What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/29

Top State Stories 1/29

KS: Kansas Statehouse interns must sign confidentiality agreements 

Interns in the Kansas Statehouse are required to sign a sweeping confidentiality agreement that employment law attorneys warn could have a chilling effect on their willingness to report harassment or illegal activity. Anything that takes place or is said in a lawmaker’s office stays there, the document says, under threat of immediate termination. 

NC: Judges refuse to delay North Carolina legislative districts 

A three-judge panel refused North Carolina Republican lawmakers' request to block the use of new legislative district maps the judges approved for this year's elections. Even with the unanimous denial by the federal judges, GOP lawmakers have a similar request pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. 

MA: Departure of only black senator leaves void in Massachusetts Statehouse 

The sudden resignation of state Democratic Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, the daughter of Haitian immigrants and the state’s only black senator, left a large void to fill for advocates of minority inclusion in Massachusetts government. It also triggered renewed speculation over the potential outcome of an ongoing ethics probe involving former Senate President Stan Rosenberg, a Democrat. 

WI: State agencies in Wisconsin filling job openings more quickly after civil service changes, report finds 

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration says agencies have fielded more applications for job openings, filled them more quickly and become more reliant on a resume-based hiring process after changes in 2016 to the state civil service system. The information comes from a new report by the state Division of Personnel Management, a human resources agency he helped create in 2015. 

AZ: Understaffing at Arizona borders likely adds costs to grocery bills 

For years, the international ports of entry on Arizona's border with Mexico have been understaffed, causing delays and raising the price of shipping produce to the state. The federal Border Patrol will respond by recruiting nationwide and focusing first on Arizona, which has the most vacancies, although Texas and California are also affected. 

KY: Cops in Kentucky who had to stay on patrol while pregnant want to change the law 

They struggled to put on their tight uniforms. Their bulletproof vests no longer covered their midriffs. It was hard to breathe with the restrictive clothing. Several Kentucky police officers now are central figures in efforts to pass legislation, called the Kentucky Pregnant Workers’ Rights Act, that would ensure accommodations for pregnant workers. 

NM: Oil revenue boosts New Mexico budget 

New Mexico's $6.32 billion spending plan — a 3.9 percent increase over this year’s budget — is made possible by sharp increases in state revenue, especially from oil production. The proposed spending increase comes after a budget crisis triggered spending cuts last year and led to a tense standoff between Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and the Democratic majorities in the Legislature. 

NE: Does sexual harassment happen in Nebraska Legislature? Yes, but few formal complaints are filed 

Several staffers told the Omaha World-Herald about alleged suggestive comments, unwanted sexual advances and harassment. The staffers’ stories centered on a small number of Nebraska senators. Many dealt with alleged incidents from years ago, but others are more recent. 

ME: Critics question secrecy of shielded Maine wind energy commission

Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage created a Wind Energy Advisory Commission that will meet behind closed doors — out of view of the public or the press — as it examines the industry’s impact on tourism and potential regulatory changes when siting the massive wind turbines. 

SC: As Trump's tariffs wound solar industry, South Carolina advocates call for state's help 

While new tariffs on solar panels are casting dark clouds on a rapidly growing industry around the country, proponents in South Carolina say sun-based energy development can continue to shine in the Palmetto State if lawmakers can clear hurdles standing in the way. 

MI: Teacher recruitment, retention, reward is aim of package of bills in Michigan Legislature 

Teachers would be rewarded, recruited and revered under a 22-bill package that has been introduced in the Michigan Senate. The bills would provide signing bonuses for new teachers, stipends for student teachers assigned to economically disadvantaged districts, incentives and scholarships for students to enter the teaching profession, and student loan debt forgiveness. 

MN: Minnesota report: We need a strong central office to investigate sex harassment complaints 

Minnesota’s top human resources official has recommended forming a central office to ensure all sexual harassment complaints are fully investigated, pledging to ensure a safe workplace for more than 33,000 state employees. It is the first of many recommendations made by a panel ordered by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to review state sexual harassment policies. 

NY, NJ, CT: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut plan lawsuit challenging constitutionality of tax law 

The Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut say the 2017 tax law’s $10,000 cap on the amount of state and local property and income taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income will disproportionately harm their residents and is motivated by politics rather than sound fiscal policy.

Immigrant Children Plastic Bag Bans