What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/29

FL: Legislature strikes Florida school funding deal

Florida Senate and House members agreed to add $428 million of state tax money to boost school spending, defying Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who wanted to use local property taxes to pay for the increase. 

VA: Virginia Legislature sends fantasy sports bill to governor, other states may follow

Lawmakers in Virginia are the first in the country to pass legislation regulating online fantasy sports gambling. A number of other states are considering similar legislation.

NC: Sales tax on auto repairs, dozens of other services takes effect in North Carolina

New sales taxes will take effect across North Carolina Tuesday, adding to the cost of services ranging from car repairs to appliance installations. The General Assembly approved the additional taxes last year, part of a Republican-led shift to lower income taxes.

TX: Texas relying on nonprofit clinics for Zika defense

Heavily uninsured Texas is relying on nonprofit clinics to be the front line of defense against the Zika virus. Patients who rely on community clinics are more likely to live in substandard housing — risking greater exposure to mosquitoes — and to have contact with relatives in Latin American countries where the virus is more prevalent.

KS: Kansas Supreme Court knocks down sobriety tests as unconstitutional

Drivers in Kansas who are suspected of being intoxicated can no longer be punished for refusing to take a blood alcohol test, and police may no longer warn drivers that such refusals can result in stiffer criminal penalties, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in four cases challenging the state's road sobriety laws.

AR: Individual-exchange prospect fades in Arkansas             

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Arkansas is “moving away” from plans to build its own health insurance exchange for individual consumers. But Arkansas’ new exchange for small-business employees could play a role in offering subsidized coverage to Medicaid-eligible adults under his proposal for a program that would be known as Arkansas Works.

CA: California lawmakers weigh whether prostitutes are criminals or victims

California lawmakers submitted at least 20 bills addressing human trafficking this session, including measures that would offer victims immunity from crimes and clear their records of a range of offenses, from sex work to theft. 

HI: Marijuana sales will be tricky in Hawaii

Hawaii, a state of islands separated by federal waters, faces unique challenges in allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Current state law means dispensaries will only be able to open on islands that can support a state-approved laboratory for marijuana testing.

LA: Louisiana law violates priest’s religious freedom, judge rules

A Louisiana judge has struck down a state requirement that clergy members report suspected child abuse even if they learn about it during a private confessional.

NJ: Lawmakers in New Jersey eye gas tax increase, aim to cut other taxes

With a Transportation Trust Fund that’s set to run out of money in June, lawmakers in New Jersey want to raise the state’s 14.5-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, but are also considering cuts to taxes on retirees and eliminating the state “death tax.”

NE: State shortage leaves gaps in Nebraska prison nursing staff

Nebraska's prison system is facing a staffing crisis that it may not be able to overcome amid a statewide nursing shortage and the state's relatively low wages.

WA: Some in Washington say anti-sprawl law makes it hard to build schools

Washington’s anti-sprawl law requires most counties to limit development to designated urban growth areas. But some school officials say the law is getting in the way of them building the schools they need to accommodate their growing student populations.

CO: Colorado lobbying law offers murky picture of influence on politics

Colorado's system for telling the public who is spending money to shape state policy amounts to a complicated honor system the average concerned citizen would struggle to untangle.

Zombie Houses Taxing Services
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