What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/24

ME: Ranked-choice voting unconstitutional, Maine’s highest court says

Maine’s highest court found that the ranked-choice voting system passed by referendum last November violates the Maine Constitution. In its advisory opinion, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court acknowledges the validity of citizen-initiative ballot questions but notes that even citizen-enacted laws can be unconstitutional.

TX: Courts could put Texas GOP’s aggressive agenda to the test

Texas Republicans have approved legislation that would let police ask drivers whether they’re in the U.S. legally, restrict what school bathrooms transgender students can use, ban most second-trimester abortions, and let adoption agencies reject gay couples over religious objections. Abortion rights groups, civil rights lawyers, and LGBT organizations have pledged to challenge those laws in court.

MN: After all-night session, Minnesota Legislature misses another budget deadline

Despite an all-night scramble, by 7 a.m. the Minnesota House had passed just two of the six bills it needed to complete: a $650 million tax-cut package and a schools funding bill. Two of the bills — one funding health and human services and another for nearly $1 billion in borrowing for public-works projects — had not yet been released to lawmakers or the public. 

CA: California lawmakers consider new rules for salary disclosure

In a bid to close the gender pay gap, the California Assembly passed a bill that would prohibit employers from seeking the salary history of job applicants. The bill would also require employers to provide the pay scale for a position if it is requested by an applicant.

MI: Michigan pension reform would switch teachers to 401(k)

Michigan lawmakers in the House and Senate forged ahead with a plan to cut new teachers out of pensions and switch them to a 401(k)-type plan, despite a lack of progress between the Republican leadership in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder on how to reform the state’s teacher pension system.

CO: Colorado governor signs bill to explore expanding passenger train service

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill to explore building passenger rail service along the Front Range and the expansion of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route through Colorado’s southeastern corner. The signing creates a panel charged with presenting the state Legislature with a plan for New Mexico-to-Wyoming service before the end of 2017.

IL: Illinois Senate votes to raise state income tax, expand sales tax

The tax legislation, which would bring in roughly $5.4 billion in new revenue, would increase Illinois’ personal income tax rate from 3.75 to 4.95 percent. The corporate income tax rate would be hiked from 5.25 to 7 percent. 

WA: Second special session for Washington Legislature

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee called lawmakers back for a second special session to continue work on court-mandated K-12 education funding and a new state operating budget. He said legislators "need to start making the hard decisions" after one 30-day special session failed to produce results.

OR: Self-service gas bill heads to Oregon governor

A bill to allow self-service gas in 18 rural Oregon counties will land on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown's desk after passing the state Senate. Oregon and New Jersey are the only states that restrict self-service fueling.

OK: Oklahoma budget crisis spurs battle among oilmen

The oil and natural gas industry has historically been the key driver of Oklahoma’s economy, providing tens of thousands of jobs and accounting for about 13 percent of household earnings. But a sharp cut in oil and gas production taxes has led to severe budget problems for schools and social services and triggered bitter infighting about whether oilmen are paying their fair share.

AL: Blue Cross: Autism mandate applies to plans covering 160,000 Alabama employees

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama says a new state mandate to cover autism therapy will apply to its group insurance plans covering about 160,000 employees in Alabama, plus some individual plans.

Secret Settlements Welfare Eligibility
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