Reeltown: The baptism of high school football players on the 50-yard line in their football stadium has drawn complaints from a group that pushes for separation of church and state. After more than two dozen Reeltown High School players were baptized on the field in November, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation demanded an investigation. “There is a strong relationship between conservative Protestantism and football at the high school and college level,” said Michael Altman, a religious studies professor at the University of Alabama. Altman said the Wisconsin group “is doing its best to call attention to a practice it finds unconstitutional by trying to take a local story national.” Tallapoosa County Schools Superintendent Joe Windle told Al.com he found no wrongdoing. The baptism was not conducted by the school, he said.
Anchorage: Smoke has risen miles above a volcano on one of the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Volcano Observatory says. Lava flowed down the side of Shishaldin Volcano on Unimak Island on Saturday, and smoke rose more than 5 miles high Sunday, Anchorage Daily News reports. The National Weather Service issued an alert for pilots Sunday, as plumes were recorded 30,000 feet in elevation and extending up to 90 miles east. The volcano observatory tweeted late Sunday that the ash emissions ended about 8:30 p.m. The largest island on the Aleutian chain, Unimak is 120 miles northeast of Unalaska Island and about 700 miles west of Anchorage. The same volcano erupted two weeks ago, officials say. The volcano was quiet until seismic activity increased Friday, says geologist Tim Orr of the volcano observatory.
Phoenix: The state has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former corrections officer who alleged his coworkers and supervisors repeatedly harassed him over his status as a transgender man. The lawsuit, which was tentatively settled Thursday, alleged colleagues used derogatory terms to refer to the officer and put his safety at risk by revealing to inmates that he had undergone a gender transition. The officer, who filed the lawsuit under a pseudonym due to safety and privacy concerns, alleged that the Department of Corrections responded inadequately to his complaints and that the harassment continued after he was transferred to another facility. Unable to tolerate the harassment, the officer resigned in 2016 after working nearly 11 years in state prisons in Florence and Douglas, according to the suit.
Fayetteville: CLL16 – a new high-yield, long-grain Clearfield rice variety developed by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture – will be available to rice growers from Horizon Ag in 2021. Karen Moldenhauer, professor and rice breeder for the Division of Agriculture’s Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, says CLL16 has excellent rough rice yields, averaging 205 bushels per acre, slightly better than Diamond, which averages 204 bushels per acre. CLL16 is resistant to blast in Arkansas growing conditions, Moldenhauer says. It has demonstrated good milling yields, averaging 63% whole kernel and 69% total milled rice for samples from Arkansas Rice Performance Trials across the state.
Signs are posted outside a house that has been occupied by the group Moms 4 Housing in Oakland, Calif. (Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)
Oakland: Homeless mothers who were evicted last week from a house where they were squatting plan to move back after speculators agreed to sell the property to a nonprofit organization, it was announced Monday. Wedgewood Inc. will sell the home to the Oakland Community Land Trust, which buys and fixes up property for affordable housing. The group plans to allow women from the group Moms 4 Housing to return, Mayor Libby Schaaf announced. The city helped negotiate the agreement with the land trust and Wedgewood after a public outcry following the evictions. “This is what happens when we organize, when people come together to build the beloved community,” Dominique Walker of Moms 4 Housing said in a statement on the holiday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. “Today we honor Dr. King’s radical legacy by taking Oakland back from banks and corporations.” Wedgewood also agreed to work with the city to negotiate a right-of-first-refusal program for all its other Oakland properties, a city statement said.
Denver: A sheriff’s deputy who was pulled over by state troopers while driving three prisoners in a transport van has been charged with traffic offenses including reckless endangerment, authorities said Monday. Denver Sheriff Department Deputy James Grimes was charged following an investigation into the alleged aggressive driving incident, the Colorado State Patrol said. Grimes and the driver of a second vehicle were allegedly racing in and out of traffic as they traveled northbound on Interstate 25 on Thursday while under observation by a state patrol aircraft. Grimes faces additional charges of reckless driving and speeding in a construction zone. Grimes and another deputy who was with him in the prisoner van have been reassigned and placed on leave pending an internal investigation, the Denver Sheriff Department said in a statement.
Hartford: State lawmakers plan to resurrect a bipartisan proposal that attempts to help older workers who often face age discrimination when seeking employment. The bill would prohibit employers from requiring a job applicant to list their date of birth and school graduation years, information that reveals a worker’s age even though prospective employers are not allowed to ask about age during interviews. Supporters said the legislation is aimed at addressing the discrimination older online job applicants often face. West Hartford Sen. Derek Slap, a Democrat, said this move could level the playing field for older workers in Connecticut and “give them a chance once they get into the application process to get that interview and make a case.” Slap said Connecticut has the sixth-oldest workforce in the U.S. Recent U.S. Census Bureau data show more than a quarter of the state’s workforce is over age 54.
Dover: Legislation aimed at settling a minor controversy involving dogs and eating establishments has passed the state House of Representatives without a dissenting vote and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The bill has broad bipartisan support, with more than a third of the General Assembly sponsoring or co-sponsoring the measure. House Bill 275 specifies that the owner of a food establishment may permit leashed dogs in the business’ outdoor patio area or beer garden, regardless of any state regulation to the contrary. The Delaware Division of Public Health inadvertently sparked controversy last summer when it took a renewed interest in an existing state regulation that prohibits pets in food establishments, including in outdoor areas. The ban does not apply to service animals.
District of Columbia
Washington: A local startup is betting the skies are the future of food delivery with no delivery fees, no tips, and no worries for rumbling stomachs hoping to avoid getting so hungry that the sensation turns to anger, WUSA-TV reports. Shehan Weeraman and Nick Adimi named their company Hangry after becoming annoyed and exasperated by homemade food. “We got really lazy to cook, and we just decided to order a lot,” Weeraman says. “We realized we were paying like $10, sometimes more, for delivery that would take us sometimes over an hour to arrive.” The engine that drives this enterprise is a drone with a basket attached by a rope to the bottom. Hangry plans to partner with area restaurants and other establishments to deliver its products. Users would be able to meet the pilotless aircraft at a designated drop site, then scan a QR code to pick up their food.
A green iguana basks in the late afternoon sun at Marco Lake. These invasive iguanas have become a serious problem in South Florida. (Photo: Lance Shearer/Correspondent)
West Palm Beach: Invasive iguanas burrowing into the soft dirt around an aging dam have cost the city $1.8 million in emergency repairs. Employees noticed last year that water was seeping around the edges of a decades-old weir that controls water delivery in West Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Post reports. South Florida’s green iguana population has exploded since the last prolonged cold spell in 2010 reduced their numbers. They’ve become infamous for nuisance pool pooping and munching on ornamental landscapes, giving rise to a cottage industry of iguana-removal experts. They are also becoming an issue for agencies in charge of managing the hundreds of miles of canals that channel water throughout South Florida, says William Kern, an associate professor in the entomology and nematology department at the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.
Atlanta: One of Republican Brian Kemp’s first acts as governor involved revamping the state’s handling of sexual harassment complaints and placing State Inspector General Deborah Wallace in charge of the issue. Kemp now wants to expand Wallace’s office, adding $435,182 to fund five new positions in his proposed fiscal 2021 budget, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kemp’s budget proposal must be approved by lawmakers. The expansion, which would represent a 43% budget increase for the small agency, comes as other state agencies are being asked to trim their budgets amid a revenue shortfall. Kemp also proposed an additional $250,000 in the current year’s budget, as the agency already brought on new staff to handle complaints.
Honolulu Police Department Officers Tiffany Enriquez, left, and Kaulike Kalama were killed Sunday while responding to a call. (Photo: Courtesy of Honolulu Police Department via AP)
Honolulu: A man suspected of stabbing a woman and killing two police officers last weekend wandered his neighborhood recording people with a camera mounted on his hat and rigged a barbecue grill to blow thick smoke directly into neighbors’ windows, a lawyer for residents said. Jaroslav “Jerry” Hanel, a handyman who lived in the home in exchange for his work and faced eviction, stabbed a woman in the leg Sunday before he fired on responding authorities, killing Honolulu Police Officers Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama, police said. A fire at Hanel’s residence then spread through a normally peaceful neighborhood at the far end of the famed Waikiki Beach neighborhood. “It was pretty clear he was out of control,” said attorney David Hayakawa, who represented three neighbors in obtaining restraining orders against Hanel. Police have said Hanel is missing, and they’re almost certain he’s inside the burned house.
Boise: A lawmaker says that Chicken Dinner Road in southwestern Idaho is a historic name and that he is opposed to an animal protection group’s request to rename it. Republican Rep. Scott Syme on Monday introduced a concurrent resolution urging fellow lawmakers to support the existing name. Concurrent resolutions do not need the signature of the governor and don’t have the force of law. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in July asked Caldwell officials to change the name to what it said is the kinder and simpler Chicken Road. Syme said the original name stems from a 1930s resident famous for her chicken dinners who helped persuade then-Democratic Gov. C. Ben Ross to improve the road in Canyon County.
Springfield: Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a law that eliminates driver’s license suspensions for most non-moving violations. The Democrat signed the “License to Work Act” last week. It takes effect in July. Pritzker says it will allow tens of thousands of motorists to have driving privileges reinstated. That means more people will be able to work. “Illinois now recognizes the fact that suspending licenses for having too many unpaid tickets, fines and fees doesn’t necessarily make a person pay the bill, but it does mean that people don’t have a way to pay,” Pritzker said. He said license suspensions are too harsh a penalty for “a practice that reinforces cycles of instability.” Each year authorities suspend more than 50,000 licenses belonging to people who can’t afford to pay tickets, fines and fees. According to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a study shows 42% of those who had their licenses suspended lost their jobs.
American Electric Power’s plant in Rockport, Ind., is one of the largest coal-fired plants in the world. (Photo: The Messenger-Inquirer 2008 file photo)
Indianapolis: Hoosiers’ electricity bills could rise and several state utilities may face obstacles in their plans to phase out coal-based power generation in the coming years under politically charged legislation that would help a struggling Indiana industry. House Bill 1414, filed last week by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, would require Indiana utilities to prove that any plans to shut down a power plant are either required by a federal mandate or otherwise in the public interest. Though the word “coal” does not appear in the language of the bill, advocates and analysts say the legislation specifically targets coal-burning plants. The proposed regulatory requirement follows similar but unsuccessful legislation last year and is raising concerns among not only environmentalists but also some conservatives who see it as heavy-handed favoritism.
A snow display in the yard of Donald Hesseltine in Davenport, Iowa, depicts a figure gunning down a snowman wearing a Bernie Sanders shirt and another adorned with a Democratic Party hat. (Photo: Meg McLaughlin/Quad City Times via AP)
Davenport: City leaders are condemning a homeowner’s snow display depicting a figure gunning down a snowman wearing a Bernie Sanders shirt and another adorned with a Democratic Party hat. Mayor Mike Matson said he’s asked the police chief to investigate the display. “My personal reaction is that it’s terribly wrong and an embarrassment to our city,” Matson told the Quad-City Times. Homeowner Donald Hesseltine laughed off such concerns, saying he created the display to “mess with” friends who support Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. “It’s just to make people cry I guess,” Hesseltine said. “They’re crying, so I win.” The display includes a mannequin topped with a military helmet that’s holding a rifle and chainsaw, as well as a can of beer. The rifle is pointed toward the Sanders snowman, which has red-dyed snow near its head.
Lawrence: The University of Kansas will close its School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, but departments within the school will remain open, and students will not be affected, according to a school official. The closing at the end of the academic year will change only the administrative structure for languages at Kansas, said John Colombo, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The degree offerings and curriculum will not be affected, he said. Budget problems prompted the closing, The Lawrence Journal-World reports. One staff position will be lost because of the closing. The director and co-director of the school will return to their respective positions within their academic units, Colombo said in an email. The creation of the school about five years ago did not increase enrollment for language departments or raise substantial private support to sustain the language programs as anticipated, he said.
The federal Duck Stamp program will be used to provide funding for land acquisition in the new Green River National Wildlife Refuge, located in Henderson County, Ky. (Photo: Furnished)
Henderson: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear have teamed up on an effort to expand the new Green River National Wildlife Refuge in western Kentucky. The two leaders on Tuesday announced the approval of federal Duck Stamp funding for land acquisition to expand the wildlife refuge. Duck Stamps can be purchased by hunters, conservationists and stamp collectors. The stamps provide revenue to support federal conservation and outdoor recreation. Last November, federal and state officials announced the wildlife refuge’s establishment with the acquisition of the first tract – a 10-acre parcel donated by the Southern Conservation Corp. McConnell and Beshear discussed the issue before the new governor took office. Beshear has since given his approval so “Duck Stamp” funding can be used to support land acquisition from willing property sellers to expand the refuge.
New Orleans: Revenue from food and drinks has increased from a new $1 billion terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, according to a recent report, which could mean more flights are added in the future. There was a 32% increase in food and beverage revenue in November 2019, compared to November 2018, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports. The new terminal opened Nov. 6. A 46% revenue increase from drinking and dining options was recorded in December 2019, compared to the year before. The numbers were included in a report to the New Orleans Aviation Board last week, airport spokeswoman Erin Burns said. More non-airline revenue means it’s cheaper for carriers to fly in and out of the airport, and thus the airport is more attractive for airlines considering adding flights, the newspaper reports.
Frank Knight, 101, of Yarmouth, Maine, stands in front of an elm tree known as “Herbie” in 2009. Knight took care of the tree for about 50 years while working as the Yarmouth tree warden. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)
Yarmouth: A massive elm tree nicknamed Herbie is long gone, but it will live on, thanks to cloned trees being made available to the public. At 110 feet and more than 200 years, Herbie was the tallest and oldest elm in New England and survived 14 bouts of Dutch elm disease thanks to the devotion of his centenarian caretaker, Frank Knight, the late tree warden of Yarmouth. The duo became famous after Knight spent half of his life caring for the tree, which he referred to as “an old friend.” Knight realized he couldn’t save the town’s elms as they succumbed by the hundreds to Dutch elm disease. So he focused his efforts on Herbie. Over five decades, Knight oversaw selective pruning of Herbie’s diseased limbs, plus applications of insecticides and fungicides. The tree was cut down Jan. 19, 2010, as the 101-year-old Knight looked on. Knight died two years later. But before Herbie was chopped down, the Elm Research Institute in New Hampshire worked with Knight to collect some cuttings from Herbie to preserve the tree’s legacy with clones. The hope is that Herbie’s descendants will have some resistance to Dutch elm disease.
Salisbury: As rising seas drive saltwater farther inland, state officials are urging local governments, drinking water suppliers, farmers and others to start preparing now for a saltier future. Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration in December released the state’s first plan to combat saltwater intrusion. The 76-page report doesn’t forecast how widely impacts will be felt, citing a lack of existing research, but it identifies the resources facing the highest risk, ranking agriculture at the top. Wetlands, coastal forests, freshwater streams and aquifers also are in danger of turning salty, according to the report. Melting ice at the poles and the ocean’s thermal expansion – both triggered by climate change – are causing seas to rise across the globe, carrying salt into new places above and below ground. Saltwater intrusion is of even greater concern in the Chesapeake Bay region, climate scientists say, because the area’s land surface is sinking.
Boston: No Charlie Card required to board these MBTA trains – just about $500 cash. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is auctioning off seven vintage subway cars. To make room for hundreds of news cars coming in the years ahead and to comply with safety laws, the MBTA removes salvageable parts from inoperable trains, then puts the cars up for auction. “The old cars are sold to the highest bidder, usually for the scrap metal,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo told The Boston Globe. “Old cars are retired after they are no longer capable of providing safe and reliable passenger service.” Made by Boeing and Kinkisharyo in the early 1970s and ’80s, the cars have sat idle for at least three years, according to the auction posting. Bidding for the lot of seven cars – Orange Line subway cars and Green Line trolley cars – starts at $500. The auction ends Jan. 28.
Detroit: A national competition is underway that seeks artists’ proposals for a planned public sculpture outside the main entrance to the TCF Center downtown. The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and its Art Foundation say the proposals for the permanent sculpture cannot be taller than 30 feet and no more than 8 feet in diameter. Artists must register for the competition and are encouraged to consider physical placement, material and size in their proposals. Themes may reflect positive changes and growth in Detroit and southeastern Michigan, the area’s strong spirit of innovation and design, the global impact of Detroit, and the region’s renaissance. Proposals will be reviewed by a jury of expert panelists. The winning proposal will be awarded a budget of $250,000 to support the sculpture’s conceptualization, fabrication and installment. An additional $50,000 will go to the winning artist.
Donations are assembled into kits by employees in the Department of Public Safety. The kits will be handed out to people experiencing homelessness. (Photo: Courtesy Department of Public Safety)
St. Cloud: State troopers will be carrying more than 600 kits to give to homeless people who need clothes, food and toiletries. The Department of Public Safety collected donations and assembled them into “Care and Go” kits. “A lot of times people will think it’s just a metro issue,” said Booker Hodges, assistant commissioner of law enforcement in the Department of Public Safety. “In greater Minnesota, our troopers do encounter quite a few people who are homeless.” Hodges said he wanted to start the program in the Department of Public Safety after seeing a similar initiative used in Ramsey County for recently released inmates. Hodges said he hopes to have kits in place by Feb. 1. He said the “goal is that every state trooper will have one in his or her squad car.” The kits include socks, T-shirts, toothpaste, conditioners, hand wipes and feminine products. They also include protein bars and water.
Meridian: The state will pay $3 million for a fence to keep wild animals off the runways of a military base. A Navy official said the state’s job-creation agency, Mississippi Development Authority, has offered a grant to pay for the barrier at Naval Air Station Meridian. The new chain-link fence would be built inside an existing fence surrounding the base, and the bottom of the new fence will be buried deep, the Meridian Star reports. Deer, cattle, hogs and coyotes have reached the property in recent years, and a farmer reported that a hunter killed a sow near the fence last month, said Jim Copeland, community planning and liaison officer for the base. Pigs have a low center of gravity and can cause a plane to lose control if they are hit by the nose wheel, Copeland said.
A voter casts her ballot at the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center at Missouri State University on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)
Jefferson City: The state Supreme Court on Tuesday gutted a voter ID law that has been called “a solution in search of a problem.” In a 5-2 decision, the court cleared the way for Missourians to vote with non-photo IDs like current utility bills and bank statements, as well as Missouri college IDs, without having to swear they are who they say they are on penalty of perjury. Republican politicians had said the law combats voter fraud. Studies say the kind of fraud voter ID detects is practically nonexistent. Judge Mary R. Russell wrote for the majority Tuesday that the sworn statement requirement was “misleading,” “contradictory” and ultimately unconstitutional. Two dissenting judges, both appointed by Republicans, argued that the court could fix the issue by editing out “contradictory” language or prohibiting voting with non-photo ID entirely. Russell called both ideas “nonsensical.”
Billings: Federal environmental regulators say the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs violated an order to repair a public water supply system serving about 1,300 people on the Crow Indian Reservation. Environmental Protection Agency officials said in a letter that the bureau has repeatedly missed deadlines to complete repairs following concerns last spring about potential water contamination. Last March, a main line on the Crow Agency water system broke, prompting an advisory for users to boil water or use alternate supplies as a precaution. The concern was that loss of pressure because of the line break could have allowed contaminated water to seep into the system through cracks and joints. EPA spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool says the Bureau of Indian Affairs has completed enough required work that there is no longer an imminent public health danger.
Waverly: A woman who fell off a bridge while stargazing has been transferred from a Lincoln hospital to one in Omaha, authorities said. Lindsay Kroger, 37, of rural Lincoln, had gone with five other people to the bridge about 2 miles southeast of Waverly to look at the sky early Sunday morning. She leaned back, thinking there was a support piece behind her, but instead fell 27 feet to the ice below, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office said. She was flown to a Lincoln hospital and then sent Monday to the Omaha facility.
Las Vegas: Organizers of a protest of new city ordinances affecting the homeless say 12 demonstrators were taken into custody. About 100 protesters blocked a downtown street Monday to voice their opposition to two laws that ban camping. They had tents, sleeping bags and cardboard boxes. One ordinance prohibits camping on sidewalks if there are available beds at a shelter. The second bans sitting or camping on city sidewalks during street cleaning hours. Violation of either law could result in a misdemeanor. Police Lt. Jeff Stuart says about a dozen people were arrested after they refused to move from the road. It was not immediately known Tuesday what charges they might face. Opponents of the ordinances have been protesting since the first ordinance was passed in November. Supporters of the measures say they are necessary for public safety and sanitation.
Concord: The state is holding a weeklong celebration of wine. New Hampshire Wine Week includes the 17th annual Winter Wine Spectacular, which benefits EasterSeals New Hampshire. The event, on Thursday, attracts more than 1,500 guests who get to sample more than 1,800 wines. A new event, “Cellar Notes: An Evening of Wine and Music,” will be held Wednesday evening at the Rex Theater in Manchester. It will feature a panel discussion and tasting.
The Pine Barrens cover more than 12,000 acres in New Jersey. (Photo: Peter Ackerman)
Jackson: An ad in the Waze navigation app is misdirecting motorists headed to Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa into the wilderness of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, police said. Jackson Township police posted on Facebook that officers in recent weeks have had to help motorists who followed the directions into the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area, where they became stuck on unpaved roads. “The wildlife area is comprised of more than 12,000 acres, mainly located in Jackson and Plumsted townships, which is about 45 miles away from the actual Borgata Casino in Atlantic City,” police said. The Borgata is off the Atlantic City Expressway. According to police, the problem stems from an orange ad logo in the Waze app. The address on the ad is correct, police said, but the location pinned with the ad is actually in the Colliers Mills wildlife area, police said. Waze was working to fix the problem, police said.
State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, looks over her notes before the start of the New Mexico legislative session Tuesday in Santa Fe. (Photo: Russell Contreras/AP)
Santa Fe: The Democrat-led Legislature is looking for new ways to bolster a lagging public education system and open up new economic opportunities by legalizing recreational marijuana and providing tuition-free college education, as a 30-day legislative session begins Tuesday. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is pushing for new investments in public education that include $74 million in new annual general fund spending on early childhood programs. She’s also calling for the state to underwrite tuition-free college education for residents. A state scholarship fund from lottery proceeds already covers 60% of in-state tuition, and at least $35 million is needed to cover the remainder plus fees. Record-setting oil production is producing an economic windfall for state government, with state economists forecasting an $800 million budget surplus.
Battenville: The state is planning restoration work on the early childhood home of women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony. The house Anthony’s father built in 1833 in Battenville is water-damaged and in rough shape. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation bought the foreclosed property in 2006 but has done little to preserve it. The Albany Times-Union reports the agency now plans to invest $700,000 this year on the Greek Revival-style house where Anthony lived from age 6 to 19 when her father managed a nearby cotton mill. The official Susan B. Anthony Museum and House is in Rochester, where she lived for 40 years while she was a national figure in the women’s rights and suffrage movement. No plans have been developed yet for the Battenville house, beyond preserving it. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote, as well as the 200th anniversary of Anthony’s birth.
Many of North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s lasting achievements in 2019 stem from keeping Republican policies from ever getting implemented. (Photo: Gerry Broome/AP)
Raleigh: An appeals court on Tuesday upheld the legality of a legislative session Republicans quickly called in December 2016 to push through laws that weakened the power of incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The unanimous decision of three judges on the intermediate-level Court of Appeals affirmed a 2018 trial-court ruling that declined to declare as unconstitutional the procedures used in calling and passing legislation during the three-day session. The group Common Cause and several citizens who sued in 2017 argued that the rushed session – announced and convened mere hours after another legislative session on Hurricane Matthew relief – violated their right in the North Carolina Constitution to “instruct their representatives.” The GOP-dominated General Assembly used it to pass laws that in part diluted the governor’s powers.
Bismarck: A new agreement between the state and Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation means bighorn sheep could be roaming the reservation in the next couple weeks. North Dakota Game and Fish director Terry Steinwand says 30 to 40 bighorns will be brought to North Dakota once they are captured on a Montana reservation. They’ll be released in the Mandaree and Twin Buttes areas. The Bismarck Tribune says the state-tribal agreement includes a provision for a ram hunting season. Williams says that will depend on how well the animals do in their new habitat. The pact is the third such agreement between the state and the tribal nation. The others are twin agreements with MHA Nation in 2008 related to hunting and fishing access issues and a 2017 pact with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for an elk hunting season.
Columbus: The state Supreme Court has rejected a recommendation that tools used to measure offenders’ suitability for being released after an arrest be made available to all judges as they make bail decisions. Requiring the availability of so-called risk assessment tools was the top recommendation of a task force commissioned by the court last year to examine Ohio’s bail system. The tools – there are several nationally – look at a variety of factors, including defendants’ age, criminal history and past failures to appear, when analyzing what type of bond conditions should be set. More than 70 courts in Ohio already use them. Supporters say the tools are a more accurate way to examine the two most important factors that judges consider when setting bond: Will the offender skip out, and will they pose a public safety risk if released? Detractors say the tools can be racially biased, are costly to smaller courts and improperly override judges’ own experiences in setting bond.
Oklahoma City: A lawmaker is seeking to repeal the state’s controversial permitless carry law that took effect last year. Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, who tried to prevent permitless carry from taking effect, filed legislation to repeal the law that allows most Oklahomans to carry a firearm without a permit. The legislation faces unfavorable odds in Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature, where majorities in both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved of permitless carry last year. The Legislature also passed similar legislation in 2018, which was vetoed by then-Gov. Mary Fallin. House Bill 3357 would repeal the permitless carry law dubbed by supporters as “constitutional carry.”
Eco-Earth, the mosaic globe at Riverfront Park, has tiles falling off and needs to be treated for asbestos. Photographed in Salem on Jan. 15, 2020. (Photo: ANNA REED / STATESMAN JOURNAL)
Salem: A beloved but decaying piece of artwork created from an industrial eyesore faces limited, costly options, according to an action plan from the city. Restoring Eco-Earth, the massive mosaic tile sculpture at Riverfront Park, would cost an estimated $475,000, and removing what was once an acid ball and repurposing the site would ring in at $680,000. “What would that say about Salem if they scrapped it?” said former Mayor Roger Gertenrich, who chaired the Eco-Earth project 20 years ago. The community turned the 25-foot-diameter black tank from the long-gone Boise Cascade paper mill into a colorful, one-of-a-kind globe. It once held liquid and chemical gases used to cook wood chips into pulp and has been a fixture of the riverfront since 1960, when the tank was floated up the Willamette River from Portland. Volunteers logged more than 30,000 hours to transform it, but more than 86,000 tiles have failed, and asbestos has been revealed underneath. Eco-Earth’s fate lies with the Salem Public Art Commission.
Greensburg: A defense attorney says he expects to appeal the murder conviction of a man who asserts that his now-deceased twin brother was the shooter. Jurors in Westmoreland County deliberated for about two hours Friday before convicting 30-year-old Darrelle Tolbert-McGhee of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 32-year-old Michael Wilson. McGhee had asserted that he was in Florida at the time of the April 2017 slaying in downtown Jeannette. He said the shooter was his twin brother, Dwayne, who was killed in a shooting 13 months later in Wilkinsburg. The Tribune-Review reports that defense attorney Tim Dawson said he was surprised by the speed of the verdict. “Apparently, they convinced the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that one identical twin committed the murder rather than the other,” Dawson said.
Pawtucket: A woman is taking legal action against the city for handcuffing and arresting her 13-year-old daughter after a fight with another student, the American Civil Liberties Union says. Tre’sur Johnson, an honors student who had no prior disciplinary infractions, was charged with disorderly conduct and kept in a police station holding cell for about an hour last June, ACLU lawyer Shannah Kurland said at a news conference Monday. The ACLU is representing the girl’s mother, Tiqua Johnson, who is seeking $100,000 for physical pain, emotional distress and other damages. The school and police violated state law that bars the arrest of someone on misdemeanor charges, Kurland said. The brief confrontation at Goff Middle School involved physical contact, Kurland said, but neither student was hurt, and it was quickly broken up.
Upstate Pride SC diversity officer Terena Starks, 51, poses for a portrait Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Photo: JOSH MORGAN/Staff)
Greenville: Twenty-four years ago, the Greenville County Council passed a resolution, with three members opposed, condemning homosexuality as incompatible with their community values. Today, an Upstate group representing members of county’s LGBTQ community says it is time for the current County Council to reverse that action. Terena Starks, the diversity officer for Upstate Pride, together with the board of her organization sent an open letter Thursday to every member of the council. The letter, which is posted on the organization’s website, also links to a change.org petition, which by late Friday had drawn more than 1,200 signatures. Upstate Pride has gotten more active over the past year, most notably with the Upstate Pride Festival last summer.
Sioux Falls: Prisoners at the South Dakota State Penitentiary are trying to raise money and awareness about Native American women who are crime victims. The nonprofit organization Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women says Native American women are more than twice as likely to experience violence as any other demographic. The inmates made 200 pairs of earrings and raised $5,000, which they donated to Urban Indian and Health of Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Connie Hopkins, vice president of prisoner support, tells KELO-TV the money will be used in a variety of ways to bring awareness to what some say is an epidemic when it comes to Native American women. “It’s going to help them get more media out there or pay for fliers or to help people travel to go look for these women,” Hopkins said.
Memphis coach Penny Hardaway, left, talks to center James Wiseman during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Oregon won 82-74. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer) (Photo: The Associated Press)
Memphis: The state’s college athletes could financially benefit from the use of their names, images and likenesses under legislation introduced by a pair of lawmakers from the city. The bill would allow athletes to sign contracts to advertise for local businesses or other companies and would also prohibit schools from “discriminating against players based on donations by coaches to universities.” “It’s time we treat college athletes like everyone else in America and allow them to earn money in the free market,” Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said in a statement. Kelsey and Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, each brought the legislation to their respective chambers months after a University of Memphis basketball player, James Wiseman, was suspended by the NCAA.
Austin: The number of foster care children who slept in state offices, hotels and other temporary housing spiked last year, as the child welfare system continues to grapple with recruiting and retaining specialized foster homes. Last year, the monthly count of foster care children who did not have a home for at least two nights totaled 678, a 49% increase from 2018, according to data from Child Protective Services. Many of them were teens, and most slept in state offices. The number of foster children without placements has increased every year but two since 2011. The problem became particularly acute last year amid the loss of 197 foster beds across the state, lengthier discharges from residential treatment centers, and an uptick over the summer in foster youth who rejected the placements assigned to them.
St. George: A new survey has found that in the Beehive State more than anywhere else in the nation, divorce doesn’t necessarily mean contention. USAWillGuru.com, which provides will and testament information, surveyed 5,000 divorcees across the country and asked if the divorce ended on good terms. Utah has the highest percentage of amicable breakups at 79%. Neighboring Nevada ranked the lowest, with only 15% saying their marriage ended amicably. The survey also looked at what percentage of divorcees include their ex in their will. According to the survey’s findings, 12% of divorced Utahans include former spouses in their will. Loni Stookey, a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, said there’s a “strong family element” in Utah that may contribute to why parents try to split on good terms.
Montpelier: The state House on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposed constitutional amendment to make clear that Vermont prohibits slavery. The Senate passed the proposal last session. Vermont was the first state to abolish adult slavery. The state Constitution currently says no person 21 or older should serve as a slave unless bound by their own consent or “by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.” The amendment would remove that language and add that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited. The proposed constitutional amendment must be considered by the 2021-2022 Legislature. If it passes, the question will be go before Vermont voters in 2022.
Richmond: The state Senate has advanced legislation to scrap the state’s Lee-Jackson holiday celebrating two Confederate generals. The Democratic-led Senate voted largely along party lines Tuesday to pass legislation that would make Election Day a state holiday instead of Lee-Jackson Day. The legislation now goes to the House for consideration. Lee-Jackson Day, established more than 100 years ago, is observed annually on the Friday preceding the third Monday in January. It honors Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, both native Virginians. Critics of the Lee-Jackson holiday view it as a celebration of the state’s slaveholding history that’s offensive to African Americans. Many cities and counties have opted not to observe it.
Initiative activist Tim Eyman carries a clipboard as he walks next to his expired car registration tabs before attending a Jan. 13 rally, on the first day of Washington state’s 2020 legislative session at the Capitol in Olympia. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP)
Seattle: State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is challenging the lavish personal spending of bankrupt anti-tax activist and candidate for governor Tim Eyman, saying Eyman’s assets must be preserved so he can pay his debts to the state. Eyman’s been spending an average of nearly $24,000 a month over the past year, The Seattle Times reports, citing his bankruptcy filings. At the same time, the state is seeking more than $3 million from Eyman, including $230,000 in contempt-of-court sanctions for failing to cooperate with Ferguson’s campaign-finance case against him. Eyman’s expenses include legal fees, a vacation to Orlando, rent on a Bellevue condo, $4,000 a month in unspecified business spending and at least $2,400 to buy 97 Starbucks gift cards during a 10-month span. The first month after filing for bankruptcy, he ate out on 20 days. Last February, he made 74 restaurant purchases. Last month, Eyman reported meals at three separate restaurants to celebrate his birthday.
Charleston: People interested in portraying historical figures for the West Virginia Humanities Council’s History Alive program can submit proposals through Feb. 1. The council is seeking proposals for portrayals of influential people who have made important contributions to state, national or international history. The roster of characters now includes Gabriel Arthur, Nellie Bly, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Ostenaco, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Charles Schulz, Harriet Tubman and Mark Twain, The Herald-Dispatch reports. The council will consider portrayals of historically significant people who are no longer living, from any period in history.
Madison: All day care centers, child care providers and children’s camps would have to test their water for lead under a bill the state Senate approved Tuesday. Current state law requires anyone who cares for at least four children under age 7 less than 24 hours a day to obtain a license from the state Department of Children and Families. The state agriculture department licenses recreational and educational camps. Under the bill, child care center operators, child care providers, group home operators and camp runners would have to test water from every source in their facilities for lead contamination to obtain or renew their licenses. If the water is contaminated, the applicant would have two options: They could stop all access to the water, come up with a remediation plan and supply drinkable water in the interim. Or they could come up with a plan for supplying drinkable water on a permanent basis.
Cheyenne: A second Democrat has entered the race for an open U.S. Senate seat. University of Wyoming ecology professor Merav Ben-David, of Laramie, announced her candidacy Saturday at the annual Women’s March in downtown Cheyenne. A native of Israel, Ben-David has lived in Wyoming for 20 years. She says she decided to get involved in politics to get more involved in decisions affecting ecosystems worldwide. She says her goal in Washington, D.C., would be to develop new sources of income and industries in Wyoming, where fossil-fuel extraction is a critical part of the economy. Another Laramie resident, community organizer Yana Ludwig, announced her candidacy in June, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports. Three Republicans including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis are running to replace U.S. Sen Mike Enzi, who plans to retire in 2021 after four terms.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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