Montgomery: Convicted former state House Speaker Mike Hubbard told people he was innocent and “held my nose” as he signed a letter apologizing for his crimes, according to state prosecutors who used Hubbard’s own phone calls and emails from prison to cast doubt on his claims of remorse as he seeks early release. The attorney general’s office combed through emails and 600 of Hubbard’s phone calls from prison and cited some of the conversations as they oppose his request for early release from prison. State attorneys said the communications show he was “not truthful” when he signed a letter apologizing for his 2016 conviction for violating state ethics law, including using his public office for personal financial gain. Hubbard submitted the letter – in which he said that “I recognize and admit my errors” – in September along with a request for early release from prison. He wrote that his conviction embarrassed the state and his family and that “for this, I am severely sorry and respectfully ask forgiveness from everyone affected.” According to the Monday court filing, Hubbard told a friend before submitting the apology letter that “I promise you I did nothing wrong.” Prosecutors said Hubbard also talked to friends about efforts to add language to community corrections legislation that could benefit his release.
Juneau: A fast-growing area north of Anchorage known as a hotbed of conservatism gained the most population since the 2010 census and will keep the same number of seats in the Legislature under a new map of state political boundaries that some critics say shortchanges the area. It’s not the only criticism of the plan approved by a divided state Redistricting Board, and court challenges are expected. Among the criticisms are House district pairings for Senate seats for the Anchorage and Eagle River areas that board member Nicole Borromeo said would open the board to “an unfortunate and very easily winnable argument of partisan gerrymandering.” Census data showed the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which is about the size of West Virginia and includes Palmer and former Gov. Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla north of Anchorage, had 18,086 more people last year than in 2010, the biggest jump for any borough or census area in Alaska. The region also was the second most populous overall in the state, with an estimated 107,081 people, behind Anchorage, with 291,247, according to census data. While the region would have the same number of seats, new House maps would place two Wasilla incumbents in the same district.
Phoenix: The state’s corrections chief says incarcerated people often have greater access to health services than people who aren’t locked up. Corrections Director David Shinn’s defense of the health care system for inmates came as he testified at a trial about the quality of medical and mental health care in state prisons, after the state has faced years of complaints and been fined $2.5 million for not complying with a settlement over the issue. A judge who threw the settlement out this summer concluded that the state showed little interest in making many improvements it promised under the 6-year-old deal and that inadequate care for prisoners had led to suffering and preventable deaths. “They often have greater access to care than I do as a private citizen,” Shinn said of people behind bars. Lawyers for the inmates are asking U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver to take over health care operations in state-run prisons, appoint an official to run medical and mental health services there, ensure prisons have enough health care workers, and reduce the use of isolation cells, including banning their use for prisoners under age 18 or those with serious mental illnesses. They say Arizona’s prison health care operations are understaffed and poorly supervised, routinely deny access to necessary medications, fail to provide adequate pain management for end-stage cancer patients and others, and don’t meet the minimum standards for mental health care.
Lonoke: A former sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty Monday in the fatal shooting of a white teenager whose death has drawn the attention of civil rights activists. Michael Davis entered the plea to a felony count of manslaughter in the June 23 shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. Davis shot Brittain during a traffic stop outside an auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a city of about 26,000 people roughly 30 miles northeast of Little Rock. Davis was charged in September in Brittain’s death. Davis told investigators he shot Brittain once in the neck after the teen reached into the back of his truck and did not comply with his commands to show his hands, according to Davis’ arrest affidavit. Brittain was holding a container – which his family members have said held antifreeze – and no evidence of firearms was found in or near the truck, the affidavit said. A passenger with Brittain said he and the teen had been working on the transmission for Brittain’s truck. The passenger told investigators he never heard Davis tell the teen to show his hands, according to the affidavit. Davis was fired by Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley in July for not turning on his body camera until after the shooting occurred. Staley said there’s no footage from the shooting, only the aftermath.
Los Angeles: Staples Center is getting a new name. Starting Christmas Day, it will be Crypto.com Arena. The downtown Los Angeles home of the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, the NHL’s Kings and the WNBA’s Sparks will change its name after 22 years of operation, arena owner AEG announced Tuesday night. A person with knowledge of the deal said Crypto.com is paying $700 million over 20 years to rename the building. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the parties aren’t publicly announcing the terms of what’s believed to be the richest naming rights deal in sports history. The 20,000-seat arena has been the Staples Center since it opened in October 1999, with the naming rights owned by the American office-supplies retail company under a 20-year agreement. The name will change when the Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA’s annual Christmas showcase. Crypto.com is a cryptocurrency platform and exchange headquartered in Singapore. Along with its sports tenants, the arena has hosted 19 Grammy Awards ceremonies, three NBA All-Star Games, two NHL All-Star Games, and countless high-profile concerts, performances and important public events, including memorials for Michael Jackson, Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers have won six NBA championships during their tenure in the cavernous arena.
Aurora: A suburban Denver police department has agreed to reforms after the killing of Elijah McClain led to indictments against officers and a first-of-its-kind civil rights investigation that found a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive force. The plan, announced Tuesday by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Aurora’s city manager, police chief and fire chief, was reached in response to a civil rights investigation launched by Weiser amid outrage over the death of McClain, a Black man who was put into a chokehold by police and injected with ketamine by paramedics in 2019. The proposal calls for the city to revamp its use-of-force policies and launch new training programs in an effort to combat bias in the ranks. Another key goal of the agreement is eliminating unnecessary use of force and increasing tracking and transparency about how officers engage with the community, Weiser said. It also aims to create a more diverse workforce in the police and fire departments. Aurora city officials said they are on board with the plan, which also includes the city’s fire department. It still hinges on City Council approval. “We are not going to shy away from reform,” Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said. “To the officers on the street, this consent decree is nothing to be afraid of.”
Hartford: Seven women who say they suffered excruciating pain after a nurse stole fentanyl for her personal use and replaced it with saline sued Yale University on Wednesday, alleging it failed to safeguard its supply of the painkilling opioid at a fertility clinic. The women say they underwent painful and invasive procedures for in vitro fertilization and were supposed to receive fentanyl at the Yale University Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility clinic in Orange, Connecticut, last year. Unbeknownst to them, they received saline instead of fentanyl, and when they told staff of their extreme pain during and after the procedures, their concerns were dismissed, according to the lawsuit filed in state court in Waterbury by the women and their spouses. “Yale’s failure to develop and implement safety measures mandated by state and federal law to secure drugs like fentanyl resulted in these patients being traumatized,” Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the women, said in a statement. “What should have been a time of hope for these women and their families became one of unimaginable suffering.” Yale spokesperson Karen Peart Peart said university officials will not comment on the lawsuit, which seeks undisclosed damages.
Georgetown: A fledgling nonprofit’s efforts to address homelessness with temporary shelter villages are progressing in Sussex County and could become a statewide solution. “Our vision is to build across state,” said Judson Malone, Springboard Collaborative co-founder and director. “We think we have a provable model that actually has a solution to homelessness.” The Georgetown Town Council passed a resolution Oct. 27 allowing Springboard to build and manage a temporary shelter village, similar to a tiny home village. Conley’s Church, in the Angola area of Lewes, has offered its property for a second such site. Springboard will use shelters designed by an Everett, Washington, company called Pallet, named for how the shelters are shipped. They’re framed with aluminum, and the panels are made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic with a foam-insulating core, according to the company’s website. Like traditional houses, Pallet shelters are temperature-controlled, weather-resistant and lockable, but they can be assembled in less than an hour and cost as low as $5,500. They’re not quite tiny houses, though. Pallet shelters do not have plumbing, kitchens or bathrooms, as they’re meant to be temporary shelters. In typical Pallet villages, there are shared bathhouses, laundry facilities and eating areas.
District of Columbia
Washington: After 34 days of protest at the Blackburn University Center, Howard University students have reached an agreement with the school, ending their weekslong sit-in demonstration, WUSA-TV reports. “Howard University is pleased to announce that we have come to an agreement with the students who occupied Blackburn,” university President Wayne Frederick wrote in a statement released on Twitter and Youtube. “The health and well-being of our students is the most important part of my job as president. As I have said before, even one issue in one of our dormitories is too many, and we will continue to remain vigilant in our pledge to maintain safe and high-end housing.” Frederick’s statement also referenced the 2020 campus master plan, promising to “grow and invest in our beloved Hilltop” and to share more details soon of his plans to bring the campus back together following this division. Dozens of Howard University students had occupied the Blackburn University Center for weeks, setting up and living out of tents to bring attention to several issues, including living conditions in their dorm rooms, as they claim some were found to have mold. They also wanted student representation to be restored on the university board of trustees.
St. Petersburg: More than 1,000 manatees have died in the state so far this year, eclipsing a previous annual record as the threatened marine mammals struggle with starvation due to pollution in the water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported the updated total Wednesday. The 1,003 manatee deaths so far in 2021 are many more than the 637 recorded last year and well above the previous mark of 830 set in 2013. Slow-moving, bulky manatees have long struggled to coexist with humans. Boat strikes account for some deaths and many injuries. But state officials and environmental groups say polluted water runoff from agriculture, sewage and other man-made development has caused algae blooms in estuaries, choking off the seagrass upon which manatees rely. Climate change is worsening the problem. Authorities expected another bad year for manatees, with more deaths to come as Florida enters the winter months, when the animals congregate in warm-water areas where food supplies have dwindled. Seagrass beds on the state’s eastern coast have been hit especially hard. To compound the problem, manatees are slow to reproduce. According to the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club – co-founded by Florida troubadour Jimmy Buffet – one calf is born every two to five years after a manatee reaches sexual maturity at about age 5. Twin births are rare.
Atlanta: Scores of housing activists, tenants and lawmakers rallied Tuesday to pressure officials to speed up the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid aimed at preventing evictions in the state. Congress set aside nearly $1 billion in funding for Georgia to help tenants pay past-due rent and utility bills during the pandemic, but the state has struggled to get the money out. Georgia had distributed less than 10% of the first set of funds by the end of September, according to a report last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The report singled out Georgia, Ohio, Arizona and Tennessee for their slow disbursement of aid and large populations of renters. At Tuesday’s rally in downtown Atlanta, Lajoycelyn Bowles, 43, said she has repeatedly contacted the Georgia Department of Community Affairs – the state agency administering Georgia’s funds – but has never heard back. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August and has been too sick to work. She received an eviction notice this week from her landlord in Lithonia. “I’m frustrated and pissed off,” she said. The Department of Community Affairs said in a statement that it has distributed $44.2 million to more than 6,900 tenants and landlords so far. It has also added staff and extended working hours to handle an increase in applications.
Honolulu: The state ranks last in the nation for the early diagnosis of lung cancer, according to a new study from the American Lung Association. Just 2.8% of high-risk smokers in Hawaii undergo annual CT scans that capture detailed pictures of the lungs, compared to 5.7% nationally, the study said. A state-by-state analysis also found that just 19% of lung cancer cases in Hawaii are diagnosed early, compared to 24.5% nationally, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that smokers and former smokers who are at high risk of developing lung cancer undergo the CT scans. The high-risk category includes adults between the ages of 55 and 80 who smoke a pack a day or more and former heavy smokers who quit in the past 15 years. The annual screenings are limited to the highest-risk smokers, in part due to the risk of false positive results, which can cause anxiety and lead to follow-up tests and procedures that aren’t needed and carry their own risk. Detecting lung cancer early can dramatically improve the chances of successfully treating it. The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed early is 60%. The survival rate drops to 6% when spotted at a late stage. The study found that Native Hawaiians are more likely to be diagnosed and die of lung cancer than other ethnic groups.
Boise: A bill making it easier for residents to get worker compensation if they become ill after taking an employee-mandated vaccine sailed through the state House and headed for the Senate on Tuesday. The measure passed the House on a 67-3 vote. It was among seven COVID-19-related bills the chamber pushed through with expedited voting and sent to the Senate. Supporters said workers are getting sick after being vaccinated against COVID-19, and some are having problems receiving compensation. The bill tilts the field toward employees for compensation of hard-to-prove claims such as illnesses caused by vaccines, backers said. “If the employer is telling you, ‘You have to do this in order to work here,’ if they’re doing that, then, by golly, I think our system ought to provide a fair compensation method,” Democratic Rep. John Gannon said. Bill opponents said THAT Idaho’s worker compensation has worked well for decades and that workers sickened by vaccines are already being compensated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says common side effects of COVID-19 vaccines can include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. Also heading to the Senate was a bill that would prohibit questioning the sincerity of people claiming religious exemptions from vaccinations.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday signed a law making voting easier for people with disabilities and creating a group to study removal of further barriers. The law also makes adjustments in deadlines and other technical requirements for candidates in next year’s primary election because it’s later. Pritzker signed a law in June moving the primary from March 15 to June 28 because late-arriving 2020 census numbers delayed the drawing of new congressional district boundaries. Under the law, which takes effect immediately, any polling place that is accessible to voters with disabilities and elderly voters is to include at least one voting booth that is wheelchair-accessible. The Access to Voting for Persons with Disabilities Advisory Task Force will be composed of 15 members, three each appointed by the governor and leaders of the partisan caucuses in House and Senate. The group must meet at least four times and publish its results. Another change allows voters to designate sex on voter registration forms as “male,” “female” or “non-binary.” The measure was sponsored by Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, and Democratic Rep. Katie Stuart of Edwardsville.
Indianapolis: The state’s largest teachers union is calling on lawmakers to address educator burnout and ongoing teacher shortages during the next legislative session that begins in January. The state is “slowly making progress” on teacher pay, but additional action is needed to attract and retain teachers, Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said during a news conference Monday. Teacher workload and burnout were already issues before the start of the pandemic, Gambill said, but the onset of the coronavirus has since worsened the teacher shortage. “We are now going into the third consecutive school year impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “Our educators, already overburdened, are facing unsustainable levels of stress and stress-related illness.” The shortage of teachers – compounded by a substitute shortage – has meant more educators are required to work longer hours without time off or time for classroom planning, Gambill said. For some, he said that has included working 12-plus-hour days on top of second or third jobs. Gambill said educators cite a lack of professional respect as a contributing factor in the lack of teachers. In response, he said the union is calling on the Legislature to restore teachers’ ability to bargain contracts that include health and safety conditions, class sizes and prep periods.
Des Moines: Most Iowans support United Auto Workers members over their Deere & Co. bosses in the 10,100-worker strike in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas, a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll finds. About 58% of Iowa adults say they mostly side with Deere workers, compared to just 16% who mostly side with the employers. Another 19% are unsure, and 7% support neither group. With the strike in its fifth week, the UAW announced Friday that it had reached a tentative agreement with Deere. Union members, who have rejected two previous offers, were voting Wednesday on the latest pact. Striking UAW members have a majority or plurality of Iowans’ support regardless of political party, age, gender, educational attainment, religious affiliation, income bracket, or whether they live in a rural or urban area. Selzer & Co. conducted the poll of 810 adults Nov. 7-10. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Elsie Carroll, 31, a customer service representative in Dubuque who participated in the poll, said she supports the workers because she believes they would sacrifice their paychecks to go on strike only if the company is failing them. UAW members on strike receive $275 a week from the union, far less than what they earn at Deere.
Topeka: A high-ranking Republican lawmaker who is running for statewide office wants the upcoming special session to put an end to coronavirus contact tracing, calling the practice an invasion of privacy. State Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, made the suggestion to “stop this specific contact tracing” at a Monday meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations. The GOP supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature forced Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to call a special session starting Nov. 22. Lawmakers are set to debate proposals on COVID-19 vaccine mandate exemptions and unemployment insurance for unvaccinated workers who lose their jobs, though additional measures could be proposed. Tyson, who is running for state treasurer, said during and after the meeting that she would want legislation removing virus contact tracing language from last session’s appropriations bill. But she demurred on whether she would introduce a bill or an amendment herself. The budget bill granted the Kansas Department of Health and Environment the authority to hire contact tracers and to adopt related regulations. It is unclear whether repealing the contact tracing provision as Tyson proposed would end the practice or remove some of the more arduous rules imposed by the Legislature.
Frankfort: The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded more than $1.5 million in federal funds to five Kentucky projects that aim to address the region’s substance abuse crisis through recovery-to-work programs, Gov. Andy Beshear said. The grants announced Tuesday are part of an ARC initiative that focuses on funding efforts that help create recovery-friendly work environments and provide supports to those in recovery and their employers. The projects can also include job training. Since April 2021, ARC has invested $14.9 million in 47 related projects. A request for proposals for a third round of awards will be be announced in the coming weeks.
New Orleans: A state board granted parole Wednesday to Henry Montgomery, whose Supreme Court case was instrumental in extending the possibility of freedom to hundreds of people sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole when they were juveniles. Montgomery, 75, was convicted in the 1963 killing of Charles Hurt, an East Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy who caught him skipping school. Montgomery was 17 at the time. He was initially sentenced to death, but the state’s Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 1966, saying he didn’t get a fair trial. The case was retried and Montgomery convicted again, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He served decades at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. A three-member board voted unanimously in favor of parole. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting was held on Zoom, with Montgomery appearing on camera from the prison where he has spent his entire adult life. “He’s been in prison for 57 years. He has an excellent … disciplinary record. He is a low risk by our assessment. He’s got good comments from the warden. He has a very good prison record,” board member Tony Marabella said as he voted to approve Montgomery’s release with certain conditions, including a curfew and that he have no contact with the victim’s family.
Freedom: A wayward roadrunner is on the mend in the Pine Tree State after traveling across the country in a moving van. The greater roadrunner, a species native to Southwestern states, hitched a ride in the storage area of a moving van from Las Vegas to Westbrook, Maine. Volunteers took the bird to Avian Haven, a bird rehabilitation facility. Avian Haven representatives said they took the call about the bird Nov. 13, and it continued to rest Tuesday. They said in a Facebook post that the bird was in “remarkably good shape” for having been stuck in a van for four days but might have lost weight during the journey. The center is looking at ways to return the roadrunner to Nevada once it is healthy enough, said Diane Winn, Avian Haven’s executive director. The center has created a special habitat for the bird that is warmer than its typical outdoor areas while also being sufficiently roomy, the group said.
Baltimore: A case of monkeypox has been confirmed in a Maryland resident who recently returned from Nigeria, state health officials announced Tuesday. The person had mild symptoms and is recovering in isolation but isn’t hospitalized, the Department of Health said in a news release. The general public doesn’t need to take any special precautions, officials said. People who may have been in contact with the person who was diagnosed with the illness have been identified, and public health authorities are continuing to follow up with them, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan said in a statement. Monkeypox is in the same family of viruses as smallpox but generally causes a milder infection, officials said. It can be spread through direct contact with lesions or body fluids or via contaminated materials like clothing or large respiratory droplets. Illness typically begins with flu-like symptoms and lymph node swelling and progresses to a rash on the face and body. The people who may have been exposed in this case will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days after exposure. Human monkeypox infections primarily occur in central and western African countries and have only rarely been documented outside of Africa.
Boston: Michelle Wu was sworn in Tuesday as the first woman and first person of color elected mayor in the city’s long history. The swearing-in of Boston’s first Asian American mayor came two weeks after Wu won the election. Before Wu, Boston had elected only white men as mayor. “City government is special. We are the level closest to the people, so we must do the big and the small. Every streetlight, every pothole, every park and classroom lays the foundation for greater change,” Wu said after taking the oath of office. “After all, Boston was founded on a revolutionary promise: that things don’t have to be as they always have been. That we can chart a new path for families now, and for generations to come, grounded in justice and opportunity,” she said. Wu, 36, takes over for a fellow Democrat – former acting Mayor Kim Janey – who was Boston’s first woman and first Black resident to serve in the top post, to which she was not elected. To push back against soaring housing costs that have forced some former residents out of the city, Wu has promised to pursue rent stabilization or rent control. The biggest hurdle to that proposal is the fact that Massachusetts voters narrowly approved a 1994 ballot question banning rent control statewide. Another of Wu’s top campaign promises is to create a “fare-free” public transit system.
Grand Rapids: A federal judge retained jurisdiction Tuesday in a dispute over a Canadian oil pipeline that runs through a section of the Great Lakes, rejecting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s contention that the case belongs in state court. The clash over whether Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 should continue operating raises issues “under consideration at the highest levels of this country’s government” involving a U.S.-Canada treaty and federal pipeline safety regulation, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff ruled. The matter “is properly in federal court,” she wrote in a 15-page opinion that drew praise from Enbridge. Whitmer’s office expressed disappointment, and environmentalists ramped up pressure on President Joe Biden to intervene. Line 5 moves 23 million gallons daily of crude oil and natural gas liquids between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, passing through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A 4-mile section is divided into two pipes that cross the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Whitmer ordered Enbridge last year to close the 68-year-old line, agreeing with Indigenous tribes, environmentalists and tourist businesses that it risks a devastating spill. Enbridge contends the line is safe and ignored the Democratic governor’s May 12 shutdown deadline.
Minneapolis: The Department of Defense will send medical teams to two major hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses who are swamped by a growing wave of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday. The teams, each comprising 22 people, will arrive at Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital next week and begin treating patients immediately, Walz said in a conference call from the Finnish capital, Helsinki. the latest stop on his European trade mission. Minnesota has become one of the country’s worst hot spots for new coronavirus infections. Hospital beds are filling up with unvaccinated people, and staffers are being worn down by the surge. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that she’s ready to expand access to booster vaccines to all adults by the end of the week if the federal government doesn’t act first. “Our best defense against this is the vaccine,” Walz told reporters. He noted that Minnesota is No. 2 in the county for the number of booster shots given, behind only Vermont, and that first doses have risen 60% over the past week. “And we know that that is our way out of this. … I need Minnesotans to recognize, as we’ve been saying, this is a dangerous time.”
Jackson: Saying it could be days before tap water is safe to drink, officials issued a citywide boil-water order the same day the Environmental Protection Agency was in town to tout the newly passed federal infrastructure bill. About 15,000 residents and businesses, mostly in south and west Jackson, were without water Monday and early Tuesday, city officials said. Water pressure is gradually being restored, and most residents should have at least some water coming out of the tap. “Obviously, this is not a position that we want to be in,” Jackson City Engineer Charles Williams said. The water is not safe to drink anywhere in the city until the Mississippi State Department of Health tests the water and declares it contaminant-free. The boil order will probably be lifted gradually as water pressure is restored, Williams said, with Thursday the soonest the order may be lifted in any part of Jackson. Williams said the city received a bad batch of aluminum chlorohydrate, a chemical used to treat drinking water, and workers shut down part of the water treatment system at the O.B. Curtis plant Saturday. None of the chemical made it into the city’s water supply, and residents were not exposed, Williams said.
Springfield: State Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued the city’s school district Tuesday over its response to his office’s requests for records related to critical race theory and anti-racist teaching. Schmitt’s office submitted a Sunshine Law request in October seeking records from the district relating to how and whether it teaches critical race theory. Schmitt, a Republican running for Senate, alleges in the lawsuit that the district broke the law by demanding payment for services other than copies before it would make public records available to his office. He also contends the district didn’t use hourly rates that would have kept the cost of fulfilling the request as low as possible, as required by law. The district initially required a deposit of $37,000 to process the request before it began searching for records, according to the lawsuit. Schmitt’s lawsuit claims the district has used critical race theory in its teachers’ training for at least two years, citing as an example a training program in 2020 for about 170 teachers and staff that would “create shared understanding … around complex issues of systemic racism and xenophobia” and allow them to “receive tools on how to become anti-racist.” District spokesman Stephen Hall said in a statement that the district focuses on equity but does not teach critical race theory.
Great Falls: Native American tribes in the state – including the Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and Fort Belknap Indian Community, as well as the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council – have expressed support for a bill that would establish a panel to look into the history of U.S. efforts to force assimilation. The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act would establish a formal, diverse commission to investigate and document Indian boarding school policies, including the U.S. government’s attempt to terminate Indigenous cultures, religions and languages. The commission should recommend practices for the federal government to acknowledge these atrocities and promote healing. The panel would also hold culturally sensitive public hearings for boarding school survivors and community members. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council in October passed a resolution supporting congressional efforts in approving the act. Lauren Monroe Jr., council secretary, said past atrocities still influence Indigenous people today. “For Blackfeet people that don’t speak the language or don’t know our history, this isn’t so much in the past as it is in the present,” he said. “Until we have this conversation, there can’t be progress or healing.”
Scottsbluff: A fire that had burned about 2,560 acres in northwest Nebraska was about 40% contained, officials said Tuesday. The fire in the Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area in Scotts Bluff and Banner counties began Sunday, and efforts to contain it are expected to last through the week, The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said. The Buffalo Creek wildlife area is about 7 miles southeast of Gering and Scottsbluff. No homes had been burned, no injuries were reported, and no evacuations had been necessary, according to an update provided Tuesday. The firefighting effort has included helicopters, with 27 departments supplying resources and firefighters, who have been working 16-hour shifts, the Scottsbluff Star Herald reports. The National Weather Service posted a red flag warning for the area, which means any fire that ignites could grow rapidly. The area was reporting temperatures in the 50s and the 60s, 20% humidity and wind speeds of 20-30 mph.
Las Vegas: A man’s admission that he voted twice in November 2020 in a case on which state Republicans seized to claim voter irregularities amounted to “a cheap political stunt” that backfired, a state court judge said Tuesday. Donald “Kirk” Hartle appeared by videoconference from his defense attorney’s office to plead guilty to a misdemeanor – voting more than once in the same election – and told Clark County District Court Judge Carli Kierny he accepted full responsibility for his actions and regrets them. Hartle’s attorney, David Chesnoff, prevented his client from having to describe publicly how he voted early using a ballot that had been mailed to his dead wife. Rosemarie Hartle died in 2017, but her name remained on the voter rolls. Chesnoff told the judge that state Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office agreed to reduce two felony charges against Hartle to the misdemeanor. Kierny made it clear she was unhappy with the deal but accepted it. Hartle was fined $2,000 and has to stay out of trouble for one year. The judge set a Nov. 17, 2022, date to review the result. “This seems to me to be a cheap political stunt that kind of backfired,” Kierny said, “and shows that our voting system actually works because you were ultimately caught.”
Manchester: The city is getting a $25 million federal grant to help improve transportation in the South Millyard area. The grant was announced by the state’s congressional delegation Tuesday. “This project will mitigate traffic congestion, provide increased transportation options including biking and walking trails and a pedestrian bridge over Granite Street and create opportunities for development throughout South Elm Street,” Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said in a statement. “This is a big deal for the City of Manchester.” The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will be allocated through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program. Manchester’s award ties with the state of New Mexico for the largest RAISE grant in the country this year.
Atlantic City: State lawmakers are proposing financial relief for the city’s casinos to help them continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic by exempting two of the industry’s fastest-growing revenue streams from calculations on how much the casinos should pay the city. It would reduce payments for some casinos, including the Borgata, while imposing higher payments onto others, including Hard Rock. The bill, advanced Monday by a state Senate committee, is a renewal of a measure requiring the casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes to Atlantic City that was first enacted five years ago, when the city was reeling from the closure of five of its 12 casinos. There currently are nine casinos. Easily able back then to show that their businesses were worth less in a declining market, the casinos successfully appealed their property tax assessments year after year, helping to blow huge holes in Atlantic City’s budget. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s red-hot sports betting industry smashed its own national record in October for the highest amount of bets taken in a single month, topping $1.3 billion. That figure easily surpassed the $1.01 billion worth of bets that Atlantic City’s nine casinos and the three horse tracks that offer sports betting took in September.
Eunice: The city is looking to salty underground sources as it seeks an “unlimited” supply of water. The Eunice City Council recently voted to have a Hobbs-based engineering firm continue studying the benefits of building a desalination plant for the community. Amid depletion of fresh water from the Ogallala Aquifer continues, the council wants to know the feasibility of a proposed alternative: desalination of saline or brackish water. The Hobbs News-Sun reports it could cost about $5.5 million to build a plant, and the completion of the engineering study likely will provide a more accurate estimate. City Manager Jordan Yutzy told the councilors that the engineering work by Pettigrew and Associates will cost about $464,000. State funds are paying for the work. The engineering firm began the study last summer to determine whether water from underground brackish aquifers can economically be desalinated for human consumption. The Ogallala Aquifer underlies portions of eight states, in which agriculture, commercial industry and residences use more than is replenished from rainfall or snowmelt. Below the freshwater aquifer are saline and brackish water supplies that need to be treated, often at high cost, before human consumption.
New York: A new effort to find a mass-transit solution for LaGuardia Airport after a $2 billion rail link project was put on hold amid criticism from public officials will look at options including ferry service, a subway extension and dedicated bus lanes. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, announced Tuesday that it has commissioned a panel to review alternatives for LaGuardia, one of the few major airports in the country without a rail link. The panel will consist of Mike Brown, former London transportation commissioner and managing director of Heathrow Airport; Janette Sadik-Khan, former New York City transportation commissioner; and Philip Washington, the CEO of Denver International Airport and a former CEO of Los Angeles Metro. Tom Wright, president and CEO of the Regional Plan Association, a New York-based think tank, called the formation of the panel “the right move at a critical time for our region.” A 1.5-mile elevated railway linking the airport to a rail station near CitiField in Queens was given environmental approved by federal regulators in July, but the plan prompted criticism from Gov. Kathy Hochul and other officials, as well as a lawsuit from an environmental group.
Raleigh: The largest school system in the state said none of its students went hungry Tuesday despite a sickout by school cafeteria workers demanding better pay and improved working conditions. Leaders at the Wake County Public School System warned parents that another sickout could affect food services at other schools Wednesday, The News & Observer of Raleigh reports. Late Monday evening, the Wake County school system alerted families at 32 schools that they should bring their own lunch on Tuesday because the system couldn’t guarantee meal service. But a tweet sent in the morning indicated the district was able to provide meals to every student who wanted one. The district provided bagged lunches to students, according to Lisa Luten, a school spokeswoman. Luten also said parents and local businesses and restaurants also brought in food for students Tuesday. WCPSS warned Tuesday night that 15 schools could be affected by staffing shortages Wednesday. The sickout comes as a 19% vacancy rate is forcing the cafeteria workers to do more work than before. Two weeks ago, dozens of WCPSS school bus drivers called out sick for a three-day protest that disrupted bus service for many students.
Bismarck: The Defense Department’s internal watchdog said its investigation into a $400 million border wall contract found it was properly awarded to a North Dakota firm whose owner used multiple appearances on Fox News to push for the job. The Pentagon’s inspector general on Monday released results of the audit, requested last year by House Homeland Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. He asked for the review of the contract awarded to Dickinson, North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that the company’s bid met standards and that the contract was awarded in accordance with federal procurement regulations. “We reviewed Fisher Sand and Gravel’s proposal, compared it to the solicitation, and agreed with (the Corps’) assessment that it was the LPTA (Lowest Price Technically Acceptable) and was properly awarded the contract,” the audit said. Company President Tommy Fisher is a GOP supporter and has appeared on conservative media touting his company as the best pick for building the wall that former President Donald Trump made a priority. The company was awarded a contract to build 31 miles of wall in Arizona but had little experience with such construction.
Cleveland: A transit officer who was captured on surveillance video shoving a 68-year-old man off a rail platform and onto the tracks in February has been charged. Patrick Rivera, 41, pleaded not guilty to three charges, including first-degree misdemeanor assault, on Saturday, cleveland.com reports. Rivera was placed on unpaid leave after charges were filed, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority spokesperson Linda Scardilli Krecic told the news outlet. Rivera was called to the site because the man refused to move his belongings when asked by a custodian, cleveland.com reports. Rivera wrote in a report that the man was aggressive and lunged at him, at which point he shoved the man. Video footage shows that the interaction happened quickly and that Rivera and another officer prevented the man from immediately climbing back up onto the platform even though trains were active on that track. Rivera wrote two citations for the man after he shoved him, but prosecutors later dropped the charges after a psychologist found the man was not competent to stand trial because of mental illness. Rivera was not fired or suspended because he signed an agreement with RTA that he would be fired if he “makes another mistake” in the next year. Former RTA Police Chief Michael Gettings called Rivera’s actions “unacceptable.”
Oklahoma City: Students across the metro area walked out of classes Wednesday in support of death row inmate Julius Jones, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday. Students at Northwest Classen, Classen SAS, Putnam City North, Harding Charter and John Marshall staged walkouts Wednesday morning. Students were seen congregating in parking lots and on football fields. The walkouts happened as Jones’ supporters awaited word from Gov. Kevin Stitt on whether he will grant Jones clemency ahead of his scheduled execution. Oklahoma City rapper and activist Jabee Williams, a longtime supporter of Jones, spoke to the students from Classen SAS, who marched about 10 blocks from their school to the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. “Julius loves you, he appreciates you, and he knows he is not alone,” Williams said. “What you guys did today was so brave.” He said there is a dark cloud hanging over Oklahoma right now. “If this man is executed, there’s a part of us that will be executed too. We won’t be the same,” Williams said. Greg Robinson, a community organizer and supporter of Jones from Tulsa, also praised the students for their walkout in support of Jones. “Why is it that a group of high schoolers,” Robinson said, “got more courage than the people that walk through this building?”
Salem: A philanthropist filed papers with the secretary of state on Tuesday to decriminalize sex work in Oregon, aiming to put the issue before voters in the 2022 election. “Sex worker rights are human rights, and the denial of those rights enables human trafficking,” said chief petitioner Aaron Boonshoft, who filed the prospective petition for the Sex Worker Rights Act. Advocates said Oregon’s laws that criminalize sex work make it difficult for workers to report rape, harassment and human trafficking to police, fearing they themselves could be arrested. Organizers of the effort said the proposal would end criminal penalties for participating in consensual adult sex work and add health and safety protections while maintaining laws against human trafficking. “Our current system is broken and harms sex workers,” said Anne Marie Backstrom, political director for the campaign. “Sex workers deserve to do their job without fear of arrest or violence, and, like all workers, they deserve access to health care, labor protections and public services.”
Harrisburg: A bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit was passed by a divided state House on Tuesday but faces a veto threat from the governor. The parties were split in the vote, as occurred in the state Senate last week, with Republicans mostly supporting it and Democrats mostly opposed. Supporters said that getting concealed carry permits under current law can be subject to the whims of county sheriffs and that permit holders can forget when their licenses expire and therefore unknowingly violate the law. Opponents pointed out the proposal is unlikely to be enacted, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said he will veto the legislation, and argued the bill would make people less safe by making guns more readily accessible. Pennsylvanians are generally allowed to openly carry loaded firearms, although current law is silent on it. Only in Philadelphia is a permit required for it. The legislation sent to Wolf would remove Philadelphia’s open-carry permit requirement, as well as the state’s requirement for people to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, including for storing them in their cars.
Providence: Civil rights organizations have sued the state’s Department of Corrections on behalf of a man who alleges his rights were violated when he was held in solitary confinement for eight months as punishment for his complaints about prison conditions. The Rhode Island Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island sued the state’s corrections director and other prison administrators at the behest of Joseph Shepard, 28, on Monday. In the lawsuit, Shepard alleges his constitutional rights to free speech and due process were violated when prison administrators put him in solitary confinement in retaliation for raising concerns. A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said the state disagreed that Shepard had served time in solitary confinement because the prison system “does not practice solitary confinement, as we have stated on the record numerous times.” Shepard claimed in the lawsuit that he brought concerns about prison conditions to administrators but was told to follow the formal grievance procedure. In response, Shepard sent documents to civil rights groups to bring attention to the cause. He was then placed in high-security segregation for eight months for being in possession of documents that had never been identified as contraband, he said.
Columbia: The state House will return to Columbia next month for a special session about redistricting. House Speaker Jay Lucas said the House will first meet at 2 p.m. Dec. 1 with the primary focus on approving the new state House, Senate and U.S. House districts based on 2020 U.S. census data. The chamber may also be in session Dec. 2 and Dec. 6 if necessary. The Senate hasn’t announced the dates it might meet in special session, but they are expected to gather in early December, too, because that would leave three months for legal challenges about the new maps to be resolved before filing for the new districts in the 2022 elections begins in March. The Legislature set aside only a few issues that can be taken up in the special session without a two-thirds vote. They include redistricting and spending billions of dollars in federal pandemic funds and from a settlement with the federal government over radioactive material stored past a deadline at the Savannah River Site. The list of items did not include COVID-19 vaccine or mask mandates. The General Assembly returns in January for the second year of its regular session.
Sioux Falls: Gov. Kristi Noem’s daughter says she’ll quit the real estate appraiser business following scrutiny over whether her mother used her influence to aid her application for an appraiser license. Kassidy Peters slammed a legislative inquiry and news reporting on the episode in a letter to Secretary of Labor Marcia Hultman on Tuesday. She also released a document that a legislative committee was seeking to subpoena. Lawmakers were zeroing in on the timeline of a meeting Noem called last year that included Peters and key decision-makers in a government agency that had moved days earlier to deny her application for an upgrade to her appraiser certification. “I am writing you today to express my disappointment and anger that my good name and professional reputation continue to be damaged by questions and misinformation concerning the Appraiser Certification Program,” Peters wrote to Hultman in the letter. She told Hultman she would turn in her license by the end of the year, adding: “I’m angry and I can acknowledge that this has successfully destroyed my business.” The Republican-dominated Government Operations and Audit Committee had requested the document to confirm Hultman’s assertion that state regulators had already decided to give Peters another chance to win her appraiser certification prior to the meeting in the governor’s mansion. Noem echoed that defense in a later news conference. But the signed agreement with Peters is dated the week after the July 27, 2020, meeting.
Nashville: Universities, transportation agencies and the operator of a national laboratory are among those landing exemptions to a new state law that strictly limits or prohibits most government entities and businesses from implementing COVID-19 prevention mandates. For some, approval was almost immediate. Six of the 19 entities that submitted requests Monday – the first day to apply – were granted exemptions to the new law’s stringent requirements. Tennessee now largely bars governments and businesses from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination and only lets schools and other public entities require masks in rare, dire public health situations. Exemptions also are allowed if groups can show they would lose federal funding by complying with the state law, which conflicts with policies implemented by President Joe Biden’s administration. Early exemptions have been given to Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee system, the University of Memphis, East Tennessee State University and UT-Batelle, which operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Crockett County Ambulance Service also was approved, though state officials noted that certain Medicare and Medicaid providers are already exempt. Other medical providers also applied.
Austin: Democrat Beto O’Rourke said Wednesday that he has raised more than $2 million after announcing his campaign for governor Monday, showing a persistent ability to quickly pile up cash after coming off failed runs for the U.S. Senate and presidency. The money came from more than 31,000 donations in the first 24 hours, with 57% of the contributions coming from Texas, spokesman Abhi Rahman said. Small donors have powered O’Rourke’s massive fundraising hauls in the past, but his campaign did not disclose a breakdown of contribution sizes so far. The numbers showed an early burst of enthusiasm for the former El Paso congressman, who in one day raised more money than the entire campaign of Democrats’ little-known candidate for Texas governor in 2018. But O’Rourke still has a long way to catch or even approach Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who this summer reported having at least $55 million in his campaign account, more than any incumbent governor in the country. Abbott, who is seeking a third term, routinely collects six-figure donations in big money from Texas executives. The Lone Star State’s sheer size makes mounting a statewide campaign costly, and Abbott and O’Rourke are likely to make this among the most expensive governor’s races in the country.
Cedar City: Gov. Spencer Cox cut the ceremonial opening ribbon Monday for a new business center. The Cedar City Business and Innovation Center is meant to provide a space for community members, students and businesses to come together to discuss entrepreneurial ideas, said Brennan Wood, president of Southwest Technical College. In a speech, Cox touted the center as a place that could be used as a “model” for other business centers to open in the state, saying he sees these centers as playing an important role in Utah’s economic future. “This is how we future-proof our education system,” he said. “It’s how we future-proof our economy. We do that by working together and innovating together.” The Cedar City center is located on the grounds of Southwest Technical College but isn’t technically an extension of the college, as the center had many other partners in its opening. Those include Southern Utah University, the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, the office of economic development for Cedar City and Iron County, and the Women’s Business Center of Utah. The center’s main mission is to help people handle the early challenges of starting a small business by offering office space, professional equipment, opportunities for business guidance and businesses classes.
Montpelier: An audit has found that the cost of state employee health care jumped between 2010 and 2019 and urged changes to save money. The report released by State Auditor Doug Hoffer found that the cost of annual medical reimbursements for state employees, retirees and their families increased 51% in that time, from $94 million to $142 million. One reason the report identified for the increase was that different health providers charged different amounts for the same care. “The difference in prices paid for the exact same health care procedures under the State employee health plan is startling, especially since higher prices do not necessarily mean higher quality,” Hoffer said in a statement. The reports suggests that the state move to reference-based pricing, in which the state would set a maximum price it would pay for any service instead of paying the price negotiated by the health care provider and insurance company. Hoffer said that could save the state $16.3 million annually. A second suggestion is to provide state workers, retirees and their families with information about the cost of care and implement a cash incentive for them to use less expensive options. The report predicted this could save $202,000 annually if implemented for seven specific services.
Fredericksburg: A school board rescinded a directive for staff to pull books with “sexually explicit” books from libraries early Tuesday after hours of passionate public comment. The Spotsylvania County school board voted 5-2 to reverse the order amid public backlash, but some board members said they’ll continue to take a stance against the inclusion of what they view as offensive material in school library books, The Free Lance-Star reports. Board members Rabih Abuismail and Kirk Twigg, who spoke of burning books at last week’s meeting, did not support the reversal. “I think we should throw those books on the fire,” Abuismail said at the Nov. 8 school board meeting, while Twigg said many “would like to see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.” Monday’s specially called meeting on the matter was held at the Chancellor High School auditorium to accommodate the large number of speakers expected. It stretched past midnight as dozens of parents, students, teachers and librarians spoke, most in support of libraries and books. Two speakers, both high school students, spoke in favor of removing books from library shelves. Comments were cut off at midnight.
Spokane: The head of the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission that failed to meet its deadline for redrawing political maps urged state Supreme Court justices to consider their work nonetheless now that the high court will have to complete the process. The panel had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday to approve new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 census but acknowledged Tuesday that it had not been able to complete its task on time. This is the first time the panel has failed to finish its work on time since the state adopted a constitutional amendment giving redistricting authority to a bipartisan commission after the 1990 census. “While we acknowledge we missed the deadline for our maps to be considered by the Legislature, we see no reason why the Court can’t do so,” Commission Chair Sarah Augustine said in a statement late Tuesday night. “These maps reflect the input of the thousands of people who took part in the process with us. It would be a shame to see these maps go unconsidered simply because the clock struck 12.” Despite the plea to the Supreme Court, many were critical of the process by the panel – especially in the final hours Monday night, when there were complaints its deliberations were closed to the public and may have violated open meetings laws.
Charleston: Two trees to be displayed in the West Virginia Capitol during the holidays will feature photos recognizing military and first responders. West Virginians can submit photos to be displayed on the trees, according to a news release from Gov. Jim Justice and first lady Cathy Justice. The trees will be placed in the west rotunda of the main Capitol building. A third tree will be decorated by Gold Star mothers and families to honor people who died while serving the country. Photos will not be returned, and photocopies should be submitted. The military recognition form and the first responder recognition form and tag are available online. Photos, submission forms and tags must be received by Nov. 29. They can be submitted by email to email@example.com or regular mail to attention of Katie Morris, West Virginia Governor’s Mansion, 1716 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, WV 25305.
Madison: Two top state Republicans are criticizing mandatory University of Wisconsin-Madison sexual violence prevention training that includes references to privilege, identity and critical race theory. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday wrote a letter to the school chancellor demanding answers on why graduate students are required to watch the two-hour webinar that university spokesperson John Lucas said includes “a brief reference” to critical race theory, which he said is supported by academic research and noted in the citations. Critical race theory is an academic framework that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in U.S. institutions, which function to maintain the dominance of white people. It has become a catchall political buzzword for any teaching in schools about race and American history, and conservatives have seized on the concept to galvanize their base. Vos said it was “unacceptable” and “appalling” to mandate a class that “instills the university’s negative opinion of white students and the idea that students should feel guilty simply because of their race.” Gubernatorial candidate and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch first drew attention to the training in a video she posted on Facebook last month.
Kemmerer: A small city in the top U.S. coal-mining state will be home to a Bill Gates-backed experimental nuclear power project near a coal-fired power plant that will soon close, officials announced Tuesday. Bellevue, Washington-based TerraPower will build its Natrium plant in Kemmerer, a southwestern Wyoming city of 2,600 where the coal-fired Naughton power plant operated by PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power is set to close in 2025. “Our innovative technology will help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitioning our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming,” TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque said in a statement. The project will employ as many as 2,000 people during construction and 250 once operational in a state where the coal industry has been shedding jobs. If it’s as reliable as conventional nuclear power, the 345-megawatt plant would produce enough climate-friendly power to serve about 250,000 homes. The announcement came days after officials from the U.S. and other countries pledged at a global climate-change summit in Scotland to continue working to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Roadrunner by van, monkeypox: News from around our 50 states