What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/8

MD: Maryland’s highest court overhauls state’s cash-based bail system

The rule change, which takes effect July 1, requires Maryland judges to impose the “least onerous” conditions when setting bail for a defendant who is not considered a danger or a flight risk. Maryland is one of a handful of states, including New Mexico, Kentucky and New Jersey, that are moving away from bail as part of a larger criminal-justice overhaul movement.

PA: Pennsylvania governor touts 'largest cuts' to state bureaucracy in history

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a $32.3 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year that would close Pennsylvania's daunting deficit largely through cuts and agency consolidation, while shying away from the large-scale tax hikes that helped doom his past budget proposals.

TX: Texas Senate approves ethics bill

The Texas Senate approved a bill that would take pensions away from officials convicted of felonies and require lobbyists to disclose more of their wining and dining of lawmakers.

VA: GOP Legislature moves to wrest regulatory power from Virginia governor

Virginia’s Republican-controlled Senate moved to claw power away from Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, passing a proposed constitutional amendment that would enable legislators to veto regulations enacted by state agencies with a simple majority vote.

OK: Oklahoma governor proposes tax on wind production

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposal to impose a 0.5 cent per kilowatt-hour tax on electricity from wind generation would make Oklahoma the second state to impose a tax on wind power, and its tax would be the nation’s highest.

GA: Georgia Senate leaders back big raises for law enforcement

Georgia Senate leaders approved a midyear spending plan that adds $600 million to this year’s budget and provides money to give state law enforcement 20 percent raises.

CA: California Republicans ask Trump to block bullet train funding

All 14 members of California’s Republican delegation to Congress have asked the Trump administration to block a pending federal grant that will support the state's high-speed rail project until an audit of the project's finances is completed. 

WI: Wisconsin governor to propose more funds for disabled, foster families

As Republican Gov. Scott Walker contemplates a re-election run in 2018, he is softening some of the hard conservative lines that marked his past budgets and putting forward some proposals that may appeal to voters in the middle — such as $649 million more for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools over the next two years.

IA: Sweeping changes proposed to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws, public unions

The proposed changes would remove health insurance from mandatory contract negotiations for most public sector union workers in Iowa and prohibit negotiations over things like insurance, evaluation procedures and seniority-related benefits. Other changes are proposed to the arbitration and certification process for unions.

NE: Nebraska governor backs plan to change how farm land is valued

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is promoting a bill that would change how Nebraska values farm and ranch land, with the goal of reducing how much landowners pay in property taxes. The system, which calculates the land’s income-producing ability, rather than its market value, has been embraced by states such as Kansas and South Dakota.

MN: Career, technical teachers in short supply at Minnesota schools

With Minnesota high schools saying they don't have enough teachers to help prepare students for careers, lawmakers will likely move the state to a “tiered” licensure system, allowing applicants to get into the profession with minimal requirements that might not include a four-year college degree.

FL: Florida Senate advances bill that could chill access to public records

The bill would make it harder to collect legal fees from government agencies when they illegally block access to records that Florida law says are supposed to be available to the public. Local government groups say the measure will stop people from filing complex public records requests in the hopes of winning fees or a settlement. 

UT: Utah House backs compromise on opiate overdose bill

After a battle between doctors who are members of the Utah House, lawmakers passed a compromise bill to encourage insurance companies to adopt policies that may help prevent opiate overdoses and addiction. 

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