What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/5

US: Several states moving to expand age kids must be in school

A dozen states are trying to keep children in school longer, from making kindergarten mandatory to raising the legal drop-out age. But it's not an easy sell.

PA: Pennsylvania Legislature starts to move big pension bill

Under the hybrid plan under consideration by Pennsylvania lawmakers, about half of workers’ pensions would remain in a taxpayer-backed guaranteed plan. The other half would go into a corporate-style 401(k) plan that goes up and down with the market, reducing taxpayer exposure by more than 50 percent.

LA: Louisiana criminal justice bills advance, state Senate is next stop

Supporters say the five criminal justice measures would reduce Louisiana’s inmate population by 10 percent over the next decade, saving the state $262 million. The Legislature would pledge to reinvest $184 million of those savings in programs to support crime victims and to rehabilitate inmates so they wouldn’t return to prison after their release.

CA: California call to undocumented students: It’s safe to apply for financial aid

In an online video launched by California community colleges, state legislators and educators encourage undocumented students to apply for financial aid. Fewer students submitted applications in the first few months of this year than during the same period last year. 

SC: Bill would put a stop to varying South Carolina flags

South Carolina law says the state flag should be blue, with a white palmetto tree and crescent on it. But the law doesn’t set specifications for their exact placement or design and, as a result, some variations have found themselves into the flags produced by competing flag makers.

MT: Montana preparing to collect 1st medical marijuana tax

State revenue officials are working on the rollout of a gross sales tax that Montana’s medical marijuana providers will start putting on the books July 1. Because the burgeoning industry relies heavily on cash, revenue department officials say they might need to set up cash counters to handle the new tax payments.

TX: Texas may expand ballot access for elderly and voters with disabilities

The measure, which is awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, would essentially turn Texas nursing homes and similar facilities into temporary polling places during early voting to discourage facility staffers, political operatives or others from trying to manipulate residents’ votes, a well-documented threat surrounding such vulnerable voters.

OH: Human trafficking victims would get legal relief in Ohio Senate bill

A bill that passed the Ohio Senate and now heads to the House would allow victims of human trafficking to apply to have their records expunged of nearly any offense that can be connected to trafficking. It would also allow for past victims to retroactively apply for expungement.

MO: State funding eliminated for Missouri sobriety checkpoints

The budget now on Republican Gov. Eric Greitens' desk effectively eliminates funding for sobriety checkpoints for the fiscal year that begins in July. Some Missouri police agencies have already cancelled checkpoints planned for the summer, when more motorists are on the road and drunken driving is more common.

IA: Medical marijuana businesses unsure about future in Iowa

Iowa's medical marijuana oil program will start in weeks, but there is no immediate supplier of the oil in the state and manufacturers in other states question whether enough people will enroll in the limited program to make it self-sustaining.

WI: Critics deride secrecy, limits on investigations by Wisconsin Ethics Commission

Critics say the fledgling Wisconsin Ethics Commission is hindered by a state law barring it from conducting some of its most vital functions in public view — and restricting its ability to probe alleged wrongdoing.

CO: New Colorado law allows victims of sex assault and stalking to break their residential leases

The new law allows victims of sexual assault and stalking to break their residential rental agreements, if they provide one of three documents to confirm their status. Under previous Colorado law, only victims of domestic abuse were allowed to end their leases while under duress.

Nevada Governor Signs Bill Requiring Seat Belts on School Buses ‘Super Commuters’