Top State Stories 2/9
TX: Texas governor tells state agencies to stop considering diversity in hiring
In a memo obtained by The Texas Tribune, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s chief of staff, Gardner Pate, told agency leaders that using diversity, equity and inclusion policies in hiring violates federal and state employment laws, and hiring cannot be based on factors “other than merit.”
TN: Tennessee House speaker mulls rejecting US education money
One of Tennessee’s most influential Republican lawmakers says the state should stop accepting the nearly .8 billion of federal K-12 education dollars that help provide support for students with low incomes, English learners and students with disabilities. House Speaker Cameron Sexton told The Associated Press that he has introduced a bill to reject the money, thereby freeing Tennessee from “federal government interference.”
MS: Mississippi Republicans look to control capital’s criminal justice system
The Mississippi House voted after an intense, four-plus hour debate to create a separate court system and an expanded police force within the capital city of Jackson — the Blackest city in America — that would be appointed completely by White state officials. Mississippi’s capital city is 80% Black and home to a higher percentage of Black residents than any major American city, while White Republicans dominate the legislature.
MO: Missouri Senate approves bill restricting classroom discussion
A broad education bill also known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” passed the Missouri Senate on a voice vote. While some in the opposition expressed appreciation for changes that had been made to the bill, a pair of Black Democratic senators criticized the proposed legislation — saying it would limit teachers’ ability to educate on racial inequality.
CA: California governor told 123 prisoners they could get out early. Many remain behind bars.
While Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s clemency power allows him to unilaterally free Californians he deems worthy, most of the time he doesn’t use it that way. Instead, he sends prisoners to the parole board, allowing its commissioners — who include attorneys, former wardens and correctional officers — to decide their fate.
IA: Iowa legislature approves cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases
An Iowa bill capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits is headed for GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk after passing both chambers of the Iowa legislature.
MN: Minnesota is first state to universally test newborns for CMV
Minnesota is the first U.S. state to universally test newborns for cytomegalovirus, an easily transmissible virus and a leading cause of infant hearing loss and congenital birth defects. The announcement follows a year of work to create a state protocol for testing at birth for the virus, known as CMV, and two decades of research at the University of Minnesota on ways to identify, prevent and treat the infection.
OK: Oklahoma committee advances bills to restrict transgender health care
An Oklahoma Senate committee moved forward two bills aimed at restricting transgender transition, one of them requested by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. One bill would allow the state to immediately revoke the license of medical workers who offered gender transition services to minors under age 18. The other bill would block public funds to any hospital, entity or individual that provides transgender health care, regardless of the patient’s age.
WI: DA offices across Wisconsin are struggling to hire prosecutors
Wisconsin’s bar association said a lack of experienced prosecutors, coupled with a shortage of public defenders, is so bad it’s approaching a constitutional crisis. Starting pay for Wisconsin’s assistant DAs amounts to less than ,000 a year.
WA: Red tape keeps Washington state psychologists waiting for months to enter workforce
Most people applying to become clinical psychologists in Washington state are facing delays and wait months or years to get licensed, new state Department of Health data suggests. Insufficient staffing at the state’s credentialing department, inefficiencies in the review process, and technical malfunctions are mucking up the path of hundreds of Washingtonians who aim to enter the mental health workforce each year.
OR: Oregon lawmakers propose bills to address political extremism, domestic terrorism
Oregon is a hotspot for domestic terrorism and paramilitary activity. Armed militia groups have taken over public land and terrorists have targeted the electric grid. State lawmakers are responding to such threats with two bills that would address an individual act of domestic terrorism and coordinated paramilitary activity.
MI: Michigan Democrats unveil new plan to reduce taxes on retirement income
All Michigan retirement income would be taxed in the same way private pensions were taxed prior to 2012, under a plan proposed by Michigan Democrats. The plan also appears designed to avoid what was an expected 0.2 percentage point cut in the state’s 4.25% income tax rate, by diverting about million in 2022 revenue from the state’s general fund to issue rebate checks to Michigan tax filers.
WY: Wyoming Medicaid postpartum extension bill moves forward before deadline
Wyoming state representatives advanced a bill that would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for mothers with low incomes, with just a few hours left in the day before it would have died. The proposal has been a topic of speculation since the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee approved it nearly two weeks ago.
NV: 10 years after Nevada criminalized sex trafficking, legislators want to crack down further
A decade after then-Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, now a Democratic U.S. senator, led a push to ensure Nevada law outlawed sex trafficking, at least four lawmakers plan to continue the fight against illegal sex work during the upcoming legislative session.
AR: Arkansas governor proposes K minimum salary for teachers, voucher program for students
Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveiled an education plan that includes raising the state’s minimum teacher salary from ,000 to ,000 a year and a voucher program for students to attend private or home schools. The voucher program will be phased in over three years, the governor said.
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