Top State Stories 2/14
FL: Florida governor rebukes proposed cuts for school districts that mandated masks
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis rebuked a proposal to take away $200 million from a dozen school districts that implemented strict mask mandates last year in defiance of his administration. Instead, he urged the Republican-led legislature to give parents the power to sue their local schools over COVID-19 protocols.
MO: Missouri lawmakers seek to prohibit hair-based discrimination
Five bills introduced by Missouri lawmakers this year aim to prohibit discrimination based on hair style or texture. They’re part of a push to address the oppression of people, especially Black women and girls, based on their natural hair.
WI: Wisconsin Supreme Court allows ban on ballot drop boxes for April election
A closely divided Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that it would allow a lower court decision to go into effect that will ban the use of ballot drop boxes for the April election. Drop boxes can still be used for this week’s primaries, and it’s possible the high court will change course and allow them for other elections.
MN: Minnesota EMS workers depart as demand for emergency services grows
Many Minnesota ambulance services are struggling to respond to emergency calls as workers leave the field in pursuit of better pay and working conditions. The exodus comes as demand for emergency medical services is increasing statewide.
CO: Colorado lawmakers want to make it harder for thieves, porch pirates to sell stolen loot online
Colorado lawmakers want to make it harder for thieves to resell their loot via online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Craigslist and Facebook. A bipartisan bill pending in the legislature would require people who sell large amounts of new items on the internet to register a slew of personal information with the online marketplaces.
WA: Washington drivers are getting fewer tickets even as traffic returns to normal
Two years after the beginning of the pandemic, traffic enforcement across Washington state remains a fraction of what it was in 2019, even as cars return to the state’s highways at near-normal levels. It’s a sign of what police officials largely acknowledge to be true: their officers aren’t pulling over as many people as they once did.
AK: Alaska governor offers bills to tighten criminal laws
Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced three public safety bills designed to help crime victims and make it easier to prosecute offenders. The bills propose several nuts-and-bolts changes to criminal statutes with a focus on prosecuting domestic violence and sexual assault as well as trafficking.
NV: Nevadans grapple with punishing rent hikes even as economy rebounds
Though Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and other state leaders have touted Nevada as having the nation’s best economic momentum out of the pandemic, many residents are struggling to make ends meet amid a steep rise in rental and home prices.
GA: In Georgia air and soil, a history of environmental inequality
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Census Bureau data found Georgia census tracts within two miles of a hazardous waste site had a larger percentage of Black residents and lower home values, on average, than neighborhoods farther from the sites in the same county.
TX: Texas ban on encouraging mail-in ballots likely unconstitutional, judge rules
A new Texas law that keeps local election officials from encouraging voters to request mail-in ballots likely violates the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled, temporarily blocking the state from enforcing the rule.
OK: Oklahoma’s cannabis program ‘most accessible’ nationwide, but enforcement lags
Oklahoma is the state with the most growers, dispensaries and percentage of licensed medical marijuana patients, according to a Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency report. But the report found the state’s ability to regulate medical cannabis has not kept pace with rapid growth in the industry.
MT: Proposal could upend Montana’s tax system
An initiative in Montana would limit the total value-based property taxes on residential properties to 1% of assessed value and limit how fast assessed values can increase year over year. The proposal has drawn opposition not only from left-leaning groups that routinely lobby for more public spending, but also from traditionally tax-skeptical entities such as the Montana Chamber of Commerce.
SC: South Carolina wants to stop unlawfully locking up youth with mental illnesses
For years, South Carolina has failed some of the state’s children facing the most seriously mental illnesses by illegally housing them at juvenile detention facilities that aren’t equipped to provide the level of mental health services they desperately need.
NM: Bill advances to protect New Mexico judges from threats, doxing
New Mexico legislators are advancing a bill with new criminal penalties aimed at protecting state and local judges and their immediate families from threats and the malicious sharing of personal information, also known as doxing.
AR: Arkansas cities raise questions about how new monument law works
An Arkansas law that took effect in April prohibits the removal, relocation, alteration or renaming of a memorial on public property. With objects of recognition including flagpoles and plaques, city officials across the state are wondering how the law will affect future efforts to honor people and events.
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