What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/18

AK: Alaska has started delaying Medicaid payments to some hospitals 

Because of a $20 million budget shortfall, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is delaying some payments to large providers that don’t rely on Medicaid money to keep the lights on, and prioritizing payments to community health centers and behavioral health clinics. 

DE: Sports betting in Delaware gets a green light 

Delaware just became the favorite in the Mid-Atlantic — if not the nation — to become the first state with a full-scale sports gaming operation outside of Nevada. 

OK: Oklahoma grand jury finds state health department had slush fund; never insolvent 

Oklahoma's multicounty grand jury reported that the financial crisis at the state Health Department was never real. They said both the layoffs at the department and a $30 million emergency appropriation last year were unnecessary. But, it said, the department maintained a “slush fund that allowed the Department to overspend without consequences.” 

CO: Colorado considers allowing bitcoin campaign contributions 

Colorado is considering joining several other states and allowing political candidates to accept cryptocurrency for campaign contributions. The donations — whether in bitcoin or another digital currency — would be subject to the same state limits as a cash donation, and the value would be determined at the time of the contribution. 

AL: Febreze freshens up Alabama town after poop train rolls on 

Febreze gave out free samples of its odor-eliminating products to residents of Parrish, Alabama, after a train carrying more than 200 shipping containers of sewer sludge sat on a rail yard in town for more than two months as the containers were hauled by trucks one-by-one to a landfill about 20 miles away. 

UT: Utah lawmaker considers a bill to raise legal marriage age 

Democratic state Rep. Angela Romero is considering writing a bill that would raise the minimum age for matrimony in Utah to 18. Under current state law, a 15-year-old may marry with the consent of a parent or guardian and the permission of a Utah juvenile court judge. 

MI: Michigan Senate votes to ban marijuana beer 

In a unanimous vote, the Michigan Senate said no to marijuana-infused beer and wine, a pre-emptive strike ahead of possible legalization of the drug. The legislation would prohibit the possession or sale of marijuana beer, wine, spirits or mixed drinks — regardless of alcohol content. 

MN: Minnesota governor vetoes tax bill days before Legislature to adjourn 

The GOP-crafted tax measure vetoed by Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would cut tax rates on the two lowest income tiers and align the state tax code with recent federal tax changes. Dayton's action sets up a standoff with Republican lawmakers with only a few days to finish their work. 

MS: Mississippi proposes rules to govern legal sports betting 

Mississippi’s sprint toward legalized sports betting has begun. The state Gaming Commission proposed rules to govern sports books at Mississippi’s 28 licensed casinos. The public has 25 days to make comments. 

VA: First three-strikes inmate released from prison after Virginia policy shift 

The first inmate to be granted parole after the Virginia Parole Board changed its stance on the state's three-strikes law walked out of prison. The parole board changed its interpretation of a controversial 1982 three-strikes law, which rendered inmates ineligible for parole if convicted of three specific crimes. 

LA: Louisiana bill nearing passage would restore voting rights to thousands 

The state Senate voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate a more than four-decades-old Louisiana law that prohibits all felons on probation and parole in Louisiana from voting. 

GA: Georgia fights hackers with nation’s largest cyber insurance policy 

When hackers took down the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s website and demanded a ransom, the state refused to pay. Instead, the government relied on its $100 million cyber insurance policy, which appears to be the largest of any state in the nation. 

TX: Texas’s executions scheduled through October, but drugs expire in July 

Records obtained by The Texas Tribune indicate that the state’s supply of execution drugs is insufficient for eight upcoming executions. Unless Texas were to push back the expiration dates of its current supply or track down more of the hard-to-find drugs, at least three of the condemned men would be set to die after available drugs expire.

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