Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer’s Anti-Crime Bill Signed into Law by Governor

Source: US State of Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s streets will become safer, now that comprehensive anti-crime legislation sponsored by State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, has been signed into law. On Monday, July 6, the governor signed Senate Bill 600, increasing penalties for violent offenses and providing additional tools to help keep dangerous criminals behind bars.

“I applaud the governor’s decision to get tough on violent crime in the State of Missouri,” Sen. Luetkemeyer said. “The signing of Senate Bill 600 is an important step to begin addressing the systemic effects of violent crime that landed Missouri’s three largest cities high on the list of America’s most dangerous.”

Aimed at combating the rise in violent crime in Missouri’s metropolitan areas, SB 600 increases penalties for armed criminal action, prohibits probation for persons convicted of second degree murder or other violent offences and establishes the “Missouri Criminal Street Gangs Prevention Act,” which provides prosecutors with additional flexibility to charge persons involved in organized crime.

For more information about Sen. Luetkemeyer, visit www.senate.mo.gov/luetkemeyer.

State Coronavirus Relief Funds to Address K-12 Education Challenges

Source: US State of Missouri

Missouri will use $55 million from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to expand educational opportunities for students and address two key challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented for K-12 education: student internet connectivity and potential learning loss during extended school closures.   

While school buildings were closed this spring, one in five Missouri students could not access online learning opportunities due to Wi-Fi availability and/or affordability. On July 2, the Department of Economic Development announced it had allocated $10 million of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to reimburse schools for costs associated with increasing student connectivity and expanding campus Wi-Fi networks for the coming school year. It is estimated that these funds will allow 250,000 new concurrent connections to the internet for students. 

DESE will then use nearly $20 million allocated to the agency through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the Elementary and Secondary Schools Education Relief Fund state reserve to support schools in providing additional student devices. Applications and the necessary documentation schools will be required to submit to collect this reimbursement will be forthcoming. 

DESE will receive an additional $10 million of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to create a formative assessment tool to gauge the level of learning loss – or growth – students experienced this spring. These funds will also be used to develop strategies to accelerate learning to help students who may have fallen behind get back on track quickly. These short, turnkey assessments will not be used for accountability, but rather as a valuable tool educators can use when students return to school in August to inform instruction and assemble the supports a student may need, with results returned to schools in just one week. 

The state is also allocating $7.5 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to reimburse schools for transportation expenses incurred when delivering meals to students during school closures. Missouri families counted on this assistance, with schools serving over 19 million meals through the pandemic. 

An additional $7.5 million of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund has been allocated to help schools cover the costs of personal protective equipment and cleaning and medical supplies for schools and buses, as part of a cost-share program with local counties. Just over $795,000 has also been allocated to reimburse those schools that provided childcare for emergency workers during school closures.

A smoother ride coming to SR 4 and SR 401 near Naselle

Source: Washington State News 2

Kathryn Garcia-Stackpole, communications, 360-905-2058, Joanna Lowrey, project engineer, 360-442-1350

NASELLE – Summertime travelers who use State Route 4, SR 401 and US 101 to travel between Longview and the Astoria Megler Bridge, will need to plan ahead for delays as work to resurface several sections of the roadway gets underway.

Beginning Tuesday, July 7, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s contractor, Granite Construction Company, will start work to chip seal (resurface) several sections of the roadway between Pacific and Wahkiakum counties: a 14-mile stretch of SR 4 between Kandoll Road and the SR 401 intersection, and a 12-mile stretch roadway along SR 401 between Naselle and the US 101 intersection.

Once resurfacing work is complete, crews will apply new lane striping throughout both stretches of roadway. Rumble strips will be added along SR 401 within the center of the highway and along the shoulders.

“Keeping our state highways in a state of good repair is important for all road users” said WSDOT Project Engineer Joanna Lowrey. “Routine preservation, like this chip seal project, is one of the most cost effective ways to make taxpayer dollars go further.”

This work extends the useful life of the roadway, improves driver’s safety and reduces costly emergency repairs and closures.

Construction details

  • Travelers should expect daytime, single lane closures with flaggers and with delays of up to 20 minutes.
  • Travelers should pay attention and slow down through work zones.
  • People who live within the work zone may encounter delays getting in and out of their driveways.

This $2.5 million dollar project is scheduled for completion later this summer.

Travelers can get up to date construction information by visiting WSDOT’s travel alerts page, or by following WSDOT’s regional Twitter account.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice announces statewide indoor face covering requirement

Source: US State of West Virginia

UPCOMING FREE COMMUNITY TESTING: MARSHALL, MERCER, MONONGALIA, PRESTON, AND WAYNE COUNTIES
Additionally during his briefing, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that the next round of free community COVID-19 testing will be provided later this week – Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11 – in Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia, Preston, Upshur, and Wayne counties.

Click here to read more

The effort is part of a plan to provide free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.

Testing is scheduled as follows:

Marshall County
Friday, July 10
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
McMechen City Hall: 325 Logan Street, McMechen, WV 26040
Saturday, July 11
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Marshall County Health Department: 513 6th Street, Moundsville, WV 26041

Mercer County
Saturday, July 11
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Mercer County Health Department: 978 Blue Prince Road, Bluefield, WV 24701

Monongalia County
Friday, July 10
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Morgantown Farmer’s Market (Downtown): 400 Spruce Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
Saturday, July 11
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Mountainview Elementary School: 661 Green Bag Road, Morgantown, WV 26508

Preston County
Friday, July 10 & Saturday, July 11
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Kingwood Elementary School: 207 South Price Street, Kingwood, WV 26537

Upshur County
Friday, July 10 & Saturday, July 11

10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Buckhannon-Upshur High School: 270 B-U Drive, Buckhannon, WV 26201 
Friday, July 10 & Saturday, July 11
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
78 Queens Alley, Rock Cave, WV 26234 

Wayne County
Friday, July 10
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Dunlow Community Center: 1475 Left Fork Dunlow Bypass Road, Dunlow, WV 25511
Saturday, July 11
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Wayne Elementary School: 80 McGinnis Drive, Wayne, WV 25570

Attorney General Becerra Slams EPA for Inadequate Risk Evaluation of Harmful Chemical Used in Dry Cleaning

Source: US State of California

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a multistate coalition in submitting comments opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft risk evaluation of Perchloroethylene (PERC), a hazardous chemical commonly used in dry cleaning. In their comment letter, the Attorneys General explain how EPA has, once again, failed to issue a draft risk evaluation for one of the first 10 chemicals reviewed under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) that comports with its clear mandate from Congress. EPA must eliminate “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” from the “intended, known, or reasonably foreseen” use or disposal of PERC. Instead, EPA has issued a draft risk evaluation with numerous deficiencies that underestimate PERC’s risks to human health and the environment. The coalition urges EPA to withdraw the draft risk evaluation and re-evaluate PERC’s risks in a manner that complies with its obligations under TSCA. 

“The EPA is once again making excuses and sidestepping responsibility at the expense of public health and the environment,” said Attorney General Becerra. “PERC is a known public health hazard. The EPA’s own science shows that exposure to PERC results in serious health consequences. We urge the EPA to put in the work, look at the science, and redo this risk evaluation. Our communities deserve better.”

PERC is widely used as a dry-cleaning solvent, a metal degreaser, a chemical intermediate, and an ingredient in a variety of other common consumer products. Long term exposure to PERC can cause liver, kidney, or central nervous system damage. Because many who face exposure to PERC are low income individuals or communities of color, EPA’s failure to comply with TSCA is an environmental justice failure.

The draft risk evaluation is an integral aspect of the TSCA process for addressing the potential risks from “high priority” chemicals – those that may pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment.  On May 4, 2020, the EPA released its preliminary conclusions, findings, and determinations about PERC’s risks in the draft risk evaluation. In the comment letter, the coalition argues that in the draft evaluation, among other things, the EPA improperly:

  • Omits numerous significant pathways in which the general population and environment are exposed to PERC,
  • Ignores the well-documented risks of PERC to those who live near dry-cleaning facilities and hazardous waste sites, as well as the risks to infants, children, and pregnant women; and
  • Underestimates the risk of PERC by failing to consider aggregate exposure to the chemical.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to safeguard California’s communities from the risks posed by toxic chemicals. In 2018, Attorney General Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy co-led a coalition in submitting comments criticizing the EPA’s “problem formulation” for PERC, an early scoping document for the draft risk evaluation that contained many of the same deficiencies. On June 2, 2020, Attorneys General Becerra and Healey co-led a multistate coalition in submitting comments criticizing the EPA’s draft risk assessment for asbestos for violating the TSCA. Attorneys General Becerra and Healey also led a coalition of attorneys general in calling on EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to initiate rulemaking to issue a new “asbestos reporting rule” to eliminate exemptions for asbestos in the current Chemical Data Reporting rule, and then filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s failure to initiate the rulemaking. 

Attorneys General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, in filing the comment letter. 

A copy of the comment letter is can be found here.

Gov. Wolf: Opioid Command Center Releases Strategic Plan, a Roadmap to Fight the Epidemic

Source: US State of Pennsylvania

July 06, 2020

Press Release,  Substance Use Disorder
It’s been more than two years since Governor Tom Wolf signed the first 90-day disaster declaration to empower state agencies and partners to collectively battle the opioid epidemic. Since that date, the declaration has been renewed 10 times, most recently on May 22. If not for the focused, dedicated efforts of the members of Gov. Wolf’s Opioid Command Center, established through the disaster declaration, the recent pandemic might have stalled efforts to combat the opioid crisis, but today, the Opioid Command Center released its strategic plan, highlighting accomplishments to date and providing a roadmap for the continued work to help those with substance use disorder.
“By leveraging the diverse strengths and skillsets brought together through the Opioid Command Center, we have been able to make great strides in saving lives and reducing negative outcomes for those suffering with a substance use disorder,” Gov. Wolf said. “I offer my thanks to everyone involved in these crucial efforts.”
This strategic plan aims to continue the successes of the Opioid Command Center as well as implement new policies to remove barriers and develop additional initiatives to address the everchanging need for support and resources. Stakeholders were consulted throughout the process of developing the plan to understand the unique challenges facing communities in Pennsylvania and plan developers examined data on a regular basis to monitor effectiveness and target areas of need.
While opioids remain a large public health and safety threat, much of the feedback indicated a need to include other substances that are commonly misused, so the scope of the Opioid Command Center has been expanded beyond opioids to encompass other urgent emerging trends, such as the use of stimulants and polysubstances, and other concerns.
The plan, available here, includes five goal areas: prevention, rescue, treatment, recovery and sustainability.
Prevention involves reducing the risk of substance misuse through education and limiting the availability of addictive substances, as well as continuing efforts to reduce the stigma of the disorder as a disease not a moral failing.
Rescue efforts are defined as establishing sustainable methods to provide life-saving measures and increase access to harm-reduction services.
Treatment means promoting access and reducing barriers for individuals, and supporting the professionals who treat those with a substance use disorder.
Recovery involves promoting supportive services for individuals in recovery. And sustainability includes the work to implement long-lasting policies and regulations to support the other four goals of prevention, rescue, treatment and recovery efforts.
“Even amidst a national pandemic, the opioid crisis has continued, and in some ways become more of a challenge,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Our commitment to addressing the opioid crisis remains steadfast, and to assist those with the disease of addiction. We want those affected to know that help is available, treatment works, and recovery is possible.”
“As the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, our primary goal is to ensure all Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to live healthy, substance-free lives,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “Through the development of the Command Center, Governor Wolf has provided critical staff and resources to help support our goal in the midst of the opioid epidemic. This roadmap will be an invaluable asset as we continue to navigate the epidemic and the rise of stimulant usage.”

LaRose Sends Ready for November Plan To 88 County Boards of Elections

Source: US State of Ohio

COLUMBUS – Today, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued Directive 2020-11 to the state’s 88 county boards of elections. The Ready for November Directive details how counties must utilize federal dollars to improve their election infrastructure, hire temporary personnel, enhance their supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), and recruit poll workers. Ohio’s share of federal CARES Act funds designated for the 2020 election is $12,861,311. Notably, 87% of Ohio’s federal dollars will be sent directly to the county boards of elections in support of their efforts to run a safe, secure, and accurate election.

“Over the past several months, we’ve been working with bipartisan election officials across Ohio as well as election experts & advocates to make our state ready for November,” said LaRose. “While we certainly have many challenges ahead of us, this plan puts us on a path to ensure Ohio voters will be confident that their voice was heard on November 3rd.”

Specifically, the Ready for November Directive provides required guidance on the following: 

Recruiting More Poll Workers. For county boards of elections to be able to open the appropriate number of polling locations on Election Day, they must first recruit and train enough poll workers to satisfy the minimum required by state law to operate a precinct. Traditionally, Ohio utilizes over 35,000 poll workers on Election Day. Because of the current pandemic, fewer poll workers are expected to sign up or show up on Election Day.Because of this anticipated shortage, unprecedented efforts must be made to recruit new poll workers and backups. Additionally, Boards must prepare and plan for the possibility of poll worker shortages and the contingencies necessary should that situation arise. By August 1, 2020, county boards of elections must send a survey to every poll worker who served previously within the last three years or who indicated to the board their interest in serving in the 2020 primary election. This is a significant advance of the traditional timeline utilized by county boards of elections to begin poll worker recruitment preparations.

More Election Infrastructure. To better manage the expected increase in absentee voting, counties are required to utilize the funds to obtain the equipment necessary to manage the mailing, processing and tabulation of absentee ballots. This is in addition to the $117 million provided by the state of Ohio and spent by county boards of elections in the previous two years to modernize election equipment.

PPE to Keep Poll Workers and Voters Safe. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has provided detailed guidance designed to keep voting locations safe. County boards of elections will receive funds that they will use to procure the supplies necessary to meet those recommendations.

Increasing County Board of Elections Staff. With record-turnout and a higher reliance upon absentee voting expected, county boards are required to utilize the new federal dollars to boost temporary staffing ahead of the November election.

Faster Fixes for Absentee Voters. Sometimes voters utilizing absentee voting may neglect to provide all the required information, signature, or other requirements. While previously these voters would only be notified by mail, county boards are now directed to utilize any e-mail or phone contacts available, in addition to also sending a written notice, to inform voters of the shortfall and provide them information on how to quickly rectify the situation.

Additional Ballot Printing. Increasing the minimum number of printed ballots, including absentee and provisional ballots, ensures there are enough ballots so shortages cannot happen.

Paper Backups to Electronic Equipment. Electronic pollbooks are in wide use across Ohio. In order to make available an additional level of security and redundancy, boards are required to use federal dollars to ensure that every voting location has paper backups of the voter information contained in electronic pollbooks.

Relocating Polling Locations Used by Vulnerable Populations. If a board of elections has not done so already, county boards of elections must relocate any polling location currently at a residential senior citizen facility or health care facility. Relocation must occur even if voting takes place in a separate building on the same property, such as a community center or activity room.

Utilization of Schools as Polling Locations. Because of the aforementioned relocation of certain polling locations, new ones must be obtained. As required by state law, Ohio schools should provide their facilities to serve as voting locations. County Boards of Elections must contact schools in their communities to confirm their availability and request additional locations, and schools should consider the best practice of closing to instruction on Election Day.

Assisting Voters in Senior Living and Health Care Facilities. Voters in these facilities may not have the same voting option accessibility to the voting options to which they have become accustomed. County boards of elections must put a plan in place to send elections staff to these facilities to safely help individuals cast their vote, or deputize facility personnel as Special Elections Officials to ensure these voters have their voice heard.

Additional Assistance for Voters Physically Unable to Enter a Polling Location. County boards of elections must offer curbside voting for voters physically unable to enter polling locations.

Click here to read the entire Ready for November Directive.

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Gov. Kemp Launches “Safety Promise” Campaign to Urge Georgians to Heed Public Health Guidance

Source: US State of Georgia

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp today introduced the Georgia Safety Promise, a safety campaign to remind Georgia businesses and the public of the importance of following COVID-19 safety guidelines by agreeing to simple – yet critical – measures that help protect Georgians from COVID-19, minimize spread of the virus, and keep Georgia open for business.

“As we continue to fight COVID-19, we want to ensure Georgia businesses and the public are abiding by public health guidance in order to keep Georgia healthy and open for business,” said Governor Kemp. “The Georgia Safety Promise is a pledge between business owners and and the public to join together to maintain a safe environment following Georgia Department of Public Health and CDC guidelines. By working together, we can continue to protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”

Businesses that commit to the Georgia Safety Promise voluntarily agree to follow the latest guidelines from the Governor’s Office and the Georgia Department of Public Health – including promoting social distancing, wearing face coverings, cleaning surfaces, and washing and sanitizing hands. Participating Georgia businesses will receive a full digital toolkit of resources to share their commitment, including social media posts, signage for their business, and more.

All Georgians can personally commit to the Georgia Safety Promise by following basic safety guidelines when in public spaces, including practicing social distance, wearing a face covering, washing and sanitizing hands, and supporting businesses that have committed to the Georgia Safety Promise.

“Under the leadership of Governor Kemp, and with the full support and engagement of the business community and the public, we will continue to work collaboratively to keep Georgia open for business while safeguarding the health of all Georgians,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “The promise to practice social distancing, to wear a face covering in public, and to wash your hands is a small commitment that will have a powerful, positive impact on the future of our state.”

“Now is a vital time for businesses to do everything they can to boost and restore consumer and employee confidence,” said Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association. “Businesses can think of the Georgia Safety Promise as a complimentary marketing asset that will help communicate your commitment to your patrons’ health and well-being. When you submit your declaration, you will receive a toolkit that includes social media graphics and sample posts, a sample press release announcement, and a downloadable decal that you can display to the public. I hope every business in Georgia takes advantage of this opportunity and, in turn, sees a growth in sales and overall customer confidence.”

“We are excited to partner with state agencies, associations, and business leaders on this public-private coalition to launch the Georgia Safety Promise,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. “This voluntary program encourages Georgians to help keep themselves and others healthy while enjoying our beautiful state. By supporting the Georgia Safety Promise, companies pledge to follow the latest public health guidelines and safely re-open their doors to employees and customers alike.”

The Georgia Safety Promise campaign is led by the Office of the Governor and is supported by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Bankers Association, Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, Georgia Retailers Association, Georgia Restaurant Association, and Georgia NFIB.

To commit to the pledge and to learn more about the Georgia Safety Promise, visit www.GeorgiaSafetyPromise.com.

Kemp Declares State of Emergency, Authorizes 1,000 Troops to Protect Georgians

Source: US State of Georgia

Atlanta, GA – Following weeks of dramatically increased violent crime and property destruction in the City of Atlanta, the July Fourth weekend saw over thirty Georgians wounded by gunfire, including five confirmed dead. Today Governor Kemp issued Executive Order 07.06.20.01, which declares a State of Emergency across Georgia and authorizes the activation of as many as 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops.

“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” said Governor Kemp. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city. I have declared a State of Emergency and called up the Georgia Guard because the safety of our citizens comes first. This measure will allow troops to protect state property and dispatch state law enforcement officers to patrol our streets. Enough with the tough talk. We must protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”

The Georgia Guard will provide support at state buildings, including the Georgia State Capitol, Georgia Department of Public Safety Headquarters, and Governor’s Mansion. This aid will allow state law enforcement personnel to increase patrols on roadways and throughout communities, especially those in the City of Atlanta.

More Research Points to Importance of Masks, Mandatory Mask-Wearing Order Remains in Effect

Source: US State of Pennsylvania

July 06, 2020

Press Release,  Public Health
The Wolf Administration highlighted recent research studies that further point to the importance of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The recent uptick in cases in southwest Pennsylvania have been traced to people not wearing masks in public places such as bars and restaurants,” Gov. Wolf said. “Research tells us that masks, while not perfect, make a difference in the spread of COVID-19 and are a simple and effective way to help protect ourselves and others.”
According to a recent, comprehensive study published in The Lancet and funded by the World Health Organization, which identified 172 observational studies across 16 countries and six continents, face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection from COVID-19, in particular when combined with social distancing.
A study by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor has found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus. The findings were published in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). According to the study’s findings, “not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus.”
And a recent modeling study by the Royal Society A notes that wearing masks in public could have a major impact toward reducing the spread of COVID-19. According to the modeling, “Under certain conditions, when lock-down periods are implemented in combination with 100% facemask use, there is vastly less disease spread, secondary and tertiary waves are flattened, and the epidemic is brought under control. The effect occurs even when it is assumed that facemasks are only 50% effective at capturing exhaled virus inoculum with an equal or lower efficiency on inhalation.”
“Study after study indicates the effectiveness of mask-wearing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to keep the curve of cases flattened,” Gov. Wolf said. “That’s why we are requiring masks when in public. It is the most simple, effective way to protect yourself and others during our ongoing efforts to mitigate COVID-19.”
Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order mandating mask-wearing on July 1. It remains in effect. Frequently Asked Questions about the mask-wearing order can be found here.