‘Queen of the Prairie,’ sports bubble bursts: News from around our 50 states

2022-04-25 06:45:09 By : Mr. Marc Liang

Montgomery: Plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging the state’s law criminalizing medical treatment for transgender youth plan to file a new suit after withdrawing two actions Friday. Melody Eagan, an attorney with Birmingham-based Lightfoot, Franklin and White, which represented two families and two physicians in a lawsuit titled Ladinsky v. Ivey, wrote in an email Monday that they planned to “file a new case in the immediate future” against SB 184. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the law April 8; it will take effect in early May. “We promptly filed a lawsuit on behalf of two families and two doctors on the day Governor Ivey signed the bill,” Eagan wrote. “After filing that case, we are hearing from numerous Alabama families, including patients facing loss of critical medical care and parents facing potential criminal penalties. We also are hearing from numerous medical providers and others who care for transgender youth.” The law subjects doctors who prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to transgender youth to a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. It also forbids public and private school personnel from withholding information about a student’s confusion over their gender identity and bans genital surgeries (except circumcisions) on minors. Health professionals have said surgeons don’t perform those procedures on youth in Alabama.

Juneau: Officials have purchased a gondola in Austria for a city-owned ski area in Alaska’s capital city, but questions remain about the installation and long-term plans for the gondola. City officials have expressed interest in working with an Alaska Native corporation on the project. Eaglecrest Ski Area’s general manager and a city project manager recently visited a ski area in Austria to examine the lift and sign a sale agreement for $1.33 million, the Juneau Empire reports. Deputy City Manager Robert Barr said the city is seeking bids from transport companies to bring the gondola to Juneau. Eaglecrest has said its leaders have been looking for ways to expand summer operations and create opportunities for a more sustainable year-round model. The ski area, on its website, said it would work with planners, engineers and contractors on the best placement for the new infrastructure. Eaglecrest is on Douglas Island. City leaders last week authorized City Manager Rorie Watt to negotiate an agreement with Goldbelt Inc., an Alaska Native corporation that operates a tram near downtown Juneau and owns land near Eaglecrest. Watt, in a memo to the city’s Assembly, said Goldbelt has expressed interest in providing funding for up to $10 million for the installation of the gondola and “other related improvements.”

Phoenix: Metro-area eviction filings are climbing back to pre-pandemic levels despite hundreds of millions of dollars in rental aid going to landlords. Moratoriums helped keep many Valley renters in their homes, but those are over. Now tenants, some still trying to pay back rent after struggling during COVID-19, are also facing skyrocketing rents and wages that aren’t keeping up. And Maricopa County renters who had evictions filed against them during the pandemic are facing record judgments despite all that relief money funneled to landlords. Housing researchers and tenant advocates say the rent-income gap, the lightning speed of Arizona’s eviction process and a lack of legal support for renters led to an eviction crisis in the Phoenix area that started even before the pandemic. An Arizona Republic analysis found eviction filings in Maricopa County hit a five-year high in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, February and March of this year, Valley evictions reached about 91% of filings from the first three months of 2019. About 65,000 Arizona renters believe they will likely be evicted in the next two months, according to the latest Census Pulse Survey. State law allows a landlord to initiate an eviction as soon as five days after a tenant misses rent, and the tenant is typically locked out within three weeks of filing.

Little Rock: Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders continues to far outpace her rivals in fundraising and spending for her bid for governor, the latest campaign finance reports show. Sanders, the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, reported raising more than $680,000 last month in her bid for Arkansas governor by Friday’s deadline for monthly campaign finance reports. She faces former talk radio host and podcaster Doc Washburn in next month’s Republican primary. Sanders spent more than $834,000 during the month and reported having nearly $7.4 million on hand. Sanders has raised more than $14 million since announcing her candidacy last year, a record for a governor’s race in the state. Sanders’ closest rival among the Democrats, Chris Jones, raised more than $120,000 in March and spent more than $213,000. Jones’ campaign reported having nearly $94,000 on hand. Jones faces Anthony Bland, Jay Martin, James “Rus” Russell and Supha Xayprasith-Mays in next month’s Democratic primary. Term limits bar Republican incumbent Asa Hutchinson from seeking reelection.

Los Angeles: A $1.8 billion facility intended to connect Metro light-rail lines under downtown Los Angeles is 90% complete, and test runs of trains are underway, officials said Monday. The Regional Connector Project was designed to save commuters’ time by eliminating transfers between trains, allowing one-seat rides across Los Angeles County. “The trackwork, the rail guideways, the platform areas are now complete,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told a press conference. “We’ve been waiting for like 10 years.” County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, board chair of the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority, said the connector will open later this year. The overall project is a 1.9-mile underground light-rail extension connecting the A, E and L lines and three new stations, including the Grand Av Arts/Bunker Hill Station about 100 feet beneath ground level.

Fort Collins: The state is expecting the birth of another litter of wolf pups any day now, creating both excitement and concern over the natural rebirth of a predator with a long, human-induced absence from the state. The breeding pair of wolves that naturally migrated into the state last year formed the pack north of Walden in Jackson County with the birth of six pups. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials had watched the pups for some time before announcing their birth in early June as the first litter of wolf pups born in the state in several decades. And soon that pack could grow, as wolves typically have pups from mid-April through mid-May. State wildlife officials said staff have not seen evidence of denning behavior or any sign of a new litter from the pack this year. “How could it get any better that soon we will see more pups,” said Dale Baker, a wolf advocate from Fort Collins who volunteered to watch North Park rancher Don Gittleson’s cattle herd after Gittleson lost three cows to the wolfpack. “The folks in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming had a big outcry when they brought wolves there, but now that this is naturally happening here, it seems like there should be less of an outcry.” Gittleson said the pack’s adult female was observed in heat, ready to mate in a pasture on his property in February.

Norwich: The city’s aging housing is creating public health concerns on top of squeezing a tight market. Shiela Hayes, president of the NAACP Norwich Branch, said the pandemic laid bare the importance of having the city address housing quality. “We can no longer act like that neighborhood, or that section, or that backstreet (can) continue to be underperforming housing stock; we don’t have that kind of luxury,” Hayes said. The majority of resident-owned homes in the state are 60 years or older, said Sam Giffin, a policy and data analyst for the Hartford-based Open Communities Alliance, as housing production has fallen since the baby boom – more so in Connecticut than in other parts of New England. Some of the risks that come from older houses include paint and other sources of lead. “There’s concern across the state that our old housing stock is a concern to both health and safety,” Giffin said. Hayes said Norwich has a lot of older housing, especially in Greenville, Taftville and downtown, where there are cheaper, privately held, multi-rental units converted from single-family homes. “They’re old, and they take a lot of maintenance,” Hayes said. Maintenance is usually not a matter of upgrading a single unit but multiple units at the same time, which means more money must be spent to get them up to code.

Newark: President Joe Biden will return to his alma mater to give the commencement speech at the University of Delaware graduation in May, the university announced Tuesday. It’s the first time a sitting president will speak at a UD graduation ceremony. Biden is no stranger to visiting UD or giving graduation speeches there. May’s ceremony will be his fifth time speaking at commencement at the school – last in 2014, while serving as vice president. “(Biden’s) commitment to a lifetime of public service is an inspiring example for our graduates, as well as all our students and alumni, of what they can accomplish with a UD education, whatever path they may choose in life,” University President Dennis Assanis said in a statement. Students and their guests should expect heightened security at the graduation ceremony, UD spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett said. Secret Service members will also likely visit campus to prepare with UD Police Department officers prior to the president’s arrival. The ceremony to honor this year’s 4,000-student graduating class is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. at Delaware Stadium on May 28. The event will also be livestreamed.

Washington: The National Museum of American History is opening a permanent entertainment exhibit in December, WUSA-TV reports. “Through the National Museum of American History’s extraordinary collection of theater, music, sports, movie and television objects, the exhibition Entertainment Nation will feature a powerful, ever-changing selection of objects and interactive experiences,” the museum said in a press release. “Through the objects and their stories, the exhibition will explore how, for over 150 years, entertainment has provided a forum for important national conversations about who we are, and who we want to be.” Some of the items set to go on display can be previewed online, including pop culture relics like Prince’s yellow “cloud” guitar, Muhammad Ali’s boxing robe, and Tejana singer Selena’s leather jacket and pants. The goal is to highlight how entertainment has shaped the nation’s society and shine a light on entertainers who have broken barriers. The permanent bilingual exhibit is set to open Dec. 9.

Tallahassee: The state Department of Education rejected more than 50 mathematics textbooks – about 40% of those submitted – for failing to meet Florida’s new learning standards or because they “contained prohibited topics” that included references to critical race theory. Now, the only publisher approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the department for K-5 mathematics is Houston, Texas-based Accelerate Learning. “In the subject area as large as mathematics for grades K through five, it is unusual for there only to be one publisher to choose from,” said Billy Epting, assistant superintendent for academic services for Leon County Schools. DOE said more than half the textbooks being disallowed incorporated “prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT,” which is an academic framework that is rarely seen outside of higher education. The term has become a highly charged catch-all buzzword for discussion of diversity of inclusion. Other books were not allowed because publishers “rebranded” Common Core Standards. DeSantis has taken a lead role nationally in Republican efforts to aggressively push back against liberal cultural values and what he calls “woke indoctrination.”

Atlanta: Students at Druid Hills High School put together a short documentary video, shot on iPhones, to show the troubling conditions inside their learning environment. The video opens with a student explaining how human waste flows up from the ground and floods an area where he and his friends eat lunch. The high schoolers’ footage shows the classrooms, hallways and bathrooms crumbling around them. Plaster falls off walls, and water drips around electrical outlets. So much water has leaked into the weight room that it oozes up from the floor when a student steps on it. Another student demonstrates how one of the holes in a ceiling is so large that he can put his entire hand through it. “You can tell someone about the conditions, but when you visually see it, it’s a lot more impactful,” sophomore Harley Martz, one of the video’s producers, told the Associated Press in an interview. “Some of the things we pointed out in the video are very undeniable.” In the video, Druid Hills junior Montrice Berry describes the assault on the senses: “As you walk through the school now, you can smell the mold, and it’s kind of really nasty. So I tend to walk outside just so I can avoid the smell.” The video, which has garnered more than 40,000 views since it was posted on YouTube this month, has prompted outrage among some parents in the suburban area just east of Atlanta who want repairs made. It was produced after the DeKalb County School Board in February removed Druid Hills from a list of schools in need of priority renovations.

Honolulu: Federal authorities have begun monitoring the state’s wastewater for COVID-19, while Hawaii expects its own monitoring program to be fully operational this summer, officials said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been testing in the islands as part of its National Wastewater Surveillance System, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. The agency posts wastewater data on its COVID Data Tracker website, denoted by dots on a U.S. map. Data from Hawaii hasn’t been included yet due to “a technical glitch being resolved with how the points are displayed on the map,” said CDC spokesperson Nick Spinelli. The agency said it would also display data from the Hawaii Department of Health once the state is able to submit its own figures. More than 30 states have been funded to participate in the CDC program, but some are still getting their collection efforts up and running. Several issues delayed Hawaii’s early plans to set up its own statewide monitoring program. The state faced a six-month wait for shipment of sample-collection machines, which were back-ordered due to high demand. Federal funds paid for the the monitoring equipment at a cost of about $100,000. The equipment is now in place, as are protocols.

Boise: Scientists at the Idaho National Laboratory have completed a rare overhaul of one of the world’s most powerful nuclear test reactors, and normal operations are expected to resume later this spring, officials said Monday. The 11-month outage at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Test Reactor in eastern Idaho allowed a core overhaul that’s done, on average, about every 10 years. The change-out was the sixth since the reactor started operating in 1967 and the first in 17 years. “Overall, I’m very pleased with the ATR workforce and teamwork they demonstrated during the longest and most complex outage in our history,” said Sean O’Kelly, associate lab director for the Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor Complex. He said the coronavirus pandemic and supply chain issues caused some delays beyond the best-case scenario of completing the work in nine months. Experiments at the reactor help the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered war fleet stay at sea longer, bolster NASA’s space exploration, and advance lifesaving medical treatments. The reactor also plays a key role in the effort to keep commercial nuclear power plants running longer and creating new and safer reactors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The reactor is now going through readiness assessments, instrument calibrations and low-power system checks.

Chicago: Federal authorities on Monday said they will not criminally charge Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer convicted of murder in the 2014 shooting death of Black teenager Laquan McDonald. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said in a news release that the decision was made after consulting with the McDonald family and that the “family was in agreement not to pursue a second prosecution.” According to the release, prosecuting Van Dyke on federal charges would have been much more difficult than it was to prosecute him in state court because the burden of proof is far higher. Federal prosecutors “would have to prove not only that Mr. Van Dyke acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids, but also that his actions were not the result of mistake, fear, negligence, or bad judgment,” the office said in the release. “It requires federal prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what Mr. Van Dyke was thinking when he used deadly force, and that he knew such force was excessive.” Van Dyke, who was captured on video shooting the teenager 16 times, was convicted in Chicago in 2018 of second-degree murder and aggravated battery and sentenced to 81 months in state prison. The former officer served less than half that sentence before he was released from prison in February.

Carmel: A priest who was “suspended from public ministry” last month is suing a man who came forward with allegations about the priest’s behavior. James De Oreo, who was an associate pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, was suspended March 11 after allegations of “inappropriate conduct with a minor.” The priest filed a lawsuit April 4 against the man who wrote two letters in 2021 to the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana about De Oreo’s behavior toward him when he was a teen attending St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church in Zionsville. The man said he was considering becoming a priest, and De Oreo used his position of power to emotionally abuse, sexually harass and groom him for sexual abuse. This led to an eating disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as “extreme emotional distress” from acts that his lawyer said were intentional and preventable. In the lawsuit, De Oreo disputed the man’s claims and said there was no “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” He said the man’s allegations could lead to “irreparable harm” that would prevent him from participating in parish ministry and doing his job. Diocese spokesperson Gabby Hlavek confirmed the diocese was aware of the De Oreo’s lawsuit but didn’t comment further.

Des Moines: A ride at an amusement park where an 11-year-old boy died last summer will not reopen this year, the park’s new owners said. Bill Lentz, general manager of Adventureland in Altoona, said officials have not determined if the Raging River ride will ever reopen. Michael Jaramillo died and his brother and father were injured July 3, 2021, after their raft overturned and trapped them in the water. Park owner Palace Entertainment has hired the ride’s original maker, Intamin Amusement Rides, to determine what would be needed to make the ride safe, Lentz said. That project could take several months, he said. Palace Entertainment, the U.S. subsidiary of Madrid-based Parques Reunidos, bought the almost 48-year-old theme park in December. Ryan Best, the attorney representing the Jaramillo family, of Marion, Iowa, said recently that his clients believe the ride should never be reopened. The Iowa Division of Labor, which licenses amusement park rides, required Adventureland to make several changes and receive approval from the ride’s manufacturer or a certified engineer to reopen the ride.

Hutchinson: Under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Laura Kelly, fairgoers will be able to more widely consume adult beverages at the Kansas State Fair. The proposal, Senate Bill 2, will allow beer and wine to be consumed outside designated areas. The fairground’s current liquor policy confines drinking to the grandstands and certain beer gardens throughout the property. It will also pave the way for the sale of hard liquor. Fair officials have not yet determined if the policies will be in place for the 2022 edition of the fair, scheduled to take place Sept. 9-18, or if they will instead roll out next year. The policy was intended to help the fair recoup revenue lost after the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19. Legislative proponents of the bill also argued it was in line with what consumers were demanding from the event. “People wanted to have more wine and more outlets at the state fairground. They also wanted spirits,” Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City, said on the floor of the Kansas House. “They wanted to walk around to look at animals ...with a daiquiri.” But the move was not without its critics, some of whom argued making liquor more readily accessible would harm the fair’s family-friendly nature. Some Wichita-area lawmakers pointed to the city’s vaunted Riverfest festival, which opted to expand liquor sales, dividing residents.

Bowling Green: The National Corvette Museum says it’s adding an education gallery that will feature artifacts and interactive technology to share the brand’s story. Construction of the 2,000-square-foot gallery is set to begin in late May, museum officials said. The gallery is scheduled to open late this year or in early 2023 at the Bowling Green-based museum. “This new gallery will educate, engage and entertain our guests,” said Sharon Brawner, the museum’s president and CEO. The gallery will provide a state-of-the-art educational experience geared toward the next generation of Corvette enthusiasts, the museum said. “The new education gallery will be designed for both children and adults to enjoy, featuring artifacts and interactive technology celebrating the unique story of Corvette,” said museum educator Deb Howard. The project was made possible through the generosity of donors Tim and Melanie McMichael of Gypsum, Colorado, the museum said.

Baton Rouge: A proposal to let New Orleans adopt a set of gun control measures than are stronger than the state currently allows was overwhelmingly rejected Tuesday by a state House panel. The Criminal Justice Committee voted 9-1 against the measure by state Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, despite calls for passage from a City Council member, a deputy chief of the police department and District Attorney Jason Williams. Among the specified laws the city would have been allowed to pass were the bill to become law: a requirement that loss or theft of firearms be reported to police, prohibition against openly carrying firearms at public events requiring government permits, and prohibition on carrying firearms where alcohol is being served. Backers of the bill said it would help fight increasing violent crime by helping prevent gun trafficking or the use of guns at large events where alcohol is consumed, in a city known for festivals and Bourbon Street nightlife. “At the end of the day, we’re asking this committee and the Legislature to allow New Orleans to carve out legislation that affects the unique problems that we have,” said City Council member Eugene Green. Gun control advocates said the laws the city sought to pass would be ineffective and slammed the bill as an attack on Second Amendment rights.

Bar Harbor: The arrival of the first large cruise ship in two and a half years in Maine is another signal tourism is getting closer to pre-pandemic normalcy. Last year, more than 15.6 million visitors came to the state – a third more than made the trip the year before, at the start of the pandemic, officials said. But there were no large cruise ships until the arrival of the Norwegian Pearl in the waters off Bar Harbor. The ship dropped anchor in Frenchman Bay, and visitors were ferried to shore on tenders. “It’s exciting to see these ships and their passengers coming back to Maine,” said Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine. Cruise ships could restore some visitation. The number of visitors last year remained about a million below 2019, before the pandemic. Cruise ships made 409 port calls and brought 450,000 passengers in 2019. One positive sign from the 2021 tourism numbers is that spending soared. Spending grew 63.7% from 2020 and 20.3% from 2019.

Annapolis: A former small-city mayor who admitted to posting nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on Reddit will not have to spend time behind bars under a plea deal announced by the state prosecutor’s office on Monday. Former Cambridge Mayor Andrew Bradshaw pleaded guilty to five counts of distributing revenge porn online and was sentenced to a year and a day for each of the five counts, with all the incarceration time suspended. He also was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and fined $1,000 for each count. Bradshaw was ordered to pay $750 in restitution to the victim and to perform 100 hours of community service. The ex-mayor had faced a maximum penalty of two years’ incarceration and a $5,000 fine for each count. Bradshaw pleaded guilty to posting nude photos of a woman with whom he was once in a relationship after the relationship had ended. The woman contacted authorities in May after learning the photos were posted on Reddit. She told authorities she had sent the photos only to Bradshaw while they were in an intimate relationship, and she didn’t give him permission to redistribute them. Investigators discovered Bradshaw had made numerous separate public posts that contained at least 10 unique visual representations of the victim, many with language related to humiliation and degradation, the state prosecutor’s office said.

Boston: A shooting at an MBTA station in the city left one person injured Monday, according to transit police. Officers were called to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Ruggles Station shortly after 6 p.m. on reports of shots fired. At an area where buses stop for passengers, officers found a man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. The man was taken to a hospital with injuries that were considered serious but not life-threatening, police said. No arrests had been made in the shooting. Police said they were investigating and would continue to look for suspects. Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden denounced the shooting and said gun violence “is something that we’ve really got to lay a hold of and take care of.” “Every time there’s a shooting, there are multiple victims,” Hayden said, according to WCVB-TV. “There’s obviously the victim that’s shot, but there’s also the community at large.”

Lansing: The state has reached a 19.3% recycling rate, an increase of 35.4% from prior to 2019, according to an analysis the state of Michigan released Monday ahead of Earth Day on Friday. Before 2019, the state estimated Michigan’s recycling rate, the rate at which recyclable materials are recycled from waste, was 14.25%. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy estimates the state now has a 35.4% recycling rate. Increasing access to recycling services has helped the state to increase recycling, EGLE Director Liesl Clark said at a news conference Monday. More than 75% of the state’s households have access to either curbside recycling bins or drop-off sites in their communities. The increase in recycling equals out to Michigan recycling 500,000 more tons of recyclable materials a year, according to EGLE. Since 2019, more than $460 million has been invested into technology for recycling and maintaining existing recycling infrastructure, Clark said, all in an effort to help Michigan reach its goals to fight climate change and reach a 45% recycling rate by 2030. This Thursday, the state will release a plan outlining a 30-year strategy to make Michigan a carbon neutral state by 2050. A rough draft of the plan was released earlier this year.

St. Paul: The Roseville School District has settled two federal lawsuits accusing a former second grade teacher of discriminating against Black students. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the district settled the cases privately, and terms were not disclosed. One case was settled last week and the other in January, according to court records. The lawsuits accused Geraldine Cook of making the Black students in her class sit apart from their peers in 2019. She allegedly grabbed a girl’s arm, tearing her shirt, and choked a boy after he gargled water and made him walk to the principal’s office with his hands behind his back. The mothers of the girl whose shirt was torn and the boy who was choked filed the lawsuits. Cook taught at Harambee Elementary, a year-round racial integration school. She resigned in December 2019.

Jackson: An assistant chief says the city’s police department is short-staffed, and recruitment and retention are big challenges. Joseph Wade of Jackson Police Department discussed staffing levels Monday during the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting, WLBT-TV reports. He said JPD is budgeted for 356 sworn officers but has 258. On the civilian side, JPD is budgeted for 199 employees and has 132. “I went to a leadership class in Ohio, and guess what? They’re having (retention issues),” he said. “It’s not a popular job right now.” JPD loses officers to smaller departments, where officers can earn comparable salaries but answer fewer calls, Wade said. He said the city needs to enforce a state law that would require departments to reimburse JPD for training costs of any officer it hires who has been with Jackson less than three years. Wade said JPD leaders appreciate the premium pay that the City Council approved for police department employees earlier this year. The assistant chief also suggested a signing bonus and a tuition reimbursement program for new officers. Capitol police officers, who work for the state Department of Public Safety, also patrol in parts of Jackson where state government buildings are located.

Springfield: Regal fritillary butterflies, which subsist on violets and stick to prairie habitats, are disappearing. “They’ve almost been entirely lost from the eastern U.S.,” Chris Barnhart, distinguished professor of biology at Missouri State University, said of the vulnerable insect species. One-third of Missouri used to be covered in tallgrass prairie. Where there’s a decent patch of prairie, regal fritillary butterflies can be seen in good numbers, Barnhart said. However, without extra help, Missouri may lose the “Queen of the Prairie” altogether. MSU and the Missouri Department of Conservation are two years deep into a project to examine the reproduction and survival of the butterflies, developing methods to raise them in captivity and reintroducing them to suitable sites. Missouri has some of the highest numbers of these butterflies, Barnhart said during a tour of MSU’s Temple Hall greenhouse. Fifteen million acres of tallgrass prairie once covered Missouri, said Francis Skalicky, MDC spokesman. “Today, 99% of Missouri’s tallgrass prairie habitat has disappeared, and a number of species that depend on plants found in this habitat have been negatively impacted by the state’s dwindling prairie acreage,” Skalicky said. The regal fritillary butterflies are considered “a species of concern” and at a S3 level of endangerment, Skalicky said.

Billings: The board of trustees of the state’s largest school district has voted to allow students additional time to graduate after a public campaign by the family of a student with Down syndrome who otherwise would not have been allowed to attend her senior year with her classmates. Under the policy passed Monday by a 5-3 vote, any student who does not turn 20 before Sept. 10 will be able to enroll in classes at Billings high schools. For students receiving special education services, enrollment will continue as long as the student hasn’t turned 21 before the Sept. 10 deadline, The Billings Gazette reports. The family of Emily Pennington had urged the school district to take advantage of a law passed by the Legislature in 2021 that offered some state funding for students who are receiving special education services to continue attending school as long as they had not turned 21 before Sept. 10 and had not graduated. Schools are not required to participate. Emily repeated kindergarten because she had been dealing with numerous medical issues. She will turn 19 in July, which would have made her ineligible to attend school this fall under the old policy. After the school board declined to hear Emily’s request for a change in the age-out policy, Billings West students staged a brief walk-out in support.

Omaha: Former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford, a Democrat who served one term representing the state’s Omaha-centered district, died Tuesday morning. He was 72. Ashford’s family announced his death in a Facebook post, saying that “his death was peaceful though much too premature.” Just two months earlier, Ashford had revealed he was undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Ashford was a state senator from Omaha when he unseated longtime Republican incumbent Lee Terry to represent Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Ashford lost the seat two years later to current GOP Rep. Don Bacon. He sought the seat again in 2018 but lost the Democratic primary to Kara Eastman. In 2020, his wife, Ann Ferlic Ashford, announced her candidacy for the seat, but she also lost the primary to Eastman. Brad Ashford shook up the general election race by endorsing Bacon over Eastman. An attorney and lifelong Omaha resident, he began his political career in the 1980s as a Democrat but switched parties several times over the years and pitched himself as an independent-minded moderate. Ashford earned his bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1971 and his law degree from Creighton University in Omaha in 1974. He worked as an attorney for the Federal Highway Administration in 1974 before opening a private practice the next year. In the 1990s, he became co-owner of the Nebraska Clothing Company.

Las Vegas: The Nevada office of the FBI has a new special agent in charge, with the announcement Monday that Spencer Evans will head the bureau’s Las Vegas field office. Evans has held various investigative and leadership positions since joining the FBI in 2004 as an agent in New Haven, Connecticut. His most recent post was as deputy assistant director in human resources at FBI Headquarters in Washington. In Las Vegas, Evans replaces Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse, who retired in February after 25 years with the bureau. Rouse arrived in the city in 2016 and headed the Nevada field office during the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip that killed 58 people and became the deadliest in modern U.S. history. Two additional deaths later were attributed to the shooting.

Merrimack: A chemical company agreed Monday to providing drinking water to about 1,000 properties in the state that showed elevated levels of toxic industrial compounds associated with serious health conditions. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics announced the agreement for properties in the towns of Bedford, Hudson, Litchfield, Londonderry and Merrimack. It also provides a framework should additional properties be affected. “Ensuring safe drinking water is something we take very seriously,” state Attorney General John Formella said in a statement. “This agreement is an important step forward in a continuing, multi-faceted effort to ensure impacted New Hampshire residents have access to clean drinking water.” A spokesperson for Saint-Gobain didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The company, which bought the Merrimack plant from ChemFAB in 2000, initially believed it wasn’t emitting anything harmful. But the state said that changed in 2004 after the company installed more sophisticated technology and realized it was emitting the chemical. After the company alerted the state, DES determined Saint-Gobain was exceeding state air limits for the chemical, and the company agreed to significantly reduce emissions.

Atlantic City: The state’s robust sports betting market broke the $1 billion mark for the sixth time last month in terms of the amount of bets taken. But the news was bad in March for seven of the nine casinos that continued to lag behind their in-person gambling revenue levels from before the coronavirus pandemic hit, according to figures released Monday by state gambling regulators. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported the state’s casinos and three horse tracks that take sports bets handled over $1.12 billion worth of such wagers in March, aided by the March Madness college basketball tournament. Yet out of that total, only $66.4 million was kept as sports betting revenue by the casinos and tracks after paying off winning bets, third-party partners and other expenses. The casinos and tracks made $423.6 million in gambling and sports betting revenue in March, up nearly 18% from a year earlier. However, that comparison is flawed because in March 2021, Atlantic City’s casinos were still operating under state-imposed pandemic-related restrictions. Going back two years is also an invalid comparison because the casinos shut down in the middle of March 2020 as the pandemic originally surged.

Santa Fe: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is getting married, and Vice President Kamala Harris has been picked to officiate. The first-term Democratic governor made the announcement through her personal spokesman Tuesday, saying a small ceremony will be held May 21 in Washington, D.C. No other details about the upcoming ceremony were released. Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection, will be tying the knot with fiancé Manny Cordova. The couple have been together about 10 years, and Cordova was at her side during an inaugural Mass in Santa Fe before her public swearing-in ceremony Jan. 1, 2019. “We’re delighted to celebrate our wedding in front of family and close friends,” Lujan Grisham and Cordova said in a joint statement. “Like so many New Mexicans, we’ve postponed family celebrations over the past two years during this pandemic. We feel fortunate to be with our loved ones in celebration of our marriage.” The couple initially planned to get married in 2021 but had not set a date, said Jared Leopold, a spokesman for Lujan Grisham. Both Lujan Grisham, 62, and Cordova, 66, were previously married and have adult children and grandchildren. Lujan Grisham was married to her first husband, Gregory Grisham, for more than 20 years until his death in 2004. The son of ranchers, Cordova grew up in a rural community south of Albuquerque. He owns an auto repair shop in Santa Fe.

Binghamton: About 100,000 customers were without power Tuesday morning in upstate New York as a late-season storm dumped a foot or more of heavy, wet snow on some high-elevation areas. In the Binghamton area, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar declared a state of emergency and issued a travel ban for nonessential workers. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in an interview on Binghamton radio station WNBF that listeners in the area should stay home if they could. “It was a very heavy snow. And as a result, the weight … is snapping these limbs, which is sad when you see your beautiful trees harmed like that,” Hochul said. “But it also can be dangerous for people walking on the streets or walking under power lines or if people are getting into their cars.” Some higher-elevation areas of the Southern Tier had up to 14 inches of snow, though accumulations were less for lower elevations, according to the National Weather Service in Binghamton. “That is pretty typical for a for a late-season storm; you’re going to have quite a bit of elevation dependency,” said meteorologist Bryan Greenblatt. Power outages stretched from the Southern Tier to the Adirondack Mountains, which was forecast to get up to a foot of snow by Tuesday night.

Asheville: Buncombe County jail detainees have spent up to a week in group holding areas with no blankets, constant light, cold temperatures, and nowhere to sleep but hard surfaces, such as concrete floors, according to several people who spent time behind bars in the local facility. “There’s no cots; they don’t give you a blanket. Everyone is in flip-flops without socks. And all the drunk tanks were full. There’s 10 of you in there. And it’s all concrete,” said Eric Stimson, who said he spent five days trying to find ways to sleep and stay warm in a group cell with an overflowing toilet before being moved to a regular cell for the remainder of his 16-day DUI sentence in January. The harsh conditions were detailed by three detainees and confirmed by the Buncombe County chief public defender. They appear to represent direct violations of state rules meant to protect those in the custody of the jail, most of whom have not been convicted of crimes of which they are charged and are awaiting their day in court. Spokespeople for Sheriff Quentin Miller, who is responsible for managing the jail, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In an attempt to block out light to sleep and find some comfort, detainees took to stuffing their court papers behind COVID-19 masks to use as eye shields, Stimson said, adding that they would stack their slippers to create something like a pillow. As far as COVID-19 infection concerns go, “if you didn’t have COVID coming in, you’ve got it now,” he said.

Minot: The future of Minot State University’s sports bubble is up in the air after a blizzard last week caused it to collapse. The university was forced to cancel all the activities that were scheduled in the bubble, which is on the grounds of the athletic facility. The bubble has been used as a fallback location for softball games when weather is poor, Minot Daily News reports. And MSU planned to hold a spring football game in the bubble, which is also used for various sports practices. The athletic staff is meeting this week to begin rescheduling and searching for other places to practice. Athletic director Andy Carter said the university is waiting for the company that supplied the bubble in 2016 to send representatives to assess the damage and how much it would cost to repair it. “It’s covered in snow now,” he said. “You can’t even really get to it right now.” He said a considerable amount of sporting equipment had been stored in the bubble. “It could be a big issue. We don’t even know because we can’t see it. So we don’t know if it’s damaged or it’s just sitting there under the tarp,” he said.

Columbus: A judge has blocked early enforcement of an abortion law signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in December that included additional licensing requirements challenged by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood as unnecessarily onerous. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Alison Hatheway’s ruling Friday blocked restrictions imposed on two southwest Ohio clinics by the Ohio Department of Health that came before June 21. That date ends a 90-period for compliance that followed its original effective date of March 23. Hatheway issued a temporary restraining order against the law March 2, before it could take effect. The stated goal of the bill was to impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to give medical care in the extremely rare circumstance of a baby born alive following an abortion attempt. However, provisions were added to the legislation that prevented abortion providers from contracting with backup physicians who teach at or contract with public medical schools. Abortion rights groups said eliminating such a broad swath of physicians to serve as their backups could lead to two clinics in southwest Ohio being closed. The lawsuit argued the requirements would almost certainly have shuttered Women’s Med in Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio in suburban Cincinnati.

Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation Monday to allow law enforcement to keep from the public audio or video recordings showing an officer’s line-of-duty death. The measure was drafted after Tulsa police were required under Oklahoma law to release a video of a suspect shooting two officers, one of whom later died. A jury trial began Monday for the man accused of the killing. “This bill is about protecting the dignity not only of our fallen heroes but their fellow officers and surviving family members who can be retraumatized by these recordings,” state Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow, said in a statement. “It can also make it more difficult to seat a jury in such cases.” The bill prohibits the public release of such videos unless a judge determines the public interest outweighs the reason for denial. It also authorizes a deceased officer’s family members to view the audio or video. Prosecutors and defense attorneys retain the right to use such videos in legal proceedings under the new law.

Salem: Gov. Kate Brown has signed a bill into law that phases out the state’s agricultural overtime pay exemption. The Capital Press reports Brown wrote in a letter Friday to Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Dan Rayfield that she views the bill as an important step in the right direction to correct a historic wrong. “This policy will make a significant difference in the lives of farmworkers and their families,” Brown wrote. The new law establishes overtime pay requirements for agricultural workers in Oregon after 40 hours per week, with the requirements phased in over five years starting in 2023. Under the law, farmworkers will be owed time-and-a-half overtime wages after 55 weekly hours of work next year, after 48 hours of work in 2025-2026 and then after 40 hours per week beginning in 2027. Most farmers will be eligible for one of three tiers of tax credits, depending on how many people they employ. Tax credits will incrementally decline between 2023 and 2028 and then will end or be reevaluated by lawmakers. Brown wrote that the law may need to be changed and improved over time, so she said it’s important that conversation about the issue continue.

Dents Run: The FBI might not have found any Civil War-era gold at a remote woodland site, but it definitely has records of the agency’s 2018 dig and will soon have to turn them over to a father-son pair of treasure hunters. A federal judge has ordered the FBI to speed up the release of records about the search for the legendary gold, ruling Monday in favor of Finders Keepers, the treasure hunting outfit that led FBI agents to the remote site. The group accuses the Justice Department of slow-walking their request for information. The FBI must turn over 1,000 pages of records per month, starting in 30 days, and the first batch of records must include a key report sought by Finders Keepers, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta ordered. The ruling came four months after Finders Keepers sued the Justice Department over its failure to produce records on the FBI’s search. The FBI has long insisted its March 2018 dig came up empty, but Finders Keepers says the government has acted suspiciously throughout the four-year saga. Finders Keepers’ owners, the father-son duo of Dennis and Kem Parada, spent years looking for the fabled 1863 shipment of Union gold that was supposedly lost or stolen on its way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The pair eventually led the FBI to the remote site, where the agency took over.

Providence: The city’s newly formed reparations commission is considering what form payments might take and looking to other cities for inspiration. In a meeting Monday, Silas Pinto, who is serving as Providence’s first-ever director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, noted that reparations are being considered and implemented in a dozen other cities, including Boston and Amherst, Massachusetts. So far, housing and land ownership comprise one of the largest spending categories for cities investing in reparations. Those funds are not paid to individuals but toward renovations and down payments, for example. Direct cash payments, tuition and scholarships have also been popular investments. Pinto said it’s evident that cities are “viewing reparations work really through the lens of closing the racial wealth gap,” and “it’s going to come down to issues around land ownership, around how are we supporting our minority-owned businesses, and how are we helping individuals?” However, as Providence is aiming to use $15 million in federal pandemic relief, it will need to comply with rules on how those funds should be spent.

Columbia: Five University of South Carolina trustees won’t be allowed to run for reelection next month after some powerful lawmakers felt they were responsible for hiring a president who crudely criticized the school, interfered in daily school affairs and left in less than two years. The legislative board that screens university trustees is refusing to send them to a May 4 election by the General Assembly at which more than a dozen other trustees for universities across the state will be elected. The decision comes as the state Senate prepares to review a bill that passed the House earlier this month, the day after it was proposed, that would fire all current trustees at the end of June 2023 and redraw their districts, cutting the board from 20 members to 13. Trustees kicked off the board could run for the new seats. The University of South Carolina trustees the College and University Trustee Screening Commission refused to allow to run for reelection to a new four-year term are board chairman C. Dorn Smith as well as trustees Thad Westbrook, C. Edward Floyd, John von Lehe and Charles Williams. The trustees will be allowed to remain until either the board is restructured or the screening board takes further action.

Sioux Falls: A deadline for Gov. Kristi Noem to respond to a pair of ethics complaints levied again her last year has passed. But neither Noem nor the panel of retired judges vetting whether the Republican governor misused state airplanes for personal use and improperly interfered in a state certification program in which her daughter was enrolled will say whether a response was submitted by Friday’s deadline. The South Dakota Government Accountability Board is scheduled to revisit both complaints during its next meeting at 10 a.m. May 2 in Sioux Falls. But because the confidential nature of the board and the complaints it examines, few other details are known. Assistant Attorney General Katie Mallery, who serves as the board’s liaison, said Tuesday that the April 15 deadline for the subject of the complaints to respond remained in place, though she declined to say whether any response or responses were received by the board. Created in 2017 by the Legislature, the South Dakota Government Accountability investigates complaints against state officials. The majority of its work is done behind closed doors. Considering complaints in secret, GAB is by law required to keep any complaints and related information it receives confidential throughout its proceedings.

Nashville: Republican legislators passed legislation Monday to make camping on public property a misdemeanor crime, which critics say effectively criminalizes homelessness. Under HB978, a person who camps on the shoulder, right-of-way, bridge, overpass or underpass of a state or interstate highway could face a misdemeanor offense and a $50 fine or community service requirement. The legislation cleared the state Senate last week after a lengthy debate and now goes to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk. Sponsors Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, have defended the bill as a tool local law enforcement could use to address homelessness. Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said he experienced homelessness multiple times as a child and criticized the legislation, calling for a more “compassionate” approach. Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, drew widespread criticism last week for meandering comments tenuously connecting Adolf Hitler to the legislation. Niceley said Hitler at one point lived on the streets and used the experience as a “way to connect with the masses.” “People can come out of these camps and have a very productive life, or in Hitler’s case, a very unproductive life,” Niceley said. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Nashville, called the comments “embarrassing” to Tennessee.

Austin: Some Republicans are pushing state leaders to declare an “invasion” at the Mexican border in response to an increase in migrant border crossings, allowing Texas to enforce federal immigration policies, according to some interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, has asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton for a legal opinion on “whether the federal government has failed to uphold its obligations to protect Texas from invasion under article IV section 4 of the United States Constitution, and whether Texas has the sovereign power to defend itself from invasion.” Paxton’s opinion would be nonbinding, but his answer could add ammunition to a push from conservative groups for states bordering Mexico to use a formal declaration of an “invasion” to justify allowing state authorities to deport migrants suspected of crossing the border illegally. The effort comes as Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have continued to criticize the Biden administration for not doing enough to stem the flow of illegal immigration and as federal authorities prepare to end a Trump-era public health mandate that allowed for the immediate expulsion of migrants.

St. George: Huge numbers of Washington County students started eating breakfast and lunch at school last year when pandemic-related federal waivers made it possible for schools to offer free meals to all students. Now, the program that made those free meals possible is ending, and some hunger advocates are worried that children who benefited from the program could go back to being hungry. The Seamless Summer Option program had allowed any Washington County School District student to receive two free meals per day, regardless of status. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, school officials in Washington County and across the U.S. were concerned for students’ well-being and whether they would find enough food to eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture set aside money to help schools offer free meals on a temporary basis. With the expiration of the federal waivers, as well as the SSO program, local schools will go back to offering free or reduced-price meals only to students who qualify under household income guidelines. With no limits on who could get their meals for free, the district saw large increases in the number of students who ate at school. In September 2020, the district provided 1,842 breakfasts and 10,712 lunches a day on average. By March 2022, those figures had jumped to 4,531 and 16,166.

Burlington: After a failed attempt to pass a plan to regulate short-term rentals, city councilors have decided to begin the process again in an attempt to reach a compromise. City officials and councilors agree that short-term rentals are contributing to the housing shortage. The ongoing argument lies in how to regulate the housing that is commonly rented through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. A new version of the ordinance that will be considered in the City Council’s ordinance committee would allow for short-term rentals to be located in detached homes, accessory dwelling units, duplexes and homes with three to four units as long as they are on the same lot as the host’s primary residence. Hosts could also rent their own home out to guests. The exceptions to the necessity for owner-occupancy would be seasonal homes and units in a multi-unit building where one unit is rented out at an affordable rate to a long-term tenant. A previous version of the ordinance that Mayor Miro Weinberger vetoed would have limited short-term rentals to bedrooms within a host’s home with few exceptions. The prior proposal would have stopped people from creating short-term rentals out of independent units on their property such as detached houses, carriage houses and units in an owner-occupied multi-unit home.The ordinance committee will bring a new proposal for regulating short-term rentals to council by June 1.

Richmond: The father of a journalist fatally shot during a live broadcast in 2015 has conceded that he failed to make the ballot in the Democratic nomination contest for the 5th Congressional District. Andy Parker, who announced in January that he would seek to unseat incumbent GOP Rep. Bob Good, said in a statement Monday that he would instead throw his support to Democratic nominee Josh Throneburg. “I was looking forward to a spirited primary and campaign against Good this fall, but to my great disappointment our campaign did not meet the technical requirements to be on the primary ballot. I want to thank the thousands of Virginians and supporters across America who stood with me,” Parker said. Since the death of daughter Alison, a 24-year-old reporter at Roanoke’s WDBJ-TV who was killed by a former colleague during an interview, Parker has pushed for gun-control measures. He’s also battled with Facebook over its allowing the video of his daughter’s slaying to circulate. Parker’s campaign told WDBJ last week that it was reviewing its petition signatures after being informed that the 5th District Committee was able to verify only 937 of the 1,000 required. Alison Parker’s death also prompted her boyfriend, WDBJ anchor Chris Hurst, to run for the General Assembly in 2017. The Democrat served two terms in the House of Delegates before being unseated by a Republican last November.

Spokane: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Klickitat County’s claim to a portion of the Yakama Indian Reservation, likely ending a dispute that has raged for more than a century. The court denied the county’s appeal without comment. Klickitat County had argued that 121,465 acres in the southwestern portion of the reservation, including the eastern half of Mount Adams and the Glenwood Valley, were not actually included when the reservation was created. “The Supreme Court’s decision once again validates the continuing strength of our treaty rights under the United States Constitution,” said Yakama Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin. “The Yakama Nation will never compromise when our treaty is at stake.” The dispute involved ambiguous language in the tribe’s Treaty of 1855 with the U.S. government. Territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens, who drafted the treaty, wrote that the reservation’s southwestern border passed “south and east of Mount Adams, to the spur whence flows the waters of the Klickatat and Pisco rivers.” The tribe said that no such spur existed and that the Yakama Nation had always understood that Mount Adams and land known as Tract D was reservation land. That position was affirmed by the Indian Claims Commission in 1966, by an executive order by President Richard Nixon in 1972, by federal surveyors in 1982 and by numerous earlier court cases.

Glen Jean: New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is offering special events this week to celebrate National Park Week. The park is uploading its museum collection online. Information and images give details about the prehistoric and industrial past of the communities in the area. Some of the more than 5,000 items include a miner’s belt designed for self-rescue, a fossil from a time when the entire gorge was an underwater home to marine life and a Native American hammerstone used to prepare food hundreds of years ago. On Wednesday, the public can watch Cultural Resource Program Manager David Fuerst clean a 1942 mural that depicts early 20th-century coal miners. The park hopes to restore the painting to its appearance 80 years ago. The mural demonstration leads up to the opening Friday of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” exhibit at the historic Cottle Mountainair Hotel in Mount Hope. The exhibit runs through May 30. Winning art for the Youth Arts in the Parks Appalachian Spring Wildflower Art Contest will continue to be displayed at Tamarack Marketplace and online at nps.gov/neri/youth-arts-in-the-parks.htm.

Milwaukee: The brother of former first lady Michelle Obama and his wife are suing a private school alleging it refused to allow their two sons to reenroll after they voiced concerns that racism and inappropriate conduct at the school had not been satisfactorily addressed. In a civil lawsuit filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Craig and Kelly Robinson accuse University School of Milwaukee of terminating their 9- and 11-year-old sons’ reenrollment contracts for the 2021-2022 school year after the couple complained that teachers treated students of color and socioeconomically underrepresented students unfairly. According to the lawsuit filed Monday, the school failed to provide the supportive and inclusive learning environment it had promised in its enrollment contracts with the Robinsons. The boys had attended the pre-K-12 school for about five years, the Robinsons said Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a trial by jury. USM said in a statement that the enrollment decision had nothing to do with their complaints of inequity or discrimination. The independent school, with a campus that stretches from Milwaukee to the nearby suburb of River Hills, enrolls about 1,100 students every year.

Casper: Federal officials are including only about two-thirds the previously expected number of Wyoming sites for lease for oil and gas exploration this summer, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. The first such lease sale of President Joe Biden’s administration will list 129 tracts across the state, covering more than 130,000 acres, according to the paper.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports