1 Alaska's Sesquicentennial
Russia ceded the territory of Alaska to the United States in the Treaty of Cession, signed in March 1867. The actual transfer of the territory took place seven months later, in Sitka on Oct. 18, a date Alaskans celebrate as a state holiday, Alaska Day. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the transfer, and the weeklong Alaska Day Festival will include events held across the state, with most taking place in Sitka. No doubt part of the celebration has to do with the purchase price of all that territory: about 2 cents per acre.
2 Wolf and Dog 'Sign' Law
When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed Libre's Law toughening the state's penalties for animal cruelty, the law's namesake added his "signature" as well. Libre, a now-healthy rescue dog, put his pawprint on a copy of the bipartisan bill, which increases penalties for animal abuse and shields vets, humane society officers and vet technicians from frivolous lawsuits when reporting animal cruelty, among other protections. The law "brings us in line with the rest of the country," Wolf said. More than three-quarters of states have put real teeth in their animal protection laws in the last five years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund reports.
3 Managing Medicaid
Like many states, Oregon saw a big increase in Medicaid enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. And, like many states, it fell behind in verifying that enrollees were qualified. After eligibility checks on 115,000 recipients, officials reported in late August that they'd canceled benefits for almost half of them because they no longer qualified or did not respond to information requests. Oregon will soon create a new office to handle the eligibility checks. According to Pew's Stateline, Republican lawmakers in many states are proposing tougher and more frequent checks. Some states, such as Illinois, are hiring private contractors to conduct the checks.
4 In a League of Her Own
Senator Judith Zaffirini (D) is the Energizer Bunny of Texas legislators--she just keeps voting and voting. Zaffirini, first elected to the Senate in 1987, cast her 60,000th consecutive vote in the chamber in August. But she does more than just show up for votes. She has sponsored and passed more bills (1,024) and substantive resolutions (53) than any legislator in Texas history. This year alone, she passed 108 bills--a sign of her bipartisan effectiveness in the Republican-dominated Legislature.
5 The Michi-green Capitol