What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/1

US: Lackluster state support will strain public university budgets, rating agency warns

Paltry state investment in higher education could strain the budgets of public colleges and universities this year, with small schools bearing the brunt, Moody’s Investors Service said. The warning arrives after a report showed state funding for public higher education increased by 1.6 percent for the fiscal year ending June 2018, the lowest annual growth in the past five years.

CA: California legalized marijuana; now San Francisco will wipe out thousands of marijuana convictions

San Francisco will retroactively apply California's new marijuana legalization laws to prior convictions, expunging or reducing misdemeanor and felony convictions dating back to 1975. Nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions will be reviewed, recalled and resentenced, and more than 3,000 misdemeanors that were sentenced prior to Proposition 64's passage will be dismissed and sealed.

US: Trump infrastructure plan seeks to shift burden to states

When President Donald Trump called for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment in his State of the Union address, he didn’t pledge that the federal government actually would provide that much money for roads, bridges, rail and waterways. His plan counts on state and local governments working with private investors to come up with much of the cash.

WV: West Virginia governor’s bill would limit opioid prescribing, could penalize doctors

West Virginia lawmakers got their first glimpse at Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s legislation to combat the opioid epidemic, giving the bill high marks but cautioning that it could penalize honest doctors. The bill, which aims to reduce the number of pain pills prescribed, would allow medical licensing boards to more quickly suspend doctors if their prescriptions appear “abnormal or unusual.”

FL: After scandal, Florida Senate ready to make sexual harassment a crime

Rattled by sexual harassment allegations that ended the career of a powerful lawmaker and exposed a state capital culture that harbored abusers, a Florida Senate committee unanimously passed a bill to make sexual harassment in government offices a crime.

NH: New Hampshire bill would change work requirements for food stamps, welfare

New Hampshire is seeking a federal waiver that would allow the state to require some able-bodied Medicaid participants to work 20 to 30 hours a week. In the meantime, Republican state Rep. Neal Kurk is proposing to implement the same requirements in other programs, such as food stamps.

WA: Washington Senate approves abortion-insurance bill

The bill backed by the Senate would require Washington insurers that offer maternity care to also cover elective abortions and contraception. The bill also would require health plans issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2019, to provide copayment- and deductible-free coverage for all contraceptive drugs and devices. The measure now heads to the House, where it passed in previous years.

NM: New Mexico House approves $6.3B budget

In contrast to recent years when the budget bill got bogged down in partisan disagreements, the New Mexico House approved a state spending bill after less than an hour of debate. The measure would use an oil-driven uptick in revenue to boost state spending by about $249 million — or roughly 4.1 percent — over current levels.

UT: Utah lawmakers consider ending state’s 90-day waiting period for divorce

Despite concerns it could send the wrong message, the Utah Senate approved a bill ending the state’s 90-day waiting period for divorce. Sen. Todd Weiler, the Republican who sponsored the bill, said he’s seen no evidence that the waiting period changes minds about seeking a divorce.

CT: Connecticut governor proposes tolls, gas tax hike to rebuild transportation network

Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, will ask legislators this year to establish electronic tolling on Connecticut highways by mid-2022 and to phase in a 7-cent gasoline tax hike to help avert insolvency in the transportation program and fund a major, 30-year rebuilding initiative.

IN: Indiana weighs requiring schools to get parental OK to teach sex ed

A bill approved by the Indiana Senate would require schools to obtain written permission from parents or guardians before teaching students about human sexuality, including “sexual activity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

AK: In a first, Alaska shuts down a cannabis shop

The decision stemmed from allegations that the shop, Frozen Budz, falsified records, sold untested products to consumers and sold edibles that had no THC at all. In 2016, Frozen Budz was the first marijuana shop in Alaska to be approved by the state marijuana board. 

SD: Offenders with mental illness wouldn't be subject to death penalty under South Dakota bill

The death penalty wouldn't apply to people found to have suffered symptoms of mental illness at the time they committed a crime under a proposal advanced in the South Dakota Statehouse. 

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