What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/16

US: Push for gun laws faces resistance in most states

An Associated Press survey of bill activity in state legislatures before and after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting found that the campaign for tighter gun laws that inspired unprecedented student walkouts across the country faces an uphill climb in a majority of states. 

AL: Alabama lawmakers approve expanded child care oversight

A bill to expand oversight of child care centers in Alabama, the subject of debate and compromise for more than a year, won final approval in the Legislature and is headed to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. Proponents say it is an important step toward uniform standards needed to ensure safety in child care centers. 

TX: Major Texas industrial facilities No. 1 in illegal water pollution, report finds

A study by a Texas environmental group and a California think tank found that about half of Texas’ major industrial facilities released illegal levels of pollution into rivers, lakes and other waterways over the past two years.  

CA: California eyes lower taxes on pot to help industry compete with black market

Alarmed that California's fledgling legal marijuana industry is being undercut by the black market, a group of lawmakers proposed reducing state taxes for three years on growing and selling cannabis to allow licensed sellers to get on their feet. The measure would suspend a cultivation tax that charges $148 a pound.

NY: New York House approves private school child abuse reporting bill

The measure would add private schools to the New York state law requiring public schools to immediately report any allegations that a student has been sexually abused by a staff member or volunteer “in an educational setting.” The bill now goes to the Republican-led Senate. 

WI: Wisconsin governor calls on lawmakers to take up $100M school safety plan

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has called a special legislative session to consider a safety package aimed at providing more security in school buildings. But the plan doesn't include imposing stricter controls on gun ownership as Democrats want, or arming teachers as some Republicans want. 

NE: Nebraska legislators OK occupational licensing bill intended to cut red tape

Nebraska would take aim at what many see as overly burdensome occupational licensing laws under a bill given first-round approval. The measure would reduce red tape and make it easier for Nebraskans to get into the occupation of their choice. 

GA: Georgia’s distracted driving debate pits life vs. liberty

A bill before the Georgia Legislature that would prohibit drivers from holding their phones while driving has sparked one of the most emotional debates at the Gold Dome this year — one that sometimes seems to pit the fundamental values of life and liberty against each other. 

AZ: Arizona governor: I'll support taking guns from people deemed threats

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said he will back laws designed to take guns from people who are threats — precisely what is in a bill that a Democratic state representative could not get heard in the GOP-controlled Legislature. 

TN: Tennessee child marriage ban advances in House

A surprisingly controversial bill that would ban child marriage in Tennessee — killed last week, then revived in a span of just days — advanced in the House, moving forward with bipartisan support. 

KY: Kentucky governor expects scholarship ranks to balloon after Medicaid waiver

A scholarship program started last year to help more people get technical workforce training certificates has been used by fewer than 1,500 students so far, but state officials expect a dramatic increase thanks to a new requirement that many Medicaid recipients must get jobs or go to school to keep their insurance. 

AR: Arkansas governor signs bill allowing regulation of Rx service

The measure signed by Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson authorizes the state to license and regulate companies that pay prescription drug claims for insurance companies. 

ME: Maine governor calls for $50M in bonds for interest-free student loans

As more of the workforce approaches retirement age, Maine's Republican Gov. Paul LePage said the state needs more ways to convince recent college graduates to stay in Maine or move to the state. 

VT: Vermont may ease up on car inspection requirements

Cracked tail lights and tinted windows could be removed from the list of problems that cause Vermont vehicles to fail inspections under new rules being drafted by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.  

RI: Legislator withdraws bill that would have banned outhouses in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island lawmaker told The Providence Journal that he had filed the bill in response to a dispute involving a young family that moved to Exeter from Warwick about three or four years ago, whose driveway is within whiffing distance of a neighbor’s outhouse. The bill drew national attention.

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