What We're Reading: Top State Stories 9/12

AL, GA, KS: Federal appeals court blocks proof-of-citizenship voting requirement in three states

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has blocked Alabama, Georgia and Kansas from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using the federal registration form. People registering to vote using the form in other states are only required to swear that they are citizens, not show documentary proof.

ND: Federal government halts work on one North Dakota portion of pipeline

The federal government stepped into the fight over the Dakota Access oil pipeline, ordering work to stop on one segment of the project in North Dakota and asking the Texas-based company building it to "voluntarily pause" action on a wider span that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says holds sacred artifacts. The government's order came minutes after a judge rejected a request by the tribe to halt construction of the $3.8 billion, four-state pipeline.

OH: Federal government blocks Ohio plan to charge Medicaid enrollees

The Obama administration rejected a state plan to make about 1.6 million Medicaid beneficiaries in Ohio pay monthly fees into a health savings account and block coverage for missed payments. The goal of the plan was for Medicaid enrollees to take some ownership of their health plans and smooth their future transition to individual or employer-based health care.

MI: U.S. Supreme Court OKs straight-party voting in Michigan

The straight-party voting option will still be available in Michigan in the Nov. 8 general election after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch appeal from the state’s attorney general. The court, which currently has eight members, rejected Michigan’s request for a stay of a preliminary injunction issued against a recent state law banning straight-party voting. 

MD: Maryland lawmakers plan bills for medical pot diversity

Black Maryland state lawmakers are planning to propose emergency legislation to address the dearth of minority-owned businesses approved to grow medical marijuana in the state and may demand scrapping the results of a nine-month application process and starting over.

TX: Federal regulators back ‘telehealth’ company in Texas dispute

In a letter to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court, the Federal Trade Commission sided with Teladoc in the company’s legal battle with the Texas Medical Board. The company, which virtually connects Texas patients to remote, Texas-licensed doctors, sued last year to block board rules that in most cases require face-to-face contact between a patient and a physician before a physician can issue a prescription.

AR: Arkansas ballot will offer new test for medical marijuana

Deeply red Arkansas could be on the verge of an unusually liberal move: legalizing marijuana for people who suffer from a host of medical ailments. The fall ballot will feature two marijuana measures, and pro-pot advocates view them as an important opportunity to show that there is broad support for legalization even in conservative parts of the country, particularly the South.

OK: In reducing staff to cut budget, Oklahoma agency paid millions to departing employees

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services spent $14 million on employees who resigned or accepted voluntary buyouts from the state agency in fiscal 2016, a 70 percent increase over the prior year. The department has reduced staff by more than 1,200 employees over the past two years.

NM: Tobacco, alcohol in crosshairs for New Mexico tax increases

New Mexico’s budget crisis has prompted calls for an increase in “sin” taxes — specifically, taxes on alcohol and tobacco purchases. Tax hikes on booze and cigarettes likely wouldn’t solve the state’s entire $589 million budget shortfall for the current and just-ended fiscal years, but groups promoting them say they would bring in revenue that could help close the gap.

TN: Tennessee lawmakers convene in special session to fix DUI law
Federal authorities said Tennessee’s new DUI law is not in compliance with a federal zero tolerance law, which requires states to set 0.02 as the allowable blood-alcohol level for drivers under 21.Unless the legislature fixes the error by Oct. 1, the state will lose 8 percent, or $60 million, of what it typically receives in federal highway funds.

ME: Maine to privatize welfare program

Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is close to finalizing a $62.5 million contract with a private company to oversee one of Maine’s major public assistance programs that helps with employment. The company, Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, has been sued at least a dozen times in state and federal courts since 2013.

NC: North Carolina lawyers ask judges to consider special election in 2017 for state races

Almost a month after a three-judge panel struck down nearly 30 North Carolina House and Senate districts as illegal racial gerrymanders, attorneys for the challengers and lawmakers cannot agree on how to move forward.

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