Top State Stories 11/17
NV: Nevada governor signs redistricting bill after split Assembly vote
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a major redistricting bill passed on mostly party lines by the Nevada Assembly. Republicans complained that it skewed maps too far in favor of Democrats, and community advocates that it didn’t take their concerns into consideration.
DC: DC will no longer require masks in many public settings
Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser said it’s time to let Washington, D.C., residents choose whether to wear masks in their office buildings, retail stores, gyms and many other settings. Businesses can still choose to require masks.
MT: Montana files 3rd challenge to federal vaccine rules
Even as the coronavirus continues to spread in Montana, GOP Attorney General Austin Knudsen has called Biden’s strategy an “unconstitutional power grab and intrusion into Montanans’ lives.” Knudsen said the federal mandate for health workers would stymie Montana’s health care workforce if employees choose to leave their jobs instead of getting vaccinated.
MN: Minnesota preps to expand COVID vaccine boosters to all adults as cases surge
Minnesota is preparing to expand COVID-19 vaccine booster access to all adults this week, with or without federal backing, and encouraged renewed protections in communities and schools against a worsening pandemic wave.
MA: First Asian woman sworn in as mayor in Boston
Michelle Wu was sworn in as Boston’s first woman, first person of color and first Asian American mayor popularly elected to office. During the ceremony at City Hall, she told attendees, “We have so much work to do.”
ID: Idaho GOP lawmakers target COVID vaccines in special session
One Idaho bill would place vaccine exemptions into state law and include natural immunity as an exemption. Another would bar employers from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. Yet a third would put into state law GOP Gov. Brad Little’s executive order banning vaccine passports.
VT: Vermont governor proposes special legislative session
Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott has proposed that the legislature hold a special session to grant communities the authority to issue temporary indoor mask mandates as legislative leadership calls for him to do more about the surge in COVID-19 cases.
AL: Alabama school first in weeks to go remote due to COVID increases
Sixth graders in Muscle Shoals Middle School in Alabama are the first students in weeks to move to virtual instruction due to COVID-19. The district had fewer than five reported cases, according to the most recent data reported.
OH: Ohio bill would prevent small businesses from being closed by health orders if big ones stay open
The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature passed a bill protecting small businesses against health orders, sending it to the governor’s desk. The Business Fairness Act aims to prevent small businesses from being shut down or limited when bigger businesses are not.
TN: Tennessee universities can enact vaccine mandates to keep federal funding
Four Tennessee universities were granted exemptions to the state’s new COVID-19 legislation, allowing them to enforce vaccine mandates so they can continue to collect millions in federal funding. The new Tennessee laws prohibit state-funded institutions from requiring vaccines or masks, except in very specific circumstances.
CT: Connecticut governor says he will no longer push for climate change legislation
Connecticut Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said that he is no longer pursuing a controversial climate initiative that legislators argued would lead to higher gasoline prices and generated a strong lobbying effort of opposition for months.
IA: Audit finds Iowa governor wrongfully used federal aid for staff salaries
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, improperly used ,000 of federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay 21 staff members, according to a new state audit.
FL: Florida legislature quickly moves on bills to block workplace vaccine mandates
Florida lawmakers advanced multiple bills limiting mask and vaccine mandates in a contentious special session. Committees in the Republican-controlled legislature voted for measures that would require private employers to accommodate employees who don’t want to be vaccinated and, eventually, swap federal oversight of workplace safety for state oversight.
WA: Washington redistricting commission admits failure to meet deadline for new political maps
Washington’s bipartisan redistricting commission admitted it failed to meet a midnight deadline to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative maps. The panel’s failure means the state’s election maps for the next decade will be in the hands of the state Supreme Court, which will have until April 30 to draw new boundaries.
CA: University of California lecturers set for strike at 9 campuses
Lecturers at nine University of California campuses throughout the state are participating in a two-day strike, canceling their classes in a protest of what they call “unfair labor practices.”
NE: Wildfire hits western Nebraska
Nebraska has sent the National Guard to battle another large fire in the western part of the state. Two other states sent helpers to the 2,500-acre blaze, the fourth major fire this year in Nebraska.
WI: Black moms, babies face higher health risk in Wisconsin, but legislature won’t address it
Advocates working to improve the health of Black mothers and babies say that when it comes to their field, Wisconsin has for years been in a state of emergency. But at the state Capitol, they see little urgency to fix the problem.
IN: Thousands of Indiana women live far from obstetric services
For many rural women in Indiana, childbirth complications mean a harrowing long-distance drive. It’s one reason the state has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.
IL: Illinois governor signs package of incentives aimed at boosting electric vehicle production
Furthering his efforts to push Illinois as an eco-friendly leader in the battle against climate change, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a package of incentives that he said will boost the production of electric vehicles throughout the state.
PA: Pennsylvania Senate president enters crowded governor’s race
Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Republican, officially launched his campaign for governor, casting himself as an experienced legislator who would be a “people-first governor.” Corman, 57, is the Senate’s highest-ranking member and has been in the Senate for 22 years during the terms of five different governors.
WV: West Virginia overextended in maintaining properties: audit
Although West Virginia is no longer on a spree of buying or building office space, as it was doing prior to a 2015 legislative audit, a follow-up audit found that the General Services Division remains overextended in trying to adequately maintain all the properties the state currently owns or leases.
AR: Federal sponsorship problems land hundreds of migrant kids in Arkansas’ care
An increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children in Arkansas are being removed from problem situations and put in the custody of the state Department of Human Services, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. He said he is looking to Washington, D.C., for answers on the process of finding sponsors for them.
MI: Michiganders receiving food assistance to get extra payment in time for the holidays
Just in time for gatherings with family and friends this holiday season, Michigan residents eligible for food assistance benefits are getting some extra help for the month of November. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said the additional payment is being made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to help lower the cost of groceries for struggling families.
NJ: With suicide the 2nd most common cause of death among students, New Jersey lawmakers want colleges to do more
College students in New Jersey would have access to peer support groups, psychological treatment on and off campus and online and a new student orientation session on depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, under a bill a state Assembly panel approved.
OR: Oregon weighs clean truck rules to cut diesel pollution
Manufacturers of trucks and other large vehicles sold in Oregon may soon be required to ramp up sales of zero-emission vehicles, as state officials consider adopting a rule modeled after California regulations adopted last year. The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission will vote on two rules that seek to rein in diesel pollution in the state.
AK: Alaska’s 1st electric-powered school bus is performing well—even at 40 below
Alaska’s first and, so far, only electric-powered school bus ran the routes every school day last year for Tok-based Alaska Gateway School District, including those when the temperature dropped to nearly 40 below. The bus is now in its second year of service for the school district.
SD: South Dakota governor clarifies timeline on daughter’s appraiser certification
A training plan outlining what Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s daughter needed to do to earn her appraiser certification wasn’t agreed to until after a closed-door meeting with top decision makers at the Governor’s Mansion. Noem has denied preferential treatment.
NY: Former New York governor’s book approval rescinded by ethics panel, might cost him millions
New York’s ethics commission voted to rescind approval of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s .1 million book deal, paving the way for commissioners to potentially claw back millions paid to the Democratic ex-governor. Since the approval was granted last year, news has emerged that Cuomo used government staff to help edit and produce the book, apparently violating ethics rules.
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