What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/10

US: President to sign sweeping education law; Power shifts to states

President Barack Obama is setting the nation's public schools on a sweeping new course of accountability that will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. Among the changes: Encouraging states to limit the time students spend on testing and diminishing the high stakes for underperforming schools.

AK: Alaska governor proposes income tax

To address Alaska’s budget woes, Independent Gov. Bill Walker wants to impose a personal income tax in a state without one for more than 30 years, reduce the size of dividends paid from the state’s Permanent Fund, and refrain from steep budget cuts that he said could trigger a recession.

FL: Audit finds Florida’s prisons unsafe

Florida’s prisons, the nation’s third-largest system, are infiltrated by drugs and tobacco, dependent on outdated security systems, run by inexperienced and overstretched staff, and are housing inmates who are staying longer — and returning just as frequently.

TX: Texas’ sales tax haul shrinks in three of past four months

Collection of Texas’ main source of state revenue, sales taxes, has declined in three of the past four months when compared to a year earlier. November receipts decreased by 3.3 percent from the same month in 2014, a result of shrinking purchases by oil and gas drilling companies.

NE: Nebraska Capitol visitors now can charge their electric cars for a buck

The new public charging station was installed across the street from the Capitol at the home of the Nebraska Environmental Trust, which grants millions of dollars in state lottery funds for environmental projects.

WI: Abuse, misconduct, intimidation alleged at Wisconsin’s juvenile prison

A sweeping criminal investigation of Wisconsin’s youth prison has uncovered allegations of child abuse, second-degree sexual assault and misconduct in public office, according to court records.

AZ: Arizona law banning abortion based on race, sex goes before court

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s 2011 law that made it a felony to perform an abortion if the doctor knows it is sought based on the fetus' sex or race.

UT: Utah governor proposes $14.8 billion budget with emphasis on education

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert proposed a $422 million increase in spending on Utah’s public schools and on higher education next year in his $14.8 billion budget proposal sent to lawmakers.

ME: Maine’s legislative leaders unveil $4.8 million plan to fight drug crisis

The plan includes more agents to crack down on dealers and more treatment for people already addicted. It includes $2.4 million for law enforcement, which Republican Gov. Paul LePage supports.

NJ: Sales tax cut for boat buyers in New Jersey

Republican Gov. Chris Christie has agreed to halve New Jersey’s 7 percent sales tax on boats to boost the boating industry. The state expects the move will cost the treasury between $8 and $12 million annually.

VA: Virginia governor plans $2 billion in bonds for research, economic development

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing a $2 billion bond package to support research, economic development infrastructure and other projects. The governor’s plan would direct funds to four-year colleges, community colleges, the Port of Virginia and state parks.

MI: Michigan lawmakers approve good Samaritan bill for overdose victims

Lawmakers gave final passage to a bill aimed at reducing overdose deaths from prescription drugs in Michigan. The bill would give immunity from criminal charges for people under 21 who are seeking emergency medical assistance for themselves or friends as a result of a prescription drug overdose.

CO: Marijuana has huge influence on Colorado tourism, state survey says

Marijuana businesses have long proclaimed that cannabis is drawing visitors to Colorado. Now they have proof. A study shows legal weed as a growing motivator for trips to the state.

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