What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/18

KS: Kansas House rejects hike in the minimum wage to $13.25 an hour 

House members blocked an effort that would nearly double the minimum wage in Kansas to $13.25 an hour over a three-year period and advanced legislation to prohibit cities and counties from establishing minimum wages above $7.25 without authorization from the Kansas Legislature.

AL: Alabama House committee OKs 6-cent gas tax increase

An Alabama House committee approved a bill that would raise the state gas tax by about 6 cents a gallon, with the hopes of generating more money to fund road and bridge projects.

NJ: New Jersey Legislature sends equal pay bill to governor

A measure that would prohibit employers from offering men and women different salaries and benefits packages for similar work has passed the New Jersey Legislature. Employers would also be prohibited from taking action against workers who disclose compensation rates and other employment details.

KY: Kentucky House passes budget that includes more money for state pension systems 

House members approved a two-year, $21 billion state budget that rejects Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed spending cuts for education while pouring an additional $1.1 billion into Kentucky’s struggling state pension systems. The measure goes to the Senate.

LA: Louisiana lawmakers to mull human-pet burial

The measure before the Louisiana Legislature would let cemeteries designate a garden or special section for pets to be laid to rest with their owners, bridging the gap between pet cemetery and human graveyard. Most states prohibit pets and their owners from being buried together.

FL: Courts will decide future of Florida casinos

Because legislators finished their session last week without a gaming bill or a compact with the Seminole Tribe, pending lawsuits before the Florida Supreme Court and a federal judge will now decide whether and how slot machines can expand across the state.

AK: Alaska Senate votes to relax penalty on texting while driving

The Alaska Senate voted unanimously to change the penalty for texting from a misdemeanor to a $500 fine. Under current law, anyone caught texting while driving could face a $10,000 fine and up to one year in jail, but the law has been difficult to enforce.

NV: Elon Musk taking direct approach to lobbying Nevada lawmakers on solar energy

Elon Musk, chairman of SolarCity and CEO of Tesla Motors, welcomed state officials to his company’s $5 billion Nevada battery factory to discuss how Tesla’s home storage batteries can work with rooftop solar. The meeting follows a regulatory decision to increase solar customers’ bills and signals the solar industry’s push to roll back the new rate structure.

OH: Ohio employers get reduction in workers’ compensation premiums

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation board approved an 8.6 percent cut in premiums for private employers. The move will save employers $113 million next year and is the latest in a string of cuts, rebates and credits that add up to $4.3 billion over the last five years for employers.

IA: Iowa Senate votes to legalize gun suppressors

Current Iowa law says a device specifically constructed to silence, muffle or suppress sound is considered an offensive weapon. But the bill approved by the Senate strikes that provision, making a firearm suppressor legal to possess in Iowa — a change that supporters say will provide hearing protection for gun owners.

NE: Nebraska attorney general sides with faith-based agencies on same-sex adoption

Foster care agencies wouldn’t violate federal law or endanger state funding by refusing to help same-sex couples become foster parents, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said, siding with a handful of faith-based child-placing agencies who say their sincerely held religious beliefs prevent them from working with certain parents.

MO: Missouri House proposes first use of new power to overturn governor’s budget restrictions

The House voted to reject several budget restrictions imposed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon by using the power given to the legislature when voters approved Amendment 10 to the Missouri Constitution in 2014 and.

TX: Cattle thieves still roam in Texas

Despite echoes of old Westerns, cattle rustling is a thoroughly modern problem in Texas, with high-tech methods to catch the crooks. The theft of fewer than 10 head of cattle is a third-degree felony in Texas, punishable by 10 years in prison.

Minority College Graduates Aging Prisoners