What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/16

Top State Stories 6/16

LA: Louisiana lawmakers unite on criminal justice overhaul

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a package of bills designed to make it less likely that ex-offenders will return to lives of crime. The new Louisiana laws expand probation and parole opportunities, shrink sentences, mainly for non-violent offenders, and ease financial burdens inmates face upon release.

WI: Wisconsin governor’s self-insurance plan rejected by budget committee

Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposed switch to a self-insurance plan for state workers has been rejected in a rare bipartisan vote by the Wisconsin Legislature's budget-writing committee. Under Walker’s proposal, state workers and their families would have been insured by the state rather than purchasing coverage through private HMOs.

OR: Oregon House passes $550M tax bill to fund Medicaid

Lawmakers in the Oregon House sent the Senate a $550 million health care tax plan they said was necessary to prevent cuts to the state's Medicaid program. The legislation, which Democratic Gov. Kate Brown supports, includes a tax increase on hospitals and new taxes on health insurance plans.

MI: University of Michigan to offer free tuition to some in-state students

Starting in January 2018, any current or future in-state student at the University of Michigan whose family earns $65,000 or less will be eligible for free tuition for four years. That's worth about $60,000 for those four years total. About half the families in the state will qualify for this incentive, university officials said.

IL: Powerball, Mega Millions may be victims of Illinois budget impasse

Lottery players will not be able to purchase Powerball or Mega Millions tickets in Illinois after the end of this month unless the state budget impasse is resolved, lottery officials said. Without a budget in place, the state is not authorized to make payments to the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball, or to Mega Millions.

PA: ACLU lawsuit prompts Pennsylvania to speed treatment for mentally ill defendants

Facing pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, state officials agreed to take another crack at speeding up care for people determined to be too mentally ill to stand trial by adding 110 new beds to treatment facilities across the state.

FL: Florida governor signs new mandatory minimums for fentanyl

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law new minimum mandatory prison sentences for people caught with more than 4 grams of deadly fentanyl or carfentanil. The minimum sentences are meant to criminalize traffickers of fentanyl, which in recent years has grown to be one of the most prominent opioid killers in Florida.

CA: California's high air quality standards appear safe for now

California's unique authority to set tougher air quality standards than the federal government isn't being targeted right now, according to Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt. During Pruitt's confirmation hearing, he raised the possibility of reviewing California's waivers under the Clean Air Act, which have helped the state become a leader in fighting smog and climate change. 

TX: Texas E-Verify enforcement falls short

Though Texas has required state agencies and their contractors to verify the employment eligibility of their workers since 2014, efforts to put teeth behind that mandate failed again during the recent legislative session. A state agency has yet to be assigned to oversee compliance, and it remains unclear what, if any, penalties agencies and contractors face for failing to use the system.

AL: More Alabama cities, towns consider Sunday alcohol sales

There are still cities and towns in Alabama where you can't buy beer or wine in a store or a drink in a restaurant on Sunday. But the number of places that are holding on to those rules is shrinking.

KS: Kansas adopts minimum 2.5 percent tuition hike for state university undergraduates

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents approved tuition increases for most undergraduate students at the state’s six public universities, ranging from a low of 2.5 percent at the University of Kansas to a high of 2.9 percent at Kansas State University and Fort Hays State University. Resident and nonresident tuition increases for the 2017-2018 academic year were among the lowest in a decade.

NJ: New Jersey bill would end mass release of balloons

A bill making its way through the New Jersey Legislature would ban the release of balloons, which are a significant source of litter when they fall to the ground, can be a danger around power lines, and threaten sea turtles and other wildlife that mistake balloons for food. But a ban won't come without a fight.  

Massachusetts Court Rules Needle Exchanges Can Open Without Community Input Maine Bid to Shift Time Zones Fails