What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 1/11

US: States given two more years to meet driver’s license standards

The Department of Homeland Security has given states an extra two years to comply with federal requirements to issue driver’s licenses with extra safety features, giving residents of noncompliant states until January 2018 before having to use a passport or other official identification to board a domestic flight.

KS: Kansas governor blocks the state from taking refugees from anywhere

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback issued an executive order that appears to block the state from assisting in the resettling of refugees from any nation. He previously forbade Kansas from taking Syrian refugees.

VA: Police in Virginia set record for gun show arrests

Troopers in Virginia last year arrested 91 people for illegally trying to buy firearms at gun shows. Twenty-six were arrested because they are prohibited from buying guns due to a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. Another 25 had felony convictions on their record.

OH: Ohio seeks to stem spike in the number of women in prison

More women than ever are going to prison in Ohio, with most serving short sentences for nonviolent drug crimes and struggling with mental-health and addiction issues. To deal with it, the state's prison director is authorized to shorten sentences for some female inmates.

WY: Pushing an issue may get even tougher in Wyoming

It’s already hard to get questions on the ballot in Wyoming, but it could become even tougher. The Legislature’s Management Council has backed a bill that requires groups to submit proposed initiatives in proper bill format before the secretary of state decides whether they can be certified.

OK: Oklahoma foster parents sue state agency over firearms policy

Two Oklahoma foster parents are suing the state Department of Human Services in federal court over an agency rule they claim is unconstitutional because it prohibits foster and adoptive parents from legally possessing firearms for self-defense.

AR: Arkansas governor says he’s preparing two budgets for coming year

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is preparing two budget proposals for the coming year — one that includes the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion and one that doesn't. The Republican warned that the state would face cuts without the expanded coverage.

MA: Massachusetts lawmakers visit Colorado to study legal marijuana

Eight state senators are getting a primer on life in a state that has already legalized marijuana, in case Massachusetts voters follow suit this November. They will see a cultivation facility and a marijuana dispensary, and pepper local officials with questions about implementation of the voter-approved law.

MO: Missouri lawmakers get sexual harassment training

Following the resignation of two legislators last year amid allegations of sexual harassment, Missouri lawmakers are headed to mandatory training. The presentation outlines what is considered sexual harassment and offers guidelines for how it should be handled.

TX: Texas universities likely to allow guns in classrooms

Texas’s top universities appear to be reaching a consensus that banning guns in classes will soon be illegal. The state’s new campus carry law says gun-free zones can't make it practically impossible to carry a gun at all and, because going to class is the main reason many people come to campus, a classroom ban would have that effect.

FL: New legislative session begins in Florida

Florida lawmakers are expected to kick off the new session by passing the House and Senate leaders' priorities: a rewrite of state water policy and a package of bills encouraging the advancement of students with disabilities. 

CA: California increasingly dependent on personal income tax

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget would draw 68 percent of its revenue from California’s personal income tax — 20 percentage points more than two decades ago. The state's second largest source of money is the sales and use tax. 

NY: Governor proposes higher-education initiative in New York prisons

It was nearly two years ago that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo floated a plan to pay for college courses for New York inmates. Now he has reintroduced the plan with a new and seemingly less vulnerable financing mechanism, using about $7.5 million in criminal forfeiture funds from the Manhattan district attorney.

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