Top State Stories 2/25
US: 1st-time vaccination rates in the US are at a new low
A year after the first coronavirus vaccines became available in the United States, and after months of politicized fights over vaccine mandates, the country’s campaign to vaccinate its population seems to have hit a wall, with very few people showing up for first shots.
AK: Mask and testing requirements dropped for Alaska State Capitol
Legislators and others who work in the Alaska State Capitol are no longer required to wear masks and be tested for COVID-19. The Alaska Legislative Council voted to eliminate the mandates.
FL: Florida House approves ‘don’t say gay’ and ‘anti-woke’ bills
The Florida House signed off on culture war measures backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that seek to combat “woke” ideology and limit instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The Senate will take up the controversial proposals next.
OR: Oregon will end school and indoor mask mandates
The Oregon Health Authority announced that mask mandates in K-12 schools and indoor public spaces will end March 19, days earlier than originally planned for school children but likely days or even weeks after state leaders previously indicated they’d consider removing the mandate for indoor public spaces.
CA: Should California impose a THC limit on drivers? A state lawmaker says no.
Should California implement a blood test to determine if someone is impaired by THC, the key psychoactive ingredient in marijuana? One state lawmaker, a former California Highway Patrol officer, is cautioning against that approach, arguing that THC blood content is not a reliable indicator of impairment.
TX: Narrow challenge to Texas’ abortion law argued before state Supreme Court
Abortion providers are trying to find a legal avenue that will allow them to directly challenge new restrictions that have effectively banned the procedure in Texas after about six weeks of pregnancy. Lawyers representing the abortion providers are trying to prove that the state enforces the law, which would open a legal window for them to seek an injunction on some aspects of it.
MO: Missouri lawmakers fight Medicaid expansion
Missouri’s Republican-led House passed a stopgap budget funding voter-approved Medicaid expansion, then minutes later OK’d proposals that would allow them to effectively undermine the program and make it harder for voters to pass other constitutional amendments in the future.
UT: Utah bill to end default mail-in voting fails in raucous hearing
A bill that would have returned Utah to in-person voting by default failed to advance from committee after opponents argued that it could disenfranchise voters and had few discernible security benefits.
GA: Georgia Senate passes bill limiting school sports to sex identified at birth
The Georgia Senate approved legislation to require students to participate in high school sports according to the sex that appears on their birth certificate.
NM: Missing person bills signed by New Mexico governor
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, signed two bills addressing missing and murdered indigenous New Mexicans. The laws establish a missing person specialist at the state’s attorney general’s office and create an event to connect families of missing New Mexicans with law enforcement agencies.
WI: Wisconsin Republicans send election bills to governor
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature passed a package of election and voting bills in an attempt to mollify backers of former President Donald Trump who falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen from him. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is likely to veto them.
WV: West Virginia lawmakers advance bill to increase pay for foster care workers
Lawmakers in West Virginia are looking to give pay raises to workers in the state’s foster care system. The House of Delegates passed a bill that would give raises of at least 15% to all caseworkers and other staff who work directly with families and children. The increase would be in addition to the 5% raise for state employees being pushed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice.
MI: Michigan public schools down 56K students since pandemic
Michigan’s public schools are still down by about 56,000 students since the pandemic began. While a small rise in the past year offers a glimmer of hope for recovery for schools—both academically and financially—the sustained loss of students over the past two years shows the effects of the pandemic on public education.
NV: Audit shows Nevada prisons overcharging at inmate store, paying excessive overtime
The Nevada Department of Corrections overcharged prisoners for goods, excessively paid some employees for overtime and inappropriately assigned state-owned vehicles, a new state audit found.
IN: Indiana guts gun-carry bill after police objections
After the head of the Indiana State Police slammed Republicans for pursuing constitutional carry legislation, lawmakers gutted a bill that would have nixed Indiana’s requirement for a permit to carry a handgun.
MN: Minnesota House passes B front-line worker pay plan
The Minnesota House passed a billion plan to provide bonus payments to pandemic front-line workers, but Democratic leaders still don’t have an agreement with Republican leaders in the state Senate about who should get the bonuses and how much each worker should get.
MD: Maryland to waive toll late fees amid backlog
Maryland transportation authorities voted to temporarily stop charging late fees on video toll bills because some customers are unable to connect by phone with understaffed customer service lines.
CO: Gas-powered lawn equipment could be banned in parts of Colorado
Two Democratic state lawmakers have introduced a sweeping climate and environment bill that would outlaw gas-powered lawn equipment along the northern Front Range in Colorado, set new greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and force insurance companies operating in the state to conduct a climate assessment.
ID: Unable to buy execution drugs, Idaho seeks to shield suppliers from scrutiny
Idaho lacks the lethal injection drugs needed to execute a death row inmate, and state prison officials do not expect that to change if lawmakers won’t guarantee stiffer identity protections to potential suppliers. Suppliers have been reluctant to provide the drugs to the state if they are not ensured anonymity to avoid possible public backlash for their involvement in ending a human life.
AL: Plan to take racist, outdated language from Alabama’s Constitution moves ahead
The Alabama House approved a resolution that would allow voters to decide on a new Constitution that removes racist language.
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