What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/15

US: U.S. Justice Department condemns profit-minded court policies targeting the poor

Two top U.S. Justice Department officials chastised judges and court staff members for using arrest warrants as a way to collect fees, and called on state judges to root out unconstitutional policies that have locked poor people in a cycle of fines, debt and jail.

LA: Louisiana governor proposes curbs on vouchers, charter schools

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards wants to narrow eligibility for Louisiana’s voucher program and make it harder to launch charter schools. Edwards said he wants vouchers limited to students attending public schools rated D or F, not those rated C, D or F, as in current law.

CT: Connecticut Democrats consider cuts to municipal aid to close budget gap

Cities and towns have been fighting to preserve municipal funding at the Capitol for years. But because of Connecticut’s dire fiscal straits, Democratic leaders in the legislature say they are examining targeted cuts to municipal aid that “reflect avoidable inefficiencies and foster inter-municipal cooperation.”

TX: Under Texas law, state reimburses school districts for tax breaks

From 2002 to 2014, Texas school districts committed to corporate tax incentives that will subtract $5.5 billion from the state’s budget — more than the Legislature cut from public education during the recession. A Texas Observer review of more than 360 deals suggests that much of the money went to employers who would have come to Texas anyway.

GA: Bill inspired by Jimmy Carter’s cancer treatment passes in Georgia

More cancer patients in Georgia would be able to receive the same treatment that former President Jimmy Carter says eliminated signs of his disease, under a bill given final passage by the state Senate. The measure, which now goes to Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, aims to prevent insurance companies from limiting coverage of drugs for Stage 4 cancer patients.

OH: Ohio shutting down online lessons for teachers

An online clearinghouse that helps Ohio teachers choose well-designed online lessons from a vast marketplace of plans is disappearing next school year because legislators have not funded the program.

US: Many state legislatures exempt themselves from record laws

All legislatures allow people to watch and listen to their debates. But many state legislatures allow closed-door caucus meetings in which a majority of lawmakers discuss policy positions before public debates. In some places, lawmakers have no obligation to disclose personal financial information that could reveal conflicts of interest.

NV: Nevada settles lawsuit over registering low-income voters

Under the terms of a settlement between voting rights advocates and the state, Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services will provide its clients a voter registration application, help them fill out the forms, and send them to state election officials. The department administers benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, cash assistance and Medicaid.

TN: Anti-indoctrination bill passes Tennessee Senate

A bill that aims to prevent religious indoctrination in Tennessee schools is headed to the governor's desk. The bill, which gives local school districts more say in how to teach religion in public schools, follows months of concern centered around a middle school social studies unit on Islam. 

ID: Permitless concealed carry bill headed to Idaho Senate

Idaho lawmakers advanced legislation that would allow state residents 21 years old and up to carry hidden guns without permits or training. Currently, Idaho allows people only to carry a gun openly — in a holster, for instance — without a permit.

IA, NE: Iowa and Nebraska forbid assisting in suicide, but prison sentences for the crime are rare

Both Iowa and Nebraska have long had laws on the books that ban assisting someone in a suicide, but county attorneys said prosecutions under the laws are extremely rare. This year, legislation has been introduced in both states that would allow for assisted suicide, under certain conditions.

Shared Parenting Legislatures on TV