What We're Reading: Top State Stories 7/31

US: A patchwork of justice for juvenile lifers

Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles in murder cases, and last year the court said the more than 2,000 already serving such sentences must get a chance to try for parole. But the odds of release or continued imprisonment vary from state to state, even county to county, in a pattern that can make justice seem arbitrary.

NJ: New Jersey shore towns scramble for revenue as Sandy aid dries up

When Hurricane Sandy wiped out buildings in 2012, it wiped out badly needed tax revenue. Now, with federal aid drying up, New Jersey towns are confronting the financial pain.

US: Migrants in surge fare worse in immigration court than other groups

Of nearly 100,000 parents and children from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico who have come before U.S. courts since 2014, most asking for refuge, judges have issued rulings in at least 32,500 cases. The majority — 70 percent — ended with deportation orders in absentia, pronounced by judges to empty courtrooms.

MA: Massachusetts governor signs marijuana rewrite into law

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed a long-awaited compromise marijuana bill into law, even as he voiced his disapproval with the controversial substance that Massachusetts voters broadly legalized in November 2016.

CO: Pet-sitting becomes legal in Colorado

Updates to Colorado’s Pet Animal Care Facilities Act carve out room for people to care for three or fewer pets without the licensing that would otherwise be required for kennels or doggy day cares.

IL: Cook County, Illinois, soda tax to take effect after legal challenge dismissed

Shoppers in Cook County, Illinois, who buy sweetened beverages will be charged a penny-per-ounce tax beginning Wednesday, after a judge dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the county tax as unconstitutional.

OK: Meth use continues to plague Oklahoma

Oklahoma is seeing the reemergence of an old problem as residents die in record numbers from methamphetamine overdoses. In 2016, the state lost almost one person a day to meth overdoses, more than the number of residents who died last year from oxycodone, hydrocodone and heroin combined.

CA: California judge says Aliso Canyon natural gas facility can reopen

A state appeals court judge ruled that Southern California Gas Company can resume operations at its Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, the source of the biggest methane leak in the country’s history. L.A. County filed suit against state regulators and the gas company alleging that they did not conduct required safety and environmental studies or turn over public documents before reopening the facility.

MO: Some Missouri municipalities to use ‘public safety’ tax to fill potholes, clear snow

Municipalities throughout Missouri’s St. Louis County are set to receive millions of dollars annually from what was billed as a “police and public safety” tax. But some local mayors say they might like to define that term to include things such as road repairs, snow removal and even local tax reduction.

HI: Tax collection too scant, analyst again tells Hawaii

For the second time in five years, Hawaii is being warned that its tax collections likely won’t be enough to cover its costs in the years ahead, which may mean tax increases in the state’s future. The main concern: the obligations of the state, city and counties to fund health benefits for public workers, retirees and their dependents.

DE: New Delaware law eases access to absentee voting

Under the new Delaware law, voters no longer have to get a request for an absentee ballot notarized.

TN: Tennessee judge cancels order to reduce sentences for birth control

A Tennessee judge's plan to encourage birth control among prisoners once they are released has sputtered, only two months into the program.

NC: Flying drones near prisons and jails in North Carolina is now a crime

A new North Carolina law prohibits anyone but law enforcement officials from flying drones within 250 feet above or 500 feet around prisons and jails. Those who use drones to deliver weapons or other contraband can be charged with felonies, while others who simply fly drones near prisons can be charged with misdemeanors.

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