VT: Vermont to consider ranked-choice voting
Champions of ranked-choice voting argue the system being considered in Vermont leads to a more accurate reflection of public opinion in election results, by requiring winners to receive the majority of voter support or face a runoff. If no candidate is selected as the top preference by at least 50 percent of voters, then the ranked-choice system comes into play.
WA: Washington state raises age for semi-automatic rifles
Washington state is seeking to reduce gun violence by making it tougher to buy assault rifles. New purchasers of semi-automatic rifles in the state must be 21 or older. The new law raises the minimum age from 18 and comes after almost 60 percent of Washingtonians voted for restrictions on sales of the weapons.
MD: Maryland governor opposes ‘Potomac Pipeline’
Maryland officials voted to block Columbia Gas from using state land to build a natural gas pipeline that activists have been fighting for two years. The board’s decision presents a serious hurdle for the project, which had been approved by federal and state regulatory agencies.
NY: New York governor blocks state bereavement leave
Legislation allowing New Yorkers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave after the death of a family member was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who cited the cost of the expansion and ambiguous timelines for using the leave. An expansion of paid family leave could be revisited this year.
DC: Couples can’t get marriage licenses in D.C. during federal shutdown
Of all the casualties of the federal government shutdown — sidelined employees, shuttered museums, the dark Panda Cam at the National Zoo — few anticipated this one: holy matrimony.
CA: Few complaints of racial profiling are sustained by California police
California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board recommended in its annual report that law enforcement agencies improve training and adopt clear guidelines for tracking and reporting data on who is stopped by officers. Of the racial and identity complaints that reached a disposition in 2017, nearly 84 percent were not sustained or were determined to be unfounded, the report said.
MO: No more free lunch — or anything over $5 — for Missouri lawmakers
Although it could face a test in court, a possible repeal by frustrated lawmakers and varied legal opinions from ethics regulators, the so-called “Clean Missouri” proposition places a $5 cap on gifts lawmakers can receive from lobbyists. That means fewer lobbying groups offering free plates of food to lawmakers and legislative staffers during the busy crush of the legislative session that begins Jan. 9.
ID: New Idaho law requires ignition locks after first DUI
Previously, only people who got a DUI on more than one occasion were required to use the device. The new law requires Idaho drivers to blow into a mouthpiece to demonstrate sobriety before starting their vehicle.
ND: North Dakota lawmakers to revisit seat belt rules
North Dakota police officers would be able to pull over drivers for failing to wear a seat belt under a bill introduced in the state legislature. As of November, North Dakota was one of 15 states with a secondary law for adults in a vehicle’s front seats, meaning officers may only issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt when another violation takes place.
NE: Nebraska could get new voter ID plan by 2020
Incoming Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen is gearing up for the latest push to require voters to show identification at the polls. Voter ID was a major part of his first statewide election bid, in which he handily defeated Democrat Spencer Danner, who opposes voter ID laws.
TX: Texas panel to consider removal of Confederate plaque
After complaints have persisted for more than a year, a state board that oversees the Texas Capitol grounds will meet to consider removing a plaque that declares that the Civil War was “not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.” The Jan. 11 meeting comes more than a month after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called for it in a letter, which did not specify an agenda.
GA: Georgia lawmakers prepare new crackdown on sex traffickers
Georgia politicians are preparing a raft of new legislation this year to target sex trafficking, including measures that make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute the crime and new ways for government agencies to treat trauma survivors.
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