What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/23

US: FDA orders strong new safety warnings for opioids

Amid a national epidemic of opioid abuse, the Food and Drug Administration said it will require that all fast-acting opioid painkillers carry its strongest warning about the risks for abuse, addiction, overdose and death.

KY: Kentucky’s chief justice: Courts may have to fire 600 people, shutter programs

Kentucky’s court system may have to fire 600 people, close drug courts that divert addicts into treatment and end pre-trial services that allow thousands of criminal defendants to be on supervised release unless the Legislature finds more money for the judiciary, Chief Justice John Minton warned.

IN: Indiana governor signs bill to repeal state’s standardized test

Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill to do away with Indiana’s unpopular annual No Child Left Behind exams designed to primarily test reading, writing and math by July 2017. The state would have to devise a new test.

KS: Kansas lets campus religious groups restrict members

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation allowing faith-based groups on college campuses to restrict membership to like-minded people, although the U.S. Supreme Court has said universities can require membership to be open to all. Kansas is the second state after Oklahoma to have such a law.

GA: Georgia Senate approves allowing Tasers on public college campuses

Senators passed the bill, dubbed “campus-carry lite,” which would allow students at Georgia’s public colleges and universities to carry Tasers and stun guns on campus so they could protect themselves.

TX: Cuban refugees flock to Texas border

Even as President Obama moves to normalize relations, Cuban refugees are pouring into Texas. From October 2015 to February 2016, more than 18,500 arrived at ports from Del Rio to Brownsville. If the trend continues, it will shatter last year’s numbers for the same ports, when a record 28,371 crossed. 

DC: DC mayor calls for $15 minimum wage by 2020

Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser call for increasing the District of Columbia’s current $10.50 hourly minimum wage to $15 over the next four years during her second citywide address.

US: EPA must do more to ensure safe water in small communities, new report says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to do more to ensure that water systems in small communities, which serve more than 24 million people, comply with federal safe drinking-water regulations, the federal report says.

NM: New Mexico tax revenue lags despite rebound in oil prices

New Mexico’s budget forecast continues to look overcast, with low oil and natural gas production casting a ripple effect on the state’s economy.

AL: Alabama Senate OKs bill prohibiting abortion clinics near schools

The bill would prevent abortion clinics located within 2,000 feet of a K-8 public school in Alabama from opening or getting their licenses renewed.

CA: California attorney general wants electronic reports on police shootings

Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is backing legislation that would require California police agencies to file reports about officer-involved shooting to her office electronically, rather than on paper, so they can quickly and easily be posted on a state website.

OH: Ohio farming must change to save Lake Erie from toxic algae, study says

Farming practices in western Ohio will have to undergo major changes if there is any hope of reducing toxic algae blooms that plague Lake Erie every summer and threaten drinking water, a new study warns.

NJ: New Jersey Legislature considers ban on texting while walking

The bill would fine pedestrians $50 for using a hand-held phone or for texting while crossing New Jersey streets. Lawmakers say distracted walkers pose a danger to themselves, as well as drivers.

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