What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/26

Top State Stories 2/26

MT: Montana does not comply with federal law on gun sales to the mentally ill 

Montana is not providing information to a federal database when residents are involuntarily committed for mental illness. The reporting is prohibited by a state law motivated in part by concerns that such reports could unfairly remove the right to own guns. 

FL: Republicans urge Florida governor to suspend sheriff as state begins probe of shooting response 

Florida Republicans ratcheted up the pressure on Broward County’s elected sheriff, with dozens of state representatives calling on the governor to suspend Scott Israel from office for his department’s alleged mishandling of tips about the suspect prior to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland. Meanwhile, the governor called on state law enforcement to investigate the local police response to the shooting. 

MA: Massachusetts joins coalition of states sharing gun data 

A coalition of states — New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and now, Massachusetts — will share data about people who are forbidden from purchasing or possessing a firearm within each state, supplementing the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The states also will work together to track and intercept illegal guns. 

WI: Wisconsin labor unions file lawsuit over Act 10, saying it violates free speech 

Two Wisconsin chapters of a labor union have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate Act 10, the signature piece of legislation from Republican Gov. Scott Walker, arguing it violates free speech and free association under the First Amendment. The budget bill proposed by Walker as a remedy to a projected deficit curtailed collective bargaining for most public employees, including teachers. 

VA: Some Virginia kids only get 15 minutes of recess; two lawmakers say 'let the kids play' 

Two bills that would permit Virginia school boards to increase recess times in elementary schools are making their way through the General Assembly with little opposition. Advocates have been joined by lawmakers in saying elementary school students need more unstructured learning. 

IA: Iowa legislation would allow Farm Bureau, Wellmark to skirt ‘Obamacare’ requirements 

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation could offer health insurance plans that don't comply with the federal Affordable Care Act under legislation advancing in the Iowa Legislature. The new coverage would be organized by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. 

NM: Emboldened by city win, ranked-choice voting proponents turn to the rest of New Mexico 

After winning a campaign for ranked-choice voting — a system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference — New Mexico activists are eyeing other cities in the state. Ranked-choice voting allows what are known as "instant runoffs" when no candidate gets a majority. 

WA: Washington state bump stock ban passes House 

Washington state legislation to ban quick-firing trigger devices passed the House after an amendment was added that would allow the Washington State Patrol to set up a buy-back program for people who already own the devices, known as bump stocks. The measure now moves to the Senate, which passed a different version of the legislation last month. The governor applauded the House vote. 

WY: Dozens of Wyoming state inmates housed in county jails 

Dozens of inmates within the Wyoming Department of Corrections live in county jails because the state’s prison system does not have the space or staff to house them. The practice will likely become more common as the system’s available beds continue to fill. 

ND: North Dakota's first syringe exchange program tackles trust issues 

Staff members at North Dakota’s first syringe exchange program say they’re slowly building trust with people they hope to serve. About 10 people have stopped by the program but left after spending a few minutes in the waiting room. 

CT: Feds providing Connecticut with money to help new students from Puerto Rico 

More than 1,800 children from Puerto Rico have migrated to the state and enrolled in Connecticut schools since Hurricane Maria decimated their homeland last September.  

NE: Off-duty police should be allowed to carry guns at schools, Nebraska governor says 

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, called for allowing off-duty police officers to carry guns in schools. At issue is a Nebraska law that prohibits firearms on school grounds. That law includes an exception for on-duty law enforcement, but not for officers who are off duty. 

TX: After federal probe, Texas parents say districts lack funding, staff to help kids with dyslexia 

After a 15-month investigation, the U.S. Department of Education found that Texas had effectively capped federally funded special education services for at least a decade, denying thousands of kids the tools and assistance they need to learn. The report said the ambiguity in the state's policy on dyslexia may have directed some eligible students away from services, violating federal law.

NAFTA 'Bump Stocks'