What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/7

Top State Stories 8/7

MD: Maryland fentanyl deaths surge again in first quarter of 2017

The number of Maryland deaths related to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, surged in the first quarter of 2017, more than doubling from the first quarter of 2016, and making up the majority of drug-related overdose deaths in the state.

MA: In Massachusetts, burning trees for fuel may soon qualify for state subsidies

Under Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, Massachusetts officials plan to designate a fuel derived from felling trees and clearing brush in forests as a form of renewable energy, a move that environmental advocates say would increase emissions.

AL: Alabama lacks resources for inmate mental health care

The number and percentage of inmates receiving mental health services in Alabama’s prisons has increased in recent years, as the overall prison population declines. But advocates and a federal judge say treatment isn’t reaching nearly as many prisoners as should be served and the treatment available is often insufficient. 

ME: Maine regularly sells voter data it denied to feds

Over the last two years, Maine collected more than $30,000 selling voter information — including name, year of birth, address, party affiliation and whether or not a voter participated in the last two elections.

CO: Drilling and development on collision course in Colorado

The clash between growing communities and oil and gas production in northeastern Colorado will only intensify in coming years. Permits are being taken out in and near towns and other populated areas twice as often as in more remote rural areas.

SC: South Carolina Senate leaders want special session to block rate hikes after nuclear plant boondoggle

The calls for lawmakers to return to Columbia come after the construction of two nuclear power reactors was abandoned earlier this week. South Carolina power customers are on the hook for the collapse, with some already seeing as many as nine rate hikes since 2007 to pay for the reactors. Future rate hikes also are being considered to pay costs of the abandoned project.

TN: Tennessee manufacturers have trouble filling jobs

With one of every four factory workers retiring in the next decade, Tennessee manufacturers say their biggest worry is getting enough qualified workers for the future for increasingly technology-based factories, even with an average manufacturing wage in the state of $66,000.

VA: Universities in VA hit students with whopping collection fees for unpaid tuition

A little-known Virginia statute requires public colleges and universities to shuttle student accounts of less than $3,000 that are 60 days past due to private debt collectors. Those companies can charge up to 30 percent of the outstanding balance as a fee.

NE: Nebraska DOT will test drive new statewide vanpooling program

The Nebraska Department of Transportation has entered a three-year contract with Enterprise Rideshare to bring a statewide vanpool program to Nebraska. The program provides a way to carpool using vehicles large enough for six to 15 people.

SD: South Dakota governor pushes rollback of occupational licenses

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said South Dakota should take the Trump administration's advice and begin rolling back occupational licensure requirements, and the best place to start is with massage therapists. 

NY: New York governor to give colleges $7M for courses in prisons

Moving ahead with a plan that has drawn criticism from conservatives, the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is awarding more than $7 million in grants to a variety of colleges around New York state to offer courses to prisoners. Inmates in New York are already eligible for classes in about half of the state’s 54 prisons, but they are largely funded by private sources.

TX: Texas House approves $1.8B package of school finance bills

The Texas House voted to approve a package of bills that would put $1.8 billion into public schools, increase funding for certain student groups and help out struggling small, rural schools. The money would allow an increase in the base funding per student from $5,140 to $5,350 statewide. 

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