By: - March 13, 2015 12:00 am

US: Tax fraud is surging, states tell Congress

State tax authorities told a Senate committee Thursday that they’re seeing a surge in suspicious income tax filings this year, as online crooks seek fraudulent refunds that cost states millions of dollars. Among the possible remedies: A faster process for verifying information reported on tax returns, increased information sharing between the IRS and the states and tighter security for third-party tax preparation Web sites.

OH: Disability benefit claims on rise in Ohio since 2008

The number of people claiming Social Security disability benefits in Ohio has surged 28 percent since the recession, suggesting the benefits have become a form of unemployment insurance for many people. Only Washington, D.C., and Michigan posted higher percentage increases.

WA: Washington Supreme Court says judges must ask if defendants can afford fines

Citing the burden imposed on poor defendants by uncollectable court fees and fines, the Washington Supreme Court reiterated that judges must ask about a defendant’s ability to pay, and not impose them if they can’t be. Uncollectable fines can impede defendants’ ability to reenter society, the justices said.

PA: Taxing Pennsylvania’s natural gas may not raise as much money as claimed

The federal government this week projected that natural gas prices would average about 30 percent less in 2015 than last year—bad news for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf whose proposed severance tax on natural gas production was to have generated $1 billion for education programs.

UT: Utah Senate votes to raise pay for governor, other state officials

Pay for Utah’s next governor would go to $150,000 a year, a 38 percent increase over Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s current ,000-a-year salary, if Herbert signs it into law.

LA: Louisiana looks at unclaimed gambling winnings to pay for rape exams

Casinos keep about $2.3 million annually from unclaimed winning horse racing tickets and expired slot machine tickets in Louisiana. A Democratic state legislator is working with Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal to draft legislation that would direct those funds to the Crime Victims Reparations Fund to pay for rape exams.

FL: Florida Lawmakers weigh 24-hour waiting period for abortions

Under a bill now moving through the Florida House, women would have to talk to the physician performing the procedure at least 24 hours before the abortion.

NJ: Senate committee approves stiffer penalties for impersonating veterans

Misrepresenting yourself as a veteran or active member of the military would cost you a $1,000 fine under a bill that has begun advancing in the New Jersey Senate.

NY: New York State Legislature looks at online plagiarism

The Senate’s Higher Education committee advanced a bill that would impose a fine of up to $1,000 for the sale or purchase of term papers, dissertations or other academic assignments over the Internet. Existing New York laws already punish those who buy or sell ink-on-paper ghostwritten assignments.

TX: Competing bills filed over end-of-life care for pregnant women

Lawmakers have filed two competing bills about who should have the authority to decide whether to terminate a brain-dead pregnant woman’s life — a preview of what promises to be a fiery legislative battle over end-of-life medical care in Texas.

VT: State jobs on the chopping block in Vermont

Up to 325 jobs could be cut as the state looks to save money, according to Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s office. The move comes as state employees are cool to re-entering labor contract talks.

AL: Alabama House approves electric chair bill

The bill would revive the use of the electric chair to carry out Alabama’s death penalty should the state be unable to execute inmates via lethal injection.

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Stateline staff
Stateline staff

Stateline’s team of veteran journalists combines original reporting with a roundup of the latest news from sources around the country.