The 40 day period after the end of the legislative session for the Governor to sign or veto bills ended on August 5th. After vetoing 14 bills in 2019, Governor Kemp only rejected four bills from the 2020 legislative session. Each veto received an accompanying statement describing the primary reason for disagreeing with the legislation which passed both houses of the Georgia Legislature.
The vetoes are as follows:
House Bill 935 which would have created the Recorder’s Court of Gwinnett County. The bill was vetoed at the request of the bill’s sponsor.
House Bill 991 which would have created the Healthcare Transparency and Accountability Oversight Committee. The Governor vetoed the legislation out of an apparent concern for the separation of powers. In part, he argued that the Committee would supplant the authority of the Board of Public Health and would blur the lines between the General Assembly and the Executive branch given such boards are considered to be part of the executive branch of government.
Senate Bill 306 which would have enacted the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact was vetoed by the Governor in part because the Georgia Occupational Regulation Review Council did not review and approve the legislation as is statutorily mandated and additionally, there was no fiscal analysis to determine associated costs.
Senate Bill 504, which would create a referendum in Glynn County on the question of whether or not to abolish the Glynn County Police Department was vetoed because the Governor signed a similar, binding bill calling a referendum on the same topic.
The Governor issued one signing statement on House Bill 105 concerning disagreements as to whether the bill would create a tax exemption for income received as payments from a federal disaster relief or assistance grant program. The Governor noted that it was not clear whether or not the bill passed both houses with the same language. As such, he is calling a special session to rectify the situation.
The Governor signed several significant pieces of legislation including Senate Bill 359 which limits most negligence suits related to COVID-19 as long as companies follow social distancing, disinfection and other safety protocols outlined by public health officials, House Bill 838 which grants police new protections related to “bias motivated intimidation,” and a bill that will allow for home delivery of alcohol. The Governor previously signed into law the Georgia Hate Crimes bill.
Finally, the Governor has stated that he intends to call a Special Session of the General Assembly to clear up any technical concerns over HB 105, which grants a state tax exemption on federal aid received by Hurricane Michael victims. Under the Georgia Constitution, a Special Session can only deal with those issues specifically cited by the Governor in his official call; however, there is speculation that the Governor may add additional issues to the list of items the General Assembly can address, in particular the Budget. Therefore, stay tuned!
After a COVID-19 induced hiatus the General Assembly returned to Atlanta for a two week sprint to Sine Die. While the main focus was passing a budget under significant revenue shortfalls the General Assembly was able to pass several other pieces of legislation including a historic hate crimes bill, surprise billing restrictions and two constitutional amendments among others.
Now that the 2020 session has officially ended legislators will start ramping up for what is sure to be a contentious election season.
The Georgia General Assembly temporarily adjourned in March without fulfilling its one constitutional obligation — passing a budget. They completed that task as the 2020 special session closed, a day before the start of the new fiscal year. Gov. Brian Kemp promptly signed the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 on Tuesday June 30th finalizing the state’s $26 billion spending plan which includes about $2.2 billion in cuts.
Some highlights of the updated budget include:
K-12 Public Education
$950 million cut from the Quality Basic Education program, the formula used to calculate state spending for K-12 public education
$142 million added for enrollment growth and teacher training
$8.8 million added to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement
$242 million cut to schools in the University System of Georgia and $36 million cut to schools in the Technical College System of Georgia
12 percent cut to Adult Education
11 percent cut to agricultural programs including the Cooperative Extension Service
$11 million in cuts to Dual Enrollment expected from the 30-hour cap and limits on courses students can take created in HB 444
$1 million added to the REACH Georgia scholarship program, a needs-based mentoring and scholarship program; all other state-funded scholarships will see a 10 percent cut
Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
$91 million cut to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities budget
$22.7 million cut to child and adolescent mental health services, including prevention programs and supported education and employment services
$7.2 million cut to adult mental health services, including cuts to core behavioral health services, reductions in peer workforce training and services and cuts to housing vouchers for people with mental illnesses
$5.7 million cut to adult substance abuse services, mostly for funds that would expand residential treatment services
Total state funding increased by $178 million, mostly to account for higher projected growth for Medicaid
$19.7 million added to provide six months of Medicaid coverage for new mothers; this coverage extension must still receive federal approval
$12 million added to increase funding available for Rural Hospital Stabilization grants
$8.2 million in cuts to the Department of Public Health budget
Funding restored for grants to local health departments
$2.3 million reduction in funding for trauma center readiness and uncompensated care
$34 million cut to the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget
$46 million cut in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds
$3.7 million in cuts to vacant positions in child welfare
$3 million in cuts to vacant positions at the state office for DHS
2. Hate Crimes Bill
On Friday June 26th, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a hate-crimes measure into law. As such, Georgia is no longer on the ever-shrinking list of states without hate crime legislation. The law allows for enhanced criminal penalties to be levied against those who target their victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability.
The bill cleared the final hurdle after Senate leaders abandoned efforts to treat police officers as a protected class.
The Hate Crimes Bill passed the legislature on a wave of public support led by Georgia’s most significant businesses and political leaders. The Dentons Public Policy team played a leading role in the effort as lobbyists for the Anti-Defamation League.
3. Safe Harbor Bill
Georgia will join a short list of states that are proactively protecting businesses from civil liability related to the COVID-19 virus. Senate Bill 359 passed both houses of the state legislature and now awaits the signature of the Governor.
The liability legislation would let Georgia businesses and hospitals waive liability for coronavirus-related claims so long as they post certain warning signs except in cases where the entity is found to have committed “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.”
4. Fee Dedication
This November, Georgia voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would give lawmakers the power to require fees be spent for the purpose that they were originally dedicated. This issue is often referred to in the context of tire fees.
If you buy a new tire in Georgia, there’s a $1 fee that gets tacked onto the bill, called the Scrap Tire Management Fee. It’s supposed to go toward cleaning up illegal tire dumps in the state and other recycling and trash programs. But often, lawmakers have directed more than $50 million from the scrap tire fee to Georgia’s general fund, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), which is Georgia’s county association.
The same can be said about the fee that the state collects at landfills. The money is intended for hazardous waste site cleanup, but according to the ACCG, about $100 million from that fund has ended up in the general fund in the past 10 years.
The constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would give lawmakers the power to specifically dedicate certain tax dollars to specific uses.
5. Sovereign Immunity
In addition to the constitutional amendment on fee dedication, Georgians will also vote on whether to make it easier to sue the state and local governments under a proposed constitutional amendment given final passage Tuesday by the state House. The lawmakers were reacting, in part, to a state Supreme Court decision that state and local governments can only be sued if they have waived a legal doctrine called sovereign immunity.
The amendment would allow Georgians to sue in state court to protect their rights and ensure governments follow the law, but would not allow judges to award damages or attorney’s fees. The amendment would also prohibit people from suing individual officials within a government.
Former Gov. Nathan Deal and Gov. Brian Kemp both vetoed previous legislative attempts to broaden the grounds for suits against the government. But the Governor has no authority to veto a proposed constitutional amendment.
6. Surprise Medical Bills
Lawmakers passed legislation that now awaits the Governor’s signature to limit unexpected medical bills. Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign after naming surprise billing reform as one of his top priorities for the 2020 session.
The legislation is intended to protect Georgians from unexpected out of network bills from physicians performing medical procedures at “in-network” facilities. Legislators and consumer advocacy groups say if House Bill 888 becomes law, it will lower health care costs for many patients, add pricing transparency, and remove patients from billing negotiations between insurance companies and health care providers.
Notably, the bill focuses strictly on services – both emergency and non-emergency – from an out-of-network provider at in-network facilities. It prohibits insurance companies from surprise billing for emergency services even if the health care provider is outside of the company’s coverage network. Patients are supposed to also receive an estimated cost for any procedure scheduled outside of their covered hospital system.
7. Alcohol Delivery
A bill allowing home delivery of beer, wine, and liquor passed the Georgia legislature and will become law pending Governor Kemp’s signature. House Bill 879, would permit beer, wine, and liquor to be delivered directly to people’s homes from restaurants, bars, convenience stores, grocery stores and package stores.
The bills requires alcohol home deliveries to only be accepted by someone 21 years or older and with proper ID. The bill leaves the decision to allow for home delivery up to local municipalities.
Georgians are rightly examining closely the actions and inactions of its state and local governments this summer as we continue to seek ways to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, restart our ravaged economy, and address fundamental questions over race and proper law enforcement. The General Assembly attempted to address many of these concerns but more work will clearly need to be done when it returns six months from now for its 2021 session.
Between now and then, however, we have a spirited election in November. Georgia is clearly viewed by both parties as an electoral swing state. Not only is the state likely to be in contention on the presidential level but with two close US Senate races, three open Congressional seats, and Democrats looking to either narrow or erase entirely Republicans fifteen seat majority in the State House, a political battle royal lies ahead over the next few months.
The 2020 Georgia Primary is behind us. Unfortunately, in some respects, the administrative process has overshadowed the results. Adjusting to the new normal caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, problems with getting absentee ballots to folks wishing to vote by mail, a new electronic voting machine system, difficulties with training new poll workers, and long lines and delays at Primary Election Day precincts have led to finger pointing between the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and local county election boards. All of this will need to be worked out before the November General Election.
There are still thousands of absentee votes still to be counted statewide so many close races are still in play. With that said, here are some of the more interesting election results from Tuesday’s primary that we know at the present time:
As expected, Joe Biden won handily with 83% in the Democratic Primary. Still, Bernie Sanders received 10% despite having dropped out of the race and conceding in March.
US Senate — Democratic Primary
Despite a crowded seven way primary, Jon Ossoff has a commanding lead hovering back and forth at the needed 50% + 1 position to avoid a runoff against his second place rival former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson at 15%. If late returns cannot push him over 50%, he will be forced into an August 11th runoff against Tomlinson. The winner will take on incumbent Senator David Perdue in November.
Contested Supreme Court Races
Two Supreme Court appointees by former Governor Nathan Deal beat back challenges to win a full term. Justice Sarah Warren easily won with 78% while Justice Charlie Bethel beat back a strong challenge from former State Representative Beth Beskin 53% to 47%.
Georgia has three open congressional races — the 7th in Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties, the 9th in the mountains of North Georgia, and the 14th in Northwest Georgia. The 7th is most likely to be a close race in November given the fact that retiring Republican Rob Woodall only squeaked to re-election in 2018 by a few hundred votes. Woodall’s 2018 Democratic challenger Georgia State Professor Carolyn Bourdeaux holds a commanding lead in a crowded race over second place finisher State Representative Brenda Romero, 46 to 14%. A runoff between Bordeaux and Romero will be held August 11th. On the Republican side, former Army doctor Rich McCormick won his crowded primary with 55%.
In the 9th Congressional race, State Representative Matt Gurtler and Gun Store Owner Andrew Clyde, with 22 and 19% respectively, edged out a crowded Republican field for runoff spots on August 11th. The winner of the runoff will face Brooke Siskin in November in this historically overwhelmingly Republican district.
In the 14th Congressional Race, Tea Party favorite Marjorie Greene and Rome Doctor John Cowan are headed to a Republican Party runoff August 11th. There is no Democrat running in November.
One other Congressional race is likely to draw attention in November. Former Republican Congresswoman Karen Handel won her primary easily to set up a rematch against Congresswoman Lucy McBath in the 6th Congressional District. McBath defeated Handel in 2018.
State Legislative Races
Several incumbent legislators — including Democratic Senator Ed Harbison and Republicans Brandon Beach and Jeff Mullis, as well as House Minority Leader Bob Trammell — faced stiff primary opponents on Tuesday but appear to have beat back their challengers. However, Brunswick Republican Representative Jeff Jones was defeated by Buddy DeLoach, and five term Conyers Democrat Representative Pam Dickerson was beaten by newcomer Sharon Henderson. Also, three longtime Democratic Representatives Sharon Beasley-Teague and Michele Henson and Democratic Senator Horacena Tate were forced into runoffs for the first time in many years.
While many incumbents faced tough reelections, one veteran high profile legislator is making a return. Former State Representative and 2016 Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Evans won a decisive primary victory in an Atlanta State House district. She has no Democratic opponent in the fall.
Fulton County District Attorney Incumbent Paul Howard, who has run unopposed for Fulton County District Attorney since 2000, is currently trailing to primary challenger Fani Willis. Neither of the two are likely to break the 50% mark, Willis with 41% of the vote and Howard with 34% of the vote, and will be headed to a runoff.
The Governor of the State of Georgia has signed an Executive Order that renews the Public Health State of Emergency that was set to expire on June, 12, 2020, so that it shall now terminate on July 12, 2020 at 11.59pm unless renewed by the Governor.
The Governor of the State of Georgia has signed an Executive Order that provides ongoing direction for reviving a healthy Georgia in response to COVID-19, including detailed orders for retailers, restaurant and dining services, general industry, and education facilities.
As of May 27th
Governor Kelly has reissued several Executive Orders following her new emergency declaration. Those EOs can be found by clicking here.
As of May 30th
The Governor of the State of New York has published an executive order authorizing business owners and building operators to deny entry to individuals who do not wear masks or face-coverings.
At least 27,793 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 929 have died as of Saturday afternoon, according to state and county health departments. The NC Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday reported an additional 1,185 cases of the virus, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic first struck the state.
Lawmakers Vote to Reopen Bars Despite Governor’s Order (WRAL) State lawmakers voted Thursday to allow bars to reopen in outdoor spaces, overriding Governor Cooper’s executive order that has closed them since March. The legislation would allow bars to serve patrons in outdoor spaces, permanent or temporary, at 50 percent of the capacity of their indoor area, with social distancing guidelines. House Bill 536 would also allow restaurants to set up temporary outdoor spaces to serve customers in the same way. Restaurants are currently limited to 50 percent of their capacity, and the outdoor seating could bring them up to 100 percent, or close to it. Governor Cooper said he would veto the bill.
Gym Owners File Lawsuit Against Governor Cooper (Raleigh News & Observer) A group of gym owners are suing Governor Cooper for not allowing them to reopen their businesses under Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan. The state has not specified whether gyms can reopen in Phase Three or earlier. Phase Three will lessen restrictions even further and allow most businesses to open. Phase Two is expected to last through at least June 26. Some gym owners said they don’t think it was fair that businesses such as ABC stores and restaurants were able to be open, but not gyms.
Utilities Panel Refuses to Make Duke Energy Raise Fees for NC Factories During Pandemic (Charlotte Observer) North Carolina’s Utilities Commission has denied a request that it order Duke Energy to temporarily waive fixed monthly charges affecting commercial and industrial customers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Carolina Utility Customers Association, a manufacturers’ trade group, had sought to waive fees by both of Duke’s N.C. utilities and by Dominion Energy North Carolina, which serves the state’s northeastern corner.
NC Unemployment Chief Replaced (Durham Herald Sun) There’s a new boss at North Carolina’s unemployment office. Governor Cooper didn’t say why the old boss, Lockhart Taylor, moved to a different job in state government “with separate duties and responsibilities.” But the move comes after numerous complaints about long waits that newly unemployed people having been facing — waits to get through to the office on the phone, or to get benefits at all.
Media Coalition Sues Cooper, Cabinet Agencies for COVID-19 Records (Raleigh News & Observer) A coalition of more than two dozen media outlets filed a lawsuit seeking the release of a list of records related to COVID-19 that the state had, so far, refused to provide. The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. Roy Cooper and two of his Cabinet secretaries, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Erik Hooks, secretary of the Department of Public Safety. The complaint lists a total of 26 outstanding records requests — nine to DPS and 17 to DHHS — submitted by media outlets for records that could be helpful in reporting on COVID-19. All but one of the requests were submitted since the pandemic began.
RNC Sets Deadline for Response on NC Convention (AP) The Republican National Committee says it wants to hear from Governor Roy Cooper by June 3 on whether the state can fully accommodate the party’s national convention in August this summer. The letter sent Saturday by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to Cooper comes a day after Cooper talked by phone with President Trump about the issue. The two disagreed about the viability of a full-fledged convention.
NC House Passes Funding, Rules to Prepare for Spike in Voting by Mail (Raleigh News & Observer) A bill making it easier for people to vote by mail in the 2020 elections passed with near-unanimous support Thursday in the N.C. House of Representatives. State officials have told lawmakers that normally, around 4% or 5% of North Carolinians vote by mail. But because of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and public health concerns, they expect that it could grow to as high as 40% this year.
NC Unemployment Triples in April to 12.2%, Worse to Come in May (Winston Salem Journal) North Carolina’s unemployment rate nearly tripled from 4.3% in March to 12.2% in April, a stark reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the state’s economy. By comparison, the state unemployment rate reached a 33-year peak of 10.9% in 2010 as the state and national economies began their slow recoveries from the Great Recession. Economists project the May jobless rate will be significantly higher since the US Labor Department collects employment data during the week that contains the 12th of the month.
Protesters, Police Clash at Raleigh Protest of Floyd’s Death; Buildings Damaged, Looted (Raleigh News & Observer) The streets of Downtown Raleigh were filled with protesters and police in riot gear Saturday evening. The event started peacefully, with protesters singing and chanting throughout downtown, but within an hour after the crowd began marching, police released tear gas and pepper spray. Protesters threw fireworks, rocks and water bottles at police and vandalized several downtown businesses. At least one protester was arrested.
GOP Campaigns Pick Up Steam Ahead of NC-11 Second Primary (The Mountaineer) For an election that early on garnered attention from national media and top-tier politicians, the second primary to see which Republican will advance to the general election for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district has fallen by the wayside. Overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic the last few months, early voting for the contest is set to start in just a couple of weeks, and the candidates, Lynda Bennett of Haywood County and Madison Cawthorn of Henderson County, are planning their final push.
NC Lawmaker Accuses Multiple Senators of Abusive Behavior (WRAL) A North Carolina state senator accused multiple colleagues Thursday of abusive behavior. Sen. Erica Smith (D-Northampton), who ran this year for the US Senate, said three fellow Democrats made disparaging or sexual comments and that one of them – Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) – was seconds away from physically assaulting her last year before colleagues stepped in.
The Legislature continued their virtual May Legislatives Days, with the House Committee Meetings largely focusing on specific policy areas impacted by COVID-19. Senate Committees will take place from June 1-5.
A special meeting of the House Business & Labor Committee will meet this Saturday at 9:00AM to ask questions of Oregon Employment Department Leadership. The meeting is a follow up to a meeting earlier this week, where lawmakers didn’t have a chance to ask questions of department leadership. The committee will also accept public testimony on this topic through Monday, June 1 @ 5PM. Meeting info can be found here.
Murmurs of potential special session continue to be floated, with rumors ranging from as early as the week of June 22, to late summer.
Earlier this week, Multnomah County released an update on reopening, announcing a goal to submit their plan on June 5 for a targeted June 12 Phase 1 reopening. While the county has met several requirements, they still need more contract tracing & testing sites.
Portland City Council held a work session on CARES Act funding prioritization for approximately $74 million in resources. During the work session, funding opportunities from bureaus, a decision-making process, and proposed high-level priorities were presented by the Office of Management and Finance. An Equity Toolkit was created to serve as a guide for city bureaus in the recovery and relief efforts. There was no Council consensus on high-level priorities for funding by the end of the work session.
Over the next week or two Council offices will try to find agreement on shared high-level priorities for city CARES Act funds. The desired timeline is to disburse CARES Act funds by mid-July, which means City Council would approve funding decisions at a City Council meeting mid-June (TBD).
Oregon now has 4,131 confirmed cases of COVID-19; There have been 151 deaths.
Masks will be required for anyone who is indoors in public, effective May 29.
Northern Virginia, City of Richmond and the Eastern Shore’s Accomack County will join the rest of the state in Phase 1 of the re-opening
All beaches in Virginia will be permitted to open for recreational activities on May 29.
All people entering indoor businesses and other indoor public spaces across Virginia will be required to wear a covering over their nose and mouth, starting on May 29, as part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The mandate will not be enforced through the criminal justice system, although Northam left open the possibility that unruly or disorderly patrons who refuse to wear a mask could potentially face other charges related to their conduct in public.
Instead, Northam urged Virginians take the responsibility upon themselves to wear a face covering in public to protect themselves and others, and suggested business owners ask patrons without a mask to return when they have one, or for the business owner to offer to provide one.
The governor also will bring Northern Virginia localities, the City of Richmond and Accomack County into Phase 1 of the state’s reopening. Other localities across the commonwealth entered Phase 1 on May 15. Northam indicated the entire commonwealth would remain in Phase 1 until at least June 5 in order to collect more public health data.
Under Phase 1 guidelines, non-essential retail businesses and churches are permitted to reopen at 50 percent of indoor capacity. Personal grooming businesses such as salons and barbershops are able to serve customers by appointment only, and so long as staff and customers wear face masks, the governor said.
Teleworking and practicing social distancing remain recommended practices. Restaurants are permitted to serve customers at half the outdoor seating capacity; indoor dining remains prohibited.
After Virginia Beach successfully implemented a restricted plan for reopening its Oceanfront resort area for Memorial Day weekend, Northam said the rest of Virginia’s beaches may open for recreational activities on May 29, too, so long as there are no large gatherings, group sports, alcohol or tents on the beach.
NASCAR will be allowed to hold its June 10 race at Martinsville Speedway but without spectators, Northam said.
Entertainment and amusement venues, as well as overnight summer camps, remain closed. Public gatherings of more than 10 people will continue to be banned. Under Phase 2, limitations will be further eased and the cap on public gatherings will be raised to no more than 50 people.
While Virginia DMV offices have reopened on a limited basis, individuals who have a driver’s license or identification card that expires before July 31 have until August 31 to renew, Northam said.
The state’s stay-at-home order, in effect until June 10, has been amended to inform Virginians that they are safer at home. Older Virginians and others at higher risk of developing complications associated with infection are encouraged to remain home.
Municipal elections scheduled for May 5 were rescheduled to May 19, and congressional primaries from June 9 to June 23. Public schools are closed for the rest of the academic year, and officials are having discussions about fall classes. Northam said he will have an announcement in early June regarding when and how youth sports can safely resume.
Initial unemployment claims have begun to recede but remain historically high. According to the Virginia Employment Commission, the 10 weeks ending May 23 yielded more than 100,000 claims greater than the number of claims filed during the Great Recession of December 2007 to June 2009.
As of June 1st
Updated numbers released over the weekend:
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Hospital Association released updated numbers over the weekend:
414 Current Hospital Admissions (133 patients in ICU)
The total number of hospital admissions reported decreased by 9 over the weekend (-9).
Hospital admissions went from 423 on Friday to 409 on Saturday (-14) to 414 on Sunday (+5).
The total number of ICU patients reported decreased by 11 over the weekend (-11).
The number of ICU patients was 144 on Friday and Saturday and then decreased by 11 on Sunday to 133 (-11).
Cumulatively there have been 268,506 COVID-19 tests in Wisconsin;
18,403 positive tests and 250,103 negative tests in Wisconsin (6.8% positive rate)
On Saturday there were 523 positive tests reported on 9,843 tests (5.3% positive rate)
On Sunday there were 173 positive tests reported on 7,368 tests (2.3% positive rate)
Deaths from COVID-19 now total 592 in Wisconsin (+24 for the weekend).
There were 20 deaths reported on Saturday
There were 4 deaths reported on Sunday
11,646 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are listed as having recovered (63%), 6,164 cases are still considered active (33%) and 592 patients have died (3%). (last updated by DHS on 5/31)
UpFront; Adrienne Pedersen interviews DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm
UpFront host Adrienne Pedersen interviewed Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm about the status of Wisconsin’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of note in the interview:
Sec. Palm was asked about the spike in positive test results and she responded that there are a number of things that may be contributing to that; one is the end of the Safer-At-Home order and people having more contacts with individuals outside of their family units and the other is the increased testing that the state is doing.
When asked if the increase can be connected to the lifting of the Safer-At-Home order, Sec. Palm said, “I think it is not easy to make a direct connection between the lifting of Safer-At-Home, but we know this virus is very contagious and our ability and the work we did as a state to flatten the curve was as a result of people limiting their contact with other people. It is not surprising, as the state opens up more, that we will see increases of infections as more people contact with each other.”
Wisconsin Public Television: Here & Now interview with Governor Evers
Here & Now anchor Frederica Freyberg interviewed Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers in their weekly segment with the Governor on the status of Wisconsin’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of note in the interview:
When asked about the spike in the numbers this week, the Governor noted that increase in numbers was concerning, but also noted that the state is also testing more and that Wisconsinites need to remain vigilant about keeping social distance and practicing good hygiene.
The Governor noted his disappointment in the photos he sees of people that are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
Capital City Sunday: Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) on delayed state action on unemployment insurance
Capital City Sunday’s Emilee Fannon interviewed Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairman regarding the Legislature’s concerns over the Department of Workforce Development’s processing of unemployment insurance claims during this pandemic.
Of note in the interview:
Rep. Nygren said that there are 675,000 Wisconsinites who have filed UI claims that have not been processed yet.
When asked about delays caused by restrictions placed on DWD by the Walker Administration, Rep. Nygren said that the Evers Administration asked for one change in the COVID-19 Relief bill for DWD, the elimination of the 1-week wait change, which Rep. Nygren said the Republicans put in the bill.
Gov. Kemp held a press conference today at 4 p.m. The Governor will be extending the State of Emergency for a third time through July 12. Summer camps and schools can start May 31. Shelter in place for 65+ continues through June 12. From June 1, gatherings can have up to 25 people, 6 feet apart. Live entertainment venues will still be closed. Bars and nightclubs can open June 1 with many restrictions e.g. 35% total occupancy limit. Amusement parks can open June 12. Pro Sports can reopen June 1 if they are in compliance with their respective leagues.
As of 9:00 a.m. today, Georgia has 44,932 confirmed cases as compared to 44,638 at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, with 7,746 hospitalized patients as compared to 7,745 at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, and 1,957 deaths as compared to 1,933 at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. Over 523,000 tests have been administered.
Governor Kelly has reissued several Executive Orders following her new emergency declaration. Those EOs can be found by clicking here.
As of May 27th
The Governor of the State of Texas has issued an Proclamation expanding the enumerated list of covered services in Executive Order GA-23, including opening up waterparks, recreational sports, and food-court dining areas in malls.
As of May 26th
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Hospital Association released updated numbers on Wednesday:
413 Current Hospital Admissions (139 patients in ICU)
The total number of hospital admissions reported decreased by 9 on Wednesday (-9) to 413, down from 422 reported on Tuesday.
-5 in SE WI, -4 in NW WI and -3 NE WI and +2 SC WI and +1 Western WI
The total number of ICU patients reported increased by 4 on Wednesday (+4) to 139 patients, up from 135 reported on Tuesday.
+7 in SE WI, +2 in SC WI, +1 Fox Valley and -5 NE WI and -1 NW WI
Cumulatively there have been 16,462 positive tests and 210,605 negative tests in Wisconsin:
There were 599 positive test results reported on Wednesday on 10,330 tests (5.8% positive rate).
Deaths from COVID-19 now total 539 in Wisconsin.
There were 22 deaths reported on Wednesday
9,405 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are listed as having recovered (59%), 5,940 cases are still considered active (3%) and 517 patients have died (3%). (last updated by DHS on 5/26)
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, DHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard, and Ryan Nilsestuen, Chief Legal Counsel held a briefing for the media today.
Governor Evers stressed in his opening remarks the importance of wearing a mask in public, especially when it is not possible to socially distance. The Governor said that he wears a mask while coming and going to the State Capitol, and that masks shouldn’t be a political statement.
Secretary-designee Palm in her opening remarks said that DHS is launching a new public awareness campaign with the message, “If you need a test, get a test” and encouraged people with any symptoms to get tested.
It was noted in the update that two new records were set; 599 positive cases (but 5.8% positive rate remained relatively stagnant) and the number of tests conducted in one day exceeded 10,000 for the first time.
Media questions of note:
Governor Evers was asked if he would be mandating that the public wear masks, and he said, noted the Supreme Court decision doesn’t allow for them to do that and is instead encouraging people to wear masks when they are out in public.
Governor Evers responded when asked about a lawmaker’s statement regarding some state employees who are not able to work from home and but are being paid to stay home, that he believes zero state employees are being paid to stay home and not work.
Secretary Palm said that she can’t say at this point whether new cases or the uptick in hospitalizations are tied to the Safer-At-Home restrictions being repealed two weeks, but the state will continue to monitor data.
Gov. Evers Announces $200 Million “Routes to Recovery: Local Government Aid Grants” Program
Gov. Tony Evers today announced the launch of the “Routes to Recovery: Local Government Aid Grants” program, a $200 million effort aimed at helping local leaders address some of their most urgent and unique COVID-19 recovery needs. Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), Routes to Recovery Grants will be allocated to every Wisconsin county, city, village, town and federally recognized tribe.
The effort is funded by $200 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars and will be administered by the DOA. Of the $200 million, $10 million will be allocated to Wisconsin’s tribal nations, with the remaining funds being distributed to every Wisconsin county, city, village and town.
Routes to Recovery Grants for Wisconsin counties, cities, villages and towns will provide reimbursements for unbudgeted expenditures incurred this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the following categories:
Emergency operations activities, including those related to public health, emergency services, and public safety response
Purchases of personal protective equipment
Cleaning/sanitizing supplies and services, including those related to elections administration
Temporary isolation housing for infected or at-risk individuals
Testing and contact tracing costs above those covered by existing State programs
FMLA and sick leave for public health and safety employees to take COVID-19 precautions
Meeting local match requirements for expenses submitted for reimbursement by FEMA, to the extent allowed by federal law
The determination of a local government’s Routes to Recovery Grant amount is a formula based on the jurisdiction’s population, as well as the priority of providing Wisconsin’s units of local government no less than $5,000, regardless of size of the population.
Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform informational hearing on UI
The Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform, chaired by Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) held an informational hearing on Unemployment Insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those who testified at the hearing were Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman. According to Chairman Nass today’s hearing will be one of many that will occur over the next several months on the UI program.
Following the hearing several committee members released statements on the status of the UI backlog;
Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) released the following statement:
“I appreciate Secretary Caleb Frostman and the other experts testifying today about the problems in the unemployment system,” said Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). “The information we received was at times sobering and completely unacceptable, but it’s important that the information be publicized.”
Besides the unemployment claim backlog lasting for another 3-5 months, other discoveries at the committee hearing included:
The Department of Workforce Development unapologetic refusal to expand call center hours beyond 7am to 5pm
An apparent complete lack of communication between Governor Evers’ office and the Department of Workforce Development;
The Department of Workforce Development doing virtually nothing to prepare for the inevitable rise in unemployment benefits prior to Governor Evers’ “Safer-at-Home” order, and reacting slowly to add staffing capabilities;
The Department of Workforce Development stating they didn’t begin programming to administer the supplemental 13-weeks of unemployment payment prior to a couple of days ago;
“I’ve been saying it for weeks. People need help now. Not weeks or months from now. They need it today, now.” said Wanggaard. “Not clearing the unemployment backlog until August or October is completely unacceptable. How is anyone supposed to last that long without any income?”
Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-) released the following statement:
“Lowering protections for Wisconsin workers was a theme of the Walker administration.
The Republican legislature’s effort to make it more difficult for laid-off workers to navigate the Unemployment system has really been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
When Scott Walker lost, the Republicans quickly convened a lame-duck session to limit Governor Evers’ power, including a prohibition preventing him from loosening Unemployment Insurance eligibility rules.
“The Republican plan is working exactly as expected. There are now more trip wires for workers to jump over in order to get Unemployment. As a result, it is taking some people longer to get their benefits.”
DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman issued the following statement on Wisconsin beginning to issue PUA payments:
Due to PUA being a brand-new federal program and in order to ensure accurate payments, DWD conducted additional testing prior to deployment. While understanding the potential impacts of a minor delay in deployment, -we felt it prudent and responsible to prevent any widespread issues that could cause even greater delays and hardship. We understand many claimants have been patiently waiting for PUA. Please know that DWD is committed to paying out eligible benefits as fast as possible.
It is important to note that PUA is not like our normal UI process, so it takes much longer to process an application. Most claimants have probably heard all about our antiquated, inflexible base benefits system, but it is important to explain how it affects our payment of PUA: When you apply and enter all of your information in the online portal, our staff has to take the information you enter and then manually enter it into our benefits system. Then we can begin processing your application, which involves a DWD staffer manually assessing your PUA eligibility, reviewing your 2019 income, and creating your new PUA monetary and weekly benefit rate. Once your application is fully processed, your dashboard will be updated with “Your PUA application has been processed…” and present a link to file PUA weekly claims.
We have received over 80,000 PUA applications since April 21. Now that our PUA platform is deployed, we have staff dedicated to processing these determinations and will continue to onboard more over the coming weeks. It will take some time, but please know we are working to process your application and send out eligible benefits as quickly as possible.
43,730 confirmed cases as compared to 43,586 at 9:00 a.m. today
7,547 hospitalized patients as compared to 7,511 at 9:00 a.m. today
1,871 deaths as compared to 1,853 at 9:00 a.m. today
Over 514,000 tests have been administered.
As of May 25th
The Governor of the State of New Jersey has published an executive order, increasing the capacity limit on outdoor gatherings to no more than 25 people, with various conditions.
As of May 25th
The Governor of the State of New York has published an executive order which modifies an earlier order, and now permits any non-essential gathering of ten or fewer individuals, for any lawful purpose or reason, provided that social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols required by the Department of Health are adhered to.
North Carolina has 23,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the state reported Monday, representing a day-over-day increase of 742. The number of patients reported hospitalized with COVID-19 reached a new high with 627 people receiving in-patient care. State health officials reported Monday completing 8,034 more coronavirus tests, bringing the total of completed tests to 344,690. About 7 percent of all tests are positive. DHHS said the most recent day of testing saw 8 percent of tests come back positive. A total of 14,954 people are presumed to have recovered as of Monday – up from 11,637 on May 18.
Memorial Day Draws Crowds to Beaches, Heats Up Debate About Social Distancing (WRAL) After North Carolinians being cooped up with stay-at-home orders for months, Phase 2 of reopening lined up closely with Memorial Day weekend–a time when people traditionally travel and congregate at crowded pools and beaches. Photos of crowded beaches and lakes heated up debates on whether or not visiting the beach was safe during this time.
NC DHHS Recommends Testing All Long-Term Care Facilities for COVID-19, But Questions Remain (NC Health News) Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, announced that North Carolina is heading in the direction of universal testing of North Carolina nursing home residents and staff. State health officials have issued guidance, or at least a recommendation, to follow the direction set out last week by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The practice is up and running in the states of Washington, West Virginia, Maryland and South Carolina.
Election in a Pandemic: Bipartisan Election Bill Promised as Others Fight Over Ballot Rules (WRAL) House leaders are close to filing a bill, with bipartisan support, changing state election rules because of the pandemic. The measure has most of what the State Board of Elections asked for two months ago when it rolled out a laundry list of requests. There are key exceptions though: The bill won’t make Election Day a holiday, and it won’t cover postage costs on absentee ballots, both state board requests.
NC Solar Industry Weathering the Pandemic Better Than Most States (Energy News Network) The solar industry is weathering the pandemic better in North Carolina than in most states, data released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association show. The Tar Heel State will see 19% fewer solar workers than expected in June, according to the nonprofit trade group — hardly rosy projections but better than national predicted losses of 38%. A handful of states like New Jersey and New York will see cuts of more than 60%.
Judge Says NC Schools Need More Money. Sen. Berger Says COVID-19 May Limit That. (Raleigh News & Observer) The coronavirus pandemic could become the latest obstacle to North Carolina’s efforts to provide every student with their state constitutional right to a sound basic education. In January, Superior Court Judge David Lee signed a court order in the long-running Leandro school funding case ordering state leaders to “work expeditiously and without delay to take all necessary actions” to improve the state’s education system. But Senate leader Phil Berger warned at a news conference this week that the state expects to face a revenue shortfall of billions of dollars caused by the coronavirus shutdown.
NC Lawmakers Are Requiring Remote Learning Plans. Schools Warn There Are Limits. (Charlotte Observer) North Carolina public schools are warning that problems such as spotty broadband access will limit their ability to provide students with quality remote instruction next school year. The State Board of Education approved a new policy Thursday on the remote learning plans that the General Assembly is requiring schools to develop for the 2020-21 school year. But the plans will also include a section, requested by the districts, that will “describe the limitations that exist for implementation of quality remote learning based on each local context.”
NCDOT Orders Unpaid Leave for All 9,300 Employees (WRAL) Thousands of North Carolina Department of Transportation workers are bracing for furloughs as the department works to recover from a rapid loss of revenue. According to NCDOT leaders, less travel on North Carolina roads and stay-at-home orders have translated to a big cut in gas tax collections and fees from car sales, adding up to $300 million in projected revenue losses through June.
“Citizens Are Getting Poisoned”, NC Legislator Says of Chemicals (Carolina Public Press) N.C. Rep. Pricey Harrison and about three dozen co-sponsors have introduced a series of bills intended to demonstrate the range of steps the state could take in regulating a group of chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Harrison acknowledged that none are likely to pass in their current form, but she was disappointed that after years of work, the legislature has been unable to move on further PFAS regulation.
As of May 23rd
The Governor of the State of Texas has issued an Executive Order terminating air travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Executive order immediately terminates all restrictions contained in the Governor’s previous Executive Order (GA-20) that mandated temporary quarantines for air travelers arriving from the following areas of the United States: California; Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; or Miami, Florida.
As of May 25th
The Governor of the State of Washington has published a proclamation that extends Proclamation 20-49 and executive order 49.1, regarding Garnishments and Accrual of Interest, until 27 March, 2020 or the termination of the state of Emergency, whichever occurs first.
As of May 26th
Updated numbers released over the Holiday weekend:
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Hospital Association released updated numbers over the Holiday weekend:
388 Current Hospital Admissions (121 patients in ICU)
The total number of hospital admissions dropped by 28 over the weekend (-28) to 388 on Monday, down from 416 reported on Friday.
The total number of ICU patients dropped by 13 over the weekend (-13) to 121 patients on Monday, down from 134 patients reported on Friday.
Cumulatively there have been 15,584 positive tests and 193,379 negative tests in Wisconsin:
There were 481 positive test results reported on Saturday on 7,107 tests (6.8% positive rate).
There were 400 positive test results reported on Sunday on 7,277 tests (5.5% positive rate).
There were 307 positive test results reported on Monday on 7,480 tests (4.1% positive rate).
Deaths from COVID-19 now total 514 in Wisconsin, +18 over the Holiday weekend:
There were 11 deaths reported on Saturday
There were 3 deaths reported on Sunday
There were 4 deaths reported on Monday
9,207 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are listed as having recovered (59%), 5,862 cases are still considered active (3%) and 514 patients have died (3%). (last updated by DHS on 5/25)
On Friday, May 22, at 7:54 AM, the Kansas Legislature concluded its 2020 Legislative Session. Like most legislative sessions across the country, the work done in Kansas was significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, most of the bills that lawmakers had worked on since January died during the legislative process because the number of days lawmakers had to work were significantly reduced.
Legislative leadership voted to return to Topeka on Thursday, May 21. This day was designated as “Sine Die” or the last day of the Legislative Session. Typically, Sine Die is ceremonial in nature and little business is addressed. This year, however, lawmakers decided they would finish all remaining items on that day. And, although there appeared to be mixed interpretations of legislative rules by lawmakers and staff, the general consensus was that all business for the Session must be finished by midnight on Sine Die (Thursday) or it would risk being declared unconstitutional. Due to delays in debate, the large number of items that were scheduled to be addressed in one day, as well as a multitude of other reasons, lawmakers did not finish their work on Thursday, but rather passed most of their bills Friday morning. Thus, any act passed on Friday could potentially be at risk of becoming null and void.
As of May 21st
The Governor of the State of New Jersey has published an executive order, directing that certain recreational businesses or activities that were closed by paragraph 9 of Executive Order No. 107 (2020) are permitted to reopen to the public or their members, with conditions.
It took eight weeks for North Carolina to record its first 10,000 infections; however, going from 10,000 to 20,000 took only three weeks.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services unveiled an updated COVID-19 Dashboard. The interactive dashboard provides an overview on the metrics and capacities that the state is following to inform decisions to responsibly ease measures that slow the spread of the virus.
New modeling from a group of researchers at the University of Washington has significantly cut the number of COVID-19 deaths expected in North Carolina through August.
Governor Cooper announced Wednesday that the state will move to Phase 2 reopening beginning at 5:00 pm on Friday, May 22 and lasting until June 26.
Governor Cooper announced today that the state will be moving to Phase 2 of the reopening plan beginning on Friday, May 22. The Governor described the next phase as a “more modest step forward than originally envisioned” and referred to the plan as “safer at home”. Phase 2 reopening continues the recommendation for teleworking and includes reduced capacity openings for dine-in at restaurants; personal care businesses such as barbershops and nail salons; swimming pools; and overnight and day camps. Childcare centers will be allowed to open at full capacity. The following businesses are not allowed to open during Phase 2: bars, nightclubs, gyms and indoor fitness facilities, indoor entertainment venues such as concert and event venues and public playgrounds. Mass gathering limits will be 25 or less at outdoor venues and 10 or less at indoor venues. Outdoor mass gathering requirements apply to parks, beaches, stadiums, etc. The Governor said that local governments may enforce more stringent requirements than the state order. The Governor also stated that Phase 2 will boost North Carolina’s economy, but only if citizens have confidence in their own safety.
While the state reported sharp increases in deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on Tuesday, the Secretary of NC DHHS said that the overall trends are stable enough to remove social restrictions on Friday. Dr. Mandy Cohen stated, “As we look at North Carolina’s numbers, we see them remain stable. We believe we can move forward to easing restrictions.”
New modeling from a group of researchers at the University of Washington has significantly cut the number of COVID-19 deaths expected in North Carolina through August. Projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now forecast 2,500 deaths from the disease through August 4. This projection is down about 40 percent from the group’s projection last week of 4,400 deaths. Daily deaths are still expected to peak in mid- to late-June, but at a lower rate of nearly 30 a day.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Hospital Association released updated numbers on Thursday:
398 Current Hospital Admissions (126 patients in ICU)
The total number of hospital admissions increased by 5 (+5) on Thursday
+3 in SE WI, +2 Fox Valley, +2 SC WI, +1 NE WI and -1 in NC WI, -1 NW WI and -1 Western WI
The total number of ICU patients decreased by 2 (-2) on Thursday
-1 in NE WI, -1 in Fox Valley and -1 in SE WI, and +1 in CE WI
Cumulatively there have been 13,885 positive tests and 163,238 negative tests in Wisconsin:
There were 472 positive test results reported on Thursday on 9,410 tests (5% positive rate).
Deaths from COVID-19 now total 487 in Wisconsin:
There were 6 deaths reported on Thursday
7,728 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are listed as having recovered (58%), 5,203 cases are still considered active (39%) and 481 patients have died (4%). (last updated by DHS on 5/20)
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, DHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard, and Ryan Nilsestuen, Chief Legal Counsel held a briefing for the media today.
Governor Evers noted in his opening remarks that now every county in Wisconsin has reported a case of COVID-19 with Taylor and Langlade county both reporting their 1st cases today. The Governor also requested diligence in continuing to stay “safer-at-home.”
The Governor also discussed his announcement of $100 million in federal funding from the CARES Act being distributed via grants to Long-Term Care, Home and Community Based Services, and Emergency Medical Services. (See more below)
The Governor was asked during the media briefing regarding a new lawsuit that has been filed challenging the local health authorities implementing the “Safer-At-Home” orders. The Governor’s legal counsel stated that they are engaging to have the lawsuit dismissed and believe the interim Attorney General opinion issued by Attorney General Josh Kaul last week provides clarity on the topic. (Link to State Journal story).
Gov. Evers Announces $100 Million for Long-Term Care, Home and Community Based Services, and Emergency Medical Services
Gov. Tony Evers today announced a grant program funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Totaling $100 million dollars, the funding will support providers most at-risk for financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. The providers targeted for financial assistance include emergency medical services, home and community-based services, and long-term care providers such as skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.
“We recognize the significant burden the COVID-19 response has placed on these providers,” said Gov. Evers. “We also recognize the integral role they play in ensuring the health and safety of some of our most vulnerable Wisconsinites and we want to support their efforts during this pandemic.”
The program will be administered in two parts: an initial release of funds to support immediate needs, and a second, targeted release for additional needs of individual providers. Both rounds of funding will be allocated to support expenses directly related to COVID-19 as well as expenses associated with the interruption of typical operations, such as overtime pay, changes to sanitation procedures, and disruption to the standard delivery of care.