What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/12

TX: Feds find Texas violated special education laws 

The state wrongly judged school districts based on how many special education students they served, the U.S. Department of Education found. The report mirrors a 2016 Houston Chronicle investigation that found tens of thousands of Texas students with disabilities were denied services. Immediately after the release of the federal findings, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a corrective action plan. 

MO: St. Louis prosecutor launches criminal investigation of Missouri governor 

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner will launch a criminal investigation into accusations engulfing Republican Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, she announced. Greitens’ acknowledgement of an extramarital affair — and denial of possible blackmail — shook the GOP-controlled state capital. 

ME: Trump administration to destroy voter data sought by Maine’s secretary of state 

The move appears aimed at weakening Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s grounds for obtaining the documents, which included the public’s interest in knowing what the Trump administration was planning to do next with the voter registration data. 

UT: Utah bill would strip cities’ ability to protect their drinking water sources 

The longstanding ability of Utah cities to regulate land use in mountain watersheds they tap for drinking water could come to an end under a bill by Republican Rep. Mike Noel. His legislation targets a legal concept that dates back to Utah’s settlement era, enabling Salt Lake City to restrict some land-disturbing activities far up the canyons that supply water to residents and businesses.    

AZ: Arizona bill would allow tax payments with bitcoin 

A new bill submitted to the Arizona Senate would, if approved, allow people to pay their state tax liabilities using bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. A similar effort was undertaken in New Hampshire in 2016, but concerns expressed by some state lawmakers — primarily around bitcoin's volatile price — ultimately led to the bill being scuttled. 

MT: Montana denied disaster aid for historic fire season 

The federal government has denied Montana’s request for $44 million in disaster funding following the historic 2017 fire season that burned over a million acres across the state. That request was above what the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already granted the state in relief funds. 

OH: Drugmakers open talks with Ohio attorney general on opioid settlement

The office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine began discussions in hopes of reaching a settlement with some of the drug manufacturers the state is suing over claims they irresponsibly promoted and sold addictive opioids. 

IA: Lawmakers seek to expand Iowa's 'safe haven' law for abandoned newborns 

Lawmakers advanced a proposal that would expand Iowa's "safe haven" laws, implemented in 2002 and designed to protect newborns. Residents would have 30 days rather than the current 14 to leave an infant at a hospital without fear of prosecution. 

MI: Michigan lawmakers to get more sexual harassment training

The Michigan Legislature is mandating more frequent sexual harassment training amid the national reckoning with sexual misconduct. Starting next week in the Senate and in February in the House, all legislators and staff members will be required to participate in training once a year.

WY: Wyoming gets a revenue boost from taxing Airbnb users

Wyoming likely collected around $200,000 in lodging taxes from the short-term rental website Airbnb during 2017, the first year that the company turned tax revenue over to the state. Some 56,000 guests used Airbnb to find homes to rent in the state last year.

FL: Florida unlikely to mandate work for Medicaid, officials say

While the Trump administration signaled willingness to allow work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries, the Florida Legislature is unlikely to move ahead with such a mandate this year. House Speaker Richard Corcoran said the state’s $26 billion Medicaid program is comprised mostly of children and seniors and that work requirements are more geared toward able-bodied adults.

SC: South Carolina wants to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries

Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, directed the South Carolina Medicaid agency to seek permission from the federal government to impose work requirements on beneficiaries of the public health insurance program. Nearly 1 million people in the state are covered by Medicaid; more than 80 percent are children, disabled adults or senior citizens.

NC: Governor wants North Carolina, like Florida, exempted from new offshore drilling plan

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wants his state to be treated just like Florida when it comes to offshore oil drilling. Many Republican leaders, though, say they support exploring offshore drilling.

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