What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/17
IA: Iowa House passes ‘bathroom bill’ focused on transgender students
The Iowa bill would prohibit people from entering a school restroom or changing room that does not align with their sex at birth. Students would need parental consent to request a special accommodation, such as using a faculty or single-occupancy restroom. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to be signed into law.
ND: North Dakota Supreme Court upholds temporary block of state’s abortion ban
The North Dakota Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s temporary block of the state’s abortion ban. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought last summer by the Red River Women’s Clinic, formerly the sole abortion provider in North Dakota, which has since moved to Minnesota. The ban will remain blocked while the clinic’s lawsuit proceeds in a lower court.
NY: New York changes criteria for student ‘proficiency’ in math, English
New York will change what it takes for students to reach “proficiency” on state math and English language arts tests, calling last year’s lower scores the “new normal.” A scoring committee that reports to the Board of Regents said it must take into account the results of last year’s tests for students in grades three through eight.
PA: Pennsylvania legislation could require all schools to have AEDs, emergency response teams
Two newly introduced bills in the Pennsylvania legislature aim to advance a mother’s mission to save lives by expanding access to automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in state schools and promoting CPR training for staff, including athletic coaches.
ME: Maine Indigenous tribes ask legislature for expanded rights
Leaders of Maine’s Indigenous tribes used a rare address to a joint session of the legislature to call for expanded rights to govern their communities. Five chiefs spoke during what was only the second State of Tribes Address in state history. The first took place 21 years ago.
CA: California governor says the state is on track to cut unsheltered homelessness by 15%
After criticizing local officials for failing to adequately address the pernicious problem of homelessness in California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state is on track to cut the number of unsheltered people by an ambitious 15% in two years and vowed to provide 1,200 tiny homes to help achieve that goal.
NV: Nevada Democrats introduce measure to enshrine abortion protections in state constitution
A group of 40 Democratic legislators led by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro is introducing a measure to enshrine abortion protections in the Nevada Constitution, where they would be more difficult to repeal than they are now.
GA: Georgia House approves bill to limit treatment for transgender children
The Georgia House approved a bill that would prevent medical professionals from giving transgender children certain hormones or surgical treatment.
WA: Washington’s first carbon auction sold pollution for $300M
When the Washington State Department of Ecology opened its first carbon auction in February that put a price on pollution, bids flew in for three hours from the state’s largest oil refineries, manufacturers, natural gas companies and energy providers. The state sold more than six million allowances, totaling $300 million.
OR: Oregon semiconductor bill advances, but nobody’s satisfied
Lawmakers advanced a bill aimed at reviving Oregon’s semiconductor industry, but conservationists, industry supporters and ambivalent lawmakers all object to key elements of legislation. Semiconductor manufacturing is among Oregon’s largest industries, but taxpayer advocates and industry supporters are divided over whether additional legislation should offer tax credits for research and hiring.
MI: Governor signs bill expanding Michigan civil rights law to include LGBTQ protections
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, expanded Michigan’s civil rights law to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, a change long sought by LGBTQ advocates. Previous bills to add protections for the LGBTQ community to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, education and public accommodations stalled under GOP control of the legislature.
WY: Delegation blast Wyoming’s omission from wildfire plan
U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and Rep. Harriet Hageman, Wyoming Republicans, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore criticizing their agencies for failing to protect Wyoming from the increased threat of catastrophic wildfire. In the letter, the delegation notes how Wyoming is the only Western state to be omitted from the USDA and Forest Service’s 10-year strategy to combat wildfires across the West.
MN: Senate Republicans reject Minnesota infrastructure package
A $1.9 billion package to repair Minnesota roads, upgrade wastewater systems and fix other infrastructure appears to be the first casualty of this year’s legislative session. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said they still want to pass construction and maintenance funds, but Senate Republicans remained firm on a repeated vow: Before they agree to borrowing, they want tax cuts.
OK: Oklahoma Senate passes bill to boost education funding
The Oklahoma Senate has advanced part of its education agenda that would funnel more money to public schools and teacher development. The package consists of six bills that would cost the state an estimated $81 million. However, the Senate bills face an uphill battle in the House.
OH: Ohio could increase speed limits to 60 mph on many two-lane roads
A change added to the state’s two-year transportation budget would increase the maximum speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph on two-lane state roads outside of cities and villages. Between 1993 and 2017, a 5 mph increase in the maximum state speed limit was associated with an 8% increase in fatality rates on U.S. interstates and a 3% increase on other roads, according to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
TX: In rural counties, Texas law puts defendants with low incomes at a disadvantage
With livelihoods and futures on the line, a two-tiered system of justice enshrined in the Texas Criminal Code is putting some of the poorest rural Texans at a disadvantage after an arrest. While indigent residents — those who can’t afford an attorney — of counties with more than 250,000 people must be provided with a court-appointed lawyer within one day of requesting counsel, the wait for rural Texans could stretch up to five days.
FL: Florida GOP lawmakers advance bill targeting teacher, public employee unions
Two bills that would make it harder for public employee unions to stay certified breezed past Florida Senate and House committees, despite forceful opposition from teachers, corrections officers, electricians and a host of other workers. Critics questioned why the legislation would not apply to police or firefighters.