What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 9/28

CA: Dying Californians will get to seek experimental drugs

Under a new law signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, drug manufacturers will be able to offer treatments in California that have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration if the patient has exhausted other FDA-sanctioned options and has approval from two physicians.

IL: Federal judge limits some Election Day voter registration in Illinois

A federal judge in Illinois blocked same-day registration at polling places in the state's most populous counties, saying a law enacted last year disproportionately favored urban voters over their rural counterparts.

NJ: New Jersey cracks down on fentanyl substitutes

Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced an emergency order to ban dangerous fentanyl analogs, mostly substitutes produced for street sales to evade the ban on fentanyl. The order makes the manufacture, distribution, sale or possession of the chemicals in New Jersey a crime that can lead to up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

OH: New Ohio law aimed at “zombie properties” 

A new Ohio law is being seen as a national model for eliminating vacant “zombie properties” that blight neighborhoods by establishing a fast-track system to trim the foreclosure process from two years or more to as little as six months.

TX: Many more Texas prison inmates coming out as transgender

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, just 67 inmates in state prisons and jails identified themselves as transgender in September 2014. Two years later, that number has increased almost fivefold, to 333 people. While still a very small group — just 0.2 percent of the total state jail and prison population — transgender inmates require special attention under new federal rules that seek to reduce inmate sexual assault. 

DE: Consultant to investigate racism in Delaware state government

Democratic Gov. Jack Markell’s administration will pay a consultant $468,000 to investigate anti-discrimination and diversity policies within Delaware agencies, more than a year after a controversy erupted over allegations of racism in state government.

MI: Michigan inmates get job training in a “vocational village”

A new Michigan program removes soon-to-be-released inmates from the general prison population and assigns them to an exclusive “vocational village” for job training. The goal: Give them marketable skills that lead to a stable job, the kind that will keep them out of trouble in the long term.

US: Federal government cracks down on smuggling of Middle East migrants into U.S. 

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his agency is cracking down on smuggling groups that are bringing Middle Eastern migrants into the country by working with Central and South American nations to intercept them before they get to the southern U.S. border.

AL: Alabama law on PACs upheld by federal appeals court

A federal appeals court upheld Alabama’s ban on transfers between political action committees, saying it did not affect a political group’s ability to make independent expenditures.

AK: Unemployment insurance claims rise across Alaska

The number of people who collected jobless benefits in Alaska this summer grew year over year in several industries, suggesting that a long stretch of layoffs in the high-paying oil patch and the loss of income to the state is rippling through the economy.

US: Across U.S., police officers abuse confidential databases

Police officers misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work. No single agency tracks how often the abuse happens nationwide, and record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur.

SC: South Carolina lawmakers may rethink a controversial property tax law

The law, passed before the Great Recession, exempted owner-occupied homes from paying operating taxes for local schools, shifting that burden to commercial and other properties. In exchange, the state increased the sales tax by a penny and agreed to send money back to South Carolina school districts.

NE: Nebraska may owe feds up to $32 million over Medicaid payments

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services officials have discovered a billing problem that could cost the state up to $32 million. The issue stems from changes made two years ago in how providers are paid for serving residents with developmental disabilities that put Nebraska at odds with federal Medicaid regulations.

Youth Suicide Income vs. GDP