Top State Stories 1/11
NJ: New Jersey legislature approves bill to ensure abortion rights
Both houses of the state legislature voted to preserve the right of women and girls to obtain an abortion in New Jersey, a measure that grew out of concern the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court may overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision later this year. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said he will sign it.
NY: New York lawmakers reject redistricting plan from commission
New York lawmakers rejected a series of redistricting plans that would have set new boundaries for state and federal legislative districts. The New York Independent Redistricting Commission forwarded the plans to state lawmakers last week after Democrats and Republicans on the bipartisan panel failed to reach a consensus.
DE: Delaware governor brings back indoor mask mandate
The Delaware mandate requires all individuals ages 2 and up to wear a face covering in indoor public settings including grocery stores, gyms, restaurants and more. Houses of worship are exempt. Hospitalizations are spiking to record levels in the state, and several health care systems implemented crisis standards as the demand for care surpasses their available resources.
MI: Michigan sets record for COVID hospitalizations
Michigan set a record for the highest number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 4,581 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections.
WI: Conservatives launch multipronged effort to block ballot drop boxes in Wisconsin
Republicans on a Wisconsin legislative committee took a vote that could lead to ballot drop boxes being barred as soon as this spring. Meanwhile, courts are considering three legal challenges to drop boxes, with one judge scheduled to hold a hearing this week about their use.
CA: California governor’s B budget calls for new health care, homeless and climate spending
Riding a second consecutive year with a projected budget surplus in the tens of billions of dollars, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a state spending plan that would pour money into big-ticket programs ranging from fighting COVID-19 to getting more people to drive electric cars.
WA: Atmospheric river could bring more flooding, avalanches to Washington
Another atmospheric river—a weather phenomenon that can generate a series of storms—will camp over Washington state this week. The region is likely to see more lowland flooding and avalanche danger, even as some roads have not reopened from last week’s heavy snow and rain.
SC: South Carolina governor’s spending proposal includes tax cuts, .26B for roadwork, M for ports
South Carolina Republican Gov. Henry McMaster is again asking legislators to cut income taxes, freeze college tuition and pay law enforcement officers more.
AZ: Arizona governor wants to invest B in desalination, other water infrastructure
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey proposed spending $1 billion from the state’s general fund over three years to help “secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years.” In his final State of the State address, the governor said the budget he sends to lawmakers will prioritize water infrastructure including desalination.
AK: Alaska is changing how it tracks the pandemic
Omicron is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in Alaska, and it’s changing the way the health department looks at the pandemic. The state’s public health officials say they’ll now be tracking COVID-19 more like they have always tracked the flu—looking at trends over time.
MS: Mississippi Senate leaders unveil historic plan to increase teacher pay
Mississippi Senate leaders unveiled a proposal to give the state’s teachers an average raise of $4,300 over two years to help address the teacher shortage. If passed, the pay increase would represent the largest pay increase since the early 2000s.
IA: Iowa’s GOP Senate leader warns of ‘sinister agenda’ from press
Iowa’s Senate president opened the legislative session with an attack on the media and claims of a “sinister agenda” against children. Republican Senate President Jake Chapman has previously called for jailing educators who provide what he considers obscene material to children, and he supports banning some books from schools.
AL: Alabama lawmakers debate concealed carry permits, whether to allow guns at school sporting events
In Alabama, one of the proposed bills that would allow permitless carry of concealed guns would remove athletic venues, K-12 schools or colleges from the list of places where guns are prohibited. The Alabama House GOP Caucus recently said that removing the permit requirement to carry a concealed handgun is a priority.
MN: Minnesota’s government salary cap remains point of frustration for local cities and counties
Amid a tight labor market and changing industry dynamics heralded by the pandemic, local city and county associations are continuing efforts to repeal a Minnesota law capping the salary of local government employees. “We have never been able to find another state that has any kind of limit like this,” said Gary Carlson, the intergovernmental relations director with the League of Minnesota Cities.
MO: Missouri lawmakers hear plea to give raises to state workers
Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s budget chief called on lawmakers to move quickly to approve raises for state workers. With turnover among employees at alarming levels, the budget director argued that the 5.5% raises proposed by Parson could help bring more people into key jobs providing services to citizens.
WV: West Virginia lawmakers pledge new rule to replace unpopular oil and gas property valuation
A rule that West Virginia tax officials came up with to more properly value oil and natural gas wells and the process that led up to its enactment have proven unpopular with both the industry and county governments. State lawmakers have committed to coming up with another rule.
UT: Utah legislature could overturn Salt Lake County’s mask mandate
Even though it appears the Republican supermajority on the Salt Lake County Council may not have enough votes to overturn the recently issued 30-day mask mandate, that may not be the case with the Utah legislature.
MA: Massachusetts unveils new proof-of-vaccination website
Massachusetts became the latest state to offer an official digital certificate to show proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19. While some states have created custom smartphone apps to display a person’s vaccination status, Massachusetts is using an internet site where people can look up the information.
TX: To ease Texas foster care crisis, experts say mental health, addiction services needed
Texas can’t ease a foster care bed shortage that routinely forces youngsters to sleep in Child Protective Services offices without a far-reaching program of new mental health services for children, mobile crisis teams to help distressed families and high-quality treatment programs for youth struggling with mood disorders and addictions, experts tapped by parties in a lawsuit said.
WY: University of Wyoming reverses decision to test everyone for COVID
University of Wyoming officials said they were concerned the risk of a mass testing event such as one proposed earlier could lead to a greater spread of the disease and outweigh any benefits from the testing.
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