Top State Stories 12/21
US: Businesses, GOP-led states ask US Supreme Court to halt federal vaccine, testing mandate
Business organizations, 27 states with Republican attorneys general or governors and other groups have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the Biden administration from enforcing its sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate for employers with 100 employees or more.
MD: After cybersecurity breach, Maryland reports thousands of new COVID cases, including governor
More than 28,500 Marylanders tested positive for COVID-19 during the two weeks since state servers went offline following a cyberattack. The state restored some data reporting on the same day as Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who is fully vaccinated and boosted, reported that he had tested positive.
FL: Florida may tighten hate crimes laws
Florida may soon close a legal loophole that recently allowed a man to avoid a hate-crime charge for a vandalized gay pride display in Delray Beach, prosecutors say. A proposed law would let prosecutors pursue hate-crime charges when cases involve properties that belong to local governments or organizations.
TX: Push to ban books in Texas schools spreads to libraries
Complaints about books at local, public Texas libraries have increased in recent months. The fact that the numbers are rising after questions were raised about school library content by the legislature seems more than coincidental, according to the Texas Library Association.
KS: Kansas governor calls complaints about critical race theory in schools a ‘nothing burger’
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, dismissed outrage over critical race theory—an academic concept that is not part of public school curricula—as wholly manufactured. State lawmakers are preparing proposals to ban the teaching of critical race theory and develop a “bill of rights” for parents and students.
CO: Colorado board reverses controversial change to ‘sex offender’ label
Under pressure from the governor and the state’s public safety director, Colorado’s Sex Offender Management Board has reversed its controversial November decision to scrap the term “sex offenders” in its own guiding principles in favor of “adults who commit sexual offenses.”
AR: Arkansas’ low vaccination rate setting up omicron surge, experts say
Arkansas will confront the omicron variant with one of the lowest full vaccination rates in the nation as doctors warn the state should brace for another deadly coronavirus surge. Infectious disease experts say the omicron variant could strain and even overwhelm the state’s hospital system.
MT: Montana will delay launch of new election management system
Montana will hold off on its transition to a new statewide election management system, indicating in a statement that the system has not met all the criteria required for a previously slated January launch. The decision resolves for now a concern voiced by local election officials about the integrity of the upcoming 2022 elections.
ID: After 3 months, Idaho is now fully out of crisis standards of care
Hospitals throughout Idaho remain stressed, with hundreds of COVID-19 patients, but the surge is no longer exceeding available health care resources, according to the state’s health department. Intensive care units continue to report about one-third of patients have COVID-19, according to federal data.
MA: Massachusetts GOP gubernatorial candidate among protestors at Boston mayor’s COVID vaccine proof announcement
Geoff Diehl, a former Republican state lawmaker now running for Massachusetts governor, stood with protesters as they denounced Democratic Mayor Michelle Wu’s new requirements that people will soon have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before they can enter restaurants, gyms and theaters in Boston.
OR: Illegal gun market thriving in Oregon city
Law enforcement in Portland, Oregon have confiscated more guns as evidence in connection with criminal investigations than each of the previous two years. Most are obtained illegally, investigators say. The number of seizures is likely deflated because the police department hasn’t had a designated gun violence interdiction team on the streets in the past year and a half.
MI: Michigan Supreme Court orders redistricting commission to release memos
The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the state’s redistricting commission to release records the group withheld from the public while drawing proposed congressional and legislative districts. The court’s decision is in response to a lawsuit filed by the Detroit Free Press and other media organizations.
AK: Changes coming to Alaska’s COVID dashboard
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is planning to transition from giving COVID-19 case counts three times a week to reporting weekly trends. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said COVID-19 data is more useful when looking at larger trends over longer periods of time.
NY: New York governor says state inspectors will help enforce mask mandate
New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged up to $65 million and the use of state inspectors to help counties enforce a COVID-19 policy that requires businesses and other entities to force patrons and employees to wear masks unless they are only allowing entry to someone who has been vaccinated.
WY: How Wyoming became one of the world’s top tax havens
A Wyoming trust and layers of private companies with concealed ownership allow the world’s wealthy to move and spend money in extraordinary secrecy, protected by some of the strongest privacy laws in the country and, in some cases, without even the cursory oversight performed by regulators in other states.
WI: Wisconsin health officials warn of system breakdown if COVID surge continues
The leaders of the state’s Department of Health Services issued a health advisory urging Wisconsin residents to wear face masks indoors, get vaccinated against COVID-19 and consider gathering for the holidays in small groups. Their goal is to prevent hospitals from becoming so overwhelmed that not everyone who needs life-saving care will get it.
DE: Delaware budget forecast approaches B for the first time
The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council met to offer its final projection of how much money the state has to work with before Democratic Gov. John Carney unveils his recommended budget next month. The council adjusted its forecast up by $264 million since last meeting in October, a 4.7% increase.
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