What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/18

MI: Michigan lawmakers face $460 million budget hole

The unexpected budget gap is the result of a revenue shortfall of about $330 million, plus higher Medicaid caseloads than anticipated. It comes as the Michigan Legislature grapples with extra spending requests related to the Flint drinking water crisis and a financial rescue of the Detroit Public Schools.

KS: Federal judge orders Kansas to register 18,000 to vote 

A U.S. district judge ordered Kansas officials to register 18,000 people to vote in federal elections. The potential voters had their registration applications derailed for not showing documentation of citizenship when they sought to register at one of the state's motor vehicle offices.

US: On anniversary of Brown v. Board, new evidence that U.S. schools are resegregating

Poor, black and Hispanic children are becoming increasingly isolated from their white, affluent peers in the nation’s public schools. New federal data show that the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled between 2001 and 2014.

SC: South Carolina moves to ban abortion after 19 weeks

The South Carolina measure, which bans most abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother's life is at risk, was approved after it was stripped of exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. Sixteen other states have passed similar laws.

AK: Governor paves the way for Dave & Buster's to open in Alaska

Independent Gov. Bill Walker has signed a law that clarifies that gambling doesn’t include arcade-style amusement games of skill where people can win small, non-cash prizes. The Alaska law was created specifically with Dave & Buster’s, the entertainment and restaurant chain, in mind.

MT: Federal judge strikes down Montana campaign contribution limits

Just three weeks before Montana’s primary, a federal judge struck down the state's campaign contribution limits. The move is reminiscent of 2012, when the same judge ruled the contribution limits were unconstitutional, and the limits were quickly reinstated by a federal appeals court.

AR: Arkansas governor calls for new path for workers' comp

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants Arkansas lawmakers to make changes to the state’s workers' compensation system, including dissolving the decades-old fund that relies on insurance premium taxes on businesses to pay out death and disability claims. Arkansas is the last state to maintain such a fund.

OK: As oil boom goes bust, Oklahoma protects drillers and squeezes schools

Oklahoma’s school-funding crisis is part of the pain inflicted by falling oil prices on energy-rich states across America that rely on natural-resources taxes to pay their governments’ bills. But the crisis in Oklahoma is especially dire, exacerbated by a legacy of large tax breaks bestowed upon oil companies.

MN: Bill to stop opioid 'doctor-shopping' moves ahead in Minnesota

The legislation passed by the state Senate and House requires all doctors, pharmacists and dentists to have credentials to log on to Minnesota’s prescription monitoring program. But it doesn't require them to check a patient's record when prescribing controlled substances.

MD: Maryland omitted key pollution measure in air-quality report

An annual report from the state Department of the Environment touted Maryland’s progress in meeting federal guidelines for air pollutants such as nitrous oxide and ground-level ozone. But it neglected to mention sulfur dioxide, which can cause asthma and other breathing problems.

AZ: Arizona governor signs two bills to broaden free speech on college campuses

One measure signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey effectively makes the entire campus of an Arizona community college or university a free-speech zone, rather than limiting such activities to prescribed areas. The other includes penalties for people who obstruct passage to a political or government event.

TX: Fracking-related activities caused most of recent Texas earthquakes: study

University of Texas researchers concluded that activities associated with petroleum production “almost certainly” or “probably” set off 59 percent of earthquakes across Texas between 1975 and 2015. Scientists deemed only 13 percent of the quakes to be natural. 

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