What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/13

MI: Michigan Legislature shuts down soda, food tax before it even happens

The Michigan Senate has passed a bill banning local governments from imposing taxes on food, soda or gum. The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

CA: California governor gives juvenile murderers chance at leaving prison

California inmates serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles will get a chance at leaving prison under one of several criminal justice bills signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. The legislation, which conforms to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions banning mandatory life sentences for those under 18 convicted of murder, automatically gives the offenders a chance at parole after 25 years.

WI: Wisconsin legislative committee OKs bills to punish rioters

The Wisconsin Assembly’s judiciary committee has approved a package of legislation designed to crack down on riots. Participants in such gatherings, including anyone armed, could be charged with a felony and anyone who blocks a thoroughfare during a riot could be charged with a misdemeanor.

AZ, NV: Nevada sending violent felons to Arizona private prison

Nevada, facing a shortage of prison beds, will send 200 of its most violent inmates to a private correctional facility in Arizona. The Silver State will pay $9.2 million to Nashville-based CoreCivic Inc. as part of a two-year deal to house the inmates.

UT: Utah Board of Education endorses ‘Hamilton’ education program

The Utah Board of Education will allow high school juniors from primarily rural and low-income areas to attend a performance of the Broadway smash “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Three board members opposed the program after a brief debate that included concerns over the use of adult language in the musical and the stage production’s presentation of historical events and figures. 

KY: Kentucky removes more kids than it can handle

Nearly all of Kentucky’s child-welfare caseworkers say their workload is unmanageable — on average, it’s twice the recommended standard — even as the state removes more children from their parents every year because of abuse and neglect, according to a new report from a legislative committee.

WY: Wyoming denies first coal mine in decades 

Wyoming regulators rejected a permit for a proposed coal mine in the northern part of the state. The official decision comes 15 days after an independent citizens’ council sided with landowners who had environmental concerns about the proposal.

IL: Union says attacks on Illinois prison guards up sharply

The union that represents Illinois corrections officers said assaults on staff in state prisons increased 51 percent in the last two years and state policies bear much of the blame. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees said the prisons are understaffed, while also dealing with violent inmates who are being reclassified and placed in lower security prisons, creating hazards for employees.

FL: Florida lawmakers pitch voucher-like program to help bullied, abused students change schools

Children in Florida’s K-12 public schools who have been victimized by bullying, assault or other violent trauma would have a new option to change schools — including an incentive to leave the public school system for a private alternative — under an initiative announced by House Republicans.

NH: New Hampshire lawmakers consider driverless car testing by 2019

Under legislation moving through the New Hampshire House, anyone with a self-driving vehicle, a $10 million insurance plan and $500 for a state licensing fee could apply with the Department of Transportation to test the vehicle on state roads.

WV: Frontier won't return $4.7M in broadband funds to West Virginia

Frontier Communications says it won’t give back any of the $4.7 million in stimulus funds that the federal government says West Virginia overpaid the company as part of a statewide project to expand high-speed internet.

CO: Surgeries delayed at Colorado veterans hospital due to doctor shortage 

A shortage of anesthesiologists at a veterans hospital in Denver, Colorado, has forced a delay in dozens of surgeries just months after the institution was tagged with some of the nation’s worst waiting lists for care.

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