What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/6

Top State Stories 2/6

MO: Missouri taxpayers hit with $23M in legal payouts last year

Lawsuits against the state cost Missouri taxpayers at least $23 million in 2017, according to a report filed by Attorney General Josh Hawley. The year-end report shows 16 of the 45 major payouts were related to employment discrimination, with six of those stemming from cases involving Missouri Department of Corrections workers.

GA: Georgia adoption overhaul wins final approval by Senate

The Georgia Senate sent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal a far-reaching bill designed to make it easier to adopt children. The legislation shortens the time allowed for a birth mother to change her mind after giving up her child, allows adoptive parents to reimburse birth mothers’ living expenses, and simplifies out-of-state adoptions.

KS: New Kansas governor signs order on sexual harassment education

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican, signed an executive order requiring all executive branch employees to receive sexual harassment training each year. The order won’t apply to the offices of other elected officials such as the secretary of state, the attorney general or lawmakers, but the governor’s team is expected to encourage other offices to consider a similar move.

NY: New York state Assembly backs education aid for children of undocumented immigrants

Under the proposal approved by the New York Assembly, children of undocumented immigrants would be eligible for general financial aid awards, performance-based awards, or the state's Tuition Assistance Program funds if they meet certain criteria.

DC: D.C.’s open-government watchdog took her job seriously. Then she lost it.  

Lawmakers voiced concern about the unexplained removal of the District of Columbia’s government-transparency watchdog, who said that she faced push-back from other public officials — including in the office of Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser — as she sought to enforce the city’s laws on open meetings and records.

PA: Supreme Court refuses to block Pennsylvania ruling invalidating congressional map

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to delay redrawing congressional lines, meaning the 2018 elections will most likely be held in districts far more favorable to Democrats. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the state’s Republican legislative leaders had violated the state constitution by unfairly favoring the GOP.

VA: ‘Sexting’ teens could avoid felony charges under bill that cleared Virginia Senate

The Virginia Senate passed a bill intended to keep teenagers who willingly share sexually explicit images with each other from being branded felony sex offenders. The measure would give prosecutors the option to charge “sexting” among minors as a misdemeanor. 

AK: Judges, attorneys, defendants face learning curve in Alaska’s new bail system

Judges in Alaska are now supposed to more directly link bail to a defendant's risk of skipping a court date or being arrested for a new crime. The idea is that bail should be based on objective measures of risk, instead of a defendant's ability to pay a fee set by a judge — a framework that backers of the overhaul said discriminated against the poor.

NJ: New Jersey governor moves to protect net neutrality

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order making New Jersey the third state that requires internet service providers "adhere to the principles of net neutrality" if they want to do business with the state. New Jersey also is joining 21 other states and Washington, D.C., in a lawsuit challenging the Federal Communications Commission's decision late last year to roll back the rules.

CA: Bid to hike commercial property taxes in California could raise billions each year

A proposed November 2018 ballot initiative to increase property taxes on commercial land in California could add $6 billion to $10 billion to the state’s coffers annually. The proposal would make a dramatic change to rules implemented by California’s landmark Proposition 13 ballot measure that capped how much property tax bills could increase.

NM: Health care a bright spot in New Mexico economy

Though overall job growth in New Mexico has been stagnant since the recession, the health care sector has been one of the strongest for employment gains, accounting for two-thirds of the job growth in the state from 2014-16. Hospitality is the only other niche in which job totals today are above those of 2007.

MA: Massachusetts legislators propose more money for child welfare lawyers

A spending bill passed by the Massachusetts House would allow the rate paid to lawyers who take child welfare cases to go from $55 to $75 an hour — at least temporarily. The change is meant to address a shortage of attorneys willing to take such cases in western Massachusetts.

Fiscal Pressure on States Doctor Shortage