What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/27

US: Several states consider ‘animal abuser’ lists as warning sign for potential criminals 

Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Columbine High School shooters are among those who had a history of hurting animals before targeting humans, a tendency that’s part of what’s behind a movement to create public online registries of known animal abusers. Nikolas Cruz, arrested in the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, posted photos on social media of a slain frog. 

KY, WV: West Virginia governor fails to pay taxes needed by struggling Kentucky schools 

Coal companies linked to the billionaire governor of West Virginia, Republican Jim Justice, owe $2.9 million in delinquent property taxes next door in Kentucky, shorting schools and local government programs of money at a time when many are struggling with tight finances. 

CA: California's top court strikes down 50-year sentences for juveniles 

The California Supreme Court decided that juveniles may not be sentenced to 50 years or longer in prison for kidnapping, rape and sodomy. In a 4-3 ruling, the state high court said such sentences are "functionally equivalent" to life without parole, and constitute cruel and unusual punishment because they deprive inmates of the chance for parole until their senior years. 

DE, MA, PR: Delaware, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico join states fighting gun violence 

The governors of Delaware, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico announced they would be joining a growing number of states that are taking a collective approach to fighting gun violence. Each of the member states is pledging to share registries of people prohibited from owning firearms in their jurisdictions, allowing police to better track gun purchases and permit denials outside their own state borders. 

CO: Colorado city approves first social marijuana consumption license 

A Colorado coffee shop has received approval from the city of Denver for the nation’s first business license to allow marijuana use by patrons. Patrons will be able to vape or consume marijuana edibles at the Coffee Joint. They will not be able to smoke, which is only allowed outdoors under Denver’s social marijuana use ordinance.  

NV: Nevada may change gender policy for driver’s licenses 

During a public hearing this month, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles signaled a move toward allowing individuals to self-declare a gender when obtaining a license, rather than provide proof from a physician. 

KS: Kansas loses $1 billion annually to tax breaks 

Kansas refuses more than $1 billion every year in potential revenue through dozens of tax credits and exemptions, and the amount is growing. Kansas also lacks the oversight found in many other states. There is no regular review process to ensure credits or exemptions are still warranted. 

VA: Virginia Senate approves long-term student suspension changes 

House Bill 1600, which was earlier passed by the state’s lower chamber, would limit the length of a long-term school suspension in Virginia. The suspensions disproportionately affect black and disabled students, according to data in a new report. 

AZ: Arizona Legislature funds state university courses in conservative thought 

In Arizona, the Legislature funds conservative "freedom school" courses in state universities directly from the state budget. Republican legislatures have been taking a greater interest in the affairs of their state universities, though usually more indirectly, to counteract what they see as excessive liberalism on campus. 

TX: Texas governor and FEMA are using Harvey to reinvent disaster response 

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tasked the state’s General Land Office with a job that typically falls to FEMA: running short-term housing programs for Harvey victims. In the six months since, neighborly networks and organized charity have buoyed disheartened Texans on the coast. But some say the experiment turns displaced residents into “guinea pigs.” 

TN: Bill seeks to end child marriage in Tennessee 

Two Tennessee lawmakers have proposed a bill that would end child marriage there. The bill would make the marriage age 18 and up — with no exceptions. The current law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to marry when parents join in the marriage license application. 

NJ: Voting rights could be restored to New Jersey prisoners 

Roughly 94,000 New Jersey residents are prohibited from voting because they are serving prison sentences or on probation or parole, but that could change under a bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers. Should the bill become law, New Jersey would become the third state, after Maine and Vermont, to restore full voting rights to people with convictions. 

WI: Wisconsin sales tax holiday bill appears dead and entire tax cut bill at risk of impasse 

The Wisconsin Senate majority leader said Republican senators wouldn’t even hold a hearing on a one-time sales tax holiday that passed the Assembly last week. And an impasse between GOP lawmakers may be putting an entire tax cut bill at risk.

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