Stateline | January 2014

1/1/2014

STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE

1. Bringing Home the Bacon

Ohio motorists who hit and kill feral hogs, wild boars and turkeys may soon be allowed to take home the carcasses. The measure, introduced by Representative Bob Hackett (R) and approved by the House, adds the animals to the list of road kill, including deer, that motorists currently can bag in Ohio. Drafters of the legislation said that other than ribs and ham, the bill contains no pork. About 15 states have laws on road kill.

2. Longhand Lives

Penmanship isn’t included in the country’s new Common Core K-12 education standards. Computer keyboard skills are far more important than longhand, say Common Core experts. But at least seven states—California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah—that have adopted the standards disagree, and they are fighting to restore cursive instruction. Idaho Representative Linden Bateman (R) said research indicates children engage more areas of the brain when they write than when they type. He also says longhand is part of our heritage. “The Constitution of the United States is written in cursive,” he told the Associated Press. “Think about that.”

3. Co-Sleeping Dangers

A Milwaukee mother who woke up to find her baby girl had died told authorities she was intoxicated when she took the baby to bed with her, fell asleep, and apparently rolled over and crushed her. It was the 10th infant death attributed to “unsafe sleep” in Milwaukee in 2013, following a similar toll in 2012, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Representative Samantha Kerkman (R) of Wisconsin proposed legislation making it a felony to harm or kill an infant in the course of co-sleeping while intoxicated. It would also call for a public awareness campaign about co-sleeping dangers.

4. Texas Rides The Wind

wind turbinesTexas wants to become the first state with a commercial offshore wind farm. The Gulf Offshore Wind Project, five miles off the coast of South Padre Island, is scheduled to open in three years on 41,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico and generate electricity for up to 1.8 million homes. Offshore wind farms are up and running in countries such as Denmark and Japan, but the United States has been slower to accept them, in part due to concerns about aesthetics and disruption of migratory bird paths. Hydraulic fracturing, which has lowered electricity costs, has taken some of the wind out of the offshore wind industry’s sails and made funding more difficult, but advocates say offshore wind farms are the future.

5. Tattoos Removed

Human trafficking victims who were tattooed by their captors can have them removed with Crime Victims’ Compensation Act funds under an Illinois law effective Jan. 1. “One method offenders use to control their victims is to brand them with tattoos, often with the pimp’s nickname or motto,” Representative Kelly Burke (D), sponsor of the bill, told the Alton Daily News. Barcodes are also tattooed on victims’ backs to remind them they’re the pimp’s property, she said. Removing them can help victims heal, she said.

6. No Trapping Zone

Commercial trapping of bobcats on land surrounding California public parks and wildlife refuges is banned under a new law. Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D) introduced the measure following the discovery of traps set on private property along the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. A bobcat pelt brought about $78 in 2009 but brings more than $700 today, the Los Angeles Times reported. An estimated 1,813 bobcats were taken in California in 2011-2012, up about 50 percent over the previous season. Licensed trapper James Buge of Tehachapi told the Times that in cold countries such as China and Russia, the belly fur of California bobcats is prized for its color and warmth. 

7. The Longest Commute

Maryland residents spend more time commuting to work—an average of 31.9 minutes—than do residents of any other state. South Dakotans, who averaged 16.7-minute commutes in 2012, had the shortest. Nationally, the average commute has inched up to 25.7 minutes, compared to 25.4 minutes in 2008, according to 2012 American Community Survey data. The percentage of workers who drive to work alone grew from 75.5 percent in 2008 to 76.3 percent, but the percentage of home-based workers increased from 4.1 percent to 4.4 percent. 

8. New Look At Discipline

A “trauma-sensitive” schools movement in Massachusetts and Washington would change how schools deal with bad behavior. Advocates and mental health experts say many children who have been severely traumatized by alcoholic parents, homelessness or abuse, often act out, skip school or seem unmotivated because they are stressed or frightened. Punishing them simply re-traumatizes them. A bill by Senator Katherine Clark (D) of Massachusetts would create a “Safe and Supportive Schools” program to help children feel safe. “We know that children cannot effectively learn if they are feeling threatened or scared or if underlying behavioral or emotional challenges go unacknowledged or unaddressed,”  said Clark.

9. Bottom Line

Child care is pricier than college in many states, according to Child Care Aware of America. Center-based care for an infant in Kansas, for example, averages $10,518 annually, while public college costs $7,277. Nationally, the average cost of full-time infant care in a center ranges from 7 percent to 19 percent of state median income for a married couple with kids. Some families spend more on child care than on food or rent, according to the child care advocacy group. The most expensive states for an infant in a child care center were Massachusetts at $16,500, followed by: New York $13,650 Minnesota $12,900 Hawaii $12,600 Colorado $12,400

10. Pipeline Partners

Alaska may spend $9 billion to $14 billion for part ownership of a planned pipeline from the North Slope to southern Alaska. The mega-project, estimated at $45 billion to $60 billion, calls for an 800-mile liquid natural gas pipeline to be operating by 2024. The state would partner with oil companies and the TransCanada Corporation pipeline company in the venture. Two lawmakers on opposite sides of the aisle—Senator Cathy Giessel (R) and Representative Beth Kerttula (D)—expressed initial support for the plan. Kerttula said the state has been at a disadvantage in dealings on the trans-Alaska pipeline. “I want to see a real ownership interest,” she told the Anchorage Daily News.


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