What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 4/29

US: Medicaid coverage extended to most inmates in halfway houses

Nearly 100,000 inmates who have been released from prison to halfway houses will be eligible for Medicaid benefits under a new federal policy designed to help ex-convicts get access to health care, mental health and substance abuse treatment.

MT: Montana governor proposes $200 million for public works projects

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock called for $200 million in cash and bonds to finance work on roads, bridges, schools and other public works projects across Montana. He also proposed a new infrastructure trust account to be funded by coal severance taxes.

AL: Alabama sued over minimum-wage law

Civil rights groups are mounting a constitutional challenge to a new state law that bars Alabama cities from setting their own minimum wages, claiming the law disproportionately affects black residents.

US: Teen birth rate hits all-time low

The birthrate among American teenagers, at crisis levels in the 1990s, has fallen to an all-time low, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis says. The decline was led by a nearly 50 percent drop among Hispanic and black teens since 2006.

VT:  Automatic voter registration becomes law in Vermont

Vermont became the fourth state to expand ballot access when Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill that automatically registers eligible residents to vote when they apply for a driver’s license.

WI: Wisconsin could shift care of elderly, disabled to for-profit companies

Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration wants to shift programs that serve more than 55,000 elderly and disabled people in Wisconsin from long-standing nonprofits to national for-profit health insurance companies. The administration says it would save taxpayers money and improve patients’ health.

LA: Louisiana LGBT nondiscrimination bill makes it to Senate floor

For the first time, the Senate will debate a bill that would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers by almost all employers in Louisiana. In most parts of the state, it is legal to fire or demote a person for being gay, transgender or in a same-sex relationship. Only New Orleans and Shreveport have local ordinances prohibiting it. 

MA: Proposed Massachusetts casino shot down

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted down a proposed $677 million casino in Brockton, dashing hopes for an economic boost to one of the state’s poorest cities and clearing the field for a tribal casino planned by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in nearby Taunton.

IL: Victim advocates urge repeal of Illinois’ statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases

A day after former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to prison in a federal banking case tied to the decades-old sexual abuse of a high school wrestler he coached, victim advocates said it was time to get rid of Illinois’ deadline for prosecuting child sex crimes.

AZ: Arizona legislators advance fight over rooftop solar

Arizona lawmakers who oppose a citizen initiative designed to protect rooftop solar from higher rates introduced two countermeasures to put on the November ballot alongside the initiative.

WY: Medical marijuana may not pay for itself in Wyoming, report says

A new report raises concerns that a medical marijuana program in Wyoming could cost the state more to set up and administer than licensing fees and sales taxes could cover.

OK: Oklahoma governor signs civil asset forfeiture legislation

The measure signed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin allows Oklahomans whose assets are unjustly seized through the civil asset forfeiture process to recover their attorney fees.

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