What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/11

CA: California lawmakers vote to raise smoking, vaping age to 21

California lawmakers voted to raise the legal age for purchasing and using tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21; the nation's most populous state would be only the second after Hawaii to bar teenagers from lighting up, dipping or vaping.

US: U.S. Senate passes bill to combat painkiller abuse, heroin addiction

The bipartisan bill authorizes the attorney general to provide grants to states, local governments and nonprofits for programs to strengthen prescription drug monitoring, improve treatment for addicts, and expand prevention, education and law enforcement initiatives.

LA: Louisiana budget gap only partially filled

The Louisiana Legislature approved a plan that averts a financial meltdown in the short term but fails to fully fund state services by as much as $30 million in the current budget cycle and as much as $800 million for the cycle that starts July 1.

OK: Oklahoma House passes autism insurance measure

Autism treatment would be included in all new health benefit plans in the state under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House. The bill would require insurers to cover autism treatment for children up to 9 years old, or for six years after diagnosis if the diagnosis is made after age 3.

MA, RI: New England lawmakers propose seceding from Eastern time

As most Americans brace themselves for losing an hour of sleep this weekend, some New England lawmakers want to leave the Eastern time zone and throw in with Nova Scotia and Puerto Rico. “Once we spring forward, I don't want to fall back,” said Rhode Island state Rep. Blake Filippi.

WV: West Virginia lawmakers override veto, enact ban on ‘dismemberment’ abortion

Rebuking Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto for the fourth time this year, West Virginia lawmakers put a ban on a common second-trimester abortion method into law.

US: $1.2 billion in loans to health insurance co-ops may be a loss

The failures of a dozen non­profit health insurance plans created by the Affordable Care Act could cost the government up to $1.2 billion, according to a harsh new congressional report that concludes federal officials ignored early warnings about the plans’ fragility and moved in too late as problems arose.

KY: Kentucky Senate committee votes to collect more DNA, set tighter deadlines for testing rape kits

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills that would impose tighter deadlines on testing DNA rape kits and require Kentucky police or jailers to collect a DNA sample from anyone arrested, indicted or otherwise charged with a felony.

TX: Law designed to drug test unemployed Texans still not in place

Nearly three years after Texas enacted a law requiring some applicants for unemployment benefits to pass a drug test, the state has yet to test a single applicant. The Texas Workforce Commission is still waiting on guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to designate which occupations will be subject to testing. 

NE: Nebraska pushes to allow ex-drug felons to get food stamps

Nebraska is inching closer to allowing people with felony drug convictions to receive food stamps. States are allowed to opt out of a federal law making these individuals the only group ineligible for food stamps, and 18 others have already done so, including Nebraska's neighbors Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota.

KS: Kansas bill would ban zoning laws to promote affordable housing

Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit cities from enacting what often are called inclusionary zoning laws, which are aimed at promoting affordable housing and mixed-income neighborhoods.

IN: Indiana lawmakers OK bill to protect Medicaid expansion plan

Lawmakers approved a bill preventing Indiana’s alternative Medicaid program from being changed without the Legislature’s approval. The bill, which Republican Gov. Mike Pence is expected to sign, also says the state’s share of the costs must be restricted. 

Supervised Heroin Use Municipal Consolidation