Top State Stories 1/13
US: Biden to announce military help for hospitals in 6 states
President Joe Biden plans to announce the deployment of 1,000 military medical personnel to six states to help hospitals deal with a surge in cases from the omicron variant. Officials said the new teams of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel would begin arriving at hospitals in Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.
OH: Ohio Supreme Court orders redo of Republican-drawn state legislative maps
The Ohio Supreme Court has struck down the new Republican-drawn state legislative maps that were supposed to take effect for the primary election in May. In the 4-3 ruling, Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor joined Democratic justices in saying the maps disproportionately favored Republicans, in violation of Ohio’s new anti-gerrymandering rules approved by voters as a state constitutional amendment in 2015.
VT: Vermont’s 350K free rapid tests snatched up within hours
All 350,000 free rapid COVID-19 tests that became available in the morning for Vermonters to order online were taken by the afternoon, Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s office said. The tests in the first phase of the pilot program will be delivered to homes over the next one to two weeks. The rapid test delivery program is a partnership with the National Institutes of Health and Amazon and comes at a time when the state has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases.
KS: Kansas school officials declare emergency, relax substitute teacher requirements
Substitute teachers in Kansas no longer need college credit hours, under an emergency declaration approved to address unprecedented staff shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually there is a minimum requirement of 60 semester credit hours from a regionally accredited college or university.
WV: West Virginia governor gets COVID; feeling ‘extremely unwell’
West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice is receiving care at his personal home in Greenbrier County after testing positive for COVID-19. Justice, who says he is fully vaccinated and boosted, reported feeling “extremely unwell” and postponed the State of the State address he was set to deliver to the legislature Wednesday evening.
WA: Washington wildlife manager accused of poaching
A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employee has been accused of poaching. The Ferry County prosecutor accused Brock Hoenes, the director for the wildlife agency’s north-central region, with unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree.
ME: Maine considers new protections for ballots, voting machines, election workers
Maine lawmakers are considering a bill aimed at preventing the seizure and corruption of election equipment and voter data. The proposal is a direct response to so-called audits of presidential election results in Republican-controlled states such as Arizona, where supporters of former President Donald Trump embarked on an expensive effort to find fraudulent ballots in a county that helped tip the election to President Joe Biden.
KY: Kentucky lawmakers speed M tornado relief package to governor’s desk
The Kentucky Senate gave unanimous final passage to a million relief package for the tornado-devastated communities of western Kentucky, sending it to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to be signed into law.
MI: Michigan officials refute report expected to allege undercount in COVID-19 long-term care deaths
Michigan health officials are disputing a report that they say is expected to allege the state undercounted potentially hundreds or thousands of COVID-19 deaths of residents at long-term care facilities. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel says the auditor general made a series of errors, including conflating death definitions, examining data from facilities not required to report deaths and using sources that are unreliable.
MO: Missouri Republicans launch latest plan to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood
Republicans in the Missouri House resumed their ongoing campaign to shut down the state’s lone abortion provider at a time when the procedure is already strictly limited in the state. The legislation would deny public funds to any abortion provider and end funding to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services.
CO: Crime, COVID and cost of living top Colorado’s legislative session agenda
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Democrats are laser-focused on improving public safety, making housing more affordable and saving people money. Republican lawmakers have outlined similar priorities for their own agenda. But while both political parties appear to agree on the major concerns facing the state, they’re already pointing fingers about who came up with various proposals first.
AK: Ex-Alaska official claims firing was politically motivated
The former director of the billion Alaska Permanent Fund is blaming her abrupt December dismissal on “political retribution” by appointees of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The governor denied any involvement in the process. Rodell has repeatedly advised the Alaska legislature to spend less from the Permanent Fund than called for by plans previously proposed by the governor.
OR: Oregon governor offers M workforce development plan
Oregon lawmakers got their first look at a million legislative package being proposed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s office to bolster the state’s workforce. The program, titled “Future Ready Oregon,” aims to prioritize key populations disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and existing disparities in Oregon’s workforce.
NM: Virus rocking New Mexico schools again
The coronavirus is catching up with New Mexico’s largest school districts once again. Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent announced the district will return to remote, online attendance for the four-day holiday week starting on Jan. 18. At least 10 school districts or charter schools reported pivoting to remote learning.
MT: Group intends to sue feds over new Montana environmental law
An environmental group has filed a notice of its intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over state changes to Montana’s water quality standards, saying that federal regulators have missed statutory deadlines to grant or deny the changes. Montana holds primacy over the federal law, meaning the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has authority delegated by the EPA to set pollution limits and issue discharge permits.
MD: Ransomware attack crippled Maryland health department
A ransomware attack at the Maryland Department of Health crippled its systems last month and forced many of its services offline. Services ranging from the daily COVID-19 data to basic local health department functions were rendered unavailable.
MA: Boston area coronavirus wastewater levels take a plunge; encouraging sign
The Boston-area COVID-19 wastewater tracker is now taking a major plunge after skyrocketing to record-high levels during the holidays. The tracker is the earliest predictor for future virus cases in the community.
FL: Florida governor confirms 1M COVID tests can be used
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed that the Food and Drug Administration has approved a state request to extend the expiration date to the end of March for 1 million COVID-19 tests being held in a state warehouse. He also defended the state not sending out the tests to local governments before their initial extended expiration date.
MN: Minnesota cities to require vaccine proof to get into bars, restaurants
Minneapolis and St. Paul will require customers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues, among the most aggressive steps the Minnesota cities have taken to date to curb the spread of COVID-19.
CA: California’s overflowing coffers hand governor ‘every politician’s dream’
Despite early concerns that the pandemic would weaken California’s economy, another year of gushing tax revenue ensures that the politics of plenty will continue to define Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first four years in office. A legislature teeming with Democrats and his easy defeat of the recall election have made him even more powerful.
UT: Utah reevaluating COVID-19 treatment qualifications after Fox News criticism
Utah’s risk factors for determining who qualifies for limited monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 are being reevaluated, the state health department announced, a day after Fox News host Tucker Carlson railed against Utah and other states for giving greater weight to non-Whites. Utah Department of Health spokesperson Tom Hudachko said the decision to take another look at the risk factors was unrelated.
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