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New York Chief Judge Johnathan Lippman has introduced legislation aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in grand jury proceedings in the aftermath of high-profile police shootings that resulted in no indictments.  The legislation would compel courts to release court documents related to the proceedings, would require judges to be physically present in hearings, and require the specific charges to be disclosed.
Tennessee lawmakers will be voting on the possibility of in-state tuition for undocumented children in an effort to increase the number of Tennessee residents with a college education.  Proposed legislation will require undocumented children to have spent three years in a Tennessee school, graduated from a Tennessee high school, and be applying for citizenship in order to be eligible for in-state tuition. 
Mayor Michael Nutter signed paid sick leave into law requiring businesses with ten or more employees to give them at least 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.  The measure will benefit up to 20,000 Philly residents.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hutchinson Unveils Prison Plan

Governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson discussed his three-point plan aimed at reducing the prison population.  The plan includes hiring new parole and probation officers, creating the state’s first transitional reentry center program, which would provide former offenders work training, and creating alternative sentencing programs for nonviolent offenders.  The proposed plan will cost about $32 million in the first 2 years.
States such as Hawaii, Rhode Island and even the District of Columbia are developing ways to keep their state-run exchanges operating.  The federal funds that were first available when the exchanges opened were are no longer available to be used for operating.  For states with their own exchanges, their main source of funding comes from fees paid by insurers but states are also counting on being able to use some of their general funds to keep their exchanges functioning.
Kansas Governor Sam Browback has repealed employee protections for LGBT citizens citing the executive orders the protections come from then-governor, Kathleen Sebelius, were outside of the scope of her authority.  Additionally, the legislature should be the only one to be able to provide these protections.  As a result, employees can be legally fired, harassed or denied a job for being gay or transgender.
The governor of Illinois recently filed an executive order preventing state workers from being forced to pay union fees that support collective bargaining.  Governor Rauner also filed a preemptive federal lawsuit in anticipation of the backlash. 
Despite the United States Supreme Court denying Alabama’s same sex marriage ban request, effectively making same sex marriage legal in the states, state and local judges have been refusing to grant marriages to gay couples. 
Notwithstanding Medicaid expansion would provide health care coverage to 17,600 people in Wyoming, bring in more than $100 million a year in new federal funds and increase the workforce, the Senate defeated a bill that would’ve expanded the program, ending any hope of expansion for this year.  Some legislators argued that expanding Medicaid would contribute to federal debt; others expressed a lack of trust in the federal government continuing to provide funds.
Newly elected Governor Tom Wolf has scrapped his predecessor’s Medicaid expansion plan and is developing a new one to better meet the needs of PA residents.