Top State Stories 10/20
PA: How well a death in Pennsylvania is investigated depends on where someone dies
Only five of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have accredited coroner or medical examiner offices, which the state doesn’t require but “is perceived as validation of best medicolegal death investigation practices,” according to a new Center for Rural Pennsylvania study. The agency report determined that the state’s county coroners and medical examiners lack adequate funding, transparency and training.
TX: Texas struggles to get guns away from domestic violence suspects, leaving victims in danger
Although there are laws on the books preventing certain people from possessing guns, there are few places in Texas where the criminal justice system has programs to hand over firearms to law enforcement — leaving survivors at a heightened risk for gun violence.
OR: Oregon looks to head off an earthquake-triggered fuel spill disaster
Oregon is moving forward with a plan to prevent a mega earthquake from setting off catastrophic fuel spills in the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Environmental state officials are kicking off a yearlong effort, starting next week, that aims to safeguard sections of the two rivers where large concentrations of fuel tanks are vulnerable when the Big One hits.
OK: Federal court rules Oklahoma’s executions do not violate US Constitution
A federal appeals court ruled that Oklahoma’s execution protocol does not violate the U.S. Constitution or other federal laws. The case, brought by several Oklahoma death row inmates, ends after about a decade of back-and-forth over the state’s administration of its lethal three-drug cocktail that prompted the previous moratorium on executions. Executions resumed in 2021 despite the legal battles.
IL: Illinois takes center stage in battle over union rights vote
With U.S. union ranks swelling as everyone from coffee shop baristas to warehouse workers seeks to organize, Illinois voters will decide next month whether to amend their state constitution to guarantee the right to bargain collectively.
LA: Fuel-efficient cars are losing Louisiana tax revenue
Louisiana lawmakers should consider higher road usage fees to prevent the possible loss of $564 million for roads and bridges because of more fuel-efficient cars and trucks and the growth of electric vehicles, the state’s legislative auditor said.
WA: Feds award Washington companies M for EV battery facilities
The U.S. Department of Energy announced it would provide $100 million each to two Washington companies, Group14 Technologies and Sila Nanotechnologies, for their ongoing development of silicon anodes, which could serve as a cheaper, more efficient and domestically sourced alternative to the graphite anodes typically used in electric vehicle batteries.
WI: Wisconsin unveils interactive map tracking ‘forever chemicals’ across the state
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released an interactive map detailing PFAS contamination in water sources and wildlife across the state. The map, which tracks PFAS testing, levels in drinking water and fish consumption warnings, is the agency’s way to combine previously disparate data sources and inform residents about what’s going on with the water in their area.
CA: This domestic violence program keeps California abusers from repeating violence. Few finish it.
Batterers are much less likely to return to abusing their partners if they complete an intervention program required by the courts, according to the California state auditor, but many of them do not finish the courses.
UT: Another wild idea to save Utah’s Great Salt Lake: Pumping groundwater with nuclear energy
A Republican state representative has a lofty plan to save Utah’s imperiled lake and drought-stricken communities, but first, he wants around $50 million to explore how much salty water is underground.
TN: Children spent a combined 1,134 nights in Tennessee DCS offices in 5 months
Children in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services have spent more than 1,100 nights in department offices over the last five months, according to data obtained by The Tennessean. The numbers show the department’s struggle to find immediate placements for children after it takes them into custody, which it does typically because of threats to the child’s well-being, or moves them between placements.
CT: Audit: Connecticut officials don’t know if COVID testing providers were overpaid
In the rush to test Connecticut nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19, the state Department of Public Health did not track whether testing providers, who received millions of dollars in public funding during the pandemic, were also collecting insurance payments that would need to be remitted to the state, according to a recently released audit.
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