What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 5/23

US: Opioid prescriptions drop for first time in two decades

The number of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. fell in each of the past three years, the first sustained decline since OxyContin hit the market in 1996. Experts say the drop is an early signal that doctors have begun to heed warnings about the highly addictive nature of the drugs.

OK: Oklahoma governor vetoes abortion bill

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a measure that would have made it a felony for physicians to perform abortions in Oklahoma, saying the bill was vague and would not withstand a constitutional legal challenge.

VA: Restoration of voting rights makes it easier for felons to own guns in Virginia

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order last month restoring the voting rights of 206,000 Virginia felons had an unintended consequence: It’s now easier for those ex-offenders to regain the right to own guns.

WV: Still no West Virginia budget, as lawmakers consider how to close a $270 million shortfall

West Virginia lawmakers return Monday for an extended special session to consider $78 million in new tobacco taxes, up to $75 million in additional spending cuts by state agencies, and another raid on the state’s rainy day fund.

MD: How a mah-jongg game bust led to legalized home poker games in Maryland

Last year, police bused a $4 mahjong game at a 55-plus community after a resident who lost $20 snitched. Now Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has signed a law that permits “a home game involving wagering” in Maryland, but it comes with many caveats.

AK: Clerical errors keep Alaska inmates in jail beyond their sentences

Over the past five years, the Alaska Department of Corrections kept — or would have kept, if the errors hadn't been discovered by state investigators — more than 100 inmates in jail for days or weeks after their sentences expired because of clerical errors.

TX: Texas police say criminals often using imitation weapons

Police in Texas say more crimes are being committed with imitation weapons like BB guns, likely because they're cheap, easy to obtain and criminals may believe — mistakenly — that if they're caught, they'll avoid the severe punishment that can come with illegally possessing a real one.

KS: Few paper applications, long call wait times seen as barriers to applying for Medicaid in Kansas

As Kansas continues to battle a backlog of Medicaid applications, advocates for the elderly and disabled say applying for Medicaid has become more difficult since the state shifted the administrative agency that oversees their applications.

NY: New York City’s new high-tech buses have Wi-Fi but no protections for pedestrians

New York City's sleek new buses, which began hitting the streets last week, have USB charging ports and free Wi-Fi. But most will initially lack technology to address perhaps the worst safety issue with the big vehicles, hitting pedestrians while making turns.

AR: Arkansas governor, nursing homes vow cost cuts

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and nursing home industry representatives pledged to save Arkansas’s Medicaid program $250 million over five years. The number of nursing home beds will be capped at their current level for 10 years, even though the number of elderly Arkansans needing supportive services is expected to grow by 25 percent over that period.

WI: Blacks, Latinos experience majority of state-issued ID denials in Wisconsin

Eighty-five percent of people denied a state-issued ID card in Wisconsin are black or Latino, according to testimony in an ongoing federal trial on the state’s new voter ID law.

MT: Term limits don't actually shorten Montana legislators' service

Montana’s term limits may frustrate state legislators. But nearly all senators and representatives serve as long at the state Capitol as they did before voters added term limits to the Montana Constitution with a 1992 ballot measure.

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