What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/19
CA: California's anti-abortion pregnancy centers want Supreme Court to overturn state notice law
Pregnancy centers in California are challenging a state law that requires them to inform clients that contraception, prenatal care and abortion may be obtained free or at low cost from the state. The case, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this week, is likely to affect abortion laws in other states.
TX: Two injured in fourth recent explosion in Texas capital
An explosion that may have been detonated by a tripwire injured two people in Austin, Texas, leading police to warn nearby residents to remain indoors overnight as investigators looked for possible links to three package bombings elsewhere in the city this month.
MS: Bipartisan Mississippi bill seeks to reduce repeat offenders, end debtor prisons
Mississippi lawmakers have sent to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant a bill that seeks to reduce repeat inmate offenders, do away with debtor prisoners, and study sentencing disparities across the state. Not a single lawmaker in the House or Senate voted against the bill, which is awaiting Bryant’s signature.
US: Amid dry conditions, forecasters warn of fires, crop damage across high plains
Forecasters are warning that the intensifying drought across the southern high plains has resulted in critical fire danger, crop damage, and dwindling irrigation supplies. For the past five months, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have all experienced a lack of rain combined with above-normal temperatures.
MI: 1 in 3 Michigan workers tested opened fake email
Michigan auditors who conducted a fake phishing attack on 5,000 randomly selected state employees said nearly one-third opened the email, a quarter clicked on the link, and almost one-fifth entered their user ID and password. The covert operation was part of an audit that uncovered weaknesses in the state government’s computer network.
LA: Sexual harassment bills move forward in Louisiana Legislature
Legislation to prevent sexual harassment and protect victims in the private and the public sector is moving through the Louisiana Legislature. At least two bills will be taken up by the state House, including one that is part of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ legislative agenda.
MA: Bill calls for Massachusetts to divest holdings in gunmakers
A proposed bill in Massachusetts would require the state’s pension fund to divest from any companies that manufacture guns and ammunition. Several other states including Connecticut and New Jersey are weighing similar measures.
HI: Hawaii crime victim restitution up 70 percent
Hawaii has dramatically increased its collection of funds that inmates and parolees owe to their crime victims, forging a path that experts say could be a model for other states. The state collected about 70 percent more from offenders and made 40 percent more disbursements to victims in fiscal 2016 than in fiscal 2013.
SC: Legislation that would combine small school districts gains support in South Carolina
A new push from South Carolina State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, a Republican, could provide motivation — and political cover — for the consolidation of small school districts. Lawmakers have long avoided the issue, fearing a backlash from voters with deep ties to their local schools.
MD: Maryland lawmakers again debate $500 fine for texting and driving
Frustrated that drivers continue to use mobile phones on the road despite existing penalties, Maryland lawmakers are for the third time weighing whether to increase the maximum fine for texting and driving to $500 — one of the highest penalties in the country.
AL: Alabama Senate wants to permanently stay in daylight saving time
Alabama lawmakers are pushing a proposal to keep daylight saving time and stop changing clocks. The Senate approved a resolution to “forever put an end to the deadly, energy-wasting, productivity-killing, twice-yearly changing of time.” It now moves to the House for a final vote.
OH: Ohio might soon add ‘state dog’ to its symbols
Ohio has, among other things, a state beverage (tomato juice), a state frog (bullfrog), two state fruits (papaw and tomato), two state songs (“Hang on Sloopy” and “Beautiful Ohio”) and a state fossil (the trilobite). A bill in the state Legislature now proposes a state dog: the Labrador retriever.