What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 1/27

US: Federal program to give free lunches to more kids

The Obama administration is launching a pilot program aimed at increasing poor children's access to food through the National School Lunch Program. The new program will allow participating states to use Medicaid data to automatically certify students for free and reduced-price school lunches. 

NY: New York ethics commission adopts new fundraising and disclosure rules

New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics adopted a pair of advisory opinions intended to tighten fundraising restrictions for New York’s highest-ranking elected officials and widened disclosure requirements for public-relations consultants.

IN: Indiana Senate passes bill to allow more guns at the Statehouse

The Indiana Senate approved a measure that would let employees of the General Assembly carry handguns in the Statehouse, as long as they have a handgun license. The measure, which now moves to the House, also would codify a long-standing policy allowing lawmakers to carry weapons in the Statehouse.

AZ: Arizona House mutes public comment on the state budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee will invite the public to speak on Arizona’s spending plan, and the governor's office has been gathering public comment at events around the state. But the House Appropriations Committee has elected not to allow public comment during departmental budget hearings to be held over the coming weeks.

KS: Kansas lawmaker retracts dress code for women

A Kansas senator dropped his dress code, which had banned low necklines and miniskirts on women testifying before his committee because, he said, they distract lawmakers. But he’s not the only state lawmaker to impose — and retreat — from similar dress codes in recent years.

WI: Wisconsin lawmakers push for free in-state tuition

Any Wisconsin resident who pledged to work in the state for three years after graduation would be eligible for a grant for tuition, books and housing at state schools, under a proposal by Democratic state legislators.

PA: ACLU, Pennsylvania settle over detainment of incompetent defendants

Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services has agreed to settle an ACLU lawsuit that alleges incompetent criminal defendants were inappropriately detained in jails and mental hospitals.

TX: Texas governor bars state investments in Iran

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott told leaders of state agencies that the easing of sanctions announced by President Barack Obama will not change Texas policy prohibiting investment in Iran. Abbott has criticized the international agreement that lifts economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for an end to its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

VA: Virginia Republicans asked to postpone ballot measures

Registrars from around Virginia have asked state GOP leaders to hold off on putting several constitutional amendments on the ballot in this year’s presidential election. There are concerns that the measures could lead to longer wait times at polls.

LA: Louisiana governor keeps executive branch salaries he criticized as candidate

The decision by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to keep his predecessor’s salary levels — and bump some paychecks higher — comes as Louisiana grapples with its worst budget troubles in nearly 30 years. Public colleges and health services are threatened with deep cuts, and Edwards is asking lawmakers to raise taxes to fill gaps.

KY: Kentucky won’t fight tax break for Noah’s Ark theme park 

Kentucky officials say they won't fight a federal court ruling that supports giving a tax incentive to a Christian theme park featuring a 510-foot-long Noah's Ark.

MT: Montana averts huge shortfall for health care system

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said his budget officers originally projected a $12 million deficit last year for the Montana State Employee Health Plan. Instead, state officials squeezed out $2 million in savings — partly because of wider use of Montana's six state-run health clinics.

WV: Bill to create state high-speed Internet service in West Virginia advances

A Senate committee advanced a bill that would authorize the state to build a 2,500-mile fiber-optic loop that aims to improve Internet service and drive down prices for residential and business customers at a cost of $72 million. West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation for the percentage of people who have access to reliable broadband service.

State Budgets Top State Stories 1/26