Hoover Dam fire, hitchhiking chicken, Thirty Meter Telescope: News from around our 50 states

·34 min read

Alabama

Birmingham: A female lion was fatally injured while being introduced to a newly acquired male companion at the Birmingham Zoo. Akili, who was born in 2005 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and had been at the Birmingham Zoo since 2007, couldn’t be saved after being injured by a lion named Josh, who had been at the zoo since April. The slow process of introducing the lions to each other had begun previously, the zoo said in a statement, and Akili was badly injured within minutes of a meeting on Monday. The introduction was done on a day the zoo was closed so no visitors were present, said Jennifer Ogilvie, a spokeswoman. Josh was brought to the zoo as replacement for another male lion that died in 2021, the statement said. Dozens of people expressed sorrow over Akili’s death in response to an announcement by the zoo on social media.

Alaska

Juneau: The wreckage of an airplane reported overdue last week has been located, and the pilot, the only person onboard, found dead, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety. The department in a statement identified the pilot as 38-year-old Andy Andersen of Sutton. An Alaska Army National Guard helicopter and crew on Thursday afternoon located the wreckage and Andersen at the top of Thompson Pass about 1,000 feet off the Richardson Highway, the statement said. Alaska State Troopers identified the pilot and his body was recovered. The body will be taken to the state medical examiner’s office, the statement said. The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating.

Arizona

Phoenix: Heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest, have hit a half-year record as more homeless people live unprotected outdoors in the arid desert city while summer temperatures soar well into triple digits. The most recent data from the Maricopa County Department of Health showed 17 heat-associated fatalities were registered this year through the first week of July, with another 126 under investigation. About two-thirds of the deaths involved people who were outdoors. That number is far greater those recorded during the same period in past years. There were 11 such fatalities in the first six months of 2021 with 107 more under investigation; four during that period in 2020 with another 48 under investigation; and three in 2019 with 27 more under investigation. The health department reported 339 heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County for all of 2021.

Arkansas

Little Rock: Gubernatorial hopeful Chris Jones called for increasing Arkansas teacher salaries, following a push by fellow Democrats to put teacher pay raises on the agenda for a legislative session next month. Jones endorsed a proposal that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson made earlier this year to increase minimum teacher salaries in the state to $46,000 a year. Hutchinson, however, has said he won’t put the proposal on the agenda for next month’s session because of a lack of support in the majority-GOP Legislature. Jones is running against Republican nominee and former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who is heavily favored in the November election in the solidly red state. Hutchinson is barred by term limits from seeking reelection. Sanders’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Lawmakers are meeting next month for a special session focused on tax cuts after the state ended the fiscal year with a $1.6 billion budget surplus. Republican legislative leaders have said the special session isn’t the right time to take up the issue because the Legislature hasn’t completed its annual review of education funding required by law. That review is used to recommend increases in school funding and includes a look at teacher salaries.

California

Los Angeles: Two motorists had to be rescued from a swamped car when a water main break flooded a Hollywood street early Wednesday. Los Angeles firefighters extended a ladder out to two women who climbed onto the top of a swamped car. The incident occurred before dawn near the U.S. 101 freeway, east of the Hollywood Bowl.

Colorado

Fort Collins: WildEarth Guardians and 13 other conservation and wildlife organizations are calling for a minimum of 150 packs or 750 wolves to be established for four consecutive years in Colorado before state officials consider delisting the animals from protected status. The wolf population threshold was part of a plan the group will present to the Colorado Wildlife Commission before Thursday’s commission meeting in Edwards. The commission is in charge of developing a plan for wolf reintroduction and recovery by next year. A news release by the groups Monday said 750 wolves is “not a cap, but a minimum requirement for future state delisting from ‘threatened” to “nongame status.” That number is five times higher than a recommendation by a group selected to help the state establish a reintroduction and recovery plan.

Connecticut

Norwich: The suspension of a state dental clinic’s free services means local families will need to travel an hour or more to get dental care for severely disabled family members. In March, the Department of Developmental Services dental clinic in Norwich stopped seeing patients. Months later, parents, SEIU 1199 union staff and others are concerned about how long it will take to reopen. DDS spokesman Kevin Bronson said in an email the department wants better staffing for the center and there isn’t a set time for reopening. With the Norwich clinic closed, Michelle Drake was told to take her son to a facility in Bridgeport, more than an hour away. The Norwich clinic suspension contributes to a lack of care for severely disabled people in eastern Connecticut, outside of the school systems, said Drake, who works for The Arc Eastern Connecticut.

Delaware

Wilmington: The State Fair returns Thursday, and there are some posh new attractions this year, including a butter sculpture, along with a stacked and diverse concert lineup on the M&T Bank Grandstand. Genres include rock, rap, county, contemporary Christian and Latin music. This summer marks the first time in the fair’s 102-year history that it will feature a Latin artist (Fank Reyes) as a headliner. Nelly will be the first rapper at the State Fair since Flo Rida in 2009. Fairgoers can witness live butter sculpting daily in the Exhibit Hall from noon to 8 p.m. For more information on the fair, visit delawarestatefair.com or call (302) 398-3269.

District of Columbia

Washington: Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s delegate to the U.S. House, said she plans to introduce a bill to provide additional funding for FEMA’s food and shelter program designated for humanitarian assistance to migrants, including those bused to the District by Texas and Arizona, WUSA-TV reported. The busing of migrants to D.C. will also be a point of discussion at a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments virtual meeting Friday.

Florida

St. Petersburg: Fewer manatee deaths have been recorded this year in Florida compared to the record-setting numbers in 2021, but wildlife officials cautioned chronic starvation remains a dire and ongoing threat to the marine mammals. Between Jan. 1 and July 15, about 631 manatee deaths have been confirmed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That compares with 864 during the same period last year, when a record number of manatees died mainly from a lack of seagrass food, which was decimated by water pollution. The five-year average of manatee deaths in that time frame is 481. Despite some glimmers of hope, wildlife officials said during a news conference Wednesday that manatees continue to face dwindling food options and many survivors have been severely weakened by malnutrition, which leaves them more vulnerable once cold weather sets in. How manatees fare this summer when more food is available will determine how they survive in the winter, said Martine de Wit, a veterinarian overseeing necropsies and coordinating rescues of ill manatees for the state wildlife commission. There are about 7,500 manatees in the wild in Florida, according to wildlife commission figures. They have long struggled to coexist with humans. Seagrass-killing pollution and boat strikes are now the main threats facing the creatures.

Georgia

Marietta: The rollout of a new logo for an Atlanta-area elementary school has been paused after parents noted similarities to a Nazi symbol, though a school district said the design was based on a U.S. Army colonel’s eagle wings. The Cobb County School District said it has halted distribution of the new logo for East Side Elementary School in Marietta after it drew condemnation on social media. The logo depicts an eagle, the school’s mascot, over the school’s initials ES. The Nazi eagle, which was developed in the 1920s and later became a symbol for white supremacists, depicts an eagle holding a swastika in its talons. Georgia’s second-largest school district announced plans to delay the new logo while “immediately reviewing needed changes.”

Hawaii

Honolulu: The National Science Foundation said it plans to conduct a study to evaluate the environmental effects of building one of the world’s largest optical telescopes on a site selected in Hawaii. The agency published a notice in the Federal Register of its intentions to prepare an environmental impact statement for the $2.65 billion Thirty Meter Telescope. The telescope’s supporters have pursued plans to build it on their preferred site on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest mountain and one of the world’s best locations for viewing the night sky, for more than a decade. But there is strong opposition from Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain’s summit sacred. The National Science Foundation plans to host four meetings on the Big Island of Hawaii in August. It said it won’t decide on whether to fund the telescope until after it considers public input, the environmental review, the project’s technical readiness and other factors. Protesters blocked construction crews in 2015 and 2019, saying building a new telescope there would further defile a site that they said has been harmed by a dozen other observatories. The TMT International Observatory, the international consortium of scientists behind the project, has selected the Spanish island of La Palma off Africa’s western coast as an alternate if it cannot build in Hawaii.

Idaho

Boise: The Idaho Endowment Fund that distributes money to public schools and other entities lost $400 million in the fiscal year that wrapped up at the end of June, state officials said. Investments Manager Chris Anton told the Idaho Land Board the fund lost about 13% of its value, dropping from $3.1 billion to $2.7 billion during what has been a tough stretch for investors. However, the fund is up 5.9% over the last three years and 8.3% over the last 10 years. Anton said his primary concern going forward was federal monetary policy aimed at controlling inflation without causing a severe recession. Anton noted that in fiscal year 2021, the endowment fund grew by nearly 30%, gaining about $750 million. The fund is spread out into various equity markets, as well as fixed income and real estate. Real estate is the only investment in the portfolio that went up in the last fiscal year, climbing nearly 28%. But only about 8% of the fund is invested in real estate.

Illinois

Springfield: City treasurer Misty Buscher said she will run for mayor next year, making her the first person to step in opposition to incumbent Jim Langfelder for his fight for a third term. Buscher, 51, has served as city treasurer since 2015 after more than 20 years in the city’s banking industry. Although city elections are nonpartisan, Buscher ran for city treasurer with the endorsement of the Sangamon County Democratic Party, which proved to be problematic the next year, when she identified as Republican and endorsed Donald Trump in his first run for the presidency. That earned her criticism from her opponent in 2019 for the treasurer’s chair, Jennifer Notariano, who had been active in local Democratic politics. Buscher, however, won in a landslide, getting nearly three-quarters of the vote for re-election. If elected, she would be the second woman to serve as mayor, after Karen Hasara served two terms from 1995 to 2003. She is the fifth woman to serve in elected city office and the second to serve as treasurer, with Judy Madonia serving in the role from 1987 to 2003. The other two women to serve in city office are Cecelia Tumulty, who was city clerk from 2003 to 2015 and her predecessor Norma Graves, who served from 1987 to 2003.

Indiana

Indianapolis: An Indiana law aimed at prohibiting abortions based on gender, race or disability is going into effect after a federal judge lifted an order first issued six years ago blocking its enforcement. U.S. District Judge Tonya Walton Pratt granted an order Monday removing her injunction that was sought by the Indiana attorney general’s office after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to allow states to make laws regarding abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana had successfully sued to block the law after it was adopted by Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature in 2016, but it conceded defeat in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

Iowa

Janesville: Fairbank Mayor Gregory “Mike” Harter, 71, died when a vehicle he was in driven by a 14-year-old driver’s education student collided with another vehicle, authorities said. Harter died at the scene of the crash Monday morning on U.S. 218 near Janesville, city officials said. Police said the vehicle being driven by a 14-year-old from Waterloo went onto the shoulder. The driver overcorrected, crossed the highway and median and collided with an oncoming car, police said. The driver and another 14-year-old in the car, and the driver of the second vehicle, were injured, police said. Harter was mayor of Fairbank since 2018 after serving for two years on the City Council, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. He was a former educator who retired nearly a decade ago as a school superintendent.

Kansas

Topeka: A couple that moved to Mississippi a month ago finally got their possessions back, 28 days after movers left Topeka with them. Jean St. Felix, the owner of Miami-based JM Moving Co., returned those possessions early Tuesday night at a storage facility in Ocean Springs, Miss., where Craig and Linda Wright now live, Linda Wright said. Almost everything the couple owned was packed into a 26-foot U-Haul trailer driven by St. Felix, which left June 21 from their North Topeka storage unit, ostensibly en route to Ocean Springs. The Wrights said they paid St. Felix $3,500 up front before he left Topeka with their possessions in a U-Haul that surfaced empty days later. After that, Linda Wright said she touched base with St. Felix every third day to get a progress report.

Kentucky

Frankfort: Gov. Andy Beshear and mental health advocates in Kentucky expressed hope Monday the launch of the 988 mental health crisis hotline will help remove the stigma of reaching out for assistance. The hotline went live nationally on Saturday, offering quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies. People taking the calls are trained counselors. Beshear noted suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults in Kentucky. Counselors can link Kentucky callers to other mental health and substance abuse services, providing a “strong safety net” in communities, said Audra Hall, coordinator of emergency services for Pennyroyal Center in Hopkinsville.

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: Amid worsening problems at a south Louisiana juvenile detention facility – including a weekend escape that allegedly ended with a violent carjacking – Gov. John Bel Edwards said some of the youths will be temporarily moved to the state penitentiary at Angola. Edwards said about half of the 50 or so juveniles at Bridge City Center for Youth will be housed in coming weeks at a “secure, independent housing unit” at the penitentiary at Angola which once served as a reception center. The governor said the youths “will not, under any circumstances, have contact with adult inmates.” Simultaneously, construction crews will begin renovating a section of the Jetson Center for Youth in Baker. Once that work is complete, the juveniles relocated to Angola will be transferred there, he added.

Maine

Portland: The deaths of dozens of seals off the coast of Maine has been deemed an “unusual mortality event,” sparking a federal investigation into strandings that appear linked to avian influenza. The seal strandings began in June and 159 have been reported through Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Most of the seals were found dead. The NOAA gave the strandings, which have affected harbor and gray seals, the “unusual” designation Friday. That authorizes a federal investigation to try to determine the cause and minimize deaths. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed samples from four stranded seals tested positive for avian flu, which has been found in more than 40 states since it was detected in the winter of 2021. The risk to the public from the occurrence of avian flu in seals is low, but beachgoers should take precautions anyway, NOAA representatives said.

Maryland

Princess Anne: More than 1,000 locations across Somerset County in the lower Eastern Shore are scheduled to be connected to broadband internet because of federal and state funding. On July 8, Gov. Larry Hogan announced $100 million in internet infrastructure grants to jurisdictions across the state with money received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

Massachusetts

Boston: Two police unions want to roll back limits on when they can use tear gas, pepper spray and other less-than-lethal crowd control methods, which the City Council implemented last year. The unions are asking a judge to rule on whether the City Council ordinance is valid and enforceable, and also on the validity of an independent board to investigate allegations of police misconduct created in January. The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society filed the suit Monday in Suffolk County Superior Court. The ordinance came about after Boston police were criticized for some of their crowd control measures during a June 2020 protest, amid nationwide demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The unions said the use-of-force rules are based on politics and put public safety at risk.

Michigan

Lansing: An effort by Republicans in the Legislature to weaken minimum wage and sick-leave laws was declared unconstitutional Tuesday. A judge on the Court of Claims threw out changes made late in 2018 as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was near the end of his term and Democrats were preparing to take over top statewide posts. Advocates had turned in enough signatures to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022 and eliminate a lower tipped wage in the restaurant industry. The minimum wage now is $9.87 an hour; less for tipped workers. There was also a successful petition drive to expand sick leave opportunities. The Legislature adopted both in 2018 – a possible step – instead of letting voters have their say. But lawmakers then returned a few months later and watered them down by a simple majority vote. Appeals are likely. Wendy Block of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce said businesses could suffer with the sudden changes.

Minnesota

Minneapolis: State government employees who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 are no longer required to take weekly tests for the virus in order to stay in the workplace. The requirement that went into effect in September meant thousands of employees took tests each week. Those that didn’t comply were subjected to suspensions or other discipline. A state official said the requirement was rescinded because of the evolving nature of the virus. Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget, said agencies can still adopt their own procedures. And, a small number of state workers in health care settings are still bound by federal vaccination rules that took hold in January. Without publicity, Gov. Tim Walz’s administration rescinded the policy in late May, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Mississippi

Jackson: A county-owned Mississippi hospital system that wants to put itself up for sale said one of its main financial challenges is the decision by the state’s elected officials not to extend Medicaid to provide insurance coverage for the working poor. Singing River Health System is owned by coastal Jackson County. The system operates hospitals in Pascagoula, Gulfport and Ocean Springs. It also has about three dozen clinics and more than 3,500 employees. Trustees of the system announced June 1 that they had voted to put it up for sale or to seek a merger with another health system.

Missouri

Springfield: Missouri State University completed the purchase of its newest residence hall, built through a partnership with a private developer. Matt Morris, vice president for administrative services, confirmed the purchase price of $24 million. The seven-story, 402-bed hall on the west side of campus at 811 S. Holland Ave. sits on less than an acre. It is expected to open in August with every bed taken. It includes a four-story parking garage with 285 spaces. The residence hall rooms are on the upper floors. There is dining and retail space in the building. An executive committee of the MSU Board of Governors was expected to vote Wednesday to name the building Heitz House.

Montana

Billings: The Montana Republican Party platform opposes nearly all abortions after a vote of those attending the party’s platform convention over the weekend. Party members on Saturday approved a platform that opposes all elective abortions. They rejected a proposal to allow exceptions for rape or incest, Montana Public Radio reported. “What makes this language even harder for me is in the case of rape and incest, because I do not believe that the baby should be responsible for the sins of another person,” Rep. Jedediah Hinkle of Belgrade said during the meeting in Billings. The platform does allow abortion care in cases of miscarriage or threats to the life of the mother, Republican lawmakers told the Montana State News Bureau, although the allowable circumstances are not completely known. Party spokesperson Alden Tonkay did not return an email seeking comment on Tuesday. No one answered the phone at the Montana Republican Party headquarters in Helena. In Montana, access to abortion care is protected by the privacy right guaranteed in the state Constitution, according to a 1999 Montana Supreme Court ruling. Republican lawmakers passed several bills regulating abortions during the 2021 legislative session. Three of the new laws are temporarily blocked by an injunction that the state has asked the Montana Supreme Court to vacate.

Nebraska

Lincoln: The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department reported 656 COVID-19 cases last week, about a 2% decline from the 671 cases from the previous week, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. But as of Monday, there were 57 COVID-19 patients in Lincoln hospitals, the highest number since Feb. 20, although that number dropped to 44 as of Tuesday.

Nevada

Boulder City: A transformer exploded Tuesday at Hoover Dam, one of the nation’s largest hydroelectric facilities, producing a thick cloud of black smoke and flames that were quickly extinguished. No one was injured in the explosion near the base of the dam, an engineering marvel on the Colorado River that straddles the border of Arizona and Nevada. Electricity produced at Hoover Dam continued flowing to the 8 million people in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California who rely on it, the Western Area Power Administration said. The cause of the fire was under investigation and officials were working to determine the extent of damage to the transformer, one of 15 at the complex that control the voltages for power sent to customers. “There is no risk to the power grid,” said Jacklynn Gould, a regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

New Hampshire

A rendering of the new skateboard park in Portsmouth, which will be located off Route 33 at the city's stump dump. Construction could begin on the skatepark as soon as next spring.
A rendering of the new skateboard park in Portsmouth, which will be located off Route 33 at the city's stump dump. Construction could begin on the skatepark as soon as next spring.

Portsmouth: Construction of the city’s new skateboard park off Route 33 could begin as soon as next spring. Mayor Deaglan McEachern said the project, which will also include a multipurpose playing field, a bicycle pump track and parking, is something “we’d like to see started as soon as possible.” His comments came Tuesday after the City Council voted last week to approve a bond issue of $1.8 million for the new park, which will be located at what is known as the city’s stump dump. McEachern said the project will likely be built in phases, with the skatepark being completed first, followed by the multipurpose field.

New Jersey

Red Bank: An air conditioning failure at Riverview Medical Center’s emergency room prompted a partial evacuation Wednesday morning, even as the Jersey Shore faces a stretch of miserably hot and humid weather. Several units “went offline,” according to a statement from Tony Perry, a spokesman for Hackensack Meridian Health, which operates Riverview. Emergency workers from the New Jersey EMS Task Force, Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management and EMS coordinators and Neptune Township Office of Emergency Management responded to the hospital, setting up six air conditioning units, according to a Facebook post from the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office. Medical ambulance buses from Middlesex and Monmouth counties also responded.

New Mexico

Carlsbad: A transmission line will send wind power generated in southern New Mexico 550 miles west into Arizona, where it could serve urban markets there and in California. The SunZia Transmission project was acquired by Pattern Energy and will combine with the company’s existing plans to develop wind power in the region. The line starting near the border of Lincoln and Torrance counties will have a capacity of 3,000 megawatts – enough to meet energy needs of 2.5 million Americans, per a report from Pattern. Together, the wind and transmission projects marked an $8 billion investment by the company, and construction was planned to begin in 2023.

New York

New York City: Former Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is ending his campaign for a U.S. House seat in New York, dropping out after two months by saying it’s clear “people are looking for another option.” The Democrat was running in a crowded primary for a deep-blue congressional district that includes his Brooklyn home and parts of southern Manhattan. He considered running for governor of New York but opted not to challenge incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul. He also had a short-lived run for president in 2019, which lasted two months longer than this year’s congressional campaign. Recent polling had placed de Blasio near the bottom of the field of 13 Democrats seeking to represent New York’s 10th Congressional District. Jerry Nadler represents New York’s 10th district now but will no longer live in it after redistricting.

North Carolina

Raleigh: A former interim head of North Carolina’s community college system will return to the position while its governing board seeks a permanent replacement for President Thomas Stith III, who abruptly resigned this week. The State Board of Community Colleges voted Wednesday to appoint Bill Carver as interim president, a position he held in late 2020 while the board decided to choose Stith to succeed Peter Hans. The board announced Tuesday it accepted Stith’s resignation, effective Friday, after barely 18 months on the job. His departure came days after the board met privately in part to consider Stith’s performance. Board members also have been concerned about high personnel turnover at the system office in Raleigh.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The operators of an ethanol plant in North Dakota said the state’s first carbon capture and storage project is up and running. Carbon emissions from Red Trail Energy’s plant near Richardton are injected thousands of feet into the earth as a way to fight climate change, as less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. Red Trail CEO Gerald Bachmeier said after six years of research, development and investment, the company is celebrating the achievement which “establishes a trail for other industries in the state to follow.” North Dakota’s Industrial Commission approved the project last fall, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Gov. Doug Burgum, who leads the commission, has a goal of making North Dakota carbon-neutral by 2030, which involves striking a balance between the carbon dioxide released from within the state and the amount of emissions contained or offset in some way.

Ohio

Columbus: The City Council approved a new jobs growth incentive agreement Monday night estimated to deliver $1.53 million over five years to Aware, a Columbus-based software firm that designs systems for employers to monitor and analyze their workers’ electronic communications and interactions. The seven-member Council approved the Aware tax-sharing agreement unanimously. It gives the software firm 25% of the municipal income tax collected on new employees, and 30% if those employee live within the city, for the next five years. The city stands to make more than $4 million over five years for its cut of the new employee taxes, according to a city Development Department analysis.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: A federal audit report sharply criticized Oklahoma officials for a lack of transparency, oversight and accountability in the use of coronavirus relief funds that were intended for education. The state, which received nearly $40 million in pandemic assistance for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief, or GEER, Fund, has returned more than $919,000 that was unspent from the program. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General report dated Monday recommended the state return nearly $653,000 more that was spent on noneducation-related items such as televisions and Xbox gaming systems by families that received grants. The document also called for the state to audit another $5.4 million for possible refund of misspent funds, and develop better management and internal controls of the spending. A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, Kate Vesper said the report is being reviewed.

Oregon

Salem: Oregonians will decide in November whether people wanting to purchase a gun will first have to qualify for a permit, after one of the strictest gun-control measures in the nation landed on the ballot. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s elections division determined Monday the gun-safety campaign delivered enough verified signatures of registered voters to put Initiative 17 on the ballot for the Nov. 8 election. Election officials said 131,671 signatures were validated, more than the minimum 112,080 that were needed. The measure would ban large-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds – except for current owners, law enforcement and the military – and require a permit to purchase any gun. To qualify for a permit, an applicant would need to complete an approved firearm safety course, pay a fee, provide personal information, submit to fingerprinting and photographing and pass a criminal background check. The state police would create a firearms database. Applicants would apply for the permit from the local police chief, county sheriff or their designees.

Pennsylvania

Stroudsburg: Pocono Raceway and the NASCAR Foundation kicked off race week with a surprise visit from Tricky the fox at the Pocono Family YMCA on Monday morning. Pocono Raceway President Ben May and Tricky handed out Speediatrics Fun Day Festival Kits to the children in attendance. The kits were packed with gear for the children to complete the weeklong program, which is geared toward inspiring children to lead a healthy lifestyle through the lens of NASCAR. Supplies included an activity book with colored pencils, a water bottle, a pedometer watch, sunglasses and more. The program will culminate in the inaugural Speediatrics Fun Day Festival at Pocono Raceway on Friday.

Rhode Island

Providence: Anthony Silva, Gov. Dan McKee’s former chief of staff, did not break the law by involving himself in efforts to secure approval to develop wetlands in which he had a financial interest but he did show “poor judgment,” state Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a report released Wednesday. Although Silva’s dealings with state Department of Environmental Management and Cumberland town officials were not criminal, his conduct undermined confidence in state government, the 22-page report concluded. Silva resigned in August when the issue became what McKee called a “distraction,” and the Democratic governor requested the investigation. Silva maintained he did nothing wrong.

South Carolina

Columbia: A House committee reviewing South Carolina’s abortion law suggested the state ban almost all abortions other than when the life of the mother is at risk. The state has a ban at roughly six weeks that includes exceptions for rape and incest. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, conservatives in the General Assembly started to look at whether they could join the growing number of states banning the procedure. The 12-member special panel voted 9-3 with all eight Republicans joining one of the House’s most conservative Democrats in approving the new bill.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Patients enrolled in South Dakota’s medical marijuana program will have their first opportunity to buy cannabis from a state-licensed facility next week. It has been a year and a-half since state voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana. The co-owner of one dispensary, United Rd. in Hartford, said the business has secured the first initial inventory available to state-run stores and the showroom is ready for customers. The building was created with security in mind, said co-owner B.J. Olson. “We started with a vault and then built the building around the vault. We have 8-inch poured concrete walls, reinforced with rebar,” Olson said. Medical marijuana so far has only been available on tribal land in South Dakota, but next Wednesday, Unity Rd. will be the first state-licensed dispensary to offer cannabis.

Tennessee

Nashville: The Tennessee Human Rights Board of Commissioners has named Muriel Malone Nolen executive director to oversee the agency. Nolen was named executive director effective Monday after working with the agency since 2021, according to a news release. She previously worked as an assistant district attorney general in Shelby County for 18 years. Nolen replaces Beverly Watts, who stepped down in February after news outlets reported that a state investigation found she created a toxic work environment.

Texas

Georgetown: The city has attracted a new solar roof business with the help of a $3.24 million incentive package that includes property tax abatements and job credits. GAF Energy, a Standard Industries company, has begun building a 450,000-square-foot facility on the southeast corner of Interstate 35 and Southeast Inner Loop, according to a city news release. Construction is expected to be finished in June 2023. The company plans to hire 265 employees in high-tech jobs over the next 10 years, the city said. It said the total capital investment for the project is estimated to be more than $100 million in that time. The net 10-year economic impact to Georgetown is estimated to be $3.75 million, city officials said.

Utah

St. George: Police bomb squad members gave the “all clear” after checking on a bomb threat made at Utah Tech University late Tuesday. Campus police evacuated buildings in the vicinity of the Smith’s Computer Center on the university’s main St. George campus after dispatchers received a call reporting the threat at about 3 p.m. The buildings were swept by the bomb squad four times and then given the all-clear, according to Jordan Sharp, UT Vice President of Marketing and Communication. The search took roughly an hour to complete.

Vermont

Hinesburg: A Vermont family’s chicken is back home after hitching a ride in the undercarriage of their pickup truck and ending up 13 miles away in the state’s largest city late last month – a journey that included speeds of 65 mph on an interstate. Someone having coffee on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace, an outdoor pedestrian mall, spotted the chicken and knew the bird was in a predicament, WCAX-TV reported. Witness Lo Fasano called rehabilitators, Shelburne Farms and the police. “They said they don’t do chickens,” Fasano said. So Fasano took the chicken home, gave her food and a place to nest, and turned to social media. A Facebook post led to finding the chicken’s owners in Hinesburg who were worried about the lost hen. The chicken is now home. Because of her adventurous spirit, the family changed her name from Bug to Amelia after Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean.

Virginia

Tappahannock: A fire that spread quickly through the downtown area damaged or destroyed part of a historic district, impacted businesses and displaced at least one family, officials said. The fire swept through downtown buildings in Tappahannock on Friday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Several firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion in the fire that began before noon in the back of a furniture store on Prince Street, a block south of the Downing Bridge that spans the Rappahannock River. Officials also said other nearby buildings in the town’s historic area, including several vacant homes, were damaged or destroyed, affecting an art gallery, real estate office, beauty parlor and café, as well as apartments above the businesses. Tappahannock Essex Fire Chief Paul Richardson estimated damage at close to $2 million, although more time will be needed to fully assess the situation. It’s not known how the fire started. To fight the fire, firefighters at one point had to draw water from the nearby Rappahannock River when the town’s water supply wasn’t enough, Richardson said.

Washington

Olympia: The state Department of Ecology has canceled the drought declaration for central and eastern Washington because of unanticipated cool, wet weather in May and June. Water supply conditions have been much better than expected, and as a result, no part of the state is experiencing drought conditions, Ecology officials said Tuesday in a statement. Washington had the second-wettest May-through-June since 1895, officials said. That has preserved snowpack which will support late-summer water supply needs, according to Jeff Marti, the department’s statewide drought coordinator. This year’s conditions are in stark contrast with the spring of 2021, which was the second-driest on record. An unprecedented deadly late-June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest then broke temperature records across the state.

West Virginia

Charleston: Interstate 64 in West Virginia reopened Wednesday, a day after a tractor-trailer carrying a hazardous material overturned. The truck rolled over early Tuesday on westbound I-64 in Charleston. No injuries were reported. About 600 gallons of an acetone-based material spilled, destroying the highway’s pavement, the state Department of Transportation said in a news release. A contractor repaved the site. Westbound lanes of I-64 at the split with I-77 were shut down for more than 24 hours before being reopened late Wednesday morning.

Wisconsin

Keshena: The Menominee Indian Tribe said it is relaunching its effort, in partnership with Hard Rock International, to open a casino and entertainment complex in Kenosha. The tribe will be the owner of the casino complex and Hard Rock will be the developer and manager. Hard Rock International had planned to partner with the Menominee tribe to develop an $800 million hotel and casino at the former site of Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha. The plan, approved by the City of Kenosha and Kenosha County, was rejected by then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2015. Menominee Chairman Ronald Corn, Sr. said the revived effort is aimed at providing necessary resources for the ongoing and growing needs of the tribe, which is ranked as one of the largest and poorest in Wisconsin.

Wyoming

Cheyenne: The Wyoming Supreme Court reversed the prison sentence of a Jackson woman now serving 20 years for aggravated vehicular homicide, concluding the judge in her case considered two constitutionally prohibited factors when he punished her last year, the Casper Star Tribune reported.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States