Best of #StateReads: Washington State Loses Women and Latino Lawmakers
Nov 28, 2012 (Stateline.org - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
This week's collection of #StateReads highlights the decline of women and Latino state lawmakers in Olympia, explores the problems that emerged from New Jersey's experiment with Internet voting and explains how much more difficult it will be for Texas' Rio Grande Valley to get a medical school than it was for Austin.
These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"In contrast to Congress, diversity diminishes in Washington Legislature" --The Seattle Times
The number of women and Latinos in the Washington State Legislature will decline next year, even as both groups are making gains in Congress and are holding steady in other statehouses, writes Brian Rosenthal (@brianmrosenthal). The number of black and Native American lawmakers is also down from their peaks in Olympia, while the number of gays and Asian Americans stayed level. All told, Rosenthal reports, nearly two-thirds of state legislators will be white males, their highest proportion in 20 years. But Rosenthal also pointed out that Washington had "further to fall than most states" in female representation. It currently has the sixth-highest percentage of women lawmakers among states, although that rank will fall once the new class of lawmakers is sworn in.
"New Jersey email voting a casualty in Sandy's wake" --Politico
Election officials are learning a lot from New Jersey's last-minute decision to accept ballots via email to accommodate residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy. But most of those lessons are about how not to conduct elections via the Internet, reports Steve Friess (@SteveFriess). "The problems that arose -- confusing rules, a laborious verification process and an ongoing tabulation headache -- could invalidate many of the more than 10,000 ballots from people who believe they voted electronically," Friess writes. Voters who chose to vote online also were required to send their ballots through the mail, a fact few knew. That means the state must choose between throwing out unaccompanied email ballots or facing lawsuits for not preserving the integrity of the voting process.
"For South Texas, no easy road to medical school" --The Texas Tribune
In the second part of the Tribune's series "Making a med school," Emily Ramshaw (@eramshaw) reports on how a decision by the University of Texas to build a medical school at its flagship Austin campus has discouraged residents in the Rio Grande Valley who have been waiting for years for the university to build a medical school there. The region has half the doctors per person as the national average, and the doctors it does have are aging and nearing retirement. But building a medical school there could be a tough task, Ramshaw writes. "South Texas health leaders," she explains, "must persuade hospitals to finance 120 residency slots, get local voters in the impoverished region to sign off on a taxing district, and -- the toughest but most critical sell -- ask the cash-strapped Texas Legislature to provide an additional $20 million a year."
"Missouri lawmakers seek to curb secret money in politics" --Kansas City Star
A bipartisan group of Missouri lawmakers want to strengthen the state's campaign finance laws so voters can track donors who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in statewide and legislative elections, reports Jason Hancock (@J_Hancock). Republicans in the legislature overturned contribution limits in 2008, and big donors pumped more than $600,000 into a handful of state races this year, Hancock explains. They used nonprofit organizations to mask their identities. Despite the recent push for transparency, campaign finance legislation could be difficult to pass next year, which is why some advocates are pushing for a ballot initiative.
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