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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/31

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/31

TX: Texas Democrats again push for gun control measures

texastribune.org

Texas Senate Democrats sent a letter to the governor demanding a special session to pass gun control legislation in response to the Uvalde school shooting. The question moving forward is whether Democrats will be able to put enough pressure on Republican lawmakers to move on a previously intractable issue in gun-friendly Texas.

MA: Massachusetts anti-discrimination agency has ballooning backlog

bostonglobe.com

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has such a backlog that some clients have been waiting seven years for a resolution of their cases. The pandemic exacerbated existing delays, and the backlog has climbed more than fivefold since 2019.

CO: Most Colorado county workers win right to unionize under new law

denverpost.com

Government employees in more than half of Colorado counties won the right unionize and to collectively bargain over pay, benefits and working conditions. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the law, which is set to go into effect on July 1, 2023.

KS: Kansas equity efforts bring little change 

apnews.com

All over Kansas, elected leaders convened task forces on racial justice and diversity issues after protests in more than a dozen communities. But almost two years later, the passion and energy evident in those protests hasn’t translated into widespread change.

NY: Out-of-state residents get New York tuition by just checking a box, audit finds

timesunion.com

Many out-of-state residents appear to have gotten discounted in-state State University of New York tuition due to lax policies, an audit found. Out-of-state resident tuition costs about $10,000 more for undergraduate studies, on average, and typically $12,000 more for graduate school. Students could get the discounted price simply by checking a box to attest that they were in-state residents, without having to prove it.

NV: Obscure Nevada law sends women to prison for late-term pregnancy loss

thenevadaindependent.com

Protections from Roe v. Wade are enshrined in Nevada law, and most residents consistently poll in favor of reproductive rights. But it’s the only state in the country that can imprison people for terminating a pregnancy under certain circumstances.

WA: Group doorbells Washington homes, seeking illegal voters and drawing complaints

seattletimes.com

Hundreds of volunteers with the Washington Voter Research Project have been knocking on doors, questioning residents and searching for evidence of voter fraud—or at least outdated voter rolls. The effort has generated complaints from people put off by the inquiries, leading several county auditors and the secretary of state to issue public statements warning that the group is not authorized by any election office.

IL: Illinois collects data about who gets abortions but keeps race and ethnicity hidden

wbez.org

The Illinois Department of Public Health provides some statistics online about patients who get abortions, such as their age and county where they live. But their race and ethnicity, metrics that help illuminate potential disparities, has never been revealed. After a WBEZ inquiry, the state is evaluating whether that should change. 

AK: Ahead of filing deadline, almost a 3rd of Alaska legislature isn’t seeking reelection

alaskabeacon.com

At least 17 of the Alaska legislature’s 60 members will be in a new position or out of office entirely by next January—and that doesn’t count anyone who loses their seat this fall. Because a steep learning curve awaits new legislators, several departing incumbents said the turnover will slow the progress of complicated legislation, such as a long-awaited state fiscal plan.  

CA: California, New Zealand announce climate change partnership

apnews.com

Top officials from California and New Zealand signed a pledge agreeing to help fight climate change by sharing ideas and best practices, including how to put millions more electric vehicles on the road. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about the agreement at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

MO: Missouri puts stop to auction of nearly 400K surplus masks 

stltoday.com  

Missouri officials withdrew their attempt to sell nearly 400,000 face masks, saying the decision to auction them off to the highest bidder was “premature” hours after thePost-Dispatch reported on its website about the now-scuttled sale. The masks were being sold alongside a potpourri of items deemed as junk-worthy by state bureaucrats. 

CT: Connecticut boosts pay to lure summer staff for state parks 

apnews.com

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is still attempting to fill lifeguard and other seasonal positions, despite increasing the compensation. The agency has boosted the starting salary up to $17 an hour for most positions, and higher for some other jobs, but still is facing challenges finding summer help. 

HI: Hawaii offers new homes for seabirds as habitat on remote islands disappears

civilbeat.org

Rising sea levels, warmer ocean temperatures, hotter weather and invasive species all threaten Hawaii’s 22 species of seabirds. But local organizations are finding ways to help.

MN: Minnesota nonprofits fail to win special COVID aid this session

startribune.com

Minnesota's nonprofits failed to win special COVID-19 aid from the legislature this session, despite their appeal for $200 million in one-time pandemic relief. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which led the lobbying effort, said that the state's nonprofits—which make up about 14% of Minnesota's workforce—continue to battle rising costs while getting less government support than the public and private sectors.

DE: Delaware State Parks on track for record-breaking visitation this summer

delawarepublic.org

Delaware’s Division of Parks and Recreation had over 47,000 active annual passes in 2019. That increased 31% to over 61,000 passes in 2021. And the division reports sales are ahead of this time last year, despite being delayed for two months.

VA: Virginia budget leaders include new marijuana crime in spending plan

richmond.com

Virginia legislative leaders revealed budget language that would create a new criminal misdemeanor in state law for possession of more than four ounces of marijuana in public. 

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