What We're Reading: Top State Stories 11/17

SD: Keystone pipeline spills 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota on eve of permitting decision 

The Keystone pipeline running from Canada across the Great Plains leaked, spilling about 5,000 barrels of oil — or 210,000 gallons — southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota. The spill comes just days before a crucial decision by the Public Service Commission in Nebraska over whether to grant a permit for a new, long-delayed sister pipeline called Keystone XL, which has been mired in controversy for several years. Both are owned by Calgary-based TransCanada. 

IA: Democratic leader asks Iowa Senate GOP to release details of sexual harassment investigation 

Iowa Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen asked Senate Republicans to release the findings of an internal investigation of sexual harassment that was prompted by jury verdict that led to a $1.75 million settlement with a former GOP caucus staffer. 

KS: Kansas lawmakers call for major reform of secrecy in government 

Kansas lawmakers from across the political spectrum said they will push to fix the state’s culture of secrecy in the wake of a Kansas City Star series that highlighted stunning levels of opacity in state and local government. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican, who is set to take the reins of power if Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is confirmed as an ambassador, also pledged to address the problem. 

MT: Montana governor to veto employee furloughs 

Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said he planned to veto legislation that proposed furloughing executive branch employees to raise at least $15 million. Republicans said they didn't include legislative employees because that could have made it harder to draft the bill. 

SC: Could Columbia, South Carolina, become first U.S. city to ban bump stocks on guns? 

Columbia and South Carolina leaders are considering new laws to ban devices called bump stocks that turn guns into battlefield-style automatic weapons, a month after a gunman killed 58 people and injured 500 at a Las Vegas country music festival. 

NC: The Trump administration says North Carolina owes it $41 million. The state disagrees. 

A series of Medicaid errors that went on for years led to North Carolina wrongfully taking millions of dollars from the federal government, according to a new report. And now the feds want that money back. 

ME: Maine legislative task force says state’s skilled worker shortage has reached crisis levels 

The shortage of skilled workers applies to a wide array of both professional and support occupations, a legislative task force found. There are not enough doctors or nurses in Maine, and the state is also in need of more medical support staff such as phlebotomists. 

ND: North Dakota lawmakers to examine sexual harassment policy 

North Dakota lawmakers will review their policy prohibiting sexual harassment next month amid a flurry of such accusations in media, entertainment and political circles, a legislative leader said. 

CO: Colorado Veterans Affairs hospital falsified wait times for PTSD patients 

The phony wait times meant patients in Colorado Springs waited weeks and months longer for care than was recorded in Veterans Affairs department records, making some of the agency's worst wait times in the nation even longer. The report, the latest in a series of scheduling scandals in Colorado, found that veterans seeking care for post-traumatic stress disorder in Colorado Springs "experienced underreported delays and may not have received treatment." 

NV: Lawsuits pile up after mass shooting in Nevada 

Fourteen more people are suing for damages in the wake of the October mass shooting in Las Vegas. The defendants are the Mandalay Bay hotel, its operating company, MGM Resorts International, the manufacturer of bump stocks and the organizers of the music festival where 58 people died and more than 500 people were injured in the Nevada city. 

MI: Activists: Pot legalization signatures will put issue on 2018 Michigan ballot 

Leaders of a statewide campaign to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Michigan say they've gathered at least 360,000 signatures, well more than the 252,523 required to put the issue on the statewide ballot next year. 

TX: Texas transportation department drops accounting trick for toll roads 

State transportation leaders said they will drop plans for using an accounting maneuver to get around a constitutional prohibition on some toll projects. That vow came hours after The Texas Tribune reported that the Texas Department of Transportation was eyeing tax dollars prohibited from funding toll lanes to cover other constructions of highway rebuilds and expansions that would also feature toll lanes. 

NJ: New Jersey bill would overhaul how state treats maternal mortality 

Under a proposal inspired by the story of a neonatal nurse who died from childbirth complications in 2011, New Jersey hospitals and clinicians would face new requirements to report maternal deaths to state regulators, families would play a greater role in understanding what happened, and the findings would be used to push for new protocols and other concrete policies to protect mothers and babies.

Marijuana-Related Crimes Immigrant Detention