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Mississippi legislators on Tuesday took up and quickly passed a controversial religious freedom bill that could allow state residents to sue over laws they say place a substantial burden on their religious practices.
Raising the wage to $10.10 an hour is one of the top agenda items for Obama and his fellow Democrats during this mid-term election year. The White House says the move would put more money in the pockets of some 28 million workers. One test of that strategy will be in Arkansas, where proponents are trying to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot in November.
Thursday, April 3, 2014

Next steps for states and ACA

Like other states that opted to run their own exchange, Colorado spent several years and hundreds of millions in federal dollars to create an insurance marketplace specifically tailored for Coloradans. As of April 1, Colorado signed up 119,000 people for commercial insurance and state officials are already working on improvements for next year's enrollment period.
With the first open enrollment period set to end Monday, six months after its troubled online exchanges opened for business, the program widely known as Obamacare looks less like a sweeping federal overhaul than a collection of individual ventures playing out unevenly, state to state, in the laboratories of democracy.
Sooner or later, consumers will be able to buy cars that rely on computers -- not the owner -- to do the driving. With that in mind, the California Department of Motor Vehicles held an initial public hearing Tuesday as it puzzles through how to regulate the public's use of the technology that is still being tested.
An effort in Congress to modernize a patchwork system of state and federal laws governing chemical safety is generating debate between a bipartisan group of state legislators who say the update would rob states of the ability to regulate sometimes toxic substances within their own borders and businesses who say they need regulatory certainty to grow jobs and the economy.
As retiree health care costs soar, state and local governments would be wise to shift more of the burden to the federal government as they try to get a handle on their growing liabilities. Growing health care liabilities pose an increasing credit risk for many municipal governments. States alone listed a total of more than $530 billion in unfunded "other post-retirement benefits" (OPEB) liabilities in 2012.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has signed into law a bill designed to give military homeowners a tax break on homes they couldn't sell before being deployed. Haley signed the bill last week.
Anyone who sells electronic cigarettes — also known as "e-cigarettes" — to minors could be fined up to $200 for the first offense, $350 dollars for the second offense within 18 months and $500 for each subsequent offense within 18 months. The same bill would also increase the fines for vendors who sell cigarettes out of their original packages.
More than two dozen attorneys general sent letters on Sunday to five of the country's largest retailers, encouraging them to stop selling tobacco products in stores that also have pharmacies, which would follow the example CVS Caremark set with its announcement earlier this year that it would stop selling such products in its drugstores. The letters were sent to Rite Aid, Walgreen, Kroger, Safeway and Walmart, five companies that are among the biggest pharmacy retailers in the country.