prepares for possible mask, vaccine mandate as hospitalizations grow
The Colorado health department wants businesses and restaurants to implement mask or vaccine mandates to stem the spread of the coronavirus and is preparing for the possibility that statewide action will be needed as hospitals continue to fill with COVID-19 patients.
MS: Mississippi college board will require COVID vaccinations for public university staff
Public university employees across Mississippi will now have to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by late November after the state’s higher education board reversed course on a requirement ban.
ME: Maine to offer tuition help to expand health care workforce
One of the programs will provide million in tuition support via scholarships and student loan relief to help Maine students pursuing careers in nursing and other health professions, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said. The state will also use .5 million for tuition forgiveness to help workers gain new skills and earn advanced credentials, she said.
OH: Ohio unveils new coronavirus quarantine recommendations for students
The Ohio Department of Health announced new quarantine guidelines, called Masks to Stay and Tests to Play, allowing children exposed to the coronavirus to stay in school unless they started experiencing symptoms of the illness or tested positive. Each school district will decide whether to adopt the guidelines.
GA: Georgia hits 50% vaccination rate
The Georgia Department of Public Health announced the 50% milestone. Nationally, a little more than 57% of the entire population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CT: Connecticut state legislator resigns after charges that he stole COVID relief funds
Connecticut Democratic state Rep. Michael DiMassa, who was arrested on federal charges in a still-unfolding probe of the alleged theft of more than ,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds, has resigned from the state legislature.
VT: Redistricting panel goes all in on single-member Vermont House districts
A special panel advising Vermont lawmakers about how to redraw House and Senate district maps has proposed the wholesale elimination of multimember districts.
NV: Nevada grant program designed to help children with disabilities, their families
Gov. Steve Sisolak and Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine, both Democrats, are launching a first-in-the-nation grant program designed to help children with disabilities and their families. The ,000 grants, using federal pandemic relief aid, will help the families pay for education, transportation, housing and assisted technology.
AK: A melting glacier could allow Alaska’s biggest hydroelectric project to expand
As the Dixon Glacier keeps retreating, the Alaska Energy Authority says it can expand the capacity of a nearby hydropower project using the water coming off the glacier.
PA: Pennsylvania uses taxpayer money to fund anti-abortion organization
Pennsylvania has allocated tens of millions of dollars to Real Alternatives, a private nonprofit in Harrisburg that funnels money into crisis pregnancy centers. Such facilities advertise services offering pregnancy and parenting support to low-income women with the fundamental aim of dissuading them from getting abortions.
WV: West Virginia pilot program allows victims to file for protective orders remotely
Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in one West Virginia county can now get protective and personal safety orders against perpetrators by filing remotely. Since January, 10,000 domestic violence and protective orders have been filed in West Virginia.
SD: South Dakota redistricting issues divide Republicans
A battle between conservatives and moderates within South Dakota’s Republican Party continues to drive a divide between the state House and Senate. There’s no guarantee the state legislature will find common ground.
WA: Cadaver donation programs at Washington universities contend with shortages
Washington’s medical students have a problem: There simply aren’t enough cadavers available for scientific use. Donations at several Washington universities have declined since the beginning of the pandemic.
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