What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/9

US: Extreme hurricanes and wildfires made 2017 the most costly U.S. disaster year on record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria combined with devastating Western wildfires and other natural catastrophes caused $306 billion in total damage in 2017, with 16 events that caused more than $1 billion in damage each.

ID, MI: Idaho, Michigan are the only states that don’t require lawmakers disclose finances

Such disclosures are common for elected officials from U.S. Congress to local offices. In the case of state legislators, the forms typically include a lawmaker’s primary employer and additional income or business associations. While government watchdogs say this is a crucial tool for holding lawmakers accountable, change in Idaho and Michigan is uncertain at best, reported the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.

NH: New Hampshire lobbyists told they’re covered by anti-harassment policies, too

All Statehouse lobbyists got a first-of-its-kind letter from leaders of the New Hampshire House and Senate last week, detailing the Legislature’s sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures. Its message was simple: Lobbyists should know they’re covered by those policies, too, and should feel comfortable speaking up if they experience harassment.

TX: Texas takes early steps to repair or replace its aged mental hospitals

News of the first $47.7 million in funding comes just five months after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission released a report looking at the state’s long-term mental health system needs. Officials noted in the report that some of the 10 state hospitals were built as early as the 1850s.

IN: Dead people's votes would count under Indiana senator's bill

An Indiana state senator is proposing a measure that would allow the votes of certain dead people to count if they cast an absentee ballot in the state but then die before Election Day. The goal of the bill is to save election workers time because they will no longer have to check absentee ballots against information about recent deaths.

WV: West Virginia lawmakers seek to limit opioid prescribing

A proposal in the West Virginia Legislature would limit prescriptions for painkillers like OxyContin and Lortab to a seven-day supply for short-term pain. The state would join about two dozen others that have set limits on opioid prescriptions for acute pain, such as that caused by a tooth extraction or ankle sprain.

CT: Connecticut General Assembly votes to reverse cuts on Medicare program

The cuts would have affected as many as 113,000 seniors and the disabled in Connecticut. But Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy — who has pledged to veto the measure — and others insist that the means used to restore $54 million to the Medicare Savings Program worsened the already deficit-plagued state budget.

TN: Many lawmakers leaving Tennessee Legislature

Big changes are in store for the 132-member Tennessee General Assembly next year with at least 21 current lawmakers having already announced plans to retire or having already departed.

NY: In New York, drawing flood maps is a ‘game of inches’

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is substantially redrawing New York City’s flood maps for the first time in three decades, a painstaking process that will determine how and where buildings can be constructed and the cost of flood insurance on everything from modest bungalows to luxury skyscrapers.

CA: California officials move to shut big homeless camp

Officials in Southern California’s Orange County put hundreds of homeless people camped near a baseball stadium on notice that they must move starting in two weeks. The encampment, a two-mile stretch of tents and tarps surrounded by trash along the Santa Ana River, is emblematic of a West Coast homeless crisis caused by high housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy.

IA: Iowa GOP hires HR director to oversee harassment complaints

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature have hired a human resources director whose duties will include oversight of sexual harassment complaints at the state Capitol.

AZ: Arizona governor lays out agenda

In his final State of the State speech before his 2018 re-election campaign, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, presented an agenda of tackling the opioid crisis, increasing school funding and adopting new policies for ex-prisoners and the child-welfare system. His state budget is due Friday.

CO: Colorado child support enforcement approach could be national model

Colorado has renamed its Division of Child Support Enforcement to the kinder and more constructive Child Support Services. And under an experimental program, it’s helping parents behind on child-support payments find jobs, fight alcohol and drug addictions, and reconnect with their kids. 


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