Florence: A college is asking people to quit using plastic confetti as a photo prop on campus. The scenic University of North Alabama is a popular spot for photo shoots in Florence, but school officials say some of those sessions are leaving behind plastic confetti that’s shot into the air. Birds and other animals can mistake the little pieces for food, and biology professor Jake Dittel told the TimesDaily the confetti can kill wildlife. “We’re trying to encourage our staff, students, faculty, and our university community and guests to think about how to help us maintain this beautiful campus and keep it environmentally friendly,” said Brenda Webb, who chairs the Department of Physics and Earth Science. Confetti also is winding up in a large fountain that’s sometimes used as a photo backdrop. That forces workers to turn off the water to clean out a filter.
Anchorage: A federal agency awarded the state a $35.8 million federal grant to support earthquake disaster recovery efforts, officials said. The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the funds in response to the damaging quake that struck parts of south-central Alaska on Nov. 30, 2018, KTVA-TV reports. The HUD Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program helps communities rebuild after natural disasters and prepare for future ones, officials said. This is the first time Alaska has received funds through the program, officials said. Alaskans affected by the 7.1 magnitude quake have received nearly $130 million in assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Association, officials said.
Flagstaff: Researchers at Northern Arizona University’s Pathogen and Microbiome Institute lab are studying mosquitoes from Maricopa County as part of a DNA-mapping effort that could help finds ways to target the West Nile virus. Leading the research, NAU evolutionary biologist Crystal Hepp is trying to trace the virus back to its source. Her team pulverizes hundreds of frozen mosquitoes into a clear liquid soup from which they can extract DNA, then strings together the DNA information. This is vital information for the state’s fight against West Nile virus, which infected over 170 residents in 2019 and was responsible for the deaths of 17 people. Most of those cases came from Maricopa County. Using genetic analysis, Hepp is zeroing in on West Nile hot spots that can potentially be fogged with pesticides.
Conway: A Canada-based mass timber manufacturer in which Walmart has invested says it’s spending $90 million to open a plant in Arkansas, the company’s first in the United States. Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation announced it will purchase, retrofit and equip a former steel plant in Conway and create 130 new jobs at the facility. The plant, set to open in mid-2021, will source softwood lumber from Arkansas-grown southern pine trees. Walmart will be the first customer of the facility and plans to use more than 1.1 million cubic feet of Arkansas-grown and Arkansas-produced mass timber in its new home office campus in Bentonville. The company says the new location will meet the demand in the U.S. for mass timber. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission says the project is receiving $1.5 million from an incentive fund, as well as tax refunds and rebates.
Sacramento: The state is fining the nation’s largest pharmacy health care provider a record $3.6 million for failing to redeem deposits on bottles and cans at some of its locations, regulators said Monday. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, better known as CalRecycle, said its investigation found that 81 of CVS Pharmacy’s 848 retail stores in California refused to redeem the recyclables or pay a required $100 daily fee as an alternative. CalRecycle filed the enforcement action last week, and CVS can seek a hearing if it wants to contest the fine. Department spokesman Lance Klug said it’s the largest enforcement action ever against a retailer for failing to redeem recyclables. One of CalRecycle’s most vocal critics praised the department’s action as a good first step to helping prop up the recycling industry.
Denver: The University of Colorado Boulder’s media college announced Monday that it will stop funding its student-run news outlet. The Denver Post reports the university plans to end funding for the CU Independent at the end of the school year. The university says the student news website will become fully independent from the College of Media, Communication and Information. The school says it plans to launch a student multimedia enterprise with more faculty leadership next fall. CU Independent Editor-in-Chief Rob Tann says the student-led publication plans to continue with an independent news site despite the challenges of a competing new venture and the loss of university funding. CU Independent is currently funded by the media college and gift funds and is assisted by a staff student-media manager.
Hartford: The state has a new online portal that will allow notaries to handle their licensing needs with a few keyboard strokes. Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill unveiled the portal that allows notaries to apply for new state licenses, renew active licenses and reinstate expired licenses. All licenses will then be delivered by email to the notary within three business days. “Allowing notaries public to apply for new licenses and renew old licenses online makes the process simpler, easier and faster,” said Merrill, who likened the change to online voter registration. “Allowing notaries to apply online removes barriers and makes becoming and remaining a notary more convenient.” Notaries serve as an official, impartial witness and are used to sign off on various documents.
Dover: A small, struggling private college is seeking money from the state for the third time this year. Wesley College submitted a request Friday for $3.2 million, news outlets report. Lawmakers and officials approved $2 million from a state fund earlier this year. The school also received permission to use more than $1 million in renovation funding for the former Dover Public Library for operational purposes. The money had been granted to ensure the federal government would continue to provide students with financial aid. Delaware’s Office of Management and Budget has said it wouldn’t give the institution any more money without a long-term financial plan from the college. In June, the U.S. Department of Education placed the school on a monitoring list over concerns about its “financial responsibility.” The institution has seen declining enrollment and revenue in recent years, according to news outlets.
District of Columbia
Washington: Public housing residents and advocates took their demands to the doorstep of the D.C. Housing Authority on Monday, demanding that no residents are evicted as part of the agency’s 20-year transformation plan. “Living every day in public housing, there’s a threat of homelessness in everybody’s heart,” Karen Settles of Stoddart Terrace in Southeast told WUSA-TV. Public documents said her building will be demolished and redeveloped as part of DCHA’s Transformation Plan, rehabilitating 14 properties across the city. During Monday’s rally, public housing advocates said some residents withholding rent in protest of moldy living conditions could be evicted. But public housing officials have insisted nobody will be evicted. Even still, public housing advocates said residents are at risk. “They are absolutely evicting people,” said Aja Taylor of Bread for the City, which organized Monday’s rally.
Key Largo: Federal officials announced plans Monday to raise $100 million to fund projects to restore seven significant coral reef sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. “Mission: Iconic Reefs” calls for restoring nearly 70 acres of the Florida Reef Tract, one of the largest strategies ever proposed for coral restoration, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA officials said the organization will work with partners to secure public and private funds. “We have identified some iconic reefs here in the Keys that we want to help restore,” sanctuary superintendent Sarah Fangman said. Since the 1970s, tropical cyclones, heat-induced coral bleaching, cold snaps and disease events have reduced coral coverage in the Keys. Outbreaks of stony coral tissue loss disease, first noticed off Miami in 2014, have spread as far as Cozumel, the Caribbean region, and have baffled marine biologists.
Savannah: A 160-year-old church believed to be the oldest black church in the United States and built by enslaved Africans has been restored to a version of its former glory. A fresh coat of paint covers the freshly carpeted First African Baptist Church, which also had its bell tower fixed, water-damaged ceilings repaired and stucco replaced, the Savannah Morning News reports. It cost nearly $600,000 to repair numerous issues, the Rev. Thrumond Tillman says. The church, a National Historic Landmark, was organized in 1773, according to its website. The sanctuary was completed in 1859. Some historic pieces were left untouched during the restoration, such as pews the church says are carved with West African Arabic script, one of the earliest forms of writing. The original sanctuary still is dotted with holes that allowed runaway slaves to breathe as they traveled along the Underground Railroad and stopped at the church, according to the newspaper.
Honolulu: The City Council has passed a single-use plastics ban that will be the first in the state to include all plastic containers used for food sales and service. The council voted Wednesday in favor of the measure that is expected to be signed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell and fully enacted by 2022. Food vendors would be prohibited from providing plastic utensils and plastic foam plates, cups and other containers beginning Jan. 1, 2021, officials said. The ban would add other plastic food ware and begin applying to non-food-purveying businesses starting Jan. 1, 2022, officials said. Businesses that do not adhere to the law face fines of up to $1,000 a day, although exemptions could be issued if they cannot find reasonable, non-plastic replacements. Environmentalists have highlighted the food-industry plastics that can be found littering Oahu’s streets and waterways.
Boise: A biennial state survey of youth shows fewer teens say they are being bullied, smoking cigarettes or having sex, but the number of kids who have seriously considered suicide remains at a 10-year high. The State Department of Education released the 2019 Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey last week. It included more than 1,200 high school students in 45 schools across the state. Nearly 40% of students reported they feel sad or hopeless. About 22% of students reported they had seriously considered suicide – the same rate as reported in 2017 and the highest in the past decade. Reports of bullying, smoking and sexual activity all dropped to the lowest levels recorded in the past decade. Nearly half of the students surveyed said they had emailed or texted while driving a car in the past 30 days.
Chicago: Federal officials are investigating whether the Chicago Cubs’ ongoing $1 billion renovation of Wrigley Field provides adequate wheelchair access. The Cubs have filed a notice of the review in Chicago federal court, where the team is defending itself against a lawsuit filed by a wheelchair user who alleges the stadium’s seating doesn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and is actually worse than before the renovation. The Chicago Tribune reports that a team attorney wrote in a letter to the judge that the Cubs believe the renovation has “significantly increased” accessibility in the 105-year-old stadium, but the team is halting plans to install more accessible seating before the 2020 season, calling it prudent to wait for federal officials to conduct the review.
Terre Haute: Starting in January, Indiana State University will offer a new teacher licensure program to train educators to work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Indiana State Board of Education approved the Deaf/Hard of Hearing program last week, the Tribune-Star reports, and it will be offered through the university’s Blumberg Center, part of the Bayh College of Education. According to the Council for Education of the Deaf, there is a national crisis in deaf education due to a significant shortage of qualified teachers. “The shortage of teachers available to meet the needs of the deaf/hard of hearing is critical,” said Carol Wetherell, director of the Blumberg Center. “We’re anxious to get more people on board.” The program will be a seven-course program to be completed over the course of two years. It’ll be offered through distance education, with some face-to-face instruction.
Cedar Rapids: A judge on Monday sentenced a local man to 14 years in prison after he was convicted of having his cousin try to hijack an internet domain from another man at gunpoint. U.S. District Court Judge C.J. Williams sentenced Rossi Lorathio Adams II, 27, to the federal prison term following his conviction April 18 of one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by force, threats and violence. Adams was the founder of social media company State Snaps, whose followers often used the slogan “Do It For State!” He repeatedly tried to buy the domain doitforstate.com from another Cedar Rapids man, but the owner refused to sell. In 2017, Adams convinced his cousin, Sherman Hopkins Jr., to break into the domain owner’s house. During a struggle, Hopkins and the domain owner were shot, but both survived. Hopkins was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison.
Wichita: A former police officer who wounded a 9-year-old girl when he fired at her family’s dog is immune from criminal prosecution and can’t be sued, a judge ruled. Judge Kevin O’Connor issued his ruling last month in Dexter Betts’s case, although it wasn’t available in public court records until Friday. The Sedgwick County district attorney’s office filed a notice of appeal, The Wichita Eagle reports. Betts had been charged with aggravated battery in the Dec. 30, 2017, shooting in which a bullet fragment ricocheted off the floor and hit the girl. Officers went to the family’s home when the girl’s mother reported her husband was threatening to hurt himself. The family’s attorney says the dog only went up to the officer and barked. The girl and dog were not seriously injured. Betts’s lawyer asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing he had legally fired his weapon in self-defense and was entitled to immunity.
Frankfort: Democrat Andy Beshear was sworn in as governor early Tuesday during a private ceremony just after midnight in the Governor’s Mansion. Beshear, 42, follows in the footsteps of his father, Steve Beshear, whose two terms as governor preceded the single four-year term of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. They are the first father-son duo to serve as governors in Kentucky history. The middle-of-the-night swearing is customary in Kentucky, to ensure continuity at the head of state government. Andy Beshear showed he was his own man during this year’s campaign, even while embracing some of the same proposals – including increased access to health care and legalization of casinos – that his father had championed. The official transfer of power preceded a full day of inaugural events Tuesday, including a worship service, a parade and a public swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps.
New Orleans: The Louisiana Supreme Court building, a sprawling landmark in the French Quarter, was formally named in memory of late Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. in a Tuesday ceremony. The Legislature voted in June to name the building that houses the high court after Calogero, the court’s longest-serving justice, who died last year. The building now named for Calogero is four-story marble behemoth that fills a block of the French Quarter near the Mississippi River. It was completed in 1910, according to Tulane University’s School of Architecture. The high court moved to a more modern building in 1958, and the Quarter building fell into disrepair. A move to restore the building and return the court there ended in 2004. Calogero considered the restoration among his administration’s most important achievements, according to a 2018 obituary by the court.
Waterville: An independent state authority that deals with housing issues says it has been awarded nearly $4 million in federal low-income housing tax credits for several projects. MaineHousing director Daniel Brennan says the tax credits are an important way to spur development of affordable housing in the state. The projects are in Portland, South Portland, Bangor and Waterville. MaineHousing says the tax credits will generate more than $37 million from private investors. That money, along with $3 million more from MaineHousing, is expected to create or preserve 317 housing units. One of the projects is the first phase of the redevelopment of a historic textile mill in Waterville. Another is the preservation of public housing units in Portland.
Baltimore: Six former inmates claim in a federal lawsuit that the state’s prison system fails to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Baltimore Sun cited allegations in the lawsuit Tuesday that included prison guards making a one-legged man walk into the showers with no support. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The inmates allege a culture of noncompliance with the ADA and indifference by prison guards. The inmates are suing the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and a number of prison officials. The Attorney General’s Office is defending the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services along with its employees. A spokeswoman declined to comment to The Sun, citing the ongoing nature of the case.
Boston: The plan to modernize the area public transit system’s fare collection technology is expected to cost more and take years longer to implement than originally thought, agency officials say. Plans to have the technology installed by 2021 have now been pushed back to 2024, and the cost is expected to jump from $700 million to perhaps $1 billion, officials at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority told The Boston Globe on Monday. “It’s going to be much more of a gradual transition than was originally envisioned,” said Laurel Paget-Seekins, the MBTA’s assistant general manager for policy. The new system would allow riders to pay using a smartphone or contactless credit card, to speed up the boarding process and improve fare collection.
Detroit: When the U.S. Census Bureau starts counting people in Motor City next year, obstacles are bound to arise. The city has tens of thousands of vacant houses, sparse internet access and high poverty – factors that will make it the toughest community to tally. Other Rust Belt towns that have lost population and cities in the Sun Belt with large numbers of immigrants and transplants will pose similar challenges in the coast-to-coast headcount, an Associated Press analysis of government data found. Detroit’s recent resurgence has led to refurbished downtown buildings, new boutique hotels and an invigorated arts community. But the renaissance has done little for some residents who live in persistent poverty and harbor lingering mistrust after decades of racial upheaval. About 86% of Detroit’s population lives in hard-to-count neighborhoods, by far the largest proportion of any major U.S. city, the AP analysis found.
St. Paul: The state is on track to meet the project implementation deadlines for replacing the state’s troubled driver and vehicle registration system known as MNLARS, the Office of the Legislative Auditor reported Tuesday. However, the auditor’s report found some minor risks to completing the project on time and on budget, and it said managers should address them soon. The most serious involved requirements added by the 2019 Legislature for researching alternate ways of determining vehicle licensing fees and for exploring self-service licensing, title and registration capabilities. Moving ahead on those ideas could mean delays and higher costs, the report said. The review said another risk is that moving and converting data from the old Minnesota Licensing and Registration System system to the new Vehicle Title and Registration System could prove challenging.
Oxford: Lafayette County is shifting back to voting on paper ballots. The Oxford Eagle reports county supervisors are seeking bids for new voting machines. Since 2007, the county has used touchscreen machines, but the bids call for machines that would electronically count paper ballots. Supervisor Kevin Frye said that if there’s ever a question about the outcome of an election, workers could retrieve paper ballots and count them by hand. Of Mississippi’s 82 counties, 12 are now using paper ballots, said Bill Lowe of voting-machine company Election Systems & Software. Those include Hinds, Harrison, Madison and DeSoto counties, four of the six most populous counties in Mississippi. Lowe said machines sold by his company will scan ballots once they have been filled out, letting voters know if they didn’t vote in any races or voted too many times in a race.
Springfield: Feral hog hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest has been curtailed, but limited opportunities to kill the damaging animals are emerging on state land. After weighing a change for more than a year and receiving more than 1,000 public comments, the U.S. Forest Service announced Saturday that it will only allow hunters to kill wild hogs if they come across them while hunting turkey and deer. Hunters must have proper deer and turkey permits to qualify for the exception to the new ban. In response, the Missouri Department of Conservation announced Monday that it was writing new rules that will mirror those adopted by the Forest Service. The department currently bans all hog hunting practice on its lands, saying it is more effective to trap and kill large groups of the animals than allow hunters to try to shoot them. The department says shooting scatters the hogs.
Great Falls: The National Defense Authorization Act, which contains an amendment giving federal recognition for the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, cleared a congressional conference committee Monday, bringing optimism from the state’s federal delegation that the bill will finally pass. Reuters reports the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committees said they reached an agreement on the $738 billion spending bill for the Department of Defense, considered a must-pass piece of legislation, after months of negotiations. “I am almost without words – the magnitude of this moment,” Little Shell Chair Gerald Gray said Monday night. “Maybe our ancestors are smiling because now our future generations will not have to take up this same battle we have fought for decades.”
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Lincoln: Dozens of bronze headstone flower vases have been stolen from a cemetery. Police said the theft of 40 vases was reported Saturday at Lincoln Memorial Park. Each vase was valued at $50, so the loss is estimated at $2,000, police said. In October, about a dozen vases were also stolen from the cemetery. Police said the thief might try to sell the vases at pawn shops or scrap yards. They asked that anyone with information call police.
Reno: Police are expanding the use of technology to automatically read license plates in an effort to reduce gun violence. The City Council approved the expanded use of devices and associated software to track license plates despite critics’ concerns it could be used to secretly monitor the movement of law-abiding citizens. “We want our dangerous criminals off the streets, and that is what this grant is focused on,” Police Chief Jason Soto told the council. A visiting professor at the University of Nevada, Reno who specializes in mass surveillance technology was among those raising concerns about the potential for abuse. “Your neighbors would find that really creepy if you were sitting down writing down everyone’s comings and goings,” said David Maass, who recently joined UNR’s Reynolds School of Journalism through a partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Concord: The state released a set of guidelines Tuesday to help law enforcement agencies better handle hate crimes in the wake of recent debate about racism in the mostly white state. The protocols from the attorney general’s office call on departments to designate one staffer responsible for coordinating the handling of an alleged bias or hate crime. That person will also work with the attorney general’s civil rights unit and the relevant county attorney to determine how to respond to such crimes. Hate crimes are also supposed to be reported to the FBI each year. The protocols come almost two years after the attorney general’s office created a civil rights unit, which among other things investigates violence or discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. The unit was created in the wake of the near-hanging in 2017 of an 8-year-old biracial child.
New Brunswick: NJ Transit and Amtrak have started working on a new railyard to provide a safe place to store trains along the Northeast Corridor during severe weather. The expansion of County Yard and the Delco Lead Storage and Inspection Facility Project along the New Brunswick and North Brunswick border will provide storage capacity for 444 vehicles. The project comes after Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 flooded the Hoboken Yard and Terminal and the Meadows Maintenance Complex, damaging equipment. The project also includes an inspection facility for light maintenance of cars and equipment and to aid the inspection of trains prior to their return to service following severe weather.
Santa Fe: A contractor overseeing operations at a national laboratory lost track of 250 barrels of waste in the past year, an annual report on hazardous waste violations says. Triad National Security LLC had 19 violations of its permit from the New Mexico Environment Department after the contractor mislabeled and improperly stored waste containers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports. Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos, which is managing a 10-year cleanup of waste generated at the lab, was cited 29 times. The barrels filled with low-level radioactive waste and other hazardous materials were shipped to a waste plant in Carlsbad without tracking, regulators said. The records still listed the waste at the lab, inspectors said.
Albany: The state is planning to allow more local health centers and clinics to offer needle exchanges in hopes of reducing the number of opioid overdoses and deaths. The state Health Department approved the emergency regulations last month. New York has two dozen sites that trade dirty syringes for clean ones, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration wants to expand that number. The new rules will allow LBGTQ centers, local health departments and other facilities to apply to offer such a service. New York’s health department plans to spend $250,000 for syringes, disposal containers, gloves and alcohol pads. State health officials say 3,224 New Yorkers died from overdoses in 2017, up from 1,074 in 2010. Experts also point to spiking HIV rates linked to dirty syringes.
Hatteras: The power line that provides electricity to an Outer Banks island will be replaced with an underground cable next year. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore issued a permit to Tideland Electric Membership Corp. to replace an overhead pole line that’s the only source of electricity for the 1,385 electrical customers on Ocracoke Island, officials said in a news release Monday. The underground cable will connect to the existing underwater power line between the two islands. The 1.75-mile power line is being replaced because of erosion at the south end of Hatteras island and washouts on the road that have increased in recent years, officials said. Construction is expected to take about two months.
Dickinson: The state’s final medical marijuana dispensary is set to open this week. The eighth dispensary is expected to open in Dickinson on Friday. Jason Wahl, director of the Division of Medical Marijuana, says opening the final dispensary is a milestone for the program. The state has issued more than 1,850 identification cards to qualifying patients, Wahl said. North Dakota is the first in the nation to add an electronic card option for patients, caregivers, and agents of dispensaries and manufacturing facilities. Other dispensaries are located in Bismarck, Devils Lake, Fargo, Jamestown, Grand Forks, Minot and Williston. For a qualifying patient or designated caregiver to enter the display area of a dispensary, they must have their registry identification card.
Columbus: The official portrait of former Gov. John Kasich was unveiled Monday at a packed Statehouse event. The Republican governor held office from 2011 through 2018. The Capital Square Review and Advisory Board presented the portrait in the atrium of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. Senate President Larry Obhof and Gov. Mike DeWine praised Kasich for his service and, in particular, for overseeing the state’s recovery from the Great Recession. Kasich was the state’s 69th governor and a longtime former congressman. Kasich’s portrait was painted by John Seibels Walker, known for portraiture in the style known as the “Grand Manner.” The painting depicts the down-to-earth Kasich in an open suit jacket and tie in front of the Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial on the Statehouse’s South Plaza. Kasich championed the memorial, finished in 2014.
Oklahoma City: Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson have appealed an Oklahoma judge’s order for the company to pay $465 million to address the state’s opioid crisis. The company argues in an appeal filed Monday that the judge misapplied the state’s public nuisance laws in reaching his decision. The company also maintains that the award should be reduced by $355 million to offset pretrial settlements between the state and two other drugmakers. “Without explanation, the court found Janssen liable for the entirety of a complex crisis implicating a multitude of criminal, governmental and medical actors,” attorneys wrote in a summary of the case. Janssen is the company’s pharmaceutical subsidiary. The state of Oklahoma also plans to appeal the judge’s order, arguing that the $465 million it was awarded would only cover one year of its cleanup plan.
Newport: State shellfish managers say the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season will be further delayed until at least Dec. 31 along the entire Oregon coast, as testing shows crab are still too low in meat yield in half the areas along the coast. The World reports the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season in Oregon generally opens Dec. 1 but can be delayed to ensure a high-quality product and to avoid wastage of the resource. The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission said crab quality testing in late November and early December showed many areas within the tri-state region still did not meet the criteria for an opening. The delayed opening will allow for crab to fill with more meat. Commercial Dungeness crabbing is Oregon’s most valuable fishery.
Nazareth: A man whose home was destroyed in a September fire has raised $18,000 to thank the firefighters who extinguished the flames and tried to save his dog. John Pequeno started an online fundraising campaign for nine departments that responded to the fire at his home in Upper Nazareth Township, outside Easton. The campaign exceeded his initial goal by $3,000. Firefighters repeatedly ran into Pequeno’s burning home to try to save his Yorkshire terrier, Marshall, who died while hiding under a couch, according to The (Allentown) Morning Call. Firefighters returned to help him salvage whatever he could from the wreckage. Each fire department that responded will receive $2,000.
Providence: Rhode Island’s secretary of state has announced the launch of a free online resource to explore and compare centuries of data from state and federal census records. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said the “Count Me In!” data tool was launched to supplement an exhibit about the history of the census at the Rhode Island State Archives. The exhibit runs through March at the archives on Westminster Street in downtown Providence. The online tool provides customizable, real-time visualizations of census data from 1708 through 2010 for every Rhode Island municipality, Gorbea said. She said it’s a way to see how communities have grown and changed over time, as well as a reminder that the upcoming 2020 census will shape the state’s future. A gallery reception for the exhibit is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday. It’s free and open to the public.
Cayce: Gov. Henry McMaster says he wants to give a $3,000 raise to all the state’s nearly 53,000 teachers in next year’s budget. The raise will cost $211 million and should propel the average South Carolina teacher’s salary into the top 25 in U.S. states and about $2,500 over the Southeast average, McMaster said Tuesday as he announced his proposal. The raise is one of several bold steps the state can continue to take to improve its education system and keep it a strong place to do business, he said. The $3,000 raise, if approved, would boost the minimum teacher salary in the state to $38,000 – a 9% increase over this year. The average teacher in the state currently makes about $53,000 and would see a nearly 6% raise. The highest-paid teacher in the state’s biggest school district in Greenville County would see about a 3.5% raise on their roughly $85,000 salary.
Sioux Falls: Crews will use sound cannons to scare away geese in the city starting this week. Sioux Falls Animal Control is trying to scare off thousands of geese migrating into the area, agency Supervisor Julie DeJong says. Thousands of birds start searching for new open-water areas as ponds and lakes in rural South Dakota freeze over. Geese flock to the Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls during the winter. Crews will use sound cannons to scare geese from areas near the Sioux Falls Regional Airport, the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds and at a golf course. Flying geese can cause damage to airplanes by striking windshields or being sucked into engines. This year, people around the fairgrounds will hear sounds similar to fireworks or shotguns, DeJong says. The sounds come from “crackle shells” and screamer pistols that officers will be using this year. The cannons will go off several times a day.
Kingston: The Tennessee Valley Authority started removing asbestos-contaminated material last week that was unearthed during construction near its Kingston Fossil Plant. Officials at the utility have said they do not know where the material came from, but it could be part of an old burn pit. It was discovered in September while digging to create a new landfill for coal ash disposal. The asbestos requires a special permit for disposal. TVA got the permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on Dec. 3, TVA spokesman Scott Brooks says. The permit says up to 22,000 cubic yards of material will be removed, including up to 40 cubic yards of asbestos-containing material. The Kingston plant was the site of a massive coal ash spill in 2008. TVA is the nation’s largest public utility, serving 10 million people in parts of seven Southeastern states.
Austin: The city school district’s school closure plan perpetuates long-standing policies of racial and economic segregation, targeting vulnerable and historically underserved communities, according to a report by the district’s chief equity officer released Monday. Stephanie Hawley, the chief equity officer, completed the 20-page report in advance of the 6-3 board vote three weeks ago to shutter four elementary campuses, but district officials did not share it with board members until last week. Hawley told board members before the vote that the plan was what “21st-century racism looks like.” Hawley describes in the report a plan that was flawed early on, excluding affected teachers, principals and communities and that has led to deep mistrust of the school district.
Salt Lake City: The state is set to become the latest to allow immigrant “Dreamers” to practice law under a proposed rule issued Monday by the Utah Supreme Court. The rule came after a request last year by two women who earned law degrees from Utah universities but couldn’t practice law because they aren’t legal residents of the United States. They are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an initiative implemented during former President Barack Obama’s administration that allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in this country. The rule in Utah won’t take effect until a monthlong public comment period closes. The Utah Supreme Court said in a statement that it found it has the authority to create the rule after consulting with the state bar, law professors, the state attorney general and the state legislative research counsel.
Montpelier: The state plans to hold a new round of weekends, beginning this Friday, aimed at helping tourists who enjoy visiting Vermont move to the state full time. The four “Stay-to-Stay Weekends” will be held Dec. 13-16 in Newport and at Jay Peak; Feb. 21-24, 2020 in Brattleboro, and at Mount Snow; Feb. 21-24, 2020, in Bennington and at Bromley Mountain; and March 13-15 in Rutland and at Killington. It’s part of an effort to expand the state’s workforce. The weekends include a reception hosted by a local chamber of commerce or community group. Visitors get to explore the region and meet with local employers, realters, professionals and community leaders. The program, which was launched last year, has hosted more than 200 people this year, and to date, 15 have moved to Vermont.
Richmond: The state has nearly 500 sites available for factories or distribution centers to be built, but only 30 of them are marketable as Virginia competes with other states for big economic development deals, according to a new study presented by the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Board on Monday. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports many sites lack the necessary land-use approvals or environmental reviews and other work necessary for construction within 18 months. Stephen Moret, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership president and CEO, says that “another state has a better shot” than Virginia at landing big economic development projects without those kind of sites. Moret says the study is the first of its kind in the country to catalog every potential development site of 25 acres or larger.
Seattle: New research from the University of Washington indicates communities beneath flight paths at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are exposed to a special type of pollution caused by aircraft emissions. The university, in a release, described the study as the first to identify the unique signature of aircraft emissions in the state. KING-TV reports the study did not look at potential health effects associated with exposure. But Michael Yost, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, says in the release that the findings create opportunities for follow-up research. The study was produced in partnership with the Legislature and the Port of Seattle as part of an effort to better understand the pollution footprint in industrial zones.
Charleston: Food producers who want to be listed in a state directory have until the end of the week to join the program and be included. The directory will feature the stories of West Virginia Grown members and the things they produce, the state Department of Agriculture said in a news release. It is planned for publication in March. Companies may apply for West Virginia Grown status anytime but must apply by Friday to be included in the printed directory, the state Department of Agriculture said in the release. Members can use the West Virginia Grown logo and are included in Agriculture Department marketing and business reference activities. There is no cost to join, but products must be made in West Virginia or have at least 50% of their value added within the state.
Madison: Pay raises for state employees are scheduled for a vote next week by a special legislative committee. The panel of legislative leaders is set to meet Dec. 18 to act on the pay plans, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s office said Tuesday. The Legislature’s budget committee approved the pay plans, but they must also win approval by another committee comprised of Vos and other legislative leaders. Democrats had been calling on Republicans to set the meeting so the raises can go into effect in January as planned. State workers are slated to receive a 2% general wage increase in each of the next two years. Employees at the University of Wisconsin System and on the Madison campus are also to receive the same increase. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is also proposing that state employees’ minimum wage be set to $15 an hour starting June 7.
Laramie: The state on Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of becoming the first government in the U.S. to give women the unrestricted right to vote. Wyoming, whose motto is the Equality State, was still a territory when Gov. John Campbell signed legislation granting women’s suffrage Dec. 10, 1869. The U.S. Constitution had left the issue of suffrage to the states, and Wyoming’s bill passed five decades before the 19th Amendment instituted the right across the U.S. Laramie’s Louisa Gardner Swain became the first woman to vote in a Wyoming election the following year.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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