Montgomery: Two families with transgender teens and two physicians sued the state Monday to overturn a law that makes it a crime for doctors to treat trans youth under 19 with puberty blockers or hormones to help affirm their gender identity. The lawsuit was filed in federal court three days after Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the measure into law. Ivey is running for reelection this year and faces challengers in next month’s GOP primary. “By signing SB 184 Governor Ivey has told kind, loving, and loyal Alabama families that they cannot stay here without denying their children the basic medical care they need,” Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “She has undermined the health and well-being of Alabama children and put doctors like me in the horrifying position of choosing between ignoring the medical needs of our patients or risking being sent to prison.” The parents of a 13-year-old transgender girl in Jefferson County and a 17-year-old transgender boy in Shelby County are participating in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are known as Roe and Doe in the court filing to protect the children’s identities. The Southern Poverty Law Center; the Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy group for the LGBTQ community; and other groups are representing the plaintiffs.
Juneau: The Legislature is not on track to finish its work within a voter-approved session limit. The 90-day mark will be reached Sunday. The voter-approved limit took effect in 2008, but lawmakers face no penalty for failing to meet the deadline and can continue working beyond it. The state constitution permits regular sessions of up to 121 days, with an option to extend another 10 days. Lawmakers last finished within the 90-day limit in 2013, according to statistics from the Legislative Affairs Agency. The state House over the weekend passed its version of a state operating budget, which the Senate still must consider. Senate President Peter Micciche did not have an immediate update on when the operating budget would reach the Senate floor. Differences between the versions that pass the House and Senate usually are worked out by a conference committee. The House version called for a $1,300 “energy relief” payment to Alaskans and a dividend of about $1,250. A long-standing formula for calculating the annual dividend was last used in 2015. While many lawmakers see that formula as unsustainable, agreement has yet to be reached on an alternative. The dividend amount in the meantime generally has been set by lawmakers.
Phoenix: The state House voted Monday to delay the effective date for legislation signed last month requiring voters to provide evidence of their citizenship, which has already prompted two lawsuits amid fears by voting rights advocates that it could cancel the registrations of thousands of people. If approved by the Senate and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, the citizenship requirement would take effect after the 2022 election, a concession demanded by a GOP lawmaker who provided the final vote to pass the bill out of the Senate. As it stands now, that requirement and others in a bill signed March 30 will take effect 90 days after the legislative session ends, which is likely to fall between the primary and general election. Monday’s update also would make a technical change that appears aimed at addressing concerns the bill could require hundreds of thousands of people who registered before 2005 to provide proof of citizenship. Arizona is the only state that requires documentary proof of citizenship when registering to vote. A 2013 Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s law said anyone who registers using a federal voter registration form, which does not require documentation of citizenship, must be allowed to vote in federal elections. The controversial new law seeks to block those voters from voting for president or by mail.
Little Rock: A medical marijuana producer is opening a retail location in the city’s suburbs. Good Day Farm, which has operations across the South, on Tuesday unveiled Berner’s By Good Day Farm. Occupying 4,034 square feet of prime retail space in the Little Rock suburb of Chenal, the retail collaboration marks the Cookies brand’s entry into the Arkansas medical cannabis market and will provide the state’s patients with an expanded assortment of curated cannabis products and exclusive merchandise. “I never imagined our first store in the South being in Arkansas; I actually never pictured opening a store in the South in general,” said Berner, founder and CEO of Cookies, who goes by one name. “We are extremely excited about our partnership with Good Day Farm and look forward to providing real menus and a curated customer journey for those in Arkansas, especially those who have never experienced cannabis before. The last time I was in Little Rock, I was on a tour with Snoop (Dogg), and we had a blast. I look forward to setting the tone with Good Day Farm and giving Arkansas a taste of California.” A grand opening event will be held Friday.
Santee: A judge has ordered the Southern California city to throw out approval of a long-planned housing project, ruling that developers hadn’t adequately considered how new homes could affect potential wildfire evacuations. The Santee City Council in late 2020 approved the Fanita Ranch project, giving the green light to 3,000 new homes in hills northeast of San Diego. In her decision, Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal wrote that eight resolutions and ordinances giving approval must be overturned, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The newspaper said the judge expressed concern that the plan didn’t fully address whether thousands of new residents would have time to flee during an emergency like a wildfire. The project, overseen by HomeFed Fanita Rancho, is not dead, and developers said they would revise the environmental impact report to address the judge’s concerns. Messages left by the Union-Tribune with the city’s manager and attorney were not immediately returned. The decision was celebrated by environmental groups that sued to stop the project, arguing that building more homes would only increase the risk of fire.
Denver: An advisory board has begun the process of removing the disparaging word “squaw” from 28 of the state’s peaks, valleys, passes and creeks. The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board met for three hours Sunday and considered task force recommendations and suggestions from local communities, The Colorado Sun reports. The board approved new names for nearly two dozen features but deferred a handful of name changes to a federal task force and steered clear of suggestions for naming features after people. The board also said all of its recommendations should take a back seat if Indigenous tribes suggest a better replacement. The word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, may once have simply meant “woman.” But over generations, it morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in November created a committee to strip the name from federal maps. The Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force in February identified 660 features on federal land with the name, including 28 in Colorado.
Hartford: A bill that would allow terminally ill adults in the state to request medication to help them die was suddenly derailed Monday by an unusual parliamentary procedure during a committee vote. Advocates had expressed optimism this would finally be the year, after roughly a decade of emotional debate, the legislation would get a vote in the full House of Representatives and Senate and be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. However, Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, the top House member on the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, made a motion to “divide the committee.” That meant only senators on the panel could vote on the legislation. In Connecticut, both House and Senate members comprise committees. Ultimately, the senators defeated the bill on a 5-4 vote. Democratic Sen. Mae Flexer of Windham voted with the four Republicans in opposing the measure. “It says a lot about support for medical aid in dying, both inside and outside the Capitol, that opponents had to resort to a rarely used parliamentary maneuver to defeat the legislation,” said Tim Appleton, campaign director for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, arguing there’s strong support among Connecticut residents for the bill. He predicted the vote will mean “immeasurable suffering” for people who are already terminally ill.
Dover: A high-ranking state medical official who is also a former legislator has opted for a bench trial instead of a jury trial on charges of official misconduct and falsifying business records. The trial of Rebecca D. Walker began Tuesday afternoon in New Castle County Superior Court. Walker is the director of nursing in the state Division of Public Health and a former state House representative. She is accused of submitting phony records regarding employee alcohol and drug testing over a period of almost five years while she served as deputy director of the state Division of Forensic Science. Walker was placed on paid administrative leave from her nursing post after being indicted in April 2021 but was allowed to return to work less than three weeks later. As Democratic vice-chair of the House Health and Human Development, Walker co-sponsored and helped pass a bill in 2014 that created the forensic science division. Months later, without a public job posting, she was hired as deputy director of the division at a salary of more than $92,000. The indictment alleges that between May 2015 and February 2020, Walker, “with the intent to defraud,” falsified employee substance abuse testing records, indicating that employees had passed tests they never received.
District of Columbia
Washington: The U.S. House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission saying it found evidence the NFL’s Washington Commanders engaged in unlawful financial conduct. In the letter obtained by the Associated Press, the committee said the team withheld ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable ticket deposits from season ticketholders. The committee said emails, documents and statements made by former employees indicate team executives and owner Dan Snyder engaged in “a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct.” The committee is sharing documents with the FTC while requesting the commission take any action necessary to make sure the money is returned to its rightful owners. Congress launched an investigation into the team’s workplace misconduct after the league did not release a report detailing the findings of an independent probe into the matter. After testimony from former employees, that investigation expanded to the organization’s finances. Lawyers Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former employees, including some who testified, called the letter “damning.” “It’s clear that the team’s misconduct goes well beyond the sexual harassment and abuse of employees already documented,” they said in a statement.
Tallahassee: The state will create new grant programs to help fathers become more engaged with their own children and with children whose fathers aren’t in their homes under a bill signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday. The Department of Children and Families will manage the grant program and work with nonprofit organizations to promote the importance of fathers being a part of their children’s lives. It will also create a mentor program to help children who don’t have a father in their lives. “This has huge ramifications for someone’s ability to be able to realize their God-given potential,” DeSantis said. “Any dad who may not be engaged, we want to be able to support. We’ve got programs, we’ve got community groups, we’ve got nonprofits. … You’re not a man by leaving your kids hung out to dry. You need to be there.” DeSantis signed the bill at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility and was joined by former coach Tony Dungy.
Social Circle: The state’s wildlife agency is asking residents to report sightings of an invasive lizard that can pose a threat to native species. The state Department of Natural Resources is trying to locate and remove South American tegus from Georgia before the lizards can thrive in greater numbers. So far, the state’s only known wild population has been found in Toombs and Tattnall counties in southeast Georgia. Wildlife officials hope to stop the black-and-white lizards from spreading further. They can grow up to 4 feet long and weigh up to 10 pounds, and the reptiles have a wide-ranging appetite that favors eggs of turtles, alligators and ground-nesting birds. “They can live almost anywhere and eat almost anything,” Daniel Sollenberger, a DNR wildlife biologist, said in a news release. “We are focusing our efforts to accomplish two goals: document the extent of where tegus occur in the wilds of southeast Georgia and remove those animals as soon as we can after they are detected.” Officials aren’t sure how tegus got introduced into the wild in Georgia, but they are commonly kept as pets. Last year the DNR removed a single tegu that was spotted on a game camera and later captured in a trap. Seven were collected in 2020. Wildlife officials warn if tegus become established in the wild, they will be nearly impossible to eradicate.
Honolulu: The governor said Monday that he is not currently considering reinstating a mask requirement for public indoor spaces. Hawaii was the last state in the nation to lift its indoor mask mandate at the end of March. “I don’t anticipate reinstating the mask mandate at this point,” said Ige in an email. The state has seen an uptick in new coronavirus cases since the rules were lifted. “We did expect a slight increase in case numbers after spring break, and we have seen that in the last week or so,” Ige said. “However, we are not seeing the kind of surges that are currently happening on the mainland. Hospitalizations continue to be low here, and we are in a good place.” Philadelphia reinstated its mask mandate Monday amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, and other cities across the country are seeing a rise in cases. Ige said if the conditions warranted it, he might consider requiring masks again in the future. “If there is a big spike, we may have to revisit masks,” he said. “However, I noticed over the weekend that many people continue to wear their masks indoors. We know that masks work, and they make a difference in keeping our communities safe.” Public schools in Hawaii still require children to wear masks indoors, a measure the governor said he continues to support.
Boise: A judge ruled Monday that a mother accused of conspiring to kill her children, her estranged husband and a lover’s wife is now mentally competent to stand trial on some of the charges in Idaho. Daybell and her new husband, Chad Daybell, face numerous charges in the complicated case involving allegations of bizarre spiritual beliefs involving “zombies” and doomsday predictions. Prosecutors have said Lori and Chad Daybell espoused the religious beliefs in an effort to encourage or justify the murders. The case against her had been hold for months after Judge Steven Boyce ordered her committed to a mental facility so she could undergo treatment in an effort to make her mentally fit enough to assist in her own defense. Boyce’s new order said Lori Vallow Daybell “is restored to competency and is fit to proceed” in the Idaho murder case. He did not provide other details about her treatment or mental condition. She is scheduled to be formally arraigned in court next week, and both Lori and Chad Daybell are set to stand trial together early next year. They are charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Lori Daybell’s children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, as well as Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.
Chicago: A convicted felon who pleaded guilty to charges that he opened fire on police in 2020, wounding three officers, was sentenced Monday to 31 years in prison. The sentence comes two months after Lovelle Jordan, 27, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder and five counts of aggravated battery to a peace officer, the Chicago Tribune reports. The charges stem from a July 2020 shooting that came shortly after Jordan was arrested in connection with a carjacking in downtown Chicago. Police had driven him to a station on the city’s Northwest Side. Officers patted him down, but while they found he was carrying drugs in his pockets, according to authorities, they did not see that he was carrying a small loaded pistol. Jordan was handcuffed behind his back. At the time of the shooting, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said that officers had searched Jordan before he was transported, but he apparently had the gun “extremely secreted, probably very close to his private area” and was able to retrieve the weapon during the ride to the station. Jordan was somehow able to move his cuffed hands from behind his back, grabbed the gun and opened fire when an officer opened the door for him at the station. Dozens of shots were fired in a shootout between Jordan and three officers were shot. Jordan was also shot and was left paralyzed.
Evansville: State officials have chosen the preferred route of a proposed highway that would run from the Ohio River to Interstate 69, linking small southern Indiana communities to I-69. The Indiana Department of Transportation announced its selection of the “Alternative P” route over several other options for the Mid-States Corridor in a public notice published Monday. The route would start in Spencer County and use existing U.S. 231 until it links with Interstate 64. A new, 54-mile portion of the road would then branch off and run parallel to U.S. 231 before linking with I-69 just north of the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center in Martin County. That route would mostly bypass “developed” parts of towns along the path, including Jasper and Loogootee, the notice said. Mid-States Corridor Project spokeswoman Mindy Peterson declined to provide specifics – including why INDOT chose “alternative P” – until an environmental impact statement is released Friday. Public hearings on the preferred route are set for April 26 at WestGate Academy in Odon and April 28 at the Jasper Arts Center on Vincennes University’s Jasper campus. INDOT and the project’s supporters say it will improve southern Indiana’s highway connections. Opponents have argued that building a new highway would damage the region’s forests and caves.
Oxford: Iowa Farm Sanctuary has become the first in the state to be accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, joining the ranks of more than 150 GFAS-accredited and -verified sanctuaries, rescues and rehabilitation centers worldwide. “It’s a huge accomplishment, and there’s so much buildup to it. We were confident that we are accreditation-worthy, but it was just all the work that we put into it,” said Katie Valentine, assistant director of operations at the Iowa Farm Sanctuary. The Iowa Farm Sanctuary was founded by Shawn and Jered Camp in 2016. The nonprofit focuses on helping animals with special needs like Ellie, a cow who was born blind. Not all residents at the farm sanctuary have special needs. Many come from dangerous situations, like Kathy the goat, rescued from a hoarder. Accreditation from GFAS vouches for organizations with stakeholders such as donors or a foundation. An organization must meet the GFAS Standards of Excellence, which contain guidelines for housing, veterinary care, well-being and handling, financial stability and more. “In Iowa, which is a state known for having a lot of animal agriculture, Iowa Farm Sanctuary really stands out because unlike (in animal agriculture), they are providing individualized care to their residents,” said Jessica Harris, program director of farmed animals at GFAS.
Topeka: Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday signed a bill pushed by Republicans to overturn three communities’ policies that could help immigrants stay in the state illegally. The bill was filed after Wyandotte County passed a “sanctuary” ordinance in February that would provide local identification cards for immigrants and other residents and would prevent local law enforcement from helping the federal government enforce immigration laws unless public safety is threatened. Lawrence and Roeland Park have similar ordinances. The Democratic governor said in a statement announcing that she would sign the bill that immigration policy is a federal responsibility and can’t be resolved at the local level. “Both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have failed to address immigration issues for decades,” Kelly said. “We need a national solution, and we need it now.” The Kansas House and Senate passed the bill in recent weeks, and supporters had the two-thirds majorities necessary in both chambers to override a Kelly veto. The bill nullifies the three existing ordinances and bans future ones that restrict cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. The bill also says a local ID isn’t valid for voting.
Frankfort: A bill allowing lawyers to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the state, including courtrooms, drew a veto Monday from Gov. Andy Beshear, who said it could spark dangerous situations. The Democratic governor said he was contacted by judges, prosecutors and the state Fraternal Order of Police requesting that he veto the measure. The proposal was attached as an amendment to an unrelated bill by the Senate before it cleared the Republican-led Legislature in the final hectic days before lawmakers took their “veto period’” break to allow Beshear to review stacks of passed bills. The gun-carrying allowance would apply to lawyers arguing cases as well as attorneys personally involved in cases, including domestic disputes or divorces, Beshear’s veto message said. The bill is one of a raft of measures vetoed recently by the governor. Lawmakers will be able to take up veto override efforts when they reconvene Wednesday for the final two days of this year’s session. The governor said he supports Second Amendment rights to bear arms, but his veto message raised potentially dangerous scenarios in courtrooms if the measure becomes law. “Courtrooms are venues of often volatile disputes that can be filled with emotion and tension,” wrote Beshear, a former state attorney general.
New Orleans: The group Red Hot Chili Peppers has been added to the lineup of the 2022 New Orleans Jazz Fest. The rock band’s appearance is set for Sunday, May 1, and will be its first at the event since 2016. The group has sold 80 million albums, collected six Grammy Awards and been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Their 12th studio album, “Unlimited Love,” was released April 1. Last month, the festival announced plans to find a replacement for the Foo Fighters, which canceled all upcoming concert dates after the death of the band’s drummer, Taylor Hawkins. Their scheduled time slot has now been filled by the Chili Peppers. The 2022 festival will run April 29-May 1 and May 5-8 at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. The Who, Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, Luke Combs, Willie Nelson, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Charlie Wilson and Erykah Badu are among the headliners for this year’s festival. Started in 1970, Jazz Fest annually celebrates the unique culture and heritage of New Orleans and Louisiana, alongside performances by nationally and internationally renowned guest artists. It is returning after a two-year hiatus brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Portland: The lawyer for the former mayor made the case in court Tuesday that his client was served an eviction notice in retaliation for organizing on behalf of tenants. Ethan Strimling, the mayor of Portland from 2015 to 2019, appeared in court after he was served with the eviction notice last year and refused to leave. Strimling’s case has gone to court because his landlord, Geoffrey Rice, started legal proceedings to make him leave. Strimling’s attorney, Scott Dolan, said during opening statements in the case that the eviction was “a clear case of retaliation” for organizing the tenants’ union, the Bangor Daily News reports. Rice’s attorney, David Chamberlain, said during his own opening statement that the eviction was about economics. Rice offered an example that Strimling violated a section of his lease by leaving his window open in April. That presented a potential cost for Rice, who paid the heating bill. Portland voters passed a rent control ordinance in November 2020. That ordinance encouraged residents to organize.
Baltimore: A former police detective was found guilty of several federal crimes Monday, including providing a gun that he knew would be planted on a suspect. A federal jury convicted Robert Hankard of corruption and conspiracy charges, including allegations that he conspired with others to plant a BB gun on a suspect whom another officer had run over and later lied about it to a grand jury, news outlets reports. Hankard was also convicted of falsifying an application for a search warrant and an arrest report in another incident where drugs were planted on a suspect and of falsely testifying to a federal grand jury. The prosecution was part of the fallout from the rogue Gun Trace Task Force, which was supposed to take illegal guns off the streets, but instead members robbed drug dealers, planted drugs and guns on innocent people, and assaulted seemingly random civilians. Hankard didn’t testify and remains out of custody until his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Boston: A bill passed by the state Senate aims to assist members of communities disproportionately harmed by the enforcement of past marijuana laws in participating in the growing cannabis market. The legislation would create a new fund that supporters say will increase equity in the cannabis industry in part by addressing the lack of access to capital that has kept many would-be entrepreneurs from taking part in the new industry. Opening an average cannabis retail shop can require more than $1 million, backers of the legislation said, with the numbers even higher for manufacturing facilities – as much as $5 million. Another hurdle is federal cannabis law preventing businesses from accessing traditional bank loans, leaving many entrepreneurs vulnerable to predatory financial deals and damaging equity partnerships. The bill would create a social equity fund to facilitate new access to capital by making grants and loans, including forgivable and no-interest loans. The fund would receive 10% of annual revenue collected from the marijuana excise tax, an estimated $18 million for the 2023 fiscal year. If approved, the state would join a handful of other states in pioneering the program. The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House.
Detroit: PFAS compounds, the emerging contaminant “forever chemicals” raising public health and environmental alarms, are found in greater quantities in the treated water leaving the state’s wastewater treatment plants – the water returning to streams, rivers and lakes – than in the not-yet-treated water entering the plant, a new Western Michigan University study found. The study highlights the complex cycling of PFAS, which have been tied to cancer and other health problems, through the environment and through human attempts to address it. When PFAS are removed from a contaminated site – either physically excavated or through charcoal filtration – the removed contaminants typically end up in a landfill. When that landfill leaches liquids, they are typically captured and either piped or trucked to a wastewater treatment facility. But such facilities aren’t required to treat for PFAS. The increase in PFAS detection in wastewater treatment plant’s outflow doesn’t mean the plants are introducing more chemicals. Rather, it appears that PFAS chemicals that scientists cannot readily detect in the wastewater entering plants are being transformed into detectable PFAS compounds during the treatment process, said Matt Reeves, lead author of the study, hydrogeologist and associate professor at Western Michigan, who specializes in the fate and transport of contaminants in the environment.
Minneapolis: Prosecutors revealed in a hearing Monday evening that they offered plea deals to three former police officers charged with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd, but the defendants rejected them. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill held the hearing mostly to consider whether he has the authority to allow live video coverage of the upcoming trial set to begin in June for former Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. They’re charged with aiding and abetting both manslaughter and murder when former Officer Derek Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd, a Black man, to the pavement for 91/2minutes on May 25, 2020. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs, and Thao kept bystanders back. Lead prosecutor Matthew Frank did not disclose details of the plea offers in open court but said they were identical and were made March 22 after a jury convicted the three in a separate trial in February on federal civil rights charges stemming from Floyd’s death, according to pool reports from inside the courtroom. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said it was hard for the defense to negotiate when the three still don’t know what their federal sentences will be. The judge in that case has not set a sentencing date, and all three remain free on bail.
Jackson: A death row inmate has told a judge under oath that he wants to continue appealing his case, months after saying he wanted to give up his appeals and request an execution date. George County Circuit Court Judge Kathy King Jackson issued an order Monday noting the current wishes of the inmate, Blayde Nathaniel Grayson, who appeared before Jackson on Thursday and said he wants to continue his appeal in federal court. Grayson, 46, was convicted of capital murder in 1997 for the stabbing death the previous year of 78-year-old Minnie Smith during a home burglary in south Mississippi’s George County. He said in a handwritten letter to the state Supreme Court in early December: “I ask to see that my execution should be carried out forthwith.” Grayson also said then that he wanted to end all of his appeals. Grayson’s attorney, David Voisin, submitted a letter days later asking justices to disregard Grayson’s request because Grayson still had an appeal pending in federal court. On Jan. 28, the state Supreme Court ordered that Grayson be put under oath before a circuit judge to say whether he wished to go forward with his request for the state to schedule his lethal injection. That hearing happened Thursday.
St. Louis: Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has reached an agreement with the Missouri Office of Disciplinary Counsel in which she acknowledges mistakes in her handling of the prosecution of former Gov. Eric Greitens but won’t face severe penalties for those mistakes. The “joint stipulation” agreement was announced Monday at the outset of a disciplinary hearing before a three-person panel. In the agreement, Gardner concedes she failed to produce documents and mistakenly maintained that all documents had been provided to Greitens’ lawyers in the 2018 criminal case. The agreement says Gardner’s conduct “was negligent or perhaps reckless, but not intentional.” It calls for a written reprimand. A more severe punishment – suspension or disbarment – would likely cost Gardner her job because state law requires elected prosecutors to hold active law licenses. The panel would still need to sign off on the agreement and make a recommendation within 30 days to the Missouri Supreme Court, which ultimately decides punishment. It’s unclear when the court might make a final decision. Gardner is St. Louis’ first Black female circuit attorney and one of several progressive prosecutors elected in recent years with a focus on creating more fairness in the criminal justice system. She told the panel Monday that the mistakes were due to the fast-moving nature of the Greitens case.
Billings: State environmental officials unlawfully approved a large copper mine in central Montana despite worries that mining waste would pollute a river that’s popular among boaters, a state judge ruled. Officials with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality failed to conduct an adequate review of the proposed Black Butte mine north of White Sulphur Springs, Judge Katherine Bidegaray said in Friday’s ruling. Work began last year on the mine along a tributary of the Smith River, a waterway so popular among boaters that the state holds an annual lottery to decide who can float down it. The underground mine sponsored by Vancouver-based Sandfire Resources is on private land and would extract 15.3 million tons of copper-laden rock and waste over 15 years – roughly 440 tons a day. Environmentalists had sued over potential pollution from the mine and asked Bidegaray to reconsider its permit. Her ruling leaves that permit in place for now. She asked the two sides in the case to submit legal briefs within 45 days to address what should happen next. State officials said the mine permit includes requirements that will protect the Smith River. They plan to appeal the ruling, Department of Environmental Quality Director Chris Dorrington said.
Lincoln: A bill that would have allowed people in a majority of U.S. states to carry concealed handguns without a permit died Monday when Nebraska lawmakers derailed the proposal after hearing concerns from law enforcement officials. The bill would have made Nebraska the 26th state to adopt so-called constitutional carry legislation. Supporters in Nebraska fell two votes short of the 33-vote supermajority needed to overcome a filibuster led by opponents, which prevents lawmakers from advancing it this year. Permitless concealed carry is already allowed in 25 conservative-leaning states. The Nebraska bill won initial approval last month but stalled Monday on the second of three required votes in the waning days of the legislative session. “To say I’m frustrated is an understatement,” said Sen. Tom Brewer, the bill’s sponsor and a leading gun rights advocate in the Legislature. Nebraska already allows gun owners to carry firearms in public view, as long as they aren’t in a place where it’s prohibited and don’t have a criminal record that bars them from possessing one. To legally conceal the gun, they’re required to submit to a Nebraska State Patrol background check, get fingerprinted and take a gun safety course at their own expense.
Las Vegas: More Nevadans today are pessimistic about financial security and rising inflation than in recent years, a new poll of likely voters found, suggesting a negative shift in public opinion on the Silver State’s economy. The poll conducted last week by Suffolk University for the Reno Gazette Journal shows that Nevadans’ outlook on the economy mirrors how they feel about their elected officials both at the state level and in the White House. Just over 40% said their standard of living is worse now than it was four years ago – before Gov. Steve Sisolak and President Joe Biden assumed their respective offices and replaced Republican incumbents. About half said Nevada is headed down the wrong track. Suffolk surveyed 500 voters across the state, all of whom indicated they will likely vote in the midterm elections later this year. About 43% said their annual household income is less than $75,000, with 13% making less than $20,000 annually. Nevada’s median household income in 2020 was about $62,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than half of respondents said they disapprove of the job Biden is doing as president, and 47% said they want their vote in November “to change the direction” Biden is leading the nation.
Concord: A commission to address domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking will meet again following a ten-year absence, according to an executive order signed Monday by Gov. Chris Sununu. A state task force that examined how the judiciary handles domestic violence cases recommended that the commission be brought back. The original commission was created by Gov. Stephen Merrill and was active from 1993 to 2013. Sununu’s executive order said the state “remains committed to fostering a multidisciplinary approach to both better address the needs of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and promote a consistent response to hold offenders accountable for their actions.” It said that combatting and preventing domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking “remains a priority” for Sununu’s administration, and a commitment to reconvene the commission “is an additional measure to ensure victims remain safe and offenders are held accountable.”
North Haledon: Hundreds of people are signing petitions to keep a 25-foot star shining at High Mountain Park Preserve as the mayor continues to defy an order to take down the solar-powered decoration. Mayor Randy George said Monday that he is prepared to reinforce the public relations onslaught at a special meeting next month at Eastern Christian High School. The agenda, he said, will be to organize more support against The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia-based nonprofit that asked for the star to be permanently removed. “I’m doing everything I can to harass them,” the mayor said. Meanwhile, the borough has backing from an influential source. The township of Wayne is helping the cause, and its mayor said he “does not object” to the star on the mountain. Wayne owns most of the 1,260-acre park, but according to the conservancy, it does not own any portion of the preserve where the star is placed. That part was given directly to the nonprofit by North Haledon in October 2000. Barbara Brummer, the conservancy’s director for New Jersey, wrote in a letter to George that the star is a safety hazard because hikers are climbing on it and visiting the mountain after dark to see it lit up. “Another very important consideration,” she wrote, “is that the star and its accompanying equipment have a negative ecological impact.”
Santa Fe: Election regulators are resisting efforts by a conservative-backed foundation to post statewide voter registration information on a public website where it can be searched by names or addresses to view whether people voted in past elections and sometimes their party affiliations. The website does not list details of how people voted regarding candidates or initiatives. The Voter Reference Foundation, created by Republican former U.S. Senate candidate Doug Truax of Illinois, announced in December that it would add registered New Mexico voters to its website database VoteRef.com that was established in the wake of the 2020 election and now includes voter rolls from at least 20 states. That move has prompted calls for a state investigation into possible misuse of election records and a preemptive lawsuit by Voter Reference Foundation to ensure its plans to publish the details about New Mexico voters. The foundation has said its goal is to usher in a “new era of American election transparency.” But New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in an interview Monday that the foundation’s efforts violate state law that restricts the use of voter registration data to political campaigning or noncommercial government purposes.
New York: The 4-foot bronze Fearless Girl statue that was deposited in front of Lower Manhattan’s Charging Bull in 2017 will remain in its current spot opposite the New York Stock Exchange at least until early next year while city officials wrestle with a permanent disposition for the popular symbol of female empowerment, a city board decided Monday. Members of the Public Design Commission granted an 11-month permit extension and said they would spend the next six months exploring a way for New York City to take ownership of the statue, which is currently the subject of litigation between artist Kristen Visbal and State Street Global Advisors, the Boston-based asset-management firm that commissioned it. “We today, the Public Design Commission, cannot make this a permanent piece of art,” commission president Signe Nielsen said. “We can urge that steps be taken to enable this work to be considered for the public collection.” The statue of a spunky young girl was supposed to be a temporary installation when State Street commissioned it in 2017 to urge higher representation of women on corporate boards, but permits to keep it on display were extended several times once it became a major tourist attraction. Fearless Girl was moved to its current location in December 2018 and has continued to draw selfie-taking visitors. Visbal, meanwhile, began selling replicas of the statue around the world. State Street, which had an ownership contract with the artist, sued Visbal, alleging the replica sales violated the agreement, and Visbal countersued, arguing that the company was infringing on her rights. She has urged the city to take ownership of the piece itself.
Asheville: City officials have settled a federal discrimination lawsuit with a former firefighter who said she had endured a hostile work environment in which the fire chief and others inflicted emotional distress. John Hunter, the attorney representing former Asheville firefighter Joy Ponder, confirmed Tuesday that his client will get $155,000 in compensatory damages. She also voluntarily dismissed her claim in U.S. District Court, Hunter said. He said it was unusual for a gender discrimination case to survive summary judgment. “The city didn’t come forward with settlement offers until that happened,” he said. A federal judge ruled in March that the discrimination lawsuit filed by Ponder, one of the highest-ranking women in a North Carolina fire department, could proceed based on a claim of “disparate treatment.” Attorneys for the city of Asheville and Fire Chief Scott Burnette had asked U.S. District Court Judge Martin Reidinger for a pretrial summary judgment throwing out all claims by Ponder. Reidinger dismissed claims against Burnette, writing in his order that he could not be held responsible under the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII against employment discrimination because the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said “supervisors are not liable in their individual capacities for Title VII violations.”
Bismarck: A group that wants to legalize recreational marijuana in the state submitted paperwork Monday to begin the approval process. If it’s approved by North Dakota’s secretary of state, the group would need to gather 15,582 signatures by July 11 to get the measure on the ballot for the general election in November. The proposed measure would allow any person over the age of 21 to use limited amounts of marijuana and purchase products from registered establishments in North Dakota. The measure would put policies in place to regulate retail stores, cultivators, and other types of marijuana businesses. A similar effort failed in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hampered the group’s signature-gathering. Cannabis was a major topic in the Republican-controlled Legislature last year. State representatives brought bills to legalize and tax the drug, but the Senate killed the bills that were passed by the House.
Columbus: From X-ray body scanners to anti-drone technology, the state is ramping up efforts to keep contraband out of prisons as drugs and other illicit goods flood inside – even when visitation was curbed during the pandemic. The anti-contraband measures are aimed at anyone who enters prisons, whether inmates returning from an outside assignment, visitors or staff members, said Annette Chambers-Smith, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “Every time we solve one thing, we have to build a better mousetrap for the next thing,” Chambers-Smith told the Associated Press. The scope of the problem was underscored last month when federal authorities announced the arrest of a South African woman on suspicion of helping to smuggle hundreds of sheets of drug-soaked paper into at least five Ohio prisons. The woman is accused of soaking papers in legal correspondence, which is exempt from normal inspection routines. The state said it conducted about 1,000 drug seizures a month in state prisons from March through September 2020. Numbers slowly decreased through 2021 and now average just under 500 a month, according to state data.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law Tuesday that makes it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill, which takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns next month, makes an exception only for an abortion performed to save the life of the mother. Abortion rights advocates say the bill signed by the GOP governor is certain to face a legal challenge. “We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said during a signing ceremony for the bill, flanked by anti-abortion lawmakers, clergy and students. “I promised Oklahomans that I would sign every pro-life bill that hits my desk, and that’s what we’re doing here today.” Under the bill, anyone convicted of performing an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The measure does not authorize criminal charges against a woman for receiving an abortion. Sen. Nathan Dahm, a Broken Arrow Republican now running for Congress who wrote the bill, called it the “strongest pro-life legislation in the country right now, which effectively eliminates abortion in Oklahoma.” There is no enforcement mechanism for women who order abortion medication online from out-of-state suppliers. Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill last year to prevent such online purchases, but that measure was blocked by the state Supreme Court.
Salem: A recently released report shows an ice storm in 2021 decimated hundreds of acres of trees in the city. The report from Salem Public Works Department says a citywide analysis found a 17.6% tree canopy loss from August 2020 to May 2021. City staff said about 10 acres of tree canopy was lost to development, but the bulk of the loss – more than 1,000 acres – was because of the Feb. 15, 2021, ice storm. The report to the city says thousands of trees fell, and branches buckled under the weight of ice during the storm. Historic and heritage trees, some hundreds of years old, were downed. “Large Oregon white oaks were particularly hard hit by the ice storm as their large diameter branches accumulated heavy loads of ice, resulting in massive limb breakage and whole trees keeling over,” city staff said in the report. Initial reviews found about 10,000 trees were damaged, and 1,000 trees were removed from city property following the storm. The city spent more than $6.3 million on ice storm-related cleanup. New tree growth and new planting projects have helped offset that loss, the city said.
Harrisburg: Ex-President Donald Trump slammed GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain on Tuesday, complaining the former federal prosecutor did “absolutely nothing” to investigate Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud after Democrat Joe Biden won the state in 2020. McSwain, who spent nearly three years as the top federal prosecutor in Philadelphia under Trump, had been seeking his endorsement, calling the presidential election in Pennsylvania a “partisan disgrace” as he sought to curry favor with the former president. McSwain has often touted his connection to Trump while campaigning for the GOP nod in a crowded primary field. Instead, Trump turned on him. “One person in Pennsylvania who I will not be endorsing is Bill McSwain for Governor. He was the U.S. Attorney who did absolutely nothing on the massive Election Fraud that took place in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth,” Trump said in a statement. “Do not vote for Bill McSwain, a coward, who let our Country down. He knew what was happening and let it go.” Trump’s false claims of a stolen election have been debunked by the courts, his own Justice Department and numerous recounts, and no prosecutor, judge or election official in Pennsylvania has raised a concern about widespread fraud.
Providence: After years of neglect, the most recognizable feature on the city’s skyline, the Superman Building, will be rescued. Gov. Dan McKee announced Tuesday that the building’s owner is planning to turn the vacant landmark into an apartment building with offices and shops, with help from state and city funding. Officially known as the Industrial Trust Building, at roughly 430 feet high, it is the tallest building in Rhode Island. It has been vacant for nearly a decade. McKee said the $220 million redevelopment project will reinvigorate downtown Providence and bring the Superman Building “back to life.” Opened in 1928, it resembles the Daily Planet headquarters in the old “Adventures of Superman” TV show. McKee said $26 million will come from state housing and economic development programs, and $15 million will come from the city through a loan and a direct contribution. Massachusetts-based High Rock Development committed to providing more than $42 million and will take advantage of federal tax credits and seek a tax stabilization agreement from the city, McKee said. High Rock Development bought the building in 2008. In 2013, the sole tenant, Bank of America, moved out. The value of the building dropped, and it fell into disrepair.
Spartanburg: A unique gold medal celebrating a battle victory that helped turn the tide in the American Revolution brought a world-record $960,000 at auction. An anonymous buyer of the Daniel Morgan at Cowpens Medal won with a bid of $800,000 on April 4. With the 20% buyer’s premium, the final price was $960,000, according to Stack’s Bowers Galleries in Costa Mesa, California. The medal honors Revolutionary War Gen. Daniel Morgan and his victory at the 1781 Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina. It was struck in 1839 at the Philadelphia Mint. “Everyone’s pretty excited,” said numismatist John Kraljevich of Fort Mill, who specializes in rare, early medals and authenticated the anonymously consigned medal. The front of the medal depicts Morgan leading an infantry charge on horseback against a retreating British cavalry. The back features a Native American woman placing a crown of laurels on Morgan’s head. The original medal was struck in Paris in 1789 and given to Morgan in 1790. After his death in 1802, grandson and heir Morgan Neville owned the medal and stored it in a bank vault in Pittsburgh. It was stolen in 1818 during a robbery. In 1836, Congress authorized the strike of a single replacement, and it remained in the family until about 1885. At one point the medal was acquired by famed financier banker J.P. Morgan, who incorrectly believed he was related to Daniel Morgan, Kraljevich said. The medal then disappeared from view and was thought to have been lost or melted. Only in recent months did it reappear when consigned anonymously to the auction house.
Pierre: The state House on Tuesday impeached Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg over a 2020 car crash in which he killed a pedestrian but initially said he might have struck a deer or another large animal. Ravnsborg, a Republican, is the first official to be impeached in South Dakota history. He will at least temporarily be removed from office pending the historic Senate trial, where it takes a two-thirds majority to convict on impeachment charges. Ravnsborg pleaded no contest last year to a pair of traffic misdemeanors in the crash, including making an illegal lane change. He has cast Joseph Boever’s death as a tragic accident. In voting 36-31 to impeach Ranvsborg, the Republican-controlled House charged him with committing crimes that caused someone’s death, making “numerous misrepresentations” to law enforcement officers after the crash and using his office to navigate the criminal investigation. “When we’re dealing with the life of one of your citizens, I think that weighed heavily on everyone,” said GOP Rep. Will Mortenson, who introduced the articles of impeachment. A spokesman for Ravnsborg did not reply to a request for comment after the vote. Tim Bormann, the attorney general’s chief of staff, said his staff would “professionally dedicate ourselves” to their work while Ranvsborg is forced to take a leave.
Nashville: Gov. Bill Lee will soon decide whether to sign off on adding harsh penalties against public schools in his state that allow transgender athletes to participate in girls’ sports. The GOP-controlled Legislature finished advancing the proposal Monday, with Senate Republicans approving the measure 26-5. The House had previously approved the bill last month. Lee, a Republican, hasn’t said publicly whether he supports the legislation. However, he signed a measure last year mandating that student-athletes must prove their sex matches that listed on the student’s “original” birth certificate. If a birth certificate is unavailable, then the parents must provide another form of evidence “indicating the student’s sex at the time of birth.” This year, lawmakers decided to add penalties to that ban, which is in effect even as a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality makes it way through court. A trial has been tentatively set for March 2023. “What this bill does is put teeth in that legislation,” said Republican state Sen. Joey Hensley. Under the legislation headed to Lee’s desk, Tennessee’s Department of Education would withhold a portion of a state funds from local school districts that fail to determine a student’s gender for participation in middle or high school sports.
Austin: Many of the state’s cattle ranchers are culling herds because of rising costs for feed and fuel, along with the looming prospect that ongoing drought conditions could worsen this summer. Consolidation of the meatpacking industry in recent years also has reduced the market power of ranchers, who sit at the very beginning of a lengthy line of processors, packers, wholesalers and retailers in bringing beef to consumers.“I tell (people) the packers are making all the money,” said Shelby Horn, general manager of Abell Livestock. Cattle prices have been climbing along with increased consumer demand for beef as the broad economy continues recovering from its pandemic-induced downturn. But they haven’t yet risen enough to offset the multiple headwinds facing many ranchers, Horn and other experts say. Texas is by far the largest producer of beef cattle in the country, with a herd that totals about 4.5 million animals – 2.3 million more than Oklahoma, the second-largest producer, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sales of beef cattle and calves in Texas generate about $8.5 billion annually and constitute the state’s top agricultural commodity. But the Texas herd shrunk 3.5% last year – or by about 160,000 head – outpacing a 2.3% decline in the U.S. beef cattle herd overall.
St. George: The state’s increasingly popular national parks will offer free entrance Saturday to kick off National Park Week. The nationwide celebration, lasting through April 24, aims to “boost awareness of the value and availability of recreational areas, encouraging people across the country to spend time in America’s treasured national parks,” according to a U.S. Senate press release. In celebration, entrance into all national parks will be free April 16. That includes Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef.
Burlington: The number of opioid-related overdose deaths in the state increased by 33% in 2021 to a record number of 210 fatalities, the Vermont Health Department reported. The report released last week found that fentanyl was involved in 93% of last year’s opioid deaths, while the percentage of deaths that involved heroin dropped from 25% in 2020 to 10% last year. Cocaine was involved in 48% of all opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the report. The study also found that use of methamphetamine and the drug xylazine, a veterinary sedative, were increasingly contributing to opioid-related fatal overdoses among Vermont residents. The 2021 figure of 210 was up from 158 in 2020. The report lists opioid fatalities going back to 2010, when there were 37. Chittenden County had the highest number of opioid-related overdose deaths last year at 38, while Rutland County had the highest rate of opioid deaths per 100,000 residents at 48, according to the report.
Richmond: Gov. Glenn Youngkin has proposed substantial changes to a hemp bill aimed at reining in the retail sales of products containing a psychoactive form of THC, including amendments that would create new misdemeanor penalties for marijuana possession. The bill is among more than 100 pieces of legislation the Republican governor is seeking to amend, his office announced late Monday, just ahead of a deadline Youngkin faced to take action on bills sent to his desk. Lawmakers will meet April 27 to consider the governor’s proposed amendments and will also have the chance to override his vetoes. The hemp measure rewrote the definition of marijuana in state code in a way industry players said would have severely curtailed the sale of CBD products that don’t produce a high, in addition to ending the retail sales of delta-8, a chemical cousin of pot’s main intoxicating ingredient, sales of which have proliferated around the country. Youngkin’s amendments would also create a Class 2 misdemeanor offense for possession of more than 2 and less than 6 ounces of marijuana and a Class 1 misdemeanor for possession of more than 6 ounces and less than 1 pound. A 2021 law passed when Democrats were in full control of state government laid out a yearslong pathway toward retail sales and legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Anyone possessing an amount between an ounce and a pound is currently subject to a small civil fine.
Olympia: A new law could reshape the way child dependency cases are handled in the state, potentially leading to more children staying with family members without those relatives being required to adopt them. Under the current practice, Washington state forces relatives to adopt children when neither parent can take care of the child. If family members don’t wish to adopt, the Department of Children, Youth and Families removes children from those placements, even if those relatives still want permanent kinship guardianship, and places the child up for adoption. “We’re removing children out of relatives’ homes, loving relatives’ homes, because they’re unwilling to adopt,” said Shrounda Selivanoff, director of public policy for the Children’s Home Society of Washington and a proponent and writer of the legislation. Children’s Home Society said the state currently “prioritizes termination” of parental rights instead of using other options, the News Tribune reports. Termination of parental rights is not required when a dependency case ends, they said. Under the new law, the state won’t be allowed to move children from their relatives’ care if those relatives don’t want to adopt. Financial assistance also has been expanded for relatives who are eligible.
Charleston: Free tire collection events are scheduled around the state this month. The events are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 23 behind the Go-Mart in the Cabin Creek community in Kanawha County, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 23 at Clay County High School, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 23 at the Old Oak Ridge Trucking Lot in Elkins and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 30 at the HL Wilson Trucking Lot in Moorefield, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said. Each person may dispose of up to 10 tires. The tires must be off the rims. Only car and light truck tires are accepted, the agency said. Ongoing tire collections are held regularly in Boone, Brooke, Calhoun, Fayette, Hancock, Mason, Mercer, Monroe, Pocahontas, Putnam, Tucker, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Upcoming tire collection events are listed on the department’s website.
Madison: New data shows a sharp increase in Type 2 diabetes among children in the state, and doctors think COVID-19 could be a factor. Figures from UW Health Kids shows a nearly 200% increase in the number of cases over the past several years. Dr. Elizabeth Mann, a pediatric endocrinologist and director of the Type 2 Diabetes Program at UW Health Kids, said it’s a trend medical experts have noticed for years, but it’s taken a worrisome turn recently. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve just seen a sharp increase beyond what we had expected,” Mann said. In 2018, 5.8% of pediatric patients with new onset diabetes at Madison’s American Family Children’s Hospital had Type 2, a disease that primarily affects adults. In 2021, that number grew to 16.4%. And so far in 2022, 1 in 6 pediatric patients at the children’s hospital with new onset diabetes has Type 2, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. “In kids, this Type 2 diabetes just acts a little bit more aggressively,” Mann said. “So it’s not only that we’re seeing Type 2 diabetes at younger ages, but it also seems to be a more severe form where kids are needing more medications and have more significant complications from it.” In Type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form overall, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body has developed a resistance to it. Mann said it’s a common misconception that Type 2 diabetes is purely a result of diet and activity levels. She said genetics and epigenetics play a big role in making people more susceptible.
Cheyenne: State wildlife officials have detected avian influenza among wild birds in Wyoming, include Canada geese and great horned owls, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fearless Girl, lizard invasion: News from around our 50 states