What We're Reading: Top State Stories 11/23

CA: California reserve fund short $2.2 billion

A new reserve that partly acts as a rainy-day fund, partly goes toward paying off debt, is short by $2.2 billion. It's hard for California officials to predict how much money will come into the fund because it relies on volatile capital gains tax revenue. 

KS: Kansas legislative committee urges higher contributions for state campaigns

A bipartisan, bicameral committee is recommending that the Kansas Legislature double financial limits on campaign contributions to candidates for state office and allow candidates to transfer leftover donations to alternative races. The proposed changes are aimed at combating outside political spending.

WI: Measure would report Wisconsin school crime data next to test scores, graduation rates

Momentum is growing in the Wisconsin Legislature for a measure that would mandate that data about crimes on school grounds be available for viewing alongside test scores and graduation rates.

NC: Draft of changes in North Carolina retirees’ health plan on tap

Draft legislation may surface as soon as Monday to help North Carolina attack a $25.5 billion unfunded liability in its retiree health system. Possible strategies include requiring all eligible retirees to transition to Medicare Advantage plans, which would save the state about $64 million a year.

MN: Minnesota millennials boost sauna revival

Some may regard sauna as another hipster rediscovery alongside yoga and homebrewing. Maybe in some regions it is. “But in Minnesota, it’s authentic,” a sauna society founder said. The society has almost 500 members, mostly from the state. 

KY: Kentucky lawmakers keep their pensions separate from other state employees—and private

Kentucky legislators, who often call for greater transparency from the struggling state employee pension system, keep their own retirement accounts in a much better-financed system that publicly offers no information about itself.

NV: Nevada issues cryotherapy guidelines

Nevada has created health guidelines for cryotherapy after a Las Vegas spa worker was found dead in a tank that subjects users to subzero temperatures, a treatment that experts say has been growing in popularity but is largely unregulated and whose benefits are not proven.

IA: Iowa’s Medicaid providers warn about privatization

Dozens of Iowa’s health care providers voiced concerns and complaints about Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize Medicaid management. The feedback could help determine whether federal officials will allow the planned launch of Branstad’s effort.

MI: Michigan water mystery: How was Flint decision made? 

Flint’s decision to sever its ties with the City of Detroit as its supplier of drinking water went all the way up to the Michigan governor's office.

WV: West Virginia lottery revenue down

Through the first four months of the current fiscal year, West Virginia Lottery revenue is down by about 4 percent—more than $14 million—compared to the same period last year.

TX: Despite oil bust, Texas prepares more students for oil jobs

The Houston school district is planning to expand the nation's only high school fully specializing in oil and energy careers. In the oil-rich Permian Basin, two high schools have begun "petroleum academies." And state officials have authorized all Texas districts to teach vocational classes in oil production.

FL: Florida lawmakers want clarity on school funding

Republican Gov. Rick Scott wants to spend more money on Florida schools, but fellow Republicans are drawing attention to the fact that the money would come from higher property taxes. 

OR: Oregon city’s marijuana tax may be illegal

The fate of a medical marijuana tax in the city of La Pine is up in the air, as attorneys representing the Oregon Legislature have determined such taxes are illegal. The Legislative Counsel's office made the ruling at the request of a Eugene state senator.

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