What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 9/21

US: States file legal challenge to federal overtime pay rule 

Twenty-one states filed a lawsuit claiming an Obama administration rule to extend mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million workers will place a heavy burden on state budgets. The suit filed in federal court in Sherman, Texas, says that the rule, set to take effect Dec. 1, would make many state employees eligible for overtime pay even though they perform management duties that should make them exempt.

CA: California voters face choice: end death penalty, or speed it up

California voters will decide between two competing ballot measures: Proposition 62, which would end the death penalty and replace it with life without parole, and Proposition 66, which would speed up the executions by accelerating appeals for inmates on death row.

WV: West Virginia lawmakers eye public assistance programs for cuts

A special legislative committee set up to recommend up to $100 million in budget cuts is targeting public assistance programs that aid low-income West Virginians. Only nine counties in the state have work or job-training requirements for recipients of public assistance.

CO: Colorado faces budget shortfall amid subdued economic growth

Colorado’s $25.8 billion budget for the current fiscal year faces a potential deficit, as tax revenues continue to fall short of expectations, due in part to the downturn in the oil and gas industry. Legislative economists predict the state is $330 million in the red, while Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office forecasts a $227 million deficit.

MI: Michigan lawmakers poised to prohibit plastic bag bans, fees

One Michigan county calls its action to reduce the number of plastic bags floating along its roads a model of environmentalism. But the Michigan Legislature is one step away from prohibiting local communities from banning or imposing fees on plastic bags.

AK: Alaska governor resurrects plan to borrow for pension shortfall

Independent Gov. Bill Walker's administration is resurrecting a stalled plan under which it would use as much as $3.2 billion in borrowed money to reduce the hundreds of millions of dollars that Alaska pays into its pension funds each year. Lawmakers gave a similar plan a hostile reception earlier this year, but with lawmakers out of session, Walker's administration isn't expecting to seek permission.

NM: New Mexico governor wants to reinstate death penalty

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said she will add a proposal to reinstate New Mexico’s death penalty for certain violent crimes to the agenda of a special legislative session that could be called as soon as next week. Martinez, a former prosecutor, said she would push for the death penalty to be available to prosecutors when individuals have been convicted of killing children, law enforcement officers or corrections officers.

NY, NJ: Rift over minimum wage may lead to competing pay scales at New York, New Jersey airports

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York backs a $15 minimum wage, but Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have raised his state’s minimum wage to $15. The rift could lead the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates La Guardia and Kennedy airports in New York City and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, to adopt a higher minimum wage for its workers in New York than for those who work at its facilities in New Jersey.

LA: FEMA clarifies that Louisiana mobile homes are eligible for flood relief program

The Federal Emergency Management Agency clarified that Louisiana flood victims who live in mobile homes should not automatically be excluded from a housing recovery program that helps homeowners make basic repairs so they don’t have to move. Previously, the company Louisiana hired to manage the program had argued that a FEMA rule barred repairs to mobile homes.

OK: For thousands of Oklahomans, civil courts are out of reach

Every month, thousands of Oklahomans show up in local courts on civil cases with no attorney representing them because they can’t afford the fees or aren’t aware that legal aid is available. Many more don’t even appear, figuring civil courts are for higher-income residents and there is little chance that their involvement will make a difference.

VA: Virginia State Police faces severe manpower shortage

The Virginia State Police are facing 116 officer vacancies, creating policing deficits on state roadways that officials say make highway safety unsustainable in the long term. Applications to join the state police have fallen 48.5 percent since February, and most employees who are leaving their jobs are seeking better-paying work in other local, state and federal agencies.

WI: Under Wisconsin plan, free IDs would be for voting only

Wisconsin’s Division of Motor Vehicles wants to stamp “voting purposes only” on the free IDs the state makes available, making it harder for people to use them to open bank accounts or prove their identity. Officials believe the changes, which would include producing cheaper, lower-quality IDs, would prompt more people to pay for IDs, thereby increasing transportation funding.

WY: Wyoming's chief information officer takes job with Google

Flint Waters has served as the state's chief information officer and head of the Wyoming Department of Enterprise Technology Services for the past five years. He also has overseen the transfer of state agency data from local systems to cloud storage, and said his work at Google will focus on helping other governments to make similar transitions.

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