What We're Reading: Top State Stories 4/8

OK: Oklahoma budget crisis opens door to criminal justice reform

Dwindling oil tax revenue is spurring lawmakers to look at reforming the state’s criminal justice system. Oklahoma has a bulging prison system that is at 122 percent of capacity and is the third-most-overcrowded in the country.

MO: Missouri Senate approves fuel tax hike to pay for roads, bridges

The measure approved would raise Missouri’s fuel tax by nearly six cents a gallon, bringing in an estimated $165 million a year for the state and about $71 million for local governments to pay for road and bridge projects.

AK: University of Alaska to cut hundreds of staff, raise tuition

Facing a budget gap, the University of Alaska has plans to cut between 200 and 500 staff positions and raise tuition by 10 to 15 percent to make ends meet.

KS: Kansas governor signs bill to keep public schools open 

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that legislative leaders hope will satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court order for more equitable funding between districts. The court, which gave lawmakers a June 30 deadline to address the issue or risk closing the schools, will now determine whether the funding formula meets constitutional standards.

AZ: Arizona House rule restricts reporters who refuse a background check

Reporters who normally have access to the floor of the Arizona House had those privileges revoked after leadership imposed new security policies that restrict access for journalists who refuse to submit to extensive background checks.

LA: Louisiana lawmakers look to shift money from death penalty appeals to public defenders

A Louisiana House bill would require the state’s Public Defender Board to spend more of its budget on local public defender districts, at the expense of the capital crime defense budget. Several of Louisiana's local public defender districts are struggling to provide basic services.

MN: Minnesota to offer free GED testing

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton announced the state will offer free GED testing for all Minnesotans through at least July, saying having a high school diploma or the testing equivalent increases earning power by 37.5 percent — a nearly $10,000-a-year median wage increase.

WY: Wyoming recruits unemployed energy workers for state jobs

The state is encouraging workers who recently have lost their jobs in Wyoming’s energy industry to consider applying for vacant state positions, including prison jobs with the Department of Corrections.

OH: ACLU sues Ohio’s secretary of state over purge of voter rolls

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sued Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, arguing that he is illegally removing tens of thousands of eligible voters from voter registration rolls.

NE: Nebraska governor OKs student loan notification bill

The new law requires Nebraska's public colleges and universities to inform students of the amount of federal education loans they have received, the potential amount they can expect to pay, estimates of the monthly payments, the number of years they can expect to be in debt and how close they are to the borrowing limit.

VA: Virginia governor says no to unpermitted guns for domestic violence victims

Domestic violence victims won’t be able to carry concealed handguns without a permit in Virginia. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation that would have allowed anyone who takes out a protective order to carry a gun for 90 days without a permit.

IN: Indiana sued in federal court over new abortion law

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky sued the state of Indiana over its new abortion law that bans the procedure if sought because of genetic abnormalities. The lawsuit also challenges a provision that mandates an aborted fetus be buried or cremated.

TX: Texas border city doesn't want ID as "Sanctuary City"

An El Paso-based immigrant rights group could see its hopes for a municipal ID card dashed after leaders there determined that issuing the card could prompt immigration hardliners to label the Texas city as a “sanctuary city.”

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