Author

Laura Olson

Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Iowa Capital Dispatch. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.

FDA grants full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot, now known as ‘Comirnaty’

By: - August 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has its first fully approved vaccine against COVID-19, with federal health officials announcing Monday the approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose vaccine. The green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move Pfizer’s vaccine from emergency use to full approval is a milestone in the national pandemic response, and one that comes as […]

Biden faces down GOP governors who are blocking school mask mandates

By: - August 19, 2021

WASHINGTON — With eight states so far prohibiting schools from levying mask requirements, President Joe Biden is pledging that his administration will use all of its oversight and legal authority to stick up for local officials trying to keep their schools safe. What remains to be seen is how far the federal government can or will […]

Biden mandates vaccines in nursing homes, admonishes GOP governors on school masks

By: - August 18, 2021

WASHINGTON — Nursing homes will be required to ensure their staffers are vaccinated against COVID-19, or risk losing federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the Biden administration announced Wednesday in a major move on vaccinations as the delta variant sweeps many states. President Joe Biden at a press conference also criticized Republican governors who have prohibited […]

COVID-19 booster shots to roll out starting next month

By: - August 18, 2021

WASHINGTON — Top U.S. health officials announced a plan Wednesday to begin offering COVID-19 booster shots to Americans starting Sept. 20, with the scheduling of the additional shot to be based on when a person was fully vaccinated. The new round of jabs will be extended to those who received the two-dose vaccine from either Pfizer or Moderna, and can be […]

Pay boost for federal firefighters OK’d by Biden administration

By: - August 17, 2021

WASHINGTON — As wildfires rage in the western United States, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced it is hiking pay for federal wildland firefighters to at least $15 per hour. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the change will boost pay for 3,500 firefighters with the Interior Department and […]

Afghan evacuees to arrive in the U.S. through Virginia and Wisconsin military bases

By: - August 16, 2021

WASHINGTON — The first U.S. stop for the nearly 2,000 Afghan interpreters and other refugees evacuated so far amid the collapse of the Afghan government has been central Virginia’s Fort Lee military base. Tapped for its East Coast location and its ability to quickly ramp up to serve as a temporary host installation, the Army base […]

Biden administration pressures Florida Gov. DeSantis over school mask policies

By: - August 16, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has written Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis saying that if his administration withholds state funding from school districts that enact mask mandates, those schools can use federal coronavirus relief dollars to make up for the penalties. In a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote […]

Trump allies’ lingering election ‘audits’ spark public skepticism, concerns in Congress

By: - August 7, 2021

WASHINGTON — The months-long, Republican-led investigation in Arizona into the results of last year’s presidential election has cost millions of dollars and produced no evidence yet of major issues in tallying Maricopa County ballots. Yet supporters of former President Donald Trump are still attempting to follow Arizona’s lead by pushing for so-called audits in several […]

U.S. Justice Department launches probe of Phoenix Police Department over allegations of excessive force

By: - August 5, 2021

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the city of Phoenix and its police department, to review whether law enforcement officers there have engaged in a pattern of excessive force and discriminatory practices, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday. The investigation is the third in a series of similar […]

Feds order ban on evictions in counties with high infection rates

By: and - August 3, 2021

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials on Tuesday announced a new, narrower moratorium on evictions through Oct. 3, which would protect struggling renters in areas of the U.S. that have been hit hardest by soaring COVID-19 infection rates. The targeted eviction ban comes days after a federal moratorium in place since September expired on Saturday. The […]

National parks refine ticketed-entry systems to manage visitor boom

By: - July 31, 2021

WASHINGTON — Watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain at Maine’s Acadia National Park is a gorgeous view — so breathtaking that on some days, as many as 500 cars could be found vying for the scenic overlook’s 150 parking spots. That competition has become more manageable since Acadia officials began using a reservation system in May, […]

Federal eviction ban to expire Saturday after attempt to extend it fails

By: - July 30, 2021

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats unsuccessfully scrambled on Friday to extend federal legal protections against eviction that will expire on Saturday. The end of the eviction moratorium jeopardizes housing security for millions of Americans who are struggling both to pay their rent and to access billions of dollars in slow-moving federal rental assistance funds. Top Democrats […]