With 40 legislatures convening for their 2018 sessions in January, prefiled bills and initiatives have already revealed a wide array of other issues, besides the 11 hottest ones, that will be discussed in state capitals.
They run a gauntlet from the not so surprising: worker compensation, confederate monuments, income tax reform, and minimum wage issues, to the “Did I read that right?” ones. Think, cocaine in racing dogs, bear hunting, mandating the teaching of cursive writing and designating a state insect, to name but a few.
One thing is for sure, 2018 will be a busy year. Below are glimpses into some of the more noteworthy prefiled bills and initiatives in 33 states.
Several bills related to Confederate statues and memorials have been prefiled. Last year, the Legislature passed in a 68-29 vote the Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, which protects “historic” monuments that are more than 40 years old.
The act was initiated in response to the city of New Orleans’ decision to remove Confederate monuments and memorials from public spaces. Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) has introduced HB 15, which would allow a municipal governing body to opt out of the Memorial Preservation Act, and HB 16, which would repeal the act altogether.
Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) has introduced HB 17 and Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Decatur) has prefiled SB 15, which would change the way Alabama’s U.S. senators are appointed when there is a vacancy — such as the vacancy that occurred in 2017 when President Donald Trump named Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions the U.S. Attorney General.
Both bills call for a Constitutional Amendment to require that vacancies in the Alabama House and Senate be filled by appointment of the Governor if there are less than two years remaining on the term of office at the time the vacancy occurs.
Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has pre-filed Senate Bill 16, which would regulate stem cell treatments, including clinical trials for those with severe chronic illnesses. Allen’s bill would require a review board to oversee all investigational stem cell treatments. The University of Alabama Birmingham has a Stem Cell Institute and is doing some stem cell research. The bill doesn’t authorize fetal stem cell research.
Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) has prefiled SB 13, which would abolish the requirement that a marriage license be issued by the judge of probate and, instead, require marriage be entered into by contract recorded by judge of probate.
Rep. Ron Johnson has prefiled HB 19, which would exempt the gross proceeds from the sale of gold, silver, platinum and palladium bullion, and money from sales and use tax, in Alabama for five years.
Sen. Cathy Giessel has prefiled SB 112, which would reduce Workers’ Compensation Premiums. Several bills dealing with workers’ compensation issues were introduced in 2017 but none were passed.
The House majority has prefiled HB 115, which would restore the state personal income tax. The proposal is draw heated opposition from many corners claiming it would cause additional damage to an economy still in a recession and be unfair to small businesses.
Rep. Les Gara has prefiled HB 36, which would impose an income tax on sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs and S-corporations.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is leading a coalition of groups opposing any attempt to require independent contractors be classified as W-2 employees by repealing HB 2114, which was adopted in 2017 that removed the “uncertainty, confusion and risk out of W-2 or 1099 classifications.”
According to the NFIB about 42 million Americans are contract workers, a number expected to grow to 65 million by 2020.
Business and industry interests will lobby legislators to adopt a bill preempting local governments from creating their own minimum wage. Arizona voters in 2016 approved Proposition 206, which raised the statewide minimum wage from $8.05 to $10 an hour in January with the minimum wage increasing incrementally to $12 an hour in 2020.
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Rep. Reginald Bolding (D-Guadalupe) in October presented Gov. Doug Ducey with a petition signed by more than 1,000 voters demanding Confederate monuments on public lands be removed.
Bills are expected be introduced in 2018 seeking to make this happen although it is unlikely the state’s Republican leadership will let them be heard. There are at least six Confederate monuments on public land in Arizona, including one in a park across from the Capitol.
Last year, legislation passed the Senate that would make flag burning a felony, but the bill was not heard in the House. There may be efforts to include political affiliation as a category under hate crimes.
House and Senate leaders will reassess policies and procedures dealing with sexual harassment at the state legislature as soon as the 2018 session starts. Among proposals is to identify a process for lawmakers, staff, or anyone interacting with legislature staff or elected officials to file harassment allegations.
The Connecticut State Water Planning Council will present a 650-page report that includes a series of water policy recommendations for state lawmakers to consider in 2018.
Among anticipated discussions is who has a right to draw water from the state’s rivers.
Rather than grant businesses and other entities the right to draw water in perpetuity, the report suggests there should be process in which water users would be required to reapply for the ability to do so. Other recommendations include contain prohibiting bottled water companies from using water from public systems to sell to customers.
Gov. Rick Scott will propose $178 million to support active military, veterans and their families in Florida as part of his 2018-19 recommended budget. Florida’s 1.6 million vets are the most in any state other than California and Texas.
Reps. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) and Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) have prefiled HB 353, which would encourage investment in autonomous vehicles and update sections of Florida’s motor vehicle laws that “require or presume” a human is behind the wheel.
The bill would do away with a $5 million bond requirement for autonomous vehicle operators imposed in 2012.
In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, rising to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years. The proposal life the liability requirement is opposed by the Florida Justice Association, which cautions, “You can’t hold a piece of software accountable.” A companion bill, SB 712, has been prefiled in the Senate.
A number of environment-related bills have been prefiled, including SB 348, which would allow a local option for communities to regulate single-use plastic bags; SB 370, which would increase Florida Forever funding, used to acquire land for conservation, from $0 to $100 million; SB 462 and HB 237 would create a statewide ban fracking for oil and gas; and SB 174, which would set aside at least $50 million a year to help address issues such as beach erosion.
Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) has pre-filed SB 156, which would protect black bears mothering cubs under 100 pounds during future bear hunts. The proposal would also make harvesting saw palmetto berries — a staple of bear diets — on state land a second-degree misdemeanor.
The state authorized Florida’s first black-bear hunts in two decades in October 2015 in which 304 bears were harvested. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is opposed to the hunts, which were canceled in 2016 to allow state biologists to complete an ongoing 10-year bear management plan, which could be completed in two to three years.
Republican Reps. Jeanette Nuñez and Frank White have prefiled HB 335, which would make it illegal for anyone under 18 to get married. The bill, which has cleared the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee, aims to protect children forced to marry abuse perpetrators or against their will.
Some legislators want to maintain discretion for older teenagers who want to legally wed. Under state law, judges can issue a marriage license to minors of any age if they have a child or are expecting a child, or if minors ages 16 and 17 have their parents’ approval. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) has filed a bill banning minor marriages in the Senate.
A prefiled bill would legalize steroids and trace amounts of cocaine in racing greyhounds in Florida’s 12 dog-racing tracks. There is a proposed state constitutional amendment circulating that would ban greyhound racing in Florida, phasing it out over three years after passage. A bipartisan effort to ban the use of steroids on greyhound racing dogs died during the 2017 legislative session.
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Sen. Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine) and Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah) happen prefiled a bill to prohibit local governments from using red-light cameras. They claim red-light cameras have failed to improve traffic safety, while only benefitting the companies that make them and the local governments “that use them as a backdoor tax.”
The Georgia Nurses Association is lobbying for the creation of a tax credit for licensed physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, or physician assistants who provide uncompensated community based preceptorship training to medical students, advanced practice registered nurse students or physician assistant students.
The Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly (CO-AGE) will again present its “perennial request” for increased funding for Home and Community Based Services, which keep seniors in their homes as long as possible. CO-AGE also supports the creation of an Abuser Registry to prevent providers and families from hiring caregivers with a history of abuse.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has proposed a state-funded effort to enable local businesses and schools to develop training programs that address regional job demands as part of a workforce development priority. A 2015 report determined only 42 percent of central Indiana residents have the education needed for most available jobs.
State Senator Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, plans to introduce legislation in 2018 that will end Indiana’s prohibition on Sunday takeout alcohol sales and allow cold beer to be sold in convenient stores and grocery stores.
Indiana is the only state that regulates beer sales based on temperature and only one of nine restricting or prohibiting Sunday alcohol sales, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. According to surveys, 68 percent of Indiana residents want to be able to legally buy cold beer and favor Sunday alcohol sales.
Sen. Jean Leising (R-Olderburg) will submit a bill requiring Indiana schools teach cursive writing. Leising has submitted this bill for six straight years, only this time it will be accompanied by a survey of teachers, superintendents and education officials that shows 70 percent support a cursive writing requirement. All six bills have passed the Senate but have never been presented in the House.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is supporting an elementary school’s multi-year lobbying effort to make the Say’s firefly Indiana’s state insect.
Cumberland Elementary students from West Lafayette have worked for four years to adopt Say’s firefly as the state’s official insect, testifying before House committees.
Indiana has an official pie (sugar cream), stone (limestone), tree (tulip), flower (peony), bird (cardinal), rifle (Grouseland) and beverage (water) but is one of only four without a state insect.
Illinois has the monarch butterfly; Kentucky has the viceroy butterfly; Ohio has the ladybug beetle. The Say’s firefly – Pyractomena angulata – was named by naturalist Thomas Say of Posey County in southern Indiana in 1824. Say is considered the father of American entomology.
Legislators say tax reform will be at the top priority in 2018. Iowa’s personal income tax rate is the nation’s fourth highest and its corporate income tax rate is the nation’s highest.
Rep. C. Wesley Morgan (R-Richmond) has prefiled a bill that would charge protesters who block Kentucky streets with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, while motorists who run them over could be held criminally and civilly immune. The proposed language would be written into Kentucky’s laws on riots and disorderly conduct.
Rep. Regina Huff (R-Williamsburg) has prefiled BR 195 that would mandate the governor annually proclaim the last Wednesday in September as “A Day of Prayer for Kentucky’s Students.” The last Wednesday in September is generally the date when schools across the nation have student-initiated prayer events called “See You at the Pole,” in which students gather to pray at their campus flag pole before the school day begins. The legislation, Huff said, “doesn’t require students to pray.”
Rep. Chris Harris (D-Pike-Martin) has prefiled two bills that seek to halt continued escalation of electrical rates for eastern Kentucky customers of Kentucky Power. BR 114 requests the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) to reconsider its approval of more than $100 million in rate increases while BR 115 would expand the PSC’s supervisory control over utility matters.
Harris filed similar legislation in 2017 session, noting the stock price for American Electric Power (AEP), Kentucky Power’s parent company, has doubled over the past five years, with dividends increasing for its stockholders each year while eastern Kentucky residents’ rates have increased 16 percent in recent years.
There were 272 bills submitted by lawmakers for the second year of the 2017-18 Legislature, although only a handful passed through committees and will be presented in 2018.
There are 319 bills carried over from 2017 session that could be heard in 2018. Among them are at least 11 related to marijuana and five to opioid treatments. Others include revisions to the state’s bottle redemption system; female genital mutilation; limiting gubernatorial power; Maine’s citizen-initiated referendum process; changes to the criminal code; attempts to spur job creation; implementing a “hire American” tax credit; ethics rules for political action committees.
Legislators are expected to attempt to overturn Gov. Larry Hogan veto of 2017’s HB 1, which required paid leave for part-time seasonal employees. The new law is vociferously opposed by businesses.
Del. Shane Robinson’s (D-Montgomery Village) Off Fossil Fuels Act. The legislation calls for the state to use 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2035. The bill also would remove trash incineration and burning methane from factory farms from being classified as renewable energy.
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Voters could be presented with as many as 20 statewide referendums in November 2018. They include:
* A proposal spearheaded by the Massachusetts Retailers Association to cut the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent, and set a permanent tax-free weekend.
* A proposal sponsored by Raise Up Massachusetts that would allow workers to take time off to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or a new baby, for up to 16 weeks. During that period, they would receive 90 percent of their average weekly wages with a maximum weekly benefit of $1,000. Workers recovering from their own injuries or illnesses could receive up to 26 weeks of paid medical leave under the proposal.
The Republican leadership in the House and the Senate have made commitments to tackle structural elements of no-fault auto insurance that contribute to the high premiums in Michigan for minimal levels of coverage required to drive legally in 2018. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has suggested a proposal that eliminates the unlimited medical benefit for drivers under what he calls “D-insurance.”
Several significant ballot measures will likely be presented to voters in November 2018.
* A proposal by Protecting Michigan Taxpayers to repeal the law that requires public construction projects to pay union-scale wages.
* A measure addressing the way Congressional district lines are drawn for local, state and federal elected offices.
* An initiative spearheaded by The Coalition To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol that would legalize recreational marijuana use and levy a 10 percent excise tax for retail sales as well as a 6 percent sales tax that would generate at least an estimated $100 million annually with 35 percent going to K-12 education, 35 percent to roads, 15 percent to communities that allow marijuana businesses and 15 percent to counties where marijuana business are located. The coalition hopes to raise $8 million for the upcoming campaign.
Minnesota State’s 37 public colleges and universities will lobby state lawmakers to award its six-year, $150 million overhaul of its computerized records system more money. The state university system requested $25 million in 2017 but it only received $8 million. The Legislature is expected to consider the request to supplement the approved two-year budget.
Legislators may consider limiting city restrictions on the placement of sex offenders and on imposing cost-shifting to local governments. At least 83 cities and one county across the state have restrictive ordinances that provide few places for sex offenders to live. A preponderance end up living in Minneapolis after they leave prison because they have limited options elsewhere.
Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake) plans to introduce a bill imposing term limits for legislators. Under Draheim’s proposal, lawmakers wouldn’t be able to serve more than 20 consecutive years in the Minnesota Legislature.
Second-term Republican Gov. Phil Bryant wants the 2018 Legislature to place two proposals on a November ballot for state voters to decide: Whether to raise taxes, presumably on gasoline, to raise revenue for transportation needs.
Sen. Dean Kirby (R-Pearl) said he will file a 2018 bill to authorize Bryant’s ballot measure. The other proposal is to ask voters if they want to change the Mississippi flag, which features a Confederate battle emblem as part of its design. Bryant also requested legislators do this in 2017. In 2001, Mississippians voted overwhelmingly to keep the current flag, adopted in the 1890s.
All eight public universities do not fly the flag, not do many local school districts and multiple county and municipal governments. An October poll found that 49 percent of state residents oppose changing the flag.
Sen. Mike Cunningham (R-Rogersville) is expected to submit a 2018 bill that will restore in-home care for estimated 8,000 elderly Missourians imperiled by 2017 budget cuts. Cunningham’s proposal includes creating a cap for a tax break for renters at $450 and to limit relief to households who made $22,000 or less. This, he claims, would free up an estimated $35 million for the Medicaid recipients who would have lost services.
State Senator Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles) will file the Missouri Economic Relief Act (MERA) which seeks to re-align government spending priorities by decreasing the income tax and increasing fuel use taxes. MERA, which Eigel will prefile after Dec. 1, would completely eliminate the four bottom brackets of the income tax code. MERA would also reduce tax rates for small business owners in the higher income band from 5.9% to 4.8%.
A proposed “Clean Missouri” ballot measure seeks to overhaul how Missouri draws its legislative boundaries seeks to make the state one of the first in the nation to bring an end to partisan gerrymandering.
Provisions also include new, lower limits on campaign contributions, a ban on lobbyist gift-giving and a two-year cooling off period for lawmakers wanting to become lobbyists.
The inclusion of so many different elements into a single constitutional amendment could foster a legal challenge because it could violate the state’s single-subject rule for new laws and constitutional changes. To appear on the November 2018 ballot, supporters must collect at least 160,199 signatures.
Legislators are expected to call for the reintroduction of 2017’s failed Legislative Bill 461, which was a comprehensive tax-relief package that would have revised the system for valuing agricultural real estate, benefiting rural landowners, and reducing the top income and corporate tax brackets.
The nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks Nebraska 39th best in the nation in property tax and 29th best in the nation in corporate taxes. Property taxes on agricultural land increased nearly 164 percent between 2006 and 2016, according to the Nebraska Department of Revenue.
Some lawmakers may reintroduce 2017’s failed Legislative Bill 211, which sought to increase the state minimum wage for tipped employees from $2.13 per hour to $3.60 per hour in August of 2017 and then to $4.50 per hour in January of 2018.
Legislative Bill 420, a ’Ban The Box’ bill, which would prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from asking an applicant to disclose, orally or in writing, information concerning the applicant’s criminal record or history, including any inquiries on any employment application, until the employer or employment agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications, was not adopted in 2017 but remains alive for a potential 2018 introduction.
Republican Senate leader Michael Roberson will sponsor a ballot measure proposing a state Constitutional amendment to prohibit any state or local government from implementing policies that would make it a “sanctuary community” that does not cooperate with federal immigration laws.
To qualify for the November 2018 ballot, the measure needs signatures from 112,000 registered Nevada voters — 10 percent of the 1.12 million voters who participated in the last election. If the measure passes in 2018, it will go to voters again in 2020.
If it passes a second time, it would become part of the state constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Nevada chapter in November filed a lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the proposed ballot measure.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) opposed 2017’s HB 124, which would have repealed the New Hampshire’s aircraft registration fees to compete with neighboring states, because fiscal analysis indicated it would have created a $250,000 shortfall in the funding of infrastructure for public-use airports.
It is working with lawmakers and aviation groups for a 2018 legislative compromise to restructure aircraft registration fees and aviation fuel taxes that won’t result in lowered matching funds for federal grants, accelerating a downward spiral for state aviation funding.
A compromise has emerged from the House Ways and Means Committee to raise registration rates gradually for small aircraft, while reducing them for larger aircraft with “modest” increases in aviation fuel tax rates to preserve the state’s $1.25 million aeronautics funding level in a “zero sum” reform that would benefit aviation business in New Hampshire.
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Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) has prefiled HB 4382, which would put a statewide advisory referendum on the November 2018 ballot to ask voters if the state should continue to observe daylight savings time.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Columbia) has prefiled HB 4398, which seeks to repeal a 2000 law that protects war-related monuments and memorials on public property from being “relocated, removed, disturbed or altered.” This provision allows Civil War monuments to remain in place.
Meanwhile, Reps. Mike Burns (R-Travelers Rest) and Bill Chumley (R-Woodruff) say they will prefile a bill calling for a monument honoring African-American Confederate veterans of the Civil War. According to BlackConfederateSoldiers.com, 328 African-Americans filed pension applications as Confederate veterans.
Rep. Robert Helm (R-Fair Haven) and Rep. Curt McCormack (D-Burlington), who co-sponsored 2017 legislation aimed at incentivizing the use of advanced wood heating, are expected to champion policy proposals drafted by Renewable Energy Vermont in 2018. Those proposals include achieving 35 percent of Vermont’s heating needs by 2030 through the increased use of advanced wood heating, to displace 40 million gallons of fossil fuels and save the state $120 million in fuel costs each year.
Legislators are expected to pass at least four bills totaling more than 1,200 pages that “clean up the state public education code.” The bills were drafted and approved by the Utah Legislature’s Education Interim Committee and cover revisions to statutes on the state school system, funding and local administration. Public education bills comprised about 10 percent of the 800 bills proposed during the 2017 legislative session.
Legislators are expected to pass a proposed bill that would restrict fireworks to two days before and one day after both Independence Day on July 4 and Pioneer Day on July 24, down from three days before the holidays, on the days of and three days after.
Utah’s 104 part-time lawmakers will be presented with bills asking them to give themselves a 13-percent raise in 2018. They turned down similar bills in 2014. Lawmakers are paid $273 a day for 60 days a year. The bills would extent that to 65 days a year. If legislators approve the daily pay increase and the increase in the number of paid days, their average pay would go from $16,380 a year to $18,525 a year.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) said the Senate will consider two 2018 bills that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to get to underground resources. The first is a co-tenancy bill that defines mineral rights and access beneath properties with multiple owners or heirs. Under current law, oil/gas companies can’t drill on a piece of property if even one of a group of owners or heirs objects. The other is a bill allowing for integration of multiple leases if they are all held by the same company.
Under current law, an oil/gas company can drill a vertical well on any individual property, but can’t easily drill under several pieces of property even if all the adjoining surface rights owners have leases with the same drilling company. Carmichael said the Senate has given up on trying to pass forced pooling of natural gas resources. Forced pooling requires property owners to allow drilling under their land if adjoining parcel owners have signed agreements with oil or gas companies.
Del. Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) will submit a 2018 bill calling for legislative oversight of West Virginia Supreme Court spending after an investigation revealed it spent $3.7 million on furnishings, including a $32,000 sofa with $17,000 throw pillows.
Del. John Shott (R-Mercer County) may again propose a bill authorizing local prepared meals tax option. The proposed legislation would provide counties the option to enact a tax on restaurant meals.
Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) and two other Republican lawmakers will co-sponsor a 2018 bill that would lower the drinking age to 19. The drinking age has been 21 in Wisconsin since 1986. The bill contains a clause that makes it virtually unadoptable: The drinking age would only drop to 19 if the state would not lose federal highway money. Federal law has stipulated since 1984 that any state with a drinking age lower than 21 can lose 8 percent of its federal highway funding. In Wisconsin, that would be a $53.7 million reduction in 2017.
Wyoming legislators may be presented with a 2018 bill seeking to impose a gross receipts tax. The legislature’s Joint Revenue Interim Committee is examining the state’s tax structure and revenue streams, including tobacco and alcohol taxes and excises taxes. But it has identified adopting a gross receipts tax as a topic for study that will be presented to lawmakers when they convene in February for the legislature’s even-numbered year budget session.
State Lobbyists Talk Trends From The 2017 State Legislature Sessions
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