What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/12

US: Human traffickers found to exploit U.S. visas and data-sharing failures

Human traffickers used fiance and work visas to bring dozens of victims to the U.S., exploiting a lack of data sharing between immigration offices within the Department of Homeland Security, according to the agency’s internal watchdog.

MD: Maryland panel recommends major changes to police practices

A Maryland legislative panel backed giving officers periodic psychological evaluations and allowing the public to attend police trial boards. Under the proposed changes, residents would also be given more time to file brutality complaints.

KY: Kentucky bill would ban social media posts after dangerous events

Bystanders who post pictures on social media from the scene of an accident could face fines from $20 to $100 under a proposal before the Kentucky General Assembly. The bill makes exceptions for the news media, victims of the event and emergency responders at the event.

NJ: New Jersey lawmakers send ‘smart gun’ bill to governor

A bill approved by the New Jersey Legislature would require all firearms dealers to sell child-proof smart guns that can only be operated by a single, unique user. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said he opposes the measure.

MO: Missouri lawmakers exempt selves from lobbying ban

A plan to limit how quickly Missouri lawmakers can leap into the lobbying world won’t affect current legislators. Under legislation unanimously endorsed by a House panel, a cooling off period would only affect legislators elected in 2016 and after.

IL: Illinois governor learns difference between statehouse and boardroom

One year after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner took office, the private equity investor and rookie politician who pledged to make government more efficient concedes the challenges at the Illinois statehouse are much different from those he'd faced in the boardroom.

AK: Criminal justice reform a possible budget fix in Alaska

Alaska’s budget crisis may make reducing the state’s prison population a legislative priority. A proposal from Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, a Republican, could save the state $424 million over 10 years.

WI: Wisconsin governor announces college affordability bills

Republican Gov. Scott Walker introduced a package of bills he says will help make college more affordable and reduce student loan debt among Wisconsin residents.

CA: California governor’s budget may underestimate available revenue 

The Legislative Analyst’s Office praised Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for its focus on building up California’s reserve funds, but said the governor’s estimate for local property tax revenue was off by $1 billion.

AR: Federal judge extends order on Arkansas abortion pill limits

A federal judge has agreed to extend until March her order blocking Arkansas from enforcing new limits on the way the abortion pill is administered. The law, which was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, requires doctors providing the pill to maintain a contract with another physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.

NE: Nebraska legislators vote to keep leadership votes secret

The Nebraska Legislature voted to keep electing its committee chairs by secret ballot — a system critics say reduces accountability to citizens, but defenders say promotes nonpartisanship.

VT: Former Vermont governors debate four-year term

Two former Vermont governors are debating whether the state should double the governor’s term to four years. Jim Douglas, a Republican, says four years will enable better planning. Howard Dean, a Democrat, says a two-year term keeps governors more accountable to the voters.

FL: Florida governor criticizes hospital price transparency bill

Republican Gov. Rick Scott thinks a Florida Senate proposal to require hospitals to submit claims data to the state and to provide patients with average prices for procedures doesn’t go far enough. His office is also pushing for criminal penalties for hospitals that overcharge patients.

Drug-Addicted Inmates Top State Stories 1/11