Best of #StateReads: California Legislators Flip-Flop When the Voting’s Done

By: - March 20, 2012 12:00 am

This week’s collection of #StateReads includes stories that cover the practice of legislative flip-flopping in California, the cost of addictions in Oklahoma and an especially bright budget picture in New Jersey.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to [email protected] .

“Calif. Assembly lawmakers switch or add votes often after bill tally announced” — The Associated Press 

Legislators in California’s lower house switched their votes 419 times in the first two months of the year, after voting closed. None of those changes changed the fate of the bills being voted on, explains The Associated Press’s Juliet Williams ( @JWilliamsAP ), but the switching “provides political cover or helps varnish their official record when they were afraid or unwilling to take a stand on legislation while it was being debated.” California is one of 10 states that allows legislators to cast votes or change them after the roll is taken.

“The cost of Oklahomans’ addictions” — Oklahoma Watch

Addictions to drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other substances cost the Oklahoma economy $7.2 billion a year in direct and indirect costs, including doctors’ bills, police coverage, prisons, hospitals and lost productivity at work. That is more than the state government’s annual budget, writes Jaclyn Cosgrove ( @JaclynCosgrove ) for Oklahoma Watch . The cost of addictions is a perennial issue for state legislators in Oklahoma City, but for every $100 the state “spends on substance abuse and addiction,” Cosgrove writes, “only about $2 goes to prevention, treatment and research, while $97 goes to cover other direct costs such as incarceration.”

“Gov. Christie’s budget projection is the most optimistic in nation” — The Star-Ledger

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is betting on a big recovery in his state’s revenues for the coming year, one that is double the national average, report Jarrett Renshaw ( @JarrettRenshaw ) and Salvador Rizzo ( @RizzoSl ) of The Star-Ledger. Christie predicts the state will take in 7.4 percent more money next year, compared to a national average of 2.8 percent. In fact, the prediction would be even higher, but Christie also factored in a tax cut he supports. New Jersey’s projections are the highest in the nation; the next closest are Hawaii and Idaho, which are counting on 5.8 percent increases.

“Tax money helps pill mills thrive” — The Palm Beach Post

Oxycodone is Florida’s largest cause of prescription drug deaths, but the state’s Medicaid system bought 49 million doses of the drug in the last two years, reports Pat Beall of The Palm Beach Post ( @PBPost ). There are 1.36 million adults on the program. Oxycodone is one of the most popularly prescribed medicines in the program. And 75 doctors, Beall reports, prescribed more than 100,000 doses.

“State Integrity Investigation” — Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International

State governments largely lack transparency and accountability to their citizens, leaving statehouses prone to corruption, according to State Integrity Investigation ( @StateIntegrity ), a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. New Jersey, despite its sullied reputation for corrupt public officials, was rated the best state for transparency and accountability. “Thanks largely to … moral missteps and hard work by good-government groups and legislators,” the groups wrote, “New Jersey now has some of the toughest ethics and anti-corruption laws in the nation.” Along with New Jersey , four other states — Connecticut , Washington , California , and Nebraska — received B grades. Eight states were given failing grades: Michigan , North Dakota , South Carolina , Maine , Virginia , Wyoming , South Dakota and Georgia . Stateline Story

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