What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/18
LA: Louisiana incentive program allowed companies to cut jobs while saving billions
The Louisiana industrial tax exemption program has for years had no job requirement, and many companies have self-reported job losses as they were allowed to forgo millions of dollars in tax payments to local governments. The tax exemption program for manufacturers is most generous in the state, costing more than $1 billion a year.
IL: Illinois food stamp benefits disrupted
Tens of thousands of Illinois households aren’t receiving federal food stamp benefits leading up to the holidays because of problems with a state computer system. Officials with the Department of Human Services and representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union disagree on what’s causing the problems. But both sides say they hope to restore benefits as soon as possible for those who are eligible.
KS: Kansas system of investigating profiling complaints found flawed
Despite the passage of two laws to address the issue, The Kansas City Star found that Kansas’ system of tracking racial profiling complaints is ineffective, opaque and deeply flawed — from incomplete data collection to redacted records to agencies simply not participating. Even though the Kansas attorney general collects data from almost every law enforcement agency in the state, his office does not analyze the reports and no longer investigates complaints.
WI: Wisconsin teachers union opposes proposed grant program for low-income 'gifted' children
Wisconsin's largest teachers union has blasted a new proposal from three lawmakers to give grants to advanced learners who live in low-income households, saying the proposal is another way to send public money to private education providers.
RI: Rhode Island's sickly state Christmas tree draws national attention
Like Charlie Brown’s fictional Christmas tree, the Christmas tree in the rotunda of the Rhode Island State House has been subjected to a certain lack of respect. An Associated Press story uncovering the not-exactly-startling fact that needles have fallen off the tree was picked up recently by the New York Post, which upped the ante with the headline: “This is the saddest state capital Christmas tree.”
NY: Legislation in New York would ban secret harassment settlements
New legislation introduced by a pair of Republican state senators in New York would prohibit courts from accepting secret settlements in sexual harassment cases, ban mandatory arbitration to deal with harassment complaints and allow independent contractors to file complaints against an employer and its direct employees.
NM: New Mexico struggles to fill teacher jobs
More than 800 public school teacher jobs are vacant in New Mexico, an increase of 60 percent from last year. At the same time, the number of college students choosing teacher training is dropping.
TX: Texas gets $135M to keep children's health insurance alive until February
The Trump administration is guaranteeing Texas $135 million to continue helping more than 450,000 uninsured children and pregnant women if Congress doesn’t renew authorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
NE: Nebraska’s missing-persons list, a constantly changing clearinghouse of info, may get a revamp
Nebraska’s missing-persons list contains the names of 571 people, but the list is a mixture of people newly reported missing, cold cases and, likely, people long dead. An average of 22 people are added to the list every day.
SD: Despite GOP arguments, few South Dakota farmers pay estate tax
South Dakota's Republican congressional delegates have long touted the impact changing the estate tax would have on farmers and ranchers in the state. But an Argus Leader review of tax data from the Internal Revenue Service shows that just a few South Dakotans will avoid the tax as a result of the change.
UT: Utah state agency that investigates workplace discrimination rarely rules in favor of employees
Employees who feel they were discriminated against don't expect much help from the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division. The state agency rules in favor of the employee 0.7 percent of the time — far less than the averages in surrounding states, a legislative audit found.
CA: Despite health risks, California officials help fund housing next to freeways
California officials have for years warned against building homes within 500 feet of freeways, where people suffer higher rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer and other health problems linked to car and truck pollution. But in trying to cut greenhouse gases and ease the housing crunch, the state has helped finance a surge in residential development near freeways.
CT: 17,000 Connecticut children told to expect loss of health insurance
Letters have gone out telling Connecticut families that 17,000 children and teenagers across the state will lose their health coverage Jan. 31 unless Congress acts. Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, ended Sept. 30 because Congress didn’t authorize continuation of the program by the fall deadline.