This week's collection of #StateReads examines whether Kentuckians who are accused — but not convicted — of child abuse can be barred from getting jobs working with children, whether Wisconsin's funding of highways at the expense of transit violates civil rights of poor minorities and whether Missouri lawmakers can rein in the soaring cost of tax credits.
Kentucky's top judges will consider whether the state can prevent people who have been accused — but not convicted — of child abuse from serving as teachers or day care workers, reports Andrew Wolfson (@adwolfson). The state Supreme Court will hear arguments next week over the state's child offender list, a list used by schools, adoption agencies and day-care providers to screen job applicants. Unlike the better-known sex offender list, the child offender list is not available to the general public. Judges in other states, including California and North Carolina, ruled that such lists did not give innocent parties a chance to clear their names. The American Bar Association, Wolfson notes, also opposes the lists because many people on them are poor people who are accused of neglecting, rather than abusing, children and who cannot afford to fight the allegations.
Opponents of a major highway expansion project in Milwaukee are using a novel attack to block it in court, writes Jason Plautz (@Jason_Plautz). The thrust of their argument is that the state is violating the civil rights of minorities by spending too much money on highway projects, like the $1.7 billion upgrades to the Zoo Interchange, while cutting transit funding. Cuts to bus and transit subsidies hit minority communities especially hard, and highway expansions often benefit white suburbanites, Plautz writes. From the days of the Montgomery bus boycott, transit has been linked with civil rights, he adds, but “this case is one of the few times the debate could play out so explicitly in court.” (In a separate action, the Federal Highway Administration ruled that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had not followed a federal civil rights law for seven years, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)
The tab for state tax credits grew to an all-time high last year, even as Missouri legislators failed to reach an agreement on how to scale them back, writes Tim Logan (@tlwriter). “Missouri businesses and residents cashed in $629.3 million worth of tax credits — awarded to generate investment in everything from food pantries to film production — in the 12 months ending June 30,” Logan wrote. “That's up 15 percent from the prior year and now amounts to more than one-twelfth of general tax revenue.” Governor Jay Nixon wants to reconvene a panel to suggest ways to scale back the credits but, Logan notes, similar efforts in recent years failed to get legislators to act.
The five-member commission tasked with enforcing Georgia's campaign finance and ethics investigations has been hobbled for decades by insufficient funding, political pressure and, recently, high turnover and lawsuits, writes Jim Walls for The Center for Public Integrity (@PublicI). Turmoil within the agency makes it even harder for it to accomplish its mission. Currently, Walls writes, the agency often cannot handle the volume of online filings it gets. The commission only has staff to review 10 percent of the documents it receives and violators often get off with light penalties.