What We're Reading: Top State Stories 11/21

TN: Tennessee officials keep radioactive waste details from public 

Tennessee residents who learned the state had approved the dumping of low-level radioactive waste at a local landfill could once organize a protest that put an end to the practice. Now, Tennessee residents have no way of finding out, as the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation has wiped that data from its website and said it is confidential. 

NJ: Why are immigration cases in New Jersey being heard by judges in Puerto Rico? 

A backlog in U.S. immigration courts has federal officials increasingly handling cases through video hookups. So while some 50 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power, the hurricane-ravaged island still has enough juice to run a live video stream between an immigration court in Guaynabo and the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey, where many hoping to avoid deportation are now arguing their cases before a judge sitting 1,604 miles away. 

KS: Kansas needs an auditor, several candidates for governor say 

Kansas has not had a state auditor since the 1970s, but several candidates for governor think it might be time to bring the position back in a state rife with transparency problems. Several candidates for governor floated the idea in response to the Kansas City Star’s recent series on secrecy in the state. 

MA: ‘Obamacare’ or not, birth control in Massachusetts will stay free 

A law signed by Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker will require health insurance in the state to cover most contraceptive drugs, devices and products without a copay — that is, at no direct cost to the women getting them. The legislation is in direct response to President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back coverage. 

CA: Hackers attack transit system in California capital 

Computer hackers directly attacked the Sacramento Regional Transit system computers this weekend, erasing data and threatening to do more harm if SacRT doesn’t pay them one bitcoin, now worth about $8,000. The attack erased parts of computer programs on the agency’s servers that affect internal operations, including the ability to use computers to dispatch employees and assign buses for routes in the California capital. 

KY: Kentucky locks up more women than most states 

Kentucky incarcerates women at a rate that is nearly twice the national average, according to advocacy group Kentucky Smart on Crime. Although far more men are locked up overall, the number of Kentucky women in prisons or jails over the last five years jumped by 27 percent to 3,156 as of last week, the state Department of Corrections reports. 

CO: Uber fined $8.9 million by Colorado for allowing drivers with felony convictions, other issues 

Colorado regulators slapped Uber with an $8.9 million penalty for allowing 57 people with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company, the state’s Public Utilities Commission announced. The drivers had issues ranging from felony convictions to driving under the influence and reckless driving. A similar investigation of smaller competitor Lyft found no violations. 

ME: Maine municipalities face challenge replacing aging workers in vital jobs 

The oldest state in the nation, Maine expects to lose 400,000 residents from the workforce by 2023. Municipalities are not immune to this trend, which is part of why it’s becoming more difficult to find people for jobs ranging from police officer to code enforcement officer to assessor. 

IN: Tablets for Indiana inmates might be free, but there's a catch for the incarcerated 

In an effort to reduce recidivism, the Indiana Department of Correction is negotiating with a company to provide tablets packed with educational and entertainment materials for all inmates, free of charge. But most services would carry a hefty price for access, according to a bid recommended by the state — with a 10 percent cut of the profits shared with the department. 

TX: Thousands of Texas families still homeless three months after Harvey 

More than 47,000 people still live in hotels paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the number of Texans who need help with housing is likely much higher. Neither FEMA nor the state of Texas know exactly how many homes were damaged by Harvey or how many residents remain scattered around the state, living with family or friends, in hotel rooms, in rentals, or even in their cars. 

OK: Oklahoma governor’s partial budget veto leaves some health funding intact 

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, vetoed much of the budget bill passed by the Legislature, but she left funding in place for some agencies and emergency funding for the Department of Health, which pays for disabled Oklahomans’ in-home care. The rest of the budget is to be worked out in another special session. 

HI: Hawaii employees warn of problems with new tax system

Hawaii’s largest union and workers in the state Department of Taxation are warning that the $60 million project to modernize the department’s computer systems has gotten seriously off track, and have written to Democratic Gov. David Ige to warn that the project could be “severely compromised” unless changes are made.

MT: Montana fund sues state over fees

The Montana State Fund, which sells workers' compensation insurance, has gone to court to stop state legislation to temporarily charge a 3 percent management fee on its assets to help close a state budget shortfall.

End of Children’s Health Insurance Program Looming in Colorado, Virginia Public Defenders