What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/28

NJ: Overdose deaths up 40 percent in New Jersey 

New data from the New Jersey Office of the State Medical Examiner reveals that 2,221 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, up 40 percent from the year before. The majority of victims had heroin or fentanyl in their systems. 

AK: Alaska’s Medicaid and public assistance backlog is 20,000 people deep 

Most of the applicants are seeking Medicaid, but the backlog also includes Alaskans seeking food stamps and other income-based assistance. The backlog fell from a high of more than 27,000 in June to a low of nearly 15,000 in December, but has risen sharply in the past two months. 

MS: Mississippi Senate panel votes to arm teachers in classrooms 

A Mississippi Senate committee has amended a House bill to allow universities to prohibit guns at sporting events, and to allow some teachers and professors with advanced training and permits to carry guns in schools and colleges. 

MD: Not a ‘frat house’: Maryland's female lawmakers push back against report by women’s caucus 

Nearly every female lawmaker in Maryland has signed onto an open letter that appears to push back against a recent report by their own women’s caucus that contained searing descriptions of alleged sexual harassment and assault by male colleagues. 

OK: Ahead of June vote, Oklahoma legislature works on marijuana rules 

The Oklahoma Legislature is considering significant restrictions on the medical marijuana industry ahead of a statewide vote in June on whether to approve its legal use. A Senate committee, by a one vote margin, approved a host of regulations, including a limit on how many businesses can be licensed to manufacture and sell medical marijuana. 

IN: Indiana governor backs legislative effort to allow DACA recipients to get professional licenses 

Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is throwing his support behind legislation that would again allow recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, to obtain licenses for more than 70 occupations in the state. Holcomb says until Congress clarifies federal immigration law regarding DACA, Indiana state law should allow DACA recipients to get professional licenses. 

ME: Maine legislative leaders reject late calls to arm school staff, toughen gun control 

Efforts to bolster school security through gun control or arming school staff failed to get past a panel of Maine legislative leaders, but bills aimed at keeping guns from high-risk people and borrowing $20 million for school safety upgrades advanced. Five other states already have laws which allow police to take guns temporarily from people deemed dangerous by a judge. 

WI: Wisconsin governor moves to stabilize ‘Obamacare’ as attorney general seeks to strike it down 

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a $200 million bill to stabilize insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act even as the state attorney general sued, seeking to block the entire law. Walker, a longtime critic of “Obamacare,” has emphasized in recent weeks that he wants to hold down prices for insurance purchased through the law and make sure it's affordable for state residents. 

FL: Florida Legislature says ‘no’ again to ban on assault weapons 

For a second day, a Florida legislative committee rejected a ban on assault weapons in the state that has had more mass shootings than any other. The House Appropriations Committee rejected a proposal to outlaw the sale and possession of about 200 types of semi-automatic rifles. 

IA: Iowa Senate OKs ban on traffic enforcement cameras as foes predict more traffic deaths 

A statewide ban on automated traffic cameras was approved by the Iowa Senate after a heated debate in which opponents of the bill predicted it will result in more traffic deaths and serious injuries. 

OR: Oregon House passes bill to require net neutrality within government contracts 

A bill that would block state and local governments from contracting with internet service providers that don't practice net neutrality principles passed the Oregon House. The vote was a rebuke of a recent Federal Communications Commission decision. 

WA: One Washington state school district is arming administrators 

The Toppenish School District on the Yakima Reservation in Washington state has been allowing educators to carry concealed firearms on campus since 2014. There are 19 administrators who've been certified to carry a gun on campus. It was unclear whether introducing more guns in schools would improve student safety. 

MA: Massachusetts police chiefs back new version of 'sanctuary state' bill 

The new version of the proposed Massachusetts bill would allow local and state police to detain immigrants at the request of federal authorities for up to six hours. This six-hour window would apply to someone arrested for any terrorist-related activity and includes immigrants previously convicted of serious crimes such as sexual assault, gang-related activity, human or drug trafficking, and domestic violence.

ERA Comeback Food Incentives