What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/20
CA: With an epidemic of mental illness on the streets, California counties struggle to spend cash reserves
When California voters passed a tax on high-income residents in 2004, backers said it would make good on the state’s “failed promise” to help counties pay for the treatment of the mentally ill. The Mental Health Services Act has steered billions of dollars to counties, but huge sums remain unspent.
GA: Georgia faces rural doctor shortage
Georgia’s Legislature is once again brainstorming legislation to address the state’s rural health care crisis. Sixty-four of 159 counties have no pediatrician; 79 have no obstetrician or gynecologist; and nine simply have no doctor.
NY: New York law heightens focus on students' mental health
When New York students return to classes next month, they can expect to have more counseling services at their disposal as well as trained teachers keeping a closer eye on their mental health. A new state law requires New York state elementary, middle and high schools to provide mental health education as part of their health curriculum.
MI: Michigan governor unveils broadband plan
Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has unveiled a plan that would make universal access to high-speed internet available throughout the state. More than 350,000 households — mostly in rural areas — lack access to high-speed internet service.
WI: After Wisconsin governor took office, bills moved faster through Legislature
The proportion of fast-tracked bills shot up to 26 percent in the first session of Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s term, diminishing the public’s opportunities to influence lawmaking, an analysis by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism found.
HI: Hawaii forgoing millions in federal reimbursements
Hawaii each year misses out on potentially tens of millions of dollars in federal reimbursements because it fails to aggressively pursue claims related to teaching Medicaid-insured special education students. The U.S. government reimbursed the state $259,946 for school-based Medicaid health services in fiscal 2016 — a fraction of what most other states received, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser analysis found.
FL: Florida election officials seek info as support builds for senator’s Russian-hack claim
Support mounted over the weekend for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's recent claims that Russian operatives have "penetrated" some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections. Florida elections officials said they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems.
UT: Utah county that fought monuments tries to cash in on them
After years of complaining about national monuments within its borders, southeastern Utah’s San Juan County is now highlighting them in a new branding effort to boost economic development in this historically overlooked corner of the state.
NJ: New Jersey is getting $10M to safeguard elections from hacking. It may not be enough.
New Jersey will spend nearly $10 million in federal money to beef up cybersecurity, improve training and take other steps to safeguard its voting systems ahead of November's midterm elections. But the money won't cover the biggest thing New Jersey has to do to prevent election meddling: switch to machines with a paper trail.
PA: Pennsylvania expands protections for LGBT people, but hate-crime law doesn't include them
People can now file complaints to the state of Pennsylvania about LGBT discrimination. But the state still doesn’t classify any crimes against LGBT people as hate crimes.
AR: Church groups’ opposition stuns Arkansas advocates of ‘tort reform’
So-called tort reform has been an easy sell in states controlled by Republicans, and backers of a lawsuit-limiting proposal on the ballot in Arkansas this fall expected little trouble winning passage until they ran into a surprising obstacle from a reliable conservative ally.
TX: Texas appeals court temporarily blocks Austin's paid sick leave rule
Amid a legal challenge from a slate of powerful business-aligned groups, a Texas appeals court temporarily blocked the city of Austin’s ordinance requiring employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave. The ordinance was set to take effect Oct. 1.