Pluribus AM: Gun rights advance in NC, SC; Dakotas move Covid vaccine restrictions; big test for NC Medicaid expansion

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. In today’s edition, gun rights bills advance in S.C., N.C.; Dakotas move restrictions on Covid vaccines; Medicaid expansion gets big test in N.C.:

Top Stories

GUN CONTROL: The Department of Justice will send $231 million to states to administer “red flag” laws and other crisis-intervention programs meant to prevent gun violence. (Associated Press) Michigan Senate Majority Leader Winnie Banks (D) says the legislature will take up safe storage laws, universal background checks and red flag laws after a mass shooting killed three at Michigan State University. (Detroit News)

MORE: South Carolina’s House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill allowing gun owners to carry firearms without a permit. (Associated Press) North Carolina’s Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill easing requirements for handgun purchases and allowing people to carry in more locations, including some schools. (Associated Press) The Indiana state House approved a bill that will provide 40 hours of state-paid instruction for teachers who want to carry handguns. (Fox News)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: The Idaho House approved a bill criminalizing gender-affirming care in minors. Doctors who provide puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or surgeries would be guilty of felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (Boise State Public Radio, Idaho Capital Sun) 

EDUCATION: The Idaho Senate Education Committee is likely to vote as early as today on a measure creating universal eduction savings accounts at a cost of about $45 million. Every family with a K-12 student would be eligible for up to $5,950 per child, about 80% of what the Department of Education pays per student. (Idaho Capital Sun)

MORE: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) budget proposal includes $250 million in early education spending, including $75 million to create preschool spots for 5,000 children. (Chicago Sun-Times) The Missouri Senate approved a bill restricting curriculum involving race and creating a database where the public can access materials used in state education. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

COVID: The North Dakota House of Representatives has approved bills barring colleges from requiring or promoting Covid-19 vaccines and requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to publish data on “vaccine adverse events.” (Fargo Forum) The South Dakota House Health and Human Services Committee advanced a bill establishing a “conscience” exemption for Covid-19 vaccine mandates. (South Dakota Searchlight)

NORTH CAROLINA: The state House is set to begin debating Medicaid expansion today in the most significant debate over expanding coverage in any legislature this year. The Senate and House approved competing expansion bills last year, but supporters think they can reach a deal this year. (Associated Press)

VERMONT: The House Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill removing residency requirements for terminally ill patients seeking medical assistance to end their lives. Eight states have aid-in-dying laws on the books, but only Oregon allows non-residents to use its law. (Associated Press)

RHODE ISLAND: The House Finance Committee fast-tracked a bill to allow retired teachers to continue working without giving up their pensions, a measure aimed at addressing the workforce shortage. State Sen. Louis DiPalma (D) said Providence had lost 30% of its teachers in recent years. (Providence Journal)

INDIANA: The state House has approved legislation exempting military pay from state income taxes in an effort to lure military members to reside in the state. Indiana already exempts $5,000 in taxes for active duty military members. (Center Square)

In Politics & Business

NEW YORK: Senate Democrats are considering holding a floor vote on the nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle to head the state judiciary, after Republicans sued to force a vote. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said LaSalle likely doesn’t have the votes to win confirmation, a blow to Gov. Kathy Hochul. (State of Politics)

FLORIDA: The House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee voted along party lines Tuesday to create partisan school board races and to limit school board members to eight years in office, down from the current limit of 12 years. The proposal to amend the state constitution would appear on the 2024 ballot if the legislature gives final approval. (Orlando Sentinel)

ALASKA: Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) issued an executive order Tuesday eliminating college degree requirements for most state jobs in an effort to address workforce shortages at state agencies. (Alaska Beacon) Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) did the same in his first executive order after taking office last month.

PEOPLE: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove is quitting to become publisher and CEO of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)

By The Numbers

3: The number of Massachusetts casinos that allow sports betting that self-reported taking illegal bets, in just the first week and a half after sports betting became legal. The three casinos ran afoul of state law barring bets on Massachusetts-based college teams. (Boston Herald)

87: The number of Speakers who have run the Florida House since it was established in 1845 — all of them men. But that could change in 2028: Both leading candidates for the top job, state Reps. Jessica Baker (R) and Jennifer Canady (R), are women. (Florida Politics)

17.9%: The drop in the number of Americans with medical debt on their credit reports since 2020, according to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Local governments used $16 million in Covid relief funding to wipe out $1.5 billion in medical debt, the report found. (Associated Press)

52.3%: The share of Americans’ daily television viewing projected to take place this year on streaming services, rather than linear TV, according to media analysis firm Insider Intelligence. It’s the first time streaming is likely to make up the majority of our viewing habits. (AFP)

Off The Wall

Flaco, a Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped the Central Park Zoo earlier this month, is feasting on rats to survive, a relief to those who worried the owl wouldn’t make it in the wild. (Patch) New York needs all the help it can get dealing with its rat problem. Go get ‘em, Flaco.

Quote of the Day

“As someone who received the rewards of being educated in the California public education system, it’s gratifying to hear that as a result of my win, the California school system greatly benefits as well.”

Edwin Castro, the Los Angeles-area man who won the $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot in November, coming forward for the first time to claim his prize. Castro’s winning ticket means $156.3 million will flow into California’s public school budget. (Los Angeles Times)