US: Federal work at hazardous sites suspended during shutdown
The government shutdown has suspended federal cleanups at Superfund sites in states around the nation and forced the cancellation of public hearings, deepening the mistrust and resentment of surrounding residents who feel people in power long ago abandoned them to live among the toxic residue of the country’s factories and mines.
OK: Watchdog sues 14 former candidates for public office in Oklahoma
In a crackdown on political candidates who file campaign reports late or not at all, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for the first time has filed lawsuits over unpaid late fees.
OR: Oregon voters may soon be asked to require unanimous verdicts
Louisiana voters in November abolished a law allowing less-than-unanimous jury verdicts in felony cases — leaving Oregon as the only place in the United States that does not require unanimity. State lawmakers, however, appear ready in the coming session to ask voters to bring Oregon in line with the other 49 states and the federal system.
KY: Kentucky legislators form group to take another shot at pension fix
Top legislative leaders in Kentucky appointed a new working group of lawmakers to study the state’s troubled pension system and recommend changes by Feb. 15. The leaders said time is needed to educate many freshman lawmakers — as well as the public — on the problem, while working toward a bill that has broader support than the one passed last March with votes of only Republicans.
CA: ‘Goat Fund Me’ push aims to fight California fires with farm animals
In tiny Nevada City, a Gold Rush town in Northern California touting a population of 3,100, folks are big on a novel idea to fight the increasing threat of wildfires: calling in the goats.
NM: New Mexico film industry pushes to lift cap on rebates
In her inaugural address, newly minted New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, promised to “take off the shackles” from New Mexico’s film industry. That has industry leaders in Santa Fe excited. Former Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, early in her administration pushed for and got a cap on film rebates that some say handcuffed the enterprise.
RI: Rhode Island bill creates official state astronomer
The unpaid position would help promote interest in stargazing and science in Rhode Island through lectures and classroom visits.
AR: Tax cuts, teacher pay on to-do list for Arkansas legislature
The Arkansas legislature will wrestle with how deeply to cut individual and corporate income taxes, while trying to develop a plan to raise more money for highways, reorganize state government and raise starting salaries for teachers.
OH: Money for major Ohio road projects is gone; gas-tax hike proposed
Ohio legislators will start the new year staring down a huge transportation-budget problem: The state has run out of money for major new road-construction projects. The prospect of significant delays in major projects has prompted the formation of a coalition that will push for an increase in the state gasoline tax.
WI: Criminalizing 1st-time DUIs is a tough sell in Wisconsin
With a new Democratic ally in the governor’s office, a handful of Republican lawmakers are pushing for Wisconsin to join the rest of the country and criminalize first-offense drunken driving. But it’s not that easy in a state where beer is so much a part of the culture that the MLB team is called the Brewers. Powerful Republican opponents are already lining up against the idea, calling it impractical and too expensive.
UT: Utah’s M budget for film incentives isn’t keeping up with demand
Utah’s tax incentive program for film and television is limited to .3 million a year. And compared with the demand — and the additional millions some other states provide — that’s not much to offer an industry that considers incentives a key part of the bottom line. Even Brigham Young University’s station is exploring options for producing TV series in Georgia or Canada.
TN: Oversight panel belonged on Nashville ballot, Tennessee court says
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that the Nashville vote that created a civilian board with the power to investigate police was legitimate, rejecting the police union’s challenge and clearing the way for the board to begin work. Nashville voters in November approved the formation of a community oversight board.
MA: More urgent care centers in Massachusetts but fewer low-income patients have access
Urgent care centers, walk-in clinics that treat a range of pressing medical issues, are proliferating in crowded shopping centers and along busy roads across Massachusetts, especially in affluent suburbs. But no companies have rushed to open urgent care centers in Dorchester, Roxbury or other lower-income neighborhoods in Boston.
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