Policy Milestones

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Public News Service recognizes that we are merely one part of the puzzle when it comes to affecting change, but we also know that our coverage (with your support) has had a measurable impact! The following policy milestones from across the nation, demonstrate progress and victories on issues we have covered.

If you know of a milestone that we covered but not included here, submit it to our team!

Table of Contents - By Date

To see policy milestones for a certain date, click on the date.

Archives

A p r i l

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April 2020

Civic Engagement

Governor Repeals Law That Penalized Voter Registration Drives

April 2020 - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed election law changes. The new law eliminates stringent regulations and criminal penalties on voter registration groups.

– Tennessee News Service

Reproductive Health

Lawsuit Filed Against IA Leaders Over Halt to Abortions During Crisis

April 2020 - The lawsuit forces the state to reach an agreement with advocates that allows for limited abortions during the pandemic.

– Iowa News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

California Court Approves Ban on Federal Wildlife Poisoning, Trapping

April 2020 - A federal animal-killing program must restrict its use of bird-killing poisons in Northern California and stop setting strangulation snares and other traps in places like the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The agreement, approved by a San Francisco federal court, also directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental impacts of its killing of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and other wildlife in California’s "Sacramento District." This 10-county region covers Colusa, El Dorado, Lake, Marin, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

– California News Service

Smoking Prevention

Lawmakers Pass Bill Taxing E-Cigarette, Vape Products

April 2020 - State lawmakers passed, and Governor Andy Beshear is expected to sign, a revenue bill that includes a new excise tax on e-cigarettes.

– Kentucky News Connection

Education

TN Parents Sue State Over School Voucher Law

April 2020 - A group of parents, with ACLU support, is challenging the state over a school voucher law that would allow public school funds to be used to help Tennessee families send their kids to private schools.

– Tennessee News Service

Civic Engagement

Governor Vetoes Senate Bill 2 (Voter ID Bill)

April 2020 - Governor Andy Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 2, which would have required Kentuckians to present a valid form of photo-identification at the polls.

– Kentucky News Connection

M a r c h

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March 2020

Health

Mills Administration Takes Steps to Support Personal Care Workers, Maine Seniors in Response to COVID-19

March 2020 - The Mill'sAdministration is accelerating pay increases for personal care workers and expanding access to meals for older Mainers who are home-bound because of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Starting April 1, 2020, providers will receive rate increases that will allow them to fund pay raises for approximately 20,000 personal care workers, instead of on July 1, 2020 as previously approved by the Legislature.

– Maine News Service

Senior

The Supporting Older Americans Act Signed into Law

March 2020 - The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 (H.R. 4334) increases funding for vital programs that help aging Americans live independently and with dignity. It reauthorizes the Older Americans Act (OAA), which benefits roughly 11 million older Americans who use important social services and community-based programs like Meals on Wheels. The legislation also strengthens the aging network's ability to respond to public health emergencies and emerging health threats, like COVID-19.

– All News Services

Gun Violence Prevention

ID Lawmakers Block Bill Allowing Concealed Carry on School Grounds

March 2020 - The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee voted down Senate Bill 1384, legislation that would force K-12 schools to allow employees to carry concealed, loaded handguns in the classroom and on school grounds today. "This is a major win for gun safety in Idaho," said Nicole Brown, a volunteer with the Idaho chapter of Moms Demand Action. "For the second year now, we defeated a risky bill that would jeopardize the safety of our families. And while the gun lobby attempted to pull out all the stops, we showed up at every hearing, never wavered, and kept our lawmakers accountable."

– Northern Rockies News Service

Health

Sununu Signs Medicaid to Schools Legislation

March 2020 - Gov. Chris Sununi signed a bill to ensure that funding continues for the Medicaid to Schools program for children with disabilities.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Consumer

Bill to Tame Aggressive Debt Collectors Passes WA Legislature

March 2020 - Washington lawmakers have put more regulations on debt buyers, the companies that purchase debt from creditors at a discount. House Bill 2476 will put a greater onus on companies to explain who the original debt holder is. Often, folks aren't sure who's trying to collect money from them. It also requires companies to explain the basis of the lawsuit.

– Washington News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Bill Reforming Rape Kit Handling Passes WA Legislature

March 2020 - Local law enforcement will now be responsible for all evidence collected during a sexual assault exam, even when survivors are still deciding on whether to file a police report. Standards will be set in order to preserve that evidence for years. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines.

– Washington News Service

F e b r u a r y

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February 2020

Health

Rule Change Expands Access to Dental Care

February 2020 - The North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners will now allow dental hygienists to provide preventive services such as sealants and fluoride treatments to children in low-income, high-need settings without a dentist’s prior exam.

– North Carolina News Service

J a n u a r y

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January 2020

Health

Pennsylvania Will Not Participate in Trump Administration Scheme to Cut Medicaid

January 2020 - Governor Tom Wolf and Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller announced Pennsylvania will not apply for a Medicaid block grant proposal from the Trump Administration that could lead to cuts in Medicaid enrollment or increased costs. The Trump Administration’s proposed rule would allow states to fund their Medicaid expansion through a block grant, limiting Federal funding available, which would force states to restrict the number of people who can receive coverage and limit critical services that are offered.

– Keystone State News Connection

Assembly Passes AB 890 Providing Full Practice Authority to Nurse Practitioners

January 2020 - The California Assembly overwhelmingly passed AB 890 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), which would provide full practice authority to nurse practitioners, and sends the bill to the Senate. The bill aims to address the serious shortage and continued decline of primary care physicians in the state.

– California News Service

Toxics

U.S. House Passes PFAS Action Act

January 2020 - The U.S. House passed a bill to tackle a group of toxic chemicals — known as perfluoroalkyls (or PFAS for short) — used in clothing, firefighting foam, and more. PFAS are ending up in our drinking water. In fact, more than 95% of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies. These chemicals are especially dangerous to children and have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, and many other serious health problems.

– All News Services

Health

2020 Brings Big Changes to Healthcare for Nevadans

January 2020 - Nevada will see big changes to its healthcare system Jan. 1, 2020. New legislation includes Assembly Bill 170 which prohibits companies that sell group insurance plans in the state from discriminating against people with health challenges or charge them more, and requires insurance companies to connect people to the state Office for Consumer Health Assistance, which can advocate for patients when insurance companies try to deny or delay treatment. Other new laws will reduce surprise out-of-network medical bills; require companies with more than 50 employees to offer paid sick leave; and require them to provide health insurance to workers who make the lower-tier minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

– Nevada News Service

D e c e m b e r

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December 2019

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Governor Pardons 11,000 Marijuana Convictions

December 2019 - Illinois' governor granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions, describing the step as a first wave of thousands of such expungements anticipated under the state's new marijuana legalization law. The law, which takes effect January 1, 2020, makes Illinois the 11th state to legalize marijuana for people 21 or older. Lawmakers said they hope to repair some of the damage caused by law enforcement’s efforts to combat sale and use of the drug, particularly in minority communities.

– Illinois News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Sale of Elliott State Forest Tract Is Illegal

December 2019 - The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the sale of 788 acres of forest from the Elliott State Forest was illegal. The ruling affirms an Oregon Court of Appeals' ruling from 2018, which found that selling the area known as East Hakki Ridge to a private timber company in 2014 violated state law. "The decision by the state to sell off portions off the Elliott State Forest and avoid its legal obligations to protect imperiled marbled murrelets and the forests on which they depend was fundamentally flawed from the start," said Bob Sallinger, conservation director at Portland Audubon. "Now more than ever, we need a strong forest plan for the Elliott that truly protects murrelets, spotted owls, coho salmon and other species that depend on our older forests."

– Oregon News Service

N o v e m b e r

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November 2019

Smoking Prevention

With Gov. Baker's Signature, Massachusetts Becomes First State to End the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products

November 2019 - Delivering a landmark victory for kids and public health over the tobacco industry, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a new law that makes Massachusetts the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes. The Massachusetts law is a major milestone in the fight to reverse the worsening e-cigarette epidemic and stop tobacco companies from targeting and addicting kids with flavored products.

– Commonwealth News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Sale of Elliott State Forest Tract Is Illegal

November 2019 - The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the sale of 788 acres of forest from the Elliott State Forest was illegal. The ruling affirms an Oregon Court of Appeals' ruling from 2018, which found that selling the area known as East Hakki Ridge to a private timber company in 2014 violated state law. Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon Society of Portland and the Center for Biological Diversity brought the lawsuit under an Oregon law, which states that it is illegal to sell the Elliott State Forest. State officials defended their decision to dispose of the parcel in court by saying the Oregon State Land Board should not be required to follow the law.

– Oregon News Service

Budget Policy & Priorities

Governor Charlie Baker Signs Student Opportunity Act

November 2019 - Governor Charlie Baker signed the Student Opportunity Act into law, adding $1.5 billion in annual education funding. PNS has been covering the Student Opportunity Act and past attempts to increase public education funding for years.

– Commonwealth News Service

Oceans

Fishery Council Votes No on Permitting a West Coast Pelagic Longline Fishery

November 2019 - The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted overwhelmingly not to move forward with further consideration of permitting a West Coast-based pelagic longline fishery on the high seas (beyond 200 miles from shore) at this time. Pelagic longlines are a harmful fishing method that has been prohibited off the West Coast for decades due to excessive bycatch of unintended species including marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, marlins, and sharks. The federal agency NOAA Fisheries has been extensively pressuring the Council to expand the use of pelagic longlines inside and outside the West Coast Exclusive Economic Zone, and yesterday's vote was a solid rejection by the Council of this federal proposal.

– California News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Faced With Lawsuit, B-L-M Cancels Oil And Gas Leases In NV, CO

November 2019 - The Trump administration's relentless push to expand fossil fuel production on federal lands is hitting a new snag: its own refusal to consider the climate impacts of development. The federal Bureau of Land Management's Utah office in September voluntarily suspended 130 oil and gas leases in Nevada and Colorado after advocacy groups sued, arguing that BLM hadn't adequately assessed the greenhouse gas emissions associated with drilling and extraction on those leases as required by law. The move was unusual because BLM suspended the leases on its own, without waiting for a court to rule.

– Nevada News Service

Social Justice

As Bias Crimes Surge, Maryland to Strengthen Holocaust Education

November 2019 - Just days before the anniversary of last year's Pittsburgh synagogue shootings, Maryland's education department announced that it will be expanding Holocaust instruction in its schools. Religious leaders troubled by a recent survey that found a large knowledge gap on the Holocaust joined with lawmakers to push for the change.

– Maryland News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

State Supreme Court Hands Victory To Union In Community College Case

November 2019 - A victory in court for workers at Antelope Valley Community College could have major statewide implications. Workers challenged a district decision to change their work schedules without having them vote on it as outlined in their contract. The Public Employment Relations Board ruled against the district - and this week, the State Supreme Court let that decision stand.

– California News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

B-L-M Removes Land from Oil Lease Auction To Protect Sage Grouse

November 2019 - The Bureau of Land Management has pulled 332,247 acres in eastern Nevada from the November 12th lease auction in response to a court order blocking Trump administration plans that gutted protections for greater sage-grouse. Despite minimal industry interest in drilling, the Trump administration has fueled a speculative frenzy by leasing hundreds of thousands of acres of sensitive public in Nevada, including high-priority habitats for the imperiled sage-grouse. Federal oil and gas leases are frequently offered at a minimum bid of $2 an acre. Among the areas taken off the auction block are lands[1] at the head of the Ruby Valley and the neighboring Maverick Mountains, in the Egan Range and neighboring Steptoe Valley, in the headwaters of Spring Valley, and in Jakes Valley. These lands are the traditional homeland of the Shoshone and Paiute peoples.

– Nevada News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Puget Sound Proposes Aggressive Fuel Standard to Reduce Emissions

November 2019 - The Puget Sound region is striking out on its own with a bold proposal for a clean fuel standard. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has drafted a rule that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by 26-percent by 2030 in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Transportation accounts for more than 40-percent of the state's carbon emissions.

– Washington News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

New Fisher Agreements Boost Conservation On 2 Million Acres In Oregon

November 2019 - Federal wildlife officials have entered into agreements with five timber companies and the state of Oregon to protect the rare Pacific fisher on nearly 2 million acres of forestland in Oregon. Green Diamond, Weyerhaeuser, Roseburg, Lone Rock and Hancock have signed conservation agreements with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the past few months. Once widely found in the Pacific Northwest, their numbers crashed because of trapping, the use of rodenticides and destruction of their habitat through logging and other development that removed forestlands.

– Oregon News Service

O c t o b e r

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October 2019

Health

CA Insurance Commissioner Rejects Health System Merger

October 2019 - California's Department of Justice denied the request for a merger between Adventist Health System/West and St. Joseph Health System. In the letter provided by the DOJ, the Department states the decision was based on the merger "having the potential for increased health costs and concerns over access and availability of health care services." These specific concerns were raised earlier this year by Health Access and other health care advocates through a letter to the department as well as at public hearings regarding the merger. Consumer advocates asked the DOJ to either require substantial undertakings with any approval, or reject it outright.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Avista Announces Settlement in ID Rate Case

October 2019 - Avista Utilities, which serves 133,000 customers in Idaho, has reached a settlement with stakeholders in a rate case that could reduce electric service rates for Idaho customers. The Idaho Conservation League was involved in the rate case negotiations, and voiced support for the settlement. As part of the settlement, Avista is funding a new $1.6 million program for energy savings projects in North Idaho.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

NC Closes Sexual Assault Legal Loophole

October 2019 - North Carolina legislators unanimously voted in late October to close a legal loophole that made it difficult to prosecute sexual assault cases. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign the bill.

– North Carolina News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Kirtland's Warbler Comes Off Endangered List

October 2019 - After an intensive, decades-long effort, Kirtland's Warbler is now an Endangered Species Act (ESA) success story. One of the first species added to the ESA, this range-restricted warbler nearly went extinct in the 1970s, when its population consisted of fewer than 200 males. Today, there are more than 2,300 breeding pairs.

– Michigan News Connection

Energy Policy

Contracts for Nearly 1,700 Megawatts of Wind Offshore Wind Power Finalized

October 2019 - The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has finalized contracts with Equinor Wind US LLC for its 816 megawatt Empire Wind Project and Sunrise Wind LLC for its 880 megawatt Sunrise Wind Project to deliver clean, affordable renewable energy to New Yorkers. As the largest procurement for offshore wind in the nation's history, this announcement advances New York's nation-leading Green New Deal goal to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035 and position the state as the regional hub of this rapidly growing industry in the United States.

– New York News Connection

Reproductive Health

Court Keeps ACA's Access To Free Birth Control In Place

October 2019 - The Trump Administration has lost its second attempt to strip access to cost-free birth control coverage protected under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, once again sided with California in State of California, et al. v. Alex Azar, II, et al., protecting the injunction currently in place. Today's ruling means that 62 million women across the country will continue to benefit from reproductive health services

– All News Services

Criminal Justice

Judge Rules Florida Can't Block Felons From Voting Due to Unpaid Fines

October 2019 - The right to vote for 1.4 million ex-felons in Florida got a boost when a federal judge ruled that the state can't prevent felons from voting, even if they can't afford to pay court-ordered fines and fees. The ruling applied to plaintiffs who sue but will force legislature to review the law.

– Florida News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

New York Opposes Proposed Rule Change That Would Undermine Civil Rights Protections and Fuel Housing Discrimination

October 2019 - Nine state agencies have announced their opposition to the federal government's attempt to dismantle critical housing protections for vulnerable and marginalized communities. The proposed rule change from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, if enacted, would fundamentally alter the Fair Housing Act's disparate impact standard and would have devastating consequences for victims of housing discrimination. Nine state agencies have submitted public comments in opposition to the proposed rule change, reaffirming New York's commitment to fair housing and protecting all New Yorkers from discrimination.

– New York News Connection

Health

Legislation Protecting Patients from Excessive Hospital Emergency Room Charges Becomes Law

October 2019 - Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (S.3171/A.264B) protecting patients from excessive out-of-network hospital emergency charges, including hospital inpatient services that follow an emergency room visit. The new law requires health insurance companies to ensure that when enrollees receive care from a non-participating provider, the patient will not incur greater out-of-pocket costs than they would have incurred from a participating provider. The bill also requires that hospital charges for emergency services are subject to an independent dispute resolution process that was established by New York's Surprise Medical Bill law, originally enacted in 2014, which was the first of its kind in the nation to comprehensively protect consumers from surprise bills for out-of-network costs. The law goes into effect immediately.

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Trump Administration Loses Attempt to Roll Back Sage-Grouse Habitat Protections

October 2019 - A federal judge blocked the Trump administration?s attempt to roll back sage-grouse habitat protections for special interests, which would have further opened the West to oil and gas leases

– Colorado News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Wyoming Salaries Have Increased 15% In 10 Years

October 2019 - A new study by Comparisun uncovered that in Wyoming, the average salary has risen from $41,487 to $48,059, a growth of 15% over the last 10 years.

– Wyoming News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Court Blocks Trump Administration Plans to Strip Sage-grouse Protections

October 2019 - A federal judge blocked Trump administration plans allowing expanded drilling, mining, livestock grazing and other destructive activities across 51 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat in seven western states: Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California and Oregon. Conservation groups requested the injunction in April, saying the plans approved by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt would gut protections for the birds' dwindling populations and destroy their habitat.

– California News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Governor Signs Slew Of Bills To Increase Housing Stock

October 2019 - Governor Gavin Newsom has signed multiple bills to address the housing crisis, in addition to providing $2.7 billion in the budget. Those include SB 329, which says landlords can no longer discriminate against people based on how they pay rent. AB 761 (Nazarian) will make state armories for homeless shelters available during the most dangerous hot times in summer. AB 1197 (Santiago) creates a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and navigation centers in Los Angeles. AB 1255 (R. Rivas and Ting) creates a surplus land database. AB 1482 (Chiu), a major victory for millions of renters trying to stay afloat, will make rent gouging and no-cause eviction illegal across the state. AB 1486 (Ting), the Public Lands for Public Good bill, will strengthen the state's surplus land act to transform unused public land into affordable housing. AB 1763 (Chiu) provides a density bonus to affordable housing developers when they build 100% affordable developments. Also, AB 1783 (Robert Rivas) Agricultural Employee Housing Development and SB 6 (Beall) Residential Development: Available Land.

– California News Service

Senior

Governor Signs Bill To Plan For Age-Friendly Future

October 2019 - By 2030, California's over-65 population will grow by four-million and a bill Governor Gavin Newsom signed should help the state plan for this demographic shift. Assembly Bill 1118, from Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, instructs the state to sign onto A-A-R-P's Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Introduced

October 2019 - Senate Bill 350, introduced by Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, and Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, would allow people to grow up to ten marijuana plants for personal use, get home deliveries from dispensaries, and help communities most affected by decades of prohibition reap the economic benefits of legalization. The bill includes and automatic expungement provision that would allow people with past marijuana-related convictions to apply to have those records permanently deleted.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health

Governor Newsom Signs Bill To Restrict Dialysis Insurance Schemes

October 2019 - Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 290, which reduces the financial incentive for treatment providers to lure people to California by promising "free" insurance coverage. Primarily directed at kidney dialysis schemes, the proposal also reins in addiction treatment centers that lure patients from other states, sign them up for private health insurance policies and pay those premiums. That allowed the centers to bill insurers what was often hundreds of thousands of dollars, while paying a fraction of that in premiums. In signing, Newsom wrote that real charities will continue to help people who need help.

– California News Service

Immigrant

Judge Blocks Trump Administration's Changes to Public Charge Rules

October 2019 - A federal judge has put President Donald Trump's changes to the public charge rules on hold while litigation proceeds. Those rules would have made it harder for people to get a green card or visa if they use programs such as Medi-Cal, Cal Fresh or housing vouchers. Even if the Trump administration eventually prevails and gets a judge to greenlight the new rules - they wouldn't go into effect until all appeals are exhausted- and even then immigration officials could only consider benefits used after the rule takes effect. It would not be retroactive.

– All News Services

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Connecticut Achieves Milestone in Rape-Kit Testing Reform

October 2019 - Connecticut's reforms have significantly educed the state's backlog of untested rape kits and will ensure the prompt processing of kits going forward. In 2015 Connecticut had a backlog of more than 1,100 untested rape kits. By 2017, all untested rape kits in the state had been transferred for testing, and Connecticut now has electronic tracking of kits as well as policies to keep survivors informed of testing status. Now Connecticut is one of three states recognized in October for adopting six reforms recommended for ending the nationwide problem of rape kits that often go unprocessed for years. In 2016, the Joyful Heart Foundation launched a campaign to get all states to adopt its recommended reforms. With the addition of Connecticut, Oregon and Utah this year , the total number of states that have adopted all six rape-kit reforms now stands at 12.

– Connecticut News Service

Rural/Farming

California Ends Sale of Toxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

October 2019 - Farmworkers' groups are celebrating the end of at least a decade-long battle to ban a toxic pesticide in California after the state Environmental Protection Agency announced a new deal with manufacturers of chlorpyrifos. The pesticide no longer will be sold to growers in California after Feb. 6. Nayamin Martinez, director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said studies have linked chlorpyrifos to serious health effects in kids.

– California News Service

Oceans

Feds Designate New Whale Habitat in Pacific

October 2019 - The federal government proposed a new rule today to designate 302,961 square nautical miles in the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat for three populations of endangered humpback whales. The move could help protect migrating whales from ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and oil spills. The announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service follows a court-approved agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Wishtoyo Foundation to issue new protections. The groups had sued the Trump administration for failing to protect two Pacific Ocean humpback populations listed as endangered and a third as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

– All News Services

Housing/Homelessness

Illinois Gets $1.2 Million to Boost Affordable Housing

October 2019 - HUD has awarded $1,200,141 to Housing Action Illinois to distribute funds to local nonprofits whose housing counseling programs help families rent or buy safe, affordable homes and prevent foreclosures. Each HUD-approved agency will receive between $18,000 and $50,000 for FY2019.

– Illinois News Connection

Smoking Prevention

More than 90% of KY Schools are Now Tobacco-Free

October 2019 - As of October 91% of KY schools are now tobacco-free, in compliance with a recent law mandating that all school campuses go tobacco-free.

– Kentucky News Connection

Consumer

Governor Signs Bill to Curb Pay for Delay Deals

October 2019 - Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 824, which will provide the tools the Attorney General needs to prevent brand name and generic pharmaceutical companies from pocketing billions in profits by using a "pay-for-delay" practice. Pay-for-delay refers to a system in which a brand name drug manufacturer enters into a contract with a generic drug manufacturer which, in turn, agrees to delay marketing a generic version of its drug in exchange for something of value, often a monetary payment. Some brand name drug manufacturers have adopted this approach in order to stifle competition and keep drug prices higher for a longer period of time. It was introduced by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) and sponsored by Attorney General Xavier Becerra,

– California News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

Governor DeWine Unveils STRONG Ohio Bill

October 2019 - Ohio Governor Mike DeWine unveiled a series of legislative proposals to better protect Ohio citizens and law enforcement officers from those with a propensity toward violence and to provide help to individuals who are a danger to themselves or others. The STRONG Ohio bill aims to preserve constitutional rights, expand treatment options, and prevent violence.

– Ohio News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

PacifiCorp Plans Coal Units' Retirement, Investments in WY Renewables

October 2019 - PacifiCorp's plan to retire coal-fired power plants is not as sweeping as first announced, or many hoped, but units at Naughton, Dave Johnston and Jim Bridger - the largest plant in the company's fleet - all will close earlier than once anticipated.

– Wyoming News Service

Civic Engagement

Federal Court Blocks TN Law Restricting Voter Registration

October 2019 - A federal district court judge has temporarily blocked a Tennessee law that would make it more challenging for civic groups to organize voter registration drives. The law was slated to go into effect on October 1st.

– Tennessee News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Caribou To Get Federal Protection In Idaho And Washington

October 2019 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the designations of the southern mountain population of woodland caribou as endangered and confirmed 47 square miles in Idaho and Washington as critical habitat requiring special protection. The decision came after environmentalist groups sued to seek the critical habitat designation that requires federal agencies to consult with Fish and Wildlife before approving activities like logging or road building.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Executive Order Takes on Climate Change, Carbon Emissions

October 2019 - With an executive order, Governor Tom Wolf instructed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based collaboration among nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change while generating economic growth. Participating states have agreed, either through regulation or legislation, to implement RGGI through a regional cap-and-trade program involving CO2 emitting electric power plants. These states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) set a cap on total CO2 emissions from electric power generators in their states.

– Keystone State News Connection

Animal Welfare

Washington Governor Looking For Changes In Wolf Management

October 2019 - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is asking state wildlife officials to "significantly reduce" the killing of wolves involved in livestock conflicts. Right now, the state can lethally remove wolves after they've repeatedly killed livestock. The department says this is an attempt to change pack behavior. They must confirm at least three wolf depredations from the pack on livestock within 30 days or four within 10 months.

– Washington News Service

Education

Massachusetts Senate Passes $1.5 billion Education Funding Bill

October 2019 - The Massachusetts Senate passed a major overhaul of the education funding formula, which would require the state to spend another $1.5 billion annually on public education by the time it is fully implemented. The bill, dubbed the Student Opportunity Act, is the most significant update to the funding formula since it was established in 1993. PNS has been covering this bill and similar efforts for the past several years.

– Commonwealth News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Federal Court Green-lights Philly "Safe Consumption" Site

October 2019 - A federal court ruling in favor of a Philadelphia "safe consumption" site is being hailed as a major victory in the fight against the opioid overdose epidemic. There are currently dozens of safe consumption sites in several other countries, but none in the United States.

– Keystone State News Connection

Consumer

New Law on Traffic Accidents Goes Into Effect

October 2019 - People injured in car crashes now have some additional rights in Nevada under a new state law, and legal groups want the public to know about them. Senate Bill 435 took effect requires the insurance company for the person at fault in a crash to disclose the maximum the policy will pay. Previously, plaintiffs would take a case all the way to trial only to find out that the defendant's policy is worth very little. Insurance companies who oppose the law argued that once personal-injury attorneys know the limit of a more generous policy, they might be more likely to ask for that amount during negotiations.

– Nevada News Service

Smoking Prevention

Age to Buy Tobacco Rises to 21

October 2019 - Public Law 19-13, raising the age to purchase tobacco products, went into effect on October 1st. The bill passed in the Senate at the end of May and was signed by Governor Lamont in June. Nearly nine out of ten smokers start by the time they turn 18. The legislation will help reduce levels of nicotine dependence and over time, decrease the number of tobacco related deaths across the state. Seventeen other states have raised the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.

– Connecticut News Service

S e p t e m b e r

2 0 1 9

September 2019

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Boise City Council Passes Anti-White Supremacy Resolution

September 2019 - In Idaho's capital, Boise city council members unanimously approved a resolution rejecting the ideology of White supremacy, saying it will not be tolerated. The crowd at Boise City Hall gave council members a standing ovation when they adopted the resolution, which also calls for city staff to be trained on recognizing and confronting systemic discrimination.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

Judge Allows Class Action Suit On Bump Stocks

September 2019 - Two years after the deadly mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a Nevada judge has decided to allow a class-action suit on behalf of the victim to move forward, according to news release from BRADY: United Against Gun Violence. The suit claims the gun dealer unlawfully marketed and sold bump stocks to the gunman, Stephen Paddock, before he used them in the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. On Thursday, the District Court of Nevada permitted victims of the Route 91 mass shooting, also known as 1 October, to proceed with their negligence claim against Slide Fire Solutions, LP, the company that marketed and sold the bump stock devices to the Paddock.

– Nevada News Service

Consumer

Governor Signs Bill to Bring Public Banking to CA

September 2019 - California may have a new type of bank by next year - the result of a bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom that sets up rules for the creation of public banks. The new financial institutions would be owned by and would primarily serve public agencies - and unlike private banks, they'll be required to put the public good over profits.

– California News Service

Water

Yampa River Gets Boost for Priority Water Projects

September 2019 - Stakeholders along the Yampa River Valley are celebrating the launch of the Yampa River Fund, a collaborative community-based initiative dedicated to identifying and funding activities that protect water supplies, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

– Colorado News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

PA Joining Suit for Tough Auto-Emission Standards

September 2019 - Pennsylvania has joined more than 20 other states in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's revocation of California's right to set tougher auto-emission standards. California has been setting higher vehicle emissions standards since the 1970s. Thirteen other states, including Pennsylvania, follow California's lead. The American Lung Association gives a dozen counties in the Keystone State a failing grade for the number of high ozone days putting children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems at risk.

– Keystone State News Connection

Oceans

South Atlantic Fishery Council Requires Catch-and-Release Devices

September 2019 - The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to require that boats fishing for snapper and grouper carry what are called descending devices, tools that prevent fish from dying during catch-and-release.

– North Carolina News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Governor Signs Bill to Give Many Gig Workers Employee Status

September 2019 - California businesses will be limited in their use of independent contractors under a closely watched proposal signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a decision that is unlikely to quell a growing debate over the rules and nature of work in the 21st century economy. Legislators gave final approval to the sweeping employment rules in Assembly Bill 5 before adjourning for the year. The new law "will help reduce worker misclassification - workers being wrongly classified as independent contractors rather than employees, which erodes basic worker protections like the minimum wage, paid sick days and health insurance benefits," Newsom wrote in a signing message released by his office.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

PA Legislators Call for Strong Methane Rules

September 2019 - State senators and representatives from both major parties joined environmental groups in Harrisburg urging Gov. Tom Wolf to move immediately on new rules to cut methane emissions in the Commonwealth. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency wants to roll back regulations on emissions from the oil and gas industry. The state Department of Environmental Protection has proposed new rules to cut emissions from existing oil and gas facilities. A recent analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund found that the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania is emitting 520,000 tons of methane every year. Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, accounts for 25% of current global warming.

– Keystone State News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Safer Fishing Gear to Replace West Coast Drift Gillnets

September 2019 - Dolphins, whales, sharks and sea lions on the West Coast may be less likely to die in fishing nets now that authorities have approved a new type of fishing gear. The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to approve deep-set buoy gear, to replace the huge drift gillnets made of mesh that are used by commercial fishing operations to catch swordfish.

– California News Service

Safer Fishing Gear to Replace West Coast Drift Gillnets

September 2019 - Dolphins, whales, sharks and sea lions on the West Coast may be less likely to die in fishing nets now that authorities have approved a new type of fishing gear. The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to approve deep-set buoy gear, to replace the huge drift gillnets made of mesh that are used by commercial fishing operations to catch swordfish.

– Oregon News Service

Safer Fishing Gear to Replace West Coast Drift Gillnets

September 2019 - Dolphins, whales, sharks and sea lions on the West Coast may be less likely to die in fishing nets now that authorities have approved a new type of fishing gear. The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to approve deep-set buoy gear, to replace the huge drift gillnets made of mesh that are used by commercial fishing.

– Washington News Service

Environment

NY to Launch Program to Restore Wetlands, Restock Fish and Oysters

September 2019 - Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he will outline an aggressive initiative to restock and restore aquatic habitats throughout New York n his 2020 State of the State Address. He plans to protect and restore wetlands and waterways and include significant investments in New York's 12 fish hatcheries to increase the state's populations of freshwater sportfish such as walleye, trout, and salmon and restore oysters in New York Harbor over the next decade and double the current shellfish restoration initiative on Long Island. Restoring the state's aquatic habitats will also help communities increase their resiliency in the face of climate change and severe weather. To support Hudson River Park's Estuarine Sanctuary Management Plan and the state's extensive shellfish restoration initiative, the Governor also announced $2.8 million in funding to restore marine habitat in New York Harbor and support state efforts for it to continue to thrive and to expand the Soundview Park oyster reef in the Bronx River. The announcement includes $1.5 million in capital funding to help create approximately four acres of enhanced habitat for 5 to 10 million oysters in the Hudson River Park's Estuarine Sanctuary.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

CA Lawmakers Approve Election Day Voter Registration

September 2019 - California Legislature approves SB 72, to allow all eligible Californians to register to vote and cast a ballot at polling sites on Election Day. Championed by legislation by State Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana), SB 72 now heads to Governor Newsom. If signed by the governor, Election Day registration would be available at all polling sites in California in 2020, making California the 12th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow Election Day registration.

– California News Service

North Carolina's Gerrymandered Maps Ruled Unconstitutional by NC Court

September 2019 - Judges have struck down North Carolina's legislative districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. According to the ruling, lawmakers will have correct the maps.

– North Carolina News Service

Immigrant

Governor Roy Cooper Vetoes Requiring State Police to Cooperate with ICA

September 2019 - Governor Cooper vetoes HB 370, a bill that would have required North Carolina police departments to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

– North Carolina News Service

Rural/Farming

Hemp Business Thriving in Connecticut

September 2019 - The State of Connecticut has licensed 82 hemp growers, 2 processors, and 21 manufacturers under a new pilot program he signed into law this spring allowing for the cultivation, harvesting, processing, and manufacturing of hemp plants and by-products in the state. In total, there are currently 294 acres of land being used to grow hemp in Connecticut. Public Act 19-3, was approved in both chambers of the General Assembly by unanimous, bipartisan votes and quickly signed into law by Governor Lamont on May 9 with the intent of enacting the program in time for the fast approaching hemp-growing season.

– Connecticut News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

California Bans Fur Trapping

September 2019 - California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bill that makes it illegal to trap animals or sell their fur, making California the first state in the U.S. to impose a fur trapping ban. The Wildlife Protection Act of 2019 puts an end to a longstanding practice that was entwined with California's frontier roots but that has steadily declined in recent decades with the rise of conservationism.

– California News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Domestic Violence Survivors Have More Time to Sue for Injuries

September 2019 - Legislation to increase the statute of limitations for civil suits related to injury caused by domestic violence to two years has been signed into law. Under current law, civil suits for domestic violence must be initiated within one year after the incident and the law fails to take into consideration the highly emotional and extremely difficult factors involved in domestic violence situations that often prevent survivors from making the decision to initiate a civil suit. The new law recognizes the sensitive nature of domestic violence and affords victims two years to initiate a civil suit against their abuser. The bill takes effect immediately.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Executive Order Strengthens Connecticut's Efforts to Mitigate Climate Change

September 2019 - Governor Ned Lamont today signs an executive order strengthening Connecticut's ongoing efforts to combat the effects of climate change and ensure that the state's communities are as resilient as possible to rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms. The order expands the responsibilities of the Governor's Council on Climate Change, increases membership of the council, and directs the DEEP to evaluate ways to transition to a 100 percent clean energy grid by 2040.

– Connecticut News Service

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August 2019

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Fatal Drug Overdoses Decline in Ohio

August 2019 - Ohio could be turning the corner on the decade-old drug epidemic. New data reveals fatal drug overdoses decreased more than 22 percent in Ohio in 2018, the first drop since 2009. County coroners reported 3,764 accidental drug deaths in 2018, 1,090 fewer than the previous year's record high of 4,854, according to preliminary data on unintentional drug deaths reported to the Ohio Department of Health.

– Ohio News Connection

Immigrant

New Protections for Immigrants

August 2019 - A new law in Illinois is meant to protect undocumented immigrants from being harassed, retaliated against or extorted by their landlords because of their immigration status. According to the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, landlords are not allowed to disclose or threaten to disclose a tenant's citizenship status for the purpose of intimidating or retaliating against the tenant.

– Illinois News Connection

Gun Violence Prevention

Ohio Governor Announces Gun Law Reforms

August 2019 - Governor Mike DeWine unveiled several proposals aimed at curbing gun deaths. Among them: a "red flag" law, background checks for most firearm purchases, more access to mental health treatment and harsher penalties for felons with guns and straw purchases. DeWine says the plans will enhance the state and federal background check systems to better protect law enforcement and the public.

– Ohio News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Illinois Teachers Getting a Raise

August 2019 - llinois is raising the bar for teacher pay: By the first day of school in 2023, teachers will make at least $40,000 following a bill signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The current minimum teacher salary ranges from only $9,000 to $11,000, depending on the individual teacher's level of education.

– Illinois News Connection

Smoking Prevention

Cheyenne City Council Adds E-cigarettes to Local Smoke-free Ordinance

August 2019 - The Cheyenne City Council voted to add e-cigarettes to the city's smoke-free law, though they declined to close loopholes and exemptions in the ordinance that continue to allow smoking in some establishments.

– Wyoming News Service

Criminal Justice

Marijuana Decriminalization Law Goes into Effect

August 2019 - Legislation providing individuals a path to have their records expunged has gone into effect. It applies to those who have been unjustly impacted based on their race or ethnicity, reducing the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana to a fine, giving many New Yorkers the opportunity to live better and more productive, successful and healthier lives.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Federal Judge Upholds 2015 EPA Smog Standards

August 2019 - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) issued a ruling upholding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's revised air quality standards for ozone - more commonly known as smog - against challenges from corporate interests and other states. The standards, set in 2015, strengthened previous ozone standards that EPA had determined did not adequately protect human health or the environment. A coalition of seven states and state air agencies and the District of Columbia stepped up to defend the rule alongside the EPA in Murray Energy Corporation v. EPA.

– All News Services

Environment

State Suing EPA Over Hudson PCBs

August 2019 - Advocates are calling the state of New York's lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency a "move toward environmental justice." The newly filed lawsuit says the EPA broke the law by issuing General Electric Company a certificate of completion for its removal of PCBs from the Hudson River. The EPA issued the certificate in April, saying the cleanup was complete, but PCB levels in Hudson River fish remain three times higher than the target level set in 2002. The EPA's own evaluation found the cleanup left about 13 more tons of PCBs in the upper river than anticipated. PCBs, which GE dumped in the Hudson years ago, are linked to cancer in humans. Thousands of New Yorkers, especially in low-income, immigrant and minority communities, supplement their diets with fish caught in the Hudson.

– New York News Connection

Education

Gov. Wolf Proposes PA Charter-School Reforms

August 2019 - Governor Tom Wolf has announced his plans to improve the financial accountability and academic performance of charters. Many charter schools have failed to live up to their promise of improved services for students who may need more help to succeed. The governor is directing the Department of Education to develop regulations targeting academic accountability and enrollment, and says he'll propose funding-reform legislation in the fall. Gov. Wolf says over the past ten years, the student population of charter schools has increased by 95%, but the tax dollars spent on them have increased 135%. Past legislative attempts to fix the charter-school funding system haven't passed, and the governor's proposals are likely to face stiff opposition from the charter lobby.

– Keystone State News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Bigger Tax Break for NYC Green Roofs

August 2019 - Some building owners in New York City now have added incentive to create a green space on their roof. A green-roof tax abatement has been available in the city for several years, but few owners have taken advantage of it. In an effort to change that, a new state law tripled the tax break from $5 to $15 per square foot in community districts where sewers overflow during rainstorms and that lack green spaces. It also extends the existing tax abatement through July 2024.

– New York News Connection

Health

Coloradans Will Save Money on Health Care Thanks To Federal Approval of State's Reinsurance Program

August 2019 - With new federal approval, a bipartisan state program will lead to large premium decreases for Colorado individuals and families. During the rest of the summer, the DOI will continue to review the plans and premiums for 2020 for the individual health insurance market that were submitted by the insurance companies. The final approved plans and premiums will be made available in late September or early October.

– Colorado News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Colorado Adopts New Zero-emission Vehicle Standard

August 2019 - The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission voted 8-1 to adopt a new standard for zero-emission vehicles in the state as Colorado pushes to try to improve poor ozone pollution conditions across the state. Colorado becomes the 10th state to adopt a ZEV standard.

– Colorado News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

New Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

August 2019 - Three pieces of legislation expanding protections for victims of domestic violence have been signed into law. The measures broaden the definition of the crime of domestic violence to include forms of economic abuse such as identity theft, grand larceny and coercion (S.2625/ A.5608); give victims the choice to vote by mail-in ballot, even if they remain within the county where they are registered to vote (S.3232-A/A.219); and allow victims to report abuse to any law enforcement agency in New York State, regardless of where the violence originally took place (S.1243/A.4467A).

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

USFWS Reinstates Protections For Grizzly Bears Near Yellowstone

August 2019 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears living near Yellowstone National Park. In the lower 48 there are six isolated regions of grizzly habitat, but the biggest population of bears live in Wyoming. That's why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service removed protections for those roughly 700 bears last year. A judge ruled against that decision saying it was based on bad science and that the federal government has to look at the bear population in the lower 48 as a whole and not just consider isolated pockets.

– All News Services

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

Gov. Brown Signs Bill Requiring Ads to Disclose Funders

August 2019 - Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2716, which will take effect immediately. It requires advertisements supporting or opposing a candidate to disclose who funded them. In the case of ads funded by non-candidate political action committees, the bill also requires the disclosure of the top five donors who've contributed at least $10,000 to those groups.

– Oregon News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Oregon Governor Signs Bill To Keep Guns From Stalkers, Abusers

August 2019 - Oregon will close a loophole in state law that allowed domestic abusers to illegally hold on to their firearms. Gov. Kate Brown signed a measure that threatens further penalties to domestic abusers who refuse to turn over their firearms following a court order. It strengthens a 2015 law meant to keep guns from those with convictions for domestic violence or stalking. Legislators had heard complaints that abusers were still holding onto their weapons by skipping court hearings.

– Oregon News Service

Juvenile Justice

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Signs Major Juvenile Sentencing Reform Bill

August 2019 - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation to alter sentencing requirements for young offenders, which advocates are calling the most significant reform to hit the state's juvenile justice system in a quarter-century. The law reverses tough-on-crime sentencing rules adopted in 1994. It means a judge will be able to decide if a juvenile 15 years of age and older should be tried as an adult for serious crimes like murder and kidnapping. Young offenders will also be eligible for a parole hearing after serving half their sentence.

– Oregon News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Colorado's Conversion Therapy Ban Goes Into Effect

August 2019 - HB19-1129 bans a state-licensed medical or mental health care provider from engaging in the discredited, harmful practice of conversion therapy on a patient under eighteen years of age in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

– Colorado News Connection

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July 2019

Youth

New Law Gives PA Foster Kids a College Boost

July 2019 - A new law gives young people in Pennsylvania's foster-care system a real chance to get a college education. Kids in foster care face obstacles to college that other students may not, especially as they age out of the system and begin living independently. Now, under the Fostering Independence Through Education Act, those with a high school diploma or GED can get a waiver on tuition and fees at any public or private college or university in the state. The waivers are available to students who were in foster care at age 16 or older and can be used for five years, up to age 26. The program will go into effect in the 2020 fall semester.

– Keystone State News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

CA and Automakers Sign Agreement To Lower Emissions

July 2019 - As the Trump administration prepares to roll back emission standards for light-duty cars and trucks, a consortium of automakers and California have agreed on a voluntary framework to reduce emissions that can serve as an alternative path forward for clean vehicle standards nationwide. Automakers who agreed to the framework are Ford, Honda, BMW of North America and Volkswagen Group of America.The framework supports continued annual reductions of vehicle greenhouse gas emissions through the 2026 model year, encourages innovation to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and provides industry the certainty needed to make investments and create jobs. This important commitment means that the auto companies party to the voluntary agreement will only sell cars in the United States that meet these standards.

– California News Service

Water

Governor Signs Bill to Fund Drinking Water Improvements

July 2019 - Governor Gavin Newsom signs Senate Bill (SB) 200 establishing a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to close the funding gap and address a crisis that affects more than one million people in communities across the state. The fund will provide $130 million annually to enable the State Water Board to provide critical, ongoing operations and maintenance support for small community water systems that are unable to meet safe drinking water standards. Until now, no such funding source existed.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Governor Signs Nation's Largest Offshore Wind Agreement

July 2019 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by former Vice President Al Gore, has signed the nation's largest offshore wind agreement and the single largest renewable energy procurement by any state in U.S. history - nearly 1,700 megawatts -with the selection of two offshore wind projects, that Cuomo says will create enough energy to power over 1 million homes, create more than 1,600 jobs, and result in $3.2 billion in economic activity. He also signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA, which adopts the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country. The announcement underscores New York's position as a global leader in climate and clean energy, and advances Governor Cuomo's nation-leading mandate of 9,000 megawatts by 2035. Additionally, the offshore wind announcement is expected to catalyze the first generation of major United States supply chain investments by the fast-growing offshore wind sector, positioning New York to be the hub of the nation's offshore wind industry.

– New York News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Farm Workers Bill Becomes Law

July 2019 - The Farm Workers Bill establishes the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act to protect farm worker rights and ensure equitable housing and working conditions. The bill grants farm workers overtime pay, a day of rest each week, disability and Paid Family Leave coverage, unemployment benefits and other labor protections. It will take effect on January 1, 2020.

– New York News Connection

Smoking Prevention

Ohio Raises the Age for Tobacco Sales

July 2019 - Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a new law that will raise the legal age to buy cigarettes, vape pens and other tobacco products from 18 to 21. Supporters say it will help prevent youth from becoming adult smokers, reduce smoking rates, save on health care costs and save lives.

– Ohio News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Judge Rules Against Oil Drilling in Carrizo Plain National Monument

July 2019 - The California Bureau of Land Management has agreed with conservation groups that plans for a new oil well and pipeline in Carrizo Plain National Monument failed to comply with federal environmental laws. The decision said the local BLM office must consider potential harm to California condors, other imperiled wildlife and the climate. The decision sends the BLM's environmental review back to the agency's Bakersfield Field Office for a new analysis, including a consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

– California News Service

Immigrant

Immigrant Families Urged to Utilize State Toolkit

July 2019 - Governor Ned Lamont is urging Families in Connecticut who are concerned about separation due to raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to utilize a toolkit offered by the state that provides a user-friendly, step-by-step guide for parents who seek to have a plan in place for the safe care of their children in the event that they are detained or deported. Available in nine languages, the State of Connecticut's Family Preparedness Plan includes a guide on steps people can take on their own - without the help of an attorney - to develop a child care plan, and includes important forms and documents that families can fill out and store in a safe place where they can be accessed if needed. The plan also includes information on where to find immigration legal assistance, and guidance on how to avoid immigration scams.

– Connecticut News Service

Census

Pres. Trump Reverses Course on Census Citizenship Question

July 2019 - Dropping a controversial plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census after the Supreme Court blocked it, President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the Commerce Department to obtain citizenship data through means other than the US census. Trump repeatedly said in Rose Garden remarks that he's not backing away from attempting a count of US citizens, but acknowledged legal setbacks in inserting a citizenship question on the nationwide population survey.

– All News Services

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Conservation Groups Sue To Protect Endangered Species in Northern California

July 2019 - Conservation groups are filing suit against the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service to force a long-delayed decision on whether to list the Siskiyou Mountain salamander as an endangered species. A coalition of environmental groups petitioned for protections early last year but the agency has missed multiple deadlines and has yet to make a finding.

– California News Service

Immigrant

Governor Signs Bill Extending Medi-Cal to Undocumented Low-Income Young Adults

July 2019 - California has become the first state in the country to offer government-subsidized health benefits to young adults living in the U.S. without authorization. The measure extends coverage to low-income, undocumented adults age 25 and younger for the state's Medicaid program. Since 2016, California has allowed children under 18 to receive taxpayer-backed health care despite immigration status. And state officials expect that the plan will cover roughly 90,000 people.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

NC Second Chance Act for Non-Violent Offenders

July 2019 - The North Carolina Senate passed Senate Bill 562, known as the "Second Chance Act," which allows for the expungement of nonviolent misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions.

– North Carolina News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Seattle City Council Relaxes Backyard Cottage Rules, Limits 'McMansions'

July 2019 - After a three-year battle, the Seattle City Council approved a new law that relaxes the rules for building backyard cottages and basement units, while limiting the size of new homes in single-family zones to curb so-called "McMansions" in the city. The legislation is expected to produce about 4,400 units in about 10 years, according to the environmental impact statement. That's about 2,400 more than what would have been produced if the council hadn't changed the rules.

– Washington News Service

OR Lawmakers Pass Nation's First Bill Curtailing Single-Family Zoning

July 2019 - A historic bill that could strike at Oregon's housing affordability crisis is on its way to the governor's desk. After Senate Republicans returned to Salem, legislators passed a bevy of bills before the end of this year's session, including a measure that will allow cities to get rid of single-family zoning. It's the first statewide bill of its kind in the country.

– Oregon News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Oregon's Paid Family Leave Law Is Now The Most Generous In The Country

July 2019 - With the passage of House Bill 2005, Oregon became the eighth state to offer residents paid family and medical leave. In fact, Oregon's paid family leave law is believed to be the most generous policy in the country, enabling workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off following a serious illness, incident of domestic violence, or the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.

– Oregon News Service

Energy Policy

NYS Investing in Energy Storage on Long Island

July 2019 - New York State is dedicating $55 million for energy storage including commercial and residential storage projects on Long Island. This program will be launched with an initial rollout of nearly $15 million in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Energy storage projects supported by this Long Island initiative will advance progress toward achieving New York's target of 3,000 megawatts of energy storage deployed by 2030 - the equivalent to powering 40 percent of New York's homes. The announcement supports a Green New Deal - a nation-leading clean energy jobs agenda putting New York on a path to carbon neutrality.

– New York News Connection

Health

OR Legislature Advances Bill Targeting Prescription Drug Price Hikes

July 2019 - The Oregon Senate voted unanimously 25-0 to pass HB 2658. The bill requires drug manufacturers to provide 60-days advance notice to the state and to health benefit carriers before implementing significant price increases for prescription drugs. California approved a similar policy in 2017. The rising cost of prescription drugs is an unsustainable burden on the budgets of both Oregon consumers and the state itself. Over the last five years, drug prices increased at 10 times the rate of inflation. National polls have found that one-in-five Americans reported not purchasing a prescription because of the price, while one-in-ten reported skipping doses or splitting pills against doctor's orders.

– Oregon News Service

Consumer

Ninth Circuit Court Upholds Berkeley's "Cell Phone Right to Know" Law

July 2019 - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the "cell phone right to know" law adopted by the City of Berkeley in May, 2015, affirming the city's right to require cell phone retailers in the city to notify prospective customers about cell phone manufacturers' safety guidelines to ensure consumer safety. The mandatory notification states: "The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice: To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radiofrequency (RF) exposure guidelines. If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely." The CTIA - The Wireless Association filed a lawsuit in June, 2015, a month after the law was adopted, to block the ordinance claiming that it violated the Telecom industry's First Amendment rights and that the notification was preempted by Federal law. After the city adopted a minor change in the safety notice, the Federal district court ruled against the industry's request for a preliminary injunction. The law has been in effect in the city since March 21, 2016.

– California News Service

Health

New Law Requires 911 CPR Training

July 2019 - A new law is in effect that requires all Indiana emergency dispatchers to complete training in telephone CPR. An estimated 10 percent of people working at Indiana 911 call centers lack the training, which officials say is vital for dispatchers in rural areas where emergency crews face longer travel time.

– Indiana News Service

Smoking Prevention

"Tobacco 21" Now Law in Illinois

July 2019 - Illinoisans now must be 21 or older to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products after a new law taking effect this July. While the law reduces penalties for underage possession of tobacco products, it imposes stricter penalties on store owners who fail to comply with the new age restrictions. Supporters say the law will improve public health and potentially reduce health care costs.

– Illinois News Connection

Toxics

U.S. House Passes Anti-PFAS Legislation

July 2019 - Along with the National Defense Authorization Act 220-197, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Dingell-Kildee amendment to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous chemicals under the Superfund law, despite the Trump administration's threats to veto the entire defense policy package if it includes two specific provisions related to PFAS. The administration opposes military cleanup of agricultural water sources contaminated with PFAS and the phase-out of firefighting foam containing them.

– All News Services

Rural/Farming

More Than 75,000 Acres of Farmland Protected from Development

July 2019 - New York State has reached a significant milestone in protecting valuable and at-risk farmland through its Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. As of June 2019, the FPIG program has helped preserve more than 75,000 acres of New York farmland through completed conservation easement projects on nearly 300 farms. The State has not only reinvigorated the FPIG program, but has also committed historic funding - $83 million - to farmland preservation. The total number of acres of farmland protected through completed conservation projects is 76,395. There are additional projects awarded that will close on their conservation easement in the months ahead. In addition, in December 2018, a record-breaking $35 million was awarded to 40 farms across 19 counties to protect an additional 13,000 acres of agricultural land throughout New York State. The grants mark a historic level of funding awarded in a single round of the State's Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. The next round of farmland protection grant opportunities will be announced in 2020.

– New York News Connection

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June 2019

Livable Wages/Working Families

Oregon Legislature Passes Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill

June 2019 - Oregon will become the eighth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave. Senators voted 21-6 to send the governor House Bill 2015, one of the most generous paid leave proposals in the nation. It offers all workers who make more than $1,000 a year 12 weeks paid leave for family or medical reasons. It is the first paid leave plan to offer low-income workers 100% wage replacement.

– Oregon News Service

Reproductive Health

Indiana's Second Trimester Abortion Ban Blocked

June 2019 - A federal judge blocked Indiana's House Enrolled Act 1211, which would have made it a felony for doctors to perform second-trimester abortions. The law would make dilation and evacuation abortions illegal, unless it's necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother or to save the mother's life. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker's decision comes just weeks after she allowed an abortion clinic to open in South Bend. The Indiana State Department of Health had denied the operator a clinic license, saying it had not provided requested safety documentation.

– Indiana News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Governor Pritzker Signs Order Protecting Transgender Students

June 2019 - Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order protecting transgender students. According to the governor's office, the measure is aimed at ensuring schools have the resources needed to be "affirming and inclusive for transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming students." The order creates a task force to look at best practices and directs the state Board of Education to take several steps, including developing procedures for concerns such as student records, names, pronouns and dress codes.

– Illinois News Connection

Budget Policy & Priorities

Governor Newsom Signs Budget With Progressive Priorities

June 2019 - California will increase its spending on public education, expand healthcare services and stash away more money than ever for an economic downturn under the state budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom - a plan that was stalled for two weeks over how it would address the state's growing housing crisis. The $214.8-billion budget is the largest in state history. The majority of its provisions take effect in July, though some new services won't be funded until next January in an effort to lower the short-term cost.

– California News Service

Native American

Seeking Justice for Native Americans Killed at SD's Wounded Knee

June 2019 - A bill to rescind 20 Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. soldiers after South Dakota's Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 was introduced in Congress on 6/26. The "Remove the Stain Act," is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Denny Heck, D-Wash., Deb Haaland, D-N.M., and Paul Cook, R-Calif..

– Greater Dakota News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Groups Ask State To Protect Mountain Lions

June 2019 - The Center for Biological Diversity and Mountain Lion Foundation formally petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission today to protect mountain lions under the California Endangered Species Act. The petition seeks protections for gravely imperiled cougar populations in Southern California and on the Central Coast, including the Eastern Peninsular Range, Santa Ana Mountains, San Bernardino Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains, and north along the coast to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Some Southern California lion populations could disappear in little more than a decade, according to a March 2019 study. Researchers at UC Davis, UCLA, and with the National Park Service predicted that if inbreeding depression occurs, the Santa Ana population could go extinct within 12 years and the Santa Monica population within 15.

– California News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Family and Medical Leave Act Signed into Law

June 2019 - Governor Ned Lamont has signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law. When the program begins on January 1, 2022, workers in Connecticut will gain access to the necessary benefits that will allow them to take time off work to care for their own health, a newborn child, or a sick family member. Connecticut employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Both personal disability leave and family care leave will be funded by the employee only. The withholding rate is 0.5 (one-half of one) percent on earnings up to the Social Security wage base.

– Connecticut News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Connecticut Bans Gay and Transgender "Panic" Defense

June 2019 - A new law prohibits criminal defendants in Connecticut from using a victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity as a legal tactic to bolster the defense of violent crimes. Commonly referred to as the gay and transgender "panic" defense, the strategy asks a jury to find that a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant's violent reaction. The defense has been used to acquit dozens of murderers of their crimes in cases across the country. One of the most recognized cases that employed the strategy was that of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student who was beaten to death in 1998 by two men, who later attempted to use the victim's sexual orientation to excuse their actions.

– Connecticut News Service

Oceans

U.S. House Votes To Ban Offshore More Drilling in Pacific Atlantic and Eastern Gulf

June 2019 - The U.S. House of Representatives passed three amendments to the FY20 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies funding bill (H.R. 3052) that block the expansion of offshore oil drilling activities in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico for fiscal year 2020. The House also voted for an amendment that would block funding for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to issue permits for seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

Climate Plan Makes NY a Leader

June 2019 - New York is set to become a global leader in the efforts to fight climate change. With enactment of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the Empire State will be on track to set the most ambitious legislative mandate for carbon reductions in the world. The plan calls for getting 70% of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2030, to get to 100% carbon free power by 2040, and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 85% below 1990 levels by 2050. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act adds New York to a growing list of states aiming for 100% renewable energy by the middle of the century.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Ohio Supreme Court Overturns FirstEnergy Bailout

June 2019 - The Ohio Supreme Court overturned the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's approval of a FirstEnergy bailout that left customers footing a nearly $600 million bill. The bailout misleadingly named the Distribution Modernization Rider has cost customers up to $204 million annually since it was approved in 2017 and, as the Supreme Court ruled, provided no guarantees the funds would go to grid modernization nor that there were proper customer safeguards in place.

– Ohio News Connection

Water

DeWine Commits to Phosphorus Reduction in Lake Erie

June 2019 - Gov. Mike DeWine joined leaders from other U.S. states and Canadian provinces in committing to environmental protections for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. That includes a 40% reduction of phosphorus, based on 2008 levels, by 2025 in Lake Erie. Phosphorus is a key cause of algal blooms, which can make water harmful to human consumption, and can hurt tourism and the larger economy.

– Ohio News Connection

Reproductive Health

Judge Rules State Can't Defund Planned Parenthood

June 2019 - The 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis released an order preventing the state from discriminating against Planned Parenthood patients who rely on publicly funded health care programs. The state unsuccessfully argued budget bills passed by the Missouri Legislature allowed them to "defund" Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide thousands of Missouri safety-net patients with vital preventive care including birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing.

– Missouri News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

Governor Signs Gun Control Bill

June 2019 - Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a multi-pronged gun control bill into law during an emotional ceremony in Las Vegas. Assembly Bill 291 bans bump stocks, which effectively convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic weapons. The devices were used during the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting to accelerate the gunfire that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more. Sisolak fought back tears when talking about the tragedy. The act creates "red flag" laws to take guns from those deemed to be threatening to themselves or others. Not only does this work to prevent mass shootings, Sisolak said, but it also creates an opportunity to get people help during a time of crisis.

– Nevada News Service

Civic Engagement

Governor Signs Voting Rights Package

June 2019 - Civil-rights groups are cheering a big voting-rights package signed by Governor Steve Sisolak. A-B 345 would establish same-day voter registration - meaning people could register on election day. The bill also would allow election officials to establish certain "universal" polling locations, where anyone in the county or city can vote, even if it isn't their assigned polling place. It also would allow voters to register online, even on Election Day and during the early vote period.

– Nevada News Service

Immigrant

Bill to Allow Immigrants NYS Drivers Licenses Clears Assembly

June 2019 - The state Assembly has passed "Green Light New York," a bill to allow all state residents to get drivers licenses, regardless of immigration status. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, the bill would make 265,000 people eligible for licenses and generate $57 million in revenue for the state

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

Governor Signs Bill To Improve Public Records Access

June 2019 - Gov. Steve Sisolak signed public records access reform into law with changes designed to make it easier and cheaper for average citizens to view or obtain official documents from governments and public agencies and penalize those agencies when they don't comply. Senate Bill 287 officially takes effect Oct. 1

– Nevada News Service

Energy Policy

Colstrip Units to Shut Down at End of 2019

June 2019 - Two aging Montana coal plants, part-owned by Puget Sound Energy, will cease operations by the end of 2019, more than two years before the previously announced phaseout date. The plants, Colstrip 1 and 2, were built in the mid-1970's and cannot compete with natural gas and renewable energy.

– Big Sky Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Governor Signs Bill Raising Minimum Wage

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak signed AB456, a bill which enacts a gradual increase of the minimum wage over the next several years up to $12 per hour. The bill passed the Nevada Senate with bipartisan support, with Senator Keith Pickard joining the Democratic Senators. AB456 was joined by a resolution, AJR10, to amend the Nevada Constitution to change the Nevada minimum wage to $12 an hour, regardless of health benefits offered.

– Nevada News Service

Governor Signs Bill For Collective Bargaining For State Employees

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak has signed SB135, which enacts collective bargaining for state employees. Though amid concerns that union demands could overstretch the state budget, a late-session amendment to the bill gave the governor, not the unions, final say on all money-related requests including salary, health benefits, retirement and staffing levels.

– Nevada News Service

Governor Signs Minimum Wage Bill

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak has signed AB456, which gradually raises the minimum wage each of the next five years. Workers will begin to see changes on July 1, 2020, when the wage floor will move up by 75 cents to $9 an hour if the employer does not offer health insurance and $8 if they do. It will max out in mid-2024, when the minimum wage will be $12 if the employer doesn't offer insurance and $11 if they do.

– Nevada News Service

Governor Signs Paid Sick Leave Bill

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak has signed SB312, which requires employers with at least 50 employees to allow workers to earn sick leave for each hour on the job. The minimum amount of leave for a person working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year is about 40 hours of sick time.

– Nevada News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Governor Signs Bill Increasing Affordable Housing Tax Credits

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak has signed SB448, which allows up to $10 million in transferable tax credits each year to companies seeking to develop affordable housing projects. The credits could be used against payroll, excise, insurance premium or gaming tax burdens. The bill is expected to spur development of 600 to 800 housing units a year priced at rates affordable to people making 60 percent of the area median income or less.

– Nevada News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Governor Signs Bill On Worker Protections

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak has signed SB166, which adds teeth to laws against employment-based discrimination. It sets up a tiered system of penalties for employers found to have multiple instances of pay discrimination within a five-year period, with fines starting at $5,000 and escalating to $15,000. It also protects job applicants from discrimination, and prohibits them from setting occupational requirements that are based on gender differences.

– Nevada News Service

Education

Governor Signs Bill To Allow Local Sales Taxes For Education

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak has signe AB309, which authorizes counties to enact a sales tax increase to fund education programs aside from core K-12 instruction (including truancy reduction, preschool, teacher bonuses, and adult education), initiatives to reduce homelessness, and union-affiliated training programs for the hospitality industry. It also allows school districts flexibility to use certain restricted "categorical" grants from the state - largely directed to professional development programs ?-to support general operating expenses.

– Nevada News Service

Governor Signs Bill To Extend Tax To Benefit Education and Eliminate Charter School Voucher Program

June 2019 - Governor Steve Sisolak has signed SB551, which extends the existing Modified Business Tax (MBT or payroll tax) rate permanently instead of letting it go down as scheduled. The bill was approved on party lines and could face a legal challenge because it was approved by a simple majority in the Senate; Republicans argue that it requires a two-thirds vote constitutionally required of tax increases. The bill dedicates most of the estimated $98 million in revenue to teacher raises, with other money going to school safety initiatives and the Opportunity Scholarship private school scholarship program. It also eliminates the Education Savings Account program, a voucher-style program that would have allowed public education funds to flow into accounts directed to private school tuition or other qualifying educational expenses. The program, created in 2015, has never disbursed funds but was still on the books.

– Nevada News Service

Consumer

California Sues to Stop Merger Between Sprint, T-Mobile

June 2019 - The proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint hit a big roadblock, as state attorneys general from California, New York and seven other states, plus D-C, sued to stop the deal, citing anti-trust issues. The two companies provide wireless service to 13-million Californians, including many lower-income families who depend on prepaid plans for internet and cell service.

– California News Service

Women's

Bill to Decriminalize Sex Work Introduced

June 2019 - Some Albany legislators say criminalizing sex work between consenting adults only empowers sex traffickers and it's time for a change. A package of bills called the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act has been introduced in both the Assembly and Senate. The first statewide bill of its kind in the country, it would decriminalize trade in sex between consenting adults. Proponents of the legislation say that many marginalized people are shut out of the formal economy by discrimination and turn to the sex trade to survive. Opponents of decriminalization say it would promote sex trafficking, pimping and organized crime. But supporters emphasize that the bill, if passed, would leave laws against human trafficking, rape, assault, sexual exploitation of minors and sexual harassment in place.

– New York News Connection

Children's

Child Care Tax Credit Permanent for Low Income Families

June 2019 - HB 1013 allows individual who earn $25,000 to claim a refundable state income tax credit for child care expenses for the care of a dependent who is less than 13 years old. The tax credit is equal to 25% of eligible child care expenses that the individual incurred during the taxable year, up to a maximum amount of $500 for a single dependent or $1,000 for 2 or more dependents. The bill makes the tax credit permanent.

– Colorado News Connection

Welfare Reform

Massachusetts Repeals Controversial "Welfare Family Cap"

June 2019 - The welfare family cap, which prevented families from receiving additional benefits if they have another child, was lifted after the sixth legislative vote to override Gov. Charlie Baker's vetoes. Rep. Marjorie C. Decker, D-Cambridge, and Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, were the lead sponsors of the bill.

– Commonwealth News Service

Rural/Farming

In Boon for ND Farmers, E15 Fuel Now Available Year Round

June 2019 - The Environmental Protection Agency announced its policy change to allow E15 fuel to be sold year-round across the country. E15 is a gasoline blend containing 15 percent ethanol, and is sometimes marketed as Unleaded 88. Previously, E15 would disappear in the summer months which begins on June 1st.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

Climate Bill Gains Support in Albany

June 2019 - A bill that would write New York State's ambitious clean energy and climate goals into law has gained critical support. The Climate and Community Protection Act has already passed the state Assembly several times. And now, with a Democratic majority in the state Senate, the bill has reached majority sponsorship in both houses. Passage of the bill would make New York a national leader in the efforts to slow global climate change. It would require the state to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2030, and 100% by 2050, and direct funds to environmentally vulnerable, low-income communities. The bill also has an environmental justice component which requires 40% of the public revenue allocated for achieving renewable-energy targets be invested in communities that have historically borne the heaviest burdens from pollution, and those that are at risk from the impacts of climate change.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Connecticut Authorizes Development of Offshore Wind Power

June 2019 - The legislation was approved last month in the House of Representatives, given final legislative approval on in the State Senate, and transmitted to the governor for signature. It authorizes the state to purchase up to 2,000 MW (or equivalent to 30 percent of state load) - the largest authorization by load of any state in the region.

– Connecticut News Service

Senior

TN Family Caregiver CARE Act

June 2019 - The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable, or CARE, Act went into effect on June 6, 2019 and requires hospitals to inform family caregivers when their loved ones have been discharged from the hospital and provide an explanation and live instruction of the medical tasks that need to be done for that patient.

– Tennessee News Service

Reproductive Health

Overturn of Senate Bill 359 "Born Alive" Bill Rejected

June 2019 - Republicans failed to overturn Governor Roy Cooper's veto of the bill of Senate Bill 359, which would have criminalized doctors for not treating "any infant born alive after an abortion." The governor rejected the bill. Not only is there already a law which requires doctors to do so, but Cooper said it represented ?unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients? and would have criminalized a ?practice that simply does not exist.?

– North Carolina News Service

Water

New Bill Aims to Protect NY Drinking Water

June 2019 - Many drinking-water sources in New York state are not tested for a variety of dangerous chemicals, but a new bill in the State Assembly could remedy that. Every few years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency publishes a list of emerging contaminants - chemicals determined to be dangerous to human health - for which drinking water should be tested. However, water supplies serving fewer than 10,000 people are not tested for those newly listed chemicals. Assembly Bill 7839 would establish a list of chemicals that all public water supplies should be tested for, and set a deadline for the New York State Department of Health to implement testing. That includes PFOA and PFAS in addition to other chemicals that are known to occur in New York state from that latest round of EPA testing. PFOA and PFAS, used in nonstick cookware and other products, wasn't discovered in the drinking water in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., until a town resident had the water tested himself. Hoosick Falls has fewer than 4,000 residents.

– New York News Connection

Environment

Maine Senate Passes Offshore Drilling Ban

June 2019 - The Maine Senate overwhelmingly passed an offshore-drilling ban by a vote of 31-4. The next step for LD 955 is Gov. Janet Mills' desk.

– Maine News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

MT Leg Increases Funds for State Parks

June 2019 - Montana's trails and outdoor recreation got a boost, legislators increased the voluntary motor vehicle registration donation from $6 to $9 which is estimated to generate an additional estimated $1.8 million for our trails, state parks and fishing access sites every year.

– Big Sky Connection

Environment

Oregon Lawmakers Approve Five-Year Fracking Ban

June 2019 - The Oregon Senate has approved a House measure to place a moratorium on the oil and gas extraction process known as fracking. Environmental and health safety groups say the measure is a win for Oregonians.

– Oregon News Service

Health

Public Health Option Passes in Washington State

June 2019 - Washington's Legislature passed Cascade Care which creates an affordable insurance option for individuals and families not eligible for insurance through their employer, Medicare or Medicaid. These patients must purchase their insurance on the individual market and now often pay 30 percent or more of their income towards premiums and deductibles. Those high costs force people to restrict their access to necessary health care.

– Washington News Service

Energy Policy

Gov. Inslee Signs 'Strongest' Clean-Energy Bill in Nation

June 2019 - Governor Jay Inslee has signed one of the most comprehensive clean energy bills in the country. Washington state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5116, committing the state to a carbon-free electricity grid by 2045, and the bill lays out, step by step, how it will get there. By 2025, the Evergreen State will completely phase out coal, which currently supplies about 14 percent of its electricity.

– Washington News Service

Animal Welfare

Governor Signs Bill Banning Sale of Cosmetics Tested On Animals

June 2019 - Nevada has officially become the second state in the U.S. to ban the sale of cosmetics (including most personal-care products) tested on animals, following California. Gov. Steve Sisolak approved The Nevada Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act (SB 197), which was introduced to state legislators in February by Sen. Melanie Scheible. Like the California act, it contains exemptions for products tested on animals to meet the regulatory requirements of federal, state, or foreign jurisdictions. Products tested on animals in countries like China are not subject to the ban and can still be sold in Nevada.

– Nevada News Service

Immigrant

Aurora DMV to Accept Drivers License Applications from Undocumented Immigrants

June 2019 - The state Department of Motor Vehicles office in Aurora starts accepting first-time applicants who don't have legal residency status in the United States for drivers licenses, identification cards or learning permits.

– Colorado News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

New Minimum-Wage Law Could Bring Relief to High-Cost CO Counties

June 2019 - Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1210 into law this week, repealing a 1999 prohibition against local governments creating their own minimum wages. The measure opens the door for counties and cities to address significant cost-of-living disparities across the state.

– Colorado News Connection

Senior

TN Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable or CARE Act

June 2019 - TN CARE Act goes into effect, a law that aims to help Tennessee's hospitals integrate family caregivers into their loved ones' medical records. The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable, or CARE, Act requires hospitals to inform family caregivers when their loved ones have been discharged from the hospital.

– Tennessee News Service

M a y

2 0 1 9

May 2019

Health

Polis Signs FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program Into Law

May 2019 - SB-188 creates a family and medical leave insurance program that can be tapped by most of the state's workers. The program allows workers to receive a portion of their weekly wage to care for family members or a new baby.

– Colorado News Connection

Criminal Justice

Governor Signs Bill Ending Prison Gerrymandering

May 2019 - Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed a bill into law ensuring that people in state prisons will be counted as residents of their home addresses when new legislative districts are drawn. The new law makes Nevada the sixth state to end the practice known as prison gerrymandering, after Washington passed its own law just last week.

– Nevada News Service

Housing/Homelessness

California Assembly Passes Rent-Cap Bill

May 2019 - In a dramatic victory for tenant advocates, the California Assembly narrowly passed a statewide rent-cap proposal amid mounting pressure for lawmakers to protect renters from the steepest of increases in a hot rental market. If the bill clears the Senate, California could become the second state in the nation this year to limit annual rent hikes, covering millions of properties not covered by local rent control rules.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Voting Rights Restored For Ex-Felons

May 2019 - Gov. Steve Sisolak signed AB431, which automatically restores voting rights to thousands of ex-felons who are released from prison and have been discharged from parole or probation. He said the bill will affect some 77,000 Nevadans who will immediately get their right to vote back because the bill is retroactive. He said Nevada currently has about the most restrictive laws when it comes to restoring voter rights to convicted people.

– Nevada News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Court Victory for Transgender Students

May 2019 - A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is being hailed as a victory in Pennsylvania and nationwide. The nation's highest court said it won't hear the appeal of a case that upheld the Boyertown Area School District's policy of allowing transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender. The 2016 policy was challenged by a group of students who claimed the presence of transgender students in restrooms and locker rooms is a form of sexual harassment. That argument was rejected by a federal District Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court said excluding transgender students from facilities other students use would increase the stigma and discrimination that transgender students already face.

– All News Services

Livable Wages/Working Families

NV Assembly Passes $12 Minimum Wage

May 2019 - The Nevada Assembly voted to approve two separate measures that would increase Nevada's minimum wage to $12 per hour. The first, AB456, sponsored by Speaker Jason Frierson, which raises the minimum wage by 75 cents per year until it reaches $12 per hour, passed with a 28-12 vote. The second, AJR10, also sponsored by Speaker Frierson, proposes amending Nevada's Constitution to set the minimum wage at $12 per hour, regardless of health benefits offered. The Assembly voted to pass the resolution, also with a 28-12 vote. The bills now go to the State Senate.

– Nevada News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

California Assembly Passes Bill to Make California Schools More Supportive of LGBTQ Students

May 2019 - California's LGBTQ students are one step closer to having safer learning environments at school. Assembly Bill 493 (AB 493), known as the Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2019, passed with bipartisan support and now advances to the Senate. It requires teachers and educational staff to receive training on school site and community resources available to support LGBTQ students. The legislation was authored by California Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and co-sponsored by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Equality California.

– California News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Governor Mills Signs Paid Leave Bill Into Law

May 2019 - While ten states mandate paid sick leave for workers, Maine will be the first state to require employers to give their employees up to 40 hours of paid leave for use at their discretion.

– Maine News Service

Energy Policy

Broomfield City Council Imposing Moratorium on New Energy Development

May 2019 - Broomfield City Council approved a six-month moratorium on new natural gas and oil development in the city, becoming the seventh Colorado community to impose a ban since the introduction of Senate Bill 181 in March. The moratorium passed unanimously on second reading, halting the municipal approval process for energy development until December.

– Colorado News Connection

Criminal Justice

CA Senate Passes Bill To Train Police To Avoid Deadly Use Of Force

May 2019 - The California Senate approved legislation requiring officers across the nation's most populous state to be trained in ways to avoid using deadly force, one of two measures intended to deter shootings by police. Senators unanimously passed the proposal requiring that policies on deadly force be standardized statewide, sending it to the Assembly. It also requires officers to learn ways to de-escalate confrontations, alternatives to shooting suspects and how to interact with those with mental illness or addictions.

– California News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

15 Dollar Minimum Wage Becomes Law

May 2019 - The minimum hourly wage in Connecticut will rise to $15.00 through a series of gradual increases over the next several years, with the first one taking place this October. After the scheduled increases take effect, the new law requires the minimum wage to grow according to federal economic indicators. The current $10.10 wage will go up to $11.00 in October and increase by a dollar a year, reaching $15 on June 1, 2023. The Connecticut Department of Labor and Connecticut Voices for Children estimate those increases will raise wages for approximately 130,000 workers this year and more than half a million by 2024.

– Connecticut News Service

Juvenile Justice

Oregon Lawmakers Send Juvenile Justice Reform to Governor

May 2019 - Sweeping, bipartisan youth justice reform legislation passed the Oregon House of Representatives, after a GOP proposal to refer the changes to voters was rejected. Senate Bill 1008 will stop juveniles charged with violent crimes from automatically being treated as a Measure 11 offender. Measure 11 was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1994, and imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent crimes. Under the law, juveniles 15 and older are automatically treated as adults, meaning they are tried in adult courts and receive the same sentences as their older peers.

– Oregon News Service

Criminal Justice

West Virginia Lifts Ban On Reformed Drug Felons Getting SNAP Benefits

May 2019 - West Virginia had been one of only three states that retained a war-on-drugs-based lifetime ban on anyone convicted of a drug-related felony receiving SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) benefits. Addicts in recovery say this move should help them stay clean and out of trouble.

– West Virginia News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Pollinator Pit Stop "Hero Habitat" Garden Launches in Cheyenne

May 2019 - Wyoming's first public Habitat Hero Demonstration Garden, a converted stretch of lawn in front of the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities building, has officially launched. Organizers hope the blossoming flowers, strawberries and drought-resistant plants and grasses will spark a movement to conserve water and turn more lawns into rest stops for birds, bees and butterflies.

– Wyoming News Service

Health

California Assembly Passes Bill to Restrict Dialysis profits

May 2019 - The California Assembly voted 46-15 to pass A.B. 290, a measure that would limit dialysis provider and rehabilitation center profits operating in the state when insurance premiums are covered by third-party payers. The bill now moves on to the state Senate for consideration.

– California News Service

Education

CA Assembly Passes Child Savings Accounts

May 2019 - The California State Assembly has passed a ground breaking effort to reduce wealth inequality for all California children by a vote of 75-0. This effort complements Governor Newsom's effort to expand child savings accounts similar to the program he started in San Francisco as Mayor. AB 15 will create a statewide child savings account program by tasking the Scholar Share Investment Board to operate a master 529 account, owned by the state. Each child born in California will automatically be enrolled in the account at birth and receive an initial seed deposit of at least $25. Savings from the account could be used for a number of different higher educational purposes such as tuition at a college, university, trade school or graduate program; room and board; books; computers; and other related qualified expenses.

– California News Service

Health

CT Joins Coalition Suing to Stop Rule Allowing Discrimination in Health Care

May 2019 - Connecticut has joined a coalition of 23 cities, states, and municipalities, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, in filing a lawsuit against a Final Rule issued by the Trump Administration's Department of Health and Human Services, which seeks to expand the ability of businesses and individuals to refuse to provide necessary health care on the basis of businesses' or employees' "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The federal lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, seeks to enjoin the Final Rule and prevent it from going into effect. The suit follows upon a comment letter filed by New York and a coalition of states, including Connecticut, in March 2018, when the rule was first proposed, urging that the rule be withdrawn.

– All News Services

Consumer

CA Senate Passes Marijuana Banking Bill

May 2019 - The California Senate approved legislation to create state-chartered cannabis banks to help the industry get around restrictions on access to banking services. Under the state legislation, private banks or credit unions can apply for a limited-purpose state charter so they can provide depository services to licensed cannabis businesses. Passage in the nation's most populous state could add pressure on the U.S. Congress to federally legalize banking for the marijuana industry.

– California News Service

Reproductive Health

Nevada Passes Bill Ending Doctors' Requirement To Discuss 'Emotional Implications" Of Abortion

May 2019 - The majority-female Nevada Assembly passed a bill that would rewrite existing state laws to no longer require doctors to tell women about the "emotional implications" of an abortion. Under the bill, physicians would no longer have to certify in writing a pregnant woman's marital status, age and written consent before performing an abortion. A doctor would have to explain the procedure and proper post-operation care and the risks associated with the procedure.

– Nevada News Service

CA Senate Passes Bill To Provide Free Abortion Pills at Public Colleges

May 2019 - As a wave of abortion restrictions sweep through several states, California's Senate passed a bill to ensure students at its public colleges and universities have access to abortion pills at campus health clinics. Lawmakers approved the College Student Right to Access Act, sending it to the state Assembly which will then decide whether it moves to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk for his signature.

– California News Service

Civic Engagement

Maine Senate Passes National Popular Vote Bill

May 2019 - The National Popular Vote bill (LD 816) has passed the Maine Senate. The measure would add Maine to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes - 270 out of 538 - necessary to elect a president. When electors meet to cast their ballots for president and vice-president following an election, 270 or more electoral votes from all the compacting states would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have already passed the National Popular Vote bill, giving the measure 189 electoral votes, just 81 short of 270.

– Maine News Service

Health

PA Lawmakers Consider Staffing of School Nurses, Counselors

May 2019 - A bill introduced in the General Assembly would bring more nurses into Pennsylvania public schools. The legislation would cut the maximum ratio of students to school nurses in half and establish minimum staffing requirements for other professionals who work with students. Current law requires schools to have one nurse for every 1,500 students and sets no minimum for school psychologists, social workers and school counselors. House Bill 1401 would require one school nurse for every 750 students, one school psychologist for every 500, and a school counselor and social worker for every 250 students.

– Keystone State News Connection

Civil Rights

Early Childhood Discipline Bill Signed by Governor Polis

May 2019 - After many years on working on ending the school to prison pipeline, advocates are celebrating protection against harsh discipline for children of color. HB19-1194 will dramatically limit the removal of children in pre-K through second grade.

– Colorado News Connection

Census

Census Outreach To Help Local Governments Becomes Law

May 2019 - HB 1239 creates the 2020 census outreach grant program to help local governments and other agencies including school districts and nonprofits to support the accurate counting of Colorado's population for the 2020 census.

– Colorado News Connection

Mental Health

Governor Polis Signs Bill to Curb Youth Suicide and Support Behavioral Health into Law

May 2019 - Governor Jared Polis today signed into law SB19-195, Child & Youth Behavioral Health System Enhancements, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) to curb youth suicide in Colorado by making it easier for families to find and access the behavioral healthcare they need.

– Colorado News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY to Close Coal-Fired Power Plants by 2020

May 2019 - The last of New York state's coal-fired power plants will be phased out by the end of next year. The Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted final regulations requiring all power plants to meet strict new CO2 emissions standards. The new standards will effectively end the burning of coal for power in the state, making New York the first state to regulate an end to that major source of greenhouse gas emissions. There are two coal-fired power plants still in operation in New York. They could stay open if they install expensive emissions-capture technology or switch to natural gas.

– New York News Connection

Consumer

Consumers Finally Get Much Needed Protections From Surprise Medical Bills

May 2019 - After years of legislative efforts, consumers are on the cusp of having more robust protections from surprise out-of-network medical bills. With the passage of HB19-1174 through both chambers, this bill now heads to the Governor's desk.

– Colorado News Connection

Children's

Two Ohio Counties Vote to Continue Investments for Kids

May 2019 - Children's advocates were pleased that voters in two Ohio counties invested in funding for child protection during the May primary. Ashtabula County Children Services renewed its five-year, half-mill levy with 68 percent of the vote, while Logan County Children Services secured a replacement with an increase for five years, 1.15 plus 1.0 mills from 59 percent of voters.

– Ohio News Connection

Reproductive Health

Reproductive Health Restrictions Fail in 2019 Legislative Session

May 2019 - Two anti-abortion bills failed. One would have required minors to obtain parental consent or get a judicial order waiving parental consent before getting an abortion. Florida law already requires that parents be notified. The other would have blocked physicians from performing abortions if fetal heartbeats have been detected. The latter would have led to third-degree felony charges for any person who "knowingly or purposefully performs or induces an abortion on a pregnant woman" if a fetal heartbeat has been detected.

– Florida News Connection

Oceans

Florida Legislature Funds Efforts to Prevent Red Tide Outbreaks

May 2019 - The Legislative passed a bill that would allow investments of $3 million per year for six years in red tide mitigation. (SB 1552)

– Florida News Connection

Health

Legislature Passes "Telehealth" Bill

May 2019 - The Legislature passed a bill which establishes a regulatory framework for telehealth. HB 23 makes it easier for people to get some of their healthcare services online, opening a window for possible eye care as well.

– Florida News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY to Make $280 Million Available for Energy Storage Projects to Combat Climate Change

May 2019 - New York is allocating $280 million to support energy storage projects that will accelerate growth within the industry and drive down energy storage deployment costs to build a sustainable and affordable market. This funding, announced during Earth Week, is part of a $400 million investment to achieve New York's energy storage deployment target of 3,000 megawatts by 2030, and supports the state's Green New Deal, a clean energy and jobs agenda that puts New York State on a path to a carbon-neutral economy.

– New York News Connection

Health

Federal Judge Rules Against Kentucky Medicaid Work Requirements

May 2019 - The Kentucky HEALTH program, which would have required all Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer in order to get health coverage, was vacated by a federal judge. The decision blocked implementation of the program proposed by Governor Matt Bevin.

– Kentucky News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

U.S. House Passes "Climate Action Now" Act

May 2019 - The U.S. House of Representatives voted 230-190 to pass H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, which would ensure that America honors its commitments made under the 2015 international Paris Climate Agreement. The Climate Action Now Act would require that the federal government develop a plan to meet the climate pollution reduction targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement and prohibit any federal funds from being used to advance the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Agreement. Despite President Trump's June 1, 2017 announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Agreement, Article 28 of the Paris Agreement states that the earliest possible effective withdrawal date by the U.S. cannot be before November 4, 2020, four years after the Agreement came into effect in the U.S. and one day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

– All News Services

Salmon Recovery

Rep. Simpson Says Breaching Snake River Dams to Save Salmon Should Be Option

May 2019 - Silencing the audience at the Andrus Center Environmental Conference, Republican Congressman Mike Simpson strongly advocated for Idaho's salmon and steelhead. "I'm tired of Idaho paying all the costs of these dams and not getting the benefits," he said. "We're not getting salmon back to Idaho and frankly, I'm getting tired of it." Simpson asked the crowd to seriously consider the hard questions associated with the issues that are intertwined with saving the fish. He said his office started asking "'what if' questions: If the dams were to come out, how would you address Lewiston?...How would you address the barging issue to get grain down the river?...How would you address the Washington farmers that would have to adjust their intake and everything else for farming?" Simpson committed, "I'm gonna stay alive long enough to get healthy salmon to Idaho."

– Northern Rockies News Service

A p r i l

2 0 1 9

April 2019

Climate Change/Air Quality

Governor's Bill Moves Maine Toward 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

April 2019 - Maine is taking an ambitious turn to fight climate change with a new bill announced on April 30 by Gov. Janet Mills. The goals of LR 2478 are to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the governor's plan includes many aspects of a similar climate bill, LD 797, introduced earlier this year.

– Maine News Service

Environment

Maine Becomes First State To Ban Styrofoam

April 2019 - Food containers made of Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, will be officially banned from businesses in Maine after governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law. The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2021, prohibits restaurants, caterers, coffee shops and grocery stores from using the to-go foam containers because they cannot be recycled in Maine. Maine has become the first state to take such a step.

– Maine News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Governor's Bill Moves Maine Toward 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

April 2019 - Maine would take an ambitious turn to fight climate change with a new bill by Gov. Janet Mills. The goals of LR 2478 are to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The bill ultimately directs the state to get 100% of its electric power from renewable sources by 2050.

– Maine News Service

Criminal Justice

HB-1025 Clears Hurdle for Workers with Criminal History

April 2019 - After Sept. 1, Colorado companies with more than 10 employees are prohibited from asking about workers' criminal history.

– Colorado News Connection

Health

Cheaper RX on the Way

April 2019 - The bipartisan goal of lowering drug prices takes a step closer as SB-005 makes its way to Governor Polis' desk. It would allow the state to import Canadian pharmaceuticals for sale to Colorado consumers - if the state gets approval from the Trump administration.

– Colorado News Connection

Energy Policy

Bill Passes to Prioritize Health and Safety in Oil and Gas

April 2019 - Senate Bill 181 changes the mission of the state regulatory body for the oil and gas. Among other restrictions on the energy sector, it allows local governments to regulate development.

– Colorado News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Colorado Advances Pay Equality for Women

April 2019 - Companies found to be paying employees less due to their gender will be forced to compensate them under SB-85, an equal pay bill awaiting Polis' signature. Companies will also be prevented from asking applicants about their salary history.

– Colorado News Connection

Health

Public Option Bill Clears Both Chambers

April 2019 - HB-1004 would establish a public health insurance option, if approved by the Trump administration under the Affordable Care Act.

– Colorado News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Bill Clears Way for Increasing Local Minimum Wages

April 2019 - The Local Wage Option bill (HB 1210) is on its way to the Governor's desk for signature. The bill would allow city and county officials to adjust their own minimum wages.

– Colorado News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

Gender ID Bill Headed to Governor's Desk

April 2019 - Jude's Law, House Bill -1039, if signed into law, will cut through the red tape for transgender and non-binary Coloradans to have access to identity documents that reflect their authentic selves.

– Colorado News Connection

Colorado Bans Conversion Therapy

April 2019 - The Colorado legislature passed House Bill 19-1129: Prohibit Conversion Therapy for Minors. If signed into law, the bill would ban the dangerous, discredited practice of conversion therapy on minors by a licensed professional.

– Colorado News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Colorado Sets Climate Goals

April 2019 - The Colorado Legislature has passed the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, or House Bill 1261, and it now heads to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis for his anticipated signature. The bill calls for reducing greenhouse emissions by 90 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.

– Colorado News Connection

Oceans

Offshore Drilling Ban in New York Waters Signed into Law

April 2019 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation (S.2316 (Kaminsky)/A.2572 (Englebright)) to ban offshore drilling in New York State waters. The legislation will bar the state from granting permits for drilling, or oil or gas exploration in offshore areas controlled by the State. The ban will protect New York's waters and coasts by making it more difficult for oil and gas drilling to occur close to coastal New York, even in waters controlled by the federal government. In addition, the legislation prohibits the leasing of State-owned underwater coastal land that would authorize or facilitate the exploration, development, or production of oil or natural gas. The bill is a direct response to the Trump administration proposal to open U.S. coastal areas to drilling.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Pennsylvania Releases State Climate Action Plan, Joins U.S. Climate Alliance

April 2019 - Governor Tom Wolf announced Pennsylvania's membership in the U.S. Climate Alliance (a bipartisan coalition of governors committed to helping each state achieve their greenhouse gas reduction goals) and released the state?s new climate action plan. With input from government leaders, businesses, and citizens, the plan describes over 100 actions - just 15 of those actions, such as increasing renewable energy, incentivising energy efficient buildings, and increasing the use of electric vehicles, would reduce emissions 21 percent by 2025. Any combination of the 85 additional actions would likely achieve even more emissions reductions.

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

Offshore Drilling Ban in New York Waters Signed into Law

April 2019 - Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to ban offshore drilling in New York State waters (S.2316 (Kaminsky)/A.2572 (Englebright). The legislation will bar the state from granting permits for drilling, or oil or gas exploration in offshore areas controlled by the State. It will also protect New York's waters and coasts by making it more difficult for oil and gas drilling to occur close to coastal New York, even in waters controlled by the federal government. In addition, the legislation prohibits the leasing of State-owned underwater coastal land that would authorize or facilitate the exploration, development, or production of oil or natural gas. The bill is a direct response to the Trump administration proposal to open U.S. coastal areas to drilling.

– New York News Connection

Consumer

Payday Lending Law Takes Effect in Ohio

April 2019 - A new Ohio law to help protect consumers from predatory short-term loans is now in effect. The Fairness in Lending Act features fee and interest rate caps to prevent borrowers from entering a debt cycle. The law is expected to save Ohioans 75 million dollars annually in lower fees and interest cost.

– Ohio News Connection

Health

Historic Public Option Healthcare Bill Passes Legislature, Heads to Inslee's Desk

April 2019 - The Washington State Legislature passed a bill to create a public option for health care coverage, available through Washington's Health Benefit Exchange. The plan would be known as Cascade Care, and would be the first public health insurance option in the nation.

– Washington News Service

Energy Policy

'Save Colstrip' Plan Falls Through on Last Day of Montana Legislature

April 2019 - Lawmakers ended the 87-day session 4-25-2019 by voting against amendments drawn up to commit customers of NorthWestern Energy to covering debts associated with the utility's potential purchase of Colstrip Power Plant generation and transmission lines. The proposal was billed as a way to keep Colstrip Power Plant operating as the coal-fired generator's other utility owners left; the proposal failed to pass both chambers of the Legislature.

– Big Sky Connection

Colstrip Bailout Bill Dies in Montana

April 2019 - Montana lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have enabled NorthWestern Corp. to pass on $75 million in costs to customers associated with acquiring an additional 150-MW share in the beleaguered Colstrip power plant without oversight from the state Public Service Commission. The bill, proposed by Republican Sen. Tom Richmond, died in the House on a 60-37 vote April 16, and lawmakers failed to revive it before the session ended April 26. The failure of the bill, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in this year's legislative session, could seal the fate of the troubled coal plant as states in the region attempt to move away from coal-fired generation.

– Big Sky Connection

Reproductive Health

Judge Halts Abortion Advice Gag Rule

April 2019 - A U.S. District Court announced plans to preliminarily halt implementation of the new Title X "Gag Rule." The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' new rule relates to funding for Title X, and affects providers in any clinic receiving Title X funding. If the rule had taken effect, these providers would have been barred from referring a patient for an abortion, even if the patient had requested that information. In many circumstances, the rule would have prohibited providers from even discussing abortion with a patient, and mandated a referral for prenatal care for every pregnant patient, regardless of the needs or wishes of that patient. The new rule would have significantly restricted access to reproductive health services and information for women and families. Originally scheduled to take effect on May 3, 2019, it was challenged by a coalition of 21 attorneys general on March 5, 2019. After more than three and a half hours of oral arguments, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane announced plans to grant the states' request to preliminarily halt implementation of this rule.

– All News Services

Civic Engagement

Michigan Ordered to Change Gerrymandered Districts

April 2019 - A federal court has ordered Michigan to draw new legislative districts, ruling a gerrymandered plan enacted by the state's Republican controlled legislature in 2011 was a constitutional violation. The three-judge panel said the redistricting plan in 34 congressional and state legislative districts was designed to discriminate against Democratic voters.

– Michigan News Connection

New Ohio Law Will Help Promote Women's Voting

April 2019 - Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 30, which creates the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission to honor the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage. Looking to raise awareness on the importance of making their voices heard at the ballot box, the commission will be led by the Ohio Secretary of State's office through the year 2020. It will hold events and educated the public about the importance of the 19th Amendment.

– Ohio News Connection

Energy Policy

State Agencies Ordered to Reduce Energy Consumption and Environmental Impacts

April 2019 - Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order that directs executive branch state office buildings and vehicle fleets to become greener and more energy efficient through an expanded "Lead By Example" sustainability initiative aimed at reducing the state's carbon footprint as well as the cost of government operations. This includes meeting the state's overall statutory goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent reduction from 2001 levels by 2030 and reducing waste disposal and water consumption by 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, by 2030 from a defined baseline of 2020.

– Connecticut News Service

Civic Engagement

CT House Passes Constitutional Amendment to Allow Early Voting

April 2019 - Connecticut House of Representatives has passed a resolution to adopt an amendment to the state constitution to create a system of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting for elections in the state. The House approved the resolution by a three-fourths super-majority vote of 125-24. If the Senate also approves the resolution by a three-fourths vote, a question on whether to adopt the constitutional amendment will appear on the November 2020 statewide ballot for voters' approval.

– Connecticut News Service

Health

Washington Becomes First State to Offer Public Long-Term Care Insurance Program

April 2019 - Washington has become the first state to offer workers a long-term care insurance program into which they would pay to help offset assisted living and other costs. The Long-Term Care Trust Act awaits signature on Gov. Jay Inslee's desk. It will have a maximum lifetime benefit of $36,500, indexed to inflation, according to Washingtonians for a Responsible Future. The coalition that supported the legislation includes the Washington Health Care Association, AARP Washington, SEIU 775 and several other organizations.

– Washington News Service

Civil Rights

ND Bill Increasing Funding for Civil Legal Assistance Gets Gov. Signature

April 2019 - A bill to open up access to legal aid for more residents of North Dakota has been signed by the governor. It increases the Civil Legal Assistance fund cap from $650,000 dollars to $750,000 per biennium. The organization Legal Services of North Dakota is the main source of civil legal aid for people who can't otherwise afford an attorney.

– Prairie News Service

Criminal Justice

NV Assembly Votes to Restore Felons' Voting Rights

April 2019 - Nevada would become the 15th state to restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences if Assembly Bill 431 gets the governor's signature. Currently in Nevada, voting rights can only be restored two years after a person's release, and only for people convicted of nonviolent crimes who petition the court where they were convicted.

– Nevada News Service

Health

Bill to Stop Surprise Medical Bills Advances in CA Legislature

April 2019 - When you go to an emergency room, you often don't have a say in choosing the hospital and sometimes, patients get slapped with huge, "surprise" bills if it is out-of-network with their insurance provider. The State Assembly Committee on Health has passed legislation to change that. Assembly Bill 1611 would make sure patients only pay their co-pay and deductible, even at an out-of-network facility, and would cap the amount hospitals can charge on out-of-network bills.

– California News Service

Environment

Judge Rejects Oil Company's Request to Frack Off SoCal Coast

April 2019 - Environmental groups have won another round in the battle over fracking in federal waters off the coast of California. A judge has denied an oil company's request to frack in the Santa Barbara Channel. The company, called D-COR LLC, had asked for an exception to a moratorium put in place last December. That ruling forbids the Trump administration from approving permits for fracking or acidizing in the Pacific until proper environmental review is done.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY Announces Third Solicitation for Large Scale Renewable Energy Projects to Accelerate the Development of Clean Energy and Combat Climate Change

April 2019 - New York state has launched the third annual solicitation for large-scale renewable energy projects under the state's Clean Energy Standard. The solicitation is expected to support approximately 1.5 million megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year, enough to power over 200,000 homes, and will accelerate New York's transition to a clean energy economy. The solicitation is also expected to spur over one billion dollars in private investment, creating over 1,000 good-paying jobs for New Yorkers. The announcement advances progress toward New York's proposed nation-leading commitment to secure 70 percent of the state's electricity from renewable resources by 2030 under the state's Green New Deal.

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Pennsylvania Declares Eastern Hellbender as Official State Amphibian

April 2019 - Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 9, designating the Eastern hellbender (a nocturnal salamander threatened by warmer waters and silted streambeds) as Pennsylvania's state amphibian. Sponsored by Senator Gene Yaw, the bill was championed through the legislative process by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Student Leadership Council who spearheaded efforts for two years to demonstrate the critical need to reduce pollution in Pennsylvania's rivers and streams.

– Keystone State News Connection

Civic Engagement

NV Assembly Votes to Restore Felons' Voting Rights

April 2019 - Nevada would become the 15th state to restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences if Assembly Bill 431 gets the governor's signature. Currently in Nevada, voting rights can only be restored two years after a person's release, and only for people convicted of nonviolent crimes who petition the court where they were convicted.

– Nevada News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

City of Denver Divests from Oil and Gas Companies

April 2019 - Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that the City of Denver is divesting its $6bn General Funds' portfolio from fossil fuel investments. The city said it was able to move quickly through the process as fossil fuels were already a small percentage of the overall portfolio.

– Colorado News Connection

Oceans

Trump Administration Drops Appeal of Ruling To Protect Whales, Dolphins

April 2019 - The Trump Administration dismissed its appeal of a U.S. District Court ruling that found the administration's fishery agency illegally tried to block regulations designed to protect endangered and threatened marine species like whales, dolphins and sea turtles. In October a federal judge ruled in favor of Oceana in a lawsuit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision to withdraw a proposed rule that would have placed strict limits on the number of protected species that can be killed or injured in the California-based swordfish drift gillnet fishery. The National Marine Fisheries Service will now consult with the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the entity which recommended the hard caps to the Fisheries Service. That consultation is tentatively scheduled for November.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Nevada Raises Renewable-Energy Goals to 50% by 2030

April 2019 - A longtime priority for Democrats came to fruition Earth Day as new Governor Steve Sisolak signed into law a bill that requires utilities to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Senate Bill 358 would raise what's called the Renewable Portfolio Standard or R-P-S from its current goal of 25 percent by 2025. Katie Robbins serves as campaign manager for Question Six, which proposed to enshrine the new goal in the state constitution, and passed last November with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

– Nevada News Service

Environment

On Earth Day, Legislation Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags in New York

April 2019 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation in Kingston that bans the sale of single-use plastic bags in New York starting in March 2020, a significant step to reduce pollution and protect fish and wildlife. "Single-use" plastic bags do not degrade and often wind up as litter on lands and in waters, harming birds or wildlife that ingest the plastic. It is estimated that New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags annually, and nationwide studies show that approximately 50 percent of single-use plastic bags end up as litter. In addition to preventing plastic bag litter in our environment, this ban will also help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal, from petroleum used to produce the bags to emissions from the transportation of bags to landfills.

– New York News Connection

Senior

Iowa Governor Signs CARE Act

April 2019 - On the fifth try, AARP of Iowa and other groups were successful in getting the legislature to pass and the governor to sign the Iowa CARE Act. The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act codifies procedures for unpaid family caregivers by providing instructions and training for home medical tasks before a loved one or patient is discharged from a hospital.

– Iowa News Service

Health

New Mexico Governor Signs Bill Adopting Dental Therapists Program

April 2019 - After several failed attempts in the NM legislature, a bill was passed by legislators and signed by the governor in 2019 to make it easier for New Mexicans who are low-income, publicly insured or uninsured, or living in rural and tribal areas access dental care.

– New Mexico News Connection

Media Reform

Colorado Moves to Protect Net Neutrality

April 2019 - The passage of SB-78 means Colorado internet users won't need to worry about internet service providers receiving their tax dollars while not abiding by net neutrality. A new law will prohibit providers that slow access to the internet or unfairly favor certain websites from receiving state grants.

– Colorado News Connection

Immigrant

Federal Judge Upholds CA "Sanctuary State" Law

April 2019 - A federal appeals panel has upheld California's controversial "sanctuary state" law, ruling that the measure does not impede the enforcement of federal immigration laws in that state. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, found that the state law, known as SB 54, limiting cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities does not conflict with federal law. The judges said they "have no doubt that SB 54 makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult." But "California has the right ... to refrain from assisting with federal efforts." The decision upholds a lower court ruling issued in July 2018.

– California News Service

Oceans

Bill To Protect Menhaden And Improve Ocean Health Signed into Law

April 2019 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has signed legislation (A2571 Englebright/S2317 Kaminsky) to protect menhaden, a fish whose population recovery has been instrumental in restoring striped bass, whales, dolphins, bluefish, coastal sharks, predatory fish, seals, and seabirds, among other species to New York's waters. The measure will strengthen conservation efforts to protect this vital bait fish by prohibiting the commercial use of an industrial net, known as purse seines, that can encircle an entire school of fish. The measure prohibits the taking of menhaden with the use of purse seines, fishing nets as large as six city blocks, held down by weights at the bottom and buoyed by floats at the top edge that draw closed around the fish. An important commercial baitfish, menhaden are also harvested for production of fish oil, fertilizer, and fishmeal. Prohibiting the use of purse seines in New York's waters supports our fishermen, who use more sustainable taking methods, and increases their ability to access menhaden, also known as bunker.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

PA Considering Carbon Cap and Trade

April 2019 - Pennsylvania could be carbon neutral by the middle of this century under a rulemaking plan now being considered by the state's Environmental Quality Board. The board has accepted a carbon cap-and-trade rulemaking petition for further study. If adopted, the rule would cap carbon and carbon-equivalent emissions for the state at 2016 levels, and lower that cap by 3 percent per year beginning in 2018. Sources of emissions would then purchase credits for each ton of greenhouse gas they discharge. The cap would apply to all sources of emissions including industry and transportation, and as the cap on emissions gets lower, the cost for carbon credits would increase by 10 percent a year. The Environmental Quality Board has the authority to regulate carbon emissions and the state's environmental rights amendment mandates that regulations be put in place.

– Keystone State News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Bill To Protect Menhaden And Improve Ocean Health Signed into Law

April 2019 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has signed legislation (A2571 Englebright/S2317 Kaminsky) to protect menhaden, a fish whose population recovery has been instrumental in restoring striped bass, whales, dolphins, bluefish, coastal sharks, predatory fish, seals, and seabirds, among other species to New York's waters. The measure will strengthen conservation efforts to protect this vital bait fish by prohibiting the commercial use of an industrial net, known as purse seines, that can encircle an entire school of fish. The measure prohibits the taking of menhaden with the use of purse seines, fishing nets as large as six city blocks, held down by weights at the bottom and buoyed by floats at the top edge that draw closed around the fish. An important commercial baitfish, menhaden are also harvested for production of fish oil, fertilizer, and fishmeal. Prohibiting the use of purse seines in New York's waters supports our fishermen, who use more sustainable taking methods, and increases their ability to access menhaden, also known as bunker.

– New York News Connection

Consumer

Washington Legislature Updates Wrongful Death Law

April 2019 - The Washington Legislature approved an update to the state's wrongful death law, the latest reverberation from a fatal 2015 crash that cast a spotlight on a century-old state law. The proposal would remove requirements that, after an accidental death in the state, family members must live in the United States and be economically dependent on the victim to be able to file a wrongful death claim here. The law dates to 1909. The state House passed the bill on a 61-37 vote Monday. Having previously passed the Senate, it now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

– Washington News Service

Health

WA Legislature Passes Long-Term Care Trust Act

April 2019 - Washington state lawmakers have passed a bill that will help people save for care after they've retired.

– Washington News Service

Women's

State Police Have Ended Forensic Rape Kit Backlog

April 2019 - Pennsylvania State Police forensics have reduced the backlog from 390 kits to zero, and tested more than 1,100 kits in 2018 The Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act was amended on July 10, 2015, with the passage of Act 27. As amended, local law enforcement agencies are required to submit the number of sexual assault kits in their inventory with any backlogged evidence awaiting testing to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which in turn publishes an annual report at the end of April. Each testing laboratory used by a local law enforcement agency is required to submit the same information to the department. The annual report is intended to provide a comprehensive view of the number of untested sexual assault kits in the commonwealth and to ensure that those kits are tested in a timely fashion. This, in part, ensures that sexual assault data is uploaded into the requisite federal database to help solve related sexual assault cases.

– Keystone State News Connection

Civic Engagement

State Assembly Passes National Popular Vote Bill

April 2019 - The State Assembly passed a bill that would make Nevada the 16th state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The proposal would require the state to pledge all of six of its Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins a majority of the national popular vote. Barry Fadem, president of the nonprofit National Popular Vote, says if enough states sign on, it could go into effect for the 2024 presidential election.

– Nevada News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Maine Passes Salary History Ban

April 2019 - Maine recently joined the growing number of states that have passed laws prohibiting employers from requiring new or prospective employees to provide information regarding their prior salary or compensation. On April 12, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed into law "An Act Regarding Pay Equality." The new law, which will go into effect on September 17, 2019, 90 days after Maine ends its current legislative section, seeks to end wage inequality by prohibiting employers from taking salary history into account when setting compensation for new employees.

– Maine News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

As President Trump's Transgender Military Ban Takes Effect, State Agencies Directed to Support Transgender Service Members Who are Displaced

April 2019 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed state agencies to provide support to any transgender service members who are displaced by the Trump administration's ban on military service by transgender people. In issuing the directive the governor called the ban "an assault on our nation's commitment to ensuring equal rights for all that endorses discrimination in our armed forces, undermines national security, and repays bravery and sacrifice with hate." New York took action in 2015 to affirm that all transgender people are protected under the State's Human Rights Law, and this year enshrined those protections in State law with passage of the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act.

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Some Progress for Gray Wolves in Southwest

April 2019 - Mexican gray wolves are slowly returning to historic territories in the Southwest, but still being killed at rates that worry biologists tracking their recovery. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report shows a 12% increase in wolf numbers over the previous year.

– New Mexico News Connection

Animal Welfare

CA Lawmakers Move Multiple Animal-Welfare Bills Forward

April 2019 - A slew of animal protection bills have moved forward in the California Legislature including proposals to limit animal abuse, hunting, poisoning and trapping. Senate Bill 580 would force people convicted of such serious crimes as aggravated cruelty, bestiality and hoarding to undergo mental-health evaluation and get treatment if necessary. Assembly Bill 1788 would ban certain types of commercial rat poison that also harm wild animals that eat the carcasses. Other bills would ban trophy hunting of bobcats and commercial trapping of other animals for fur; forbid the use of certain endangered animals in circuses, and criminalize the sale of most fur products. Opponents of many of these bills say they represent government overreach.

– California News Service

Water

New York State to Sue U.S. EPA for Failing to Meet Goals of Hudson River PCB Cleanup

April 2019 - New York State intends to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following the Certificate of Completion issued by the agency for General Electric's cleanup of PCB contamination in the Hudson River. Late last year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released a study showing the cleanup of contamination in the upper Hudson River is incomplete and not protective of public health and the environment. At that time, the State demanded that EPA not issue the Certificate of Completion, as PCB - or polychlorinated biphenyls - levels in fish are still above EPA's own acceptable risk range. EPA's decision to issue the Certificate of Completion is contrary to the law and could make it much harder for EPA to require GE to implement more dredging or other remedial measures in the upper Hudson River, as needed to protect public health and the environment. EPA issued the Certificate of Completion on April 11.

– New York News Connection

Human Rights/Racial Justice

New Hampshire Poised To Eliminate Death Penalty

April 2019 - New Hampshire is poised to become the 21st state to abolish the death penalty. The state Senate voted 17-6 to end capital punishment, adding its voice to the state House which voted for repeal last month by a vote of 279-88. The bill changes the penalty for capital murder to a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. The state's Republican governor, Chris Sununu, has threatened a veto. But with more than two-thirds majority support in both chambers, the legislature could override a veto, making New Hampshire the final state in New England to repeal the death penalty.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Bill To Raise Minimum Wage Introduced

April 2019 - A bit of hope for the 12-thousand Nevadans who scrape by on minimum wage, as the Speaker of the State Assembly, Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas), introduced Assembly Bill 486l to raise the minimum wage to 12-dollars an hour - to be phased in over four years. Former Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar bill two years ago. But this bill stands a chance now that Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and have the support of Governor Steve Sisolak.

– Nevada News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Big California Public Lands Package Introduced in Congress

April 2019 - More than a million acres of public lands would be protected if three new bills just introduced in Congress become law. The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would designate 245-thousand acres of wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. It would safeguard rivers and create the new Condor National Scenic Trail.

– California News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

First Law to Take Guns from Abusers Goes into Effect

April 2019 - Hailed as the first law in Pennsylvania to truly take guns away from the dangerous abusers who use them to kill, terrorize and control, Act 79 goes into effect. The act includes additional safeguards to help protect victims of domestic violence, including requiring abusers receiving orders issued after a contested hearing or conviction for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence to turn in any guns to law enforcement agencies within 24 hours while the order is in effect; previously the abuser could relinquish a firearm to a family member or friend; allows for the time that an individual is incarcerated not to be counted for the 90 days of a temporary PFA (Protection From Abuse order); and requires the PFA to be served by official law enforcement unless the plaintiff chooses another authorized method.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health

Federal Judge Vacates Medicaid Work Requirements

April 2019 - A federal judge has vacated changes to the state's Medicaid program proposed by Governor Matt Bevin. The changes would have required recipients to prove they are working or volunteering each month in order to receive healthcare benefits.

– Kentucky News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

California Court Affirms Communities' Right to Fight Permits for Dirty Power Plants

April 2019 - A California state judge has affirmed the constitutional right of residents concerned about air and climate pollution to challenge power plant siting decisions in their local Superior Court. In 2013, Earthjustice, Communities for a Better Environment and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a 2001 law limiting judicial review of the California Energy Commission's power-plant approvals to the California Supreme Court. The 4-3-19 decision in Alameda County Superior Court sides with the groups, agreeing that Superior Courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals of the Energy Commission's licensing decisions.

– California News Service

Immigrant

2020 Budget Includes $10 Million to Support Expansion of the Liberty Defense Project

April 2019 - The FY 2020 Enacted Budget includes $10 million to support the expansion of the first-in-the-nation Liberty Defense Project launched in 2017. This additional funding will allow the LDP to continue its mission in providing free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants, directing representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings and helping with filing immigration applications for naturalization, employment authorization and permanent residence.

– New York News Connection

19 Full-Time Immigration Attorneys to Help Immigrants Across State

April 2019 - Nineteen experienced, dedicated immigration attorneys have been selected to serve as full-time legal counsels in all regions of the state to provide free services to immigrants that need assistance. These attorneys will work in conjunction with Governor Cuomo's Office for New Americans' (ONA) Opportunity Centers across the state.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

Court Rules CA Must Improve Voter Registration

April 2019 - On April 3, 2019, civil rights groups prevailed against Secretary of State Alex Padilla in their lawsuit to expand voter registration at agencies in the state that serve people on public assistance and individuals with disabilities. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman ruled Padilla must require voter registration at additional agencies and contractors serving Californians throughout the state. More than 1.8 million Californians will benefit from the ruling.

– California News Service

Health

Healthcare Work Requirement Bill Being Revised to Pose Fewer Restrictions

April 2019 - A public hearing made clear there is growing public pressure to revise the bill to make the new work requirements associated with Medicaid less restrictive.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Criminal Justice

Pennsylvania Can Lead Nation with Bipartisan Probation and Parole Reforms

April 2019 - Bipartisan legislators joined criminal justice reform advocates, including the REFORM Alliance, to announce an upcoming bill to overhaul probation and parole in the commonwealth. The proposed legislation aims to remove pitfalls that plague the parole and probation system and cause people who make nonviolent mistakes to be pulled back into the criminal justice system. The changes include preventing the court from sentencing a person to consecutive sentences of probation, preventing the court from extending probation or parole due solely to nonpayment of fines and costs and creating a system of incentives that reward good behavior. The bill would also remove testing positive for marijuana as well as leaving the jurisdiction of the court without the intent to permanently avoid supervision as parole and probation violations. Pennsylvania's bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts in recent years have led to consecutive years of lower prison populations, all while crime has also fallen.

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

New Program To Spur Innovations In Energy Storage And Electric Vehicle Technology

April 2019 - An innovative partnership between the New York University Tandon School of Engineering Urban Future Lab and the New York Power Authority will recruit and support startup businesses pursuing electric vehicle and energy storage technologies. The partnership will help advance Governor Cuomo's Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will aggressively put New York State on a path to economy-wide carbon neutrality. The joint program, called the NYPA Innovation Challenge, will support advanced pilot programs demonstrating new technology and business models in New York State. As the power grid inevitably transforms and begins to work with more distributed energy resources (DERs) and grid edge solutions, NYPA will be seeking additional public and private partners with expertise in innovation, energy efficiency and clean energy generation.

– New York News Connection

Idaho Power Commits To Completely Clean Energy Sources By 2045

April 2019 - Idaho Power pledges to provide customers 100 percent clean energy by the year 2045. The company that serves over half-a-million customers calls the effort "Clean Today, Cleaner Tomorrow." Nearly 50 percent of the electricity the company currently generates comes from hydro power, and about a fifth comes from coal.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

NV Bill Introduced to Ban Bump Stocks

April 2019 - AB291 was introduced by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui as a vehicle for justice for hundreds of victims and survivors of gun violence. AB291 would give decision making power back to towns, cities, and counties across the state to create stronger regulations than state law. AB291 also adds additional penalties for possessing a firearm while intoxicated and bans bump stocks along with other alterations of a semi-automatic weapon.

– Nevada News Service

M a r c h

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March 2019

Criminal Justice

WV Helps Ease Restrictions For Reformed Criminals

March 2019 - Lawmakers have approved two measures to make it easier for former prisoners to reenter society and stay out of trouble. SB 152 will make it easier to expunge a criminal record and get work. HB 2083 makes it easier for people to obtain a state ID after being released from prison. WVNS has covered related issues, most recently in March ("In Tight Labor Market, Some Major Companies to Drop Criminal Check,") and last November ("Group Sees Strong Response to WV Second-Chance Law.")

– West Virginia News Service

Smoking Prevention

Local Governments May Regulate Nicotine Products

March 2019 - Governor Jared Polis signed into law (March 28, 2019)a measure that confirms a local government's authority to regulate products containing nicotine.

– Colorado News Connection

Immigrant

Lamont tells ICE to Acknowledge the Pardoning Authority of Connecticut

March 2019 - Governor Ned Lamont has delivered a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asserting that her department must recognize pardons granted in the State of Connecticut just as they would in any other state. The governor was prompted to contact Secretary Nielsen due to the detention earlier this week and planned deportation of a Connecticut mother by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials that is based on a conviction for two nonviolent offenses, the most recent having occurred more than seven years ago. The mother, who came to Connecticut as a small child, has lived here legally for most of her life, is married to a U.S. citizen, and has a U.S. citizen minor child. Although she was granted full pardons of those convictions by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles prior to her detainment, ICE is refusing to recognize them simply because they are granted by a board appointed by the governor, rather than being granted by the governor directly. There is no other significant distinction between the absolute and unconditional pardons granted by Connecticut and those granted by other states.

– Connecticut News Service

Toxics

Monsanto Ordered To Pay 80 Million For Man's Cancer

March 2019 - Eight days after a U.S. jury found that Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in a California man's cancer, it has awarded him $80 million in damages. The six-person jury in San Francisco returned its verdict in favor of Edwin Hardeman, 70, who said he used Roundup products to treat poison oak, overgrowth and weeds on his property for years. Agribusiness giant Monsanto, which was purchased by German giant Bayer last June, is facing thousands of similar lawsuits nationwide. This case could help determine the fate of the lawsuits, Hardeman's attorneys say. Bayer said in a statement that it will appeal the verdict.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Clean and Renewable Energy Gets $12 Million in State Funding

March 2019 - Eleven projects that will assist in the development of clean and renewable energy projects across Pennsylvania have been approved through the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA). The projects were approved through the Alternative and Clean Energy Program (ACE) during a CFA board meeting. The projects, totaling just over $12 million, are located in Allegheny, Chester, Columbia, Crawford, Lancaster, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, and Philadelphia counties. These projects will support the construction of extremely energy-efficient school buildings; support the installation of efficient and modern power systems like biomass and combined heat and power; and assist with the costs of purchasing and installing biogas purification systems and compressed natural gas fueling stations.

– Keystone State News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

$15 Million in Housing Grants Awarded to Help Individuals Battling Opioid Use Disorder

March 2019 - The departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and Human Services (DHS) have awarded $15 million in federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grants for a new program to provide case management and housing support services for Pennsylvanians with an opioid use disorder (OUD). The pilot programs will support innovative practices that increase access to support services for individuals with OUD, keep people engaged in treatment and recovery, and help prevent overdose-related deaths.

– Keystone State News Connection

Consumer

WV Fixes Medical Cannabis Banking Glitch

March 2019 - Lawmakers have removed a block that had stalled the state's medical cannabis program, by creating a way for money related to it to be banked without running afoul of federal money laundering rules (HB 2538). W

– West Virginia News Service

Water

New Funding Will Help Attack PFAS Contamination of 17 Wells in Bucks County

March 2019 - Funding through the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) will finance projects to remove contamination of harmful perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the Warminster/Horsham and Warrington areas in Bucks County. PFAS are man-made chemicals, are resistant to heat, water and oil, and persist in the environment and the human body. PFAS are not found naturally in the environment. They have been used to make cookware, carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food, and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, or stains. They are also used in firefighting foams and in a number of industrial processes. Thirteen wells have been contaminated by PFAS as a result of the use of firefighting foam at military bases in the area. The contamination caused the shutdown of the wells and required WMA to purchase water from another source at a much higher cost. This project will install treatment systems that will allow the wells to be placed back in service as a water supply source.

– Keystone State News Connection

Civic Engagement

Judge Blocks Laws Limiting Power of New WI Governor

March 2019 - A judge has given Democratic Gov. Tony Evers back his powers - at least for now - after striking down lame-duck laws passed by Republicans in what many viewed as an effort to restrict his control. Evers used his restored authority to pull the state out of a multi-state challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Assisted Suicide Bill Passes Key Committee

March 2019 - The Nevada Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 3-2 along party lines to approve SB165, a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide and send it to the Senate for a vote.

– Nevada News Service

Budget Policy & Priorities

Proposed "Millionaire's Tax" Returns to Legislature

March 2019 - A so-called millionaire's tax that would help fund public education, and amend the state constitution, has been scheduled for a public hearing in April.

– Commonwealth News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill Is Approved in Committee

March 2019 - The General Assembly's labor committee has voted to approve legislation that will establish a paid family and medical leave program in the state. Under the proposal, a program would be established that provides workers who need to take time off of work to care for a new child, their own serious medical condition, or a serious medical condition of a family member with a portion of their salary for up to twelve weeks. It also protects those taking such leave, regardless of the size of their employer, from being fired or otherwise penalized by their employer for taking leave under those circumstances. The program, which has been designed based on actuarial models, will be funded at no cost to Connecticut businesses by having workers contribute a small percent of their income to a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund.

– Connecticut News Service

Energy Policy

Permanent Offshore Oil Drilling Ban OK'd By Oregon Lawmakers

March 2019 - Oregon state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a permanent offshore oil drilling ban as the Trump administration forges ahead with a plan that could open up the Pacific coast for petroleum exploration and extraction. The House voted 47-8 to prohibit drilling and exploration in the state?s marine waters, extending a temporary 10-year ban that was set to expire next year. The measure already passed the Senate and will be sent next to Gov. Kate Brown. Brown, a Democrat, has previously spoken out against offshore oil drilling and has pushed for strong climate protections in the state.

– Oregon News Service

Toxics

Landmark CA Bill Would Ban Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics

March 2019 - Lawmakers in California just introduced a first-in-the-nation bill to ban toxic chemicals in makeup and other cosmetics sold in drug stores and elsewhere in the state. Currently, it is legal for companies to sell cosmetics containing dangerous chemicals ? as long as they list them on the label and report them to the state. Assembly Bill 495 would make it illegal to sell these products if they contain mercury, lead, formaldehyde, asbestos, phthalates, even Teflon - any of about 20 items from California's list of Prop 65 toxics.

– California News Service

Consumer

Smoking Medical Marijuana Becomes Legal in Florida

March 2019 - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that now makes smokable medical marijuana legal in the Sunshine State. The state previously had a ban on smoking medical marijuana that was enacted in 2017 and signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott. The bill repeals that ban.

– Florida News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Judge Rejects Drilling in the Ruby Mountains

March 2019 - The U.S. Forest Service rejected an earlier plan to lease public lands for oil drilling and fracking in Nevada's iconic Ruby Mountains. The Trump administration proposal to auction off 54,000 acres of the Rubies was met with overwhelming public opposition in Nevada. The Ruby Mountains, in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, are famous for the state's largest mule deer herd, world-class skiing and breathtaking vistas. Rising 7,000 feet above the floor of the Great Basin desert, the Rubies are a majestic sky island harboring robust populations of Nevada's most cherished wildlife.

– Nevada News Service

Environment

Bill To Ban Foam Food Containers Clears Maryland General Assembly

March 2019 - The Legislature has approved bills to ban polystyrene -- commonly known as plastic foam -- cups and food containers. The bill awaiting the governor's signature would prevent food service businesses and schools from providing or selling any foam food containers, plates, cups, trays, or egg cartons.

– Maryland News Connection

Immigrant

Victory for Immigrants' Rights in Court Benefits Hondurans, Nepalese

March 2019 - Many in the immigrant-rights community are rejoicing after federal authorities agreed this week to let people with Temporary Protected Status from Honduras and Nepal continue to live and work here legally until litigation is resolved. The feds already had granted a similar nine-month extension for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.

– All News Services

Governor Cuomo Announces New Measures to Assist Immigrants and Protect Them from ICE

March 2019 - Governor Andrew Cuomo announced two new measures to assist and protect immigrants targeted by ICE and the federal government's anti-immigrant policies in their communities. The Liberty Defense Project has selected regional providers and attorneys for a Rapid Response Program to better respond to unanticipated ICE enforcement actions, targeted raids and sweeps statewide. Additionally, the Office for New Americans has selected 21 new Opportunity Centers across the state to deliver essential services, education and guidance to immigrants in their own neighborhoods - including the Southern Tier for the first time.

– New York News Connection

Smoking Prevention

House Bill 11, Tobacco-Free Schools Bill, Passes KY House

March 2019 - Kentucky's state House has passed House Bill 11, a bill that would prohibit the use of tobacco products on school property. The bill is aimed at protecting students and staff from exposure to secondhand smoke and reducing teen and adolescent cigarette and e-cigarette use.

– Kentucky News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

President Trump Signs Public-Lands Bill; Budget Fight Begins

March 2019 - Decades in the making, President Donald Trump signed a historic public-lands package adding one-point-three million acres of new wilderness and creating five new national monuments. The bill also reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has used fees from offshore drilling in federal waters to fund outdoor recreation amenities across the country since the 1960s - like parks, pools, boat ramps and public-lands access.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

Funding Available to Help Farmers Address the Impacts of Climate Change

March 2019 - $2.3 million in funding is available through round four of the Climate Resilient Farming grant program for farmers in New York State. The grants will help farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for and recover after extreme weather events. Since the launch of the program in 2015, a total of $5.1 million has been provided to 40 projects across the state, helping 70 farms implement critical projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote energy savings, mitigate water and soil quality concerns and increase on-farm resiliency to climate change.

– New York News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Governor Lamont and Lt. Governor Bysiewicz Announce Updated Family Violence Policy for State Employees

March 2019 - Governor Ned Lamont and Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz announced that the administration has updated the state's policy regarding leave rights available to state employees who are victims of family violence and the procedures relating to such leave. Announced on International Women's Day, the policy is being updated to better ensure that employees who are experiencing family violence receive appropriate support. State agencies are partnering with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) and the state's 18 designated domestic violence organizations to ensure that resources are available to employees.

– Connecticut News Service

Consumer Issues

Law Limiting Payday Loan Interest Rates Goes Into Effect

March 2019 - The measure limits the interest rate on short-term loans, commonly known as payday loans, to a yearly rate of 36 percent and eliminated all other finance charges and fees associated with payday lending.

– Colorado News Connection

Education

Gov. Bullock Signs Public School Funding Bill

March 2019 - Gov. Steve Bullock signed a $77 million funding package for Montana public schools into law this week. The public school funding bill outlines an inflationary increase over the next two years to the K-12 public school system, in which more than 12,000 educators serve more than 150,000 students.

– Big Sky Connection

Criminal Justice

Judge Lets Law on Access to Police Records Stand

March 2019 - The California Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a new law implemented at the start of the year unsealing and allowing public and media access to certain types of records related to police conduct. The law is intended to end years of secrecy that have made it impossible for the public to find out when a police officer had been found to engage in misconduct on the job. The secrecy was so strong that even prosecutors and defense attorneys struggled to find out about any past behavior by an officer that might compromise a criminal case.

– California News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

House Passes Lands Bill Including LWCF, Yellowstone Mineral Withdrawal

March 2019 - The massive public lands package is headed to the president's desk, meaning the renewal of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund and a permanent ban on mining claims north of Yellowstone are close to reality.

– Big Sky Connection

Health Issues

LA Considers Regulating 5G Towers

March 2019 - Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn asked the Department of Regional Planning to prepare the County's first-ever ordinance regulating the installation of cellular towers in communities. The cellular industry is rolling out 5G service and installing hundreds of thousands of new cell towers in neighborhoods nationwide. Since 2015, Los Angeles County's Department of Regional Planning has reported a 300% increase in the number of applications it has received for new cell towers. Currently, the County has no ordinance regulating cell tower installation and has instead relied on outdated regulations on television and radio towers.

– California News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

WV Moves To Let Drug Felons Get SNAP

March 2019 - HB 2459 - just passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor - removes a prohibition on people convicted of drug crimes receiving SNAP food benefits. WVNS last covered the issue last November - "Lifetime SNAP Ban Makes Life Harder for Reformed Drug Felons."

– West Virginia News Service

Health

Medicaid Work Requirements Defeated

March 2019 - In what some state progressives are calling the most important victory of the legislative session, an attempt to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients (HB 3136) was defeated.

– West Virginia News Service

Education

Privatization of WV Public Education Defeated

March 2019 - Under threat of more strikes by teachers, the West Virginia lawmakers turned away a controversial attempt to privatize part of the state's public education system (SB 451) through charter schools and tax credits for private school tuition.

– West Virginia News Service

Two Years Free At WV Community and Technical Colleges

March 2019 - West Virginia lawmakers have voted to dramatically increase support for higher education by making up to two years of community and technical colleges free for qualified applicants (SB 1).

– West Virginia News Service

F e b r u a r y

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February 2019

Immigrant Issues

Temporary Protected Status Extended to 2020 For Four Countries

February 2019 - DHS filed a notice that it was automatically extending TPS for El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti & Sudan due to the ongoing litigation, Ramos v Nielsen, spearheaded by TPS holders. The Federal Register Notice automatically extends TPS status and work authorization for TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan through January 2020. There is no need to pay a fee or file any application; the extension is automatic. Similar extensions will be announced every nine months as long as the Ramos appeal continues.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

DEP Proposes New Regulations to Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions

February 2019 - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released proposed regulations to improve air quality and protect public health with new, stringent requirements on peak-use power plants. The proposal will substantially reduce emissions from the "peaking" power plants operating on the hottest days with the most air pollution. In addition, they are often located in proximity to environmental justice areas.

– New York News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Oregon Passes 1st-In-Nation Statewide Rent Control

February 2019 - Oregon will soon be the first in the nation with statewide rent control. A measure that caps how much landlords can raise the rent and makes it harder for them to evict tenants without a reason sailed through the House on Tuesday with a 35-25 vote. It now heads to Gov. Kate Brown's desk. Brown has said she will sign the legislation.

– Oregon News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Protections For Devil's Staircase, Other Northwest, Areas Sent To Trump For Signature

February 2019 - The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that will provide greater protections to many of the Northwest's natural wonders - including Washington's Methow Valley; the Devil's Staircase in the Oregon Coast Range; and the Rogue, Chetco and Umpqua river watersheds in southwestern Oregon. The Natural Resource Management Act easily cleared the House on a vote of 363-62. All five Oregon House members voted "yes." It now goes to President Trump for his signature, having already passed the Senate.

– Oregon News Service

Protections For Methos Valley, Other Northwest Areas, Sent To Trump For Signature

February 2019 - The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that will provide greater protections to many of the Northwest's natural wonders - including Washington's Methow Valley; the Devil's Staircase in the Oregon Coast Range; and the Rogue, Chetco and Umpqua river watersheds in southwestern Oregon. The Natural Resource Management Act easily cleared the House on a vote of 363-62. It now goes to President Trump for his signature, having already passed the Senate.

– Washington News Service

Consumer

NV Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Strengthen Consumer Protections on Payday Loans

February 2019 - Two bills before the Nevada Legislature would tighten up the rules on payday lending - just as the Trump administration is proposing to loosen them. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently proposed lifting the requirement that payday lenders verify that borrowers can pay back a loan. State Senator Yvanna Cancela just introduced Senate Bill 201 - which would, among other things, direct the state to set up a database that would aid in enforcement of existing laws.

– Nevada News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

House Passes Reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

February 2019 - Following an overwhelming vote in the Senate, the House of Representatives voted 363-62 to pass the largest piece of public lands legislation in a decade. The package of bills includes permanent reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has been expired for almost five months, costing America's national parks, forests, public lands, and cities more than $360 million. The legislation also protects millions of acres of public lands by establishing 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, new mining withdrawals, new national monuments, national park expansions, and the creation of multiple national park units.

– All News Services

Consumer Issues

Two Payday Lending Bills Introduced in NV

February 2019 - Nevada lawmakers are considering two bills to tighten the rules on payday lending in the state. The proposals come after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced plans to loosen restrictions on lenders and stop actively policing violations of the Military Lending Act, instead choosing to solely investigate complaints.

– Nevada News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

House Sends Bipartisan Public Lands Package to President's Desk

February 2019 - A massive package of public lands bills awaits the president's signature following a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives, making reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other key measures supported by sportsmen and women and a host of other outdoors users suddenly within reach.

– All News Services

Animal Welfare

Bill Introduced to Ban Animal Dissection in CA Schools

February 2019 - California could become the first state in the nation to ban the dissection of animals in K-12 schools, if a bill introduced in the state Legislature were to pass. Assembly Bill 1586, called the Replacing Animals in Science Education (or RAISE) Act would encourage schools to adopt newer teaching methods such as 3-D computer modelling programs to teach biology.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Supreme Court Rules Local Government Excessive Fines Unconstitutional

February 2019 - The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states cannot impose excessive fees, fines and forfeitures as criminal penalties. The decision, which united the court's conservatives and liberals, makes clear that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "excessive fines" applies to states and localities as well as the federal government.

– All News Services

Gun Violence Prevention

Governor Signs Gun Background Check Law

February 2019 - After a years-long wait, Nevada Democrats passed a bill to close the infamous "gun show loophole" on private gun sales. Senate Bill 143, which will subject almost all private gun sales and transfers to a state background check, soared through the Democrat-dominated state Legislature in just four days. Loud opposition from Republicans and gun rights advocates did little to slow the measure's march to Gov. Steve Sisolak, who signed the bill within an hour of its passage. That signature arrived almost six years after Republican former Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar background check measure. The new legislation is expected to face a near-immediate court challenge.

– Nevada News Service

Nevada Lawmakers Pass Background Check Bill One Year After Parkland Shooting

February 2019 - After a years-long wait, Nevada Democrats passed a bill to close the infamous "gun show loophole" on private gun sales. Senate Bill 143, which will subject almost all private gun sales and transfers to a state background check, soared through the Democrat-dominated state Legislature in just four days. Loud opposition from Republicans and gun rights advocates did little to slow the measure's march to Gov. Steve Sisolak, who signed the bill within an hour of its passage. That signature arrived almost six years after Republican former Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar background check measure. The new legislation is expected to face a near-immediate court challenge.

– Nevada News Service

Health

Governor Increases Budget for Home- and Community-Based Care

February 2019 - The proposed state budget now includes money for home and community-based care for those who need it, including those with disabilities and seniors.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Children's Issues

Child Victims Act Signed into Law

February 2019 - The Child Victims Act ensures those who abuse children are held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice. The new law Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable; allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 55 years of age; provides victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action; and eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Court Allows Nevada to Join ACA Appeal

February 2019 - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order granting Nevada's motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The motion, filed in early February, asked the Court to allow the State of Nevada to participate in this suit that seeks to defend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In their motion, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and Michigan sought to join 17 other states and territories in their appeal of a Texas judge's December ruling declaring the ACA unconstitutional. With their lawsuit, the states seek to defend the ACA to protect the infrastructure of their existing healthcare and the orderly operation of their healthcare systems, which would be thrown in disarray if the ACA were ruled unconstitutional.

– All News Services

Oceans

Lawsuit Challenges Federal Secrecy on Pacific Bluefin Tuna Protection Denial

February 2019 - The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration for refusing to release public records on its denial of protection for imperiled Pacific bluefin tuna. After the National Marine Fisheries Service denied Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific bluefin in 2017, the Center sought records about the decision. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, comes after the administration refused to fully comply with that Freedom of Information Act request. The Pacific bluefin, a powerful fish that commands top prices at auctions in Japan, has been overfished to less than 4 percent of its historic population. Most Pacific bluefin caught by commercial and sport fishers haven't reached reproductive age, further undermining their recovery.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

LA to Retire Three Gas-Fired Power Plants, Go Renewable

February 2019 - California took a huge step toward the goal of running entirely on renewable energy, as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced that it's retiring three natural gas power plants. The L-A D-W-P, which is the largest municipal utility in the nation, says it will close the Haynes, Harbor and Scattergood gas-fired plants near the L-A International Airport.

– California News Service

Health

Cuomo Calls for Making NYS Health Exchange Law

February 2019 - In spite of the Trump Administration's attempts to sabotage health care and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, a record 4.8 Million New Yorkers enrolled in health care through the New York state exchange - a 10% increase from last year. 95 Percent of New Yorkers Now Have Health Insurance. To keep that protection in place Governor Andrew Cuomo has advanced legislation to codify the health exchange into law, prohibit 'junk' limited policies, and ban insurers from imposing pre-existing condition limitations so that New Yorkers' health care is protected.

– New York News Connection

HIV/AIDS Prevention

Trump HIV Initiative Expected to Help Ohio

February 2019 - Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties are expected to receive some federal assistance to reduce HIV infections. The three counties are among the 48 targeted as part of President Donald Trump's new initiative to eradicate HIV in the United States by 2030. The exact amount of funding or resources has not yet been announced, but the initiative plans to expand the use of anti-retroviral and preventive therapies.

– Ohio News Connection

Water

DEP Bars Pipeline Permit

February 2019 - The Department of Environmental Protection has suspended review of all clean water permit applications and other pending approvals associated with the Energy Transfer, L.P. (ET) and subsidiaries until further notice due to non-compliance. The permit bar will affect the in-service date for the Revolution pipeline, which is currently not in service, and the Mariner East 2 pipeline. There are 27 approvals currently under review by DEP for Mariner East 2. The Revolution pipeline will remain closed until full compliance has been achieved. State agencies have provided unprecedented oversight over the Mariner East Project, issuing more than 80 violations and levying nearly $13 million in penalties. The Department of Environmental Protection has also implemented significant new processes as a result of the experience gained on a project of unprecedented scope and impact.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health

Plan Announced to Reduce Antibiotics in Livestock

February 2019 - The stewardship plan comes in response to new federal policies that would require label changes for some of the drugs, limit the ways they can be used, and require that a veterinarian administer them.

– Texas News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Recovery Plan Released For Endangered Frog

February 2019 - In response to legal action by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a recovery plan for the endangered Southern California population of mountain yellow-legged frogs. The plan calls for a wide array of recovery actions and research efforts to deal with the multitude of threats to the survival of this highly endangered frog. Once the 1900s mountain yellow-legged frogs have disappeared from nearly all of their former range in Southern California. By the 1990s fewer than 100 were thought to remain in a handful of isolated headwater streams. Predation by introduced fish, primarily non-native rainbow trout, is one of the best-documented causes of the frogs' decline. Another primary threat is habitat damage from recreation and other factors.The recovery plan prioritizes the continuation of captive-breeding efforts and augmentation of existing populations, as well as reestablishing populations in areas historically occupied by the frogs.

– California News Service

Housing/Homelessness

$15 Million of Senior Housing Bonds Released

February 2019 - After several years of being held up by the previous governor, the incoming governor Janet Mills released $15 million of housing bonds for affordable senior housing.

– Maine News Service

Health

Gov. Janet Mills Makes 70,000 More Mainers Eligible for Health Insurance

February 2019 - The governor had vowed to expand Medicaid on 'day one' of her administration, almost 14 months after voters approved it.

– Maine News Service

Wash. Gov. Proposes Public Option for Health Coverage

February 2019 - A proposal from Gov. Jay Inslee could bring universal health coverage to Washington state. Under the public-option plan, Washingtonians would pay no more than 10 percent of their income on premiums.

– Washington News Service

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

U.S. Supreme Court Leaves In Place Montana Campaign Contribution Limits

February 2019 - The U.S. Supreme Court have left in place Montana's voter-approved limits on contributions to political campaigns in state elections, a decision that likely ends a legal challenge that lasted more than seven years and disrupted the 2012 governor's race. The justices rejected an appeal from opponents of contribution limits, who argued that the caps on political donations are an unconstitutional limit on free speech and free association, and prevent candidates from running effective campaigns.

– Big Sky Connection

Consumer

Cuomo Proposes Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

February 2019 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's fiscal year 2020 Executive Budget includes proposals that would provide sweeping new protections for student loan borrowers. The protections require companies servicing student loans held by New Yorkers to obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and 93 regulations governing other significant lending products, such as mortgages. There are approximately 2.8 million student loan borrowers in New York State. The proposal will ensure no student loan servicer can mislead a borrower or engage in any predatory act or practice, misapply payments, provide credit reporting agencies with inaccurate information, or any other practices that may harm the borrower. The proposal will also ban upfront fees, require fair contracts and clear and conspicuous disclosures to borrowers, and provide penalties for failing to comply with the law.

– New York News Connection

J a n u a r y

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January 2019

Women's Issues

Equal Pay Act Reintroduced in U.S. House

January 2019 - The issue of equal pay for equal work is front and center in Congress as House Democrats reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act. It comes exactly ten years after President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which modernized and improved on the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It would prohibit employers from low-balling the salaries of job applicants based on what they made at their last job. The act would also protect against retaliation for discussing pay with colleagues. And it would also require the feds to collect and publicize wage data.

– All News Services

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Court: Gray Wolves Can Keep California Endangered Species Protection

January 2019 - A state court judge upheld protection for gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act. The ruling rejected a challenge from the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of the California Cattlemen's Association and California Farm Bureau Federation. Ranching groups had challenged gray wolves' endangered status based on the erroneous claim that the wolves in California are the wrong subspecies. They also wrongly argued that the listing was improperly based on a single wolf's presence, and that wolves can't be endangered in the state as there are plenty elsewhere in the world.

– California News Service

Health

SIDS Rates Drop Dramatically in Kentucky

January 2019 - The number of Kentucky children who have died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has dropped by more than half in the past two years, down from 103 in 2016 to 49 in 2018. Health care advocates are crediting expanded outreach efforts by hospitals and other medical providers to better educate parents on infant sleeping safety.

– Kentucky News Connection

Oceans

Judge Orders Feds To Set Catch Limit for Anchovy

January 2019 - A district court judge directed the National Marine Fisheries Service to promulgate a new federal rule to establish a new catch limit for anchovy that complies with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The court has directed the Fisheries Service to do this within 90-days of the Court's instant Order, which is Thursday, April 18, 2019. The action by the court holds the feet of the National Marine Fisheries Service to the fire to require compliance with the nation's fisheries law (the Magnuson-Stevens Act), a responsibility the Fisheries Service has been avoiding since the judge's original court decision one year ago today. In response to a lawsuit filed by Oceana as represented by Earthjustice, the judge ruled in January 2018 that the Fisheries Service must use the best available science when establishing catch limits for the central sub-population of northern anchovy to prevent overfishing.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Polis Executive Order Supports Colorado?s Transition to Zero-Emission Vehicles

January 2019 - Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order outlining a suite of initiatives and strategies aimed at supporting a transition to zero emission vehicles

– Colorado News Connection

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

Lakewood Takes Steps to Limit Influence of Money in Politics

January 2019 - The city of Lakewood lowered campaign contribution limits, banned contributions from corporations and increased transparency for municipal elections.

– Colorado News Connection

Children's Issues

More Money to Combat Infant Mortality in Ohio

January 2019 - Governor Mike Dewine announced that he will include a significant amount of additional money in his upcoming state budget plan to expand home-visitation services for pregnant women and new moms. The plan is aimed at helping to reduce Ohio's high infant mortality rate.

– Ohio News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Green New Deal Raises Bar for Clean Energy

January 2019 - In his State of the State and Budget address, the governor called for a commitment to move New York State to 70 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040, the most aggressive clean energy goal in the country. The accelerated pace of Cuomo's Green New Deal builds on progress that the state already is making toward a clean energy future. One key to meeting the new target will be increasing the state's procurement of offshore wind, raising the goal from 2,400 megawatts by 2030 to 9,000 by 2035. The governor also has doubled the target for distributed solar power to 6,000 megawatts by 2025 and more than doubled goals for large scale, land-based wind and solar resources. The plan also calls for deployment of 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030.

– New York News Connection

Environment

Cuomo to Propose Ban on Plastic Bags

January 2019 - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced that his 2019 Executive Budget will include a proposal to ban all single-use plastic bags. Some areas of New York already are discouraging plastic bags by charging consumers a small fee for each bag. Last year, Suffolk County imposed a 5-cent fee on both plastic and paper single-use bags. Business groups say they oppose the ban because consumers will simply switch to paper bags, which cost more to transport and store and still could end up in the waste stream. The executive budget includes measures to combat litter, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and protect the environment.

– New York News Connection

Reproductive Health

Judge Blocks Trump Admin. Birth Control Rules in 14 States

January 2019 - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led fourteen Attorneys General in securing a preliminary injunction in State of California, et al v. Alex Azar, II, et al. The preliminary injunction blocks the Trump Administration?s attempt to deny millions of women and their families access to cost-free birth control guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act by allowing employers to interfere with their healthcare decisions. It would have gone into effect January 14th.

– California News Service

Civic Engagement

Legislature Passes Sweeping Electoral Reforms

January 2019 - The state Legislature passed a slate of electoral reform bills that would update New York's arcane voting laws and increase access to the polls on Election Day. The ambitious legislation, which included two bills requiring a constitutional amendment, moved hastily through committees and passed overwhelmingly in both houses on Monday afternoon. Early voting, which establishes a nine-day voting period outside of election day, will allow counties flexibility to offer hours that best meet the needs of its residents. The measure goes into effect immediately and will be available for the 2019 general election. Some form of early voting is available in 38 states and the District of Columbia, including Texas and Louisiana.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

First Statewide Goal Set to Reduce Carbon Pollution in Pennsylvania

January 2019 - In January 2019, Governor Wolf signed an executive order to set Pennsylvania?s first statewide climate goals, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, compared with 2005 levels. The executive order also established the Green Government Council to ensure that state government offices lead by example to help achieve these goals.

– Keystone State News Connection

Immigrant

Benefits for Asylum Seekers

January 2019 - The administration under Maine's new Democratic governor has begun seeking public comment on plans to provide certain asylum-seekers with government benefits that her Republican predecessor fought to eliminate.

– Maine News Service

Energy Policy

Washington State Ferries Reveals Plan for Younger, Greener Fleet

January 2019 - Washington State Ferries has come up with a plan to replace more than half of its fleet with new, electric-powered ferries. The nation's largest ferry system would become younger and greener, but not much bigger under a strategic plan just delivered to the Washington Legislature. The blueprint for the next two decades envisions buying 16 new ferries to update the aging fleet and to have more vessels in reserve. The proposal could also help quiet the sound for orcas, which biologists say is crucial for their survival.

– Washington News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Oregon Considers Trapping Ban For Endangered Marten

January 2019 - The Humboldt marten is in line to get new protections in Oregon. State fish and wildlife officials have signed a court settlement that calls for new rule-making to ban trapping of this imperiled, mink-like mammal. The Humboldt marten's numbers have plummeted and it was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1990s. Pesticides, trapping, logging and the effects of climate change have all been blamed. Four isolated populations remain in coastal forests of Southern Oregon and Northern California.

– Oregon News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

New Law Increasing Minimum Age for Purchasing Assault Weapons Goes into Effect

January 2019 - At the beginning of 2019, Washington joined a handful of other states that ban anyone under 21 from buying a semi-automatic assault rifle after voters passed a sweeping firearms measure in November that has drawn a court challenge from gun-rights advocates. The ballot initiative seeks to curb gun violence by toughening background checks for people buying assault rifles, increasing the age limit to buy those firearms and requiring the safe storage of all guns.

– Washington News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Trinidad Takes Conservation Steps to Become Outdoor-Recreation Destination

January 2019 - Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy in Colorado are moving forward with plans to conserve 30 square miles of wilderness south of Trinidad for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation.

– Colorado News Connection

Immigrant

NYC to Guarantee Health Care to All, Including Undocumented Immigrants

January 2019 - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has affirmed that every city resident will have access to comprehensive health care, regardless of their ability to pay or immigration status. Speaking on national television, the mayor unveiled the proposed NYC Care program, to reach those who now lack health coverage, including some 300,000 undocumented immigrants. De Blasio said the NYC Care plan will take about two years to develop and implement. The day before, new California Gov. Gavin Newsom committed to a similar proposal to cover immigrants in his state.

– New York News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

MT Raises Minimum Wage in 2019

January 2019 - Montana's roughly 8,000 minimum wage workers saw a 20-cent-per-hour pay bump at the start of 2019. That means workers earning Montana's minimum wage of $8.30 cents per hour saw that rate increase to $8.50 an hour.

– Big Sky Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

New LGBT Protections in Michigan

January 2019 - Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive that prohibits discrimination in State employment, public services, and State contracting based on a variety of factors, including sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. It means LGBT executive branch employees are protected from discrimination, as is any person using programs, services or activities offered to the public.

– Michigan News Connection

Animal Welfare

U.S. Supreme Court Allows CA Ban on Foie Gras to Stand

January 2019 - The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the latest challenge to California's ban on foie gras, a delicacy produced from the enlarged livers of ducks and geese that have been force-fed corn. The court declined to hear an appeal by producers of foie gras, including the Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Quebec, a Canadian nonprofit that represents duck and goose farmers. In doing so, the high court left intact a 2017 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the law. Animal rights groups contend that the force-feeding process is painful, gruesome and inhumane. California enacted the law in 2004 but it did not go into effect until 2012. The Supreme Court in 2014 rejected an earlier appeal brought by producers and restaurants.

– California News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

Assault Weapons Ban, Background Check Bills Introduced in U.S. Senate

January 2019 - Democrats in the U-S Senate are trying again to tighten up gun laws by bringing back the federal assault-weapons ban and expanding federal background checks to include private and unlicensed sales. The new assault-weapons ban would allow owners to keep existing weapons and contains exemptions for 22-00 specific guns used for hunting, recreation and household defense. It also requires existing weapons to be stored in a safe or with a trigger lock.

– All News Services

Water

State Invests in Water Quality

January 2019 - Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has awarded grants to three projects that will reduce stormwater runoff pollution, restore streambanks and wetlands, and improve water quality in Dauphin County. Capital Area Greenbelt Association Inc. is receiving a $272,840 grant to design and permit a 1.4 mile stretch of stream restoration along the Parkway Creek. The project will eliminate an estimated 293,336 pounds of sediment, 445 pounds of phosphorus, and 491 pounds of nitrogen from entering the creek annually. Dauphin County Commissioners will use a $170,000 grant to remove and dredge 241,000 cubic yards of sediment and restore 90 acres of freshwater marsh at Wildwood Lake. And a $15,000 grant is awarded to the Derry Township Municipal Authority to expand and retrofit two existing undersized detention basins in the township?s Oakmont development.

– Keystone State News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Governor Wolf Proposes Minimum Wage Plan to Boost Paychecks of One Million Workers

January 2019 - Governor Tom Wolf is proposing to raise Pennsylvania's minimum wage to $12 an hour. The boost in pay for one million workers would enable tens of thousands of people to work their way off of public assistance, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and growing the economy for everyone. Pennsylvania's minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Over the decade, 29 states, including all of our neighboring states, have raised the wage floor for their workers. The governor's proposal would raise the wage to $12 an hour on July 1, 2019 with gradual 50 cent increases until reaching $15 an hour in 2025. New Jersey recently became the fourth state on a pathway to a $15 minimum wage.

– Keystone State News Connection

Budget Policy & Priorities

Governor's Budget Aims to Lower Premiums, Expand Medi-Cal

January 2019 - The State of California would invest hundreds of millions of dollars to improve access to healthcare and health insurance under Governor Gavin Newsom's first budget. It includes 200-million dollars to allow undocumented low-income adults ages 18 to 26 to access Medi-Cal. Previously, only undocumented children have been included. Newsom's budget proposal would also reinstate the individual mandate that requires people to have health insurance. It uses the fees from the mandate to increase subsidies on Covered California plans for middle-income families, those with incomes between 250- and 600-percent of the federal poverty level.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Program to Help Pennsylvanians Navigate "Clean Slate" Law

January 2019 - Governor Tom Wolf was joined by representatives of Community Legal Services, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Center for American Progress, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, legislators, and various stakeholder and advocacy groups at the PA CareerLink Harrisburg Region to announce a program aimed at making it easier to navigate Pennsylvania's new Clean Slate law. Clean Slate was passed with a near unanimous vote (188-2) and signed into law by Gov. Wolf on June 28. The law expands criminal record sealing to include more types of offenses, including some first-degree misdemeanors, which can be sealed by filing petitions. The law also creates an automated computer process to seal arrests that did not result in convictions within 60 days, summary convictions after 10 years, and some second and third-degree misdemeanor convictions if there are no subsequent misdemeanor or felony convictions for a period of 10 years after the time of conviction. The automatic sealing provision will go into effect on June 28, 2019. Pennsylvania was the first state in the country to pass Clean Slate and remains the only state with this law, with other states interested in and focused on Pennsylvania's implementation.

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

State Government Increases Targets For Renewable Energy

January 2019 - New governor Janet Mills says her administration would reach a goal of producing 50 percent of electricity from renewables - up from a current standard of 40 percent, which is a smaller step toward a larger goal that she set during the campaign of having Maine reach 100 percent renewables by 2050, according to The Free Press.

– Maine News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Green New Deal Raises Bar for Clean Energy

January 2019 - In his State of the State and Budget address, the governor called for a commitment to move New York State to 70 percent carbon free electricity by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040, the most aggressive clean energy goal in the country. The accelerated pace of Cuomo's Green New Deal builds on progress that the state already is making toward a clean energy future. One key to meeting the new target will be increasing the state's procurement of offshore wind, raising the goal from 2,400 megawatts by 2030 to 9,000 by 2035. The governor also has doubled the target for distributed solar power to 6,000 megawatts by 2025 and more than doubled goals for large scale, land based wind and solar resources. The plan also calls for deployment of 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030.

– New York News Connection

D e c e m b e r

2 0 1 8

December 2018

Civil Rights

Ohio Fails to Pass Pastor Protection Act

December 2018 - Last minute attempts to push HB36 through the Ohio legislature in 2018 failed. The Pastor Protection Act would have have undermined civil-rights protections for LGBTQ individuals and others.

– Ohio News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Wyoming Moves to Slash Oil and Gas Emissions

December 2018 - The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality finalized new standards to reduce harmful emissions from the state's new and modified oil and gas facilities. The move from the Mead Administration is an important step toward comprehensive statewide emissions reduction rules, and comes in the wake of federal attempts to weaken national pollution standards for new and modified wells.

– Wyoming News Service

Criminal Justice

Pennsylvania's Clean Slate Act Goes into Effect

December 2018 - Many Pennsylvanians with old criminal records are now eligible to have those records sealed. The first phase of the state's Clean Slate Act went into effect the day after Christmas. That means people convicted of second-degree simple assault and some first-degree misdemeanors, and who've had no other convictions for at least ten years, can apply to have their records sealed. That will bring welcome relief to thousands who may have been blocked from jobs, housing, even some loans, for a mistake made years ago. Sealed records will still be seen in federal background checks. The second phase of the law, automatically sealing some low-level criminal records, will begin on June 28.

– Keystone State News Connection

Immigrant

Liberty Defense Project Expanding to Provide Enhanced Immigration Legal Services

December 2018 - New enhancements to the Liberty Defense will build on the network of services currently being provided by current LDP partners and create more uniform legal coverage for immigrants across the state, particularly in under-served communities. The project was the first in the nation to provide enhanced legal services to immigrants targeted by ICE and the federal government's anti-immigrant policies. The enhanced LDP services include Project Golden Door, which will provide crucial services to immigrant children and families in New York, and a Regional Rapid Response program to quickly respond with effective legal services on the ground, including in response to targeted raids and arbitrary arrests by ICE.

– New York News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Trump Asylum Rules Blocked Again

December 2018 - A federal court has again blocked the Trump administration's new asylum ban, that would have required people applying for asylum to do so only at ports of entry. The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Constitutional Rights successfully sought the preliminary injunction in this case, East Bay Sanctuary v. Trump. The groups previously obtained a temporary restraining order that expired.

– All News Services

Livable Wages/Working Families

Portland Airport Workers Win Wage Increase Amid Global Movement to Improve Airport Jobs

December 2018 - After a years-long campaign to raise the minimum wage at PDX for ground service workers, passenger service assistants (PSAs) at Portland International Airport will receive a raise to $15 per hour beginning January 1, 2019. In October, PDX workers held a demonstration in the airport and at the Port of Portland offices during a global day of action, during which airport workers around the world held strikes, pickets, and rallies calling for higher wages and better working conditions.

– Oregon News Service

Women's

Nevada Becomes the First State With A Majority Female Legislature

December 2018 - Nevada has become the first state in the US with a female-majority legislature, where women hold 51% of seats. Democrats Rochelle Nguyen and Beatrice Duran were appointed to the assembly, replacing lawmakers who had moved on from their posts. Of Nevada's 63 legislative seats, 32 are now filled by women. The historic moment follows an election season that saw an unprecedented number of women win congressional seats. Before the last month's mid-term elections, 38% of Nevada's legislative seats were held by women.

– Nevada News Service

Criminal Justice

More NC Jurors Reject the Death Penalty

December 2018 - For the second year, juries imposed no new death sentences in North Carolina in 2018. The Center for Death Penalty Litigation says this is related to a more informed jury pool.

– North Carolina News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

PA Moves to Cut Emission of Smog-Forming VOCs

December 2018 - New rules to cut smog-forming emissions from thousands of oil and gas facilities across Pennsylvania have taken a step forward. The state's Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee met to review a draft proposal from the Department of Environmental Protection to reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Current rules only apply to new and modified facilities. The proposed rules will be opened for public comment early next year.

– Keystone State News Connection

Rural/Farming

NM Hemp Farmers Breathe Easier with Federal Legalization

December 2018 - After years of lobbying both nationally and locally for the legalization of hemp, the 2018 Farm Bill includes new provisions for growing hemp as an industrial crop. Hemp farmers no longer need fear the Drug Enforcement Administration, removing any suggestion that hemp is a Schedule I substance.

– All News Services

Health Issues

KY Makes Strides in Improving Health

December 2018 - An annual check-up shows the Commonwealth is making improvements in some areas of health, showing efforts across the board are working. Kentucky moved up three spots in this year's America's Health Rankings report, placing 42nd compared to 45th in 2016.

– Kentucky News Connection

Education

MT Court Strikes Down Tax-Credit Program for Private Schools

December 2018 - The Montana Supreme Court struck down a state-run program that gives tax credits to people who donate to private-school scholarships, saying the program violates a constitutional ban against giving state aid to religious organizations. The justices ruled 5-2 that the program giving tax credits of up to $150 for donations to organizations that give scholarships to private-school students amounts to indirect aid to schools controlled by churches. There is a ban in the Montana Constitution on any direct or indirect state aid to such schools, regardless of how large or small the amount is, the opinion by Justice Laurie McKinnon said.

– Big Sky Connection

Reproductive Health

Court: Trump Can't Let Companies Deny Birth Control Coverage

December 2018 - A divided U.S. appeals court blocked rules by the Trump administration that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control. The ruling, however, may be short lived because the administration has adopted new rules on contraceptive coverage that are set to take effect next month and will likely prompt renewed legal challenges. This ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned changes to birth control coverage requirements under President Barack Obama's health care law that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued in October 2017.

– All News Services

Public Lands/Wilderness

Passage of the TN Wilderness Act 2018-12-13

December 2018 - The recent passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act, part of the Farm Bill, was decades in the making, and conservation groups already are celebrating this moment of victory. Comments from Jeff Wadley, clergy and camp director; and Laura Hodge, campaign coordinator, Tennessee Wild Coalition.

– Tennessee News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

NYS Increasing Energy Efficiency and Energy Storage Targets to Combat Climate Change

December 2018 - New York State Public Service Commission has approved two initiatives to dramatically increase New York's energy efficiency and energy storage targets to combat climate change. The new energy efficiency target for investor-owned utilities will more than double utility energy efficiency progress by 2025, reducing the state's energy consumption by the equivalent of fueling and powering 1.8 million homes. The energy storage initiative sets New York on a trajectory to achieve 1,500 megawatts of storage by 2025, enough electricity to power 1.2 million homes, and up to 3,000 megawatts by 2030. First announced as part of the Governor's 2018 State of the State clean energy agenda, these energy efficiency and energy storage targets are vital to meeting New York's clean energy goals.

– New York News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

NY Dedicates $27.5 Million to Clean Energy Workforce Development Training

December 2018 - $27.5 million in new funding has been made available for workforce development and training initiatives to help prepare New Yorkers for the clean energy industry's growing job opportunities. The announcement was coupled with the release of the 2018 New York Clean Energy Industry Report by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which shows that over 151,000 workers are now employed across New York in the clean energy sector with over 5,600 jobs added last year. he announcements support the state's clean energy mandate for half of electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030 and the statewide goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.

– New York News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Governor's Challenge on Family Homelessness Matches 280 Families to Housing

December 2018 - The State of Connecticut and its partners in the nonprofit sector matched 280 families, including 548 children and 438 adults, to housing during the last three months as part of the Governor's Challenge on Family Homelessness - a campaign to house as many homeless families in the state as possible. Launched in September, the initiative was part of the ongoing goal to eliminate all forms of homelessness in the state. More than 25,000 new units of housing have been created in the past eight years. During this time, Connecticut was certified as having become just the second state in the nation to end homelessness among veterans.

– Connecticut News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Governor Launches Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week

December 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf visited the Dauphin County State Health Center in Kline Plaza to launch Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week and receive a free naloxone kit, which all Pennsylvanians can do on Dec.13 at one of 80 locations across the state. In addition to being able to get naloxone for free on Dec. 13, it is carried at most pharmacies across the state year-round. Naloxone is available to many with public and private insurance at pharmacies either for free or at a low cost. The state's physician general, now secretary of the Department of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, issued a standing order for naloxone so that any Pennsylvanian could obtain the medication. Since November 2014, more than 20,000 people have been revived with naloxone by police officers and EMS providers in Pennsylvania. And since 2016, nearly 3,000 people with OUD have been transferred into treatment via the state's warm handoff program.

– Keystone State News Connection

Environment

Portland City Council Approves Request-Only Plastic Straw Ordinance

December 2018 - Portland City Councilors approved an ordinance that implements a by-request-only policy for plasticware for dine-in, delivery and takeout orders starting July 2019. That means what was once a given at restaurants and dining establishments now needs to be requested: Instead of sitting down and automatically getting a straw with your glass of water, for example, you'll need to ask your server for one.

– Oregon News Service

Native American Issues

Senate Passes Bill to Help Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

December 2018 - The U.S. Senate passed Savanna's Act. According to the National Institute of Justice, more than 80 percent of native women have experienced violence, almost half within the last year. Savanna's Act would require the U.S. Department of Justice to better collect and report crime data and increase access to federal crime databases that track missing persons across Indian Country. It would also create standard guidelines for responding to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, laying out a clear framework for cooperation between tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Puente Power Plant Proposal Officially Dead

December 2018 - NRG withdrew its application to the California Energy Commission for approval of the Puente Power Plant, which had been proposed for construction on the Oxnard coast. On October 5, 2017, the Energy Commission Committee issued a Statement recommending denial of the project due to its significant environmental impacts and violations of local and state laws and regulations. The Statement supported the community's preference for clean energy sources and recommended an expedited study to analyze the feasibility of such alternatives.

– California News Service

Family/Father Issues

Task Force Will Develop Recommendations to Make Quality, Affordable Child Care More Accessible

December 2018 - The Child Care Availability Task Force, established earlier this year, has held its first meeting. The group of experts focused on developing innovative solutions that will improve access to quality, affordable child care in New York. The task force is comprised of representatives from the child care provider community, the advocacy community, representatives of the business community, unions that represent child care providers, representatives from several state agencies and local departments of social services. It will examine access to affordable child care, the availability of child care for parents with non-traditional work hours, statutory and regulatory changes that could promote or enhance access to child care, business incentives to increase child care access, and the impact on tax credits and deductions relating to child care. It is expected to share its initial recommendations with the administration next year and finalize its report by the end of 2020.

– New York News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Projects to Create 215 Housing Units for Homeless New Yorkers

December 2018 - The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance's Homeless Housing Assistance Program has awarded $29.6 million in state funding to eight projects that will provide homeless veterans, survivors of domestic violence and individuals with mental illness with permanent housing and support services. The grants, awarded through the, will create 215 supportive housing units in seven counties and fund necessary repairs at three emergency shelters in Suffolk County. The projects - located in Oneida, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Broome, Bronx, Warren, and Livingston counties - are also supported through other funding sources. In total, they represent a $198 million investment that will add a total of 472 units of affordable and supportive housing throughout the state.

– New York News Connection

Immigrant

California Moves to Open Medi-Cal to Undocumented Immigrants

December 2018 - California lawmakers have just introduced a pair of bills that would extend Medi-Cal coverage to low-income, undocumented immigrant adults. A recent U-C Berkeley study found California has three-million uninsured adults - and one-point-four million of them are undocumented and could apply if they meet the income requirements.

– California News Service

Health Issues

Ohio Insurance Rates Stabilize

December 2018 - More than 9 out of 10 Ohioans between 18 and 64 have health insurance and just over half get it from their employer, according to a new Ohio Health Issues Poll. It found that the rate of uninsured is stabilizing, and Ohio's health insurance rate is slightly better than the nation as a whole.

– Ohio News Connection

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice Organizations Secure State Funding

December 2018 - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has awarded $2.6 million in Community Impact Grants to 28 organizations. The funding will support projects that address environmental and public health concerns in low-income and minority communities across the state that have historically been burdened by environmental problems. The 28 organizations receiving funding in this latest round will enhance and clean up vacant lots, create organic urban farms, improve local waterways, expand environmental education and engage young people with green jobs, address soil health, and build awareness and support for community-owned solar.

– New York News Connection

Civil Rights

Mecklenburg Co. Sheriff Announces End of 287(g) Program.

December 2018 - Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden announced that the county will terminate its 287(g) program. More than 15,000 Mecklenburg County people have been arrested under the 287(g) program. During the 2018 elections for sheriff in Mecklenburg and Wake County, the ACLU invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a nonpartisan campaign to educate voters about the candidates' positions on crucial civil rights issues, including the 287(g) program. Voters in both Mecklenburg and Wake County rejected these policies, electing candidates who vowed to end the program in their respective counties.

– North Carolina News Service

Early Childhood Education

$15 Million Awarded to Support Pre-Kindergarten Programs Statewide

December 2018 - $15 million has been awarded to 32 high-need school districts to increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for over 2,000 three- and four-year-old children across New York. This funding will support the expansion of pre-kindergarten to high-need or underserved districts as part of the state's ongoing efforts to promote early education and improve the academic future for all students. Funding was awarded to school districts based on the quality of the application and other factors, including district and student need, efforts to target the highest need students, and maximize the total number of children served in pre-kindergarten programs. This additional $15 million will ensure New York continues to support its youngest students by supporting the expansion of pre-kindergarten into high-need districts, including those where there are currently no pre-kindergarten seats.

– New York News Connection

Environment

New Bill To Defend Against Trump Environmental Rollbacks

December 2018 - California's first state Senate bill of the new session - S-B One - is an effort to combat the Trump administration's environmental rollbacks, by requiring state rules to be at least as strict as those in place before January 2017, when President Barack Obama left office. The current administration has already repealed dozens of environmental rules, from protections for wetlands and smaller streams, to regulating the release of greenhouse gasses from oil and gas wells on federal land.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Educational Programs Help Reduce Recidivism in Iowa

December 2018 - Educational programming is helping some Iowans get a jump on life after prison. Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) estimates that its education and training programs have reduced recidivism from 27 percent to nine percent. Dozens have graduated from educational and vocational programs and many have found employment upon release.

– Iowa News Service

Immigrant

Bills Filed to Include Undocumented People in Medi- Cal

December 2018 - Elevating the urgency of health care access for all communities, Senators Ricardo Lara and Maria Elena Durazo, and Assemblymembers Dr. Joaquin Arambula, Rob Bonta, and David Chiu have introduced two #Health4All bills on the first official day of the new 2019 legislative session. The two bills, SB 29 and AB 4, are a top priority for immigrant rights and health care advocates and would provide full-scope Medi-Cal to low-income undocumented adults by removing immigration status as an eligibility exclusion.

– California News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Bill Filed to Encourage More "Granny Flats"

December 2018 - State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) is renewing his effort to resolve part of the state's housing crisis by introducing SB 13, a bill that would reduce development impact fees and eliminate other barriers for homeowners who want to construct accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property. In addition to impact fees, other remaining barriers to ADU construction include owner-occupancy requirements, ADU permit reviews, and setbacks.

– California News Service

PA Boosts Funding to Help Homeless Families in Pennsylvania

December 2018 - Pennsylvania is making more than $5 million in grant funding available to help homeless families and promote homelessness prevention across the commonwealth. The funding is provided from the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program. The ESG funding falls into four categories: rapid rehousing, homelessness prevention, street outreach, and emergency shelter. Rapid rehousing helps individuals and families who are homeless, fleeing violence, or living in a home not suitable for human habitation. Homelessness prevention helps families who are currently housed but may be in jeopardy of losing their housing. Street outreach connects unsheltered homeless individuals with emergency shelter and/or health services. Emergency shelter funding supports costs associated with operating an emergency shelter and renovations.

– Keystone State News Connection

N o v e m b e r

2 0 1 8

November 2018

Immigrant Issues

Federal Court in NY Rules for Sanctuary Cities

November 2018 - A federal judge ruled against the Trump administration's move to withhold grant funding from law enforcement agencies of so-called sanctuary cities, saying it was illegal and unconstitutional. Judge Edgardo Ramos, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said the government "did not have lawful authority" to make states alert federal agents when an undocumented immigrant is going to be released from state or local custody and allow federal agents to question immigrants in custody about their legal status in order for states and cities to receive funding. Ramos blocked the government from enforcing those conditions on New York, New York City and the six states that also challenged the requirements: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington.

– All News Services

Civic Engagement

New Commission to Find Fair Redistricting Solutions

November 2018 - Taking action to build on the bipartisan support for making Pennsylvania's redistricting process more fair and nonpartisan, Governor Tom Wolf has signed an executive order establishing the bipartisan Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission and appointed David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the non-profit Committee of Seventy, as chairman. The order creates the commission that will review non-partisan redistricting processes in other states that reduce gerrymandering, provide opportunities for public comment at community meetings and online, and make recommendations to the governor and legislature for a non-partisan redistrict process in Pennsylvania.

– Keystone State News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

$12.2 Million in Volkswagen Settlement Funds to Support Clean Air Projects in Connecticut

November 2018 - The State of Connecticut is making available $12.2 million dollars from the legal settlement in the Volkswagen (VW) Corporation emissions cheating scandal to fund ten clean air projects in the state. Administered through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Connecticut is one of the first states in the nation to make these funds available for a variety of diesel mitigation projects. The ten announced projects are part of the first funding cycle under the distribution of the state's VW settlement funding. The ten projects that are being awarded money under the first funding cycle will mitigate 145 tons of excess NOx emissions over the lifetime of the projects at a cost of $84,234 per ton of NOx reduced. The projects will also reduce over 7,600 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from being released into the atmosphere. In addition to NOx and greenhouse gas, a total of 10.3 tons volatile organic compounds (VOC) and 6.6 tons of fine particulate matter, which contributes to asthma and other bronchial conditions, will be cost-effectively reduced from environmental justice communities and other areas of Connecticut that bear a disproportionate share of air pollution.

– Connecticut News Service

Oceans

Judge Halts Offshore Fracking Pending Review

November 2018 - A federal judge issued an order declaring that the federal government violated environmental protection laws when it approved permits for fracking and acidizing (otherwise referred to as "well stimulation treatments," from platforms offshore California. The judge agreed with the Environmental Defense Center and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper that the government failed to conduct adequate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding potential impacts to threatened and endangered species. The judge also held that the federal government must provide the California Coastal Commission with an opportunity to review fracking and acidizing before allowing such practices. Accordingly, the court issued an injunction prohibiting the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement from approving any plans or permits for the use of well stimulation treatments offshore California.

– California News Service

Immigrant Issues

Court Upholds Case Protecting DACA

November 2018 - A federal appeals court upheld a ruling blocking the Trump administration from ending the Obama-era program that protects young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from being deported. The ruling from a panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals means a nationwide injunction allowing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to continue will remain in effect. Challengers are likely to succeed in their argument that the planned phase-out is illegal, the court ruled.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Federal Judge Blocks Keystone Pipeline

November 2018 - In Montana, United States District Court Judge Brian Morris blocked construction of the controversial pipeline, saying that the administration failed to present a ?reasoned explanation? for the move and ?simply discarded? the effect the project would have on climate change. The pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels a day of petroleum from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast.

– All News Services

NY Seeking Bids for Offshore Wind Power

November 2018 - New York has issued a comprehensive solicitation seeking 800 megawatts or more of new offshore wind projects for New York. This highly anticipated first offering, issued by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority kicks-off competition for New York State's first large-scale offshore wind development contracts, an initial step toward its goal of 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030 to combat climate change.

– New York News Connection

Education

$6.8 Million Award to Expand After-School Programs Statewide

November 2018 - Empire State After-School Program funding has been awarded to 15 high-need school districts and community-based organizations across the state. The $6.8 million will support the availability of 4,250 new slots to these programs, bringing the total number up to 89,000. This funding, in addition to the $2.4 million awarded to Long Island in September, brings the total expansion to $10 million. With last year's $35 million commitment, the total number of Empire State After-School awards now totals $45 million.

– New York News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Oregon, Portland Voters Pass Affordable Housing Measures

November 2018 - Oregonians and Portland residents passed measures to expand affordable housing in the state. Measure 102 will amend the Oregon Constitution and make it easier for cities and counties to use their power to borrow money for affordable housing construction. Portland metro area voters approved Measure 26-199, a $650 million dollar bond for affordable housing.

– Oregon News Service

Health Issues

Idahoans Overwhelmingly Pass Medicaid Expansion

November 2018 - After more than six years of inaction at the state legislature, Idahoans overwhelmingly signed-off on expanding Medicaid coverage to the state's working poor. More than 60 percent of Idahoans voted to bring the program to Idaho.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Criminal Justice

Wash. Initiative on Police Use of Deadly Force Passes

November 2018 - A measure to strengthen accountability of police officers who use lethal force and require more mental-health crisis training was passed with large support from Washington state voters. Initiative 940, which earned nearly 60 percent approval, removes a barrier in state law that has made it nearly impossible to criminally charge police officers believed to have wrongfully used deadly force.

– Washington News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Proposition 1 Passes: Affordable Housing And Home-Purchase Assistance For Veterans

November 2018 - Voters have approved a ballot measure to authorize the sale of $4 billion in bonds to fund housing programs, infrastructure work and matching contributions to a local housing trust fund.

– California News Service

Children's

Voters Authorize Bonds for Children's Hospitals

November 2018 - Proposition 4 passed with 60 percent of the vote. The measure approves $1.5 billion in bonds to build, renovate and equip qualifying children's hospitals, including UC acute care children's clinics and some private nonprofit hospitals.

– California News Service

Budget Policy & Priorities

Voters Save The Gas Tax

November 2018 - Voters rejected Proposition 6, arguably the most contested ballot measure. If passed it would have repealed the gas tax increase approved last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers.

– California News Service

Animal Welfare

Voters Increase Requirements for Farm Animal Confinement

November 2018 - California voters approved a measure that will ban sales of meat and eggs from animals kept in enclosures that fall below a minimum number of square feet. Proposition 12, which was backed by the Humane Society, will apply to California and out-of-state producers alike. The measure also requires producers to keep egg-laying hens in "cage-free" housing by 2022.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Florida Votes to Restore Voting Rights People Who Complete Prison Terms

November 2018 - Voters approved Amendment 4, which says that most people convicted of felonies will automatically have their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences or go on probation. The amendment exempts those convicted of sex offenses and murder.

– Florida News Connection

KY Voters Embrace Marsy's Law

November 2018 - Kentucky might become one of a handful of states to adopt a law intended to give crime victims the same rights as their accused perpetrators. Voters passed a measure known as "Marsy's Law," which would amend the state constitution to give crime victims legal protection equal to defendants in criminal cases. The fate of the vote still rests with the Kentucky Supreme Court who are reviewing a constitutional challenge to the proposal.

– Kentucky News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Oregon Voters Keep State's Sanctuary Status

November 2018 - Oregonians voted to reject Measure 105, upholding the state's decades-old sanctuary law and continuing broad limits on how much local police can cooperate with federal immigration agents.

– Oregon News Service

Reproductive Health

Oregonians Reject Ban on State Funding for Abortion Services

November 2018 - Oregon remains the nation's most pro-choice state. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure to pull state funding for abortion services, a change that would have affected lower-income women who receive state-backed insurance and state employees. The number of abortions in Oregon has fallen steadily despite the state's lack of restrictions on the procedure, and more than 40 percent are typically state-funded.

– Oregon News Service

Energy Policy

Portland Clean Energy Initiative Passes

November 2018 - The Portland Clean Energy Initiative was passed by voters. Now large retailers operating in Portland help pay for an additional investment of roughly $30 million per year in revenue in cleaner energy projects and job training.

– Oregon News Service

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

Anti-Corruption Measure Passes in North Dakota

November 2018 - Voters passed a constitutional amendment that could combat corruption in North Dakota politics. The amendment would, among other things, require the Legislature to pass laws requiring the disclosure of the "ultimate and true source" of money spent on media to influence politics, forbid lobbyists from giving gifts to public officials, forbid politicians from using campaign funds for personal purposes and create an ethics commission to investigate violations.

– Prairie News Service

Education

NM Governor's Race Puts Spotlight on Education

November 2018 - Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, who championed education and said she would not fight a lawsuit over the issue, defeated Republican Steve Pearce in the midterm election. In July, a judge found that New Mexico's education system violated the state constitution because it failed to provide students a sufficient public education.

– New Mexico News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Environmentalists, Oil Producers Eye NM Land Commissioner Race

November 2018 - Newly elected New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard vowed to shift the office's focus to protecting the environment, even amid a recent boom in the oil and gas industry. Her Republican opponent was supported by the oil and gas industry.

– New Mexico News Connection

Health

Manchin Re-elected After Running On Pre-Existing Conditions

November 2018 - WV Senator Joe Manchin won re-election, in part by talking about protecting the pre-existing conditions protections in the Affordable Care Act. WVNS has covered this issue extensively and, in fact, the Manchin campaign made reference to a WVNS story in one of their ads. Manchin also talked about drug companies selling large numbers of opioid pills, another issue WVNS has covered.

– West Virginia News Service

Education

Teachers And Allies Beat Three Important GOP State Senators

November 2018 - In a very high turnout primary and general elections, teachers and their allies beat three GOP state senators important to attempts to block public employee pay raises. The Democrats also picked up five House of Delegates seats.

– West Virginia News Service

Civic Engagement

Redistricting Reform: CO Passes Amendments Y and Z

November 2018 - Colorado voters approved two constitutional amendments that will help prevent gerrymandering in districts.

– Colorado News Connection

Energy Policy

Coloradans Reject Oil and Gas-backed Amendment

November 2018 - Amendment 74 would have put local governments at risk of lawsuits if any action caused any party to lose value on their property. The move, backed by oil and gas interests, was widely seen as a counter-threat to Proposition 112 which sought to keep oil and gas operations 2500 feet away from homes and schools.

– Colorado News Connection

Health

Nebraska Voters Pass Medicaid Expansion

November 2018 - Nebraska voters passed Initiative 427 to expand Medicaid and allow 90,000 people in the state to finally get access to affordable health coverage.

– Nebraska News Connection

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

Coloradans Advance Campaign Finance Reform

November 2018 - Denver voters said yes to prohibiting candidates from accepting donations from corporations, increasing donor disclosure, reducing contribution limits, and creating an optional small donor matching program. Statewide, Coloradans rejected a measure that would have increased, not decreased, big money in elections.

– Colorado News Connection

Women's

Voters Eliminate "Pink Tax"

November 2018 - On Tuesday, voters in Nevada eliminated the so-called "pink tax" and amended the tax act of 1955 and removed the sales and storage tax on tampons and sanitary pads. Senate Bill 415 was first approved in 2017 by the state's legislature, and is now set to become law. The change was approved by 56.9% of the voters during Tuesday's midterm election.

– Nevada News Service

Civic Engagement

Nevada Approves Motor Voter Measure

November 2018 - Nevadans approved a measure to make voter registration automatic when a person applies for an identification card or a driver's license. Under the ballot measure, the voter registration system at the state's Department of Motor Vehicles would require Nevada residents to check a box to decline voter registration instead of the former opt-in system. The measure would also allow a resident's voter registration information to be automatically updated if he or she is already registered to vote.

– Nevada News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Voters Pass Amendment To Require More Renewable Energy

November 2018 - Voters passed Question Six, a measure that seeks to more than double the amount of solar, wind and other types of renewable energy currently provided by the state's electric companies. It would require state electric producers to buy or generate 50 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2030. Now that it passed, the proposed state constitutional amendment will have to go back before voters in 2020.

– Nevada News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Proposition 2 Passes: Using Mental Health Dollars For Low-Income Housing

November 2018 - Proposition 2 was approved by California voters. It allows the state to use $2 billion in bonds to build housing for homeless people that includes mental health care. The money for the bonds was originally approved to pay for mental health services, not housing.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Coal Backed Group Loses Fight To Block Gas Plant

November 2018 - A so-called "citizens" group - backed by a huge coal baron - had been attempting to block the construction of a gas-fired power plant, but finally lost in court. WVNS was the first general media outlet to cover the link between the coal boss and the group.

– West Virginia News Service

O c t o b e r

2 0 1 8

October 2018

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Ore. Police Eliminates Sexual Assault Kit Backlog

October 2018 - Oregon State Police announced that its Forensic Services Division has finished processing the backlog of thousands of old "SAFE - kits" (Sexual Assault Evidence Kits) sent in by police agencies around the state. These kits are used to collect evidence from victims of sexual assault.

– Oregon News Service

Education

New Law Minimizes Standardized Testing, Expands Options for Students to Prove Graduation Readiness

October 2018 - Act 158 provides students with more options to meet high school graduation requirements than a high stakes test. The new law is in line with recommendations from the Department of Education (PDE) and provides four additional options for students to demonstrate postsecondary readiness: Earn a satisfactory composite score on the Algebra I, Literature and Biology Keystone Exams. Earn a passing grade on the course associated with each Keystone Exam, and earn a specific score on certain exams, complete a pre-apprenticeship program, gain acceptance to an accredited 4-year nonprofit institution of higher education or meet other requirements. For Career and Technical Education (CTE) concentrators, earn a passing grade on the course associated with each Keystone Exam, and attain an industry-based certification, pass an industry-based assessment or meet other requirements. Earn a passing grade on the course associated with each Keystone Exam and demonstrate readiness for postsecondary engagement through three pieces of evidence aligned to student goals and career plan.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health

Pennsylvania Will Not Promote Plans That Don't Cover Pre-existing Conditions

October 2018 - After recent moves by the federal government to repeal the ACA, Governor Tom Wolf announced that he will not request a waiver to allow health care plans that do not offer consumer protections, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, to receive subsidies meant for comprehensive coverage on the marketplace. Under the ACA, the federal waivers allow states flexibility to improve their health insurance marketplaces. The federal government's newly released proposed guidelines, if adopted, would support the proliferation of plans that lack critical elements of meaningful health insurance, such as comprehensive benefits. The proposed guidelines loosen standards by which states can secure such a waiver, which Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said would put the stability of the insurance market at risk.

– Keystone State News Connection

Toxics

Judge Upholds Verdict in Roundup Weedkiller Cancer Case

October 2018 - A judge upheld the Roundup weedkiller verdict in a landmark cancer case. San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos reduced the punitive damages by more than $200 million, but declined to overturn the jury's finding that Monsanto's glyphosate-based weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Oregon Gov. to Sign Executive Order Banning Offshore Drilling

October 2018 - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says she will sign an executive order banning offshore drilling because she's tired of waiting for the federal government to come to their senses and realize this is a terrible mistake."

– Oregon News Service

Senior

Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren Get Needed Support

October 2018 - Two new laws will support grandparents raising grandchildren, many because of the opioid epidemic. House Bill 1539 (Act 88 of 2018) grants temporary guardianship in 90-day increments for up to one year to grandparents or other family members when parents are not able to care for their child/ren. The temporary guardianship gives grandparents the right to make vital, basic decisions for their grandchildren, such as the ability to take a child to the doctor or enroll them in school. It does so while it protects the parental rights of parents, and allows the child to be with loving family members, rather than in foster care or another arrangement. In addition, House Bill 2133 (Act 89 of 2018) establishes the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program, an informational resource for grandparents and other family members, both as a website and a toll-free hotline. The website will offer information on support and services available, and a specially trained navigator will provide support and guidance to a kinship caregiver and serve as a mediator to establish relationships between kinship caregivers and relevant federal, state and local agency staff.

– Keystone State News Connection

Bill to Expand Prescription Drug Coverage for 17,000 Seniors Signed into Law

October 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 270 into law. The bill, now Act 87 of 2018, authorizes enhancements to the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET) program, making the program available to an additional 17,000 seniors. HB 270 includes an increase in the income eligibility limits and the implementation of medication synchronization. This will allow an additional 14,000 older Pennsylvanians to receive prescription drug coverage through PACENET. It also will ensure that nearly 3,000 Pennsylvanians won't lose eligibility .

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

$40 Million to Support Solar Powered Storage Projects

October 2018 - $40 million will be made available to support solar projects that integrate energy storage, accelerating progress toward New York's energy storage target of 1,500-megawatts by 2025. These projects will build toward New York's goal of getting 50 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2030 to combat climate change and build a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system.

– New York News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Access to Opioid Reversal Medication Expanded

October 2018 - The opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone is now more widely available in Massachusetts, as a result of the second major legislative act. The new law requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue a statewide standing order allowing pharmacies to dispense naloxone without a prescription to any person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose, as well as their family members, friends, or others to assist them. The purchase is billable for insurance purposes, regardless of whether the transaction involves the person actually using the medication. Previously, pharmacies were required to have their own pharmacy-specific standing order to dispense naloxone or purchasers had to have a prescription. Also, people could be denied insurance coverage for the purchase of naloxone if they themselves were not the user of the medication.

– Commonwealth News Service

Education

Court Reinstates Education Debt Rule in Defeat for DeVos

October 2018 - An Obama-era rule designed to help students cheated by for-profit colleges get relief on their education debt finally took effect after efforts by the Trump administration to block it. A federal judge ordered immediate implementation of the rule, delayed last year by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, while a challenge from the for-profit college industry proceeds. The Department of Education that it will not seek a new delay. Attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia successfully sued DeVos last year over her decision to block the rule, known as Borrower Defense to Repayment, from taking effect.

– All News Services

Criminal Justice

Washington Supreme Court Tosses Out State's Death Penalty

October 2018 - Washington state's Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty, as applied, violates its Constitution. The ruling makes Washington the latest state to do away with capital punishment. The court was unanimous in its order that the eight people currently on death row have their sentences converted to life in prison. Five justices said the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner."

– Washington News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Wyoming Elk Returning to Healthier Winter Range

October 2018 - A U.S. district court revoked a long-term deal for a state-run feeding ground east of Jackson Hole. The move should help protect elk, as well as livestock and hunting traditions, because feed lots can act as hotspots for the spread of chronic wasting disease.

– Wyoming News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Groups Move Ahead to Lift Restrictions on Local LBGTQ Protections

October 2018 - A federal court ruled that the law, intended to replace the "bathroom bill," does not bar transgender people from using public facilities. Civil-rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, are setting their sights on the ban on local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals that was written into North Carolina's controversial House Bill 142.

– North Carolina News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Interior Secretary Zinke Approves Ban on New Mining Claims Near Yellowstone

October 2018 - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke approved a 20-year ban on new mining claims on public lands north of Yellowstone National Park, in the Paradise Valley, as two proposed gold mines raise concerns the area could be spoiled.

– Big Sky Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Judge Returns Yellowstone Grizzlies to Endangered Species List

October 2018 - The U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service must return grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park to the Endangered Species List, a federal judge in Missoula has ordered. The Yellowstone-area grizzly was removed from federal protections under the Endangered Species Act last year. Grizzlies in the lower 48 have been listed as threatened since 1975.

– Big Sky Connection

Early Childhood Education

High-Need School Districts Get $15 Million for Expanded Pre-Kindergarten

October 2018 - Recognizing the important of early childhood education, New York made available $15 million in new funding to establish pre-kindergarten programs for three or four-year-old students across New York. A preference in funding will be provided to high-need school districts that do not currently have a State funded pre-kindergarten program. New York's commitment to pre-kindergarten is now over $800 million annually, serving 120,000 three and four-year-old students each year, and universal pre-kindergarten is free for families. This additional $15 million will ensure New York continues to support its youngest students by supporting the expansion of pre-kindergarten in school districts across New York, including those where there are currently no pre-kindergarten seats. In addition, preference will be given to districts that will be ensuring the inclusion of students with disabilities in integrated settings.

– New York News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Judge Rules for CA in Sanctuary Cities Case

October 2018 - A U.S. judge in California struck down an immigration law that the Trump administration has used to go after cities and states that limit cooperation with immigration officials. The ruling, by Judge William Orrick, also directed the U.S. Department of Justice to give California $28 million that was withheld over the state's immigration policies. It was at least the third decision by a U.S. district court judge in recent months declaring the immigration law unconstitutional.

– California News Service

Toxics

FDA Bans Seven Cancer-causing Food Additives

October 2018 - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration effectively banned seven cancer-causing chemicals including synthetically derived benzophenone, eugenyl methyl ether and pulegone. All legally listed under the catch-all "artificial flavorings" dded to a variety of food and beverages for artificial flavoring?from ice cream and baked goods, to gum and beer. The chemicals are added to give items cinnamon, floral, mint and other flavors. The decision comes in response to legal action brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of health, consumer and environmental groups: Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

– All News Services

Water

ORSANCO Votes To Temp. Keep Water Protection Rules

October 2018 - The multi-state Ohio Sanitary Commission (ORSANCO) voted not to end its regional role in setting and enforcing Ohio River pollution rules. They had considered leaving the regulation up to the fragmented state-by-state system.

– West Virginia News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Amazon Raises Minimum Wage

October 2018 - Amazon announced that it was raising the minimum wage it pays U.S. workers to $15 effective Nov. 1. Researchers and activists across the country had criticized the company for inadequately paying workers. Policy Matters Ohio reported early last year that an estimated one in 10 of the company's Ohio workers was receiving food aid from the government.

– All News Services

Public Lands/Wilderness

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund

October 2018 - The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which funds National Parks, local playgrounds, and other public projects nationwide expired Sept. 30. Two days later (10/2) the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to move a bill forward to permanently reauthorize the fund.

– All News Services

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Arizona's California Condor Population Continues to Grow

October 2018 - Four more captive-raised California condors were released in to the wild in northern Arizona in September. In the 1980s the birds were on the brink of extinction, but recovery efforts have helped populations rebound. At least 85 condors live along the Arizona-Utah border.

– Arizona News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Protect Utah Public Lands

October 2018 - The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance a bill to the full House and Senate that would protect nearly 1 million acres of public lands in Utah's Emery County. It would establish a new wilderness area around the San Rafael Swell, and designate a new National Monument around Jurassic fossil discovery sites.

– Utah News Connection

Water

NYS Commits $200 Million to Address Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water

October 2018 - New York State is dedicating $200 million in grant funding to help communities address federally unregulated contaminants in their drinking water supplies, a national issue that is still lacking federal guidance. The funding will provide advanced support and assistance for communities to combat emerging contaminants, as the State prepares to take the important step of setting enforceable drinking water standards for the emerging contaminants PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane. Of the grant funding, $185 million will be available to communities across the state to upgrade drinking water treatment systems to combat emerging contaminants, prioritizing PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane. The remaining $15 million has been awarded to communities already pursuing system upgrades and innovative pilot technologies to treat emerging contaminants. Additionally, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Environmental Facilities Corporation to provide technical assistance to communities to help assess system needs and apply for grant funding.

– New York News Connection

Juvenile Justice

Raise the Age Law Now in Effect

October 2018 - The Raise the Age law is now in effect. The law removes 16-year-olds who have committed a criminal act from the adult criminal justice system and places them in age-appropriate settings where they can receive needed services and treatment to avoid recidivism. Those 16-year-olds who are arrested for non-violent offenses will have the same opportunities for diversion and community-based services as youth 15 and under. Meanwhile, 16-year-olds charged with serious offenses will be processed as adolescent offenders in a Youth Part of criminal court and placed in specialized secure detention facilities for adolescents instead of adult jails. The law will extend to 17-year-olds on October 1, 2019.

– New York News Connection

S e p t e m b e r

2 0 1 8

September 2018

Criminal Justice

Governor Signs Criminal Justice Reform Package

September 2018 - Gov. Brown signed two research-based criminal justice reforms to improve rehabilitation and reduce the odds of re-offending. Senate Bill 1391 prohibits 14- and 15-year-olds from being tried as adults in criminal court and subsequently sent to adult prison. The bill reverses laws passed in the 1990s that allowed for sentencing the youngest teens to the adult criminal justice system. Senate Bill 1050 extends services and support for exonerated people released from prison after their wrongful convictions are overturned. Since 1989, there have been a total of 192 exonerations in California. SB 1050 guarantees access to Medi-Cal, CalFresh and work training programs to assist exonerees to transition back to society. Today Governor Brown also signed SB 439, which excludes children age 11 and younger from juvenile court jurisdiction to promote the rights, health and well-being of the child by curbing premature exposure to incarceration, and SB 1393, which return judicial discretion on sentencing related to five-year enhancements for serious felony convictions.

– California News Service

Governor Signs Bill to Give Judges Discretion in Sentencing

September 2018 - Gov. Brown signed another major reform rooted in evidence-based policy and cost-effective approaches to criminal justice. Senate Bill 1393, the Fair and Just Sentencing Reform Act, will eliminate automatic penalties that have contributed to the state's mass incarceration crisis and failed 'tough on crime' policies by returning discretion in sentencing of serious felonies to judges.

– California News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Governor Signs Bill Requiring Drug Companies to Collect Old Prescriptions and Needles

September 2018 - Governor Jerry Brown signed groundbreaking legislation by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), along with Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Adam Gray (D-Merced), to create the first statewide drug and medical needles take-back program funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Senate Bill 212 requires manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs and medical needles to establish, implement and fund take-back programs for safe and secure collection and disposal of their products. This is the first statewide measure in the nation to include both prescription medications and medical needles.

– California News Service

Media Reform

Governor Signs Net Neutrality Bill

September 2018 - California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 822, the strongest and most comprehensive state-level net neutrality bill in the country. The bill passed the state legislature with overwhelming and bipartisan support, and could unleash a wave of similar efforts in other states, with serious implications in the fight to restore net neutrality nationwide.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Pennsylvania Announces First Grants Funded by Volkswagen Settlement to Reduce Air Pollution

September 2018 - The first round of grants through the Driving PA Forward initiative have been announced. The grants are being funded by Pennsylvania?s share of the settlement with Volkswagen Group of America for cheating on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions tests. Six transportation projects designed to improve air quality in Pennsylvania are expected to permanently reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions statewide by 27 tons by accelerating the replacement of older, polluting diesel engines with cleaner technologies. Over 25 percent of NOx pollution in Pennsylvania comes from diesel engines in trucks, buses, forklifts, and other mobile sources. The emissions contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, which the EPA has shown can have negative health impacts, including asthma attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health Issues

Medicaid Expansion Helped Decrease CO Uninsured Rate

September 2018 - Colorado and other states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act saw uninsured rates for low-income adults drop more than three times more than states that have not yet expanded coverage,

– Colorado News Connection

Gun Violence Prevention

Albuquerque Nixes Hosting Future NRA Gun Events

September 2018 - The National Rifle Association will hold its final National Police Shooting Championship in Albuquerque after Mayor Tim Keller said the event was a "bad fit" for the community. Per a contract obligation, the event will go on as usual Sept. 24-26, but will need to meet elsewhere in 2019.

– New Mexico News Connection

Toxics

Governor Wolf Takes Executive Action to Address PFAS Concerns and Protect Pennsylvanians

September 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf announced the establishment of a multi-agency PFAS Action Team and other executive actions to address growing national concerns surrounding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These man-made chemicals are resistant to heat, water and oil, and persist in the environment and the human body, heightening concern among residents in areas of the state in which these chemicals have been identified in drinking water. The plan announced today moves Pennsylvania to the forefront of states taking proactive action to address PFAS and other water contaminants.

– Keystone State News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Governor Wolf Urges Congress to Reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

September 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf urged Congress to reauthorize an important federal tool that communities across Pennsylvania - rural, suburban, and urban - have used to revitalize their neighborhoods and create outdoor recreation opportunities for all citizens. In a letter to Pennsylvania?s congressional delegation the governor called the Fund an important community development and conservation tool for states and local communities adding, "Our economy depends on strong and attractive communities for businesses and workers to move, stay, and grow. Congress needs to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund without delay."

– Keystone State News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

NH Counties, Towns File New Lawsuits Against Pharmaceutical Companies, Doctors

September 2018 - New lawsuits filed by six New Hampshire counties and two towns are aimed at trying to recoup millions of dollars lost by local governments in the state's opioid crisis. Pharmaceutical companies, drug stores and doctors have been named in the lawsuits, in which plaintiffs outline a strategy that they said was used to not only downplay the destructive potential of opioids, but also to recruit and pay doctors to propagate the idea that opioids are a low-risk, highly effective way to manage pain. The lawsuits accused the companies of coining the term "pseudo-withdrawal symptoms" and recommending higher doses of opioids to alleviate discomfort.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY Launches Electric Vehicle Charging Station Installation Rebate Initiative for Public and Private Locations

September 2018 - New York State is making $5 million available as part of the first rebate designed specifically for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at workplaces, office buildings, multi-family apartment buildings, and public locations such as theaters, malls, parks and retail locations. The installation of charging stations for public use supports the clean energy goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030. The new Charge Ready NY initiative provides a $4,000 rebate per charging port for public or private employers, building owners, municipalities and non-profit organizations to install Level 2 charging stations at public or workplace parking lots or a multi-unit housing sites.

– New York News Connection

Environmental Justice

Governor Signs Bill to Help Disadvantaged Communities Access Funds For Clean Energy

September 2018 - California Gov. Jerry Brown signed first-of-its-kind legislation designed to level the playing field for disadvantaged communities seeking funding for climate change and clean energy projects funded either by California Climate Investments or other sources. Signed along with a group of other climate bills during the Global Climate Action Summit, SB 1072 was authored by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) and cosponsored by The Greenlining Institute and the Trust for Public Land.

– California News Service

Water

Money Available to Help Improve Lake Erie Water Quality

September 2018 - The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Services is offering funding for Ohio farmers to install conservation practices that benefit water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Nutrient management practices are encouraged that allow for proper storage, timing, and placement of nutrients, will help livestock producers comply with Ohio's nutrient management laws

– Ohio News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

CT Governor Malloy Moves to Phase out Hydrofluorocarbons

September 2018 - Governor Dannel Malloy has directed the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to develop regulations that will phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a group of potent greenhouse gases known to contribute to climate change and are used in a variety of applications.

– Connecticut News Service

Education

Judge Rules DeVos Unlawfully Delayed Student Borrower Protections

September 2018 - A federal judge has ruled that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' delay of a key student borrower protection rule was improper and unlawful. U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss sided with consumer advocates, two former students seeking relief from their loans, and Democratic attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia, who challenged the Trump administration's postponement of Obama-era regulations-governing "borrower defense to repayment."

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

Malloy Joins Connecticut in Coalition Committed to Phasing out Coal Power in Favor of Clean Energy

September 2018 - Governor Dannel Malloy has committed the State of Connecticut to join the Powering Past Coal Alliance - a coalition of countries, regions, states, and businesses that are committed to phasing out traditional coal power and placing a moratorium on new traditional coal power stations. The alliance, which was co-founded by Canada and the United Kingdom in the fall of 2017, has over 50 members. Connecticut currently has only one coal fired plant in use, Bridgeport Harbor Station, which has already committed to cease burning coal by 2021.

– Connecticut News Service

Mass Approves Another Fleet of EV Chargers

September 2018 - Massachusetts regulators have approved a three-year, $25 million package of electric vehicle infrastructure programs run by two local subsidiaries of National Grid. It's the second proposal from the state's major utilities to pass muster with regulators in less than a year, following a $45 million plan from Eversource Energy in December. Neither of the two investor-owned utilities proposed full ownership of the charger systems, obviating what has been a point of contention in other states where utilities have proposed similar installations. Massachusetts is aiming to get 300,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, and the number of EV chargers has been ticking steadily upward. As of a year ago, 1,158 Level 2 ports and 128 fast chargers were available, according to the DPU, compared to 963 Level 2 ports and 83 fast chargers in the prior year.

– Commonwealth News Service

Energy Policy

Governor Brown Signs Bills to Block Offshore Oil Drilling

September 2018 - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation - SB 834 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and AB 1775 by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) - to block new federal offshore oil drilling along California's coast, and announced the state's opposition to the federal government's plan to expand oil drilling on public lands in California. SB 834 and AB 1775 block the Trump administration's plan to expand offshore oil drilling by prohibiting new leases for new construction of oil and gas-related infrastructure, such as pipelines, within state waters if the federal government authorizes any new offshore oil leases.

– California News Service

Oil Company Criminally Liable for 2015 Spill Near Santa Barbara

September 2018 - Plains All-American Pipeline was found guilty of several charges in connection with the 2015 rupture of its severely corroded coastal oil pipeline today after a four-month trial. The spill near Refugio State Beach leaked more than 120,000 gallons of oil, killed hundreds of birds and marine mammals and blackened Santa Barbara area beaches for miles. A jury found Houston-based Plains guilty of a felony for failing to properly maintain its pipeline, and several misdemeanors, including failing to timely call emergency response agencies. The spill shuttered seven offshore drilling platforms that were served by the pipeline, Line 901. Plains has applied to build a new pipeline in the same location. ExxonMobil is also seeking permits to transport oil by tanker trucks so it can restart its three offshore platforms.

– California News Service

Governor Signs Bill for 100% Clean Energy Goal

September 2018 - California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100 (SB100) into law, setting the fifth largest economy in the world on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. SB100 builds on California's clean energy leadership by establishing bold new clean energy targets for the state. California is now the largest global economy to commit to 100 percent renewable energy.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

PA Joins Suit to Oppose Fuel-Efficiency Rollback

September 2018 - Pennsylvania will be joining 19 other states in suing to stop the plan. State leaders and health advocates say the EPA's plan to freeze the fuel efficiency standard is bad for public health, the environment and consumers. After months of wrangling, the EPA released its plan to freeze the fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for six years. It was set to increase to an average of 54 mpg by 2025 but will remain at about 35, the standard set for 2020. The administration claims freezing the fuel standard will cut more than $2,000 off the price of new cars and result in fewer highway deaths, but opponents contest those findings. They say though more fuel-efficient cars may cost more, consumers would make it up through savings on gas by 2030.

– Keystone State News Connection

DEC to Issue Rules for Phasing Out Use of Hydrofluorocarbons in New York State

September 2018 - New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will promulgate regulations to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a group of potent greenhouse gas pollutants used in a wide variety of applications. The regulations would adopt the 2015 and 2016 changes to the Significant New Alternatives Policy that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is abandoning under the Trump administration. The regulations would prohibit specific substances for use in new consumer products, new equipment and equipment that is retrofit after the compliance dates, including aerosol propellants, commercial and residential food refrigeration equipment, commercial air-conditioning equipment, light-duty vehicle air-conditioning and foam-blowing agents. The phase out, which would be implemented from 2020-2024, is expected to reduce HFC emissions by more than 20 percent of projected levels by 2030.

– New York News Connection

Education

IL National Leader in College Completion

September 2018 - Illinois is now the national leader in bachelor's degree completion rates among community college students. According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 53.8 percent of new Illinois community college students in 2010 who transferred to a four-year college completed a bachelor's degree within six years.

– Illinois News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

DEC to Phase Out Use of Hydrofluorocarbons in New York State

September 2018 - New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will promulgate regulations to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a group of potent greenhouse gas pollutants used in a wide variety of applications. The regulations would adopt the 2015 and 2016 changes to the Significant New Alternatives Policy that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is abandoning under the Trump administration. The regulations would prohibit specific substances for use in new consumer products, new equipment and equipment that is retrofit after the compliance dates, including aerosol propellants, commercial and residential food refrigeration equipment, commercial air-conditioning equipment, light-duty vehicle air-conditioning and foam-blowing agents. The phase out, which would be implemented from 2020-2024, is expected to reduce HFC emissions by more than 20 percent of projected levels by 2030.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Judge Kills Lawsuit Against CA Drug Price Transparency Law

September 2018 - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block a California law requiring pharmaceutical companies to give advance notice before big price increases. U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr., ruled 9/6/2018y in Sacramento that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America failed to show that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. He gave PhRMA 30 days to refile. The law requires 60 days' notice to raise national wholesale prices above a certain threshold. PhRMA says California's law illegally tries to dictate national health policy. The group also says the bill is unconstitutionally vague and violates the First Amendment by forcing drug companies to justify price increases.

– California News Service

Civic Engagement

Florida Counties Must Provide Sample Ballots in Spanish

September 2018 - In a partial victory for Hispanic advocacy groups, a federal judge ruled that 32 Florida counties must at least provide sample ballots and signage in Spanish before the Nov. 6 statewide election.

– Florida News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Help for Homeless at Minneapolis' Largest Encampment

September 2018 - Instead of responding with sweeps, raids and arrests, Minneapolis took a new tack when responding to a large homeless camp by creating a coalition of city, county and American Indian agencies to provide housing assistance, medical care and other social services to camp dwellers.

– Minnesota News Connection

Animal Welfare

BLM Backs Down on Pryor Mountain Law Suit

September 2018 - The Cloud Foundation won a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) removal of 17 young wild horses in the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Range. TCF is attempting to protect the small herd from irreversible genetic loss as a result of the planned removals.

– Wyoming News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Wolves Helping Aspen Return to Northern Yellowstone

September 2018 - Aspen trees are on the rebound in and around Yellowstone National Park, and a new report says predators deserve the credit. The trees were in decline for decades largely because concentrated elk populations were eating new tree shoots, and since wolves were reintroduced, elk numbers have decreased and most of the herd's winter range is now outside the park.

– Wyoming News Service

Energy Policy

NY Invests$15 Million in SUNY Clean Energy Workforce Development & Training Programs

September 2018 - New York State has awarded nearly $6 million to SUNY campuses to train more workers in the clean energy sector. In addition, a request for proposals was made available to all SUNY campuses for grants totaling $9 million to provide apprenticeships, internships, and educational programs and support through industry partnerships across the state. These initiatives are part of Climate Jobs NY, a component of Clean Climate Careers initiative. As part of the $9 million RFP for additional grants, the SUNY university system will explore opportunities for partnerships with state and local agencies, including the Department of Labor, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Empire State Development, and Industrial Development Agencies. These partnerships will aim to meet existing and emerging critical workforce needs of New York's clean energy industry, drive regional economic development, and provide hands-on learning to students.

– New York News Connection

Early Childhood Education

High-Need School Districts Get $15 Million for Expanded Pre-Kindergarten

September 2018 - $15 million in funding is now available to establish pre-kindergarten programs for three or four-year-old students across New York. A preference in funding will be provided to high-need school districts that do not currently have a State funded pre-kindergarten program. New York's commitment to pre-kindergarten is now over $800 million annually, serving 120,000 three and four-year-old students each year, and universal pre-kindergarten is free for families. This additional $15 million will ensure New York continues to support its youngest students by supporting the expansion of pre-kindergarten in school districts across New York, including those where there are currently no pre-kindergarten seats. In addition, preference will be given to districts that will be ensuring the inclusion of students with disabilities in integrated settings.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY Invests $15 Million in SUNY Clean Energy Workforce Development & Training Programs

September 2018 - New York State has awarded nearly $6 million to SUNY campuses to train more workers in the clean energy sector. In addition, a request for proposals was made available to all SUNY campuses for grants totaling $9 million to provide apprenticeships, internships, and educational programs and support through industry partnerships across the state. These initiatives are part of Climate Jobs NY, a component of Clean Climate Careers initiative. As part of the $9 million RFP for additional grants, the SUNY university system will explore opportunities for partnerships with state and local agencies, including the Department of Labor, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Empire State Development, and Industrial Development Agencies. These partnerships will aim to meet existing and emerging critical workforce needs of New York's clean energy industry, drive regional economic development, and provide hands-on learning to students.

– New York News Connection

Mental Health

Medicaid to Schools Expansion Set in N.H.

September 2018 - New Hampshire schools can now start getting federal money to provide mental health counseling, speech therapy and other services to more students. In the past, the Medicaid to Schools program applied only to students with Individual Education Plans. But after the federal government revised its guidance, lawmakers expanded the program last year to cover any Medicaid-eligible student with medical needs. The bill required the state Department of Health and Human Services to start working on the changes by Sept. 1, 2017. After parents and advocates expressed frustration in late July that the expansion hadn't been implemented, the state said a draft change to the existing program that rules wouldn't be presented to a legislative committee until sometime in the fall. A few weeks later, Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said temporary rules are now in place that will allow schools to begin billing early in the 2018-19 school year.

– New Hampshire News Connection

A u g u s t

2 0 1 8

August 2018

Media Reform

State Lawmakers Pass Bill to Restore Net Neutrality

August 2018 - State lawmakers voted to pass a bill restoring net neutrality protections 8/31/2018. If signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, it would ensure all California broadband customers have equal access to content on the internet. The law would be the strictest for internet providers in the United States, and put California at odds with the federal government.

– California News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Yellowstone Grizzlies: Court Blocks ID, WY Trophy Hunts

August 2018 - Just two days before the start of the season, a U.S. District Court judge granted wildlife advocates' motion for a temporary restraining order to block planned grizzly bear trophy hunts in Idaho and Wyoming for at least 14 days. This came after a hearing regarding a high-profile case over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' 2017 decision to strip grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of vital Endangered Species Act protections, and provides the court time to deliberate on the merits of the case.

– Big Sky Connection

Early Childhood Education

Governor Cooper Directs DHHS to Create and Lead State Action Plan to Improve Early Childhood Outcomes

August 2018 - Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order directing North Carolina to create an Early Childhood Action Plan. The plan to be developed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will be devoted to the health, safety, and developmental and academic readiness of young children across the state.

– North Carolina News Service

Environmental Justice

Bill to Help Disadvantaged Communities Go Green Passes State Assembly

August 2018 - By a bipartisan 48-9 vote, on 8/29/2018 the California Assembly passed legislation designed to level the playing field for disadvantaged communities seeking funding for climate change and clean energy projects funded either by cap-and-trade dollars or other sources. SB 1072 previously passed the Senate in slightly different form and faced no organized opposition. The measure helps develop technical assistance guidelines covering areas like greenhouse gas quantification and grant-writing. It also provides further assistance by establishing regional climate cooperatives -- local hubs staffed by local experts that will answer questions, convene stakeholders, foster partnerships and help to develop project ideas. Taken together, these programs will provide a crucial boost to rural towns, high-poverty areas and other communities for whom the grant process may be daunting. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Governor Signs Bill to Reform Cash Bail

August 2018 - Taking action to revamp California's bail system, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. 8/28/2018 signed Senate Bill 10, the California Money Bail Reform Act, which preserves the rights of the accused, while prioritizing public safety. The new law - which will take effect on October 1, 2019 - establishes a new system for determining a defendant's custody status while they await trial based on an assessment of risk to public safety and probability of missing a court date rather than their ability to pay cash bail.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

PUC Approves Energy Plan That Could Reduce Health Risks

August 2018 - Xcel plans to replace the lost capacity from the early retirement of Comanche power stations 1 and 2 in Pueblo with a mixture of renewable resources and natural gas.

– Colorado News Connection

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Initiative to Provide Access to Healthy Locally Grown Food for Low Income Students

August 2018 - The "No Student Goes Hungry" program addresses food insecurity by expanding access to free breakfast for students in poverty, increases access to farm-fresh foods and ensures that all students have access to school meals without fear of shame. The program supports high poverty areas around the state to make breakfast accessible for students after the school day has begun. The State is providing $7 million in funding to support equipment for high-poverty schools that offer breakfast after the bell, assisting schools in purchasing equipment such as refrigeration, coolers, vending machines, and breakfast kiosks to support the transition to breakfast after the bell. The program also includes $1.5 million to expand the successful Farm-to-School program.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

PUC Approves Energy Plan That Could Reduce Health Risks

August 2018 - Colorado's Public Utilities Commission has signed off on Xcel Energy's Colorado Energy Plan. And according to new analysis by the Colorado Fiscal Institute, the plan should bring significant health benefits. The plan calls for shuttering two coal-fired power plants in Pueblo County a decade ahead of schedule, and replacing their capacity largely with wind and solar. Report author Abby Pizel, natural resource policy analyst with the institute, said the plan could reduce air pollutants by as much as 55 percent of current levels.

– Colorado News Connection

New Methane Waste Proposal Welcomed by Industry, Conservationists

August 2018 - Wyoming wants to extend pollution and waste reduction efforts proven effective in the Upper Green River Basin to the rest of the state. A new proposal would limit toxic emissions and methane leaks at oil and gas facilities.

– Wyoming News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Walt Disney World Workers Land Deal for $15 Minimum Wage

August 2018 - Disney reached a deal with unions that would hike the minimum wage for Walt Disney World Resort workers to $15 an hour by 2021, signaling an end to contract negotiations that have dragged on for nearly a year.

– Florida News Connection

Health Issues

State Report Shows Benefits of Medicaid Expansion

August 2018 - A new assessment reveals many of the benefits of Ohio's 2014 expansion of the Medicaid program. According to the analysis from the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the program has reduced the uninsured rate, improved enrollees' health and enabled employment.

– Ohio News Connection

MI Voters Will Vote on Approving Legal Cannabis

August 2018 - The Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved the petition to add cannabis legalization to the November ballot. The proposal allows for possession, use, and home cultivation and will make Michigan the 10th state to legalize cannabis and the first state in the Midwest.

– Michigan News Connection

Gun Violence Prevention

Governor Aims to Strengthen Gun Background Checks

August 2018 - Governor John Kasich signed an executive order he said will help close gaps in gun purchase background checks. The executive order calls for a review of whether local officials are properly reporting names of individuals who should be barred from buying guns. The order doesn't punish offices that fail to meet the reporting requirement, but those offices and their reporting history will be listed on the Department of Public Safety website.

– Ohio News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Legislation Expands Use of Rehabilitation and Diversion Services to Combat Heroin and Opioid Epidemic

August 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation (A.10403/S.8760) to help in the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic by diverting substance-dependent individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system. These diversion models include law enforcement assisted diversion, known as LEAD, and other programs treating substance abuse and addiction. LEAD programs provide law enforcement officers and other criminal justice officials with the ability to divert people from the criminal justice system into substance use treatment, health or mental health services, housing assistance or other services. Specially-trained officers collaborate with prosecutors, defense attorneys, counselors, service providers, and other community leaders to avoid incarceration.

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

California Protects Humboldt Martens as Endangered

August 2018 - In response to a petition from conservation groups, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 8/23/2018 to protect the Humboldt marten under the state Endangered Species Act. The Environmental Protection Information Center and Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for the secretive carnivore's protection in 2015. A relative of minks and otters that dwells in old-growth forests, fewer than 200 of the cat-like animals survive in California in Del Norte, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties. Humboldt martens have lost more than 95 percent of their historic habitat to logging.

– California News Service

Water

Maryland Pushes Tougher Water Pollution Rules

August 2018 - Maryland will start requiring three coal-fired power plants to scrub toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic from water discharged into the Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, is moving in the opposite direction of the Trump administration.

– Maryland News Connection

Health Issues

A Record Number of Comments Collected for Kentucky HEALTH Waiver

August 2018 - A record number of comments were collected for Kentucky HEALTH's third federal comment period. The comment period on the 1115 Medicaid Waiver comes on the heels of a recent federal court ruling that blocked the waiver in its entirety. Advocates say in nearly 12,000 written comments, Kentuckians overwhelmingly expressed opposition to the waiver's new requirements and penalties that would result in 100,000 people losing coverage.

– Kentucky News Connection

Energy Policy

Court Orders EPA to Strengthen Coal Ash Rules

August 2018 - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision 8/21/2018 holding that the first-ever federal safeguards set by the Obama Administration for coal ash dumps do not sufficiently protect communities and the environment from pollution from that toxic waste. The court's decision today sided with public interest groups by concluding that the Obama-era rule failed to adequately protect against pollution from unlined and inadequately lined ash pits, many of which are already leaking dangerous pollution into rivers and streams. The Court ordered EPA to revise the rule to properly address the health and environmental threats from these dump sites. The Court also agreed with public interest groups that EPA did not go far enough in regulating coal ash dumps, holding that EPA improperly exempted coal ash ponds at closed coal-fired power plants from regulation. Rejecting industry challenges to the rule, the Court further held that EPA acted within its authority to regulate coal ash ponds no longer actively receiving waste and located at operating plants.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

State Directs $2.4 Billion to Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental Protection, and Community Investments

August 2018 - Governor Charlie Baker has signed bipartisan legislation to authorize over $2.4 billion in capital allocations for investments in safeguarding residents, municipalities and businesses from the impacts of climate change, protecting environmental resources, and improving recreational opportunities. H. 4835 authorizes $501 million to respond to and prepare for extreme weather, sea level rise, inland flooding and other climate impacts, $581 million to continue supporting communities around the Commonwealth and the environmental stewardship work they do and more than $474 million to support environmental programs at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies ranging from air and water quality monitoring to hazardous waste cleanup and the restoration of rivers, wetlands, streams, and lakes.

– Commonwealth News Service

New York to Join Powering Past Coal Alliance

August 2018 - New York is joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance, an international coalition of governments, businesses, and other organizations committed to leading the rest of the world in ending the use of traditional coal power. Launched by the UK and Canada on the margins of COP 23, the Alliance is a coalition of governments, businesses, and other organizations to lead the rest of the world in ending the use of traditional coal power. It is committed to taking action to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional power.

– New York News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Zinke Reverses Proposal to Sell Utah Public Lands

August 2018 - The Interior Department canceled a proposal to potentially sell public land that was once protected inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument before its boundary was redrawn, saying it contradicted Secretary Ryan Zinke's assurance last year that he would not do so. Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt issued a statement 8/17/2018 taking responsibility for an oversight that led to the bid to dispose of 1,600 acres outside the redrawn boundary despite Zinke's vow during his Senate confirmation hearing, and to department staff members shortly after he took office. "The failure to capture this inconsistency stops with me," Bernhardt wrote. Bernhardt's statement came a day after a conservation group revealed the proposal buried deep inside new management plans for Grand Staircase and Bears Ears, two national monuments in Utah that the Trump administration moved to shrink significantly. The effort has faced multiple court challenges.

– Utah News Connection

Water

Lawsuit Forces Trump Administration to Protect Eight California Rivers

August 2018 - The Trump administration agreed to a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity 8/17/2018 that requires two federal agencies to prepare long-overdue management plans to protect eight "wild and scenic" rivers in Southern California. Under the agreement the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management must complete plans by 2024 for 100 miles of waters in the Amargosa River, Owens Headwaters, Cottonwood Creek, Piru Creek, North Fork San Jacinto River, Fuller Mill Creek, Palm Canyon Creek and Bautista Creek. Designated by Congress in 2009 under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the waters wind through three national forests and other public lands and provide essential habitat for imperiled fish, birds and other wildlife. In March the Center filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to ensure protections for these California rivers.

– California News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

NH Releases New Plan to Fight Opioid Addiction

August 2018 - Governor Chris Sununu and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers released details of a plan to combat substance abuse in New Hampshire. Health and wellness advocates say the plan is an important step in the right direction. The plan takes a holistic approach to addiction treatment and recovery, targeting areas where people have limited access to care by establishing regional hubs using funds from a potential $45 million federal grant. New Hampshire has the third-highest rate of opioid overdose deaths per capita in the nation but has lagged behind other states in providing addiction services. The new plan targets specific populations in need of support, including people in the criminal justice system and pregnant women.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Toxics

CA Supreme Court Rules Against Monsanto, Allows Glyphosate To Be Listed As Carcinogen

August 2018 - The California Supreme Court 8/15/2018 refused to hear a challenge to a key provision of the state's landmark chemical consumer-disclosure law, Proposition 65, brought by Monsanto. The chemical maker was seeking to force California to remove glyphosate, found in the company's Roundup products, from the Proposition 65 list of carcinogens. This decision leaves in place lower court decisions upholding a provision of the voter-approved initiative that allows outside expert scientific findings to be considered when adding chemicals to the public list of carcinogens.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Federal Judge Orders Environmental Review of Controversial Keystone XL Pipeline

August 2018 - A federal judge mandated 8/15/2-18 that the U.S. State Department go back and conduct a more thorough Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline alternative route, which was approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission in November 2017.

– All News Services

Immigrant Issues

CA Supreme Court Rules for Immigrant Children in Visa Fight

August 2018 - 8/16/2018 made it easier for some immigrant children who are abused or abandoned by a parent to seek a U.S. visa to avoid deportation. It was not immediately clear how many children the ruling would affect. State judges cannot require that children drag an absentee parent living abroad into court in their visa application process, the justices said in a unanimous decision. Immigration rights advocates had warned that such a requirement would make it nearly impossible for the children to fight deportation. That's because courts in California cannot establish authority over a foreign citizen and the parent may want nothing to do with a child claiming abuse, and would refuse to participate in a court proceeding in the U.S., immigration groups said in court documents.

– California News Service

Water

Judge Reinstates Clean Water Rule in 26 States

August 2018 - A federal judge in South Carolina has issued a nationwide injunction on the Trump administration's delay of the Clean Water Rule. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina means the Clean Water Rule is now the law of the land in 26 states where district court judges have not stayed the regulation. The Trump administration finalized its delay of the Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule in February. The regulation redefined which wetlands and small waterways are covered by the Clean Water Act.

– All News Services

Criminal Justice

Restorative Justice Class Cuts Costs of Incarceration

August 2018 - According to a recent study, probationers who completed the center's restorative justice program were half as likely to re-enter the system. By comparison, nearly 7 in 10 people who did not complete the class re-offended.

– Nebraska News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Union-led Victory for Workers

August 2018 - Democrats may have scored their most definitive win of Donald Trump's presidency this election as unions routed Republicans in a Missouri ballot measure battle that showed unexpected strength from organized labor. Unions crushed the state's so-called right-to-work law, overwhelming conservative opponents by a 2-to-1 margin after running a deep-pocketed campaign. The outcome signals that unions still have paths to victory in red-leaning states and provides labor a new playbook for fighting the policies of Republican-controlled state governments.

– Missouri News Service

Toxics

State May Become First Ever to Regulate Methyl Bromide

August 2018 - This chemical is used in log production, and thanks to a grassroots citizen effort based largely on social media, the state is seeking a change in the classification of the compound from agricultural to industrial, which will carry with it stricter regulations.

– North Carolina News Service

Court Orders E.P.A. to Ban Chlorpyrifos, Pesticide Tied to Children's Health Problems

August 2018 - A federal appeals court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to bar within 60 days a widely used pesticide associated with developmental disabilities and other health problems in children, dealing the industry a major blow after it had successfully lobbied the Trump administration to reject a ban. The order by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came after a decade-long effort by environmental and public health groups to get the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, removed from the market.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Alisa Canyon Blowout Settlement Announced

August 2018 - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer (City Attorney), and the County of Los Angeles (County) announced a $119.5 million settlement with the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) over the unprecedented natural gas leak from a ruptured well at its Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in Porter Ranch, California.

– California News Service

Water

USDA Grants Help with Indiana Water and Waste Systems

August 2018 - The USDA's Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program is offering funding for rural communities to help them pay for drinking water, storm-water drainage and waste-disposal systems. A total of $165 million is available for Indiana communities.

– Indiana News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Federal Judge Dismisses Case Challenging Locker Room Use by Transgender Boy in Ore.

August 2018 - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by parents in Dallas, Oregon that challenged state and federal policies allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. The lawsuit stemmed from a safety plan Dallas High School put in place that allowed a transgender freshman, Elliot Yoder, to use the boys' locker room, consistent with his gender identity. The complaint alleged that Yoder's presence in the boys' locker room caused some students at the school to feel embarrassed and conflicted with Christian teachings regarding modesty. A federal judge dismissed those claims and found that the school district had properly followed Oregon's anti-discrimination law.

– Oregon News Service

Health Issues

More Texans Have ACA Health Coverage in 2018

August 2018 - Despite confusion over recent congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, shorter enrollment periods and reduced advertising and outreach, the overall number of Texans with health coverage is on the rise, according to a new report by the Episcopal Health Foundation.

– Texas News Service

Energy Policy

Colorado Rising Submits Enough Signatures for Safer Setbacks Initiative to Qualify for November Ballot

August 2018 - Despite numerous hurdles, signatures have been submitted for 2,500-foot setbacks on fracking operations.

– Colorado News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

MA Joins Suit to Maintain Fuel-Efficiency Standard

August 2018 - Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says the Bay State will be joining 19 other states in suing the Trump Administration to stop EPA's plan to freeze the fuel-efficiency standard is bad for public health, the environment and consumers. The EPA wants to freeze the fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for six years. It was set to increase to an average of 54 miles-to-the-gallon by 2025 but will remain at about 35, the standard set for 2020. The administration claims freezing the fuel standard will cut more than $2,000 off the price of new cars and result in fewer highway deaths, but opponents contest those findings.

– Commonwealth News Service

HIV/AIDS Prevention

Utah Takes Steps to Prevent Suicides

August 2018 - Utah's suicide rate is among the highest in the nation, and has been on the rise since 1999. A new law ensures that crisis hotlines in the state are staffed 24-hours a day, or roll over to a hotline that is.

– Utah News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Arizona Teachers Head Back to School With Bigger Paychecks

August 2018 - After a teacher walkout last spring and last-minute action by the state legislature, the state's educators are set to see a 20 percent raise over three years. As the 2018 school year begins, teachers are bringing home slightly higher paychecks than last year, though many say there's still more work to be done for the state's education budget.

– Arizona News Connection

Consumer Issues

New Law Will Protect AZ Consumers Against Identity Theft

August 2018 - A law taking effect August 3 will limit fees on credit reporting which had previously hindered consumers from being able to unfreeze accounts.

– Arizona News Connection

Urban Planning/Transportation

AZ Ups Penalties for Wrong-way Drivers

August 2018 - Arizona has been show to have some of the most unsafe roadways in the country. New laws taking effect in August will increase fines and penalties for wrong-way drivers.

– Arizona News Connection

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July 2018

Energy Policy

Ore. Supreme Court Declines Review of Portland Oil Terminal Ban

July 2018 - The Oregon Supreme Court declined to review Portland's City Council decision from 2016 to prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure such as oil and gas terminals within the city. Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Audubon Society of Portland, the Center for Sustainable Economy, and Columbia Riverkeeper intervened in the case and welcomed the news that Portland?s fossil fuel policy can move forward.

– Oregon News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

CA Supreme Court Rules Employers Must Pay for Off The Clock Tasks

July 2018 - California's Supreme Court ruled that employers must pay workers for the time they spend completing off-the-clock tasks, such as locking up after work. The decision, issued this week, marks a win for labor advocates who say requiring hourly workers to spend minutes doing unpaid tasks amounts to wage theft. Business groups say the ruling will embolden frivolous lawsuits and cost companies money. A federal law, called the Fair Labor Standards Act, generally allows companies to avoid compensating employees for time spent on duties the law describes as trivial or too difficult to track. In its majority opinion, the California Supreme Court said the federal rule does not apply in the state when it comes to certain off-the-clock tasks performed by employees.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

EPA Reverses Decision, Will Now Regulate Polluting Glider Trucks

July 2018 - The Environmental Protection Agency reversed course and announced it would enforce stricter pollution controls on freight trucks known as "gliders," which emit dozens of times more soot and contaminants compared to those with new diesel engines. In a three-page memo to his deputies, acting administrator Andrew Wheeler said he would withdraw the "no action assurance" the agency had given the manufacturers of glider trucks on the last day that his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, headed the EPA. That letter assured firms that they would not have to limit their annual production to 300 vehicles through the end of 2019. The EPA initially proposed a rule last November to repeal tighter emissions standards for glider trucks, which had been set to take effect in January. An Obama-era regulation aimed at controlling soot and other pollutants, as well as greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, the rule had the support of public-health advocates and some major trucking groups and engine manufacturers.

– All News Services

Health Issues

KY Counties Noted as Bright Spots for Health

July 2018 - Nine Appalachian counties in Kentucky are highlighted as standing out in key measures of health, including health behaviors, health-care systems, environmental factors and screening measures. While each bright-spot county has a unique approach to local health challenges, the Foundation for a Health Kentucky says the common theme is improved community collaboration and resource sharing.

– Kentucky News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Seattle Passes Law Protecting Domestic Workers

July 2018 - The bill will guarantee certain rights that are already standard among most labor sectors, namely a minimum wage, and rest and lunch breaks, for 30,000 workers. It will also forbid employers from withholding workers' personal effects or documents, such as passports, in an effort to prevent what Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who spearheaded the legislation, referred to as "indentured servitude." The new law also protects workers from retaliation for filing complaints.

– Washington News Service

Education

Court Requires Quick Turnaround for Equity in NM's Public Schools

July 2018 - New Mexico is required to create a plan for how to create more equitable funding for its public schools, after a judge ruled the state has been unconstitutionally depriving at-risk students of a quality education. Education advocates called it a win for New Mexico children, and say work needs to begin immediately on a plan to serve all the state's public-school children.

– New Mexico News Connection

Immigrant Issues

NY Sues Trump Administration Over Funds for Sanctuary Jurisdictions

July 2018 - Attorneys general from New York and five other states filed a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from putting anti-immigrant conditions on federal funds that states and localities use for law enforcement. The complaint argues the Justice Department doesn't have the authority to impose new conditions that adversely affect the ability of police departments to do their jobs. New York State attorney general Barbara Underwood said the White House is waging a political attack on New Yorkers at the expense of public safety.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Governor Signs Executive Order on Orphaned Wells

July 2018 - Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order that aims to address safety concerns with more than 260 orphaned wells and 360 orphaned sites in Colorado. The executive order follows a review that the governor ordered in the aftermath of the Firestone house explosion in 2017 that killed Joey Irwin and Mark Martinez and injured Erin Martinez.

– Colorado News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Town Council Approves Housing Mitigation Requirements

July 2018 - County commissioners and the town council cast final votes in favor of a proposal to encourage more residential development. Their decision on the future of commercial and affordable housing could determine how many people who work in the tourist town at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park get to live in town.

– Wyoming News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

CT Senators Introduce Gun Legislation

July 2018 - U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act, legislation led by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) that would strengthen accountability measures for gun dealers to ensure they are not engaging in illegal gun sales and to provide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) with clear enforcement mechanisms. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, just five percent of gun dealers supply 90 percent of crime guns used in the United States. While the majority of gun dealers follow the law, a small number of delinquent gun dealers are recklessly perpetuating the epidemic of gun violence in this country. This legislation would ensure that guns do not end up in the wrong hands by authorizing increased inspections of gun dealers to ensure compliance standards are met, increasing penalties for serious offenses, and strengthening the Department of Justice's authority and discretion in enforcing gun laws.

– Connecticut News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

California Beats Self-Imposed Climate Change Goals

July 2018 - California has beaten its self-imposed goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, achieving a milestone in the state's fight against climate change. The California Air Resources Board announced Wednesday that total statewide carbon emissions fell to 429 million metric tons in 2016, a drop of 12 million tons from the year before. The decline means California met the Legislature's goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels, and did so a full four years before the target year of 2020. Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials said the results proved the state's portfolio of anti-carbon laws and regulations is succeeding - and showed California can fight climate change while still enjoying a significant economic boom. They pledged to continue to fight efforts by President Donald Trump's administration to roll back strict emission rules imposed by the Obama administration.

– California News Service

Toxics

Roundup Lawsuit to Move Forward

July 2018 - A federal judge found sufficient evidence to move to trial hundreds of lawsuits alleging that Monsanto Co.'s glyphosate-containing weed-killer Roundup causes cancer. More than 400 farmers, landscapers, and consumers, whose lawsuits have been consolidated before the Northern California federal district court in San Francisco, allege that Monsanto?s weed-killer caused them to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cell cancer.

– California News Service

Immigrant Issues

New York to File Multi-Agency Lawsuit Charging the Trump Administration with Violating Rights of Children and Families

July 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York State intends to file a multi-agency lawsuit against the Trump Administration on the grounds that the federal government is violating the Constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children and their parents who have been separated at the border. More than 70 children are staying in federal shelters in New York State and that number is expected to increase as other facilities are identified. New York plans to sue the federal government for: violating the Constitutional Rights of children and families, violating the terms of the Flores Settlement that set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention, and callous policies based on the outrageous government conduct doctrine as outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Assembly Passes Bill to Help Community Solar

July 2018 - New York's State Assembly has voted to restore net metering of community solar power. The bill would put the Public Service Commission's Value of Distributed Energy Resources, or VDER, plan on hold for three years. Net metering and VDER are methods of calculating compensation for smaller energy sources such as solar installations for the power they feed into the electric grid. Environmental advocates say restoring net metering will make solar power accessible to all New Yorkers, including almost half of state residents who rent their homes and can't install solar panels on their property. The PSC says VDER was established to fix a flaw in the net metering system and to support the state's Reforming the Energy Vision strategy. But advocates say, since the plan was rolled out last year, new solar installations have slowed significantly because VDER makes it difficult to calculate a long-term rate of return on the cost.

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Judge Rules Against Fed Agency's Method for Killing Predators in Idaho

July 2018 - A judge has ruled against a federal agency and how they kill predators like coyotes, in Idaho. A collection of environmental groups brought the suit against U.S. Wildlife Services. They said that the agency was killing thousands of animals a year in Idaho without adequately analyzing the environmental risks involved. The suit said the agency was killing wolves, coyotes, otters, birds and other animals, often in response to requests from the livestock industry. Wildlife Services used traps, snares, poison and also shot from an aircraft to kill the animals. The agency killed close to 4,000 coyotes in Idaho in 2016.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Environment

Seattle Bans Plastic Straws

July 2018 - A ban on single-use plastic straws went into effect in Seattle on July 1st. The straws have been targeted because they're too small for recycling machines and usually end up in the ocean.

– Washington News Service

Budget Policy & Priorities

Senate Rejects Billions in Trump Spending Cuts

July 2018 - The U.S. Senate rejected billions in spending cuts proposed by the Trump administration as two Republicans joined all Democrats in voting "no." The cuts in the rescissions package included $7 billion from the Children's Health Insurance Program.

– All News Services

LGBTQIA Issues

Anti-Trans Bathroom Initiative Fails

July 2018 - A measure that would have required people to use the bathroom of the sex they were assigned at birth failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. It was strongly opposed by the LGBT community for its discriminatory nature.

– Big Sky Connection

Media Reform

CA Net Neutrality Bill Resurrected

July 2018 - Two weeks ago, the strongest state-level net neutrality bill was gutted in a committee hearing by Assembly member Miguel Santiago, which led many observers to believe the bill was dead thanks to the power of giant telecoms like Comcast and AT&T. But the move sparked an unprecedented public outcry from Californians, who made thousands of phone calls, flooded social media, and crowdfunded more than $14,000 in order to put up a billboard in Chairman Santiago's district. 7/5/2018, in a win for the open Internet, Santiago announced that all of SB 822's core protections are being restored and that he's now a co-author of the bill.

– California News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

TN Wilderness Act Passes in 2018 Senate Farm Bill

July 2018 - Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) say the Tennessee Wilderness Act is "on the way to becoming law," after it passed the Senate as a provision in the farm bill. Senator Alexander said, "My hope is that when the Senate and the House get together and reconcile their differences in the farm bill, they'll send it to President Trump with the Tennessee Wilderness Act and then he will sign it."

– Tennessee News Service

Toxics

Flame Retardant Law on the Books

July 2018 - Minnesota adopted the toughest flame retardants law in the country. The legislation prohibits using four of the most toxic flame retardant chemicals found in upholstered furniture and children's products manufactured after July 2018.

– Minnesota News Connection

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June 2018

Health Issues

KY Medicaid Waiver Vacated

June 2018 - Sixteen low-income Kentuckians this year challenged federal approval of Governor Bevin's Medicaid waiver plan. Federal district Judge James Boasberg favored the plaintiffs, vacating the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary's approval of Kentucky's 1115 Waiver known as Kentucky HEALTH. The judge's ruling blocks implementation of the waiver in its current form which called for several new requirements for the program.

– Kentucky News Connection

Criminal Justice

"Clean Slate" Bill Signed into Law

June 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf has signed HB1419, called the "Clean Slate Bill" into law. HB1419 provides those with low-level, non-violent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view. Nearly 3 million Pennsylvanians of working age are estimated to have criminal records with many that are only minor. The legislation seals nonviolent misdemeanor convictions after an individual has remained crime-free for 10 years.

– Keystone State News Connection

Urban Planning/Transportation

Arizona Initiates Texting While Driving Restriction

June 2018 - A new law is set to go into effect in Arizona which will restrict teen drivers from texting behind the wheel. Arizona is one of the last states not to ban texting while driving. It is also one of most dangerous states for pedestrian and traffic safety. This is the first time the state has introduced any restrictions on texting while driving.

– Arizona News Connection

Energy Policy

LA Utility Invests $100 Million in Effiency

June 2018 - The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power - the nation's largest municipal utility - voted to invest $100 million over five years to improve energy efficiency in lower-income rental housing, ensuring those who most need electricity bill savings will see some relief. This is the largest single allocation of energy efficiency funding aimed at affordable apartments in California as well as the biggest nationally for one metropolitan region served by a municipal utility. LADWP also allocated $10 million for new shared solar facilities, further ensuring benefits from California's clean energy economy can reach all residents, including renters.

– California News Service

Immigrant Issues

New Legislation Increases Protections for Immigrant Children in New York

June 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation to increase protections for immigrant children who have been separated from their families as a result of the Trump Administration's inhumane "zero tolerance" policy. The legislation will provide parents who have been detained in New York, or are facing deportation from the state, an opportunity to appoint someone of their choosing to step into their shoes and provide emergency care for their child.

– New York News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate to Protect Farmworkers

June 2018 - A group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill to strengthen critical protections for farm workers as they face long hours and exposure to heat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 farm workers suffer injury each day and face the risk of missing work. Average farm workers are paid a salary at or near the federal poverty line with most not getting paid any overtime pay at all. The Fairness for Farm Workers Act amends the FLSA to grant overtime protections to farm workers who work more than 40 hours a week, and eliminates most remaining exemptions to the minimum wage for farm workers. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) will introduce companion legislation in the House later today.

– All News Services

LGBTQIA Issues

State to Institute Health Care Protections for Transgender New Yorkers

June 2018 - In anticipation of the potential rollback of key 'Affordable Care Act' Provision, state agencies will Issue regulations prohibiting health care providers and insurers from discriminating against transgender patients. Governor Cuomo has also directed the New York State Department of Financial Services to issue regulations expanding the scope of anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals when it comes to accessing health insurance, and to issue a circular letter reminding industry participants that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is already prohibited in New York in certain policies.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Nevada Universities Prepare to Divest from Fossil Fuel

June 2018 - Students from Nevada's state universities presented a petition with more than 1,000 to the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education asking the schools to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The Board of Regents directed financial advisors to look into the impact of divestment to consider at their next meeting in September.

– Nevada News Service

Immigrant Issues

Trump Signs Order to End Separations Condemned by Pediatricians

June 2018 - Following widespread outrage over the forced separation of children from their parents arrested on suspicion of entering the country illegally along the southern U.S. border, President Donald Trump on June 20th signed an executive order to end the practice.

– All News Services

Toxics

New York Files Lawsuit Against Manufacturers of Hazardous Firefighting Foam

June 2018 - New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced that the state has filed a lawsuit against six companies that manufactured aqueous film-forming foam containing the chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonic acid/perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and/or perfluorooctanoic acid/perfluorooctanoate (PFOA). PFOS and PFOA contamination resulting from these firefighting foams has been found at locations across New York. The lawsuit seeks to hold the companies accountable and recover state costs and natural resource damages associated with PFOS/PFOA contamination at several sites and is the latest step in New York's ongoing efforts to tackle emerging contaminants.

– New York News Connection

Oceans

"Save Our Waters" Bill Passes State Assembly

June 2018 - The New York State Assembly has passed the 'Save Our Waters' Bill. The legislation, is intended to protect the environment and send a message to the federal government that the state will not allow offshore drilling in New York waters. The bill is a response to the Trump administration's proposal to sell oil leases in Atlantic coastal waters from Georgia to Maine.

– New York News Connection

Environment

NY Initiates Action Plans to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms

June 2018 - The State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health have released 12 action plans to address the causes of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in priority waterbodies across upstate New York. The action plans outline specific projects and programs to be implemented at priority lakes and also identify actions that can be taken at waterbodies statewide to reduce the threat of HABs. The plans are part of a $65 million, four-point initiative to aggressively combat HABs and protect drinking water quality and the upstate economy.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Court Reinstates CA Aid-In-Dying Act, For Now

June 2018 - A California appeals court granted emergency motions by the two terminally ill adults and a physician for an "automatic stay" to immediately suspend a lower court's judgment invalidating the End of Life Option Act. The appeals court also granted a motion by Attorney General Xavier Becerra for a "discretionary stay" of the lower court ruling. The rulings reinstate the law, effective immediately. Similar to laws in Washington, D.C. and six states, the California law gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication they can decide to take to end unbearable suffering and die peacefully in their sleep.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

State Senate Unanimously Passes "An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future"

June 2018 - The Massachusetts Senate voted to pass S.2545, An Act to promote a clean energy future, sponsored by Senators Marc Pacheco and Mike Barrett. This legislation represents a firm stand by the Senate to ensure a healthier, cleaner Commonwealth for future generations of Massachusetts residents. Most importantly, the policies enacted in this legislation will have measurable benefits in the health of the global environment. This legislation is a forward-looking plan that prepares Massachusetts for the inevitable obstacles that will come with climate change. The policies and programs will protect public health, increase the use of renewable energy, reduce greenhouse emissions, implement a price on carbon, and create jobs in the innovative green-energy economy.

– Commonwealth News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

More Grant $$ to Combat Opioid Crisis

June 2018 - Governor Cooper announced $1.5 million in grant awards to 12 community partners to implement projects that combat the opioid crisis by advancing the goals of the NC Opioid Action Plan. The one-time, state-funded grants of up to $150,000 from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services enable partner organizations to implement activities in their community which improve access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery supports.

– North Carolina News Service

Toxics

EPA Reverses Itself, Will Now Enforce Pesticide Rules

June 2018 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signaled that it will implement critical safeguards for agricultural workers that protect against exposure to pesticides. This news comes just two weeks after New York, California and Maryland filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA's prior refusal to publish the rules, which were issued during the Obama administration. The rules require employers to educate farm workers on safe pesticide handling.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

Connecticut Wins Smog Lawsuit Against Trump Administration

June 2018 - The State of Connecticut and the State of New York have won their joint lawsuit in federal court against the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its administrator, Scott Pruitt, over the agency's failure to adequately control ozone pollution from other states that negatively impacts air quality in the two downwind states. In the lawsuit, which Connecticut and New York filed in January, the states alleged that EPA failed to perform its mandatory duty to develop federal implementation plans that fully address requirements for upwind states under the Good Neighbor Provision of the federal Clean Air Act for the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

– Connecticut News Service

Energy Policy

New Legislation Supports Low-Cost, Clean Energy Technology in Pennsylvania

June 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf has signed Senate Bill 234, establishing Pennsylvania's Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, a financing mechanism that enables low-cost, long-term funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades to commercial or industrial properties. With this legislation will save small businesses money on their electricity and water bills, create new, good-paying clean energy jobs, and add new, clean energy sources to the state's energy mix.

– Keystone State News Connection

Consumer Issues

New York Joins 11 Other States in Letter Calling for Federal Protection of State Marijuana Laws

June 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Governors of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington today issued a letter calling for passage of the STATES Act to protect against federal interference in state marijuana laws. As of today, 46 states permit the use of some form of medical marijuana and 8 states have made it legal for adult-use. These programs reflect the will of the people as expressed through ballot initiatives and legislative action. In 2014 the Department of Justice provided federal prosecutors guidance in the form of the "Cole Memo", which directed limited federal resources away from prosecuting marijuana operations operating in compliance with state law. The rescission of the Cole Memo earlier this year has complicated the marketplace for businesses that states now deem legal.

– New York News Connection

Education

Bill Introduced to Make College Free in PA

June 2018 - Pennsylvania is near the bottom in per capita funding for higher education, but a bill now in the General Assembly could change that. If passed, the bill, called "PA Promise", would eliminate college tuition and fees for recent high school graduates from families with incomes of $110,000 dollars a year or less. Right now, in more than half of Pennsylvania counties the share of adults with more than a high school diploma is lower than in any of the other forty-nine states. The bill would also pay room and board for students from families with incomes below $48,000 a year. The increase in state spending would raise Pennsylvania from 47th in the nation to 36th for per capita investment in higher education.

– Keystone State News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

Transgender Nondiscrimination Bill Signed

June 2018 - New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has signed legislation to protect New Hampshire's transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing and places of public accommodation. New Hampshire is the last New England state to pass such a law. New Hampshire is now the 19th state in the country to provide legal protections for transgender individuals. The governor also signed House Bill 587, legislation to ban conversion therapy for minors. The transgender anti-discrimination law, as well as the ban on conversion therapy, take effect on July 8.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Toxics

New Fed Rule Protects Consumers from Formaldehyde in Wood Products

June 2018 - Using excessive amounts of formaldehyde on manufactured and imported wood products became illegal this month, following a long battle at the Environmental Protection Agency. This issue came into focus in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when people became sick from the wood paneling in emergency trailers supplied by FEMA.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

DEP Releases New Natural Gas Permits to Reduce Air Pollution

June 2018 - Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell 06/07/2018 announced the issuance of new general permits for unconventional natural gas wells and compression, processing, and transmission facilities that will reduce air pollution and establish a control threshold on methane emissions. The newly revised general permits, GP-5 and GP-5A, will be required for new compression, processing and transmission stations along pipelines, and new natural gas wells, respectively. In addition to the methane controls, the permits also set thresholds on other types of air pollution, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Operators will be required to meet federal new source standards and state Best Available Technology (BAT) included in the permit conditions for equipment and processes to control pollution emissions.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health Issues

Virginia Governor Signs Budget, Medicaid Expansion

June 2018 - Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a new state budget that expands Medicaid to as many as 400,000 low-income adults. The General Assembly voted to approve the budget with Medicaid expansion ending a long-running partisan stalemate over the issue, with several Republicans joining Democrats to support the measure. A tally from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Virginia will become the 33rd state to approve Medicaid expansion.

– Virginia News Connection

Women's Issues

Governor Wolf Takes Action on Equal Pay for Women

June 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order ending the practice of state agencies requiring a job applicant to provide their salary history during the hiring process and called on the General Assembly to pass similar protections for all working women in Pennsylvania. Executive Order 2018-18-03, Equal Pay for Employees of the Commonwealth, directs state agencies under the governor?s jurisdiction to: no longer ask job applicants their salary history during the hiring process; base salaries on job responsibilities, position pay range, and the applicant's job knowledge and skills; clearly explain the pay range on job postings. The Executive Order, which applies to management-level positions, takes effect in 90 days.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health Issues

TennCare Pauses New Payment Model That Some Say Will Negatively Impact Patient Care

June 2018 - The state will temporarily stop expanding its episodes of care payment model. TennCare reports that it will not design future episodes to concentrate on improving and maintaining episodes already in place. The episodes of care model describe a system by which doctors are paid for a specific health episode - for example, a birth - and they're paid and measured on how much they can cut costs during that particular episode. Physicians protested the model - saying it would negatively impact patient care and also create an unfair system of reimbursement for doctors.

– Tennessee News Service

Civic Engagement

Lawmakers Consider Bill That Would Require "Paid For" on Social Media Political Ads in NC

June 2018 - The disclosure would have to be in letters at least the same size as other text in the ad and would take effect January 1st - too late for the November midterms. The legislation has support from both parties.

– North Carolina News Service

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May 2018

Children's Issues

Foster Care Reform Signed into Law

May 2018 - Governor Bevin signed House Bill 1, legislation that sets forth a comprehensive plan to strengthen how the commonwealth supports children impacted by abuse or neglect and their families. The bill strengthens supports to help keep families together safely and, when that's not possible, addresses timelines for adoption cases so that children can more quickly move toward finding a permanent family.

– Kentucky News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Immigrants Win on Drivers License Process

May 2018 - Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that aims to improve the state's long-embattled driver's license program for people living in the U.S. without documentation. Senate Bill 108 streamlines the renewal process and identification requirements for immigrants who have or are seeking driver's licenses. The measure marks lawmakers' first successful attempt to improve the program since it was created by the Colorado General Assembly in 2013, after years of persistent conservative pushback.

– Colorado News Connection

Immigrants Can Qualify for In-State Tuition

May 2018 - Refugees and Special Immigration Visa recipients will soon be eligible for in-state tuition at Colorado colleges. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill allowing easier access to higher education. The bill will waive the traditional one-year residency requirement for college students and will lower higher education costs.

– Colorado News Connection

Toxics

CA Sues EPA Over Dropped Ag Worker Protections

May 2018 - Joining the Attorneys General of New York and Maryland, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to suspend critical safeguards for agricultural workers. The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard is a regulation first implemented by the EPA in 1992 to reduce the number of illnesses and injuries to agricultural workers nationwide from exposures to pesticides

– California News Service

Media Reform

CA State Senate Approves Restoration of Net Neutrality

May 2018 - The California State Senate just voted 23-12 to pass SB 822, the strongest and most comprehensive state level net neutrality legislation in the country. The bill passed despite fierce lobbying from big ISPs like AT&T and Comcast, who laid siege to Sacramento with an army of contract lobbyists and flooded the Capitol with misinformation in an all out attempt to kill the bill. SB 822 passed in large part due to mass mobilization by California residents in support of net neutrality. The bill heads next to the State Assembly, where it will likely get a vote early this Fall. More than 53,000 California residents sent letters to the Senate Energy committee calling on them to advance SB 822.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Mariner East Pipelines Shut Down, Again

May 2018 - Citing sinkholes, contaminated water wells and alleged poor managerial judgement, an administrative law judge has suspended operations and construction of the Mariner East pipelines. In her ruling, Public Utility Commission Judge Elizabeth Barnes said Sunoco had put profit over best engineering practices. The emergency order suspended the flow of highly volatile liquid ethane through Mariner East 1, and construction on the Mariner East 2 pipelines. Operation and construction of the pipelines has been halted before, but then allowed to resume. Sunoco has said it will ask the Public Utility Commission to overturn Judge Barnes' decision.

– Keystone State News Connection

Consumer Issues

Dept. of Ed. to Stop Using Private Debt Collectors

May 2018 - The Department of Education filed a motion this week announcing a plan to phase out the use of private debt collectors contracted to pursue defaulted student loan borrowers, and instead rely on current loan servicers. Private debt collectors aggressively pursue defaulted student loan borrowers while profiting from taxpayer dollars.

– All News Services

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Bill to Phase Out Driftnets Passes Key Committee

May 2018 - SB 1017, a bill that would transition California away from the use of large-scale driftnets successfully cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill will potentially be up for a full Senate floor vote next week. SB 1017, authored by Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, would: Implement a driftnet permit buyback program; end the use of driftnets after the 2023 fishing season (new entrants into the swordfish fishery will be directed toward the use of lower impact fishing gears for a modernized fishery). This is the first time a bill of this type has passed out of the Appropriations Committee.

– California News Service

Juvenile Justice

Law Protects Teens From Being Tried as Adults

May 2018 - Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a bill which extended juvenile courts' jurisdiction. 17-year-olds charged with crimes will be able to remain under the jurisdiction until age 19.

– Arizona News Connection

Energy Policy

MA Moves Closer to Harvesting Offshore Wind Power

May 2018 - Vineyard Wind has been selected to construct the project that will generate 800 megawatts of electric power, enough for a half-million homes. The project will help the Commonwealth meet carbon emission reductions mandated by the state's Global Warming Solutions Act. In the last legislative session the State Legislature required the utilities to procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind by 2027 so this announcement puts the state halfway toward meeting that goal. The second solicitation for the next 800 megawatts of power is expected to be released by June 2019 but could happen sooner. Vineyard Wind estimates that the project will create about 3,600 local full-time-equivalent jobs and $3.7 billion in energy cost savings. Legislation pending during this legislative session could further expand procurement requirements for offshore wind.

– Commonwealth News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

CT Hosts Regional Clean Transportation Listening Session

May 2018 - The second in a series of public listening sessions on the development of a regional clean transportation and climate initiative took place in Hartford. Policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders from seven Northeastern states and Washington, D.C., are seeking input on ways to modernize the transportation system and combat global climate change. Transportation is now the leading source of carbon emissions. Environmentalists point out that states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, including Connecticut, have cut emissions from power plants in half but emissions from transportation have remained constant or even grown a bit over the last few years. So in order to really address climate change, transportation needs to be dealt with. Organizers say the Hartford meeting is an opportunity to propose policies to reduce vehicle pollution while building a transportation system that serves all Connecticut residents.

– Connecticut News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Maryland Bans 'Gay Conversion Therapy' for Minors

May 2018 - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill into law to prohibit health professionals from practicing "gay conversion therapy" on minors, as a growing number of states and municipalities are banning it.

– Maryland News Connection

Media Reform

U.S. Senate Passes Bill to Restore Net Neutrality

May 2018 - The U.S. Senate has passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to block the FCC's overwhelmingly unpopular repeal of net neutrality. The measure passed 52 to 47 with Republicans Susan Collins (R-ME), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voting yes. The last minute Republican support for the measure bodes well for its chances in the House, where net neutrality supporters plan to wage a fierce battle to force a vote

– All News Services

Endangered Species & Wildlife

US District Court Rules in Favor of Sage Grouse Protections

May 2018 - A U.S. District Court found in favor of environmental groups who said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly denied protections to the sage grouse. Next, a hearing will decide if the agency must reconsider protections for the bird.

– All News Services

Immigrant Issues

NV Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Sanctuary City Ballot Initiative

May 2018 - Conservative groups tried to get a measure put on Nevada ballots that would have blocked cities from establishing "sanctuary" policies to protect undocumented immigrants. The state supreme court found that the proposed measure was misleading.

– Nevada News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Court Rules in Favor of Bi-State Sage Grouse

May 2018 - A U.S. district court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015 wrongly denied Endangered Species Act protection for the bi-state sage grouse, which lives in parts of California and Nevada. The next step will be a court hearing to determine when the agency must reconsider federal protection for the bird, a genetically unique and isolated sage grouse species that inhabits the Mono Basin on the California-Nevada border and faces multiple threats to its survival.

– Nevada News Service

Court Rules in Favor of Bi-State Sage Grouse

May 2018 - A U.S. district court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015 wrongly denied Endangered Species Act protection for the bi-state sage grouse, which lives in parts of California and Nevada. The next step will be a court hearing to determine when the agency must reconsider federal protection for the bird, a genetically unique and isolated sage grouse species that inhabits the Mono Basin on the California-Nevada border and faces multiple threats to its survival.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Utah Passes Landmark Climate Resolution

May 2018 - The climate change resolution is a dramatic turn for the Utah Legislature who, in 2010, passed a resolution implying that climate change science was a conspiracy and urging the Environmental Protection Agency to stop all carbon dioxide reduction policies. In contrast, the 2018 resolution acknowledges the existence of climate change, its causes, and calls for innovative solutions that compliment Utah's growing economy. This resolution is hailed as a groundbreaking first step in protecting the state?s economy and public health from climate change.

– Utah News Connection

Education

Tennessee Promise Scholarship Program is Seeing Success.

May 2018 - New data finds about a quarter of all 2015 Tennessee Promise students received a college degree after five semesters in the program, according to newly compiled data on the program. The 21.5 percent of students that graduated through five semesters, while still low, is a big jump over the previous year's community college graduation rate in 2014, when the program didn't exist, according to Tennessee Board of Regents numbers. The 2015 graduation numbers were almost seven points higher than the 2014 group.

– Tennessee News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Volkswagen Settlement to Clean PA Air

May 2018 - Gov. Tom Wolf announced 5/10/2018 that $118 million, Pennsylvania's share of the multi-billion-dollar settlement with Volkswagen, will be used to help clean up the air in the Keystone State. Volkswagen had rigged computers in diesel-fueled cars to turn on emission controls during testing but scale them back during normal driving. The state will use some of the settlement money to fund replacements and upgrades of diesel engines in everything from school buses to tugboats. Some will help fund critical infrastructure for electric cars and trucks. The money will be distributed through eight grant and rebate programs over the next five years with a goal of reducing nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines by almost 28,000 tons.

– Keystone State News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Rape-Kit Reform Bill Clears CT Legislature

May 2018 - Legislation to improve the tracking of sexual-assault evidence kits is on its way to Gov. Danell Malloy's desk. After a 2015 survey found almost 1,200 untested kits at law enforcement agencies across Connecticut, the governor established a working group to coordinate their tracking and testing. Senate Bill 17, which was built on that work, passed both the House and Senate with unanimous votes. Tracking can be key to both the criminal investigation and the healing process for survivors. Passage of the bill puts the state on track to clearing its backlog of untested sexual assault kits and to quickly testing new kits as they come in. The bill will also give survivors the ability to check on the status of their kit to help counteract the loss of self-determination and control that is often at the core of experiencing sexual assault.

– Connecticut News Service

Energy Policy

California Moves to Require Solar on Most New Homes

May 2018 - California became the first U.S. state to require solar panels on almost all new homes, sending the clearest signal yet that rooftop power is moving beyond a niche market and becoming the norm. Most new homes built after Jan. 1, 2020, will be required to include solar systems as part of energy-efficiency standards adopted by the California Energy Commission. While that's a boost for the solar industry, critics warned that it will also drive up the cost of buying a house by almost $10,000. Solar shares surged upon the decision, while homebuilders fell.

– California News Service

Civic Engagement

Ohio Voters Approve Congressional District Reform

May 2018 - State Issue 1, a constitutional amendment to reform the way congressional districts are drawn. The amendment will mandate bipartisan approval for ten-year congressional maps, institute strict anti-gerrymandering criteria if the parties couldn't agree, and require transparency and opportunities for input including public hearings and citizen map submissions.

– Ohio News Connection

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

MO Voters to Decide on Reducing Corruption in Government

May 2018 - The Clean Missouri Initiative reached its goal of collecting enough petition signatures to give Missourians a chance to vote on amending the state Constitution in ways the group says will make government more transparent, accountable and less reliant on big money.

– Missouri News Service

Education

After-School Programs Help Kids Living in Poverty

May 2018 - After-school programs are boosting academic performance for Utah students living below the federal poverty level, according to a new study by the Utah Education Policy Center. After participating in music, sporting or other organized activities for one to three years, kids made significant gains in language arts, math and science scores.

– Utah News Connection

Court Ruling Advances School Funding Lawsuit

May 2018 - A panel of Commonwealth Court judges has moved a lawsuit challenging the level and distribution of state funding for public education in Pennsylvania step closer to trial. The panel overruled several preliminary objections to the lawsuit, including one that claimed the petitioners hadn't established that the current funding plan had caused the harm that is the basis for the suit. The court ordered further discovery on two remaining objections raised by opponents of the suit before it can proceed to trial. State legislative leaders maintain that education is not an important or fundamental right under the state's constitution.

– Keystone State News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Bill Seeks to Clamp Down on Methane Leaks

May 2018 - A recent survey of Hartford streets found many more leaks in gas lines than utilities acknowledge - but a bill now in the state Senate would cut the losses. Senate Bill 346, introduced by state Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Branford), would reduce the maximum allowable leakage rate for natural gas from 3 percent to 1 percent. Natural gas is 97 percent methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. It also contributes to smog that triggers asthma and other respiratory diseases. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority claims that it monitors and checks all leaks reported to it. But a two-month survey of Hartford streets using mobile leak detectors found six times the number of leaks reported in the city in an entire year, leaking over 300 metric tons of methane per year are wasted just in Hartford alone.

– Connecticut News Service

Energy Policy

NW Utility Has No New Plans for Natural Gas Plants

May 2018 - PacifiCorp, a Portland, Oregon-based utility serving six Western states, said it has no plans to build new natural gas plants in the coming decades. Instead, the company is embarking on a wind binge, with plans to install enough turbines to power 400,000 homes by 2020.

– Oregon News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

WA Convenes Orca Recovery Team to Save NW Killer Whales

May 2018 - Gov, Jay Inslee's Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force met for the first time in May. The group will focus on salmon recovery, toxic pollutants in the ocean and noise disturbances threatening the whales. The Southern Resident orcas are the only population of killer whales on the Endangered Species list.

– Washington News Service

Juvenile Justice

King County Moves Juvenile Justice Under Public Health Management

May 2018 - Juvenile justice is becoming part of the public health division in King County. Under new management, the county plans to focus on the root causes of crime among young people and how to divert them from entering the justice system in the first place.

– Washington News Service

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Wash. First in Nation to Reduce Bias in Jury Selection

May 2018 - The Washington state Supreme Court has implemented a new rule that will keep "implicit, institutional, and unconscious" racial bias out of the jury selection process. It's the first rule of its kind in the nation.

– Washington News Service

Health Issues

Report Shows Medicaid Expansion Helping Montana's Economy

May 2018 - The report finds that Medicaid expansion brings in a lot of money from outside the state and stimulates economic activity the tune of roughly 5,000 jobs and $270 million of personal income. It also finds Medicaid expansion saves the state money in a variety of ways.

– Big Sky Connection

Native American Issues

Congress Delegates May 5th as Awareness Day for Murdered Native American Women

May 2018 - In an effort led by North Dakota Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, Congress declared May 5th the first-ever National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, thanks in part to North Dakota's senators. Violence against Native American has reached epidemic proportions. More than 80 percent of Native American women report experiencing violence.

– Prairie News Service

Oceans

Cuomo Backs Bill to Hinder Offshore Oil in NYS Waters

May 2018 - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is advancing legislation designed to discourage oil and gas development in New York's coastal waters. The Trump administration wants to open up the Atlantic coast from Georgia to Maine to offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. The governor's proposed bill would prohibit oil and gas exploration in New York waters, prohibit offshore oil and gas infrastructure on state land and prohibit the transportation of North Atlantic crude oil from offshore wells on the state's navigable water. Though New York cannot ban drilling in federal waters, but it may discourage drilling by making it more difficult, more expensive and less profitable.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Maine Joins Lawsuit to Block Fuel Efficiency Rollback

May 2018 - The Trump administration wants to roll back EPA fuel efficiency improvements but Maine is pushing back. Maine joined 16 other states in suing the administration Tuesday over its plans to scrap rules designed to make cars more efficient and less polluting. The lawsuit challenges the rollback of nationwide standards that called for new vehicles to average nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. Automakers have pressed the White House for weaker rules ? for every state in the country. California has long had a waiver to set its own, more-stringent tailpipe emissions standards. Maine and 11 other states have followed suit. Cars and trucks are the largest sources of both greenhouse-gas emissions and high ozone levels, so revoking California's right to tougher rules would stymie efforts to combat climate change and would make many Mainers very sick. The 17 states that are suing the administration represent about 43 percent of the new-vehicle market and 44 percent of the U.S. population.

– Maine News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Tennessee Tightens Restrictions on Certain Opioid Prescriptions

May 2018 - Tennessee passed one of the most comprehensive and restrictive laws around opioid prescriptions.The legislation (Senate Bill 2257/House Bill 1831) proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam in January became law and sets a high bar for patients to meet before doctors resort to prescription painkillers known to lead to addiction

– Tennessee News Service

Senior Issues

Nebraska to Add Aging and Disability Resource Centers across the state.

May 2018 - Lawmakers approved LB 793 this session which will create a permanent Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) at locations across the state. These free, one-stop information and assistance centers connect older and disabled Nebraskans and family caregivers with the supports and services they need.

– Nebraska News Connection

A p r i l

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April 2018

Urban Planning/Transportation

Phoenix City Council to Address Pedestrian Safety

April 2018 - Phoenix City Council voted to speed up the review process for plans to address high rates of pedestrian deaths on city streets. The move will allow design plans to be approved in coming months. Arizona currently has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation.

– Arizona News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Court Says US Fish and Wildlife Must do More for Endangered Wolves

April 2018 - A federal judge ruled U.S. Fish and Wildlife management guidelines put a too-low cap on population numbers for Mexican Gray Wolves and too severely restricted their habitat. The department must propose revisions to its management plan.

– Arizona News Connection

Budget Policy & Priorities

Governor Wolf, Legislators Introduce New Bipartisan Severance Tax Legislation

April 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf was joined by a bipartisan coalition of legislative members to announce the introduction of legislation that will create a "reasonable, commonsense" severance tax in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 1000, and its companion House Bill 2253, will give Pennsylvania's citizens their fair share of revenues from the natural gas industry. Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the nation without a severance tax. Other major gas producing states like Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Alaska are collecting billions from the oil and gas industries to help fix roads, build schools, and keep taxes low. The proposed severance tax would generate an estimated $248.7 million in the next fiscal year alone to address critical budget needs and would also keep the current impact fee in place, ensuring that this important revenue source for local municipalities stays intact.

– Keystone State News Connection

Immigrant Issues

CT to Offer Financial Aid to "Dreamers"

April 2018 - "Dreamers" will soon be able to receive institutional financial aid to attend Connecticut's public colleges and universities. 13 Republicans joined 78 Democrats in the state House of Representatives to give final passage to the bill that will let undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to apply for the assistance. The bill doesn't include access to federal Pell grants or state taxpayer-funded scholarships. But supporters of the measure say it will have a very big impact for students who previously were not eligible for any kind of aid. Governor Dannel Malloy has said he will sign the bill into law.

– Connecticut News Service

Health Issues

Legal Marijuana Issue Makes MI Ballot

April 2018 - The Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved the petition to add cannabis legalization to the November ballot. The proposal allows for possession, use, and home cultivation and if passed will make Michigan the 10th state to legalize cannabis and the first state in the Midwest.

– Michigan News Connection

Criminal Justice

New Hampshire Lawmakers Pass Death Penalty Repeal Bill, Facing Gubernatorial Veto

April 2018 - The New Hampshire House overwhelmingly approved a bill to repeal the state's death penalty, 223-116, sending the measure to the governor despite his vow to veto it. The legislation, Senate Bill 593, would strike the words "may be punished by death" from the state's capital punishment statute, replacing them with "shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility for parole." New Hampshire is one of 31 states to have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The measure passed the Senate, 14-10, in March, but faces a veto from Gov. Chris Sununu, who said earlier this year that it would send the state "in exactly the wrong direction" and go against the wishes of law enforcement and victims. This marked the second time in recent history that the Legislature has sent a bill repealing the policy to the governor's desk. In 2000, Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed a similar attempt, citing confidence that New Hampshire's system is limited and appropriate.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Governor Cuomo Issues Cease and Desist Letter to ICE

April 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a cease and desist letter to ICE to demand the immediate stop of their reckless and unconstitutional enforcement actions or he will commence legal action. In the letter, the Governor condemns the agency's irresponsible patterns of conduct that target immigrants and jeopardize public safety. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to modify executive order #170 to prohibit ICE arrests in state facilities without a warrant. The executive order prohibits state agencies and officers from inquiring about individual's immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service or disclosing information to federal immigration authorities for the purpose of civil enforcement, and also prohibits law enforcement officers from inquiring about immigration status unless investigating illegal criminal activity.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Judge Restores Penalties for Automakers that Violate Fuel Standards

April 2018 - The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club, and overturned a Department of Transportation attempt to indefinitely delay penalties on automakers for violating fuel standards. The Court's ruling restores the proper penalty, trued up to account for decades of inflation. The updated penalty impels automakers to clean up their fleets, rather than offering them a cheap license to burn more gas if they fail to keep pace with fuel economy targets. The fuel economy standards for model years 2012 to 2025 will reduce oil consumption by 3.1 million barrels of oil per day in 2030. This in turn reduces climate-harming greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding production of 570 million metric tons of carbon dioxide - the equivalent of taking 85 million cars off the roads, or 140 coal-fired power plants offline.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

Chevron Fined For Air Quality Violations at Bay Area Refineries

April 2018 - The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced Chevron USA Inc. agreed to pay $170,000 to settle air quality violations at its refinery in Richmond. The settlement covers 25 Notices of Violation issued for air quality violations at the Richmond Oil Refinery during 2014 and 2015. The violations addressed in this settlement included flaring events during which hydrogen sulfide limits were exceeded, failure to take samples during flaring events, a public nuisance violation for odors and failure to properly monitor for hydrocarbon leaks at cooling towers.

– California News Service

Children's Issues

New Law Could Reshape Landscape of Child Welfare

April 2018 - Kentucky's child-welfare system is set to get a major overhaul, which could be a game-changer for the more than eight thousand children in foster care. With the passage of House Bill 1 this session, new reforms will help strengthen how the commonwealth supports children impacted by abuse or neglect.

– Kentucky News Connection

Gun Violence Prevention

Governor Signs Executive Order on Gun Background Checks

April 2018 - Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order he said will help close gaps in gun purchase background checks. The executive order calls for a review of whether local officials are properly reporting names of individuals who should be barred from buying guns.

– Ohio News Connection

Energy Policy

New Energy Efficiency Goals Draw High Praise

April 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced new energy efficiency targets that environmental advocates say will fill in the missing piece in New York state's clean energy plan. The goal is to save energy equivalent to the amount used by 1.8 million homes by 2025. Achieving that goal will be key to meeting the state's climate goal of a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 12 years. To get there the state will be investing more than $36 million to train up-to 19,500 New Yorkers for new energy-efficiency jobs. Reynolds said those would be good-paying jobs for electricians, building retrofitters, energy auditors and more.

– New York News Connection

Environment

Cuomo Introduces Program Bill Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags in New York State

April 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced a program bill that would ban all single-use, plastic carryout bags at any point of sale in New York State. This action follows the release of the New York State Plastic Bags Task Force report in January, which outlined the environmental impact of plastic bags, single-use bag reduction measures, and proposed actions that the state could take to reduce pollution and protect New York's natural resources, including a ban on single-use plastic bags.

– New York News Connection

Women's Issues

Federal Appeals Court Tosses out Ban on Selective Abortions

April 2018 - A federal appeals court in Chicago has ruled that an Indiana abortion law, signed into law in 2016 by then-Governor Mike Pence, is unconstitutional. It banned women from having abortions because of fetal disability or gender. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled the law imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to get an abortion.

– Indiana News Service

Energy Policy

Conservation Groups Sue Over Oil Rig Planned in National Monument

April 2018 - Los Padres ForestWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity appealed the Trump administration's approval of a new oil well and pipeline in Carrizo Plain National Monument. It is the first well the Interior Department has approved in the monument since it was established in 2001. The appeals, filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals in Virginia and the Bureau of Land Management's California director, show that the oil well and pipeline would harm threatened and endangered wildlife and mar scenic views. The fossil fuel development would violate several laws, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the monument's resource-management plan.

– California News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Bill to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy for Adults Passes Assembly

April 2018 - The California Assembly has passed a bill banning conversion therapy by classifying the practice as a form of consumer fraud. Assembly members approved the bill by a bipartisan vote of 50-14. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), the bill would make California the first state in the nation to prohibit sexual orientation change efforts for both children and adults alike.

– California News Service

Immigrant Issues

Bill to Improve SB251 Licenses Passes Both Houses

April 2018 - The Colorado House of Representatives passed the Eligibility Colorado Road and Community Safety Act (SB-18-108) in a vote of 38-24, clearing the road for the bill to park on Governor John Hickenlooper's desk for signage and paving the way for a healthier and safer Colorado for all residents and business owners. SB18-108 will allow people to renew their SB251 driver license online or by mail and permit those who have valid social security numbers to access the program.

– Colorado News Connection

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Food Waste Bill Passed into Law

April 2018 - SJR 218 was passed unanimously by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Matt Bevin. It directs state agencies to conduct food waste analyses and identify ways to increase donations to food banks.

– Kentucky News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Appropriations Committee Approves Minimum Wage Bill

April 2018 - The General Assembly's Appropriations Committee voted 27-24 to advance legislation that will raise the minimum wage in Connecticut. House Bill 5388, An Act Concerning a Fair Minimum Wage, raises the minimum wage in the state to no less than twelve dollars per hour effective January 1, 2019, thirteen dollars and fifty cents per hour in 2020, and no less than fifteen dollars per hour in 2021. Then, beginning in 2022, the minimum wage will be increased each year by and amount equal to the percentage increase in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers in the northeast urban area of New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA . The new minimum fair wage will be effective on the following January first.

– Connecticut News Service

Family/Father Issues

House Passes "Grandfamilies" Legislation, Senate Urged to Vote

April 2018 - The House has passed a package of legislative proposals pertaining to grandparents raising grandchildren, including House bills 2133 and 1539, and House Resolution 390. It's estimated that 82,000 grandparents are the sole caregivers for nearly 89,000 grandchildren in Pennsylvania with that number increasing due to the devastating opioid crisis across the commonwealth. HB2133 establishes a Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program within the Department of Human Services as a resource for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren but who are not involved with the formal child welfare system. The program creates an informational resource for grandparents using a website and a toll-free hotline to provide information on support and services available to them. HB 1539 provides a way for grandparents to obtain temporary guardianship while protecting both the parental rights of parents, including those suffering from opioid addiction, and the needs of the child to be with loving family members, rather than be placed in foster care or other arrangements. House Resolution 390 directs the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to study grandfamilies in Pennsylvania, with a focus on how the opioid crisis is impacting this growing trend.

– Keystone State News Connection

Oceans

New Initiative Launched to Develop Artificial Reefs on Long Island's Coast and Increase the Biodiversity of New York's Marine Life

April 2018 - The project is the largest expansion of artificial reefs in state history. It will improve New York's diverse marine life and boost Long Island's recreational and sport fishing industries. In New York's first ever, comprehensive program to construct artificial reefs, Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched an initiative to deploy materials including tug boats, barges, and scows, as well as concrete and clean, recycled materials from the demolition of the former Tappan Zee Bridge. These materials will support the development of six artificial reefs on Long Island at sites off the shores of Smithtown, Shinnecock, Moriches, Fire Island, Hempstead, and Rockaway.

– New York News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Lawmakers Pass Law Implementing Tracking System for Sexual Assault Kits

April 2018 - Oregon lawmakers passed a bill that creates an electronic, statewide tracking system for rape kits. The system allows for survivors to track their kits anonymously.

– Oregon News Service

Salmon Recovery

In Win for Salmon, Wash. State Agency to Require Permits for Suction Dredge Mining

April 2018 - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously ordered the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to initiate a rulemaking process that would require individual permits for suction dredge mining in the state. Suction dredge mining has become controversial throughout the West due to its impacts on aquatic ecosystems and salmon health. The practice requires the use of a motorized, floating dredge to vacuum up the stream bed as miners look for gold flecks. Science has shown that the process destabilizes the stream bed environment, releasing plumes of silt and mercury and harming fish.

– Washington News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Colorado House of Representatives Passes FAMLI Act

April 2018 - The FAMLI Act would guarantee all Colorado workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for themselves and their families in a way that is friendly and supportive of business both large and small. The bill still has to clear the Senate.

– Colorado News Connection

Civic Engagement

CA Governor Creates Committee To Ensure Everyone is Counted for 2020 Census

April 2018 - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced the creation of the California Complete Count Committee, a statewide panel of community members from many different ethnic groups and walks of life that will guide California's outreach for the 2020 federal census. "It is vitally important for California to do everything it can to ensure that every Californian is counted in the upcoming census," said Governor Brown. The move comes as the Trump administration is looking to add a question on citizenship to the census, something many groups fear would drive down participation.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Zinke Says He May Back Off on Offshore Drilling

April 2018 - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke assured the House Appropriations Committee that he plans to scale back his plan to expand offshore leasing in nearly all federal waters, after massive local and state opposition. "States matter, local voices matter, you matter, and governors matter," Zinke said, during testimony before the committee on the Department of Interior's fiscal 2019 budget. Members of both parties on the committee had criticized Zinke for his draft plan, and nearly all coastal governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, oppose it.

– All News Services

Consumer Issues

Expose Reveals Cell Phone Industry's Own Scientists Predicted Harm

April 2018 - An investigative report in The Nation lays out the history of industry-funded research into the question of whether radiation from cell phones is hazardous to human health. It shows that the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's own scientists concluded in 1999 that a danger exists. The cover story interviewed many sources PNS has been talking with for years.

– California News Service

Student Loan Bill of Rights Passes Mass. Senate

April 2018 - A bill to protect student-loan borrowers from deceptive loan-servicing companies has cleared the state Senate. Almost two-thirds of undergraduate students in the Bay State finish college with an average of nearly $30,000 of student loan debt, a 75 percent increase since 2004. Some loan-serving companies charge excessive fees, misrepresent products and steer borrowers to more expensive options. But Senate Bill 2380 would hold them accountable. SB 2380 would also establish a Student Loan Ombudsman office to review practices, resolve disputes and educate borrowers and the bill would also protect parents who take out loans to help their children.

– Commonwealth News Service

Criminal Justice

Governor Wolf Leads Call-to-Action for Criminal Justice Reform

April 2018 - Governor Tom Wolf has joined Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, legislators, and advocacy groups in a call-to-action for criminal justice reforms that are long overdue and necessary to provide consistency and uniformity in the system. The governor outlined a package of eight reform initiatives, including: Justice Reinvestment Initiatives (JRI2), which seek to provide for fair sentencing, increase parole supervision and use of community-based programs, among other reforms. Bail and Pre-Trial Reforms to ensure that everyone has a right to a fair trial and that risk-assessment tools are consistent across the commonwealth. Post-Conviction Relief Act Expansion to reduce time sensitivity by increasing awareness of when rights expire so defendants can make an informed plea decision. Currently if a defendant pleads guilty, they are foreclosed from post-conviction relief; this needs to change so all defendants, regardless of plea, may attempt to prove their innocence. Review/Implement the Goals of the Sentencing Commission, which include adopting a standardized, single assessment tool model used from pre-trial until parole completion. Probation/Parole Revocation and Resentencing to create uniformity in probation revocation procedures and ensure a correlation between risk and probation lengths, resulting in better supervision. Comprehensive Clean Slate Legislation currently being considered in the General Assembly and the first step in establishing a much more comprehensive clean slate law in the commonwealth to provide an opportunity for persons convicted of greater offenses, including felony convictions, to reenter the community with success. Indigent Defense is a critical part of the system that can have a large impact on volume, cost, and human effects and is needed in Pennsylvania to ensure the independence and quality of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Stepping Up Initiative, which was launched statewide in April 2017 and via summit in December 2017 along with a data-driven project by Dauphin County to examine its criminal justice system, with the goal of reducing the number of people who have serious mental illnesses in the county prison. The findings from that project will be made public at the end of this month and will be used to develop policy and programming recommendations.

– Keystone State News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Judge Issues Nationwide Injunction on Tying Local Police Funding to Immigration Enforcement

April 2018 - The Justice Department cannot require that local police departments help immigration agents in order to receive federal funding, a federal judge has ruled. The ruling is a significant victory for local governments that have opposed the Trump administration's stance on immigration and vowed to stay out of enforcement efforts. United States District Judge Manuel Real in Los Angeles issued a permanent, national injunction against the federal funding rules, giving the city an important win in a long-running legal battle with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the White House. A Justice Department spokesman, Devin M. O'Malley, suggested an appeal was likely.

– All News Services

Juvenile Justice

Gov. Malloy Announces Closure of Connecticut Juvenile Training School

April 2018 - Governor Dannel Malloy has announced that the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS), a state facility for boys adjudicated as "delinquent" and committed to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), has closed. The number of youths housed at CJTS has dropped precipitously due to a declining rate of juvenile and young adult arrests, record low crime rate, the impact of the Governor's criminal justice reforms, and the enhanced behavioral health services made available by DCF to all of Connecticut?s youth. The facility stopped taking new admissions on January 1, and the last youth left the facility on April 12th.

– Connecticut News Service

Energy Policy

Electric-Vehicle Bill a Potential Win for PA

April 2018 - Pennsylvania is lagging behind some other states in creating the infrastructure to support electric vehicles, but a bill making its way through the General Assembly could help. Transportation is one of the main sources of carbon pollution. But without a reliable network of charging stations, consumers are reluctant to switch to clean electric vehicles. House Bill 1446 would establish a statewide goal for transportation electrification. The bill has passed the House Transportation Committee with strong support and is expected to reach the floor of the House for a vote in the coming weeks. The bill also would require the state's electric utilities and electric-vehicle charging service providers to create and implement a plan to meet the electrification goals.

– Keystone State News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Bill Increases Access to and Protects Union Membership in New York State

April 2018 - Landmark legislation to strengthen the rights of working men and women in New York State has been signed into law. This new law increases access to and protects union membership in New York's public-sector workplaces in anticipation of an adverse ruling in the pending Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME. Additionally, the law provides safeguards against the deliberate actions taken by the federal government that continue to undermine the efforts of organized labor across this country. The legislation makes it clear that members who pay union dues will receive certain benefits and services, and unions - while they serve the interests of all workers in bargaining units they represent - cannot be forced to provide full benefits of membership to those who do not pay for them.

– New York News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

National Park Service Backs Off Plan to Raise Fees

April 2018 - A proposed plan to increase entry fees at 17 national parks across the country has been scrapped after widespread public opposition.he National Park Service (NPS) announced in October 2017 it was considering the fare hike in order to generate revenue for desperately needed maintenance projects. The plan would entail increased rates at 17 of the 59 parks during peak visitation season, with prices at $70 per private vehicle, $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot. Following the announcement, NPS offered a month-long period for the public to comment on the proposal. But after receiving over 109,000 comments from people opposing the plan, NPS has decided not to move forward with it.

– All News Services

Criminal Justice

Maine Senate Joins House in Passing Recreational Marijuana Bill by Beto-proof Majority

April 2018 - The Maine Senate passed the bill to launch the state's adult-use marijuana market, putting the legislation on the brink of heading to Gov. Paul LePage's desk with veto-proof margins from both chambers of the Legislature. The bill passed by a 24-10 margin one day after being approved 112-34 in the House, which killed a more liberal version of the bill last year by sustaining LePage's veto. The bill is likely to head to LePage after more legislative action Thursday. The votes, and their veto-proof margins, came as good news to groups that represent cannabis business interests, such as Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana, which lobbied Maine's lawmakers to pass a business-friendly bill. Last year, the group's board members said that a long delay from legalization to licensing would send potential investors packing.

– Maine News Service

Urban Planning/Transportation

Albany Kicks Off Regional Clean Transportation Planning

April 2018 - State lawmakers were among the participants in the first public listening sessions to develop a multi-state plan for clean transportation. Transportation now is the leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the Northeast, accounting for about 40 percent of all carbon pollution. Last November, seven northeastern and mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia pledged to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. Participating states include Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. The next regional listening session will take place on May 21 in Hartford, Conn. People at the sessions consider multiple ways to cut down on the climate impact of the transport system. Ho said that could mean improving public transportation, or switching to electric vehicles.

– New York News Connection

Media Reform

Gov. Kate Brown Signs Net Neutrality Bill into Law

April 2018 - Oregon joins a wave of states backing net neutrality April 9, with Gov. Kate Brown set to sign a bill designed to give companies an economic incentive to allow unfettered online access. House Bill 4155 requires the state and local governments to contract only with internet providers that abide by the principles of net neutrality.

– Oregon News Service

Oceans

Fishery Council Protects Seafloor from Bottom Trawling Fishing

April 2018 - The Pacific Fishery Management Council unanimously voted to protect more than 140,000 square miles of seafloor habitat, including corals, sponges, and rocky reefs, off the U.S. West Coast. Once implementing regulations are issued by NOAA Fisheries, the Council's action will more than double the spatial extent of seafloor protections off the U.S. West Coast. The decision means the areas will be protected from bottom trawling fishing vessels, which in the past have destroyed deep-sea coral gardens, sponge beds, underwater canyons, and high relief structures like rocky reefs that provide homes for commercially and recreationally important fish species including more than 90 species of rockfish off California, Oregon, and Washington. Corals and sponges also provide habitat for a myriad of other ocean creatures including octopus and sea stars. As heavy gear contacts the ocean floor it can topple, crush, and remove slow-growing, living seafloor structures which can take hundreds of years to recover, if ever.

– California News Service

Fishery Council Protects Seafloor from Bottom Trawling Fishing

April 2018 - The Pacific Fishery Management Council unanimously voted to protect more than 140,000 square miles of seafloor habitat, including corals, sponges, and rocky reefs, off the U.S. West Coast. Once implementing regulations are issued by NOAA Fisheries, the Council's action will more than double the spatial extent of seafloor protections off the U.S. West Coast. The decision means the areas will be protected from bottom trawling fishing vessels, which in the past have destroyed deep-sea coral gardens, sponge beds, underwater canyons, and high relief structures like rocky reefs that provide homes for commercially and recreationally important fish species including more than 90 species of rockfish off California, Oregon, and Washington. Corals and sponges also provide habitat for a myriad of other ocean creatures including octopus and sea stars. As heavy gear contacts the ocean floor it can topple, crush, and remove slow-growing, living seafloor structures which can take hundreds of years to recover, if ever.

– Oregon News Service, Washington News Service

Housing/Homelessness

WA Legislature Passes Major Wins in Fight Against Homelessness

April 2018 - This session, the Washington state Legislature was home to many victories for affordable housing and homelessness. One of the the biggest accomplishment is a bill banning landlords from turning away renters based on their source of income, specifically rental assistance through programs such as Section 8.

– Washington News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Court Affirms Dams Can Release Water to Help Northwest Salmon

April 2018 - A federal appeals court ruled that dams in the Northwest can release more water over their spillways in order to help young salmon traveling to the ocean this spring. The appeals court judges agreed with a district court judge that salmon populations remain in a "precarious" state.

– All News Services

Environment

Funding to Fight Wildfires Gets Overhaul in 2018 Budget

April 2018 - Starting in 2020, funding for wildfires will be stabilized without further eroding the U.S. Forest Service and other agency budgets. More than $20 billion will be set aside over 10 years to allow the Forest Service and other federal agencies to end a practice of raiding non-fire-related accounts to pay for wildfire costs, which approached $3 billion last year alone.

– All News Services

Public Lands/Wilderness

Proposal to Log State Parks Failed in Legislature

April 2018 - A plan backed by the governor for logging of state parks failed to gain passage. In general, a pattern of public demonstrations (led by teachers and women) is credited with making lawmakers more conscious of public objections this year than in the past.

– West Virginia News Service

Health Issues

Social Workers Demands for Licensing Rules Maintained

April 2018 - A proposal to loosen licensing rules for state employed social workers, opposed by West Virginia social workers, failed to gain passage. Credit is being given for the failure of several unpopular bills to a series of marches and demonstrations led by teachers and women.

– West Virginia News Service

Immigrant Issues

The Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities Partner to Grow Network of Volunteer Attorneys and Law Students

April 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of a new pro bono program as part of the Liberty Defense Project that engages volunteer attorneys to expand resources and services available for immigrants in New York. The Liberty Defense Project and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York have partnered to expand the current initiative and grow a network of attorneys and law students that will provide legal aid to immigrants across the state. The program will also include training for volunteer attorneys and advocates to prepare them for immigration casework. The Liberty Defense Project, created by Governor Cuomo last year in response to hostile federal policies, is the nation's first state-led project to assist immigrants - regardless of status - in obtaining access to legal services. This latest program will expand upon the services and resources already available through the initiative.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

Voter ID Bill Fails, Again

April 2018 - The Nebraska Legislature voted to not to advance LR1CA, a constitutional amendment to require all voters to carry a government issued ID to vote. Nebraska is one of 17 states to not require an ID to vote, a policy opponents say is voter suppression. This is the eighth time legislation of this nature has failed to gain voters' approval in the state.

– Nebraska News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Legislature Votes to Spend $6.6 Million More a Year to Help Uninsured in Opioid Struggle

April 2018 - Maine lawmakers have approved spending $6.6 million a year to combat the opioid crisis by helping uninsured Mainers obtain treatment. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the legislation. The House had approved the bill the day before by voice vote. The bill still faces a significant hurdle - lawmakers have to appropriate money for it - but the overwhelming votes are a positive sign that i'?s been deemed a high priority, advocates said. It also is not clear whether Republican Gov. Paul LePage supports the bill or would veto it. LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said the governor does not comment on legislators' bills. The money would help pay for medication-assisted treatment ? such as methadone and Suboxone ? for the uninsured, who are the most likely to lack access to treatment. The bill is intended to help 400 to 500 people annually gain access to treatment during a time that the opioid crisis has left thousands battling addiction or dying from overdoses.

– Maine News Service

Health Issues

Opioid Prescription Restrictions for Minors Become Law

April 2018 - Governor Ricketts signed a bill into law aimed at preventing opioid addiction problems from worsening in Nebraska. Legislative Bill 931 establishes a seven-day limit on opioid prescriptions for minors, with some exceptions.Ricketts said the measure represents the latest step in Nebraska's efforts to prevent the kind of opioid epidemic seen in other states.

– Nebraska News Connection

Energy Policy

CT Takes First Step Toward Offshore Wind

April 2018 - The bids are in on a request for proposals that will bring offshore wind energy to Connecticut. Clean-energy advocates say offshore wind is a critical technology that will mean hundreds of jobs as well as clean, renewable energy to the state. Environmentalists are calling the move an important first step, but note that bidders were only allowed to propose up to 3 percent of the state's total annual electricity usage, or about 250 megawatts of power. So to keep this growing in the future, the Legislature will need to take action to expand that authorization. With these proposals, Connecticut joins Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, which have committed to building thousands of megawatts of offshore wind-generating capacity.

– Connecticut News Service

Immigrant Issues

A.G. Schneiderman Files Suit To Block Trump Administration From Demanding Citizenship Info In 2020 Census

April 2018 - New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a coalition of 18 Attorneys General and six cities and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors filed a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from demanding citizenship information in the 2020 decennial Census. Schneiderman says demanding citizenship information on the Census would depress turnout in states with large immigrant populations, directly threatening those states' fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College, as well as billions of dollars in critical federal funds for education, infrastructure, Medicaid, and more.

– New York News Connection

M a r c h

2 0 1 8

March 2018

Gun Violence Prevention

NYS Passes Legislation to Remove Guns from Domestic Abusers

March 2018 - The legislation closes a loophole in state law in order to ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms, not just handguns. The policy is part of the Governor's 2018 Women's Agenda. Previously, New York law prohibited the possession of firearms for individuals convicted of a felony or for a limited number of misdemeanor "serious" offenses. However, this excluded many misdemeanor offenses which nobody could deny are in fact serious. To ensure no domestic abuser retains the ability to possess a firearm despite being convicted of a disturbing crime, the legislation rightly bolsters the list of "serious" crimes, which, upon conviction, require the loss of a gun license and the surrender of all firearms. The legislation will also ensure individuals wanted for a felony or other serious offense are not able to obtain or renew a firearm license. Previously, despite being subject to an arrest warrant, an individual could still legally obtain a firearm license, all while being sought by the police.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

Settlement in Kern County Gerrymandering Case

March 2018 - MALDEF and attorneys for Kern County, California announced an agreement today on a new Board of Supervisors districting plan that will respect Latinos' right to elect candidates of their choice. The settlement follows a February federal court ruling that a redistricting plan adopted in 2011 by the Board of Supervisors violated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. After negotiations at a settlement conference, plaintiffs and their attorneys from MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Kern County agreed on a new district map that will create a second Latino majority district in compliance with the February order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Drozd.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

MA Criminal Justice Bill Aims to Protect In-Person Jail Visits

March 2018 - Legislation introduced (S-2371) to prevent correctional institutions and jails from unreasonably limiting eligible inmates to fewer than two opportunities for in-person visits per week. The visitation provision is part of a much larger criminal justice reform bill. Proponents of the legislation say some sheriffs' departments around the country have eliminated in-person visiting in favor of video systems that can turn a profit. Private companies charge up to a $1.50 per minute for computer-based video visitation that often doesn't work well, making the experience frustrating and expensive, but in-person visits, especially with family and children, are an important part of the rehabilitation process.

– Commonwealth News Service

Dignity Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

March 2018 - Governor Bevin is expected to sign SB 133, which is called a victory for women behind bars. It would mandate basic health and hygiene services for women who are incarcerated, allow pregnant women access to substance abuse treatment, and prohibit the shackling of women in labor.

– Kentucky News Connection

Bill Promotes Fair Treatment for Incarcerated Women

March 2018 - A bill called An Act Concerning Fair Treatment of Incarcerated Women has been introduced in the General Assembly. This comes after an incarcerated woman gave birth without any medical assistance in January. Civil rights advocates have been pressing for legislation to ensure respect for incarcerated women's health, dignity and human rights. Senate Bill 13 would prohibit the shackling of women during childbirth, ensure services and support during and after pregnancy and delivery, and allow frequent visitation with children. And give incarcerated mothers and their children access to child-friendly visitation areas away from the noise and confrontations that can take place in adult visiting rooms.

– Connecticut News Service

End of Shackling of NC Prison Women During Birth

March 2018 - State officials to update their policy and end the shackling of imprisoned women as they give birth. The new North Carolina policy says restraints should not be used when women are in labor at the onset of contractions, during delivery, post-partum recuperation, during inductions, transportation for C-section and initial bonding with newborn. There is some discussion around use of the word 'active labor' and how that will be interpreted. Advocates will continue to work to ensure the strongest version of the policy moves forward and to push for training of staff, so that the policies are consistently enforced.

– North Carolina News Service

Disabilities

Ohio Requires Accessible Absentee Ballots for Blind

March 2018 - A new directive from the Secretary of State says blind voters in Ohio must be able to cast absentee ballots privately and independently. Under the directive, the state's local boards of elections must make remote ballot-marking systems available to voters who are blind or who have other disabilities in time for the November 2018 election. The systems will also benefit voters who have other disabilities that prevent them from visiting a polling place or marking a traditional ballot.

– Ohio News Connection

Poverty Issues

Push for Work Requirements to Receive Medicaid Coverage Dies in Legislature

March 2018 - A bill that would have added work requirements for people with Medicaid coverage died in the Colorado legislature. Critics warned the move would have taken health insurance away from hundreds of thousands of Coloradans.

– Colorado News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Trump Admin Retreats On Tip Taking Plan

March 2018 - The Trump Administration had proposed a change under which restaurant owners would have been able to take the tips of their waitstaff, under the guise of dividing the tips equitably between all employees. But after intense public opposition arose, the White House backed down.

– All News Services

Maine House Blocks Effort to Roll Back Minimum Wage

March 2018 - Maine's House of Representatives defeated an effort to stop voter-approved increases in the state's minimum wage. In a largely party-line vote, the House said "no" to LD 1757, a bill that would have stopped increases due in 2019 and 2020, delayed cost of living increases, and lowered wages for younger workers. The measure was introduced by Gov. Paul LePage, who said raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour will result in job losses and fewer opportunities for younger workers. But opponents of the bill contend that raising wages for the lowest-paid workers helps the entire state economy. LD 1757 now goes to the state Senate, where the Republican majority is expected to approve the measure but the House vote likely means the end of the effort for this year.

– Maine News Service

Budget Policy & Priorities

Bad WV State Budget Decisions Avoided

March 2018 - Legislative sessions have not been good news for West Virginia progressive groups over the last two years, especially when it comes to budget issues. Coming into the session this year, law makers looked likely to push for another big tax cut for businesses. That foundered in large part on pay raise demands from public employees (especially teachers and school service personnel). The state's long-term budget imbalance, and a revenue short-fall due to past business tax cuts, has not been repaired, but the situation was not made any worse.

– West Virginia News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Fossil Fuels, Esp Natural Gas, Falls in 2017

March 2018 - Federal figures for last year show a continued decline in the use of coal nationally. The figures also show a surprising 7.7% decline in the use of natural gas as well. Observers point to increasing levels of energy efficiency, causing a decline over-all energy demand in spite of a growing economy.

– All News Services

Consumer Issues

Bill to Transfer Utility Costs Fails

March 2018 - A plan that would have put consumers and small businesses on the hook for letting big electricity users cut discount deals with utilities died in the Senate. Credit is being given to well-planned citizen activism.

– West Virginia News Service

Immigrant Issues

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Revive Driver's License Ban for DACA Recipients

March 2018 - The United States Supreme Court decided today to let stand a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that barred Arizona from denying driver's licenses to people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. A coalition of civil rights organizations challenged the state after then-Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order in 2012 mandating that DACA recipients be denied driver's licenses.

– Arizona News Connection

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

NY Launches Statewide Effort to Deliver Millions of Meals to Older New Yorkers

March 2018 - New York State has launched a statewide effort to deliver high quality, nutritious meals to older resident as part of the national March for Meals campaign. New York is the nation's longstanding leader in providing the highest quality meals to older adults, delivering 23 million meals every year to older adults in communities across the state. In all, the state provides at least $53 million more for home delivered and community meals than any other state. New York also ranks first in the nation for the number of people receiving nutrition services and supports.

– New York News Connection

HIV/AIDS Prevention

NY Expands Access To Affordable Housing For New Yorkers Living With HIV/AIDS

March 2018 - New York State is expanding the HIV/AIDS Services Administration rental assistance program for New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the Governor announced the nation's first state-level Hepatitis C comprehensive elimination strategy to end the Hepatitis C and HIV epidemics in New York State. The new effort aims to stop the Hepatitis C virus by increasing access to medications that can cure Hepatitis C and expanding programs to connect New Yorkers in high-risk communities with wrap-around Hepatitis C prevention, screenings and treatment services.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

Bill Would Restore Voting Rights to Parolees, Pre-Trial Detainees

March 2018 - A bill (HB 5418) to restore the vote to thousands of Connecticut residents is getting a hearing in the General Assembly. If passed the bill would give some 4,000 people who are in custody but have not been convicted of a crime access to ballots, and it would restore voting rights to another 3,000 who are on parole. The legislation would bring Connecticut's voting rights laws into line with every other state in New England. Ten other states and Washington, D.C. also allow people who are on parole to vote. Supporters of the bill say technically, people who have not been convicted of a crime but are held in pretrial detention do have the right to vote, but they need access to absentee ballots or other means to cast their votes.

– Connecticut News Service

Immigrant Issues

In-state Tuition Bill for Immigrants Passes

March 2018 - The House Education Administration and Planning Sub-Committee voted to advance HB2429, a bill to grant in-state tuition to all students who spend at least three years in a Tennessee high school, regardless of their immigration status. Currently, undocumented students must pay more than three times as much as their classmates to attend a public college or university, no matter how long they've lived in Tennessee.

– Tennessee News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Bill to Fight Sexual Harassment Introduced in State Senate

March 2018 - Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has introduced wide-ranging legislation to close loopholes in law that discourage or prevent victims from speaking out, allow employers to avoid sexual harassment and discrimination laws, and leave employees vulnerable to sexual harassment at work. Senate Bill 1300 provides guidance to the courts on the "severe or pervasive" legal standard for sexual harassment litigation, so that it is fairly applied in court to protect victims. SB 1300 also prohibits non-disparagement clauses and "sneaky releases" that prevent victims from speaking out about abuse, strengthens sexual harassment training requirements, and holds employers accountable for preventing harassment in the workplace.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

NY Takes Step Toward Renewable Energy Future

March 2018 - Called the largest state commitment to renewable energy in U.S. history, New York awarded almost $1.5 billion in contracts for 26 large-scale renewable energy projects across the state. When all are operational, they will generate more than 3.2 million megawatt-hours of clean, renewable energy a year. Governor Andrew Cuomo's office says the projects will power more than 430,000 homes and reduce carbon emissions by 1.6 million metric tons. The total output will be more than twice the power the state set out to buy when it began the process.

– New York News Connection

Criminal Justice

WA Lawmakers Extend 'Ban the Box' to Private Employers

March 2018 - Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the Fair Chance Act (HB 1298), extending "ban the box" jobseeker protections to cover the state's public and private employers. More than one in five adults in Washington State, disproportionately people of color, have a conviction or arrest record that can show up on a routine criminal background check for employment. The Fair Chance Act will help ensure that these 1.2 million people are judged by their qualifications and work experience, and not reflexively rejected by employers at the start of the hiring process.

– Washington News Service

Children's Issues

Bill Supporting Kinship Care Would Benefit Kids

March 2018 - The General Assembly is considering a bill to help thousands of Pennsylvania grandparents who are raising their children's children. Fueled in part by the opioid epidemic, some 82,000 grandparents care for more than 89,000 grandchildren in the Keystone State. Foster parents receive support services from county Children and Youth Agencies, but those providing what's known as "kinship care" - outside the formal, foster-care system - have similar needs and often can't access those services. House Bill 2133 would help - by creating a kinship caregiver navigator program. Several states, including neighboring New York and New Jersey, have created similar kinship-care programs.

– Keystone State News Connection

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Bill Reforming Police Use-of-Deadly-Force Laws Passes

March 2018 - An initiative originally proposed by De-Escalate Washington has passed the Washington state Legislature. The bill reforms the statute on use of deadly force by officers, which set a bar that critics say was impossible to meet. It will now be easier for officers who kill in the line of duty to be prosecuted, considered a win for communities of color.

– Washington News Service

Oceans

Authorities To Close Pacific Sardine Fishery Again

March 2018 - The commercial sardine fishery will remain closed for the July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 fishing season. The decision is considered a victory by advocacy groups like Oceana. Despite a new draft assessment of the Pacific sardine population off the U.S. West Coast. The results of the scientific assessment showing the Pacific sardine population has continued to decline and is now at 2% of peak population levels observed in 2006 - a 98% population decline - conservationists were not confident the National Marine Fisheries Service and Pacific Fishery Management Council would follow the science. This will be the fourth consecutive commercial fishery closure for sardine. The Council first voted to close the sardine fishery in 2015.

– California News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

Florida Legislature Passes Sweeping Gun Bill, Sends to Governor

March 2018 - The Florida Legislature passed its first gun restrictions in three decades. Senate Bill 7026 raises the legal age for buying rifles and imposes a three-day waiting period on all firearms sales, however a controversial provision also allows the arming of some public school personnel.

– Florida News Connection

Health Issues

Virginia House Decides in Favor of Medicaid Expansion

March 2018 - A major roadblock to Medicaid expansion has been removed in the Virginia House of Delegates, as the Republican-controlled chamber included the expansion in the state budget proposal. The budget represents a dramatic political turnaround by the House, and a show of bipartisanship between House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican from Colonial Heights, and newly inaugurated Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

– Virginia News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Montana Only State Without Grizzly Hunting Plan in 2018

March 2018 - While Idaho and Wyoming pursue plans to allow grizzly bear hunting outside Yellowstone National Park, Montana wildlife officials say they don't regret deciding against holding a hunt this year. Montana made the decision not to allow hunting of grizzlies in February.

– Big Sky Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

WV Teachers Strike Ends In Victory

March 2018 - After closing classrooms for nearly two weeks, West Virginia teachers won a 5% raise and a process to address health insurance costs. The defeat of conservative opponents - notably a GOP controlled Senate led by a probable candidate for governor - marks a clear victory for state unions and public employees. With teachers unions in other states considering their own work actions, the strike has been an unusual win for unions nationally and could inspire numerous imitations.

– All News Services

Health Issues

Oregon Legislators Approve Drug Pricing Transparency Bill

March 2018 - Oregon lawmakers approved a bill to make prescription drug costs more transparent. If a drug manufacturer increases prices more than 10 percent in one year, they must report to the state and provide a reason for the spike.

– Oregon News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Oregon Lawmakers Pass Bill to Increase Funding for Affordable Housing Resources

March 2018 - Lawmakers increased what's known as the document-recording fee from $20 to $60. The money will be put to use in a variety of ways, including to preserve and develop affordable rental housing, programs to help the homeless and boost services for veterans.

– Oregon News Service

Media Reform

Oregon Legislature Passes Bill Strengthening Net Neutrality in the State

March 2018 - Lawmakers passed a bill requiring state and local governments to contract with companies that treat all internet traffic equally. The bill uses Oregon's buying power to enforce net neutrality.

– Oregon News Service

Washington State Lawmakers Pass Net Neutrality Bill

March 2018 - The Washington state legislature has approved a net neutrality law that applies to all wired and wireless Internet providers in the state and prohibits blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

– Washington News Service

Disabilities

New Law will Raise the Voice of Ohioans with Disabilities

March 2018 - Governor Kasich signed Ohio Senate Bill 144, establishing the establishing the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Council. The move gives people with disabilities an increased voice at Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, the state agency that oversees vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities in Ohio. The new OOD Council will provide input, planning, and oversight regarding the agency's organizational effectiveness, vocational services, and client outcomes.

– Ohio News Connection

Mental Health

Nebraska Honored for Mental Health Work

March 2018 - Governor Pete Ricketts recently received the B4Stage4 Leadership Award from Mental Health America, which is presented to governors who have prioritized prevention, early identification and intervention, and access to integrated services to those with behavioral health concerns. The specific work done in Nebraska that was noted includes the connection to coordinated services for Nebraska's children and families through the Nebraska System of Care and corrections reforms in the form of funding for additional behavioral health staff and services.

– Nebraska News Connection

Criminal Justice

Bill to Repeal NH Death Penalty Has Bipartisan Support

March 2018 - Senate Bill 593 would change the penalty for capital murder in New Hampshire from death to life without the possibility of parole. Similar legislation passed the House in both 2014 and 2016, but failed to get through the Senate. This time 13 senators have signed on as sponsors. Supporters of the death penalty claim it's an effective deterrent and point out that it is rarely used in New Hampshire. There's only one prisoner on New Hampshire's death row, and he is the first since the 1930s. Proponents of the repeal maintain that decades of experience and analysis in other states show capital punishment has no place in any state. They point out that over 150 people have been exonerated from death row across the country.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Bill Reauthorizing RGGI Becomes Law

March 2018 - Maine is now committed to making even deeper cuts in carbon pollution from power plants. Legislation passed unanimously by the Maine Legislature went into effect reauthorizing the state's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) a multi-state compact that caps carbon emissions from the energy sector. Maine is the first RGGI state to officially usher in the strengthened program. RGGI caps carbon emissions and reduces that cap every year. Carbon credits are auctioned off to power companies and the proceeds are used support energy efficiency improvements. In the past five years, RGGI funds leveraged $88 million in private investment in Maine, yielding $277 million in energy savings for homes and businesses and produced at least $5.7 billion in health benefits throughout the region.

– Maine News Service

F e b r u a r y

2 0 1 8

February 2018

Media Reform

Net Neutrality Bill Heading to Gov. Inslee

February 2018 - The Washington state Senate passed a bill requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all information and content zipping through their networks equally. The bill now goes to Governor Jay Inslee to sign.

– Washington News Service

Consumer Issues

Lawmakers Reject Payday Lending Bill

February 2018 - A bill that would allow storefront lenders to charge annual interest rates of up to 222 percent by offering three- to 12-month loans of up to $1,500, was allowed to die quietly, by not being assigned to a committee in the state senate.

– Indiana News Service

Women's Issues

Arizona Will Improve Access to Tampons for Incarcerated Women

February 2018 - After weeks of public pressure to improve access to feminine hygiene products for incarcerated women, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced a new policy late Wednesday afternoon. Now, ADC will provide at least 36 free pads or tampons to female prisoners every month. The department had previously insisted that 12 pads were enough, until formerly incarcerated women, their allies and a social media campaign (#LetItFlow) collectively shamed ADC into action.

– Arizona News Connection

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Congress Approves Funding for TN Senator Cohen-sponsored Bill to help Identify Human Trafficking

February 2018 - The SOAR Act, passed in February, gives tools to health care professionals to be alert to possible instances of human trafficking when victims appear in clinics or doctors' offices for needed care. The bill includes four million dollars in funding.

– Tennessee News Service

Health Issues

American Water Lays Out a Plan for Replacing Lead Pipes

February 2018 - The Indiana subsidiary of American Water Company has filed a plan with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to fully replace lead service lines in the communities it serves.

– Indiana News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Appeals Court Rules People Can't Be Fired For Sexual Orientation

February 2018 - A federal appeals court in New York became the second one in the country to break with precedent and rule that U.S. anti-discrimination law protects employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation. Ruling in the case of a skydiving instructor who said he was fired after telling a client he was gay, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said that while it and other courts around the U.S. had previously found that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act didn't cover sexual orientation, "legal doctrine evolves."

– New York News Connection

Environment

Judge Orders CA Ag Officials to Stop Using Pesticides

February 2018 - A judge has ordered California agricultural officials to stop spraying pesticides on public and private property to control insects that threaten the state's $45-billion agriculture industry. Farmers and other property owners will still be able to use chemical insecticides, and the state can continue to use non-chemical means of pest control. But it will have to suspend spraying pesticides on vegetation in parks, school properties and even homeowners' backyards. The challenge remains for the state Department of Food and Agriculture to control dozens of crop-damaging pests such as the Asian citrus psyllid, which carries bacteria that have decimated the citrus industry in Brazil and Florida.

– California News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

Oregon First State to Pass Gun Control legislation Since Parkland Shooting

February 2018 - Oregon lawmakers passed legislation banning people convicted of domestic violence against partners they're not married to from owning a gun. The measure closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole" in federal law and addresses domestic violence as a significant corollary in gun violence.

– Oregon News Service

Civic Engagement

Court Side With Civil Libertarians on Redistricting in Kern County

February 2018 - A redistricting plan adopted in 2011 by the Kern County, California Board of Supervisors unlawfully denies Latinos the right to elect candidates of their choice, in violation of Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a federal judge ruled in a landmark lawsuit filed by MALDEF. The order was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Drozd, who presided over an 11-day bench trial in December, holds that the current plan is unlawful, and orders that the litigation proceed to the remedial phase, where the court will hear the proposals of the parties and adopt new, lawful plans for election of Supervisors. Plaintiffs have requested that those plans be implemented in the 2018 elections.

– California News Service

CA City Redistricts To Create More Representation for Low-income Residents

February 2018 - In a major victory for voting rights, the Oxnard City Council unanimously voted to approve a city council district map adding two new representatives for South Oxnard. After the city received a letter that it was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act, the council agreed to transition to district elections, giving neighborhoods the ability to elect their own representatives to City Hall. The civil rights group CAUSE worked to engage a diverse group of residents from throughout the city to develop a district map, which was chosen over dozens of other maps submitted. The new map ensures that four of Oxnard's six districts would represent the working-class immigrant communities that make up the majority of the city's population, particularly neighborhoods like South Oxnard and La Colonia.

– California News Service

Education

Idaho Approves Science Education Standards that Include Climate Change

February 2018 - The Idaho Senate overruled the House and approved science education standards that include mention of human-caused climate change. The approval ends a three-year battle to update statewide standards.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Idaho Approves Science Education Standards that Include Climate Change

February 2018 - The Idaho Senate overruled the House and approved science education standards that include mention of human-caused climate change. The approval ends a three-year battle to update statewide standards.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Criminal Justice

Wisconsin Assembly Votes To Close Troubled Youth Prison

February 2018 - The state's youngest offenders would be moved out of the troubled Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake facility within three years under a bill the assembly passed today. This is the first real bipartisan action to deal with the problematic state youth prisons, an issue PNS/WNC has consistently reported on.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Senior Issues

Slimmer Caregiver Tax Credit Passes AZ House

February 2018 - A bill to give caregivers an income tax credit passed the Arizona House with some changes and is now waiting to be heard in the Senate. According to AARP, caregivers spend roughly $7,000 a year on their loved one's care. The bill would give a $500 tax credit for an individual and up to a $1000 for a couple. House Bill 2087 had originally called for $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a couple.

– Arizona News Connection

Gun Violence Prevention

U.S. Top Court Rejects Challenge to California Gun Waiting Period

February 2018 - In a blow to gun rights activists, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a challenge to California's 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases that is intended to guard against impulsive violence and suicides. The court's action underscored its continued reluctance to step into the national debate over gun control roiled by a series of mass shootings including the most recent at a Florida school. One of the court's most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, dissented from the decision to reject the case and accused his colleagues of showing contempt toward constitutional protections for gun rights.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

California Attorney General Backs Changing Money Bail System

February 2018 - Judges must consider suspects' ability to pay when they set bail amounts, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra ruled, adding momentum to ongoing talks aimed at finding a better way to make sure suspects show up in court. Judges should only keep suspects in jail awaiting trial if they are dangerous or are likely to flee, Becerra said. He sided with a recent appeals court ruling that the state's bail system unconstitutionally discriminates against poor suspects who languish in jail. Bail is money or property that can be forfeited if suspects fail to appear for trial.

– California News Service

Immigrant Issues

Groups Reignite 24HR Hotline to Support Immigrants

February 2018 - A coalition of labor, faith, and grassroots organizers is renewing efforts to assist immigrants targeted for deportation. The Colorado Rapid Response Network provides legal assistance, know-your-rights training, and a 24-hour hotline to mobilize protection and document raids conducted by ICE.

– Colorado News Connection

Environment

Lawsuit Seeks to End Delay in Clean Water Rule

February 2018 - Connecticut and nine other states have joined environmental groups in a lawsuit to end delays in implementing the Clean Water Rule. The 2015 rule clarified which small streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit came a week after Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt finalized an action to delay implementing the rule for two years while the agency moves to repeal or replace it. Critics of the rule say it only applies to "navigable waters," those large enough for boat traffic. But defenders of the rule say the issue was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court 20 years ago.

– Connecticut News Service

Consumer Issues

Bill Filed to Protect CA Renters

February 2018 - Following failure of a bill that would have expanded rent control, a trio of California lawmakers introduced legislation aimed at adding other protections for renters. Democratic Assemblymen David Chiu of San Francisco, Richard Bloom of Santa Monica and Rob Bonta of Alameda want to make it harder to evict tenants and extend timelines before evictions could occur.

– California News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Tennessee's Biggest Bank Boosts Minimum Wage

February 2018 - First Horizon National Corp - known locally as First Tennessee bank, is boosting its minimum pay for its employees to $15 an hour, or $31,200 a year for full-time work. The bank has more than 4,000 employees. This comes after Wells Fargo announced a similar plan, though both actions are considered to be in response to public awareness.

– Tennessee News Service

Environment

Lake Michigan Shoreline Belongs to All Hoosiers

February 2018 - The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that Lake Michigan's shoreline is open to all, and adjacent property owners cannot exercise exclusive control of the beach between their homes and the water.

– Indiana News Service

Energy Policy

A Step Forward for Solar in Ohio

February 2018 - The Ohio Power Siting Board approved the two largest solar arrays in the state. Hardin Solar Center in Hardin County would be 150 megawatts, and Hillcrest Solar Farm in Brown County would be 125 megawatts. The current largest project of 28.7 megawatts is in Bowling Green. The projects are happening now because of increased demand for buyers of renewable electricity and a drop in costs for the equipment.

– Ohio News Connection

Consumer Issues

Bill Introduced in State Assembly to Fight Predatory Lending

February 2018 - California Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) introduced AB 2500, the Safe Consumer Lending Act, a bill to protect California families from abusive high-cost installment loans. The legislation would extend California's current interest rate cap for consumer loans between $2.500 to $10,000. Under the proposed law, a $10,000 loan with a 12 month repayment plan would carry a maximum interest rate of 20%. Currently, California has no APR limit for installment loans of $2,500 to $10,000, which gives predatory lenders the opportunity to charge borrowers interest rates of 100% APR or more.

– California News Service

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

New Funding to Keep KY Kids Fed During Summer Months

February 2018 - In response to the great need, Anthem Medicaid is providing $25,000 in mini-grants through Kentucky Kids Eat to support mobile meal routes throughout Kentucky, ensuring kids stay healthy and fed throughout the summer months. Additional funding will be used to support enrichment at summer meal sites. Funding will be available to summer meal service sponsors, and up to 17 sponsors throughout the state will be awarded mini-grant funding.

– Kentucky News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

Transgender Nondiscrimination Bill Gets Second Hearing

February 2018 - Support for a bill to protect New Hampshire's transgender residents from discrimination has grown. House Bill 1319 is getting its second hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would protect transgender Granite Staters from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. The bill is identical to legislation introduced last year that failed by a slim margin before it could come up for a vote. Opponents of the bill argue that it would put women in jeopardy by allowing men who claim to be transgender to enter sex-segregated spaces such as restrooms. But supporters say safety and privacy are major concerns for the transgender community. Harassment and assault still would be illegal, and experience has shown that nondiscrimination laws don't put anyone at risk.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Civic Engagement

New York Counties Will Offer Early Voting in 12 Days Leading Up to Election Day

February 2018 - Funding voting reforms, including early voting across the state, is included in a 30-day budget amendment. This will provide approximately $7 million in the FY 2019 Executive Budget for New York counties to offer early voting in the 12 days leading up to Election Day. The legislation will require every county to offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Voters will have at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots. Counties must have one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents and the bipartisan County Boards of Elections will determine the specific location of early voting polling places, subject to standards of accessibility and convenience. Currently, New York is one of only 13 states where early voting is not available, and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot.

– New York News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Takes Effect in Maryland

February 2018 - The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act went into effect today requiring employers with 15 employees or more to provide an hour of paid leave for every 30 hours eligible employees worked; smaller employers must provide unpaid leave at the same rate. Employers, including nonprofits, local governments and other agencies as well as for-profit businesses are affected,

– Maryland News Connection

Health Issues

Feds Grant Texas $25 Billion Extension of Medicaid Waiver

February 2018 - Health care providers in Texas are getting a $25 billion shot in the arm with the five-year extension of a Medicaid program by the federal government. The plan, known as an 1115 Demonstration Waiver is considered a low-cost alternative to traditional Medicaid.

– Texas News Service

Mental Health

Texas Funds Renovations for Crumbling Mental Health Hospitals

February 2018 - After decades of neglect, Texas has begun a two-year, $300 million project to rebuild and renovate the state's antiquated psychiatric hospital system. In 2017, the Texas Legislature appropriated the funding to begin bringing the state's network of 10 facilities up to current standards.

– Texas News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Oregon to Protect Marbled Murrelets as Endangered Species

February 2018 - The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to change the status of marbled murrelets from threatened to endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act. The marbled murrelet is a seabird that nests in old-growth and mature forests and forages at sea. Its population has declined dramatically over the decades because of extensive logging in Oregon's Coast Range. The commission's decision could have implications for forest protection on state and private timberlands.

– Oregon News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Maryland Gov Expected to Sign Bill Ending Parental Rights for Rapists

February 2018 - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is expected to sign a bill that will allow impregnated rape victims to ask a judge to end the parental rights of their attackers. The measure, titled the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, unanimously passed both chambers of Maryland's legislature.

– Maryland News Connection

Environment

States, Conservation Groups Sue to Implement Clean Water Rule

February 2018 - New York and nine other states have joined with environmental groups in a lawsuit to end delays in implementing the Clean Water Rule. The 2015 rule clarified which small streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. The suit comes a week after Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt finalized an action to delay implementing the rule for two years while the agency moves to repeal or replace it. Critics of the rule say it only applies to "navigable waters," those large enough for boat traffic. But supporters of the rule say the water quality standards of the Clean Water Act without reducing the pollution winding up in the actual navigable waterways. And the only way to do that is to reduce the amount that is winding up in some of these earlier headwater streams and these wetlands.

– New York News Connection

Bay State Joins Suit to End Clean Water Rule Delay

February 2018 - Massachusetts and nine other states have joined environmental groups in a lawsuit to end delays in implementing the Clean Water Rule. The 2015 rule clarified which small streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has finalized an action to delay implementing the rule for two years while the agency moves to repeal or replace it. Critics of the rule say it only applies to "navigable waters," those large enough for boat traffic. But supporters of the rule say the water quality standards of the Clean Water Act cannot be met without reducing the pollution in some of the earlier headwater streams and these wetlands.

– Commonwealth News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Lowest-Paid Coloradans Edge Closer to Living Wage

February 2018 - Colorado's lowest-paid workers got a raise this week as the minimum wage increased by 90 cents to $10.20 an hour. But, for workers in many parts of the state, that still isn't enough to be financially self-sufficient.

– Colorado News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Nevada Prosecutors Ask Judge To Reconsider Dismissal Of Bundy Case

February 2018 - Federal prosecutors in Nevada have asked a judge to reconsider her decision to dismiss the government's case against members of the Bundy family and a close supporter. "The government believes the Court's ruling is clearly erroneous," Elizabeth White, appellate chief for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada, wrote in a court filing. The case stemming from a 2014 standoff between federal officials and Bundy family members and their supporters was dismissed a month earlier, when U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro ruled that federal prosecutors improperly withheld key information from the defense.

– Nevada News Service

Energy Policy

Ballot Measure Filed on Renewable Energy

February 2018 - Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future filed paperwork with the Nevada Secretary of State to begin the process of signature gathering for a ballot measure to increase Nevada's use of renewable energy. This measure will require electric suppliers to provide at least 50 percent of their total electricity from renewable sources, like wind, solar, and geothermal by the year 2030. The ballot measure would change the current law, resulting in curbed energy costs, job creation, and a reduction in harmful pollution that threatens Nevada families' clean air and water.

– Nevada News Service

Urban Planning/Transportation

State Task Force Delivers Blueprint for Creating More Walkable Cities

February 2018 - A group appointed by Gov. Matt Mead to find ways to make Wyoming towns safer for pedestrians and cyclists released its report, and its recommendations include investing $10 million a year on infrastructure such as sidewalks, bike paths and crosswalks.

– Wyoming News Service

Health Issues

The Latest Kids Count Data Book Shows Improvements

February 2018 - A decrease in teen pregnancy and an increase in health coverage top the positive changes in Hoosier health measurements, according to The Kids Count Data Book released this month.

– Indiana News Service

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Thousands of College Students Eligible for Food Stamps

February 2018 - New rules issued by the Illinois Department of Human Services allows full and part time college students to apply for SNAP benefits.

– Illinois News Connection

Education

Governor Snyder Wants to Increase Education Funding

February 2018 - For the first time in years, Governor Rick Snyder is recommending an increase in per-pupil funding for Michigan public schools. While the $233 increase he is recommending is far short of the more than $1000 analysts feel would be necessary to bring the state's struggling schools up to par, it's seen as a step in the right direction.

– Michigan News Connection

Consumer Issues

FirstEnergy Gives Up On Selling Pleasants Coal-Fired Power Plant To Consumer Supported Subsidiary

February 2018 - FirstEnergy had tried to shift coal-fired Pleasants to a subsidiary which falls under the utility regulation of the West Virginia Public Service Commission - where ratepayers would bear all the risk. There has been a pattern of power companies trying to shift coal-powered white elephants from de-regulated energy markets to markets like West Virginia where the companies have an assured profit. Consumer environmental advocates objected, and both the federal FERC and the WV PSC signaled some reservations. Given this and the public scrutiny, the power conglomerate dropped their plan.

– West Virginia News Service

Civic Engagement

Congressional Redistricting Goes on May Ballot

February 2018 - The Ohio General Assembly voted to place an issue on the May ballot reforming Ohio's congressional redistricting process to protect voters' interests. (Substitute Senate Joint Resolution 5)

– Ohio News Connection

Environment

Gov. Jay Inslee Rejects Largest Oil Terminal Proposal in North America

February 2018 - Gov. Jay Inslee has delivered the final blow in the long battle over a proposed oil terminal in Vancouver. The governor agreed with the recommendation of the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), which voted unanimously at the end of last year to reject the project. If built, it would have been the largest oil-by-rail terminal on the continent. In his rejection letter, the governor said there were "potentially catastrophic risks to the public" in the event of an earthquake, and concerns about possible oil spills in the Columbia River. He also noted the risk of a potential fire or explosion at the facility.

– Washington News Service

Application for Transmission Lines Denied

February 2018 - The application to construct Northern Pass, a major electric transmission line project, has been rejected. New Hampshire's seven-member Site Evaluation Committee voted unanimously to deny the application. The committee said the project developers had not shown that the proposed line wouldn't unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region - one of four standards any project must meet to win approval. According to Jack Savage, vice president for communication and outreach at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, approval on other criteria was unlikely as well. A spokesperson for Northern Pass said the evaluation process did not comply with New Hampshire law, and did not reflect the evidence. Once the SEC issues its written decision, Northern Pass will have 30 days to ask the committee for a rehearing.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Consumer Issues

NM Senate Panel Stalls PNM's Effort to Recoup Coal Plant Losses From Ratepayers

February 2018 - A New Mexico Senate committee dealt a blow to Public Service Company (PNM) of New Mexico by voting to stall a bill allowing the utility to sell bonds to pay for the early closing of a coal-burning power plant in northwestern New Mexico. Opponents led by New Energy Economy said it was a bailout for PNM and would weaken state regulator oversight of the utility.

– New Mexico News Connection

Civil Rights

Flint Residents Can Sue Over Water Crisis

February 2018 - The Michigan Court of Appeals says a lawsuit filed by Flint residents against the state of Michigan can proceed in the Court of Claims. The state had argued that residents failed to file their claim within six months of Flint's water being switched to Flint River water, but the Court of Appeals says it would be unreasonable to expect residents to know they were drinking lead contaminated water, especially since the state deliberately concealed the truth for months.

– Michigan News Connection

Civic Engagement

Judge Says Voting Rights Process For Florida Felons Unconstitutional

February 2018 - A federal judge has declared unconstitutional Florida's procedure for restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the disenfranchisement of felons who have served their time is "nonsensical" and a violation of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

– Florida News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Bison Gets a Boost Towards Endangered Species Act Protection

February 2018 - A federal judge ruled in early February that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally denied Endangered Species Act protections for the Yellowstone bison population. The court sent the rule back to the Service to revise and use the science that supports providing protections for the dwindling bison herds.

– Wyoming News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

State Legislators Form Carbon Coalition

February 2018 - State lawmakers have launched a multistate coalition to collaborate on legislation to combat carbon pollution. The Carbon Costs Coalition includes legislators from nine states, including New York. It will help those legislators design strategies to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean, renewable energy alternatives. The coalition will allow state legislators who are working on the issue to be able to compare notes on each other's bills and compare how they're conducting outreach and building their coalitions so they can be stronger by having that multistate idea sharing. It would supplement the carbon reduction goals of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a multistate compact that seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

– New York News Connection

Legislators Launch Multistage Carbon Coalition

February 2018 - State lawmakers have launched a multistate coalition to collaborate on legislation to combat carbon pollution. The Carbon Costs Coalition includes legislators from nine states, including Connecticut. It will help those legislators design strategies to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean, renewable energy alternatives. The coalition will help state legislators who are working on the issue to compare notes on each other's bills and compare how they're conducting outreach and building their coalitions so they can be stronger by having that multistate idea sharing. In Connecticut legislation has been introduced to establish a tax on carbon-based fuels that would help spur investment in renewable energy programs. The Coalition also will supplement the carbon reduction goals of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a multistate compact that seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

– Connecticut News Service

Mass. Joins New Coalition to Fight Carbon Pollution

February 2018 - State lawmakers have launched a multistate coalition to collaborate on legislation to combat carbon pollution. The Carbon Costs Coalition includes legislators from nine states, including Massachusetts. It will help those legislators design strategies to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean, renewable energy alternatives. The coalition will help state legislators who are working on the issue to compare notes on each other's bills and compare how they're conducting outreach and building their coalitions so they can be stronger by having that multistate idea sharing. The Coalition also will supplement the carbon reduction goals of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a multistate compact that seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

– Commonwealth News Service

State Legislators Collaborate to Reduce Carbon Pollution

February 2018 - State lawmakers have launched a multistate coalition to collaborate on legislation to combat carbon pollution. The Carbon Costs Coalition includes legislators from nine states, including New Hampshire. It will help those legislators design strategies to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean, renewable energy alternatives. The coalition will help state legislators who are working on the issue to compare notes on each other's bills and compare how they're conducting outreach and building their coalitions so they can be stronger by having that multistate idea sharing. In Connecticut legislation has been introduced to establish a tax on carbon-based fuels that would help spur investment in renewable energy programs. The Coalition also will supplement the carbon reduction goals of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a multistate compact that seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

– New Hampshire News Connection

J a n u a r y

2 0 1 8

January 2018

Consumer Issues

Consumers Win In Deal With CPUC

January 2018 - Consumers can finally say goodbye to paying for the San Onofre nuclear plant under the terms of a new agreement relieving customers of an additional $873 million in charges. The agreement adds to a previous settlement approved by the CPUC in 2014. The CPUC moved to reconsider the reasonableness of that agreement in light of evidence showing pervasive impermissible private contacts between SCE executives and former CPUC President Michael Peevey.

– California News Service

Court Ruling Favors CFPB Over Trump

January 2018 - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regained a measure of independence when a U.S. appeals court said the president's power to remove the agency's head is limited to specific reasons such as neglect of duty or malfeasance in office. The Washington-based appeals court concluded Wednesday that Congress meant to protect the agency from the ebb and flow of politics. Giving the president more latitude to fire the director "would put the historically established independence of financial regulators and numerous other independent agencies at risk," U.S. Circuit Judge Nina Pillard wrote for the majority. The decision is certain to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

– All News Services

Livable Wages/Working Families

USDA Denies Poultry Industry's Request to Speed Up Lines

January 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied a petition by the National Chicken Council to remove the line speed limit on work at some slaughterhouses, a move that food safety advocates are calling a victory for workers and consumers.

– All News Services

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Bill to Ensure Sex Abuse Allegations Get Reported To Police Passes U.S. House

January 2018 - The House passed legislation drafted by Senator Dianne Feinstein to require amateur athletics governing bodies like USA Gymnastics and other amateur sports organizations to report sex-abuse allegations immediately to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department. The bill further authorizes the U.S. Center for Safe Sport to ensure that aspiring Olympic athletes can report allegations of abuse to an independent and non-conflicted entity for investigation and resolution, and to make sure that all national governing bodies follow the strictest standards for child abuse prevention, detection and investigation.

– All News Services

Livable Wages/Working Families

U.S.D.A. Rejects Move to Speed Up Chicken Processing Production Lines

January 2018 - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rejected the National Chicken Council's petition for exemptions from rules stating that line speeds in poultry plants should not go beyond the already-fast rate of 140 birds per minute. Line speed regulations protect working people from employers who want to increase profits at the expense of workers' health and safety. The poultry industry's own data show that their workers are injured at twice the rate of the national average, and increasing line speeds would only make things worse.

– All News Services

Public Lands/Wilderness

ANTIQUITIES Act Introduced to Protect Monuments

January 2018 - Legislators introduced the America's Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States Act (ANTIQUITIES Act) of 2018. This bill, co-sponsored by more than a dozen U.S. Senators, codifies into law the boundaries for over 50 national monuments established through the Antiquities Act since 1996, ensuring that that onggoing access for hunting, tourism, research, conservation, cultural uses, education, and other activities will continue. The legislation also validates that only Congress has the authority to reduce or diminish national monuments designated by presidents through the Antiquities Act of 1906.

– All News Services

Poverty Issues

WV Gov Won't Add Work Requirements To Medicaid

January 2018 - West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has announced that the state would not apply for a waver to add a rule requiring that Medicaid recipients who can, work at least 20 hours a week. This is a path opened by the Trump administration that Kentucky and other states are following, and which some WV Republicans had favored.

– West Virginia News Service

Energy Policy

NYS Wind Master Plan Draws Praise

January 2018 - New York state has released the first-in-the-nation Offshore Wind Master Plan. The plan starts the process of procuring at least 800 megawatts of offshore wind power over the next two years. The goal is to increase that to 2.4 gigawatts by 2030. With only one, small wind farm currently operating off Block Island, the U.S. is far behind some other nations in developing offshore wind. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) estimates that in 10 years, offshore wind will be a $6 billion industry, employing 5,000 people.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Bill Would Keep Paris Climate Accord Goals for PA

January 2018 - Three state senators have introduced legislation to bring Pennsylvania into line with the carbon emission goals of the Paris Agreement. When President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the international climate accord he quipped that he represents "Pittsburgh, not Paris." In response, the legislators - led by Sen. Jay Costa of Pittsburgh - have introduced Senate Bill 15. According to Tom Schuster, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club, the legislation, if passed, would commit Pennsylvania to achieve the goals that were laid out in the Paris climate agreement, reducing our climate-disrupting carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2025.

– Keystone State News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Federal Lawsuit Over Arpaio Workplace Raids Settled

January 2018 - The parties in a federal lawsuit challenging former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's workplace raids have reached an agreement to end the case. The final settlement provides, among other things, that previous rulings by U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell finding the practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Maricopa County Attorney's Office unconstitutional will not be appealed. In addition, the county agreed to pay plaintiffs $995,157.46 in attorneys' fees and costs. The settlement brings to a close a three-year legal battle to put an end to the workplace raids that tore apart countless families in Maricopa County. In total, the Sheriff's Office conducted a total of over 80 workplace operations, leading to the arrest of at least 806 employees. Under the settlement, Judge Campbell's orders will remain in effect. Those include a March 2017 order enjoining the MCSO, now under the leadership of Sheriff Paul Penzone, from relying on information or documents submitted to an employer solely as part of the federal I-9 employment verification process and declaring it unconstitutional for any defendant, including MCAO, to use such information or documents in any investigation or prosecution for a violation of Arizona's identity theft or forgery law. In addition, the MCSO unit that had led the workplace raids was disbanded shortly after the lawsuit was filed in 2014, and remains disbanded today.

– Arizona News Connection

Energy Policy

Tribes Sign Solar Agreement

January 2018 - The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) and Salt River Project officials are scheduled to sign a long-term solar agreement for Kayenta II on Friday in Phoenix that will result in providing additional solar energy for residents of the Navajo Nation.The agreement also lays the foundation for future renewable energy development on the Navajo Nation.The announcement of Kayenta II, which will produce 27.3 megawatts, coincides with an agreement in which the parties commit to working together to pursue the development of additional renewable energy projects on the Navajo Nation, recognizing that the Kayenta Solar Projects are the platforms for such further ventures.The agreement targets the development of at least 500 megawatts of renewable energy projects over the next 5 to 10 years within the Navajo Nation to further support their goal of charting their own energy future.

– Arizona News Connection

Criminal Justice

Bill Seeks to Protect Marijuana Users in MA

January 2018 - A bill has been introduced in the legislature to keep those who follow the Bay State's law on marijuana use from being turned over to federal authorities. The bill, called "An Act relative to refusal of complicity", would prohibit local and state officials from using state resources to assist federal agents in the prosecution of individuals who are following the Commonwealth's marijuana laws, unless federal authorities have a warrant. The issue was drawn into the spotlight when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he is rescinding the Obama administration policy of not interfering in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. The bill reinforces the state's Constitutional protections against states being compelled by the federal government to pass laws that are consistent with federal law or to enforce federal laws. It was inspired by the practice of sanctuary cities and states that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Other states, including California, have taken similar actions.

– Commonwealth News Service

Ban Lifted on Book in NC Prison System

January 2018 - The North Carolina Department of Public Safety lifted a ban on a New York Times best seller "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness" just one day after the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said the ban was unconstitutional and asked for inmates to have access to the book.

– North Carolina News Service

Civic Engagement

Florida Voters Will Decide Ballot Measure to Restore Felon's Voting Rights

January 2018 - Florida's Voting Restoration Amendment on next November's ballot would restore rights to citizens convicted of most non-violent crimes who have completed their prison sentence, parole and probation. Florida currently has one of the strictest felon disenfranchisement laws in the country. Roughly 1.6 million Florida citizens -- about one in four African Americans -- are barred from casting a ballot.

– Florida News Connection

Health Issues

Measure to Continue Medicaid Funding in Oregon Passes

January 2018 - Measure 101 passed with overwhelming support - the measure ensures that state has enough to money to continue funding health insurance for low-income Oregonians.

– Oregon News Service

Media Reform

Montana Governor Signs Net Neutrality Into Law

January 2018 - Governor Steve Bullock made Montana the first state to implement net neutrality since the FCC rolled back net neutrality protections. Bullock says his executive order could serve as a blueprint for other states.

– Big Sky Connection

Cuomo Commits NY to Net Neutrality

January 2018 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken action to preserve open internet access in the state of New York. The governor signed an executive order instructing state agencies to only sign contracts with internet service providers that adhere to the principles of net neutrality. That means the ISPs must agree not to block, slow down or give priority to internet content, or charge customers higher prices for access to specific types of content. In December the Federal Communications Commission narrowly voted to repeal net neutrality regulations. New York is the second state, after Montana, to make net neutrality official policy. Attorneys general from 22 states also have filed a lawsuit to block the repeal.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

PA Gerrymandering Ruling Called Major Victory

January 2018 - Election law advocates say the state Supreme Court's ruling declaring Pennsylvania's congressional map unconstitutional was the first of its kind in the nation. The court said the map created by Republicans in 2011 was drawn to discriminate against Democrats. With it, the GOP has consistently held 13 of the state's 18 congressional districts despite the fact that voters are pretty evenly divided between the parties. The ruling is the first time a court has relied on general provisions of a state constitution to strike down gerrymandered district lines. The General Assembly has until Feb. 9 to submit a new district plan to Gov. Tom Wolf. Republicans in the state Senate say they will request a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.

– Keystone State News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Civil Rights Group Sues Motel 6 for Discrimination

January 2018 - Motel 6 violated the civil rights of Latino immigrants and other guests by alerting federal authorities that they had rented rooms at two Phoenix locations, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the name of eight plaintiffs affected by the motel practice. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), says the hotel's practice of voluntarily giving Latino guests' personal information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents without a warrant violates federal and state civil rights laws barring discrimination based on national origin, and protections against unreasonable searches. The lawsuit also alleges that the motel violated state consumer fraud protections.

– Arizona News Connection

Health Issues

Gov. Walker Moves To Stabilize Health Insurance Markets In Wisconsin

January 2018 - In a surprising change of position, Governor Scott Walker announced a Health Care Stability Plan focused on stabilizing rising health care coverage premiums in Obamacare's individual market. The plan utilizes the 1332 Waiver process, also known as the State Innovation Waiver, under Obamacare to lower premiums for people in the individual market. Governor Walker also called on the Wisconsin State Senate to pass preexisting condition legislation agreed upon in the State Assembly and requested a permanent waiver to support SeniorCare, the state's prescription drug program for seniors age 65 or older.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Experts Predicts CA Can Reach Net Zero Emissions by 2050

January 2018 - California could reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 - that's the prediction by a panel of clean-energy experts gathered in Sacramento. The panel is part of the "Right to Zero" campaign by the environmental legal nonprofit Earthjustice. Transit agencies up and down the state are committing to convert to zero-emissions buses. The ports of L.A. and Long Beach are committing to convert all of their port equipment and trucks with zero-emissions technology. The campaign is also supporting a bill that would commit the state to achieving clean energy generation by 2045, and a bill that bans the sale of fossil fuel-burning vehicles. They also are fighting three natural gas-fired power plants proposed for the Golden State, because natural gas, although cleaner than coal, is still a polluting fossil fuel and puts residents at risk with methane leaks.

– California News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Gov. Tom Wolf Wants to Make More Workers Eligible for OT Pay

January 2018 - Pennsylvania workers on salary who make $23,600 a year or more can be required to work well over 40 hours a week without getting any overtime pay. The governor wants to raise that in three stages, reaching a limit of almost $48,000 a year by 2022. Opponents of the governor's plan say it would force business owners to make more salaried employees into hourly workers, and limit the hours they work, rather than increase their paychecks, but polls show raising the level of overtime pay enjoys broad, bipartisan support.

– Keystone State News Connection

Oceans

Court Victory for Conservation Groups on Anchovy Catch Limits

January 2018 - A conservation group is declaring victory, as a U.S. District Court judge in Northern California has ruled that the federal government's allowable catch for northern anchovies, set in November, is far too high. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will now have to revise the catch limit downward, to protect other species that feed on anchovies. Geoff Shester, California campaign director and senior scientist with the nonprofit group Oceana, said the federal fishery managers opted to protect commercial fishing interests and have ignored current science that shows the anchovy population is collapsing.

– California News Service

Civic Engagement

Democrat Elected In WI 10th Senate District

January 2018 - Democrat Patty Schachtner won in the special election for the 10th Senate district in far northwest Wisconsin. Trump carried the district by a huge margin a year ago and Republicans considered the seat imminently safe. The victory is being interpreted as a huge blow to the Walker administration and Trump.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

NM Legislators Complete Sexual Harassment Training, Approve New Legislation

January 2018 - New Mexico legislators completed mandatory sexual harassment training at the State Capitol and overhauled policies against sexual misconduct and harassment. The issue came to the forefront as part of a national wave of claims against powerful people in politics, entertainment and business.

– New Mexico News Connection

Media Reform

California Joins Lawsuit to Fight for Net Neutrality

January 2018 - The legal fight against the Federal Communications Commission's recent repeal of so-called net neutrality regulations began with a flurry of lawsuits filed to block the agency's action. One suit, filed by 21 state attorneys general, including California, said the agency's actions broke federal law. The commission's rollback of net neutrality rules were "arbitrary and capricious," the attorneys general said, and a reversal of the agency's longstanding policy to prevent internet service providers from blocking or charging websites for faster delivery of content to consumers.

– California News Service

Environment

DEP to Reduce Power-Plant Water Pollution

January 2018 - The Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to a settlement to reduce toxic water pollution from 10 coal-fired power plants. In settling a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, the DEP has agreed to a schedule to update and draft new water permits for the plants, that have been operating with expired permits. Discharges from those power plants include pollutants like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury that end up in rivers and streams. Federal law requires power plants to renew their permits every five 1-2 years. Under the settlement, the DEP plans to have permits for all 10 power plants finalized by March of next year.

– Keystone State News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

KY Voters Could Decide on Crime Victim's Rights

January 2018 - A constitutional crime victims' bill of rights amendment edged closer to this fall's statewide election ballot with final passage of a bill proposing the change. Senate Bill 3 widely known as Marsy's Law will place the proposed amendment before voters this November. Kentucky currently has crime victims' rights listed in statute, but not in the state's constitution.

– Kentucky News Connection

Energy Policy

NH Towns Join Push to 100-Percent Renewable Energy

January 2018 - The New Hampshire towns of Cornish and Plainfield will vote on going 100 percent renewable at town meetings coming up in March, and the movement is spreading. With the federal government now promoting fossil fuels, cities and towns in New Hampshire and across the nation are leading the way to boost renewable energy. Last May, Hanover, New Hampshire, became the first municipality in the country to commit by community vote to achieving 100 percent renewable energy. The town is investing $50,000 every year into energy efficiency improvements and is also looking at opportunities for more solar power in the region, potentially in partnership with Dartmouth College. Hanover plans to be fueling its heat and transportation with renewable power by 2050. Nationwide, about 50 municipalities are now committed to 100 percent renewable energy.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Civic Engagement

Judges Order Lawmakers to Redraw Maps

January 2018 - A federal court ruled that Republicans in North Carolina unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts in 2016 to ensure Republican "domination of the state's congressional delegation." The three-judge panel struck down the map and ordered the General Assembly to come up with a substitute by Jan. 24.

– North Carolina News Service

Mental Health

Texas Funds Renovations for Crumbling Mental Health Hospitals

January 2018 - After decades of neglect, Texas has begun a two-year, $300 million project to rebuild and renovate the state's antiquated psychiatric hospital system. In 2017, the Texas Legislature appropriated the funding to begin bringing the state's network of 10 facilities up to current standards.

– Texas News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

NYC Suing Fossil Fuel Companies

January 2018 - New York City has filed a lawsuit against five major oil companies for damages the city blames on climate change. Mayor Bill de Blasio says the companies intentionally misled the public to protect their profits and now they need to shoulder the cost of making the city safer. Following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, the city is engaged in a $20 billion program to increase resiliency to rising sea levels, more powerful storms and rising temperatures. The lawsuit is the latest in a string of suits filed across the country over the industry's role in climate change. The state of New York is suing Exxon Mobil, maintaining the company deceived investors by withholding information about the impact of fossil fuels on climate change. Responding to the suit, a representative for Royal Dutch Shell told the Associated Press that climate change is a complex issue that should not be addressed by the courts.

– New York News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

President Signs Law Cracking Down on Truckers Involved in Human Trafficking

January 2018 - Today President Trump Signed Senate Bill 1532, the "No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act," which requires the Department of Transportation to disqualify an individual who uses a commercial motor vehicle in committing a felony involving human trafficking from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Solar Power Catching On in Idaho

January 2018 - A program called "Solarize the Valley" helped more than 100 Idaho families with the low-cost installation of solar rooftop panels. The number of solar customers has doubled in the last year, as more families look to alternative energy to power their homes.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Nuclear Waste

Dept. of Energy Permanently Closes Radioactive Waste Tank at Hanford

January 2018 - The Department of Energy says it will permanently close a radioactive storage waste tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. In 2012, the DOE found found the tank was leaking.

– Washington News Service

Environment

DEP Suspends Mariner East 2 Pipeline Permit

January 2018 - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has suspended the Mariner East 2 pipeline permit, saying Sunoco needs to correct what the agency termed "egregious and willful violations," including unauthorized drilling and failure to notify the agency of discharges and spills. Environmental groups are calling on the state to cancel construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. A spokesperson for Sunoco said the company is committed to protecting the environment and is confident it will be authorized to resume work on the pipeline soon.

– Keystone State News Connection

Reproductive Health

Governor Snyder Vetoes "Choose Life" License Plate

January 2018 - Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a proposal to create a "Choose Life" fundraising license plate in Michigan, saying it would be inappropriate for the state to endorse a "political message" that could divide residents. The specialty plate would have raised money for programs endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan, a prominent anti-abortion group.

– Michigan News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Homelessness on the Decline in Michigan

January 2018 - New data finds that homelessness in Michigan has dropped 2.9% since 2016 and 30% since 2010. Advocates say this is due in part to HUD's relatively recent strategy of working with local non-profits to identify folks in need of housing and getting them into housing quickly.

– Michigan News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Civil Rights Groups Applaud Setback for NV Anti-Sanctuary City Initiative

January 2018 - Civil rights groups are celebrating a decision by a Carson City judge to toss out a petition for a ballot initiative to stop sanctuary cities in Nevada. There are no self-described sanctuary cities in the state, but the ballot initiative would have banned cities or counties from passing laws that might inhibit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

– Nevada News Service

Animal Welfare

Federal Court Strikes Down Idaho's Ag-Gag Laws

January 2018 - A federal appeals court ruled Idaho's so-called "ag-gag laws" were unconstitutional. The ag-gag laws banned shooting secret videos of factory farms to expose animal abuse.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Hospital Sites to Reduce Diesel Emissions in Charlotte Area

January 2018 - Clean Air Carolina worked with hospital systems in the Charlotte area to agree to reduce diesel emissions on hospital construction sites. The move comes after the NGO was allowed to monitor emissions to determine the significant difference idling and higher emissions can make on air quality on a hospital's campus.

– North Carolina News Service

Energy Policy

TVA Looks to Expand Solar

January 2018 - TVA is looking to construct a solar facility in the coverage area of Limestone, Alabama for completion in 2018. IIt hasn't been approved yet, but represents good movement in the utilities' participation in solar and clean energy.

– Tennessee News Service

Environment

EPA Delays Decision on Hudson PCBs Cleanup

January 2018 - The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed a decision on whether General Electric has properly completed its cleanup of the Hudson River. The EPA sent a letter to GE saying the agency needs more time to complete its review. GE had asked the EPA for a "certificate of completion" a year ago, after finishing the removal of millions of cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which have been shown to cause cancer. The EPA has said the data shows no more dredging is needed. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say more dredging is needed.

– New York News Connection

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

WV Secretary of State To Enforce Ban Against Anonymous Campaign Ads And Materials

January 2018 - In spite of the Attorney General's opinion that the law is unconstitutional, WV Secretary of State will continue to enforce a ban on anonymous campaign materials.

– West Virginia News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Minimum Wage Progress in Minneapolis and Beyond

January 2018 - Companies with more than 100 employees start paying a minimum $10 an hour Jan. 1, 2018. Companies with fewer employees have until July 1. The minimum wage steps up every six months.

– Minnesota News Connection

Minimum Wage Rises Again

January 2018 - Millions of Arizonans are getting a bump in pay starting today - when the minimum wage goes up from 10 dollars to 10.50 an hour. Beginning 2016, the minimum wage jumped from 8.05 to 10 dollars in the wake of the passage of Proposition 206.

– Arizona News Connection

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Global Agribusiness Company Applies New Human Rights/Environmental Standard

January 2018 - Minnesota based-Cargill, one of the world's biggest private companies, cut ties with a Guatemalan palm-oil supplier whom environmental and human rights groups had accused of abuses.

– Minnesota News Connection

D e c e m b e r

2 0 1 7

December 2017

Immigrant Issues

Governor Cuomo Grants Clemency to Some Immigrants with Prior Convictions

December 2017 - In the face of the federal government's increased targeting of immigrants, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued pardons to various individuals facing the threat of deportation and other immigration-related challenges as a result of previous convictions. The pardons were granted to reward demonstrated success in their rehabilitative efforts and to remove the barriers that their criminal records present to their immigration status.

– New York News Connection

Gun Violence Prevention

S.F. Sues Feds Over Faulty Gun Checks

December 2017 - The City of San Francisco has joined New York City and Philadelphia in a lawsuit to force the Defense Department to improve its system for reporting military service members with disqualifying convictions or dishonorable discharges to the FBI's firearms background-check system. The move comes after the revelation that the man who killed 26 people in a Texas church last month had been convicted of domestic violence while in the Air Force but since the DOD hadn't put that into the database, he was allowed to buy weapons.

– California News Service

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Colorado's Medical Deduction Helps Put Food on Table

December 2017 - One year after Colorado rolled out a new standard medical expense deduction, close to 9,000 seniors who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have been able to put more food on the table.

– Colorado News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

State Agencies to Conduct Review of Sexual Harassment Prevention Procedures

December 2017 - Governor Dannel Malloy directed Connecticut's policies and procedures on sexual harassment prevention to be reviewed within all executive branch state agencies. Based on the results, the Department of Administrative Services is required to deliver a report to the Governor no later than February 1, 2018, reviewing best practices to address and prevent harassment, and recommend additional measures to improve the state's existing policies and procedures.

– Connecticut News Service

Water

Protecting New York's Lakes from Algal Blooms a Priority for 2018

December 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing that the state implement a $65 million, 4-point initiative to aggressively combat harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Upstate New York that threaten the recreational use of lakes that are important to upstate tourism, as well as sources of drinking water. Twelve priority lakes that are vulnerable to HABs and are critical sources of drinking water and vital tourism drivers were chosen as priority waterbodies because they represent a wide range of conditions and vulnerabilities and the lessons learned will be applied to other impacted waterbodies moving forward.

– New York News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Grants Awarded to Combat Violence Against Women

December 2017 - The Commonwealth awarded 37 grants totaling $2.7 million to community-based organizations, police departments, and state agencies to develop and strengthen law enforcement response, prosecution strategies, and victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women.

– Commonwealth News Service

Social Justice

Photojournalists Acquitted In Felony/Free Speech Trial

December 2017 - Photojournalist Alexei Wood was accused of participating in a riot while covering violent protests during the inauguration of Donald Trump. But he was acquitted along with five others facing felony charges in the first of a series of related trials. The jury seemed to accept defense arguments that Wood and the others had not actually destroyed property or attacked people.

– All News Services

Health Issues

Joint Budget Committee approves Gov. Hickenlooper's request for Emergency CHP+ funding

December 2017 - The Joint Budget Committee approved Gov. John Hickenlooper's request for emergency funding to continue Colorado's Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program through Feb. 28, 2018. This supplemental funding provides additional time for Congress to authorize federal funding and prevents cancellation notices from being sent to Colorado CHP+ members.

– Colorado News Connection

Juvenile Justice

Housing Unit at Manson Youth Institution to Close

December 2017 - As a result of the state's recently enacted juvenile justice reforms and the continuing decline in the crime rate and prison population, the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) will close one of the ten housing units at the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire. The unit closure will save the state more than $600,000 in annual operating costs. Connecticut has seen a steady decline in the number of adult inmates under the age of 22 as a result of the recently enacted Raise the Age reforms. Since 2009, the number of inmates in DOC custody between the ages of 18 and 21 has dropped by 62 percent.

– Connecticut News Service

Energy Policy

Governor Calls for Halt to Investments in Fossil Fuels

December 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for a plan to divest the New York State Common Retirement Fund from significant fossil fuel investments, and move to support the clean tech economy while assessing financial risks and protecting the Fund. The Common Fund is third largest in the nation, and manages over $200 Billion in retirement assets for more than one million New Yorkers.

– New York News Connection

Groups Sue to Keep Methane Waste Rule

December 2017 - Two new lawsuits have been filed in federal court to stop the Trump administration from deep-sixing rules meant to reduce pollution, fight climate change and preserve public resources. A dozen conservation groups and the state attorneys general of California and New Mexico have sued to reinstate the methane waste rule, which would force oil and gas companies to install equipment to capture excess methane gas at their wells instead of venting it or burning it off. The BLM suspended the rule until January 2019, arguing that it is too big a burden on industry.

– California News Service

Reproductive Health

Governor Wolf Vetoes Anti-Choice Bill

December 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed Senate Bill 3, legislation that would have severely limited women's reproductive rights and healthcare options. The legislation, which passed the House by a 121-70 vote, would ban abortions after twenty weeks except in the rarest of circumstances, leaving no exceptions for rape, incest, health, or significant anomalies. The bill would also ban one what is considered one of the safest methods of second-trimester abortions, taking more medical decisions out of the hands of women and their doctors.

– Keystone State News Connection

Criminal Justice

Bipartisan Move Toward Prison Reform

December 2017 - Members of both political parties announced a bipartisan commission to reform the Wisconsin corrections system. The commission will make recommendations on how to best use the 1 billion dollars allocated for prison reform in the state's new biennial budget. The state's adult prison system is dramatically over-capacity and Wisconsin incarcerates more people by far than any neighboring state.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Health Issues

Bill to Protect Children's Health Care Signed

December 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation to protect children's health care through state funding of the Children's Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP. Federal funding accounts for 90 percent of the $450 million CHIP budget. Congress failed to reauthorize CHIP before the Sept. 30 deadline and has not yet addressed funding for the more than 9 million children nationally who benefit from it.

– Keystone State News Connection

Reproductive Health

Victory for Birth Control Access

December 2017 - Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his legal team have won a major victory in federal court to get a nationwide temporary injunction against the Trump administration's move to allow some employers to opt-out of covering contraception for their employees. In light of the Trump administration's decision in October, Governor Wolf had called on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to step-up and address this on the state level. Both the Pennsylvania Insurance Department and Department of Human Services, working with the Governor's Office of General Counsel, provided significant support to the Office of Attorney General.

– Keystone State News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Federal Grants to Assist CT Processing of Sexual Assault Kits

December 2017 - Connecticut has been awarded two competitive, federal grants worth $2.6 million that will assist the processing and testing of sexual assault evidence kits. A $1.85 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant will be used to test approximately 1,000 partially-tested kits that still require DNA testing. Further, this funding will support coordinated investigation and victim notification for cases that may be re-opened, training for law enforcement officers and states attorneys, as well as academic research at Central Connecticut State University to learn more about these cases and what can be done to improve investigation and prosecution. A $750,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice supports a new method of testing that searches for the presence or absence of male DNA. This new method will allow the state to increase capacity, efficiency, and quality of DNA screenings.

– Connecticut News Service

Environment

New York Threatens Suit Over Hudson River Cleanup

December 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if they accept the Upper Hudson River dredging of polychlorinated biphenyls as complete. Under this plan, Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will sue the federal government to ensure the dredging is completed once and for all. New York is also prepared to withdraw from the 2002 Record of Decision which guided the cleanup and removal of millions of tons of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Upper Hudson River. The EPA's decision is expected to be announced later this month, and indications are they will deem the cleanup complete.

– New York News Connection

Civil Rights

New Hampshire Department of Justice Gets New Civil Rights Unit

December 2017 - Governor Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald signed an executive order establishing the Governor's Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, and the formation of a new Civil Rights Unit at the New Hampshire Department of Justice. Rogers Johnson, the State Coordinator of the New Hampshire NAACP, will chair the Council.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Consumer Issues

California Publishes Guidelines on Cell Phone Use

December 2017 - For those worried about exposure to non-ionizing radiation from cell phones, the State of California has issued guidelines to mitigate or reduce potential effects. While a definitive link is elusive, there is some evidence long-term heavy cell phone use can lead to brain tumors, reduced infertility or low sperm count, and other negative health impacts.

– California News Service

Media Reform

WA Gov. Pledges Net Neutrality for State

December 2017 - Washington state Governor Jay Inslee says the state will enforce its own version of net neutrality even without the FCC. The state's attorney general says it could apply sanctions to internet service providers that restrict access, block access or charge varying rates for different customers.

– Washington News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Gov. Cuomo Proposes Removing Firearms from Domestic Abusers

December 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo today unveiled the first proposal of the 2018 State of the State: remove all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes. Given the inextricable link between domestic violence and lethal gun violence, this legislation will require all domestic violence crime convictions, including misdemeanors, to result in the immediate removal of all fire arms and will add measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who commit domestic violence with the goal of preventing additional tragedies. In 2016, firearms were used in 25 domestic homicides in New York.

– New York News Connection

Early Childhood Education

Grant Supports Early Learning Professionals

December 2017 - Early childhood education advocates' efforts are having results: Pennsylvania will award a $1.4 million grant to increase the quality of Pennsylvania's early childhood learning professional workforce. The competitive grant will support currently employed early childhood educators pursuing higher education. Drexel University, Carlow University, and Shippensburg University were successfully funded to build cross-systems partnership opportunities to identify and reduce barriers to access early childhood education degrees for currently employed early childhood educators.

– Keystone State News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Judge Upholds Uranium Ban For Now

December 2017 - Environmental groups and tribes fighting uranium mining on the rim of the Grand Canyon are praising a federal court's decision to uphold a 20-year ban on new mines - while acknowledging that the area still is at great risk. A panel of judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Obama-era ban, which was designed to protect the air and watershed from mining waste pollution. The Trump administration has indicated a willingness to lift the ban, which covers more than a million acres on the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, but environmental groups have vowed to challenge any such move.

– Arizona News Connection

Environment

Minnesota Government Takes Steps to Go Green

December 2017 - Gov. Mark Dayton set goals of 30 percent less gasoline and diesel, 15 percent less water, and a 75 percent rate of recycling and composting. He ordered state agencies to plan to reach those goals in the next 15 years.

– Minnesota News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Governor Baker Launches "Housing Choice Initiative"

December 2017 - The Great Neighborhoods campaign, led by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance (MSGA) and a statewide coalition of advocacy organizations, local leaders, business groups and residents, declared a significant victory with the announcement of Governor Baker's Housing Choice Initiative. The new program will incentivize cities and towns to improve their local zoning practices and build more housing in sensible locations like downtowns, town centers and redevelopment areas. It establishes a statewide goal of 135,000 new homes created by 2025. One of the campaign?s principal goals is to create more housing, especially for young people and seniors.

– Commonwealth News Service

Energy Policy

Energy-Efficiency Program Likely to Survive Regulatory Challenge

December 2017 - An energy efficiency program run by American Electric Power looks likely to continue in spite of challenges. The power company had been reluctant to back energy efficiency, but has changed its position, largely credited to the public making their support known.

– West Virginia News Service

Education

Connecticut College to Accept Puerto Rico 'Guest' Students

December 2017 - Connecticut College has established a guest student program for college students from Puerto Rico whose education was disrupted after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September. The New London private liberal arts college provide room, board and tuition for up to six students. Guest students will pay what they would have paid to attend UPR directly to UPR. Connecticut College will offer a streamlined application process to UPR juniors and seniors in good standing. Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

– Connecticut News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Connecticut Joins States Suing Trump Administration Over Smog

December 2017 - Fourteen states, including Connecticut, are now suing the Trump Administration over what they say is a failure to enforce smog standards. The lawsuit says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has missed an October 1 deadline to designate which areas of the country have unhealthy air. Those areas would be required to take steps to improve air quality. Poor air quality particularly affects the health of children, people with asthma and those who work outside. The lawsuit says smog can cause or aggravate diseases including heart disease, bronchitis and emphysema.

– Connecticut News Service

Senior Issues

More Seniors to Receive Coordinated Health Care in Their Homes, Communities

December 2017 - Community HealthChoices, a program to improve services for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, will launch in 14 southwest Pennsylvania counties in January 2018. Community HealthChoices will help seniors age at home and receive quality health care services there and in their communities. The new, mandatory managed care program will serve people age 21 and older who are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid or with physical disabilities, and will allow them to get access to high quality care in their communities and in some cases even in their homes.

– Keystone State News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Signatures Could Put Paid Leave, $15 Wage on Ballot

December 2017 - Community organizers say they have twice the number of signatures they need to put paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage on next year's state ballot. A grassroots effort gathered almost 275,000 signatures from 346 of the 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts. If the state Legislature doesn't act on the issues by the end of June, the coalition will need to collect about 11,000 more signatures to secure their place on the ballot in November.

– Commonwealth News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Conservation Groups Sue to Protect Antiquities Act

December 2017 - Three days after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president's power. Following in the footsteps of the Native American Tribes who have already sued the President, Earthjustice is representing nine conservation organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution by eviscerating the monument.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Colstrip Gets $10 Million to Transition Away from Coal

December 2017 - In a major settlement, Washington state's Puget Sound Energy will provide $10 million dollars to Colstrip to help the community transition away from coal energy. Colstrip is home to coal-fired plants that are currently being phased out.

– Big Sky Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Reconsidering Grizzly Bear Delisting

December 2017 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is opening up public comment on its decision to take Yellowstone-area grizzly bear off the Endangered Species List earlier this year. The reconsideration of grizzly bear status comes in the wake a federal court ruling that retained protections for wolves in the Great Lakes. The court found the agency needed to study how a species' loss of historical habitat affects its recovery.

– Big Sky Connection

Energy Policy

Council Advises Gov Inslee to Reject Vancouver Oil Terminal

December 2017 - The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council voted to reject a large oil terminal in Vancouver. The terminal would have moved 360,000 barrels of oil from North Dakota and Montana to West Coast refineries and eventually overseas. Governor Jay Inslee has two months to decide whether to follow the council's recommendation.

– Washington News Service

Environment

Despite Trump's Pullout from Paris Agreement, Portland Asserts Commitment to Fighting Climate Change

December 2017 - Portland mayor Ted Wheeler signed a charter alongside 50 other cities committing to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Earlier this year, President Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement, joining only two other countries in the world to reject the deal - Nicaragua and Syria.

– Oregon News Service

North Dakota Signs Agreement with 2 states, Canadian Province on Carbon Capture, Storage

December 2017 - North Dakota is collaborating with Montana, Wyoming and the province of Saskatchewan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The four will share knowledge, policy and regulatory expertise in carbon dioxide capture, transportation, storage and applications such as enhanced oil recovery.

– Prairie News Service

Energy Policy

Fed. Judge Orders Greater Oversight of DAPL

December 2017 - A judge has ordered greater oversight measures for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The decision comes in the wake of the Keystone Pipeline spill, which highlighted the risk pipelines pose to local communities.

– Prairie News Service

Fed. Judge Orders Greater Oversight of DAPL

December 2017 - A judge has ordered greater oversight measures for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The decision comes in the wake of the Keystone Pipeline spill, which highlighted the risk pipelines pose to local communities.

– Greater Dakota News Service

Education

More Reductions in Standardized Testing for Pennsylvania Students, Teachers

December 2017 - After reducing the number of test days by two days this school year, starting next school year, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) will be condensed from three weeks to two weeks and shifted to later in the school year, easing stress on students and giving them up to two additional weeks to learn before taking the assessment. The new schedule builds on changes taking effect this school year to remove two sections of the PSSA - one in math and one in English language arts - and reduce questions in the science assessment, which is enabling the Department of Education to condense and move the testing window to later in the year.

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

Pennsylvania Revives Solar Initiatives to Boost Clean Energy Jobs

December 2017 - Pennsylvania's Solar Energy Program will make available $30 million in new grant funding to be used by eligible applicants to promote the installation of new solar projects. The funding will also aid in the manufacture or assembly of solar equipment in the commonwealth to further encourage the deployment and creation of solar jobs. Additionally, this month the governor signed legislation which will strengthen Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act by requiring that solar renewable energy credits used to demonstrate compliance with the Act must be generated at solar facilities delivering electricity to the grid in Pennsylvania.

– Keystone State News Connection

Environment

New Mexico Monuments Avoid Size Reduction by U.S. Interior

December 2017 - After a controversial review of federal lands, two targeted monuments in New Mexico: Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks were spared from downsizing by the U.S. Interior Department. The department has nonetheless recommended altering management plans of the monuments to protect grazing rights and the ability to combat drug traffickers.

– New Mexico News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

New York Crackdowning on Wage Theft in the Construction Industry

December 2017 - The District Attorneys of all five New York City Counties, Westchester and Nassau Counties and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have formed a broad partnership to bring criminal charges against contractors who have stolen wages. Since January 1st, the New York State Department of Labor has referred egregious wage theft cases to prosecutors who have subsequently filed criminal charges. These referrals have resulted in indictments, felony complaints or non-prosecution agreements stemming from investigations across several jurisdictions. Approximately $1.2 million owed to nearly 400 workers has been identified and assessed so far with several cases still ongoing or nearing resolution. Nearly $700,000 has already been returned to workers.

– New York News Connection

Philanthropy

NY Sending 1,000 Community Water Filtration Systems for Puerto Rico

December 2017 - New York State is sending 1,000 community water filtration systems to Puerto Rico in the coming weeks through the Empire State Clean Water Fund. The availability of clean water continues to be one of the most critical barriers to the relief and recovery effort. As with any flooding-related disaster, the primary concern with dirty water is the spread of microbial diseases such as E. Coli and Cholera and with these efforts. The filtration systems will provide clean drinking water to thousands of Puerto Ricans. New York has additionally donated more than two million bottles of water to the relief effort.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Mass Medical Society Ends Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide

December 2017 - The Massachusetts Medical Society has voted to end its longstanding opposition to physician-assisted suicide and adopted a neutral stance on what it now calls "medical aid-in-dying." The society's governing body approved the changes in separate votes. Delegates voted 151 to 62 to retract the policy opposing physician-assisted suicide. The provision establishing a neutral position on medical aid-in-dying passed by a margin of 152 to 56 votes. In a separate vote, the society agreed on a definition for medical aid-in-dying that encompasses the possibility that Massachusetts physicians could one day be authorized to write prescriptions for lethal doses of medication to help the terminally ill die when they see fit.

– Commonwealth News Service

HIV/AIDS Prevention

Tracking Progress on World AIDS Day

December 2017 - Since the pandemic peaked in 2005, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by nearly half. More than 36 million people currently live with HIV worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

– New York News Connection

Supportive Housing Project Completed in Albany

December 2017 - New York State has completed construction of a supportive housing development for chronically homeless individuals living with HIV and AIDS. The new 26,000-square-foot Albany Damien Center will provide 20 permanent supportive apartments - 18 studio apartments and two one-bedroom apartments - for 22 chronically homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. The $5.6 million project was supported in part by $4.3 million from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance's Homeless Housing and Assistance Program and a $269,000 grant from the Dormitory Authority of New York.

– New York News Connection

New York Acts to Ensure Coverage of HIV-Prevention Medication

December 2017 - On World AIDS Day the New York State Department of Financial Service issued guidance to insurers to remove unacceptable barriers to coverage for PrEP and ensure that insurance coverage for PrEP is available to all New Yorkers. The guidelines make clear that insurance companies cannot discriminate against those requesting PrEP based on lifestyle or behavior. Health service providers generally prescribe PrEP, which has been shown to be highly effective in stopping HIV infection when taken as prescribed, for HIV-negative people who are at high risk for HIV.

– New York News Connection

N o v e m b e r

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November 2017

Health Issues

New Hampshire Gets Nearly $689K to Fight Opioid Epidemic

November 2017 - New Hampshire is getting nearly $689,000 in federal funds to combat the opioid, fentanyl, and heroin epidemic. The U.S. Department of Justice grant goes to the state's Department of Safety, Division through the Anti-Heroin Task Force Program. Col. Christopher Wagner, director of the New Hampshire State Police, said the money will provide much-needed relief in funding state and local law enforcement partnership initiatives, improve technology capabilities, and broaden statewide intelligence sharing among all branches of law enforcement.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Early Childhood Education

Pre-Kindergarten Expanding in 11 Districts

November 2017 - New York has awarded $5 million to 16 high-need school districts to increase access to quality pre-kindergarten for nearly 1,000 three and four-year-old students across New York. This funding aims to support the expansion of pre-kindergarten to high-need or underserved districts as part of the State's ongoing efforts to promote early education, and improve the academic future for all students. Funding was awarded to school districts based on the quality of the application and other factors, including district and student need, efforts to target the highest need students, and efforts to maximize total number of children served in pre-kindergarten programs.

– New York News Connection

Senior Issues

New Initiatives Will Help Senior Age at Home

November 2017 - Pennsylvania has two new initiatives aimed at helping Pennsylvania seniors age at home. The PA Link to Community Care website will connect older Pennsylvanians to services and supports available in their community. More than 350 in-home service providers appearing on the searchable directory offer personal care, assistance with activities of daily living, companionship services, respite care, and/or habilitation services. The second initiative Community HealthChoices (CHC) will launch in southwest PA in January to provide seniors and others with coordinated community care.

– Keystone State News Connection

Gun Violence Prevention

Governor Wolf Announces $5 Million in Safe Schools Grants

November 2017 - The state has awarded $5 million in Safe Schools Initiative Targeted Grants to nearly 140 schools, police departments, and municipalities to support safer schools. The program will provide $1.4 million to 79 public school entities for programs that prevent and reduce violent incidents and to procure security/safety-related equipment. The safety equipment includes student, staff and visitor identification systems; metal detectors; protective lighting; surveillance equipment; special emergency communications equipment; electronic locksets; deadbolts and theft control devices; and training in the use of the security-related technology.

– Keystone State News Connection

Smoking Prevention

Ohio Health Groups Celebrate Big Tobacco Coming Clean

November 2017 - Big Tobacco finally is paying the piper for its deceptive marketing practices with a series of court-ordered advertisements in newspapers and on television. With Ohio's smoking rates still higher than the national average, many health groups say the statements are a reminder of how much more work still needs to be done.

– Ohio News Connection

Energy Policy

Utah Cities to Switch to Renewable Energy

November 2017 - As the Trump administration continues to roll back Obama-era policies designed to slow climate change, a new report from the Sierra Club shows how 50 cities across the U.S., including three in Utah, are taking steps to remove fossil fuels from their energy portfolios. Moab, Park City and Salt Lake City all have made official commitments to begin a glide path away from fossil fuels.

– Utah News Connection

Reproductive Health

Governor Baker Signs Bipartisan Contraceptive Coverage Legislation

November 2017 - Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation, An Act Relative to Advancing Contraceptive Coverage and Economic Security in our State (ACCESS), at the State House to protect access to contraception coverage without co-pays for many women across the Commonwealth. The new law requires health insurers to cover at least one form of each type of FDA-approved birth control and will protect Massachusetts? residents from any changes to this specific provision of the federal Affordable Care Act.

– Commonwealth News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

State Honors Native American Leader

November 2017 - Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Nevada Indian Commission has honored Native Americans who've made a significant contribution to the state. This year Nevada's American Indian Leader of the Year award went to Fawn Douglas, an artist and activist with the Las Vegas Paiute (PIE-yoot) Tribe. Douglas has been a big part of the push to designate Gold Butte as a national monument and now is working to save it in the face of a leaked proposal by the Trump administration to shrink the boundaries.

– Nevada News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Safe Station Program Has Helped More Than 1,100 People

November 2017 - The Safe Station program in Nashua, New Hampshire says it's helped more than 1,100 people as the drug recovery program marks its first year. Officials say there's been a 24 percent drop in opioid overdoses in the city from a year ago. The program has been set up at six fire stations.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Health Issues

More Than 6,000 Patients Register for Medical Marijuana Program Since Launch Two Weeks Ago

November 2017 - More than 6,000 patients and more than 300 caregivers have registered for Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program since the Medical Marijuana Patient and Caregiver Registry launched November 1. The Medical Marijuana Program became effective on May 17, 2016, and is expected to be fully implemented by 2018. The program will offer medical marijuana to patients who are residents of Pennsylvania and under a physician's care for the treatment of a serious medical condition as defined by the Medical Marijuana Law.

– Keystone State News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Tennessee Wilderness Act Moves Forward

November 2017 - Tennessee is one step closer to protecting nearly 20,000 acres of public land in the Cherokee National Forest in the northeastern part of the state. A joint effort by Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker from Tennessee, and Pat Roberts of Kentucky, passed out of committee late last week and will move on for a full vote.

– Tennessee News Service

Health Issues

Commission Recommends 5-Year Extension of Medicaid Expansion

November 2017 - A commission studying the future of New Hampshire's expanded Medicaid program is recommending that it continue for five years, but move toward a managed care model in 2019. The committee of lawmakers, insurance officials and health care providers agreed to the recommendations, which will be used as the basis for legislation that will be taken up next year. The current expanded Medicaid program uses federal money to put about 43,000 low-income people on private insurance. The commission says switching to managed care would provide more straight-forward opportunities to address premium increases in the individual market and would provide consistent benefits for all Medicaid participants. The report also recommends higher reimbursement rates for those who provide mental health and substance use disorder services.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Salt River Project Gives 400K To Future Forests Program

November 2017 - Salt River Project's Board of Directors has approved a $400,000 contribution to The Nature Conservancy in Arizona, paid over four years, to support forest restoration on the Verde River watershed. Launched recently by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service to transform the way forests are managed, the Future Forests Project will also create skilled jobs and attract new investment by creating a reliable flow of wood that supports rural economies.

– Arizona News Connection

Civil Rights

Twin Cities Electoral "First"

November 2017 - St. Paul elected its first African-American mayor, Melvin Carter III.

– Minnesota News Connection

Environmental Justice

$1 Million Awarded for Jobs Training in Environmental Justice Communities

November 2017 - Green Jobs for Youth grants have been awarded to 10 organizations across the state to serve communities that face environmental justice and unemployment challenges. The funded training programs include entrepreneurship in urban agriculture, skills needed in green infrastructure, and solar installation trainings. The grants were administered by DEC with funds from New York's Environmental Protection Fund, which in 2017, includes a record $8 million for environmental justice programs and projects. The Department of Environmental Conservation also has released a request for applications for $1 million in new grant funding to support an initiative to promote environmental education through the development of Urban Environmental Education Centers.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Package of Bills to Supports NY Veterans Becomes Law

November 2017 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed five pieces of legislation to further support New York veterans by improving healthcare and services, as well as memorialize veterans throughout New York State in a number of different ways. Among the bills in the package is one that adds Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a qualifying condition in New York's medical marijuana program. It is estimated that approximately 19,000 patients with PTSD in New York could benefit from the use of medical marijuana. This includes military veterans, police officers and fire fighters, as well as survivors of domestic violence, rape, violent crime, and accidents. Virtually every state in the country with a medical marijuana program allows for treatment of PTSD. Other provisions in the package of bill provide combat veterans employed by the State with additional days of paid leave to obtain health services, counseling and access to other benefits, and another that waives the civil service examination fee for veterans who were honorably discharged.

– New York News Connection

Criminal Justice

Youth Prison Policy Changes

November 2017 - The most aggressive inmates at Wisconsin's Youth Prison will be removed and sent elsewhere under a new state Corrections Department policy. WNC has run several stories about the deplorable conditions in the state's youth prison, and this new policy is designed to address some of those issues.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Social Justice

Virginia Voters Rebuke Trumpism

November 2017 - In what could well be seen as a stinging rebuke for the right-wing stance of the president, in spite of a very ugly (and many would say racist) campaign, voters in Virginia chose Democrat Ralph Northam for governor, and returned all of the state-wide seats to Democrats. Many of the the losing candidates closely followed a Trump script.

– All News Services

Housing/Homelessness

Homelessness Ended for 100 in Kentucky

November 2017 - The Coalition for the Homeless and other stakeholders surpassed a ambitious goal set on August 1st to end homelessness for 100 young adults. The 100-Day Challenge team says safe housing and support services have been provided for 112 young adults in Louisville since August 1st, more than a five hundred percent increase in the rate in which young adults are being housed in the community.

– Kentucky News Connection

Health Issues

Maine Voters Pass Medicaid Expansion

November 2017 - Maine voters approved a referendum to expand Medicaid for low-income adults. Question 2 passed by about 60 percent and brings the state in line with 31 others that have also expanded the program. About 80 thousand Maine residents will qualify.

– Maine News Service

Criminal Justice

Crime Victim's Rights Measure Passed in Ohio

November 2017 - Ohio voters passed Issue 1, known as Marsy's Law. The measure will change Ohio's constitution to include several rights for victims and their families. If these rights are violated, individuals could protest by filing a motion in court.

– Ohio News Connection

Civic Engagement

Voters Choose Several "Firsts"

November 2017 - The first African-American mayor of St. Paul, Melvin Carter III, and a transgender woman (Andrea Jenkins) and a transgender man (Phillipe Cunningham) were elected to the Minneapolis City Council.

– Minnesota News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

Twin Cities Electoral "Firsts"

November 2017 - A transgender woman (Andrea Jenkins) and a transgender man (Phillipe Cunningham) were elected to the Minneapolis City Council. and St. Paul elected its first African-American mayor, Melvin Carter III.

– Minnesota News Connection

Education

Twin Cities Victory for School Funding

November 2017 - A school levy passed by a wide margin in . St. Paul, the state's second largest school district, passes school levy by a wide margin.

– Minnesota News Connection

Early Childhood Education

Families on Care 4 Kids Wait List Can Now Apply for Child Care Support

November 2017 - The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) has reopened the Care 4 Kids program and eligible families on the wait list can begin to enroll for the state's primary child care support. Funded with federal and state dollars and administered by OEC, Care 4 Kids helps low-income, working families afford safe, quality child care. In 2016, new federal requirements increased the costs of the program but did not increase funding necessary for their implementation. To remain fiscally sound, the program was closed to most new families by late 2016. Many other states were forced to make similar cutbacks. Families seeking this support were instead registered for the wait list so they would be able to apply once the program reopened. There are currently 5,769 families on the wait list in Connecticut.

– Connecticut News Service

Criminal Justice

PA Wins Federal Grant for Corrections and Parole Crisis Intervention Training

November 2017 - The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, has been awarded a federal grant totaling almost $280,000 to implement crisis intervention training (CIT) for staff members in community corrections centers, mental health contracted providers and parole supervision. The funding, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice through the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, will allow more than 180 DOC and parole staff to work with county first-responders and mental health providers already trained in CIT. Of the more than 46,000 inmates currently in Pennsylvania state prisons, 31 percent have a mental health diagnosis, a figure that has increased significantly in the past decade.

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

Governor Brown Signs Executive Order on Electrifying Transportation in Oregon

November 2017 - Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order to help the state reach the goal of registering more than 50,000 electric vehicles. The order also helps the state reach its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

– Oregon News Service

Initiative to Increase Renewable Energy in Montana Approved to Get Signatures

November 2017 - An initiative to increase the the amount of renewable energy utility companies in Montana use has been approved to start getting signatures in order to get on the 2018 ballot. The initiative would require public utility companies to gradually increase their use of renewable energy from the current level of 15 percent to 80 percent by 2050.

– Big Sky Connection

Education

Tuition Price Hikes Minimized for Next School Year

November 2017 - In light of rising public concern, Tennessee Higher Education Commission pitched modest tuition increases across the state for 2018-19. The total tuition rate hike proposed is between 0 and 3 percent, an amount officials said was driven by a desire to keep college prices more affordable.

– Tennessee News Service

Governor Asked to Consider Pay Raises for TN Teachers

November 2017 - The Tennessee Department of Education is asking the Governor to include teacher pay raises in his budget.

– Tennessee News Service

Health Issues

New Haven Filling Lawsuit Against Opioid Makers, Distributors

November 2017 - The city of New Haven is filing a lawsuit against the nation's leading manufacturers and distributors of opioids. The suit seeks compensation for the costs incurred by the opioid crisis. This includes the burden placed upon police, social services, and first responders. Last year, 70 people died in New Haven from opioid related deaths, the second-highest total of any city in Connecticut. New Haven is suing Purdue Pharma, among other major opioid manufacturers, for ?deceptive marketing,? which the city is blaming in part for the burgeoning opioid crisis. Nine U.S. states: Alaska, New Jersey, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Washington, have also sued Purdue Pharma.

– Connecticut News Service

Criminal Justice

Enfield Correctional Institution to Close as Result of Declining Crime Rate and Prison Population

November 2017 - As a result of the continuing decline in the state's crime rate and the resulting drop in the prison population, the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) will be closing the Enfield Correctional Institution in early 2018. The closure of the building, which currently holds around 700 offenders who will be transferred to other facilities, will save the state approximately $6.5 million in annual operating costs. There are 14,103 inmates incarcerated within Connecticut's state prison system - 836 fewer than a year ago. The state's prison population reached an all-time high of 19,894 inmates in 2008.

– Connecticut News Service

Poverty Issues

Home Heating Assistance Soon Available

November 2017 - Applications for home heating assistance will be accepted beginning Monday, November 13 throughout New York State. The Home Energy Assistance Program is making $327 million in federal funding available to eligible older New Yorkers and low- and moderate-income New Yorkers to help cover heating costs. The federally funded program has been threatened by cuts in the congressional budget debates. Households that are eligible can receive assistance of up to $726, depending on income, household size, and how the home is heated. A family of four can earn up to $53,482 per year and still qualify for help. The program is overseen by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

State Releases 40,000 Doses of Naloxone

November 2017 - Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the state is distributing 40,000 doses of naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. Opioid-related deaths increased by more than 30 percent in 2016 from the previous year. The state has seen a 1,000 percent increase in the number of opioid-related deaths since 1999, Cooper said.

– North Carolina News Service

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Stay Open

November 2017 - After a huge outcry from patients, the state reversed its September decision which would have closed all dispensaries by Dec. 15th until all the licensing process was complete. They will now stay open during the process.

– Michigan News Connection

Senator Cosponsors Bipartisan Alzheimer's Bill

November 2017 - Bipartisan legislation to create a public health infrastructure to combat Alzheimer's disease and preserve brain health was introduced by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) Called the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act (S. 2076/H.R. 4256), it would create centers of excellence, and assist state and local governments in their efforts to promote awareness through education and dissemination of best practices. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

– All News Services

State Health Officials Call for Immediate Action to Fight Growing Opioid Crisis

November 2017 - In the wake of President Trump's decision to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, Pennsylvania health officials responded urging the administration to provide additional resources to combat the disease. In August and October, Governor Tom Wolf had called on President Trump to act on recommendations from the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which included naming the epidemic a national emergency.

– Keystone State News Connection

Charitable Foundation Funds Health Care Enrollment Marketing

November 2017 - A charitable organization is stepping in to promote the Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire after the Trump administration cut funding for marketing and advertising. For the individual health insurance market in much of the country, the administration has slashed spending on advertising by 90 percent. The HNH Foundation responded by making an emergency grant this week of nearly $100,000. Board chairwoman Kathy Crompton said the foundation was worried that the cut in marketing funds combined with the shorter enrollment period would put people at risk of losing their coverage. The money is being given to the Granite State Progress Education Fund and the New Hampshire Health Care Coalition. The HNH Foundation's mission is to improve the health and wellness of New Hampshire residents, with a focus on vulnerable children.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Civil Rights

Baker-Polito Administration Re-Establishes Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes

November 2017 - Governor Charlie Baker signed an Executive Order re-establishing the Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes. The Task Force will advise the Governor on issues relating to the prevalence, deterrence and prevention of hate crimes in the Commonwealth and the support of victims of hate crimes, as well as full and effective coordination among law enforcement agencies. The Task Force will encourage and assist agencies in safe reporting of hate crimes pursuant to the Hate Crime Reporting Act, as well as analyze and publicize hate crime reports pursuant to the Hate Crime Penalties Act. This group will also develop best practices related to technical assistance for school districts that may seek to incorporate hate crime education into their curricula.

– Commonwealth News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

LGTBQ Equality in Michigan cities On The Rise

November 2017 - Despite attacks at the federal and state level, a new study from the Municipal Equality Index finds that cities and municipalities across Michigan are taking the lead in supporting LGBTQ equality measures.

– Michigan News Connection

Health Issues

State Will Implement Stronger Concussion Training Law

November 2017 - Legislation headed to Governor Rick Snyder's desk would require coaches and others involved in youth sports to complete concussion awareness training at least once every three years.

– Michigan News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Southern California Ports Adopt Clean Air Plan

November 2017 - The nation's largest port complex approved a plan to slash air pollution by encouraging the phase-out of diesel trucks in favor of natural gas and, ultimately, zero-emissions trucks and cargo-handling equipment over the next two decades. A move in the right direction, though natural gas is a fossil fuel implicated in climate change.

– California News Service

Health Issues

House Votes for 2-Year Extension of Funds for CHIP, Community Health Centers

November 2017 - Today House lawmakers voted for legislation that extends funding to Community Health Centers and the Children's Health Insurance program (CHIP). The bill, which passed by a vote of 242-174, extends funding to health centers for two years, marking an important step forward toward resolution of the crisis facing millions of vulnerable patients due to the expiration of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) nearly a month ago.

– All News Services

LGBTQIA Issues

Three Maine Chefs Join SCOTUS Wedding Cake Case

November 2017 - Three Maine chefs, including a James Beard Award winner, have signed a friend-of-the-court brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case that pits the First Amendment and religious expression against same-sex civil rights. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop versus the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, involves a Colorado bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Part of the "Chefs for Equality", the chefs join 222 chefs, bakers and restaurateurs from every state. Signers include such well-known culinary celebrities as Jose Andres, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, Carla Hall, Padma Lakshmi and Christina Tosi. The brief says, in part, that the First Amendment "does not allow a chef, baker, or other culinary artist to refuse to provide a generally offered service based on the identity of the customer."

– Maine News Service

Health Issues

Recreational Therapy to Be Provided to Veterans

November 2017 - Manchester VA Medical Center and a University of New Hampshire program have reached an agreement to provide recreational therapy treatment to veterans. The agreement will allow veterans with disabilities access to the Northeast Passage Program at UNH. The VA will pay for the veterans to receive the therapy. Northeast Passage, which offers programs such as cycling and water skiing, says its clients have experienced measurable improvements in functional fitness and chronic health condition management as well as healthier body weight, blood pressure and blood sugar. Clients also have experienced mental health gains.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Juvenile Justice

Youth Detention Alternatives Seeing Success in Ohio

November 2017 - There's been much work to improve Ohio's juvenile justice system over the past decade, and in some areas of the state the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is providing a framework for success. In the counties involved in the initiative, the number of commitments to the Department of Youth Services has fallen by 70 percent.

– Ohio News Connection

Water

OR Scraps Water Deal for Nestle's Bottling Plant

November 2017 - Governor Kate Brown asked the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department to stop the exchange of water rights to Nestle near Cascade Locks. Nestle had plans to build a plant that could bottle 100 million gallons of water a year from Oxbow Springs.

– Oregon News Service

O c t o b e r

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October 2017

Health Issues

Cancer Prevention Advocates Laud State Budget

October 2017 - Passing both houses with veto-proof majorities, the state Legislature approved a $41.3 billion, two-year spending plan that maintains funding at current levels for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which helps medically underserved women get cancer screenings; preserves funding for one important anti-tobacco program. The budget passed both houses of the Legislature with veto-proof majorities. It also includes $18 million that makes every 11- and 12-year-old in the state eligible for the vaccine that protects against the human papillomaviruses.

– Connecticut News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Apple Lights Go Dim for the Birds

October 2017 - Chicago's new Apple store is dimming the lights due to bird deaths. Wildlife experts say bright lights confuse birds in flight, and they slam into the glass, often with fatal results. Complaints surfaced after residents started noticing dead birds around the new Apple store in Chicago and company officials have agreed to dim the lights.

– Illinois News Connection

Energy Policy

Weatherization Measures Help Families Save an Average 20 Percent on Utility Bills

October 2017 - NYS has committed $59 million in funding through the Weatherization Assistance Program to help cut utility costs for approximately 9,200 income-eligible families and seniors across the state. Funds will be released to a statewide network of non-profit organizations to conduct energy-efficiency work including, but not limited to air sealing, insulation, upgrading heating systems, and diagnostic testing to identify hazards such as carbon monoxide and mold. Weatherization can save an average of 20 percent on utility bills. The Weatherization Assistance Program has invested more than $738 million since 2011 to make 118,600 homes safer, more resilient, and more affordable.

– New York News Connection

Water

New York State Launches Project to Dramatically Reduce Nitrogen Pollution in Western Bays

October 2017 - On the 5th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, New York launched a $354 million project to significantly improve the water quality of Long Island's Western Bays. This project will divert treated waste from the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant - through an abandoned aqueduct under Sunrise Highway - to the existing Cedar Creek outfall, which diffuses treated sewage nearly three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The project will prevent the discharge of 19 billion gallons of treated sewage into the warm, shallow Western Bays each year, eliminating harmful nitrogen pollution to jump start the rejuvenation of vital marshlands that protect communities from waves and storm surge. New York State and Nassau County are investing $277 million in the project with the remaining funds being provided by federal sources.

– New York News Connection

$25.4 Million Investment in Clean Water Infrastructure Impacting Seven Counties

October 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf today announced the investment of $25.4 million in loan funding for a public/private partnership project covering seven counties in northcentral and northwestern Pennsylvania that will serve to preserve, protect and improve water quality while supporting core economic opportunities with the commonwealth's important lumber industry. The loan funding was approved by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) Board of Directors.

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

NY Green Bank to Raise at Least $1 Billion to Accelerate Clean Energy Solutions and Combat Climate Change

October 2017 - The NY Green Bank is seeking to raise at least an additional $1 billion in private sector funds to expand financing availability for clean energy projects. These additional funds to be raised from third-party investors will enable NY Green Bank to deliver greater environmental and cost benefits to New Yorkers and broaden the scope of investable projects beyond the boundaries of New York State.

– New York News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

$10 Million Available to Expand Addiction Withdrawal and Stabilization Services in New York State

October 2017 - New York State is making up to $10 million in capital funding available to develop and support up to 75 new, community-based medically supervised withdrawal and stabilization beds throughout New York State. These detox programs provide around-the-clock care to people who are under the influence of alcohol, opioids, or other substances, or suffering from withdrawal, and help stabilize them and connect them to further treatment services.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Senator Cortez Masto Co-sponsors Medicaid For All Bill

October 2017 - U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) cosponsored a bicameral legislation led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) to create a Medicaid-based public health care option on the insurance marketplace, which will provide Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.The State Public Option Act will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all their residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan.

– All News Services

Gun Violence Prevention

Nevada Senator Introduces New Background Check Bill

October 2017 - Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has introduced the Background Check Expansion Act, which will expand the federal background check requirement to include the sale or transfer of all firearms by private sellers, with certain reasonable exceptions. Under current law, unlicensed or private sellers are not required to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm.

– Nevada News Service

Education

New Mexico to Adopt Next Generation Science Standards with State-Specific Additions

October 2017 - After public protest, the state Public Education Department said it would drop its own proposed science teaching standards and instead use the Next Generation Science Standards that nearly 20 other states have adopted. The department had proposed eliminating concepts such as evolution, the age of Earth and human causes of climate change from student textbooks.

– New Mexico News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

New Legislation Makes KY Safer for Domestic Violence Survivors

October 2017 - Governor Matt Bevin signed HB 309, which added important leasing protections for survivors of Intimate Partner Violence and fixed Kentucky's outdated mandatory domestic violence reporting law.

– Kentucky News Connection

Water

Wolf Administration Signs Agreement to Regulate, Monitor Water Releases to Delaware River

October 2017 - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has signed a revised multi-state agreement that will continue water releases into the Delaware River from three New York City reservoirs. These releases support a variety of water uses in the portion of the river that forms the eastern border of the Commonwealth, and are expected to prevent threats to public health and the environment. Since 1954, Pennsylvania, New York, New York City, New Jersey and Delaware have jointly managed water resources that are vital to the river's health, especially in times of low flows and floods. The most recent agreement, signed in 2007, expired in May. The new 10-year agreement establishes a revised Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP), which provides protection for the resources in the Delaware River Basin. The agreement also requires the parties to study ways to better manage those resources in the future.

– Keystone State News Connection

State Invests in Water Infrastructure Projects in 12 Counties

October 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of 15 drinking water, wastewater, storm water, and non-point source projects across 12 counties through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). The projects are expected to benefit the environment, economic development, and public health and will further shared goals of a clean and safe environment.

– Keystone State News Connection

Sustainable Agriculture

Ohio Adding More Organic Farms

October 2017 - A government survey of U.S. organic farms shows that Ohio ranks 7th in the nation in its number of organic farms. Ohio is seeing double digit growth in the number of organic farms, organic land in production, and organic sales, illustrating the role of organic production in economic development.

– Ohio News Connection

Health Issues

PA's First Medical Marijuana Grower/Processor to Begin Production

October 2017 - The Pennsylvania Department of Health has approved Cresco Yeltrah to begin growing and processing medical marijuana at its Jefferson County location, making it the first facility to be deemed fully operational in Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program. Cresco Yeltrah will now be able to begin accepting seeds and clones to grow medical marijuana. The Medical Marijuana Program was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on April 17, 2016.

– Keystone State News Connection

Criminal Justice

NY to Issue New Rules for Solitary Confinement

October 2017 - The State Commission of Correction will issue new regulations to enhance the State's oversight of how solitary confinement is used in all local jails. The regulations and corresponding reporting guidelines will require jails to provide individuals in solitary confinement with at least four hours of time outside of their cell each day and report the following to the Commission: any decision that places an individual in solitary confinement for more than a month; if an individual younger than 18 is placed in restrictive housing; and if certain services are restricted or denied by the facility. The Commission will also be amending its administrative manual to solicit data and information from local jails on how vulnerable populations are housed and treated in those facilities, with the goal of advancing additional reforms.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Governor Vetoes 5G Cell Tower Expansion

October 2017 - Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed SB 649, a measure that would have gutted local control and put the interests of the wireless industry over those of California residents. A broad coalition of cities, counties, environmental, labor and consumer advocates opposed SB 649 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego). The bill would have given wireless providers unfettered ability to install bulky cellular equipment on any street light or traffic signal as well as public libraries and other public buildings without permission from local governments, input from the public or fair compensation for city and county residents.

– California News Service

Consumer Issues

Governor Signs Bill on Transparency on Ingredients in Cleaning Products

October 2017 - Governor Brown signed into law yesterday the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 (SB 258). The new law requires cleaning products - for the first time - to disclose the bulk of their ingredients, particularly chemicals of concern, on their labels and online. In a first for any product category, chemical ingredients in fragrances - previously a black box to consumers - will also have to be disclosed.

– California News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Albuquerque to Test Huge Rape Kit Backlog

October 2017 - Continued pressure from politicians and women activist groups combined with federal grant money may help Albuquerque turn the tide in New Mexico, the U.S. state with the highest number of untested rape kits per capita. Federal grant money will be used to eliminate the city's enormous backlog of untested kits.

– New Mexico News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

XTO Energy Declines Government's Permission to Relax Methane Emissions in Permian Basin

October 2017 - Oil and gas giant XTO has vowed to "be a good neighbor" and reduce methane emissions at its New Mexico Permian Basin drilling site without the federal government requiring it to. The U.S. Interior Department plans to delay an Obama administration directive requiring energy companies to reduce methane emissions at drilling sites on federal lands. XTO said it's already committed to reducing methane emissions at it's NM site.

– New Mexico News Connection

Health Issues

NC Sues Feds Over Healthcare Payments

October 2017 - A new multi-state lawsuit has been announced to stop President Trump from halting key ObamaCare payments to insurers. The complaint will seek a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction requiring the cost-sharing reduction payments be made.

– North Carolina News Service

Connecticut Joins Multi-state Lawsuit Defending Affordable Care Act

October 2017 - Connecticut joined with 17 other states and the District of Columbia in filing a lawsuit against the Trump Administration's decision to abruptly stop making healthcare cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidy payments required by the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) - a move that will put health coverage for more than six million Americans at risk while increasing costs. In addition to Connecticut, and led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, other states joining the lawsuit are Delaware, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

– Connecticut News Service

Rural/Farming

DEP to Cover Cost of Agricultural Plans for Clean Water in Pennsylvania's Part of Chesapeake Bay Watershed

October 2017 - The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will reimburse farmers in Pennsylvania's part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed for the cost of preparing hundreds of agricultural plans for clean water. The program is part of a commitment that Governor Wolf, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in 2016 to make state and federal funding available to improve water quality in Pennsylvania?s 43 counties in the Bay watershed for local benefit and, ultimately, all partner states in the watershed. State regulations require all farmers to implement manure management, nutrient management, or agriculture erosion and sediment control plans and, in some cases, more than one of these plans.

– Keystone State News Connection

Water

Judge Throws Out High Capacity Well Permits

October 2017 - The state had granted the permits allowing massive water withdrawals, which DNR scientists had said would exacerbate the problem of depleting the groundwater in the vulnerable Central Sands region of the state. The permits would have allowed corporations to take an additional one billion gallons monthly.

– Wisconsin News Connection

$20 Million in Grants Available for Vital Water Infrastructure Improvements in Western New York

October 2017 - Over $20 million in grants have been made available to support 17 essential drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects throughout Western New York. The grants are part of a $255 million statewide investment, funded through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, as well as the new Inter-municipal Water Infrastructure Grants Program. The grant funds will leverage $76 million in total project costs and provide nearly $54 million in taxpayer savings. This investment will also create 1,240 jobs across the region. Since 2015, WesternNew York communities have received a total of $48 million in WIIA grant funds supporting $182 million in total project costs.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Despite Uncertainties, Colorado Holding its Own on Health Coverage

October 2017 - In 2011, 16 percent of Colorado residents did not have health insurance, but by 2015 - after the rollout of the Affordable Care Act - that rate had dropped to just over 6 percent and is holding steady. That's according to the 2017 Colorado Health Access Survey.

– Colorado News Connection

Environment

Governor Signs Bill to Plug Old Oil Wells

October 2017 - Governor Brown has just signed a bill to monitor and cap California's old, abandoned and leaking oil wells. Senate Bill 44, the Coastal Oil Well Clean Up and Remediation Act, will require the California State Lands Commission to monitor and plug old "orphaned" oil wells in California waters when the original oil company that operated the well no longer exists and cannot be held responsible. It also directs up to $2 million dollars annually, derived from state mineral leases, to a fund set aside for the remediation of improperly abandoned legacy wells. With this fund, the Commission will begin to identify leaking, abandoned wells and prioritize capping the highest risk wells first.

– California News Service

Consumer Issues

Governor Signs Bill to Increase Transparency in Drug Pricing

October 2017 - Working to increase transparency in prescription drug pricing, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed legislation - SB 17, requiring pharmaceutical companies to give notice before hiking prices. SB 17 requires drug manufacturers to provide a 60-day notice if prices are raised more than 16 percent in a two-year period. The bill applies to drugs that have a wholesale price of more than $40 for a 30-day supply. SB 17 also requires health plans and insurers to file annual reports outlining how drug costs impact health care premiums in California.

– California News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Governor Signs Bill To Help Spur Creation of More "Granny Flats"

October 2017 - Following up on a major reform bill from last year that streamlined the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 229, legislation by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to clarify that limits on sewer and water connection fees and charges apply to special districts and water corporations, as well as cities and counties. Wieckowski says, "SB 229 furthers the important work of SB 1069 by making clarifications to carry out the intent of last year's bill and encourage the development of these units free of excessive fees."

– California News Service

Urban Planning/Transportation

WV Votes Money To Fix Roads

October 2017 - By a large proportion in a very low turnout election, West Virginia voters approved a plan to sell billions in bonds to help fix and maintain the state's roads. Much will depend on implementation, but the governor described the bond plan as a way to both provide work for West Virginians and to better the state's infrastructure.

– West Virginia News Service

Health Issues

Governor Wolf Opposes Graham-Cassidy; Urges Bipartisan Stabilization Progress

October 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf joined a group of bipartisan governors on a letter to U.S. Senate leadership opposing the Graham-Cassidy amendment. The governors asked that the Senate reject the proposed amendment and focus on bipartisan efforts already underway to stabilize health insurance markets and address affordability for consumers.

– Keystone State News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Michigan Seeing Gains Against Poverty; Credit Given to Expanded Medicaid

October 2017 - According to the latest census data, median household income in Michigan rose 8% in 2016. Also, the rates of poverty and people without health insurance continued to drop, much of which is attributed to Michigan's expanded Medicaid program.

– Michigan News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Ohio Lawmakers Boost Addiction Services Funding

October 2017 - Ohio's 2018-2019 budget includes measures to help curb the opioid epidemic. Lawmakers increased funding for the department of mental health and addiction services by 16.4 percent, compared to the previous two-year budget.

– Ohio News Connection

Consumer Issues

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Issues New Rules for Payday Lending

October 2017 - Consumer advocates are praising a new rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It requires payday lenders to start verifying a borrower's ability to repay the loan before rolling it over into a new loan. The rule aims to prevent a situation where desperate people borrow more money just to repay prior loans, and get hit with fees that often exceed the amount of the original loan.

– All News Services

CFPB Releases New Rule to Regulate Pay Day Lenders

October 2017 - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's finalized rules, the first nationwide regulation of the industry, which had largely been left to the states. Under the new rules, lenders will have to do a full-payment test before giving the loan, meaning the lender must determine whether the borrower can afford to repay the loan in full with interest within 30 days. Since payday lending customers are often in dire situations, this test will likely significantly curtail the industry.

– All News Services

Criminal Justice

Report: Ore. Incarceration Projected to Drop by 11 Percent Over Next Decade

October 2017 - The Oregon Corrections Population forecasts the prison population will decrease by 11 percent through 2027, even as the state's population increases. The decrease will be do at least in part to the Safety and Savings Act (HB 3078), which decreased sentences for certain property and drug crimes.

– Oregon News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Court Forces Feds To Implement Methane Gas Waste Rule

October 2017 - A federal judge ordered the Trump administration late Wednesday to implement an Obama-era rule that forces oil and gas companies to capture excess natural gas rather than burn it or vent it into the air. The Feds had been stalling key provisions of the Methane Waste Rule, but the judge said it was illegal because they tried to do it without taking public comment.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Sunshine State Leads the Nation in Growth of Rooftop Solar

October 2017 - A new report from PV Magazine finds Florida now leads the nation in solar growth. The state saw a 110% increase in new residential solar permits over the previous year. Funded by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Barancik Foundation, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and now several cities and counties, Florida homeowners and businesses are now able to take advantage of some of the lowest prices for solar in the nation using a grassroots program called Solar United Neighbors of Florida (formerly FL SUN). A state-wide partnership between the latter and the League of Women Voters is being given credit for the growth.

– Florida News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Washington State Files Suit Against Private Prison Co. That Owns NW Detention Center

October 2017 - Washington state's Attorney General has announced a lawsuit against GEO Group, the prison company that owns the Northwest Detention Center. The lawsuit will challenge the detention center's extremely low wages, which have led to hunger strikes among detainees.

– Washington News Service

Energy Policy

Washington Dept. of Ecology Denies Largest Proposed Coal Terminal in Country Key Permit

October 2017 - A proposed coal terminal for Longview that would have shipped up to 44 million tons annually to Asian markets appears to have been given a final setback, when the Washington Department of Ecology denied the Millennium Bulk Terminal a key water-quality permit.

– Washington News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Oregon Considers More Protections for Marbled Murrelet

October 2017 - The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering whether to list Marbled Murrelets as endangered under the state's endangered species act. The bird has been listed as threatened, but a new report finds the bird is still imperiled despite these protections.

– Oregon News Service

Children's Issues

Maine Holds Steady on Child Poverty Rate

October 2017 - A new report from Georgetown University finds fewer than five percent of children nationwide are uninsured - and Maine's rate remained basically unchanged. Advocates are optimistic Mainers will approve a ballot initiative on the November ballot to expand Medicaid coverage in the state under the A.C.A.

– Maine News Service

Health Issues

Governor Brown Signs Health Bills

October 2017 - Governor Jerry Brown has signed two important health consumer protection bills, AB 156 and SB 133, aimed at protecting California consumers from the Trump Administration's attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, inject uncertainty into the individual market, disrupt people's health care and make it more difficult for people to sign up for coverage. The bills signed into law ensure patients don't have to disrupt their care, even when forced to switch plans, and that California consumers have a full 12 week open enrollment period to sign up for coverage.

– California News Service

Civil Rights

Classes Moved from Hall with KKK Mural

October 2017 - A student led petition drive is being called a success after officials at Indiana University Bloomington agreed to no longer hold classes in a hall with a mural depicting the KKK.

– Indiana News Service

Education

Court Rules PA Parents Can Challenge State Education Funding

October 2017 - Public school advocates have won a significant victory in their efforts to reform state spending on public education. In 2015, the Commonwealth Court dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of Pennsylvania parents, school districts and statewide organizations. That court relied on previous rulings that said education funding isn't subject to judicial review. But the state Supreme Court has ruled that the court has a duty to consider a lawsuit claiming the legislature is violating the education clause and the equal protection provisions of the state constitution. Gov. Tom Wolf also praised the ruling, saying it opens an opportunity to ensure that students in Pennsylvania have access to a fair education system, regardless of where in the state they live.

– Keystone State News Connection

S e p t e m b e r

2 0 1 7

September 2017

Civic Engagement

New MA Open Meeting Law

September 2017 - Public officials will no longer be able to use a broken website as an excuse for not notifying the public about an upcoming meeting. That's just one of the safeguards under a new Open Meeting law that takes effect across Massachusetts in early October.

– Commonwealth News Service

Water

Flint Water Crisis Comes to Unofficial End

September 2017 - Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards, who was among the first to sound the alarm about elevated lead levels in Flint, declared an end to the water crisis in September. According to his testing, lead levels in the water have returned to where they'd be expected to be in a city of Flint's age.

– Michigan News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Nevada Holds First Ever State Public Lands Day

September 2017 - Today is the first-ever Nevada Public Lands Day - and camping, fishing and boating is free at all Nevada state parks and recreation areas. Groups across the state are holding celebrations and doing service projects. The state has participated in National Public Lands Day for years, but in June, state lawmakers voted to establish an official Nevada Public Lands Day. They also repudiated a 2015 joint resolution supporting a transfer of public lands from the federal government to the state.

– Nevada News Service

Housing/Homelessness

Governor Signs Affordable Housing Bill

September 2017 - Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 2, which creates a new, reliable source of funding for affordable homes through a $75 fee on the recording of certain types of real-estate documents, excluding sales of residential and commercial property. For transactions that involve the recording of multiple documents, the fee is capped at $225. It's estimated that the bill will generate roughly $250 million each year and create 57,000 jobs over five years.

– California News Service

Activists Advance Low-income Housing Strategy in Denver Suburb

September 2017 - After confronting the City Council in June, Westminster has added inspectors, recommended increases in rental and food-assistance budgets, and prioritized 25 percent of the new downtown development for affordable housing.

– Colorado News Connection

Women's Issues

Gov. Rauner Changes Mind on Bill Protecting Abortion Access in Illinois

September 2017 - Governor Bruce Rauner has agreed to sign a bill designed to maintain access to abortion in Illinois if the U-S Supreme Court changes its mind on the practice. Rauner previously said he would veto HB 40.

– Illinois News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Governor Brown Signs Affordable Housing Package

September 2017 - Gov. Jerry Brown has finalized lawmakers most robust response to California?s housing affordability problems in recent memory. The "15 good bills" Brown signed into law include a new fee on real estate transactions and a $4-billion bond on the 2018 ballot that together could raise close to $1 billion a year in the near term to help subsidize new homes for low-income residents.

– California News Service

Education

PA Supreme Court Rules Courts Can Hear Education Funding Lawsuit

September 2017 - The Pennsylvania Supreme court has ruled that the courts can hear a lawsuit filed on behalf of parents, educators and school districts charging the state with failing to meet requirements of the state constitution for equitable education funding. Lower courts had followed precedents which had found that education funding is under the jurisdiction of the executive and legislative branches of government. The Supreme Court?s decision allows the lawsuit, filed in 2015 to go to trial in the Commonwealth Court.

– Keystone State News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Governor Cuomo Moves to Combat the Fentanyl Crisis in Western New York

September 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the NYS Department of Financial Services to take immediate action to advise insurers against placing arbitrary limits on the number of naloxone doses covered by an insurance plan. As fentanyl can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and it can take multiple doses of naloxone to reverse a fentanyl overdose, this new measure will ensure access to adequate doses of overdose reversal medication and save lives. The Governor also says he will advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to the state controlled substances schedule, giving law enforcement the ability to go after the dealers who manufacture and sell the drug.

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Bison Make Strong Comeback In Wisconsin

September 2017 - Hunted to near extinction in 1883, bison are once again flourishing in Wisconsin because of the efforts of conservationists. The state now estimates there are more than 7,000 bison in Wisconsin.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Civic Engagement

Democrat Wins State House Seat in Trump District

September 2017 - Kari Lerner defeated Jim Headd in the state Representative special election in Rockingham by a 50%-48% vote margin. Rockingham 4 is the 4th-most Republican district in New Hampshire. President Donald Trump won the district by 20 points.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Water

$50 Million Available to Support Water Quality Protection Projects on New York Livestock Farms

September 2017 - New York State is making $50 million in grant funding available, over three consecutive application rounds, to help New York livestock farms implement water quality protection projects. The funding is a part of the state's $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017, which invests unprecedented resources for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and other water quality protection across the state, including funds to ensure proper management and storage of nutrients such as manure on farms.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Latest Obamacare Repeal and Replace Effort Stalls

September 2017 - U.S. Senate Republican leadership decided not to vote on the Graham-Cassidy replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ending the bill's chances of becoming law.

– All News Services

Children's Issues

More Kids Gaining Health Coverage Under ACA

September 2017 - The number of Colorado kids without health insurance hit an all-time low of four percent last year, according to new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. The center found that between 2013 and 2016, an estimated 51,000 more Colorado kids gained coverage.

– Colorado News Connection

Arizona Makes Large Gains in Insured Children

September 2017 - 15-thousand kids in Arizona gained health insurance in 2016 - leaving 119-thousand still uninsured. That's an 11 percent drop from last year - the fourth largest drop in the nation, according to a new report. Researchers from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families say that the percentage of kids who now have health insurance in Arizona and in the U-S as a whole are at a historic high, and they largely credit the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

– Arizona News Connection

Reproductive Health

Federal Judge Blocks Limits on Abortion

September 2017 - A federal judge has permanently blocked Indiana abortion limits signed into law last year by then Governor Mike Pence. Judge Tonya Walton Pratt ruled parts of House Enrolled Act 1337 violatethe U.S Constitution.

– Indiana News Service

Children's Issues

Nevada Makes Historic Progress in Insuring Children

September 2017 - Nevada has now hit a historic high for the percentage of children who have health insurance, according to a new report. Researchers from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that about 4-thousand additional kids got insurance between 2015 and 2016 - an 8 percent improvement. And since 2013, 53-thousand kids have become insured, but that still leaves 46-thousand without insurance.

– Nevada News Service

Education

Tennessee's Free Community College Showing Hreat Results

September 2017 - Students using Tennessee's free community college scholarship are significantly more likely to succeed in college than their peers outside the program, according to new data. Proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014, the program was the first in the nation to offer almost every graduating high school senior in a state the chance to go to college tuition-free.

– Tennessee News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Senators Pass Amendment to Restore UN Climate Change Funding

September 2017 - In the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senators Chris Murphy and Tammy Baldwin passed an amendment to restore funding to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

– All News Services

Immigrant Issues

CA Sues Trump Administration Over Plans for Border Wall

September 2017 - The state of California filed a lawsuit in a federal district court challenging the Trump administration's plans to build a wall along the state's border with Mexico. The 53-page complaint was filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former member of Congress, and the California Coastal Commission, which is a state agency that oversees the use of certain public lands, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY Green Bank Expanding to Accelerate Growth of Sustainable Infrastructure Financing and Combat Climate Change

September 2017 - Governor Cuomo has announced an ambitious expansion of NY Green Bank. Building on the success of its $400 million in commitments across 21 projects and robust pipeline of deals, NY Green Bank is committed to work with the private sector to raise new funds, assist other states in the establishment of new Green Bank offices, and provide capacity to those new Green Banks for back-end services including due diligence, underwriting and general technical support. The expansion will also allow NY Green Bank to better leverage public dollars and grow its own project development scope to clean energy projects in other states across the country.

– New York News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Arizona Turtle Gets Endangered Species Protection

September 2017 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces protections for Arizona's Sonoyta mud turtle, a Hawaiian bird known as the 'i'iwi and a Southeast fish called the pearl darter under the Endangered Species Act. Today's action came in response to two 2011 settlement agreements with the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians under which the Fish and Wildlife Service made protection decisions for hundreds of vulnerable species over the past six years. With these three newly designated species, 188 species have been protected as threatened or endangered under the agreement. Eleven additional species have been proposed for protection and await decisions expected by the end of the year.

– Arizona News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Census Reports Incomes up, Poverty Down in Texas

September 2017 - The U.S. Census Bureau released figures this week showing that incomes are rising in Texas, and there has been an overall decline in poverty in the state.

– Texas News Service

Census Bureau Reports Drop in Arkansas Poverty Rate, Increase in Median Income.

September 2017 - 2016 Census Bureau numbers show Arkansas' poverty rate of 17.2 percent moved the state from 47th in the nation to 44th. The state's median household income of $44,334 moved one spot -- from 50th to 49th nationally.

– Arkansas News Service

Census Indicates Drop in MA Child Poverty Rate

September 2017 - The latest U.S. Census numbers show a drop in the Massachusetts child poverty rate. Since 2014, the child rate has dropped from 14.9 percent to 13.3 percent. A new study shows recent increases in the state minimum wage are cited as a major factor driving the improvement.

– Commonwealth News Service

Census Shows Drop in NH Child Poverty Rate

September 2017 - New Census data shows a nearly three percent drop in the child poverty rate. Still, an estimated 94,289 Granite Staters live in poverty, and the high cost of housing adds is a major factor driving residents into poverty

– New Hampshire News Connection

Education

PA Education Department Receives $7.2 Million Grant to Assist Students with Behavioral Needs

September 2017 - The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will receive $7.2 million for school districts to help with student behavioral health under the Middle School Success: The Path to Graduation (P2G) grant program. More than 24,000 Pennsylvania students are currently identified as having behavioral needs, which could lead to chronic absenteeism and inhibit post-graduate or career success. To better help students, school districts across the commonwealth will receive funds to aid in ongoing professional development to ensure that every student can succeed.

– Keystone State News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Colorado Poverty Below National Average

September 2017 - The percentage of people living below the federal poverty level in Colorado continues to be below the national average, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. And, the state's child poverty rate dropped to just over 13 percent in 2016, down from nearly 15 percent the previous year, the lowest it's been since 2003.

– Colorado News Connection

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Charlottesville Folks See Outpouring of Support at Nearly 1,000 Events Nationally

September 2017 - After a march by white-supremacists led to violence, thousands of people across the country came out to demonstrate their solidarity with Charlottesville.

– All News Services

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Farms to School Food Links Growing Like a Weed

September 2017 - 82% of WV school districts get some of their food from local farmers, and another nine percent say they plan to. The farm to school program improves children's nutrition by getting more fresh food to them, while at the same time putting more money into the local agricultural economy and also spreading the understanding of how food is raised. WV is one of the most active farm to school states.

– West Virginia News Service

Immigrant Issues

Governor Cuomo Signs Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About Immigration Status

September 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order that prohibits state agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an individual's immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Law enforcement officers will also be prohibited from inquiring about immigration status unless investigating illegal criminal activity. This prohibition against inquiring into status includes, but is not limited to, when an individual approaches a law enforcement officer seeking assistance, is the victim of a crime, or is witness to a crime.

– New York News Connection

Possible Trump DACA Deal

September 2017 - In a surprise to many President, Donald Trump announced that he had reached a possible deal with Congressional Democrats to forestall the deportation of the "dreamers" - undocumented people brought to the country as children. The deal has not been entirely fleshed out, but if as described it would represent a significant shift by an anti-immigration president in favor of a popular group of immigrants.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Obama Era SunShot Initiative a Success

September 2017 - The Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, started under President Obama, has reached its goal of reducing the price of utility-scale solar to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour three years ahead of schedule, prompting the Trump administration to set a new goal of 3 cents by 2030.

– Maryland News Connection

Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York Approve Resolution to Permanently Ban Fracking in the Delaware River Basin

September 2017 - The Governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York, comprising a majority of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), voted in favor of a resolution put forward by the commission to issue draft regulations to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the Delaware River Basin. The DRBC vote was three to one with one abstention in passing the resolution for promulgating regulations that would prohibit any water project in the Delaware River Basin proposed for developing oil and gas resources by high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

– Keystone State News Connection

Environment

Wetland Restoration Project on the Upper Niagara River Completed

September 2017 - The completion of a $4.3 million wetland restoration project on Strawberry Island, located in the upper Niagara River near Buffalo, will rejuvenate the island's fish and wildlife preserve. The project focused on supporting the ecological restoration of the Niagara River to increase the sustainability of the environment, while promoting the region's growing tourism industry in Western New York. Marking the final phase of a $13 million regional environmental improvement initiative, the completed project supplements the state's investment in the Buffalo Billion II initiative.

– New York News Connection

NY, PA and DE Governors Approve Resolution to Permanently Ban Fracking in Delaware River Basin

September 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with the Governors of Delaware and Pennsylvania, comprising a majority of the Delaware River Basin Commission, voted in favor of a resolution put forward by the commission to issue draft regulations to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the Delaware River Basin. The DRBC vote was three to one with one abstention in passing the resolution for promulgating regulations that would prohibit any water project in the Delaware River Basin proposed for developing oil and gas resources by high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

– New York News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY Allocates $2.2 Million for Municipalities for Investments in Zero-Emission Vehicles and Infrastructure

September 2017 - New York State is making $2.2 million from the Environmental Protection Fund available in rebates for municipalities to purchase or lease electric, (plug-in hybrid or battery) or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for municipal fleet use, and for installation of public charging or fuel cell refueling infrastructure. The State's zero-emission vehicle and infrastructure investments will advance the state?s clean transportation and climate change goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

State Commerce Department Rules Against Proposed Pipeline

September 2017 - Minnesota Commerce Department submitted a formal opinion opposing Enbridge's proposed new pipeline across Minnesota. The state told a regulatory committee that it has no need for the project, and that the existing pipe should be shut.

– Minnesota News Connection

Health Issues

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Expanding Unlimited Sick Leave Benefit for New Yorkers Who Participated in 9/11 Response Efforts

September 2017 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to expand unlimited sick leave benefits for public sector officers and employees who developed a qualifying health condition as a result of their heroic response to 9/11 rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts at World Trade Center sites. Under the bill individuals would be eligible for unlimited paid leave at 100 percent of their regular salary dating back to the time of their diagnosis. Similar paid leave benefits are currently available for New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, New York City Corrections and New York City Sanitation for injuries and illnesses obtained in the line of duty.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

A Boost for Ohio Weatherization Programs

September 2017 - Programs that help keep Ohioans warm and save energy costs are getting a boost. While federal rules allow up to 25 percent of Home Energy Assistance Program dollars be allocated to weatherization, Ohio only has been spending 15 percent. But lawmakers recently approved a legislative requirement in the biennium state budget that will now allow 20 percent to be spent. The increase will mean about seven million additional dollars annually for the Home Weatherization Program, which translates to about 700 more homes weatherized each year.

– Ohio News Connection

Water

WV DEP Vacates Pipeline Permits

September 2017 - State environmental regulators have withdrawn permission for the huge Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross more than 600 West Virginia streams. Regulators say the project has not demonstrated that it will not violate the state's water quality standards.

– West Virginia News Service

Watershed Protected by Court Decision

September 2017 - A lawsuit filed by the Western Watersheds Project to protect waterways from livestock pollution prevailed in the Tenth Circuit Court.

– Wyoming News Service

Immigrant Issues

Gov. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Wyman Sign onto Coalition of Leaders to Stand with Dreamers Against Deportation

September 2017 - Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman have joined a coalition of leaders of governors, mayors, city and state elected officials, law enforcement professionals, faith and civic leaders from across the country in a "We Are With Dreamers" statement, which calls on President Trump to preserve the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and for Congress to pass a standalone version of the bipartisan Dream Act. To date, over 1,860 leaders have signed onto the statement.

– Connecticut News Service

Water

NY Allocates $60.7 Million to Upgrade Local Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems

September 2017 - The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors have approved $60.7 million in grants, in addition to interest-free and low-cost loans, to support vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across New York. The Board's approval includes nearly $8.4 million in grants awarded under the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. The grants, along with the interest-free and low-interest loans provided by EFC allow municipalities to finance these projects at a significantly lower rate than financing on their own.

– New York News Connection

Immigrant Issues

ICE Begins Releasing Detained Cuban Asylum-Seekers on Hunger Strike

September 2017 - Five Cuban asylum-seekers detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma were released on August 30. They had been on a hunger strike to oppose their detainment.

– Washington News Service

Environment

US to Place 20-Year Ban on Mining Near Yellowstone National Park

September 2017 - The U.S. government plans to speed up the approval of a 20-year ban on gold mining claims on forested public lands in Montana, near Yellowstone National Park. The prohibition could even extend to other metals and minerals.

– Big Sky Connection

Immigrant Issues

Oregon Sues Trump Administration Over Repeal of DACA Program

September 2017 - Oregon joined 14 other states in suing the Trump administration for its plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. About 11,000 Oregonians are included in the program.

– Oregon News Service

Washington State Sues Trump Administration Over Repeal of DACA Program

September 2017 - Washington joined 14 other states in suing the Trump administration for its plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. About 20,000 Washingtonians are included in the program.

– Washington News Service

Governor Wolf, First Lady, Commissions Pen Joint Letter to Congress in Support of DREAMers

September 2017 - In response to President Trump's recission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Governor Tom Wolf, First Lady Frances Wolf and the Governor's Advisory Commissions have sent a joint letter to members of Congress from Pennsylvania in support of young undocumented Americans who entered the country as minors and obtained protection from deportation under the program. The letter was co-signed by the Governor's Advisory Commissions on African American, Asian Pacific American, and Latino Affairs, and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.

– Keystone State News Connection

Tobacco Workers Gain Some Protection From International Effort

September 2017 - The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers? Associations, or IUF, passed a resolution in Geneva, Switzerland, to guarantee farmworkers the right to work together to negotiate the conditions of their labor without fear of retaliation. Catherine Crowe is with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the farmworker union representing workers in North Carolina.

– North Carolina News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Trump Attempts to Roll Back Clean Air Protections Blocked by Court

September 2017 - A D.C. appeals court told the EPA agency it had to enforce the Obama-era methane rule and said delays were adding substantial levels of hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde into the air of communities near wells.

– All News Services

LGBTQIA Issues

U.S. Olympic Committee Commits to Transgender Athletes

September 2017 - In the wake of President Trump's move to oust transgender people from the military, the U.S. Olympic Committee doubled down on its commitment to diversity this week. The USOC is honoring FLAME, a program that encourages minorities - including LGBTQ athletes - to take leadership roles in Olympic and Paralympic sports.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

Proposed Settlement Provides Path for Sustainable Rooftop Solar

September 2017 - State and local government entities, Rocky Mountain Power, solar industry participants, and non-governmental interest groups have proposed a settlement of net metering and distributed generation matters. The agreement was filed with the Utah Public Service Commission

– Utah News Connection

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

CO Expands SNAP exemptions

September 2017 - More Coloradans who are facing difficult life circumstances and financial challenges will be able to keep their food stamp benefits under a recent set of rule changes unanimously approved by Colorado's State Board of Human Services. Hunger Free Colorado and Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) have been coordinating with the state to adopt these new changes for more than a year.

– Colorado News Connection

Media Reform

Charges Dismissed Against WV Journalist

September 2017 - Charges against PNS reporter Dan Heyman were dropped, when the Kanawha County prosecutor determined what Heyman had done was not a crime. Heyman had been arrested while asking federal Health Secretary Tom Price a question, but the prosecutor decided that did not match the charge of "disrupting a governmental process."

– All News Services

Immigrant Issues

Connecticut Joins Multistate Lawsuit Challenging President Trump on DACA

September 2017 - Connecticut has joined with a coalition of 14 other states and the District of Columbia in suing President Donald Trump and his administration, seeking to invalidate his memorandum that ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to enjoin federal agencies from using information gathered through DACA in immigration enforcement efforts.

– Connecticut News Service

Water

NY Launches $10.4 Million Effort to Improve Long Island Water Quality, Restore Shellfish Populations and Bolster Resiliency of Coastal Communities

September 2017 - New York State has initiated a $10.4 million effort to improve Long Island's water quality and bolster the economies and resiliency of coastal communities by restoring native shellfish populations to coastal waters. To restore shellfish, New York State is establishing five new sanctuary sites in Suffolk and Nassau counties to transplant seeded clams and oysters and expanding public shellfish hatcheries in the two counties through a dedicated grant program.

– New York News Connection

Immigrant Issues

State AG joins lawsuit against Trump over DACA

September 2017 - North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has joined a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's plans to rescind the executive order that protected young immigrants from deportation even if they did not have documentation authorizing them to live in the United States.

– North Carolina News Service

Water

Great Lakes Clean Up Funding Preserved

September 2017 - A wave of public support for the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative pushed back the Trump administration's proposal to eliminate the program next year.

– Michigan News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Peregrine Falcons Making a Comeback

September 2017 - After decades of careful wildlife management, the fastest animal on earth has been brought back from the edge of extinction. Peregrine falcons are returning in strong numbers to their natural habitats in MIchigan's upper peninsula.

– Michigan News Connection

Education

Education Options Land MA Top Spot in Best States Ranking

September 2017 - Education opportunities were a major factor earning the Bay State the number 1 ranking in the U.S. News and World Reports rating of best state to live in America. The state also came in near the top when for health care.

– Commonwealth News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

CA Assembly Passes Bill Supporting Gun Violence Research

September 2017 - California State Assembly passed SB 536, a firearm violence research bill that will make information related to Gun Violence Restraining Orders available to researchers affiliated with the newly established University of California Firearm Violence Research Center or other nonprofit educational institutions or public agencies focused on the study and prevention of violence.

– California News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Northeastern Cap-and-Trade System Could Fund Storm Prep for VA Coast

September 2017 - The RGGI regional greenhouse gas initiative - a multi-state cap and trade system - could help fund badly needed storm and flooding remediation, mitigation and damage prevention on the vulnerable Virginia coast. Hampton Roads is one of the most vulnerable urban areas in the country, and does not have the billions of dollars it needs to deal with climate change impacts. The good news is that Virginia could get some of that funding by joining RGGI, while also cutting emissions.

– Virginia News Connection

Environment

Maryland and 8 Other States Working to Cut Carbon Emissions

September 2017 - Maryland and eight other states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are pledging to cut emissions from power plants by at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030. That's slightly higher than the current agreement to reduce emissions by 2.5 percent annually.

– Maryland News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Positive News for Ohio Workers

September 2017 - Policy Matters Ohio's "State of Working Ohio 2017" found some bright spots for Ohio workers. Official unemployment was low in 2016, at 4.9 percent. And for the first time since 2006, Ohio saw a second consecutive year of reasonably healthy inflation-adjusted wage increases bringing median hourly compensation to $17.36.

– Ohio News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman Announce that New York will Sue if President Trump Ends Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Policy

September 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement informing President Trump that if he moves forward with plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, New York State will sue to protect the 'dreamers' and the state's sovereign interest in the fair and equal application of the law.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Duke Energy Goes Big on Solar, Drops Nuclear Charge for Customers

September 2017 - Duke Energy will build nine or more solar plants and delete a controversial nuclear charge from customer bills. With 1.8 million customers in 35 counties, Duke is the second-largest in the state; the utility, however, has lagged behind other major utilities in solar energy and had drawn criticism for a pair of nuclear disappointments. The Florida president of Duke Energy, Harry Sideris, said the proposed initiatives worth $6 billion were filed Tuesday morning with the Florida Public Service Commission after months of outreach.

– Florida News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Bay State Tops in Nation for Job Growth

September 2017 - The Massachusett's labor force has grown faster than any other state in 2017, according to Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center's annual State of Working Massachusetts report. While the workforce is up by more than 3 percent the report says wages remain flat.

– Commonwealth News Service

Connecticut Labor Department Recovers $8.9 Million in Owed Wages for Workers

September 2017 - The Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) has recovered a record $8.9 million in unpaid wages for Connecticut workers during the fiscal year that ended June 30. This represents an increase of $1.8 million from the previous year. A total of $8,907,321.37 was returned to workers, which includes nearly $2.4 million recovered by wage enforcement staff responding to complaints that owed wages had not been paid and more than $1.9 million provided to employees that did not receive the required minimum wage or overtime.

– Connecticut News Service

A u g u s t

2 0 1 7

August 2017

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Boost for Efforts to End Child Hunger in NH

August 2017 - NH Hunger Solutions received a $5,000 grant from the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and Shaw's Markets. The grant will help propose ways to eradicate childhood hunger through the federal school breakfast program. The Food Research and Action Center currently ranks NH second to last in the nation for participation in the school breakfast program.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Energy Policy

DEC Denies Permits for CPV Power Plant Pipeline

August 2017 - The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation denied key permits Millennium Pipeline Co. is seeking for its planned 7.8-mile pipeline that would supply natural gas to the $900 million power plant being built in Wawayanda. In a decision filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, DEC Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Thomas Berkman wrote that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's environmental review of the $57.3 million project was "inadequate and deficient."

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

Maine Budget Funds Clean Elections

August 2017 - Despite resistance by lawmakers, the final version of the state budget compromise included a 3 million dollar annual transfer, as well as the early transfer of 2019 funds to pay for protections mandated by Maine's Clean Elections Initiative.

– Maine News Service

Advocates Prevent Rollback of Ranked-Choice Voting

August 2017 - Local advocates were able to defeat a measure this legislative session (LD1625) that would have repealed the ranked-choice voting law. Lawmakers in both chambers could not come to agreements, so the repeal measure died for the session.

– Maine News Service

Immigrant Issues

Immigrants' Rights Supporters Celebrate Denver Win

August 2017 - The Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act prohibits city employees from asking residents about their immigration status or handing that information over to ICE.

– Colorado News Connection

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

Maine's 24-Hour Reporting Requirement Survives

August 2017 - A measure (LD1033) that would have rolled back existing disclosure requirements in the days leading up to an election was killed by a voice vote in the House.

– Maine News Service

Civic Engagement

Automatic Voter Registration Goes into effect in Illinois

August 2017 - Legislation ensuring Illinoisans who are eligible to vote will be automatically registered when they conduct business at state facilities is now law in Illinois. Governor Rauner signed the bill on the 54th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

– Illinois News Connection

Health Issues

Report: Renewable Energy Helps Avoid Thousands of Premature Deaths

August 2017 - A new analysis in Nature Energy finds fossil fuels not burnt because of wind and solar energy helped avoid between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths in the US between 2007 and 2015.

– Maryland News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Illinois' Governor Signs Law Limiting police on Immigration

August 2017 - Illinois will limit how local and state police can cooperate with federal immigration authorities under a plan signed into law Monday by the state's Republican Govenror Bruce Rauner

– Illinois News Connection

Education

Deal Reached in School Funding Fight

August 2017 - Illinois lawmakers have agreed to a new school funding formula, designed to bolster the state's poorest districts without taking money away from the rest. 831 of the state's 852 school districts will see more state dollars than before.

– Illinois News Connection

Health Issues

Anti-Food Labeling Efforts Defeated

August 2017 - The Federal Drug and Food Administration will not be changing the May 2018 deadline for supermarkets, convenience stores, pizza chains, and other retailers that sell restaurant-type foods to display calorie information on their menus. Due to industry pressure, the deadline had been pushed back several times. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also additional, practical guidance on the menu-labeling requirements would be available by the end of the year.

– All News Services

New Hampshire Ranked #2 in Nation for Best States

August 2017 - U.S. News and World Report ranked the Granite State Second for best states in the nation. The state scored high marks when it comes to healthcare, education, and opportunity.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Civic Engagement

NH Tougher Voting Requirements Challenged

August 2017 - The state's tougher voter registration law which is set to take effect for the November elections has been challenged by both the League of Women Voters and ACLU. Both claim the law is overly complex and intended to dissuade people from registering the vote. Both plan to respond to the New Hampshire Attorney General who says the issues belong in federal, rather than state court.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Energy Policy

Upping the Ante for Reducing Greenhouse Gases

August 2017 - The nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is proposing lowering the cap on power plant emissions even further. Since it was created in 2005, the multi-state carbon cap-and-trade agreement, known as RGGI, has helped cut emissions from affected power plants in New York in half, and reduced coal-fired power generation statewide by 90-percent. Now RGGI wants to lower the cap an additional 30-percent by 2030. Over the next 13 years, the new cap reduction should bring total carbon emissions in the region down to 65 percent of 2009 levels.

– New York News Connection

Education

Governor Underscores Commitment to Education Funding and Graduation Rates

August 2017 - In several recent speeches, Governor Bill Haslam has underlined his commitment to increasing state graduation rates and pushing scholarship programs like Tennessee Promise to aid in college tuition.

– Tennessee News Service

Environment

NC Registers Opposition to Offshore Drilling

August 2017 - Governor Cooper and the Department of Environmental Quality submitted formal comments August 17th to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to convey North Carolina's opposition to oil and gas leasing for offshore drilling on North Carolina's coast.

– North Carolina News Service

Education

Judge Finds Ban on Mexican-American Studies Program Unconstitutional

August 2017 - A U.S. District Court judge ruled that an Arizona law passed to stop Mexican-American studies classes in Tucson schools was enacted for racial and political reasons and is therefore unconstitutional. The case stems from a long-ranging battle that started in 2010 when then-state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne objected to statements made by a speaker in a Tucson classroom.

– Arizona News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

MA Joins in Effort to Extend Greenhouse Gas Iniative

August 2017 - A bipartisan coalition of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Governors committed to extending and strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The Governors agreed to extend the pollution cap to 2030, when it would decline 30% from 2020 levels.

– Commonwealth News Service

Water

Appeals Court Upholds DEC Pipeline Decision

August 2017 - A federal appeals court has dismissed a challenge to New York State's denial of a water-quality permit for the Constitution Pipeline. The 124-mile natural-gas pipeline had received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC. But under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states also have a say. New York's Department of Environmental Conservation says the Constitution Pipeline Company failed to turn over necessary information and denied the water quality certification last year. The court's ruling upholds the DEC decision.

– New York News Connection

Restoring the North River: Fish, Water Quality, Tourism for Shenandoah

August 2017 - A river restoration plan in the Shenandoah Valley promises to add to the area's value as a recreation region. It and other projects like it will help improve downstream water quality.

– Virginia News Connection

Environment

More GOP Lawmakers Bucking Party Line on Climate Change

August 2017 - The House Climate Solutions Caucus, which is a bipartisan panel, has more than tripled in size since January, driven in part by Trump's decision in June to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.

– All News Services

Sustainable Agriculture

California Moves Toward Restricting Pesticide that Feds Refused to Ban

August 2017 - California regulators has moved one step closer to placing big restrictions on the use of a pesticide that President Donald Trump's EPA refused to ban earlier this year. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation just released an updated draft risk assessment for chlorpyrifos. It's one of the most widely-used pesticides in the state, applied to golf courses and about 50 crops, including almonds, grapes, walnuts, oranges and cotton. But Cheryl Watson with Cal EPA says chlorpyrifos is a dangerous neurotoxin that can float toward schools and homes in low-income farm communities.

– California News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

CT Retirement Security Program Board Holds First Meeting

August 2017 - The authority that will be overseeing Connecticut's new Retirement Security Program has its first meeting on August 17th. The 15-member board will guide the launch of the retirement savings program signed into law in 2016. The Retirement Security Program requires businesses with five or more employees and no pension or 401(k) plan to participate in the payroll deduction savings plan. Employers cannot match employee contributions, and workers can opt out. The plan, which should begin operation in 2018, will help some 600,000 people in the state save for retirement.

– Connecticut News Service

Health Issues

Court Awards Planned Parenthood Legal Fees From the State

August 2017 - Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPAZ) and other providers were awarded nearly $613,000 for legal fees and costs from a case stemming from Arizona's 2015 "abortion reversal" law. Before the law was repealed last legislative session to avoid a continuing court battle, state law forced doctors to tell patients they could reverse their abortion. Planned Parenthood Arizona and the ACLU sued the state of Arizona to protect doctors from being forced to commit malpractice.

– Arizona News Connection

Native American Issues

Legislation Promised to Combat Fake Indian Art

August 2017 - New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has promised to introduce legislation that would require the government to devote more resources to limit counterfeit Native American art. At a Santa Fe public hearing, Udall took comments from many who say congress needs to update the Indian Arts and Crafts Act to improve protections for tribal artists against fraud that undercuts the value of their work.

– New Mexico News Connection

Public Lands/Wilderness

Sand To Snow National Monument Spared

August 2017 - The Sand to Snow National Monument in the southern California desert will not be reduced or rescinded - a decision announced by U-S Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Wednesday. Six other national monuments in California and others around the country remain in the crosshairs.

– California News Service

Environment

Permit for Coal Destructive Coal Mining Rejected

August 2017 - The Environmental Hearing Board has rejected a revised permit issued by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2015 that would have allowed underground, longwall coal mining under a stream flowing into Ryseron Station State Park. The Board agreed with community groups that the state's Clean Streams Law and the state Constitution do not allow eh DEP to permit mining that is predicted to damage a stream so severely that the only way to repair the damage would be to construct a new stream in its place.

– Keystone State News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

New Leasing Protections for Domestic-Violence Survivors

August 2017 - Advocates for increasing protections for victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence say progress is being made in implementing a new law that, in part, helps victims get out of leases. Training and implementation has now moved to educating landlords on how to handle those situations.

– Kentucky News Connection

Education

Governor Wolf Announces Reforms to Standardized Testing in Schools

August 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf announced that his administration will reduce the amount of time public school student spend taking standardized tests. Acknowledging that an over-emphasis on testing interferes with teaching and learning, the governor said the time spent on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests would be reduced by 20-percent for 3rd through 8th graders, and 25-percent for younger students.

– Keystone State News Connection

Environment

Outdoor Recreation in WV: 90,000 Jobs, $9 Billion Economic Activity

August 2017 - A report from the outdoor recreation industry has found that WV's recreation economy is huge and growing. When the state is suffering from job loses in other sectors, recreation and tourism offers real improvement.

– West Virginia News Service

PA Landowners Gain Protections from Pipeline Spills

August 2017 - State officials approved a settlement that environmental groups reached with Sunoco and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection giving some Pennsylvania landowners now have stronger protections against spills and water contamination associated with construction of the Mariner East II pipeline. To date, pipeline construction has resulted in 90 spills of drilling fluid since April, and drilling operations have resulted in damage to water supplies in at least five locations. The Clean Air Council and other environmental groups are continuing to appeal permits issued for the pipeline by the Department of Environmental Protection.

– Keystone State News Connection

Water

NY Allocates $60.7 Million to Upgrade Local Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems

August 2017 - The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors have approved $60.7 million in grants, in addition to interest-free and low-cost loans, to support vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across New York. The Board's approval includes nearly $8.4 million in grants awarded under the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. The grants, along with the interest-free and low-interest loans provided by EFC allow municipalities to finance these projects at a significantly lower rate than financing on their own.

– New York News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Bernalillo County Refuses to Rescind Immigrant-Friendly Status

August 2017 - Commissioners in New Mexico's most populous Bernalillo County rejected a proposed rollback to an earlier resolution that declared Albuquerque an immigrant-friendly community. In the 4-1 vote the majority overruled a proposal by Republican commissioner Wayne Johnson to bring the county in alignment with the federal government's current policy on detaining people who are in the country illegally.

– New Mexico News Connection

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Protections for Gray Wolves Upheld

August 2017 - The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling that in December 2014 restored Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. That means the status quo of the past three years, disallowing hunting of Great Lakes wolves, holds. Hunters in the Upper Peninsula have been trying to overturn this for years.

– Michigan News Connection

Water

EPA Forgives Flint's Water Debt

August 2017 - The Environmental Protection Agency agreed with the state of Michigan plan to forgive more than $20 million owed by the city of Flint for fighting the lead drinking water crisis.

– Michigan News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Praise As EPA Goes Ahead With Ozone Rule

August 2017 - The EPA has resisted industry pressure to stop planned limits on ozone. Clean air advocates say going ahead with the regulations will save thousands of lives in Virginia and other states.

– All News Services

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Some Signs Of A Bee Rebound

August 2017 - After years of alarming spread, Colony Collapse Disorder losses are down by a quarter from 2016. Some of this may be related to restrictions on pesticides that impact bees. But whatever the cause, the U.S. Dept of Agriculture reports some signs that bees are doing better.

– All News Services

Public Lands/Wilderness

Feds Decide to Leave Grand Canyon Parashant Alone

August 2017 - People who prize Arizona's public lands are breathing a sigh of relief that Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument is off the chopping block - after the feds announced Friday that no changes will be made. Twenty-six national monuments are under review and the fear was that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would recommend Grand Canyon Parashant be downsized, like he did with Bear's Ears in Utah

– Arizona News Connection

Criminal Justice

Kudos to Illinois For New Laws to Reduce Recidivism

August 2017 - The Pew Charitable Trust's Stateline reports gives praise to Illinois for laws recently enacted to reduce recidivism. Illinois' governor signed a law that helps former inmates reintegrate into society, and the state is being praised for being one of the first to enact a "ban the box" law that means former inmates won't be asked to reveal they were in in prison when they first fill out an application.

– Illinois News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

EPA Reverses Decision to Delay Smog Rule After Lawsuits

August 2017 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed a decision to delay an Obama-era rule requiring states to curb smog-causing emissions, one day after 15 states sued the agency over the move. The EPA announced the decision to go ahead with the so-called "2015 Ozone Designations" late on Wednesday, August 2 saying it showed the agency's commitment to working with states.

– All News Services

Energy Policy

850 Solar Projects Added in NY

August 2017 - 850 solar projects have been installed or are in development in communities across New York State through the second round of locally-organized "Solarize" campaigns. Launched by Governor Andrew Cuomo in December 2014, New York's Solarize program is an important component in supporting the State's Clean Energy Standard, which requires that 50 percent of the electricity in New York to come from renewable sources by 2030.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

Federal Judges Order new North Carolina District Lines

August 2017 - Three federal judges on Monday ordered North Carolina's state legislature to draw new legislative district boundaries within a month, the latest ruling against boundaries drawn by Republicans that judges have found improper.

– North Carolina News Service

Education

Tennessee High School Students Improve in Every TNReady Test Subject

August 2017 - Tennessee's high school students improved in every subject area on the state's year-end standardized assessment.

– Tennessee News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Denver Wins Prized Outdoor Retailer Trade Shows

August 2017 - After nearly 18 months of intensive and harried negotiations, Visit Denver has booked the twice-a-year trade show in the city's Colorado Convention Center for five years, starting in January 2018. Conference organizers decided to leave Utah in the wake of several actions taken by state officials that they felt put public lands at risk.

– Colorado News Connection

Environment

EPA Reverses Decision to Delay Smog Rule After Lawsuits

August 2017 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed a decision to delay an Obama-era rule requiring states to curb smog-causing emissions, one day after 15 states sued the agency over the move. The EPA announced the decision to go ahead with the so-called "2015 Ozone Designations" late on Wednesday, August 2 saying it showed the agency's commitment to working with states.

– All News Services

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Federal Appeals Court Keeps Wisconsin Wolves On Endangered List

August 2017 - The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling that in December 2014 restored Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. That means the status quo of the past three years, disallowing hunting of Great Lakes wolves, holds. Hunters in the Upper Peninsula have been trying to overturn this for years.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Children's Issues

Texas Legislature OKs Package of Bills to Improve Child Protective Services.

August 2017 - During the most recent session of the Texas Legislature, lawmakers approved several bills aimed at improving the state's foster care and child welfares services agencies. The bills reformed practices at the state's Child Protective Services Agency, which has had numerous high-profile problems in recent years.

– Texas News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

No Changes to Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

August 2017 - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced there will be no changes made to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. In April, President Donald Trump ordered a review of it, along with 26 other national monuments.

– Big Sky Connection

Health Issues

Help for Vets in Granite State, Elsewhere, Proposed

August 2017 - New Hampshire Congresswoman Annie Kuster authored a bill in the U.S. House to address a medical staff shortage for veterans. The bill would establish a pilot program that awards educational assistance to veterans with medical military training who will be placed as physician assistants in Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

– All News Services

Smoking Prevention

Maine Raises Tobacco Age to 21

August 2017 - Maine is now the 4th state in the nation to raise the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21. Lawmakers voted to override a veto from Governor Paul LePage. Tobacco 21 laws have also been enacted by California, Hawaii, New Jersey.

– Maine News Service

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

More Florida Children With Less Hunger This Summer

August 2017 - Florida has seen some gains in the number of low-income children who are able to access summer nutrition programs.

– Florida News Connection

J u l y

2 0 1 7

July 2017

Immigrant Issues

Former Sheriff Arpaio Convicted Of Contempt of Court

July 2017 - Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio found guity of criminal contempt of court. In a verdict filed Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said evidence demonstrated Arpaio's "flagrant disregard" for another federal judge's order that halted his signature immigration round-ups. The sentencing phase will begin Oct. 5. Arpaio, 85, faces up to six months in confinement, a sentence equivalent to that of a misdemeanor.

– Arizona News Connection

Health Issues

Repeal and Replace Stymied

July 2017 - Several grassroots and advocacy groups in Kentucky worked diligently to protect Medicaid expansion and other tenents of the Affordable Care Act. Collapse of repeated efforts in the U.S. Senate to repeal and replace the health care law was a victory, but as one person interviewed said, "We have just climbed the first big hill in a marathon."

– Kentucky News Connection

Civil Rights

Maine Secretary of State Doubles Down Against Trump Voter Fraud Commission

July 2017 - Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap again refused to comply with the request by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is investigating possible voter fraud. Dunlap cited Maine law.

– Maine News Service

Rural/Farming

Grant to NH Business for More Fresh Produce

July 2017 - North Country Growers received a $25 million grant from the USDA to build two hydroponic greenhouses in New Hampshire's North Country. The goal is to get more tomatoes and salad green to New England supermarkets.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Education

NM Scores on PARCC Exams Rise

July 2017 - After three years, New Mexico students have slightly improved their performance on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. The 2017 results, released 7/24/17, show 28.6 percent proficiency in English language arts and 19.7 percent in math. In 2015, the first year PARCC was administered in New Mexico, the numbers were 26.4 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively.

– New Mexico News Connection

Health Issues

House of Representative Passes Heller Bill to Re-up Veteran's Program.

July 2017 - The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed Senator Dean Heller's (R-NV) legislation, S.114, to ultimately approve the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act, which provides funding to sustain the Veterans Choice Program for another six months. The legislation provides $2.1 billion to the Veterans Choice Program, authorizes 28 major medical facility leases, and strengthens the VA's ability to recruit, train, and preserve the workforce that provides the care our veterans have earned and deserve.

– Nevada News Service

Baker Signs Recreational Marijuana Law

July 2017 - Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law regulating recreational marijuana. Lawmakers amended the ballot measure passed by Bay State voter increasing the taxation of recreational marijuana 17 to 20 percent. The first Marijuana shops are expected open by July 2018.

– Commonwealth News Service

Civil Rights

Governor Wolf Denies Latest Trump Administration Request for Pennsylvania Voter Information

July 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf issued a statement denying a request by Kris Kobach, the Vice Chair of the Trump Administration's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for extensive voter registration records on Pennsylvania residents. Wolf expressed serious reservations about the real intentions of the committee and its possible use of voter information, considering the false statements this administration has made about voter integrity. He also voiced that concerns the commission intends to pursue restrictions on the rights of Pennsylvanians to vote.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health Issues

McCain Votes "No" on Healthcare Repeal; Measure Dies

July 2017 - The Senate rejected legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, with Arizona Senator John McCain casting a decisive "no." Senate Republicans had unveiled a "skinny repeal," a narrow measure to roll back parts of the Affordable Care Act. It would leave 15 million more Americans without insurance next year, the Congressional Budget Office said.

– Arizona News Connection

Energy Policy

Bill Signed Into Law That Boosts Solar

July 2017 - Governor Roy Cooper signed HB 589 into law, putting new regulations in motion aimed at reaching a statewide solar target of 6,800 megawatts by 2020 - more than double what it has now.

– North Carolina News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Gov. Malloy Condemns DOJ Brief in LGBT Rights Case

July 2017 - Governor Dannel Malloy criticized an amicus brief filed in federal court by the Trump administration's Department of Justice. Malloy says the administration has needlessly intervened in a case currently being heard in the Second Circuit, arguing that employers should be allowed to fire, deny promotion to, and generally discriminate against their employees just for being gay. The brief is particularly unusual because the DOJ was never asked to weigh in on this particular case, which was filed by a worker who said he was being discriminated against by his employer based solely on his sexual orientation, and the DOJ went out of its way to intervene against the workplace rights of LGBT Americans.

– Connecticut News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Cap and Trade Extended by Governor

July 2017 - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 398 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), which extends and improves the state's world-leading cap-and-trade program to ensure California continues to meet its ambitious climate change goals. The move was criticized by some progressive groups as not going far enough, while Republicans called it a gas tax in disguise.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Judge Orders Halt on All Mariner East 2 Drilling

July 2017 - The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board granted the petition of Clean Air Council, Mountain Watershed Association, Inc., and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network to halt all drilling operations associated with the construction of the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipelines. This ruling comes after last week's filing which disclosed 61 drilling fluid spills and water contamination in multiple Pennsylvania regions.

– Keystone State News Connection

Gov. Malloy Orders a Resource Assessment to be Conducted on the Economic Viability of the Millstone Nuclear Generating Facilities

July 2017 - Governor Dannel Malloy has signed an executive order directing the relevant state agencies to conduct a resource assessment to evaluate the current and projected economic viability for the continued operation of the Millstone nuclear generating facilities. The assessment is to help the state determine a path forward that best benefits the residents of Connecticut. Consumer advocates have been calling for Millstone to disclose its financial need for a state-funded subsidy by requiring the assessment include an examination of audited financial statements and other financial data when making its recommendations to the legislature for action in 2018.

– Connecticut News Service

Civic Engagement

Executive Order Directs Agencies to Offer Voter Registration

July 2017 - Governor Cuomo has signed Executive Order #169, which directs every state agency to make available voter registration forms and to offer assistance in filling them out. Under current state and federal law, forms are available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies. This order expands the forms to agencies which interact with the public through professional licensing, recreational activities and other avenues. Additionally, all agencies are directed to mail or provide electronically voter registration forms to members of the public whose contact information they maintain.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Environmental Groups Settle Lawsuit Over Panoche Valley Solar Project

July 2017 - The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Panoche Valley Solar LLC have entered into a settlement agreement concerning the size and location of a solar project currently under development in California's Panoche Valley. The agreement will help advance renewable energy in the state, create local jobs, and protect the environment. Once final, the settlement will permanently conserve more than 26,000 acres for wildlife habitat. Initially, 247 MW of solar generation was planned for development in the Panoche Valley, but now approximately 100 MW is instead proposed for development at a site in Imperial County, California.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Bill To Reform Bail Introduced in Congress

July 2017 - Today, U.S. Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bipartisan bail reform bill, "The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017" - to encourage states to reform or replace the practice of money bail, the requirement that individuals awaiting trial remain in jail unless they pay for their release. Across the country, state and local governments continue to have ineffective money bail systems that force individuals to pay amounts set arbitrarily, without consideration for the ability to pay, or an accurate assessment of the person's danger to the public or risk of not showing up to trial.

– All News Services

Water

PA Investing $75 Million in Water Infrastructure Projects in 20 Counties

July 2017 - Pennsylvania is investing $75 million for 23 drinking water, wastewater, storm water and non-point source projects across 20 counties through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). The funding comes from a combination of state funds approved by voters, federal grants to PENNVEST from the Environmental Protection Agency and recycled loan repayments from previous PENNVEST funding awards. Funds for the projects are disbursed after bills for work are paid and receipts are submitted to PENNVEST.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health Issues

NY Will Bring Lawsuit if Congressional Health Care Bill Becomes Law

July 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that, if the House or Senate health care bill is signed into law, New York State will bring a lawsuit challenging the bill's constitutionality. Cuomo and Schneiderman made the announcement at an event at Mount Sinai Hospital, encouraging members of New York's Congressional delegation to stand against the bill. Should it pass and be signed into law, New York will challenge the Republican health care bill in court on the basis of several constitutional defects, including the placement of unconstitutional conditions on federal dollars used for health care.

– New York News Connection

Trumpcare Dies In The Senate

July 2017 - Despite the best efforts of Republican leadership, the push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has failed to get enough votes to move forward in the U.S. Senate. The last version of the legislation to be considered would have cost about 21 million Americans their health insurance coverage over ten years.

– All News Services

Family/Father Issues

Regulations Adopted to Implement Paid Family Leave Program

July 2017 - New York State has adopted regulations implementing its landmark Paid Family Leave program. The regulations outline the responsibilities of employers and insurance carriers in implementing the most comprehensive paid family leave program in the nation. Starting January 1, 2018, Paid Family Leave will provide employees with wage replacement and job protection to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is deployed abroad on active military service. Employees are also entitled to be reinstated to their job when their leave ends and to the continuation of their health insurance during their leave.

– New York News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

Oregon Budget Adds $40 Million to Housing Aid

July 2017 - The Oregon budget passed this Legislative sessions adds $40 million dollars to two programs that are help Oregonians facing homelessness. The Emergency Housing Account and the State Homeless Assistance Program help low-income Oregonians with transitional housing and shelter to prevent homelessness, as well as services within those facilities.

– Oregon News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Craters of the Moon National Monument Remains Untouched

July 2017 - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced the Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho will not be changed. Zinke ordered a review of national monuments in the spring.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Growing US Climate Alliance Launches Climate Change Website

July 2017 - Momentum is growing in response to the Trump Administration's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, with more members and the launch of a new website. Launched by New York, California and Washington, today the members include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, representing more than 33 percent of the U.S. population and $7.16 trillion in GDP. The new website includes information about the composition of the Alliance, member commitments, and guiding principles, while providing updates on the progress members are making to meet or exceed the emission reductions targets of the Paris Agreement.

– All News Services

Juvenile Justice

Judge Orders Changes in Juvenile Detention

July 2017 - The state has decided not to appeal U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson's order regarding treatment of young people in their care at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons. Peterson ordered drastic cutbacks in the the school's use of pepper spray, solitary confinement and mechanical restraints. PNS/WNC has run numerous stories about the poor conditions at youth incarceration centers in Wisconsin and the failed policies that encourage incarceration rather than rehabilitation for youthful offenders.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Civil Rights

Civil Rights Groups Sue CA To Force Improvements to Medi-Cal

July 2017 - Advocates filed a class-action civil rights complaint against the state of California on Wednesday, alleging that low reimbursement rates have led to a shortage of doctors who take Medi-Cal, a problem that disproportionately affects low-income communities of color. Lawyers for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center filed the suit in Alameda County Superior Court.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

WV Solar Ag CO-OP Helps Farmers Cut Their Power Bills

July 2017 - A non-profit is helping state farmers cut costs and supply a great deal of their own renewable energy in the process. Between the falling price of solar panels and good deals the non-profit can get, farmers and ranchers are seeing green from going green.

– West Virginia News Service

Criminal Justice

Governor Brown Signs Law To Ban Charging the Innocent for Cost of Counsel

July 2017 - Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 35, that would end the practice of requiring innocent defendants to reimburse the courts for the cost of appointed counsel. In the future only those who are convicted will be charged.

– California News Service

Juvenile Justice

Ohio Creates Crisis Fund to Help Vulnerable Kids

July 2017 - Ohio is set to create a crisis stabilization fund that can be tapped to help so-called multisystem youths - those in danger of entering the child-protective or juvenile-justice systems because of their disabilities, mental illnesses, and dangerous behavioral problems. Legislators set aside $5 million in federal welfare money each of the next two years to support the fund.

– Ohio News Connection

Early Childhood Education

New State Budget Increases Education Spending

July 2017 - The state budget that passed the General Assembly was allowed to go into law without Governor Tom Wolf's signature. The bipartisan spending plan adds $25 million for the state's Pre-K Counts program, and almost $5 million for Head Start. It also increases basic education funding by $100 million and $19 million for early intervention services. The budget also restores $20 million previously cut from child care, and funds a totally new program to help parents.

– Keystone State News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

19th Ohio City Passes LGBTQ Protections

July 2017 - Kent became Ohio's 19th city to pass inclusive nondiscrimination laws in employment, housing, and public accommodations. These comprehensive protections shield LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, and they establish a local remedy for resolving discrimination incidents.

– Ohio News Connection

Water

Bill Introduced to Protect Desert Water

July 2017 - A bill introduced Wednesday in the California Legislature aims to protect water resources in the state's deserts. Assembly member Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) introduced Assembly Bill 1000, known as the California Desert Protection Act, to strengthen safeguards for desert groundwater so that water transfers don't negatively impact natural or cultural resources.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Bill Reducing Sentences for Drug and Property Crimes Headed to Governor's Desk

July 2017 - Oregon lawmakers passed the The Safety and Savings Act, or HB 3078, today. The bill targets drug and property crimes for sentencing reductions so that more money can go to local communities for supervision, treatment, and survivor services.

– Oregon News Service

Energy Policy

Appalachian Power to Expand Use of Wind Power

July 2017 - The huge electrical utility, part of what was once the largest consumer of coal in the world (AEP) has said it will buy wind farms as part of its diversification of its power fleet. The wind farms are in Ohio and WV, and the customers for App Power are in WV, VA and TN.

– West Virginia News Service

Women's Issues

Oregon Legislature Passes Reproductive Health Bill

July 2017 - Oregon lawmakers passed the Oregon Reproductive Health Equity Act, requiring insurers to cover abortions. The bill also covers other reproductive services at no cost to the patient regardless of income, citizenship status or gender identity.

– Oregon News Service

Energy Policy

Court Rejects Delay of EPA's Methane Pollution Rule

July 2017 - The Trump administration cannot delay an Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting methane pollution from oil and natural gas drilling, a federal court ruled. The decision means the EPA must immediately start enforcing the rule.

– All News Services

Livable Wages/Working Families

State Legislature Passes Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill

July 2017 - Washington state lawmakers joined four states and Washington, D.C. in guaranteeing paid family and medical leave. Eligible workers will have access to 12 weeks of family leave and 12 weeks of medical leave beginning in 2020, with a 16 week annual cap.

– Washington News Service

Washington State Budget Ensures Funding of State Worker Contracts

July 2017 - Washington state reached a budget compromise that ensures state workers' contracts are fully funded. That includes pay raises and full funding of workers' health care.

– Washington News Service

Education

Washington State Budget Hailed as Success for Students

July 2017 - Washington state lawmakers agreed to a budget that meets the state's constitutional obligation to fund schools under the McCleary decision. Spending on K-12 public schools will be increased by $1.8 billion in the next two years.

– Washington News Service

J u n e

2 0 1 7

June 2017

Education

Bipartisan Appropriations Bill Boosts Education Funding

June 2017 - The General Assembly has passed an appropriations bill that increases spending on K-12 basic education by $100M, early childhood education by $30M, special education by $25M and early intervention services by $19M. While the increases are far from the $3B education advocates say is needed to adequately fund public education in the Commonwealth, they welcome the additional investments in education, especially the emphasis on early childhood education.

– Keystone State News Connection

Health Issues

Senate Attempts to Repeal and Replace ACA Pushed Back

June 2017 - Under intense public pressure the U.S. Senate GOP has taken the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" (BCRA) - the senate version of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare - off the floor. Efforts with the same or similar legislation is likely to continue, but the task is proving very difficult. Critics note that under the bill more than twenty million Americans would lose health coverage, and the Medicaid funding would be cut by a quarter.

– All News Services

Civil Rights

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Signed into Law

June 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf has signed Senate Bill 8 into law. The bipartisan bill reforms asset forfeitures, which are civil proceedings against property that allow law enforcement to take possession of property of certain persons suspected of crime. The new law creates significant changes to civil asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania in several key areas, including: higher burdens of proof; improved transparency in auditing and reporting; prohibiting the pre-forfeiture seizure of real property without a hearing; and adding an extra level of protection for anyone acquitted of a related crime who is seeking the return of their property.

– Keystone State News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

New Laws Increase Protections for Domestic Violence Survivors

June 2017 - Two new laws that increase protections for survivors of domestic violence went into effect June 29. The legislation replaces the state's existing mandatory reporting requirement for spouse abuse with a mandatory education and referral requirement for all survivors of Intimate Partner Violence. The law also requires landlords to provide new leasing protections for victims of domestic violence.

– Kentucky News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

CA Supreme Court Upholds Cap and Trade Law

June 2017 - The California Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to consider a challenge by business groups of the state's cap-and-trade law, a ruling that environmentalists hailed as ending a legal fight that had cast a cloud over the program. The state supreme court did not issue a written opinion on the program itself but declined take up the case on appeal from a lower court.

– California News Service

Civil Rights

California to Stop Suspending Licenses for Traffic Fines

June 2017 - Californians will no longer face losing their driver's licenses because of unpaid traffic fines starting July. Gov. Jerry Brown said the punishment doesn't help the state collect unpaid fines and can send low-income people into a cycle of job losses and more poverty.

– California News Service

Criminal Justice

Gov. Malloy Signs Legislation Reforming the State's Pretrial Justice System

June 2017 - Governor Dannel Malloy has signed into law legislation he introduced and developed with a number of lawmakers and advocates that will create a major reform to the state's methods of detention for people who have only been charged with a crime. The legislation brings the state into compliance with court rulings that have found the current system of bail is unconstitutional. Under current law hundreds of individuals currently locked up in Connecticut jails, not because they are threat to society, but simply because they are poor and cannot afford cash bail.

– Connecticut News Service

Animal Welfare

Governor Wolf Signs Animal Cruelty Prevention Bill

June 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf has signed the animal cruelty prevention bill at a public celebration surrounded by advocates and members of the legislature. Act 10, House Bill 1238 updates and clarifies the existing animals abuse statutes and increases the penalties for abusing animals.

– Keystone State News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Federal Court Order Blocking Immediate Deportation of Iraqi Nationals in Michigan Extended Nationwide

June 2017 - The federal court that blocked the immediate deportation of Iraqi nationals in Michigan last week has extended its order nationwide. The move helps ensure that Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not deport individuals who face persecution, torture, and death in Iraq without having a chance to prove their lives would be in danger if returned to Iraq.

– All News Services

Civic Engagement

Voters Wishes Upheld on Ranked-Choice Voting

June 2017 - A voter-approved law making ranked-choice voting the rule for statewide elections will stay in effect until at least next year. That's because both houses failed in efforts to repeal the measure this session.

– Maine News Service

Consumer Issues

Limited Recreational Sales of Marijuana Begins

June 2017 - The Nevada Tax Commission today adopted emergency regulations for recreational marijuana, opening the door for sales to begin on a limited basis. The commission approved regulations for packaging, labeling and advertising.

– Nevada News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Judge Requires Feds To Study How to Protect Ocelots

June 2017 - In a victory for conservation groups, a federal judge in Tucson has approved a settlement that forces federal agencies to figure out how to avoid accidentally killing endangered ocelots. Wildlife Services, a program within the U-S Department of Agriculture, regularly lays metal traps that snap shut on an animal's leg to deter predators that feed on farm animals.

– Arizona News Connection

Juvenile Justice

Federal Judge Curbs Use Of Solitary Confinement

June 2017 - After reviewing evidence, a federal judge has ordered Wisconsin youth prisons at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake to curb the use of solitary confinement, use of restraints, and pepper spray. We have covered the problems at these correctional institutes.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Metro Council Tries to Advance Nashville Together Ordinance To Keep City Agencies Out of Mass Deportations

June 2017 - The Nashville Metro Council voted to pass BL-739 on second reading. BL-739 would prohibit city agencies from assisting in the enforcement of federal immigration enforcement, including honoring voluntary requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to detain immigrants in our jails. The law failed on the third reading. The second Nashville Together ordinance, BL-743, which would terminate the contract that Davidson County Sheriff's Office relies on to use the Nashville jail as a regional immigrant detention center, was delayed until August 1st by a voice in last night's budget committee and today's public safety committee.

– Tennessee News Service

Environment

Court Ruling Called Victory for Environmental Rights

June 2017 - A majority decision of Pennsylvania's Supreme Court broadens the interpretation of the Environmental Rights Amendment to Pennsylvania's state constitution, strengthening protections for public natural resources. The ruling came in a case challenging the use of proceeds from oil and gas leases on public lands for anything other than environmental preservation. The court ruled that the governor and the General Assembly are trustees, not proprietors of public land.

– Keystone State News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

NY Green Bank Reaches Achieves Milestone $2.7M in Profits

June 2017 - During fiscal year 2016-2017, NY Green Bank generated $2.7 million in positive net income as a result of $291.6 million in investments in clean energy transactions across New York. Achieved one year ahead of schedule, the net income surpassed expectations and NY Green Bank's overall portfolio is expected to reduce between 4.3 and 6.4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the equivalent of taking between 50,000 and 70,000 cars off the road for 20 years.

– New York News Connection

Human Rights/Racial Justice

Ethnic Studies Standards Bill Passes Through Oregon Legislature

June 2017 - A bill setting up an advisory board to create ethnic studies courses in Oregon schools passed the state House and Senate. The standard will be for K-12 schools and include histories of ethnic minorities, LGBT communities, and gender groups.

– Oregon News Service

Energy Policy

Maine House Votes to Overturn "Anti-Solar Net Metering"

June 2017 - The Maine House voted 90-54 in favor of the "Majority report" which would overturn the PUC's so-called anti-solar net metering rule. The measure (LD 1504) is opposed by Governor Paul LePage.

– Maine News Service

Criminal Justice

Nevada Governor Signs Law to "Ban the Box"

June 2017 - Governor Brian Sandoval signed AB 384, to "Ban the Box" on employment applications that asks about a prior felony conviction. It was proposed by Assembly Member Tyrone Thompson (D-North Las Vegas) as a way to assist some 600,000 Nevadans who often have difficulty landing a job because of their prior criminal records. The City of North Las Vegas has already become the first Nevada municipality to Ban the Box.

– Nevada News Service

Children's Issues

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Ending Child Marriage in New York

June 2017 - The legislation raises the age of consent to marry from 14-years-old to 18-years-old and amends the process to require parental and judicial consent for marriage of those between 17-years-old and 18-years-old. Until this legislation was signed, children as young as 14-years-old could get married with parental permission and written consent provided by a judge. The previous law, which dates back to 1929, does not provide guidance to judges determining whether or not to grant consent. More than 3,800 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010.

– New York News Connection

Social Justice

Supreme Court To Review WI Gerrymandering Case

June 2017 - The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will review the lower court decision regarding partisan gerrymandering in the 2011 redrawing of Wisconsin's 99 Assembly districts. The lower court held that Republicans drew the maps with the intent of disenfranchising Democratic voters. The Supreme Court decision, which will likely come this fall, could become a national landmark case. PNS/WNC has run a number of stories over the past 4 years decrying the unfairness of the way the political boundary maps were drawn in Wisconsin in 2011.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Iowa Narrows Summer Meal Gap Though Poverty Remains

June 2017 - New research from the Food Research and Action Center shows Iowa is making progress in closing the summer meal gap. An annual report shows more than 20,000 Iowa kids received a summer meal during July 2016, a 4.4 percent increase compared to the year prior.

– Iowa News Service

Family/Father Issues

Lawmakers Work to Address "False Paternity"

June 2017 - Some Michigan lawmakers are working to develop a legislative package of bills to change kinks in the justice system that can result in the injustice of false paternity. Experts say false establishment of paternity not only destroys families and finances, it can also lead to incorrect medical advice for children.

– Michigan News Connection

Health Issues

Effort to Expand Oral Health Care in KY

June 2017 - A new initiative is examining ways to improve dental health in Kentucky. Delta Dental of Kentucky provided $1 million in seed money to launch five regional networks to engage diverse partners who will create local oral-health solutions.

– Kentucky News Connection

Energy Policy

AEP to Refund Millions for Ohio Electric Customers

June 2017 - AEP Ohio will refund 84 million dollars to its electric customers to settle a lawsuit over rates. The company will provide credits on June bills that will average 60 dollars for households. The rate changes agreed to upon in the lawsuit are expected to save customers on average four dollars and twenty cents a month.

– Ohio News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

New Texas Law Enables Comprehensive Rape Kit Reform

June 2017 - With the passage of a bill establishing a tracking system for evidence in sexual-assault cases, Texas has become the first state to implement comprehensive rape-kit reforms. There are an estimated 20,000 or more untested rape kits sitting in evidence lockers around the state, but new regulations are aimed at ensuring the backlog is identified and tested, and that new kits are processed without delay.

– Texas News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

CPUC Sets New Rules for Natural Gas Leaks

June 2017 - After over two years of development, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a series of new standards today that require natural gas utilities to implement 26 separate best practices to find, fix and prevent natural gas pipeline leaks and venting. The groundbreaking rule covering gas utilities is the most comprehensive in the nation and a companion to a March 2017 rule adopted by the California Air Resources Board that requires reduction of leaks from oil and gas extraction.

– California News Service

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Summer Meals Reaching More Kentucky Kids - Poverty Remains

June 2017 - New research from the Food Research and Action Center shows Kentucky is making progress in closing the summer meal gap. An annual report shows more than 32,000 Kentucky children received a summer meal during July 2016, a 13-percent increase compared to the year prior

– Kentucky News Connection

Closing Meal Gap in Summer for Kentucky Children

June 2017 - New research from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows Kentucky is making progress in closing the summer meal gap. An annual report shows more than 32,000 Kentucky children received a summer meal during July 2016, a 13-percent increase compared to the year prior.

– Kentucky News Connection

Senior Issues

Governor Signs Bill to Reduce Hospital Bills for Seniors

June 2017 - Governor Sandoval signed a bill to make sure seniors get the lower Medicare rates from the hospital if they're injured in an accident and someone else is at fault. Previously, some hospitals in Nevada were going after the patient for the full amount of the bill, not the lower Medicare rates - on the assumption that the victim would hire a lawyer to go after the responsible party's insurance company.

– Arizona News Connection

Children's Issues

Ohio Shows Progress in Child Well-being

June 2017 - Ohio is making some progress when it comes to well-being for children, rising from 26 to 24th nationally in the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 Kids Count Data Book. The state ranked in the middle of the pack on health, economic and education indicators.

– Ohio News Connection

Nebraska Ranks High for Child Well-being

June 2017 - Nebraska is ranked 11th nationally in an annual snapshot of child well-being. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the Cornhusker State is doing well in the areas of economic well-being, education, and families and communities.

– Nebraska News Connection

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bills

June 2017 - Governor Brian Sandoval signed three major pieces of marijuana legislation today. They include a bill to make sure marijuana products aren't too attractive to children (SB344) and a measure that aims to keep the medical marijuana program efficient and relevant in a world where all adults can buy pot (AB422). He also approved SB487, which imposes a 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana and is expected to bring $64 million over the biennium into the state's "rainy day" reserve fund.

– Nevada News Service

Health Issues

Governor Offers Grant To Kickstart UNLV Medical School

June 2017 - Governor Brian Sandoval announced a deal to provide a $25 million dollar grant to fund the new UNLV Medical School building, after an anonymous donor gave a matching grant. The new medical school, once open will help alleviate a shortage of doctors in the state.

– Nevada News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Farm Worker Union Reaches Collective Bargaining Agreement

June 2017 - The indigenous farm worker union Familias Unidas por la Justicia has reached a collective bargaining agreement with Sakuma Bros Berry Farm. The agreement concludes a long struggle between the union and the Skagit County berry producer.

– Washington News Service

Environmental Justice

California Energy Commission Takes A Step Back on Puente Power Plant

June 2017 - The California Energy Commission has decided to allow the California Independent System Operator (CalISO) to study the feasibility of clean energy alternatives to the proposed Puente Power Project in Oxnard. The proposed natural gas plant is slated for construction on the coast in Oxnard, a community of color already disproportionately impacted by pollution and power plant construction.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

NY State Taking Bids for Big Increase in Renewable Energy

June 2017 - The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Power Authority have announced plans to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates for a combined total of 2.5 million megawatt-hours per year of renewable power generation. The announcement followed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order committing the state to upholding the Paris Agreement on climate change. The purchases could lead to the development of between 600 and 1,600 megawatts of new clean-energy generation capacity.

– New York News Connection

Rural Energy Co-ops Get a Boost

June 2017 - Recently passed energy legislation in Minnesota will significantly change the state's renewable energy fund and eliminate regulatory oversight of fixed charges for rural co-ops and small municipal utilities.

– Minnesota News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

More Vulnerable Pennsylvanians Being Served in Their Communities

June 2017 - The Department of Human Services says increased access to housing over the past two years has served 10 percent more people in the community. Specifically, people over the age of 60 who are receiving home- and community-based waivers increased by 15 percent; people under the age of 60 who are receiving attendant care services increased by 25 percent; Pennsylvanians receiving services through the LIFE program increased by 24 percent; and persons with developmental disabilities who are served in home- and community-based long-term care waiver services increased by 20 Percent.

– Keystone State News Connection

Energy Policy

Amendment to Overturn CT Pipeline Tax Introduced

June 2017 - A bill has been introduced in the Connecticut state Senate to end the Pipeline Tax passed in 2015 that would impose a surcharge on Connecticut electricity ratepayers to fund interstate gas pipelines to be built across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Should these pipeline proposals move forward, Connecticut ratepayers would be the only ones at the ratepayer level who would be subsidizing them. A recent study estimated that the proposed Access Northeast Pipeline would cost $6.6B.

– Connecticut News Service

Education

NYS Free College Tuition Plan Launched

June 2017 - Excelsior Scholarship has begun accepting applications. SUNY and CUNY students whose families make up to $100,000 annually can apply for tuition-free college. When fully implemented, the Excelsior Scholarship, in combination with other aid programs, will allow 52 percent of resident full-time students to attend a SUNY or CUNY two-year or four-year college tuition-free.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Solar Gets a Boost In Kennebunk

June 2017 - The Kennebunk Light & Power District signed a 20-year agreement to support a large solar array on district property. It is projected, the solar array will produce 3.9 kilowatt-hours during its first year of operation.

– Maine News Service

Criminal Justice

NH Joins Rest of New England in Decriminalizing Pot

June 2017 - New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is set to sign a marijuana decriminalization bill into law. On the first day of June the state House of Representatives took final action on legislation to remove criminal penalties for small amounts of cannabis, setting up the state to finally become the last in New England to decriminalize.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Environment

Minnesota Joins Climate Fight

June 2017 - Minnesota becomes the first Midwest state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of states committed to upholding Paris Agreement targets despite President Trump?s pledge to withdraw from the accord.

– Minnesota News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

Two Religious Exemption Measures Defeated

June 2017 - Colorado saw two efforts to pass harmful religious exemption legislation in 2017. House Bill 1013 allowed businesses and individuals to claim that their religion gives them permission to exempt themselves from laws they don't want to follow. A House committee promptly voted down the measure. Late in the session, another religious exemption bill was introduced in the state senate. Senate Bill 283 would have allowed businesses and individuals to claim that any belief, including their religion, exempts themselves from non-discrimination laws they don't want to follow. This legislation passed out of committee and then, thanks to a broad coalition of faith leaders, business leaders, and community organizations, was voted down on the senate floor.

– Colorado News Connection

Energy Policy

LADWP Puts Hold on Gas Plants

June 2017 - The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP), the largest publicly owned utility in the country, announced that it will pause a $2.2 billion investment in gas plants until it can do a clean energy analysis. This is a clear signal that the DWP sees clean energy and energy efficiency as a strong competitor to gas. This hold comes after a year of the community advocating at the utility for greater investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.

– California News Service

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Legislation Strengthening State's Domestic Violence and Anti-Stalking Laws Signed into Law

June 2017 - Governor Dannel Malloy has signed legislation that will strengthen the state's domestic violence laws. The bill, which was approved by unanimous votes in both chambers of the General Assembly, amends the criminal statutes governing stalking to include stalking via social media, telephone, and other forms of harassment, tracking and intimidation; changes the strangulation statutes to include suffocation; and enhances the penalty for violation of the conditions of release.

– Connecticut News Service

Civic Engagement

Supreme Court Rejects State Request to Review Case

June 2017 - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request from state lawmakers to review a case that struck down the 2011 state legislative districts. The Supreme Court order, issued Monday morning, was critical of how the three-judge panel came to its decision to call for new maps and special elections.

– North Carolina News Service

Health Issues

Drug Prices Transparency Bill Passes

June 2017 - A diabetes drug transparency bill was on its way to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval for his signature after the Assembly introduced, heard and passed the legislation. The governor has said he would sign the measure if it gets to his desk. The hybrid bill, SB539, mandates transparency from both pharmaceutical companies and the middlemen in the drug pricing process known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who are responsible for negotiating between pharmacies and insurance companies. It also requires that health care nonprofits disclose any contributions they receive from the pharmaceutical industry, PBMs and insurers.

– Nevada News Service

Education

Voucher Bill Fails; Public School Advocates Rejoice

June 2017 - A bill to put $60 million towards education vouchers, called Education Savings Accounts, failed in the legislature due to steadfast opposition from Democrats. Lawmakers did pass SB555, adding a one-time, $20 million appropriation to the state's tax credit-funded Opportunity Scholarship program, designed to help more low- and middle-income students attend private schools on scholarship.

– Nevada News Service

Health Issues

Governor Announces Actions to Protect Access to Affordable Health Care

June 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the New York State Department of Financial Services to promulgate new emergency regulations mandating health insurance providers do not discriminate against New Yorkers with preexisting conditions or based on age or gender, in addition to safeguarding the 10 categories of protections guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. The measures will ensure that essential health services are protected and covered for all New Yorkers regardless of efforts at the federal level to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare.

– New York News Connection

Consumer Issues

State Senate Passes Bill to Limit Hospital Costs

June 2017 - The Nevada State Senate passed AB 183, to force hospitals to give lower Medicare rates to seniors who have been in an accident when someone else is at fault. The bill is now on the Governor's desk.

– Nevada News Service

Animal Welfare

Governor Signs Bill Restricting Trapping

June 2017 - Governor Brian Sandoval signed AB 364, which places limits on trapping of wild animals. It requires trappers to check their traps daily instead of every four days. The bill also would require traps to be registered by their owners and would have traps identified by flags. The bill allows tampering with traps if there is an imminent danger to a person or pet.

– Nevada News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

Bay State's Largest Coal Fired Power Plant Shuts Down

June 2017 - The Brayton Point Power Station says it will cease operations this week. The plant has generated electricity since the 1960s and has been cited by federal regulators as one of the region's heaviest polluters.

– Commonwealth News Service

Environment

Maine Awarded Nearly 2 Million for Environmental Clean-Up

June 2017 - The EPA awarded Maine $1.795 million in Brownfields Planning, Site Assessment and Clean-up Grants for FY2017. DEP Commissioner Paul Mercer said, "I am pleased the development of abandoned and unsafe property across the state puts these sites back on the property tax rolls with the use of brownfields funds."

– Maine News Service

Civic Engagement

NH is 34th State to Approve Electronic Poll Books

June 2017 - The New Hampshire Legislature passed Senate Bill 113 this month, with strong bipartisan support. SB 113 will authorize a trial of electronic poll book devices for voter registration and check-in at future municipal and statewide elections.

– New Hampshire News Connection

Consumer Issues

Governor Signs Bill on Fiduciary Duties

June 2017 - Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill today, SB 383, to establish a fiduciary rule for the financial industry. It requires financial planners to work for the best interest of the client at all times.

– Nevada News Service

Bill to Make Doctors on Probation Inform Patients Passes State Senate

June 2017 - By a vote of 30-4, the California Senate passed SB 798, the Medical Board sunset review bill. The legislation includes a provision that requires doctors to notify their patients when they have been put on probation by the Medical Board for dangerous misconduct. SB 798 will now be taken up by the California Assembly. The bill must pass the state legislature this year in order to reauthorize the Medical Board of California.

– California News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Gender Marker bill passes Illinois Senate

June 2017 - House Bill 1785, a measure to modernize Illinois law allowing people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, has passed the Senate. The bill now goes to the Governor's desk for his signature

– Indiana News Service

Environment

Wisconsin SUPCO Says No To Frac Sand Mine

June 2017 - The Wisconsin Supreme Court, on a 4-3 decision, has upheld a lower court's decision against allowing another frac sand mine to begin operations in Trempealeau County. WNC/PNS has run a number of stories exposing the environmental dangers of frac sand mining.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Health Issues

Single Payer Passes State Senate

June 2017 - The California Senate passed the single-payer bill June 1 by a vote of 23-14 with three members not present. The bill now heads to the state assembly. If it passes there, it will move to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. However, several hurdles remain. It is not clear if Brown supports the effort, and the governor has questioned how the state would pay for it. A recent legislative analysis found the bill would cost the state $400 billion per year, more than double the current state budget of $125 billion. Lawmakers want to add a 15 percent payroll tax to pay for it and hope to get about $200 billion from existing federal, state and local funding, according to the legislative analysis.

– California News Service

Water

NY Sets Aside $11.5M to Upgrade Local Drinking Water and Waste Water Systems

June 2017 - The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors has approved more grants, interest-free loans, and low-cost loans to support vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across New York. This funding will provide assistance for drinking water and wastewater projects in Upstate communities.

– New York News Connection

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Endangered Species & Wildlife

Oregon Legislature Passes Dredge Reform to Protect Salmon

May 2017 - The Oregon Legislature passed a bill regulating suction dredge mining. The dredging method is used recreationally to pick up gold left over from old mining operations but also kills young fish and destroys fish eggs.

– Oregon News Service

Criminal Justice

Jobs Training Center for Female Offenders Opens at York Correctional Institution

May 2017 - The Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) has opened an American Job Center at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, the state's only institution for female offenders. The job development program is only the second of its kind in Connecticut and aims to continue reducing New York's historically low crime rate by providing inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences with the tools needed to become productive members of society upon their release.

– Connecticut News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

Veterans Receive Property Tax Breaks in TN

May 2017 - As part of Gov. Bill Haslam's IMPROVE Act, disabled veterans and military widows, who often live on fixed incomes, will receive major property tax reductions.

– Tennessee News Service

Lawmakers Approve $15 Minimum Wage

May 2017 - The Illinois House has approved a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. Governor Rauner's signature is the next step.

– Illinois News Connection

Youth Issues

NY Commits $35 M to Expand After-School Programs in High-Need Districts

May 2017 - New York State is making $35 million in funding available for high-need school districts across New York to establish quality after-school programs. The investment will support increased enrollment in after-school programs by 36 percent.

– New York News Connection

Education

Return to the Roundhouse Bittersweet for NM Lawmakers

May 2017 - Gov. Susana Martinez funds higher education and state government, which ended the special session of the New Mexico Legislature after a standoff with lawmakers.

– New Mexico News Connection

Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol

Nevada Becomes 19th State to Call To Overturn Citizen's United

May 2017 - The Nevada Assembly on Thursday voted 26-14 on a party-line vote to make Nevada the 19th state to ask Congress to propose a constitutional amendment that would overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which held that the the government cannot restrict corporate or union campaign spending because it is protected by the First Amendment. For a constitutional amendment to become a reality, at least 38 states would need to ratify the amendment after Congress proposes it. The resolution also passed the Senate on a 12-9 vote.

– Nevada News Service

Climate Change/Air Quality

PA Township Takes On Climate Change

May 2017 - A local supervisor has introduced a resolution to make the Ferguson Township carbon neutral by 2050. The resolution is already serving as a model for other municipalities in the state which are proposing similar measures. The Ferguson resolution will be considered by the township's Board of Supervisors at its meeting in June.

– Keystone State News Connection

Women's Issues

Oregon Lawmakers Pass Equal Pay Legislation

May 2017 - Oregon lawmakers have passed legislation that expands upon existing federal law protecting equal pay for women. It bans the practice of screening job applicants based on their salary histories, strengthens penalties for wage discrimination violations, and adds remedies for workers facing pay disparities.

– Oregon News Service

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Ohio House Budget Funding to Fight Opiate Crisis

May 2017 - The House-passed version of the state budget includes nearly 170 million dollars for behavioral health-related services to address the growing needs around the state's opiate crisis and individuals living with mental illness. The funding is spread across four main areas: workforce, prevention, mental health, and treatment.

– Ohio News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

New Report Shows Record Drop in Homelessness

May 2017 - An annual census of homelessness in the state found that the point-in-time count of homeless individuals in Connecticut confirms that the state's recent efforts to reduce homelessness and increase access to housing are working. Conducted by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, this year's census found that homelessness in in the state has decreased for a fourth consecutive year and is at its lowest level to date.

– Connecticut News Service

Civil Rights

NY Assembly Passes Package of Voting Reforms

May 2017 - A package of nine bills to modernize and reform New York State's outdated election system passed in the Assembly, though it may not clear the Senate. The bill would allow early voting, expand access to absentee ballots, ease the process of transferring voter registration between districts in the state and reduce lines at polling stations.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

State Senate Passes Bill to Ban Drug Company Gifts to Doctors

May 2017 - The California Senate passed a bill Thursday that would ban drug companies from giving gifts to doctors. Sen. Mike McGuire said his bill prohibiting perks such as airline tickets and lavish meals would lower drug costs in part because doctors who receive such gifts are more likely to prescribe expensive drugs. The Senate voted 23-13 to send the bill to the Assembly. Drug companies spend more than $1.4 billion a year on gifts to California doctors, said McGuire, a Democrat who represents a district west of Sacramento.

– California News Service

LGBTQIA Issues

Two More Ohio Cities Pass Nondiscrimination Laws

May 2017 - Akron and Olmsted Falls both passed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals. Now 18 Ohio cities have laws on the books protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

– Ohio News Connection

Education

New Law Addresses Rural Colorado's Teacher Shortage

May 2017 - House Bill 1003 requires the Department of Higher Education to work with the Colorado Department of Education, school districts and other education associations to identify root causes of the teacher shortage and recommend strategies to recruit and retain more teachers.

– Colorado News Connection

Environment

NY Launches Methane Reduction Plan

May 2017 - Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the Methane Reduction Plan, 25 actions the state will take to reduce methane emissions from landfill, oil and gas infrastructure and agriculture. The plan will be implemented by the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Agriculture and Markets, Public Service, and the Energy Research and Development Authority, in conjunction with the Soil and Water Conservation Committee. The implementation of these actions is part of New York State's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, from 1990 levels.

– New York News Connection

Energy Policy

Gov Vetoes Republican Budget Propsoal

May 2017 - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has vetoed a Republican-backed budget proposals that critics say would have harmed the state's clean energy sector.

– Minnesota News Connection

Methane Waste Rule Survives GOP Assault

May 2017 - The U.S. Senate failed on Wednesday to repeal a new rule that reduces waste of taxpayer-owned natural gas. The failed repeal of the BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule marks the first victory over Trump's "anti-environment" agenda, and is a rare win against the American Petroleum Institute on one of its top priorities.

– All News Services

Health Issues

Single Payer Health Care Bill Passes Assembly

May 2017 - A bill passed in the State Assembly would create a state-run single-payer health-care system. If it becomes law it would make New York the first state in the nation to give every resident health care.

– New York News Connection

Civic Engagement

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Revive North Carolina Voter-ID Law

May 2017 - The U.S. Supreme Court dealt an unexpected blow to the voter-identification movement, refusing to reinstate North Carolina ballot restrictions that a lower court said target blacks "with almost surgical precision." Turning away the appeal by state Republican leaders, the justices left intact a ruling that said the provisions were racially discriminatory in violation of federal voting-rights law. In addition to requiring people to show a photo ID, the North Carolina law reduced the number of early-voting days and eliminated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. The rebuff was a surprise because four conservative justices previously tried to revive the measure before the 2016 election. That effort failed because it was an emergency request that required five votes, but the court could have accepted the latest appeal with only four votes.

– All News Services

Criminal Justice

Bill Prohibiting Minors from Adult Prison Passes Legislature

May 2017 - A bill prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from going to being sent to a Department of Corrections facility (HB 2251) is heading to the governor's desk to be signed into law. Under the bill, minors would be sent an Oregon Youth Authority facility instead.

– Oregon News Service

Juvenile Justice

State Senate Approves Juvenile Justice Bills

May 2017 - State senators today approved setting age 12 as the minimum age for prosecution, part of a package of sweeping reforms of how California's criminal justice system treats youths and young adults, including a measure that seeks a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestments. The State Senate approved Senate Bill 439 and SB 180. Both bills are part of a #EquityAndJustice package jointly authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell. The two Los Angeles-area Democrats unveiled the measures March 20 seeking major justice reforms that put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.

– California News Service

Public Lands/Wilderness

Amodei Says He Won't Revive Public Lands Transfer Bill

May 2017 - A proposal for the federal government to sell off millions of acres of land in Nevada probably won't return to Congress. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, introduced a massive lands bill last session and had considered reviving it. Now he says, "Transferring millions of acres of public lands is not something I think the majority of people think is a good idea." During the previous session of Congress Amodei introduced H.R. 1484, known as the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act. The first phase covered nearly 7.3 million acres, with about half within a checkerboard pattern that traverses the state from Sparks to Wendover. Other Phase One land included property the Bureau of Land Management has already designated for disposal.

– Nevada News Service

Health Issues

Medical Marijuana Access Expands in Iowa

May 2017 - Iowans suffering from a range of diseases and illnesses gain access to medicinal marijuana under a new law The measure, House File 524, expands access to cannabis oil to include patients diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, AIDS or HIV, Crohn's disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, as well as most terminal illnesses that involve a life expectancy of less than one year and untreatable pain.

– Iowa News Service

Livable Wages/Working Families

NYC Freelancers Get Protection from Wage Theft

May 2017 - The "Freelance Isn't Free Act" went into effect on Monday, May 15th, giving freelance workers and independent contractors in New York City tools to protect them from being cheated out of their pay.

– New York News Connection

Environment

Conservation Groups Glad Methane-Waste Rule is Safe, for Now

May 2017 - Three Republicans siding with Democrats in the U.S. Senate narrowly halted a bid to overturn the Bureau of Land Management's natural-gas waste rule.

– All News Services

Climate Change/Air Quality

Clean Air Victory in Ohio

May 2017 - Ohio Citizen Action and eight other environmental groups won a lawsuit against U.S. EPA for failure to update air pollution limits within an eight-year timeframe, as required by the federal Clean Air Act. The lawsuit was on behalf of Ohio communities suffering from toxic air emissions from facilities.

– Ohio News Connection

Energy Policy

Two New Wind Farms for Maryland

May 2017 - Maryland's Public Service Commission approves two offshore wind farms totaling 368 megawatts.

– Maryland News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

Colorado Updates Bias-motivated Harassment Law

May 2017 - House Bill 1188 adds physical or mental disability and sexual orientation (including transgender status) to the categories described in the harassment statute to make the statute consistent with Colorado's existing law concerning bias-motivated crimes.

– Colorado News Connection

Civic Engagement

Legislature Approves Open-records Modernization

May 2017 - An 18-month push to update Colorado's open-records law for the digital age culminated Wednesday in the final passage of a bill that clarifies the public's right to copies of electronic government records in useful file formats that permit analysis of information in those records. Senate Bill 17-040 heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk after passing the House on a 39-26 vote and then repassing the Senate unanimously, all on the last day of the 2017 legislative session.

– Colorado News Connection

Immigrant Issues

Feds Grant Jeanette Vizguerra, Arturo Hernandez Garcia Stays of Deportation

May 2017 - Jeanette Vizguerra, the mother of four who took sanctuary in a Denver church in February to avoid immigration authorities, will now be able to walk free after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Thursday granted her a stay of deportation until 2019. Vizguerra and Arturo Hernandez Garcia, the man who had previously sought sanctuary in a Denver church and was recently arrested by ICE agents, had gotten a nearly 2-year deportation stay.

– Colorado News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

Senate Rejects Repeal of Methane Waste Rule

May 2017 - Three Republicans joined Senate Democrats on Wednesday to reject an effort to overturn an Obama administration rule limiting methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling. Only 49 senators voted to move forward with debate on legislation to undo the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule, short of the 51 votes needed. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined all 48 members of the Democratic caucus in rejecting the resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

– All News Services

Budget Policy & Priorities

Some Bright Spots in Controversial Budget

May 2017 - Nebraska lawmakers closed a budget shortfall that had topped $1 billion. While the budget cuts some state funding, it boosts spending on K-12 schools and the troubled Corrections Department and pays for a 75 million dollar prison expansion.

– Nebraska News Connection

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

Bill Passes Eliminating Fingerprint Requirements for Food Stamps

May 2017 - House Bill 2091, which waives the fingerprint requirement for food-stamp eligibility. The bill had faltered last week, when it was not included in the state budget, but was revived as supporters successfully argued it would save the state $3 million. "They've had six people caught in six years," said Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa. "It's a waste of money."

– Arizona News Connection

Criminal Justice

Defense Lawyers Challenge Law Limiting Contact with Crime Victims

May 2017 - A coalition of individuals who provide criminal defense counsel to the accused in Arizona filed a federal lawsuit today to block the enforcement of a statute that restricts their constitutionally protected freedom of speech. The challenged law prohibits criminal defense lawyers and other people working on the defense team from speaking to the victim of a crime without using the prosecutor's office as a conduit for the communication. If the crime victim was killed or incapacitated, the communication ban extends to close relatives of the victim. No other state has a similar statute.

– Arizona News Connection

Housing/Homelessness

CT Dedicates $10.7 M to Support the Development of Affordable Housing in Six Connecticut Communities

May 2017 - Nearly $10.7 million in funding has been approved by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority Board of Directors to support the development of seven affordable housing projects in six Connecticut communities. Funding comes through federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program, which is administered by CHFA.

– Connecticut News Service

Water

State Sets Aside $87 Million for Water Quality Improvement Projects Across NY

May 2017 - The has designated $87M for grants to be made available to municipalities and not-for-profit corporations for water quality improvement projects. The program provides grants for projects that improve water quality, protect drinking water sources, reduce polluted runoff, and restore habitats in New York's waterbodies. The grants are administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and made available through Governor Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

– New York News Connection

Smoking Prevention

Bill Would Close Exemptions in PA Smoke-Free Law

May 2017 - A bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to close loop holes in the state's Clean Indoor Air Act. The current law allows some bars, restaurants and other public places to permit smoking, raising the risk of cancer and other impacts of secondhand smoke to employees and nonsmoking patrons.

– Keystone State News Connection

Water

Nestle Water Grab Halted

May 2017 - The Osceola County planning commission denied a permit application from Nestle which would have allowed the company to pump millions of gallons of freshwater from the area for just $200.

– Michigan News Connection

Energy Policy

Legislature Approves Amendment 4

May 2017 - The Florida Legislature has officially approved a bill to implement the pro-solar Amendment 4, which voters overwhelmingly passed with 73% of the vote on the August 2016 primary ballot. The bill, S.B.90, is slated to reduce tax barriers for Floridians who want to go solar while also ensuring proper consumer protections are in place.

– Florida News Connection

Hunger/Food/Nutrition

New Food-Waste Law Aims to Address Hunger in Kentucky

May 2017 - A new Kentucky law will help ensure still-fresh food is given to people who need it instead of ending up in a landfill. House Bill 237 establishes enhanced immunity from liability for donors of food to nonprofit organizations.

– Kentucky News Connection

Livable Wages/Working Families

Nursing Home Strike Averted

May 2017 - Nursing home workers have reached a tentative agreement with nursing home owners for a three-year contract, averting the largest nursing home strike in history.

– Illinois News Connection

Energy Policy

NM Teams Compete to Bring Solar Power to Underserved Communities

May 2017 - New Mexico has moved from 16th to 15th in the country for providing solar and is on the increase, still.

– New Mexico News Connection

Criminal Justice

Governor Wolf "Bans the Box" on State Employee Applications

May 2017 - Governor Tom Wolf announced the implementation of a Fair-Chance hiring policy for state agencies that will remove the criminal conviction question, otherwise known as "banning the box", from non-civil service employment applications for agencies under the governor's jurisdiction. The new policy will be effective July 1, 2017 for non-civil service applicants. The Office of Administration will provide guidance and training to agencies prior to the implementation of the policy, and anticipates that the policy will be applied to civil service applicants by December 2017.

– Keystone State News Connection

Climate Change/Air Quality

NM Teams Compete to Bring Solar Power to Underserved Communities

May 2017 - Six teams in New Mexico are participating in the Solar in Your Community Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. They're coming up with business models that would enable lower-income neighborhoods and nonprofit groups to convert to renewable energy.

– New Mexico News Connection

Criminal Justice

Family Sentencing Alternative Passes through the Oregon House

May 2017 - The Family Sentencing Alternative, HB 3380, which allows pregnant women to be included in sentencing alternative programs, passed the house. The bill now moves to the state Senate.

– Oregon News Service

Endangered Species & Wildlife

Two Big Retailers Phasing Out Neonicotinoids

May 2017 - Walmart and True Value decided to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides. True Value will phase them out by Spring of 2018, Walmart says the bee killing pesticides aren't being sold in at least 80 percent of it's plants.

– All News Services

Environment

True Value and Walmart to Phase Out Bee-Killing Pesticides

May 2017 - Walmart and True Value have announced they will phase out pesticides that kill bees and have led to a decline in bees' numbers. The retailers said that will stop selling neonicotinoids and plans treated with the hazardous chemical.

– All News Services

Public Lands/Wilderness

Governor Brown Moves to Protect Oregon's First State Forest

May 2017 - Governor Kate Brown released a plan today to protect Elliott State Forest as public lands. The plan removes a section of the forest from its obligation to provide timber revenue for state schools, allowing the land to be preserved.

– Oregon News Service

Gun Violence Prevention

Bill to Restrict Guns from People Convicted of Hate Crimes Passes Assembly

May 2017 - With bipartisan support, the California Assembly passed The Disarm Hate Act, to keep guns out of the hands of people convicted of hate crimes. AB 785 by Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D, Los Angeles). Existing California law prohibits people convicted of violent crimes like assault or battery from owning guns for ten years, but that same statute does not apply to violent hate crime convictions. Those convicted of a violent hate crime get to keep their guns. This bill changes that.

– California News Service

Energy Policy

Idaho Power to Close Coal Plants Early

May 2017 - Idaho Power has announced it will close two coal plants at Nevada's North Valmy Generating Station early. Units 1 and 2, originally set to close in 2031 and 2035, will close in 2019 and 2025, respectively.

– Northern Rockies News Service

Education

Legislation Investing $25.8B in High-Quality Education Signed

May 2017 - Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed new legislation that boosts education aid by $1.1 billion, including a $700 million increase in Foundation Aid. The investment builds on efforts to strengthening educational outcomes, including an increase in education aid of $6.2 billion, or 32 percent, over the last six years.

– New York News Connection

Health Issues

Prescription Drug Price Bills Pending

May 2017 - Maine lawmakers are considering a pair of bills that would lower the cost of prescription drugs by requiring state agencies to pay the same or lower prices than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The measures are LD 655 and LD 652,

– Maine News Service

Welfare Reform

MN Families Receive a Small Boost

May 2017 - The Health and Human Services Conference Committee bill draft includes a $13 per month increase in cash assistance for families participating in the state Family Investment Program.

– Minnesota News Connection

LGBTQIA Issues

CT House Approves Ban on Gay "Conversion Therapy"

May 2017 - The Connecticut House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a bill to ban so-called gay "conversion therapy" in the state. Final passage would make Connecticut the seventh state in the nation to ban the long-discredited practice that claims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

– Connecticut News Service

Criminal Justice

Federal Court Certifies Lawsuit Over Unconstitutional Prison Healthcare

May 2017 - A federal judge has ruled that long-standing problems with the medical and dental care provided in Illinois' state prisons must be addressed systemically, rather than relying on individual challenges from prisoners.

– Illinois News Connection

Education

NC Protects Specialist Teachers For At Least One Year

May 2017 - Gov. Roy Cooper wasted no time in signing a compromise bill approved Thursday by the N.C. General Assembly that, at least for one year, staves off thousands of lost teaching positions in the early grades. House Bill 13 was approved after a roughly two-month standoff over legislative Republicans' demand that North Carolina schools cut class sizes in K-3. Lawmakers are heeding research suggesting the positive effects of smaller classes in the early grades, but district leaders complained that, without additional state funding, many local school leaders would be forced to lay off arts and physical education teachers in the early grades to find the cash for more core subject elementary teachers.

– North Carolina News Service

Rural/Farming

Wisconsin Dairy Crisis Averted

May 2017 - Just before the May 1 deadline, several Wisconsin milk processors made agreements with 75 Wisconsin dairy farms to process their milk, totaling nearly a million pounds of milk per day. The dairy farmers were left in a lurch when a major Canadian processor told the farmers it would no longer take their milk after April 30. PNS/Wisconsin News Connection ran stories describing the problem. State and Federal authorities took action to find a solution, and just prior to the deadline all 75 farms affected were able to secure contracts for their milk production.

– Wisconsin News Connection

Education

Education Advocates Sue for More Funding

May 2017 - Four Arizona public school districts and education advocates filed a lawsuit Monday against the State of Arizona and the School Facilities Board for inadequate capital funding after lawmakers cut $2 billion since 2009 from the funds schools use to maintain buildings, buses, textbooks and technology to balance the state budget.

– Arizona News Connection

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault

Court Rules a Pencil is Not a Weapon

May 2017 - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of a girl who was expelled from school for possession of a "weapon" after she used a pencil to scratch a boy who had sexually assaulted her. The ruling means schools will need to adjust practices that have used a zero-tolerance policy on weapons in schools to expel students for an entire year for incidents involving objects that are not typically considered weapons.

– Keystone State News Connection

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