Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/19

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/19

US: Coalition of states sues Trump over emergency declaration for border wall

washingtonpost.com

A coalition of 16 states filed a lawsuit to block President Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall without Congress, arguing that the decision to declare a national emergency is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, brought by states with Democratic governors and Maryland, seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent the president from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts.

NC: North Carolina's elections chief testifies ballots were handled illegally

apnews.com

A Republican operative conducted an illegal and well-funded ballot-harvesting operation, North Carolina’s elections director said, but the first session of a dayslong hearing produced scant evidence that the GOP congressional candidate he worked for knew about it or even benefited.           

WV: Strike closes West Virginia schools

wvnews.com

School officials across West Virginia announced school closures after unions declared a statewide strike by teachers and service personnel. Unions want more say in drafting state legislation on charter schools.

WI: Wisconsin governor calls for marijuana decriminalization

jsonline.com

Allowing Wisconsin residents to smoke and sell small amounts of marijuana would reduce the disproportionate rate at which the state's black residents are arrested, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers argued. Despite strong support among Democrats, the path through the Republican-controlled state legislature is murky.

CA: Ruling affirming rights of students accused of sexual misconduct roils California colleges

sacbee.com

Colleges and universities across California are scrambling to revise the way they handle sexual misconduct cases after a state appellate court ruled that "fundamental fairness" requires that accused students have a right to a hearing and to cross-examine their accusers.

KS: Kansas may offer jobless benefits to government workers hit by shutdowns

cjonline.com

Under the bill, Kansas jobless benefits would be extended to federal and state government workers required to report to their jobs during a shutdown but not able to receive a timely paycheck. The legislation wouldn’t, however, cover local employees compelled to work without pay during a furlough. 

FL: Florida governor proposes private school scholarships

tampabay.com

In an assertive move, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his team released their own versions of bills on a taxpayer-funded scholarship for more Florida children to attend private schools, teacher performance pay, graduation requirements and more.

MN: Minnesota asks Big Tobacco firms: Where's the money?

startribune.com

Several cigarette brands have stopped paying money owed to Minnesota under the historic 1998 court settlement with Big Tobacco. The state has sued to recapture the funds, estimated at $15 million a year.

HI: Bills call for building condos on Hawaii state land

staradvertiser.com

State leaders this year proposed meeting one of Hawaii’s biggest and most intractable challenges with a big and unconventional idea. The challenge is producing a lot more affordable housing. The proposed solution is building and selling leasehold condominiums on state land.

TN: Gun thefts from cars up in Tennessee, some police blame laws

tennessean.com

Tennessee saw an 85 percent increase in guns stolen from cars and trucks in a two-year period from 2016 to 2017, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Some police officials say part of the problem is a state "guns in trunks" law that allows handguns in parked cars.

NJ: New Jersey governor looks to sell assets to fund pensions

nj.com

State lawmakers have already pledged the New Jersey lottery as an asset to the public-worker pension fund, bringing some relief from its billions of dollars in liabilities. Now, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy wants to know what other state assets — roads, airports, bridges and naming rights, among others — can be sold, leased or otherwise leveraged to help fund pensions.

CT: Connecticut governor to propose new taxes on sugar, plastic, tobacco

courant.com

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, is proposing an array of new taxes on consumer goods to help close a projected budget deficit approaching $2 billion. Lamont said he will ask the General Assembly to tax sugary drinks, plastic bags, wine and liquor bottles, and tobacco and vaping products. 

AZ: Despite surplus, Arizona lawmakers won’t restore welfare benefits

azcentral.com

Four years ago, when lawmakers voted to make Arizona the strictest state in the nation for welfare benefits, their rationale was financial. The state was facing a $1 billion budget deficit. This year, the state has projected a $1 billion surplus, but Democrats’ efforts to return aid to Arizona’s poorest households has been a non-starter.

MA: Massachusetts bills would make court hearings less secret

bostonglobe.com

Ten state lawmakers have sponsored legislation to lift the veil of secrecy over criminal hearings run by court clerks in district and municipal courts in Massachusetts. At issue is the current practice in which clerk magistrates and their assistants routinely decide, behind closed doors, whether to approve charges before suspects are publicly arraigned before a judge.

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