What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/22

MD: Federal appeals court upholds Maryland's ban on assault rifles

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Maryland's ban on assault rifles, ruling gun owners are not protected under the U.S. Constitution to possess "weapons of war."

MS: Mississippi governor forced to make more emergency cuts

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he must make more midyear cuts to Mississippi’s budget and dip into the state's rainy day fund to keep the state’s books balanced. It’s the fifth cut for most state agencies in less than two years. More are on the horizon this coming year.

TX: Federal judge blocks Texas from cutting Medicaid to Planned Parenthood

A U.S. district judge ruled that Texas can't cut off Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood over secretly recorded videos taken by anti-abortion activists in 2015 that launched Republican efforts across the U.S. to defund the nation's largest abortion provider.

US: State lawmakers fear backlash from giving themselves a raise

Although most state legislatures have direct control over setting their own salaries, the potential backlash from constituents poses a daunting deterrence to raising their often low pay — particularly at a time when private sector pay barely keeps up with inflation.

VT: ‘Six feet under?’ Probably not in Vermont

The required depth of a grave in Vermont will likely be reduced to 3.5 feet — a change state lawmakers say would promote quicker and more thorough decomposition of corpses.

MI: Plan to eliminate Michigan income tax dies; 3.9 percent is new target

A proposal to gradually eliminate Michigan’s 4.25 percent income tax was scrapped in favor of a plan that would cut the tax rate to 3.9 percent over four years and leave it there.

AL: Alabama has the biggest dam problem in the U.S.

Alabama is the only state without a dam safety program, a program that requires not only annual maintenance and inspection, but crucial record keeping on dams' conditions and how heavily a breach would affect residents downstream.

FL: Florida lawmaker proposes restricting what food stamps will buy

In a bid to fight obesity, a Florida legislator has filed a bill that would add soft drinks and candy to the list of items that cannot be bought with food stamp dollars.

MO: Bill would mandate E-Verify checks for Missouri businesses

A Missouri lawmaker wants to require all businesses in the state to use the federal E-Verify system to check whether potential employees are authorized to work in the U.S., and impose harsher penalties for hiring employees who aren’t.

LA: Louisiana governor fails to rein in lucrative tax break

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in June ordered the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry to stop automatically exempting manufacturers from paying local property taxes. But in 2016 manufacturers were awarded more exemptions than ever before.

IA: Iowa Republican wants to require ‘partisan balance’ at universities

Under a bill introduced in the Iowa Senate, if the faculty at a public university tilts toward one of the two major political parties by more than a 10 percentage-point margin, the school would be prohibited from hiring any more members of that party.

SD: Home-schoolers in South Dakota lose out again in activity participation

The Senate Education Committee has killed a bill that would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in band, football, debate and other activities in South Dakota public schools.

NC: North Carolina constitution’s ban on secession could be dropped under House bill

A bill filed by a trio of North Carolina House Republicans seeks to drop a provision in the state constitution that prohibits secession. 

Supreme Court Decision Could Make It Easier for Disabled Students to Sue Schools Portable Benefits
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