Top State Stories 2/15
MI: Michigan Democratic leaders to introduce 3 gun safety measures in wake of MSU shooting
Michigan Democratic lawmakers, responding to the deadly shootings at Michigan State University, said that they have a new opportunity to introduce legislation to address gun violence in the state that stalled in the past. While they provided a general outline of bills they plan to put forward, exact details on the forthcoming proposals and timing of their proposals remain unclear.
OH: Concerns over air quality grow after Ohio train crash
In the week since officials conducted what they called a “controlled release” of vinyl chloride from five derailed train cars in East Palestine near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, concern has grown among some over the quality of the air in and around the village of nearly 5,000 people.
TN: Tennessee advances bill to narrowly loosen abortion ban
Tennessee’s GOP-dominated legislature took a first step toward loosening one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, advancing a narrow exemption bill that would clarify situations where abortion is allowed, including ectopic pregnancies, “medically futile pregnancies” and lethal fetal anomalies. There is no exception for rape or incest.
TX: As Texas booms, local governments — especially in small towns — struggle to find workers
More than 6,000 local government jobs in Texas remain vacant, according to an estimate from the Texas Workforce Commission. A general distrust of the government and an inability to offer competitive wages to recruit top talent have made some positions especially difficult to fill, city and county leaders say.
IL: Illinois governor unveils M plan to spur early childhood care, education
Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker will call for the state to spend another nearly half-billion dollars a year on much-expanded early childhood education, child care and related activities. The plan will be the centerpiece of the proposed fiscal 2024 budget Pritzker is to introduce in his State of the State speech.
CA: California’s snowpack is melting faster than ever before, leaving less available water
For decades, Californians have depended on the reliable appearance of spring and summer snowmelt to provide nearly a third of the state’s supply of water. But as the state gets drier, and as wildfires climb to ever-higher elevations, that precious snow is melting faster and earlier than in years past — even in the middle of winter.
UT: Pregnant women can’t cruise alone in the fast lane, Utah lawmakers decide
An effort to let pregnant women drive in the HOV lane — and counting a fetus as a person — ultimately failed over concerns that the bill would result in a loss of federal funding for Utah’s transportation agency.
AR: Arkansas House approves maternity leave requirement for companies that pay for abortions
The Arkansas House approved a bill to require companies that pay employees’ expenses for out-of-state abortions to also provide 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Republican state Rep. Aaron Pilkington, the sponsor of the bill, said it is aimed at “blatant hypocrisy” from companies who cover abortion services for their workers but not maternity leave.
SD: South Dakota agricultural groups oppose governor’s curbs on foreign ownership
South Dakota’s major agricultural groups expressed almost unanimous opposition to a bill proposed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem that would restrict foreign entities from purchasing farmland.
WA: Washington state legislature considers ban on at-home sexual assault evidence kits
Washington lawmakers are considering a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the sale of over-the-counter sexual assault kits out of concern they offer false hope and can thwart investigations and prosecutions.
NV: Nevada GOP senators, activists — again — push for school choice
Flanked by demonstrators, many of them children and students of Nevada private or charter schools, Senate GOP leaders made another call for the state to expand Opportunity Scholarships, which are designed to subsidize private school costs for families under a certain income threshold.
KS: Kansas joins national trend with raft of anti-trans bills
A more conservative Kansas legislature has more power to not just overturn vetoes by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly but also pursue a slate of even more strident policies.
HI: Hawaii’s innovative plan to manage marine resources is being quietly rolled back
Top ocean resource officials under Democratic Gov. Josh Green have quietly scrapped Hawaii’s ambitious yet vaguely defined “30×30” marine conservation goal.
NJ: New Jersey to expand AP African American studies
New Jersey will expand its Advanced Placement African American Studies classes from one to 26 high schools in honor of Black History Month. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said he wants to “set an example for the nation” after Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent ban on teaching the course in his state.
OR: Oregon governor selects corrections watchdog to take over state liquor commission amid rare bourbon scandal
A watchdog who examines complaints within the Oregon Department of Corrections is Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek’s pick to lead the state’s scandal-bitten liquor agency. Craig Prins, inspector general for the Corrections Department, will be put forward as an interim head of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.
WV: West Virginia Senate passes bill to revamp early elementary education
The West Virginia Senate approved a bill to help students in kindergarten through third grade improve their literacy and numeracy skills. The bill, which includes yearly dyslexia screenings for students, seeks to improve lagging reading and math scores.
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