What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/21

GA: Georgia’s leaders reach deal to cut state’s top income tax rate

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and legislative leaders have agreed to cut the top state income tax rate to help eliminate the revenue windfall Georgia is expecting from federal tax changes approved by Congress in December.

CA: California drivers under 21 could lose license for year if caught under the influence of marijuana

A bill in California would target drivers under 21 who are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and who test positive for the main psychoactive agent in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The bill foresees using an oral swab saliva test or another chemical field test.

OK: Oklahoma Legislature finishing budget eight months after it started

The sometimes-raucous Oklahoma House quietly closed the latest chapter on a political saga that's gripped Oklahomans for months with a vote to cut spending by another $44.7 million. The vote — eight months in the making — will allow agencies and legislative leaders to turn their focus to the next budget cycle that begins July 1. The Senate could take up the budget bill this week.

UT: Utah teen suicide task force recommends securing guns

A new task force created to attempt to slow a troubling rise of teen suicides in Utah has recommended that officials ratchet up public messaging to implore gun-owing parents to keep firearms locked up. The average yearly total of youth suicides over the last five years in the state has more than doubled over the past decade.

SC: South Carolina lawmakers want to make sagging pants illegal for men

A bill proposed in the South Carolina Legislature would allow fines for men and boys who are seen with sagging pants. Offenders would be subject to a $25 fine for a first offense; a $50 fine or up to 3 hours of community service, or both, for a second offense; and a $75 fine or up to 6 hours of community service, or both, for a third or subsequent offense.

LA: Louisiana's lawsuit against opioid makers now in attorney general's hands

Louisiana’s attorney general will take charge of a state lawsuit against drug manufacturers, under a deal announced that ends a dispute with the governor’s office over who controls litigation accusing the companies of worsening opioid abuse in Louisiana.

KS: Kansas lawmakers drop effort to end in-state tuition for undocumented students

Kansas lawmakers have dropped an effort to repeal a law that allows undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. When a Kansas House committee did not act on a bill to end in-state-tuition for undocumented graduates, the measure essentially died for the session.

ME: Already struggling, Maine homes for people with disabilities face cuts July 1

Without another infusion of funding from state coffers, the agencies around Maine that serve adults with developmental disabilities will have less money, and they’ll have to pay their staff members a higher wage. On July 1, six months before the state’s minimum wage rises to $11 an hour, the rates group home operators receive from the state’s Medicaid program are set to fall nearly 10 percent.

DE: Delaware capital punishment law was overturned, yet two remain on death row

Two men remain on death row a year and a half after the state Supreme Court ruled Delaware's death penalty unconstitutional. That's because when the state or U.S. Supreme Court declares a law unconstitutional, if the case is pending on appeal it will be modified the next time it comes to the sentencing court. 

AK: Gap in state pension funding draws Alaska lawmakers’ concern

The Alaska pension systems currently have $25 billion in assets. That leaves a gap of $6.6 billion between what the state has in pension assets and the projected future cost.

WA: Washington state Democrats quietly push to roll back open-records laws

With a new majority in the Washington state Senate, Democrats have quietly introduced legislation to roll back the state’s Public Disclosure Act. Lawmakers call the measures necessary to protect state employees from harassment and identify theft, and to limit federal use of state voter data.

KY: Kentucky governor urges lawmakers to control exploding prison population

While most other states’ prison populations are declining, Kentucky’s is set to increase by 19 percent over the next 10 years, overwhelming jails and prisons and burdening taxpayers with nearly $600 million in additional costs.

IN: Sunday alcohol sales could start March 4 in Indiana

Indiana residents could begin purchasing carryout alcohol on Sundays for the first time in state history as early as March 4. The Indiana House has voted to end the state's unpopular ban on Sunday takeout alcohol sales, and while the measure requires one more vote in the Senate, it is largely procedural. The measure would then go to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has said he plans to sign it into law.

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