What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/18

WA: Washington’s high court extends civil commitment of sex offenders

Civil commitment of offenders who have been designated as sexually violent predators can be indefinitely extended for those whose crimes occurred when they were juveniles, the Washington state Supreme Court unanimously ruled.

AR: Arkansas can block Planned Parenthood money

A federal appeals court panel ruled that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, two years after the state ended its contract with the group over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson ended the state’s Medicaid contract with the organization in 2015.

MI: State panel in Michigan approves petition aimed at ending gerrymandering

A group that wants to end political gerrymandering of Michigan election districts says it plans to start collecting signatures immediately after the Board of State Canvassers gave approval to its petition.

OK: Oklahoma governor wants special session on budget shortfall

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said she wants a special session to fill a $215 million shortfall in several agencies' budgets. Four agencies lost that expected cash after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a cigarette fee this month.

TX: Texas voting law on language interpreters violates Voting Rights Act, court says

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an obscure provision of the Texas Election Code that requires interpreters helping someone cast a ballot to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are providing help clashes with federal voting protections.

IL: Illinois officials solve food stamp-soda tax issue

Cook County, Illinois, allowed stores that were unable to program their registers to allow for the tax anomaly to issue refunds, but the feds said that was illegal. Now, the refunds won’t be offered and stores will have to figure out how to charge the food stamp purchases.

DC: The District has essentially lost track of the real estate it owns, new report finds

The agency that manages the District of Columbia’s government’s property has failed to collect millions of dollars in rent and struck a financially questionable deal with a private real estate broker to lease space that might not be needed, according to a new inspector general’s audit.

CA: New ballot measure plots another route to California independence

This time, the goal is convening a U.S. constitutional convention to overhaul what proponents call a moldy national blueprint out of step with life in California. The measure says a reworked Constitution should include a provision creating a “clear and reasonable path for states to achieve complete independence from the United States should any state so choose.”

HI: New $1.8M Hawaii scholarship will help 996 attend college

Under the Hawaii Promise program, which was established with $1.8 million from the Legislature, students will receive individual awards ranging from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars a year at the community college campuses, where annual resident tuition is just under $3,800 for full-time students.

NH: New Hampshire looks to toughen animal cruelty laws

Animal welfare advocates are pushing for stricter animal cruelty laws in New Hampshire, including increasing state inspections and quicker civil hearings after animals are seized from owners. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said he supports tougher laws.

IA: Iowa public employee retirement system sues Wall Street banks for collusion

Iowa's biggest public employee pension plan is among three plaintiffs suing some of the nation's largest investment banks, claiming the Wall Street giants have colluded to maintain exclusive control of the $1-trillion-plus stock loan market. 

VT: Vermont leaders fill $12.5M budget gap without dissent

Vermont lawmakers and state officials solved the budget gap by recognizing an anticipated reduction in Medicaid expenses, a projected increase in revenue from brokers’ fees paid to the Department of Financial Regulation and with some smaller cuts across state government.

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