What We're Reading: Top State Stories 9/19

CA: How a pension deal went wrong and cost California taxpayers billions

California legislation, from 1999, gave prison guards, park rangers, Cal State professors and other state employees the kind of retirement security normally reserved for the wealthy, and proponents promised that it would impose no new costs on taxpayers. But they were off by billions of dollars — and taxpayers will bear the consequences for decades to come.

US: Drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid crisis

The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction.

KS: Kansas school funding case poses potential financial crisis for state

The state could be required to spend $1 billion more for public schools if the Kansas Supreme Court rules in favor of districts that are suing for what they say is inadequate funding. The court will hear arguments this week in an ongoing battle over whether the Legislature and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback are meeting constitutional requirements for paying for public schools.

MI: After court threat, Michigan removed Flint's power to sue

Days after Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said her city might file a lawsuit against the state of Michigan over the Flint drinking water crisis, the state advisory board that still exerts partial control over the city moved quickly to change the rules so the city cannot file a lawsuit without first getting approval from the board.

MA: Massachusetts governor orders new limits on greenhouse emissions

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker directed state officials to develop regulations for specific, annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by next summer. The executive order comes on the heels of a court ruling that the state has not done enough to meet its obligations under the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires Massachusetts to cut its greenhouse gases 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

IA: Civil forfeiture pumps millions into Iowa law enforcement agency budgets

Iowa law enforcement agencies confiscate cash, vehicles and real estate from at least 1,000 people each year as part of a state program in which no proof of crime is required before the government lays claim to personal belongings.

CT: In Connecticut, illegal home child care an elusive target

The recent deaths of two children in unlicensed day care homes has cast a light on Connecticut’s shadowy underworld of illegal child care. Unless the state receives a specific complaint and can confirm the illegal activity, these providers operate unchecked, undercutting licensed home providers by as much as $150 a week.

VA: Right-to-work, first responder provisions on Virginia ballot

Voters in Virginia will decide whether to add provisions of the state’s right-to-work law, which says participation in a union may not be a condition for employment, to the state constitution. A second proposed amendment is meant to aid the families of first responders killed in the line of duty by allowing localities to exempt a surviving spouse’s real property from taxation.

MD: Maryland governor may have exceeded authority on school start, attorney general says

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan may have exceeded his authority by ordering the state’s 24 public school systems to start after Labor Day, according to the state attorney general’s office, whose opinion was sought by Democratic lawmakers opposed to the Republican governor’s action.

MS: Mississippi after-school programs scaled back amid reduced funding

Mississippi officials say they only have enough federal money to subsidize after-school programs for a quarter of the students they originally projected to serve because employees mishandled grant money.

KY: Kentucky’s high-speed internet project should be done by mid-2019

A project to extend high-speed internet access statewide — designed to create economic opportunities across Kentucky — should be done by mid-2019, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said.

PA: New Pennsylvania law lets drivers run red lights

A new law in Pennsylvania allows drivers to go through a red light when the sensor appears to be malfunctioning, keeping the light from turning green.

TX: Texas school districts facing higher costs after camera law clarified

Texas lawmakers who sponsored the measure, approved last year, intended to require that schools install cameras in a child’s special education classroom at a parent’s request. However, the state attorney general has interpreted the law to mean that when one camera is requested, school officials must install them in every special education classroom throughout a district.

Driverless Cars Wage Gap
Philadelphia Museum of Art