What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/10

TN: Tennessee Senate OKs allowing druggists to prescribe the pill

The Tennessee Senate approved a bill to provide easier access to birth control by allowing women 18 or older to obtain contraceptives directly from pharmacists.

VA: Virginia governor says no to grain alcohol sales

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill that would allow the sale of Everclear and other high-proof grain alcohols in Virginia’s state liquor stores. He said the sale of low-cost, high-proof alcohols would only contribute to binge drinking risks on college campuses.

NC: New North Carolina sales tax prompts confusion, ‘uneven playing field’

The recent expansion of North Carolina’s sales tax base to repair, maintenance and installation services is creating an uneven playing field among some taxpayers, as similar transactions are treated differently depending on who provides the service.

IN: Indiana abortion restrictions based on fetal gender, disability advance to governor

The Indiana House voted to send Republican Gov. Mike Pence legislation that would make Indiana the second state to ban abortions sought because a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome or another disability. The restrictions also would prohibit abortions when they are sought based on the gender or race of a fetus.

MA: House bill would require Massachusetts schools to screen for drug use

The Massachusetts House unanimously approved legislation that would require schools to screen students for drug abuse and work to curb opioid use by limiting doctors’ initial prescriptions to seven days. The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

AZ: Arizona governor signs bill outlawing early ballot collection

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a proposal that makes it a felony in Arizona for anyone but a family member, roommate, caregiver, postal worker or elections official to collect early ballots from someone else. Supporters say the law ensures a chain of custody between the voter and the ballot box, but advocates for voter outreach say it is designed to suppress turnout.

KS: Kansas bill would require teachers to vote annually to retain their unions

The measure would require the Kansas Department of Labor to have more than 300 elections each year in the fall for teachers to vote on whether to keep their union. The cost is estimated at $340,000, though the state could potentially charge professional organizations for the elections.

MO: Missouri religious exemption measure advances

After Democrats stalled a vote for about 37 hours, Missouri’s Republican-majority Senate advanced a proposal to add greater religious protections to the state constitution for some business owners and individuals opposed to gay marriage.

TX: As oil prices plunge, small Texas producers could get tax relief

In 2005, Texas lawmakers created a tax credit for minor oil producers, triggered only when oil prices plunge below certain levels. After a 20-month free fall in prices, the credit is close to kicking in for the first time.

KY: Bill to abolish Kentucky’s death penalty defeated

The House Judiciary Committee rejected a bill that would replace Kentucky’s death sentence with life without the possibility of parole.

WV: West Virginia House shelves tax cuts for coal, gas industries

The bill, which had passed the Senate, would have cut the severance tax paid by West Virginia’s struggling coal and gas industries by 40 percent by 2019 and cost the state treasury more than $100 million annually.

NM: New Mexico governor OKs $385 million in public works projects

Funding for band instruments, wrestling mats and zoo animals was axed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who chastised New Mexico lawmakers for having an “irresponsible” approach to public infrastructure spending.

MT: Montana legislative panel considers options to change sex-crime laws

A legislative panel is considering making changes to Montana's laws on sex crimes by updating the meaning of sexual consent and combating the scourge of explicit photos and videos posted without authorization on the Internet. 

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