What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/26

MD: Some Maryland drug offenders will get treatment, not jail, with governor’s new initiative

Nonviolent drug offenders in Maryland will have a chance to stay home and take recovery classes instead of going to jail under a pilot program funded by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

US: Murder rate rises in big cities, thanks largely to Chicago, Orlando

Homicides jumped 15 percent during the first six months of the year in the 51 large cities that submitted crime data. But over half that increase was driven by spikes in two cities: Chicago, which has struggled with rising gang violence, and Orlando, where 49 people were fatally shot at a nightclub in June.

PA: Pennsylvania lawmakers end session with high-profile bills on the table

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania wrapped up their legislative session last week, leaving bills related to pension reform, statutes of limitation on child sexual abuse cases and limitations on abortion in limbo. 

VA: Virginia governor to sign more than 200,000 voter restoration orders

Following a court ruling that struck down his blanket restoration of voting rights for former Virginia felons, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he will begin signing individual orders to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 people. 

LA: To raise money, Louisiana State University approves officially licensed beer

Just in time for football season, a Baton Rouge brewery plans to roll out its long-awaited “Bayou Bengal” beer, the first officially licensed beer of Louisiana State University. LSU will receive a 13 percent royalty on sales — half will go to the university’s general operating fund, and half will fund athletics.

NC: Faced with early retirements, North Carolina lawmakers extend pension law

The changes to North Carolina’s pension system will allow some highly paid employees to continue working without the threat of losing a portion of their retirement income.

VT: Vermont lawmakers approve budget adjustment plan

The plan, proposed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration, doesn’t cut any services or programs in the budget. Instead it relies largely on money left over from Vermont’s Medicaid program, which did not spend quite as much as expected last year.

TX: Texas cemetery scraps ‘whites only’ policy

After drawing ire for its alleged “whites only” policy, a Texas cemetery in a small rural town conceded its refusal to bury Latino residents is discriminatory and violates federal and state law. Segregated cemeteries — which were historically common in Texas largely because of Jim Crow laws — have been illegal since 1948 when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial covenants on real estate.

CO: Colorado children’s exposure to marijuana increases sharply: study

The rates of marijuana exposure in young Colorado children, many of them toddlers, have increased 150 percent since 2014, when recreational marijuana products, like sweets, went on the market legally.

NJ: Proposed New Jersey gas tax is dead on arrival

A gas tax proposed as a way to save New Jersey’s languishing Transportation Trust Fund will be dead on arrival according to Republican Gov. Chris Christie. 

GA: After years of cutbacks, Georgia hiring again

The number of state employees dropped by about 12,500 between 2008 and 2015, according to Georgia’s Office of Planning and Budget. But a record state budget that took effect earlier this month is giving officials the chance to fill hundreds of jobs.

CA: New law will require temporary license plates in California

Newly purchased vehicles in California must display temporary license plates under a bill signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown despite objections from social justice activists who say it will lead to economic hardship for poor people. Now, only a small notice of sale is required while the owner is waiting for permanent plates.

OK: Many beds for Oklahoma homeless youths remain empty

The number of homeless students in Oklahoma has soared by 55 percent over four years, to 27,161 in 2014-5. But social service groups say that identifying homeless youths and providing effective support remain a challenge because they often try to blend in with peers who are not homeless. 

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