What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/13

Top State Stories 2/13

CO: Colorado marijuana businesses enjoy record sales in 2017

Colorado marijuana shops raked in a record $1.5 billion in sales of medical and recreational cannabis, edibles and concentrate products during 2017, according to the state Department of Revenue. Colorado collected upward of $247 million in taxes and fees revenue from marijuana sales.

TX: In Texas, Houston-area officials made a natural disaster plan — then ignored it. 

Seven months before Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area with a trillion gallons of water and led to widespread criticism of the Red Cross, Harris County adopted a disaster-preparation plan whose key assumption was that the Red Cross would be slow to act. But in the time between the plan’s passage and the landfall of Harvey, the Texas county took few steps to implement its strategy. 

US: States look to lower drug costs, consider Canadian imports

Lawmakers in more than two-thirds of the states are considering ways to reduce prescription drug costs, including importing them from Canada, as they strive to balance budgets without knowing for sure what their government’s share of the tab will be.

MT: Montana ban on robocalls upheld

A federal district court judge has ruled that Montana’s ban on political robocalls is constitutional, although the lack of enforcement since the ban was approved in 1991 has meant Montanans still receive many of the calls each election cycle.

CA: California earns first royalty check after investing billions in stem cell research

California, which has poured billions of public dollars into studying stem cells over the past decade, recently received its first royalty check for the investment. The City of Hope medical research center has sent more than $190,000 to the State Treasurer’s Office related to research funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which has been tasked with issuing $2.75 billion in grants for stem cell studies.

IA: Proposal to reinstate death penalty advances in Iowa Senate after emotional debate

Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1965 and, except for a debate in the 1990s, lawmakers have since generally accepted the idea that Iowa will not execute inmates. That's meant that people convicted of first-degree murder and given life sentences in recent years have rarely been granted clemency by the state's governor.

WA: Washington state bills take aim at housing discrimination

The state House and Senate passed bills to bar Washington landlords from discriminating against tenants who pay their rent with Section 8 vouchers or other assistance.

UT: Utah lawmakers debate funding home visits by teachers 

Teacher visits to students’ homes are gaining popularity as a strategy for improving school performance, but they are also time-consuming and carry a price tag for teachers’ after-hours work. The funding that covered home visits in Utah last year is no longer available, and a bill in the Legislature that seeks $400,000 for state-level grants to pay for home visits is hitting resistance.

VA: Virginia Senate passes bill to allow expungement of first marijuana charge

The Virginia Senate passed a bill that would allow someone charged with possession of marijuana for the first time to later pay $150 to have the charge expunged. The expungement fee would be used to maintain a database of those who had charges expunged, so prosecutors and courts could stop someone from using that benefit more than once.

SD: South Dakota bill would lower penalties for failed drug tests

In South Dakota, failing a urine test for methamphetamine can result in a felony drug possession charge. Defense lawyers in the state have long argued that the approach is overly harsh and costly for taxpayers, given the number of prison inmates serving time for drug possession.

NH: In New Hampshire, a battle over asbestos lawsuits and transparency

A pending bill in the New Hampshire Senate would require victims of asbestos-related diseases and their lawyers to identify the sources of money they’ve already gotten in or out of court. Opponents claim it seeks to delay, if not deny, financial payout to victims in a state with a higher-than-average mortality rate for asbestos-related diseases.

WY: Wyoming governor warns against education and social services cuts

Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, cautioned against deep cuts to education and social services while praising the overall reduction in the size of Wyoming’s government in his final state of the state address.

OH: Ohio takes in $20 million in overdue taxes from insurance agents

The Ohio Department of Insurance set up a partnership with the Ohio attorney general’s office and the Ohio Department of Taxation in 2011 to determine if insurance agents are compliant with Ohio laws when it comes to income taxes, sales taxes and workers’ compensation premiums. The state has nearly 220,000 agents, and has collected money or set up payment plans for more than 1,600 of them.

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