Top State Stories 3/13
AK: Biden to approve huge Alaska oil project today, two officials say
The Biden administration will formally approve a huge oil drilling project in Alaska known as Willow, according to two people familiar with the decision, despite widespread opposition because of its likely environmental and climate impacts. The president also will impose sweeping restrictions on offshore oil leasing in the Arctic Ocean and across Alaska’s North Slope in an apparent effort to temper criticism over the Willow decision.
TX: Texas bill would allow state to ‘repel’ and return migrants crossing from Mexico
Texas Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan threw his support behind a bill that would create a state unit of officers empowered to “repel” and arrest migrants crossing the border outside a port of entry and return migrants to Mexico if they were seen trying to illegally cross the border. The bill would test the boundaries of the state’s ability to enforce immigration law, which courts have historically ruled falls under federal purview.
CA: Flush with rain, California plans to replenish drought-depleted groundwater with floodwaters
With torrential rains drenching California, state water regulators have endorsed a plan to divert floodwaters from the San Joaquin River to replenish groundwater that has been depleted by heavy agricultural pumping during three years of record drought.
MN: Minnesota pushes to abolish subminimum wages for people with disabilities
More than 4,000 Minnesotans with disabilities earn less than the minimum wage — often in mundane jobs with little hope for advancement. A bill introduced this month would abolish the practice by August 2025, while providing millions of dollars to assist centers in helping people find jobs in the mainstream workforce.
NV: Low wages for prison inmates ‘remnants of slavery,’ says Nevada lawmaker seeking to outlaw practice
A bill introduced by Democratic state Sen. Dina Neal would require the Nevada Department of Corrections to pay inmates an hourly wage equivalent to the state minimum wage (currently $9.50 or $10.50 an hour). According to a breakdown of salary ranges provided by the department, inmate pay can be as low as 35 cents per hour, depending on the position.
WI: Secretive ‘pocket veto’ scuttles Wisconsin projects
The Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has long allowed members to anonymously block projects. But some critics want to rein in the panel’s dubious practice of not holding hearings.
OK: Oklahoma governor blocks toxic waste shipment from Ohio train derailment
Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he blocked toxic waste from the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, from entering Oklahoma, saying there were too many unanswered questions.
ID: Idaho committee approves M in emergency rental assistance aid
If the Idaho House and Senateapprove the emergency rental assistance supplemental funding, that will allow Idaho Housing and Finance Association officials to resume taking applications for the program and spend down the money to help families stay in their homes.
MO: Demand for recreational marijuana exceeds expectations in Missouri
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, marijuana sales in the month of February totaled $102.9 million, with $71.7 million of that total coming from recreational sales.
NM: New Mexico governor excluded from bill to give elected officials K raises
The decision to exclude the chief executive came amid late concerns that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, would be breaking the law if she signed a bill giving herself a raise.
NC: North Carolina Senate approves tougher penalties for rioting
The North Carolina Senate approved a House bill that would impose tougher criminal penalties for rioting, which Republicans say is necessary to deter people from destroying property or engaging in violent behavior. The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
SC: South Carolina lawmakers to give officers 2nd big pay boost
With law enforcement vacancies increasingly difficult to fill, South Carolina legislators are looking to collectively raise state officers’ pay across various agencies by $30 million this summer.
OR: Oregon marijuana prices hit record lows
Oregon marijuana prices are at an all-time low. Median retail prices fell to $4 a gram at the start of 2023, according to state regulators, off 16% from a year earlier.
CO: Colorado advocates seek more funding for birth control, family planning
The ongoing pandemic and the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year have increased demands on Colorado’s family planning clinics, prompting some advocates to call for more state funding — but it’s not clear if the legislature will respond.
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