What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/31
MD: Maryland lawmakers uphold protections for convicts, immigrants
The Maryland General Assembly voted to override five bills vetoed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, including a measure that prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about any criminal history on job applications. They also overrode Hogan’s veto of legislation to expand the state’s Dream Act, which allows some immigrants to pay in-state tuition.
CO: Death penalty repeal advances in Colorado
By advancing the death penalty repeal bill after an emotional debate, the Colorado state Senate — which last year failed to pass the same bill — virtually guaranteed it will become law this year. The House and governor are expected to back the bill.
NJ: New Jersey ‘red flag’ law strips nearly 200 people of guns
So far, 186 temporary extreme risk protective orders have been granted, according to the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, meaning more than one person a day has had their guns taken away — at least temporarily — since the state law went into effect. In 25 cases, a petition was made but the temporary order was denied by a judge, according to court data.
OR: Oregon Dems seek rule-change to prevent GOP walkouts
Democrats in the Oregon Statehouse are seeking to have voters change its quorum rules, so walkouts by lawmakers can no longer stymie legislation. The joint resolution would allow the Statehouse to convene with only a simple majority of lawmakers present instead of the current two-thirds requirement.
PA: Pennsylvania agency that looks for wasteful spending wastes $160K
The state inspector general’s office, which works to ferret out waste and misconduct in Pennsylvania government programs and agencies, has itself made a costly blunder. The watchdog office spent nearly $160,000 on pistols, ammunition and related equipment that its investigators are not legally allowed to carry. As a result, the weapons have collected dust in storage for nearly two years.
WI: Wisconsin lawmakers clash over GOP crime bills
State Assembly lawmakers clashed over a set of proposals that would increase criminal penalties in Wisconsin, with opponents raising concerns about the cost of increasing Wisconsin's prison population.
AZ: Arizona private border wall hits snag in state House
Arizona lawmakers rejected a measure that would have made it easier for property owners on the U.S.-Mexico border to build a wall. Republican state Rep. Tony Rivero joined all 29 Democrats in opposition, leaving it one vote shy of the 31 needed to pass.
AK: Alaska governor pitches bill banning criminals from being village police officers
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, is proposing changes to state law that would improve police hiring standards and oversight after some villages hired police officers that were sex offenders or had been convicted of domestic violence.
WY: Wyoming bill would give surplus school food to hungry students
Under the Wyoming bill, items that could be sent home with students include “unserved food, whether packaged or unpackaged, whole produce, wrapped raw produce or unpeeled fruit.” It also would allow schools to donate leftovers to local nonprofits, such as a soup kitchen, which federal law has explicitly allowed since 2011.
WV: West Virginia lawmakers move to repeal law allowing DUI on private property
Facing the loss of $58 million a year in federal money, West Virginia lawmakers began the process of repealing a 2019 law that made it legal to drive under the influence on private roads and property.
CA: Most California dams lack emergency plans: report
California’s major dams aren’t adequately prepared for an emergency. Three years after the near-disaster at Oroville Dam, only 22 state-regulated dams have finalized emergency plans — out of 650 major dams that are required by law to have plans in place — according to a report by State Auditor Elaine Howle.
IL: Facebook may pay Illinois users a couple of hundred dollars each in $550 million privacy settlement
Facebook will pay $550 million to Illinois users to settle allegations that its facial tagging feature violated their privacy rights. The settlement — which could amount to a couple of hundred dollars for each user who is part of the class-action settlement — stems from a federal lawsuit filed in Illinois nearly five years ago.
GA: Georgia governor signs bill to increase tax collections on internet- and app-based sales
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed into law legislation to increase sales tax collections from customers of internet- and app-based businesses, including Uber and Airbnb. It was the first major legislation to pass the General Assembly in the 2020 session and could mean big money for a state strapped for funds.