States Open Wallets, Tackle Big Agendas
By Kavan Peterson, Staff Writer, and Stateline.org Staff
More than half of state legislatures have completed their work for 2006 24 states of the 44 holding regular legislative sessions this year. A review of their work shows that years of belt-tightening in the first half of this decade have given way to modest tax cuts and extra spending, particularly on education, in several though not all the states.
Wyoming, Utah and Washington State grappled with the enviable problem of what to do with projected surpluses of about $1 billion or more. Florida used surplus funds to slash taxes by $400 million. Illinois lawmakers approved $135 million proposal from the governor to create the nations first statewide preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Illinois also banned cigarettes from college dorms and adopted a law allowing only self-extinguishing cigarettes to be sold in the state. Colorado became the 13th state to ban smoking statewide.
Bucking a national trend to ban same-sex marriage, Colorado lawmakers put on the November ballot a proposal that would give same-sex couples most of the rights of marriage. Nineteen states have adopted constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and voters in seven more states are considering similar measures in 2006.
South Dakota grabbed headlines by adopting a ban on almost all abortions, laying the groundwork for a case many hope could lead the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Hawaii lawmakers on May 5 repealed the nations only cap on wholesale gasoline prices, which was put in place after gas prices skyrocketed post-Hurricane Katrina in September.
In another first, the Maryland Legislature took aim at the nations largest employer Wal-Mart and overrode Gov. Robert Ehrlichs veto to enact a first-in-the-nation law requiring large employers to spend a certain amount on employee health benefits.
For more information on individual states, visit http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=137&languageId=1&contentId=115486