Gulf Shores: The state’s conservation agency says it’s raising flounder for the first time to supplement a decline in the natural population of the flat fish in coastal waters. Workers with the Marine Resources Division are tending to thousands of larval flounder at a state hatchery in Gulf Shores, according to a news release from the agency. They hope to get between 1,000 and 5,000 fish from the hatchery in the first year, with a goal of releasing about 60,000 fish annually in a few years. Those fish would help add to a population of southern flounder that’s been falling since 2008. Scientists aren’t sure what is causing the decline. The state decreased bag limits for the fish this year and closed the season for the whole month of November to protect the flounder that were migrating through coastal bays on their way to winter spawning grounds.
Anchorage: The oldest son of President Donald Trump has received a permit to hunt and kill a grizzly bear in the state, officials said Monday. Donald Trump Jr. was granted the permit to hunt north and east of Nome later this year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said. The governor has a limited number of “dignitary” licenses and game tags that he can hand out, Fish and Game spokesman Rick Green said. Trump Jr. did not receive one. He instead applied for one of 27 licenses designated for out-of-state hunters in the area. Only two other hunters applied. Officials said permits near Nome likely are not in demand for a variety of reasons, including the remoteness of the area and the expense to get there. As an out-of-state resident, Trump Jr. must be accompanied by a licensed Alaska guide for his hunt.
Phoenix: Republicans in the state Senate have given initial approval to a measure that would ask voters to limit the population differences among Arizona’s 30 legislative districts, over opposition from Democrats. The measure by Sen. J.D. Mesnard would require the state’s redistricting commission to create districts with a maximum difference of 5,000 people. Currently, a 10% difference is considered constitutional, meaning districts can vary by about 20,000 people. Democrats argued the change would greatly affect the ability of tribes and minority communities to elect representatives of their choice. They also said putting in hard rules like Mesnard proposes minimizes other factors the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission is required to consider, including keeping communities of interest together if possible.
Eureka Springs: A cemetery will continue allowing individuals or groups to place Confederate flags on grave markers unless a family member of the deceased objects, despite complaints the flag is a racist symbol. Eureka Springs’ cemetery commission approved an amendment earlier this month also requiring anyone wanting to place flags or plaques to get permission from the cemetery superintendent, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. Glenna Booth, a member of the commission, said the amendment was her idea. “I just tried to come up with something that would be fair to everyone,” Booth said. Gloria Stevens, sexton at the cemetery, said there are about 47 Confederate veterans and 97 Union veterans among the 4,600 burials there. She said the cemetery was established in 1889, so none of those veterans died during the Civil War.
Sacramento: In their latest bid to combat the state’s affordable housing crisis, lawmakers on Monday announced a package of bills to limit development fees that can add tens of thousands of dollars to the price of a new home. However, local governments depend heavily on the fees, which typically are used to pay for schools, roads and parks. Lawmakers said they were discussing those needs but have not yet decided how the fees might be replaced. The fees are “vital to local government’s ability to pay for the infrastructure that residents living in new developments need,” Chris Lee, legislative representative for the California State Association of Counties, said in a statement. Development-related fees, also known as impact fees, can provide up to a third of some cities’ budgets, according to a report last year by the University of California, Berkeley, Terner Center for Housing Innovation.
Aurora: Thousands of 17-year-olds are eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential primary for the first time under a new state law. The law allows 17-year-olds to cast ballots in spring primaries if they turn 18 before November’s general election. At least seven states and Washington, D.C., have similar laws. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, about 24,000 teens are eligible to vote in the March 3 primary under the change, a small number in a state with 3.4 million voters, the Sentinel Colorado reports. Three Overland High School students who were interviewed about the new law said they did not know about their ability to vote until a few weeks ago and figure most of their peers were not aware either.
Hartford: A state legislative committee voted Monday to advance a bill that would eliminate the state’s religious exemption for certain childhood vaccines, despite vocal opposition from hundreds of parents and children who packed the Connecticut Capitol complex in hopes of persuading lawmakers to defeat it. The legislation narrowly cleared the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee by a vote of 14-11, prompting chants of “we will remember in November” after the tally was announced. Some opponents of the bill booed and shouted at the legislators who had voted for the measure as they left the hearing room and tried to get into elevators to their offices. Two Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill, which now awaits further action in the House of Representatives. It’s considered one of the most contentious issues of the three-month legislative session, fueling concerns about the safety of vaccines and the curtailment of parental and religious rights.
Dover: A judge has rejected a challenge by state environmental officials to rules issued by utility regulators regarding renewable energy requirements. The judge on Monday ruled that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has no standing to challenge regulations issued by the Public Service Commission. Superior Court Judge Ferris Wharton agreed with the commission and the state Division of the Public Advocate that DNREC had no standing to sue because it was neither a “person” nor “aggrieved” under Delaware’s Administrative Procedures Act. Environmental secretary Shawn Garvin did not respond to an email seeking comment, but a spokesman said the agency is reviewing the decision and will discuss its options. The ruling is the latest development in a long-running legal dispute over which state agency has authority to develop regulations regarding how minimum renewable energy purchase requirements can be frozen if they become too costly for ratepayers.
District of Columbia
Washington: A man who was injured while assembling a construction crane was safely rescued from a high angle in D.C. The man, who wasn’t identified, suffered a serious injury to his leg Saturday while working on the crane about 230 feet off the ground, news outlets report. District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services used a second crane to reach the man and provide initial treatment. He was then placed in a basket and lowered to the ground, according to videos shared by the department. The worker was taken to the hospital for an injury not considered life-threatening.
Fort Myers: Promising to be a worldwide first, a new Southwest Florida marina could set the standard for future boat storage. Set to open in April on Fort Myers Beach, Gulf Star Marina is being branded as the “world’s first SMART Marina” due to using its ASAR, or automated, storage and retrieval system. “The entire world is watching,” said Todd Carroll, one of the marina’s owners and president of Carroll Properties. “We believe it has the ability to change the way we store boats. It’s just a much better way.” The technology was developed by Austria-based LTW Intralogistics, which has been creating automated systems for warehouses used by companies like IKEA for decades, Carroll said. But it’s never been done in a marina before, according to Carroll. The railed system ditches the diesel-powered forklift often used in dry storage facilities and replaces it with an automated, electric-powered storage crane and shuttles.
Atlanta: State senators have approved a measure that would increase the fee for dumping coal ash in Georgia. The Senate passed Senate Bill 123 on Monday by a vote of 52-2, sending it to the House for more work. The measure would raise the fee for dumping coal ash from $1 a ton to $2.50 a ton, equaling what it costs to dispose of other kinds of garbage at Georgia landfills. Lawmakers raised the fee for other garbage in 2018 but left the fee for coal ash at $1. Coal ash has become a flashpoint in the current General Assembly session and in the state at large. A 2018 report by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice found contaminated groundwater near 11 of 12 coal-fired power plants. The refuse contains heavy metals and other contaminates that can leach into groundwater. Near Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Scherer in Juliette, environmentalists have been conducting tests that have found residents have contaminated well water.
Honolulu: A research report has predicted the state may be hit by the economic fallout of a new virus, negatively affecting the tourism industry. The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization said the spread of COVID-19 could undermine previous predictions that 2020 would be a better year for tourism than 2019. The organization’s latest quarterly forecast on the state’s visitor industry released Monday said the virus that started in China has changed its previous calculation. “I think if it hadn’t been for this virus outbreak, it probably would have been better – mostly because the global economy was sort of repairing itself,” said Carl Bonham, the organization’s executive director. “Trade tensions had eased up a little bit. We were expecting some recovery in 2020, and now that hope has sort of been dashed.”
Boise: Visitors to the state who are 18 and older and can legally possess firearms would be allowed to carry a concealed handgun within city limits under legislation that headed to the House on Monday. The House State Affairs Committee voted 11-3 to approve the bill brought forward by Republican Rep. Christy Zito. Republicans on the committee backed the measure, while all the Democrats voted against it. Idaho residents 18 and older are allowed to carry a concealed handgun within city limits in Idaho without a permit or training following a new law that went into place last summer. The legislation would extend that to any legal resident of the United States or a U.S. armed services member. Zito said the legislation is intended to clear up confusion. Opponents say allowing teenagers to carry a concealed weapon without any required training within city limits is a bad idea and could lead to shootings.
Springfield: The sale of recreational marijuana in the state generated $7.3 million in cannabis tax revenue last month, the Department of Revenue announced Monday. The department also reported that an additional $3.1 million was generated in retail sales tax revenue. Dispensaries across the state sold nearly $40 million in recreational pot last month. Toi Hutchinson, an adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker on cannabis control, said the goal of Illinois’ legal cannabis industry is to build a socially equitable program to help communities most harmed by the nation’s war on drugs. “Revenue raised in this first month will soon begin flowing back into those communities to begin repairing the damage done by the failed policies of the past and creating new opportunities for those who have been left behind for far too long,” Hutchinson said.
Bunker Hill: The aircraft museum at Grissom Air Reserve Base is seeking a $100,000 boost from local government toward a building to protect and display one of the few surviving Cold War-era B-58 Hustler bombers. Grissom Air Museum leaders are asking for Miami County economic development fund money as they plan the estimated $700,000 exhibit space featuring the bomber, dozens of which were stationed at the Indiana base in the 1960s. The B-58 was the U.S. Air Force’s first operational supersonic bomber, and only seven remain out of the 116 built, the Kokomo Tribune reports. The museum has raised more than $100,000 toward the project and hopes to build a roof over the Hustler this year while continuing to raise money, museum Director Tom Jennings said. The project plans call for a display of artifacts about the bomber’s history and a loft area allowing visitors to look down on the plane. The Miami County Council could vote on the funding request next month.
Des Moines: The city is considering asking businesses seeking city tax incentives to also provide housing options if they employ low-income workers. It’s just one proposal for how the city could use its policies, zoning ordinances and financial incentives to ensure its mix of housing includes options that are affordable for its workforce. A workforce housing study released in May found central Iowa is short 57,179 new housing units for the region’s anticipated job growth in the next 20 years. Nearly half of those new workers would need housing priced below $175,000 for an owner-occupied home or below $1,250 a month for a rental. The Des Moines Area Association of Realtors reported in December that the median home price in its listings was $229,000, while CBRE/Hubbell Commercial, a brokerage that tracks the industry, said median rent across the metro is $935 a month. Downtown, it is $1,189 per month.
Topeka: State legislators aren’t ready to declare that marijuana possession never should be a felony, rejecting proposals Monday to lower penalties for third-time offenders and to release others from prison. The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee voted 7-4 against a bill that would make possessing marijuana a misdemeanor, no matter how many times someone was convicted. Kansas law currently says a third conviction is a felony that can be punished by up to 14 months in prison, though offenders often receive probation. The bill also initially said offenders now in prison for marijuana possession would be released, but the committee removed that provision from the measure. Supporters of lessening the penalties for repeated marijuana possession accepted the change to give the bill a better chance of passing. Yet the measure failed to clear the GOP-controlled committee anyway.
Cold Spring: A Northern Kentucky city has become the third municipality in 2020 to adopt a Fairness Ordinance. The leaders of Cold Spring, near Cincinnati, voted 4-1 on Monday night in favor of protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment and other accommodations. Cold Spring is the fifth city in Northern Kentucky over the past year to pass such an ordinance, according to the Fairness Campaign. It’s the 19th such community in the commonwealth. Councilman Adam Sandfoss, who introduced the ordinance, said in a statement that “I’m proud of our city’s vote for equal rights tonight. We want folks to know Cold Spring is a community everyone can call home, and I hope our action will inspire more Northern Kentucky communities – maybe even Campbell County – to adopt similar protections for all their residents.”
New Orleans: A new group focused on Mardi Gras-season parade safety will begin work late this week or early next week, the police chief said Monday in discussing the city’s response to the recent deaths of two people in float-related accidents. Suggestions from family members of the victims and others – such as setting up barricades along the entire length of the parade routes, rather than only at major intersections, and mounting accordion barriers between sections of tandem floats – will be discussed, Superintendent Shaun Ferguson told a news conference. Ferguson noted that setting up barricades along parade routes that are 5 to 7 miles long would be time-consuming and require many workers. He also said additional workers would be need to be on hand to move such barricades out of the way for any emergency vehicles.
Augusta: A Republican lawmaker is hoping to pass a bill he said would protect children in the state from unauthorized surveillance by drones. The proposal from Rep. John Andrews of Paris would create a new state law the legislator said in a statement would “prevent unauthorized drone spying on a person in their domicile where they have an expectation of privacy.” Andrews is asking the state’s Legislative Council to allow his proposal to go through despite the fact a legislation deadline has passed. He said the law would establish penalties for people convicted of surveilling underage children. The Legislative Council is expected to discuss whether to consider the proposal this session on Thursday.
Annapolis: Workers would be able to take 12 weeks off work to care for a new child or an ill family member through a new state-administered insurance pool that would provide partial wage replacement, under legislation that received a hearing in a House committee Monday. The measure would create a fund supported by weekly employer and employee contributions. Each would contribute half, based on a sliding scale. An employee with the state’s average wage would contribute $3.62 a week, said Del. Kris Valderrama, a Democrat sponsoring the bill. “It is limited in its scope, but it will allow people a brief respite and help to make ends meet, at least temporarily,” Valderrama said. But opponents said it would create the potential for up to 24 weeks off in some circumstances. Opponents said while they were not fully opposed to the concept, the Maryland measure was too burdensome.
Salem: A local museum has received a gift of more than 1,600 photographic works it says will enhance what is already one of the leading collections of Asian photography in the U.S. and Europe. The gift to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem comes from the Joy of Giving Something Foundation, known for its work that explores the intersection of photography and social issues. The collection features the works of 123 artists, primarily of Chinese and Japanese descent or who worked in eastern Asia, from 1930 to the present day. The museum already has a roughly 5,000-piece collection of 19th-century photography. “These photographs deepen our museum’s 220-year relationship with East Asian culture and offer a compelling complement to our historic collection of Asian photography,” Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, the museum’s deputy director, said in a statement.
Lansing: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday that the state will have a mobility officer to coordinate all initiatives related to self-driving and connected cars, an effort she said will ensure Michigan is the go-to place for testing and producing vehicles of the future. While speaking at the MICHAuto Summit in Detroit, Whitmer signed an executive directive to create the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, effectively immediately. It will be led by a chief mobility officer whose name probably will be announced in April, Whitmer said. She also signed an executive order to establish the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification, an advisory group that will replace but function similarly to one created by a 2016 law. The council will be housed within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity instead of the Department of Transportation.
St. Paul: Law enforcement officers should get better training in de-escalation skills and in dealing with people experiencing mental health crises, a working group on reducing police-involved deadly force encounters recommended Monday. Minnesota’s two highest-ranking black law enforcement officials – Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington – formed the working group last summer in the wake of several high-profile fatal shootings of black men by police officers, including those of Philando Castile and Jamar Clark. Minnesota has had more than 100 officer-involved shootings over the past five years, Harrington said, adding that many members were surprised to learn 60% happened outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area, affecting nearly every county in the state. Ellison said the group also learned that between 30% and 50% of the people killed in encounters with police were having mental health crises.
Brandon: A routine road closure for a transportation worker turned into the quick delivery of a baby on the interstate. Wayne Evans, a superintendent with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, was getting ready to shut down a lane Monday morning on I-20 near Brandon when a car pulled up with its emergency lights flashing, and two women got out of the vehicle. “They were in desperate need for something,” Evans said in an interview shared online by MDOT. When Evans approached the car, he found a third woman in labor in the backseat. “It was going to happen pretty quick, and I knew they weren’t gonna make it to the hospital,” he said. So Evans got a first aid kit from his truck, put on a pair of gloves and helped deliver the baby boy. “He put his gloves on and got his umbilical cord from around his neck, and he helped me deliver,” new mom Desire’e Thomas told WAPT-TV. Evans said he believes his Marine Corps training kicked in.
St. Louis: A new effort in St. Louis County will make the overdose-reversing antidote naloxone more readily available to the public, in hopes of reducing the high number of opioid overdose deaths in the state’s largest county. Democratic County Executive Sam Page on Monday announced details of a program that will make naloxone available free of charge to community groups and the public during regular business hours at the county’s John C. Murphy Health Center in Berkeley. County officials said the site was chosen because of its location in north St. Louis County, the area hit hardest by the epidemic. U.S. health officials believe the increasing availability of naloxone, commonly known under the brand name Narcan, is partly responsible for the first drop in overdose deaths in nearly 30 years.
Bozeman: An investigation has started after seven trumpeter swans were found dead at a pond near the city, wildlife officials said. The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks received a report of dead swans between the towns of Belgrade and Manhattan on Friday, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports. Biologists and wardens collected the animals’ bodies Saturday, department spokesman Morgan Jacobson said. “We still don’t have a cause of death,” Jacobson said, adding that the agency has not ruled out any causes including poaching or the swans eating moldy grain. Trumpeter swans are on the state’s species of concern list, according to Montana Field Guides’ website. The list helps resource managers make decisions about species conservation and data collection priorities. Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in North America, experts said. They can be up to 5 feet (in length, have a wingspan up to about 7 feet and weigh over 20 pounds.
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Omaha: The University of Nebraska at Omaha has been chosen to lead a team of universities and other partners in studying counterterrorism and terrorism prevention, federal officials said. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate announced Monday that the university has won a $3.65 million-a-year grant for 10 years. The university will spearhead a consortium of academic, industry, government and laboratory partners in trying to find ways to prevent or counteract threats to the nation’s people, infrastructure and economy, the directorate said. That consortium constitutes what the directorate describes as a center of excellence. It will be the directorate’s 10th center of excellence, said directorate spokesman John Verrico.
Reno: State officials issued another marijuana health advisory regarding products that were on shelves at 30 dispensaries in Nevada last month. The Nevada Department of Taxation issued an advisory late Friday concerning 20 products that failed microbial testing conducted by an independent lab. The products were sold in the form of raw cannabis buds and raw cannabis that had been pre-rolled into a joint. The products came from six different cultivators in Nevada and failed a variety of mold, yeast and bacteria testing. All of the products were initially tested and passed by Cannex LLC, a Las Vegas marijuana testing lab that the taxation department suspended in December as part of an investigation. The products were on the shelves between Oct. 25 and Jan. 16 at dispensaries across the state. There are no known reports of illness, according to the taxation officials.
Concord: Lawmakers are working on a bill that would require more insurance coverage for people in the state who get tick-borne disease testing. Rep. Megan Murray, a first-term Democrat from Amherst, said her constituents have told her that doctors often prioritize testing for Lyme disease after a tick bite, New Hampshire Public Radio reports. Murray’s bill, which has bipartisan co-sponsors, would require insurers to cover additional advanced, broad tests that could catch Lyme and other more rare diseases. Murray said she hopes that testing for these diseases earlier will prevent delayed diagnoses, as well as lower costs for patients and insurers.
Hoboken: The city, one of the areas in the state hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, is making progress toward completing a large public park that will double as a reservoir for nearly 2 million gallons of storm water to prevent it from flooding city streets. On Monday, officials announced the awarding of a $14 million federal grant to continue construction of the 5-acre park, which sits in the northwest corner of the city on the former site of a chemical plant, about a mile from the Lincoln Tunnel into New York. The project has been under construction for about five months and is expected to be completed in late 2022. The park will feature green space, athletic fields, an ice skating rink and other amenities. A 30-foot-deep underground tank will hold up to a million gallons of water that normally would collect in city streets, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said Monday.
Albuquerque: It was the 1970s when the state last increased the amount of bond money that oil and gas companies are required to put up before drilling. As development continues at a record pace, State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard says it’s time to take another look. Legislation that called for a study of the issue stalled during the recent session, but Garcia Richard announced just a day after lawmakers adjourned that she’s moving forward with the effort. She said her office has the funding to begin the work. The review could take months. Given all the infrastructure and development on state trust lands, officials said the amount of bonding needed to ensure taxpayers aren’t left paying for any cleanup and restoration after oil, gas or other minerals are extracted is currently unknown. Garcia Richard described it as an urgent issue that could leave “taxpayers and our state trust land beneficiaries on the hook for potentially millions of dollars.”
Albany: New York State Police say they plan to go forward with a body camera pilot program for state troopers, a move that would change the agency’s status as one of the few primary state law enforcement agencies in the nation without body or dashboard cameras. Kevin Bruen, first deputy superintendent of the New York State Police, disclosed the plan for a pilot program Monday at the state Capitol. He did not provide details of the plan, such as how many troopers will receive the devices and how much money the pilot program might cost. Patrol cameras are regularly praised by law enforcement experts as ways to increase transparency and hold officers and citizens accountable. Equipping state police with body cameras has received support from New York Attorney General Letitia James. Some state lawmakers have also expressed support for bringing the technology to the agency.
Raleigh: Plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of a legislative session Republicans quickly called in 2016 to limit the power of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper before he could take office now want the state’s highest court to hear their case. Lawyers for Common Cause and ten citizens filed an appeal petition with the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, about a month after the Court of Appeals upheld the legality of the three-day session in December 2016. Republicans in charge of the House and Senate approved a pair of measures during the session that weakened Cooper’s power as governor. Those who sued said the fleetness of GOP leaders calling the session and pushing through legislation violated their right in the North Carolina Constitution to “instruct their representatives.”
Fargo: A city building dubbed Sandbag Central will soon be open for business as Fargo leaders prepare for spring flooding along the Red River, the city administrator said Monday night. Bruce Grubb told city commissioners of plans to fill 250,000 sandbags in order to protect the city to 41 feet, which would be 23 feet over flood stage. The latest outlook from the National Weather Service shows a 10% probability that the river will reach 39 feet in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, area. KFGO radio reports Grubb called the chance of a severe flood “a flip of the coin” and said the city would rather “err on the side of caution.” Volunteers filled hundreds of thousands of sandbags last year for anticipated flooding that never materialized. Sandbag Central is located in a building that is normally a parking garage for garbage trucks. Plans are to begin sandbag operations March 10.
Powell: Two cheetah cubs have been born through in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer to a surrogate mother for the first time, zoo officials announced Monday. The male and female cubs were born to 3-year-old Izzy at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Wednesday, the zoo said in a statement. A team observed the births through a remote camera and is continuing to monitor Izzy and the cubs. The biological mother of the cubs is 6-year-old Kibibi, who has never reproduced and is too old to easily become pregnant naturally. Kibibi’s eggs were extracted and then fertilized in a Columbus Zoo laboratory Nov. 19. The early-stage embryos were implanted into Izzy on Nov. 21, and an ultrasound revealed she was pregnant with two fetuses about a month later. Dr. Randy Junge, the zoo’s vice president of animal health, said this development could have broader implications for managing the species’ population in the future.
Oklahoma City: Children under the age of 17 would be required to wear seat belts in vehicle back seats under a bill narrowly passed Monday by the state Senate. The bill, which passed on a 25-22 vote, changes current law that requires only children younger than age 8 to wear seat belts in the back seat. “The bottom line is children are being hurt and dying simply because we don’t require them to wear a seat belt,” said Sen. Roland Pederson, a Burlington Republican. Pederson said Oklahoma is the nation’s only state that does not require seat belts for children older than age 8. The measure now heads to the House, where a similar bill is pending.
Salem: House Republicans walked out from the state Capitol on Tuesday, joining their Senate colleagues in protest of a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill. “Oregon House Republicans are taking a stand, with working families, in opposing cap and trade and this rigged process,” House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, said in a statement. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said she has and will continue to make an effort toward compromise, but that isn’t possible if Republicans are not in the Capitol. In a stream of statements released Tuesday morning, House Republicans cited the process of crafting Senate Bill 1530, as well as the policy itself, as their reasons for leaving. Republicans have said SB 1530 would increase the cost of living in rural Oregon and do little to combat climate change. Democrats say that cap-and-trade is the only way to reduce the state’s carbon emissions and that the bill has protections for rural Oregon.
Harrisburg: An inmate awaiting trial in a shooting case wants a federal judge to release him from solitary confinement in a central Pennsylvania county jail, where he has been confined for more than a year because he refuses to cut dreadlocks that hold religious significance for him. The hand-written lawsuit filed in October by Eric S. McGill Jr. against three senior administrators at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility shifted gears last week, when a set of lawyers produced an amended complaint that warned McGill’s mental health is deteriorating. It said McGill, 27, of Lebanon, an adherent of Rastafarianism, suffers anxiety attacks two or three times a week, and they are usually triggered by thoughts of his jail conditions and placement in solitary.
Providence: Two state lawmakers are proposing to raise taxes on residents earning more than $500,000 annually to pay for education. Democratic state Sen. Ryan Pearson, of Cumberland, and Democratic Rep. Gregg Amore, of East Providence, are proposing a new tax bracket for income earned higher than $500,000. It would add 1 percentage point to the 5.99% top rate, with incremental revenue directed to an account for funding education from kindergarten through grade 12, they said. They emphasized that their proposal would not affect any resident earning less than $500,000 annually. Amore said the state needs a commitment of resources to pay for reforms to the education system. Pearson said that by asking the top 1% of earners in Rhode Island to contribute more, there will be funding to ensure that all Rhode Islanders can get a good education.
Greenville: An April performance by the Hong Kong Ballet at the Peace Center has been canceled due to concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak. The ballet was set to perform “ALICE (in wonderland)” on April 21 with the help of dozens of local ballet students. The company postponed its upcoming U.S. tour due to the virus. Hong Kong Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre said the group is putting the health and safety of its dancers and the general public first but is committed to returning to South Carolina in the coming seasons. Auditions were held in late January to choose local ballet students to fill roles in the show, and rehearsals had already begun. Anyone who’s already purchased tickets will automatically receive a refund based on their method of payment, according to a release from the Peace Center.
Pierre: State lawmakers on Tuesday rejected a proposal to stop schools from requiring students to get vaccinations. A House committee heard emotional testimony from parents on both sides of the issue but decided to effectively kill the bill, saying it would have resulted in decreased vaccination rates and could have caused outbreaks in vaccine-preventable diseases. Supporters of the bill said South Dakota is the first state Legislature this year to consider a proposal to end school vaccine requirements, but the issue is now being carried by lawmakers in a few other states. They hoped that despite the bill’s defeat, their doubts about vaccinations would gain credence in the state. Gov. Kristi Noem opposed the bill and told reporters last week that vaccinations have saved millions of lives. Doctors, as well as lobbyists from medical groups, hospitals, business groups, universities and schools, also lined up to testify against the bill.
Nashville: The state on Monday set two new execution dates, days after putting to death its seventh inmate in the past year and a half. The Tennessee Supreme Court ordered an Oct. 8 execution date for Byron Black and a Dec. 3 execution date for Pervis Payne. Black was convicted by a Nashville court of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters, Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home in 1988. Prosecutors said he shot the three during a jealous rage. Black was on work release at the time for shooting and wounding Clay’s estranged husband. Payne was sentenced to death in Memphis for the 1987 fatal stabbing of Charisse Christopher and her daughter, Lacie Jo, in what prosecutors described as a “drug-induced frenzy.” Christopher’s son, Nicholas, who was 3 at the time, was stabbed but survived. Attorneys for the inmates have argued that both men are intellectually disabled and mentally ill.
Austin: This week the state Department of Transportation could approve a request from Gov. Greg Abbott to rent a state-owned temporary campsite for the homeless to an Austin nonprofit. But the residents have another idea: They want the governor to lease the property directly to them. In an open letter to Abbott, those who have taken shelter at the campsite they are calling Camp R.A.T.T., which stands for Responsible Adult Transition Town, said they would be willing to pay $1 a month per resident to rent the land. Abbott is offering a $1-a-month lease to ATX Helps, a nonprofit tied to the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Austin Alliance. “We believe this is a good idea for several reasons: it gives the residents here a sense of responsibility, and provides the basis of stewardship,” the letter said. “Also, we aren’t lazy and aren’t expecting a hand-out. It’s our intention to get back into the world.”
Salt Lake City: Most abortions would be banned in the state under a new proposal at the Legislature – one that abortion-rights advocates say would create fear and uncertainty even though it wouldn’t be enforced unless the legal landscape changes. The proposal would make it a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison to perform an abortion except in cases of rape, incest or serious threat to the health of the mother. The bill contains a so-called trigger clause, so the measure wouldn’t go into effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion in the country. The trigger clause also means it likely could not be immediately challenged in court. Utah passed a ban after 18 weeks last year, and lawmakers are considering additional abortion-related proposal this year.
Montpelier: The state House on Tuesday voted to override Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of a bill that would increase the minimum wage. The vote was 100 to 49. The Senate, which has a Democrat majority, voted 24-6 in favor of the veto override earlier this month. The original bill did not pass the Democrat-led House with the two-thirds margin that would be needed to override the governor’s veto, but some lawmakers changed their votes Tuesday. Scott has said that raising the minimum wage to $12.55 by 2022 could end up hurting the people it is intended to help.
Fredericksburg: A judge has hit the pause button on the city’s plans to remove a 175-year-old slave auction block from a downtown street corner. The Free Lance-Star reports Circuit Court Judge Sarah Deneke has agreed to a 15-day stay of her order to remove the block in Fredericksburg. Her order allows a business owner who is challenging the removal to ask the Virginia Supreme Court to take on the case. E.D. Cole Building LLC owns a commercial building across the street from the auction block. The firm and the owner of a nearby restaurant have argued that they’ll lose business from tourist traffic if the auction block is removed. The judge already ruled that city officials have the authority to approve the removal the block. The city had previously placed traffic cones around the block with plans to move it before the business owner urged the court to stop the city.
Olympia: Weekly benefits under the state’s new paid family leave law are now taking up to 10 weeks to process because of the high number of people applying for the program. Under the law, eligible workers receive 12 weeks’ paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child or for a serious medical condition of the worker or the worker’s family member, or 16 weeks for a combination of both. An additional two weeks may be used if there is a serious health condition with a pregnancy. Weekly benefits under the new law are calculated based on a percentage of the employee’s wages and the state’s weekly average wage – which is now $1,255 – though the weekly amount paid out is capped at $1,000. In the first six weeks since the program went live last month, more than 30,000 people have applied, more than triple the amount that was projected in that same time frame, according to the Washington Employment Security Department.
Charleston: Republican state lawmakers moved forward Monday on a sweeping tax overhaul that could slash county government budgets, though it appears likely Democrats may derail the plan. Senators voted 17-16 to pass a GOP proposal to cut taxes on manufacturers and personal vehicles while raising sales taxes and taxes on tobacco products. But still looming is an accompanying resolution, which requires a two-thirds majority vote, to set the plan in motion. “This is a bad plan; it’s going to hurt West Virginians,” said Sen. Mike Romano, a Democrat from Harrison County. Many county leaders oppose the tax overhaul and worry it could result in the loss of millions of dollars in tax revenues that play an integral part of their budgets. Jonathan Adler, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Counties, said the plan raised the potential for devastating cuts to local law enforcement and courts.
Milwaukee: Authorities say three people died in snowmobile accidents last weekend, boosting the number of deaths to 17 for the season. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said all three of the victims were from Illinois. Two of them died after striking trees, and one person was killed after being struck by another snowmobile rider. There have been nine fatalities this month. That includes a 15-year-old Wisconsin boy who failed to stop at an intersection of a public trail and highway and collided with a car, a 28-year-old Wisconsin man who struck a fence on private land and a 29-year-old woman who struck several trees. Alcohol, excess speed and driver inexperience are the leading causes of snowmobile accidents, according to the DNR.
Gillette: The National Park Service is about to begin facility and trail work totaling almost $4 million in Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming. The work will include making an overlook trail more accessible to people who are in wheelchairs or have other physical limitations. Plans also call for improving access to restrooms, a visitor center and a trail to the base of Devils Tower. Parking lots, visitor center exhibits and trail signs also will see improvements. Funding will come from a variety of sources including a portion of entrance fees, the Gillette News-Record reports. “It’s been a long time planned and a long time coming to make sure that all these funding sources came together for us,” said Nick Myers, the national monument’s chief of interpretation. Work is expected to begin this week, weather permitting, and should be done by November, Myers said.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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