What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/2
WA: To address wealth gap, Washington to consider $4K 'baby bonds'
A new proposal coming to the Washington legislature, the Washington Future Fund, would create a pool of money that every child born under the state’s Medicaid program, Apple Health, could access. The money can be used in adulthood to use toward homeownership, education or pursuing a small business. Washington would be one of the first states to create a trust fund program for babies born into families with low incomes.
MI: ‘A new day’ for Michigan LGBTQ+ officials preparing for leadership roles in the new legislature
Michigan Democrats, who steadfastly supported the LGBTQ+ community throughout the GOP assault, saw their political fortunes defy pundits’ predictions as they grabbed the reins of power in Lansing. The Legislature’s LGBTQ+ caucus, all Democrats, more than doubled from three members to seven. Democrats aim to amend the language of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to codify protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, ban conversion therapy and eliminate the LGBTQ+ panic defense.
FL: Florida governor awards $22.7M to protect Biscayne Bay
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the state will award $22.7 million to support water quality and other protection projects in Biscayne Bay. The money, divided into seven awards, will be used to improve septic or sewer infrastructure, prevent sewer overflows and increase freshwater inflows to protect marine life and coral reefs.
NC: Chickens produce billions of pounds of waste in North Carolina. No one tracks where it goes
Chickens raised in North Carolina are likely generating about 2.5 billion pounds of manure annually — more than the amount of waste produced by 7.5 million humans, an analysis by the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer found. But regulators almost never track where it winds up.
WI: Wisconsin’s ‘fetal protection’ law forces women into treatment or jail
Wisconsin is one of just five states that allow civil detention for pregnant people accused of substance use. Its legal proceedings take place out of public view, under seal, with a low standard of evidence and often a court-appointed attorney for the fetus — but none for the person gestating it.
NJ: New Jersey schools must soon produce digital maps of buildings to help police in emergencies
All schools in New Jersey will be required to provide police floor plans, aerial images, and other information to create digital maps of the buildings in an effort to help first responders in the event of mass shootings and other emergencies. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the measure into law, and it goes into effect for the 2023-24 school year.
MT: Montana’s new sex ed law ensnares English, history lessons too
Montana’s new law requires parents to be notified at least 48 hours in advance about lessons related to topics including anatomy, intimate relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity, contraception and reproductive rights. Some schools have decided to notify parents about topics that may not be obviously related to human sexuality. One notice flagged “The Great Gatsby” and “Romeo and Juliet” because they describe intimate relationships. History and U.S. government lessons involving civil rights are on the list. So, too, are biology classes that involve sexual reproduction — even nonhuman reproduction.
MO: Missouri lawmakers to weigh raising bar for constitutional amendments
Republicans in charge of the Missouri legislature are poised to take another shot at making it more difficult to pass constitutional amendments. The move by the GOP comes as abortion rights supporters consider pursuing a 2024 ballot measure to overturn Missouri’s abortion ban.
WY: Abortion case headed to Wyoming Supreme Court
The legal challenge to Wyoming’s abortion ban is headed to the Wyoming Supreme Court after an order from Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens to certify questions of law to the state’s highest court. The court has 30 days to decide whether it will accept the case.
KS: Kansas tackles severe shortage of rural attorneys
Many rural counties in Kansas have few if any practicing attorneys. The state Supreme Court formed a committee to study solutions to the problem, calling it a crisis that damages the lives of rural residents.
OK: Early flu season sends up red flags about Oklahoma hospital capacity
Oklahoma public health leaders are concerned about local hospital capacity as the flu and other respiratory viruses are driving patients to seek emergency care in numbers not typically seen until later in winter.
OH: Ohio House passes bill to prohibit cities from stopping gun sales during riots
Republicans in the Ohio House passed a bill that will not allow local governments to close gun stores, stop processing background checks or confiscate firearms during riots or other states of emergency.
ME: Measure to bar foreign spending in Maine referendums qualifies for 2023 ballot
A citizens initiative aimed at prohibiting foreign governments from electioneering in Maine referendum campaigns has qualified for the 2023 ballot. The proposal seeks to bar foreign governments and the companies they own from spending money to influence voters on ballot campaigns.
OR: Tough Oregon gun law faces legal challenge, could be delayed
Midterm voters in Oregon narrowly passed one of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, but the new permit-to-purchase mandate and ban on high-capacity magazines now faces a lawsuit that could put it on ice just days before it’s set to take effect. A federal judge in Portland will hear oral arguments on whether Measure 114 violates Americans’ constitutionally protected right to bear arms.
NY: Racial imbalances persist in New York prison punishments, probe finds
Black and Hispanic inmates are significantly more likely to experience disparities in disciplinary treatment, New York State’s inspector general said, charging the sprawling Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which oversees all 44 correctional facilities in New York, to require annual anti-bias training among other recommendations.
CO: Colorado’s new $300M affordable housing program draws praise — and angst
In the run-up to Election Day, a broad group of Colorado public officials and organizations threw their weight behind Proposition 123, billed as a historic attempt to support affordable housing in the state. Now that it’s passed, local officials are raising concerns about requirements governing faster approval processes, consistent affordable housing growth and income requirements in a state with varying economic conditions.
TX: The minority party gets to chair some Texas House committees. Some in the GOP want to end that
As the 2023 legislative session nears, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is under pressure from a small but vocal group of fellow Republicans who want to ban Democratic committee chairs, a longtime tradition that has allowed the minority party a seat at the table despite being out of power.