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State Legislature

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The Alaska Legislature in the waning hours of a four-month session has approved a state spending package. The budget includes payments to residents of about $3,200 this year after a vote that would have boosted the payout to about $3,850 narrowly failed in the House. The approved amount would be among the largest paid to residents. The debate over the payments came as state officials forecast higher-than-expected revenues, spurred by high oil prices. But Alaskans are being hurt economically by high costs of fuel, food and other goods. The House and Senate ended the regular session early Thursday morning, minutes after midnight.

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Both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature are proposing new plans to cut taxes but remain at odds over the scope and immediacy of any relief. The Democratic governor called for a one-time $500 rebate for “working families,” adding to her earlier proposals to gradually repeal a tax on retirement income and fully restore a credit for lower-wage earners. Republican lawmakers quickly passed sweeping legislation Thursday that would permanently reduce the state income tax and include other tax cuts. Whitmer is likely to veto it, contending it is fiscally irresponsible.

Legislation to establish a state-run marijuana industry in Delaware has again failed to clear the state House. The Democrat-controlled chamber voted 23-15 on Thursday to approve the bill, which fell two votes short of the required supermajority. The proposal requires a three-fifths majority because it creates a new tax, consisting of a 15% levy on retail marijuana sales. Thursday’s vote came two months after a similar measure failed in the House on a 23-14 vote. It also came just hours after Democratic Gov. John Carney’s office received a companion bill that legalizes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults for recreational use.  Carney has said he opposes legalization, without which a state-run pot industry is a moot issue.

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Abortion providers in Oklahoma say they will no longer provide the service in the state after the governor signs the latest anti-abortion measure heading to his desk. The bill passed Thursday is part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to scale back abortion rights. The bill would prohibit all abortions, except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement. It now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it.

The Oklahoma Legislature has approved a bill requiring public school students to use only the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. The bill passed the state Senate Thursday on 38-7 vote, then cleared the House by a 69-14 margin. It now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign the legislation. Supporters said the bill is about common sense and calls for separate multi-use bathrooms. Opponents argued that it targets transgender students who want to use bathrooms where they feel comfortable. The bill was proposed after Stillwater Public Schools declined to change a policy allowing students to use the bathroom that agrees with their gender identity.

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An effort to ban “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ youth has won a majority in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate. But it didn't get enough votes on a procedural maneuver to advance. With little advance warning, Democratic Sen. Scott Dibble, of Minneapolis, tried Thursday to pull his bill out of a committee, where it has languished for two years without a hearing, and tee it up for a Senate floor vote. The vote was 34-31 but was short of the 41 votes needed under Senate rules. Dibble says he's encouraged that supporters have shown there are enough votes to pass a ban. Conversion therapy is a scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations.

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A proposal to legalize sports betting has survived a test amid lawmakers’ efforts to pull together the pieces of a package to spend the Minnesota’s enormous budget surplus with just days remaining in the legislative session. But lawmakers remain divided on whether trial casinos should have exclusive rights to offer sports betting on mobile devices and in-person. Several other House-Senate conference committees are still working through the details bills to parcel out the state’s $9.25 billion budget surplus. Some committees, like public safety, remain far apart from reaching agreements.

The Louisiana House has granted final legislative passage to a $39 billion state operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The vote to accept various Senate changes to the bill was 88-7. The House vote came despite complaints from some lawmakers that they had too little time to review the budget just a day after it was quickly adopted in the Senate. And there were gripes that a $1,500 teacher pay raise was too little. Gov. John Bel Edwards gets the measure next. He can veto any individual line items he disagrees with.

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Vote counting in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate has dragged into a third day as Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick remain essentially tied with tens of thousands of ballots left to tally. Oz led McCormick by 1,122 votes as of Thursday evening. The race remains close enough to trigger Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law, and Oz’s margin has narrowed. Pennsylvania’s Department of State, which oversees elections, says there are about 38,000 mail-in and absentee ballots — 8,700 in the Republican primary — left to be counted. Oz and McCormick each have said they believe victory is near.

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Alabama’s Republican primary has become a race to the right, with candidates staking out extreme positions on abortion, immigration and LGBTQ issues. The race was supposed to be a cake walk for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey _ who remains favored to win a second term — but right flank challengers are trying to make it a referendum on conservative credentials and push the Alabama governor into a runoff.

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Changes to Michigan's crime victim compensation fund to help more applicants get access to funds to pay for medical bills and funeral costs after a crime have been signed into law by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Under the law signed Thursday by the Democratic governor, the maximum claimants can get from the fund after a crime increased from $25,000 to $45,000. Reimbursements for funeral expenses increased from $5,000 to $8,000. The Alliance for Safety and Justice says Michigan ranks worst in application rates from crime victims and their survivors applying for state crime victim compensation funds, in large part due to barriers for eligibility in the state law. The changes go into effect in August, 2024.

A power outage in Sacramento that left much of the city's downtown area in the dark delayed the start of California's Legislature. Utility crews worked Thursday to replace a transformer and the outage delayed legislators from starting work for about half an hour. The Sacramento Municipal Utilities District reported 650 customers were lost power on Thursday, but that figure likely represents thousands of people because multiple high-rise office buildings and the state Capitol were impacted. Many downtown traffic lights went dark and power was restored by late morning.

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House lawmakers have approved a symbolic resolution calling for the restoration of the Ohio State University's football team's 2010 season that was vacated after a memorabilia-for-cash scandal. The resolution sponsored by Rep. Brian Stewart, an Ohio State graduate, calls on the NCAA to reinstate the team's 2010 record and wins. The season was vacated following revelations that players in 2009 and 2010 accepted cash and free or discounted tattoos from a Columbus tattoo parlor owner and also traded memorabilia like championship rings for cash. Stewart notes that the NCAA now allows players to be compensated for use of their name, image and likeness.

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The Alaska Legislature has approved a state spending package that would pay residents about $3,200 this year after a vote that would have boosted the payout to an estimated $3,850 narrowly failed in the House. A tentative budget agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators called for a dividend from the earnings of the state’s oil-wealth fund of about $2,500 this year, plus a $1,300 “energy relief” check. But the proposal called for half the funding for the energy checks to come from a budget reserve account that requires three-fourths support in both the House and Senate for it to be tapped. The Senate achieved that threshold but the House did not.

New Mexico is delivering the first in a series of direct payments to the state's adult residents to offset higher consumer costs brought on by inflation. Individual taxpayers who receive direct deposit rebates are scheduled to receive $250 as early as Thursday and couples are set to get $500. Checks for another 200,000 taxpayers will arrive in the mail in coming weeks. The payments are among $1.1 billion in tax relief and payouts authorized by state lawmakers. High fuel prices are hurting household finances as New Mexico's state government benefits financially from record-setting oil production in the Permian Basin.

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Heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick are locked in a too-early-to-call race for the Republican nomination to fill an open Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat. Vote counting continued Wednesday. Some counties have yet to tabulate election-day and mail-in ballots in the presidential battleground state. Meanwhile, counting of provisional, overseas and military absentee ballots could last past Friday. The race remains close enough to trigger Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law. Oz has been helped by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination as he recovered from a stroke he suffered Friday.

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Oregon’s November gubernatorial election, which is usually a one-sided victory for the Democratic party, is setting up to be a competitive and contentious three-way race. Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek won the Democratic nomination for Oregon governor on Tuesday. In November she will face former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, who won the GOP gubernatorial primary, as well as nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson. As a nonaffiliated candidate, Johnson did not need to run in a primary race to make the fall ballot.

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Issues with counting ballots in Oregon’s third-largest county could delay for days a definitive result in a key U.S. House primary. Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader faces a strong challenge from progressive candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Schrader was trailing in early returns Tuesday in the 5th District race. It was too close to call in part because of a printing issue with tens of thousands of ballots in Clackamas County. Meanwhile a cryptocurrency billionaire-backed political newcomer conceded to a state lawmaker in Oregon’s new 6th District, which was one of the nation’s most expensive Democratic congressional primaries.

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Delaware lawmakers are considering legislation to prohibit local school boards from taking advantage of property reassessments to increase school district taxes. Current law says that if a county conducts a general reassessment of real estate values, each school board must calculate a new tax rate that would allow no more than a 10% increase in school property tax revenue compared to the previous fiscal year. A bill discussed Wednesday by the House Education Committee would strike that language. That means school districts would be prohibited from realizing any increase in school property taxes as the result of reassessments underway in all three counties.

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A $39 billion state operating budget that seeks teacher pay raises and a down payment on a proposed $2.5 billioin bridge across the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge has won state Senate approval. The budget passed the Senaet 38-0 on Wednesday with little discussion. The House-passed bill must now go back to the state House for approval of Senate changes. Officials said the bill seeks a $1,500 annual raise for teachers and a $750 raise for school support personnel. It also would direct $300 million toward the proposed Baton Rouge bridge.

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has signed new U.S. House districts into law to be used beginning with this year's elections. The new districts are expected to continue Republicans' 6-2 advantage over Democrats in the state's congressional delegation. The plan attempts to shore up Republican strength in the 2nd District in suburban St. Louis — the only relatively competitive district. Missouri is one of the final few states to enact new congressional districts based on the 2020 census. That's because Republicans who control the Legislature had squabbled among themselves over how aggressively to try to draw the map in their favor.

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Democrat nominee Morgan McGarvey will have to wait to find out who he will face in the Louisville-area congressional district race. Two Republicans are locked in a close primary contest. McGarvey, the Kentucky Senate’s highest-ranking Democrat, defeated state Rep. Attica Scott in Tuesday’s primary. Republican businessman Stuart Ray and former GOP nominee Rhonda Palazzo were leading a field of seven GOP candidates in that district. Palazzo says she will ask for a recanvass of the close race. The state’s five Republican U.S. House incumbents secured the GOP nomination in Tuesday’s primary.

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says he's concerned about a one-time tax credit lawmakers passed this year. The Republican told reporters Wednesday that he doesn't like that not all Missourians would get a tax break. The bill calls for up to a $500 nonrefundable tax credit for single workers and a maximum of $1,500 for married couples filing jointly. The refunds would go only to individuals earning less than $150,000 and couples making less than $300,000 annually. Parson says he would rather cut taxes for all Missourians. He has until mid-July to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

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The county clerk for Idaho's largest county has won the GOP primary for secretary of state by defeating two candidates who denied former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane defeated state Rep. Dorothy Moon and state Sen. Mary Souza in a race called Wednesday following voting in Tuesday’s primary. McGrane had the backing of Idaho establishment Republicans, including Gov. Brad Little and former Govs. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Phil Batt and Dirk Kempthorne.

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Several state legislators won’t be returning to the North Carolina General Assembly next January after primary losses on Tuesday. And former lawmakers trying to get back to the House or Senate had mixed results. Seven incumbents lost in primaries for seats in their current chamber. And two current House members lost Senate primaries. Those who failed to win include Sen. Deanna Ballard of Watauga County and Reps. Jamie Boles of Moore County and David Rogers of Rutherford County. Several primary races involved pairs of Republican incumbents drawn together by redistricting. At least five former lawmakers won legislative primaries.

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