What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/21

Top State Stories 3/21

IA: Sentencing reform legislation clears Iowa House

A bill approved by the Iowa House would give judges more discretion in handing down sentences for nonviolent drug crimes in an effort to reduce the state's incarceration rates.

KS: Kansas lawmakers move on pay raise for state workers 

Kansas legislators are advancing a proposal to give most state employees a 2 percent pay raise even as they wrestle with serious budget problems that could force a tax increase. Most state government workers have not seen a pay increase for almost a decade.

MD: Maryland House passes bill to ban discrimination against voucher holders

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill that would prevent landlords from refusing to lease a home to a person merely because they have a government voucher to help pay their rent.

MA: Auto insurance rates go up in Massachusetts, and insurers blame technology

Some of the largest auto insurers in Massachusetts have received approval from state regulators to raise their rates on average by between 3 and 6 percent this year. Drivers distracted by their smartphones are crashing their cars more often, and those cars are now more expensive to repair because they’re loaded with sensors and devices.

AR: Lee-King holiday split clears final vote; Arkansas governor to sign it

The measure would strike Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's name from the January commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Lee still would be recognized by gubernatorial proclamation on the second Saturday in October, though state workers in Arkansas would not have that day off work.

NY: In New York, bringing broadband to everyone by 2018

Under an ambitious initiative, New York is seeking to extend broadband to every household in the state by 2018 — no matter how rural or far-flung the address. New York would be the first state to reach that high-speed internet milestone.

TX: Texas bill would speed up the process of bonding out of jail

A bill aimed at granting more defendants release from jail without paying bail would require Texas judges to use an automated risk assessment system before making bail decisions — and to make those decisions within 48 hours of an arrest.

NE: Nebraska senators weigh ending deductions for union dues

Nebraska lawmakers are considering legislation that would stop the state from deducting public employees' union dues from their paychecks. Wisconsin and Alabama have already ended paycheck deductions for most unionized public employees, and Pennsylvania and Missouri are currently considering similar legislation.

AZ: Arizona bill would stop movers from holding items hostage

A bill before the Arizona House would prevent companies that do in-state moves from holding a customer's goods over a payment dispute. It also would require them to give an accurate quote on moving costs and related fees, including insurance provisions.

WI: GOP-backed bill favors Wisconsin cities over big-box retailers

A battle pitting big-box retail giants against Wisconsin towns and cities is headed to the state Legislature. The Republican-backed proposals, written in conjunction with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, are designed to close the so-called dark store loophole and increase how much the mega-retailers pay local communities in property taxes.

Tax Refund Delays Senior Safety