Mobile: Descendants of the white Alabama businessman who financed the voyage of the last slave ship to land in the United States more than 160 years ago have agreed to sell a building that will become a hub for Africatown USA, the community settled by the freed Africans after the Civil War. A long-closed credit union building owned by relatives of Timothy Meaher will open within weeks as a food bank and as home of the Africatown Redevelopment Corp., officials told a news conference Thursday. The family sold the brick building to the city for $50,000, well below its appraised value of $300,000. The family, which tax records show owns millions of dollars’ worth of land around Mobile, issued a statement that described selling the building as a way “to give back to the community.” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he contacted a representative of the family about acquiring the property in Africatown, located just a few miles north of downtown Mobile. Large parts of the once-vibrant community are blighted, but the area has received new attention since the wreckage of the slave ship, Clotilda, was found in 2018. Community leaders are now trying to revitalize the area with a museum and other attractions that could bring visitors and an infusion of money into the area.
Juneau: A special legislative session limped toward a bitter end Friday, with the threat of a partial government shutdown looming and Gov. Mike Dunleavy and House majority leaders sharply disagreeing over the adequacy of the budget passed by lawmakers last week. Dunleavy called the budget “defective,” pointing in particular to the House’s failure to get the two-thirds support for a procedural effective-date vote. His office said notices were sent to thousands of state workers warning of possible layoffs with the new fiscal year beginning July 1. He called another special session, set to begin Wednesday and again focus on the budget, shortly after the House held a brief floor session for which attendance was not mandatory Friday afternoon. House majority leaders were among those who criticized Dunleavy’s stance on the budget. House Speaker Louise Stutes characterized it as a needless choice and said Dunleavy has tools available to prevent shutting down parts of the government, including asking minority Republicans to change their votes to support the effective-date clause. Minority Republicans, who say they have felt marginalized and want to be included in talks on what pieces should be considered as part of a broader fiscal plan, take responsibility for their votes, House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton told reporters Friday.
Tucson: Researchers at the University of Arizona will be launching a study of how prone Hispanic children are to asthma in Tucson compared with their peers on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Sonora. The study will follow 500 pregnant women of Mexican descent in both cities and their newborns for the next five years to see how prevalent asthma is. Dr. Fernando Martinez, a principal investigator of the project and director of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, said there is four times less asthma in Nogales, Sonora, than in Tucson, which is about an hour’s drive away. A study of teenagers in Nogales, Arizona, showed 16% had asthma compared with 4% to 6% of teens in the same age range just across the border in Nogales, Sonora. Mexicans who come to the United States also have less asthma than Mexican Americans, researchers have found. The Arizona Daily Star reports the University of Arizona study will look into how the risk of asthma is affected by the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that a child’s reduced exposure to germs stunts the immune system’s ability to fight infectious organisms. The study was delayed due to COVID-19, but researchers plan to begin enrolling pregnant women in August and finish by August 2023.
Little Rock: A federal judge Friday refused to allow a man arrested after he was photographed sitting at a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot to travel for a classic-car swap meet. U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper rejected the request by Richard Barnett to loosen the 50-mile restriction on how far he can travel from his residence while he’s on home detention awaiting trial. Barnett’s attorney said the Gravette, Arkansas, man needed to be able to travel to make a living buying and selling classic cars. Petit Jean Mountain, where the car show was being held over the weekend, is 200 miles from Gravette. “The Court is not persuaded that the defendant cannot pursue gainful employment within a 50-mile radius of his home as permitted by the current conditions,” Cooper’s order said. Barnett, 61, was among supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol as lawmakers assembled to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Prosecutors say Barnett was carrying a stun gun when he entered the building. Federal prosecutors opposed Barnett’s request and said his conduct while awaiting trial – including an interview with Russian State Television – indicated more conditions, not fewer, were needed.
Los Angeles: Attorney General Rob Bonta launched new anti-human trafficking teams to apprehend perpetrators and support survivors Friday amid an alarming increase in labor and sexual exploitation statewide amid the coronavirus pandemic. California’s lockdown exacerbated problems with human trafficking, officials said Friday, and made it much harder for victims to escape and find housing and other services. Kay Buck, the chief executive officer for Los Angeles-based nonprofit Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, called it “the most unforgettable and heart-wrenching year” as advocates saw a huge demand in services combined with a shortage of resources. In LA alone, the nonprofit saw a spike of 185% in urgent human trafficking cases during the pandemic, Buck said. Advocates in LA County see victims – many who come from Mexico and the Philippines – who were duped into thinking they would have a job in the U.S. but are instead sold into “modern-day slavery.” Actors and activists Mira Sorvino and Alyssa Milano; state Assemblyman Miguel Santiago; and Angela Guanzon, who escaped her trafficker and aided law enforcement in their prosecution, joined Bonta on Friday to implore Newsom and lawmakers to approve another $30 million in new grants over the next three years, doubling the funding level for the efforts.
Denver: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visited a mobile vaccine clinic near the city Friday to promote COVID-19 shots among underserved communities of color that have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates. He also met with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, getting briefly interrupted by the governor’s dog, Gia, and another dog dashing through their closed-door session, giving the two a laugh. They discussed the state’s pandemic response and a new law creating a state-administered health insurance plan designed to reduce premiums and costs of care as well as get more people covered. Later, Becerra, the agency’s first Latino leader, and Democratic members of Colorado’s congressional delegation toured a mobile vaccine clinic focused on underserved communities in the Denver suburb of Aurora, which is nearly 30% Hispanic. It’s one of nine mobile units made from converted buses. While Hispanic people make up 20% of Colorado’s population, less than 10% have been vaccinated, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow said many minorities and immigrants have trouble finding the time to get vaccinated while working multiple jobs, highlighting the need for the mobile resources. “Where you are, we will go. Donde tú estás, iremos nosotros,” Becerra said.
Hartford: The state has become the first in the nation to make all prison phone calls free, addressing one of the biggest emotional and financial burdens faced by incarcerated men and women and their families as they try to stay in touch. The state has a prison contract with phone vendor Securus Technologies, which charges up to $5 for a 15-minute call – some of the highest phone rates in the country. Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows incarcerated men, women and juveniles a minimum of 90 minutes a day of free calls. Supports said the change could go into effect as early as next month. “We’re on the right side of history,” said Democratic state Rep. Josh Elliott, one of the legislation’s supporters. “Corporations can no longer be allowed to exploit the love between incarcerated people and their families – not in our state, not on our watch.” Several more local jurisdictions in the U.S. have also taken steps to make prison and jail phone calls free, including New York City, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. “This historic legislation will change lives,” said Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, which has been working with local advocates to slash prison phone costs. “It will keep food on the table for struggling families, children in contact with their parents, and our communities safer.”
Wilmington: President Joe Biden announced Saturday that Champ, the older of the family’s two dogs, had died “peacefully at home.” The German shepherd was 13. “He was our constant, cherished companion during the last 13 years and was adored by the entire Biden family,” Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a statement posted to the president’s official Twitter account. The Bidens, who were spending the weekend at their home in Wilmington, got Champ from a breeder after Joe Biden was elected vice president in 2008. Champ was a fixture both at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory and at the White House. In their statement, the Bidens said when Champ was young, “he was happiest chasing golf balls on the front lawn of the Naval Observatory,” and more recently he enjoyed “joining us as a comforting presence in meetings or sunning himself in the White House garden.” “In our most joyful moments and in our most grief-stricken days, he was there with us, sensitive to our every unspoken feeling and emotion,” the Bidens said. Champ’s passing leaves the Bidens with their younger German shepherd, Major, whom the family adopted from the Delaware Humane Society in 2018.
District of Columbia
Washington: Residents getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at select sites through the end of July will receive $51 gift cards and be entered for a chance to win free flights and other incentives, WUSA-TV reports. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Washington has reached 70% of adults having received at least one dose. While anyone can get a COVID-19 shot at district vaccination sites, the gift cards are only available to D.C. residents. Those between the ages of 12 and 17 must be accompanied by a guardian. Residents will receive the gift card after getting their shot. Additionally, Washingtonians getting their shots at Anacostia High School, Ron Brown High School or RISE Demonstration Center will be entered to win two round-trip American Airlines tickets to anywhere the airline flies, including international locations. Other prizes offered in a series of drawings starting Saturday include a new car, a year’s worth of groceries, and a one-year Metro pass. More information about the giveaways can be found at coronavirus.dc.gov/incentives. A full schedule of the days and hours of the current walk-up sites can be found at taketheshotdc.com.
St. Petersburg: A federal judge on Friday ruled for the state in a lawsuit challenging a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order making it difficult for cruise ships to resume sailing due to the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday wrote in a 124-page decision that Florida would be harmed if the CDC order, which the state said effectively blocked most cruises, were to continue. The Tampa-based judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the CDC from enforcing the order pending further legal action on a broader lawsuit. “This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to the CDC,” Merryday wrote. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody praised the decision in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a victory for the hardworking Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry,” said Moody, a Republican. “The federal government does not, nor should it ever, have the authority to single out and lock down an entire industry indefinitely.” While the CDC could appeal, Merryday ordered both sides to return to mediation to attempt to work out a full solution – a previous attempt failed – and said the CDC could fashion a modification in which it would retain some public health authority.
Atlanta: Georgia’s secretary of state is making public a list of nearly 102,000 voters who will be removed from the rolls unless they act to preserve their registration. Republican Brad Raffensperger announced the list Friday, part of an every-other-year bid to remove voters who may have died or moved away. The state has about 7.8 million voters, and his office said the removals include about 67,000 voters who submitted a change-of-address form to the U.S. Postal Service, plus about 34,000 voters who had election mail returned. Voter purges in Georgia became a hot-button issue during the 2018 governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. As secretary of state before being elected governor, Kemp oversaw aggressive voter purges during his tenure. More than 1.4 million voter registrations were canceled in Georgia between 2012 and 2018. In the current purge, election officials said, cancellation notices will be mailed, and those who respond within 40 days will have their registration switched back to active. Anyone who is removed could register again. On a monthly basis, the secretary of state been removing voters who were convicted of felonies or who died.
Honolulu: Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton is condemning the Honolulu Police Department for the fatal shooting of a Black man as various versions of what led to the death continue to emerge. “Lindani Myeni’s killing is yet another sensational racialization and criminalization of an innocent, unarmed black man at the hands of police not following the law and proper police procedures,” Sharpton said in a statement Thursday. Interim Honolulu Police Chief Rade Vanic said the police department is committed to public service, and these “are challenging times for police departments everywhere.” Sharpton weighed in on the April 14 shooting of Myeni after lawyers representing his widow in a wrongful-death lawsuit made public last week a doorbell video showing the 29-year-old arriving at a house, taking off his shoes and quickly leaving after his presence confused the occupants. Myeni repeatedly apologized to the couple. The lawsuit said he likely mistook the home for a temple next door that’s open to the public. Police responding to a 911 call shot him a short time later outside the house, with body camera footage showing an officer fired several gunshots before saying, “Police!” An attorney representing the homeowner and the tourists who were staying in the house said Myeni’s presence wasn’t as innocuous as lawyers for his wife portrayed.
Boise: The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation is suing Gov. Brad Little and state wildlife officials in federal court, contending Idaho has wrongly denied the tribe hunting rights guaranteed by the 1868 Treaty of Fort Bridger. The lawsuit, filed in Idaho’s U.S. District Court last week, asks a judge to declare that the Northwestern Band is protected under the treaty. On its surface, the legal case could come down to whether one of the Native American leaders who signed the treaty was representing the Northwestern Band along with other bands of the Shoshone Nation and whether the Northwestern Band itself has remained a cohesive unit in the time since. But at the heart of the dispute is a dilemma faced by many Native American governments across the U.S. who sometimes find themselves at odds with game wardens, mining companies, water users or other groups as they try to preserve their use of the land they were promised in treaties signed centuries ago. Some Northwestern Band tribal members have faced criminal convictions after Idaho game wardens said they were hunting without tags. In 1997, two brothers were found guilty for hunting out of season in Idaho, though they had hunting tags issued by the Northwestern Band. Shane and Wayde Warner appealed their convictions, claiming rights under the Fort Bridger treaty.
Chicago: The state is dangling millions of dollars in cash prizes and scholarships to encourage residents to get vaccinated, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday. Illinois will offer $7 million in cash prizes and $3 million in scholarships through a new lottery open to all residents who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Pritzker made the announcement at a community health center in Chicago’s Back of Yards neighborhood. Prizes will range from $100,000 to $1 million, and children can win a college savings plan worth $150,000. Names in Illinois’ vaccination database will be automatically eligible for the lottery. Participants will be required to have a shot by July 1. Weekly drawings will begin July 8. “ ‘All In For The Win’ is yet another way we’re working to ensure every single resident is protected from COVID-19,” Pritzker said. Nearly 67% of Illinois’ residents have received at least one vaccination dose, and a little over 50% have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Bristol: A grain mill that opened more than 180 years ago in northern Indiana saw a sales boom during the pandemic after it opened a drive-thru for customers eager to buy freshly milled grains. The historic Bonneyville Mill was closed to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, like many Indiana businesses. But staff at the 1830s mill converted its original horse and wagon bay that farmers once used to deliver freshly harvested grain into a drive-thru for automobiles, which helped the mill along the Little Elkhart River rack up its most profitable year on record for grain sales, said Ronda DeCaire, director of the Elkhart County Parks system. “This was one of the few places in the Midwest where you could still buy flour and other freshly milled grains,” she told The Elkhart Truth. To prevent spreading the coronavirus, the mill’s staff used a pole with a bucket on its end to accept payments from drive-thru customers. Packages of flour and other milled grains were then handed to those customers through their car windows. “For the first time in over a hundred years, that wagon bay was busy again,” said Courtney Franke, the mill’s manager. DeCaire said the Bonneyville Mill is the oldest continuously operating grist mill in Indiana. It’s located just south of the Michigan border about 25 miles east of South Bend.
Iowa City: A divided state Supreme Court on Friday banned police from searching people’s uncollected trash without a warrant, outlawing an investigative technique that had been used for decades. The court ruled 4-3 that officers commit an unreasonable search and seizure under the Iowa Constitution when they look for evidence of crimes in trash left for collection outside homes. The tactic amounts to an unconstitutional trespass on private property and violates citizens’ expectations of privacy, especially in cities that have ordinances barring residents from accessing others’ trash, Justice Christopher McDonald wrote for the majority. “We do not question the utility of warrantless trash grabs for the purposes of law enforcement, but the utility of warrantless activity is not the issue under our constitution,” he wrote, adding that “garbage contains intimate and private details of life.” The ruling overturned Iowa courts’ long adherence to a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the search of garbage outside one’s home. Just a small number of other states have limited trash searches by holding that their state constitutions provide greater protections than the U.S. Constitution against warrantless searches.
Shawnee: A judge is beginning to evict tenants who are behind on rent in advance of the expiration of a federal moratorium that some experts predict will bring a tide of people being forced from homes nationwide. Johnson County Magistrate Judge Daniel Vokins said during a Zoom eviction hearing last week that he doesn’t think the moratorium, which was issued last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and expires at the end of the month, is enforceable. Eric Dunn, director of litigation for the National Housing Law Project, said he has heard of judges elsewhere – including in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina – ignoring the CDC moratorium but couldn’t say whether it’s been a widespread practice. The federal moratorium has kept many tenants owing back rent housed. More than 4 million people nationally say they fear being evicted or foreclosed upon in the months following its expiration, census data shows. Making matters worse, the tens of billions of dollars in federal emergency rental assistance that was supposed to solve the problem has not reached most tenants. “We thought 2021 was going to be better, and it is turning out to be just as bad,” said Denise Wall, 31, of the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee, who applied for rental aid in March but is still trying to find out whether she qualifies.
Louisville: With tourists flocking to distilleries, concerns about a pandemic hangover for the state’s world-famous bourbon industry are quickly evaporating. A $19 million tourist center that Heaven Hill Distillery opened just days ago in the heart of the state’s bourbon country is already overflowing, with reservations filling up quickly to learn about whiskey-making and sample its spirits, including its flagship Evan Williams whiskey. It’s a similar story for the numerous other distilleries in the region that last spring were temporarily closed to visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a year later, the businesses are facing such overwhelming demand for tours that one industry official has started encouraging people to call ahead or check tour availability online before pulling off the highway. Starting last summer, some distilleries began allowing limited numbers of visitors in accordance with coronavirus restrictions. With capacity limits now lifted, the attractions are gearing up for a full resurgence of guests, many from outside Kentucky. “We saw it coming, but I don’t think we saw it coming this quick,” said Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory, who predicted bourbon tourism will quickly rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
Baton Rouge: The iconic bald cypress trees will be protected on state-owned property, after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a new law banning the trees’ harvesting on more than 1million acres of state land. Rep. Neil Riser said he sponsored the bill – which won unanimous passage in the state House and Senate – to give nature time to reestablish dense stands of cypress that once covered vast tracts of land. “The cypress tree symbolizes Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta,” said Riser, R-Columbia. “I hope this new law will help people have a true appreciation of these trees’ majesty.” The new law doesn’t apply to cypress trees growing on privately owned land. Cypress trees grow throughout Louisiana’s swamps and can have lifespans of more than 1,000 years. The bald cypress was named the official Louisiana state tree in 1963. Riser said the forests will return on state-owned lands with protection, though it will take almost a century for the slow-growth trees to mature. “They will come back with Mother Nature as the manager and forester,” he said. In a twist, Riser was involved in harvesting the trees as a teenage logger in the 1970s when forests were being cleared for farmland. “I remember my dad telling me, ‘Take a look at this forest; one day it will all be gone,’ and it was,” he said.
Augusta: The Legislature has approved an initial proposal that would allow four Native American tribes to build gambling businesses on their lands, in a reversal from years of resistance and laws that opposed Native ownership of casinos in the state. Breaking years of opposition against the bill, the House and Senate approved it with an overwhelming majority Thursday, the Portland Press Herald reports. Rep. Rena Newell, a nonvoting member of the Legislature who represents the Passamaquoddy Tribe, gave a speech following the approval of the bill, which she had pushed legislators to advance. The bill was only a small part of what the state could do for the tribes in Maine, she said. “Our ancestors watched from inside the bounds of our reservation as nontribal members got rich from cutting down our trees on our land, leaving us with little,” Newell said. The gambling legislation is one part of a series of changes the Legislature wants to amend the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. If these amendments are enacted, the revisions would restore some of the sovereignty that tribal leaders say they lost years ago, according to the Press Herald. Maine voters have rejected tribes’ past proposals but approved referendum questions that led to the establishment of two corporate-owned casinos.
Annapolis: The state is awarding $10million to entertainment venues that struggled during the pandemic, including the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Maryland Theatre and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, among others. The money will help stabilize businesses that had to shut down or drastically reduce their capacity as COVID-19 surged. As the state begins to emerge from the pandemic, the money will also help venues prepare for the busier fall arts season, said Nicholas Cohen, the executive director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts. “The arts season is a little quiet in the summer. It comes back in the fall,” Cohen said. “What this does is it helps float these venues until then, to really be like, ‘Here we are; we’re back; we’re maybe close to full capacity.’ ” The additional $10 million in state grants will go to more than 60 venues and organizations. For the nearly century-old Potomac Playmakers, the money will help maintain the nonprofit’s new home, which volunteer grant writer Greg Berezuk said the group moved into just before the pandemic shut everything down. “We got in there just before COVID. It’s a wonderful facility for an audience to enjoy a live performance, and we couldn’t use it,” Berezuk said. Fixed costs, such as the mortgage and utilities, had to be paid even without shows, he said.
Boston: A union that represents about 800 city employees who have been working remotely during the pandemic has filed an unfair labor practices claim against acting Mayor Kim Janey’s administration for unilaterally ordering them back to the office. The Service Employees International Union Local 888 filed the complaint with the state Thursday, the Boston Herald reports. “The City refused in good faith to bargain about health and safety issues, family and childcare issues (especially single and low wage employees), and productivity issues (as the evidence will show that many of the job tasks have been accomplished at a higher rate due to the use of virtual meetings and technology),” the union wrote in the complaint. Janey this month ordered remote workers back in phases in late June and early July. “The city did not explain why the return to physical work locations was necessitated on the dates picked for reopening other than they have the right to do it,” the SEIU wrote. In response to the complaint, a city spokesperson said in a statement: “Mayor Janey remains committed to flexibility, as we fully restore vital services to Boston residents. We do not have further comment at this time on the pending litigation.”
Lansing: People with a disability or a positive HIV test could not be discriminated against during the organ transplant process under legislation passed by the state House. Though the federal Americans with Disabilities Act bans discrimination on the basis of disability during the organ transplant process, organizations such as the National Down Syndrome Society say certain disability designations affect where a person sits on a transplant list, if they even get on a list at all. One bill passed by the House puts Michigan on the same path several states have taken, outlawing the denial of a transplant or lowering a person’s place on an organ waiting list because of their disability. However, no penalty for discrimination is listed in the bill. The other bill would allow patients with HIV to donate their organs to HIV-positive recipients. Both bills must be passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor in order to become law. Nationally, in 2013 the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act lifted a decadeslong ban on transplanting HIV-infected organs into recipients. Current state law doesn’t allow Michigan residents to receive organs from individuals who test positive for HIV, so organs that test positive get shipped off to out-of-state recipients.
St. Paul: Staunch conservatives and advocates of legal marijuana have formed an unlikely alliance to pressure the Legislature to allow medical cannabis patients to own guns. The more than 35,000 patients in Minnesota’s program can’t own guns as the law now stands because the federal government classifies marijuana as an illicit drug, on par with heroin, and prohibits anyone who uses an “unlawful” substance from purchasing a firearm. So some gun-rights supporters and pro-legalization groups and legislators are lobbying during the special session to allow the Minnesota Department of Health to petition the federal government for an exemption. The change is being debated as part of the state’s public safety and health and human services budget bills. If their effort is successful, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports, Minnesota would be the first of 36 states that allow medical marijuana in some form to appeal directly to the federal government on behalf of its enrollees. The ranks of the state’s medical marijuana patients are expected to triple or quadruple over the next few years under a new law that liberalizes the state’s restrictive program to allow smokable marijuana instead of more expensive pills or liquid extracts.
Natchez: The National Park Service on Friday accepted the city’s donation of land at a site that was once one of the largest slave markets in the United States. The federal agency eventually will develop exhibits that tell the history of Forks of the Road, where Black people were sold to work in slavery in Southern plantations from 1833 to 1863. The site in Natchez has had a sign and a small monument made of concrete and shackles. Officials have been working since 2005 on proposals to create a detailed memorial. More than 100 people watched Friday as the city donated nearly 3 acres to the park service in a ceremony that took place a day after President Joe Biden signed legislation to create a federal holiday for Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. on the date when enslaved people in Texas got word of the Emancipation Proclamation. “As we commemorate the celebration of liberty, Juneteenth, and we gather to remember the system of enslavement and the oppression the proceeded this freedom, we acknowledge the tragic story of what happened here at Forks of the Road and within the city of Natchez,” said Lance Hatten, deputy regional director for the National Park Service. “When that truth is told and heard, the journey to healing and unity begins.”
Springfield: Frustrated health officials in the area are imploring residents to get COVID-19 vaccinations as the faster-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus pushes case numbers and hospitalizations higher. Random testing of virus samples has determined that the delta variant, which is more infectious and potentially more deadly than other strains, has become dominant around Springfield and in much of southwest Missouri, said Kendra Findley, administrator of community health and epidemiology with Greene County. Administrators at the two largest hospitals serving the state’s southwestern region – Mercy and CoxHealth – are pleading with residents to get inoculated because COVID-19 patient loads are increasing at a rate they have not previously seen during the pandemic, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. In Greene County, 36% of the population has begun the vaccination process. In most surrounding counties, the figure is below 30%. Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Hospital Springfield, said hospitalizations averaged in the teens a month ago but reached 72 by Thursday. CoxHealth has seen similar numbers. Many of the new patients are young, healthy adults and pregnant women, he said. The delta variant “has become prevalent” across Missouri, state health officials said last week.
Bozeman: Wildlife officials are seeking feedback on a proposal to expand fishing restrictions to protect declining brown trout populations. Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Geological Survey have tracked declining numbers of juvenile brown trout in southwest Montana rivers, including the Big Hole, Ruby, Boulder, Beaverhead, upper Yellowstone and upper Stillwater rivers, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports. Eric Roberts, fish management bureau chief with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the trend is concerning because low numbers of younger fish indicate that older fish are not being replaced. Biologists are now gathering public comments on the proposed changes, which include seasonal fishing closures from September to May, catch-and-release requirements, and evening fishing restrictions from 2 p.m. to midnight daily. The changes could also apply to the rivers’ tributaries. Residents can submit comment online, by mail or by attending public meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. Department officials will then develop proposals to be considered in August. Roberts attributed the trout population decline, in part, to changing water temperatures and habitat alterations. He said there are long-term plans in place to address stream flows and enhance habitat.
Lincoln: Amtrak trains are once again rumbling through the state capital on a daily basis. The California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco, has resumed its pre-pandemic schedule of one eastbound and one westbound train stopping in Lincoln in the early hours of each day. ProRail Nebraska, a group of citizens that supports the continuation of passenger train service in the state, met the westbound train at the Lincoln Amtrak station on the first day of resumed daily service, May 24. According to ProRail’s District 1 director, Richard Schmeling, ProRail opposed the pause in daily service, lobbying Nebraska’s federal representatives to support Amtrak through the pandemic. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said daily service was halted on many routes after the Senate declined to pass funding for the service during the pandemic. Now that legislation providing the funding has been passed and signed by the president, he said, Amtrak has resumed service at full capacity. “It enables us to be a better service in the 500 places we serve,” he told the Lincoln Journal Star. It also enabled Amtrak to recall more than 2,000 workers nationally that it put on furlough while service was decreased, Magliari said, including conductors, engineers and service people.
Las Vegas: A new kind of jackpot is coming to the Silver State, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday, but only for residents who’ve gotten a COVID-19 shot. The Democratic governor announced a broad effort to encourage reluctant or forgetful residents to get shots, adding his state to a growing list offering unconventional incentives to revive flatlining vaccination programs amid waning demand. Sisolak didn’t call it a lottery, instead terming the “Vax Nevada Days” prize program a raffle because entrants aren’t paying to participate, and vaccines are free. The program makes all residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine since December – along with military members and their dependents – automatically eligible to receive part of $5 million in prize money. Winners will be announced every Thursday for eight weeks beginning July 8. Students ages 12 to 17 can get college tuition credits worth $5,000 to $50,000. People 18 and up are eligible for prizes from $1,000 to $250,000. Among almost 2,000 winners, a $1 million grand prize winner will be announced Aug. 26. “If people are looking for reasons not to get vaccinated, they’re going to come up with one. I’m trying to give people 5 million reasons to get vaccinated,” Sisolak said, referencing the total cash prizes being offered.
Hanover: Dartmouth College is providing up to $1 million to encourage students to move off campus to ease a housing crunch this fall. Students can opt to have their names included in a one-time lottery for $5,000 to encourage as many as 200 returning students to live off campus, Mike Wooten, associate dean of residential life, said in an email to students who are on a housing waitlist. Dartmouth is shifting some of its larger doubles to triples and converting lounges to student rooms where possible, but that isn’t enough to alleviate the housing crunch, Wooten said in the email. “As expected, demand has exceeded our capacity,” he wrote. “Although this has been the case in prior years, interest in living on campus has understandably surged following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.” Some students said the school should be trying harder to house them – or at least better communicate why it can’t. “It hasn’t been made clear of what actions they’ve taken to mitigate this other than the lottery,” David Millman, a sophomore, told WMUR-TV.
Paterson: Landlords won’t be able to inquire about potential renters’ criminal histories under a new law Gov. Phil Murphy signed Friday. The Democratic governor signed the Fair Chance in Housing Act on what was the state’s first official celebration of Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state workers. “We must commit to both remembering the past and continuing to take action to ensure communities of color, especially Black Americans, achieve the full equity they deserve,” Murphy said in a statement. He also signed legislation making the third Friday in June a state holiday. June 19 – or Juneteenth – commemorates when word reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that slavery had been abolished. President Joe Biden signed similar nationwide legislation Thursday. The new housing measure aims to eliminate housing instability that contributes to recidivism, according to the governor. The new law won’t apply in cases where federal law permits landlords to ask about certain criminal convictions.
Albuquerque: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday that all remaining pandemic-related public health restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activity in the state will be lifted July 1, clearing the way for restaurants and other venues to operate without any capacity limits and for cities to plan in-person Fourth of July celebrations and other summer festivals. The Democratic governor made the declaration as state health officials continued to crunch the vaccination numbers following a push that included a multimillion-dollar sweepstakes, other cash incentives and offers that included free child care for those who needed it in order to get their shot. Lujan Grisham wanted at least 60% of residents 16 and up to be vaccinated two weeks ahead of the reopening. Her office said that vaccinations stood at 59.4% on Thursday but that health officials were waiting for more federal data to come in that would push the state closer to its goal. Still, the governor said in a statement that she had hoped the numbers would be higher by now. “The variants across the globe and in the U.S. present very serious risks to unvaccinated people, even young people,” she said. “We all, each of us, have the power to stop the serious illnesses and deaths: Get your shot. It’s safe. It works. It’s that simple.”
New York: Fifteen months after shuttering for the pandemic, Radio City Music Hall reopened its doors Saturday for the Tribeca Festival premiere of a new Dave Chappelle documentary for a full-capacity, fully vaccinated audience. The debut of “Dave Chappelle: This Time This Place,” which chronicles Chappelle’s pandemic stand-up series held in rural Ohio cornfields, marked the first time the hallowed hall was packed since closing in March 2020. The premiere Saturday evening, the closing night gala for the 20th Tribeca Festival, was seen as a symbolic reawakening of the arts in New York, where many of the world’s most famous stages – Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Broadway theaters – remain dark. On Sunday, Madison Square Garden hosted its first full-capacity concert with the Foo Fighters. “Springsteen on Broadway” is set to resume performances June 26. After the Tribeca screening, Chappelle took the stage and paused for a moment to apologize for those who lost someone during the pandemic before signaling a note of revival. “But, man, let’s get up,” he said, before introducing a New York feast of hip-hop acts who performed according to their native borough, including Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Fat Joe, A$AP Ferg, Redman, Ghostface Killah and De La Soul.
Raleigh: Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed gun-rights legislation Friday that would allow parishioners at more churches to be armed, marking the second year in a row that he’s blocked the idea. The legislation affirms that people going to religious services at a location where private schools or some charter schools also meet can carry handguns in full view or under clothing if they have a concealed weapons permit. There would be other limits. The Democratic governor said the measure, which cleared the Legislature this month, would endanger educators and children. State law otherwise prohibits guns on educational property for nearly everyone. “For the safety of students and teachers, North Carolina should keep guns off school grounds,” Cooper wrote in his veto message. The bill’s supporters contend these houses of worship where K-12 schools also are located are at a security disadvantage for their congregants compared to stand-alone churches. There are no such blanket prohibitions in these churches on carrying a pistol, provided the person has a purchase permit or concealed weapons permit. The bill also contains another provision that allows additional law enforcement employees – such as a civilian front desk worker at a police station – to carry a concealed weapon on the job if the police chief or sheriff allows.
Bismarck: State regulators have again extended a deadline for Meridian Energy Group to begin construction on its $1 billion oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park or risk losing its permit. Meridian’s permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality was set to expire June 12 unless construction had begun on the Davis Refinery. Earlier this month the company asked for an extension on that deadline, citing delays related to the coronavirus pandemic and litigation. Recent lawsuits against Meridian have called into question the company’s ability to pay workers, the Bismarck Tribune reports. Regulators granted an extension until Sept. 12 to start construction, a month short of what Meridian had requested. “The reasons seemed to make sense, and we thought, ‘We’ll give you guys the summer to hopefully work out your stuff and then start construction,’ ” state Environmental Engineer David Stroh said. “We requested an update from them in a little over a month so we could get a better feel for how things are progressing out there, knowing there’s a lot of attention to this facility.” Refinery opponents are concerned in part about its proximity to the national park. The North Dakota Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings last year clearing the way for the refinery to move forward.
Cleveland: Some casinos and racinos could be left with losing tickets if the state Senate’s sports betting legislation giving professional teams priority for obtaining brick-and mortar sports book licenses is ultimately enacted. A bill approved Wednesday by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration assigns the 30 total sports books to counties based on population. If professional sports teams in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati all decided to apply for licenses, casinos and racinos in Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties would be shut out at the sports betting window of opportunity in the Senate’s bill. Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, for example, has three professional sports teams as well as a downtown casino and a racino in the suburbs. Dan Reinhard, a senior vice president for the JACK Cleveland casino and a spokesperson for the casino and racino group Get Gaming Right Ohio, said Friday that the Senate bill “disrespects” casino employees. “An artificial cap that locks out gaming companies in the biggest, most populous counties doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said. “We know how to do this. This is the business we’re in. We’re going to work with all parties to make sure this cap is dealt with.” The original Senate bill introduced in May excluded casinos and racinos altogether.
Pryor: Electric vehicle company Canoo announced Thursday it has selected Pryor for its U.S. manufacturing facility, which is expected to employ 2,000 people. The Los Angeles-based company plans to build its factory on a 400-acre campus at the MidAmerica Industrial Park near Tulsa. It will include a paint and body shop, along with a general assembly plant, and is targeted to open in 2023. “Oklahoma has always been a pioneer in the energy industry, and this partnership with Canoo shows that our state is an innovation leader in electric vehicle technology,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with Canoo and Chairman and CEO Tony Aquila to provide high-paying jobs for Oklahomans and position America as the global leader for vehicle manufacturing for decades to come.” Aquila cited Oklahoma’s strategic location and business-friendly policies as reasons Oklahoma was selected. Tulsa was in the running last year for a Tesla electric vehicle manufacturing facility that ultimately went to Austin, Texas.
Salem: A second Republican in the state Senate is facing a recall effort after showing up to oppose a gun-control bill earlier this year. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports a Mount Vernon resident named Patrick Kopke-Hales has initiated a petition process that, if successful, could force a recall election against state Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale. Findley was one of six Republicans to attend a March 25 floor session, granting quorum to supermajority Democrats against the wishes of many gun-rights supporters. Though Findley spoke forcefully against Senate Bill 554 that day, Democrats passed the proposal to create new gun storage laws, ban guns in the Capitol and Portland International Airport, and allow Oregon schools and universities to implement their own bans. Senate Majority Leader Fred Girod is also facing a prospective recall because of SB 554’s passage, reflecting increasing pressure on Republicans to flee the Capitol over controversial bills after doing so to block climate change legislation in 2019 and 2020. The gun-control bill is currently the subject of a referendum effort that could give voters a final say on the law in November 2022. Findley said in a statement that “fighting for conservative values in Salem is my priority, not playing political games.”
Philadelphia: Consuewella Dotson Africa, a longtime member of the Black organization MOVE and mother of two children killed in the 1985 bombing of the group’s home, has died at age 67. A member of the MOVE family, Janine Africa, said Consuewella Africa had tested positive for the coronavirus when she went to a hospital around the beginning of the month but had largely recovered when doctors said last week that she was not getting enough oxygen. “Through the stress with everything that was happening, her body just could not fight to get the air in her lungs because she was too burnt out and tore down from the stress,” Janine Africa said. Africa’s death follows painful revelations in the past few months about the treatment of the remains of her two daughters who were killed in the police bombing of the organization’s Philadelphia home, where 11 members – including five children – were killed, and more than 60 homes were burnt to the ground. Her daughters, 14-year-old Katricia “Tree” and 12-year-old Zanetta “Netta,” died in the bombing while Consuewella Africa was in prison serving a 16-year-sentence for simple assault related to the city’s 1978 attempt to evict the group during which a police officer was killed. Consuewella Africa held the title “Minister of Confrontation” for MOVE, which identifies as both a family and an organization.
Bristol: A town that was a center of the trans-Atlantic slave trade commemorated Juneteenth by unveiling a new marker recognizing its role in slavery. Officials on Saturday placed the first of two planned slavery markers in town at the Linden Place Museum, a mansion built in the 1800s by General George DeWolf, a prominent merchant and slave trader. Another medallion will be placed later this month at DeWolf Tavern. The markers are being installed at sites around the state connected to the trans-Atlantic slave trade by the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion project. They’ve been placed at Smith’s Castle in North Kingstown, Bowen’s Wharf in Newport, and Patriot’s Park in Portsmouth, according to organizers. Students and faculty from Roger Williams University planned to discuss their original research into the town’s slavery legacy. University officials say the work includes new information about the town’s lesser-known slave-trading families, as well as stories of enslaved Africans who lived and worked in town, such as Bristol Finney, a 19-year-old enslaved African who ran away from his owners. Saturday’s ceremony featured music and dance from a local African performance group, and the museum offered tours.
Darlington: Historians are trying to shed light on five forgotten cemeteries in the state’s Pee Dee region. WMBF-TV reports the Darlington County Historical Commission and Clemson Professor Jim Frederick located the five graveyards near Dargan’s Pond on current Clemson property. The experts identified two African American cemeteries, two Native American burial grounds and a graveyard that dates back to the Revolutionary War. One of the sites is the cemetery of Cpt. William Standard, who was deeded land in Darlington County for his heroic service during the Revolutionary War. The pair of Native American burial grounds could date back more than 500 years. And one of the African American cemeteries is linked to one of the county’s oldest African American church congregations, the historians said. It started shortly after emancipation and was connected to the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, where it was active until the church moved locations in the 1950s. “It relates to an African American congregation that is one of the oldest congregations in Darlington County,” he said. “They lost their connection in a very unique way, and I believe there’s three factors to that.” The historians say they are now working to identify individuals in the old church cemetery.
Sioux Falls: The union representing workers at a Smithfield Foods plant said Friday that its members have voted in favor of a new contract. Union leaders say the deal sends a message to the meatpacking industry that companies need to recognize the sacrifices its employees made during the coronavirus pandemic. The Smithfield plant was the nation’s most active hot spot for COVID-19 cases in the early weeks of the pandemic. Nearly 1,300 workers at the Sioux Falls pork processing plant tested positive for the virus, and four workers died. B.J. Motley, president of the Union Food and Commercial Workers Local 304A, said in a statement that the new contract includes fair pay, benefits and safety protections that workers have earned and deserve. “Ensuring these jobs continue to provide the good pay and benefits working families need is the best way for us to honor our country’s essential workers,” Motley said. The contract includes a base rate of $18.75 an hour, up from $17, and a $520 bonus. The union had voted earlier this month to authorize a strike after Motley said that Smithfield wanted the workers to pay more for health care and refused to increase pay to comparable rates of other meatpacking plants in the region.
Memphis: A development that organizers say “is poised to become the second-largest Black-owned film studio in the United States” moved one step closer to fruition this month when the Land Use Control Board approved the zoning adjustments necessary to build BLP Film Studios, an 85-acre production facility in the Whitehaven neighborhood. “Our goal is to make Memphis the international epicenter for producing films and projects led by Black and brown creators on the production and directing side of those projects,” said Jason A. Farmer, 52, a former Marine and business executive who for the past few several years has been working to launch BLP, which he said would be eclipsed only by Tyler Perry’s facilities in Atlanta. Farmer said he believes BLP – the name is an acronym for Black Lens Productions – will attract investors as film and TV companies work to address the “diversity, equality and inclusion” concerns that have sparked debate within the entertainment industry. “Black and brown consumers are becoming more savvy,” he said, “and we find ourselves with none of the legacy production companies” that produce most of the high-profile content that brings customers to move theaters, cable channels and streaming service. He said groundbreaking is scheduled to begin in the fall.
Austin: Gov. Greg Abbott followed through on a threat Friday and vetoed the new state budget’s line item providing for legislative staff pay. The Republican governor had threatened the veto after a walkout by House Democrats in the final hours of the regular legislative session. The walkout denied a House quorum to vote on controversial voting restrictions that Abbott had prioritized. “Texans don’t run from a legislative fight, and they don’t walk away from unfinished business,” Abbott said in Friday’s veto message. “Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.” However, a summer special session already was expected so that the Legislature can redraw district lines for congressional, legislative and other government offices. The budget is to take effect Sept. 1. Abbott is expected to push the voting-restrictions bill again during the summer special session. Rep. Chris Turner, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, engineered the walkout. In a statement Friday, he called Abbott’s veto “tyrannical” and the latest indication the Republican governor “is out of control.” The caucus is considering all of its options, Turner said, “including immediate legal options.”
Salt Lake City: Home prices around the capital city jumped a staggering 31% over the past year in the latest sign of Utah’s housing crisis. Wasatch Front real estate agents have decried the dire lack of homes on the market as prices climb and sales bog down, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Salt Lake County’s median price on a single-family home inched past the eye-catching $500,000 mark sometime in March and then reached $535,000 last month, new data shows. Average new home listings now draw 30 to 40 offers and sell in five days, the Salt Lake Board of Realtors said. The group said more construction is desperately needed to fill the gap. Nationwide, there’s a housing deficit of roughly 5.5 million units, according to an industry study that calls for ramping up the rate of U.S. homebuilding to add 2 million homes yearly over the next decade, compared with last year’s 1.3 million units built. In Utah, the shortfall is between 45,000 and 50,000 single-family homes, apartments and other housing types, with an especially serious need for more affordable homes accessible to residents making average wages.
Burlington: The University of Vermont Food Systems Research Center is getting $11 million in federal funding to support its work researching the regional food system, from production agriculture to food security, UVM and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy announced Friday. The center is a collaboration between the university and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, officials said. Vermonters turned to their local farms for food security when the pandemic struck, Leahy said in a statement. “Farms are an economic driver for our rural communities and local food is a defining feature of Vermont,” Leahy said. “We must continue to cultivate our food systems so our state can thrive and weather future emergencies.” USDA scientists are now being picked to work on campus with university researchers. “This is the first and only ARS research unit designed specifically to study diversified food systems and the smaller farms that contribute to those systems,” said UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Leslie Parise. “We are proud to be leading this work at UVM and believe there is much the rest of the world can learn from the successful small- and medium-sized farms that characterize Vermont agriculture.”
Richmond: After twists and turns on the road to legalizing simple possession of marijuana, advocacy groups have been flooded with calls from people trying to understand exactly what will be allowed under state law as of July 1. Legislators initially voted in February to legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis for adult recreational use – but not until 2024, when retail sales would begin. An outcry ensued over the three-year wait before ending pot possession penalties, so in April the Legislature voted to move up legalization to this July 1. Adding to the confusion: Lawmakers included a “reenactment clause,” which means the General Assembly will have to vote again next year on major portions of the law, mainly to establish a regulatory framework for the legal pot marketplace. The process has resulted in some contradictions that may not get resolved until years after legalization begins. Sen. Adam Ebbin, one of the lead sponsors, said people “still need to be careful.” Possession of up to one ounce with no intent to distribute will become legal for those 21 and older. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to four plants per household. But not much else will change. Buying and selling marijuana will remain illegal until 2024, when retail sales are expected to begin. Smoking marijuana in public also remains against the law.
Mount Vernon: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing a bird found in the North Cascades as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to the likelihood that climate change will shrink its high-elevation habitat throughout the state. The Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan is found in the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia to southern Washington, the Skagit Valley Herald reports. It is one of few animals that spend their entire lives on mountaintops. White-tailed ptarmigans move seasonally between snow-covered habitat and summer alpine meadows. As temperatures continue to warm, the region’s snowpack will decline. Alpine meadows may also be at risk as conditions move tree lines to higher elevations. “As the iconic alpine meadows of Washington diminish with climate change, this alpine bird … will be pushed out of the home it is specially adapted to,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Andrew LaValle said. The state Department of Fish & Wildlife lists the Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan as a species of greatest concern and as highly vulnerable to climate change. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposal includes rules to protect the birds from types of intentional and unintentional harm and says a species recovery plan will be written after the listing becomes official.
Charleston: Gov. Jim Justice declared an end to the state’s indoor mask requirement Sunday as a $1 million winner was revealed in a drawing for residents who have received COVID-19 vaccines. Karen Foley of Mineral Wells won the top prize announced on a sweltering Father’s Day at the Capitol Complex during a celebration of the state’s 158th birthday. “Now we’re going to probably change somebody’s life in lots of ways,” Justice said before Foley’s name was announced. Prizes in separate drawings also held Sunday included custom pickup trucks, state park weekend trips, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, and hunting rifles and shotguns. Two younger vaccinated residents won college scholarships, including tuition, room and board, and books. Justice announced a series of random drawings May 27. The deadline for Sunday’s drawing was last Wednesday, and the winners were drawn Thursday. More than 246,000 West Virginians had registered. The names of entrants who don’t win will be carried over week to week. Residents can still sign up for six other drawings, which will be held on Wednesdays from June 30 to Aug. 4. The final drawing will include a $1.588 million grand prize and a $588,000 second prize.
Milwaukee: Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson joined in a Juneteenth Day celebration in his home state only to see his speech drowned out by a chorus of boos. Johnson made an appearance Saturday at a Republican Party booth in Milwaukee, where he drew a growing crowd once people recognized him. Some people swore at him and said: “We don’t want you here.” Last year Johnson blocked legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Last week he relented while saying that “it still seems strange” that taxpayers should fund time off for federal employees to celebrate the end of slavery. The bill was quickly passed and signed by President Joe Biden. When asked what he thought of the boos Saturday, Johnson said: “This is unusual for Wisconsin. Most people in Wisconsin say, ‘You are in our prayers; we are praying for you.’ … But you got some people here that are just sort of nasty at some points.” One attendee, Robert Agnew, said he thought the reason for the taunting was that “Ron Johnson’s politics are not for us.”
Cheyenne: Supporters of two new marijuana ballot petitions say they’re optimistic about getting pot questions before voters next year, especially with growing support from conservatives in the deep-red state. Even so, they face daunting odds because of the difficulty of getting such initiatives on the ballot and failing to do so four years ago. The Legislature legalized hemp and hemp oil in 2019, but Wyoming is among a dwindling number of states that haven’t approved marijuana in some form. Thirty-six states now allow medical marijuana, and 17 have approved recreational marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This time around, some Republicans are finding common cause with Democrats and others on marijuana. “It’s well past due,” state Rep. Mark Baker said. “If they’re successful in reaching the ballot and putting the question to the people, I do think it is going to be successful.” Baker, R-Green River, stepped down as director of the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws after being elected last year. Other outspoken supporters include a state representative who last year became the first Libertarian Party candidate elected to a U.S. statehouse in 20 years. One petition would seek to legalize marijuana for medical use. The other would decriminalize it.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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