What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/31
CA: California could soon limit who can be charged with felony murder
California lawmakers have sent a measure to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown that would restrict the first-degree murder charge to defendants who committed or intended to commit a killing, excluding those who, for example, drove the killer to the scene of the crime. Seventy-two percent of women serving a life sentence for felony murder in California did not commit the homicide.
ID, WY: Judge blocks Idaho, Wyoming grizzly hunt
A judge temporarily blocked the opening of the first grizzly bear hunts in the Rocky Mountains in more than 40 years, as he considers whether the government was wrong to lift federal protections on the animals in Wyoming and Idaho.
KS: Kansas children’s agency failed to meet standards
The Kansas agency in charge of child welfare failed to meet 16 standards for keeping children safe and giving them a stable home over the past year. The Department for Children and Families this week disclosed a report tracking 30 performance measurements. On more than half, the agency’s performance didn’t meet federal and state standards.
GA: A new watchdog coalition targets Georgia ‘dark money'
A mix of politicians, activists and watchdog groups is preparing to launch a coalition to combat the growing influence of “dark money” in Georgia politics. The move also triggered charges of hypocrisy involving one of the group’s founding members.
NJ: New Jersey gas tax to increase 4.3 cents on Oct. 1
New Jersey’s Treasury Department cited lower-than-projected fuel consumption over the past two years and inaction by the prior administration. The increase is needed to comply with a 2016 law that requires a steady stream of revenue for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund.
NM: Straight-ticket voting returns to New Mexico
New Mexicans for the first time in years will have the option of selecting a straight ticket in November, meaning voters can cast one vote for a party's slate of candidates rather than fill out an entire ballot.
AK: Alaska governor signs bill allowing new cellphone restrictions
The bill allows Alaska boroughs and cities to prohibit drivers from using their cellphones in school zones. The ban doesn’t become effective unless a borough passes an ordinance implementing the ban.
MO: Missouri governor fills two vacancies on state education board
Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson appointed two new members to the state's Board of Education, which was hobbled and unable to meet under Parson's predecessor, former Gov. Eric Greitens, also a Republican. With the two nominations, the board now has seven of eight seats filled.
DC: D.C. extends bikeshare program, but now riders must lock bikes to racks
The District announced it is extending its dockless bike and scooter pilot program through the end of the year — with one new wrinkle. Starting in September, riders will have to lock dockless bikes to racks or street signs. It’s a big change for riders who were allowed to leave the bikes, well, almost anywhere.
TX: Texas farmers see new source of green in legal hemp
Take a trip down the aisle of the nearest Whole Foods Market, and it won’t take long to fill a shopping basket with products trumpeting the health and beauty benefits of a commodity Texas farmers are forbidden to grow: hemp. With the nation’s farm incomes near a 12-year low, it’s no wonder Texas growers want in on a market that’s expected to explode nearly sixfold to $1.65 billion in the United States alone by 2021.
FL: Florida sues rental car company over fees it charged customers for tolls
After years of complaints from outraged consumers, many of them tourists, Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed suit against a rental car company for allegedly deceiving motorists.
KY: The story behind Kentucky governor's $215K raise for one employee
Charles Grindle is Kentucky's chief information officer, now pulling in $375,000 a year. That means he's making more than double what the governor makes, and nearly three times the salary of his boss. Grindle’s raise comes four months after state government workers and teachers were told their pay is frozen under the latest state budget.
ME: Maine highway officials nix proposed dead lobster memorial sign
Officials from the Maine Department of Transportation denied a request from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — or PETA — to erect a tombstone memorial for 60 to 70 crates of live lobsters that spilled into the road in Brunswick Aug. 22, when a truck carrying the crustaceans crashed along Route 1.