What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/10
MS: Think debtors prisons are a thing of the past? Not in Mississippi.
To pay off fines and other debts, inmates in Mississippi’s little-known restitution centers must work grueling low-wage jobs, pay rent and endure strip searches. In this world between prison and freedom, they often don’t know when they’ll get to go home.
KS: Governor, Republican leaders reach deal to expand Medicaid in Kansas
The prospect of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Senate Republican Leader Jim Denning reaching a grand compromise on Medicaid expansion appeared remote last May. But this week, the sometimes-rivals strode into the Capitol rotunda to announce just such a deal before a rapturous pro-expansion crowd.
IA: Iowa governor’s office tries to process felon voting application backlog before caucuses
Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds says her office is working to process the backlog of hundreds of applications from felons hoping to restore their right to vote before the caucuses on Feb. 3. Her office has 347 applications from felons to process in just under a month.
MN: Minnesota governor proposes $276M for housing
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz unveiled the first part of his 2020 state bonding proposal, recommending to the legislature that Minnesota borrow $276 million to pay for affordable housing projects across the state.
CO: Colorado is poised to repeal the death penalty
Legislation proposed last year that would have repealed the death penalty in Colorado fizzled in dramatic fashion. But the death penalty abolition movement may finally have the votes it needs, thanks to an ongoing effort to heal wounds within the Senate Democratic caucus and newfound GOP support.
ME: Governor, Democrats unveil health care bill as Maine lawmakers return
Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and Democratic legislative leaders unveiled a health care proposal aimed at reducing costs for primary care visits and combining markets to lower health care costs as lawmakers returned to work.
KY: Sharp words exchanged over immigration bill in Kentucky Senate
An immigration bill, which Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Senate has designated as its top priority, bans “sanctuary” policies by police or public agencies in the state, requiring them to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
AZ: Arizona’s water supply a major issue for legislative session
Republican and Democratic leaders of the Arizona House are again eyeing the state’s water supply as a major issue for the coming legislative session. GOP House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Democratic Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez both highlighted overpumping in the state’s rural areas as a major issue when lawmakers return to work.
HI: Hawaii lawmakers push for vaping crackdown
Lawmakers from the Hawaii House and Senate are racing to regulate the vaping industry and perhaps go beyond recently announced federal guidelines that will ban some e-liquid flavors. Legislation currently being drafted includes a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarette products and their distribution as well as a tax on vaping products.
NJ: New law lets New Jersey town officials go on private property to fix lead-tainted pipes
New Jersey gave Newark and other municipalities legal cover in their attempts to replace lead pipes after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill giving local leaders authority to access private properties.
OK: Oklahoma governor aims to slash state regulations by 25%
Impressed by the impact of President Donald Trump’s executive order to reduce federal regulations, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt plans to implement a similar policy in Oklahoma. Stitt plans to sign an executive order aimed at reducing the number of regulations Oklahoma has on the books.
MD: Despite restrictions, Maryland police departments have destroyed rape kits
Maryland police departments destroyed 270 rape kits over the past two years, even though state lawmakers passed tough restrictions in 2017 blocking the destruction of most kits. Legislators also dedicated $3.5 million to help police process thousands of kits that have sat untested in storage.
DE: Shared ‘community guns’ aiding in Delaware’s violence
One gun is linked to multiple shootings, and in some cases, homicides, in Delaware. But the crimes are committed by different people. That's the difficult situation state prosecutors and law enforcement are facing as one "community gun" is passed among people – sometimes affiliated, sometimes not – to aid them in committing crimes and protecting themselves.