Savvy Herb
Deepening droughts, Saharan dust, huge forest nest: News from around our 50 states
Jun 17, 2021 · 53 min
Montgomery: Money from a legal settlement will be used to provide funding to add charging stations for electric vehicles at 18 sites in seven Alabama counties. The governor’s office says grants t ...
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Deepening droughts, Saharan dust, huge forest nest: News from around our 50 states

Montgomery: Money from a legal settlement will be used to provide funding to add charging stations for electric vehicles at 18 sites in seven Alabama counties. The governor’s office says grants totaling $4.1 million will help fund installing of chargers at fueling stations near interstates and other major highways. The money will provide as much as 80% of the cost of installing stations at existing sites in Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Calhoun, Cullman, DeKalb, Greene and St. Clair counties. Many of the chargers will be along Interstate 20 from the Georgia line to Tuscaloosa. The money is from a settlement involving Volkswagen and the Environmental Protection Agency over the automaker’s violation of the federal Clean Air Act. In a statement, Gov. Kay Ivey said the grants will help with state move toward electric vehicles. Auto plants located in the state already have started the transition toward vehicles powered by electricity, she said. “This program will have a range of positive impacts in Alabama from creating cleaner air to helping to sell more vehicles manufactured right here in Alabama,” said Kenneth Boswell, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which will administer the grants.

Juneau: The state House late Tuesday passed a state budget that would result in a $525 dividend to residents this year and leave in doubt funding for a number of programs and infrastructure projects after it failed to garner sufficient support on a key vote. House leaders left open the potential for continued talks or even possibly another vote as the special session neared its end. Special sessions can last up to 30 days. That limit would be reached Friday. “We’re gonna look for a resolution that we can all live with and be happy with, and the people of Alaska will be very grateful to us,” said House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak. “My hope is that the talks don’t stop,” House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton told reporters after the floor session, adding later: “I would hope that we would come together and have serious conversations, where all voices are being heard.” Dividends typically have been paid using earnings from the state’s oil-wealth fund. But the budget agreement that advanced from a six-member conference committee Sunday cobbled together money for dividends of about $1,100 from various sources, including the constitutional budget reserve fund that requires three-fourths support in each the House and Senate to tap. That vote failed Tuesday night in the House. The last time the check was in the $500 range was in 1986.

Phoenix: Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday blocked a new Arizona State University policy that would have required unvaccinated students to submit to twice-weekly coronavirus testing and wear a mask, calling the decision “bad policy.” The Republican governor issued an executive order saying students at the state’s public universities and community colleges can’t be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, submit vaccination documents, or be tested or forced to wear masks. ASU and the Board of Regents said they would comply with Ducey’s order. An ASU statement noted that it never issued a vaccine mandate but was following guidelines for universities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by ensuring unvaccinated people continue to follow protocols like masking. Ducey’s order came after he criticized the policy in a series of tweets Monday night. He said that the rules for students attending class in person this fall have “no basis in public health” and that even the Biden administration has been more reasonable. But the governor also included a screenshot of a quote from the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, that appeared to contradict his own position. “It is the people who are not fully vaccinated in those settings, who might not be wearing a mask, who are not protected,” Walensky is quoted as saying.

Little Rock: The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday asked a federal judge to prevent the state from enforcing its ban on gender-confirming treatments for transgender youth while a lawsuit challenging the prohibition proceeds. The ACLU requested a preliminary injunction against the new law, which is set to take effect July 28. It will prohibit doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old or from referring them to other providers for the treatment. The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the ban last month on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide the treatments. The ban is forcing some families of transgender youth to move out of state to continue their children’s treatments, if they can afford to do so, the filing contends. “The threat of harm to plaintiffs is concrete, imminent, and devastating, and far outweighs any conceivable cost to the state of maintaining the status quo while this case proceeds,” the filing says. Republican lawmakers enacted the ban in April, overriding a veto by GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide.

Sacramento: Thousands of Central California farmers were warned Tuesday that they could face water cutoffs this summer as the state deals with a drought that already has curtailed federal and state irrigation supplies. The State Water Resources Control Board notified about 6,600 farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed who have rights to use water from the Central Valley estuary of “impending water unavailability” that may continue until winter rains come. “This is how dry things are,” water board Chairman Joaquin Esquivel told the Sacramento Bee. “The hydrology that we’re seeing is not there. … There will not be enough natural flow.” The state also must provide enough flow in the rivers to maintain populations of protected fish species in rivers while keeping “cities and communities from running out of water,” Esquivel said. It’s unclear when the allocations will be cut or whom it will affect. Some farmers have first crack at supplies under a complicated distribution system involving rights-holders. Many farmers already have been told they will get little or nothing from two large allocation systems, the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. “The 2021 water year for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin is currently the driest since 1977,” the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has warned.

Denver: Gov. Jared Polis said he will begin phasing out the executive authority he has been granted during the coronavirus pandemic after creating, amending and extending about 400 orders since March 2020. The Democrat told The Denver Post that he’s now ready to let go of his unprecedented authority. “The pandemic still exists,” he said, but “our hospital capacity is no longer threatened. We have 60% of the population vaccinated. So at this point, we would go to kind of regular order, which means the Legislature passes laws, I can sign laws, and you can see the phaseout of those executive powers over time.” Polis has continued to exert his executive authority through multiple emergency mandates, enacting 17 orders in March, 13 in April, 10 in May and six so far this month. “In general, the time for these emergency actions is over, or near over. I believe in a republic, and I believe in three branches of government,” Polis said. “It’s not the role of the governor to do that long-term. It’s the role of the governor to react in an emergency.” Polis’ promise to phase out his powers was well-received news among Republican state officials who have worked for months to remove his additional authority. Republican state Sen. Paul Lundeen said he will believe it when he sees it.

Hartford: The state Senate on Tuesday passed legislation for the second time in about a week that legalizes the recreational use of cannabis for adults. But Gov. Ned Lamont is threatening to veto the retooled bill, arguing it opens the industry up to tens of thousands of people previously ineligible to get priority for licenses. Shortly before the bill cleared the Senate on a 19-12 vote, Paul Mounds, the Democratic governor’s chief of staff, issued a statement promising Lamont would nix the bill in its current form. The House was scheduled to take up the same legislation Wednesday, but it was unclear what would happen given the veto threat. The legislation “simply put, does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted,” Mounds said in a statement. “To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry.” He said the bill, which was amended twice Tuesday, allows “just about anyone with a history of cannabis crimes” or a member of their family, regardless of their financial means, who was once arrested for possession of drugs to be considered an “equity applicant,” given the same weight as someone from a neighborhood hit hard by the war on drugs.

Wilmington: Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill that would bar police from releasing juvenile mug shots for minor crimes. House Bill 243 by Rep. Franklin Cooke, D-New Castle, would apply to booking photos of children 17 or younger. According to the bill, mug shots could still be published if the juvenile is charged with a violent felony and if the mug shot is necessary to protect the public’s safety. The Delaware Police Chiefs Council, which represents all police departments in the state, supports the bill, according to its chair, Patrick Ogden. Jamie Leonard, president of the Delaware Fraternal Order of Police, the officers’ union, said his organization has yet to take a stance on the bill. In a Statehouse where several lawmakers in both parties – including sponsor Cooke – are retired officers or affiliated with police, proposed changes to policing laws historically need support from the police themselves. Cooke has argued that, because information such as mug shots lives forever on the internet, teenage mistakes come back to haunt people in adulthood. “I think everyone can agree that in the vast majority of circumstances, there’s no benefit to publishing juvenile mug shots – only damage to young people,” Cooke said. “I’m committed to getting this bill passed this year and ending this practice.”

Washington: With all capacity limits and restrictions lifted in the district, plans for Fourth of July celebrations are back in full swing. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will host essential workers and military families on the South Lawn to celebrate the nation’s birthday, WUSA-TV reports. “D.C. is open and ready to welcome back visitors to celebrate the way we came together as a city and as a nation this year,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “We have shown once again that when we come together, there is nothing we can’t do.” With the nation inching closer to Biden’s vaccination goal, the country is gearing up for an Independence Day celebration like no other. “We thank President Biden and his team for acting with urgency to get the vaccine to the American people so that we could save lives, get our country open and celebrate together once again,” Bowser said. The district will support the White House and host the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration on the National Mall. The 17-minute display will be held Sunday, July 4, starting at 9:09 p.m. and will be launched from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The city also plans to celebrate the return of the Barracks Row and Palisades 4th of July Parades.

Tallahassee: Sunsets across the state in the coming days could become even more spectacular, as clouds of dust from the Sahara desert sweep in across the Atlantic coast. The plume is expected to dampen storm activity but worsen air pollution, causing trouble for some people with allergies and other respiratory problems. Some health experts say symptoms could mimic those from COVID-19. NASA is monitoring the dust, which was swept off Africa by strong winds swirling across the deserts of Mali and Mauritania. Trade winds are carrying the plume across the ocean, with the leading edge expected to arrive in Florida in the coming days. “It’s going to be a major dust outbreak,” Joseph Prospero, professor emeritus at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Prospero pioneered research into African dust clouds. Dry winds carrying the particles could help smother storm systems by drying out the humid tropical air that feeds turbulent weather across a well-traveled route for hurricanes, experts said. “It’s been moving across the Atlantic for the past several days, and it’s expected to be in the area around Friday or Saturday,” Sammy Hadi, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami, told the paper.

Trenton: A nursing home director in northwestern Georgia was charged with cruelty after a sheriff said authorities discovered the facility didn’t have working air conditioning and had only one staff member looking after residents. Dade County deputies arrested Kent Allen Womack on Monday night, news outlets report. The 55-year-old was in custody at the county jail, and Sheriff Ray Cross said more charges were pending. Authorities reported to Woodhaven Senior Living in Trenton after receiving a call from a family member about the residents, from 61 to 97 years old, being evicted and having an hour to pack their belongings. Deputies who went to the nursing home learned one staff member – who wasn’t a trained nurse – had been watching the residents for 32 hours straight, according to news outlets. Every other employee quit because of the conditions. It was also discovered that the air conditioning in the building only worked near Womack’s office. “We checked the temperature in one of the air units in there, and it registered over 100 degrees,” Cross said Tuesday. The sheriff said Womack smelled of alcohol when he arrived at the facility. Cross asked if he had been drinking, and the nursing home owner responded: “I didn’t drive here.” Authorities found two small bottles of alcohol in Womack’s pocket, Cross said.

Hilo: Eleven inmates at a state jail have asked a judge to release them early for public health reasons amid a COVID-19 outbreak. Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota granted five of the motions but denied or postponed the rest, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports. Most of the cases he denied were for offenders who had repeatedly violated probation in the past. As of Friday, nearly 200 inmates at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center had tested positive for the coronavirus since May 24. There were seven active cases among staff. The outbreak occurred as the jail struggled with overcrowding. The jail population exceeds operational capacity by more than 100 inmates. Deputy Public Defender Patrick Munoz, who represents some of the people asking to be released early, said the increasingly intolerable conditions at the jail represent an undue hardship for inmates. “Not only are individuals being exposed to the effects of this potentially life-threatening and long-lasting virus, but there’s also the effects on people being in an overcrowded prison afraid for their lives,” he said. “It’s like they’re on a sinking ship. Fear is overcoming them;people are beginning to panic.”

Boise: Unemployed residents could get kicked out of a state benefits program if they don’t follow new job-seeking requirements that went into effect this month. People receiving unemployment benefits now have two business days to apply for a job opening after receiving a referral from the Idaho Department of Labor, the Idaho Statesman reports. If they don’t, they could lose their unemployment benefits. “Once a job is referred, the claimant must apply for the job or act on that referral,” Idaho Department of Labor director Jani Revier said. “In the past, when referrals were made, there were no consequences if they didn’t follow up.” State workforce consultants will check with the potential employer to verify that the person applied for the referred job. Previously, the labor department didn’t track whether people followed up on referrals. In March, there were 1.4 available jobs for every unemployed Idaho resident, Revier said. Property values and housing costs have climbed dramatically across much of the state in recent years, particularly during the pandemic. Idaho’s minimum wage of $7.25, meanwhile, hasn’t increased since 2009. A full-time minimum-wage worker would earn about $1,250 a month before taxes. Online rental agency ApartmentList.com says median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Boise is just over $900.

Chicago: A nonprofit formed to highlight the lack of leaders of color within the city’s arts and cultural systems is asking artists of color to imagine what the nation’s third-largest city could look like without stubborn inequities in art, theater and other institutions. The first phase of Enrich Chicago’s new program, called Imagine Just, begins this month. The series of brainstorming sessions will ask artists, performers and other Chicagoans to imagine what an equitable arts and cultural scene could look like. Nina Sanchez, co-director of Enrich Chicago, sees the project as an expansion of the organization’s focus on anti-racism training and education within Chicago’s arts and cultural community. The organization was founded in 2014 by former leaders of the influential Joyce Foundation and the Auditorium Theatre. It now counts more than 50 arts and cultural organizations as partners. But the coronavirus pandemic and widespread activism during the past year in response to George Floyd’s death highlighted stubborn inequities in all aspects of life, prompting conversations about what else the organization could do to force change in Chicago’s arts and culture community, Sanchez said. Imagine Just is the result, attempting to amplify the voices of artists of color and reach leaders of local institutions that can feel out of reach, she said.

Indianapolis: Several teachers unions are seeking to block a new state law, set to take effect next month, that they say unfairly targets teachers and makes it harder for unions to collect dues. The unions representing Anderson, Avon and Martinsville school districts and the teachers that lead them filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Indiana’s federal Southern District court challenging Senate Enrolled Act 251. The law, which will go into effect July 1, sets out a new process for the collection of teachers union dues, requiring teachers to annually complete a three-step process to have union dues deducted from their paychecks. Jeff Macey, the attorney representing the teachers and their unions, said no other union or organization that allows for wage deductions is required to follow the same process. The law violates the constitutional rights of teachers, he said. “Why are teachers being singled out for these onerous restrictions?” Macey said. “No other union, no other charity, no other organization in the state has to do this to assign a portion of your wages to (them).” The lawsuit names Attorney General Todd Rokita, Secretary of Education Katie Jenner and Tammy Meyer, chair of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, as defendants.

Lake City: A fire destroyed an internationally renowned western Iowa business that makes pipe organs for churches, schools and other customers around the world. The fire at Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in Lake City was reported about 4 p.m. Tuesday, officials said. Firefighters who arrived on the scene found the building engulfed in flames, which caused the building’s exterior walls to collapse. One employee of the company was burned when he discovered the fire and tried to put out the flames, according to authorities. The State Fire Marshal’s Office said it believes the fire was started by a malfunctioning fan that caused sawdust to ignite. Dobson Pipe Organ Builders was founded in 1974 by Lynn Dobson, a Carroll native who attended Wayne State College in Nebraska, according to the business’ website. During his years at the college, he built his first 12-top mechanical action organ in a shed on his family’s farm that he sold to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Sioux City, where it is still played. Dobson opened the Lake City factory in a former farm implement dealership on the town’s square in 1974. The company installed its 98th organ this year at St. Christopher’s Church in Chatham, Massachusetts, according to its website, and planned its 99th for Saint James Church in Sydney, Australia.

Topeka: The Kansas Statehouse, often dubbed the people’s house, was missing one thing for the past year: the people. Lobbyists and staff joined elected legislators in the building for the January session, but pandemic-related limits on visitors meant no school groups, curious tourists or children standing in front of John Steuart Curry’s epic painting “Tragic Prelude,” a history book textbook brought to life before their very eyes. That changed Monday, when the Statehouse once again resumed tours, bringing a sense of normalcy back to downtown Topeka as a trickle of visitors to the seat of state government turned into a waterfall. Only one person showed up for a 9 a.m. tour, leaving staff wondering how many onlookers would show throughout the day. But almost two dozen visitors came for a tour two hours later – numbers that would have been above average even before COVID-19. Not everything is fully back to normal, though. Tours to the top of the Statehouse dome have yet to resume, with staff hoping to have them back up and running later this summer. And the four-times-a-day tours require juggling for workers, with many part-time guides still laid off.

Louisville: A 25-foot-tall nest is being pieced together on a massive scale at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, already home to a family of giant wooden trolls. Artist Jayson Fann is constructing his “Spirit Nest” creation as part of a new “Playcosystem,” a new 10-acre natural playground that stresses the importance of free play and connecting children with nature. The enormous nest’s spiraling branches resemble a prehistoric bird’s nest or a massive clock face to be ogled, climbed on and enjoyed. Fann is working on 12 Spirit Nests this year, with the pandemic slowing his output in 2020. An amphitheater made from salvaged forest wood will encompass the Bernheim nest, providing a place to educate and entertain visitors in the forest. A large drum made from the hollowed stump of a fallen maple tree will sit in the center of the nest. A percussionist himself, Fann’s goal is for the project to be a link to the Indigenous people and African Americans who have a history with the land at Bernheim. It is a nest for all people. “That’s what the nests are. They are storytelling spaces, to bring people together, in the spirit of community. Imagine a full moon and kids are here; maybe there is a campfire, and you’ve got people from different cultures sharing their life story, connecting and healing. That’s a space I want to hang out in,” he said.

Baton Rouge: The state has created a framework for self-driving delivery robots to drop off packages and navigate streets, under a bill backed by lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards. The new personal delivery device law sponsored by state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, took effect immediately after the Democratic governor signed the legislation. Grocery stores, pizza delivery restaurants and Amazon have started working on delivering items with self-driving robots. Ward told his colleagues he envisioned pharmacies, restaurants or other stores near local neighborhoods possibly using the devices to make short-distance deliveries. “Your constituents would be able to place an order for any number of things, and that personal delivery device would be able to pick that up from a store location and go throughout the neighborhood and deliver it along the way,” Ward told the House transportation committee when it debated and approved the measure. Under the new law, self-driving delivery robots must run at low speeds – up to 12 miles per hour in pedestrian areas and up to 20 mph in others. They must yield to pedestrians and can’t obstruct traffic or transport hazardous materials. Companies using the delivery vehicles must have lights on the front and rear of each device and maintain at least $100,000 of insurance on each one.

Augusta: A proposed constitutional amendment to require popular elections for Maine’s attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer has fallen short in the state House. A two-thirds majority is required in both chambers to send the proposed amendment to the voters for approval. The bill won 27-7 support on Monday in the Senate, which approved an amendment to ensure the use of ranked-choice voting. But the House, which previously narrowly approved the measure, rejected the amended version by an 81-62 vote Tuesday, the Bangor Daily News reports. Maine is among a handful of states that do not hold statewide general elections for so-called constitutional officers. The positions are chosen by the Legislature and typically are filled by the party in power. Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage called for a similar change in 2015, when he was involved in a political dispute with then-Attorney General Janet Mills. But Republican support eroded with the ranked-choice voting provision. Republicans have decried the voting system since GOP U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin lost his reelection to Democrat Jared Golden despite winning the plurality of first-place votes. Golden was declared the majority winner after an additional voting round in the three-way race.

Ocean City: Videos showing police officers kneeing one Black teen and using a Taser on another on the beach community’s Boardwalk in separate confrontations that began over vaping are stirring criticism of the department’s use of force in such cases. On June 6, officers tried to stop a teen because he was vaping, police said in a statement. When he pulled away from an officer grabbing him in a “bear hug” and began threatening to kill them, an officer used a Taser, according to charging documents. Video of the encounter shows the teen with his hands up, but as one hand drops toward his backpack, an officer fires a Taser, and he falls to the ground. Other videos show the teen being carried away by officers with his hands and feet tied. Court documents state that the 18-year-old from Perryville teen is Black. A video of another Boardwalk confrontation Saturday shows another Black teen being held by several officers while another knees him repeatedly as a dozen officers and public safety aides hold back an angry crowd. One teen is taken into custody after lifting one of several police bicycles encircling the officers, and another is Tased as he struggles with officers. That confrontation began after officers approached a large group of people vaping to tell them it was prohibited, then returning when they saw one begin to vape again, police said.

Boston: A company that authorities say failed to deliver on a contract to supply 1 million N95 face masks to the state and then made false statements in connection with its obligation to refund the state has agreed to pay nearly $3.5 million to settle the allegations, the state attorney general’s office said Wednesday. The company, Salem-based Bedrock Group LLC, signed a $3.6 million contract with the state in April 2020 in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic to supply the masks, essential for health care workers, according to a statement from authorities. The state made the purchase after it was contacted by the company’s president with an offer to supply the masks, which the president said would come from a reputable manufacturer in China. The masks were supposed to be shipped to the state in mid-April 2020, but the order was terminated in June after fewer than 100,000 of the masks were delivered. Bedrock repeatedly acknowledged its obligation to refund the state but failed to do so, according to the attorney general’s office. “This company tried to take advantage of the state by holding onto millions of taxpayer dollars it owed for masks that it never delivered,” Attorney General Maura Healey said. In addition to repaying the money, Bedrock is not allowed to seek another state contract for five years.

Lansing: A school district that never returned to classrooms in the 2020-21 academic year will embrace online education again in the fall and open it to more students. Lansing said it will keep online classes as an option and invite families from other mid-Michigan districts to participate. The district also plans to open schools in a traditional way as the COVID-19 pandemic eases. “We had a number of students who were doing very well” online, said Superintendent Sam Sinicropi. “So we decided to explore what it would look like to offer a virtual option.” The district expects to enroll up to 600 students and hire 15 new teachers, who will teach solely online. Students will be allowed to participate in sports and other activities at Lansing schools. “There are some families that prefer this, and hopefully this will be the answer for them,” Sinicropi said. The capital city’s district has more than 10,000 students.

Minneapolis: A bankruptcy trustee’s search to recover assets linked to one of the largest financial crimes in state history has netted $722 million. Doug Kelley said his work to collect assets from Tom Petters’ $1.9 billion Ponzi scheme is nearly done 13 years after the search began. A motion filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis last week shows the amount recovered and returned to victims and creditors, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel here,” Kelley said. “It has been a long and arduous process that was at times bumpy, but I am quite pleased with the collective return of $722 million.” Petters, now 63, was indicted in 2008 on multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy for operating the scheme that spanned 26 countries, including the the Cayman Islands, Germany and Switzerland. A federal jury found him guilty on all counts, and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He is currently an inmate at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. Kelley said just four or five cases remain, including one filed against the Bank of Montreal in Canada.

Booneville: Friends, family and former colleagues gathered in the city Monday to remember former Mississippi House Speaker Billy McCoy and unveil a sign that names a segment of a highway in his honor. McCoy was 77 when he died in 2019. The farmer from Rienzi was a self-described Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal Democrat who was first elected to the state House in 1979. McCoy was speaker during his final two terms, ending in 2012. McCoy – known for down-home turns of phrase and the occasional flash of temper – was instrumental in passing the 1987 Highway Program that led to construction of hundreds of miles of four-lane roads across Mississippi, including in rural areas struggling for economic development. Legislators in 2020 passed a bill naming segments of highways, including the stretch of U.S. 45 in Prentiss and Alcorn counties, in honor of McCoy. Both counties were in his House district. Democrat Steve Holland of Plantersville, who served in the House from 1984 to 2020, said McCoy would pick him up in an old blue Oldsmobile, and they’d ride the backroads of Mississippi together, stopping at country stores to see what was on people’s minds. “I don’t need a sign to remember him,” Holland said. “But, my goodness, what a wonderful way because the guy loved the roads. He loved riding them, and he loved seeing people.”

St. Louis: Two of the area’s largest employers have announced they will require employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by fall. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports BJC HealthCare and Washington University both announced the requirements Tuesday. The decision comes at a time when demand for vaccines is waning in Missouri, a state that already lags the national average with its COVID-19 immunization rate. The St. Louis region’s three other major health systems – SSM Health, Mercy and St. Luke’s Hospital – have not issued vaccine requirements but said they were discussing the issue. Missouri Hospital Association President and CEO Herb Kuhn said hospitals across the state have “seen COVID-19’s devastation in lives and health lost,” and many are evaluating vaccine requirements. Washington University will require all faculty, staff and trainees to be vaccinated by Aug. 30. BJC will require employees to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 15.

Helena: The state Department of Corrections will pay $250,000 to settle claims from a guard who claimed he was retaliated against after reporting rape allegations at Montana Women’s Prison. Daniel Root claimed he was passed over twice for a promotion after reporting in 2017 allegations of his supervisor’s sexual misconduct with inmates. The results of an investigation into the claims have not been released, but the lieutenant accused of having sex with an inmate resigned in 2019, the Montana State News Bureau reports. Root said in court filings that he was told filing lawsuits and talking to the press about issues of public concern reflected negatively on his chances for promotion. He resigned under the terms of the agreement. His attorney told the Montana State News Bureau that Root wanted to put the case behind him. Attorney Kevin Brown said he hopes the case will spur other corrections employees to step forward and report violations of rape reporting requirements. The Department of Corrections settled a separate retaliation claim from an agency employee earlier this year, also for $250,000. In that case, a former corrections employee said he faced discrimination and retaliation in 2016 for his post-traumatic stress disorder while working at the men’s state prison near Deer Lodge.

South Sioux City: The City Council has approved a payment of $500,000 to settle its part in 16 lawsuits filed against the city and a now-defunct biogas plant by homeowners who accused the plant of sending rancid fumes through the city sewer system and ruining their homes. The settlement calls for the city, Big Ox Energy, three insurance companies and two other companies to pay a combined $1.75 million, which will be divided among the homeowners. The City Council approved South Sioux City’s portion Monday, the Sioux City Journal reports. Big Ox began operations in September 2016, separating solids from industry wastewater to create methane. The plant sold the methane and injected it into a nearby natural gas pipeline. Big Ox was subject to odor complaints soon after it began operations and was cited for numerous environmental violations until it shut down in 2019. Neither South Sioux City nor Big Ox, which have both denied the homeowners’ claims, admit liability in the settlement. After the complaints and lawsuit, Big Ox in turn sued two other companies. The first was former soybean processor CHS Inc., which it said illegally released acidic wastewater into the sewer system. The second was Olsson Inc., an engineering firm Big Ox said recommended wastewater from its plant be routed through a sewer main.

Reno: A battery recycling company founded by a former executive at Tesla Inc. broke ground on 100 acres of land at an industrial park near the city as part of its expansion plan. Redwood Materials, founded in Nevada in 2017, is expecting its operations to continue growing with a boost in used battery packs from older electric vehicles. As a result, the company plans to expand its facilities and increase its workforce from just over 100 employees to more than 600 in the next couple of years. In addition to the acquisition at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the company is also undertaking a major project in Carson City to expand its 150,000-square-foot facility to 550,000 square feet within the next two years. “We’ve been on the quiet side because we prefer to make progress and get things done,” Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel said. “We felt it was time to connect a bit more with the local community and help raise awareness for hiring and make sure people realize this is a worthy and unique opportunity here as well.” Straubel is known for helping launch Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer that has been operating out of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center for nearly seven years. Tesla works with Panasonic to create battery packs from various components. Redwood Materials, Straubel’s new venture, does the reverse.

Concord: Budget negotiators in the state House on Tuesday went along with the Senate version of a provision that would prohibit teaching schoolchildren or public employees that one race is superior to another or that one inherently discriminates against another. The House had included language in its budget defining numerous “divisive concepts” that would be banned from being taught in schools or by public employers during diversity and inclusion training. The Senate overhauled the language in the face of opposition from Gov. Chris Sununu, framing it as an anti-discrimination measure that would not prohibit discussions about history or current events. But opponents have argued it still would limit First Amendment rights by banning discussions about important topics including racism and sexism. Rep. Lynne Ober, R-Hudson, who is leading the committee hashing out a compromise on the budget, said Tuesday that the House acceded to the Senate’s language. There was no debate. Work continued on the larger bill Wednesday.

Atlantic City: State lawmakers are considering a bill that would fast-track offshore wind energy projects by removing the ability of local governments to control power lines and other onshore components. The bill, introduced last week and advanced Tuesday, would give wind energy projects approved by the state Board of Public Utilities authority to locate, build, use and maintain wires and associated land-based infrastructure as long as they run underground on public property including streets, though the BPU could determine that some above-ground wires are necessary. It appears to be an effort to head off any local objections to at least one wind power project envisioned to come ashore at two former power plants and run cables under two of the state’s most popular beaches. At a virtual public hearing in April on the Ocean Wind project planned by Orsted, the Danish wind energy developer, and PSEG, a New Jersey utility company, officials revealed that the project would connect to the electric grid at decommissioned power plants in Ocean and Cape May Counties. The northern connection would be at the former Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township; the southern connection would be at the former B.L. England plant in Upper Township.

Santa Fe: Democrat-backed efforts to expand voter access in the state are coming to fruition, with the rollout of same-day voter registration this month. The first trial run took place in a low-turnout special congressional election June 1, allowing voters to register at early voting centers in the final weeks of balloting and Election Day. In all, 2,012 residents took advantage of the opportunity to register during the final four weeks of the election, according to the New Mexico secretary of state’s office. Late-registering voters flocked primarily to the Democratic Party, accounting for about 53% of those registrations – and 50% of those on Election Day itself. About 32% of the later registrations aligned with the Republican Party. U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat, won the June 1 election with 60% of the vote to fill the 1st Congressional District seat held previously by Deb Haaland. Same-day registration is likely to be an option in future New Mexico elections, but it requires approval every two years by a panel of voting systems regulators. Approval is pending for the November local election to pick mayors in cities including Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

New York: A former Shake Shack manager has filed a lawsuit against the Detectives’ Endowment Association, the Police Benevolent Association, and about 20 unnamed New York Police Department officers accusing them of false arrest and defamation. Marcus Gilliam and other employees were accused by officers of serving them poisoned milkshakes last June. In a lawsuit filed Monday, Gilliam said the subsequent interrogation caused him “emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation.” Three officers complained that their shakes made them sick and had a bitter and unusual taste. Two hours later, 20 officers approached the establishment and began to treat the store as a crime scene, The New York Times reports. As the investigation unfolded, police unions announced on Twitter that officers were intentionally attacked. “Tonight, three of our fellow officers were intentionally poisoned by one or more workers at the Shake Shack,” the detectives’ union tweeted. The Police Benevolent Association made a similar post later alleging that the drinks were intentionally spiked with “a toxic substance, believed to be bleach or a similar cleaning agent.” Rodney Harrison, the NYPD’s chief of detectives at the time and now chief of the department, eventually tweeted that the investigation found “no criminality” by the employees.

Raleigh: The state’s ban on most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy must remain unenforceable, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, rejecting arguments that the law should be left intact because prosecutors aren’t going after doctors who violate it. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, upheld a 2019 lower-court decision striking down the prohibition, which has been on the books since 1973. The Republican-dominated Legislature in 2015 narrowed the scope of medical emergencies under which a woman would be exempt from the 20-week limit. That meant more abortions involving unviable fetuses could be considered criminal, raising the fear for abortion providers that they could face prosecution. A U.S. District Court judge in 2019 agreed and blocked the law’s enforcement in situations where the fetus would be considered not viable. State government lawyers representing some district attorneys and state health officials who were sued have argued the abortion providers lack legal standing to challenge the law. Their arguments for the law’s reinstatement are based on the fact that North Carolina has not charged any abortion providers under a pair of laws being challenged and that prosecutors currently have no plans to do so.

Bismarck: The number of wildfires this year in the state has increased significantly, officials say, citing extremely dry conditions. Data collected by the North Dakota Forest Service and the state Department of Emergency Services shows nearly 1,400 fires have consumed about 156 square miles since the beginning of the year. Last year, about 921 fires burned approximately 18 square miles. North Dakota has experienced some of the driest winter and spring months this year. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows more than two-thirds of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought. State Forester Tom Claeys said limited moisture along with warm temperatures have increased the intensity and size of wildfires this year. “This year, it’s imperative that we all know how to mitigate against wildfires, especially as we make plans to enjoy the summer months by recreating outside with friends and family,” Claeys said. “With Independence Day right around the corner, we need to raise awareness now to reduce wildfire risk. We all can do our part to practice fire safety and protect property and lives.” Tribal, state and federal agencies responded to two large wildfires April 30 through May 2. The Roosevelt Creek Fire in the Little Missouri National Grassland and one on the Fort Berthold Reservation have each burned about 15 square miles or more.

Columbus: Republican former Speaker Larry Householder was expelled from the state House in a vote Wednesday following his indictment in an alleged $60 million federal bribery probe – only the second time the Legislature has pushed out a member and the first time in 150 years. The Republican-led House voted 75-21 to remove Householder, of Perry County, approving a resolution that said he was not suited for office because of the indictment. The full House voted after lawmakers forced the measure to the floor instead of waiting for the expulsion resolution to work through the committee process. Reps. Brian Stewart and Mark Frazier, both Republicans representing districts that border Householder’s, encouraged their colleagues to “do the right thing” and vote to expel. “This has been a distraction. This has been a stain on the institution, and it is time for us to come together as one body,” Frazier said, adding that “this institution is greater than any one man.” Householder and four associates were arrested in July in an investigation connected to legislation containing a ratepayer-funded bailout of two Ohio nuclear power plants. The $1 billion rescue would have added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

Oklahoma City: A 24-member joint committee of state House and Senate members has been selected to consider proposals for Oklahoma’s share of funds from the latest federal coronavirus relief legislation. House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, both Republicans, announced the committee Wednesday. “This is an opportunity to address needs exposed by the pandemic and support economic recovery without growing state government’s financial obligations,” McCall said. Treat said the one-time funds provide “the opportunity to further strengthen Oklahoma’s position through targeted investments in projects across the state.” Gov. Kevin Stitt said the money can be used to improve the state’s infrastructure and workforce, as well as the health of residents. The state is to receive about $1.9 billion of the total $1.9 trillion in federal funds approved by Congress in March. The bill, among President Joe Biden’s top priorities in addressing the coronavirus pandemic and economic crises, was unanimously opposed by Republicans in Congress. The Oklahoma committee will be co-chaired by Sen. Roger Thompson and Rep. Kevin Wallace, both Republicans.

Portland: Gov. Kate Brown has signed a bill passed by the Legislature legalizing human composting. The measure signed Tuesday will legalize what’s also known as natural organic reduction, KOIN-TV reports. It also clarifies rules surrounding alkaline hydrolysis, known as aqua cremation. The law goes into effect July 1, 2022. Rep. Pam Marsh, from in Southern Jackson County, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Brian Clem, said she decided to sponsor the bill because her constituents are interested in alternative after-death options. “My colleagues could see as well that in addition to providing families with a choice, it also is a business opportunity,” she said. Elizabeth Fournier, owner of Cornerstone Funeral Services in Boring, Oregon, and author of a green burial guidebook, provides “green” and eco-friendly after-death services and has given clients the option of natural organic reduction since it was legalized in Washington state in 2020. Fournier takes bodies to Herland Forest in Wahkiacus, Washington. It’s a natural burial cemetery about 100 miles east of Portland. In 2020, Fournier witnessed her first natural organic reduction and said seeing the process for herself made her more comfortable in talking to her clients about that option.

Pittsburgh: A western Pennsylvania judge will mediate a dispute over a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus in a city park. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge John McVay declared an impasse in the dispute between the city of Pittsburgh and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America over the Columbus statue in Schenley Park, the Tribune-Review reports. McVay issued an order last week instructing the parties to identify who will participate from each side during the mediation. City crews last fall covered the 13-foot statue, which was erected in 1955, in advance of Columbus Day. The Pittsburgh Art Commission voted unanimously to remove the statue, and Mayor Bill Peduto agreed, but the Italian Sons and Daughters of America filed a lawsuit. McVay granted an injunction halting the removal but urged the parties to try to reach consensus, saying that “historical figures are people and necessarily come with heroic qualities along with character flaws” but also saying that “racism, slavery and prejudice must always be condemned and rejected by our city.” The group then asked the judge to remove himself, saying the court had adopted “its own beliefs” on settlement discussions that “are based on demonstrably false and biased recitations of history that are swiftly disproven by the primary sources of Columbus’s time.”

Providence: A doctor has been cited by federal labor officials for failing to take steps to protect his medical office staff from exposure to COVID-19 even after he and other employees contracted the coronavirus. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Tuesday that Dr. Anthony Farina Jr. “willfully exposed” his workers to the virus when he decided to continue working. The agency said he also failed to fully implement safeguards such as cleaning and disinfecting regimens, screening all employees for symptoms, or mandating contact tracing or quarantining after exposure. Labor officials said they’d seek a $136,532 fine against Farina, who runs four medical practices: North Providence Urgent Care Inc., North Providence Primary Care Associates Inc., Center of New England Urgent Care Inc. and Center of New England Primary Care Inc. Farina’s lawyer, Michael Lepizzera, said his client will contest OSHA’s findings and proposed penalty, which he said is “legally excessive.” State officials in January suspended Farina’s license under emergency order, saying he posed a danger to the community, though they restored it the following month. Farina also faces federal allegations that he violated fair labor laws by failing to pay overtime to more than 100 employees.

Columbia: As the state nears its first execution in a decade, death penalty opponents are renewing calls for South Carolina to toss out its capital punishment statute. A group of faith leaders, academics, organizers and others delivered a letter Wednesday to Gov. Henry McMaster and the General Assembly calling for a halt to two upcoming executions and the repeal of the state’s death penalty law. Group members acknowledge it’s unlikely that the politicians who ushered in a new law aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause will now turn around and repeal that law. Their group, South Carolinians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, was formed in light of two upcoming executions this month. “We don’t expect that we’re going to stop an execution,” said Abraham Bonowitz, director of Death Penalty Action, a national anti-death penalty group that helps local organizations oppose capital punishment. “What we do expect is that we’re going to create the organization that’s going to abolish the death penalty in this state. It might take two years, it might take 10 years, but that’s what this organization is designed to do.” State prisons officials are planning Friday to electrocute Brad Sigmon, 63, who has spent nearly two decades on death row after he was convicted in 2002 of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat.

Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem indicated Tuesday that she will try again to hold a fireworks display over Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day on the heels of President Joe Biden’s announcement that the White House will be hosting its own “independence from the virus” bash. The National Parks Service in March denied the state’s application to hold the pyrotechnic display, reasoning that fireworks caused safety concerns at the monument, that local Native American tribes objected to the celebration being held on land they hold as sacred and that a mass gathering could still defy coronavirus precautions. In an effort to overturn that decision, the Republican governor has written a letter to the president, bashed Biden in the media and sued the U.S. Department of the Interior. All of those efforts have failed. But after Biden announced Tuesday that he would be encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy, Noem said on Twitter that she would resubmit a request to hold fireworks at the monument on Saturday, July 3. However, even if the federal government reversed its decision, the state would struggle to pull the event together with July Fourth weekend just weeks away. Noem’s administration previously said in court that the state would have to know by June 2 to have ample planning time.

Nashville: Amazon on Wednesday announced a commitment of $75million for developers to create affordable homes in the city near WeGo Public Transit high-capacity corridors. The company reported 800 homes will be built on private land, and the investment is part of Amazon’s more than $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to preserve and create over 20,000 affordable homes through below-market loans to housing partners, traditional and nontraditional public agencies, and minority-led organizations. The Music City is one of three cities hosting the company’s new headquarters, where Amazon hopes to infuse communities with cash and support over the next five years. Transportation and housing costs account for a significant portion of the average person’s expenses, said Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of Global Corporate Affairs. “We hope this will pave a path for more inclusive communities,” Carney said. WeGo, the primary regional transit agency operating bus and paratransit service across Nashville, serves close to 30,000 riders daily. Amazon will focus on affordable properties within a half-mile of transit stops and “prioritize opportunities to invest in minority-led organizations and racially and economically diverse communities,” the company reported.

Dallas: The developer of a long-planned – and controversial – high-speed rail line that would get passengers from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes announced Tuesday that it signed a $16 billion contract with an Italian company to build the project, in what could be a step toward realization. Webuild, based in Milan, will oversee heavy construction of the planned 236-mile project for developer Texas Central, the companies said in a news release. Webuild will operate through U.S. subsidiary Lane Construction Corporation, based in Cheshire, Connecticut. Nearly half the distance the bullet train will cover – at speeds up to 200 mph – will be elevated to reduce the impact on property owners, the companies said. Residents have fought the high-speed train, which has been discussed for decades and would rely on acquiring land through eminent domain to construct the rail line. Trey Duhon, who heads a group called Texans Against High-Speed Rail, criticized Tuesday’s announcement, saying it was just the developer continuing to try to drum up support for an unpopular project. “Texas Central takes every opportunity to generate what sounds like progress to keep interest and investments alive,” said Duhon, who also is the highest-ranking elected official in Waller County, outside Houston.

Salt Lake City: The state’s ski resorts set a record for visitors this past winter despite coronavirus-related restrictions and a below-average snowfall, according to industry data released Tuesday. A news release from Ski Utah shows the 5.3 million skier days marked a major rebound from the previous winter, when the state registered 4.3 million after the season was cut short by the pandemic. The industry association said this winter’s figure also surpasses the previous record of 5.13 million skier days set during the 2018-19 ski season. Utah resorts were forced to implement COVID-19 safety protocols, including capacity limitations and mask mandates, but the industry association said those didn’t stop skiers and snowboarders from visiting. “Throughout the season it became clear that skiing provided a respite from the day to day realities of the pandemic and allowed an option for guests to safely socialize outside,” Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, said in a statement. Utah’s big year mirrors a banner season for ski resorts around the country. The National Ski Areas Association’s said the 59 million skier visits nationally are the fifth-most overall.

Brattleboro: A refugee resettlement nonprofit has plans to start a new program in the state to relocate refugees in smaller, more rural communities across the United States. The Ethiopian Development Community Council, a nonprofit agency that partners with the State Department to resettle refugees in the U.S., wants to launch its program in Brattleboro because of the city’s support. The first families should arrive in the city before the end of the year if the program is approved by the federal government, Vermont Public Radio reports. The nonprofit has also chosen Wausau to test out the program, pending federal approval. The nonprofit is preparing for an influx of refugees because the Biden administration has promised to increase the number of refugees allowed in the country and reopen the refugee resettlement program on which the Trump administration imposed restrictions, the radio station reports. “If we want to create integration of refugees, having them only in big cities where they would be congregating among themselves, only, is not going to help long-term integration,” said Tsehaye Tefera, founder of the Ethiopian Development Community Council. Brattleboro town manager Peter Elwell said he knows there could be opposition to the program, but the plan is in line with the town’s priority to improve equity in one of the nation’s whitest states.

Richmond: Riders on the city’s transit system won’t have to dig into their pockets for another year. The board of directors of Greater Richmond Transit Company announced Tuesday that the system will remain fare-free through June 30, 2022. The system said in a news release that it has used state and federal COVID-19 relief funds since March 2020 in response to public health measures. GRTC also has sponsored the fare-free rides in the interest of economically distressed communities who rely on public transit to reach jobs, food and other resources. Free fares include rides on local buses, the Pulse, Express Bus, and CARE/Paratransit vans, the news release said. A spokesperson said workers who collected fares were offered other jobs within the company.

Spokane: Scientists have found a dead Asian giant hornet in Marysville, north of Seattle – the first so-called murder hornet discovered in the country this year, federal and state investigators said Wednesday. Entomologists from the state and U.S. agriculture departments said it’s the first confirmed report from Snohomish County and appears to be unrelated to the 2019 and 2020 findings of the hornets in Canada and Whatcom County, along the Canadian border, that gained widespread attention. The 2-inch-long invasive insects, first found near the U.S.-Canada border in December 2019, are native to Asia and pose a threat to honeybees and native hornet species. While not particularly aggressive toward humans, their stings are extremely painful, and repeated stings, though rare, can kill. The world’s largest hornet is much more of a threat to honeybees that are relied on to pollinate crops. They attack hives, destroying them in mere hours and decapitating bees in what scientists call their “slaughter phase.” How they got here from Asia is unclear, although it is suspected they travel on cargo ships. “Hitchhikers are a side effect of all the commerce we do globally,” said Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with the state Agriculture Department who is leading the fight to eradicate the hornets.

Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice’s nomination of a Republican Party operative to a public broadcasting oversight board has prompted concern about the appointee’s credentials and whether the GOP governor will use his political muscle to fill multiple expired seats. Members of the state Senate Confirmations Committee received notice Friday of the pending appointment of Greg Thomas to the state Educational Broadcasting Authority, which is the governing body of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier County, said Monday that Thomas’ background doesn’t make him a good fit for the authority. The pending appointment “stood out like a sore thumb,” Baldwin said. “You’ve got an outwardly partisan political operative being nominated to a position that doesn’t call for that at all.” Thomas has worked for several GOP politicians, including the campaign of convicted former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s failed U.S. Senate run in 2018. He also works for the nonprofit group West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

Madison: The state is on track to scrap a requirement that has been a singular rite of passage for generations: the behind-the-wheel road test for teenagers. The Legislature’s Republican-controlled joint finance committee last week approved the state Department of Transportation’s proposal to continue its program of waiving road tests for 16- and 17-year-olds who have completed all driver’s education requirements. If approved as part of the budget by Gov. Tony Evers, the current pilot program would become a permanent part of how the Department of Motor Vehicles allocates licenses beginning July 1. DOT first began to pilot the waivers in mid-May of last year, citing its desire to reduce interactions between its employees and members of the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Department officials also said they hoped the waivers would allow DMV offices to focus on the backlog of adult driver’s tests that had accumulated amid the pandemic. Under state law, those over the age of 18 only require a passing multiple-choice knowledge test before taking the road test. The DMV has said these people cannot waive their road test because they are not required to complete a driver’s education course and behind-the-wheel training with an instructor.

Casper: Lawmakers are pursuing two possible hate crimes bills for next year’s legislative session. One bill to be drafted would require law enforcement to report hate crimes. The other would extend protections to more groups. “I want a starting point to move forward,” state Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, told other members of the Joint Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. At least 47 states have adopted hate crimes legislation since the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. National groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice do not classify Wyoming as having a hate crime law, though the American Civil Liberties Union does. The statute makes it a misdemeanor to deny anyone “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness or the necessities of life” due to their “race, color, sex, creed or national origin.” The statute does not require police to report hate crimes and does not protect all vulnerable populations, according to testimony at Tuesday’s hearing. Wyoming has recorded 13 hate crimes since 2015, but the number is believed to be underreported.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

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