What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/15

TX: Texas Senate tentatively approves ‘bathroom bill’

The measure would require transgender people to use bathrooms in Texas public schools, government buildings and other publicly owned facilities that match their “biological sex” and not gender identity. It also would preempt local efforts to allow transgender residents to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity.

KY: Kentucky Senate votes to loosen underground coal mine inspections 

Senators gave final approval to a bill that would replace up to three of the four required annual underground inspections of Kentucky mines with so-called mine safety analysis visits that involve an inspector spending a day with at least one miner.

NJ: Pension fund may soon be turned over to New Jersey police, firefighters

Legislation approved by the New Jersey Senate would give police and firefighters the right to manage their pension fund and its investment portfolio. The police and fire unions also would obtain broad discretion over the size of members’ retirement benefits and the contributions needed to support them.

CA: California considers eliminating income tax on teachers 

To help California recruit and retain teachers, a Senate bill would exempt them from paying state income tax after their fifth year in the classroom. Teachers also would get a tax deduction for the cost of attaining a teaching credential.

WI: Wisconsin sets the stage to remove hundreds of thousands of names from the voting rolls

The Wisconsin Elections Commission approved a plan to send postcards to up to nearly 800,000 voters by June to tell them they will be removed from the voter rolls if they don't update their information.

NY: New York drops state teacher literacy test seen as discriminatory

New York’s Board of Regents eliminated a requirement that aspiring teachers in the state pass a literacy test to become certified after the test proved controversial because black and Hispanic candidates passed it at significantly lower rates than white candidates.

FL: Plan to regulate ride-hailing in Florida clears Senate hearing

For the first time, a Florida Senate committee approved legislation that would take away local governments' ability to regulate ride-hailing businesses like Uber and Lyft, a signal that the bill could pass this session after years of trying by lawmakers and the companies themselves.

MN: Minnesota plan aims to stem health rate hikes, stabilize market

The Minnesota House voted to plow hundreds of millions of dollars into a new program meant to tamp down health insurance costs and ensure plans are offered. The reinsurance program would use nearly $400 million every two years to help insurers cover expensive claims that have driven up premiums.

NM: With teacher sick leave vote, New Mexico Senate overrides governor for first time

The New Mexico Senate voted to override Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto of a bill that would allow teachers to take all their contractual free time — 10 days annually in most school districts — without facing a deduction on their evaluations.

AR: Debit-card lottery bill OK'd in Arkansas Senate

The Arkansas Senate approved legislation giving retailers the option to accept debit cards for the purchase of lottery tickets. Under current state law, retailers may only accept cash for ticket purchases.

MS: Mississippi bill would require passengers 18 and under to buckle up

The proposal from a Mississippi legislator would require passengers under 18, whether sitting in the front or back, to wear a seat belt. Current laws limit the seat belt requirement to the driver and front-seat passenger and require children under 7 to be restrained in a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt.

MT: Montana bill would fine doctors who get state-subsidized tuition and leave

Montana students pay in-state rates to attend medical school at the University of Washington, but only about 40 percent of them return to Montana to practice medicine. A bill attempts to raise students’ return rate by requiring those who don’t to pay back at least part of the cost of their education. 

WV: West Virginia House votes to do away with road-side assistance program

West Virginia House members voted to eliminate the $4 million “Courtesy Patrol” program that helps stranded motorists and use the money for road repairs.

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