What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/17

GA: ‘Religious liberty’ bill passes Georgia legislature

The Georgia legislature gave final approval to a “religious liberty” bill that strengthens legal protections for opponents of same-sex marriage, setting off a collision with corporate leaders and gay rights advocates over charges that it would legalize discrimination in the state.

KS: Kansas looks to pursue privatizing state mental hospital

The Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services asked for legislation that would allow it to seek proposals from corporations and nonprofits to run all or parts of the troubled Osawatomie State Hospital.

CA: Plastic bag proponents spend $5 million on California referendum

Plastic bag companies and their allies are spending big to qualify two California ballot measures that could lift the statewide ban on their product. 

OH: Ohio Supreme Court rules inmate can face execution again after failed attempt 

Justices said that Ohio can try a second time to execute convicted killer Romell Broom without violating the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The first attempt to execute him, in 2009, didn’t succeed because deadly chemicals never entered his body. 

MD: Makeover of Maryland’s state song advances in General Assembly

Maryland's General Assembly is moving ahead with changes to the state song “Maryland My Maryland,” which has long been criticized for its pro-Confederacy lyrics. The state Senate has given initial approval to revised lyrics that combine some of the existing song with words from an unrelated poem.

KY: Kentucky Senate committee advances proposal to restore voting rights to felons

The State and Local Government Committee approved a proposed amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that would give the legislature the power to restore voting rights to convicted felons without the need for a gubernatorial pardon.

VT: Vermont push for GMO labeling remains on track

Vermont remains on track to be the first state in the country to require labeling of genetically modified foods after the U.S. Senate voted to block legislation that would have stopped states from passing their own labeling laws.

HI: Hawaii legislators consider $2 million homeless sweep program

A proposed Hawaii law would fund a team of 12 deputy sheriffs to keep trespassers out of state parks, and a crew to clean up any trash homeless people leave behind. 

MN: Minnesota governor unveils plan for spending surplus

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s supplemental budget focuses $698 million in spending on expanding broadband service, tackling racial disparities and cutting taxes. The proposal also resurrects a gasoline tax hike to fund the state’s transportation needs and leaves about $200 million unspent to protect against future economic downturns.

OR: New regulations may disrupt Oregon marijuana extracts industry

State health authorities warned Oregon's medical marijuana dispensaries not to accept cannabis extracts from unlicensed processors. The licensing process for extract makers won’t begin until next month, creating a delay that is likely to disrupt the marijuana processing industry.

TX: As oil prices fell, Texas campaign donations followed

For decades, the petroleum industry has largely fueled Texas’ influence in national Republican politics. But operatives are seeing early signs that the current oil bust has depressed the sector’s political giving.

LA: Louisiana governor wants more money for roads, maintenance

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to spend more of Louisiana’s construction dollars on roadwork and maintenance of state buildings, while eliminating some of the smaller, local projects favored by state lawmakers. The shift will diminish his power to trade projects for votes.

Aging Prisoners Top State Stories 3/16