What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/8
IN: Indiana adopts near-total abortion ban as governor signs bill into law
Six weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court kicked the question of abortion access back to the states, Indiana became the first in the nation to sign new restrictions into law — stripping away a right afforded to Hoosiers for the past 50 years over the course of a special legislative session. The measure, signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, prohibits abortion at any stage of gestation except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies or when the pregnant person’s life is at risk.
MA: Massachusetts bonus program for new hires swamped, now stalled
During the height of the pandemic, Massachusetts set aside $50 million to help businesses hire new employees at $4,000 a worker. But the program was overwhelmed and now business owners are frustrated because the money has run out and an effort to extend it has stalled.
IL: Appeals court rules that after 50 years, federal oversight of Illinois hiring no longer necessary
A U.S. appeals court ruled that federal court oversight of state hiring in Illinois is “no longer warranted,” freeing Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and future governors from scrutiny that has endured through eight administrations over a half-century.
US: Police combat violent crime as ranks dwindle
From Philadelphia to Portland to Los Angeles, killings and gun violence are rising at the same time officers worn out by the pandemic and disillusioned over the calls to divest from policing that followed George Floyd’s murder are quitting or retiring faster than they can be replaced.
FL, OK: Oklahoma sues Florida company over management of COVID aid program for students
The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit seeking to recoup money from the Florida-based parent of ClassWallet, the contractor it hired to distribute emergency federal education funds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Bridge the Gap program went toward non-educational items such as smartphones, televisions, video game consoles, Christmas trees and barbeque grills, among other items.
NJ: Governor signs costly auto insurance law that will affect 1.1M New Jersey drivers
More than 1 million New Jersey drivers will likely pay more to insure their vehicles after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a controversial bill into law. The measure will hike the minimum amount of liability insurance from its current $15,000 coverage to $25,000 beginning in 2023 and a minimum of $35,000 starting in 2026.
CO: Colorado eyes new legal license for divorce, child custody cases
The Colorado Supreme Court is considering whether to create a new legal license that would allow non-attorneys to practice some limited areas of family law. The controversial proposal would create a new “licensed legal paraprofessional” position.
US: Drop boxes for babies: Conservatives promote a way to give up newborns anonymously
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Roe v. Wade decision, groups are seeking to expand state safe haven laws, which allow women to surrender babies with minimal interference. But these laws pose their own problems.
FL: Florida medical board votes to start writing rules for gender-confirming treatment of minors
The Florida Board of Medicine voted to initiate the rulemaking process for minors seeking gender-confirming therapy, hormones and surgery. The vote follows a petition from the Department of Health proposing rules that would ban doctors from performing gender-confirmation surgeries and prescribing puberty blockers for minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
MO: Maternal mortality in Missouri continues to raise alarm as board pushes for Medicaid expansion
Between 2017 and 2019, 185 women in Missouri died while pregnant, or within one year of pregnancy. The majority of these deaths were preventable, a study by a state panel found.
MN, WI: GOP seeking power over elections in Wisconsin, Minnesota
Wisconsin’s secretary of state has no role in elections, but that could change if Republicans are able to flip the seat this year and pass a law that would empower the office with far more responsibilities. All three GOP candidates support the shift and promote false claims of 2020 election fraud. In Minnesota, the leading Republican candidate has called the 2020 election “rigged.”
GA: Georgia election security chief splits time with second state job
The person responsible for election cybersecurity and technology in Georgia divides his time between two government agencies and collects $320,000 in annual pay.
MT: Montana is working to map its silent underground firestarters
Underground coal seams can burn unnoticed for years in Montana. They also can spark raging wildfires. Funding to extinguish them is limited, but a mapping effort is underway to plot the smoldering coordinates.
NV: How Nevada is leading the nation in reducing animal-vehicle collisions
Nevada constructed its first wildlife overpass in 2010 and has continued to dedicate large amounts of research and effort toward similar animal-vehicle collision mitigation strategies, ultimately becoming a leader on the issue.
NY: New York decision on farm labor overtime rules due this fall; GOP opposed
New York Republican lawmakers, alongside the New York Farm Bureau, are mounting their latest round of opposition to state officials approving a plan to require farm laborers to be paid overtime for work after 40 hours in a week.
SD: South Dakota legislature, ballot initiative could influence state abortion laws
South Dakota lawmakers will have a chance to alter the state's abortion laws before a statewide vote when they convene in January. What they do could influence the outcome of a planned ballot initiative.