Montgomery: Gov. Kay Ivey will light the state Christmas tree in a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Alabama Capitol. The public is invited to attend. The 151st Army National Guard Band and other musical performances will begin at 5 p.m. The theme of the ceremony is “Every light a prayer for peace.” This year’s Christmas tree is a 35-foot-tall Eastern red cedar grown in Bullock County. It was donated by Ray Allen’s farm of Fitzpatrick. The tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol. Decorations will include ornaments commemorating Alabama’s bicentennial.
Anchorage: The governor wants public input on an upcoming bill to set up a legal framework for Alaska Native tribal governments to operate K-12 schools, officials say. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy plans to introduce the bill during the next legislative session, The Anchorage Daily News reports. Tribes would be asked to enter into agreements with the state called compacts to operate the schools, education officials say. The state education department plans to hold a series of community meetings this month and in early 2020 to hear Alaska residents’ comments and questions, officials say. The schools would be open to all students and “offer a unique, culturally rich combination of Western and millennia-old tribal educational models,” the education department says.
Phoenix: It’s taken 17 years, but the City Council has chosen a location and is moving forward with opening a Latino cultural center. The council voted Wednesday to build the center, which will support Latino arts and culture, in the north building of Margaret T. Hance Park downtown. But the yearslong debate over the proper location continued during the meeting, with some suggesting the city find a spot more relevant to the Latino community. Councilman Carlos Garcia said the location did not meet the needs of the growing Latino community, which is expected to surpass 50% of the state’s population by 2020, according to a city-commissioned study. Councilwoman Thelda Williams stressed that the vote Wednesday marked the furthest the project has been able to get in 17 years and warned against further stalling.
Little Rock: The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the state attorney general’s request to prohibit a judge who demonstrated against the death penalty from handling any cases involving her office. In a 4-3 decision, justices rejected the request by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to remove the cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s court. The court did not elaborate on the reason for its decision. Griffen was prohibited from handling execution cases in 2017 after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug. Rutledge asked in September that the order on execution cases be expanded to include all civil cases involving her office. She accused Griffen of regularly yelling at attorneys from her office when they appeared in his court. Griffen has denied any claims of bias.
Sacramento: The governor on Wednesday blamed the Trump administration for withholding data needed to release $650 million in state aid to combat homelessness. California’s cities and counties have been waiting since June for the money approved by the Legislature. But state law says the money can only be distributed based on federally approved homelessness counts for 2019. Most California communities submitted their homeless counts months ago. But the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not yet approved them. Gov. Gavin Newsom called the delay “politicized roadblocks put up by the Trump administration.” Instead of waiting, Newsom said his administration has collected preliminary homeless data from California communities. Based on those numbers, Newsom said the state will open applications involving as much as $500 million of the money.
Denver: State transportation officials unveiled plans Wednesday for a bus system that will shuttle skiers and snowboarders from Denver to three resorts in an effort to ease traffic congestion exacerbated by a recent population boom. Gov. Jared Polis said during a ceremony at Denver’s Union Station that the “Snowstang” service, which begins Dec. 14, will be “really convenient” and “super easy.” “We know that by providing more alternatives for people to go in buses or other ways of getting there, we can also have an impact on reducing traffic during peak times,” he said, standing across the street from three 51-seat buses equipped with restrooms, power outlets, Wi-Fi and luggage racks. The Colorado Department of Transportation will run the service to Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat on Saturdays and Sundays throughout winter, as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day holidays.
Hartford: Over a dozen people gathered Wednesday in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in the city to protest the nearly 2-year-long detention of a Connecticut immigrant marked for deportation. Mayor Luke Bronin joined the wife of Bakhodir Madjitov and others to support the Uzbek immigrant and father of three children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. “I’m living in pain with broke bones since my third child was born; I can neither work nor live peacefully,” his wife, Madina Madjitov, said at the rally. “I don’t think I can provide normal life without my husband for my children.” Diana Blank, one of the man’s lawyers, said he was granted in November two temporary emergency stays of removal by federal courts. He originally had a final order of removal of no later than Dec. 2. It’s unclear now how soon he could be deported.
Wilmington: A bear has caused an uproar after running through the streets of the First State’s biggest city. Police spent part of Thursday morning trying to catch the animal while bystanders rushed to get a look. Some residents were told to shelter in place. But by 11:15 a.m., police said the bear had left their jurisdiction. It’s unclear where the animal went, but it caused widespread excitement in a city and a state that rarely see bears. During the morning, the bear was seen in a backyard and in an alley. People later spotted it on railroad tracks behind a grocery store and then moving toward a park. Wilmington police said they had planned to tranquilize the bear. But they also warned that they might have to shoot it if the animal came to close to people. The sighting in Wilmington comes after drivers reported seeing a bear crossing major highways earlier in the week.
District of Columbia
Washington: A new D.C. Council proposal looks to create equity among parent teacher organizations in the district, WUSA-TV reports. Councilmember David Grosso has introduced a bill that would create an equity fund to benefit PTOs in the D.C. public school district. The bill’s language dictates that after a PTO expends more than $10,000 in a school year, it will be charged an “equity fee” of 10 cents for every additional dollar it spends. The monies collected from those fees will then go toward the equity fund, which would then be equally distributed to other PTOs in the district. PTOs often raise funds on the behalf of schools to finance field trips and extracurricular activities. According to Grosso’s office, last year 75% of D.C. elementary schools did not report having any PTO revenue.
Miami Beach: It took artist Leandro Erlich two years and 330 tons of sand to create his largest work of art to date – a giant traffic jam, made entirely of sand. Erlich was commissioned by the city of Miami Beach to create the work, which was unveiled during Art Basel. The surreal traffic jam depicts 66 life-sized sculptures of cars and trucks stuck in an imaginary traffic jam on the oceanfront of popular Lincoln Road. The installation is meant to suggest a future relic, like a contemporary Pompeii, and alludes to Miami’s fragile position in the large universal canvas, touching on climate crisis and rising sea levels. The installation cost over a million dollars, but the city paid $300,000 thanks to sponsors and donations. It will remain on display until Dec. 15.
Atlanta: Some Georgia State University students are demanding that the mayor remove a prominent downtown statue of a 19th century newspaper editor who called for maintaining white supremacy in the South. Henry Grady advocated for a “New South” after the Civil War. A plaque on the statue, erected in 1891, describes him as a patriot. But Grady also campaigned against equality for freed slaves, saying that “the supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever.” “Let us be clear in recognizing that Grady, as a journalist, promoted racism,” several student groups wrote in an editorial Tuesday in Georgia State’s student newspaper. “Grady, as an orator, promoted racism. And Grady was certainly no patriot – he was simply a racist.” They want the statue relocated to the Atlanta History Center, but if Georgia law won’t allow that, they’ll accept a new marker explaining Grady’s beliefs.
Honolulu: State health officials have investigated dozens of adult residential care homes in the state after receiving reports that the facilities were operating without licenses. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that the state Department of Health has received 114 complaints about unlicensed homes, and 74 remain open. Officials say state legislators passed a law last year authorizing the department to investigate and enter unlicensed care homes amid plans to crack down on these facilities. State officials say they have entered and inspected 52 homes so far with plans to issue 13 notices of violation to illegal operators. Officials say some residents of these homes have lost thousands of dollars because health insurers do not cover unlicensed facilities. Department officials say there likely are not enough licensed facilities for residents.
Boise: The state is the least-regulated in the nation, Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday. The Republican said he’s cut or simplified 75% of Idaho’s administrative rules this year and leapfrogged ahead of South Dakota as the least-regulated state. State officials said they base the state’s least-regulated status on information collected by George Mason University. Little said he’s eliminated more than 30,000 restrictions and some 1,800 pages of regulations. Little had sweeping authority to eliminate thousands of rules after state lawmakers fought over the administrative rules process and failed to renew them before adjourning in April. Little said the cuts to regulations will help the economy. “Folks, when you reduce friction on entrepreneurs, good-paying jobs will follow,” the governor declared.
Springfield: Hundreds of artifacts belonging to Abraham Lincoln and his family will remain in the state’s hands with the refinancing of a loan used to buy them. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation says it has refinanced the 2007 loan it used to purchase 1,500 items from collector Louise Taper. The foundation voted last year to seek an auction house to prepare selling some of the items in the collection, which includes a stovepipe hat purportedly belonging to Lincoln, if it couldn’t pay off the $9.2 million remaining on the loan by this fall when the note came due. But the foundation says it negotiated a three-year extension with Lake Forest Bank and Trust at a lower interest rate. In addition to the hat whose authenticity has been challenged, the collection includes the bloodied gloves Lincoln wore to the theater the night he was shot.
West Lafayette: Purdue University President Mitch Daniels apologized Wednesday for recent remarks in which he described an African American scholar as “one of the rarest creatures in America.” “I retract and apologize for a figure of speech I used in a recent impromptu dialogue with students,” Daniels wrote in a letter sent to the Purdue chapter of the NAACP, Purdue’s Black Caucus of Faculty and Staff, the Black Student Union and other groups. “The word in question was ill chosen and imprecise and, in retrospect, too capable of being misunderstood. I accept accountability for the poor judgment involved.” Daniels made the comment Nov. 20 after a meeting with Purdue Student Government leaders when students asked Daniels to follow up on his thoughts about what Purdue was doing to promote diversity on campus and to make underrepresented minority students feel welcome.
Des Moines: A man convicted of delivering meth two decades ago should have been added to the state’s database of felons banned from voting, but an embarrassing clerical error instead listed the police force that busted him. The inclusion of the Des Moines Police Department among the names of murderers, drug dealers and other disenfranchised criminals is just one glaring example of the mistakes, wrongful additions and omissions that make the 103,000-entry database unreliable, a review by the Associated Press found. “Holy cow!” Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said as he was alerted to the error. “You would think there would be an audit with something as important as voting.” The database, which is part of the state’s 14-year-old voter registration system, helps determine a person’s eligibility to cast a ballot, run for public office or serve as a public official.
Topeka: Death typically brings two options – burial or cremation – but a third option could be on the horizon in the state. The Kansas City Star reports that something called promession, the creation of a Swedish biologist, would allow the body to be cryogenically frozen and vibrated into tiny pieces. Proponents say it holds the potential to make burial more environmentally friendly. Promession has been used on pigs but so far has not been tried on humans. Still, the company pursuing the idea sees Kansas as fertile ground for the new method. That company, Promessa, has one of its few U.S. representatives based in Overland Park. Meanwhile, a state lawmaker may introduce a bill in 2020 to clear the way for the new method.
Frankfort: The Abbey of Gethsemani has been added to the Kentucky Natural Areas Registry. The Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves said in a statement that it was recognizing the abbey’s historic stewardship of more than 1,500 acres of land in Nelson County. The voluntary designation is designed to recognize stewardship and awareness of the ecological significance of a property, state officials say. Landowners don’t relinquish any rights but agree to protect the area as best they can. Abbot Elias Dietz said he looks forward to collaborating with state officials to preserve and enhance natural areas such as grasslands and glades. Properties on the registry must have habitat for plants or animals that are rare or have a declining population, or they must contain an outstanding example of a Kentucky ecological community, such as an old-growth forest, wetland, glade or prairie.
Shreveport: A parish commission has approved funding to remove a Confederate monument during a special budget meeting. The Caddo Parish Commission allocated $500,000 to remove the 30-foot-tall marble and granite Confederate monument in downtown Shreveport that was erected in 1905 on the north side of the Caddo Courthouse lawn. Although the commission has the funding to remove the statue, there’s still a legal battle brewing between the parish and the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The organization filed a temporary restraining order against the parish and the commission, halting the removal of the statue, and during Tuesday’s meeting continued speaking out in opposition of the statue’s removal. A judge ruled Nov. 29 that neither the parish nor the commission could move the statue, for now. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13.
Portland: The state’s independent U.S. senator says blueberry growers need help from the federal government to survive the Trump administration’s trade battle with China. Sen. Angus King says the value of Maine’s wild blueberry exports to China is on pace to drop by nearly 97% since 2017. Maine is America’s producer of wild blueberries, which are smaller than cultivated blueberries and are widely used in frozen and processed products. King says it’s unfair that Maine wild blueberry growers haven’t been included in President Donald Trump’s farm bailout programs. He says the blueberries are “an iconic Maine agricultural product” that has “lost a piece of its future.” The Maine wild blueberry industry is facing other difficulties outside the trade dispute with China. Prices for the fruit have been much lower than they were earlier this decade. The size of the harvest last year was also the lowest in more than a decade.
Baltimore: Four chambers of commerce in the state are endorsing a plan to build a $10 billion high-speed maglev train between Baltimore and Washington. The chambers of commerce for the city of Baltimore, Baltimore County, northern Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County voiced support for the first phase of the project Wednesday. The high-speed train would help economic development and local business opportunities, the groups say. It could connect the two cities in 15 minutes along a 36-mile route. The project is currently under review by federal, state and local agencies, as well as the Federal Railroad Administration. The four chambers of commerce serve more than 1,500 member organizations, representing cities, agencies and businesses throughout portions of central Maryland.
Boston: A proposed ballot question that would overhaul the state’s electoral system has cleared another hurdle on the way to next year’s ballot. The group Voter Choice for Massachusetts is pushing what is called a ranked-choice voting system. On Wednesday, the group said it has submitted more than enough voter signatures to move the question along. Under the proposed system, voters have the option of ranking candidates on the ballot in order of their preference. If a candidate garners a majority of first-place votes, that candidate wins. If no candidate receives a majority of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who ranked the eliminated candidate as their first choice will have their vote count instantly toward their second choice. The process repeats until one candidate receives a majority of the vote and wins.
Lansing: The state is opening its surplus store for a one-day sale Saturday. The shelves will be stocked with goods from police, airports and colleges, and property no longer needed by state government. The goods include computers, phones, knives, sporting goods, desks, chairs and even fashion accessories. The store in Lansing will be open from 8 a.m. to noon. Cash and credit cards will be accepted. More information is available online. Online shoppers can bid 24 hours a day at Michigan.gov/MiBid.
St. Paul: State budget officials projected a $1.332 billion surplus in the current two-year budget period Thursday, setting up contentious debates for the 2020 legislative session on whether to save the extra money or spend it, possibly to cover tax cuts. Budget Commissioner Myron Frans credited the surplus to a better-than-expected finish to the last budget period, a rosier revenue forecast and a modest decrease in estimated spending. He said the extra revenue will also boost the state’s separate budget reserve – a cushion against economic downturns – to $2.359 billion. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Democratic legislative leaders joined Frans in urging a cautious approach to using the money, given that the forecast predicts slower economic growth over the next four years and doesn’t account for inflation in program costs. But they agreed the forecast shows the state can afford to pass a sizable public works borrowing package.
Hattiesburg: William Carey University is waiving tuition for a professional development course in an effort to combat the state’s teacher shortage. The university said in a statement that the course can be used to renew a Mississippi Educator License. It begins in January and lasts five weeks, news outlets report. The class will be taught online, Dr. Teresa Poole told WHLT-TV. Poole says anyone can apply, but preference will be given to practicing teachers and those who have licenses that are about to expire. There is a $85 application fee. The deadline to apply is Jan. 8, and the course begins the following Monday.
Columbia: The University of Missouri has received a $500,000 grant that will help it restart a law clinic dedicated to investigating possible cases of wrongful conviction. KMIZ reports the grant from the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice will fund the MU Innocence Clinic. The money will pay for DNA tests on evidence involved in cases where eyewitnesses may have misidentified a suspect. Law professor Rodney Uphoff says the school will partner with the Midwest Innocence Project, a law firm that specializes in exonerating inmates who may actually be innocent. Students in the clinic will review cases of the firm’s clients to interview witnesses in the case and identify possible pieces of evidence for testing. Eight students will work in the clinic during the 2020 spring semester.
Bozeman: National park officials have announced plans for the selective slaughter of between 600 and 900 Yellowstone bison this winter to help manage population numbers. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the officials expect most of the animals to be taken by hunters or shipped to slaughter. Some would stay alive in corrals or under park quarantine. Officials say the exact number of bison expected to be culled out of the estimated 4,900 depends on the winter migration. State, federal and tribal agencies managing bison say the winter plan was finalized Tuesday under the Interagency Bison Management Plan, a day after a judge rejected an attempt to block bison hunts this year. Officials say the plan includes putting 110 bison into brucellosis quarantine to produce disease-free bison.
Lincoln: Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals is planning a $57 million expansion on its Lincoln campus and expects to begin construction in the spring. The project is a planned three-story, 112,000-square-foot patient wing that will also add 59 new rooms to replace ones that were built in the early 1970s, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Madonna currently has 120 patient rooms, about half of which were upgraded and modernized in 2000. Hospital officials said at a news conference Wednesday that the new rooms will be bigger and more modern than current ones, allowing patients to be more independent and providing more room for staff and families. Construction will develop in phases and is expected to be completed by January 2023.
Las Vegas: The state’s two public universities saw significant spikes from 2017 to 2018 in reports of sexual violence, according to annual data going to the Nevada System of Higher Education board. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the tally says rape, fondling, stalking, and domestic and dating violence went up at the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Police chiefs from both campuses attributed the numbers to an increase in reporting by students. “We’ve gone too long with people not feeling comfortable with reporting,” said Todd Renwick, police director at UNR, Truckee Meadows Community College, Western Nevada College and the Desert Research Institute in Reno. He said an Office on Violence Against Women grant was used to hire an in-house coordinator to field sexual assault cases, help victims file police reports and Title IX complaints, and connect with outside resources.
Concord: The state is taking steps to salvage federal money for schools that provide mental health counseling, speech therapy and other services to students, Gov. Chris Sununu and other state officials said Wednesday. The Medicaid to Schools program allows schools to be reimbursed by the federal government for services provided to Medicaid-eligible students. While it once applied only to special education students, the state expanded the program in 2017, and it now covers thousands of students from virtually every district. The program is in jeopardy, however, because under new federal guidance issued in July, those providing the services must be licensed by a medical board, not just credentialed by the state Department of Education. To address that issue, Sununu signed an executive order Wednesday to temporarily speed up the licensing process, and bipartisan legislation is being drafted to create a permanent change.
Atlantic City: The Ocean Casino resort has hired a female CEO, one of a small handful of women leading casinos or casino companies nationwide. Terry Glebocki was named CEO this week after serving in the job in an interim capacity since August. She has more than 30 years of financial management experience and recently served as the casino’s chief financial officer. Glebocki previously worked for Tropicana Entertainment and Trump Entertainment Resorts. Ocean is the only one of Atlantic City’s nine casinos to be led by a woman. Glebocki says maintaining profitability and increasing revenue are her top goals. She also says she reads every social media post she can find from customers about the casino.
Albuquerque: The U.S. Commerce Department is awarding the city a $1.2 million grant to help with redevelopment of its historic rail yards. Commerce Department officials were joined by Mayor Tim Keller and others in announcing the funding Wednesday. They say the award is expected to create more than 300 jobs and generate $9 million in private investment. The federal grant will be matched by local funds. Efforts to revitalize the rail yards began more than a decade ago with the creation of a special advisory board, and the city adopted a master plan for the 27-acre site in 2014. One portion is now used for a popular weekend market that features local vendors.Aside from attracting new retail, office and hospitality businesses, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the grant could lead to expansion of Albuquerque’s film industry.
New York: One of the brightest signs of the holiday season has come to light. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was officially turned on Wednesday night, at an event featuring celebrities including Idina Menzel, Lea Michele and Ne-Yo among the performers. The tree, a Norway spruce that’s more than 60 years old, stands 77 feet tall and was lit up in colorful Christmas lights before 10 p.m. It was on the property of Carol Schultz in the village of Florida, New York, and was cut down last month. The tree was decorated with miles of lights, with a huge Swarovski crystal star at the top. It stays in place until Jan. 17, when it will be taken down and donated to Habitat for Humanity to help build homes. There’s been a tree in Rockefeller Center at Christmastime since 1931. The holiday lighting has been broadcast since 1951.
Wake Forest: A second town in the state has canceled its Christmas parade over concerns about possible protests of a float celebrating the Confederacy. Leaders in Wake Forest had said last week that the town’s parade would go on and include the Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy despite a planned demonstration. That decision changed once police learned that the number of expected protesters had grown from 10 to 200 people, Police Chief Jeff Leonard says. The entire parade has now been canceled for safety reasons. This would have been the 72nd year of the parade, news outlets report. “We aren’t happy telling kids they can’t attend or participate in this year’s parade – but it’s better than trying to explain to a parent whose child was injured despite so many warning signs,” the chief said. The town of Garner also canceled its Christmas parade this year over fears that a float sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans would be “targeted for disruption.”
Bismarck: Burleigh County will hold a special meeting next week to take comments on whether it should resettle additional refugees. County commissioners postponed action on the matter at a meeting Monday after an overflow crowd showed up to address the issue. A recent executive order by President Donald Trump stated that new efforts to resettle refugees would have to receive permission from state and local governments. Gov. Doug Burgum announced last month that the state would continue to receive refugees as long as local governments agreed. The public will be able to voice opinions next Monday on whether to allow Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota to continue resettling refugees in the county. Commissioners could vote on the matter at the special meeting Monday.
Columbus: The governor wants lawmakers to drop bills that would prohibit local governments from forbidding the use of plastic bags. Gov. Mike DeWine opposes a pair of bills offered by fellow Republicans that would forbid municipalities and counties from banning single-use plastic bags by groceries and other stores. Some local governments, including Cuyahoga County and the Columbus suburb of Bexley, are trying to regulate the use of plastic bags in an effort to reduce litter and plastic waste in landfills. Some lawmakers and business groups say the local bans make it harder for grocers and other businesses to operate. DeWine said Wednesday that it would be a mistake for state lawmakers to override local government decisions. State government should allow allow local communities to do “what they think is best,” the governor said.
Oklahoma City: The State Department of Health has asked for less money in its proposed budget. Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Gary Cox asked legislators this week to decrease his agency’s funding by 1.5%. The Oklahoman reports the current state budget allocates $60.8 million to the department. Cox says he needs $56.2 million for fiscal 2021. Cox says he aims to minimize administrative costs and maximize services. He says he will eliminate unnecessary jobs and combine employee duties. He also notes that he plans to add nurses and other positions to work at local health departments. Lawmakers grilled Cox during Monday’s budget hearing, saying his proposal is confusing and counterintuitive because the public needs the funds. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Cox in September to lead the department.
Portland: Conservationists have successfully bred the extremely rare, federally threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly in captivity, a potential breakthrough for saving a species that once was found in coastal regions from California to British Columbia but is now reduced to five isolated populations, the Oregon Zoo says. The captive breeding resulted in 269 silverspot caterpillars that will be released into the wild once they transform into butterflies. “This is a really exciting breakthrough,” says Tia Perry, a keeper in the butterfly conservation lab. Perry says wild silverspots lay their eggs in the Oregon Zoo lab each year, but this is the first time a female butterfly bred in captivity. At the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the zoo’s lab held back 22 pupae from this year’s butterfly release, and one of the resulting female butterflies mated in captivity with a wild male.
Pittsburgh: Owners of alligators and other dangerous reptiles will be required to register their pets with the city under an ordinance approved this week. The ordinance requires owners of alligators, crocodiles and venomous snakes to store and transport their pets in escape-proof containers. The owners must also provide the city with a list of each reptile they own. Rooms and buildings housing the animals also must be posted with notice that they contain reptiles. City Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who sponsored the bill, said regulations are needed, particularly after a number of loose alligators appeared in the city in recent months. At least four alligators were captured from May to October in the city and surrounding municipalities, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. First-time violators could face a $300 fine per reptile. Repeat offenders could be assessed a fine of $10,000 per reptile.
South Kingstown: The University of Rhode Island’s College of Business has received the largest gift in the institution’s history, school officials announced Wednesday. Former Hasbro Inc. Chairman and CEO Alfred J. Verrecchia made a donation of $15 million with his wife, Gloria, to his alma mater to create a scholarship for students, a fund for students seeking competitive internships, a faculty chair and professorship, and an emerging technology fund. The gift will offer support to students who have secured internships but do not have the financial backing to pursue them. The faculty position will focus on artificial intelligence and business analytics. The technology fund is intended to provide the tools students will need to prepare them for their careers.
Greenville: A recently discovered letter that could implicate a former Greenville County sheriff and his team in the 1975 murder of a deputy and his father is missing. Greenville police found the letter in a stack of documents while cleaning out storage lockers at the Law Enforcement Center in April 2018 and subsequently lost it, according to a statement the department sent Thursday. The letter appeared to be addressed to late Sheriff Cash Williams from one of his mistresses and indicated he was involved in the murder of Frank and Rufus Looper, as well as framing the man ultimately convicted in the slayings, Police Chief Ken Miller told the Greenville Public Safety Review Board during a July meeting. In a statement sent Thursday, the Greenville Police Department said it has been unable to find the evidence after searching investigator work stations, case files, and storage areas.
Pierre: Gov. Kristi Noem’s husband has reached another milestone in his role as first gentleman, albeit a very small one. Bryon Noem has been memorialized in the First Spouse Doll Case, where dolls are displayed with the attire that the spouse – and, in one instance, sister – of every South Dakota governor wore at their inauguration. The dolls date all the way back to one showing the dress worn by Margaret Wylie, the wife of South Dakota’s first governor, Arthur Mellette. Every doll is displayed in a series of cases in the South Dakota State Capitol. Bryon Noem’s doll is the first one not to be wearing a dress, instead sporting a miniature tuxedo and bow tie. It is also the only doll with a head, which Sandy Rhoden, who spearheaded the project, said had no special meaning.
Nashville: Tennesseans are invited to visit the governor’s mansion this holiday season for self-guided tours. This year’s decorations are themed “Songs of the Season,” with each tree decorated to represent a different classic Christmas carol. Visitors may also bring donations to benefit several nonprofits from around the state. “Bill and I consider it a great privilege to be celebrating our first Christmas at the Tennessee Residence,” first lady Maria Lee said in a news release. “We are delighted to open the doors of Tennessee’s home and share in the joys of the season with our fellow Tennesseans.” The free holiday tours begin Friday. Reservations are required. More information about the tours and suggested donations for charity can be found online.
Austin: The number of children adopted from the state’s foster care has reached a four-year high, and just over half of the kids were adopted by family members, according to data released Wednesday by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “This is certainly great news and affirmation that our year-round adoption efforts are paying off,” said Kristene Blackstone, an associate commissioner for Child Protective Services, an arm of DFPS. All told, more than 20,000 children left Texas foster care during the 12-month period that ended Sept. 1. However, only 6,107 found permanent homes through the adoption process. Of those, 3,095 were placed with family members. Both numbers are all-time highs, officials said.
Salt Lake City: A massive open-pit copper mine in the Oquirrh Mountains southwest of the city will remain open through 2032 after the owners announced a new $1.5 billion investment. Rio Tinto announced Tuesday that it will invest $1.5 billion in the Bingham Canyon Mine due to increasing demand for copper in electric vehicles and renewable power technologies. Closures of other mines have also affected supply and made the investment make sense, Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a news release. The investment will extend the mine’s operations an additional six years beyond the previously anticipated shutdown in 2026. A 2013 landslide at the mine that carried enough rock, dirt and debris to bury New York’s Central Park under 66 feet of rubble set back production and triggered layoffs. The mine still employees 1,900 people.
Burlington: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has announced his annual State of the Union essay contest for the state’s high school students. It’s the tenth annual contest in which students describe a major issue facing the country and how to address it. The contest coincides with the president’s annual State of the Union speech to the joint session of Congress each January. Students must submit their 250-500 word essays by Jan. 8. A volunteer panel of Vermont teachers will judge the essays. The 10 finalists’ essays will be entered into the Congressional Record. Finalists also will be invited to be interviewed about the topic they covered. “We need our students to help find solutions for the problems that face our country as they are our future leaders,” Sanders says.
Richmond: A commission assigned to research racist laws from the state’s past recommended Thursday that dozens of them be repealed, including measures that resisted desegregation, prevented black voters from casting ballots and prohibited interracial marriage. While most of the measures are outdated and “have no legal effect,” they are still enshrined in law, the nine-member commission of attorneys, judges, scholars and community leaders wrote in an interim report. Although “some of these acts were rendered null and void by an amended Virginia Constitution, by landmark civil rights cases or legislation, it’s clear that they are vestiges of Virginia’s segregationist past that still sit on the books,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Hudson, who chairs the commission, said at a news conference in Richmond. “We should not afford them the distinction of that official status.”
Seattle: The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a voter-approved $30 car tab measure will remain on hold while a legal fight over the initiative’s constitutionality plays out. The Washington State Attorney General’s Office filed an emergency motion Monday saying Washington voters’ wishes were being “stymied” by a King County Superior Court judge’s decision to stop Initiative 976 from taking effect. On Tuesday, initiative sponsor Tim Eyman and his allies filed their own request to vacate the lower court’s injunction and move the case to the state Supreme Court. That was dismissed by the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Voters last month approved I-976, the statewide measure that calls for lowering many vehicle registration fees to $30, rolling back car-tab taxes that fund Sound Transit and doing away with local car-tab fees. Much of the measure had been set to take effect Thursday.
Charleston: After a photo surfaced of state correction officer trainees giving what appears to be the Nazi salute, state officials quickly suspended some employees, and the governor ordered the firing of those involved. The image, showing a more than two dozen trainees with their arms raised and faces blurred, was released Thursday by the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. Before the photo was made public, the agency’s secretary, Jeff Sandy, released a memo describing the image of Basic Training Class Number 18 as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.” He wrote that the picture “betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees.” Sandy’s memo ordered all copies of the picture destroyed or taken out of circulation to prevent them from spreading.
Wausau: Workers will install a Christmas tree outside Pine Grove Cemetery’s Grand Avenue gate, a symbol of hope and resilience as the cemetery and the community contend with deep grief. The tree honors Patty Grimm, the cemetery’s general manager, who was shot and killed there Oct. 3. But cemetery leaders hope the tree can be used to help everyone in the community cope with loss during the holidays. Two others were wounded at the scene. Rosemelia Short, who is related to an employee at the cemetery, was hospitalized, treated and released shortly after the incident. William Buhse, who oversaw the cemetery’s work crew, was seriously wounded and is now undergoing long-term rehabilitation, says Pat Haskin, who is volunteering to help manage the cemetery until a new manager is hired to replace Grimm.
Casper: The U.S. Department of Energy has announced plans to partner with the University of Wyoming for further research on how to trap carbon dioxide before it leaks into the atmosphere. The Casper Star-Tribune reports the federal agency and university researchers plan to study the economics and technology behind carbon capturing at two of the state’s coal-fired power plants. Officials say research would begin at the Dave Johnston power plant in Glenrock and the Naughton power plant in Kemmerer. Republican Gov. Mark Gordon says he has remained committed to the state’s coal assets, as it produces about 40% of the nation’s coal despite declining demand nationwide and increasing interest in renewables and natural gas. Gordon says he encouraged the Legislature in January to support advancements in post-combustion carbon dioxide reduction technologies.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: First Spouse Dolls, Snowstang: News from around our 50 states