Best of #StateReads: California Mental Health Money Spent Elsewhere

  • August 01, 2012
  • By Daniel C. Vock

This week's collection of #StateReads covers wayward funding for mental health services in California, reveals that only one Iowa lawmaker chips in for their own health insurance and highlights a major omission in the language describing Missouri's “right-to-pray” ballot measure.

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.

“Calif. mental health dollars bypassing mentally ill” — The Associated Press

Even as mental health funding gets increasingly scarce, tax money from a ballot measure to improve mental wellness is going to programs that do not even treat mentally hill patients, writes Hannah Dreier (@HannahDreier). A fifth of the funds brought in by the 2004 “millionaires tax” goes toward programs that include horseback riding and yoga classes. Some advocates want that money redirected to treat mental illness. “California,” Dreier notes, “overall has cut 21 percent, or $764.8 million, from mental health spending since 2009, a higher percentage than all but five states, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

“No legislators voluntarily pay premiums” — The Des Moines Register

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, asked lawmakers and other state workers last month to voluntarily pay a share of their health insurance premiums, but so far only one legislator took that step, reports Jason Clayworth (@JasonClayworth). The governor made the request as he heads into contract negotiations with state workers. Branstad and his lieutenant governor agreed to pay a fifth of their own health coverage costs, and 95 other state workers enrolled in a program to do the same. But legislators might have to create their own program because of concerns about separation of powers. Meanwhile, lawmakers would have to reimburse the state with a check to the treasury. Originally, the treasury said no lawmaker had done so, but Representative Chip Baltimore later told Clayworth he contributed for years.

“Jim Gibbons' struggles emerge in emails from his time as Nevada governor” — Reno Gazette Journal

It took four years of legal fights, but the Reno Gazette Journal (@RGJ) finally got a peek into the beleaguered administration of former Nevada governor Jim Gibbons, writes Martha Bellisle. The 100 email messages turned over to the paper reveal “a troubled man who received support from numerous close friends, as well as a state leader who was well-connected to many powerful and wealthy people,” Bellisle writes. Gibbons was going through a messy and very public divorce in 2008, at the time the emails were sent.

“Missouri ‘right-to-pray' amendment spurs debate” — Kansas City Star

Missouri voters may be in the dark when they choose whether to support a “right-to-pray” amendment to the state constitution next week, reports Jason Hancock (@J_Hancock). The ballot language does not spell out, for example, that its passage would let students skip homework that they think runs counter to their religious beliefs. Susan German, the head of a state association of science teachers, says the measure could affect the teaching of evolution, global warming and the Earth's age. "While this may not be a direct attack,” she wrote, “it certainly opens the door."

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