Montgomery: Mayor Steven Reed was sworn in Tuesday as the capital city’s first African American leader. Reed took the oath of office after easily winning the mayoral runoff last month. He is the first black mayor of a city that was the first capital of the Confederacy and later the birthplace of the civil rights movement. “We are assembled here because we chose destiny over division. Today, we are assembled here because we chose the future over fear,” Reed said. In a nod to his history-making win, Reed said his inauguration was an event that the enslaved people who were once sold on the banks of the Alabama River just a few feet from his inauguration ceremony “could only have imagined.” Reed is the first black mayor of the city where Southern delegates voted to form the Confederacy in 1861.
Fairbanks: The city has been well represented in pageants this year, as the newly crowned Miss Alaska USA 2020 and Miss Alaska Teen USA 2020 both hail from the city. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Hannah Carlile accepted the Miss Alaska USA crown, and Jadyn Fraser was awarded the Miss Alaska Teen USA crown. Officials say the Nov. 2 pageant in Anchorage was a preliminary event to the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants. Carlile is a graduate student at Vanderbilt University pursuing a master’s degree in international education policy and management. Fraser is a graduate of West Valley High School who says she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and hopes to advocate for people with depression, anxiety and other diseases.
Phoenix: The state’s rural students are graduating from high school at one of the lowest rates in the nation, according to a new report. The Rural School and Community Trust’s biennial nationwide examination of America’s rural schools, “Why Rural Matters,” pinpoints how states can improve the quality of education in rural areas. A little more than 50,000 of Arizona’s 1.1 million public district and charter school students attend rural schools, according to the report. The state’s rural four-year high school graduation rate increased from 77.5% to 81.8% from the 2015-2016 report to the 2018-2019 report. But while the rate increased, the state ranks as the fifth-worst in the nation for the percentage of seniors who graduate from high school in four years. The average four-year high school graduation rate nationally for rural districts is 88.7%.
Little Rock: The Democratic candidate hoping to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton has dropped out of the race, citing a family health concern. Josh Mahony announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he was dropping out of the race, hours after the filing deadline for Arkansas expired. Mahony did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday afternoon. Mahony was the only Democrat who had filed to run against Cotton. The announcement leaves Democrats without a candidate to challenge Cotton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014. Mahony had badly trailed Cotton in fundraising and faced an uphill challenge in the solidly red state. Mahony last year unsuccessfully challenged Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack in northwest Arkansas.
Los Angeles: A man who spent 11 years in prison for a series of armed robberies he didn’t commit was exonerated Tuesday after prosecutors agreed he had been wrongly convicted. A courtroom full of family members and friends erupted in applause as Ruben Martinez Jr. was found innocent and walked free from Los Angeles Superior Court. The rare reversal of fortune after all appeals had been exhausted came about after Martinez’s wife, who had been a secretary for the Sheriff’s Department, and a close friend who was a retired homicide detective prevailed on prosecutors to review the case. Investigators then tracked down alibi witnesses who said Martinez was at work during some of the crimes that were believed to have been committed by a serial robber. A jubilant Martinez, 49, said his prayers had been answered, and he was not a bitter man. He thanked his wife, Maria.
Boulder: The University of Colorado at Boulder has announced that the school’s live buffalo mascot, Ralphie V, will retire. The Daily Camera reports Tuesday’s announcement came after the 13-year-old buffalo did not lead the football team onto Folsom Field in the last two games. The university has not yet found a replacement. University officials say Ralphie V is in great health and receives regular check-ups but was not showing the same consistency as in previous years. They cited safety concerns for her and her handlers. Ralphie V, who came to the university in 2007 and led the team in 76 games, will live on a ranch alongside a companion buffalo. She is the fifth buffalo in the Ralphie program, which launched in 1967.
Hartford: A new state report indicates consumers are remembering to bring their own bags to the supermarket. Revenue estimates released Tuesday by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget office and the legislative Office of Fiscal Analysis project the new 10-cent fee for disposable plastic bags will generate $7 million in the current fiscal year, not the $27.7 million included in the state budget. Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw says the 75% drop in anticipated revenue from the tax is not a sign of economic weakness. Rather, she says consumers and businesses have adapted to the goal of reducing the number of these non-recyclable bags in the environment. The same report shows consumer spending is stronger, with sales tax revenues estimated to be $46.8 million higher than originally budgeted.
Wilmington: The company responsible for a toxic gas leak that shut down the Delaware Memorial Bridge for hours last November has been given the go-ahead to restart its chemical plant along the Delaware River. Croda Inc., which operates in the Atlas Point chemical facility at the base of the bridge, had started manufacturing a highly flammable and explosive chemical called ethylene oxide just months before the Thanksgiving weekend leak. It has not been making the bio-based chemical, which is used in other products manufactured at the plant, on-site since the accident. Officials with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control on Wednesday announced that the company could resume its ethylene oxide production after an investigation of the leak and making required safety and monitoring improvements.
District of Columbia
Washington: Some bars in the nation’s capital have been screening the first public impeachment inquiry hearing into President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings and offering related specials. The inquiry into Trump’s actions toward Ukraine was being broadcast Wednesday, allowing the public its first glimpse into testimony about whether Trump used foreign policy for personal and political gain. News outlets report at least half a dozen bars were screening the 10 a.m. hearing, with some even opening early. Attendees could choose from a variety of themed specials, such as Union Pub’s “ImPEACHment Please” and The Partisan’s combo that features Colonel E. H. Taylor whiskey. The whiskey was chosen for Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor, who was testifying Wednesday along with George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in Washington.
Gainesville: Donald Trump isn’t the only president facing an impeachment inquiry. The student body president of the University of Florida is facing an impeachment threat for spending $50,000 in student fees to bring Trump’s eldest son and his girlfriend to campus. Members of the university’s student senate on Tuesday filed a resolution to impeach Student Body President Michael Murphy for malfeasance and abuse of power. The resolution accuses Murphy of spending mandatory student fees to push his own political beliefs when he brought Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, to speak on campus last month. The resolution says Student Body statutes forbid student money from being spent in support of or against a political party. The Tampa Bay Times reports Murphy has maintained that the visit wasn’t campaign-related.
Atlanta: The city is seeking an artist to create 30 drawings or paintings of the victims of the Atlanta child murders that terrorized the city in the 1970s and ’80s. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the exhibit honoring the victims, mostly black boys, will be displayed at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs is sponsoring the project, which will net the artist $18,000. Eligible artists must live in Fulton or DeKalb counties and submit a digital photo and drawing of 13-year-old Clifford Jones. Clifford’s death led city police to recognize the slayings were connected and part of a pattern. Wayne Williams was convicted in two of the deaths. Many of the cases remain unsolved. Applications are due by Nov. 22.
Hilo: The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is expected to seek funding from the Legislature to establish ocean access at a boat ramp cut off by the Kilauea eruption. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports the Pohoiki boat ramp facility on the Big Island closed shortly after Kilauea began erupting in May 2018. Officials say the only ramp between Hilo and Milolii became landlocked, affecting the ability of fishermen to access the ocean. Officials say a short-term proposal involves driving sheet-pile walls into the ground on either side of the ramp entrance and dredging the channel. The department estimates a cost of $8 million to $9 million. A long-term solution under consideration involves a new boat ramp on the north side of Pohoiki Bay.
Challis: Nearly 300 wild horses have been captured in central Idaho as part of a plan by federal land managers to reduce the number of wild horses roaming the area to about 185. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says 295 wild horses were rounded up over seven days ending Monday in the Challis Herd Management Area near the town of Challis. Aerial census flights are planned this week to determine the number of wild horses remaining in the area. The agency says balancing herd size with what the 260-square-mile management area can support will help protect habitat for wildlife species such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, mule deer and elk. The agency says mares released back into the management area will be treated with fertility control, and horses not released will be readied for an adoption and sale program.
Springfield: The state’s environmental agency is enlisting fifth and sixth grade students to educate people about how algae affects bodies of water using art or language. The theme for this year’s contest held by the Illinois Environment Protection Agency is “Algae: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly … How Can You Keep Your Local Pond Healthy?” Students’ work can be in the form of a poster, a poem or other writing. Each school can enter up to four posters and four written entries. The deadline to submit entries is Feb. 3. The winners’ entries will be featured on the agency’s website. All finalists will be invited to an awards ceremony in Springfield in April, and their work will be displayed this spring at the Old State Capitol.
Bloomington: Indiana University officials say enrollment in online courses has soared during the past decade across the school’s campuses even as overall student enrollment has dropped. School research shows total enrollment of degree-seeking students at IU campuses fell by nearly 5% from the fall of 2011 to the fall of 2019. But The Herald-Times reports the number of students taking at least one online course has more than doubled during the same time. IU’s online education director Chris Foley noted that most students who take online classes are undergraduates and typically in their early 20s. Administrators say IU must continue to prioritize growth in its online space as students’ expectations change and the university prepares for a decline in the number of high school graduates.
Iowa City: Regulators have recommended a nearly $73,000 fine against the Iowa Department of Human Services after finding serious workplace safety violations at a state-run psychiatric hospital where several employees have been assaulted by combative patients. Staffers at the Independence Mental Health Institute struggle to manage violent outbursts due to inadequate emergency response plans, low staffing levels, poor communication and ineffective safety shields that they’re not trained to use, according to an inspection conducted by the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, a union that represents hospital employees, said the institute faced an urgent “safety crisis” after employees were injured in at least four incidents over nine days in June.
Topeka: The state transportation agency says Kansas hit a 10-year high for deer-related crashes last year. The agency says 10,734 deer-related wrecks were reported in 2018. The Department of Transportation says that accounted for 16.5% of total wrecks for the year. The department’s big game coordinator, Levi Jaster, said the increase in crashes is partly due to an increase in the deer population. Disease reduced the population beginning in 2008 until 2013, which is when the agency recorded the lowest number of deer-related wrecks in the past 10 years. The Wichita Eagle reports the deer population has been increasing since then. Three people died in deer-related accidents last year. The highest number of deer-related wrecks in 2018 was in Sedgwick County, which had 418.
Winchester: A principal who once made headlines for trying to ban books with what he deemed inappropriate content has been indicted on child pornography charges. News outlets reported Tuesday that a grand jury charged 54-year-old Phillip Todd Wilson, principal of the Clark County Area Technology Center, with 17 child pornography possession and distribution charges. Kentucky State police filed 15 counts each of the charges against Wilson in August. Clark County Schools officials told news outlets they were “shocked and dismayed” at the accusations. WKYT-TV reports the education department no longer employs Wilson. The Lexington Herald-Leader says when Wilson was the principal of Montgomery County High School in 2009, he fought to ban books with what he labeled “homosexual” or otherwise inappropriate material, including sex, abuse and drugs.
Baton Rouge: The state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation are creating four artificial reefs in Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound. Spokesman Rene LeBreton says contractors have put down a total of 880 tons of limestone. Next, they’ll set out 130 perforated concrete domes called reef balls. More than 80 cubic yards of oyster shells will finish the work. LeBreton says it should be complete this month. The area’s bottom is soft mud. The reefs will provide hard-bottom habitat where saltwater sport fish such as speckled trout, redfish and flounder are likely to hang out. Oystering is barred from the reefs, so oysters that settle there can serve as broodstock. A large, yellow-lighted buoy marks each reef.
Lewiston: Regulators are investigating concerns about marijuana-related advertisements at a sports arena. The Portland Press Herald reports several parents whose children play sports at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston have complained about the ads. State laws prohibits marijuana advertising that will reach people under the age of 21 or is designed to appeal to those under 21. Parents complained about one ad for Strawberry Fields Apothecary that featured marijuana leaves over red strawberries. The ad was removed, but other text-only signs for two other local dispensaries remain. Colisee owner and general manager Mike Cain told The Sun Journal he is working with Strawberry Fields to change the advertising. A spokesman for the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy said the agency would review the situation.
Baltimore: The Housing Authority of Baltimore City says it will soon stop accepting applications because more than 14,000 applicants are already on a waitlist that’s averaging a wait time of more than five years. News outlets report the agency announced Tuesday that residents have until Dec. 13 to apply for public housing before the authority stops taking applications. Housing President Janet Abrahams says continuing to accept applications would be performing a disservice and create a false sense of accommodation security. She says public housing is under-invested, causing a severe shortage. A news release says officials “streamlined” the waitlist this year, reducing the total applications from 27,000 to 14,000, but the wait time is still averaging between five and seven years.
Uxbridge: Members of the town’s Historical Commission received word last week that the Mrs. Nancy Adams Burial Site, marking the resting ground of a woman who escaped slavery three times and is linked to the region’s rich involvement with the Underground Railroad, was accepted by the National Park Service into the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The Telegram & Gazette reports the designation places the site on a permanent database for researchers and allows local historians to pursue grants and receive technical assistance as part of the mission to “honor, preserve and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, which continues to inspire people worldwide,” according to the Network to Freedom website.
Grand Rapids: Hunting wildlife has long been ingrained in the Wolverine State’s culture, but it is on a decline as young adults opt for other activities. Michigan had as many as 1.2 million hunters in the 1970s, ’80s and into the ’90s. But MLive.com reports by 2018, fewer than 675,000 people had at least one hunting license. The decline is partly due to baby boomers aging out. But young adults, urbanites and others are also far less likely to partake in hunting. Fishing also is on a downward trend, though its drop has been less steep. From 2013 to 2018, state residents obtaining fishing licenses fell 5%, compared to a 18% decline in hunting licenses during that same period. The decline has an impact on conservation efforts, according to Department of Natural Resources officials. Hunting and fishing fees account for more than 90% of the agency’s $42 million wildlife conservation budget.
Minneapolis: More than half of the state’s lakes, rivers and streams don’t meet state pollution standards. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has added 581 waterways to its list of impaired waters in its biennial report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released Wednesday. The 3,416 waterways represent 56% of the state’s waters. They have a range of problems, including excess mercury, bacteria, phosphorus, nitrate and other pollutants, as well as struggling fish and insect populations. The impaired waters include a lower stretch of the St. Croix River, considered one of the Upper Midwest’s most pristine waterways. About one-third of the waterways are impaired for recreational use because of high bacteria in streams and phosphorus in lakes.
Greenwood: An animal shelter has been over capacity for months, forcing it to stop taking in any animals brought in by the public. The Leflore County Humane Society’s volunteer interim director, Janice McCurdy, tells The Greenwood Commonwealth that the shelter turns away at least 10 animals daily. She says the shelter has about 65 dogs and 50 cats in its custody. Its capacity is 40 dogs and 20 cats. In August, the shelter started only accepting animals from animal control. The society’s board president, Aubrey Whittington, says she doesn’t remember ever turning away so many animals for so long. A new, 6,200-square-foot shelter facility is in the works but likely won’t open until 2020. Whittington says the shelter’s capacity will stay the same despite the increased shelter size.
St. Louis: NASA says a meteor seen streaking through the sky behind the Gateway Arch was a basketball-size hunk of rock that broke off from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that experts used hundreds of eyewitness accounts from as far away as South Dakota and Minnesota along with two videos to calculate information about the meteor. They determined the approximately 220-pound rock traveled through the sky Monday night at 33,500 mph , causing a sonic boom. A NASA weather satellite helped the agency confirm it was brighter than Venus in the sky, making it a fireball. Bill Cooke, of the NASA Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama, says it broke into pieces 12 miles above the ground.
Missoula: The state health department has adopted new rules to regulate private alternative residential treatment programs for troubled teens. The 2019 Legislature put such treatment programs under the supervision of the Department of Public Health and Human Services starting July 1 after a series of stories by the Missoulian indicated an oversight board was not acting on complaints. The department removed 27 children from The Ranch for Kids in northwestern Montana on July 23 following escalating reports of physical and psychological abuse. The ranch’s license was suspended. The Missoulian reports the rules adopted Friday include licensing requirements, protocols for reporting abuse and neglect, and staff qualifications. Programs are not allowed to punish residents’ behavior through seclusion, physical discipline, excessive exercise, withholding food or water, or denying family visits or calls.
Mitchell: Out where Wyoming is only a 15-minute drive away, some Panhandle conservationists are seeking to improve on Mother Nature. They’re building a cold-water trout stream – something pretty rare in Nebraska – in an area where, decades ago, anglers used to hook into monstrous, migrating fish of up to 10 pounds in a man-made irrigation ditch. Having a meandering trout stream, the conservationists believe, will help revive a trout-fishing tradition in this part of the state. “These cold-water fisheries are super important for western Nebraska,” Bob Smith, a retired Scottsbluff banker, told the Omaha World-Herald. Smith is part of Platte River Basin Environments, a local group that has dedicated its time and money since 1992 to acquiring and preserving land in the Panhandle for free hunting, fishing and hiking. While Nebraska has a lot of streams, most are shallow and get too hot and muddy to sustain cold-water-loving trout.
Sparks: The Generator art space has undergone a lot of changes this year, but the address will not be one of them. Following concerns that its landlord might boot the arts organization from its home of six years, the Generator – known for cranking out spectacular Burning Man installations – has signed a three-year lease extension at its location in industrial Sparks. The lease was up in June, although the building owners extended it through the end of November to allow artists to complete their Burning Man projects. The organization theoretically has an extra three years to figure out where it will permanently call home, but the building is still on the market for more than $3.8 million. Tolles Development Co., the owner, agreed in the new lease that – should the building sell – the occupants cannot be forced out during the months of June through September, peak time for Burning Man art production.
Concord: The New Hampshire State Police is collecting new, unwrapped toys to support the U.S. Marine Corps with its annual Toys for Tots Campaign. The collection drive is running through Dec. 8. Police are hosting several “Stuff a Cruiser” events throughout the state, as well as accepting collections at headquarters, barracks sites and stores, and other places. Additional information is available by contacting Sgt. Chad Lavoie at 603-223-8688 or following New Hampshire State Police on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Newark: The state would become the second in the nation with a publicly run bank – after North Dakota and its century-old institution – under the aims of an executive order Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed Wednesday. Murphy, a wealthy former executive at Goldman Sachs who’s in his first term as governor, campaigned on creating a state-run bank that uses some state deposits for projects considered worthwhile, like low-income housing and student loans. The effort has stalled since Murphy took office nearly two years ago, with some in the state scratching their heads about the need for such a bank, but he said Wednesday that “the time is right right now” to consider the project. On Wednesday, alongside organized labor representatives and members of a liberal-leaning think tank called New Jersey Citizen Action, Murphy signed an executive order creating a 14-member board charged with setting up the bank.
Santa Fe: State officials want to spend an additional $8 million to ensure residents are not left out of the 2020 census. Population-studies expert Robert Rhatigan of the University of New Mexico told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday that state finance and workforce officials still fear an undercount that could reduce federal spending in New Mexico by hundreds of millions of dollars. Lawmakers this year set aside $3.4 million to help counties, public schools and Native American communities encourage participation in the federal population survey. An additional $8 million is now being sought for the effort by the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Remote desert communities and gaps in communications infrastructure make New Mexico one of the hardest states to accurately survey for population changes.
Albany: The Empire State has now raised the minimum age to buy tobacco and electronic cigarettes to 21 years old, from 18. The law went into effect Wednesday. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the goal is to prevent addictive cigarette and vaping products from getting to young people. The New York Department of Health says nearly 40% of 12th grade students and 27% of high school students are now using e-cigarettes. They say the increase is largely driven by flavored e-liquids. The surgeon general says 88% of adult smokers started using tobacco as minors, and 90% of those who purchase cigarettes for minors are between 18 and 20 years old. Cuomo’s administration has pushed to outlaw flavored e-cigarettes, but a court has blocked that ban for now.
Cape Lookout: A trio of castaway cows has been discovered on the Outer Banks, where they apparently washed up after swimming for miles to escape Hurricane Dorian’s storm surge. Cape Lookout National Seashore officials think the stranded cows swam up to 5 miles during the September storm before being found near Cape Lookout this month. The cows belong to a herd that roams freely on Cedar Island, across the sound. When Dorian generated an 8-foot “mini tsunami,” it washed them and dozens of other animals away, including 28 wild horses that died. Seashore spokesman B.G. Horvat told McClatchy news group the cows are grazing peacefully after a harrowing feat of survival, but they need to go home. He thinks they’ll have to be sedated for the boat trip.
Fargo: Kris Kristofferson surprised customers when he performed with an acoustic guitar at a local bar after a band taped a request to the singer-songwriter’s tour bus. Kristofferson stopped at Dempsey’s Public House in downtown Fargo on Saturday night and asked to sing with the band 32 Below. KFGO-AM reports the band had taped a note to Kristofferson’s tour bus door. The note said the band was “huge fans” and “would be absolutely stoked” if Kristofferson came to the bar and allowed them to buy him “a beer or five.” Dempsey’s General Manager Jeff Fonder says Kristofferson performed “Me and Bobby McGee.” 32 Below later said on Facebook: “We played a legendary song with the legend who wrote it!” Kristofferson was in town to perform at the Fargo Theatre.
Columbus: Resuming the state’s attempt to allow cryptocurrency in certain tax payments is up in the air after the state’s top lawyer found a Bitcoin program launched by the former state treasurer was illegal. Republican Attorney General Dave Yost’s Nov. 5 opinion found then-Treasurer Josh Mandel skirted state law when he launched OhioCrypto.com last year for paying business taxes. Yost found that Atlanta-based BitPay, the third-party processor that converted bitcoins to U.S. currency, was functioning as a “financial transaction device.” That meant Mandel was required to use a competitive selection process before hiring it. Treasurer Robert Sprague, a fellow Republican who succeeded Mandel in January, abruptly shut down the site last month after an internal review raised issues. The Board of Deposit he chairs must now decide how to proceed.
Oklahoma City: A gun rights activist accused of illegally taking a rifle into a restaurant is facing a felony charge. Timothy A. Harper, 52, was arrested Tuesday after he violated a state law that bars possessing or carrying a rifle in any establishment where alcoholic beverages are consumed, authorities said. Harper told another activist in an online interview Monday that he took his rifle into Twin Peaks on Nov. 2 in celebration of the state’s new “permitless carry” gun law, which went into effect Nov. 1, The Oklahoman reports. Police reported recovering surveillance video from the restaurant that shows Harper, of Choctaw, walking in “with an AR-style rifle slung to the front of his body.” Police noted he was asked to leave the restaurant, but he initially refused. “Timothy responded that he was not going anywhere,” a police lieutenant wrote in an affidavit, which indicates prosecutors have agreed to charge Harper. If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine. He’s being held at the county jail. No bail has been set.
Salem: No large trees will be harmed in the making of this memorial – that’s a promise from organizers. The Vietnam War Memorial proposed for the southwest corner of the Oregon State Capitol grounds will incorporate six existing trees, ranging from 21 to 72 feet tall. Perhaps the most distinctive is a 31-foot Western red cedar with no central trunk and giant, almost human-like branches. “I call it the embracing tree,” landscape designer Mike Abbate says. “I really wanted to celebrate that tree. The embracing arms are there to help give comfort to visitors.” The location and design still need to be reviewed by an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department committee – the first step in a long approval process – and an estimated $2.7 million still needs to be raised by the Vietnam War Memorial Fund Steering Committee. The goals is to complete the memorial by Veterans Day 2022.
Harrisburg: Dauphin County, home to the state capital, is signaling it won’t go along with Gov. Tom Wolf’s insistence that counties buy new voting systems as a security measure in 2020’s election, when the state is expected to be a premier presidential battleground. County Commissioner Mike Pries said Wednesday that he’s comfortable with the county’s old machines, particularly after hearing about paper jams, long lines and other problems in other counties that debuted new machines in last week’s election. Wolf began pressing counties last year to get new voting machines that have an auditable paper backup, after federal authorities warned Pennsylvania and other states that Russian hackers targeted them during 2016’s election. Wolf has warned that he’ll decertify the counties’ old voting systems before the 2020 primary.
Providence: Council members in three Rhode Island cities say they support a New York City program that has moved homeless families to their communities despite pushback from their mayors. The Providence Journal reports that the Special One-Time Assistance Program allows homeless families from New York to move to the states of their choosing with one year of paid rent. City councilors Alex Kithes of Woonsocket, Meghan Kallman of Pawtucket, and Rachel Miller and Katherine Kerwin of Providence – all Democrats – said in a joint statement that “it is dehumanizing and hurtful” to treat homeless people as a burden. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt have expressed concern that the families were moved to cities without notice and could strain public services.
Mount Pleasant: Charleston County has paid $7.1 million to protect a nearly 340-year-old plantation from development. The Post and Courier reports the county now owns development rights to Boone Hall Plantation, which covers about 600 acres in Mount Pleasant. The property is now under a conservation easement, limiting its use without changing its ownership. Co-owner Willie McRae says it’s a “perpetual agreement” never to develop the land and aligns with the wishes of the McRaes, who have owned it since the 1950s. He says the Charleston County Greenbelt Fund and S.C. Conservation Bank money will go toward improving the land and creating a foundation to run it after the family is gone. The nonprofit Lowcounty Land Trust says the McRaes declined an estimated $21 million by not selling to developers.
Sioux Falls: The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is asking for the state’s help to change an 1863 federal law that technically keeps the tribe from owning land in Minnesota. The law removed Dakota people from Minnesota and relocated them to several other states in the Midwest. It was signed by President Abraham Lincoln after conflicts between white settlers and Dakota people in Minnesota. Though the law is no longer enforced, tribal leaders call it racist. They’re asking the state to pass a resolution of support and raised the subject Tuesday at a meeting of the State-Tribal Relations committee in Pierre. Crow Creek Sioux Chairman Lester Thompson Jr. called it similar to old Jim Crow laws. A similar request didn’t make it out of committee at the Legislature this year. Thompson says he’s taking a new approach – educating lawmakers and Gov. Kristi Noem on the history of the law.
Nashville: Forestry officials say a strike team is being created to perform prescribed burning on public and private forest land in the Cumberland Plateau. Tennessee Division of Forestry officials said Tuesday that a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will be used to expand forest fire use and management in the state. Officials say the forest strike team will perform prescribed burns on more than 1,200 acres to help reduce damage from wildfires caused by excessive brush, shrubs and trees. Officials say prescribed fires also encourage native vegetation to grow and maintain plant and animal species whose habitats depend on periodic fire. Tennessee’s forests cover 14 million acres. That’s more than half of the state’s total acreage.
Fort Worth: A state law that gives families 10 days to find a new hospital if they disagree with doctors who decide to take a patient off life support is once again under the spotlight after a judge halted a hospital’s plan to remove a 9-month-old girl from a ventilator against her family’s wishes. Doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center planned to stop treatment Sunday for Tinslee Lewis after invoking the state’s “10-day rule.” The hospital said Tinslee was born prematurely with a rare heart defect and suffers from chronic lung disease and severe chronic high blood pressure. She has been hospitalized since birth and on a ventilator since July. Not only is her condition fatal, the hospital said, but doctors believe she’s suffering. Cook Children’s says it has reached out to nearly 20 facilities around the country, and none felt the hospital’s assessment was incorrect.
Salt Lake City: A former San Juan County commissioner has sued a federal land agency after he spent 10 days in jail for trespassing in an illegal ATV protest ride in a southern Utah canyon. Rep. Phil Lyman filed the $10 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Friday accusing Bureau of Land Management officials of lying during his trial. The first-term Republican Utah House member is acting as his own attorney. Lyman says he suffered damages to his name, reputation, business and political relationships. An agency spokeswoman in Utah says it doesn’t comment on pending litigation. A jury found Lyman guilty of misdemeanor illegal use of ATVs and conspiracy for organizing the 2014 protest challenging federal management of Western public lands. A judge sentenced him to 10 days in jail and imposed $96,000 restitution.
Clarendon: State agencies are using aerial drones to discover more about toxic chemical contamination underneath an airport. The Agency of Transportation’s Rail and Aviation Bureau and the Vermont Geological Survey spent the last week of October using a drone to gather data for a map about what is underneath the rocks below the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport. The Rutland Herald reports the contamination of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively called PFAS, was found near the airport in 2018 and is believed to be from firefighting foam. Vermont has since determined a limit of 20 parts per trillion on certain types of the toxic chemicals. Geologists say probes are also being used to study groundwater beneath the facility by drilling into wells and dropping probes into them.
Richmond: The state recycled almost half of its trash last year, setting a record despite China’s ban on importing plastic and other solid waste. The statewide recycling rate in 2018 was 46% – up 3 percentage points from the previous year, according to data released this week by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The data showed that the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority, which includes Richmond and surrounding localities, had the highest recycling rate in the commonwealth at 59%. The Virginia Peninsulas Public Service Authority, which includes Hampton, Poquoson and Williamsburg and nearby counties, had the lowest rate – 29%. The city of Newport News had the biggest improvement in recycling in recent years. Its rate jumped from 38% in 2016 to 57% last year.
Olympia: Voters have narrowly rejected a ballot measure seeking to reinstate the use of affirmative action in state employment, contracting, and admission to public colleges and universities. Referendum 88 was rejected Tuesday by 50.4% of voters with a margin of just over 14,000 votes. Counties in vote-by-mail Washington had been updating their counts daily since last week’s election, and while the final margin of the loss may change as remaining votes are counted, the bulk of the approximately 2 million ballots cast have been tallied. The measure asked voters whether they wanted to approve or reject Initiative 1000, which the Legislature passed in April. Along with race, sex and ethnicity, the measure allowed for consideration of age, disability, and honorable discharge or military status. It would have prohibited using factors such as race as the sole qualifier and banned mandatory quotas.
Charleston: Two colleges in the state are teaming up to offer a seven-year Doctor of Pharmacy program. West Virginia State University and the University of Charleston announced the dual degree in a news release. Under the agreement signed last week, students would complete a three-year undergraduate program in pre-pharmacy at West Virginia State in Institute, then enroll in the University of Charleston’s School of Pharmacy. After completing the first year at the School of Pharmacy, the students will return to West Virginia State to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biology. They will complete coursework over the next three years toward a doctorate degree.
Madison: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Republicans are “bastards” for firing his agriculture secretary, despite using the word when urging state workers not to be deterred by the move. Evers stressed that he wasn’t referring to GOP lawmakers when he told agriculture department workers last week not to let the “bastards” keep them from doing their work. He noted that the phrase he invoked – “don’t let the bastards grind you down” – was well known and used throughout history. “It’s not something I just pulled out of thin air,” Evers said following a bill signing in Wisconsin Dells. “It’s a saying; it’s a thing. I don’t think they’re bastards, but I do think they made a huge mistake doing what they did to Brad Pfaff.” Evers said he was angry after the Senate voted along party lines to reject the confirmation of Pfaff, Evers’ agriculture secretary. It was the first time the Senate had fired a Cabinet secretary since at least 1987.
Cheyenne: A legislative committee has advanced a bill that allows Gov. Mark Gordon to explore expanding Medicaid in the state. The lawmakers on the Joint Revenue Committee voted 8 to 5 on Tuesday to move the bill forward to the full Legislature, which meets next February. Under the proposed bill, the governor must first direct the departments of health and insurance to explore options for expanding Medicaid eligibility. If expansion is recommended, the Legislature would have to give its approval, convening a special session if necessary. Gordon has not supported Medicaid expansion in the past because of the costs to the state, but he says he recognizes the challenges residents face in being able to afford health care. An estimated 19,000 residents would be covered initially if Medicaid expansion were approved.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Embracing tree,’ castaway cows: News from around our 50 states