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

PA: Pennsylvania paid at least $3.2M to settle sex harassment claims against state workers

Pennsylvania officials have paid at least $3.2 million in taxpayer funds in the last eight years to resolve more than two dozen sexual harassment complaints against government and public employees, according to an analysis by the Inquirer and Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The allegations ranged from inappropriate jokes to exposure to pornography and sexual assault.

FL: Florida's ban on felons voting is unconstitutional, federal judge rules

Florida’s system of barring felons from voting unless they receive executive clemency is unconstitutional, a federal court judge has ruled. A clemency board with “unfettered discretion in restoring voting rights” violates the First and 14th Amendments, the judge said.

OH: Ohio imposing new rules on drug distributors to battle opioid scourge

Citing “vague and inconsistent” federal reporting standards, Ohio will require drug distributors to report and halt suspicious orders of prescription painkillers in hopes of further reducing opioid addiction and deaths.

AZ: Arizona House expels lawmaker, citing 'dishonorable' pattern of workplace harassment

The Arizona House of Representatives voted to immediately expel Republican Rep. Don Shooter from office for "dishonorable" behavior after an investigation found he sexually harassed women over many years. It was the first time since 1991 that a member of the Arizona Legislature was removed by fellow lawmakers.

VA: Virginia moves toward approving cannabis oil as a medical treatment

A bill that would allow physicians to broadly prescribe a form of medical marijuana received preliminary approval in the Virginia House of Delegates and seems likely to become law, its sponsors say, after years of failed attempts. The legislation would permit the use of non-hallucinogenic marijuana or cannabis extracts known as cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil to treat any diagnosed condition or disease.

CA: Trump administration takes aim at California desert protection plan

The Trump administration is threatening to scrap a major Obama-era agreement that sought to protect millions of acres of the California desert by placing sensitive areas off-limits to major solar- and wind-energy installations. The plan covers more than 10 million acres and was designed to guide energy facilities to parcels where they are least likely to cause environmental damage. 

IL: Gun ban near parks unconstitutional, Illinois high court says

An Illinois law banning guns within a thousand feet of public parks violates a right under the Second Amendment to carry a weapon outside the home for self-defense, the state Supreme Court concluded in a unanimous decision.

SD: Senate panel votes to drug test South Dakota legislators, splitting with House

The Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a proposal to require members of the South Dakota Legislature to take drug tests. Supporters said the proposal was aimed at demonstrating leadership and providing evidence to voters that lawmakers aren't using drugs in Pierre. They said voting down the proposal as their peers in the House did the day before would create negative optics for lawmakers.

WI: Wisconsin governor floats gas tax increase as means to get federal road funding

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has reopened the possibility of raising the state's gas tax, if offset by other tax cuts, to pay the state's share of a proposed $1.5 trillion federal infrastructure package. Walker's openness to a gas tax hike comes almost a year after he threatened to veto such a revenue increase.

RI: Rhode Island lawmakers enter net neutrality battle

Legislation filed in the state House and Senate would require all Rhode Island state, quasi-state and municipal contracts subject to competitive bidding and involving an internet connection to comply with net neutrality. The effort comes in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s vote late last year to end net neutrality rules and allow internet providers to charge more for certain content.

AL: Murder witnessed by a child could become capital offense in Alabama

The Alabama House voted to add killing someone “with knowledge of the presence of a child under the age of 14 years” to the list of crimes for which someone could receive the death penalty. The victim would have to be the parent or legal guardian of the child. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.

CT: Connecticut’s community health centers get brief funding reprieve

Despite congressional inaction, the federal agency that oversees community health centers has sent money to some centers in Connecticut and committed this week to send funding to more, giving them a temporary reprieve from potential layoffs and cuts to services.

KS: Kansas lawmakers vote to let 18-year-olds have concealed weapons

People as young as 18 would be allowed to carry concealed weapons under a bill advanced in the Kansas House. Currently, individuals must be 21 or older to have a concealed weapon. Lawmakers also rejected allowing Wichita State University and other public universities to prohibit concealed weapons. Instead, they voted to require permits for those taking guns onto campuses.
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