What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/16

LA: Louisiana credit downgraded by all three big rating agencies in 13 months

In announcing the latest downgrade, S&P Global Ratings had the same complaints the other two major rating agencies did last year: Louisiana is relying too much on one-time money to plug recurring budget holes, instead of finding permanent sources of revenue or cutting expenses.

KS: Kansas House passes new tax break for rural jobs despite some skepticism 

The Kansas House sent to the Senate a bill that would offer tax incentives for venture capital firms that are supposed to finance business projects to bring jobs to rural areas. Some House members objected, saying the plan, partly underwritten by state income tax credits, hadn’t been sufficiently studied.

FL: Florida localities request $3.8 million to fight Zika

Mosquito control districts in Florida are asking the state for $3.8 million to pay for Zika research and help for counties with small anti-mosquito budgets.

TX: Texas Senate gives approval to two abortion-related bills

Texas senators gave final passage to a bill that would ban what opponents call "partial-birth" abortions and put restrictions on donating fetal tissue, and initial approval to one that would ban doctors from performing dilation and evacuation abortions.

AK: Alaska lawmakers debate cuts to their own budget 

As Alaska lawmakers try to close the state's $3 billion deficit, a new proposal would cut another $1.5 million from a House proposal that already sliced $1.2 million from a preliminary spending plan for the Legislature.

AZ: Arizona governor to support extending education tax

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has vowed to cut taxes every year he's in office. Now he says he's open to extending an Arizona sales tax that helps fund education — and possibly to increasing it.

IL: Illinois bill would make changing birth certificates easier for transgender people

Current Illinois law requires transition surgery in order for transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. Under the new proposal, a birth certificate could be changed if a medical or mental health provider confirms someone has received "clinically appropriate" treatment.

AR: Arkansas Senate favors curbs on wage-floor increases

The legislation would prohibit city and county governments in Arkansas from requiring employers to provide a minimum or living wage, or any other employment benefit, beyond federal or state standards.

HI: Hawaii considers payday loan legislation

A bill approved by the Hawaii Senate would limit payday loan annual interest rates to 36 percent, down from the current allowable rate of 459 percent. Similar bills have met resistance in the House.

PA: Pennsylvania’s state universities struggle to retain students

Many of Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities are confronting not only declines in population and high school graduates, but also students who enroll but leave campus. An average 78 percent of first-time full-time first-year students stay enrolled at least into their sophomore year. But 12 of the 14 schools fall short of that benchmark.

IA: Bill protecting personal data of law enforcement officers passes Iowa Senate

The Iowa Senate approved a bill providing for the confidentiality of personal information about law enforcement officers during criminal proceedings.

ME: Maine breaks tourism records

Maine’s tourism industry, which accounts for one of every six jobs in the state, saw its revenue increase for the fourth straight year in 2016, growing to $6 billion, a 6 percent bump over 2015. The 35.8 million visitors who fueled the growth included a resurgence of Canadian vacationers.

‘Slowpoke’ Driving Top State Stories 3/15