Best of #StateReads: Wyoming Depends on Business to Reduce Workplace Deaths

  • April 03, 2012
  • By Daniel C. Vock

This week's collection of #StateReads covers on-the-job fatalities in Wyoming, secrets in Alabama's execution protocol and the far-reaching effects of drought in Texas.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to

“Deadly workplaces: Wyoming takes courtesy approach to curbing workplace deaths” — WyoFile

In a state with one of the worst records of deaths in the workplace, Wyoming legislators back reforms that rely on companies to improve their own workplaces rather than more aggressive state enforcement, writes WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer (@dbleizeffer). Timothy Ryan, the state occupational epidemiologist, resigned in December in frustration over the state's lax enforcement of work safety laws. Ryan released a report showing the majority of on-the-job fatalities were caused by people not following existing laws. But most lawmakers view the situation similarly to state Rep. Tom Lubnau, who says enforcement will not reduce accidents but will drive companies out of business. “You can have a $50,000 penalty,” told Bleizeffer, “and you‘ve got somebody dead and somebody out of business.”

“Cruel and unusual? Death row inmate challenges state execution procedure” — Montgomery Advertiser

An inmate on Alabama's death row wants to challenge the state's procedures for lethal injection, but state officials want to keep key parts of the procedure secret, reports Brian Lyman (@lyman_brian) of the Montgomery Advertiser. Lawyers for Thomas Arthur are questioning the use of a new drug that is supposed to anesthetize a prisoner before the inmate is given drugs to stop his heart and breathing. They want to make sure prison officials wait long enough for the first drug to work and that they check to make sure the inmate is unconscious. But the state has not given them those details. “It makes no sense,” the attorneys wrote, “that [the state] would refuse to provide information that would give the public and an inmate the satisfaction that the procedure is compliant with the Constitution.”

“Tracking the Texas Drought” — StateImpact Texas

Texas had the driest 12-month period in state history last year, and the weather took a huge toll on the state's environment and economy. StateImpact Texas (@TXImpact) illustrates the severity of the dry spell with maps, graphs, photos and reader comments. The state's water plan, the site relates, says Texas “does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises.”

“Time running out to cut sales taxes, exemptions” — The (Columbia, S.C.) State

South Carolina has 75 exemptions to its state sales tax, including one for the renting of portable toilets and another for wrapping paper. Some lawmakers want to cut that list by more than half. But legislation to pare the number of tax breaks has stalled, even as the state's Supreme Court that could eliminate the tax breaks entirely, writes Adam Beam (@AdamBeam) of The State.