What We're Reading: Top State Stories 11/23

LA: Number of drug-exposed newborns has tripled in Louisiana since 2008

The number of infants born exposed to alcohol and drugs in Louisiana has nearly tripled since 2008, driven in part by a rise in heroin and prescription painkiller use among pregnant women, according to the Department of Child and Family Services.

CA: California special session to end without transportation funding

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders said no vote would take place on financing billions of dollars in repairs to the state’s crumbing roads and highways before the end of the special session Nov. 30.

TX: Texas argues it can fix foster care without judge's oversight

Texas’ Republican attorney general, faced with a mounting crisis in the state’s child welfare system, published a scathing critique of costly, court-ordered reforms meant to improve the conditions of children in the state’s long-term foster care system.

KS: Kansas governor won’t seek furloughs or layoffs

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback won’t propose furloughs or layoffs of Kansas state workers in his January budget proposal, although lawmakers fear personnel actions may be necessary to address the state’s $350 million budget shortfall.

KY: Kentucky atheist sues over rejected auto license plate

A Kentucky atheist filed a federal lawsuit after the state Department of Motor Vehicles denied his request for a personalized "IM GOD" license plate. The department said the plate was offensive.

WI: Wisconsin officials project $693 million shortfall

Expected state revenue over the next two years will fall $693 million short of what state agencies want to spend. The projected shortfall is far less than the $2.2 billion potential gap that Wisconsin faced two years ago, amounting to about 2 percent of what agencies want to spend over the two-year period.

PA: Pennsylvania hunters OK’d to use semi-automatic rifles, handguns

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that will allow the use of semi-automatic rifles and handguns for hunting. Pennsylvania’s Game Commission is expected to issue regulations next year on gun calibers, hunting seasons and the type of animals that can be hunted using the weapons. 

NJ: DOJ sues New Jersey town that blocked mosque 

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Bernards Township, New Jersey, alleging that the town violated federal law when its planning board denied the construction of a mosque.

AR: Arkansas representative switches parties, giving GOP supermajority in House

Republicans now control 75 seats in the Arkansas House and have the three-fourths majority needed to pass appropriations bills without any support from Democrats. The Democrats narrowly avoided having Republicans pick up a supermajority in the Senate, where they now control 24 of the 35 seats.

MS: Mississippi AG says Legislature can't keep contracts secret

In a letter to legislative leaders, Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood said the Mississippi Legislature by law cannot keep its contracts secret from the public — despite the House Management Committee's vote last week to do so.

IA: Iowa speed cameras snag thousands of out-of-state motorists

Speed cameras in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City issued more than 200,000 speeding tickets in 2015 to motorists traveling on Iowa interstates, generating more than $13 million in revenue. Two of every five citations, 78,228 in all, were sent to out-of-state motorists.

DE: Pay raises for Delaware’s top officials?

Delaware’s governor, lawmakers and top judges all make more than the national average for their positions. And while they already get salary increases that go to all state workers, they also benefit from a little-known group that has the authority to dole out special raises not given to the vast majority of state employees.

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