Cullman: Country music star Hank Williams Jr. is offering a $6,000 reward for his grandfather’s missing shotgun. The singer known for hits including “Family Tradition” has posted a letter online saying he spent time growing up in south Alabama with his grandfather. The letter says he can’t locate the man’s old Remington Model 11-48 shotgun, which he wants to pass on. An attorney for Williams, Steve Smith, says the gun is believed to be lost, not stolen. The reward is being offered with no questions asked. Smith says the 16-gauge shotgun was likely last seen at a lake cabin or house near Cullman. He says the reward offer has generated a few tips. Williams sang about the man who owned the shotgun in his 1973 song “Grandpa Shepherd.”
Anchorage: The state’s fledgling commercial seaweed industry is growing, with producers excited about this year’s harvest. The Anchorage Daily News reports there were no commercial seaweed farmers in Alaska five years ago. An official with the Commercial Fisheries Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says 16 aquatic farming operations now are permitted to culture species of seaweed. According to the World Aquaculture Society, seaweed worldwide is a $6 billion business. Most is harvested in Korea, Japan and China; dried; and used for seasoning. Blue Evolution, a California-based company, has worked with researchers at the University of Alaska Southeast on ways to commercially farm kelp rather than harvest wild kelp beds. The company sells seed stock to some Alaska kelp farmers and buys back mature kelp.
Phoenix: The state has banned prisoners from reading a book that discusses the impact of the criminal justice system on black men. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Arizona Department of Corrections to rescind a ban on “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.” The book by former federal prosecutor Paul Butler examines the treatment of African American men by law enforcement and in mass incarceration. Butler says his publisher was notified of the ban in March. But it didn’t specify what led to the decision. The Georgetown University criminal law professor says he explicitly disavows violence in the book. Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said the department hadn’t yet received the ACLU’s letter asking for the ban to be reversed. ACLU attorney Emerson Sykes says it’s not uncommon for states to ban certain books.
Bella Vista: A property owner’s association is warning residents about the unhealthy air near an underground fire that’s been burning for 10 months at a former unlicensed dump in northwest Arkansas. Crews began fighting the fire Saturday at the Trafalgar Road site in Bella Vista, about 170 miles northwest of Little Rock. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Bella Vista Property Owners Association’s chief operating officer Tom Judson says the goal is to quench the fire within 30 days. The fire that’s burning at least 70 feet underground was first reported in July. Some residents say smoke from the fire has caused respiratory and other health problems. The Legislature passed a bill in March appropriating $20 million to help clean up the fire.
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La Jolla: A Southern California aquarium has built what is believed to be one of the world’s largest habitats for sea dragons, the lesser-known cousin of the seahorse. The Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego hopes the exhibit will lead to the leafy sea dragon being bred for the first time in captivity. The sea dragons’ native populations off Australia are threatened by pollution, warming oceans, and the illegal pet and alternative medicine trades. Few aquariums have sea dragons. There are only two types of sea dragons, the leafy and the weedy, and each represents its own genus. Both kinds are found only in a small area of temperate waters off the southern and western coasts of Australia. The California exhibit opened this month.
Fort Collins: The City Council narrowly voted Tuesday against asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review its ban on women going topless in public, which lower courts have banned it from enforcing. The 4-3 vote still gives the city the option to seek the high court’s intervention if settlement agreements with Free the Nipple-Fort Collins break down. But the council majority hoped to drop the matter. “There’s some fatigue,” council member Kristin Stephens said. “We pursued this legal recourse, and it didn’t work out for us.” The city has been grappling with its ban on women knowingly exposing their breasts in public since 2015, when activist Brit Hoagland started protesting it. It led the council to update the public indecency ordinance, though it left in place the ban on women going topless in public, with certain exemptions. Hoagland and fellow activist Samantha Six sued the city in 2016.
Hartford: Restaurants and caterers in the state would no longer be able to provide customers with single-use expanded polystyrene food containers under legislation that has cleared the House of Representatives. The proposed ban, which passed Tuesday on a 121-23 vote, would take effect July 1, 2021. It now awaits Senate action. Proponents say the legislation is needed to discourage the use of the containers and reduce litter, noting expanded polystyrene containers can take 200 years to break down in a landfill. Some noted that many restaurants, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, have already begun to swap out these products with greener options. The bill was narrowed to caterers and restaurants in permanent buildings following some concern it was too broad. There are exceptions for pre-packaged food, raw meat and seafood. Violators would face fines.
Wilmington: The state has two of the best cities in the country for summer job opportunities, according to a new study from WalletHub. Dover ranked fourth and Wilmington ranked fifth on the list, which focused on 16- to 24-year-olds searching for part-time work or internship opportunities between school years. To create the ranking, WalletHub developed 21 criteria – ranging from availability of summer jobs and internships to its own lifestyle metrics – and divided them into two main categories, youth job market and social environment and affordability. Each criterion was given its own subjective weight and score on a scale of 0-100. The cumulative score after each criterion was weighted, determined the ranking. Dover and Wilmington rank near the top in both availability of internships and growth in summer employment.
District of Columbia
Washington: The Board of Elections has approved a petition to recall a city councilman who used his position to solicit business from area lobbyists. The Washington Post reports the board unanimously voted Monday to approve the recall effort of Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans. Volunteers now have roughly three months to collect about 5,200 Ward 2 signatures to unseat Evans, who is under federal investigation over his relationships with private legal and consulting clients. Email records show he pitched himself to lobbyists, arguing they should employ him because of his influence as the city’s longest-serving lawmaker and area transit board chair. The council formally reprimanded Evans in March and voted to remove him from several oversight positions. The transit agency has launched an internal investigation.
Wesley Chapel: Authorities say a teen has been charged with threatening a school shooting in a postcard to Santa and signing a classmate’s name last fall. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the 15-year-old boy was arrested Monday and charged with making written threats to kill or do bodily harm. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says the holiday postcard was dropped off in November at a Wesley Chapel Macy’s. The note threatened at shooting at nearby Wiregrass Ranch High School. Detectives interviewed a female student whose name was signed to the postcard but ruled her out as a suspect. Authorities say fingerprints on the postcard led to the teen boy, who had a previous misdemeanor arrest.
Atlanta: A lawsuit challenging outdated voting machines and seeking statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots can move forward, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. The lawsuit argues that the paperless touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unsecure, vulnerable to hacking and unable to be audited. The state’s voting system drew national scrutiny during last year’s midterm election in which Brian Kemp, a Republican who was the state’s chief election officer at the time, narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams to become Georgia’s governor. State lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to dismiss the lawsuit. Totenberg wrote in her order rejecting that request that the state’s arguments “completely ignore the reality faced by election officials across the country underscored by Plaintiffs’ allegations that electronic voting systems are under unceasing attack.”
Kailua-Kona: Honolulu County has closed a bay to prevent disruption of coral spawning that scientists predicted would occur over two days. West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday that county officials closed Kahaluu Bay to allow the spawning event that was expected Monday through Tuesday on the Big Island. Officials from the Kahaluu Bay Education Center’s ReefTeach program set up a tent at the bay entrance to inform visitors of the temporary closure. An official says the spawning is “critical” for the coral to reproduce and survive. A mass bleaching event in 2015 killed 95% of the cauliflower coral on West Hawaii reefs. Kahaluu Bay is the only park Honolulu County has closed to facilitate a spawning event. The area was also off limits for two half-days in 2018.
Boise: A federal administrative law judge has rejected a plan for public land grazing allotments in south-central Idaho that would have destroyed re-emerging sagebrush in favor of non-native plants to increase forage for cattle and sheep. The ruling last week directs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to set aside its final grazing decisions for about 80 square miles of allotments in Twin Falls County. The administrative law judge in the Interior Department’s Office of Hearings and Appeals concluded that destroying sagebrush and rabbitbrush to increase livestock forage on public lands couldn’t be justified. Wildlands Defense and Prairie Falcon Audubon in 2017 appealed the Bureau of Land Management’s decision involving 18 permittees on 21 allotments that would have destroyed native plants.
Chicago: Lincoln Park Zoo says an eastern black rhinoceros named Kapuki has given birth to a calf. The zoo says Kapuki was pregnant for 15 months before the calf was born Sunday night. Zoo staff members monitored her labor and are watching the rhino and her calf remotely using cameras to give them privacy but are nearby. The zoo hasn’t named the calf or announced its sex, but officials say details will be announced once available. The animals won’t be visible to the public until further notice, but people can follow along on the zoo’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and at #RhinoWatch on Twitter. Zoo officials say the calf stood up at just 53 minutes of age.
Evansville: A restored World War II naval vessel will move to a more prominent location along the Ohio River in the city in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The LST 325 troop landing ship will be docked at the former site of the Tropicana Evansville casino boat June 6-9. Free tours of the ship will be offered. The ship took part in the 1944 D-Day landings in France and was brought back to the U.S. from Greece in 2001 to be restored. City officials had hoped to have the ship permanently moved there by the D-Day anniversary, but a number of delays have postponed that from happening until the end of the year. The ship has been docked a few miles upriver since 2005.
Yale: It was built in 1932 as the state’s first roundhouse of rebounds. Today, it’s one of Iowa’s most treasured historic buildings. The Yale High School Gymnasium, with its distinctive round architectural design, is now listed on the the National Register of Historic Places. In its heyday, it was home to the Yale Bulldogs boys and girls basketball teams and hosted band concerts, commencements, plays and banquets – even the Harlem Globetrotters – until 1961. The gymnasium’s historic significance is tied to its use for team sports (1932-1961) and its association with Halver R. Straight, who received a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1907 and spent his career in the ceramics industry. An inventor as well as an engineer, he held 87 patents for tools and instruments used in clay manufacturing.
Topeka: Gov. Laura Kelly has signed into law a bill that would allow profoundly ill people who have been unable to find relief with pharmaceutical medications to avoid prosecution for possessing certain blends of oil extracted from cannabis plants. The cannabidiol oils, also known as CBD, shielded by the Kansas bill could contain no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives marijuana its high. Known as “Claire and Lola’s Law,” it was pushed by Gwen and Scott Hartley, whose 12-year-old daughter, Lola, suffers from microcephaly, a medical condition in which a child’s brain doesn’t fully develop. The condition has already claimed the life of Lola’s older sister, Claire, who died in December 2018 at the age of 17. The law goes into effect July 1.
Frankfort: With temperatures climbing and a holiday weekend coming up, many swimming pools and beaches at state parks are opening. The Parks Department says while lodge pools are reserved for lodge and cottage guests, community pools at several parks are open to the public for a fee – Greenbo Lake, Carter Caves, Levi Jackson, Blue Licks Battlefield, Cumberland Falls, E.P. “Tom” Sawyer, Kincaid Lake, Natural Bridge and Fort Boonesborough. Also, the park system’s 10 beaches are free and open to the public – Pennyrile Forest, Lake Barkley, Kentucky Dam Village, Barren River Lake, Buckhorn Lake, Rough River Dam, Lake Malone, Nolin Lake, Carr Creek and Green River Lake. Pool openings at Barren River Lake, E.P. “Tom” Sawyer, Levi Jackson and Lake Barkley will be delayed.
Baton Rouge: The state is on track to create a new program that would certify veteran-owned businesses and create a database for consumers to search for them. The House-backed bill easily sped through the Senate commerce committee Wednesday, with Gov. John Bel Edwards, a former Army Ranger, testifying in support of the legislation. The governor says census data indicates Louisiana has 42,000 veteran-owned businesses. The proposal creates the Veterans First Business Initiative in the state’s economic development agency. The department will certify veteran-owned businesses, create an insignia for them to use and display a searchable database on its website for customers who want to find veteran vendors. The measure by Baton Rouge Republican Rep. Franklin Foil moves to the full Senate for debate, one step from final passage.
Augusta: A legislative committee has voted against a bill to tax water bottler Poland Spring. The Portland Press Herald reports the House and Senate will now consider the legislation. The Legislature’s Taxation Committee voted Tuesday to reject a Democrat’s bill that would have charged Poland Spring 12 cents for every gallon of water extracted for bottling. The legislation is part of years-old unsuccessful efforts to tax the hundreds of millions of gallons that Poland Spring bottles in Maine. The bill targets Poland Spring, which would have paid roughly $115 million under the proposal based on the 960 million gallons extracted last year. Revenues from the tax would fund college tuition grants and Maine’s broadband internet network. Opponents include several Democrats and Republicans who say Poland Spring employs over 800 people in Maine.
Baltimore: Scientists say the health of America’s largest estuary declined last year due to the effects of record-breaking precipitation. Researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science gave the Chesapeake Bay an overall grade of 46% for 2018, down from 54% in 2017. All of the indicators factored into the bay’s health index declined or stayed flat last year. Its letter grade of “C” is unchanged. Last year’s heavy downpours increased runoff sediments, and more pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous washed into the water. The Baltimore area was deluged with 72 inches of rain, roughly 175% above normal rates. Still, the annual report card released Tuesday stresses that overall trends show the Chesapeake improving significantly over years. Scientists say the bay’s long-term health trajectory remains positive.
Boston: A local nonprofit is voicing concern about the continued spread of HIV among residents struggling with opioid addiction. The Whittier Street Health Center said Tuesday that its outreach team identified two new cases of HIV in the notorious illegal drug market around Boston Medical Center in the city’s South End. Dr. Cyril Ubiem, director of infectious disease at the center, says he’s concerned the spread of HIV among Boston’s homeless and addicted population is getting worse, rather than better. The state Department of Public Health says it’s reviewing the center’s reported cases. In January, the agency urged Boston health providers to boost efforts to test patients for HIV after six people were newly diagnosed with the virus, which can lead to AIDS. Massachusetts reported 105 new HIV cases in 2017, up from 30 in 2014.
Detroit: A new exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum takes visitors through 150 years of life in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. Called “The Journey to Now,” the exhibit opened this month and is scheduled to run through July 7. The exhibit is hosted by the nonprofit organization Corktown Experience in conjunction with Wayne State University’s Anthropology Museum. It tells the story of the people who lived in the Workers’ Row House in Corktown and of the workers who helped build Detroit into an industrial and automotive powerhouse. This exhibit kicks off an effort by Corktown Experience to turn the Workers’ Row House and the surrounding property into a community hub and cultural center.
St. Paul: A major package of protections for the state’s elderly has cleared the Legislature and awaits Gov. Tim Walz’s signature. The House and Senate passed the final version of the bill late Sunday night. The most important component is a framework for licensing assisted living facilities that contains expanded enforcement powers. Minnesota is the last remaining state that doesn’t require licensing them. The bill also has other safeguards to protect older and vulnerable adults, including the right for assisted-living residents and their families to install hidden monitoring cameras for two weeks before being required to notify the facilities, a provision dubbed “granny cams.” It also includes a bill of rights for assisted-living residents and other stronger consumer protections, such as protections against retaliation for residents of care facilities.
Jackson: About 1 in 4 third graders in the state failed a toughened reading test on the first try this spring, leaving it unclear if they will advance to fourth grade. The Mississippi Department of Education released results Wednesday. Mississippi is one of 16 states that demand third grade students pass a reading score threshold or flunk. Mississippi raised its threshold this year, mandating students reach the middle of five scoring levels. Students had a second chance last week, although those results aren’t yet available. Students get a third chance later this summer. Officials predicted passing rates would drop from last year’s 93.8%, when students had to reach the second level. The Chickasaw County school district has the top share of passing third graders at 94%. Yazoo City was lowest at 32%.
St. Louis: Washington University will host a summit next year aimed at addressing growing concerns about climate change. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in St. Louis last week to announce creation of the Midwest Collegiate Climate Summit. It will include representatives from universities, local governments, businesses and nonprofits. The summit will focus on several issues, including promoting solar energy and reducing harmful emissions. Bloomberg’s charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, donated $2.5 million to St. Louis in October to help fund a carbon pollution-tracking program. The city has set a goal of generating 100% of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable resources by 2035.
Helena: Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has announced his timeline for implementing legislation meant to improve communication and collaboration among the law enforcement agencies as they investigate missing persons cases. Fox said Tuesday that the state Department of Justice has posted the job description for a missing persons specialist. That person will coordinate with local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies to improve reporting and searching for missing people. He hopes to have that person on board by July 1. Fox has also asked the state’s eight tribes for nominations for a new Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force, which is set to meet June 11. The group will be tasked with identifying and overcoming communication barriers to reporting and investigating cases of missing Native Americans.
Omaha: Officials say they’re expanding a pilot program that stationed a mental health therapist in a city police precinct. The Omaha World-Herald reports that officials plan to place a therapist in each precinct within the next few years. The primary goal is to decrease the instances of officers taking into custody people struggling with mental health issues. Officials also hope to connect people to the services they require and reduce the number of times officers must respond to people and their mental health crises. The therapists, also known as co-responders, will head to incidents that may involve people suffering from mental illnesses. Once officers deem the situations safe, the co-responders can talk to the people and determine what help they need.
Carson City: Nevada is now on the cusp of joining the nationwide push to elect the president purely by popular vote. The state Senate on Tuesday passed Assembly Bill 186, which would see the Silver State join a compact with 15 others that have agreed to award their presidential votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The divisive bill now heads to Gov. Steve Sisolak, who did not immediately return requests for comment on the measure. If adopted by enough states, the national popular vote compact would effectively neuter the electoral college, a constitutional creation that awards states one presidential vote for each of its congressional delegates. The roughly 200-year-old system has the effect of giving smaller states greater power to pick the president.
Manchester: Edward Hopper’s final painting is on view at the Currier Museum of Art. “Two Comedians,” showing the artist and his wife taking a bow onstage, once belonged to singer Frank Sinatra. Hopper painted the work in 1966 at age 83, when he and his wife were seriously ill. He died the following year. Museum curator Kurt Sundstrom said it is a somber reflection of two people alone on a dark stage. “They have a presence, but it’s a presence of people who will soon disappear,” he said. “Two Comedians” will be on display at the Currier Museum until January 2020. It is accompanied by other works by Hopper and his contemporaries, on the theme of theater and life in the American city.
Point Pleasant Beach: A mild winter and previously completed replenishment projects have left the state’s beloved beaches in great shape for the start of the summer tourism season. Coastal experts say most beaches are nice and wide as a result of years of replenishment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that kicked into high gear after Superstorm Sandy devastated the coast in 2012. Places like Point Pleasant Beach and Ortley Beach have wider beaches than they’ve had in years. The replenishment projects pump sand ashore to widen beaches to provide space for recreation and help protect property. Jon Miller, a coastal expert with Stevens Institute of Technology, says even in spots where beaches have eroded somewhat, the sand that forms sand bars offshore helps blunt the force of incoming waves.
Santa Fe: The New Mexico Military Museum has temporarily closed its indoor space to prepare for new exhibits commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and women serving in World War I. The museum plans to reopen in July. Until then, the outdoor World War I exhibit, the vehicle and equipment park, and meditation gardens will remain open to the public. Officials say the closure also will allow for renovations. The New Mexico National Guard and the museum recently procured a traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. It will be part of the new exhibit along with hundreds of photos from veterans’ private collections. The materials for the exhibit honoring women who served during World War I come from the American Medical Women’s Association.
Albany: The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is launching its annual birdwatching challenge, with versions for beginners and experts alike. The “I Bird NY” beginner’s challenge is open to anyone 16 years old or younger. Participants must identify 10 common bird species listed on the challenge form available online. In the experienced birder challenge, participants must identify at least 10 of 50 species and enter sighting information on the challenge form. All will get a certificate, a bracelet and a chance to win birding accessories. The challenge is open through Sept. 16. Details are posted on DEC’s website.
Raleigh: A repeat effort to regulate popular fantasy sports games in North Carolina has advanced through a House panel two years after a similar effort failed. The House Commerce Committee voted Wednesday for the measure, which would require companies that operate fantasy sports to register with the state and abide by some rules. A 2017 bill failed to get enough support after social conservatives complained it would further legitimize gambling in the state. This year’s measure also contains the creation of a new state Gaming Commission that would consolidate oversight of the lottery, bingo and boxing in addition to the fantasy games. The fantasy sports industry has been seeking the state’s regulation, saying it would improve consumer protections. The bill must clear three more committees before reaching the House floor.
Bismarck: The Police Department has launched a new program that aims to better connect officers with the community. The Bismarck Tribune reports that the department announced the Bismarck Community Oriented Policing Program on Monday. The program will divide the city into six community policing districts where officers will improve services and organize local meetings and events. It’ll also revive the Neighborhood Crime Watch and Business Watch programs to help neighbors look out for one another and bring attention to suspicious activity. Officers will conduct outreach through neighborhood canvassing, presentations, and home and business security surveys. Sgt. John Brocker says the program “is about reconnecting with the public” and “finding out what you have to say.” He says he felt there was a need for the department to be more transparent.
Toledo: A strike in its third week at a hospital is putting a spotlight on concerns about forcing nurses to repeatedly work mandatory overtime. The strike also comes at a time when state lawmakers are debating legislation that would allow nurses to refuse mandatory overtime. About 2,200 workers, including nurses, paramedics and custodians, have been on strike since May 6 at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. Many nurses there say staffing shortages are forcing them to routinely work extra hours and be on-call day after day. Hospital officials have said the way they handle staffing is reasonable and common within the health care industry. They also say it ensures proper patient care. Nurses say forcing them to work long hours isn’t safe for them or their patients.
Oklahoma City: The Legislature has approved a budget that for the first time includes millions of dollars in funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. The Senate on Tuesday approved the $8.1 billion general appropriations bill for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget proposal now heads to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it. The Oklahoman reports the $2 million for crisis pregnancy centers would be the state’s first anti-abortion funding since lawmakers passed the 2017 Choosing Childbirth Act. Proponent Rep. Jon Echols says the centers help pregnant women purchase maternity clothes, prenatal care and more. Critics say the money being apportioned to dissuade women from abortions could be used for other health care initiatives.
Portland: Environmental advocates have criticized a state plan to kill more than 1,000 ravens to help save the greater sage grouse. The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Tuesday that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife applied for permits in 2018 to kill up to 500 ravens per year over a three-year period to reduce the number preying upon greater sage grouse eggs. Environmentalists say the strategy of putting poisoned chicken eggs in bait boxes in northeastern Oregon is flawed. A director at the Portland Audubon Society says the plan is part of an “unfortunate pattern” of agencies scapegoating a species without addressing primary causes of decline. The plan is opposed by numerous environmental groups including Oregon Wild, The Humane Society and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Jim Thorpe: Officials say one of the state’s most beloved and scenic hiking trails will remain closed to the public unless lawmakers pass Gov. Tom Wolf’s $4.5 billion infrastructure plan. The Democratic governor hiked to the base of the Glen Onoko Falls Trail on Tuesday to make the case for his plan to impose a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production to finance billions of dollars in projects. Wolf has called for a severance tax every year he’s been in office, but the GOP-controlled Legislature has so far rejected the idea. The Pennsylvania Game Commission closed the trail May 1, saying it had become too dangerous. The closure outraged hikers and nature lovers. State officials say they aren’t able to reopen it without an infusion of cash.
Providence: An effort is underway to replace the state’s distinctive “wave” license plates and more than double the cost of the new ones. The state Senate on Tuesday approved a measure by a 27-8 margin to start replacing them later this year. The bill would change the price of a license plate from $6, set 20 years ago, to $15. Sen. Louis DiPalma, one of the bill’s supporters, says some plates still on the road are so old and worn that they are difficult to read. The Middletown Democrat also estimates about 25,000 vehicles are using invalid plates, probably because they are unregistered, uninsured or uninspected. Some senators opposed the price hike, saying many people could not afford it, especially if they have multiple vehicles. There is no new design yet.
Columbia: Legislators are giving the Carolina Panthers up to $120 million in tax breaks to move their practice fields and team headquarters into the state from North Carolina. The Senate voted 23-16 on Monday to approve a compromise smoothing over small differences in the bill. A few hours later, the House passed the bill 88-18. Gov. Henry McMaster was expected to quickly sign it into law. The bill exempts the Panthers from paying state income taxes for players, coaches and other employees for 15 years as long as they use the money to build their new complex near Rock Hill. Opponents say the state shouldn’t help a billionaire NFL owner. The team would continue to play games in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sioux Falls: The family of an angler whose catfish held a state record for nearly 70 years is upset that state wildlife officials voided the record. Roy Groves caught the 55-pound fish in 1949. The fish originally was identified as a channel catfish, but South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks voided the record Friday, saying Groves actually caught a blue catfish, not a channel catfish. Groves’ great-grandson, James Labesky, says he had never heard about the record being disputed. Labesky says in a Facebook post that South Dakota wildlife officials are taking away the record because they don’t think it’s a channel catfish by looking at a picture. He says in the post that his great-grandfather “would know the difference.” State Fisheries Program Administrator Geno Adams says fish identification experts agreed the photo was of a blue catfish.
Memphis: Researchers at the Memphis Zoo have been studying the smooth-sided toad’s reproduction abilities and have found techniques that could aid in the breeding and conservation of endangered toads around the world. Research conducted by the zoo’s conservation department showed that the quality of toad sperm could be increased with hormones, that the sperm could be successfully harvested, and that it could be frozen and thawed and remain viable. The study, recently published in the journal Cryobiology, has real-world applications that will be put into action this fall when the research team travels to Colombia and Ecuador to help amphibian researchers there in their work to preserve the rare and “very charismatic” Colombian giant toad, says Steve Reichling, zoo director of conservation and research.
Dallas: Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport plans to build a sixth terminal that would open by 2025 and provide up to 24 new gates for U.S. and international flights. DFW airport CEO Sean Donohue announced plans for Terminal F on Monday. The airport currently has 164 gates spread across five terminals. DFW has been growing, inching closer to busier airports such as Atlanta. Donohue says DFW has more than doubled its passenger-carrying capacity to international destinations since 2010. DFW is American Airlines’ largest hub airport. The airline announced early this month that it opened 15 new gates at DFW. American said the gates that opened May 3 in Terminal E will let it add more than 100 daily flights on its American Eagle affiliate.
Salt Lake City: Utah Jazz owner and philanthropist Gail Miller says she never expected to be in the company of celebrities such as singer Mariah Carey and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But Miller will join their ranks in June when she receives the same congressional award honoring her work with young people. She says being named for the Horizon Award was an incredible recognition of her giving nature and strong community relationships. The award recognizes humanitarian leaders in the private sector, from the Congressional Award National Board of Directors. Miller has owned the family’s car dealerships, movie theaters and the National Basketball Association’s Utah Jazz franchise since the 2009 death of her husband Larry H. Miller. Forbes magazine estimates her net worth to be $1.5 billion.
Burlington: The state’s Episcopal church has for the first time chosen an African American woman as its bishop. The Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown was elected Saturday by representatives of Vermont’s 45 Episcopal congregations. MacVean-Brown will become the first black woman to hold the post in Vermont. She replaces Bishop Thomas Ely, who will be retiring after 18 years as Vermont’s Episcopal bishop. MacVean-Brown currently serves as the interim rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, of Franklin, Indiana. She is planning to move to Vermont with her family in August. Current plans call for her ordination as Vermont bishop on Sept. 28.
Newport News: A Virginia man who founded the defunct airline People Express has been indicted on fraud and tax evasion charges. The Daily Press reports Michael D. Morisi was arrested Tuesday. He’s accused of defrauding creditors of nearly $448,000, using most of the money to pay himself and other airline executives months after the airline folded. An indictment says the former executive director of Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, Ken Spirito, arranged for public funds to guarantee that airline a $5 million credit line in July 2014. The airline folded that September and stopped paying the $4.5 million it owed TowneBank under the credit line. The airport was left to foot the bill, which it then paid with those public funds. Spirito was arrested Monday and charged with violating federal finance laws.
Seattle: Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making the state the first to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains. It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks. Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated – or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree. Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.
Parkersburg: A bridge will now bear the name of longtime state lawmaker Frank Deem, who died in October at the age of 90. According to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, about 100 people gathered Friday to see the dedication of the Juliana Street Bridge as the Senator J. Frank Deem Memorial Bridge. Deem served in the Navy before his election to the House in 1954. The retired businessman and oil and gas developer served on and off in the House and Senate over six decades, spending a total of 48 years as a lawmaker.
Milwaukee: Lego dinosaurs are headed to the local zoo. This summer, the United Kingdom-based Brick Dinos exhibit is traveling to the United States for the first time and heading straight to the Milwaukee County Zoo. Guy Bagley, senior creative for Warren Elsmore Exhibitions, has made a career out of “playing with Legos” for the past 23 years. He traveled from Scotland to set up the exhibit in the special exhibits building at the zoo. That included shipping four life-size sculptures as well as 26 smaller scenes, then repairing any damage incurred during their voyage across the pond. While the exhibit is fun, it’s also educational. Bagley says his boss, Warren Elsmore, worked with a paleontologist to ensure the accuracy of everything from the color of the dinosaurs to the plants in their habitats.
Casper: The state recorded the lowest number of births in 15 years in 2018. Wyoming’s population has been falling since the state’s energy industry went bust in 2015. That year, about 7,700 babies were born in Wyoming. The Wyoming Department of Health says last year’s tally was 6,551. Meanwhile, deaths of Wyoming residents are increasing as the state’s population ages. The Casper Star-Tribune reports Emma was the most popular name for baby girls in Wyoming last year, followed by Amelia, Elizabeth, Evelyn and Harper. Oliver topped the list for boys, followed by Jackson and Logan (which were tied), Wyatt and Theodore.
From staff and wire reports
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