What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/4
NY: New York teachers union rolls dip after Janus
New York State United Teachers during the past year saw a 6 percent drop in the number of people who pay either regular dues or special fees, from 455,655 to 427,598 as of Aug. 31. The drop is attributed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision that said so-called agency fee payers, or non-union members who pay special fees rather than traditional dues, no longer must make those payments.
NV: Gun laws among new Nevada governor's priorities
Nevada Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak, who will be the first Democrat in the post in two decades, said he wants to see the state ban assault weapons, silencers and bump stocks, which the gunman used in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting to modify his guns to mimic the firing of a fully automatic weapon.
UT: Utah legislators replace voters’ medical pot law
Two days after Utah’s medical cannabis ballot measure became law, state lawmakers acted to supplant it with a more tightly controlled plan for providing marijuana-based treatment. Votes in both chambers largely broke down on party lines, with Democrats arguing that the legislature should not override voters.
FL: Florida Medicaid change could affect thousands
Floridians will now have less time to apply for Medicaid coverage if they want health care costs retroactively covered, after federal officials approved a state request to shorten how far back the state's program can pick up the bill. State Medicaid officials had previously estimated the eligibility would affect about 39,000 people annually.
RI: Rhode Island to test self-driving shuttles
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has awarded a contract to begin a self-driving shuttle service in Providence. May Mobility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will operate the state’s first autonomous transit pilot service, to launch this spring. The state will pay $800,000 for the first year.
CA: More undocumented immigrants could get health care in California
Influential Democratic state lawmakers are reintroducing bills to give immigrants without legal status access to Medi-Cal, California’s health care program for low-income people. Children without legal status are already eligible for Medi-Cal benefits under a 2016 law, which has expanded coverage to more than 200,000 children.
MI: GOP lawmakers gut Michigan paid sick leave
More than 160,000 Michigan small businesses that employ more than 1 million workers would be exempt from providing paid sick leave to their employees under Republican legislation to amend an initiated law that has not yet taken effect. Critics say the changes undermine the initiative by eliminating the guarantee for workers at companies less likely to provide paid sick leave.
WI: Lame-duck Wisconsin GOP plan costs millions, limits early voting
Wisconsin Republican state legislators are considering voting changes that would cost millions of dollars. In their lame-duck session, GOP lawmakers hope to limit early voting to two weeks and move the 2020 presidential primary from April to March, causing the state to hold three elections instead of two that spring.
MS: Changes may come to Mississippi state pension policies
Retired state employees have long forfeited their pensions if they served in the Mississippi legislature. Now a new attorney general’s opinion could clear the way for state retirees, including troopers, teachers, school superintendents and health officers to serve in the legislature without losing those pensions.
MT: Montana cost of Medicaid expansion: $59 million
Montana would have to shell out an extra $59 million over two years to keep its Medicaid expansion program running, but the state is expected to collect more than enough revenue to cover the costs, legislative analysts say. The four-year-old program is scheduled to end next July unless the Republican-led state legislature renews it.
MN: Alzheimer's added to Minnesota medical pot list
The Minnesota Department of Health is adding the degenerative neurological disorder to its cannabis program, which includes cancer pain, epileptic seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism. Research is limited, but findings suggest that cannabis inhibits the formation of proteins linked to memory loss and dementia.
PA: Pennsylvania high court keeps Catholic clerics’ names secret
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled it would not release the identities of 11 clerics implicated in a high-profile grand jury investigation of sexual abuse in nearly every diocese in the state. In its majority opinion, the high court sided with clergy who claimed that passages in a state grand jury report, released earlier this year, are either inaccurate or unfairly harm their reputations.
MD: Maryland Black Caucus to push to limit tobacco to 21 and up
Concerned about toll smoking has taken on the African-American community, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland is leading an effort to impose restrictions on access to tobacco products. A growing number of cities and states have raised the age to buy tobacco.
OH: Lower penalties, no duty to retreat highlight latest Ohio legislative gun fight
The Ohio Senate is plowing ahead with stand-your-ground legislation despite Republican Gov. John Kasich’s threatened veto of the gun-rights bill, which also would reduce penalties for improperly carrying a gun.
NE: Tariffs cost Nebraska agriculture up to $1B, report finds
Retaliatory tariffs triggered by the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs have led to between $700 million and $1 billion in lost farm income in Nebraska this year, according to a report released by the Nebraska Farm Bureau. The analysis specifically examined the impact on corn, soybeans and hogs.
IA: Bid to raise Iowa sales tax for natural resources has 'momentum', leaders say
A push to increase Iowa's sales tax by three-eighths of one cent to pay for natural resources and outdoor recreation programs is gaining a foothold in the Iowa legislature, but it's not clear yet whether there are sufficient votes to win approval, two key legislative leaders said.