What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/25

Top State Stories 1/25

IA: Iowa House, Senate agree on $117.8 million in budget cuts

Leaders of the Iowa House and Senate reached a deal with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad to fix a shortfall of nearly $118 million in the state's current budget. There would be no spending cuts for K-12 education or Medicaid, and a combination of $88.2 million in budget cuts for state agencies.

VT: Vermont governor calls for school and state budget freeze 

In his first budget proposal, Republican Gov. Phil Scott called for a local school budget freeze and a level state general fund budget. His administration says the measure would save about $30 million, hold property taxes level and allow Vermont to increase investments in early education and higher education.

TX: Texas colleges fret about $1 billion missing from budget plan

Texas universities entered the 2017 session of the Texas Legislature gearing up for fights over tuition and who can use what bathroom. Instead they are fighting for an arcane budgeting trick — one that could affect up to $1 billion in funding for museums, research projects and new academic programs.

MD: Maryland governor moves to limit opioid prescriptions, boost penalties for dealers

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan proposed limiting prescriptions for pain medications and increasing prison terms for drug dealers convicted of distributing opioids that result in lethal overdoses. He also established a command center to coordinate local and state efforts to combat opioid abuse in Maryland.

AK: Alaska divorce courts to treat pets more like children

An amendment to Alaska’s divorce statutes makes the state the first in the country to require courts to consider “the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets.

AR: Low-income tax cuts clear Arkansas House, Senate

Both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature approved identical bills that would enact Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to cut individual income tax rates for 657,000 Arkansans with incomes below $21,000.

MN: Minnesota panel backs bill holding protesters liable for costs

A Minnesota House committee approved legislation that would charge demonstrators for the cost of policing disruptive protests. The sponsor of the measure said police and other agencies in Minneapolis and St. Paul spent $2.5 million in the last 18 months dealing with protests.

GA: Compromise to legalize casinos in Georgia moves ahead

A compromise to legalize casinos in Georgia is moving ahead in the state Legislature, with a scaled-back effort that would allow two gaming “resort destinations” — one in Atlanta and one in either Augusta, Columbus or Savannah.

KS: After sending out flawed tax forms, Kansas will have to reissue 380,000

The Kansas Department of Revenue said it is resending an estimated 380,000 forms after some tax filers received forms containing inaccurate information.

WI: Wisconsin newspapers fight bill eliminating publication of meeting minutes

Newspapers in Wisconsin are pledging to fight a bipartisan effort in the state Legislature to eliminate a requirement that meeting minutes of government entities such as school districts, counties and technical colleges be published in local newspapers.

NJ: New Jersey will be first state to send parents home with ‘baby boxes’

New parents in New Jersey will soon receive “baby boxes” when they head home from the hospital with their newborns. The boxes, which are expected to improve infant mortality rates, will be filled with essential items and are big enough to double as a bed for the baby.

KY: Needle-exchange programs spread in heroin-riddled Kentucky

Since state lawmakers decided in 2015 to allow needle exchanges in Kentucky, 21 have been established, including in rural communities.

OK: Oklahoma tribes paid state more than $1 billion since 2006

A new report form the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association says tribes have paid the state more than $1.1 billion in exclusivity fees since 2006. Tribal gambling output in the state was $4.75 billion in 2015, representing 3 percent of private production in the Oklahoma economy.

ACLU Updates Model Law for Police Body Cameras States vs. Cities