Alabama

Montgomery: Cotton farmers in the state will face threats to their crops this year in the form of a new virus with no known cure. WSFA-TV reports cotton leafroll dwarf virus is a new strain of cotton blue disease. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System says the virus is transmitted by aphids and diminishes blooms and bolls in the upper canopy, resulting in lower yields, mainly in late-planted cotton. The new strain was discovered in Alabama in 2017 but has been observed in Brazil in 2006. It has since been confirmed in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. The virus reduced cotton yields by nearly 50,000 bales in 2018. Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady says symptoms include red leaf veins, cupped leaves and sterility, and it will likely take years to develop new, resistant cotton cultivars.

Alaska

Anchorage: The Legislature failed Wednesday to override budget vetoes by Gov. Mike Dunleavy that will prompt a massive 41% cut of state funding to the University of Alaska and lay waste to other programs the governor deemed unaffordable. More than a third of lawmakers missed the vote – many because of an ongoing dispute about where the Legislature should have met for the special session. Lawmakers needed 45 votes – a three-fourths majority of the 60 members of the state Senate and House – to override the vetoes by Dunleavy, a Republican who took office in December. The effort fell short with a 37-1 vote in Juneau. Only Rep. Tammie Wilson, a North Pole Republican, voted not to override. The special session began Monday, and the Legislature has until midnight Friday to again consider veto overrides.

Arizona

Supai: For those hoping to score notoriously hard-to-get permits to visit Havasupai Falls, Beyonce may be making it even more difficult. The singer shot a music video Wednesday at the foot of Havasu Falls, TMZ reports, almost guaranteeing the in-demand destination at the bottom of the Grand Canyon will grow even more popular. According to TMZ, Beyonce, her daughter Blue Ivy and her crew flew in and out by helicopter, spending about five hours at Havasu Falls with the blessing of the Havasupai Tribe, which owns the land. The shoot likely inconvenienced hikers, as Beyonce and her crew were allowed exclusive access to the falls and its turquoise pools. The superstar’s visit emphasized the gap between the haves and have-nots. Campers must cross their fingers each Feb. 1 when permits for the upcoming year are released online. Demand typically overwhelms servers, and very few manage to secure reservations.

Arkansas

Little Rock: A group plans to begin gathering signatures soon to put a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana on the ballot in the state next year. The Drug Policy Education Group on Wednesday submitted a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow licensed dispensaries to sell marijuana for recreational use. Arkansas voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016, and dispensaries began selling it in May. The group also submitted a proposed amendment that would allow people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses to petition courts for relief, including release from incarceration and expungement of their conviction. The group has until July 3, 2020, to gather the needed 89,151 signatures from registered voters to qualify for the November 2020 election ballot. The state Board of Election Commissioners must also review the ballot measure’s wording.

California

Pasadena: A statue capturing Brandi Chastain’s iconic reaction to scoring the U.S. team’s winning goal in the 1999 Women’s World Cup has been unveiled outside the Rose Bowl. Chastain was on hand for the unveiling Wednesday, the 20th anniversary of the historic win, which coincided with celebrations in New York for this year’s World Cup champion team. This year’s team sealed its second consecutive tournament win by beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday. The statue shows Chastain at the moment she dropped to her knees in exultation, clutching the jersey she pulled off after cinching the win over China on a penalty kick in the game played at the Rose Bowl. The moment has been credited as a watershed for invigorating women’s sports.

Colorado

Walden: Photos of what appears to be a black-colored wolf captured north of the town this week could be the first credible wolf sighting in the state in four years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife released images of the black animal wearing what appeared to be a radio collar around its neck. The photos were shot by a member of the public near the Colorado State Forest State Park. CPW biologists are working to confirm the sighting, as well as another recent sighting in Grand County. CPW spokesperson Rebecca Ferrell says she’s not sure if the photos were taken on public or private land. The animal is believed to have wandered into the state from Wyoming. Wolves were extirpated from the state in the 1940s mainly because of their depredation of livestock. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has restored gray wolf populations in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona.

Connecticut

New Haven: Renowned forensic scientist Henry Lee is defending work he did three decades ago. The state Supreme Court criticized Lee last month when it overturned the convictions of two men for a 1985 murder. The decision came after experts determined that stains on a towel that Lee had testified were consistent with blood were something else. Wendall Hasan has been in prison since 1986 for murder. His lawyers filed court papers Tuesday that he should be freed after more recent tests found no blood on a pair of sneakers Lee testified were bloodstained. Lee responded Thursday at a news conference that his testimony in that case was accurate, as was his testimony in two other cases. Lee says the blood sample likely was used up during his earlier testing.

Delaware

Wilmington: David Bromberg, a master of stringed-instrument Americana, says a deal to sell his massive collection of historic violins to the Library of Congress has fallen through. The local singer-songwriter and session musician has compiled a collection of 263 historic American violins over the years and, at 73, was hoping to sell it intact for $1.7 million as his retirement plan. Now he fears the collection will have to be broken up and sold separately. The Library of Congress announced in 2016 that it would buy the collection Bromberg spent 50 years curating. It even set up a center for their study. It would’ve been among the library’s largest instrument collections. Bromberg says library officials told him they now have other priorities.

District of Columbia

Washington: The D.C. Council is considering legislation that would allow minors to run small-scale businesses such as lemonade stands without having to get a business license or permit. WTOP-FM reports Councilman Brandon Todd on Tuesday introduced the Lemonade Stand Amendment Act of 2019, which was co-sponsored by all the other members. The bill would allow minors to operate small businesses as long as the businesses are open for no more than 100 days and are reasonably distanced from licensed commercial businesses. Todd said harassment against entrepreneurial minors has become too common. As various states consider and enact similar legislation, Country Time Lemonade has also gotten into the mix and started a “Legal-Ade” to help pay for fines and permits.

Florida

Miami: There’s a baby boom at Zoo Miami. The zoo announced on Facebook that six babies were born within a seven-day period to six different mothers. All of the new additions are female. The baby boom started July 2 with the birth of an addax. On July 5, a Grevy’s zebra was born, followed July 7 by a newborn Arabian oryx. The next day, another Grevy’s zebra and two giant elands were born. And the boom is continuing with another giant eland and a giraffe expected any day. Zoo officials say the addax was the 67th born at Zoo Miami. There are fewer than 100 of the African desert antelopes left in the Sahara, which makes the addax a critically endangered species.

Georgia

Atlanta: A federal judge has ordered state election officials to allow computer experts and lawyers to review the databases used to create ballots and count votes. The ruling came Tuesday in the lawsuit filed by election integrity advocates and voters that challenges Georgia’s election system and seeks statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg gave the state until Friday to turn over electronic copies of the databases to the plaintiffs’ lawyers and computer experts. The plaintiffs’ experts had said inspection of the databases was necessary to begin to evaluate security vulnerabilities and flaws. Lawyers for the state had argued disclosure of sensitive information in the databases could jeopardize the security of the election system. Totenberg wrote that they provided no evidence of that.

Hawaii

Honolulu: Construction on a giant telescope will start again next week after lengthy court battles and passionate protests from those who say building it on the island state’s tallest mountain will desecrate land sacred to some Native Hawaiians. State officials announced Wednesday that the road to the top of Mauna Kea mountain on the Big Island will be closed starting Monday as equipment is delivered. Scientists revere the mountain for its summit above the clouds that provides a clear view of the sky with very little air and light pollution. Astronomers say it will allow them to reach back 13 billion years to answer fundamental questions about the advent of the universe. The Thirty Meter Telescope project got approval to move forward last month. While it was the final legal step, opponents vowed to keep fighting and even get arrested if necessary to stop construction.

Idaho

Boise: Officials say the city is installing facial recognition technology at its city halls to keep “banned people” out of the government buildings. Mayor David Bieter’s spokesman Mike Journee says the city will spend $52,000 to install the technology at Boise City Hall and City Hall West in an effort to identify people who enter either building in violation of legal no-contact orders. No one is currently banned from City Hall. Journee says the technology will likely be in use by the end of 2019. At least two U.S. cities have banned facial recognition technology over concerns that that the real-time surveillance technology could be misused or that it could violate civil rights. Journee says the facial data collected by Boise’s system will not be stored or connected to any police database or criminal records.

Illinois

DuQuoin: Country rock band Confederate Railroad has been barred from performing at a state fair because of its use of the Confederate flag, setting off a firestorm by southern Illinois fans who believe they’re under Chicago liberals’ thumb of political correctness. The band was scheduled to appear Aug. 27 at the DuQuoin State Fair , but Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration canceled the appearance last week. “This administration’s guiding principle is that the state of Illinois will not use state resources to promote symbols of racism,” Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said. The logo for the Grammy-nominated band, known for acoustic ballads such as “Jesus and Mama” as well as its raucous anthem “Trashy Women,” features a steam engine from which waves dual Confederate Navy Jacks, whose stars and bars are the most widely recognized symbol of the Confederacy.

Indiana

West Lafayette: Local Twitter has been abuzz with Purdue Boilermakers expressing pride over the feature of a powder blue Purdue University sweatshirt in the newest season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Erika Austin, manager of trademarks and licensing for Purdue, says she was as surprised as everyone else to see the shout-out. The Purdue Trademarks and Licensing department is working with its licensing agency and the Purdue Team Store to produce and sell a replica of the shirt, with the possibility it could eventually be sold in other retail locations, she says. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, “Stranger Things” gives no indication as to where in the state it’s located. A limestone quarry in the first season led some Hoosiers to believe it could be in the southern portion of the state; season two includes a geographical reference to west-central Tippecanoe; and the feature of Purdue gear helps anchor the idea of it being a northern town.

Iowa

Des Moines: The state Department of Human Services says it has agreed to pay an additional $386 million to two insurance companies that will provide Medicaid services for the 2020 fiscal year. The 8.6% increase announced Wednesday will include $115 million in additional state funding, with the federal government paying for the remaining portion. The $5 billion Medicaid program serves about 600,000 poor and disabled people. DHS says the rates include changes made by the Legislature, which account for about 2% of the increase. Last year the agency approved a $344 million increase over the previous year. The state privatized the Medicaid program in 2016, with then-Gov. Terry Branstad promising cost savings and improved care. Democrats say neither goal has been accomplished.

Kansas

Mulvane: Some drivers got a surprise windfall when a malfunctioning toll machine spat out coins instead of accepting money near a casino. The Wichita Eagle reports Kansas Turnpike Authority spokeswoman Rachel Bell says the agency learned Tuesday morning about the problem with the machine at the Mulvane exit. The agency inadvertently divulged details about the mishap when it sent a text alert to its public subscribers. The note said there was “NO WAY” to know the exact dollar amount that was taken. KTA says the message was meant to be internal but made it out into the public realm after someone newly responsible for disseminating messages sent it to the wrong group of subscribers. Bell wasn’t immediately sure how many customers used the machine while it was being generous.

Kentucky

Clermont: Louisville Gas and Electric Co. wants to build a natural gas pipeline to feed the growing energy needs of Bullitt County, but some area property owners – including Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest – are pushing back. LG&E is preparing to go to court in an attempt to take control of the land it wants through eminent domain. Bernheim’s executive director, Mark Wourms, says the nonprofit won’t accept that without a fight because the pipeline would cut through an area that’s home to endangered Indiana bats and two species of extremely rare snails. “It’s just insane to intentionally impact rare animal habitats,” he said. “Is it an uphill battle? Sure it is ... and we think it’s better for Kentucky if we don’t (stop fighting).” The Bernheim Forest covers more than 16,000 acres about 25 miles south of downtown Louisville.

Louisiana

Shreveport: The State Fair of Louisiana has announced the theme for this year’s event. The Times reports the 113th State Fair will be known as “Gumbo of Fun” and be held Oct. 24 through Nov. 10 in Shreveport. Since 1906, the State Fair of Louisiana has been a tradition for many families, drawing an average of 425,000 people through the gates annually. In addition to carnival rides, it offers food vendors and live music. Authorities say the event has a $24 million economic impact on Shreveport’s economy and creates more than 300 temporary jobs during the season.

Maine

Raymond: A summer camp has brought together dozens of children suffering from a rare disease. Camp Sunshine says only about 1,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with Diamond-Blackfan Anemia, and 59 families affected by the disease are at the camp in Maine. The camp, on the shore of Sebago Lake, says it’s the largest gathering worldwide of families who are dealing with the disease, which affects bone marrow and reduces red blood cells. Officials say 4-year-old Noah Dowie of Australia traveled the farthest in hopes of finding support from other families and getting help from clinicians and researchers. The camp brings together families of children with life-threatening illnesses. It has helped more than 50,000 individuals from all 50 states and 27 countries.

Maryland

Baltimore: The Federal Aviation Administration is going to reconsider its position challenging the state over new flight patterns and the noise they bring residents near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The FAA filed a motion Tuesday to hold Maryland’s case in abeyance while it reconsiders. In September, the FAA wrote a letter to the state declining to respond to a petition asking for more review of the flight patterns. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh says he’s hopeful the FAA will undertake a thorough review of the facts and ultimately lead to changes in flight paths. Gov. Larry Hogan says his administration remains committed to restoring the quality of life for residents who live around the state’s airports.

Massachusetts

Boston: Health officials say the mosquito-borne West Nile virus has officially returned to the state. The Department of Public Health announced Thursday that West Nile was detected in mosquitoes collected in Boston last week – the first positive sample of the year. No human cases have been reported so far. A year ago there were 49 confirmed human cases of West Nile, the most ever reported in a single year in Massachusetts. State Epidemiologist Catherine Brown says the risk for human infection generally peaks in August. As always, health officials are advising people to protect themselves from mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis by using mosquito repellent, draining standing water near their homes and repairing any tears in window screens.

Michigan

Detroit: Water levels in parts of the Great Lakes system hit record highs last month and are only expected to keep climbing, prompting concern from state officials for waterfront communities already flooded. Lake Superior, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario set record-high monthly mean water levels in June, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported this week. Lake Michigan-Huron was less than an inch short of its June record. The situation has prompted emergency response measures from the local and state levels as communities deal with the consequences of simply having too much water. Overflowing lakes have flooded lakefront properties, eroded shoreline and erased beaches, say officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. High waves, strong currents and hidden debris create hazards for recreational boaters and swimmers.

Minnesota

St. Paul: State taxpayers helped foot the bill when Jimmy Fallon broadcast “The Tonight Show” from Minneapolis as part of last year’s Super Bowl festivities. Minnesota Public Radio News obtained information via public records request that shows the state paid the show $267,000 through a rebate program. The state’s Snowbate program is aimed at luring productions and fostering local industry talent. Talk shows are ineligible to participate in the program. But the NBC show was reclassified as a “variety show” to fit the confines of state law. The records show that Michael Tabor, a member of the program’s advisory committee, said giving away state funds to Fallon’s show “isn’t responsible.” He said NBC was set to be in Minnesota anyway because it was shooting the Super Bowl.

Mississippi

Jackson: A new Mississippi Writers Trail marker honoring novelist and poet Margaret Walker was unveiled this week at Jackson State University, where she was an English professor from 1949 to 1979 and was also known as Margaret Walker Alexander. In 1942, she became the first African American woman to win the Yale Prize, for her poetry collection “For My People.” One of her best known novels, “Jubilee,” was published in 1966 and tells of a biracial woman born into slavery in the American South. Walker was born in 1915 in Birmingham, Alabama, and her family moved to New Orleans when she was 10. She earned degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Iowa. Jackson State’s Margaret Walker Center is dedicated to the interpretation of black culture. She died in 1998.

Missouri

St. Louis: The locally based brewery that makes Kraftig beer, which is operated by an heir to the family that founded Anheuser-Busch, is going out of business. The William K. Busch Brewing Co. announced the decision Wednesday, citing market demand. Billy Busch said in a statement that he hopes eventually to return to the brewery business. The company says Kraftig will continue to be available in stores while supplies last, which is expected to be through September. The brewery began operation in 2011 in Brentwood, a St. Louis suburb. Busch is a son of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., the longtime leader of Anheuser-Busch credited with building the St. Louis brewer into the dominant force of the beer market. Anheuser-Busch was sold to Belgian brewer InBev in 2008.

Montana

Whitefish: The Under the Big Sky music and arts festival is coming to Big Mountain Ranch this weekend. The concert will be held Saturday and Sunday from noon to 11 p.m. Featured artists include Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, Band of Horses, The Lil Smokies and Mike Murray. A Montana-based singer-songwriter from Kalispell, Murray typically plays as a solo or duo act, but for Under the Big Sky Festival, he will be performing with a full band. Tickets for the festival are still on sale online. Two-day last-call tickets are $129.00 plus a $28.81 fee. Two-day VIP last-call tickets are $275.00 plus a $37.83 fee. More information is available online.

Nebraska

Lincoln: State corrections officials are exploring options to combat the delivery by drone of drugs and other contraband to inmates. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services is asking companies what they can do to detect unmanned aircraft. Laura Strimple, chief of staff to the department’s director, says officials are considering proposals made by six companies in February. No details have been provided about how much a drone detection system would cost, but the department told the companies that funding would come from its budget or a grant. The department began looking into drone detection after an inmate found a crashed drone in February at the Lincoln Correctional Center. The craft was carrying two bags containing marijuana, tobacco and rolling papers.

Nevada

Reno: Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., called for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s resignation Wednesday after the department acknowledged multiple shipments of low-level radioactive waste to a site north of Las Vegas may have been mislabeled and out of compliance with safety regulations for years. The department had announced earlier that shipments of the waste from Tennessee to Nevada have been suspended while it investigates whether the materials were “potentially mischaracterized” as the wrong category of low-level waste. Low-level waste can include equipment or worker’s clothing contaminated by exposure to radiation, while mixed low-level waste can include toxic metals. Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette also has ordered a departmentwide assessment of its “procedures and practices for packaging and shipping all radioactive waste types,” according to a memo.

New Hampshire

Bretton Woods: It seems bears enjoy a good view just like any other visitor to the White Mountains. A photo snapped by an employee at the Omni Mount Washington Resort shows a black bear holding onto a rail on the veranda and looking out. The snapshot was taken about 5 a.m. a couple of weeks ago; Sam Geesaman says he had only wanted to get a photo of the sunrise. Instead, he caught the bear as it climbed stairs in search of a trash can. The bear moved on after Gessaman loudly clapped and stomped. New Hampshire routinely has reports of bears finding their way into homes, campgrounds and even apartment complexes. Last year, food shortages were blamed for a sharp increase in bear-human conflicts and the highest numbers of bear killings since 2014.

New Jersey

Freehold: A high-stakes trial about beach access at the Jersey shore has stalled after the judge in the case made clear, in often colorful terms, that she was less than impressed with arguments made by both sides. With quips and lacerating observations during a hearing Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Lisa Thornton at one point told one of the attorneys, “Don’t get your underwear in a bunch,” and she said another’s responses amounted to “dancing” around the question. The American Littoral Society, a coastal environmental group, is suing the borough of Deal, trying to nullify an ordinance it passed in December that would vacate the end of an oceanfront street in return for a $1 million payment from a nearby landowner who wants the property as part of a development proposal.

New Mexico

Albuquerque: The long-simmering battle between the state and its neighbor to the north over which one grows the best chile is heating up. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham went on the offensive Wednesday after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis proclaimed on Twitter that hot peppers from Pueblo were the best and would be stocked across a four-state region by a well-known grocery store chain. Polis went on to say stores in Lujan Grisham’s state would be supplied with inferior New Mexico chile. Lujan Grisham fired back, saying New Mexico chile is “the greatest in the world,” and she’s ready for a chile duel. Researchers at New Mexico State University have explained that soil conditions, warmer temperatures, the right amount of water and a longer growing season result in the unique flavor of the state’s chile.

New York

Albany: Dozens of plaintiffs have filed a class-action lawsuit in state Supreme Court arguing a newly enacted law that ended the religious exemption for vaccinations violates their religious beliefs. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, comes just weeks after a contentious vote by lawmakers approving the end of religious exemptions for vaccinations in the state. The bill was immediately signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. More than 1,000 cases of measles have been confirmed nationwide since October, most of which have been in New York – particularly in New York City and Rockland County, home to large Orthodox Jewish communities where some are opposed to vaccines. More than 266 cases of measles were reported in Rockland County as of last month. The suit was filed by Orange County attorney Michael Sussman and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a fierce critic of vaccinations.

North Carolina

Asheville: There might soon be one more way for the public to view the majesty of Mount Pisgah, one of Western North Carolina’s most beloved natural landmarks. A new state park is nearly a done deal after a bipartisan, unanimous vote by the state House this week passed the bill authorizing the park. The bill to create Pisgah View State Park out of some 1,600 acres of Pisgah View Ranch land in Buncombe and Haywood counties, with a picture-perfect view of Mount Pisgah, was also unanimously passed by the state Senate on June 24. It was introduced by Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, in April to authorize the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to add Pisgah View State Park to the State Parks System. Rep. Brian Turner, D-Buncombe, sponsored the bill in the House.

North Dakota

Bismarck: The state’s pardon advisory board on Wednesday unanimously backed a policy change that will allow people with low-level marijuana convictions to apply for pardons and have their records wiped clean if they don’t commit another crime for five years. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem both support the change, which brings North Dakota in line with some other states and cities that have been trying to fix problems that such past convictions have caused for people trying to find jobs and housing. North Dakota’s change doesn’t go as far as some others that automatically dismissed or pardoned convictions. Instead, people applying for pardons would have to fill out an online form on the corrections department’s website. The deadline for the first round of applications is Aug. 10. It costs nothing to apply.

Ohio

Toledo: Heavy rains that inundated the Great Lakes region this spring will fuel another massive algae bloom across parts of western Lake Erie later this summer, researchers said Thursday. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expect this year’s bloom to rank among the top five since it began measuring their severity in 2002, according to their annual algae forecast for the lake. What’s not known is how toxic it might be or whether it will pose a threat for cities like Toledo and Cleveland that draw their drinking water from the lake. Lake Erie, the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes, has been hit particularly hard by algae blooms over the past decade. Five years ago a toxic bloom caused a two-day shutdown of drinking water in Toledo.

Oklahoma

Guthrie: Police say they found a rattlesnake, a canister of radioactive powdered uranium and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey during a traffic stop of a vehicle that had been reported stolen. The traffic stop happened June 26 in Guthrie, about 30 miles north of Oklahoma City. Guthrie police Sgt. Anthony Gibbs told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR that police don’t know why the uranium was in the vehicle or how it was obtained, though uranium ore can be bought on Amazon. Gibbs says police also found a gun in the console and a terrarium in the backseat containing a pet timber rattlesnake. Gibbs says the driver, Stephen Jennings, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, transporting an open container of liquor and driving with a suspended license. Jennings remains jailed in Logan County.

Oregon

Roseburg: Federal officials have formally declared a disaster in Douglas, Linn and four other Oregon counties for severe storms that hit the area in April. KATU-TV reports the disaster declaration signed Tuesday comes in response to the severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides April 6 through April 21 in Oregon’s Curry, Douglas, Grant, Linn, Umatilla and Wheeler counties. State officials say the storms caused more than $8 million in damage and killed one person in Douglas County. It’s the second disaster declaration for Douglas and Curry counties in 2019. In May, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared that February storms that toppled trees and closed highways in Douglas, Curry, Lane and Coos counties qualified as a disaster.

Pennsylvania

Harrisburg: The state attorney general’s office launched an effort Thursday to improve the use of firearms databases so that law enforcement can better track guns used in crimes and, ultimately, clamp down on gun violence. The move comes amid a surge in such violence in Philadelphia. The city’s rate of homicides this year is about the same as it was in 2018, when Philadelphia recorded 349 of them, the most since 2007. Speaking at a news conference in Erie, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said he wants police departments to enter serial numbers from every gun used in a crime or seized by police into a law-enforcement database so that its original seller can be identified and the information shared with other departments. “Because this information is not shared, we actually have no idea how many crime guns were recovered in Pennsylvania last year, and that makes us all less safe,” he said.

Rhode Island

Providence: The governor has signed a bill to deregulate the business of African-style hair braiding. The legislation signed by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo defines natural hair braiding and exempts braiders from the state’s requirement for hairdressers and cosmeticians to be licensed, effective immediately. Democratic Rep. Anastasia Williams, of Providence, has been working to exempt hair braiders from licensing requirements for several years. She says their techniques are passed down from generation to generation and don’t require formal training. Williams also says forcing braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is an injustice, and the new law allows entrepreneurs, including many low-income women, to make a living.

South Carolina

Columbia: For the second time in two years, the state has moved its death row inmates to a new prison. State Corrections Department Director Bryan Stirling says the 37 inmates awaiting execution were taken Thursday morning from Kirkland Correctional Intuition to Broad River Correctional Intuition about a half-mile away. Stirling says prison officials studied death rows in Virginia and North Carolina to address concerns about treatment from a 2017 federal lawsuit by 16 inmates. The new death row will allow inmates to eat meals with each other, worship together and have jobs. Previously, death row inmates were in solitary confinement even during the hour they got outside their cells. Death row was moved from Lieber Correctional Intuition near Charleston to Kirkland Correctional Intuition in 2017.

South Dakota

Rapid City: The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology will work with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at the Ellsworth base on environmental stewardship goals. The school’s experts in ecology, hydrology, environmental engineering and other disciplines will help the Air Force clean up contaminated sites, reduce or prevent future pollution, and comply with environmental rules and law at its installations. Mines President Jim Rankin says the partnership boosts top-tier science and engineering research and education at the school while supporting the Department of Defense efforts on environmental challenges.

Tennessee

Murfreesboro: Country singer Chris Young’s alma mater is honoring him by naming a new live music venue after him on campus. Middle Tennessee State University plans to open the Chris Young Cafe sometime in the fall semester. University President Sidney McPhee said at an event Tuesday at the Country Music Association headquarters that Young has donated $50,000 for the 3,200-square-foot facility’s renovations. The stand-alone building will host teaching and practice for student performers and technicians in the day, and at night it will become a performance venue for musicians, radio broadcasters, comedians and other entertainers. Young has funded an annual scholarship for recording industry students at the university since in 2016 and has donated the school a selection of his touring audio equipment.

Texas

Houston: A county battered by Hurricane Harvey has earmarked $60 million to speed up flood protection projects in 105 damaged subdivisions outside mapped flood plains. The Houston Chronicle reports the Harris County Commissioners Court earmarked the funds Tuesday to help the Harris County Flood Control District complete the work in four years, not 5 1/2years. The effort is part of 230 projects in the $2.5 billion flood bond program approved by voters last August – a year after Harvey. County Engineer John Blount says commissioners are spending local funds to design projects, rather than waiting on matching federal funds that will instead be used for construction. Harris County risks losing $37 million that might not be reimbursed.

Utah

Provo: Brigham Young University has updated its honor code process following widespread student criticism that it lacks transparency and compassion. University officials announced the changes Wednesday that include following an “innocent until proven guilty” policy and allowing someone to accompany students in honor code meetings. Honor code office director Kevin Utt said the chances are meant to reduce anxiety and misunderstanding among students. The Utah university is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and mandates students follow a code that prohibits premarital sex; the consumption of alcohol, coffee and tea; and beards and piercings, among other rules, to comply with the church’s health code. Students began an informal campaign earlier this year to reduce honor code punishments that ban activities common at other colleges.

Vermont

Montpelier: The state wants to increase the number of electric vehicles by more than 16 times by 2025. About 3,100 plug-in vehicles are currently registered in Vermont. The 2025 goal is 50,000. The push for electric vehicles is part of the state’s long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for about 45% of Vermont’s emissions. Republican Gov. Phil Scott says the current state budget contains $1.1 million to help low- and moderate-income Vermonters purchase or lease all-electric vehicles. Starting this month, at least half of the vehicles purchased for the state fleet must be plug-in electric. In two years that figure will increase to 75%. The current state transportation fund also contains money to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations.

Virginia

Richmond: State transportation officials are asking the public for ideas on how to improve a heavily trafficked highway. Officials said Wednesday that the first round of public comments on a study to improve the Interstate 95 corridor will end Aug. 21. Officials are looking to identify key problems areas along I-95, which runs for 179 miles in Virginia, from Alexandria to the North Carolina border. State lawmakers have directed transportation officials to also study potential financing options for improving the highway. A similar directive recently led lawmakers to approve a regional fuel tax hike to pay for improvements to Interstate 81 in the western part of the state. Some lawmakers initially supported adding tolls to the highway. The public can submit comments at VA95Corridor.org.

Washington

Olympic National Park: For the second straight summer, mountain goats are flying. This week officials began rounding up the sure-footed but nonnative mammals from remote parts of the park, where humans introduced them in the 1920s, to relocate them to the Cascade Mountains, where they do belong. Animal capture specialists called “gunners” and “muggers” sedate the animals with darts or capture them in nets, blindfold them, pad their horns and fly them – on slings dangling from a helicopter – to a staging area. There, they’re looked over by veterinarians and outfitted with tracking collars before being trucked to the Cascades and once again flown by helicopter, this time into their new alpine habitats. Officials captured 17 Monday and Tuesday, including a kid about 6 weeks old, which got a ride on a mugger’s lap inside the helicopter instead of hanging beneath it.

West Virginia

Holden: State wildlife officials are hoping to bring back the bobwhite quail. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the birds disappeared from the state in the late 1970s thanks to a combination of habitat destruction and two very harsh winters. Now wildlife officials say they are a good candidate for reintroduction at the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area, a 32,000-acre tract of former surface-mined land in Logan and Mingo counties that was acquired by the state Division of Natural Resources in 2015. The agency reintroduced elk to the area in 2016. Now it is working to make a suitable habitat for quail. The earliest the birds could arrive would be next spring. Even then, they will be kept off limits to hunters until a self-sustaining population is established.

Wisconsin

Milwaukee: A man would receive $7.5 million from the city, under a resolution before the Common Council, after he was wrongly imprisoned for 24 years based on what he says was bogus bite-mark evidence. Robert Lee Stinson agreed to settle his claims against the city and one of its former police detectives for an initial payment of $3.5 million in August and $4 million in January. The settlement was reached during a jury trial over Stinson’s claims that detectives and dentists conspired to frame him in his neighbor’s homicide using the bite-mark evidence. Stinson was convicted in 1985 of killing Ione Cychosz of Milwaukee. He was freed in 2009 after the Wisconsin Innocence Project found experts who rejected the dentists’ conclusions that a bite mark on the victim was left by Stinson. 

Wyoming

Cheyenne: After more than three years and $300 million, the Capitol is back open for business. State leaders cut a red ribbon in front of the 132-year-old building Wednesday. The ceremony capped a massive renovation to the sandstone landmark and nearby facilities including the Herschler Building, a state office complex. Afterward the building was opened up for people to take a look around inside. Gov. Mark Gordon told a crowd of a couple thousand that it’s good to be back in the Capitol, which he calls the “heartbeat of Wyoming.” Several state agencies and the offices of Wyoming’s top elected officials moved into temporary offices elsewhere in the city while the work took place. State lawmakers met for four legislative sessions in a rented office building in Cheyenne.

From USA TODAY Network and wire reports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Flying goats, chile duel, ’99 Women’s World Cup statue: News from around our 50 states