What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/4

TX: Texas agrees to alter voter ID law for November election

Those without a photo ID will be able sign an affidavit that certifies they are a U.S. citizen and present proof of residence, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck. Texas reached the agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and minority rights groups just a few weeks after a federal appeals court ruled the state’s 2011 voter identification law was discriminatory.

MA: Fentanyl drives rise in opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts

Deaths from opioid overdoses continued to rise in Massachusetts during the first half of 2016, driven by a spike in fentanyl use, according to new data from the state Department of Public Health. Deaths were up despite an apparent decline in the use of heroin and prescription drugs.

UT: Auditors smack Utah regulators for lax enforcement of payday industry

Utah has lax regulations of the payday lending industry and state regulators are failing to do their job in enforcing the rules, according to a new legislative audit that recommends significant changes to the way the industry is governed.

NY: New York governor unveils plan to fight Zika threat in subway transit system

New York City’s subway system, the largest in the country, will drop bug-killing larvicide tablets into puddles of stagnant water to help combat and stem any threat of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said. As of this week, 537 travel-related cases of Zika in New York state have been confirmed, with more than 400 of those occurring in New York City.

WA: Washington court stands by order to improve service in psychiatric hospital

A court commissioner refused a request by Washington state officials to reconsider his order that patients be moved more quickly in and out of Western State Hospital. The Lakewood hospital, the state’s largest psychiatric facility, has a shortage of space and staff and has been unable to overcome long waiting lists for both admission and discharge.

IL: Complaints about animal cruelty at Illinois hog farms rarely bring state action

A lack of inspectors — the Illinois Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare has just six — contributes to the scant enforcement, while weak Illinois and federal livestock protection laws do little to safeguard animals. 

NC: North Carolina scientist says health officials played down risk of coal ash in drinking water

A long-running dispute between a state scientist and the administration of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory erupted into public view this week over his claims in a lawsuit deposition that top state officials have downplayed the risks of coal ash to well owners.

WI: Open meetings case appealed to Wisconsin Supreme Court

A conservative public-interest law firm is appealing a case to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court that could decide what kinds of governmental meetings are required to be open to the public.

NH: New Hampshire cuts number of moose hunting permits

The number of permits for moose hunting will be reduced again for the upcoming season as state wildlife officials try to stabilize a rapidly declining moose population. The number of moose permits made available by lottery will be cut from 105 to 71. In the middle of the last decade, the state was issuing more than 650 permits.

IA: Plan aims to make central Iowa more immigrant-friendly

The plan from the Greater Des Moines Partnership includes establishing a central welcome center and microloans for foreign-born entrepreneurs, and providing basic legal aid, which members of the group said would help boost central Iowa's economy by helping to fill open jobs and bolster Iowa's population.

OR: Oregon bottle deposit to double next year

The deposit on beverage bottles and cans will double next year to 10 cents because low return rates triggered an automatic increase laid out in a 2011 state law. Oregon was the first state to enact such a deposit, in 1971.

Refugee Resettlement Budget Impasses