What We're Reading: Top State Stories 9/19

US: State AGs urge insurance industry to do more to curb opioid epidemic

Attorneys general for 37 states sent a letter to the health insurance industry’s main trade group, urging its members to reconsider coverage policies that may be fueling the opioid crisis. As part of an ongoing investigation into the causes of the opioid epidemic and the parties that are most responsible, the group is also focused on the marketing and sales practices of drugmakers and the role of drug distributors.

RI: Rhode Island to pay immigrants’ DACA renewal costs

Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, said more than $170,000 has been secured from local and national funders to cover the $495 renewal fee for Rhode Island recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields immigrants brought to the country illegally when they were children from deportation.

US: Common Core used widely, despite continuing debate

Most of the states that first endorsed the Common Core academic standards are still using them in some form, despite continued debate over whether they are improving student performance in reading and math. Of the states that opted in after the standards were introduced in 2010 — 45 plus the District of Columbia — only eight have moved to repeal the standards. 

TN: Tennessee to reinstate work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients

Tennessee will reinstate work requirements for food stamp recipients a decade after they were eased during the height of the economic recession. Beginning in February, adults without dependents in most counties will have to put in at least 20 hours per week on a job, a volunteer program or a training program in order to get benefits.

KY: Kentuckians earned $10M with Airbnb in 2016. Now the state will get its cut.

Beginning Oct. 1, a 7 percent state tax will be added to all Kentucky Airbnb stays under a deal announced by the company and the Kentucky Department of Revenue. Airbnb estimates the state could receive $1 million or more under the long-awaited agreement.

IA: Iowa's largest property tax cut in history fails to deliver

When Iowa passed sweeping property tax reform four years ago, state officials projected commercial taxpayers would save $218 million this year. Lawmakers also promised to fully reimburse local governments for the revenue they stood to lose. The law has failed to deliver on both counts, a Des Moines Register review of state data shows.

ND: After years of boom, North Dakota oil patch cities face growth debt

Leaders in North Dakota oil patch cities that invested hundreds of millions of dollars to cope with the crush of boom activity are focused on answering questions about how to pay off the red ink of high municipal debts in a souring oil economy.

MO: Missouri audit finds millions more in legal payouts by state agencies

A review of expenses found Missouri agencies spent an additional $36.8 million to settle legal disputes over the past two years. That’s on top of roughly the same amount already reported by the Missouri attorney general’s office, raising new questions about how the state is handling the often-expensive payouts.

NJ: New Jersey gas tax won’t go up

Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration will not raise the tax rate on gasoline in New Jersey at the start of October. It’s an indication that last year’s 23-cent gas tax hike, the first in 28 years, is meeting expectations.

DE: Projection: $64M more in revenue for Delaware next year

Delaware's financial picture appears to be improving – ever so slightly – with an additional $64 million in revenue expected next year. But weeks after enacting new spending cuts and tax hikes to balance the state's $4.1 billion budget, state lawmakers are not out of the woods just yet.

SC: South Carolina school leaders make a push for school bus replacements

Harrowing photographs of a school bus that burned in Spartanburg earlier this year are part of what's driving a renewed push to upgrade South Carolina's rickety state-owned fleet of 5,582 school buses, which is long overdue for replacement under state law. 

TX: New law aims to help elderly Texans fooled by scammers

Under previous Texas law, some banks, credit unions and securities firms would routinely halt transactions on behalf of elderly or disabled clients they suspected were the victims of fraud. The new law gives the firms more freedom to do so by giving them immunity from litigation when such halted transactions turn out to be legitimate — or when fraudulent transactions sneak by undetected.

WV: West Virginia medical marijuana law will require $2M in upfront costs

State officials estimate they will need about $2 million in one-time, upfront costs to implement West Virginia’s medical marijuana law. After that, it will cost about $800,000 to $1 million to oversee the medical marijuana regulatory system each year, with costs paid with revenue created by the law.

Child Abuse ‘Bad Samaritans’