This week's collection of #StateReads explores why abused and neglected children are often overlooked in Colorado; how the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups defeated an assisted suicide ballot measure in Massachusetts; and how changes approved by California voters could lead to a more moderate and effective legislature.
The Denver Post is in the middle of an eight-part series detailing the failures of Colroado's child protective services, especially in the deaths of 175 children since 2007. Reporters Jordan Steffen (@jsteffendp) Jennifer Brown (@JBrownDPost) and Christopher N. Osher (@chrisosher) report that more than 40 percent of Colorado children who died of abuse and neglect were already known to county caseworkers. Unlike many states, Colorado does not track the caseload of social workers dealing with child abuse and neglect. But evidence shows that many “are inexperienced and overwhelmed, and at times fail to take basic steps to protect children,” the Post concludes. The series, which also features several video segments and profiles of children who died, continues this week.
For the first time in a long time, writes Globe religion reporter Lisa Wangsness (@wangsness), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston won a major political fight. The Catholic church, along with other religious groups, was a major force in defeating an assisted-suicide ballot measure that went before Massachusetts voters last week. Several Catholic organizations joined the archdiocese in opposing the measure. They succeeded, Wangsness reports, by playing on voter concerns that patients could get life-ending drugs at the pharmacy without consulting mental health experts or notifying their families.
The new head of the Florida agency that distributes unemployment benefits himself received unemployment checks during the Great Recession, reports Gray Rohrer of The Florida Current (@flcurrent). Hunting Deutsch, a bank executive who lost his job in 2009, took over as head of the Department of Economic Opportunity in April. He said he traveled to Europe and spent time with his family during his unemployment, Rohrer writes. Deutsch's appointment comes as labor unions have criticized Florida lawmakers for reducing benefits and making it hard for jobless workers to receive unemployment checks.
A powerful combination of political forces knocked down Illinois Republicans on Election Day, leaving GOP leaders “shell-shocked,” write Rick Pearson (@rap30), Monique Garcia (@moniquegarcia) and Ray Long (@raylong). Democrats took supermajorities in both houses of the General Assembly and snatched five congressional seats from Republicans, as Illinois resident Barack Obama claimed the White House for four more years. Obama's coattails, a legislative map drawn by Democrats and changing demographics boosted Democratic fortunes, the reporters noted. “The Democratic gains,” the trio wrote, “came in the first election since the party approved an unpopular 67 percent increase in the personal income tax rate.”
Reporters Michael J. Mishak (@mjmishak) and Patrick McGreevy (@mcgreevy99) predict the emergence of a “new variety of lawmaker” in Sacramento following last week's elections. The class “will be the product of a new political order intended to foster moderation, compromise and foresight in an institution not known for such things,” write Mishak and McGreevy. The changes leading to the growth of the new type of legislator include term limits that will allow lawmakers to serve longer in a single chamber, a primary election system that pits the top two candidates against each other in November and competitive legislative districts. “Taken together,” they write, “the changes have the potential to rehabilitate the image of the Legislature.”