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US: Mister Rogers, civics education, fishy promotion: News from around our 50 states

Masai Ujiri considered taking year off from Raptors after contentious contract discussions, per report

  Masai Ujiri considered taking year off from Raptors after contentious contract discussions, per report Former Rogers Communications chair Edward Rogers reportedly told Ujiri he wasn't worth the money he was being paid . The NBA source said the call left Ujiri feeling so angry and disrespected by Rogers that he considered taking a year off as president of the Raptors.Ujiri was eventually convinced to remain on board by Tanenbaum and other high-ranking executives of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.), who assured him he would be protected from having to deal with Rogers.

Alabama

Montgomery: Republican-led committees in the Legislature advanced new congressional, legislative and school board districts Friday as lawmakers try to get new maps in place in time for the 2022 election. The House State Government Committee voted along party lines to approve new lines for the state’s seven congressional districts and 105 districts in the Alabama House of Representatives. Democrats, who voted against the plans, raised concerns that the proposed lines don’t reflect a state that has grown more diverse and would pack their supporters into a single congressional district. And while the plan passed with GOP support, several Republicans expressed concern that their legislative districts had been sacrificed for other party priorities. The maps, along with Alabama Senate and Board of Education districts, are in line for votes Monday by the full Alabama House of Representatives and Alabama Senate. Democrats have argued that Alabama, whose population is about 26% Black, should have a second congressional district with a significant African American or minority population. The seven-member delegation has for decades included a single African American, elected from the only district with a majority-Black population. The district is now represented by Rep. Terri Sewell, who’s also the only Democrat in Alabama’s congressional delegation.

CNN Underscored Sweepstakes Official Rules and Regulations

  CNN Underscored Sweepstakes Official Rules and Regulations CNN Underscored Sweepstakes Official Rules and Regulations ("Official Rules").HOW TO ENTER: From 12:00p.m. ET on October 25, 2021 to 11:59p.m. ET on October 29, 2021 ("Promotion Period"), Sponsor will be conducting a national Promotion encouraging eligible participants to enter for a chance to win a prize. Sponsor will post a message on October 25, 2021 on its Instagram page from @CNNUnderscored ("Sponsor's Post") in substantially the form as follows: "CNN UNDERSCORED -- OCTOBER FAVES SWEEPSTAKES". Entries received must be posted no later than 11:59p.m.

Alaska

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Soldotna: The city wants to create a new “main street” running parallel to the Kenai River. City officials on Thursday applied for a $360,000 federal grant that they hope would fund planning for the project that is also expected to boost capital investment in the area, the Peninsula Clarion reports. The planning project is estimated to take about 18 months and would help with efforts to design a new “main street” adjacent to the river. It would address about 85 acres of land running along the Kenai River, from Soldotna Creek Park to the Sterling Highway bridge. Many of the riverfront properties are privately owned, and development would require private and public partnerships. Currently, there is no road or trail that offers developed public access or views of the Kenai River between the highway bridge and state-owned land. Three dead-end roads stop short of the river. “Based on the number of no trespassing signs in many places the river today is more of an attractive nuisance than an asset,” city documents say. City officials informed City Council members that previous discussions with landowners indicated their support for collecting more information to determine the project’s feasibility. If approved, funding for the grant would come from the American Rescue Plan. Soldotna has already spent $90,000 of its own funds on the project.

Schools can teach full US history under critical race theory bans, experts say. Here's how

  Schools can teach full US history under critical race theory bans, experts say. Here's how Talking about racism and sexism has long posed challenges for teachers. Under critical race theory bans, it's especially tricky.Last summer, the state passed a law prohibiting educators from promoting a set of vaguely described ideas. Under the law, their teaching can’t, for example, make a student feel guilty on account of his or her race. Lawmakers said their goal was to protect students from being indoctrinated with critical race theory – a graduate-level framework that examines how systemic racism continues to permeate U.S. law and society.

Arizona

Phoenix: Nearly five years after Joe Arpaio was voted out as sheriff of Maricopa County, taxpayers are covering one of the last major bills from the thousands of lawsuits the lawman’s headline-grabbing tactics inspired – and the overall legal tab has hit $100 million. County officials agreed last month to pay $3.1 million to cover the county’s portion of a settlement with a restaurant owner who alleged Arpaio defamed him and violated his rights when raiding his businesses. The payout boosted the cost stemming from Arpaio’s six terms to $100 million for attorney fees, settlements and other costs the county has paid from lawsuits over things such as jail deaths, failed investigations of the sheriff’s political enemies and immigration raids of businesses. That doesn’t include the separate $178 million and counting taxpayers have shelled out in a 2007 racial profiling case stemming from Arpaio’s signature traffic patrols targeting immigrants, though about 75% of that spending has occurred during his successor’s watch as he works to comply with court-ordered overhauls of the sheriff’s office. Advocates for immigrants have long warned Arpaio should be viewed as a cautionary tale for the long-term financial obligations communities take on when they let local police officers handle immigration enforcement.

Tara Slone’s Rogers Hometown Hockey commentary on “the NHL’s broken culture” was remarkable, especially on a rightsholder

  Tara Slone’s Rogers Hometown Hockey commentary on “the NHL’s broken culture” was remarkable, especially on a rightsholder An ongoing issue in sports media is just how much critical reporting or critical commentary can air on an outlet that pays a team or league to broadcast its games. To be clear, the issue is not that rightsholder broadcasts never offer team or league criticism; most rightsholder broadcasts offer at least some level of Read more The post Tara Slone’s Rogers Hometown Hockey commentary on “the NHL’s broken culture” was remarkable, especially on a rightsholder appeared first on Awful Announcing.

Arkansas

Springdale: A special election will be called to fill the term of Republican state Sen. Lance Eads, who resigned from his position Thursday to take a job in the private sector. Eads, who won reelection last year to a four-year term, represented a district in northwest Arkansas that includes Springdale and parts of eastern Washington County. He said he was resigning to take a consultant job with the Little Rock-based lobbying firm Capitol Consulting Firm. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Eads will remain a resident of northwest Arkansas. Eads served two years in the House of Representatives before first winning election to the Senate in 2016. Gov. Asa Hutchinson must call a special election to fill the vacancy in the Senate. “Sen. Lance Eads has served his community well,” Hutchinson said Thursday. “He has been a good partner in the successes we have achieved in Arkansas from economic development to lowering taxes.”

California

Newport Beach: Four weeks after an oil spill washed blobs of crude onto Southern California’s coast, surfers have returned to the waves, and people play in the surf. But fishermen still can’t drop lines in the same waters. California has prohibited fishing in an area that ranges about 6 to 12 miles off the shores of Orange County since an undersea pipeline leaked at least about 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. State environmental health experts are conducting studies to determine whether shellfish and fish are safe for human consumption – a process expected to take weeks or longer. Scott Breneman, owner of West Caught Fish, said he still fishes for tuna and black cod well beyond the prohibited area. He said he’s been able to keep selling his catch to restaurants, but customers aren’t buying like they usually do at a popular Newport Beach fish market because of concerns about the state fishing ban. “People assume that local fish is contaminated, and we’re fishing like 90 miles off the beach here, a long ways away,” Breneman said, adding that he’s heading out fishing about half as much as usual. “I don’t want to take the resource when I can’t sell it.” Commercial fishermen and charter operators have been hit especially hard. Some have joined lawsuits against pipeline owner Amplify Energy of Houston and worry about lingering effects on tourism.

Critical race theory, mask mandates dominate 2021 school board elections — is 2022 next?

  Critical race theory, mask mandates dominate 2021 school board elections — is 2022 next? Glenn Youngkin won his race for Virginia governor, and some other conservatives won school board seats. But other school board recall efforts failed.Races in 76 school districts across 22 states featured candidates who took a stance on race in education or critical race theory, according to Ballotpedia, a political tracking website. Critical race theory, a graduate-level law school concept that examines systemic racism, is seldom taught in schools. It has nevertheless inflamed conservatives, previewing a valuable political tool for Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections.

Colorado

Greeley: A former long-shot Idaho gubernatorial candidate on trial in the 1984 killing of a 12-year-old Colorado girl has testified that he did not know the girl or her family before she vanished and denied being involved in her disappearance. At the time, Steve Pankey was a neighbor of Jonelle Matthew and her family in Greeley, about 50 miles north of Denver. The girl’s remains were found by oil and gas workers in 2019. She had been fatally shot. Pankey was charged with Jonelle’s murder last year after showing extreme interest in the case for many years and allegedly sharing details with investigators that had not been made public. Pankey said in court that he pretended to know information about the case out of bitterness for police and for his former church and former employer, both of which he wanted investigated, KCNC-TV reports. Most of his testimony Thursday to questions by his lawyer was rambling and included comments about his hatred of racist police officers. District Attorney Michael J. Rourke pressed him about his views about police, which Pankey said came from seeing officers humiliate and hurt Hispanic people while he was working for an ambulance service in California. Pankey said he refused to put a splint on a sheriff’s deputy who broke his leg, letting the deputy ride to the hospital in pain. He said the deputy screamed for eight or 12 minutes. “I sat there and watched,” Pankey said.

After Virginia success, Republicans look to weaponize school debates in midterm message

  After Virginia success, Republicans look to weaponize school debates in midterm message House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pledged to "soon unroll a parents' bill of rights," while Senate candidate Jane Timken said she sees education becoming "more of a top of line issue."Just a day after Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pledged to "soon unroll a parents' bill of rights," adding at a news conference that the GOP "will be the party of education.

Connecticut

Hamden: The state’s attorney general is investigating the closure of Quinnipiac University’s Great Irish Hunger Museum, which shut its doors permanently in August after nine years dedicated to study of what’s commonly known as the Irish potato famine. Attorney General William Tong’s spokesperson Elizabeth Benton confirmed the probe to the New Haven Register on Thursday, saying in a statement that “we have an open and ongoing inquiry into this matter.” Tong took up the investigation after a lawyer representing an organization dedicated to saving the Hamden museum sent a letter to his office, raising concerns about the prospect of museum artifacts being sold off. The group, the Committee to Save the Great Irish Hunger Museum, was planning a “salute to the museum” Saturday with Irish dancing, food and treats. A Quinnipiac spokesperson told the Register that the university is “not selling any” items and that it’s committed to finding a way to ensure the collection “remains publicly accessible, advances the museum’s original mission, and preserves the story of the Great Hunger.” Morgan said the university is cooperating with the attorney general’s inquiry. Morgan said Quinnipiac decided to close the museum because of funding shortfalls and a lack of interest from visitors.

Delaware

Wilmington: Lawmakers in the state House don’t have enough votes to petition the governor to remove indicted Auditor Kathy McGuiness, who refuses to step down or take a leave of absence while she faces an indictment for alleged abuse of office. Instead, they appear to prefer a proposal from the Senate to ask the courts for advice on how to execute the constitutional law that sanctions the removal process, which has not been touched in living memory. Meanwhile, a judge ruled Thursday that McGuiness must be provided a public defender or pay for her own private attorney to fight criminal corruption charges. The ruling settles a conflict between McGuiness and Delaware prosecutors, who argued that McGuiness, by virtue of her public office, was entitled to a public defender, not her choice of a more expensive, private attorney to be funded by the public. McGuiness faces two felony charges and multiple public corruption misdemeanors, all of which carry the potential of more than 10 years in prison. Specifically, she is accused of giving her daughter a do-little job in the auditor’s office, rigging state contracts to avoid regulatory scrutiny and intimidating those who questioned her behavior, according to an indictment filed against her last month.

If we want to change the world for the better, girls' education is a good place to start

  If we want to change the world for the better, girls' education is a good place to start We must work together as an international community to invest more in opportunities and to tackle the complex barriers to schooling so that all girls — across the world — can have access to the quality education they deserve. Dame Karen Pierce is Her Majesty's Ambassador to the United States of America. Prior to taking up the ambassadorship, Karen was the United Kingdom's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. Before this role, she served as the Director General for Political Affairs and Chief Operating Officer of the Foreign and Commonwealth in London, from 2016.

District of Columbia

Washington: Ahead of the holiday season, the National Park Service planted a new National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in President’s Park on Saturday, WUSA-TV reports. The new tree is a 27-foot white fir from Middleburg, Pennsylvania, the park service said in a release. Donated by Hill View Christmas Tree Farm, it will be the first white fir to serve as the National Christmas Tree. Since 1973, the National Christmas Tree has been a living tree that people can view year-round at President’s Park. The National Park Service said a white fir was selected because it is more resilient to needle cast disease, a fungal issue that affects spruce trees and causes their needles to fall off. The previous tree, a Colorado blue spruce planted in October 2019, succumbed to needle cast disease, according to the National Park Service. NPS officials say transporting and taking care of such a large tree can be challenging and requires careful planning and mild weather conditions. Late October is an ideal time for planting, but there is still a chance for transplant shock, experts say. NPS horticulturists will keep an eye on the tree’s health and ensure its transition is as easy as possible. The tree will be lit up during the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, details of which have not been announced yet.

Florida

Winter Park: A little rain didn’t stop it from being a beautiful day at Rollins College as school officials unveiled a sculpture honoring alumnus and beloved children’s TV host Mister Rogers. Rollins President Grant Cornwell and others held umbrellas during Thursday’s private ceremony as they pulled back a drape on the bronze rendering of Rogers in his iconic sweater and tennis shoes, a work entitled “A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor.” “This inspirational sculpture will be a permanent reminder of the ideals and values modeled by Mister Rogers as he set out to make the world a better place,” Cornwell said during the ceremony at the private liberal arts college in Winter Park, just northeast of Orlando. Years before the world came to know him as Mister Rogers, Fred McFeely Rogers transferred to Rollins College in 1948 and graduated in 1951, according to the school. He majored in music composition and served as president of his fraternity and chairman of the Inter-Faith and Race Relations Committee. He also met his future wife at the school. He received an honorary degree from the school in 1974. The 360-degree sculpture designed by Paul Day, a British artist known for his public monuments, depicts Rogers surrounded by children, hand puppets from his show, lyrics from the theme song for “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the show’s Neighborhood Trolley. The sculpture will be part of the school’s Mister Rogers Walking Tour.

This Harvard grad has made millions on U.S. college admissions for international students

  This Harvard grad has made millions on U.S. college admissions for international students Jamie Beaton, 24, has made a name and millions by selling himself as an expert in U.S. college admissions. It's unclear his guidance is helpful.He sensed a business opportunity.

Georgia

Athens: Former residents of a Black neighborhood that was destroyed more than 50 years ago and replaced with university dorms and parking lots are demanding the university recognize their loss. The city used eminent domain to force Black families out of the Linnentown neighborhood in the 1960s as part of an urban renewal plan. It sold the land to the state Board of Regents, and dorms and parking lots for the University of Georgia went up after the homes were razed. Now, a group of former residents and descendants wants the university to apologize for the land seizure and create a memorial to Linnentown, which was home to dozens of Black families, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. One member of the Linnentown Project group, Bobby Crook, told the newspaper the university needs to pay compensation, though he acknowledged that may not happen. The average condemnation award for homes in the neighborhood was $5,750, according to a resolution approved by Athens-Clarke County commissioners in February. The land – roughly 20 acres – and the improvements on it are worth tens of millions of dollars today. The county resolution did not mince words, accusing the city and the University System of Georgia of “an act of institutionalized white racism and terrorism resulting in intergenerational Black poverty, dissolution of family units, and trauma through the forcible removal and displacement of Black families, and the accumulation of the majority of their wealth and political power within the University System of Georgia and the City of Athens.”

Hawaii

Kihei: A new high school on Maui won’t be welcoming students as planned next fall because the state Department of Education didn’t build a pedestrian bridge to the campus. The state Land Use Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to stick to its earlier decision to require the state to build the bridge over Piilani Highway to Kihei High School, Hawaii News Now reports. That means the school won’t be able to open for the fall 2022 semester. The busy highway separates the school from neighborhoods where many students live. Currently, public school students in Kihei are enrolled at Maui High School, which is overcrowded. There are some charter school options in the area. The commission in 2013 said either a pedestrian overpass or an underpass would be required for safety. “It’s a shame that this high school, which is almost built, will not be open on time,” said Dan Giovanni, the commission’s vice chairperson. “To me, the fault for that is the DOE.” A department spokesperson said the department is assessing its next steps. Department officials said the state Department of Transportation advised them that a pedestrian bridge was not yet necessary because only a few students were scheduled to start school in August 2022.

Idaho

Boise: Lawmakers will gather this month to consider legislation banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by the federal government and private employers, according to top lawmakers in the House and Senate. Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke and Republican Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder said the chambers will likely return for several days Nov. 15. The House never officially adjourned, and it can reconvene if called by Bedke. Winder said he would recommend senators return as well. Bedke said he expects about a dozen pieces of legislation to be introduced, including some to prevent employers from requiring workers get vaccinated. He said lawmakers getting between the employee-employer relationship wasn’t his preference, but some lawmakers supported the idea. “The objective is to get all of the various ideas out into the public domain so that everyone can take a look at them, to start the process,” Bedke said. “I don’t know how many of them, if any of them, will get critical legislative mass, in our bicameral system, but we’ll see.” Both said lawmakers will look at legislation that would allow the state to initiate legal action over federal vaccine mandates on private employers. The legislation would include $2 million for a potential legal battle.

Illinois

Rockford: A conservation group has reached an agreement with a northern Illinois airport that temporarily halts work on a project that would destroy an 8,000-year-old tract of remnant prairie. The Bell Bowl Prairie, located on the Rockford Airport’s property, is targeted for demolition as part of a $50 million expansion of the airfield’s cargo operations. The prairie’s longtime stewards, the Natural Land Institute, sued the Greater Rockford Airport Authority last week, seeking injunctive relief to temporarily halt bulldozers from destroying the 25-acre prairie. The nonprofit conservation group announced Thursday that a deal putting that work on hold through March 1, 2022, had been reached through U.S. District Court with the Greater Rockford Airport Authority, its board of commissioners and executive director, WTTW-TV reports. Construction of an access road that would cut through the prairie’s highest-quality habitat had been slated to resume Monday. The temporary hold buys more time for the Natural Land Institute to convince the Airport Authority to explore alternative design concepts that protect the prairie and the endangered rusty patched bumblebee, the institute said in a statement.

Indiana

Indianapolis: A federal appeals court has cleared the way for state officials to start enforcing a law requiring reports from doctors if they treat women for complications arising from abortions, even though the court said the law could be struck down in the future. Action by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last week followed a 2-1 ruling by a court panel in August upholding the law, which had been blocked by a judge shortly after it was approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature in 2018. The law lists 25 physical or psychological conditions – including unsuccessful abortions, infections, uterine perforations, depression and deaths – that could trigger the reporting requirement for doctors or clinics. It makes failure to do so a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Planned Parenthood challenged the law in federal court, arguing that it was vague and would leave medical professionals uncertain in determining whether they needed to report conditions such as a patient’s anxiety or minor bleeding regardless of whether they believed it stemmed from the abortion. The Chicago-based appeals court last week turned down Planned Parenthood’s request for the full court to reconsider the case, and it issued an order Thursday allowing the law to go into effect.

Iowa

Ankeny: A school board candidate changed his name following conviction on a threat of terrorism charge last year after he said he would shoot up a high school and sexually assault students. Christian Mathew Holtz, 20, of Ankeny, is one of seven candidates running in Tuesday’s election for school board in the Ankeny Community School District. His campaign has focused on addressing bullying, protecting marginalized groups and being a younger voice for students on the board, among other issues. Holtz has been running his campaign and participating in candidate forums as he remains on probation for the threat of terrorism charge, a felony, according to court records. In March 2020, Holtz – then known as Isaac Quinton Holtz – was charged in Dallas County District Court after police accused him of sending an email to more than 750 Waukee High School students and staff saying he planned to come to the school with a gun, shoot all the students, and go into the locker room to sexually assault and murder girls. According to a criminal complaint, police said he admitted to sending the email. Holtz entered an Alford plea, a type of guilty plea in which the defendant asserts innocence but acknowledges that the evidence would probably persuade a judge or jury otherwise. He was sentenced to three years of probation. Reached by phone Friday, Holtz would not directly confirm or deny he is the same person involved in that case. “It’s not me because I’m not Issac anymore,” Holtz said. “I’m Christian.”

Kansas

Topeka: Hundreds of people opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates rallied Saturday at the Statehouse and pushed state lawmakers to quickly counter them, while an international labor union disavowed a local leader’s comparison of the mandates to the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews. The rally kicked off ahead of a rare weekend legislative committee hearing on mandates from President Joe Biden that affect as many as 100 million Americans. The hearing gave dozens of mandate opponents a chance to vent their frustration and anger with the White House and with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s handling of the pandemic. Several critics of the mandates suggested Saturday that they violate international human rights standards enacted in the wake of atrocities during World War II. Bryan Luedeke, a Wichita-area aircraft worker, called them “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.” His comments followed Friday’s comparison of the mandates to the Holocaust by Cornell Beard, president of the Wichita district of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. A committee member, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, appeared to agree with the analogy.

Kentucky

Frankfort: The state Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that jails cannot force inmates to pay for their confinement if their criminal charges are dropped or if they are found not guilty. Ruling for a Winchester man who was billed more than $4,000 for his incarceration, even though a felony charge against him was dismissed, the court said inmates can only be charged if the payment is ordered by their sentencing judge. And because people who are acquitted or have charges dropped are never sentenced, they can’t be required to pay, the court said in a 12-page opinion Thursday. Greg Belzley, the attorney for David Allen Jones, said the ruling is a “huge” victory for the presumption of innocence. Belzley said he will ask that the ruling be applied to all inmates who are exonerated or have charges dropped, which could have serious financial implications for the commonwealth’s jails. “Jails are crumbling, but the way that gets addressed is through taxes, not by going after our poorest citizens,” he said. “We are delighted with the ruling.” The attorney for the Clark County Detention Center, Jeff Mando, had argued in a brief that the presumption of innocence does not apply to jail fees because they are not “punitive.”

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: The state Senate has created a special committee to dig into complaints about the use of excessive force by the State Police, after troopers were documented in a series of beatings of Black men that have drawn attention from federal investigators. Senate President Page Cortez said he set up the seven-member advisory panel in response to requests from senators concerned about troopers’ behavior. He sent a letter Thursday officially naming lawmakers to the committee. Two senators from Baton Rouge will lead the work: Republican Sen. Franklin Foil will be chairman, and Democratic Sen. Cleo Fields will work as vice chairman. Foil intends to hold the panel’s first meeting in December, he said, and expects the committee to hear from the State Police and the public with an eye toward developing recommendations for tightened laws regarding use of force that legislators can consider. The review will focus more on overall policies, rather than specific allegations of improper force, he said. The Senate Select Committee on State Police Oversight will “go over what kind of oversight the State Police has when there are reports of excessive force that may have been used inappropriately and what mechanisms they have as far as safeguards,” said Foil, a lawyer and Navy officer who has worked as a military judge.

Maine

Portland: Health care centers are facing a staffing crunch, but COVID-19 vaccination mandates are not the cause, according to the chief of the largest health network in the state. MaineHealth CEO Andrew Mueller said the organization has a staff vacancy rate of about 10% and described that level of staffing loss as “really, really difficult” for the organization, especially at a time when hospitals are full. However, he said, the shortage can be attributed to an aging workforce and workers leaving the industry because of the stress of working during the pandemic. The deadline to begin enforcing the vaccine requirement for health care workers across the state arrived Friday. Mueller had said that he expected to lose 1.5% to 2% of staff systemwide but that those losses would be offset by fewer COVID-19-related absences. “We actually think we’re going to have more capability and less shortages in a real way by ensuring our workforce is vaccinated,” he said last week. Meanwhile, Northern Light Health announced that unvaccinated workers would no longer be working at its 10 hospitals as of Saturday. In Lewiston, Central Maine Medical Center was already in compliance, with unvaccinated staff members not allowed to work.

Maryland

Annapolis: A state lawmaker who is a plastic surgeon has been fined $15,000 and reprimanded for twice participating in legislative meetings via videoconference from an operating room during surgery. Del. Terri Hill signed a consent order last month agreeing to the disciplinary actions from the Maryland Board of Physicians, which found the Democratic lawmaker guilty of “unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine.” The board noted that Hill participated in one voting session of a House committee while appearing in a video feed wearing “a surgical gown, facemask, and surgical cap.” In Maryland’s legislative session this year, legislative committee meetings were held by videoconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The public was able to livestream the meetings and hearings. “She was positioned under the surgical lights, focused downward, and would occasionally shift, reach for surgical instruments, or adjust the lights,” the board’s report said, noting the surgeon and other operating room staff “occasionally moved surgical equipment and blood-stained towels so that they were briefly visible on the video feed.” In a statement Friday night, Hill said she has worked hard to fulfill her professional obligations to both her patients and her constituents during the pandemic – a balance that has been challenging at times.

Massachusetts

Boston: Students will have greater access to school meals under a bill signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last week. The new law requires schools or districts to implement universal free breakfast and lunch for all students if a majority of students in the school meet low-income criteria. The law also bars school employees or volunteers from publicly identifying a student when payment for a meal hasn’t been received. Denying a student a meal as a form of punishment for bad behavior or disposing of an already served meal because of a student’s unresolved meal debt is also banned. Schools will also be prevented from denying a student or their sibling the chance to participate in non-fee-based extracurricular activities because of meal debt; prohibiting a student from receiving grades, transcripts, report cards or graduating as a result of meal debt; or requiring a parent or guardian to pay additional fees or interest costs above the amount owed for meals. “This legislation is another way we can ensure all children in the commonwealth have access to healthy meals when they are in school,” Baker said after signing the bill last Monday.

Michigan

Lansing: As promised, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that would toughen in-person voter identification rules and require people to include additional information such as their driver’s license number on absentee ballot applications. The governor said the bills would disproportionately hurt minority voters who are more likely not to have a photo ID on Election Day than white voters. They also would prohibit the secretary of state and clerks from mailing absentee ballot applications unless voters request them and ban private donations to help administer elections. “Voting restrictions that produce such a racially disparate impact must never become law in this state,” Whitmer wrote to lawmakers. A GOP-affiliated ballot committee, Secure MI Vote, is circulating petitions that would enable the Republican-controlled Legislature to enact a similar initiative next year regardless of Whitmer’s opposition. In Michigan, voters who go to a polling place without a photo ID can cast a regular ballot if they sign an affidavit. More than 11,400 did so in the 2020 presidential election. Under the legislation, they would get a provisional ballot and have to verify their identity with the local clerk within six days of an election for their vote to count. The governor said the change would disenfranchise voters, and there is no evidence that affidavit ballots are related to voter fraud.

Minnesota

Minneapolis: Sales at municipal liquor stores in the state soared in 2020 for a record-breaking year. Sales at Minnesota’s 213 “munis” jumped 10% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released last week by State Auditor Julie Blaha. In recent years, a typical sales increase has been in the range of 1% to 3%. With many bars and restaurants either closed or operating at reduced capacity during parts of the year, people did more of their drinking at home, according to liquor store managers and employees. And the lifestyle shifts prompted by the pandemic played a major role. The Star Tribune reports the bars and liquor stores transferred more than $21 million back to their local governments in 2020, helping supplement traditional tax revenue. According to the International Wines and Spirits Record, Americans consumed 2% more alcohol last year than in 2019. It was the biggest year-over-year increase since 2002.

Mississippi

Jackson: Retired NFL player Brett Favre and Mississippi Auditor Shad White feuded Friday over the auditor saying Favre failed to make speeches after being paid by welfare money. The Twitter spat happened days after Favre repaid $600,000 to the state – the last portion of the $1.1 million that the auditor said Favre received from a nonprofit organization that used money intended to help needy people in one of the poorest states in the U.S. The auditor said Wednesday that Favre still owes $228,000 in interest, and the state attorney general could sue if that is not paid by mid-November. “Of course the money was returned because I would never knowingly take funds meant to help our neighbors in need, but for Shad White to continue to push out this lie that the money was for no-show events is something I cannot stay silent about,” Favre wrote Friday. The former Green Bay Packers quarterback, who lives in Mississippi, wrote that he made commercials for which he was paid by a nonprofit group. White tweeted that Favre’s contract required speeches and a radio ad. “The CPA for Favre Enterprises confirmed this was your contract,” White replied to Favre. “You did not give the speeches. You have acknowledged this in statements to my agents.”

Missouri

Jefferson City: Professional sports teams are trying to put a proposal to legalize sports betting in the state on the ballot, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A Jefferson City lawyer filed nine ballot proposals on the issue last week on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis City soccer club and Kansas City Royals. Money from taxing sports betting would be split between schools and roads under the proposals. Efforts to pass a law allowing sports betting have failed for years in Missouri’s GOP-led Legislature, so the teams are hoping to take the issue directly before voters. Republican Sen. Denny Hoskins has proposed several bills to legalize sports betting. But he warned that legalizing sports betting through the Missouri Constitution will mean lawmakers can’t easily address any potential issues with the program once it’s enacted. In Missouri, proposals need a certain number of voter signatures to be put on the ballot. Backers haven’t started collecting signatures yet.

Montana

Billings: State environmental regulators ignored the law when they permitted an expansion of a massive strip mine that is the sole source of coal for a large power plant despite concerns about water pollution, a judge ruled. State District Judge Katherine Bidegaray ordered the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to revisit its 2015 permit to expand the 25,752-acre Rosebud Mine, owned by Colorado-based Westmoreland mining. The judge’s Thursday order came after environmental groups sued over damage to a nearby creek from wastewater that flows out of the mine. Rosebud, in the Powder River Basin along the Montana-Wyoming border, fuels the Colstrip Power Plant that burns about 8 million tons of coal annually. For years, nearby East Fork Armells Creek has received salty water from the mine and contaminants from coal ash ponds at the power plant, The Billings Gazette reports. The Montana Strip and Underground Mine Reclamation Act forbids the state from issuing mine permits unless it can be proven there won’t be damage to the balance of water outside the permit area. But Bidegaray said the state was doing the opposite – allowing harmful salt levels in Armells to increase. It’s unclear what the ruling means for mining operations, a Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson said.

Nebraska

Omaha: A Christian student group has sued the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, alleging that the school discriminated against the group’s views when it denied a funding request to bring a Christian philosopher to campus as a guest speaker. The federal lawsuit by the group Ratio Christi alleges that the university failed to distribute money to student groups in a fair, viewpoint-neutral manner, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The lawsuit says Ratio Christi requested $1,500 in January from the university’s Fund Allocation Committee, which it was entitled to do as a recognized student organization. The group wanted to bring in philosopher and former university professor Robert Audi, who is currently a philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame. The students were represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization that supports conservative Christian causes. The lawsuit alleges that the university’s program council told Ratio Christi it would need to invite another person from a different ideological perspective to the same event to receive funding. The school allegedly said it could not promote speakers of an ideological nature with its student organization funding, according to the lawsuit. In a statement Friday, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts called on university Chancellor Ronnie Green to intervene and define policies that encourage all viewpoints.

Nevada

Las Vegas: Hundreds of hotel, casino and restaurant workers in matching red shirts rallied Thursday on the Las Vegas Strip as the Culinary Union made a second monthly call to return people to jobs idled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Culinary Union said more than one-third of its 60,000 members haven’t been rehired, despite a recovery by casinos and hotels from closures imposed in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “If companies are going to charge you the full rate, you want to make sure you get full service,” union President Ted Pappageorge said, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The message echoed calls made Sept. 24, when the Culinary Union organized a march of thousands of members on the Strip. Casinos statewide have ridden a tourism surge to set monthly winnings records, room rates have rebounded, and tourism officials report the number of visitors is approaching pre-pandemic levels. Nevada’s unemployment rate in September was 7.5%, down slightly from 7.7% in August. That’s more than twice the record low of 3.6% in February 2020 but far below the record peak of more than 30% set in April 2020 – a month after businesses and casinos were shuttered. The union says many idled employees have exhausted public unemployment benefits.

New Hampshire

Concord: The state has resumed its Homebound Vaccination program for COVID-19 shots. Appointments are being scheduled to provide first, second and booster doses of the vaccines to people who are unable to leave their homes, have difficulty doing so, or have been advised by a medical provider that their health could worsen by leaving their home. The state Department of Health and Human Services has contracted with On-Site Medical Services in Newport to conduct the program. Appointments can be made by calling (603) 338-9292 from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., filling out a form at www.onsitenh.com/vaccine, or emailing [email protected]

New Jersey

Ballots © Miguel Fernandez Ballots

Englewood: An eatery offered Bergen County voters what some considered a great catch for participating in the democratic process, but others say something’s fishy with the promotion. If customers showed that they cast their ballot Friday or Saturday – presumably by displaying an “I voted” sticker – they were eligible for a free fried fish sandwich at TJ’s Southern Gourmet. A state statute on bribery says offering or receiving “money or other valuable consideration” to induce someone to vote or not vote “shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.” The fried whiting sandwiches being offered by TJ’s – and the giveaway’s promotion by Teaneck school board member Victoria Fisher, who is up for reelection – is cause for concern for some people. Teaneck Councilman Keith Kaplan said Friday that he sent information about the fried fish sandwiches to Bergen County Superintendent of Elections Debra Francica and that he would send it to the state attorney general if needed. The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the offer for free whiting, which typically sells for $8 and is described by reviewers as “fried to perfection.” Francica, however, said she had “checked with the AG’s office, and that’s legal.”

New Mexico

Albuquerque: Researchers say they have more evidence that Chaco Canyon was more than just an ancient gathering spot for Indigenous ceremonies and rituals. The researchers from the University of Cincinnati analyzed pollen content and the chemical composition of soils to help document environmental impacts of the early residents who called the area home. Their findings, published last week in the journal PLOS ONE, focus on changes resulting from tree harvesting that sustained daily life at Chaco. The researchers reported a gradual degradation of the surrounding woodlands beginning around 600 B.C., much earlier than previously thought. While some of the mysteries surrounding Chaco, now a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site, are still debated in academic circles, there’s agreement that the massive stone buildings, ceremonial structures called kivas and other features that dot the landscape offered a religious or ritualistic experience for the ancestors of today’s Native American pueblos. Many of Chaco’s structures are aligned with celestial events, such as the summer solstice. David Lentz, a biology professor and lead author of the study, said many researchers have the idea that Chaco was too arid to sustain day-to-day living and that the infrastructure built over many centuries at Chaco was used only as a periodic ceremonial center and storage facility. Lentz said that explanation is too simplistic, and his team turned up evidence to support human management of the area’s environment to support daily life.

New York

New York: Nine in 10 municipal workers received COVID-19 vaccinations as a Monday deadline loomed under a city mandate, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. City officials have been making contingency plans to deal with an expected staffing shortfall Monday. De Blasio tweeted Saturday night that 91% of city workers had received the vaccine, which represented a jump from about 83% as of Friday night. Under a city mandate, those who haven’t received at least one dose of a vaccine against the disease will be put on unpaid leave starting Monday, raising the possibility of shortages of police, fire and EMS workers. New York has more than 300,000 employees. The police department, which employs about 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian employees, reported an 84% vaccination rate as of Sunday morning, while roughly 2 in 10 of the fire department’s roughly 17,000 employees remained unvaccinated as of Friday night. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro denied reports that some firehouses had been closed due to shortages. “Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters,” he said in a statement Sunday. And six Brooklyn-based firefighters angry with the mandate were pulled from duty and suspended after driving a fire truck to a state senator’s office and threatening his staff over the requirement, with which the lawmaker wasn’t involved.

North Carolina

Raleigh: Bus drivers for the state’s largest school system called in sick Friday to protest working conditions, prompting administrators to urge parents to arrange their own transportation and warn of similar problems this week. Officials with the Wake County Public School System said 400 of the 600 buses operated by the system were running, news outlets report. Bus drivers have said concerns about being overworked and underpaid haven’t been addressed. Many parents said their children walked to school, or they were driven to school when their buses didn’t show up. The Wake County system has 160,000 students, and up to half of them ride the bus in a normal year. Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore and school board chairman Keith Sutton wrote in a message to staff members: “The pay and salary structure for the work we do is not adequate. Our bus drivers shone a harsh light on this reality.” Moore and Sutton also said many drivers have to run as many as six routes a day without receiving extra compensation. They said most school staffers are in the same situation. The system also told parents that bus service for Monday is uncertain and asked families to plan for that possibility.

North Dakota

Bismarck: Republican Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday called a fall special session to deal with a limited agenda that includes legislative redistricting and the approval of a spending plan for federal coronavirus relief aid. The Nov. 8 special session approved by the governor through an executive order has no time restriction and may last indefinitely, though legislative leaders said they hoped it would only last five days. Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner and GOP House Majority Leader Chet Pollert have been meeting with Burgum in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of a special session. They joined the governor at the Capitol in announcing the special session Friday. The North Dakota Constitution limits the Legislature to 80 days of meetings every two years, and last spring’s regular session used 76 days. That means if the GOP-led Legislature had called itself back into session, lawmakers would have had to shoehorn the redistricting job, pandemic spending and other proposed legislation into just four days. Each of those subjects would take a minimum of three legislative days to be approved by both chambers of the Legislature. The GOP leaders said all of the Legislature’s pending business could have been accomplished during a reconvened session, though they preferred the special session.

Ohio

Columbus: Two Republican appointees to the Ohio State Board of Education resigned Friday, about two weeks after they opposed its decision to rescind an anti-racism resolution passed last summer. Board President Laura Kohler, of New Albany, told reporters that GOP Gov. Mike DeWine requested her resignation and that Republicans in the state Senate who didn’t like the resolution would’ve had enough votes to remove her if she didn’t step down. The resolution, passed by the board last summer after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, condemned racism and included an acknowledgment that “the path to equity begins with a deep understanding of the history of inequalities and inhumanity.” It talked about training board members and Department of Education employees to identify their own biases and recommended that districts reexamine areas such as curriculum and discipline strategies. In their resignation letters to DeWine, Kohler and board member Eric Poklar, of Worthington, didn’t specifically mention the anti-racism resolution or related controversy. Kohler told the governor she felt resigning was how she could “best support you and your work at this time.” Poklar wrote that his “time on the board has ended” and that he was ready to pass responsibilities to the next person.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: While medical experts say it’s unclear why a condemned inmate began convulsing and vomiting after the first of three drugs used to execute him was administered Thursday, all agree the dosage was massive compared with what’s standard in surgeries, with one doctor calling it “insane.” The state’s prisons agency is now likely to face new litigation, which may focus on the state’s description of the execution of John Marion Grant for the 1998 slaying of a prison cafeteria worker as “in accordance with” protocols. Grant, 60, convulsed and vomited after the sedative midazolam was administered. That drug was followed by two more: vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Thursday’s lethal injection ended a six-year moratorium on executions in Oklahoma that was brought on by concerns over its execution methods, including prior use of midazolam. Oklahoma’s protocols call for administering 500 milligrams of the sedative. Arkansas and Ohio are among other states that use that dose of midazolam in executions. “It’s just an insane dose, and there’s probably no data on what that could cause,” said Jonathan Groner, an Ohio State University medical school surgery professor and lethal injection expert. He added that sedation does not increase as the dosage goes up. “There’s a reason these drugs are given by anesthesiologists and not prison guards,” he said.

Oregon

Portland: The city’s “badly damaged” reputation – marked by months of destructive protests, a homelessness crisis and record year of homicides – is hurting its standing, according to its main tourism promoter. Travel Portland, the tourism promotion group partly funded by taxes, presented data to the City Council and mayor last week showing the city has declined to its “lowest level” of being a likely destination for delegates to attend conferences. Just 64% of surveyed tourists said they would visit Portland again. “There’s an old old saying, ‘It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and you can ruin it in an instant.’ That’s true of cities, as it is people,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in response to the Travel Portland data. “And we’re just going to have to commit to that long-term process of improving the safety and the livability and the economic prosperity of the city.” The liberal city had long been known nationally for its ambrosial food scene, craft breweries and nature-loving hipsters. But last year, it became the epicenter of racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. For months, a small downtown area was consumed by protests that often turned violent, with clashes between demonstrators and federal agents, plumes of tear gas, fireworks exploding in the streets and rubber bullets flying through the air. While Portland’s violent protests have largely eased, there are still outbreaks.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia: Members of the city’s largest transit workers union reached a tentative contract agreement early Friday, averting a possible strike that threatened to bring elevated trains, buses and trolleys to a halt and leave thousands of children and educators without a way to get to school this week. The existing contract between the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the 5,000-member Transport Workers Union Local 234 was set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The tentative agreement announced by the union includes a two-year contract with a pay increase, a pandemic payment and parental leave for workers. “Our members are essential workers who move Philadelphia and who have risked their lives putting their own families at risk during this pandemic,” Willie Brown, Local 234 president, said in a statement praising Friday’s agreement. Members are scheduled to vote to ratify the contract next Friday. The union had voted Oct. 24 to authorize a worker walkout if an agreement couldn’t be reached. The union represents bus, trolley and elevated train operators, as well as mechanics and other staff. Union leadership had asked for a four-year contract with annual wage increases and a pandemic payment to compensate SEPTA workers who had served on the front lines of the pandemic, keeping public transportation moving for other essential workers. Nearly 800 members contracted COVID-19, and 11 TWU members died from COVID-19 or related complications, union leaders said.

Rhode Island

Providence: Students from the state are asking a federal appeals court to affirm that all public school students have a constitutional right to a civics education, saying that they aren’t taught how to meaningfully participate in a democratic and civil society and that the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a symptom of such ignorance. Students nationwide need to know how to participate in the political process, effectively exercise their constitutional rights, and learn skills like media literacy to distinguish accurate from false information, their lawyers argue. The plaintiffs have asked the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Boston, to reverse a lower court’s dismissal of the case, declare there’s a constitutional right to an adequate civics education, and send the case back to district court. Such a judicial declaration is urgently needed, their brief to the court argues, in light of the events of Jan. 6 that were carried out by “a mob motivated by a fundamental misunderstanding of the congressional role in counting electoral votes.” Oral arguments will be heard Monday. The defendants include Rhode Island’s governor, education commissioner, and other education authorities.

South Carolina

Jenkinsville: An area near the town has been hit with multiple minor earthquakes over the past week, including the latest one Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey initially registered the early Sunday morning earthquake in Fairfield County at 2.2 magnitude but later edged up the intensity to 2.3, multiple news outlets report. It’s the sixth small earthquake in the area over a week, with three quakes recorded Thursday alone. The State newspaper reports the South Carolina Emergency Management Division is studying the seismic activity. Earthquakes that register less than 2.5 usually are too small to be felt.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Workers at a pork processing plant that was overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic say the company is no longer working in good faith. A spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers local union said the workers are “fed up” with injustices at their facilities after being on the front lines of the pandemic at the Smithfield plant for nearly two years. Local union president B.J. Motley said in a Friday release that the company is speeding up lines of production, verbally abusing employees, and neglecting social distancing and sanitary measures. “In consequence, we are seeing a record number of quits, injuries, grievances and overall unhappiness,” Motley said. “Our workers are tired, and their families are being affected by the heartlessness of the situation.” Jim Monroe, vice president of corporate affair for Smithfield, said in a statement that it’s the first time they have heard those concerns and that they disagree with the “portrayal of conditions” at the facility. The complaints come four months after the union agreed to a contract with Smithfield, which increased base pay, provided a bonus, and offered options of one to three weeks of leaves of absence and 15-minute breaks for employees working eight-hour shifts.

Tennessee

Nashville: The GOP-controlled General Assembly has signed off on a number of measures undercutting COVID-19 protections, while also begrudgingly backing off on threats to revoke businesses’ ability to enforce mask mandates. Lawmakers approved the slate of bills early Saturday while most Tennesseans were asleep, marking the second time the Legislature has recently advanced significant legislation in the middle of the night. Democratic lawmakers quickly criticized that their Republican lawmakers were willing to concede to concerns raised by influential businesses lobbyists but not those pointed out by school and health officials alarmed at other measures that advanced during the three-day special legislative session. On Friday, Gov. Bill Lee’s office confirmed Ford Motor Co. and other manufacturers had expressed concerns with several of the proposals being discussed during the special session. Lee had declined lawmakers’ requests to call a special session to address the coronavirus, forcing them to collect enough signatures to call the session without the governor. By Saturday, Lee thanked Republicans for taking up certain issues but held off from promising he would sign all of the bills into law.

Texas

San Marcos: Local police officials refused to provide an escort for a Joe Biden campaign bus when it was surrounded by supporters of then-President Donald Trump on an interstate, an amended lawsuit filed over the 2020 encounter alleges. The updated lawsuit, filed Friday, included transcribed 911 audio recordings, The Texas Tribune reports. The suit alleges that law enforcement officers in San Marcos “privately laughed” and “joked about the victims and their distress” in the audio recordings. The city of San Marcos didn’t return a request for comment from the newspaper. A spokesperson previously said the city and the San Marcos Police Department would not comment because of the pending litigation. Videos shared on social media from Oct. 30, 2020, show a group of cars and pickup trucks – many adorned with large Trump flags – riding alongside the campaign bus as it traveled from San Antonio to Austin. The “Trump Train” at times boxed in the bus. At one point, one of the pickups collided with an SUV behind the bus. According to the transcriptions, a 911 dispatcher told one bus passenger to call back if the caller felt threatened. “Are you kidding me, ma’am?” the caller replied. “They’ve cut in on me multiple times. They’ve threatened my life on multiple occasions with vehicular collision.”

Utah

Travelers on the way to Zion National Park pass through the town of Rockville Thursday, May 6, 2021. © Chris Caldwell / The Spectrum & Daily News Travelers on the way to Zion National Park pass through the town of Rockville Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Kanab: Zion National Park officials and national conservation leaders met at the Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit on Thursday to hold the first public engagement meeting for a new recreation management plan. The five-person panel discussed the East Zion Initiative, a multimillion-dollar project to develop the east side of the park in order to disperse visitors and protect the “last unprotected gateway to a national park in the continental United States.” “The regional recreational management planning process is not just a thing: It is a spirit, it is a community effort, and it needs to remain such if it’s to be successful,” said Kevin McLaws, the owner of Zion Mountain Ranch and of the land granted for the East Zion Initiative. During the summit, titled “Crafting a Community-Led Vision for Regional Recreation Management in Greater Zion,” leaders and attendees discussed “solutions to trip planning, visitor experience, dispersal, mobility, and economic opportunity” that the region faces, the summit’s website said. As Zion is the third-most-visited national park in the county, seeing over 4 million visitors per year, the park and nearby gateway communities have seen record-high visitation since last fall, putting strain on amenities, the environment, businesses, park staff and locals and causing crowding.

Vermont

Fairfax: Some school districts are using electric school buses this fall as part of a pilot project to test their effectiveness. Gov. Phil Scott and education leaders celebrated the introduction of four electric buses in Fairfax on Thursday, with more expected to arrive this month. The buses also being used by the Champlain Valley School District and the Barre Unified Union District will start using them this month. “We are beyond excited to add electric buses to our fleet,” said Justin Brown, middle school principal at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax. “We all hope this paves the way for more ‘green’ transportation in our – and our kids’ – future.” The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately save school districts money, officials said. An emissions settlement with Volkswagen is funding most of the project. The school districts each get two buses. Bus driver Patsy Parker said the electric buses are quieter than diesel models, which she believes makes her young passengers quieter, too. The buses’ battery range has forced schools to reconsider some routes, particularly during cold weather, school officials said. “Where we would normally be able to go 120 miles a day, we’re limiting more to 60 or 70 miles a day because of the cold weather. But that’s what this pilot program is about,” Parker said.

Virginia

Charlottesville: The anti-Donald Trump group The Lincoln Project took credit Friday for five people appearing with tiki torches at a campaign stop by the GOP candidate for governor – a stunt recalling white supremacists who descended on the city amid violence in 2017. Charlottesville TV station WVIR reports candidate Glenn Youngkin was inside a restaurant when the group dressed in matching hats, khakis and white button-down shirts appeared beside his campaign bus. The former private equity executive and political newcomer is in a close race against former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe as Tuesday’s Election Day nears. Photos showed the group holding large tiki torches. Their appearance recalled two days of chaos in 2017, when white supremacists gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally ostensibly to protest the planned removal of a Confederate monument. The night before the planned rally, a group carrying tiki torches marched across the University of Virginia campus, clashing with a small group of anti-racist protesters. The next day, a car driven by a self-avowed white supremacist plowed into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters, killing one and injuring dozens. McAuliffe staffers promoted a reporter’s tweet about the group’s appearance, using it to attack Youngkin and suggesting that those holding the torches were his supporters. Youngkin staffers then accused the McAuliffe campaign or Virginia Democrats of being involved, drawing disavowals from McAuliffe’s campaign.

Washington

Olympia: After more than 18 months of pandemic-driven eviction limits, Gov. Jay Inslee said he would allow the latest version of the state’s eviction moratorium to expire Sunday. The move opens the door for an influx of new eviction cases and tests key tenant protections for the first time since the pandemic upended the legal process last year. “We have to have some end to the moratorium. You can’t have an economy ultimately where just nobody pays rent,” Inslee said at a press conference last week, the Seattle Times reports. Soon after the coronavirus hit, Inslee used his emergency powers to halt most evictions. This fall, Inslee loosened the rules. He replaced the moratorium with a “bridge” proclamation that still stopped some evictions for nonpayment of rent in certain parts of the state but allowed evictions for other reasons. The expiration of that policy Sunday means landlords can seek more evictions of tenants who fell behind on rent during the pandemic, provided owners go through newly required steps such as offering the tenant a payment plan. Most evictions will still be halted in Seattle, Burien and Kenmore, where local lawmakers have passed their own eviction moratoriums to last through early 2022.

West Virginia

Kenova: When COVID-19 vaccines first became available, Ric Griffith’s family-owned drugstore was among 250 mom-and-pop pharmacies that helped the state get off to the nation’s fastest start in vaccinating its residents. Republican Gov. Jim Justice went on national news shows to declare West Virginia – a place that regularly ranks near the bottom in many health indicators – “the diamond in the rough.” Nine months later, those days are a distant memory. Demand for the vaccine has almost dried up, the question of whether to get a shot has become a political hot button, and West Virginia’s vaccination rate has plummeted to the lowest among the states. The governor, who spent months preaching the virtues of the vaccine to reluctant West Virginians, is still doing that but also promoting a new law that would allow some exemptions to employer-imposed vaccination requirements. And shots are mostly sitting on shelves. “I’m afraid that while taking a victory lap, we discovered that there were more laps to go in the race,” Griffith, who is also a Democratic member of the state House of Delegates, said Monday of West Virginia’s descent from first to worst. Griffith said he was proud of Justice’s nonstop effort to push vaccines “and the obvious love he has for the people of West Virginia.” But Justice also ended a statewide indoor mask mandate in June and has opposed vaccination and mask requirements since.

Wisconsin

Milwaukee: A federal judge has declined to issue a ruling on a preliminary injunction requested by Ojibwe tribes to stop the state’s 2021 wolf hunt. But Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson said Friday that he had “deep misgivings” about state rules that proved inadequate in February to keep the wolf kill to the intended target. The case is part of a lawsuit filed Sept. 21 by six Wisconsin Ojibwe tribes against the Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board. The tribes argue that the hunt violates their treaty rights and endangers an animal they consider sacred. The Wisconsin wolf hunting and trapping season in February resulted in a kill of 218 wolves, 99 wolves above the state-licensed quota. The shares had been split 119 for the state and 81 for the tribes. The take by state-licensed hunters and trappers effectively consumed the tribes’ quota. The tribes are represented by the California-based environmental group Earthjustice. The case took an unusual turn due to a preliminary injunction on the wolf season handed out Oct. 22 in a similar case by a Dane County judge. With the season already effectively blocked, Peterson said he wasn’t able to issue relief. But he heard arguments and testimony over seven hours Friday.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: State senators on Friday voted down the last special legislative session bill they had written to counter President Joe Biden’s plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations – one that would have prohibited discrimination against business customers and others based on their vaccination status. The special session that began Tuesday in response to the federal plans will continue Monday, however, when senators plan to take up a House bill to bar employers from considering vaccination status in hiring decisions. The measure cleared the House 38-20 on Friday. The Senate will also consider a bill that would give Gov. Mark Gordon’s office $1 million to fight the Biden administration vaccine requirements for certain federal, health care and other private-sector employees and to prohibit enforcement of the requirements in Wyoming. That bill passed the House 41-14 on Friday. With no more legislation related to COVID-19 immediately left to consider, the House adjourned until Wednesday. Lawmakers worried that prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s vaccination status would have unforeseen and unintended consequences for businesses. The bill would open the way for “still more ways to sue” businesses, said Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, calling it “a lawyer’s field day.”

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mister Rogers, civics education, fishy promotion: News from around our 50 states

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