What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 1/28

MO: Ferguson, Missouri, and U.S. Justice Department reach deal on police

The U.S. Justice Department and Ferguson have reached a tentative agreement to revamp the Missouri city's troubled police operation by altering deadly force policies, requiring new ethics training and recruiting more diverse officers. The department denounced racially biased policing in the city after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by a white officer.

LA: Part of Louisiana abortion law ruled unconstitutional

Louisiana’s mandate that doctors who provide abortions must have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled. Supporters say the rule is meant to protect women's health, but opponents say the aim is to make it virtually impossible for Louisiana women to get abortions.

VT: Vermont governor pleads for more anti-addiction drugs from non-physician prescribers

Gov. Peter Shumlin pleaded with U.S. senators to allow more non-physician medical professionals to prescribe medication for opiate addiction. The Vermont Democrat questioned why physician assistants and nurse practitioners can prescribe addictive narcotics for pain but are barred from prescribing medications to break addictions to painkillers and heroin.

CA: California governor to seek ballot initiative to relax mandatory prison sentences

Almost four decades after he signed a law mandating strict sentences for the most serious crimes, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown moved to ease its effect, announcing a November ballot initiative that would give California inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses a chance at early release.

FL: Florida voters to decide on medical marijuana

A constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida has gained enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. 

MD: Maryland governor offers scholarships for high school students who graduate early

With an executive order, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan moved to reward Maryland public high school students who graduate early by giving them college scholarships. Hogan said the program would make higher education more accessible even as it saves the state some money.

HI: Hawaii’s attorney general rules daily fantasy sports contests illegal

Democratic Attorney General Doug Chin says daily fantasy sports contests such as FanDuel and DraftKings are illegal gambling under Hawaii law. “The technology may have changed, but the vice has not,” Chin said.

KY: Kentucky governor seeks across-the-board cuts, but would protect education 

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin called for $650 million in “cuts across the board,” including possible layoffs of Kentucky state employees. He said his $21 billion, two-year budget would protect school funding, Medicaid, social workers, prosecutors, state police and prison correctional officers. He would hire more public defenders and fund DNA testing of rape kits and efforts to curb the heroin addiction epidemic.

PA: Pennsylvania Senate OKs bill to reduce House, but not itself

The Pennsylvania Senate voted to reduce the House’s ranks from 203 to 151 representatives. But the Senate hasn’t taken up a companion bill to cut the 50-seat Senate to 37. The changes to the state’s constitution would require approval in a statewide referendum.

IN: LGB (minus T) rights bill heads to full Indiana Senate

A bill that would provide some protections for lesbians, gays and bisexuals — but not transgender Hoosiers — squeaked out of an Indiana Senate committee. But the measure faces an uncertain future as it heads to the full Senate.

KS: Kansas Lottery wants to sell tickets from vending machines 

The Kansas Lottery wants lawmakers to remove the state’s ban on electronic ticket-dispensing machines, saying it would boost sales and revenue for the state.

AZ: Arizona governor seeks authority to cut costs without Legislature's approval

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is asking Arizona lawmakers to surrender oversight of state spending between regular sessions, if falling tax revenues put the state's budget in the red.

TX: Texas may spend $1.3 billion to reduce traffic in largest cities

If the plan is approved, the Texas Department of Transportation will spend $1.3 billion on 14 roadway projects designed to relieve gridlock around the state's five largest cities. In November, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a change to the state’s constitution to direct some of the taxes collected on car sales to road construction and maintenance.

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