Top State Stories 3/22
OR: Oregon invests M to prepare for fallout of Idaho anti-abortion legislation
With Idaho poised to enact one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, Oregon is shoring up access to abortion. A recently passed bill in Oregon would provide $15 million to help patients obtain abortions by paying for the services as well as logistical aid including lodging and travel.
WA: Washington creates 1st sea grass and kelp sanctuary
A first-of-its-kind sanctuary has been created offshore of Everett, where 2,300 acres of Washington state tidelands have been put off-limits to development for 50 years. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz created the protection zone with the stroke of a pen, withdrawing the tidelands from potential development.
WI: Wisconsin Supreme Court order makes it harder for those with disabilities to vote
Wisconsinites with disabilities will have a tougher time voting in April because of a recent state Supreme Court decision, and some say they won’t be able to vote at all. The justices let a Waukesha County judge’s decision go into effect that says voters cannot give their absentee ballots to someone else to mail or hand over to election clerks for them.
SD: South Dakota bans ‘divisive’ race training at universities
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, signed a law that bans the state’s public universities from using training and orientation material that compels people to feel “discomfort” based on their race.
IN: Indiana law eliminates permit requirements for handguns
Despite initial opposition from state police, Indiana GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law that eliminates the license requirement to carry a handgun in the state.
DE: Delaware moves closer to providing high-speed internet service in all homes
Broadband infrastructure grants have been announced to begin making high-speed wired broadband connections available to every Delaware home. Comcast, Verizon and Mediacom—the current service providers in the state—will get $56 million in grants to extend their existing coverage areas.
TN: Tennessee Medicaid prepares to expand dental benefits
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee put money in his proposed budget to expand dental benefits to all Medicaid recipients. But less than a third of Tennessee dentists accept patients covered by Medicaid, which pays providers less than other insurance plans.
ME: Maine bears staggering social, monetary costs along with drug criminalization, report finds
Prosecution and incarceration associated with drug use and possession are costing the state more than $100 million a year, according to a new report from the ACLU of Maine and the Maine Center for Economic Policy. Most of the arrests are for small amounts of drugs, and Black people are three-and-a-half times more likely to be charged with possession than White people.
PA: Pennsylvania approves stronger charter school regulations
A Pennsylvania regulatory board approved Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to subject charter schools to stronger ethics and accounting standards and to try to root out discriminatory admissions decisions, perhaps the biggest update to a quarter-century-old law.
MI: Michigan rolls out M election security grant
Election officials across Michigan will soon have access to $8 million in federal funds for security improvements ahead of the 2022 elections, from website and election equipment upgrades to active shooter trainings.
MD: Maryland announces new deadlines for delayed primaries
Maryland has new deadlines for registering to vote and to request a mail-in ballot, after the state’s highest court moved the state’s primary to July 19.
AK: Alaska is the only state to see a decline in median income in 5-year census survey
Alaska was the only state in America to experience a decline in median household income from 2016 to 2020, according to census data. It was also the only state to see poverty levels stay about the same.
FL: Florida governor will let lawmakers call special session on property insurance, condo safety
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is leaving it to the Florida legislature to decide whether to hold a special session on property insurance and condominium safety laws. Both were top issues for lawmakers going into the 2022 session but got bumped amid contentious and emotional debates over culture war issues.
MN: Minnesota Republicans propose paid family leave through private insurance
Minnesotans who’ve had a baby or need to care for an ailing parent or sick child would be able to take paid time off through a private insurance plan, under a proposal Republican legislators unveiled. The bill is the GOP’s answer to a Democratic proposal to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave through a state-managed fund that employers and employees would pay into.
TX: Democrats press Biden to get Planned Parenthood back into Texas Medicaid program
Democratic congressional members from Texas are asking the Biden administration to push for the return of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider, nearly a year after state leaders kicked out the organization over false claims it was selling fetal tissue.
OK: Oklahoma GOP lawmakers seek to make it harder for state questions to get on the ballot
Republican legislators in Oklahoma advanced a slate of joint resolutions that would increase the majority needed for some state questions to pass and impose geographical requirements for signature gathering, a key part of the initiative petition.
IL: Illinois Democrats’ plan seeks to divest from Russian debt
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and fellow Democrats who lead the General Assembly have pledged to push legislation to penalize Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. A House Democrat introduced a plan to divest from Russian debt, welcome Ukrainian refugees to Illinois and develop a method for detecting Russian money laundering in local real estate.
NY: New York environmentalists press governor over crypto energy use
Opponents of what is becoming New York’s best-known and most-controversial crypto-mining facility have enlisted a Columbia University research institute to help explain why New York environmental officials should not renew its current air emissions permit.
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