What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/27

US: U.S. to expand refugee program for Central American minors

The Obama administration said it will expand a refugee program for Central American children who are fleeing danger, part of a broader effort to stem the unregulated flow of unaccompanied minors across the southern U.S. border.

KS: S&P drops Kansas credit rating

S&P Global Ratings downgraded Kansas’ credit rating to AA-, from AA, citing the state’s lack of cash reserves. Forty-one states now have a higher rating from S&P. Only three — Illinois, New Jersey and Kentucky — have worse ratings.

US: White House reconsiders ban on military gear for police after attacks

A ban enacted last year that barred police departments from obtaining military-grade equipment will get a second look by the White House after police aired concerns about recent shootings that targeted officers. If the ban is lifted, military equipment such as body armor and tank-like armored vehicles could once again be transferred to local police departments.

CA: Could ‘granny flats’ solve California’s housing shortage?

Several bills moving through the California Legislature would make it easier for homeowners to build small units on their properties, whether in their garages, as additions to existing homes or as new, freestanding structures.

PA: Pennsylvania suspends liquor laws for Democratic convention

Democratic National Convention attendees are getting a perk not usually afforded to regular Pennsylvania residents — they can buy drinks after 2 a.m. at some Philadelphia venues and purchase liquor outside of state-owned stores.

MO: Missouri high court overturns law on unemployment benefits

A state law that capped unemployment benefits for laid off workers at 13 weeks has been found unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court. The high court said the Legislature incorrectly approved the change, which slashed the maximum number of weeks of jobless benefits to one of the lowest levels in the nation.

MS: Mississippi cellphone users taking advantage of no-call registry

More than 62,000 people have signed up for a new Mississippi No Call Registry for cellphones in less than a month. The process for registering a cellphone is the same as registering a landline, and the goal is the same: to reduce the number of annoying calls from telemarketers. 

OK: Minority students set to become new majority in Oklahoma schools

When classes begin in a few weeks, nonwhite students will outnumber white students in Oklahoma public schools for the first time. White students will remain the largest ethnic group of public school students in the state, but the combination of Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian and Pacific Islander students will outnumber whites.

MN: Minnesota sets up new climate change office

Minnesota’s new Office of Enterprise Sustainability will provide agencies with assistance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, increase energy efficiency and recycling, and better coordinate efforts across state government.

TX: Texas bullet train opponents hope to block project next year

Texas lawmakers could put up major road blocks next year for a private firm’s plans to build a high-speed rail project connecting Houston and Dallas, now that a federal transportation board has decided the project falls under state jurisdiction.

NM: New Mexico governor suggests a special session, but a short one

A special legislative session to address a potential New Mexico budget deficit of up to $600 million — in both the current and just-finished budget years — seems increasingly inevitable. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez suggested that such a session could be a quick one, though she did not say exactly when she might call it.

WA: Carpooling down in Seattle area

Carpooling has dropped to less than 10 percent of commuters in the Seattle area compared to 18 percent in 1980, a trend mirrored across the nation. Carpooling doesn’t provide the flexibility needed by today’s dual-income families, a Washington state transportation expert said.

NC: Charter school companies to take over low-performing schools in North Carolina

A bill signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory establishes a new statewide district for five low-performing schools that is meant to improve student proficiency. The district will be turned over to charter school management companies and overseen by a superintendent chosen by North Carolina’s Board of Education.

Connecting Generations Lead Paint
Philadelphia Museum of Art