What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/1

MS: Federal judge blocks Mississippi’s “religious freedom” law

Just minutes before it was to take effect, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking a Mississippi law that would have allowed private citizens and some public officials professing a “sincere religious belief” to deny services to gays and lesbians.

IL: Illinois governor signs stopgap budget, school funding bill

Illinois political leaders cut a deal on a makeshift budget to keep state government afloat for six months, ensure schools open this fall and rescue the financially struggling Chicago Public Schools — a temporary reprieve to the stalemate that's gripped the Capitol for a year and a half.

IN: Federal judge blocks Indiana abortion law

A federal judge blocked an Indiana law that would have banned abortions based solely on a fetus’s disability or genetic anomaly, suggesting that it was an illegal limit on a woman’s long-established constitutional right. The judge also held up a state ban on abortions motivated solely by a fetus’s race or sex.

IA: Iowa Supreme Court upholds ban on felons voting

Iowa’s highest court ruled that all felonies are "infamous crimes" resulting in permanent disenfranchisement under the state Constitution. The decision upholds what critics say is one of the harshest felon voting laws in the nation, and ensures the state will not see a significant shift in voter eligibility ahead of the 2016 election.

MA: Gilead and Massachusetts agree to rebates for hep C drugs

Following threats to sue Gilead Sciences over the cost of its hepatitis C treatments, the commonwealth of Massachusetts has reached a deal with the drugmaker for rebates for some of its residents who are infected with the chronic disease.

LA: Louisiana's historically black colleges see enrollment increase

After years of decline, enrollment at most historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Louisiana is on the rise. Officials attribute the shift to an increase in the number of non-black students attending HBCUs, as well as recent racial conflicts at predominantly white institutions.

NM: New Mexico high court: Doctors can't help patients end lives

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that terminally ill patients cannot end their lives with help from doctors, overturning a district court decision that doctors could not be prosecuted under the state's assisted suicide law. Doctors can legally help terminally ill patients end their lives in five states — California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

NC: North Carolina lawmakers allow needle exchange programs

The provision, included in a bill outlining procedures for releasing body camera footage, allows government and private organizations in North Carolina to operate programs allowing drug addicts to obtain clean needles and syringes.

OH: Ohio’s Motion Picture Tax Credit gets big boost

The revised Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit doubles the current $20 million cap on annual incentives, removes the $5 million cap per project, and raises the incentive rate to a flat 30 percent of production dollars spent in Ohio.

NV: Nevada lawmakers authorize new financial fraud investigator jobs

Nevada lawmakers are releasing some money the state got in a national mortgage settlement to ramp up a financial fraud investigation unit in the attorney general's office.

KS: Concealed carry for Kansas public employees takes effect

A new Kansas law enables public employees, except school employees, to conceal firearms and carry them on the job without any gun safety training. They were already allowed to carry in public office buildings in most cases, now they may carry weapons when they go out into the community on official business.

FL: Florida declares state of emergency over algae blooms 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in response to huge algae blooms that have forced South Florida beaches to close. The order will allow state and local authorities to take action, for instance by redirecting water flows into Lake Okeechobee.  

HI: Hawaii’s homeless population keeps rising

Despite the state’s best efforts, Hawaii saw an increase of some 300 homeless people this year, a 4 percent increase over last year. It was the fifth consecutive year in which the state’s homeless population rose.

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