From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
Published 10:47 PM EDT Jul 1, 2019
Chatom: The local Ford dealership has ended a Fourth of July promotion that gave a Bible, American flag and gift certificate for a 12-gauge shotgun to anyone who bought a new or used vehicle. News outlets report Ford Motor Co. told Ford Chatom that the promotion was inappropriate after a worker fired from a California dealership killed two employees last week before killing himself. Dealership general manager Colin Ward says he’s disappointed the automaker requested the promotion be ended. He says the dealership is fulfilling any commitments it already made. Ward says customers could have received a Torah or Quran instead of a Bible if they wanted during the “God, guns and freedom” promotion. Ford Motor Co. spokesman T.R. Reid says the company wasn’t involved in developing the local promotion.
Anchorage: Northern Alaska coastal communities and climate scientists say sea ice disappeared far earlier than normal this spring, and it’s affecting wildlife. The Anchorage Daily News reports ice melted because of exceptionally warm ocean temperatures. Janet Mitchell of Kivalina says hunters used to be able to find bearded seals on sea ice just outside the village. This year, family hunters traveled more than 50 miles by boat to find bearded seals in early June. The hunters ran out of gas on their way back and had to call other residents to bring them more fuel. University of Alaska Fairbanks climatologist Rick Thoman says sea surface temperatures last week in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas were as high as 9 degrees above the 1981-2010 average.
Yarnell: Nineteen bells rang and 19 names were spoken aloud amid somber silence Sunday afternoon in this town at the edge of a wildfire that killed 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters six years ago. Every year since, on June 30, Prescott and Yarnell have remembered the 19 men, casualties of the deadliest U.S. wildland fire in 80 years. The Yarnell Hill Fire, which began June 28, 2013, burned across 8,400 acres and ruined more than 100 structures. At the Yarnell Hill Fire Memorial Park on Sunday, nearly 200 people assembled in a dirt enclosure that is hoped to become a park dedicated to the Hotshots and the fire they battled. Simultaneously in Prescott, the home base for the firefighters, community members gathered in the town square as the Yavapai County Courthouse rang its bell 19 times.
Hot Springs: Sports wagering has begun in the state, with the first bets being placed at a Hot Springs casino. Spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyt said in a statement that Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort began offering sports wagering Monday morning and will allow gamblers to bet on games ranging from professional football and college basketball to cricket and rugby. Hoyt said bets can be placed with tellers seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. or at kiosks at the casino. The Arkansas Racing Commission approved sportsbook wagering at Oaklawn last month. In March, the commission approved full casino licenses for Oaklawn and Southland Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.
San Francisco: A $2 billion transit terminal that shut down shortly after its inauguration last year has partially reopened. The terminal’s lobby and its 5.4-acre rooftop park reopened Monday to the public, but bus service won’t resume until later this summer. KPIX-TV reports officials say programs and activities, including live music, yoga and activities for kids, will restart this week. The terminal called the Salesforce Transit Center opened Aug. 12, 2018, to great fanfare. Officials closed the terminal in September after finding two cracked beams. The new center replaced the grim and seismically deficient Transbay Terminal nearby. It is meant to be a modern transportation hub with food trucks, pop-up retail shops and a rooftop park.
Denver: Five years after the recreational use of marijuana was legalized, the state has surpassed $1 billion in tax revenue from pot sales. The Colorado Department of Revenue announced last month that sales since legalization had topped $6.5 billion. The state has more than 2,900 licensed marijuana businesses and more than 41,000 licensed workers in the industry. “This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue,” Gov. Jared Polis said. The Denver Post reports marijuana revenue funds a variety of public health programs, including mental health services, youth literacy initiatives and anti-bullying programs in schools. The tax revenue goes to state and local governments. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Hartford: The city is planning a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of what has become known as the Day the Clowns Cried, when more than 150 people died in a big-top fire. The remembrance ceremony for the Hartford Circus Fire will take place July 6 at the memorial site on Barbour Street. An estimated 7,000 people were attending the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1944 when the big top caught fire. The blaze spread quickly, fueled by a mixture of gasoline and paraffin wax that was used to waterproof the tent. The death toll has been put at various times between 167 and 169 people. More than 700 were injured, many of them children. The cause of the fire has never been determined.
Dover: House lawmakers have given final approval to a bill expanding the state’s decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana to juveniles. Lawmakers voted 34 to 7 for the bill Sunday, the last day of this year’s legislative session. The measure now goes to Democratic Gov. John Carney for his signature. Possessing an ounce or less of marijuana is currently a civil violation for anyone over 21 but a criminal misdemeanor for those under 18. Nineteen- and 20-year-olds are subject to a civil violation for a first offense but misdemeanor charges for a second or subsequent offense. The bill makes possession of an ounce or less of pot a civil violation for a first offense in all cases. A third or subsequent offense would subject anyone under 21 to a misdemeanor criminal charge.
District of Columbia
Washington: A court has ordered police in the nation’s capital to start tracking the race of everyone stopped by officers, regardless of whether the stop results in an arrest or search. News outlets report the Thursday ruling gives the department a month to comply. The D.C. Council passed legislation three years ago that required the department to track race, but it never followed through. Advocacy groups sued the department, its chief and city officials last year over the noncompliance with the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results act. Chief Peter Newsham says the department planned to implement IT upgrades to comply by next month, regardless of the court order. Superior Court Judge John M. Campbell questioned why a short-term, low-tech measure wasn’t put in place to collect the required data in the meantime.
Miami: An LGBTQ organization has suspended its director while it investigates why four men charged with hate crimes in an anti-gay attack attended the group’s gay pride gala. In a Sunday statement, the Miami-based nonprofit SAVE said it has placed director Tony Lima on administrative leave. Lima said in a Facebook video that the men bought their own tickets after volunteering with the group, but he didn’t consult with board members before welcoming them in his remarks. The South Florida Gay News publication said Lima announced on stage that the men had been “wrongly accused.” Lima said he doesn’t remember saying that, but “if that’s what I said in haste, I apologize.” The four men are accused of attacking two men and shouting anti-gay slurs following last year’s Miami Beach gay pride parade.
Savannah: Scientists say a warm winter may have given a head start to a shrimp-killing parasite. The Savannah Morning News reports researchers found a shrimp with black gills during a June 21 cruise. Shrimp with black gills are infected with a parasite that can weaken or kill them, especially as water grows warmer and holds less oxygen. Marc Frischer of the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography says it’s only the second time that shrimp with visible black gill have been observed in June. He says live shrimp collected are also dying at a high rate “suggesting that we are in the midst of a mortality event.” Frischer says warmer winters, possibly caused by climate change, appear to lead to smaller shrimp catches the following fall.
Lihue: A new two-day festival on Kauai aims to explore the influences traditional Hawaiian music has had on traditional folk music, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports. The Kauai Folk Festival, scheduled for Sept. 28-29 in Lihue, is the brainchild of Matt Morelock, a multi-instrumentalist best known as a banjo player. Morelock, who was raised on bluegrass and country music and previously produced a live-performance radio show called the “WDVX Blue Plate Special” in Knoxville, Tennessee, has been trying to grow Kauai’s folk music scene since he and his wife, Hollis Church, moved to Moloaa on the northeastern part of the island eight years ago. While Morelock said it’s commonly known Hawaiians invented Hawaiian-style steel guitar playing, he’s identified other connections, including Hawaiian-style vocal harmonies and yodeling.
Boise: Former U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador has been elected chairman of the state Republican Party. He defeated former Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna by a 111-109 vote Saturday. The chairman is responsible primarily for overseeing the party’s goals of electing Republicans and developing a political game plan for elections. “Let’s stand united, and let’s do the things that are necessary to defeat the real enemy, which is the bad ideas of the other side,” Labrador said. He said more people are moving to Idaho and possibly bringing different views. “You see what’s happening on that national stage, and that stage is moving to the state of Idaho,” he said. Labrador served as a U.S. congressman starting in 2010. He left that position to run for governor in 2018 but lost to now-Gov. Brad Little in the Republican primary.
Rockford: Officials in this city home to the women’s baseball team that inspired the 1992 film “A League of Their Own” want to help fund a $7 million museum honoring the role of women in the sport’s history. The city of Rockford’s planning committee agreed last week to provide $20,000 to help kick off construction of the International Women’s Baseball Center. The Rockford Register Star reports that the City Council will likely vote on the plan this week. The museum, hall of fame and training facility will be located near the stadium where the Rockford Peaches played in the 1940s and 1950s as part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The first exhibit will be dedicated to Penny Marshall, who directed the film starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis.
Indianapolis: Several new state laws have been set in motion with July’s arrival, from a required high school state government test to allowing wrongfully incarcerated individuals to collect $50,000 a year. Starting Monday, Indiana high schools will have to administer, as part of a mandatory government course, the U.S. naturalization test that’s given to immigrants hoping to become U.S. citizens. An initial plan had proposed that students had to pass the test to earn a high school diploma, but that plan was scrapped. Other new laws include making people who are wrongfully incarcerated eligible to receive $50,000 for each year behind bars once a conviction is vacated due to innocence. Also, the head of the Indiana Department of Education will now be appointed by the governor, starting in 2021.
Des Moines: A summer tradition entering its 28th year will overtake the Iowa State Fairgrounds this week, with more than 4,000 hot rods, muscle cars and other custom rides all on display. The Goodguys Heartland Nationals will run Friday through Sunday, providing visitors with a close-up look at thousands of unique rides produced before 1987. The Des Moines event is one of 18 held nationally by California-based Goodguys Rod & Custom Association. For those needing extra horsepower in their holiday, multiple racing competitions will be held during the three-day event. Cars registered in the show are eligible to compete. There’s also no shortage of traditional summertime family fun, including an apple pie bake-off, watermelon eating competition, live entertainment and July Fourth fireworks.
Manhattan: State agricultural officials are considering a quarantine to slow the spread of an invasive plant threatening native grasses. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas Department of Agriculture recently sought public input on a plan to quarantine invasive yellow and Caucasian bluestem grasses. The varieties have invaded all but three counties in the Sunflower State. Declaring the quarantine would prohibit the movement of all seeds, plants or parts of bluestem grasses within or into the state. The move could affect some ranchers who rely on the species when cutting hay to feed livestock. Ron Klataske, who leads environmental nonprofit Audubon of Kansas, supports the proposal, saying bluestems destroy all native plants. Kansas Livestock Association Attorney Aaron Popelka says the group opposes the plan because it could economically hurt producers.
Frankfort: More than two dozen Catholic school students and their parents have lost an initial appeal in challenging a regional health department’s efforts to control a chickenpox outbreak. The students claim the agency’s actions infringed on their religious beliefs. But a three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals sided with a trial court judge who ruled in April that the Northern Kentucky Health Department acted within its authority. The health agency canceled extracurricular activities and later imposed a temporary ban on school attendance for unvaccinated students as the chickenpox outbreak spread. Last week’s ruling applied to the refusal to impose a temporary injunction on behalf of the Catholic school students and their parents. Their attorney says they’ll appeal to the state Supreme Court.
New Orleans: A NASA official says some crews are working around the clock at the space agency’s rocket factory in the city to meet a fall 2020 test launch deadline for a mega-rocket designed to propel astronauts toward the moon and Mars. Deputy Administrator James Morhard says he recently visited the Michoud Assembly Facility at midnight, and people were working on the engine section for the 212-foot core of the Space Launch System. The other four sections have been assembled, and NASA says the rocket’s core section is 80% complete. Morhard wouldn’t say whether he expects NASA to get the $1.6 billion requested by President Donald Trump for space exploration. He says he’s waiting to see what the Senate does with the proposal.
Ellsworth: Supporters of the sea urchin industry say a federal law change will make it easier to ship the seafood out of state. Maine is the site of a fishery for sea urchins, which are harvested so their roe can be used as food. But members of the industry and some lawmakers have charged over the years that burdensome inspection regulations make it difficult to ship the product where it needs to go. Former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and current Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree are among the lawmakers who have called for an ease on those burdens, which sometimes result in the seafood spoiling while awaiting inspections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says in the Federal Register that it’s amending regulations about importation and exportation of urchins to address the problem.
Annapolis: The state’s highest court has suspended a Baltimore judge for six months without pay for “a pattern of discourtesy and uncontrollable incivility.” Judge Devy Patterson Russell’s suspension began Monday. Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Clayton Greene wrote that her behavior “had pervasive effects on the administration of justice.” He wrote that from 2007 to 2015, Russell failed to handle and process search warrant materials properly. Greene also wrote that she instructed a law clerk to destroy warrant materials and repeatedly yelled at court clerks and judges. Greene wrote that Russell’s reinstatement is based on finishing “a complete emotional and behavioral assessment” by a qualified health care professional. Russell has denied wrongdoing, contending the matter amounted to personality disputes that were not sanctionable.
Lenox: The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home at Tanglewood has unveiled one of the most transformative new additions in its history. Officials on Friday held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on the $33 million, four-building Linde Center for Music and Learning. The climate-controlled facility will play an essential role in establishing the 500-plus-acre Tanglewood campus in Lenox and Stockbridge as a year-round facility for the first time in its 80-year history. It includes studio, rehearsal and performance space, including one that can seat up to 270 people. It’s the largest building project at Tanglewood in 25 years since the construction of Seiji Ozawa Hall. It is named for lead donor Joyce Linde, her late husband, Edward, and their family.
Detroit: Aging care experts are warning that the state’s safety net services for elderly populations are becoming strained as more residents live longer. The Detroit News’ analysis of recently released U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Michigan’s overall population has a median age of nearly 40 years. In 21 of the state’s counties, the median age tops 50 years. Area Agency on Aging of Northwestern Michigan serves some of those counties, and the Traverse City-based nonprofit’s executive director, Heidi Gustine, cautions that the state is about to reach a tipping point, as more baby boomers reach retirement age. Gustine says safety net systems are already buckling as demand for home health care increases with fewer workers to fill the jobs. Aging organizations also need more funding and affordable senior housing.
Eagan: Parents in the state are complaining that they face long waits and have to drive long distances so their teens can take their driver’s license road tests. Cheree Johnson of Rockford told KSTP-TV she and her 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, had to drive an hour to Eagan to take the test recently because a closer location was booked until October. The Eagan office is now booked into October, too. Other young drivers from the Twin Cities have had to travel more than 100 miles to take their tests. State Rep. Jon Koznick says it shouldn’t be so frustrating. He’s considering whether the Legislature should do something about it next session. Driver and Vehicle Services says it has 110 examiners across Minnesota, with plans to hire seven more.
McComb: People are raising money for two Mississippi Blues Trail markers to commemorate the 1977 plane crash that killed three members of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, their road manager and two pilots. The Enterprise-Journal reports the markers will be unveiled in October – one near the crash site in Gillsburg and the other at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in McComb, where survivors were treated. Mike Rounsaville, a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan from northern Mississippi, is raising money, and a GoFundMe page had nearly reached a $10,000 goal by last week. The Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center Foundation is also collecting donations. Lynyrd Skynyrd was founded in Florida and is known for hits such as “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.” The current iteration of the band is touring Europe and the U.S. this year.
Columbia: The University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources has received an $8.6 million federal grant for a new research center. The university announced last week that it had received the grant from the National Institute of Health. The five-year grant will go toward the Swine Somatic Genome Editing Center, where researchers from across the country will use wild pigs to develop delivery methods for gene-editing compounds. The Columbia Missourian reports the center is the latest addition to NIH’s Somatic Cell Gene Editing Consortium, which researches tools for genome editing in human patients. The center will operate out of an existing university research facility after it is renovated to meet federal standards.
Moiese: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service diverted roughly a third of the National Bison Range Complex’s budget in 2015 and never gave it back. The shrunken budget hobbled staff, slashed Visitor Center hours, and left buildings in disrepair at a place often referred to as the crown jewel of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System. A 10-month investigation by the Missoulian charted a yearslong funding crunch at this group of National Wildlife Refuges. Fish and Wildlife Service financial records indicate the Bison Range Complex’s annual budget dropped from as much as $2.7 million from 2012 to 2014 to as little as $1.2 million in the years since. By May 2017, Bison Range manager Jeff King was warning his superiors that “we are (past) the muscle and bone and into the marrow on our ability to even manage our highest priorities, and even those things are suffering.”
Lincoln: Voters may decide next year whether to legalize casino gambling in a ballot measure that could tip the number of states that allow commercial gambling into the majority. Supporters of legalized casinos have launched a petition drive to place the issue on the 2020 ballot with financial backing from the economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Twenty-five states – including neighboring Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and South Dakota – allow commercial casino gambling with games such as slot machines, craps and roulette wheels, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Iowa casinos near Omaha, in particular, cater to Nebraska residents looking to gamble. “Hundreds of millions of dollars go across the border every year,” said Lance Morgan, the CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., the corporation pushing the measure on the tribe’s behalf.
Sparks: The state has become the latest to honor the sacrifices of servicemen and servicewomen killed in military service. The Gold Star Families Memorial was dedicated Saturday on the grounds of the recently opened Northern Nevada State Veterans Home in Sparks. The Nevada Appeal reports the black granite memorial has one side for a tribute to Gold Star Families and the other to tell a story on four panels of Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice. Among the speakers at the event was 96-year-old Hershel “Woody” Williams, a former Marine who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. Williams said the U.S. has done a good job of recognizing veterans but a very poor job in honoring the families until now.
Bretton Woods: The Mount Washington Cog Railway is about to mark its 150th anniversary. Festivities for the July 3 birthday of the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway are scheduled at the base station from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. There will be a guest booth with goodies from Calef’s General Store in Barrington, a partner property celebrating its own 150th anniversary. There also will be barbecue and birthday cupcakes from local businesses. The day also will include Victorian lawn games and fish feeding at Peppersass Pond, plus a live acoustic guitar performance by Michael Bloom and fireworks at dusk by Andrew Day.
Atlantic City: The state will consider expanding its beach access regulations to take into account two things every day-tripping beachgoer knows: Being able to access a beach also includes being able to park near it and use a public restroom. Catherine McCabe, the state’s environmental protection commissioner, says her department will take a renewed look later this year at beach access, including the issues of parking and restrooms. Under the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine, New Jersey required public access points every quarter-mile, plus public restrooms in any shore town that accepted government money for beach replenishment. Those rules were struck down by a court in 2008. The state recently enshrined the Public Trust Doctrine into law, establishing the public’s right to swim in waterways and walk along their shorelines.
Santa Fe: The effects of a progressive shift in the state are being felt as new laws take effect that restrict gun access, raise taxes, decriminalize low-level drug possession, and provide a major boost in spending on everything from teacher salaries to road construction. Starting Monday, taxes on vehicle sales rose by 33%. Background checks are required for nearly all firearms purchases, and smaller public bathrooms are becoming gender-neutral. The state also is raising its salaries and channeling more money toward public education initiatives to help at-risk students in response to a court order mandating greater school resources. A windfall from the oil sector will help with increased government spending, as the industry is expected to provide the state with a $1 billion surplus for a second consecutive year.
Hyde Park: Renovations are planned next year at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s historic home on the Hudson River. The National Historic Site mansion will be closed to tours from April through October 2020 as the building undergoes extensive renovations. The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that the project will include a replacement of the heating and air-conditioning system and exterior painting. It’s slated to cost more than $3.2 million. The grounds of the site, which includes Roosevelt’s burial plot and a museum, will remain open. The National Park Service says about 154,000 visitors came to the Hyde Park site last year.
Tryon: The effort to preserve music legend Nina Simone’s childhood home now has the backing of a few of the biggest names in entertainment. This month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation kicked off a crowdfunding campaign it hopes will support the rehabilitation of the nearly 90-year-old house where Simone, then known as Eunice Waymon, grew up in Tryon. Members of the public can donate to the campaign in addition to buying new Simone-inspired merchandise designed by artist Dare Coulter and other merchandise donated for the cause by singer John Legend, rapper Talib Kweli and comedian Issa Rae. Funds raised are expected to be integral to restoring the exterior of the home where the “Mississippi Goddam” singer learned to play piano. Others involved in the fundraising effort include singer Yusef/Cat Stevens and Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali.
Fargo: A group that pushed to legalize marijuana in the state last year is back for another try. Legalize ND expects to submit a new proposed initiative to the secretary of state’s office soon. The group’s leader, David Owen, said the new measure will be far more specific than the one that voters soundly defeated in November. The group’s proposal would limit possession to 2 ounces and wouldn’t allow home growing. It also calls for child-resistant packaging and no marketing to children. Owen said it also would prohibit smoking in public or in vehicles. The group needs about 13,450 signatures for the initiative to be approved for next year’s ballot. Owen said he expects signature-gathering to begin in August, several months earlier than last time around.
Toledo: Researchers say toxin-producing algae have formed in Sandusky Bay and are migrating into Lake Erie near Cedar Point, a signal the lake’s western basin could see massive blooms this summer. The Blade reports an official from Bowling Green State University’s Great Lakes center says tests show toxin levels thus far are relatively low and don’t threaten water treatment systems in lakeside communities. Toxins from an algae bloom in 2014 caused massive problems for Toledo’s lake-fed system. Rick Stumpf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says heavy spring rains have helped push algae from the bay into the lake. Stumpf says that while spring rain has prevented farmers from planting and fertilizing, researchers can study the residual threat of “legacy” phosphorous runoff on the lake’s health.
Tulsa: A community council study reveals that 1 in 5 homeless people in Tulsa was employed last year, including almost 100 people who had no home despite having a full-time job. The Tulsa World reports that data from the Community Service Council study indicates more than 5,600 people were homeless in 2018. The survey found it took people 27 days on average to secure a home, and 65% were experiencing homelessness for the first time. The numbers are partially based on an annual “point in time” census, in which officials counted every homeless person they could find at shelters, on the streets, in alleys and along underpasses. A homelessness coalition noted the number of homeless veterans in Tulsa fell by 16%, mirroring the success of programs that prioritize veterans.
Salem: The state will pay for prepaid postage on mail-in ballots for next year’s general election in an attempt to boost turnout. The House voted 37-18 on Sunday to allocate nearly $1.7 million to pay postage costs. The program could cost the state more depending on how many voters send in ballots. Oregon switched to a vote-by-mail system in 2000. Gov. Kate Brown made prepaid postage a priority this year. She said low-income and younger residents don’t always have access to postage stamps. Opponents say that the move won’t noticeably increase voter turnout and that the money could be better used elsewhere. Washington state and California also cover postage costs for mail-in ballots.
Harrisburg: Legislation to help agriculture in the state is going into effect, including measures to foster younger farmers, help clean water going into Chesapeake Bay and expand butchering services for small farmers. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed eight related farm bills in the Capitol on Monday, flanked by state presidents of the Future Farmers of America and the 4-H. The $23 million initiative includes funding for agricultural business development, marketing, educational programs and conservation practices. Money will also go to encourage specialty products such as hardwood, hemp and hops and to build agricultural infrastructure in urban areas. State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding calls it “the most comprehensive investment in agriculture in a generation.”
Pawtucket: U.S. Rep. David Cicilline is planning a barbecue for veterans with the head of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The Rhode Island Democrat announced Thursday that he’s holding a community conversation and barbeque at the Slater Memorial Park pavilion in Pawtucket. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, a California Democrat, plans to attend the July 14 event. It begins at noon. The committee has jurisdiction over legislation for veterans’ health care, benefits and other issues. The event is free and open to Rhode Island veterans and their families. Cicilline asks that attendees RSVP with his Pawtucket office. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Rhode Island National Guard and Rhode Island Office of Veterans Affairs will be there to provide information about resources available to local veterans.
Columbia: Residents will pay less to go to the state’s only public law school next year. The State newspaper of Columbia reports that in-state tuition will fall $5,100 next year at the University of South Carolina School of Law, thanks in part to an injection of new money by the General Assembly into public colleges and universities. Law School Dean Robert Wilcox says South Carolina has been losing students to out-of-state law schools because of cost. The full tuition price for law students last year was $29,608. Now it will be $24,508. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Murrell Smith, a Sumter Republican, says lawmakers boosted spending at USC by $8 million this year, with the understanding that $1.9 million would specifically go to lower law school tuition.
Sioux Falls: The state has seen an uptick in sales tax revenue following a June 2018 Supreme Court decision that allows it to collect money from online retailers. A new law following that decision, which requires online businesses to pay sales taxes if they conduct at least $100,000 in gross sales in at least 200 transactions in the state, went into effect Nov. 1. Revenue Secretary Jim Terwilliger says business tax licenses issued to out-of-state and online retailers since then have helped South Dakota pocket $15.9 million in tax revenue. Terwilliger says the ruling was a “landmark decision” in tax administration. Thirty-one states have enacted legislation allowing them to collect sales taxes from online businesses.
Nashville: As of Monday, drivers in the Volunteer State could face a fine up to $200 for using cellphones behind the wheel. All motorists will be prohibited from holding or physically supporting a phone while driving. Hands-free devices will be allowed, including “earpieces, headphone devices or a device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication,” the legislation says. Dashboard mounts will also be allowed. The state Senate approved the ban 23-7 in April. A driver’s first violation will result in a $50 fine. If the violation is the driver’s third offense or if it results in a wreck, the fine jumps to $100. If the violation occurs in a work zone when workers are present or in a school zone when warning flashers are on, the fine is $200. The bill excludes law enforcement, first responders, utility workers and others using a phone to make an emergency call.
Dallas: The city is set to bring 10 rainbow crosswalks to a neighborhood known as the historic heart of the city’s LGBTQ scene. The Dallas Morning News reports the city council approved the crosswalk project in the Oak Lawn neighborhood last week as part of $1.4 million in street improvements. Former city council member Chris Luna, one of the city’s first openly gay officials, says the crosswalks will cost $128,000. Luna and the GLBT Chamber of Commerce Foundation raised $70,000 in six weeks for the crosswalk project. He’s also looking to raise another $30,000 for ongoing maintenance. He notes that construction is slated to begin in September and expected to finish by next March. Luna says he believes the project will mark the area as a safe space.
Salt Lake City: Serving a mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will soon be more expensive for many members of the faith. Church leadership sent a letter last week announcing that members will have to pay $500 a month starting in July 2020 for missions in 18 countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. That is a 25% increase from the $400 a month that has been the rate since 2003. The Utah-based religion says the increase is needed because of rising costs of rent, food, utilities and transportation. The proselytizing missions are considered rites of passages for young members of the faith. Men serve two years, while women serve 18 months. There are currently about 67,500 missionaries around the world.
Montpelier: Future state troopers will be allowed to have arm tattoos, if they cover them up. In the past, applicants with tattoos that were visible when wearing short sleeves were not considered for employment. Under a policy update that starts Monday, such applicants would be welcomed but, if hired, would have to cover their arms with department-issued fabric sleeves. The policy continues to prohibit tattoos on the face, neck or hands, except for commitment band tattoos on ring fingers. Officials say that they recognize that tattoos have become more popular and that the new policy will allow the state to recruit a wider pool of applicants.
Virginia Beach: The National Rifle Association is holding a town hall meeting in the state about a month after the city experienced 2019’s deadliest mass shooting. The Virginian-Pilot reports one town hall was being held Monday, with another scheduled for Tuesday in Belle Haven on the state’s Eastern Shore. The lobbying arm of the NRA planned to focus on proposals that are likely to come up at the July 9 special legislative session that Gov. Ralph Northam convened in the tragedy’s wake. The Democrat said he wants the Republican-led General Assembly to consider several gun control measures. Republicans have given little indication they plan to follow Northam’s agenda. Democrats quickly seized on the news of the NRA’s meetings, which some GOP lawmakers may attend.
Olympia: New gun regulations taking effect in the state include a ban on undetectable guns made using 3D printers. The Seattle Times reports that a law against so-called ghost guns took effect Monday, along with components of a previously instituted law raising the legal purchase age for some guns. A law passed in January raises the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles to 21. Additional clauses taking effect Monday include enhanced background checks for semi-automatic rifle buyers and a safe gun-storage provision. A gun owner could be charged with community endangerment if a firearm is accessed and used by someone who is not allowed to possess it, such as a child or a felon. Gun-rights advocates have filed a legal challenge against the initiative’s age restriction for semi-automatic rifles.
Fairmont: NASA is holding a formal ceremony to rename a facility in the state after a mathematician whose calculations helped astronauts return to Earth. The ceremony is set for Tuesday in Fairmont for the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility. Congress passed a bill allowing the name change, and President Donald Trump signed it into law Dec. 11. Johnson, who is now 100, worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center as a human “computer.” She was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the film “Hidden Figures,” which documented the contributions of her and two other African American women while overcoming racism and sexism. Last year, Johnson was honored by alma mater West Virginia State University with a bronze statue and scholarship dedication.
Madison: Gov. Tony Evers has signed a bill that gives the state Department of Corrections another six months to close its troubled youth prison. Allegations of guard-on-prisoner abuse have plagued the facility near Irma for years. Legislators last year passed a law forcing the DOC to close the prison by Jan. 1, 2021, and create smaller facilities for juvenile offenders. Evers has said that timetable is too aggressive. He says replacement facilities won’t be ready by then. Republican Rep. Michael Schraa introduced a bill that keeps the prison open until July 1, 2021. The Assembly and Senate approved the bill in June. Evers announced Monday that he signed the bill Friday. He said in a news release that his top priority remains getting kids out of the youth prison.
Gillette: The final deadline for competitors in a carbon-capture contest has been extended by four months. Carbon XPRIZE Executive Director Marcius Extavour says organizers want to make sure competitors have enough time to demonstrate their technologies. The extension means the final data submission for the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition is due June 30, 2020. Wyoming Public Radio reports XPRIZE will now announce the winner in September 2020, instead of the spring. The contest seeks to promote technology to put carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant to profitable use. The profits would offset the cost of keeping the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere. Five teams will compete in the final round and get to test their ideas at a coal-fired power plant near Gillette.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports