What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/18

VT:  Vermont House sends paid sick leave bill to governor

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin supports the bill, which would require employers in Vermont to provide workers three paid sick days a year for the first two years after the law takes effect and five days thereafter. It would not cover employees working fewer than 18 hours a week or 21 weeks a year.

FL: Florida lawmakers strike deal to rewrite state’s death penalty law

Under the deal, a Florida jury could no longer recommend a death sentence by a simple majority; at least 10 of 12 jurors would have to agree. The move is designed to avoid more legal attacks and allow executions to resume in a state with nearly 400 Death Row inmates.

KS: Kansas Legislature passes budget bill with no additional money for schools

Lawmakers sent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback a budget bill that closes a projected $200 million revenue shortfall in the upcoming budget year that begins July 1. But it makes no changes to state funding for public schools, despite a Kansas Supreme Court ruling declaring the current method of distributing aid to school districts inequitable and unconstitutional.

TX: University of Texas to allow guns in classrooms but not dorms

Save for some narrow exceptions, guns will be allowed in classrooms but not in dorms at the University of Texas at Austin next school year. A new state law allows the concealed carrying of weapons in public university buildings, but gives universities the power to create limited rules that designate some “gun-free zones.”

ID: Idaho House approves letting Girl Scouts keep sales tax on cookies

House members narrowly passed a bill that would allow Girl Scouts to keep the sales tax on the thousands of boxes of cookies sold each year. The bill also would exempt the Boy Scouts from paying the tax on food sales.

IA: Iowa Senate committee advances ‘ban-the-box’ bill for employers

Iowa employers could no longer ask most prospective employees if they have a criminal record until after the applicant was deemed qualified for a job opening, under the bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Nineteen states and 100 cities and counties have adopted the so-called ban-the-box policies.

MT: Montana task force begins looking into protocols for rape kits

Authorities across Montana have more than 1,400 rape kits — some dating to 1995 — that remain unprocessed because they have not been submitted to the state's crime lab for testing. A state task force will devise guidelines for how to handle them.

VA: Virginia governor wants to remake high school education

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he wants to redesign high school in Virginia to put more emphasis on preparing teens for the workforce and creating more opportunities for them to get college credit while in high school.

MS: Mississippi lawmakers may consider raising gasoline tax

With gasoline prices low, some Mississippi lawmakers say the time is right to consider a tax increase or other methods to raise an estimated $526 million a year needed to repair state roads and bridges.

WV: West Virginia Senate committee votes to raise cigarette tax by $1

Senate Finance Committee members advanced a bill that would increase the state’s cigarette tax by $1 to $1.55 a pack to help pay for public employees’ health insurance. If approved, West Virginia’s tax would still be lower than neighboring Maryland, Ohio or Pennsylvania.

ME: Legislative committee endorses $40,000 minimum pay for Maine teachers

Maine’s K-12 teachers would earn at least $40,000 a year under the bill endorsed by the Legislature’s Education Committee. The average salary for a teacher in Maine with no experience and a bachelor’s degree is $32,528.

NJ: New Jersey lawmakers face dwindling Transportation Trust Fund

Lawmakers need to come up with a new source of money for New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund before the money runs out in June. Republican Gov. Chris Christie did not address the issue in his 2017 budget address this week.

Birth Control Top State Stories 2/17