What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/23
CA: California Supreme Court upholds teacher tenure laws
The court declined to hear a challenge to California laws protecting public school teachers’ tenure and governing dismissal and layoffs, marking a victory for teachers’ unions in a widely watched case.
IL: Illinois governor signs juvenile justice reform bills
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner approved a package of bills that sets new requirements for first-time prison sentences in Illinois, reduces mandatory minimum lengths of probation for juveniles, and allows a juvenile to immediately petition a court for expungement of an offense that is dismissed without a finding of delinquency.
US: Federal judge blocks transgender bathroom rules
A U.S. District Court judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Obama administration's directive to public schools that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. Texas and 12 other states challenged the directive as unconstitutional.
VA: Virginia governor restores voting rights to 13,000
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has individually restored voting rights to 13,000 felons. The move comes a month after his blanket order to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons was struck down by the Virginia Supreme Court.
TN, US: Fraternity atmosphere can make state capitols hotbeds of sexual harassment
Most state legislatures are largely male, part-time and require members to travel away from home, creating a fraternity atmosphere.
US: Thrill-ride accidents spark new demands for regulation
The federal government oversees traveling carnival rides, but doesn’t routinely inspect them. Six states — Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah — have no laws at all that require inspections. Kansas and Tennessee rely on private inspectors hired by ride operators. New Jersey and Pennsylvania, however, have some of the toughest inspection systems.
CO: Hefty hike in Colorado tobacco taxes qualifies for November ballot
The proposed constitutional amendment would more than triple the taxes on cigarettes in Colorado by increasing them from 84 cents a pack to $2.59. Taxes on other tobacco products would increase by 22 percent of the manufacturers’ list price.
US: Traffic fatalities continued to surge in first half of year
Traffic fatalities were up 9 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, continuing a surge in deaths that began two years ago as the economy improved and travel picked up. An estimated 19,100 people were killed on U.S. roads from January through June.
KS: Kansas expects weak first-year return from its $1 billion pension bond investment
Kansas likely won’t come close to earning the annual return of 8 percent it targeted when investing the proceeds from the bond it sold a year ago to boost public pension funds.
WY: Wyoming’s proposed increase in wind tax draws opposition
Wyoming towns and counties are lining up to oppose proposals to increase the state’s tax of $1 per megawatt hour on wind-powered electricity generation, warning it could kill the industry.
GA: Georgia tallies 3,500 untested rape kits to be analyzed
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has found nearly 3,500 suspected sexual assaults that have never been analyzed by authorities for DNA matches. A new law has imposed a deadline for sending kits to the state’s lab for testing.
PA: Pennsylvania launches open data site
In a push for more transparency, Pennsylvania has launched a new online government data repository that includes schedules of when bridges will be replaced and information on completed workforce training. More data sets will be added over time.
NE: In Nebraska schools, popularity of open showers goes down the drain
New schools in Nebraska are being built with fewer showers but greater privacy — a trend that could help mitigate kids not showering after gym class and concerns over transgender students’ access to locker rooms.