Top State Stories 2/14
OK: Oklahoma considers separating state and federal elections if voting rights acts pass
State Rep. Denise Crosswhite Rader sponsored a bill that would establish a mechanism for Oklahoma to separate state and federal elections should Congress pass certain voting reforms. The bill appears likely to move forward in the Republican-controlled legislature, where legislative leaders and GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt have said maintaining secure elections is a priority.
WI: Wisconsin governor to propose changes to election laws
The initiatives, which include the creation of a new office focused on election transparency, will be included in the 2023 budget proposal that Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is set to release. The proposals also include establishing automatic voter registration, changing voter ID processes, allowing clerks to canvass absentee ballots before Election Day and speeding up the reimbursement process for smaller communities during a special election or recount.
OR: Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission director resigns amid bourbon scandal
Steve Marks, the longtime executive director of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, said he will resign, but didn’t publicly acknowledge the scandal engulfing the agency he has led for almost a decade. An internal investigation at the agency last year found top officials, including Marks, had diverted scarce Kentucky bourbon for their own use or for use as gifts.
CA: California considers legalizing cannabis cafes to help struggling marijuana industry
Ordering a sandwich and a marijuana cigarette could become the future under a bill aimed at changing the landscape of cannabis use in California. New legislation would legalize the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages at cannabis retailers and lounges.
NM: The future of the abortion war is in New Mexico
New Mexico has emerged as one of the key battlefronts in the U.S. war over abortion. In Vice interviews with abortion rights supporters, foes and patients since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a story of tensions simmering in the state has emerged, both between the two sides of the abortion wars and within the pro-abortion rights movement itself.
TN: Tennessee’s rejection of federal HIV prevention grants could affect many state groups
Tennessee’s decision to scrap two federal HIV prevention grants worth up to nearly million has disease prevention groups worried the decision could harm a state with already high rates of HIV/AIDS transmission. And while state officials have promised to replace the money, affected organizations contacted by The Tennessean have not yet received any details about those promised dollars.
SD: South Dakota limits gender-affirming care for teens
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed a law prohibiting several forms of gender-affirming care for minors. The bill prohibits several forms of bottom surgery, prohibits the potential for top surgery for those assigned female at birth and prohibits hormone therapy and puberty blockers.
IA: Iowa governor would cut number of state agencies in half
GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to overhaul Iowa’s entire state government would cut by more than half the number of cabinet-level agencies in Iowa, from 37 to 16, restructure department hierarchies and responsibilities and rewrite big chunks of the Iowa Code.
FL: Florida governor promises to target ‘ESG’ investing in latest salvo against ‘woke’ capitalism
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders are promising to extend the governor’s campaign against “ESG” (economic, social and governance) investing through legislation barring state and local agencies from putting taxpayer money in banks that consider more than the bottom line in managing investments.
HI: Many Hawaii kids going without routine vaccinations for school
The percentage of Hawaii children not vaccinated for illnesses such as mumps and measles, or not receiving the full roster of shots required for school, has jumped since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data released by the state Department of Health, augmenting concerns that there will be new outbreaks of long-controlled diseases.
TX: Texas lawmakers seek overhaul of bail laws
Texas lawmakers are considering new measures aimed at keeping more defendants accused of violent and sexual crimes behind bars as they await trial, building off recent changes that clamped down on the use of cashless bail in state courts.
MN: Ready to be discharged, Minnesota hospital patients have nowhere to go
The declining number of Minnesota nursing homes and at-home care providers has left hospitals with no place to transfer people who no longer need acute care but still need some help. A survey of 95 hospitals showed patients received 14,622 more days of care than necessary — in just one week in mid-December.
MI: As Michigan’s nature preschools grow in popularity, will they become accessible to all?
Some nature preschool programs scattered across Michigan are accessible to families through state funding. But many are expensive — as much as a day in the case of one program in Ann Arbor — or run just a few hours a few days per week. The programs are concentrated in wealthier communities.
PA: New report offers solutions to ‘dire’ Pennsylvania teacher shortage
Pennsylvania is facing a “dire and worsening teacher shortage crisis,” according to a new report that details sweeping recommendations to address short-term and long-term problems. The recommendations range from offering free schooling for prospective teachers to creating avenues for advancement within a teaching position.
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