Best of #StateReads: Florida Closes TB Hospital as Outbreak Spreads

By: - July 11, 2012 12:00 am

This week’s collection of #StateReads explores how Florida budget cuts made it harder for the state to fight a tuberculosis outbreak, how the U.S. Supreme Court’s health care ruling could affect many other federal funding programs for states and how Texas prosecutors face little scrutiny even when their work lands the wrong people in prison.

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].

“Worst TB outbreak in 20 years kept secret” — The Palm Beach Post

Florida state officials were unaware of the extent of an outbreak of tuberculosis in the Jacksonville area, even as they made plans to close a state hospital with a long history of treating the disease, writes Stacey Singer (@StaceySinger). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported in April that 13 deaths and 99 illnesses were linked to the outbreak, Singer says, and as many as 3,000 people could have been exposed to the disease over the last two years. Hospitals play an important role in treating tuberculosis, especially for homeless patients, because nurses are able to ensure patients are faithfully taking all of the dozens of pills needed daily to fight the disease. Many state officials first learned of the federal warning about the outbreak three months after it was issued, and only when the Post showed them the CDC letter.

“Court gives states ammunition in health care battle” — NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court cast doubt on a host of federal laws that offer states federal money only if the states meet conditions set by Congress, writes Alan Greenblatt (@AlanGreenblatt). The uncertainty stems from part of the court’s ruling on President Obama’s health care law that said the law’s penalties for states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility were too severe. “The way (Chief Justice John) Roberts wrote the opinion,” Boston University law professor Brian Galle told Greenblatt, “it’s a deliberate invitation to litigation.” The same rationale could be used to loosen federal laws that make states meet conditions to get federal money for transportation, education and the environment.

“Courts found DA error in nearly 25% of reversed cases” — The Texas Tribune

Prosecutors made errors in nearly a quarter of all Texas convictions that later resulted in exonerations over 12 years, but little is done to crack down on prosecutorial abuses, reports managing editor Brandi Grissom (@brandigrissom) in a six-part series. Michael Morton, a man who spent 25 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, is now pursuing criminal charges against the prosecutor who argued his case. Morton also wants Texas lawmakers to punish prosecutors for serious violations. Many prosecutors, though, argue that prosecutorial misconduct is very rare.

“Some states trim use of planes in speed traps” — The Associated Press

Thanks to state budget troubles, fewer speeding drivers are being caught by police planes overhead, reports AP‘s David Caruso. New York state troopers have not issued a ticket using their planes since 2005, while the California Highway Patrol is responding to cuts by focusing its pilots’ attention on searches instead of speeders, Caruso reports. Budget cuts play a big role in the change, but technology does, too. Laser technology makes it easier for cops to catch motorists from the road, with a lot less manpower and expense than flying airplanes requires.

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