What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/9

US: Heroin deaths surpass gun homicides for the first time

In a grim milestone, more people died from heroin-related causes than from gun homicides in 2015, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. As recently as 2007, gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths by more than 5 to 1.

MS: Mississippi’s budget committee proposes job cuts, layoffs

The Legislature's joint budget committee has proposed eliminating 1,999 unfilled Mississippi state government positions and removing most agencies from civil service protection to allow agency directors to eliminate staff and positions.

IA: Iowa to cut transportation services for 140,000 Medicaid enrollees

Iowa is eliminating a service that provides more than 140,000 low-income Iowans with rides to and from doctors’ appointments, dialysis and other nonemergency medical services. The state expanded Medicaid in 2014 to cover more people, but officials said the budget has not kept up.

MO: Missouri court strikes law denying bail to some immigrants

The Missouri Supreme Court said a state law that denies bail to criminal defendants who cannot prove they are legally present in the U.S. violates the state constitution, which says people have a right to be released on bail pending a trial unless they face capital charges or pose a danger to others.

WA: Lawmakers want to make Eastern Washington its own state

Pointing to cultural, political and economic differences, two state lawmakers propose splitting the state of Washington in half.

AR: Arkansas Supreme Court blocks birth certificates for same-sex couples

Arkansas' highest court threw out a judge's ruling that could have allowed married same-sex couples to get the names of both spouses on their children's birth certificates without a court order. Justices sided with the state, which said it has a vested interest in listing biological parents on birth certificates.

US: U.S. life expectancy declines, and researchers are puzzled

American life expectancy is in decline for the first time since 1993, when H.I.V.-related deaths were at their peak. But this time, researchers can’t identify a single problem driving the drop, and point to a number of factors, from heart disease to suicides, that have caused a greater number of deaths.

OH: Ohio lawmakers vote to recognize firefighters’ cancer as an on-the-job illness

The Legislature voted to create a presumption that when an Ohio firefighter has cancer, it was caused by on-the-job activity. The bill would make it easier for firefighters to receive workers' compensation and pension benefits if they are diagnosed with cancer. Thirty states have similar laws.

WI: Fatalities caused by drugged drivers soar in Wisconsin

Wisconsin transportation officials estimate about a quarter of people pulled over for impaired driving in the state are on drugs. There were 149 crash deaths related to drugged driving last year, a 200 percent increase over 10 years.

US: Colleges pushed to note sexual misconduct on transcripts

Colleges that expel students whom they suspect of having committed sexual assault are being asked by victims’ advocates to specify the reason for expulsion on their transcripts. Virginia and New York have a requirement, and a California congresswoman introduced a bill that would expand it nationwide. 

NY: New York makes more changes to grow medical marijuana program

To expand access to medical marijuana, New York will allow manufacturers to wholesale their medicines to competitors and will lift its five-brand cap on the number of products a marijuana company can sell.

GA: Georgia wants to know if feds behind probe of voter database

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has asked federal officials to explain what appears to be an attempt by the U.S. Homeland Security Department to breach Georgia’s voter registration database.

Ohio Legislators Approve Firefighter Protection Measure Child Care Subsidies