What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/26

US: United States on track to take in smallest number of refugees since 1980 law

At the current rate, the U.S. will take in about 21,000 refugees this fiscal year, well below the cap of 45,000 set by the administration and roughly a quarter those granted entry in the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency. The administration is also cutting the resettlement system itself. 

NJ: New Jersey bill would strengthen pay-equity laws

New Jersey lawmakers are set to vote on far-reaching legislation that would make the state’s pay-equity laws among the strongest in the nation. The bill would make it easier for women and minorities to pursue pay-discrimination claims and significantly expand the amount of damages they could collect from employers who are found guilty. 

CA: Billions of dollars to help California’s homeless population going unspent

In summer 2016, California approved its largest homeless program, a $2-billion loan to help finance new housing, but the money is tied up in court. That same year, lawmakers allocated $35 million for rental assistance and emergency shelters, but staff shortages at the housing department delayed spending the money for 18 months. 

VA: After irregular ballot helped decide a Virginia House race, state aims to make ballot more clear

One voter’s flawed attempt to be counted helped decide a pivotal Virginia House election. Now, the State Board of Elections has voted to update its ballot standards. All ballots will now instruct voters to ask an election worker for another ballot if they want to change a vote or if they have made a mistake.

NE: Lawmakers seek solutions for Nebraska's overcrowded prisons

Nebraska’s prisons held a combined daily average of 5,229 prisoners last year in facilities that were designed to hold 3,275, placing them at roughly 160 percent of their design capacity, according to the state’s Department of Correctional Services. Lawmakers have imposed a July 1, 2020, deadline to lower that total to 140 percent of capacity. 

MD: Maryland lawmakers struggle to address crime in one of most violent U.S. cities

To address crime in Baltimore, Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would raise the maximum sentence from 20 years to 40 years for a second-time offender who uses a firearm in connection with drug trafficking or to commit a violent crime, and double the penalty for witness intimidation to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, along with other changes. 

TX: New law makes it hard to track driverless car testing in Texas

Whether driverless car testing is going on in Texas remains elusive due largely to a bill passed by the Legislature last year and signed into law in June by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The law does not require companies to tell the state of Texas or local governments when they are putting vehicles on streets or highways with no human in control. 

ND: North Dakota continues to pursue legal action for pipeline protest costs

The North Dakota Attorney General’s Office continues to pursue potential legal action against the federal government to recoup costs associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Protest-related costs totaled more than $37.8 million as of this week, including more than $636,000 in interest that has accrued on loans. 

ID: Idaho outlaws social media threats to schools

A new Idaho law makes it a crime to threaten violence at a school, including by phone or social media, and a felony to use a gun or other weapon as part of the threat. The law takes effect immediately. Threats would be misdemeanors, but having a gun or other deadly weapon in furtherance of the threat would be a felony. 

MA: Massachusetts State Police pay higher than reported, data hidden for years

Massachusetts state troopers’ actual earnings are higher than previously reported, and new disclosures raise questions about the agency’s spending, oversight and transparency. Payroll records for an entire 140-trooper State Police division weren’t filed with the state comptroller for several years, the Boston Globe found. 

CO: Colorado transportation department to survey citizens about drugged driving

Amid a rise in Colorado auto fatalities involving marijuana, state transportation officials are surveying thousands of residents this year to better understand public attitudes toward driving under the influence of pot, with the hopes of blunting the increasingly deadly trend.

'Idaho Stop' Census Gets Budget Boost
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