TIME States

8 States Revving Up Efforts to Get More Electric Cars on the Road

Volkswagen e-up! electric automobiles.
Volkswagen e-up! electric automobiles. Adam Berry—Getty Images

The goal is to have 3.3 million "zero-emission vehicles" on the road by 2025.

Eights states announced Thursday a plan to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. From California to Maryland to Vermont, with some states in between, the goal is to incrementally increase the number of green cars driving on American highways.

The Zero Emission Vehicles Action plan outlines 11 “actions” that the eight states, including California, Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, Oregon, and Massachusetts, will adopt in order to get the vehicles on the road. The steps include promoting the availability of zero-emission vehicles, promoting workplace charging and providing consumer incentives for buying green cars.

“This collaborative effort is an important step forward to ensure the success of our zero-emission vehicle programs. Transitioning our light duty transportation fleet to zero emission vehicles is essential if we are to achieve our long term air quality and climate goals,” said Gov. O’Malley in a statement.

About a quarter of the nation’s new cars are sold in the eight states adopting the plan, according to a press release on Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s website. Still, it’s a lofty goal, given the lack of demand in the U.S. for zero-emission vehicles, which include battery powered, hybrid, and hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles. There are about 172,000 such vehicles already on the road, about half of which are in the eight states involved in the new plan.

TIME Unions

5 States With the Absolute Toughest Unions

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Tetra Images—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

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This post is in partnership with 24/7Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247wallst.com.

The percentage of American workers in unions remained effectively unchanged last year. This marks a departure from the nation’s long-term trend. In the past 30 years, union membership has dropped from 20.1% of the workforce in 1983 to 11.2% last year.

Despite this long running decline, some states remain union strongholds, while others have almost no union presence. In New York, Alaska and Hawaii, more than 22% of workers were union members last year. Conversely, in five states, less than 4% of all employees were union members.

A number of factors help determine whether unions have a significant or negligible presence in a state, including industry composition, labor laws and political atmosphere. Based on data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and calculations by Unionstats.com, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the highest and lowest shares of workers who are union members.

With the addition of Michigan in 2012, nearly half of all states have so-called “right to work” laws. These laws prohibit employers from requiring union membership as a prerequisite for employment. As a result, employees often elect not to pay union fees. All 10 of the states with the lowest proportional union membership have right to work laws. Conversely, just two of the 10 states with the highest rates of union membership — Michigan and Nevada — have such laws.

MORE: 10 Companies Paying Americans the Least

However, according to an email from Unionstats founder Barry Hirsch, while these laws can weaken a union’s financial base, the impact may be smaller than some suggest. “Right to work is important symbolically as a sign of a pro-business [or] anti-union environment,” Hirsch added.

The number of union workers in a state depends in large part on the representation of government employees. Although the public sector is far smaller than the private sector in terms of total employment, public sector workers are far more likely to be members of a union. Nationwide, more than 35% of public sector employees — which include teachers, firefighters, police officers and postal workers — were union members last year.

As a result, states where public employees were more likely to be in unions had higher rates of overall union representation. In New York, the nation’s most unionized state, 70% of public sector employees were union members, the highest percentage in the nation. By contrast, in North Carolina, the nation’s least unionized state, slightly less than 10% were union members.

In contrast to the public sector, unions are far less prevalent in the private sector, where just 6.7% of the workforce was unionized. However, because the private sector is far larger, it still accounts for a large share of union membership. In fact, most of the top 10 states for overall membership were also among the top 10 for percentage of private sector workers who were union members.

In recent decades, the private sector has accounted for the majority of the decline in the union workforce, while the share of public sector workers in unions has remained relatively constant, Hirsch wrote. “Public sector members now account for half of all members despite being only [one-sixth] of the workforce,” he added.

Often, high levels of union membership in a state were due to the presence of industries where unions traditionally held considerable influence, most notably construction and manufacturing. As of 2013, 14% of all construction sector workers, and 10% of all manufacturing workers, were union members.

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In the past decade, the share of private sector workers in unions fell in all but a handful of states. From 2003 to 2013, the number of private sector union members dropped by more than 1 million, from just less than 8.5 million to 7.3 million. In the same time, manufacturing union membership slipped by 34%, from just under 2.2 million to 1.4 million.

In addition to sector composition, Hirsch also noted that history played a role in determining unionization rates. “States that historically had high unionization in manufacturing are now more likely to have high unionized hospitals and grocery stores, and vice-versa,” he explained. In turn, when young workers have not been exposed to unions through friends and family members, “these workers are far less likely to support union organizing.”

Based on figures published by Unionstats.com, an online union membership and coverage database, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the highest and lowest union membership as a percentage of total employment. The database, which analyzes Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Current Population Survey, provides labor force numbers and union membership in both the public and private sector, including manufacturing and construction. Additionally, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed annual average unemployment rates for each state from the BLS, as well as income and poverty data from the 2012 American Community Survey, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.

These are the states with the strongest unions:

1. New York
> Pct. of workers in unions: 24.3%
> Union workers: 1,982,771 (2nd highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 2.4% (14th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 8,144,204 (3rd highest)

Nearly one-quarter of New York’s workers — close to 2 million people — were union members in 2013, the highest percentage in the country. Union representation was relatively strong both in the private sector and in government jobs. In the private sector, 15.1% of workers were union members, the highest percentage in the country. Nearly 70% of public sector workers belonged to unions, the highest percentage in the country. However, even in New York, unions have been forced to make concessions so that their members could keep their jobs. In 2011, the state struck a deal with New York’s largest public employees union, the Civil Service Employees Association, to freeze wages in order to avoid mass layoffs.

2. Alaska
> Pct. of workers in unions: 23.1%
> Union workers: 70,692 (16th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 19.6% (3rd highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 306,322 (3rd lowest)

More than 23% of Alaska’s relatively small workforce, or 70,692 workers, were union members in 2013, more than in any state except for New York. Additionally, more than one in 10 private sector workers were union members, among the higher rates in the nation. Unlike many highly unionized states, union membership increased in Alaska — by nearly 20% — between 2003 and 2013. This was the third largest increase in union members among all states. Membership across the nation, by contrast, fell by 8% over that time. Alaska residents had among the nation’s highest incomes as of 2012, when a typical household earning more than $67,000. Also, just slightly more than 10% of people lived below the poverty line that year, among the lowest in the country.

3. Hawaii
> Pct. of workers in unions: 22.1%
> Union workers: 121,357 (23rd lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -0.3% (18th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 549,219 (9th lowest)

As is the case in many states with strong union membership, a large proportion of Hawaii’s manufacturing workers — 18.3% — were union members as of last year, more than in all but two other states. More than 32% of private construction workers were also union members, among the highest percentages nationwide in 2013. By many measures, Hawaii is a good place to work, with high median incomes and low unemployment helping to offset the state’s exceptionally high cost of living last year. A typical household made more than $66,000 in 2012, more than in all but a handful of states. And the unemployment rate was just 4.8% last year, also among the best rates.

4. Washington
> Pct. of workers in unions: 18.9%
> Union workers: 544,986 (8th highest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: 8.7% (8th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 2,880,935 (14th highest)

Washington’s total employment rose by nearly 104,000 workers, or 3.6%, between 2012 and 2013, one of the highest increases in the country. Washington is one of the most unionized states in the private sector, with 11.7% of all employees union members. Nearly one-quarter of the state’s private construction workers were union members in 2013, among the highest in the country. Similarly, 24.2% of all manufacturing workers held union membership, the most in the nation. There were 52,000 fewer public sector employees in 2013 than in 2012, as the state continued to follow through on the budget cuts it initiated during the recession. Despite this, union membership in the public sector held steady, at more than 261,000 workers, or 57% of all public employees.

5. Rhode Island
> Pct. of workers in unions: 16.9%
> Union workers: 77,367 (18th lowest)
> 10-yr. change in union membership: -7.9% (25th highest)
> Total employment, 2013: 458,494 (8th lowest)

Like several other states with strong union presence, nearly two-thirds of Rhode Island’s public sector belonged to a union last year, second only to New York. Labor initiatives appear to be a recent priority for policy makers. The state raised its minimum wage to $8 an hour at the beginning of last year, affecting more than 10,000 workers at the time. Wages may increase even further if the labor union-backed legislation introduced in January is passed. The bill aims to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2016. While union membership may benefit many Rhode Island workers, high wages could potentially also limit new employment opportunities. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate of 9.5% last year was higher than that of any other state except for Nevada.

Visit 24/7 Wall St. to see the remaining states on the list.

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TIME States

Oklahoma Gun Range Gets Liquor License

But they ain’t the first

A new gun range set to open later this spring in Oklahoma City has been approved for a liquor license from the city council.

The 40,000-square-foot Wilshire Gun Range complex will include 24 lanes for shooting, 10 archery lanes, classrooms, a simulation room and a café that will serve food and alcohol.

“As a group we wanted to build a place, the first one in Oklahoma, where you could go in, shoot, enjoy the retail area and then go to the café,” range co-owner Jeff Swanson told local Oklahoma City news station KOKH.

Swanson told KOKH that strict rules will prohibit anyone from entering the gun range, even as a spectator, after consuming alcohol.

“Any misconceptions or joking aside, beer and bullets, guns and alcohol, they do not mix,” he said.

Swanson says he has consulted with similar ranges in California and Texas. A gun range in Georgia received a license to sell liquor to patrons in 2012.

[KOKH]

TIME States

Davis Campaign Seizes on ‘Abortion Barbie’ Posters in Texas

Once forgotten, abortion returns as an issue in Texas’ gubernatorial campaign

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis recently came upon life-sized posters of her head on a naked Barbie doll’s body, with a tiny infant doll in her stomach and a giant pair of scissors hanging ominously, and inexplicably, over a black baby doll to her side. The posters, which greeted David as she traveled to California for fundraisers last week, read: “Hollywood Welcomes Abortion Barbie Wendy Davis.” The posters were signed Sabo, a self-described conservative street artist who told the San Antonio Express-News he was paid by Kathryn Stuard for the work. Struad, a supporter of Davis’s Republican opponent Greg Abbott, confirmed this on Twitter. “I find it fascinating that my support of a talented artist is the story,” Straud wrote. “He is the story. Why hate that he expresses visually what u [sic] support.” Abbott, the Texas attorney general, disavowed the posters. “These posters are not affiliated with our campaign and we find them appalling,” Abbot spokesman Matt Hirsch said in a statement. Davis first rose to prominence for an 11-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion bill in the Texas state Senate. But abortion is not a top issue for Texas voters and Davis, trailing Abbot by 12.3 percentage points in a RealClearPolitics average of state polls has tried to focus her campaign on the economy, education and immigration. Abortion isn’t a top issue on her website.

The issue grew so cold that some Republicans accused Davis of running away from it. “There are early indications that the so-called ‘War on Women’ has run its course. Look at Wendy Davis, who catapulted to national fame a year ago on this issue of abortion,” a GOP strategist told TIME in April. “If you go on Wendy Davis’ campaign website it’s completely scrubbed of anything having to do with abortion and she now describe herself as pro-life. She has a 46% approval with women in Texas and Greg Abbott is beating her among women.” While Davis never went so far as to describe herself as pro-life, groups that favor abortion access did go after Davis for saying she’d support a ban on 20-week abortions, though she’d said even before the filibuster that that was a piece of the anti-abortion legislation she would have supported. But with the poster controversy, abortion has returned as a campaign issue with a vengeance. Davis’ campaign has sent out no less than five fundraising emails off the scandal. “We’ve had a really strong response regardless of where people stand on the issue to the poster,” Davis spokeswoman Lauren Weiner said. National women’s groups and other candidates have condemned the posters. All of which shows, there’s little candidates can do sometimes when some supporters take things too far.

TIME States

Investigators Target eBay Over Massive Data Breach

More than 100 million eBay users' account information may have been compromised in a cyberattack

Attorneys General in three U.S. states along with European officials are investigating a massive data breach at eBay which may have compromised more than 100 million users’ passwords.

“The magnitude of the reported eBay data breach could be of historic proportions, and my office is part of a group of other attorneys general in the country investigating the matter,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement Thursday.

The Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General in Illinois and Connecticut have also vowed to conduct a probe into the incident.

“My office will be looking into the circumstances surrounding this breach as well as the steps eBay is taking to prevent any future incidents,” said Connecticut Attorney General Jepsen in a statement Thursday. “However, the most important step for consumers to take right now is to change their password and to choose a strong, unique password that is not easily guessed.”

Officials in the UK have promised to investigate as well, the Guardian reports.

“We’re certainly looking at the situation,” Christopher Graham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, told the BBC. “We have to work with colleagues in Luxembourg where eBay is based for European purposes. We were in touch with the Luxembourg data protection authority yesterday.”

EBay notified users of the data breach Wednesday. The company has urged all users to change their passwords, but it said no financial data was compromised in a cyberattack that took the company weeks to detect.

Need tips on how to set a strong password? Watch the video above.

TIME medicine

Illinois House Approves Medical Cannabis for Epileptic Kids

A home-grown marijuana plant is seen at an undisclosed location in Israel
A homegrown marijuana plant is seen at an undisclosed location on Jan. 28, 2014 Baz Ratner—Reuters

Minors suffering from epilepsy should be allowed to use medical marijuana to reduce seizures, the Illinois house voted on Wednesday

Kids under 18 could be allowed to use medical marijuana after the house in Illinois expanded the state’s medical-pot law to include epileptic children.

The plan to let minors use medical marijuana passed 98-18 in the house on Wednesday and will now go back to the state’s senate. It was passed there in April but will now be reviewed as the house made an amendment stipulating that the marijuana must not be smoked.

“These people are not interested in getting high,” Democratic state representative Lou Lang, who sponsored the bill, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “These are folks that are interested in alleviating their seizures.”

The active ingredient in marijuana can help reduce the seizures of epileptic minors, parents have said.

TIME White House

Obama Designates Half-Million Acre National Monument in New Mexico

Organ Mountains-Designation
This undated photo provided by Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument shows the landscape at the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument, near Las Cruces, N.M. Lisa Mandelkern—AP

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region is now the largest national monument created during Obama's presidency

President Barack Obama Wednesday signed a proclamation turning half a million acres of land in New Mexico into a national monument protected from development.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is now the largest national monument created during Obama’s tenure in office, twice the size of what was formerly the biggest, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, also in New Mexico. The protected area, near Las Cruces, includes petroglyphs from three indigenous societies, canyons, mountains and desert grasslands, a volcanic field and a petrified forest.

Some Republicans, including Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chair of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation, criticized the move as one that will harm national security along the border with Mexico. “National Parks, monuments, and wilderness areas along our southern border have become prime drug-trafficking corridors for violent criminals and drug cartels,” Bishop said in a letter urging the president not to sign the proclamation.

The decision to bypass Congress and turn the region into a federally protected natural area by presidential proclamation fulfills a promise Obama made to do just that in the State of the Union address.

TIME justice

Conservatives Tout Criminal Justice Reform Efforts in States

Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that the federal government could stand to learn a thing or two about criminal justice reform from the states

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that conservative lawmakers are at the forefront of criminal justice reform across the country, touting both piecemeal and comprehensive efforts already in place in a handful of red states.

“Frankly we’re prepared to learn and to evolve much more than the left is,” Gingrich said during a conference hosted by Right on Crime, a conservative criminal justice reform organization. “We’re not trapped by institutions that are protecting the past.”

The conference gave conservative lawmakers and thought leaders a chance to tout their efforts on an issue whose politics used to demand tough-on-crime rhetoric and action in the days of the 1980s urban crack epidemic. Falling crime rates and concerns about the cost of prison overcrowding has changed the calculus for both parties.

In Mississippi, for example, a prison reform law that is expected to save about $266 million and cut the state prison population over the next decade was signed into law in late March. In 2012, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a sweeping reform law in an effort to reduce the state’s recidivism level. Two years later, the state saw its prison population shift to have higher proportions of violent criminals than non-violent.

While states have been moving forward on reform, the federal government has only recently gained momentum. The Senate’s bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act, which takes direct aim at mandatory minimum sentences, is considered good policy by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle but has yet to reach the Senate floor. Gingrich said that bill is only a step in the right direction.

“The federal legislatures would do very well to sit down with Mississippi, Georgia, Texas and learn what the states are already doing that is very exciting,” he said.

Even as the politics have changed, some lawmakers still fear being see as soft on crime. When the Smarter Sentencing Act—which would reduce federal mandatory minimums for some non-violent drug crimes—passed through committee, an amendment was attached adding more mandatory minimums for some sexual and domestic abuse crimes.

“I think we have an opportunity here to build on the successes in states like Texas, in states like South Dakota, and Mississippi, most recently, because we have a roadmap,” Mississippi Lt. Gov. J. Tate Reeves told TIME. “When the country was founded it was really believed that states where going to be the spaces where ideas really bubble up from, this is an instance that I believe that to be true.”

TIME States

Kentucky Residents Sue Distilleries Over Whiskey Fungus

In the French Cognac region, locals call it the "black velvet." In Kentucky, the fungus stands at the heart of a heated lawsuit

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Kentucky is usually famous for its racehorses and its legendary bourbon. But soon, it might be also known for a black fungus, which thrives in ethanol-rich environments and grows on exterior surfaces that are exposed to direct sunlight.

“When it evaporates, it wafts into the community, into the neighbors backyards, invisible, odorless,” said William McMurry, a lawyer from Louisville, Kentucky. Nearby, houses, road signs, wood fences—anything left outside for long enough—is veiled in the black growth.

Locals recently brought a class action lawsuit against distilleries to get them to control their ethanol output, AFP reports.

In 2007, researchers published a study about Baudoinia, a newly identified type of fungus, which needs water and alcohol to grow. The first stems from humidity in the air, while the second comes from the ethanol that evaporates as the bourbon matures in its oak barrels, making the area around whiskey-aging warehouses a prime breeding ground.

But the fungus is not a phenomenon unique to Kentucky. On the other side of the Atlantic—in Scotland and in France’s Cognac region—this evaporation is known as the “angels’ share.” In California, wine makers have put systems in place to capture excess ethanol.

The distilleries reject the scientific arguments implicating them. But McMurry hopes to convince them to install ethanol capture systems, similar to the ones adopted in California.

“If they’re not a good neighbor, they need to be made responsible, personally accountable like the rest of us businesses,” McMurry said.

TIME States

Minnesota Bans Antibacterial Triclosan

Liquid Soap Safety
This April 30, 2013, photo shows Dawn Ultra antibacterial soap in a kitchen in Chicago Kiichiro Sato—AP

The ban on the ingredient, which has been linked to hormone disruption in animal studies, will take effect in 2017

Minnesota is banning the germ killer triclosan, which is found in many soaps and body washes. Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill on Friday, but the ban won’t take effect until January 2017.

State senator John Marty, who sponsored the bill, said that the impact of the bill — which is the first statewide ban in the nation — would be felt across the board. “While this is an effort to ban triclosan from one of the 50 states, I think it will have a greater impact than that,” he told the Associated Press.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), triclosan is not known to be harmful to humans, but a growing number of studies suggest that the chemical may cause hormone disruption. The FDA has said it is “engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review,” but that it doesn’t have enough information to recommend that consumers stop using it.

Some consumer products have already begun dropping the chemical, which is in about 75% of all antibacterial soaps sold in America. Procter & Gamble already sells triclosan-free products, including toothpaste, and plans to completely eliminate its use by 2014.

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