Opelika: The city is developing a new a system of pedestrian and bicycle paths. The Opelika City Council recently voted to hire a Birmingham firm to develop a master plan for the path system, The Opelika-Auburn News reports. The aim is to create a network of paths that get people where they want to go, City Planning Director Matt Mosley said. Sain Associates will be paid $150,000 by the city, which will recoup 80% of that cost through a state transportation grant, the newspaper reports. By using a map of the city, the firm will be able to identify potential paths, while also taking into account other infrastructure plans the city may have in mind for those areas, City Engineer Scott Parker said. The project is separate from the Creekline Trails multipurpose path plan, Parker said.
Bethel: Two animal groups plan to help a small village clear out all its stray dogs, officials said. Bethel Friends of Canines and Alaskan Animal Rescue Friends hope to catch and remove the wandering animals from Tuntutuliak on Friday, Alaska’s Energy Desk reports. After volunteers vaccinate the dogs, some will be given to homes in Bethel, while most will be transported to animal rescues in Anchorage, officials said. Tuntutuliak residents should keep their pets inside during the sweep so they are not mistaken for strays, coordinator Jesslyn Elliott said. The organizations said the village’s traditional council contacted them with a request to help remove the dogs. Ravn Air Group, Grant Aviation Inc. and Northern Air Cargo LLC are expected to transport dog kennels to the area and donate space to fly the dogs to Anchorage, while a website has been set up to help collect funding for the effort.
Phoenix: Atari is bringing its virtual experience to life with video game-themed hotels, and the first location will be in the Valley of the Sun. The first Atari Hotel is slated to break ground this year. The gaming pioneer, known for classic arcade games such as Asteroids and Pong as well as the Atari 2600 console, plans to build in downtown Phoenix, says Shelly Murphy of GSD Group. Phoenix is ideal because it’s close to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco, and it’s where the hotels’ developers, GSD Group and Truth North Studio, are located, Murphy says. Fans of gaming can sign up online to become Atari Hotel members and get discounts on hotel stays, apparel and events. The site will host national esports competitions and local tournaments and offer spaces for private parties. Local visitors won’t need to have a hotel reservation to play games there, Murphy says.
Little Rock: A federal appeals court on Monday ruled against Arkansas preventing candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election, blocking the restriction from being enforced. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s “blackout period.” A Pulaski County woman had sued over the restriction, and her attorneys argued it prevented her from exercising her First Amendment right to contribute money to candidates she wants to support in the 2022 election. The court questioned the state’s argument that the blackout period helps prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption.
San Francisco: A billionaire who has been fighting for more than a decade to keep a secluded beach to himself has filed a new complaint in his lawsuit against the state and San Mateo County for allegedly harassing him and violating his property rights. In his new complaint filed Friday in San Francisco, Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla accuses top officials with the California Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission of trying to force the billionaire to let the public onto his property to use Martins Beach, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The complaint also names San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos and Steve Monowitz, the director of the San Mateo County Planning and Building Department, alleging they all engaged in “a concerted effort … to single out, coerce, and harass one coastal property owner for refusing to cede its private property rights.”
Fort Collins: Wolves are officially back in the Centennial State. Though Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently announced that a likely wolf pack had been confirmed in the state following a late October sighting in Moffat County in northwestern Colorado, the agency now has further evidence bolstering wolves’ return. Wildlife officers spotted about six wolves Jan. 19 while investigating an animal carcass surrounded by large, wolflike tracks in the northwest corner of Moffat County, according to a news release. During the investigation, the officers “were surprised when they heard distinct howls within the area,” according to the release. Using binoculars, they spotted the wolves about 2 miles away from the carcass. By the time they got to the site, the animals were gone, but the officers found large tracks from what appeared to be at least six animals. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called the officers’ sighting “historic.”
Montville: For decades the Montville High School athletic teams have competed as the “Indians” with the blessing of the Mohegans, the Native American tribe that traces its local history back centuries and today operates one of the world’s biggest casinos. But last week, the Mohegan Tribe announced it no longer supports the use of Indian-related team names. The reversal has unsettled many in the town, which has considered itself immune to controversies stirred by Native American mascots elsewhere because of its close ties to the federally recognized tribe. Not only is the tribe behind Mohegan Sun a major presence in town and a booster of its athletic programs, but many tribal members have been among the students to wear the black and orange of the Montville Indians. Mayor Ronald McDaniel said the school system will follow up with the tribe, but the name has never been a source of friction.
New Castle: Frontier Airlines will soon end the state’s status as the only one in the country without commercial air service. Frontier announced Tuesday that it will begin offering nonstop flights from Wilmington-New Castle Airport to Orlando, Florida, starting May 14. The flights will be offered during the summer on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Delaware has been the only state without commercial airline service since Frontier left in June 2015 after a two-year run. Denver-based Frontier, an ultra-low-cost airline, first began service in Delaware in July 2013. It once offered flights from Wilmington-New Castle to Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston and three Florida destinations. It later limited its Delaware flights to Orlando and Tampa before ceasing operations completely in June 2015.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Metropolitan Police Department has announced a new policy that will prohibit the arrest of children 12 and under as part of an effort to limit juvenile arrests in the city, WUSA-TV reports. The department says it has recognized that juveniles and adults are physically and psychologically different, and cases involving an interaction between an officer and a child can have a lasting impact. MPD officials say they want to make sure that juvenile encounters with police are respectful and that officers are aware of the developmental differences in young people. MPD plans to provide officer training such as de-escalation, adolescent brain development, and trauma-informed policing to better protect and serve the residents and young people in the district.
Tallahassee: The state could turn to the sky to fight Burmese pythons on the ground under a bill a Senate committee unanimously approved Monday to allow two state agencies to use drones in the effort to eradicate invasive plants and animals. The bill would create an exception to a current law that prohibits law enforcement from using drones to gather information and bans state agencies from using drones to gather images on private land. It would allow the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Forest Service to fly drones to manage and eradicate invasion species on public lands. Sen. Ben Albritton said drones would also help the agencies spot lygodium, a fern native to Asia that’s destroying Florida’s natural vegetation. The wildlife agency’s website warns that lygodium spreads rapidly and is a “severe threat” to Everglades tree islands and puts other forests at greater risk for wildfires because it serves as a fire ladder.
Atlanta: High school students would face a cap on the number of college courses the state would pay for under a bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday. House Bill 444 passed on a 34-18 vote and now moves to the House for more debate. Gov. Brian Kemp and a number of lawmakers say the cost of Georgia’s dual enrollment program, which pays for college courses for high schoolers, is growing too quickly. Most students would be limited to 30 hours of college credit, what a student typically has to take to reach college sophomore status. Most Democrats opposed the bill, saying that there are better ways to control costs than an arbitrary cap and that reducing funding could burden students. The state would pay for only regular academic courses in English and language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and foreign languages. It also would pay for technical courses in one of 17 state-designated career pathways.
Honolulu: Scientists will decide whether to establish a captive breeding program on the U.S. mainland in an attempt to prevent the extinction of a bird species only found on Maui, officials say. A decision about the plan to save the endangered kiwikiu is expected at a meeting of project partners Thursday, The Hawaii Star-Advertiser reports. A nonprofit bird facility on the mainland has expressed interest in a kiwikiu captive-breeding program, officials say. Also known as the Maui parrotbill, the population of yellow and olive-green forest birds has dwindled to fewer than 300. The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project halted a program to establish a population on the windward slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano after mosquito-borne avian malaria killed 10 of 13 birds set to be released in October, including one that died before it was set free. The final three are missing and presumed dead.
Donnelly: Authorities say 25 people were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning while staying at a vacation rental home in this mountain town. Donnelly Rural Fire Protection Chief Juan Bonilla says firefighters were called to the vacation home about 6:30 a.m. Monday and found the occupants complaining of headaches and nausea. Two adults and two children were initially taken by ambulance to a hospital in McCall. Once health care workers realized they had symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning, fire crews tested the air in the home and found above-normal levels, Bonilla said. That’s when the other 21 residents were taken to the hospital as well. Officials say 21 of the people staying at the home have since been treated and released. “We averted a horrific tragedy,” St. Luke’s Hospital spokeswoman Laura Crawford said.
Chicago: Underprivileged areas in the city will receive an estimated $20 million investment for revitalization efforts that prioritize affordable housing and economic development, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday. Fifth Third Bank is putting money into “Opportunity Zone” neighborhoods in the city’s South and West sides. The bank’s commitment is part of the federal program that uses tax incentives to encourage private investment in financially destitute communities. “It’s designed to help transform some of our nation’s most challenged communities,” Mitchell Feiger, chairman and CEO of Fifth Third, said at a news conference on the South Side. “I’m confident it will have that impact here.” Feiger said the funding is intended for projects that can “transform affordable housing, revitalize the local retail economy and create jobs.” Specific projects will be unveiled in the coming months, officials said.
Gary: A man fishing from a northwestern Indiana bridge reeled in an apparent live grenade, prompting a road closure until the device was removed by a bomb squad. A Gary police officer who was called to the Little Calumet River bridge Monday evening to investigate learned that a man who had been fishing from the bridge pulled up what seemed to be a live grenade, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports. The road that traverses the bridge was temporarily closed off, and the Porter County Bomb Squad was called for assistance. The bomb squad took possession of the grenade without incident, Gary Police Lt. Dawn Westerfield said. Authorities were investigating how and when the grenade ended up in the river in the city located about 30 miles southeast of Chicago.
Des Moines: Angered by a flag observing Transgender Day that briefly flew over the state Capitol, Republican lawmakers moved forward Monday with a bill that would limit the types of flags state and local governments can display. Republicans moved the bill from a subcommittee to a full committee for consideration. It would allow only the flag of the United States, the state flag, a prisoner of war/missing in action flag, and a flag of the city, county or school district from being flown at government buildings. A flag observing Transgender Day flew over the Capitol for less than five minutes in November at the request of Iowa Safe Schools, a group advocating for a safer environment for LGBTQ youth. Some Republican lawmakers objected and promised to introduce legislation. Republican Sen. Jake Chapman said there must be limits, raising the possibility of a KKK or Nazi flag being flown above the Capitol.
Lawrence: The University of Kansas Medical Center is testing a male contraceptive gel that men apply to their shoulders. The school’s research institution is conducting a clinical trial for the contraceptive and searching for couples to participate. Dr. Ajay Nangia, the center’s vice chair of urology, is a collaborating investigator of the study. “I think what we’re finding is in the big picture there’s a big need for a male contraceptive,” Nangia told the Lawrence Journal-World. The gel is a mixture of Nestorone and testosterone. Nestorone is a synthetic progestin that blocks the production of male hormones needed to generate sperm. The testosterone in the gel replaces testosterone usually produced in the male body. A nonprofit called The Population Council and the National Institute of Health are partnering to create the gel.
Frankfort: A bill that would require doctors and other health workers to provide life-sustaining care for an infant born alive after a failed abortion attempt was approved by the state Senate on Monday. The measure sailed through the Senate on a 32-0 vote and heads to the House next. It’s the latest in a series of abortion-related bills to surface in the Republican-dominated Legislature in recent years. The bill would require health care workers to give “medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment” to protect the lives of newborns, including any infant born after a failed abortion. Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the bill’s lead sponsor, said last week that he wasn’t aware of any instances in which an infant was born alive in Kentucky from a failed abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has said the legislation is based on “false claims” and has “nothing to do with how abortion care actually works.”
Baton Rouge: The Bayou Country Superfest is hanging up its cowboy boots and spurs. In a tweet Monday, organizers of the 10-year-old country music festival announced that the Memorial Day weekend event “will be on hiatus until further notice.” The festival began in Baton Rouge, briefly switched to New Orleans, then returned to Baton Rouge over its decadelong tenure. Last year’s event drew about 50,000 people to Tiger Stadium in Louisiana’s capital city – but that was a smaller crowd than in previous years. At its peak, 135,000 people attended Bayou Country Superfest in 2014. “We thank the fans who came for the party, and the event sponsors who helped make the Festival a Memorial Day Weekend tradition,” the organizers posted on Twitter. Some of the biggest names in country music played the festival over the years, such as George Strait, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.
Orono: The University of Maine System board of trustees has voted for the University of Southern Maine to enter negotiations for a proposed $100 million career center and residence hall. The trustees on Monday unanimously approved “the largest single investment” in the University of Southern Maine’s history, university president Glenn Cummings said. The proposed 577-bed dormitory includes single-occupancy rooms, studios and larger apartments with multiple bedrooms. The proposal estimates students would pay $800 to $1,200 per room per month. Construction would begin at the university’s Portland campus this summer and be completed by the fall of 2022, the Portland Press Herald reports. The board of trustees also approved a $1.7 million project to expand the Wishcamper parking lot and help replace the approximately 160 parking spots that will be lost because of the construction.
Annapolis: Emergency operators in Anne Arundel County are switching to a 24-hour shift schedule in hopes the change will ease fatigue. Starting Thursday, operators will work 24 hours and then have 72 hours off, Fire Chief Trisha Wolford told the Capital Gazette. She said operators were looking for new shifts because working two 10-hour shifts during the day followed by two 14-hour shifts at night made it difficult to maintain proper sleep schedules. “The operators said (they) want to come off of 10s and 14s. They said they can’t get a sleep pattern and are exhausted,” Wolford said. Wolford said the move could help with operator retention. The change was put to a vote and was “passed overwhelmingly,” said Mike Akers, president of AFSCME Local 582. The new shift structure would give workers an hour break during the day and a five-hour break at night. In addition to a lounge area and a workout room, there are beds available for operators to take a nap.
Boston: Emerson College is investigating racist graffiti directed at Asian students that was found in a dormitory, administrators said. Employees at the Little Building found derogatory words written on multiple doors Friday, according to an email sent by Emerson’s president, Lee Pelton, on Sunday. He did not specify what words were written. Pelton said the graffiti is the second report of offensive language being directed at Asian students in that dorm. Four swastikas were found drawn in stairwells in another dormitory Tuesday. The students directly affected in the Little Building have been offered support, Pelton said. Other students in the residence hall are also receiving guidance on community standards and bias. “Such cowardly acts will not change who we are,” Pelton wrote in the email. “Emerson will remain a welcoming place for all, not only in theory but in practice.”
Pontiac: Volunteers and local groups plan to install a new monument at a cemetery that will carry the names of people who died in state asylums and whose graves are currently marked by small, numbered stones. The monument will include the names of 283 patients and be installed this spring at the historic Oak Hill Cemetery in the southeastern Michigan city of Pontiac, The Oakland Press reports. Volunteers and the Better Pontiac Community Development Corporation have spent four years raising the $5,000 needed for the monument. The Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society also raised $2,650 during last year’s Oak Hill Cemetery Walk for the project. The graves date back to the late 1800s. The monument will have a decorative front, and the names of those buried there will be on the back. The original stone graves will remain in place as volunteers work on new landscaping for the area. The groups hope to install the monument before Memorial Day.
Cloquet: The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will now require permits for most people to access its lands. The band said Monday that the policy is a way to “better manage and conserve” resources on about 41,000 acres of land on the Fond du Lac Reservation in northeastern Minnesota. “Over the years, we have seen an enormous amount of stress placed on these fragile ecosystems,” Thomas Howes, the band’s natural resources program manager, said in a statement. “Issues such as illegal garbage dumping, ATV traffic and overall growth in population have the potential to take their toll on wildlife and vegetation.” Permits will cost $25 for 30-day access and $100 per year. Access was previously allowed without a permit, the Star Tribune reports. Band members, their spouses and descendants, and reservation allotment owners will be granted permits at no charge.
Fulton: For 32 hours, 10-year-old Mikylah Blackburn was held hostage over a year ago by the man who authorities said killed her father. She has now been recognized for using her cellphone to communicate with officials, which a sheriff’s office says saved the lives of two deputies. Blackburn, now 11, received a certificate of bravery, a police badge and other items Monday from the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Office, WTVA-TV reports. In December 2018, Nathan Shepard killed the girl’s father, Paul Blackburn, then held the girl hostage, the sheriff’s office said. The girl used her phone to tell authorities what was going on in the house, including that Shepard had a gun. “If you hadn’t have called dispatch and told the two people out there not to come in, he would have went in,” Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson said Monday, gesturing to a deputy. A SWAT team entered the home, and Shepard was killed, ending the standoff. Blackburn was rescued safely.
Columbia: The state plans to cut more than 1,700 beds at prisons as a result of a drop in inmates. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said the number of prisoners has dropped from more than 33,000 in 2017 to about 26,000 as of Friday. She attributed the drop to changes in Missouri criminal laws that led judges to sentence more people to probation instead of prison time. Beds are being eliminated at the Algoa, Boonville, Tipton, Farmington and Northeast correctional centers, as well as the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center. Pojmann said the cuts mean the agency no longer needs to fill about 130 vacant full-time staff jobs. She said reducing beds is expected to save about $6.5 million and will allow the agency to avoid another $6.6 million in needed maintenance projects. Pojmann says the department wants to reinvest that money into building repairs and other projects aimed at increasing safety.
Butte: Atlantic Richfield has scrapped a proposal to build a second water treatment plant to lower the level of acidic, metal-laden water that has collected in a former copper mining pit. There were concerns that reducing the water levels in Berkeley Pit could destabilize portions of the walls of the pit, Cameron Nazminia, director of state and local affairs for Atlantic Richfield, told The Montana Standard. Atlantic Richfield, which is owned by BP, suggested the additional water treatment last summer after after a tailings dam failed in Brazil in January 2019, killing 270 people. The idea was that if the tailings dam at Berkeley Pit failed, the pit would have enough room to hold the additional water. Berkeley Pit began filling with water after Atlantic Richfield turned off underground pumps in 1982. Atlantic Richfield/BP and Montana Resources are responsible to maintain the water level in the pit below the level at which it would enter Butte’s groundwater.
Lincoln: The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has scheduled workshops for youth fishing instructors. Instructors are part of the Youth Fishing Program, a statewide team of volunteers and Game and Parks staffers who host educational fishing events. The volunteers will have access to Game and Parks’ loaner fishing equipment and educational materials for events. They also will receive program incentives. Training will take place in Lincoln at the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center on Feb. 2, March 29 and April 26, from 2 to 6 p.m. A workshop is scheduled to run from 6 to 9 p.m. May 6 at the Fort Kearny State Historical Park Visitors Center. Contact Larry Pape online to register.
Las Vegas: Airbnb says stays in and around the city increased 19% last year compared with a year earlier, even though residential short-term rentals are illegal in much of the area. The Las Vegas Sun reports company figures showed 882,000 guest arrivals in Clark County in 2019, with more than $138 million collected by Airbnb hosts. That was up from about $100 million in 2018. The most lucrative weekend was during the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival in mid-May. Residential short-term rentals are illegal in unincorporated Clark County and North Las Vegas, while Henderson and Las Vegas allow them with restrictions. The Sun said county officials investigated more than 1,000 short-term rental violation cases last year, levied nearly $900,000 in fines and placed liens on 68 properties deemed to be in violation county short-term rental rules.
North Woodstock: A woman says the operators of a seasonal attraction of ice structures failed to control runoff and flooded her basement with more than 15,000 gallons of water – and she worries it will happen again this spring. Kelly Trinkle alleges in a lawsuit against Ice Castles that last April, snow and ice melt from the attraction pooled in her backyard in North Woodstock and flooded her basement with 16 inches of water, New Hampshire Public Radio reports. Trinkle is seeking $100,000 in damages but says her largest concern is not the lawsuit or the flooding but what will happen this spring. A lawyer for Ice Castles denied that the structures flooded Trinkle’s basement, writing to NHPR that they were “largely still in ice form” when the flooding happened. “Due to the topography of the land, the water that flooded the Trinkles’ basement came from a large watershed,” the lawyer wrote.
Trenton: The state’s residents could see their water bills go up under a plan advanced by lawmakers Monday that calls for replacing all underground lead pipes that taint water before it flows into schools, businesses and homes across the state. The legislation would require water providers to identify lead pipes in their systems and to share the cost of replacing the entire pipe, even the portion on private property, with customers. Who should fund the pipe replacement was debated in a Senate committee Monday, even among supporters of the bill who called it a solution to a public health crisis. Lead is an invisible metal that can leach from pipes, typically found in older homes, and cause permanent brain damage and developmental delays in children. Lawmakers have promised action to remove lead after water filters in Newark failed to remove it from water in three homes last summer and following a USA TODAY Network report that identified 250,000 children exposed to lead in their schools.
Santa Fe: The state is considering new funding for research into treating addiction with injectable opioids to help address long-term dependency on heroin and other opioids. A bill from Democratic state Rep. Miguel Garcia would provide $150,000 to the University of New Mexico for a demonstration project focused on injectable opioids including pharmaceutical-grade heroin or the drug hydromorphone that is routinely prescribed for pain. Opioid and heroin use has plagued some New Mexico communities for generations. The state has pioneered a series of policies aimed at combating opioid addiction, including becoming the first state to require law enforcement agencies to provide officers with overdose antidote kits. The state has a prescription monitoring database to prevent overlapping drug sales and has expanded access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses.
Albany: The state could have one of the most lenient marijuana possession thresholds in the nation if an alternative legalization proposal is passed this session. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, both Democrats, would allow people over 21 years old to have 3 ounces of marijuana. Supporters of the proposal say higher possession thresholds would help prevent people from getting wrapped up in the criminal justice system. A competing proposal from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which lawmakers are debating, would only allow dispensaries to sell 1 ounce of marijuana per person on a daily basis. The governor’s office says the 1 ounce threshold is largely the status quo among other states that have legalized the drug. Under the plan included in Cuomo’s budget, people caught smoking marijuana in public could face a $125 fine.
Raleigh: A new book by the founding director of North Carolina African American Heritage Commission teaches children about the history of African Americans’ contributions to the state. “My N.C. from A to Z” was written by Michelle Lanier, who advocated for legislation that created the commission, according to a news release from the state Department of Natural and Cultural Releases. She then served as its founding executive director. In 2018 Lanier became the first African American director of North Carolina’s Division of State Historic Sites. Each letter of the alphabet represents African American people and places rooted in North Carolina. For example, “B” stands for Black Wall Street, which was a four-block area in Durham where African American enterprise thrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. “T” stands for Thomas Day of Milton, a furniture maker in the 1800s whose pieces are still collected today.
Fargo: The North Dakota State football team will be returning to the White House for a second year in a row after winning another FCS national championship. Sen. Kevin Cramer tweeted over the weekend that President Donald Trump invited the team for a return visit after its perfect 16-0 season. The Bison are the FCS national champion for a record eighth time after defeating James Madison 28-20 to close out the season earlier this month in Texas. It’s the team’s third straight national championship. Cramer says details of the visit are still being worked out.
Columbus: Individuals convicted of trying to buy sex or trafficking women for sex would be placed on a publicly accessible database for five years, under legislation introduced in the state House. The legislation backed by Attorney General David Yost is aimed at the demand side of prostitution, according to supporters of the bill. “Under current law, it is not difficult for someone caught soliciting a prostitute to keep that information hidden from friends, family and their employer,” said Rep. Cindy Abrams, a Republican from Harrison in suburban Cincinnati. Co-sponsor Rep. Rick Carfagna, a Republican from Genoa Township in suburban Columbus, said the bill could provide the deterrent needed to stop people from soliciting sex. Individuals would automatically drop off the database if five years pass without another conviction.
Oklahoma City: The Legislature will consider new rules that would raise the student performance standards for schools to operate on a four-day workweek. The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted Thursday in favor of adopting the new standards starting in the 2021-22 school year. The rules would still need the approval of the Legislature, which opens its session Monday, The Oklahoman reports. To qualify for a four-day week, elementary and middle schools would have to score at least a C in academic growth for math and English language arts on annual Oklahoma State Report Cards. The report cards measure school performance across several indicators that include academic achievement and growth, chronic absenteeism, progress in English language proficiency evaluations, post-secondary opportunities and graduation.
Salem: The City Council is reconsidering its homeless camping ban. Since the ban took effect in mid-December, the city has been scrambling to find options for where to put the roughly 300 homeless people who have been living on downtown sidewalks. Councilor Tom Anderson moved to have the council consider limiting its camping ban to downtown, city parks and residentially zoned neighborhoods at its Feb. 10 meeting. Anderson said he also isn’t opposed to looking at the tabled sit-lie ordinance, which would prohibit people from gathering on sidewalks in downtown as they have been. But altering the camping ban wouldn’t set up a tent city in Salem, either. The city looked at possible locations for a temporary shelter.
Harrisburg: A monument honoring voting rights for African American men and women will soon be built on the state Capitol grounds. The monument will also commemorate former residents of the Old Eighth Ward, a black community in Harrisburg that was demolished to make way for the state Capitol Complex. The monument will be located on the Capitol grounds outside the K. Leroy Irvis Office Building, PennLive.com reports. The multipurpose monument, called “A Gathering at the Crossroads,” will feature four bronze, life-size statues of abolitionists and orators who fought for equal rights. The orators – William Howard Day, Thomas Morris Chester, Jacob T. Compton, and Francis Ellen Walker Harper – will be gathered around a pedestal inscribed with the names of 100 leaders of the Old Eighth Ward. Groundbreaking for the $400,000 monument will be held March 25, and the dedication is scheduled for June 15.
Jamestown: A loop road that goes around a lighthouse at a state park has become so dangerously eroded that is it being closed to vehicular traffic, state environmental officials announced Tuesday. The road surrounding the lighthouse at Beavertail State Park in Jamestown will be closed to vehicles starting Monday, although it will remain accessible to pedestrians, the Department of Environmental Management said in a statement. “Residual damage from Superstorm Sandy along with erosion and storm surge intensified by climate change-driven sea level rise have caused dangerous washouts along the perimeter road and the surrounding pedestrian path” at the waterfront park at the southern tip of Jamestown, the department said. Posts and chains have been installed at the closure area, along with signs directing pedestrian traffic to continue to access the loop.
Columbia: A bill allowing people to use a shopping service to buy beer and wine as well as groceries and have them delivered to their car is a step closer to being passed. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Tuesday after agreeing to changes including prohibiting the sale of chilled beer or wine that might be more tempting to drink on the way home. The bill also requires employees to check the identification of the person picking up the alcohol and record the ID and the time and date of the purchase. Supporters of the bill said a number of other Southern states already allow beer and wine with online grocery buying, and it is inconvenient to force a customer to have all their food delivered but then go inside for beer and wine. The bill now heads to the full state Senate.
Pierre: Officials say more than 14 million people visited the state last year, marking the tenth consecutive year of growth for its tourism industry. The Department of Tourism said 2019 saw a record level of visitors, spending and economic impact. The number of visitors increased by about 3% from the prior year. Visitors spent about $4 billion, accounting for 5.2% of the state’s economy, according to the department’s annual report. Officials say more than 55,000 jobs are supported by the tourism industry, or 8.8% of all South Dakota jobs. The majority of tourists, or 10.7 million, visited South Dakota’s state and national parks, which include the Black Hills National Forest.
Nashville: Newly revealed police records show a white officer charged with fatally shooting an armed black man who was running away had been reprimanded by supervisors months earlier for not shooting another armed suspect in a similar case. Officer Andrew Delke, 25, had been on the city’s police force for about a year when he used a stun gun to arrest an armed suspect, Terry Crowell, who ran from him in November 2017, WPLN News reports. Sgt. Matthew Boguskie later held an “informal counseling session” with him, telling Delke he should have used his firearm, the records state. Delke told the sergeant he didn’t pull his service weapon because of what he called “the hostile climate towards police use of force throughout the country.” He also told Boguskie that at the time he was thinking of Officer Josh Lippert, the former Nashville officer who shot Jocques Clemmons, a black man, after a traffic stop.
San Antonio: A mother who says her 2-year-old son was seriously injured when a glass ketchup bottle fell on his head from a fifth-floor balcony of a hotel is suing the establishment for at least $1 million. Cassandra DeLa Cruz’s lawsuit says her son, Jacob Francisco, suffered serious injuries to his neck, brain and other parts of his body Aug. 18, 2018, when he was struck by the bottle as she pushed him past the Omni La Mansion Del Rio hotel in a stroller. The lawsuit names the hotel; its Dallas-based parent, Omni Hotels & Resorts; and its owner, TRT Holdings of Irving, as defendants. The suit says Jacob has received medical treatment since the bottle fell on him, and his “injuries may be permanent in nature.” The San Antonio Police Department says two people in a hotel room said they had been eating burgers on the balcony, and one of them said he may have accidentally knocked the 2.25-ounce Heinz ketchup bottle over the edge.
Salt Lake City: State leaders repealed a tax reform package Tuesday that had come under widespread criticism. The Legislature approved and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed the repeal shortly after state elections officials reported that enough voter signatures had been verified to put a citizen referendum seeking to repeal the tax reform on the November ballot, the Deseret News reports. The House voted 70-1 and the Senate voted 27-0 on the repeal bill sponsored by Republican House Majority Leader Francis Gibson. Herbert signed it soon after. The tax reform package included reducing income taxes while raising sales taxes on food, gas and some services. Gibson acknowledged that many residents opposed the move. More than 117,000 verified referendum signatures were published, surpassing the required amount by about 1,000, officials said.
Fair Haven: It’s Lincoln the goat versus Sammy the dog in the race for the town’s honorary mayor. The Nubian goat had won the post last year after the town manager came up with the pet mayor election to raise money to rehabilitate a community playground and get kids civically involved. “In Fair Haven, just like everywhere else, voter participation is not always as high as we want it,” Town Manager Joe Gunter says. Resident Cheryl Daviau says the race has gotten children involved in the election process. Her granddaughter got her picture taken with the goat mayor and loved it, she says. To up the ante, this year the police chief nominated K-9 Sammy, a German shepherd who visits local schools daily with a resource officer, attends concerts in the park and is beloved around town. Both Lincoln and Sammy are popular, so it could be a tight race. The election will be held March 3.
Virginia Beach: A local commission is recommending that a Confederate monument in the city shouldn’t be removed but instead that historical context should be added in a new park and a second statue erected to honor African American heritage. The Virginia Beach Historic Preservation Commission planned to make its recommendation to the City Council on Tuesday, The Virginian-Pilot reports. The plan also suggests looking into whether a museum could be built nearby to tell a more “inclusive story” of the community’s history. The committee estimated the park and a second statue could cost up to $320,000, but the group will ask the council for an initial $50,000 for the project, the newspaper reports. Virginia prohibits local governments from removing memorials for war veterans, but Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has questioned the law, and Gov. Ralph Northam also said he supports amending it.
Spokane: Bills to allow sports betting at Indian casinos in the state, including events like the Super Bowl and the World Series, have been introduced in the Legislature. The bills would allow owners of the 29 Indian casinos in the state to open Las Vegas-style sports books. However, a company that operates 19 private card rooms in Washington is crying foul. Maverick Gaming owner Eric Persson says the company should also be allowed to provide sports betting, including electronic betting using cellphones or computers. “That’s what the consumer wants,” Persson told the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on Monday afternoon. The committee heard testimony about the proposal but did not take a vote. Another hearing on sports betting is scheduled for Thursday before a Senate committee.
Charleston: In what they acknowledged is a long-shot bid, Gov. Jim Justice and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. urged unhappy Virginia counties Tuesday to secede and join a neighboring state where Democrats aren’t in charge. Both Justice, a Republican in a state where the GOP dominates the Legislature, and Falwell, whose university is in Lynchburg, Virginia, said the invitation to join West Virginia sends a valid message. “If you’re not truly happy where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia or anywhere where you may be,” Justice said. “We stand strongly behind the Second Amendment, and we stand strongly for the unborn.” This month, the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate introduced resolutions inviting parts of Virginia to join West Virginia.
Waukesha: Oscar Mayer’s iconic Wienermobile got a grilling from a sheriff’s deputy because the driver of the giant hot dog failed to give enough room to another car on the road with emergency lights. The deputy pulled over the Wienermobile and gave the driver a verbal warning for not following the law, the Waukesha Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet posted Monday. It showed a picture of the sheriff’s deputy’s SUV parked behind the Wienermobile with the hashtags #MoveOver #SlowDown #Wienermobile. Traffic laws require vehicles to move out of the lane closest to another car that is on the side of the road with emergency lights flashing. The first Weinermobile was created in 1936, and it has gone through several iterations since then.
Cheyenne: The governor is reiterating his support for a statewide lodging tax to boost revenue. A lodging tax is the only new tax he would support, Gov. Mark Gordon said Friday. It would make Wyoming’s tourism promotion efforts more self-sufficient, Gordon told reporters at the Wyoming Press Association’s winter convention in Casper. A 5% statewide lodging tax passed the Wyoming House but failed in the Senate in 2019, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports. The tax would have generated about $20 million a year. A four-week legislative session devoted primarily to the state budget begins Feb. 10.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports