What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/19

PA: Pennsylvania governor vetoes abortion bill

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill passed by Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature to limit abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, rejecting what Planned Parenthood says would have been the nation's most restrictive abortion law. Pennsylvania's current limit is 24 weeks.

SD: South Dakota lawmakers to train in sexual harassment prevention

South Dakota House and Senate leaders said they would hold training on legislative ethics, professionalism and sexual harassment soon after lawmakers convene for the 2018 legislative session in Pierre. The announcement comes after several women said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault working in the male-dominated Statehouse.

CA: Lawmakers, pot growers say California's marijuana cultivation rules favor big corporate farms

The California Department of Food and Agriculture issued emergency rules last month that allow small and medium-sized farms to get licenses for the first five years of legalization. But the new rules do not set a limit on how many small-farm licenses can be obtained by one person or business, potentially allowing a corporation to assemble a 20-acre farm by obtaining 80 licenses for a quarter-acre each.

VA: Virginia governor takes one more swing at Medicaid expansion 

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe took one final swing at expanding Medicaid, presenting a two-year spending plan that also gives Virginia Republicans one of their most cherished goals: full funding of the state’s rainy-day reserves. McAuliffe’s term runs out Jan. 13, but he will hand the reins to a fellow Democrat, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, who has said he supports the same priorities.

CT: Tax bill may eliminate health insurance mandate, but Connecticut may impose its own

As Congress is about to vote on a tax overhaul that will gut the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance, a number of states, including Connecticut, may consider a state-based penalty to encourage people to obtain coverage.

AZ: Arizona has new form to help residents comply with sales tax law

State revenue officials are hoping a new tax form and a public relations campaign convince more Arizonans to send them money after they buy items from out of state, whether online or on vacation. The new fill-in-the-blanks form created by the Department of Revenue lets shoppers put in how much they spent and then compute what they owe the state by multiplying that by 5.6 percent.

TX: Across Texas government, bonuses to state workers have grown

In the wake of the Great Recession, legislators and employee unions in Texas accept bonuses as a cheaper alternative to pay raises, which lock in larger bases for salaries and benefits, including pensions. Some say the bonuses are an unintended — or inevitable — consequence of trying to apply competitive market principles to government.

VT: 29 Vermonters died using physician-assisted death law: report

A new report that covers a four-year period ending in June found that doctors had notified Vermont’s Department of Health of 52 prescriptions for life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. Of those, 29 people died using a lethal prescription, 17 died from their underlying disease, and one died for other reasons. One person’s cause of death was unknown, and four are still alive.

HI: Lack of state staff delays Hawaii medical cannabis programs, dispensers say

Seven of 11 positions are vacant at the Hawaii Department of Health, which oversees the medical cannabis patient registry and dispensary licensing programs. The registry is down three of six people, while the dispensary program has four vacancies out of five.

CO: Roadway deaths on the rise in Colorado

More than 600 people have died on Colorado roads in 2017, putting the state on track to surpass last year’s tally amid local government efforts to reduce traffic fatalities. Preliminary data show an increase in deaths from crashes involving impairment and people not being properly restrained with a seatbelt.

ME: Maine slashes funds for prevention efforts, even as smoking rates climb above U.S. average

In 2015, the last year for which data were available, 11.5 percent of Maine high schoolers said they smoke, while another 17 percent said they regularly use electronic cigarettes, commonly known as vaping. Nationally, 8 percent of high school students smoke.

SC: Lobbying is completely unregulated in most S.C. cities

South Carolina's lobbying laws only apply to lobbyists in state government. It's up to cities, towns and counties to create their own systems to regulate lobbyists, and most don’t. 

Pet Passengers Wrong-Way Drivers