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NCSL in the News March 2012

NCSL in the News Archives

NCSL in the News: March 2012

March 30

Rex Sinquefield's crusade against income taxes
Since 1992, 140 proposals to cut or limit taxes have appeared on ballots in 31 states, and 61 percent were approved, says Jennie Bowser, who tracks the issue at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Filibuster kills Nebraska voter ID measure
Sixteen states have passed photo ID laws comparable to the Nebraska proposal, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kearney Hub

Bill adds restrictions on minors
If House Bill 1283 is passed, people age 16 and younger will be prohibited from tanning indoors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Northwest Missourian

Statewide voter referendums piling up
Jennie Drage Bowser, who tracks ballot measures nationwide for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said it’s too early to analyze any trends in ballot issues for November. Maryland Community News Online

State bans sale of synthetic marijuana
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 39 other states have banned the sale of the synthetic products. New Jersey, Vermont and Massachusetts -- all of which border New York -- are not among that group. Press & Sun-Bulletin

SC could offer free cervical cancer vaccine
At least 20 states have passed laws on the issue, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. MyrtleBeachOnline.com

March 29

NCSL takes on New York Times editorial board, defends states
In the tradition of our founding fathers, most state lawmakers are citizen-legislators. You cite a study that graded states poorly on ethics issues, yet you did not acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of the 7,382 state legislators are honorable public servants. The New York Times

When states and towns go broke: Localities are forced to deal with irresponsible spending at all levels
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 49 states must balance their budgets each year (Vermont is the exception). Chicago Tribune

O’Malley unsure how Supreme Court health-care ruling could affect state exchange
As of this month, 10 states and the District have enacted state-based exchanges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Washington Post

Filibuster kills Nebraska voter ID measure
Sixteen states have passed photo ID laws comparable to the Nebraska proposal, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fremont Tribune

Shipley's 'Caylee Anthony Act' exiled to summer study committee
So-called “Caylee’s Law” legislation has been filed in more than a dozen states since the much-publicized murder trial and acquittal of Caylee Anthony’s mother, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kingsport Times News

Kansas House advances ‘conscience’ protection for drugs that might cause abortion
Four states — Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota — have laws that allow pharmacists to refuse to fill an emergency prescription for contraceptives, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kansas City Star

Lawmakers target ingredients in 'bath salt' drugs
The proposal has also been introduced in Minnesota and Iowa, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Appleton Post Crescent

March 28

Lawmaker wants to change S.C.’s Stand Your Ground Law
Prior to the “stand your ground” provision in self-defense law, first introduced in Florida in 2006, a number of measures known as “make my day” laws were enacted in the 1980s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Columbia Free Times

Black women, uninsured get worse ovarian cancer care: Study
The U.S. National Conference of State Legislatures provides more information on disparities in health care.  Philadelphia Inquirer

Lawmakers tangle over Nebraska voter ID proposal
Sixteen states have passed photo ID laws comparable to the Nebraska proposal, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Kearney Hub

Gray eyes city full of traffic cameras
Many states use automated traffic enforcement - typically to catch red-light runners or speeders - while some limit cameras’ use to school or construction zones or officer-operated machines, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The Washington Times

When states and towns go broke: Localities are forced to deal with irresponsible spending at all levels
Poor planning also to blame. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 49 states must balance their budgets each year (Vermont is the exception.)  Chicago Tribune/U.S. News and World Report

Wednesday churn: Parent trigger
Get background on trigger laws around the nation in this backgrounder from the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Education News Colorado

Universities, nonprofits accepting federal grants tied to health care reform
Nonprofits, universities and health organizations have been more than willing to take in tens of millions to upgrade services and expand health education. The National Conference of State Legislatures recently placed the total at $116 million, although that does not factor in some grants Florida later rejected.  Florida Independent

Long-term jobless complain of bias
As of January, California, Connecticut Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee were considering legislation to prohibit employers from discriminating against the unemployed in help-wanted ads or in direct hiring or in screenings by employment agencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Asbury Park Press/AP

Saggy pants measure advancing in legislature
Currently, Arkansas and Florida are the only states to target schools for a saggy pants ban, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Alabama is considering a similar bill that would ban saggy pants in public in one of its counties.  Elizabethton Star

Photo ID marches on, but critics vow litigation
But such a technical challenge succeeded in a case before the Florida Supreme Court in 2010, said Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow with the National Conference of State Legislatures. The court ruled that three constitutional amendment ballot questions were confusing and struck them from the ballot.  Post-Bulletin/AP

March 27

Medicaid cuts a tall order for Quinn
Making such drastic cuts would help balance the budget, but it’s going to be almost impossible, said Joy Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, a lobbying group for state legislatures. Jacksonville Journal-Courier

Washington town grapples with why openly gay teen Rafael Morelos committed suicide
The attempted suicide rate for teens is shockingly high across demographics -- in 2005 it was estimated by the National Conference of State Legislatures that 19.3% of high schoolers had seriously considered killing themselves. Autostraddle

Water issues, climate change discussed at recent webinar
A 2008 paper from the National Conference of State Legislatures predicts warmer temperatures and lower water levels for Michigan. Climate variability and change could mean increased severe storms, flooding or drought. Midland Daily News

Neb. gov.: ID requirement wouldn't impede voting
Eight states have passed photo ID laws that are comparable to the Nebraska proposal, said Wendy Underhill, a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Coshocton Tribune

Memphis Rep wants teens to pull their britches up
Currently, Arkansas and Florida are the only states that target schools for a saggy pants ban, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. WKSR

March 26

Day 1: Supreme Court takes on Affordable Care Act case
The National Conference of State Legislatures is also keeping close tabs on the hearings, including this page dedicated to posting information about various state challenges to health reform. Texas Tribune

Food stamp program under fire
Some state lawmakers see drug testing as one way to prevent fraud. At least five states are considering drug testing applicants for food stamps and 16 are considering it for welfare benefits, according to a tally from the National Conference of State Legislatures. AP/Belleville News Democrat

Florida shuns funds tied to health care reform
The National Conference of State Legislatures recently placed the total at $116 million, although that does not factor in some grants Florida later rejected. WTSP 10 News

Discrimination against the unemployed
As of January, California, Connecticut Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee were considering legislation to prohibit employers from discriminating against the unemployed in help-wanted ads or in direct hiring or in screenings by employment agencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Human Resources Journal

California lawmakers' salaries are highest in nation
Most of the nation's biggest states are served by full-time or nearly full-time legislatures – seven of the 10 most populous states. Overall, however, 40 of the 50 states have part-time lawmakers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sacramento Bee

Measure to ban saggy pants advances in Tennessee Legislature
Currently, Arkansas and Florida are the only states to target schools for a saggy pants ban, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Jackson Sun

To get a job, must you have a job?
So far, only New Jersey has passed a law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Omaha World-Herald

Mayor's campaign fund paid for counseling, car
A survey of 16 states by the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks campaign finance issues, found 11 prohibit personal use and the other five had at least a partial prohibition. Hattiesburg American

NY State cuts public pensions
New York — which sets its pensions by legislation, not by collective bargaining — joined 43 other states that have cut public pensions since 2009, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Workers World

TN lawmakers consider baggy pants law
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Arkansas and Florida are currently the only states that target teens for wearing saggy pants. WCYB

Public pension fixes can fill gaps and avoid a big ruckus
The National Conference of State Legislatures reported on March 14 that, since 2009, 43 states have enacted a soupcon of reforms, including increasing employee contributions, adding to the number of years of service before benefits begin, slightly increasing retirement ages and lengthening the final years of salaries on which payouts are calculated. Almost all of these changes affect only new hires. Bloomberg

News briefs from around Tennessee
Currently, Arkansas and Florida are the only states to target schools for a saggy pants ban, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. WSOC Charlotte

Iowa's lobbying free-for-all
Peggy Kerns, director of the Center for Ethics in Government for the National Conference of State Legislatures, thinks it’s time for Iowa to consider reviewing its lobbying laws. “The point is to go back to the purpose of gift laws, which is to make sure that lawmakers are not influenced by special interests in their making of public policy,” said Kerns, a former Colorado legislator. Indianapolis Star

Individual gift law strict; group deal 'problematic'
Neighbors Wisconsin and Missouri are also relatively stingy, prohibiting lobbyists from buying legislators any meals, according to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Indianapolis Star

Illinois faces impossible Medicaid cuts
Making such drastic cuts would help balance the budget, but it’s going to be almost impossible, said Joy Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, a lobbying group for state legislatures. Rockford Register Star

Role in insurance exchanges unknown
The exchanges have to be “self-sustaining” by 2015, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website. Longview News-Journal

Minnesota's voter ID law: A primer
Minnesota and 16 other states have no voter ID law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Winona Daily News

Long-unemployed face bias on job hunt
As of January, California, Connecticut Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee were considering legislation to prohibit employers from discriminating against the unemployed in help-wanted ads or in direct hiring or in screenings by employment agencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Tennessean

Cities mull options if traffic cameras are banned
The National Conference of State Legislatures says nine states have passed laws that ban the use of automated traffic cameras. Estherville Daily News

Ill. senators get lesson on Medicaid complications
“Over one year or over two years, those are hard numbers to get out of the Medicaid program,” said Joy Johnson Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. AP/McDonough Voice

Democratic lawmakers eyeing increase in tobacco tax
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states, Washington D.C. and several federal governments increased the taxes. U.S. Election News

Senate: Voter ID on November ballot
But such a technical challenge succeeded in a case before the Florida Supreme Court in 2010, said Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow with the National Conference of State Legislatures. FOX 9 News

Committee considers missing child bill
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a total of 35 states, including neighboring Massachusetts and New York, have filed similar bills in response to concerns arising from the high-profile murder trial and acquittal of Caylee's mother, Casey Anthony, in 2011. WWLP 22News

Their View: Heather Wilson fakes concern about "religious liberty"
The National Conference of State Legislatures summarizes them. Two laws "require each individual and group health insurance policy, health care plan and certificate of health insurance that provides a prescription drug benefit to provide coverage for prescription contraceptive drugs or devices. Las Cruces Sun-News

Democrats propose cigarette tax hike for Missouri
Smoking-related illnesses lead to millions in state Medicaid expenses each year — so such hikes tend to be easier for elected officials to justify to the masses. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states, Washington D.C. and the federal government raised tobacco taxes in 2009. Kansas City Star

The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act: Implications for federalism
Joy Wilson, health policy director at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), shared that general view on the potential implications of overturning the expansion. Governing

'Cottage food' may be sold under propsosed Calif. policy change
Scott Hendrick, a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said issues surrounding labeling requirements and homemade foods "are definitely getting a lot of attention in state legislatures this year." He said cottage food industry bills in particular are seen as a "way to address that growing marketplace." ScrippsNews

Five top Dem candidates in N.C. are all anti-Amendment One
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages, civil unions that are the legal equivalent of marriages or domestic partnerships that are nearly equivalent. North Carolina is among the 33 states with no such non-discriminatory statute. The Independent Weekly

Nebraska lead-poison protection bill advances
At least six other states have enacted similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kearney Hub

March 23

Quinn's proposed $2.7 billion Medicaid cut might be biggest in nation
Joy Johnson Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said other states have made significant cuts in their Medicaid programs, but have done it over two years rather than one.  State Journal-Register

As high unemployment persists, states seek to protect jobless against claims of hiring bias
As of January, California, Connecticut Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee were considering legislation to prohibit employers from discriminating against the unemployed in help-wanted ads or in direct hiring or in screenings by employment agencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Washington Post

Senate passes Ga. tax break bill; goes to governor
Only 14 states including Georgia still tack sales tax onto the utility bills of manufacturing plants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The four other Southern states that still use the tax -- Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee -- either give companies reduced rates or offer exemptions for specific industries or fuel types.  Bloomberg Businessweek/AP

Alaska faces stiff competition to incentivize film industry
Todd Haggerty with the National Conference of State Legislatures said currently 40 states and Puerto Rico have film incentive tax credits.  Canada was one of the first areas to offer these incentives. The neighboring country would make a good model for what film incentives look like over time, Haggerty said.  Juneau Empire

Food stamp program under fire
Some state lawmakers see drug testing as one way to prevent fraud. At least five states are considering drug testing applicants for food stamps and 16 are considering it for welfare benefits, according to a tally from the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Stateline

Drug test for jobless advances in Arizona House
In the past two years, 20 states have considered laws requiring drug tests for unemployment beneficiaries, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Indiana is the only state where a bill passed.  Arizona Republic

Cuomo pension overhaul is boost for New York, Moody’s says
A record 43 states from 2009 through 2011 cut public- pension benefits to reduce costs following the longest recession since the 1930s, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in a report released March 14.  Bloomberg

Ill. senators get lesson on Medicaid complications
A national Medicaid expert briefed lawmakers and made clear that it won’t be easy to slash spending by nearly 20 percent, as Gov. Pat Quinn proposes.  “Over one year or over two years, those are hard numbers to get out of the Medicaid program,” said Joy Johnson Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Dekalb Daily Chronicle

Nebraska lead-poison protection bill advances
At least six other states have enacted similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Delaware, Iowa, New York and Rhode Island mandate screenings before elementary school. Indiana allows school boards to impose the requirement, while Michigan orders testing for children who are enrolled in state-sponsored supplemental food programs.  Fremont Tribune

Florida battles, yet gets health benefits
The National Conference of State Legislatures recently placed the total at $116 million, although that tally does not factor in some grants the state later rejected.  The News-Press

Arizona mulls drug testing for jobless benefits
Legislation to require drug tests in order to get unemployment benefits has also been proposed in this year Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma and South Carolina, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures database. Some of the bills would provide for random testing of recipients while other would require testing for all applicants.  Bloomberg Businessweek/AP

Possible impact of changes in charter school law on Horry County schools
Currently, Horry County has three charter schools: Bridgewater Academy, Palmetto Academy, and Academy of Hope.  For those unfamiliar with charter schools, in general, have a look at this pros and cons list provided by National Conference of State Legislatures.  The Digitel Myrtle Beach

Nurse practitioners, handmaidens no more
Certified nurse practitioners can prescribe medication without the supervision of a physician in 16 states and Washington, D.C., according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  While additional states are making efforts to expand the profession’s duties, it’s a “turbulent political issue,” says Kara Hinkley, a spokeswoman for the group.  Bloomberg Businessweek

SC bill would require drug tests for welfare
Of the three states that have enacted laws so far, only Florida required drug testing for all applicants. Arizona's and Missouri's laws base testing on suspicion of drug use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Oshkosh Northwestern/AP

Hinchey votes against GOP effort to deny just compensation to medical malpractice victims
The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures strongly opposes the legislation, and has stated that “medical malpractice, product liability, and other areas of tort reform are areas of law that are regulated by the states."  Saugerties Post Star

Pregnant woman loses fetus after stabbing attack in southeast D.C.
The District does not have a fetal homicide law on its books, according to records kept by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty-eight states, including Maryland and Virginia, define the slaying of a fetus as a homicide, as does the federal government.  DCist

Vote on bill to create local business app delayed
"Buy local" apps are not unusual in the country. Nonprofits, businesses and cities around the country have created them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But the group has not tracked whether states have done so by introducing legislation like Colorado.  Coshocton Tribune/AP

March 22

New York state workers' pensions cut by Governor Andrew Cuomo, following national trend
Since 2008, 43 states have reduced pension benefits for new employees, according to a report issued earlier this month by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Pensions obligations eat up, on average, about 3 percent of state budgets.  Huffington Post

Alabama Senate committee approves bill that would allow recall of public officials
The Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics, and Elections Committee approved the bill but only after committee members agreed that it would not move on the Senate floor without additional work.  Nineteen states have a recall, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Birmingham News

Lawmaker calls for annual legislative sessions
Legislatures in Texas, North Dakota and Montana also meet every other year. In the early 1960s, just 19 state legislatures met annually, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Las Vegas Review-Journal

Rex leads financial oligarchs attacking state laws across U.S.
Since 1992, 140 proposals to cut or limit taxes have appeared on state ballots, and 61 percent passed, said Jennie Bowser, who tracks initiatives at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver.  Bloomberg Businessweek

Politics may sink technology upgrade for Missouri's Medicaid program
All states are supposed to develop the exchanges by 2014, though that deadline was eased under federal rules issued last week. As of Jan. 1, 12 states had passed legislation to create the exchanges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  STL Today

Arizona mulls drug testing for jobless benefits
Legislation to require drug tests in order to get unemployment benefits has also been proposed in this year Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma and South Carolina, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures database. Some of the bills would provide for random testing of recipients while other would require testing for all applicants.  CBS News

Illinois Senate to talk Medicaid options today
The Chicago Democrat is calling the unusual meeting because it’s crucial for Democrats and Republicans to learn about Medicaid together and to cooperate on solutions.  An expert from the National Conference of State Legislatures will address the senators.  Rockford Register Star/AP

Online learning: Before we rush down that path, make sure we know where we are going
A position paper on college completion produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures applauds Montana, among other states, for “expanding online learning options” and creating “a virtual community college as a low-cost option to expand access.”  Opinion in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Recall bill inches forward in state senate
Currently only Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin allow recall votes according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Examiner.com

Lawsuit settlement helps low-income Hoosiers pay energy bills
Heather Morton, legislative analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Utah and Colorado have allocated funds from the settlement for other programs. “In Utah they want to hire mortgage fraud investigators and they are using some of the money for homeless shelters and low income housing," Morton said, adding that the state socked away about $11 million in its rainy day fund.  The Statehouse File

House passes Voter ID amendment; MN-08 DFL candidate debate; BWCA smog
While 16 other states require voters to show photo IDs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Simon said only one other state, Mississippi, has set that requirement in its constitution."  Minnesota Public Radio (blog)

March 21

Lawyer: Fla. teen slain while talking on phone to girlfriend
The state passed the law in 2005 that stated “a person being attacked has no duty to retreat, they may return force with force, and are protected from criminal prosecution for using force through immunity,” according to National Conference of State Legislatures.  USA Today

House approves placing photo ID on November ballot
GOP-controlled legislatures across the country have been pushing to require a government-issued photo ID for all voters, a plan known by the National Conference of State Legislatures as "strict" photo ID.  Minneapolis Star-Tribune

To receive welfare, should drug test be required?
Now some states have proposed tightening welfare eligibility, in part to deal with limited state budgets -- one emerging favorite, requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test. At least 25 states put forth proposals this year to require some form of drug testing or drug screening, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  PBS News Hour

GOP lawmakers won't budge on pension-overhaul plan
Nationally, most states have been trying to cut their pension costs since the Great Recession hit in 2008.  "My count is 43 states have done so for at least one major statewide plan," said Ron Snell, an expert on public-pension plans with the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The Seattle Times

Report: MO budget could swim in red ink 'til 2029
The Missouri Budget Project recommends closing loopholes and other tax updates in addition to an Internet sales tax. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that uncollected sales taxes from Internet purchases will cost all the states $23 billion this year.  Public News Service

Minnesota House votes along party lines to approve voter ID amendment
While 16 other states require voters to show photo IDs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Simon said only one other state, Mississippi, has set that requirement in its constitution.  Duluth News Tribune (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Synthetic marijuana use a major problem with teens
Federal lawmakers have yet to pass a bill banning the sales of fake marijuana, but at least 39 states in the union have adopted their own bans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  RedOrbit

Northborough TM to consider voter ID question
Massachusetts is one of 20 states that does not require some form of ID in order to vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Sixteen states either require photo ID or have passed laws requiring photo ID that are now being battled in the court system.  MetroWest Daily News

How state media turned a blind eye to ALEC's influence on the voter ID debate
"It's remarkable," Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said of the proliferation of new laws. In all, 33 states have considered new voter ID laws this year. "I very rarely see one single issue come up in so many state legislatures in a single session," she said.  Media Matters for America

March 20

Behind the brewing voter ID war
In Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, laws requiring non-photo ID were already on the books; the new laws require picture IDs. (The National Conference of State Legislatures has a very nifty map.)  Washington Post (blog)

Where could the next outbreak of measles be?
Forty-eight states—all except Mississippi and West Virginia—also recognize religious exemptions, and 20 grant exemptions for philosophical concerns, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Wall Street Journal

Pennsylvania lawmakers mine discontent on health-care law
Legislators in 23 states are pushing similar proposals, while voters already have passed such amendments in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma, according to Richard Cauchi, program director with the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.  Bloomberg Businessweek

House clears bill that would require photo ID to cast a ballot
Currently, Colorado is one of 16 states that require identification but not a photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Voters may use a utility bill, birth certificate, bank statement, government check or other government-issued documents.  Denver Post

Signs of synthetic marijuana use revealed
As federal lawmakers consider a bill to ban sales of fake marijuana, at least 39 states have already taken steps to do so, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Jackson Clarion Ledger

Non-partisan sources see promise and problems in U.S. economy
“At present just four states are reporting mid-year budget gaps, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures; this time last year, 15 did; the year before that, 36,” the article notes.  Independent Voter Network

Report: Georgia among riskiest for government corruption
Yet, the best laws are still only part of government ethics, said Natalie O’Donnell Wood, a senior policy specialist for the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures. They collect data but do not do subjective commentary.  Macon Telegraph

Rolling back the nanny state
This trend is not, sadly, the result of a sudden renunciation of paternalism by state governments. Rather, it stems from the states' dire fiscal straits in the aftermath of the recession. Mandy Rafool of the National Conference of State Legislatures puts it bluntly: "States have been so desperate over the last few years that they're looking at everything."  Winnipeg Free Press

Voter ID laws in Texas, other states are facing stiff legal challenges
Since 2003, 21 states have passed voter ID laws, according to the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures.  That includes efforts to enact or strengthen voting ID laws in eight states last year, including Texas.  Houston Chronicle (blog)

New Jersey finishes first in state corruption probe; no state got an A; eight states got F's; West Virginia gets D+
Peggy Kerns, director of the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures, noted that ethics laws are shaped by the environment and culture of the state. “In smaller states, the culture is different,” she said. “It is harder to disobey the law and go against your own moral core if everyone knows you.”  Huntington News

The controversy over public breastfeeding: Breast may be best, but objectors say not in my backyard (or airplane)
Most states now also have a provision in their public accommodations law or elsewhere that explicitly allows women to breastfeed in public or private places.  (The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a handy state-by-state rundown of laws relevant to breastfeeding here.)  Justia Verdict

Time for a regulatory course correction
A recent panel discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting included academics from some of the country's most prestigious universities. Their message encouraged policymakers to utilize HIAs in efforts to "engineer" so-called healthy communities.  Convenience Store News

Commentary: Who pays pension benefits earned when $ is gone?
The March 14 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures is a comprehensive summary of reforms 43 states enacted from 2009 through 2011 in effo rts to control exploding defined benefit pension costs.  Opinion in Montana Watchdog

March 19

U.S. states reduce taxes for first time in 10 years, survey says
Most of the decreases were due to the expiration of temporary taxes, such as in California, which had the biggest overall decline, at $8.3 billion, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in a report released today. The largest increase came in Illinois, which raised levies by $6.5 billion.  Bloomberg

Laws may end up before top court
Since 2003, 21 states have passed voter ID laws, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. That includes efforts to enact or strengthen such laws in eight states last year.  “Hands down, in 2011, voter ID was the hottest issue for state legislatures,” said Meagan Dorsch, NCSL's public affairs director.  San Antonio Express-News

Food policies on the table
Scott Hendrick, a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said issues surrounding labeling requirements and homemade foods "are definitely getting a lot of attention in state legislatures this year." He said cottage food industry bills in particular are seen as a "way to address that growing marketplace."  Sacramento Bee

States look to enact cyberbullying laws
Forty-eight states have anti-bullying laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The move now is to strengthen those laws and add specific consequences for electronic intimidation and harassment.  USA Today

Grading the nation: How accountable is your state?
Peggy Kerns, director of the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures, noted that ethics laws are shaped by the environment and culture of the state. "In smaller states, the culture is different," she said. "It is harder to disobey the law and go against your own moral core if everyone knows you."  Huffington Post

Pension predicament: New York just the latest state to cut retirement benefits
“What it says is that policy makers have found existing public employee plans to be too expensive for them to afford in the future, so they’re essentially shifting more of the cost to employees in a number of ways,” Ron Snell, a director with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, told msnbc.com.  MSNBC

ER docs don't recognize signs of fake marijuana in teens
As federal lawmakers consider a bill to ban sales of fake marijuana, at least 39 states have already taken steps to do so, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  USA Today

Arizona enters birth-control fray
Arizona is among at least 26 states that require that health plans cover contraceptives, though it’s also among those that let churches and other religious entities opt out of providing the coverage, said the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Columbus Dispatch/AP

Colorado lawmakers consider ways to prevent credit-check quagmire for job-seekers
Seven states - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington - have recently restricted the practice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The Coloradoan

Plan to curb welfare seen as reform - or cruelty
Minnesota is among a number of states looking at clamping down on cash welfare benefits. It is one of 24 states debating drug testing for some forms of public assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Minneapolis Star Tribune

Editorial: Public pension reform gains momentum
Also noteworthy last week was release of a state pension report from the National Conference of State Legislatures. It details action from 2009 to 2011 - after plans took a beating in the recession - in which 43 states enacted major changes to retirement plans for public employees and teachers.  Editorial in the Pioneer Press

Penn State denies suggestion that it will go private
No state has formally privatized its public higher education system, but some have been given more autonomy in the face of declining public support, said Julie Bell, education program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review/AP

N.Y. passes DNA requirement for convicted criminals
Most states, including New York, already collect DNA samples from felons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Tri States Public Radio

State committee passes smoke detector bill introduced in response to Christmas fire in Stamford
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 25 states have laws that require carbon monoxide detectors in certain residential buildings.  Wilton Villager

Gay marriage amendment could drive voter turnout
Twenty-eight states have constitutional provisions defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ten states — including North Carolina — have statutes that allow only male-female marriage.  Shelby Star

43 states enact pension reform in past 3 years
Driven by two recessions since 1999 that hurt state budgets and pension plan asset values, NCSL found “a record amount of legislation” aimed at restructuring contributions and benefit provisions of state retirement plans.  Pensions & Investments

Easy to get lost in redistricting mess
Twenty of the 50 states have some form of redistricting commission, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The idea of a redistricting commission for local government was floated during the drafting of the metro consolidation charter in 2010.  Opinion in the Memphis Daily News

States lower taxes for first time in a decade
Taxes dropped after states allowed several temporary measures to expire, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  These hikes had been enacted to boost sagging revenues during the Great Recession.  CNN Money

‘Caveman caucuses’ overreach
It is worth noting that fewer than one in four state legislators nationwide are women, the National Conference of State Legislatures, reports. In Ohio, women make up 23 percent of the General Assembly membership.  Opinion in the Youngstown Vindicator

Ted Strickland was a public servant, in the very best sense, and he will be missed
Nonetheless, and much to the consternation of many observers on the right, he remained active with the mainstream National Conference of State Legislatures, serving as its chairman, and spurned overtures from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.  Colorado Statesman

March 16

Almost all U.S. states reforming public pensions
The one-two punch of the financial crisis and economic recession to U.S. states' retirement systems forced nearly every state to reform how it handles pensions for state employees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Chicago Tribune

The American economy: Unmired at last
At present just four states are reporting mid-year budget gaps, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures; this time last year, 15 did; the year before that, 36. State and local employment, which declined by 655,000 between August 2008 and last December—a fall of 3.3%—has actually edged up since. The Economist

NAACP takes case against voter ID laws to UN
More than 30 states now have laws requiring people to show a government-issued ID in order to vote, that according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. NPR

Penn State not going private, yet
No state has formally privatized its public higher education system, but some have been given more autonomy in the face of declining public support, said Julie Bell, education program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Herald-Mail

Kostrzewa: States push immigration regulations
Eight states adopted E-Verify regulations, but most of the proposals were rejected, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Providence Journal

Home detectors bill moves toward approval
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 25 states have laws that require carbon monoxide detectors in certain residential buildings. Waterbury Republican American

Women in Ariz. may have to tell employers reason for taking birth control to get reimbursement
Arizona is among at least 26 states that generally require that health plans cover contraceptives, though it's also among those that let churches and other religious entities opt out of providing the coverage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Grand Forks Herald

Ariz. bill could require reason for birth control
Arizona is among at least 26 states that generally require that health plans cover contraceptives, though it's also among those that let churches and other religious entities opt out of providing the coverage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Palm Beach Post

Editorial: Prescription for health
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation setting up exchanges. Nearly all are in the Northeast and the West. Several -- including Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, and California -- are known for more progressive social politics, even if they aren't all Democratic strongholds. But a few -- West Virginia, Nevada, and Utah among them -- don't fit that category. Toledo Blade

Strict voter ID law passes in battleground Pennsylvania
Before Pennsylvania, 15 states had adopted voter photo ID laws, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures. CBS News

N.Y. passes DNA requirement for convicted criminals
Most states, including New York, already collect DNA samples from felons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. WKNO FM

Medicaid fraud reform bills pass Legislature
Experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures estimate the cost of Medicaid fraud accounts for between 3 percent and 10 percent of total Medicaid expenditures. SnoValley Star

Rolling back the nanny state: Live free and pay more tax
Mandy Rafool of the National Conference of State Legislatures puts it more bluntly: “States have been so desperate over the last few years that they’re looking at everything.” The Economist

New York Legislature approves Cuomo-backed pension overhaul
A record 43 states from 2009 through 2011 cut public- pension benefits to reduce costs following the longest recession since the 1930s, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in a report released yesterday. San Francisco Chronicle

March 15

State lawmakers blast House's medical malpractice reform bill
The nation's leading advocacy group for state lawmakers wrote to House leaders on Wednesday to share their "strong, bipartisan opposition" to federal medical malpractice reform because it would infringe upon states' rights. The Hill

New York lawmakers vote to limit public pensions
From 2009 to 2011, 43 states enacted major changes to retirement plans for public employees and teachers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “The message is, the traditional package of retirement benefits has become unaffordable,” said Ronald Snell, a senior fellow at the conference. The New York Times

Pension benefit costs cut by record 43 States, study says
Pension benefits for U.S. public workers were reduced by a record 43 states over three years to cut costs following the longest recession since the 1930s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Bloomberg Businessweek

New York Legislature approves Cuomo-backed pension overhaul
A record 43 states from 2009 through 2011 cut public pension benefits to reduce costs following the longest recession since the 1930s, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in a report released yesterday. Bloomberg

Delaware: DREAM Act bill proposed for state
Thirteen states, including Maryland, New York, California and Texas, have passed similar legislation allowing in-state tuition costs for children of illegal immigrants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Delmarva Daily Times

Opinion: When voting becomes a privilege
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, six states since the beginning of 2011 have attempted to have their voting ID laws converted to the “strict photo ID” law, which stipulates all voters must show a photo ID in order to vote. The Daily Titan

Editorial: Shut the door
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states restrict lawmakers from lobbying for one year after they leave elected office. Six states have a two-year ban. Chicago Tribune

Forsyth, MO rule aims to reduce distracted driving
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, drivers are not allowed to text while driving in 35 states and Washington D.C. Hand-held cell phone use is also not allowed in nine states and the District of Columbia. OzarksFirst.com

Billion-dollar Florida battle shows pension challenge
Of 41 U.S. states that made significant pension changes in 2010 and 2011, at least 13 have faced court challenges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. NewsMax.com

Court upholds NV initiative process
He also cited a 2010 National Conference of State Legislatures report that said such signature requirements "are important because they force initiative proponents to demonstrate that their proposal has support statewide, not just among the citizens of the state's most populous region." Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

Study: Feds approving fewer oil and gas leases
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, at around 3 percent. Health Care News

March 14

State-by-state look at legislative vote-switching
Washington Post

GOP presses for passage of voter ID bill in Pa.
Republican legislatures around the country are pressing voter ID bills, and Pennsylvania would become one of 16 states that either require or request photo IDs from voters, according to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures. York Daily Record

Justice Dept opposes a 2nd voter ID law, in Texas
Voter ID bills were ``the hottest topic of legislation in the field of elections in 2011,'' as legislation was introduced in 34 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The South Florida Times

Justice Department rejects Texas Voter ID law
According to a page on voter identification laws maintained by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Texas law requires someone to have a form of photo ID to vote. Yahoo!

Former state Sen. Debbie Johnson elected chairwoman of judiciary group
Well-regarded by her colleagues, she served as the lead Republican member of the Senate Tax Committee; represented the Senate on the state’s Major Transportation Projects Commission; and served as a committeewoman with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Coon Rapids ECM Publishers

TX voter ID law discriminates against latinos: Justice Dept.
South Carolina's voter ID law -- which, like Texas, must also get "pre-clearance" under the Voting Rights Act -- was rejected in December, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Reuters

Justice Dept. hits Texas voter-ID law
The National Conference of State Legislatures called the voter ID issue "the hottest topic of legislation in the field of elections in 2011," with legislation introduced in 34 states. The Root

March 13

Editorial: When states put out the unwelcome mat
Thirty-one states introduced legislation in 2011 imitating all or part of S.B. 1070, and five — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — went whole hog, passing Arizona-style omnibus laws. The New York Times

Justice Dept. objects to new Texas voter ID law
Voter ID legislation has been passed or offered in 34 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which has labeled the issue "the hottest topic of legislation in the field of elections in 2011." AP/Sacramento Bee

Oklahoma politicians may be tested for drugs
Similar bills requiring drug testing for welfare recipients have passed the Utah Legislature and the state Senate in Georgia this year, but legislation in Florida and Michigan has been stymied so far in the courts on constitutional grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Chicago Tribune

States eye limits on indoor tans for teens
Eighteen states are considering measures banning the use of indoor tanning devices for those under 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Montgomery Advertiser

House committee set to vote on same-sex marriage ban
Eight states, most recently Washington and Maryland, have legalized same-sex unions. The laws in Washington and Maryland have yet to take effect, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Capitol Ideas with John L. Micek (blog)

Group identifies simple solution for vexing ID trouble
Some 31 states require all voters to show proof of identification before voting at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Evansville Courier & Press

CON challenge before the Mississippi Supreme Court
There's been little discussion in the Mississippi Legislature about repealing the CON law, as many states have done. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists Mississippi as among about two dozen states with some CON law. Jackson Clarion Ledger

Rules on health insurance exchanges unveiled
Thus far, only 12 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation creating some kind of state-based health insurance exchanges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Daily Herald

Oklahoma voter ID law not subject to same challenge as Texas law
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oklahoma is one of 31 states with a voter identification law. The group identifies Oklahoma as one of the 16 states that does not require a photo ID since a voter identification card from a county election board is acceptable and does not have a photo. NewsOK.com

How can localities support job growth?
The law has been overdue for reauthorization since 2003, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Governing

Pennsylvania House to vote on bill requiring ID before voting
“I think this is probably the most starkly partisan issue I’ve seen,” said Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures who specializes on election issues. Patriot-News

March 12

When states put out the unwelcome mat
Information in the multi-media graphic is attributed to NCSL, along with a link in the story. New York Times

Legislature approves random drug testing of state workers
Numerous states have adopted drug testing laws for specific employees, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. St. Augustine Record

The year's busiest day of campaign fundraising shows how Springfield really works
Illinois is one of 29 states that place restrictions on giving and receiving campaign contributions during a legislative session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Chicago Tribune

Voter identification bill passes in PA Senate, draws debate
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 32 states are debating legislation to pass new voter ID bills, or to strengthen or amend existing laws. The Daily Pennsylvanian

Issaquah senator sponsors bill to reform Medicaid
Experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures estimate the cost of Medicaid fraud accounts for 3 and 10 percent of total expenditures for the program. Washington spent $8.5 billion on Medicaid last year — and recovered less than $20 million in fraud. Issaquah Press

Now THIS is an interesting way to make a point!! What do you think?
At the same time, fewer than one in four state legislators nationwide are women — they number 23 percent in Ohio — according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. GretaWire (Greta Van Susteren's blog)

News analysis: Certificate-of-need law before court
There's been little discussion in the Mississippi Legislature about repealing the CON law, as many states have done. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists Mississippi as among about two dozen states with some CON law. Memphis Commercial Appeal

State retirement double dip debate before legislature
"It looks bad to taxpayers," said Ron Snell, a public pension expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures. "It looks bad to people on Social Security." Kennebec Journal

Will Utahns march to their party caucuses this week?
From the Salt Lake Tribune: "According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of February 2011, 21 states and the District of Columbia required public schools to teach sex education, and 35 states and the District of Columbia required students to receive information about sexually transmitted infections." Deseret News

Ballard: Retirement battle brewing
At least 41 states have made significant changes to one of their government pension plans since 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Advocate

Piercing in Iowa: There are no rules
The National Conference of State Legislatures showed in October 2011 that at least 39 states — including Iowa — have laws prohibiting tattooing of minors and 31 states have laws that prohibit both body piercing and tattooing of minors without parental permission. Des Moines Register

Shaky credit could impair job-hunting success
Seven states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington — have recently restricted the practice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and now, Colorado lawmakers are considering a similar measure. The laws generally contain exemptions for some positions, such as those responsible for handling large amounts of cash. The Desert Sun

Analysis: Men rule local politics
Women today make up 24.5 percent of the State House, beating the national average of 23.6 percent, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Concord Monitor

N.M. capital dollars ripe for misuse
"The majority of states do not take this approach," said Arturo Perez, a fiscal analyst with the Colorado-based National Conference of State Legislatures, although a few do -- Alabama, Illinois and New York among them. Santa Fe New Mexican

House approves ban on cell phones while driving
If the Senate and Gov. Pat Quinn sign off on D'Amico's bill, Illinois would become the 10th state to ban use of cell phones while driving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Carmi Times

Opinion: Race-baiting Democrats oppose voter ID
Some 31 states require all voters to show proof of identification before voting at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. News Chief

NCSL opposes federal legalization of online poker
Even as several organizations, individuals, and gambling companies across the US are pressing for federal legalization and regulation of the online poker industry, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has come up with arguments against federal legalization. The NCSL has informed Congress leaders that legalization of online poker should be left to individual states. Tight Poker

Case would let thousands of Calif. criminals vote
Felons' voting rights are being debated in statehouses across the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ventura County Star

Photo ID bill splits AG hopefuls along party lines
Pennsylvania would be the third-largest state to adopt such a law, after Texas and Florida. Fifteen other states have laws requiring or requesting photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Carlisle Sentinel

Progress energy customers on hook for $1.1B for nuclear plant that may never be built
Cheaper and faster made sense to the Legislature. It passed the advance fee 39-0 in the Senate and 119-1 in the House. Florida became the first state in the nation to pass such a law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Tampa Bay Times

Photo ID bill splits AG hopefuls along party lines
Fifteen other states have laws requiring or requesting photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Herald Times Reporter

March 9

Amanda Clayton, lottery winner, defends food stamps. Michigan disagrees
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington, states cannot change eligibility requirements, but they are responsible for determining and verifying eligibility.  States are subject to fines if their error rates continue higher than the national average.  Christian Science Monitor

Fukushima disaster halts progress of nuclear power in the US
California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia and West Virginia say they won’t lift their nuclear moratoriums until a permanent and safe solution is discovered, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Daily Caller

Ruling could impact diversity on campus
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan research and technical assistance group, Arizona, California, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Washington eliminated affirmative action admission practices.  Asbury Park Press

Strong Utah-Israel relations recognized by Utah legislators
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, recently took part in a trade mission to Israel with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Not only am I glad I did it, I’d love to do it again,” Waddoups said.  Utah Pulse

CU-Boulder phasing out PERA retirees from 2 key administrative posts
Previously, she was director of policy, planning and analysis at the Colorado School of Mines and held budget, policy and planning posts with the Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting and the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Colorado Daily

Rosen: Photo IDs are a must
According to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, there are only 31 states that require voter ID at polling places, and only 15 of those require photo ID.  Opinion in the Denver Post

Live Wire: Explain credit woes to potential employer
Over the past few years, seven states - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington - have passed laws regulating employers' use of credit reports as a screening tool for job applicants. This sort of legislation was introduced in 24 other states last year and is pending in most, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Fayetteville Observer

House approves ban on cell phones while driving
If the Senate and Gov. Pat Quinn sign off on D’Amico’s bill, Illinois would become the 10th state to ban use of cell phones while driving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Orion Gazette

Pa. would be 9th state
Republicans have been salivating over voter-ID legislation for years, and the 2010 elections gave them the power to pass bills in states, according to Jennie Bowser, senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Opinion in the Philadelphia Daily News

Case would let thousands of Calif. criminals vote
Felons' voting rights are being debated in statehouses across the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  North County Times/AP

Murdock: Race-baiting Democrats oppose voter ID
Some 31 states require all voters to show proof of identification before voting at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Opinion in the Times Herald

March 8

Billion-dollar Florida pension battle shows challenge of cutting benefits
Of 41 U.S. states that made significant pension changes in 2010 and 2011, at least 13, or almost 30 percent, have faced court challenges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  “It can be very difficult,” said Ron Snell, a senior fellow at the organization who has studied pensions. “There are many obstacles in the way of policy makers.”  Bloomberg

Virginia lawmakers drop home invasion self-defense bill for now
A number of states enacted what became known as "make my day" or "stand your ground" laws in the 1980s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Laws on self defense, property and premises vary, but most states have some form of legal protection for homeowners, according to an NCSL research paper.  Reuters

Georgia Senate OKs drug tests for welfare applicants
Two states, Michigan and Florida, have adopted similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Michigan Court of Appeals in 2003 ruled that state's law unconstitutional. Florida's law has been temporarily blocked by a federal lawsuit.  Chicago Tribune/Reuters

Al Sharpton’s latest civil rights battle, against voter ID laws
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states require all voters to show ID before voting at the polls. In 15 of these, the ID must include a photo of the voter.  The Daily Beast

Lawsuit would require California elections officials to let thousands of criminals vote
Felons’ voting rights are being debated in statehouses across the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  South Dakota lawmakers have sent the governor a bill to block voting by felons on probation or parole. However, legislators in New Jersey and New York are considering bills that would do the opposite by letting parolees and probationers vote.  Washington Post/AP

National Urban League report names voting as No. 1 issue for African Americans
Currently, 31 states require some form of ID in order to vote. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states in 2011 alone considered legislation that either created new requirements to show ID at the polls, or placed additional restrictions on what kinds of ID would be accepted.  CNN

Bill tying lawmaker pay to budget passes 1st vote
In Washington state, lawmakers can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor if they don't pass a budget 30 days before the start of a new biennium, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  CBS News

Pa. Senate passes voter ID bill
Over the last year, Republican legislators in state after state have introduced similar voter ID bills - so many that the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks legislation nationwide, has called voter ID the hottest election-related topic.  Philadelphia Inquirer

Bill will require registration by party for primary
Twenty-eight states plus Washington, D.C., ask voters their party affiliation on registration forms. That includes neighboring North Carolina and nearby Florida, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The Times and Democrat/AP

Senate passes voter ID
Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that’s due to the 2002 Help America Vote Act.  “The HAVA-approved voter ID list includes things like a utility bill, or a paycheck, or a government document,” she said.  “It’s not restricted to a short list of photo I-Ds.”  WITF Harrisburg

Boost your health while eating out
He also serves on the legislature’s revenue committee, the committee on committees, the Midwestern Higher Education Commission, the Education Commission of the States, the Nebraska EPSCor Committee and the Education Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures.  York News Times

March 7

U.S. states face ‘sleeping cancer’ in 96% unfunded retiree health benefits
Michigan was the only state that made significant changes in 2011 that will reduce its retiree health-care costs, said Ron Snell, who tracks such issues for the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonprofit organization in Denver.  Bloomberg

A year after Japan earthquake, U.S. nuclear plans stalled
Waste is currently stored on site at the country’s 104 nuclear plants, found in 31 states. But those storage facilities are meant to be temporary. Six states — California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia and West Virginia — won’t lift their nuclear moratoriums until a safe, permanent solution is found, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Governing

Bill tying lawmaker pay to budget gets 1st hearing
In Washington state, lawmakers can be charged with criminal misdemeanor if they don't pass a budget 30 days before the start of a new biennium, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That provision has not been used, NCSL said.  Denver Post

Photo ID for voting in Pa. may advance
Pennsylvania is hardly alone in considering such a move. Voter ID bills have become such a high-profile issue in the last year that the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks bills, has called them "the hottest topic" in election-related legislation.  Philadelphia Inquirer

Robert W. McKnight: George Firestone was the 'conscience' of the Senate
He was a leader in the National Conference of State Legislatures, and once admonished me, "Senator, be a professional, proud of your craft. Know the legislative process better than your colleagues, and be firm in your principles and resolve."  Tallahassee Democrat (blog)

Arizona House rejects ban of texting while driving
The National Conference of State Legislatures says 35 states had laws banning texting while driving as of December.  Arizona Republic/AP

Colorado court says students can carry guns on college campuses
Currently, 22 states ban the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses, and Utah is the only state that explicitly forbids the banning of concealed weapons at its 10 public colleges and universities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.  Today's Zaman

Story ideas for health care reform’s second anniversary
Another gold mine for story ideas is the National Conference of State Legislatures’ health care reform database; you can check out health-care related bills proposed by your state’s lawmakers and follow the trail to lobbyists and other industry interests; many in the samples I checked out were bills proposed in response to looming health care reform provisions.  Reynolds Center

March 6

Colorado court says students can carry guns on campus
Currently, 22 states ban the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses, and Utah is the only state that explicitly forbids the banning of concealed weapons at its 10 public colleges and universities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures web site.  Chicago Tribune/Reuters

Michigan voters may cancel emergency manager law to stop Detroit takeover
If the question makes the ballot, it would be the eighth state referendum before U.S. voters in November -- the most since at least 1980, said Jennie Bowser, senior fellow at the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.  Bloomberg

Arizona House rejects ban of texting while driving
The National Conference of State Legislatures says 35 states had laws banning texting while driving as of December.  Arizona Daily Sun/AP

Bill would require SC shops to open restrooms
Nationwide, 14 states passed similar laws between 2005 and 2011, though most narrow the requirement to people with medical conditions who need immediate use of restrooms, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  The State/AP

Wyoming Senate kills welfare drug testing bill
The Wyoming proposal is part of a national push to require drug testing for welfare benefits. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that almost two dozen states are considering such plans, which have been endorsed by presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.  Casper Star Tribune/AP

Cahnman: Do away with state legislators' pensions
Ten states, including California, do not provide their legislators with pension benefits, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures provided by Cahnman. The last three states to eliminate legislative pensions were California in 1990, Rhode Island in 1995 and Louisiana in 1997, according to Cahnman.  State Journal-Register

Indiana "right-to-work" foes drop bid to block law for now
Similar bills have been introduced recently in Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and West Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Chicago Tribune/Reuters

Is using credit reports to screen job applicants fair?
Seven states - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington - have recently restricted the practice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and now, Colorado lawmakers are considering a similar measure.  First Coast News

DNA bill would allow cops to swab crime 'suspects,' not just convicted criminals
About two dozen states have already expanded DNA collection to suspected felons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. All states require convicted felons to submit DNA samples.  The Republican

Out of state vendors next tax target for Hawaii lawmakers
Although the National Conference of State Legislatures undertook an effort discussed last week called the “Streamlined Sales Tax Project,” it has been fraught with disagreements and issues that still need to be resolved.  Further, the project would require legislation at the federal level to be approved by Congress to address the issue of the infringement of the “Interstate Commerce Clause.”  Opinion in the Hawaii Reporter

10 states mull online gambling legalization
The National Conference of State Legislatures released a letter on March 2 stating the organization's desire for the U.S. Congress to avoid legalizing online gambling nationwide, in order to leave the matter up to individual states.  Vending Times

March 5

States want Internet gaming left to them
The National Conference of State Legislatures is opposing federal legalization of Internet poker, telling congressional leaders in a letter that the matter should be handled on the state level.  Las Vegas Review-Journal

Georgia bill banning illegal immigrants from public colleges advances
In 2001, states started to enact laws either limiting or expanding in-state tuition rates to students in the country illegally, according to Brenda Bautsch, senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Chattanooga Times Free Press

Shopping local? Colorado lawmakers want to help
Pam Greenberg, a policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said nonprofits, businesses and cities around the country have created "buy local" apps. But she said NCSL has not tracked whether states have introduced legislation like Colorado to create such an app.  Boulder Daily Camera/AP

Proposed cuts to critical access hospitals draw criticism
The president’s budget is largely a political document, especially in an election year, Joy Wilson, health policy director at the National Conference of State Legislatures, acknowledged. But cuts to entitlement programs would be the kind of proposals most likely to gain support, she said, either this year or in years to come.  Governing

Schools strive to meet federal guidelines for food service
More than 30 percent of Wisconsin children were overweight or obese in 2007, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and local experts say that trend still holds.  Green Bay Press-Gazette

Political donors got plenty of PennDOT's federal stimulus aid
"There is a desire on the part of the public to feel that decisions are being made for the right reasons, and not because of what people are able to give to campaigns," said Natalie O'Donnell Wood, senior policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver.  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Welfare drug testing bill advances in Wyoming
The Wyoming proposal is part of a national push to require drug testing for welfare benefits. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that almost two dozen states are considering such plans, which have been endorsed by presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.  Casper Star Tribune

States look to regulate autonomous autos
Bills dealing with autonomous vehicles has been introduced this year in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii and Oklahoma, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year, Nevada became the first state to open the door to autonomous vehicles after it passed a law directing the state transportation department to establish standards for the machines.  Governing

Paralyzed kids employ Florida lobbyists with millions at stake
The caps on awards against governments are part of so- called sovereign-immunity laws and can be traced to British doctrine that the king can't be sued in his own court. Florida is one of at least 33 states with such limits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  San Francisco Chronicle/Bloomberg

State faces health exchange deadline
I shopped that question around all week with every national expert I could find, from the conservative Heritage Foundation to the liberal Families USA to the neutral National Conference of State Legislatures. No one knows for sure what happens and how, because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hasn't released its rules for compliance with the law.  Opinion in the Tulsa World

Oklahoma citizen legislators face potential conflicts
There are 10 state legislatures that are considered full-time, including those in California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, whose members spend 80 percent of more of their time working as lawmakers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Enid News and Eagle/AP

Online sessions move state toward more transparent government
All state legislatures now broadcast floor proceedings either online or on TV, according to a 2011 review by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Around half the states offer online video only from both their lower and upper chambers.  Beckley Register-Herald/AP

Texas one of 12 states in holding pattern until Supreme Court decision on “ObamaCare”
The big question is whether states that wait for the high court’s decision will be able to build an online insurance marketplace in time to meet federal deadlines.  “It’s hard to tell,” says Joy Johnson Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes.”  Texas Insider

How not to protect kids from sexual assault
As of last fall, only 15 states had complied with the 2006 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Opinion in Governing

Voter ID plan raises many practical questions
The U.S. Department of Justice found South Carolina’s Voter ID law discriminatory because minority voters there are 20 percent less likely to have a photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  MinnPost

Reduce senators' pay, spending
The National Conference of State Legislatures publishes the annual salaries of legislators from the 50 states, which average $15,984 to $68,599.  Opinion in the Pacific Daily News

Carlisle, educators agree on equalizing school funding
Sixteen states already levy such a tax, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Michigan, Montana and Vermont, the tax is levied solely to fund public education, and in Montana it also pays for its university system.  Amarillo Globe-News

Bill would keep subdivisions from barring political signs
Laws similar to Bahr's proposal are in effect in 10 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  STL Today

Marriage rights may make gay men healthier, study finds
He and his partner, together 25 years, recently married in New York, which along with five other states and the District of Columbia allow same-gender marriage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Sun-Sentinel

Metal theft legislation passes the Senate
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states have passed bills pertaining to metal theft in the last two years. The legislation has addressed everything from dealer licensing to enhancing identification requirements for scrap metal sellers.  Duluth Weekly

National Conference of State Legislatures oppose federal regulation of online poker
Hawaii State Senator Carol Fukunaga and Alabama Representative Greg Wren, on behalf of the National Conference of State Legislatures, have spoken out against the federal legalization of Internet poker, instead advocating regulation at the state level.  Poker News

Debate intensifies over animal undercover filming
Scott Hendrick, a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Iowa was the first to approve such restrictions. Florida and Minnesota considered bills last year, but they died in their legislatures, he said.  Wilkes Barre Times-Leader/AP

March 2

Arizona Senate to mull birth control
Arizona is among 26 states with laws requiring employers to cover contraception through their health insurance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. KPNX-12

Debate intensifies over animal farm undercover filming
Scott Hendrick, a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Iowa was the first to approve such restrictions. Florida and Minnesota considered bills last year, but they died in their legislatures, he said. San Mateo Daily Journal

Florida mulls outlawing Sharia, other foreign law
Forty such bills are being pursued in 24 states, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a movement backers say is a response to a glaring hole in legal protections for Americans. The Detroit News/Toronto Star

Board revisits campus gun ban
Forty-seven states either prohibit concealed weapons or allow campuses to decide whether or not to adopt bans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Register-Guard

Arizona Senate to mull birth control
Arizona is among 26 states with laws requiring employers to cover contraception through their health insurance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Arizona Republic

Opinion: Public should be heard on same-sex marriage
As a 2010 paper by the National Conference of State Legislatures notes, a number of state lawmakers around the nation are keenly aware of polling numbers on the hot-button issue: “Their vote on same-sex marriage is based largely on public opinion, and some believe that the issue should be squarely in front of voters.” Maryland Community News Online

Senate gives initial approval to vaccination bill
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all 50 states have legislation requiring specified vaccines for students. All states grant exemptions for medical reasons, and most grant religious exemptions. Vermont is one of 20 states that allow a philosophical exemption. vtdigger.org

Corbett administration puts new constraints for Capitol rallies
The approach is not uncommon. Most states regulate access to their respective Capitol buildings and grounds, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Officials in Louisiana, for instance, require advance approval for "demonstrations of any size for which the organizers request state services." Allentown Morning Call

GOP governors stall health insurance exchange plans
The big question is whether states that wait for the high court's decision will be able to build an online insurance marketplace in time to meet federal deadlines. "It's hard to tell," says Joy Johnson Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "There's a lot going on behind the scenes." Insurance News Net/Stateline

States consider drug testing welfare recipients
For many, the proposed changes in states such as Wyoming, Illinois and Maryland will mean taking extra steps before receiving aid, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Resistance is likely to be heated, and the American Civil Liberties Union has already filed a challenge in Florida. KPNX-12

Iowa Legislature approves bill targeting animal abuse videos
While many states have considered similar laws, Iowa is the first to pass it, said Scott Hendrick, a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Newton Daily News

March 1

States weigh drug testing welfare recipients
For many, the proposed changes in states such as Wyoming, Illinois and Maryland will mean taking extra steps before receiving aid, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. USA Today/Tucson Citizen

Debate intensifies over animal undercover filming
Scott Hendrick, a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Iowa was the first to approve such restrictions. Florida and Minnesota considered bills last year, but they died in their legislatures, he said. MSN Money

New Jersey bans synthetic marijuana
Synthetic marijuana has been outlawed in 39 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Philadelphia Inquirer

Branstad gets bill to deter unauthorized animal videos
While many states have considered similar laws, Iowa is the first to pass it, said Scott Hendrick, a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Florida and Minnesota considered bills last year, but they died in their Legislatures. Bills are also pending this year in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah. Omaha World-Herald

Lawyer up
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, data-breach notification laws are on the books in 46 states. Campus Technology

Heineman against term limits measure
Nebraska is one of 15 states that limit the terms of state lawmakers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lincoln Journal Star

Wyo. Senate committee mulls welfare drug testing
There is national momentum for such proposals. Wyoming is one of almost two dozen states considering a plan to test welfare recipients for drug use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Sheboygan Press

Higher education board pursues new option for campus gun ban
After the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, many states considered legislation to ease firearm regulations on college and university campuses. Last year, 18 states introduced laws to allow people to carry concealed weapons on campus, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported. Laws passed in Mississippi and in Wisconsin. AP

 

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