What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/17

CT, SC: Connecticut, South Carolina announce ‘social impact bond’ plans

The two states announced they would use social impact bonds to pay for difficult social problems — a financing method that allows government to pay nothing unless programs are successful. In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy said he would launch a $12 million initiative to help keep children out of foster care. In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said her state would start a $30 million program to send nurses into the homes of low-income pregnant women. 

US: Governors from 17 states announce transportation, energy agreement

The agreement — known as the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future — calls for embracing new energy solutions to expand the economy, and protect the health of communities and natural resources. The governors are from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

AR: Arkansas governor defends plan to keep Medicaid expansion

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has proposed keeping the state’s “private option” Medicaid program but renaming it “Arkansas Works” and adding new restrictions to its eligibility and benefits. The governor said ending the expansion would mean a budget gap of at least $100 million.

IL: Illinois governor to deliver second budget speech before first is passed

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is delivering his second budget proposal to Illinois legislators before winning approval of his first, the result of unprecedented partisan gridlock that has closed social service programs, driven up the state's debt and threatens the operation of state universities.

SD: South Dakota poised to be first state to have transgender bathroom law for schools

The Legislature sent Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard a bill that would require public school students to use the bathroom, shower and locker room that correspond to their biological sex. If signed, South Dakota would be the first state to enact such a law.

LA: Louisiana hospital funding likely to be cut to close budget shortfall

At best, officials warned, the cuts will result in rationed care to the poor that could include long waiting lists and delays in delivering services. At worst, the private operators at the safety net hospitals might walk away from contracts set up to privatize Louisiana’s former charity hospital system.

ME: Minimum wage initiative in Maine can go to ballot

The petition to raise Maine’s minimum wage to $9 an hour next year and $12 an hour by 2020 was signed by 75,275 registered voters, more than enough to put the question on the November ballot — unless lawmakers decide to enact the proposal themselves.

FL: Florida House bill would reduce public workers in pension fund

The bill endorsed by the House Appropriations Committee would place new state, county, school and higher-education employees in a 401(k) rather than a defined benefit pension plan. Currently, less than one in four newly hired Florida public workers chooses the investment plan. 

KS: Kansas urged to tap school districts’ cash reserves

The state should tap the cash reserves that Kansas public school districts have on hand to help pay for future education spending, efficiency consultants hired by the state recommend.

UT: Utah’s medical-marijuana backers look to ballot

Conceding the Utah Legislature is unlikely to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana, Utah patients who have been using the plant along with backers of legal cannabis plan to launch a ballot initiative that would let voters decide whether to make Utah the 24th state to legalize the drug for medical purposes.

GA: Key House committee backs legalizing guns on Georgia’s college campuses

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved a “campus carry” bill that would allow anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a Georgia public college or university campus, except for dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses and at athletic events.

MO: Missouri public defenders see little help in budget

Missouri's public defenders say they need almost twice as many attorneys to handle their caseload, and Gov. Jay Nixon's proposal to increase their budget by $1 million won't solve that problem.

WV: West Virginia Senate votes to allow liquor sales on Sunday mornings

The bill would let West Virginia restaurants, distilleries and wineries serve alcohol starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays rather than 1 p.m.

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