Top State Stories 11/18
WI: Wisconsin COVID hospitalizations reach 2021 high
The Wisconsin Hospital Association reported 1,180 COVID-19 hospitalizations—a new record for 2021. The last time hospitalizations were this high was Dec. 23.
MN: Minnesota hospitals get federal help to address staff shortages
Federal medical teams will arrive in Minnesota next week to provide staffing support at two state hospitals hit by the ever-growing COVID-19 surge. Each will receive 22 emergency medical workers from the Department of Defense under a request made by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz.
OH: Concealed carry, guns in schools: 2 major gun bills win approval in Ohio House
The Ohio House voted in favor of bills that would allow teachers with 20 hours of training to carry firearms on K-12 campuses and that would wipe out a required eight-hour class for Ohioans to carry hidden guns into public places. Both bills now move to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
TN: Tennessee governor urges unvaccinated police officers to move to his state
In a new ad, Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee says police officers from New York to Los Angeles are welcome in his state, regardless of their vaccine status. He notes that Tennessee has a relatively low cost of living and no income tax, and he says the Tennessee Highway Patrol will even cover moving expenses.
NY: New York lawmakers seek to ban rap music as evidence in criminal trials
A pair of state senators from New York City have proposed legislation that would ban rap music lyrics from being used as evidence against defendants in criminal cases. They cited the case of a Maryland man sentenced to prison for murder after an appeals court allowed prosecutors to use rap lyrics he sang against him at trial.
ME: All Maine adults can now get COVID booster shots, governor announces
Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills announced that eligibility is effective immediately. She says she wants to simplify complicated federal eligibility guidelines for boosters as the state confronts a sustained surge of cases and cold weather is sending people indoors.
MI: Michigan COVID cases are surging
Michigan is now in its fourth coronavirus surge, with a 7-day case rate that is the worst in the nation. Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the state is “continually reassessing” its response to the pandemic but did not specifically answer a question about whether the state needs to institute new statewide orders.
KS: All Kansas adults can now get COVID booster shots
All fully vaccinated Kansans over the age of 18 are now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots, state health officials announced. “The COVID-19 vaccine is free, safe, effective, and the best way to keep our communities protected from this virus,” Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement.
FL: Florida House OKs fines for vaccine mandates in workplace
Florida businesses could soon face fines of ,000 to ,000 if they require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine without offering certain exemptions, after the Florida House voted to approve a bill pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
MA: Judge denies request to halt Massachusetts school mask mandate
A state judge denied a legal request to halt Massachusetts’ mandate requiring all public school students and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, through mid-January. He found the state did not overstep its authority in protecting public health.
PA: Pennsylvania governor expected to veto no-permit concealed carry gun bill
The House passed a bill that would allow Pennsylvanians to carry concealed guns without a permit, which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has promised to veto.
OR: School staffing issues in Oregon called ‘real, emergency situation’
At a Senate Education Committee meeting, superintendents and representatives from school boards and teachers’ associations detailed dire staffing situations across Oregon that are harming students and even potentially violating federal law. Among the most severe shortages: special education instructors.
WA: Washington redistricting panel urges state Supreme Court to look at its map
The head of Washington state’s bipartisan redistricting commission that failed to meet its deadline for redrawing political maps urged state Supreme Court justices to still consider their work now that the high court will have to complete the process. This is the first time the panel has failed to finish its work on time since the state adopted a constitutional amendment giving redistricting authority to a bipartisan commission after the 1990 census.
ID: Idaho’s special session yields a single measure
Over three days, at a taxpayer cost of roughly ,000 per day, Idaho’s two legislative chambers could agree on virtually nothing. Just one piece of legislation passed both bodies: a nonbinding message to Washington, D.C., decrying the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates.
NV: Proposed ballot question would create open primaries, ranked-choice voting in Nevada
A proposed ballot initiative would transform Nevada’s election system by moving to open primaries with a ranked-choice general election system. The group behind the proposal said it was filing the initiative to “address the deficiencies of the primary election system” and attempts to give the growing cohort of nonpartisan voters a greater say in state elections.
GA: New Georgia congressional map aims to increase Republican seats
A new political map of Georgia would help Republicans gain at least one seat in Congress, using redistricting to reverse Democratic gains. The long-awaited map could increase Republicans’ 8-6 majority in Georgia’s congressional delegation by stretching a suburban Atlanta district into much more conservative areas to the north.
MO: Thousands of Missouri educators take up state offer of credit monitoring after data breach
More than 27,000 current and retired teachers in Missouri have signed up for credit monitoring services in the wake of a data security incident. The Public School Retirement System’s executive director told a legislative committee that the Sept. 11 breach has officials looking at whether any additional cybersecurity changes are warranted.
ND: North Dakota leaders to make plan for M pipeline grant fund
Pipeline developers are eyeing the million pot of grant money North Dakota lawmakers set aside last week for expanding natural gas service, but it will be a few weeks before it’s clear how state leaders plan to proceed with distributing the funds.
CA: University of California lecturer strike averted as union hails tentative agreement
A massive two-day strike by University of California lecturers that threatened widespread class cancellations was averted after the union and university reached a tentative agreement on a contract that would strengthen job security and boost the pay by an average 30% over five years.
MT: Home heating costs could skyrocket in Montana this winter
Home heating costs for Montanans are expected to increase this winter, the state’s utility regulator announced.
IA: Iowa prepares to launch new charter school process
The Iowa Board of Education is moving ahead with the implementation of a new state law that changes the way charter schools can form and operate.
HI: How police overtime leaves Hawaii taxpayers on the hook for jacked up pensions
Hawaii state lawmakers cracked down on pension spiking in 2012—but only for new employees. The old-timers continue to stick taxpayers with ever-growing bills from the state pension system.
CO: Police officers search 4 Colorado locations in election security probe
A law enforcement task force searched four western Colorado locations amid an investigation into allegations that an elections clerk was involved in a security breach of elections equipment earlier this year, a district attorney said.
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