What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/1

IN: Federal judge blocks Indiana governor's order barring Syrian refugees

A U.S. judge blocked Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s order barring state officials from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana, saying it was discriminatory.

CA: California lawmakers approve bills on taxing health plans

It took a year, but the California Legislature has reached a deal that will meet federal requirements for taxing managed care organizations — and secure more than $1 billion in matching federal money — while funding services for the developmentally disabled, debt relief and other programs. 

OH: Ohio officials warn tax scams appear as April 15 nears

The Ohio Department of Taxation said it has blocked more than 300,000 fraudulent tax returns attempting to steal $533.7 million in refunds in the past two years.

SD: Special session for Medicaid expansion in South Dakota?

Two weeks before the end of the legislative session in South Dakota, Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he won’t ask lawmakers to take up Medicaid expansion in the regular session. But he said the conversation could come up again in 2017 or in a special session.

TN: Tennessee House holds its nose over skunk bill

The Tennessee House said a bill to allow ownership of a pet skunk stinks. With one of the closest votes of the year, lawmakers failed to send the smelliest bill of the session to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Seventeen other states allow residents to own a pet skunk.

FL: Less money for Florida’s safety-net hospitals

A $400 million cut to the Low Income Pool, a fund made up of state and federal money that pays for uncompensated charity care, means less funding for Florida's safety-net hospitals, including public hospitals, specialty children’s hospitals and teaching hospitals.

UT: Utah lawmakers reject attempt to raise smoking age to 21

Legislators defeated an attempt to raise the legal smoking age in Utah to 21, contending that government shouldn't be trying to dictate behavior.

VA: Virginia governor again vetoes ‘Tebow bills’

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a set of bills that would allow home-schooled children in Virginia to participate in public school sports programs. Opponents of the proposals say it is wrong to let children play on sports teams if they aren’t held to the same academic and disciplinary rules as public school students.

LA: Vouchers, testing, more threatened by Louisiana budget cuts

The Louisiana House is considering cuts that would halt payments for voucher schools and early childhood education programs in the middle of the school year and scrap standardized testing in the spring, according to Louisiana’s superintendent.

NM: New Mexico governor signs $6.2 billion budget bill

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez signed a $6.2 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year that will trim state spending in New Mexico for the first time in five years.

WV: West Virginia Legislature gives final approval to ‘dismemberment’ abortion bill

The bill, modeled after similar “dismemberment” laws in Kansas and Oklahoma, would prohibit the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure during the second trimester of pregnancy. Under the bill, West Virginia doctors could lose their license if they perform the procedure.

WA: Washington state bill would limit availability of police body-camera footage

In Washington, legislators are considering new privacy protections so that video of murder victims, private homes, sex crimes and other sensitive images captured by police body cameras is not publicly available. 

MN: Despite law, mentally ill wait in Minnesota jails without treatment

Legislation in 2013 aimed to reduce the time that mentally ill people spend behind bars in Minnesota by requiring that certain inmates receive treatment within two days of a judge’s order. But 25 percent of those subject to the rule missed the window, meaning they were in jail longer than the law allows.

Prison Staffing Zombie Houses