Best of #StateReads: Changed Minds on the Death Penalty

  • April 10, 2012
  • By Daniel C. Vock

This week's collection of #StateReads covers a death penalty repeal effort in Connecticut, legal and political wrangling over changes to Illinois' pensions and a surprising source of revenue for Idaho schools.

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


“Why they switched their votes on the death penalty” — Connecticut Post

The vote by the Connecticut Senate last week to repeal the state's death penalty came only with the support of senators who previously voted to keep capital punishment. Four lawmakers changed their mind on the death penalty since 2009, explains Ken Dixon (@KenDixonCT) of the Connecticut Post, ensuring a “20-15 passage of what might be the highest-profile legislation of the 2012 session.” The legislators' reasons for changing included a visit to death row, the loss of a grandchild and conversations with a constituent on a train platform. The bill now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass.


“One sentence at core of pension reform debate” — Chicago Tribune

Illinois lawmakers have little hope of balancing the state's budget without making changes to its pensions, but how far they can go depends on one sentence in the state constitution, reports Monique Garcia (@MoniqueGarcia) of the Chicago Tribune. The clause says that public workers, by joining the pension system, have an “enforceable contractual relationship” with the state. But opinions vary widely on how ironclad that guarantee is. Republicans say it protects only benefits already earned; many Democrats in Springfield say terms cannot be changed for existing employees. Garcia also explores a third option, put forward by Senate Democrats, that the benefits could change, but only if they are renegotiated with the employees' unions. Nomination from Ray Long(@raylong)


“When N.C. employers dodge workers' comp costs, employees pay the price” — The (Raleigh) News-Observer

State law requires North Carolina businesses to buy insurance to cover workers who are injured on the job, but tens of thousands of employers do not have it, according to The (Raleigh) News-Observer (@newsobserver). Reporters Mandy Locke and David Raynor concluded that the state Industrial Commission, which runs the workers compensation system, rarely enforces penalties, moves slowly on cases and “has never tried to figure out which businesses are shirking their responsibility.”  There are more than 170,000 businesses in the state, but only 140,000 have coverage. Nomination from Andy Curliss (@acurliss)


“Utahns buy 19% of Idaho's lottery tickets” — The Salt Lake Tribune

Idaho lottery officials can thank their neighbors in Utah, where gambling is illegal, for purchasing nearly one-fifth of all of Idaho's lottery tickets, reports Lee Davidson (@LeeHDavidson) of The Salt Lake Tribune. The top five stores for lottery sales are all on the Utah border and the top two are across the street from each other in Malad City. The amount Utahns generated for Idaho schools — roughly $16.5 million — is more than what Utah's governor proposed for spending on higher education, Davidson writes.

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