Top State Stories 1/31
GA: Judge rejects Georgia’s attempts to dismiss redistricting lawsuits
Three lawsuits challenging Georgia’s new political maps survived their first hurdles in federal court. The lawsuits allege that Georgia’s redistricting violated the Voting Rights Act’s protections against discrimination of Black voters, weakening their voting strength by splitting populations into different districts.
AK: Justices uphold dismissal of climate lawsuit brought by 16 young Alaskans
The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled against a group of teens and young adults who sued the state trying to change its approach to fossil fuel production. The lawsuit said the state’s promotion of oil and gas extraction contributes to a climate crisis that threatens their way of life.
OR: Steep drop in community college enrollment could prolong Oregon’s worker shortage
Oregon community college enrollment fell by 23% during the pandemic’s first year and didn’t rebound this fall. Community colleges provide training for many fields where Oregon workers are now in short supply, among them nurses, truck drivers, electricians, carpenters and the technicians who run the state’s computer chip factories.
MI: Warming Lake Michigan could kill state’s cherry, apple industries
Lake Michigan creates a microclimate for the areas just to its east that allows the state’s apple and cherry industries to thrive. But that natural dance is now being disrupted by human-influenced climate change, and its effects are being felt in Michigan’s economically vital “fruit belt.”
FL: Florida Senate passes bill ordering local governments to pay if new rules hurt businesses
The Florida Senate has an answer for local governments that want to regulate businesses: Go ahead, but it’s going to cost you. A bill that would allow businesses to sue for damages if a local ordinance or voter-approved referendum costs their business 15% or more of their profits passed on a 22-14 mostly party-line vote.
NJ: To fill shortage, New Jersey school district will sponsor teachers from other countries
The Camden, New Jersey, school district has tried online ads, college partnerships and job fairs to tackle its ongoing teacher shortage. Now, the district is trying something new: hiring teachers from outside the country.
AR: Kids make up a quarter of Arkansas COVID cases
The omicron variant of COVID-19 is affecting a higher proportion of people under age 18 in Arkansas than previous variants did, although most cases are mild, according to local experts.
MA: Massachusetts governor seeks to halt probation, parole fees
Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, is seeking to end the monthly fees Massachusetts charges those on probation and parole. Court officials, lawmakers and advocates have argued the levies unnecessarily burden people trying to reenter society and do little to ensure the public is safe.
MT: Montana to limit wolf hunting following heavy kills near Yellowstone
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to close wolf trapping and hunting in southwestern Montana if or when six more wolves are killed by hunters or trappers in the region. Nearly 30% of Yellowstone National Park’s wolves have been killed since the start of the 2021-2022 hunting season.
OH: Bill to legalize marijuana heads to Ohio lawmakers after hitting signature requirements
Ohio lawmakers will consider a proposal to legalize marijuana in the coming months after advocates gathered enough voter signatures in support of the effort. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 136,729 valid signatures.
WA: Lawmakers call for PCB testing in Washington schools
State lawmakers and school safety advocates say they want to strengthen Washington laws on environmental hazards in schools. There is no requirement to test for PCBs on school campuses in Washington. If certain toxic chemicals are found at schools, there is no requirement to notify parents and staff or remove the toxicants quickly.
LA: Louisiana forms new task force to fight human trafficking
Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies along with social service agencies in a Louisiana parish have announced a new task force to fight human trafficking.
TX: EPA rejects Texas’ more lenient standard for highly toxic air pollutant
As part of a sweeping announcement detailing strategies to crack down on toxic industrial air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was moving to formally reject Texas’ less protective standard for the potent carcinogen ethylene oxide and stick with its own scientific conclusions, a move that clears the way for significant reductions in emissions nationwide.
MS: Mississippi parents object to proposed social studies standards
Parents and community leaders voiced concerns about the perceived erasure of state and national history in newly proposed K-12 social studies standards during a Mississippi Department of Education public comment meeting.
CO: Pandemic pushed Colorado home prices to record highs
Over the past two years, the median price of a single-family home sold in Colorado has risen by nearly a third, while the already tight inventory of listings available for sale has dropped by nearly two-thirds.
CT: COVID restrictions to continue in Connecticut legislature, Capitol
The Connecticut General Assembly will continue its stringent COVID-19 restrictions for at least the first month of the 2022 session, conducting only virtual meetings and hearings and limiting access to the state Capitol.
KY: Unregulated slot machines are flooding Kentucky. And police are helping, for a cut.
A wave of unregulated gaming machines is pouring into Kentucky, showing up in gas stations in small towns as well as convenience stores and bars. And, in many cases, law enforcement groups are getting a cut of the proceeds.
VA: With marijuana now legal in Virginia, lawmakers debate how to set up the industry
Virginia lawmakers plan to take up a host of cannabis-related legislation this year in a narrowly divided General Assembly, following the body’s historic vote to legalize the drug for recreational use last year—when both the House and Senate were under Democratic control.
ID: Idaho governor proposes major bridge fixes
Local governments and transportation advocates across Idaho are praising GOP Gov. Brad Little’s recent budget proposal to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s chronically underfunded road and bridge network.
TN: Tennessee to protect wildlife habitat in state’s largest-ever conservation deal
Tennessee struck a deal with advocacy group the Nature Conservancy to permanently protect about 43,000 acres in the central Appalachian Mountains. The area contains hardwood forests that house migratory songbirds, a small population of reintroduced elk and about 180 miles of streams in East Tennessee at the Kentucky border.
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