Native Hawaiian princess, beer bandits, flaming hand sanitizer: News from around our 50 states

Alabama

Birmingham: The Birmingham Zoo said in a news release that Parker, a 4-year-old male red panda, was found dead Sunday morning. There was no sign of physical injuries or illness and an examination didn’t immediately reveal the cause of death, the zoo said, adding that more test results were pending. There were no signs of illness in its other red panda, a 9-year-old female named Sorrel, the zoo said. Red pandas, much smaller than black and white pandas, grow to about the size of large house cats, with long bushy tails. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund list the red panda, which is native to Asia, as an endangered species.

Alaska

Juneau: Recall Dunleavy, a group attempting to remove Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office, said Monday it had gathered 21,678 signatures of registered Alaska voters, 30% of the 71,252 needed to force a special election. Campaign Manager Claire Pywell did not provide timing for when the campaign hopes to have all of the signatures it needs. If the group turns sufficient signatures before April 19, the state would call a special election rather than placing the recall vote on the Aug. 18 statewide primary ballot. The group’s signature target is above 71,252 because it wants a buffer in case some signatures are ruled invalid, Pywell said. The recall organizers gathered 46,405 valid signatures over five weeks to apply for the recall. The Alaska Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the legality of the recall March 25. The recall effort group was scheduled to submit a written argument to the court Monday. Grounds for recall in Alaska are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties or corruption. The recall group is not alleging corruption. Cynthia Henry, chair of the Keep Dunleavy group opposing the recall effort, said by text message that her group is “staying the course to support the governor and oppose the recall.”

Arizona

Nogales: U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested a man near Nogales who had been previously deported, authorities said. Tucson Sector agents who were patrolling the desert arrested 44-year-old Noel Montes-Lopez, a Mexican national, on Saturday night, according to a press release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. According to border authorities, Montes-Lopez pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in Monmouth County, New Jersey, in September 2010. He was convicted of beating and strangling his girlfriend in the home they shared in April 2009, according to NJ.com. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to be removed from the country in June 2019, authorities said. Montez-Lopez faces federal prosecution for criminal immigration violations, Customs officials said.

Arkansas

Little Rock: The Arkansas Department of Human Services is requesting double-digit pay increases for direct-care workers at state institutions for the developmentally disabled in hopes of retaining the employees. The department’s proposal includes five human development centers where pay would increase about 18%, from $22,000 to $26,034, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Pay for supervisors would also increase almost 12%. Currently, direct-care and support staff members all make the same starting pay. Part of the proposal would also offer free training for all employees to become certified nursing assistants and require the direct-care staff members from all five centers to achieve the certification by the end of the year. The proposed changes in salary increase are in hopes to reduce the annual turnover that averages more than 100% across the five centers, said Melissa Stone, director of the department’s Division of Developmental Disabilities Services. The turnover also affects patients as they need consistent staff to know and be familiar with their needs.

California

A car splashes through an intersection at Ramon Road and Farrell Drive in Palm Springs, Calif.
A car splashes through an intersection at Ramon Road and Farrell Drive in Palm Springs, Calif.

Los Angeles: Much-needed rain fell across Southern California on Tuesday but in lighter amounts than originally forecast for the region, which has experienced a dry winter. San Diego County mountains already had received an inch of rain before dawn but generally the precipitation was showery rather than steady, and the National Weather Service adjusted expected totals downward. “Slow start to the storm this morning,” the Los Angeles-area weather office tweeted. The rain was being caused by a low pressure system off the coast of Southern California and Baja California that was drawing a plume of subtropical moisture northward, meteorologists said. Showers were expected to increase as the low approached but satellite imagery showed the atmospheric river was carrying most of the moisture into Baja California. Despite the reduced rainfall expectations, forecasters cautioned that potentially strong thunderstorms, and potential roadway flooding and debris flows from burn areas, were a possibility through the day from Los Angeles County and up the Central Coast to San Luis Obispo. North of the Los Angeles region, a flash flood watch was also in effect for the mountains and desert of Kern County, and a winter weather advisory was issued for a small portion of the southern Sierra Nevada.

Colorado

Denver: Colorado’s mountain snow measured slightly higher than usual for this time of year, boosting confidence that water for crops, cattle and residents will be adequate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Colorado Snow Survey data showed the statewide snowpack at 106% of the norm between 1981 and 2010, The Denver Post reported. There is a significant variation between snow levels in the state’s northern and southern mountains, which has been a trend over the past decade. Forecasters anticipated that dry soil from last year’s warm, arid fall likely will reduce water in streams and rivers once snow melts. Snowpack in Colorado’s high mountains serves as a natural reservoir, holding water until spring when rising temperatures melt snow and send water into streams and rivers. The survey found Southwestern Colorado faced drier conditions with snowpack between 86% and 94% of the norm. Snowpack was calculated at 124% of the norm in the South Platte River Basin, 114% in the Upper Colorado River Basin and 109% in the Arkansas River Basin, the main water sources for Denver, Colorado Springs and northern Front Range cities.

Connecticut

Hartford: A woman accused of starting an apartment building fire that left a man dead and dozens of residents injured sparked the blaze by throwing a flaming bottle of hand sanitizer at her girlfriend during an argument, police said Monday. Destiny Waite, 28, was charged with felony murder, arson and assault in connection with the fire in Hartford on early Sunday morning. Her attorney denied the allegations and accused Waite’s girlfriend of starting the fire. The blaze at the five-story building was reported at about 1:20 a.m. Firefighters rescued 41 people, and 31 residents were taken to local hospitals, fire officials said. Three firefighters also were injured, but are expected to recover. More than 60 families were displaced, Mayor Luke Bronin said. Officials identified the person who died as Jerome Kyser, 50. The chief medical examiner’s office determined the cause was smoke inhalation and ruled it a homicide. Waite was arraigned Monday in Superior Court, where a judge set her bail at $1 million. The city’s Health and Human Services agency opened a temporary shelter and was helping the families find other housing. The American Red Cross said it was helping 54 families, including 69 adults and nine children.

Delaware

Dover: The state’s congressional delegation is asking the secretary of the Air Force to visit Dover Air Force Base to address concerns about elevated levels of chemical contaminants in wells near the military installation. State environmental regulators were recently notified by base officials that two more wells near the base might have levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, above federal advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion. The notifications come after high levels of PFOS and PFOA were found in four other wells near the base last summer. Delaware’s congressional members said in a letter to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett on Monday that the two recent discoveries underscore the importance of Barrett or another senior Air Force official visiting Dover and briefing local residents and state officials. The Delaware delegation had sent a similar letter in July after test results indicated contaminants in water wells near the base. One of those wells had a PFOS level of 168,000 parts per trillion and a PFOA level of 2,460 parts per trillion, according to a document provided to The Associated Press. The Air Force is continuing to provide alternative water supply to those properties. The owners of the more recently tested wells, which provide water to a single commercial business, also are being provided bottled water.PFOA and PFOS are among a class of man-made compounds known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The compounds have been used in a variety of consumer and industrial products, including nonstick cookware, stain- and water-resistant fabrics, food packaging and, notably, firefighting foam that has been used at military bases across the country.

District of Columbia

Washington: The D.C. government recently removed some rubber mats from playgrounds at district schools and parks after finding high levels of potentially toxic lead, WUSA-TV reported. Tests commissioned by the parental group D.C. Safe & Healthy Playing Fields released in May first revealed high lead levels at Janney Elementary School. Further parental complaints to the DC Council compelled the city’s Department of General Services to commission its own studies. Eighteen playgrounds identified as having lead levels above the acceptable levels of 400 parts per million have been vacuumed, pressure-washed, and reevaluated according to the report. The vacuuming efforts were able to collect and dispose of chunks of rubber that might be picked up and ingested. This reduced the lead hazards from ingestion of the loose PIP rubber chunks, according to the report.

Florida

Cape Canaveral: A SpaceX cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station on Monday, delivering the company’s 20th batch of gear and treats. The Dragon capsule reached the orbiting lab after launching late Friday night. NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir used the station’s robot arm to capture the spacecraft. The 4,300-pound shipment contains science experiments and equipment, as well as special goodies for the three-person crew aloft for months: grapefruit, tomatoes, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces and Hot Tamales. This is the last of SpaceX’s original-style Dragons. All future ones are designed to carry either cargo or crew, and will dock automatically rather than require robot-arm assistance. SpaceX has been sending up station cargo since 2012 and plans to start launching NASA astronauts this spring. From 260 miles up, Meir congratulated SpaceX on its many milestones, including the fact this is the third flight for this particular Dragon. Spacecraft and rocket recycling, she noted, is “the more sustainable approach that will be paramount to the future of spaceflight.” The Dragon will remain at the orbiting lab for a month before returning to Earth with science specimens.

Georgia

Atlanta: State House Speaker David Ralston is backing a legislative proposal to set the state’s personal income tax at a flat rate of 5.375%. The General Assembly voted to cut the state’s top income tax rate from 6% to 5.75% in 2018, and a further cut to 5.5% was planned for this year. “In 2018, we promised Georgians meaningful tax relief, and this is the second step in delivering on that promise,” Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, said in a statement. If passed by both chambers and signed into law, the proposal would go into effect Jan. 1. Its backers estimate that the proposal would save taxpayers in Georgia approximately $250 million a year. The proposal would institute a new income tax credit for working families meant to offset the flattening of Georgia’s tax brackets, according to the statement. It would also triple the adoption tax credit from $2,000 to $6,000, a plan earlier proposed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The legislation is sponsored by state Rep. Brett Harrell, a Republican from Snellville. Harrell is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Hawaii

Honolulu: A 93-year-old Native Hawaiian heiress doesn’t need anyone to handle her estate because she isn’t dead yet, she testified Monday during a hearing to determine whether she needs a conservator to oversee her $215 million trust. Abigail Kawananakoa’s fortune has been tied up in a court case since her 2017 stroke. Her longtime attorney, Jim Wright, argued the stroke left her impaired, and he stepped in to assume the role of trustee. Kawananakoa said she’s fine and fired Wright. She then married her partner of 20 years, Veronica Gail Worth, who later took her last name. Abigail Kawananakoa inherited her wealth as the great-granddaughter of James Campbell, an Irish businessman who made his fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of Hawaii’s largest landowners. In the ongoing fight over her wealth, a judge last year ordered a hearing to determine whether she needs a conservator. Her attorney filed a motion saying that the hearing should be closed to the public. The Associated Press, Hawaii News Now and Honolulu Civil Beat argued against closing the hearing. A judge ruled that portions dealing with medical or financial information would be discussed behind closed doors. Native Hawaiians consider Kawananakoa a princess because she’s a descendant of the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. They have been closely watching the legal wrangling over her trust because they are concerned about the fate of a foundation she set up to benefit Hawaiian causes. In 2018, a judge ruled Kawananakoa lacked the mental capacity to manage her trust, appointed First Hawaiian Bank to serve as trustee and removed Wright.

Idaho

Boise: The state moved closer to banning transgender girls and women from competing on sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities despite warnings that the measure could be unconstitutional and challenged in court. The Senate State Affairs Committee sent legislation to the full Senate, where it’s expected to be amended to address concerns about exams athletes could face to check their birth gender and to allow transgender opportunities to compete in ways that have not been yet made clear by lawmakers. The measure last month overwhelmingly passed in the Republican-led state House. Under the legislation, girls’ and women’s teams would not be open to students who were born male, even if they identify as female. Opponents have warned that the legislation discriminates against a marginalized community. Republican Sen. Mary Souza, a sponsor on the Senate side, said amendments to the bill could find a way for transgender athletes to compete. She did not elaborate, except to say that “having them taking the places of girls and women on girls’ and women’s teams is not something that we can condone,” she said. The lawmakers said allowing transgender athletes on girls’ and women’s teams would negate nearly 50 years of progress women have made since the 1972 federal legislation credited with opening up sports to female athletes. Legislation similar to the Idaho bill has been advancing in the Arizona Legislature, and Ehardt has said other states are considering following suit.

Illinois

Chicago: A sheriff’s office investigating the vaccination practices of a deceased Chicago-area pediatrician said that tests have revealed several of the doctor’s former patients lack immunity to diseases against which they or their parents believed they had been vaccinated. The Cook County Sheriff’s news release comes just weeks after the office announced an investigation into the medical records of Dr. Van Koinis, an Evergreen Park pediatrician who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in September. Authorities said Koinis left a suicide note that suggested he had followed parental requests not to vaccinate their children. At the time, Sheriff Tom Dart told reporters that Koinis was widely known as a doctor who would provide treatment for people opposed to vaccinations. In Monday’s release, Dart’s office said two former patients who are now adults and seven parents whose children were treated by Koinis learned they lack immunity to diseases they believed they had received vaccinations against. Investigators are trying to determine if Koinis forged records so parents who didn’t want their children to be vaccinated could get them into schools that require shots. But that would not explain why the results of testing varied even between siblings.“One child who was treated by Koinis is vaccinated while a sibling is undervaccinated or shows no evidence of vaccination,” the release said. Adding to the mystery is that some parents told investigators they witnessed the doctor administering the shots. The doctor acknowledged in his suicide note that his records after 2010 were not reliable, according to the release. Dart’s office said Koinis, whose body was found in a Cook County forest preserve, had been licensed to practice in Illinois since 1991.

Indiana

Muncie: City Hall was evacuated Tuesday morning after a white powder was observed in one of the building’s elevators and on the second and third floors. Shortly after noon, authorities said they had determined that substance posed no danger to employees. Two Muncie women arrested early Tuesday afternoon were accused of spreading the powder. Terri J. King and Sheila D. Cates – both 51 and of the 300 block of East Berkley Avenue – were preliminarily charged with intimidation. They at first tried to persuade investigators the powder “was used to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.” Police Chief Nathan Sloan said surveillance video showed King and Cates throwing the powder in the building. Tests were conducted confirmed the powder was not a deadly substance like anthrax and ricin. According to police investigators, King was recently evicted from a home and a city employee “was involved in the case.” King and Cates allegedly first went to that employee’s third-floor office on Tuesday and “spread the substance on and around the door.” King reportedly told police she and Cates had spread the substance on doors and stairwell railings “they knew employees would touch” in a bid to “rid the evil from the building and the people in it.”

Iowa

Des Moines: The City Council plans to work on defining racial profiling and collecting data before enacting an ordinance banning it. On Monday the council backed a proposed ordinance that would make racial profiling an “illegal discriminatory municipal practice” that could lead to a city employee being fired. It would back up the Police Department’s anti-discrimination policy. Some of the dozens of people who filled the council chamber held signs that read “Skin color is not a crime” and “Stop the stops.” The latter referred to pretextual stops in which officers stop someone for one reason but use it as cause to investigate something unrelated. The initial passage of the ordinance comes months after the city settled lawsuits with three black men who said Des Moines police officers racially profiled them.

Kansas

Gypsum: An 84-year-old man died when his golf cart rolled on top of him after it went into a ditch, Saline County authorities said. Frederick Meyer died Monday in the accident in southeast Saline County near Gypsum, The Salina Post reported. Meyer was driving his golf cart on his property to get his mail when it went into a ditch and overturned, Saline County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeremiah Hayes said. Meyer was thrown from the golf cart, which rolled on top of him, Hayes said. He died at the scene. A passerby noticed the golf cart in the ditch and called Meyer’s family, who found him and notified authorities.

Kentucky

Hazard: A food drive to help organizations feed the hungry in Appalachia is planned for next month. Kentucky Power said in a statement that it has partnered with WYMT-TV and other local businesses and agencies to hold Power Up the Pantry for a second time. Last year, the event collected 7.5 tons of food and more than $17,000 in monetary donations, the statement said. The daylong event is planned for April 3. Donations will benefit God’s Pantry Food Bank, which serves food pantries in eastern Kentucky, and Facing Hunger, which serves food pantries in northeastern Kentucky. “This year we are reaching out to more businesses to encourage them to join the effort by collecting goods from employees and customers,” Kentucky Power spokeswoman Cindy Wiseman said. “We are coming out of winter when food pantries historically have more requests and often face critical shortages of food and supplies.” One in six Kentucky residents struggles with hunger, according to God’s Pantry Executive Director Michael Halligan.

Louisiana

Baton Rouge: A Louisiana couple accused of swiping more than $1,000 worth of beer from the shelves of Target stores was arrested on theft charges Sunday, sheriff’s office records show. East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputies began investigating the beer burglaries last week, according to the agency. The couple made six runs to two Baton Rouge Target locations less than 10 miles apart between Feb. 24 and Feb. 29, according to sheriff’s office documents obtained by news outlets. Ashley Forbes, 32, and her husband, Matthew Forbes, 35, were captured on security cameras filling shopping baskets with cases of beer before slipping out of the stores without paying, The Advocate reported, citing the sheriff’s records. Authorities said the two were arrested Sunday after they attempted to steal additional merchandise from other stores, including a drill that Matthew Forbes tried to smuggle out in his pants at a Walmart, according to WBRZ-TV. Ashley Forbes was also reportedly caught returning items she hadn’t paid for at a Walmart, the station said. The two had been banned from similar stores previously, according to news outlets. The couple was booked into jail on theft charges, and Ashley Forbes also faces drug charges, records showed.

Maine

Augusta: Maine’s apple growers are suffering because of the nation’s trade disputes and need help from the federal government, lawmakers from the state have told the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden called on agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue on March 4 to provide assistance to the state’s small growers of apples. They said the billions of dollars in agricultural aid provided by the administration of President Donald Trump has not found its way to Maine’s apple farmers. Collins and Golden said most apple farms in Maine are 15 acres or less. The state’s total acreage of apple farms has dipped from more than 3,330 in 2012 to about 2,670 in 2017, the most recent year with statistics available. The lawmakers added that it’s important for the administration to make aid available for small farms and orchards, as opposed to favoring the bigger operations.

Maryland

Annapolis: Sports betting would be allowed at Maryland’s six casinos, horse racing tracks and potentially at a Washington Redskins stadium, under a measure the state Senate approved Tuesday. Senate voted 47-0 for the legislation, which now goes to the House. If the General Assembly approves the measure to allow wagering on professional and college sports, voters would have the final say in a November referendum. The measure would permit sports betting at either a renovated Redskins stadium, or a new stadium built nearby. Redskins owner Dan Snyder met with Maryland lawmakers in January to discuss allowing sports betting at a new stadium. The Redskins play in Landover, in the suburbs of the nation’s capital. Talks have been ongoing with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on a new stadium to replace FedEx Field when its lease expires in 2027. Sports betting could raise about $20 million a year for education in the state, according to state analysts. Democrats who control the legislature have been considering revenue measures to help pay for a far-reaching education proposal to improve schools that is expected to cost billions of dollars over the next decade. In addition to the state’s casinos, wagering would be allowed at horse racing tracks, including Pimlico Race Course, home to the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Laurel Park and the Maryland State Fair. Bets could be placed in a sports-wagering lounge, on a self-service kiosk or machine in a facility with a license or through online sports wagering by someone physically located in the state.

Massachusetts

Boston: More than 120 personal care attendants, who are paid by Massachusetts to assist people with disabilities, were registered sex offenders and thousands had criminal records, according to a state watchdog agency. The attendants, who help people with disabilities or chronic illnesses to maintain their independence, are paid for by the state’s Medicaid program, known as MassHealth, which allows its members to hire their own attendants and does not require background checks, the Boston Globe reported. According to a 2018 report released by Massachusetts Inspector General Glenn Cunha in February, almost 12,000 attendants had a criminal record from the last decade, 122 of whom were sex offenders. Bill Henning, executive director of the Boston Center for Independent Living, said the individual control the program allows is integral to its success, and that too many hiring requirements could interfere with its success. Paul Spooner, who used attendants for decades, said if MassHealth conducted background checks, that would “fundamentally alter” the program. MassHealth spokeswoman Jessica Lyons said in an email that the program “provides consumers with the tools to make safe and informed choices about who they hire, including educational materials and trainings on the importance of background checks.”

Michigan

Rogers City: Wreckage from a freighter that sank in Lake Huron in 1905 has moved toward Michigan’s shoreline because of high water levels and waves, weakening the ruins further, officials said. The Joseph S. Fay was a ship that sank on Oct. 19, 1905. One side of the shipwreck had moved about 10 feet inland during a storm in October, said Eric Klein, caretaker of the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse. He added that it has since been pushed further inland following a series of storms and estimated it’s now about 25 feet from its original location near the lighthouse. Klein said the waves have damaged the shipwreck over time. “It’s basically eroding the wreck, and big pieces will come off and be washed away,” he said. Klein said the wreck can’t be protected because it’s illegal to move or remove shipwreck artifacts from the water. Wayne Lusardi, a state Maritime Archaeologist, said even though water levels in the Great Lakes fluctuate over time, it’s unusual that waves are exposing artifacts and shipwreck pieces that haven’t been seen in a while. Last year, sightings of wooden pieces of shipwrecks were common along Thunder Bay in Alpena and other communities.

Minnesota

St. Paul: An aerial survey of Minnesota’s moose population showed that moose numbers have remained relatively stable for the ninth consecutive year, the Department of Natural Resources said. Still, the moose population is at risk in the long-term, as reproductive success remains low. This winter, the DNR estimated the moose population to be 3,150 animals, or range between 2,400 and 4,320. Because of the variance in this type of annual population estimate, this year’s estimate doesn’t suggest a decline from last year’s estimate of 4,180. The survey provided an estimate because biologists can’t see or count every moose across the 6,000-square-mile survey area. They survey a portion of the moose range every year to come up with an estimate. The DNR said the stability is good news, but Minnesota moose are still at risk. The moose population has declined from an estimated 8,840 in 2006. Low reproductive success and continued deaths from brainworm and other diseases make it difficult for the population to recover. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and personnel for the annual survey.

Mississippi

Hattiesburg: A body found Friday in Hattiesburg is believed to be that of a man police were looking for after shots allegedly were fired from a nearby home in February. Forrest County Deputy Coroner Lisa Klem identified the man as Jim Travis Rainey, 36, of Hattiesburg. Rainey’s body was found about 2 p.m. Friday in a wooded area behind a house on the 1900 block of Mamie Street as Hattiesburg police were following up on a missing person investigation. Officers were canvassing the area, where the person involved in the February incident was last seen, when they located Rainey’s body, said Hattiesburg Police Department spokesman Ryan Moores. Rainey was a suspect in the incident that occurred Feb. 27 in the 1900 block of Eva Street, where a person fired multiple shots from a residence, believing the individual was attempting to gain entry into the dwelling. The cause of Rainey’s death is pending autopsy results from the State Crime Lab and the shooting incident remains part of an ongoing investigation. Police also are looking for 19-year-old John Michael Weeks of Hattiesburg as part of the investigation. Anyone with information about the incident or Weeks’ whereabouts is asked to call Hattiesburg police at (601) 544-7900 or Metro Crime Stoppers at (601) 582-7867.

Missouri

Springfield: A spokesman with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office told the News-Leader that the office would soon file suit against the “Jim Bakker Show” operation near Branson. Spokesman Chris Nuelle said in an email that the goal of the suit was “to stop (Bakker) from selling that coronavirus ‘cure.’ ” On Monday two federal agencies warned the televangelist to stop selling “silver sol” products that he and a show guest had promoted on air in February as capable of “eliminating” coronavirus from the human body in a matter of hours. Such claims fly in the face of scientific information handed down by public health authorities in Missouri, the federal government and the World Health Organization. At this time, there is no medication to treat coronavirus, but multiple vaccines are in development, a process that could take a year or more. Late last week, Bakker got a similar warning from the attorney general of New York state.

Montana

Helena: Gov. Steve Bullock said Monday he will run against first-term Republican Sen. Steve Daines, giving Democrats a boost in their effort to take control of the Senate in November. His decision to run is an about-face made at the last minute for the two-term governor, who ended his long-shot bid for president in December and had repeatedly insisted he had no interest in running for the Senate. Democrats need to win four seats now held by Republicans, without losing any to win outright control of the Senate. If President Donald Trump is defeated, the Democrats would need a net gain of three seats and the vice-president’s tie-breaking vote for control. Bullock had come under increasing pressure to run since dropping his presidential bid, including meeting with former President Barack Obama in Washington. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently traveled to Montana to meet with Bullock. Four of the five other Democrats who had announced Senate bids dropped out by Monday night. Daines has the backing of Trump, for whom the state overwhelmingly voted in 2016. Trump has tweeted his support for Daines, who recently met with the Republican president at the White House.

Nebraska

North Platte: Crews and vehicles from 14 departments and a crop-dusting plane kept a brush fire from destroying any structures or injuring anyone in Lincoln County, authorities said. The wind-blown flames blackened more than 3.1 square miles north of North Platte in a few hours Sunday. The first report was called in around 3:20 p.m., and officials said the blaze was contained by 6 p.m. Some firefighters remained to handle hot spots but left early Monday morning when rain began to fall. The crop-duster dropped water to slow the flames’ advance across the dry fields. Investigators found the fire’s flash point in an open field south of a rural subdivision that which sits east of the U.S. Highway 83-Nebraska Highway 97 junction. But the fire cause has yet to be determined, North Platte Battalion Chief Jeff Hankla said.

Nevada

Reno: Eldorado Resorts is selling the Montbleu Resort Casino and Spa in Lake Tahoe as the gaming company continues to trim part of its portfolio in preparation for its acquisition of Caesars Entertainment. Eldorado announced the sale to Maverick Gaming on Tuesday. The regional gaming company was also the buyer for the Eldorado Shreveport Resort and Casino in Louisiana, which sold in January for $230 million. Eldorado did not provide a sale price for the Montbleu transaction, which is still subject to regulatory approval. The Montbleu sale is part of efforts by Eldorado to divest part of its regional gaming empire after it announced plans to acquire gaming giant Caesars for $17.3 billion. The Caesar’s deal is still going through the regulatory process, which includes gaining approval from various states and gaming control boards. “The agreement to divest Montbleu is consistent with our continued focus on the expected closing for the Caesars transaction in the first half of 2020,” said Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg in a prepared statement. Eldorado owns and operates 23 gaming properties in 11 states, including Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi and New Jersey.

New Hampshire

Exeter: Firefighters fought brush fires in several New Hampshire towns, including one fire that came within feet of a home. Andre Baillargeon, an office administrator at the fire department in Exeter, told WMUR-TV she heard her own address announced as the spot of one of the fires Monday. She got there as the fire department did. Firefighters contained the brush fire, which left charred leaves spread nearly the length of a football field near her home. Firefighters also contained a nearly 3-acre fire in Rye on Monday afternoon. The cause of both fires remains under investigation. It’s early for brush fire season. Firefighters said it was dry, warm, and windy Monday.

New Jersey

Red Bank: “Sopranos” stars Michael Imperioli, Steve Schirripa and Vincent Pastore will reunite at Patrizia’s in Red Bank on April 2 at an event with Frank Sinatra tribute artist Michael Martocci that will benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The fundraiser will feature a performance by Martocci, Dean Schneider and band crooning Sinatra classics. Then Imperioli, Schirripa and Pastore will share behind-the-scenes stories from their time filming “The Sopranos,” followed by a question-and-answer period and photo opportunity.Tickets are $250 and include dinner, the concert, panel discussion, meet-and-greet and a photo with the “Sopranos” stars. All proceeds will benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which help fund health care for children facing illness and injury. For tickets, visit SinatraMeetsTheSopranos.eventbrite.com or buy them at Patrizia’s, 28 Broad St., Red Bank. The event will run from 6 p.m to 10 p.m. at the restaurant. For more information, visit Patrizias.com. To learn more about Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, visit childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents unanimously approved a tuition spike next fall in a budget meeting Monday morning. Tuition will go up by 2.6%, according to Dan Garcia, president of the university’s enrollment management. Students from in the state will pay $200 more per semester. Out-of-state students will have to fork over an additional $600 per semester. Garcia said the increase is not related to a 4% raise for some employees or a 6% drop in enrollment. This decision comes after the university’s announcement last month that students from households making $50,000 or less could be eligible for free tuition their freshman year.

New York

New York City: Police said two men in surgical masks stole nearly $260,000 at gunpoint from three workers at Aqueduct Racetrack. Workers were emptying gaming machines Saturday while preparing to close for the night. The three workers, including two unarmed security guards, were forced into a room by the two men wearing all black who took the workers’ cellphones before making off with the cash. The assailants used surgical masks to conceal their identity. The masks have become a more common sight recently because many people have taken to wearing them amid fears of the new coronavirus. Investigators believe the culprits work for the racetrack and are investigating some people who recently called out sick, The New York Times reported. Police said Monday that no arrests have been made.

North Carolina

Jacksonville: Eric Whitfield, who won a school board primary, has been fired from his job and asked to withdraw from the race because of a slur about black people that he posted on social media. Whitfield is one of four Republicans on the November ballot for the Onslow County Board of Education race. Whitfield posted the racially offensive comment last week on Facebook, using a controversial term referring to African Americans, news outlets reported. Whitfield made the comment on a post from Al Burgess, who is the former head of the local NAACP and a member of the Jacksonville Planning Advisory Board. Burgess’ post was discussing the nomination of Mark Robinson, who won the Republican nomination for North Carolina’s lieutenant governor. Burgess and Robinson are African American. Burgess said he isn’t sure why Whitfield took exception to his comments on Robinson. The post doesn’t appear to be on Burgess’ page anymore. Whitfield’s page has been taken down but a screenshot of the comment has been circulating since Thursday. He was an instructor at the Jacksonville Christian Academy but the private school confirmed his employment was terminated. Two sitting board members, Jeff Hudson and Bill Lanier, have asked Whitfield to withdraw from the race. Onslow County Republican Party Chairwoman Lee Barrows said Whitfield’s remarks do not represent the party. Whitfield said he would comment on the matter on March 10, which is also when the Onslow County Board of Education will have a regular meeting.

North Dakota

Bismarck: A pharmacist has pleaded guilty to federal exploitation and cyberstalking charges. Curtis McGarvey, 52, is accused of using hidden cameras to record a female guest in his home. McGarvey told U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland that the first images he recorded were the result of a test of equipment to be used at his business, a pharmacy. McGarvey said he takes full responsibility for any subsequent images. He said the medication he was on for anxiety and depression took away his guilt for his actions The Bismarck Tribune said McGarvey faces a maximum of 30 years in prison on the two exploitation charges. Hovland accepted McGarvey’s pleas and ordered a presentence investigation.

Ohio

Columbus: Attorney General Dave Yost said he has rejected the wording on a petition seeking to have voters decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Yost said the summary language on the petition fails to include “findings and declarations” that are listed in the proposed constitutional amendment. Messages were left Tuesday with Donald McTigue, a Columbus attorney who submitted the petition language for “An Amendment to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.” Backers can resubmit revised petition language after gathering another 1,000 signatures. The deadline for getting a constitutional amendment on the November ballot is July 1. The amendment seeks to allow anyone 21 or older to buy, possess and consume limited amounts of marijuana and to grow up to six plants. The Legislature approved the sale of medical marijuana in 2016. The state’s first dispensaries opened in January 2019. Recreational marijuana for adults is legal in 11 states.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration cannot divert gambling revenue from tribal casinos into a trust while a legal dispute between the governor and the tribes is pending in federal court, Oklahoma’s attorney general said in a legal opinion on Monday. In response to an inquiry from Sen. Roger Thompson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Attorney General Mike Hunter said gambling revenue received by the state must be allocated under the provisions of state law, which directs that 12% of the revenue be deposited into the state’s general fund and the rest into a fund for public education. Stitt and several of the 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma are locked in a dispute over revenue from tribal gambling. Stitt contends the compacts expired on Jan. 1, while the tribes maintain the compacts automatically renewed for another 15-year term. Several of the largest tribes sued the governor in federal court in December, and a federal judge has ordered mediation. In response to that lawsuit, Stitt suggested gambling revenue be placed in a trust until the lawsuit is settled. Meanwhile, gambling at tribal casinos has continued and tribes continue to remit payments to the state. Those payments last year totaled about $150 million.

Oregon

Portland: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced eight new agreements with parties responsible for cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund Site on the Willamette River. The agency said it has now signed cleanup agreements covering more than half of the Superfund site area, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Tuesday. Under the EPA’s cleanup plan, much of the Superfund site will be allowed to recover naturally over time without any active cleanup work. The agency is now negotiating with individual parties that are responsible for the pollution under a $1 billion plan. The site that runs from downtown Portland north to the Columbia Slough is highly contaminated from more than 100 years of industrial use. The agency is still negotiating with other parties that have yet to sign agreements. Federal regulators could issue enforcement orders to require cleanup action. The EPA already had agreements with the Port of Portland, the city of Portland and NW Natural. The agency is still negotiating with parties responsible for large portions of the Superfund site on the east side of the river near the University of Portland, the Overlook and St. Johns neighborhoods and along the northern portion of the Port of Portland. EPA officials said they could not disclose which parties have yet to sign agreements because negotiations are ongoing. For areas where “good faith negotiations” are not underway, they said, the agency plans to issue enforcement orders to require those parties to develop remedial design plans for the areas they are responsible for cleaning up.

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh: About $5.5 million that poured in from donors after the 2018 synagogue attack that killed 11 worshippers is being distributed according to a plan outlined Monday by Jewish groups. The largest share, just over $3 million, will go to the families of those killed and to two people who were seriously injured. Donations are also being distributed to people who were in the Tree of Life building during the attack, in honor of first responders and to the congregations. The payouts are based on recommendations by an independent, volunteer committee created by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. The group’s report issued in February said donors probably expected their gifts to help Tree of Life, which owns the building, as well as the two tenant congregations, Dor Hadash and New Light. Nearly $1.3 million will help Tree of Life rebuild the severely damaged synagogue building. Other payments will fund memorials related to the massacre, and the committee recommended the three congregations work together with victims and families on that effort.

Rhode Island

Providence: A bill proposed in the state House last month plans to bring a resolution to the issue surrounding where private rights end and public access begins on the Rhode Island coasts, the Providence Journal reported. The proposal would make it so that people wouldn’t be arrested or charged if they were trying to exercise their constitutional privileges within 10 feet of the most recent high tide line on the sandy or rocky shore. “We’re not shrinking anyone’s property,” said state Rep. Blake Filippi. “We’re just saying the state is not going to come in and criminally enforce things on that property. I think it’s a smart way of preserving our constitutional rights while respecting private property.” Supporters of proposed legislation argued it would bring clarity to the long-standing issue of access to the state’s shores while avoiding costly lawsuits if they tried to take the property or declare it public. Currently, state law marks the public-access boundary through an average measurement of high water heights taken over a nearly two-decade cycle. Residents who are knowingly standing on the landward side of the so-called high tide line could be arrested for trespassing

South Carolina

Columbia: A lawyer who called himself “a reformed racist” after turning away from his segregationist past and toward civil rights died on Friday, his wife said. Tom Turnipseed, 83, died peacefully and without pain, his wife, Judy, said. She did not give a cause of death. Turnipseed was a frequent Democratic candidate for statewide office, losing races in 1974 for state attorney general, 1978 for governor, 1980 for U.S. House, lieutenant governor in 1982. and attorney general again in 1998. Turnipseed campaigned by playing off his last name, handing out packets of turnip seeds and promising to plant the seeds of good government if elected. Turnipseed first came to prominence in 1968 running the segregationist presidential campaign for former Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Turnipseed also was director of an organization in the 1960s that helped get accreditation for private schools founded after blacks were allowed to integrate schools. But Turnipseed said Wallace’s campaign made him feel uneasy and by 1971 he founded his law firm in Columbia and started working with African Americans on civil rights issues. He would introduce himself as “a reformed racist” the rest of his life. Turnipseed took on other causes like voting fairness, protecting the rights of the poor and fighting toxic waste being dumped in low income communities.

South Dakota

Sioux Falls: Although Sioux Falls got a fraction of snow during February, there’s still an elevated risk of flooding. City, county and National Weather Service officials are preparing for almost guaranteed levels of flooding throughout the region. “Extreme wetness” caused by heavy precipitation in recent years has set the region on the brink of overflowing, said Mike Gillispie, senior service hydrologist for NWS in Sioux Falls. “Even though we don’t have a lot of snow left, we’re just getting into spring where we’re looking for heavier snow or rains,” Gillispie said. “We just don’t have the room to store that moisture that we would normally have had two or three years ago.” Although southeastern South Dakota has experienced some of the most ideal conditions to slow flooding threats, one major precipitation event could wash that away. Several factors have already set up Sioux Falls and surrounding areas for guaranteed minor flooding this spring, the Argus Leader reported. Moderate flooding in Brookings, Dell Rapids and Sioux Falls are all but guaranteed, Gillispie said. The catch is that the severity of flooding will be driven by rain and snow the area receives over the next two months – and how much of it falls at one time. As of late February, Sioux Falls has a 50% chance of hitting the flood levels of March 2019, which tore through Dell Rapids, Renner and Sioux Falls. Several homes had to be evacuated in a southern Sioux Falls neighborhood near Tomar Park. Typically, the chance of reaching that stage of flooding for this time of year would be 15%, Gillispie said.

Tennessee

Nashville:All 56 of Tennessee’s state parks will offer free spring hikes guided by a ranger on March 21, officials said Monday. Hikes of all difficulties will be available. Hikers are urged to have sturdy footwear and bring water, snacks and even hiking sticks. State parks also offer free hikes on National Trails Day, National Public Lands Day, after Thanksgiving Day and to mark the new year. More than 3,600 people took part in First Day Hikes on Jan. 1, officials said. Participants can find a hike on the Tennessee State Parks website.

Texas

The Port of Corpus Christi will get nearly $18 million in federal funds to support its large-scale revamp of the Avery Point Terminal.
The Port of Corpus Christi will get nearly $18 million in federal funds to support its large-scale revamp of the Avery Point Terminal.

Corpus Christi: The U.S. Department of Transportation said the Port of Corpus Christi will get nearly $18 million in federal funds to support its large-scale revamp of the Avery Point Terminal. The formal grant award was made Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao at Port Houston, according to a news release issued by the Department of Transportation. The Port of Corpus Christi is one of two of ports in the state that will benefit from about $39 million in total allocated funds. In addition to the $17.6 million award to the Port of Corpus Christi, about $22 million will be set aside for Port Houston’s project to construct a wharf and install an accompanying crane rail, according to the news release. The money is drawn from about $280 million in port infrastructure development program grants, officials said.

Utah

Salt Lake City: A near-total abortion ban that was one of two abortion proposals advancing at the Legislature on Monday could mean criminal charges for women who end their own pregnancies. Republican sponsor Sen. Dan McCay said he understands concerns about unwanted pregnancies, but also believes an abortion is a “life that’s been lost in utero,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The proposal was ultimately approved by a panel of lawmakers and now moves to the House floor. The left-leaning group Alliance for a Better Utah called the bill “unbelievably cruel and extreme.” McCay’s bill has a trigger clause and would only go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the Supreme Court will reconsider the landmark ruling with new conservative justices. The Utah ban would have a few exceptions, including rape and serious risk to the health of the mother. Other abortions could bring charges punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, upon conviction. A separate requirement that abortion providers show a woman an ultrasound before the procedure was also approved in committee. Women could look away, but physicians could face fines starting at up to $100,000. That proposal now moves to the House floor. A third bill regulating the disposal of fetal remains has passed the Legislature and is now on Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.

Vermont

Highgate: Vermont’s maple syrup season got underway officially Monday when Republican Gov. Phil Scott tapped a tree at Gagne Maple in Highgate with help from children from the Highgate Elementary School. Vermont’s maple industry has led the nation in total syrup produced for decades. For the last three years, the maple industry has brought in more than $50 million in revenue each year. “Vermont maple is second to none, and we wouldn’t have the best in the world if it wasn’t for hard working families and sugar makers like the Gagnes,” Scott said in a statement issued by his office. “With Vermont’s leadership and example, maple continues to be a valuable agricultural product and an important part of Vermont’s economy and brand.” Statistics showed that Vermont’s maple industry employs more than 4,000 people. The state produces nearly half of the maple syrup in the United States.

Virginia

Norfolk: A 96-year-old war hero looked on as military officials commissioned a U.S. Navy warship in honor of the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams was commissioned Saturday in Norfolk, , with the World War II veteran present. The USS Williams is an Expeditionary Sea Base ship that was built and launched in 2017. With its commissioning, the vessel’s designation changed from a support ship to a warship, and command transferred from the Military Sealift Command to Naval Surface Force Atlantic. Williams described the commissioning as “a moment in history that is beyond my comprehension.” “May all those who serve aboard this ship that bears my name be safe and proud. May she have God’s blessings for a long life of service to America, the greatest country on Earth,” he said. The ship will primarily support aviation mine countermeasure and special operations missions, freeing up amphibious warships and surface combatant ships for more demanding operational missions. Its four core capabilities are aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging and command and control assets.

Washington

Olympia: The Legislature has approved a measure that would make Washington the 20th state to not tax feminine hygiene products. The measure passed the House on a 95-2 vote and now heads to the governor. It was unanimously approved by the Senate on Saturday. Once signed by the governor, the new law takes effect July 1. Under the bill, products that are exempt from sales and use tax include sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual cups, or any other similar menstrual product. The measure was part of the Senate supplemental budget plan, and its passage by both chambers comes as lawmakers are nearing an end of negotiations on a final budget before the Legislature adjourns on Thursday. Washington is among 31 states that still tax menstrual products, according to Period Equity, a nonprofit group that is campaigning to end “tampon taxes” in states.

West Virginia

Charleston: Several West Virginia slopes are set to offer free lift tickets to skiers and snowboarders as the season comes to a close, according to the state Ski Areas Association. Lift tickets will be free for West Virginia residents on March 15 at Canaan Valley Resort in Tucker County and Winterplace resort in Raleigh County, the association said. Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County will offer the same deal the following weekend on March 22. Guests must show proof of residence to claim their free pass, according to the guidelines. Canaan Valley Resort plans to close for the season following the free day, and Snowshoe Mountain said it will end its season March 29, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Winterplace has said it will evaluate snow conditions and schedule a closing date soon.

Wisconsin

Madison: Farmers are adjusting to growing crops in wet and cold conditions after last year’s weather challenges, crop specialists said. The weather last spring delayed crop growth and harvesting, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. It also led to a record number of unused acres by federal crop insurance deadlines. Kevin Jarek, the agricultural agent for University of Wisconsin-Extension in Outagamie County, said some farmers are worried about another late planting season this year because the National Weather Service has reported precipitation numbers that are above average. Many farmers are relying on seed varieties with a shorter growing season to prepare for the upcoming growing season, Jarek said. Farmers are also preparing for potential crop diseases.Damon Smith, field crops plant pathologist at UW-Madison, said that new disease trends have developed over the last couple of years. “We’re just treading water in the growing season, and so we’re seeing some shifts in terms of how folks are going to manage the crop,” Smith said. “We’ve had three consistent years of white mold in soybeans, and so we’re seeing people entertaining (the idea of) adjusting planting populations and row with spacing and actually making agronomic decisions now to try to reduce the potential for that disease.”

Wyoming

Casper: Information on missing or murdered indigenous people in Wyoming could improve under legislation that would better manage missing persons reports and potentially coordinate work between multiple jurisdictions. Law enforcement agencies will be required to report missing persons and include their biographical information under a bill signed by Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The state will then compile an annual report on the number of missing people in Wyoming. The state would also help its two tribes implement their own Amber Alert system, require state officials to provide training on crimes involving missing and murdered indigenous people and mandate cooperation between law enforcement agencies. Another bill that would coordinate reporting and investigative efforts between jurisdictions operating in and around tribal land wasd scheduled to be signed Tuesday. Both proposals cleared the state Legislature last week and have received support from tribal leaders.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States

 

Read More