What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/19

NJ: State Supreme Court says New Jersey towns must provide affordable housing

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that towns in the state are obligated to provide affordable homes to make up for those that weren't built during the nearly two-decade period when the state failed to issue rules on low-income housing.

US: States sue to block last-minute Obama environmental rule

Thirteen states are asking a federal judge to block a last-minute Obama administration environmental rule aimed at preventing coal mines from fouling thousands of miles of streams. The rule would stop miners from dumping debris near streams and rivers, and require new testing and monitoring of streams near coal mines.

AR: Arkansas governor vows to seek deeper tax cuts in 2 years

An Arkansas Senate panel endorsed Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $50 million proposal to cut income taxes for more than 650,000 residents making less than $21,000 a year. The cut is less than half the reduction Hutchinson signed into law two years ago and less than what some GOP lawmakers would have liked, but the governor promised to seek deeper reductions later.

TN: Tennessee governor calls for 7-cent gas tax hike, cuts to grocery sales tax

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is pushing a 7-cent hike in Tennessee’s gas tax and new fees on electric vehicles and rental cars as part of a package aimed at tackling a $10 billion backlog of road projects. The plan also calls for cutting the sales tax on groceries by another half percent and $113 million in cuts to the state's business taxes.

VA: Hunters say Virginia dog proposal barks up the wrong tree

A piece of legislation in front of the Virginia General Assembly would allow local law enforcement to create a $100 fine for dogs that “run at large” on other people’s properties. Hunters say the proposal unfairly targets their dogs that help track down deer, bear and other wildlife.

CO: Colorado governor wants tax boost on pot sales, some homes

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is proposing higher taxes on marijuana sales and on some homes owned by seniors to close an anticipated $106 million deficit in funding for Colorado public schools.

KS: Kansas secretary of state seeks to prevent potentially thousands from voting in state, local races

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked for a bill that would give him authority to hold "bifurcated" elections so that potentially tens of thousands of Kansas voters who register with federal forms could not vote in state or local elections.

TX: Texas legislators start with a $5.3 billion difference of opinion

On the first day of the session, the two chambers of the Texas Legislature couldn’t even agree on the size of the current budget. The House baked in some supplemental expenses, including $1.2 billion for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

NM: New Mexico proposal would expand DWI to include drugs

New Mexico lawmakers will consider a proposed expansion of the state’s drunken-driving law that would set blood concentration levels for five drugs: marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamine and methamphetamine.

MO: Right-to-work law advances in Missouri House

The Missouri House gave initial approval to a measure that would prohibit labor contracts that require all the workers who benefit from union representation to pay for it. Republican Gov. Eric Greitens has pledged to sign a right-to-work bill if it makes it to his desk.

VT: Vermont governor wants new oversight of liquor, lottery, labor

Republican Gov. Phil Scott wants to reshuffle the structure of state government by combining labor and economic development issues under one roof, merging Vermont’s liquor and lottery offices, and creating a more powerful agency for technology projects.

CA: California leaders debate if drought rules should be lifted

After heavy rains, urban water districts are urging California’s State Water Resources Control Board to allow the state’s emergency conservation rules to expire. Local officials said they’ve invested in storage and conservation programs and that they have strong water supplies. But water board members said conditions could turn dry again.

NE: Nebraska targets ban on religious garb worn by teachers

State lawmakers are looking to end a ban that prohibits Nebraska public school teachers from wearing any sort of religious garb, from burqas to yarmulkes. Thirty-six states had similar bans at various points, but Nebraska and Pennsylvania are the only ones that have yet to repeal them.

Seattle Area Moves Closer to Legalized Heroin Shooting Galleries Food Hubs