Ducklings rescued, Zion National Park flooding, Portuguese man-of-war alert: News from around our 50 states


Alabama

Montgomery: Summer school teachers in Montgomery Public Schools are getting a bump in pay. The district has increased teacher wages from $25 to $50 an hour to get more teachers in the classrooms to handle an increase of students this summer, WSFA-TV reported. Superintendent Ann Roy Moore and the school board also are looking ahead to the upcoming school year. They’re planning to go back to face-to-face learning full-time. “We found that children don’t do as well virtually in most cases as they do face-to-face with a nurturing teacher in that environment,” Moore said. She said that virtual learning will be used on an as-needed basis.

Alaska

Anchorage: A nonprofit advocacy group for African Americans will use a roughly $1.2 million federal grant to conduct the first statewide report on the health status of Black Alaskans. The Alaska Black Caucus was one of five organizations to receive federal relief money from the Anchorage Assembly that is earmarked for COVID-19 testing and vaccine outreach. Celeste Hodge Growden, president of the Alaska Black Caucus, told Alaska Public Media that with the report, “we’ll be able to make recommendations to local and state entities regarding best practices and health-related data collection and reporting by race. That’s huge for us.” Existing data showed Black Alaskans are less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19. “We strongly recommend that you receive this vaccine since people in our community have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We see this as a way to protect our people, our businesses, and our legacy,” the Alaska Black Caucus said on its website. Roundtable discussions with local and national health leaders will be planned, as well as a COVID-19 summit for Black Alaskans and a health fair on the virus for people of color.

Arizona

Phoenix: State Senate Republicans voted to further shield some of the state’s wealthiest taxpayers from a tax increase approved by voters last year to boost education funding. If Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signs off as expected, income from estates, trusts and business profits won’t be subject to a voter-approved 3.5% surcharge, reducing school funding by several hundred million dollars per year. The move comes on the heels of last week’s massive tax cut that directed most of the benefits to the wealthiest taxpayers. That plan lowered tax rates to 2.5% for most people and 4.5% for income affected by Proposition 208. Between the two tax cuts, affected taxpayers will see their highest rate drop from 8% to 2.5%. Republicans said the measure is needed to ensure Arizona remains an attractive place for business owners to live.

Arkansas

Little Rock: Arkansas might be headed into a third surge of the coronavirus, a top hospital official warned Tuesday as the state’s virus cases continued to rise. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson and Gov. Asa Hutchinson said they were concerned about the rising number of cases as the state approaches the July Fourth holiday. “We have to be concerned that this will be a trend that could continue, and if it does, it would appear we may be at the beginning of the third surge of COVID-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” Patterson said at the governor’s weekly news conference. Arkansas reported 479 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 348,699. The state’s active cases, meaning those that don’t include people who have recovered or died from the virus, increased by 196 to 3,365. Hutchinson said 90.5% of the state’s active cases are not fully immunized, and 99.6% of the state’s deaths since late January were not immunized. More than 98% of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations since late January were people who had not been immunized.

California

Oakland: A television news crew was held at gunpoint Monday in Oakland as they were interviewing the city’s director of violence prevention, authorities said. The crime outside City Hall was just hours after the police chief slammed a move to cut the department’s budget by $18 million and redirect the funds to support alternatives to law enforcement. The news crew was filming about 3 p.m. when two armed suspects tried to take their camera, the Oakland Police Department said in a statement. A scuffle broke out and a private security guard, contracted by the news agency, pulled out his gun and told the robbers to leave. The suspects fled without the camera and no one was injured, police said. The crew was interviewing Guillermo Cespedes, head of the city’s Department of Violence Prevention at the time, the police department confirmed. Less than three hours beforehand, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong denounced the City Council’s cuts to his department. Much of the funds will be diverted to the Department of Violence Prevention, which was created in 2017 with the goal of decreasing homicides by 80% over three years, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The city has recorded 65 homicides in 2021, the newspaper reported, which is almost twice the number counted at this time last year

Colorado

Glenwood Springs: A portion of Interstate 70 in western Colorado closed by a series of mudslides near where a wildfire burned last year reopened Monday. Eastbound lanes of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon opened at 3 p.m. and westbound lanes opened about 3 hours later. The largest of the mudslides that happened on Sunday along Colorado’s main east-west highway flowed down the same drainage as the one that happened Saturday along the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. The fire, which started in August, burned about 51 square miles. Sunday’s main mudslide reached 80 feet wide and 5 feet deep in areas. On Saturday, the mud spread 70 feet wide and was 5 feet deep in places. Saturday’s highway closure lasted several hours. Travelers might have to expect on-and-off closures of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon when rainfall is expected in the area this summer, said Kane Schneider, a CDOT transportation maintenance employee.

Connecticut

Hartford: Gov. Ned Lamont said he’s not ready to lift the state’s mandate requiring face masks in schools for the upcoming school year, saying he wants to hear more from federal health officials given the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Democrat said his administration is still “having conversations” with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is awaiting new guidance that’s expected in a couple weeks. “Up until a couple of weeks ago, you thought, ‘OK, we should be out of the woods by September,’ ” Lamont told reporters. “But now you see the delta variant and you see what’s going on in Australia, you see what’s going on in Israel, you see what’s going on in Britain, not to mention Arkansas and L.A. So we’re going to have to make up our minds on that a little bit later.” As of last Thursday, there were 43 identified cases in Connecticut of the delta variant, which was first found in India. The issue of children being required to wear face masks has been a contentious one among some Connecticut parents who’ve raised constitutional and health concerns about the mandate. A judge in May, however, upheld Lamont’s emergency order requiring masks for the most recent school year. The ruling did not address any guidance on masks that might be issued for the upcoming school year. Meanwhile, a group called Unmask Our Kids CT has been holding rallies, demanding the requirement finally be lifted.

Delaware

Dover: Lawmakers approved a $1.3 billion capital budget for construction, transportation and economic development projects, almost double the current year’s budget. The spending plan is $460 million more than the record $894.4 million capital budget that Democratic Gov. John Carney proposed in January. It also dwarfs this year’s $708 million capital budget. The capital budget, commonly referred to as the “bond bill” because it authorizes borrowing for construction projects, received unanimous approval in the Senate and a single dissenting vote in the House. With state revenue estimates having skyrocketed since last year’s overly pessimistic forecasts, lawmakers appropriated $692.3 million in general fund cash to the capital budget, more than double the $260.5 million in cash proposed by Carney.

District of Columbia

Washington:The D.C. Council voted 8-5 on the final version of a bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products within city limits, with one councilmember voting against the legislation despite previously supporting it during the bill’s first reading, WUSA-TV reported. Bill 24-0020 – widely expected to be signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser – was drafted with the specific goal to reduce the use of tobacco among Black and Brown residents, according to councilmembers who voiced their support of the bill during its first reading. But critics of the proposed ban have raised concerns since the last hearing that the prohibition could inadvertently lead to more economic turmoil for immigrant-owned businesses and more policing of Black and Brown communities, a sentiment fueled in part by the deaths of Black men like Eric Garner, who was killed in a chokehold in 2016 after New York police suspected him of selling untaxed cigarettes. At-large Councilmember Anita Bonds originally voted in favor of the bill during its first reading, but she reversed her decision on Tuesday saying that she now had “equity concerns” brought to her attention by colleagues.

Florida

4-month-old Zane Kahin of Winter Park, Fla., has been chosen as the new “spokesbaby” for the Gerber baby food company.

Winter Park: A 4-month-old baby boy from Florida is the new “spokesbaby” for the Gerber baby food company. Zane Kahin of Winter Park was chosen for the role, and given the title of chief growing officer, after winning a baby photo contest sponsored by Gerber Products Company. For winning, Zane’s family is getting $25,000, free Gerber products for up to a year and a $1,000 wardrobe provided by the company’s baby-clothes line. Zane also will be the company’s chief taste tester when it comes to new baby food products, the company said in a news release. The 11-year-old contest was started because the company receives countless photos from parents who said their babies resemble the original Gerber baby, Ann Turner Cook, whose drawing has been used on virtually all Gerber baby food for the past 90 years. Zane “captivated the judging panel with his cheerful attitude, infectious giggles and playful smile that can light up any room,” the company said.

Georgia

Atlanta: Emory University will remove the name of an antebellum slavery supporter from a dormitory and add the name of a Black judge to a classroom building as it confronts what its president calls “a legacy of racism.” The private university also plans memorials on its Atlanta and Oxford, Georgia, campuses to the enslaved people who built its campus in Oxford, Emory President Gregory L. Fenves said. Fenves said he’s still considering some other proposed name changes, including removing the name of Robert Yerkes from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Yerkes was a psychologist and primate researcher who is criticized today for claims that Black people and recent immigrants were of lower intelligence than native-born white people. These and other developments reflect the work of a task force of faculty, staff and community members that made suggestions in April on how to recognize the contributions of disenfranchised populations, Fenves wrote in a message to the university community.The Longstreet-Means dormitory will be renamed Eagle Hall, Fenves said. Augustus Baldwin Longstreet wrote pro-slavery pamphlets during his tenure as Emory College president from 1839 to 1848, according to the committee’s report. His name will also be stripped from an English professorship. Horace J. Johnson Jr.’s name will be added to Language Hall at Oxford College, a two-year Emory school that focuses on liberal arts education. In 2002, Johnson became the first Black Superior Court Judge in Georgia’s Alcovy Judicial Circuit.

Hawaii

People swim in Oahu’s Hanauma Bay near Honolulu. The entrance fee for the popular Hawaii snorkeling spot will more than double for tourists starting this week.

Honolulu: The entrance fee for a popular Hawaii snorkeling spot will more than double for tourists starting this week. Beginning Thursday, out-of-state visitors to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in east Oahu will have to pay $25, up from $12. Entry will remain free for residents with valid identification, children 12 or younger regardless of residency and active-duty military members. Parking rates will remain $1 per vehicle for locals and $3 per vehicle for nonlocals. Demand for entry has been high since Hanauma Bay reopened to the public in December after a nine-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic, Honolulu parks officials said. When the park reopened, its water was 64% clearer than before the pandemic, Lisa Bishop, president of conservation group Friends of Hanauma Bay, said at the time. The city has tried to improve management of the bay since it reopened, including limiting entry and launching a ticketing and online reservation system. The pandemic prompted a limit of 720 people per day, which has increased to about 1,600 with the loosening of virus-related restrictions, officials said. Attendance hovered about roughly 3,000 visitors daily in 2019. All proceeds from entrance fees go to maintenance, education and research, city officials said.

Idaho

Boise: The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that pits the rights of voters to enact and repeal laws against the power of the state Legislature to shape how ballot initiative efforts are carried out. A new law making it harder to get initiatives on the ballot is the country’s strictest, attorney Deborah Ferguson told the court, making grassroots initiatives a practical impossibility in the state. Ferguson, who is representing Reclaim Idaho, a citizens group that successfully passed an initiative to expand Medicaid coverage in 2018, said the requirements make “direct democracy a dead letter in Idaho.” But Deputy Attorney General Megan Larrondo, representing the state, said there is no proof that the new rules make ballot initiatives impossible. Instead, she said, the legislation served the legitimate purpose of ensuring that a proposal has broad support, including from people in every region of the state, before it goes on the ballot. Reclaim Idaho and a group called the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, represented by retired deputy Idaho attorney general Michael Gilmore, filed lawsuits over the new law.

Illinois

Chicago: United Airlines is making one of the largest orders ever for commercial airplanes in an aggressive bet that air travel will rebound strongly from the pandemic. United said Tuesday that it will buy 200 Boeing Max jets and 70 planes from Europe’s Airbus so that it can replace many of its smallest planes and some of its oldest and have room to grow its fleet. It’s the largest order in United’s history and the largest by any U.S. carrier since American Airlines ordered 460 Boeing and Airbus jets in 2011. At list prices, the deals would be worth more than $30 billion, although airlines routinely get deep discounts. Figures from Ascend by Cirium, which tracks aircraft values, would put the deal around $15 billion. United declined to disclose financial terms.

Indiana

Indianapolis:Officials are lifting all the city’s local COVID-19 restrictions as of Thursday, a move that will allow full capacity at restaurants, bars, sports venues and other businesses. The action announced Tuesday came after Indianapolis had kept a mask mandate for unvaccinated people and capacity limits for many businesses even after the statewide mask order ended in early April. Federal regulations continue requiring face masks for everyone in airports and hospitals and using public transportation and private businesses can still require mask use, said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department. Caine cited the recent low levels of new coronavirus-related infections, hospitalizations and deaths as allowing the easing of restrictions. Caine said more progress was needed to raise the county’s 40% COVID-19 vaccination rate, with less than half of residents younger than 40 vaccinated so far. The statewide rate is also about 40%, although some suburban Indianapolis counties are over 50%. The Marion County changes include allowing full capacity at sports events, including the upcoming Indianapolis Colts season at Lucas Oil Stadium, Caine said.

Iowa

Des Moines: The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the state can refuse to allow Planned Parenthood to conduct sex education programs funded by federal grants, reversing a judge’s ruling last year that found the law unconstitutional. The Iowa Supreme Court found the 2019 law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature is constitutional, rejecting Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s complaint that the law violated its right to equal protection and that the law served no rational legitimate government interest. State court Judge Paul Scott ruled in May 2020 that Planned Parenthood would likely prevail at trial on its equal protection claim and he blocked the law’s implementation. The state appealed. The six justices appointed by Republican governors agreed that the Iowa Legislature could have reasonable concerns that allowing an abortion provider to teach sex education could undermine its goals of promoting abstinence and reducing teenage pregnancy.

Kansas

Topeka: Gov. Laura Kelly and Laura Howard, her top welfare official, moved to keep thousands of families from losing extra food aid because Kansas is no longer under a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement that Kelly plans to continue the extra $14.5 million a month in aid came two weeks after top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature ended the state of emergency. The Democratic governor’s chief of staff had told reporters that the extra aid tied to the pandemic would be cut off once the state of emergency expired June 15. But Republican leaders had argued that the state could continue to manage its response to the pandemic without an emergency declaration. The extra aid goes to about 63,000 households and provides an average of $230 a month.

Kentucky

Frankfort: The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is starting a program that will offer boaters free access to life jackets they can borrow. The department is working with local groups and other public agencies to build stations for the life jackets, with the first five to be installed in Anderson, Madison, Monroe and Warren counties. Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rich Storm said life jackets can save a life when something unexpected happens on the water. Prospective partners who want to help with the project can contact the department to offer the stations in additional counties, he said. The first stations will be at Beaver Lake in Anderson County, Lake Reba in Madison County and Mill Creek Lake in Monroe County. Warren County Parks and Recreation plans to install stations at Phil Moore Park and Romanza Johnson Park near Alvaton. The parks provide public access to Drakes Creek.

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: Dozens of ducks – estimated to be as many as 60 – have taken over a neighborhood in Baton Rouge, WBRZ-TV reported. Residents said they are multiplying and becoming a nuisance. The ducks have for some reason become attached to homeowner Jennifer Richardson and her neighbor Debby Osterberger, the station reported. The women said the ducks wait at their front doors until they come outside, then follow them during their walks around the neighborhood. Video from the Baton Rouge TV station showed the birds following the women around as if they think they are their parents. Animal control officers are working on a plan to relocate the ducks to another area.

Maine

Portland: A coronavirus pandemic emergency order was set to end Wednesday for one of the most vaccinated states in the country. Maine has been under a “state of civil emergency” since the early days of the pandemic. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has used the order to use state resources to try to slow the spread of the virus. Mills has called the end of the emergency order a key step for Maine, which has largely reopened its economy and rescinded most mask orders. Nearly 70% of residents who are 20 years of age or older are fully vaccinated against the virus. Republicans and Democrats in the state have disagreed over whether Mills allowed the order to go on for too long, and whether it gave her too much authority. Most Democrats have defended it as an important part of the state’s response.

Maryland

Ocean City:Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties will receive millions of dollars in state funding to improve public boating access, facilities and navigation. Gov. Larry Hogan announced the funding as part of $13.5 million in Waterway Improvement Fund grants for fiscal year 2022 for jurisdictions throughout the state. The announcement – coming during the fourth day of the governor’s tour of the Eastern Shore – was made at the Ocean City Fire Department, which received $50,000 for a fire and rescue vessel engine replacement. “Boating is not just an important part of our history and our culture, it is also an important part of Maryland’s economy,” said Hogan. “The announcement of these new grants is yet another shining example that Maryland is open for business, open for summer, and open for boating.” The funding will go toward 60 projects in 19 counties, including grants for statewide projects and emergency water rescue needs.

Massachusetts

Westport: State officials are warning beachgoers that the venomous Portuguese man-of-war has been spotted in the waters off Horseneck Beach in Westport. The Department of Conservation and Recreation on Tuesday warned the public of the sea creature’s presence and said it has posted purple flags at the beach to indicate the presence of dangerous marine animals. The Portuguese man-of-war is recognized by its balloon-like float, which might be blue, violet, or pink, and rises up to 6 inches above the water line, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is said to resemble an 18th-century Portuguese warship under full sail, the Herald-News reported Wednesday. Its tentacles below the water, which can grow as long as 100 feet, deliver venom capable of paralyzing and killing small fish. Although rarely deadly to humans, it can cause painful welts on exposed skin. Often called a jellyfish, it is actually a species of siphonophore, which are closely related to jellyfish, the NOAA said.

Michigan

Detroit: Most water from a weekend storm finally disappeared Tuesday on Interstate 94 in Detroit, a crucial step to reopening a 4-mile stretch of the major urban highway. Street sweepers and trucks with plow-style blades were moved in to get the pavement ready for east-west traffic again in the city. The highway closure was the result of a fast, intense storm that dumped more than 6 inches of rain Friday and Saturday. A section of westbound I-94 in Detroit and Dearborn was scheduled to reopen Tuesday afternoon, but extensive repairs are needed in spots on eastbound lanes and that work could take more than a week, Michigan’s Department of Transportation said. One westbound lane near West Grand Boulevard in Detroit also will remain closed for repairs, as will a ramp from eastbound Interstate 96 to westbound I-94. Crews had “clean up to do, then inspection to see what areas were damaged by four days of water,” said Diane Cross, spokeswoman at the Transportation department.

Minnesota

Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Board of Regents agreed to raise tuition for the first time in two years, over objections from some students who believe it’s wrong to charge more after the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joan Gabel’s $4 billion budget for the next fiscal year includes about $50 million in spending reductions and internal reallocations. The university will use that money, along with state funding and tuition hike revenue, to help pay for investments in long-term initiatives, a 1.5% salary increase for employees and any lingering pandemic expenses. “This proposed budget reflects difficult choices and the strength, resiliency and shared sacrifice of every member of our university family,” Gabel said. In public comments submitted to the board, students overwhelmingly opposed the tuition increase, the Star Tribune reported. Resident undergraduate tuition increases at the Duluth, Rochester, Morris and Crookston campuses will range from $157 to $187. Nonresident undergraduates at the Twin Cities campus will pay about $480 more, increasing their yearly tuition to $32,000.

Mississippi

Jackson: A new law goes into effect this week that allows people who move to Mississippi from out-of-state to maintain their professional licenses. House Bill 1263 becomes law Thursday. Republican Rep. Becky Currie, an author of the bill, said agencies have through the end of the summer to update their licensing policies. The bill was signed by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in March. Professions impacted by the new law include everything from nursing to architecture. The legislation requires licensing boards to issue occupational licenses for professions without new testing or classroom training if a person held a license in good standing from another state for at least one year. Licensing boards will also be required to issue licenses if a person has worked at least three years in a state that did not require a license for their occupation. Arizona became the first state in the nation to provide universal recognition of occupational licenses two years ago. Last year, Mississippi passed a similar law exclusively for military families.

Missouri

Jefferson City: Gov. Mike Parson said Missouri wants to increase its lagging vaccination rate for COVID-19 as it deals with a big spike in cases and hospitalizations. The state health department on Wednesday reported 854 newly confirmed cases – one of the largest one-day totals since February – and nine new deaths. The increase is driven largely by a jump in cases in southwestern and northern Missouri, areas hit hard by the fast-spreading delta variant. Hospitalizations have risen sharply over the past month, mostly in southwestern Missouri. State data showed 334 people are hospitalized, including 124 in intensive care. The number of hospitalizations in mid-May was 86. “The bottom line that people need to know: this virus is still here, and it’s going to be here,” Parson told reporters gathered at his Capitol office. “It’s just not going to go away.” Parson said 18-to-29 year-olds, who are less likely to get seriously ill from the virus, can spread it to others who are at higher risk. He said he especially wants to increase the vaccination rate for 40-to-50-year-olds and added that the state is focused on a marketing campaign to increase vaccinations. Asked about offering an incentive for people to get the vaccine, Parson said all options are on the table but he’s wary about paying people for something he considers a “personal responsibility.”

Montana

Helena: The Montana Supreme Court said it will decide whether lawmakers had the power to subpoena the emails of the court’s administrator. The justices unanimously denied the Legislature’s request to dismiss a motion from court administrator Beth McLaughlin asking if lawmakers had the right to subpoena her emails. The Legislature argued last week that the issue was moot because they have withdrawn the subpoena. “The scope of the legislative subpoena power when directed toward another branch of government is clearly an issue of great public interest,” Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote in the 7-0 decision. It appears the issue is likely to reoccur and a ruling will guide public officials in their duties in the future, the justices said.

Nebraska

Lincoln: A feud between neighbors in a Lincoln apartment building led to one of them tossing a homemade explosive into the hallway between the neighbors’ doors, blasting a hole in the floor and shattering windows, police said. Officers were called to the apartment building Monday morning for reports of gunfire, police said. What they found instead were blown out windows, smoke and an 18-inch-deep hole blown into the hallway floor. Officer Erin Spilker told the Lincoln Journal Star that it wasn’t known who lit and threw the explosive, which was equivalent to a quarter-stick of dynamite. No one was injured in the blast, and police continue to investigate.

Nevada

Las Vegas: University Medical Center confirmed its data servers had been breached after a hacking group posted images of personal information online it apparently acquired in a cyber theft. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that University Medical Center issued a statement confirming that cybercriminals in mid-June accessed a hospital server used to store data and that law enforcement was investigating. The nonprofit public hospital said there is no evidence that any clinical systems were breached. UMC said it was notifying patients and employees that their personal information might be at risk and will offer identity protection and credit monitoring services. The newspaper reported the hacking group posted pictures of driver’s licenses, passports and Social Security cards of about a half-dozen alleged victims on its website Monday. Cybersecurity threat analyst Brett Callow said the hacker group claiming responsibility for the breach has been linked to high-profile ransomware cases. He said 32 health care providers have been hit by ransomware attacks this year.

New Hampshire

Concord: New Hampshire is a step closer to getting back to pre-pandemic life with the closing of its emergency and information centers, and its state-run vaccination sites on Wednesday. The State Emergency Operations Center, which was activated on March 13, 2020, procured and distributed 42 million items of personal protective equipment; supported testing and vaccination missions; coordinated quarantine and isolation for first responders and health care workers; and analyzed data, among other functions. The Joint Information Center, which opened on March 9, 2020, was a central point of contact for news media and coordinated incident information during large-scale emergencies. The COVID Call Center remains available daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. by calling 21 or (603) 271-5980 if people live near a bordering state. Also, all of the state-managed COVID-19 vaccination sites closed Wednesday. The vaccine is still being offered at doctor’s offices, clinics, and pharmacies.

New Jersey

Trenton: Calling New Jersey’s history of of suspending or revoking liquor licenses at bars that served LGBTQ patrons an “ugly moment” in the state’s past, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal formally apologized Tuesday. Grewal, the state’s top law enforcement officer, also issued a directive to the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to eliminate 126 actions it took against establishments from 1933 to 1967. It’s the first time the state has formally apologized for the “systematic targeting” of LGBTQ establishments and amounts to an attempt to “right a historical wrong” as Pride Month comes to a close this week, Grewal said in a statement. The discriminatory practice stemmed from post-Prohibition-era regulations that barred liquor license holders from allowing “female impersonators” on their premises, as well as another rule barring businesses to be run “in such a manner as to become a nuisance” – a term that included the “congregation of apparent homosexuals,” according to Grewal. That lasted until 1967, when the state Supreme Court held in One Eleven Wines & Liquors, Inc. v. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control that the state could not use its authority to target gay bars only because they serve LGBTQ patrons.

New Mexico

Santa Fe:It’s legal for people in New Mexico to possess recreational marijuana and grow those plants at home as of Tuesday, the same day regulators opened discussions on rules for the launch of pot sales next year. The milestone was celebrated by cannabis consumers and advocates for criminal justice reform who said poor and minority communities have been prosecuted disproportionately for using marijuana. Now, the scent of marijuana no longer is an adequate cause for searching vehicles and property in New Mexico. Recreational marijuana is now legal in 16 states the District of Columbia., with Connecticut and Virginia set to join the list Thursday. The new law allows people 21 and over to possess up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of marijuana. By April 2022, individuals will be allowed to grow up to six plants at home, or a total of 12 per household. Regulators held an all-day public hearing to vet proposed rules for cannabis businesses to determine future licensing fees, quality controls, audit requirements and the extent of criminal background checks for producers.

New York

Rochester:A family has filed a lawsuit against a sports memorabilia auction house, accusing the company of losing a rare and valuable Babe Ruth photo they had consigned for auction. The item in question was a team photo of the 1914 Baltimore Orioles that had belonged to longtime Rochesterian James “Wickey” McAvoy, who was a teammate of Ruth’s that season. The photo was one of many pieces of memorable that belonged to McAvoy’s daughter, Elaine Fischer, who died in February 2020. Her children contracted with Lelands Collectibles to sell several of the items at auction last fall. The team photo is historically significant because it’s one of few images of Ruth in an Orioles uniform. Another version of the same photo was sold by Lelands in 2019 for $190,373, at the time the highest price paid for a sports photo sold at auction. According to court papers, Lelands sent the Ruth photo to a third-party for appraisal before the auction. That company, Professional Sports Authenticator, concluded that the photograph was not an original team photo and downgraded the item for the upcoming auction. The family decided to keep the photograph as a family keepsake and asked to withdraw the item from the upcoming auction. The auction concluded in December, with the other items from McAvoy’s career all being sold. The family asked for the Ruth photo to be returned, but according to court documents, those requests were “either ignored … or treated cavalierly.” In April, the family “was advised that PSA could not locate the photograph and that Leland’s could not return it to the Fischer family. Instead, the e-mail said that PSA had offered a $4,000.00 credit.” The civil suit, brought by John and James Fischer on behalf of their mother’s estate, names Lelands and PSA co-defendants. It seeks monetary compensation or the return of the photograph in question.

North Carolina

Raleigh: The General Assembly’s annual farm bill received final legislative approval on Tuesday, a measure whose debate centered on a proposed simplified permitting process for hog farms that also want to collect methane gas from waste ponds for energy. The Senate voted 35-11 in favor of House changes to the measure. Those included removal of a Senate provision that would have altered how the state labor commissioner could act on complaints that workers file alleging discrimination or retaliatory actions by employers. The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who can sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. The measure directs the Department of Environmental Quality to develop a “general permit” for animal farm operations that allow the owner to construct and operate a farm digester system. Currently digester operators must seek individual permits, but interest is growing in the collection of natural gas from covered hog waste lagoons. Bill supporters contend the streamlined permit change makes sense because most biogas systems are similarly situated. Smithfield Foods and Dominion Energy are developing a project in which trapped gas from hog farms gets pumped to a refining facility proposed in Duplin County.

North Dakota

Fargo: North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani signed an agreement with the state Board of Higher Education to stay on the job for 18 more months, following a harsh performance review. The contract laid out by the board called for Bresciani to serve out his term through the end of 2022. After that, he would become a tenured professor in health sciences and education. Board chairman Nick Hacker called the move a “transition” and said Bresciani was not fired. Hacker would not be specific on what led to the one-time contract. The evaluation by North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott released Wednesday criticized Bresciani for losing ground in research, enrollment, recruiting of nontraditional students and promotion of agriculture education in western North Dakota. Hagerott also questioned Bresciani’s handling of cybersecurity threats and the appointments of a new provost and vice president of research.

Ohio

A member of the fire department in Streetsboro, Ohio, helps to rescue ducklings from a catch basin.

Streetsboro:Firefighters recently helped a mama duck after her six ducklings fell into a catch basin. On Tuesday, Fire Captain Kevin Grimm said, the Streetsboro Fire Department’s “A” Shift received an unusual call for help. A passerby noticed a mama duck who had lost her babies in a commercial area along Route 303. Grimm clarified it was near the construction site of Freddy’s Frozen Custard in the Streetsboro Crossing shopping plaza. Several ducklings had fallen through a storm grate. Crews were dispatched, removed the grate and carefully lifted all the ducklings to safety. The rescue did not take very long, Grimm said, and all apparatus remained in service for emergency calls. The mama duck then waddled off with her family back together.

Oklahoma

Future Farmers of America students from Haskell High School walk through downtown Oklahoma City in April during the annual FFA state convention. The FFA announced it would be moving the annual convention from Oklahoma City to Tulsa in 2022.

Tulsa:The annual Oklahoma Future Farmers of America convention is moving to Tulsa after 15 years in Oklahoma City because Oklahoma City officials could not provide a long-term guarantee to the FFA for the space needed in late April each year. The city must keep Chesapeake Energy Arena available for potential NBA playoff games. The Tulsa World reported that the convention will be held at the city’s Cox Business Convention Center and BOK Center from 2022-2026.“This space availability issue for their specific needs is an unfortunate growing pain as OKC venues evolve,” Lindsay Vidrine, vice president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, told The Oklahoman. The convention has brought thousands of blue-jacketed FFA members to Oklahoma City with an estimated economic impact of $3.4 million, Vidrine said. The convention had been held at the Cox Convention Center until 2020, when the building was leased and converted to a film and TV studio. It was held in April at the Oklahoma City Convention Center, a venue that would be needed if the Oklahoma City Thunder qualified for the NBA playoffs, according to Sue Hollenbeck, special projects manager for Oklahoma City. Before 2006, the convention was rotated among cities in the state.

Oregon

Redmond: A fire has ignited in Redmond, prompting evacuations and the closing of Redmond Airport and a highway. The fire was reported Tuesday afternoon near the Redmond Air Center and was estimated at 200 acres by 4 p.m., The Bulletin reported. However, later in the evening, that estimate decreased to between 50 and 100 acres, according to fire officials. Redmond Airport director Zach Bass said the airport closed to air travel Tuesday afternoon and one operations building on airport property was evacuated. Bass said flights were diverted, delayed or canceled. Firefighters had earlier contained a smaller brush fire nearby. State Highway 126 was also closed. Redmond Fire Chief Ken Kehmna said nearby homeless encampments were evacuated. The causes of both fires are under investigation. Another fire south of The Dalles near Dufur was prompting evacuations Tuesday afternoon and evening. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook that people were being urged to evacuate east of Highway 197.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia: The city’s prisons are operating at below needed staffing levels, creating a dangerous situation for staff and prisoners, according to a report released by the city controller. City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart called on the city “to hire over 300 correctional officers now” at a news conference releasing details of her findings. Rhynhart said the prisons department was already understaffed when nearly 1 in 6 officers left during the last fiscal year – putting the department about 382 officers short of the 1,884 needed to fully staff its facilities, according to the prison department’s official post plan. The findings are based on Rhynhart’s visits to several jails in the last week, as well as an analysis of personnel data and operations, reports from corrections officers and prisoners and an analysis of incidents of violence at the jails. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this year that there had been five cases of inmate-on-inmate homicides since August.

Rhode Island

A fire boat examines the Crook Point Bascule Bridge, a 113-year-old railroad drawbridge that was damaged by a blaze Tuesday night. The fate of the bridge, which has been stuck in the up position since 1976, is unknown.

Providence:The future of a historic Rhode Island drawbridge that has been stuck in the up position for decades is in doubt after an overnight fire, state transportation officials said Wednesday. Firefighters responded to the Crook Point Bascule Bridge in Providence about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Providence Fire Department, and remained on the scene well into Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported. The cause remains under investigation. The state Department of Transportation in an email said it would send engineers to check on the structural integrity of the 113-year-old railroad bridge over the Seekonk River, which was due to be transferred to the city. “If the structural assessment after this fire shows the bridge to be sound, the transfer can take place,” the statement said. “If it is found to be not sound, and if the city does not want to make the necessary repairs to make it safe, RIDOT would move up the demolition date.” The city planned to turn it into an illuminated art installation and make the surrounding area public. The bridge that has remained in the up position since 1976 would not be made functional again under the city’s plan.

South Carolina

Duke Energy filed an application earlier this month with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the licenses to run its reactors at the Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca, S.C., for 20 more years.

Seneca:The utility that runs three nuclear reactors in northwestern South Carolina is asking the federal government to allow them to keep making power for at least 30 more years. Duke Energy filed an application earlier this month with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the licenses to run its reactors at the Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca for 20 more years. The licenses would run until 2053 and 2054, the Greenville News reported. The extensions are part of Duke Energy’s plans to seek 20-year license extensions at its six reactors at three sites in South Carolina, utility spokesperson Rita Sipe told the newspaper. The utility also owns the Robinson Nuclear Plant in Hartsville and jointly owns the Catawba Nuclear Station near Rock Hill. The process to renew the licenses will take at least 18 months and involve public comment periods, officials said.

South Dakota

Pierre: A state of emergency order signed Tuesday by Gov. Kristi Noem will allow producers to begin mowing ditches for hay. A Department of Transportation rule prohibits mowing ditches in eastern South Dakota until midsummer primarily to provide cover for pheasant chicks. Noem said the mild winter and early spring has put most of the pheasant hatch “well behind us.” Reports for the upcoming pheasant hunting season “look fantastic,” Noem said. “Growing up on the family ranch, I know how difficult it can be to feed cattle during dry times,” Noem said “This increased flexibility will allow producers to immediately gain access to hay for their livestock.”

Tennessee

Nashville: The extra federal unemployment aid offered amid the COVID-19 pandemic will end in Tennessee on Saturday, including the end of $300 weekly additional payments. Tennessee is among dozens of states that have stopped accepting the $300 benefit. Republican leaders said it’s necessary because job openings are going unfilled, and are pointing people to job-finding resources offered throughout the state. Democrats have chided the move and warn it will slow the state’s economic recovery that was caused by the virus outbreak. Several other federal pandemic-times offerings will end in Tennessee as well, including eligibility for the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers; an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted; and an additional $100 for certain people with mixed earnings. Tennessee reinstated job search requirements for unemployment in October, mandating three weekly job searches to stay eligible. Meanwhile, the state has continued to accept billions of dollars in other federal assistance through COVID-19 relief packages approved in Washington.

Texas

Houston: A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict a former Houston-area health department doctor who was accused of stealing nine doses of coronavirus vaccine from a damaged vial and administering them to family and friends. Prosecutors had alleged that Hasan Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, stole a vial of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine while working at a vaccination site at a suburban Houston park on Dec. 29. But grand jurors in Harris County, where Houston is located, decided no criminal charges were warranted. The grand jury’s decision came after a judge in January dismissed a theft charge prosecutors had filed against Gokal. Paul Doyle, Gokal’s attorney, said in statement that the grand jury’s decision ends a “prolonged, unwarranted attempt by District Attorney Kim Ogg and her office to disparage Dr. Gokal’s good name.” “No doctor should ever feel forced to choose between saving lives and keeping their job,” Doyle said. Doyle said hundreds of medical professionals and others had written letters, sent emails and made phone calls in support of Gokal’s actions. In January, prosecutors filed a misdemeanor theft charge against Gokal, who was fired after the health department conducted an internal investigation.Doyle said Gokal did nothing wrong and was only trying to ensure that vaccine from a punctured vial was not wasted.

Utah

State Route 9, the roadway that passes through the main section of Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah, was closed after it was hit by a flash flood Tuesday.

Springdale:The torrential rain has slowed, but the cleanup from a flash flood-caused mudslide at Zion National Park on Tuesday has just begun. Park officials said Wednesday that State Route 9 and both entrances to the park were open, but “motorists should exercise caution.” “Visitors should expect traffic delays, debris on roads, and potential closures of trails and parking areas as cleanup continues and damage is being assessed,” park officials said in a release. The Watchman Trail was closed because of trail damage. The in-town shuttle operation was temporarily suspended while the road was cleared. There is limited oversized vehicle parking, so visitors should park in town along Lion Boulevard and other areas. On Wednesday, the National Weather Service said flash floods are probable in Zion, as well as Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The park received more than an inch of rain over the course of an hour Tuesday, officials said, with a search-and-rescue team called in to help close State Route 9, the roadway that passes through the main section of the park, and to respond to emergency calls. Alternate east and west routes are available via Highway 59 from Hurricane, Utah, to Fredonia, Ariz., and Highway 14 from Cedar City, Utah, to Long Valley Junction and Highway 89.

Vermont

Montpelier: Vermont Legal Aid filed a class-action lawsuit against the state over the end of the emergency program set up to help the homeless during the pandemic. The program will have stricter eligibility requirements starting Thursday for who will be able to stay in state-supplied hotel rooms. The lawsuit alleged the state’s changes violate Vermont law and have a restrictive definition of what qualifies as a disability. About 700 people could lose their hotel rooms. Vermont Legal Aid Staff Attorney Mairead O’Reilly said there is a more responsible and lawful way for the state to transition from the pandemic-era emergency housing program, which would exclude a large population of people who also experience substance-use disorders and mental health disabilities. The program has a price tag of more than $100 million. Gov. Phil Scott and other administration officials said the program isn’t sustainable, but the state has expanded housing eligibility from before the pandemic.

Virginia

Williamsburg: Fire crews helped more than two dozen people get to safety after a roller coaster at an amusement park stopped unexpectedly, officials said. News outlets reported that 28 people were riding the Griffon roller coaster Tuesday night at Busch Gardens Williamsburg when it stopped. The evacuation went smoothly and no one was injured, James City County Fire Chief Ryan Ashe said. In a statement, Busch Gardens officials apologized and said safety is their top priority. The amusement park described Griffon on its website as a floorless dive coaster with 205-foot drop. An engine, two medics, a rescue truck and a ladder truck responded, but they did not need to use the ladder truck to reach the passengers. The coaster’s train stopped at a point that was closer to the ground, Ashe said. It was not immediately known why the coaster stopped.

Washington

Olympia: Fifteen months after the state’s first “stay at home” order was issued in response to the coronavirus, businesses across the state were allowed to return to pre-pandemic operations. On Wednesday, most government-imposed restrictions were lifted, meaning restaurants, bars, gyms and retail stores are allowed to resume full indoor capacity – up from the most recent limit of 50% – and physical distancing is no longer required. One restriction that will remain in place is a 75% attendance cap on large indoor events of more than 10,000 people, unless the event does vaccination verification before entry and all attendees are vaccinated. Those restrictions will be reevaluated on July 31.

West Virginia

Charleston: Eight West Virginia middle schools will receive grants to support their music programs. Gov. Jim Justice, state arts curator Randall Reid-Smith and Chiho Feindler, senior director of programs and policy for the Save The Music Foundation, announced the grants Tuesday. The schools are in Barbour, Cabell, Fayette, Mason, Mercer, Mingo, Wayne and Wyoming counties. They will receive an average value of $40,000 in musical instruments and ongoing program management and materials, the governor’s office said in a news release. The nonprofit Save The Music Foundation has been equipping West Virginia schools with instruments since 2009 and has reached schools through investments and partnerships in all 55 counties.

Wisconsin

Madison: Teen drivers will have to take road tests again to obtain their licenses after changes Assembly Republicans made to the state late Tuesday night. The state Department of Transportation waived road tests for teen drivers last year as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold. The department made the change as part of a temporary pilot program. Nearly 50,000 people obtained their licenses without taking a road test between May 2020 and April 2021, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Gov. Tony Evers included language in the state budget that would have made the pilot program permanent. Republicans who control the Legislature’s finance committee approved the proposal earlier this month, agreeing to spend $623 million and create six positions to make the waiver permanent.But the Assembly eliminated the language late Tuesday night, just before it approved the budget and sent it on to the Senate. It’s unknown when the pilot program is set to end and drivers will have to resume road tests. DOT officials didn’t immediately respond to messages on Wednesday morning.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: An intercontinental ballistic missile force based in southeastern Wyoming has a new commander. Col. Catherine Barrrington took command of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne in a ceremony Monday. Barrington took over from Col. Peter Bonetti, who was base commander for two years, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported. “I want to be the kind of leader that will now propel all of those airmen to the success that they want in their lives,” Barrington said. Barrington began her career as a missileer at the base in 1997. This is her third assignment to F.E. Warren, which oversees 150 Minuteman missiles in silos in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.


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