What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/19

OR: Oregon lawmakers approve landmark minimum wage increase

Oregon lawmakers approved legislation that propels the state’s minimum wage for all workers to the highest rank in the U.S. over the next six years through an unparalleled three-tiered system based on geography. Oregon joins 14 other states that have raised their rates over the past two years.

SD: South Dakota sales tax hike for teachers’ pay fails

A bill that would have used a half-cent sales tax increase to boost teacher pay in South Dakota came up just shy of the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass in the House, jeopardizing Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard's school funding plan.

LA: Louisiana hospitals for the poor consider walking away from state contracts

Several of Louisiana's privatized safety-net hospitals are considering walking away from their contracts with the state. The CEOs of seven hospitals told members of a Senate panel that $137.8 million in proposed cuts would seriously diminish their ability to deliver care to the poor, or cause them to halt operations altogether. 

WI: Wisconsin Legislature approves bill to expand police’s ability to conduct strip searches

If Republican Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill, Wisconsin police could conduct strip searches regardless of whether the suspect has been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

MN: Minnesota Supreme Court ruling could be costly for snowbirds

Minnesota residents who live half the year or more elsewhere, say in the South during the cold months, could see a dramatic jump in their tax bills as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling.

UT: Utah Senate committee advances bill to revamp indigent defense system

The Senate’s judiciary committee approved a bill that would create a commission to oversee indigent-defense services statewide. The bill comes in response to criticism that Utah is not meeting its constitutional requirement to provide legal help to those who can't afford it. Utah is one of two states that delegate the responsibility to counties.

VT: Vermont governor seeks to increase mutual fund fees to fund state college accounts

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to increase mutual fund registration fees to pay for college savings accounts designed to help send Vermonters to college. Hopes for philanthropic contributions to fund the accounts have not materialized.

OK: Oklahoma’s sales tax exemptions: a puzzle of haves and have-nots

About a third of Oklahoma's 150 sales and use tax exemptions apply to specific charities and other nonprofits. But making sense of why some groups get the tax break and others do not can be difficult.

KS: Anti-Common Core bill could do away with AP, IB programs in Kansas

Kansas lawmakers are making another attempt at repealing Common Core standards with a measure that could affect and possibly do away with Advanced Placement classes and International Baccalaureate programs.

MS: Bill would let domestic abuse be grounds for divorce in Mississippi

Mississippi is one of a handful of states that still requires fault-grounds for divorce. The bill would make one or more instances of domestic violence grounds for divorce, just as adultery or mental illness are.

VA: Virginia lawmakers consider keeping police officers’ names secret

The bill would keep the names of police officers in Virginia secret from the news media and public, as supporters argue having their identities known would put them in danger from what they describe as a growing contempt for law enforcement.

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