What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/22

TX: Texas Senate approves ‘religious refusal’ adoption measure

The Texas Senate approved a bill that allows publicly funded foster care and adoption agencies to refuse to place children with non-Christian, unmarried or gay prospective parents because of religious objections.

US: Lack of workers, not work, weighs on U.S. economy

After eight years of steady growth, the main economic concern in a growing number of states is no longer a lack of jobs, but a lack of workers. Nearly a third of the 388 metropolitan areas tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have an unemployment rate below 4 percent, and the rate in some cities is even lower, at 2 percent.

KY: Kentucky's retirement debt soars after pessimistic outlook

Kentucky's pension debt grew by roughly $2 billion after the retirement system's governing body made dramatic changes to long-held investment assumptions. As a result, state taxpayers will have to pay significantly more into the system to keep it solvent.

IL: Illinois set to change sex-abuse law

Illinois is set to eliminate the statute of limitations in child sex-abuse cases, a change prosecutors and a victim of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert called for after Hastert was imprisoned for violating banking laws while trying to silence a student he abused decades ago.

CA: Pot convictions go up in smoke with California legalization

A lesser-known provision of the voter-approved law that legalized recreational marijuana in California allows some convicts to wipe their rap sheets clean. More than 2,500 requests were filed to reduce convictions or sentences, according to partial state figures, and prosecutors said they have not fought most petitions.

KS: Kansas moves toward allowing outdoor drinking districts

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of a bill that would allow Kansas cities to designate districts where patrons can move among bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, drinks in hand.

MT: How Big Tobacco stopped a Montana smoking tax

When the Montana Senate voted this spring for what would have been the state’s first tobacco tax increase in 12 years, Big Tobacco lobbyists swarmed the Capitol in Helena. Within a week the bill was dead, its demise a textbook example of how a well-financed industry can torpedo legislation.

NM: New Mexico Legislature’s dilemma: tax reform or more cuts?

With New Mexico lawmakers headed back to the Capitol for a budget-balancing special session, there’s little agreement on how much additional revenue — if any — will be needed to fund state government operations for the coming year, and whether an overhaul of the state’s clunky gross receipts tax system should be part of the special session mix.

NV: The sun could soon shine again on rooftop solar in Nevada

An Assembly committee gave bipartisan support to a bill that would provide protections for Nevada consumers who want to purchase rooftop solar systems and participate in net metering, in which homeowners get reimbursed from a utility for the excess electricity they generate.

IA: Iowa smartphone driver's licenses expected to launch in 2018

Iowa is one of the first states in the nation to explore the development of digital driver's licenses, which would be an alternative to traditional, plastic driver's licenses. But at least nine other states are now considering the concept.

WA: Washington homeless shelters face funding squeeze as focus shifts to permanent housing

The vast local network of organizations aimed at sheltering homeless people in the Seattle area is in the midst of a historic shift as funders switch their focus from emergency shelters to permanent housing. 

CO: Diesel drivers who are ‘rolling coal’ in Colorado: Tune up or pay up

Diesel pickup truck drivers who illegally tweak their engines so that by stepping on their accelerator pedals they can blast out spectacularly foul fumes could soon face $100 fines in Colorado.

Foreign-Born Doctors Sales Tax