What We're Reading: Top State Stories 11/16

GA: Georgia bill would slap tax on cash sent to foreign homes 

Georgia may be about to see its first piece of Trump-era legislation: a bill that advocates say could raise as much as $100 million annually by slapping a tax on the cash that foreigners, including illegal immigrants, send home.

OH: Ohio casino board aims to shut down ‘skill games’ 

Ohio gaming regulators are going after 600 to 800 “skill-games” operations, where patrons play slot machines and are paid in cash prizes in violation of state law.

MS: Mississippi Legislature: All our contracts are secret

The committee that approves contracts entered into by the Mississippi House voted to make all the contracts confidential.

KS: Kansas postpones 24 road projects amid budget uncertainty 

The Kansas Department of Transportation has postponed $32 million worth of highway projects in the face of the state’s $350 million budget shortfall. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has swept more than $1 billion from the state's highway fund since 2011 to make up for budget shortfalls. 

NJ: New Jersey would be first state to ban cat declawing

A bill that cleared a New Jersey Assembly committee would add declawing to the list of criminal animal cruelty offenses. Veterinarians caught declawing a cat and people who seek them out would face a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.

AZ: Arizona Supreme Court ruling to cost public-safety pension trust $220 million

An Arizona Supreme Court ruling will require refunds to elected officials and public-safety officers who since 2011 were required to pay more for their pensions, with local governments likely to cover the projected $220 million cost to an already fragile public-pension trust fund.

TN: Tennessee sets record for overdose deaths

Last year, 1,451 people died of drug overdoses in Tennessee, the highest number in state history. Almost 72 percent of the deaths involved opioid drugs, and about 30 percent combined opioid and benzodiazepine drugs, like Xanax.

MT: Montana governor’s budget plan calls for modest spending increase

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s plan amounts to a 1.4 percent increase in spending over the biennium. It includes $292 million of infrastructure and building investments, the expansion of Montana’s income tax credit to match the federal rate, new tax credits for businesses that offer on-the-job training, and a pay raise for state employees.

PA: Six-packs coming to Pennsylvania beer distributors

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that will allow Pennsylvania’s more than 1,000 beer distributors to sell beer in any quantity, including 32-ounce bottles, four-packs, six-packs and growlers.

WI: Occupational licensing changes eyed in Wisconsin

The push to curtail occupational licensing requirements like those that apply to everyone from interior designers to auctioneers is gaining momentum in Wisconsin and is expected to be a priority for the incoming Republican-controlled Legislature.

CT: Pensions, retiree health benefits fuel Connecticut’s budget shortfall

Two reports on Connecticut's finances show that a surge of fixed costs, including debt and pension payments, are behind the estimated $1.3 billion shortfall that lawmakers will have to settle next year.

TX: More recoverable oil in West Texas than previously thought

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that producers could tap some 20 billion more barrels of oil from under the Midland area of Texas. It’s the agency’s largest discovery of recoverable crude ever.

NY: New York lawmakers will not get raises, commission decides

It has been nearly two decades since New York State lawmakers have had a pay increase. But a key state commission declined to back a raise for legislators, citing the public’s distaste for Albany’s continuing ethics problems.

Hiring Nurses US ‘Not There Yet’ on Mental Health Parity