Because many state legislatures are only in session part of the year, the legislators themselves often have other sources of income, or full-time jobs elsewhere. Although this may be a recipe for conflict of interest, state disclosure laws for legislators are often less than perfect.
This matters to environmental reporters because a large and diverse array of businesses have an interest in the environmental and energy laws that state legislatures consider: including coal, oil, plastics, chemicals, mining, forest products, and others. The possible financial stake lawmakers may have in the bills before them is fertile ground for investigation.
You may get some help in finding story ideas by checking ratings in the State Integrity Investigation, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International. It has state-by-state report cards backed up by specific information. The motto: "Fifty states and no winners" sums it up.