What We’re Reading: Top State Stories 1/3

CA: A tax cut for Californians? Yes, really

Statewide sales tax rates fell a quarter-point effective Jan. 1, with the expiration of a temporary tax increase approved by voters four years ago.

IN: Road funding, financing preschool education atop Indiana Legislature’s agenda

Indiana lawmakers start a new legislative session with promises to increase funding for the state’s roads and bridges and preschool education, raising questions over the need to raise the gasoline tax and whether pre-K should be expanded to include more 4-year-olds. 

US: Federal judge blocks transgender, abortion-related ‘Obamacare’ protections

A U.S. district judge in Texas issued an order barring enforcement of an Obama administration policy seeking to extend anti-discrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act to transgender health and abortion-related services.

US: Seven states have higher gasoline taxes this year

Pennsylvania’s gasoline tax, which is the nation’s largest at 50.4 cents a gallon, rose 7.9 cents at the start of the year. Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska and North Carolina also have higher taxes this year. Two states — New York and West Virginia — will have slight reductions based on automatic adjustments.

OR: Oregon bans 'sky lanterns'

Oregon has banned the use of sky lanterns, miniature hot-air balloons made of paper and fueled by candles or a small cube soaked in fuel, because they’ve been known to start fires. Anyone caught releasing the lanterns could be fined $2,000.

OH: Ohio governor vetoes freeze on renewable energy targets

Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed legislation that would have extended a two-year freeze on renewable-energy standards, making them voluntary for investor-owned utilities for 2017 and 2018. 

DE: Court upholds gun ban in Delaware state parks

A Delaware Superior Court judge has upheld a ban on carrying firearms in state parks and forests for purposes other than hunting.

MD: Wealthy Maryland is poor in child care subsidies

A group of Maryland lawmakers is pushing for an increase in financial assistance for families struggling to cover child care costs, noting that the state ranks among the least generous in the nation for such aid.

WA: Washington lawmakers seek crackdown on distracted driving

As deaths from distracted driving mount in Washington, lawmakers are drafting a bill that would ban drivers' use of handheld devices. The law would replace decade-old legislation that only bars texting and holding phones to the ear while driving.

FL: Florida prepares as medical marijuana amendment goes into effect

The Florida Legislature and the Department of Health need to adopt a new set of rules to implement a constitutional amendment approved by voters that allows higher-strength marijuana to be used for a wider list of medical ailments.

ID: Nearly half of Idaho’s rape kits have not been tested

Nearly half the 2,538 rape kits from 116 local police departments, county sheriff's offices and regional Idaho State Police districts have not been tested, a new assessment required by a new state law reveals.

KS: Kansas Legislature to start live audio streaming of committee hearings

Starting this month people can listen live over the internet to Kansas legislative committee hearings just as they have whenever the House or Senate met in session for the last several years. But live video remains a ways off, as lawmakers consider it too costly to provide.

Telemedicine in Schools Netflix Tax