What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/13

US: Bipartisan group of governors calls for swift CHIP reauthorization

In a letter led by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, the governors said their states are running out of money to cover the costs of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and urged Congress to work quickly to reauthorize funding. 

CA, WA: California, Washington state join carbon pledge in defiance of Trump

California and Washington state joined five nations on the Pacific coast of the Americas in agreeing to step up the use of a price on carbon dioxide emissions as a central economic policy to slow climate change. The states were acting in defiance of President Donald Trump, who plans to quit the 2015 Paris climate accord. 

MD: Maryland lawmakers to track sexual harassment claims — but not reveal offenders

Legislative leaders in Maryland ordered officials to start collecting data on sexual misconduct complaints against state lawmakers and their staff members. The report will be considered a public record, but the identities of accused harassers will not be included, regardless of whether the claims are found to have merit. 

CO: Colorado mileage tax experiment draws good reviews

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s four-month study to see if drivers would agree to pay state road taxes based on their mileage drew broadly positive results. But several issues emerged, including privacy concerns stemming from the program’s use of GPS, the challenge of collecting revenue from out-of-state motorists, and the appearance of punishing drivers of electric or fuel-sipping vehicles. 

TX: Even after Harvey, city still welcomes development in Texas' floodways

Two months after Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas, the city of Houston spent $10.7 million to get nearly 60 damaged houses out of the flood plain. A week later, developers went to City Hall, asking to build 900 new houses in it, some of them in the floodway, where water flows fastest during a 100-year flood.  

PA: Pennsylvania House rejects bill targeting unions' political activity

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature has rejected a bill that would have prohibited state, county and local governments from using their payroll systems to let workers make voluntary contributions to their union’s political action committees. 

MN: Minnesota Capitol sexual harassment: Two lawmakers say they’ve got a plan

Two Minnesota lawmakers — a Republican woman and a Democratic man — have a plan to revamp the way the House deals with sexual harassment allegations. The plan would speed up the process for allegations to be addressed and allow anyone — not just fellow lawmakers — to make a complaint. 

NH, NY, VT: Border agents report more apprehensions in New Hampshire, New York, Vermont

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said 449 people were apprehended in a sector that covers all of Vermont, plus six counties in northern New York and three counties in northern New Hampshire, during the most recent fiscal year. That’s a more than 50 percent increase over the previous year, when agents reported 291 apprehensions in the sector. 

FL: 7,500 complaints of price gouging in Florida during Irma. Just 1 business fined so far.

In the weeks after Hurricane Irma forced the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history, thousands of angry consumers swamped Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi with complaints of price gouging by hotels, gas stations, retailers and restaurants. So far, only one has resulted in a fine. 

MI: Watered down retiree benefit bills get final passage in Michigan Legislature 

The original bills would have allowed for the appointment of a financial management team that could take control of a municipality's budget in order to make sure that retirement benefits were fully funded. But the final version approved by the Michigan Legislature merely requires more frequent and detailed reporting to the state of retiree benefit plans in cities, townships, villages and counties. 

NV: Nevada approves nearly $7 million for victims of Las Vegas mass shooting 

The Nevada Board of Examiners approved the release of $6.8 million for victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas to cover such costs as medical bills, funeral expenses, counseling and lost wages. The coordinator of the state Victims of Crime Program expects total expenses on the 2,737 claims to reach $14 million. 

GA: Georgia governor’s panel calls for more cash for mental health services

The Commission on Children’s Mental Health recommended an expansion of a Georgia program for school-based mental health counseling, new education initiatives for youth and young adults with severe mental illness, and better telemedicine infrastructure to help children with mental illnesses. 

MA: Massachusetts to replace aging public safety radio system with digital grid

The updated radio grid will allow for various public safety agencies to better respond to criminal, terrorist, or natural disaster incidents in Massachusetts. The state’s analog radio system is currently used by more than 2,000 State Police troopers and 245 public safety or transportation agencies, and officials hope the new network will allow more to join the statewide grid.

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