What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/20
FL: School shooting puts pressure on Florida lawmakers to act
The deadly shooting at a Florida high school has put pressure on the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to consider a sweeping package of gun-control bills in a state that has resisted restrictions on firearms for decades. Bills being prepared would raise the age to purchase firearms, create a waiting period for purchasing any type of firearm, ban bump stocks, and create gun-violence restraining orders.
NJ: New Jersey bail overhaul is working, but it's already going broke
In its first year, New Jersey's historic criminal justice system overhaul slashed the number of people charged with minor crimes locked up until trial because they couldn't post bail by 20 percent. But a new report from the state judiciary also found that the system is unsustainable and faces a "substantial annual structural deficit" because its funding relies on court fees rather than the state budget.
US: States consider protecting benefits for immigrants facing loss of status
State lawmakers across the country are weighing a host of bills aimed at preserving driver’s licenses and other benefits for undocumented immigrants who may lose the protected status long afforded them by the federal government.
CA: California wildfires may lead to rural customers paying more for electricity
The cost of preventing power-line wildfires could rise so high that California’s top utility regulator recently suggested a new way to pay for it: charge residents of high-risk areas more money for electricity. State investigators have yet to pinpoint the causes of last year’s fires, but power lines tossed about by harsh winds are considered a likely culprit.
IN: 'Sunscreen bill' heads to Indiana governor
Indiana schoolchildren may soon be able to freely bring sunscreen lotion to school, without a doctor's note or running down to the nurse's office to reapply. One the first bills to make its way through both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly is also one that’s left many state legislators asking why they even needed to consider such legislation.
KY: As Kentucky addicts died, drug company ‘flooded’ state with more pills, lawsuit says
An Ohio-based drug wholesaler “saturated and flooded” rural counties in Eastern Kentucky with millions of doses of painkillers even as drug overdose deaths spiraled, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear charged in a new lawsuit. It is the third lawsuit Beshear, a Democrat, has filed against drug companies for allegedly inflaming the state’s addiction crisis in pursuit of profits.
MN: Minnesota restricts political wear at the polls, but the Supreme Court could change that
Like a number of states, Minnesota bars voters from wearing political items to the polls to reduce the potential for confrontations or voter intimidation. But that could change, with a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could affect other states, too.
CT: School massacre provokes calls for 'red flag' law like the one Connecticut pioneered
The shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has opened a debate on whether more states should do what Connecticut was first to do — pass laws that allow the confiscation of weapons from those who are believed to be a danger to others and themselves.
AK: Alaska’s oil and gas industry workforce is becoming less Alaskan
Alaskans comprised 72 percent of the oil and gas workforce in 2016, the lowest percentage since state officials began tracking the number in 1991.
UT: Utah committee recommends bill legalizing sale of hemp products
A bill that would widely allow the production and sale of hemp products for qualifying license holders is set to be debated in the Utah House.
MD: Should Maryland teachers, doctors, social workers face jail time for failing to report child abuse?
The Maryland General Assembly is considering whether mandatory reporters such as health practitioners and human service workers should face a misdemeanor charge and up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for failing to report child abuse if they have “actual knowledge” that it has occurred. Maryland and Wyoming are the only states that do not impose criminal penalties for failure to report.
NE: Conservatives rally behind pay raise for Nebraska lawmakers
Six years after Nebraska voters overwhelmingly rejected a pay increase for state lawmakers, a fresh crop of senators is asking again, and this time they have some conservative allies. Nebraska lawmakers earn $12,000 a year before taxes, placing them among the nation's lowest-paid state legislators.
OH: Ohio’s Medicaid ‘electronic verification’ draws fire for glitches, privacy invasion
Ohio is spending millions on new technology to log the visits of home-health workers and personal-care aides for people with disabilities and other medical conditions. But the rollout of the state’s “electronic visit-verification” system, part of a federal push to reduce Medicaid fraud, has drawn complaints about glitches, a lack of training and what many consumers see as a violation of their privacy.