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Stateline July August 2014

Stateline | July-August 2014

8/1/2014

STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE

1. Show Me 50 Reps

Girl doing a jumping jackThat old P.E. class staple —the jumping jack—is now the official exercise of Missouri, thanks in large part to Pershing Elementary School students. The school’s namesake, World War I Gen. John J. Pershing of Missouri, invented the jumping jack as a drill for West Point cadets. Since 2008, students have been lobbying lawmakers to enshrine the exercise in statute. Maryland is the only other state with a sanctioned exercise—walking. Jacks are good for the heart and burn five to 10 calories a minute. During session, lawmakers could hit the floor with 50 reps en masse after the morning gavel. But that would be a leap.

2. Colorado Cleans Up

Colorado lawmakers passed two laws to help clean up the environment. One will shut down Colorado’s tire landfills—the largest in the nation—in 10 years, and the other will collect fees to recycle household paint. The paint law, effective July 2015, requires paint retailers to collect roughly 75 cents per gallon they sell to subsidize the recycling or disposal of leftover paint. Seven other states have similar programs. Old tires are a bigger problem. There are 100 million scrap tires in the nation, and Colorado is home to 60 million. Under the new law, landfills won’t be able to accept tires as of 2018 and will have to close and clean up by 2024. In the meantime, landfills can take in only one tire for every two removed for recycling.

3. A Thousand Cuts

For 80 years, the Nebraska Capitol has withstood tornadoes, hail, dust and snowstorms. But today, it’s under attack by a most unlikely foe—bling. Visitors wearing pants with rhinestones, metal studs or similar hardware on the back pockets are scratching the historic walnut benches and leather seats. The Capitol staff asks bling-wearers not to sit, or to lay a jacket down first, but it’s an uphill battle. “We take preservation and care of our Capitol very seriously. If folks were causing this damage with a knife it would be vandalism,” tour guide Roxanne Smith wrote in a note to NCSL. She’d like to know if other Capitol staffs are seeing the same and what they’re doing about it. (Write us at magazine@ncsl.org). One would hate to see a bling ban … Or would one?

4. Is It Hot in Here?

Two Texas lawmakers visited Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, Calif., maker of sriracha, a popular Vietnamese hot sauce, hoping to persuade the owner to expand to the Lone Star State. Representative Jason Villalba (R) and Senator Carlos Uresti (D) came at the invitation of owner David Tran. Tran had been upset by residents’ complaints that plant emissions burn their eyes and throats, prompting local officials to declare the plant a public nuisance. Tran said he would consider coming to Texas if the soil there can grow chilis that pack enough heat. The two lawmakers promised Texas agriculture officials will get Tran an answer soon. Irwindale, in the meantime, dropped its nuisance declaration. 

5. New York Battles Heroin

New York lawmakers have rallied behind two dozen bills to address the state’s heroin epidemic, among the worst in the nation. Officials blame the spike in overdoses in part on the state’s success in curbing access to prescription drugs by abusers, some of whom have turned to heroin as an alternative. The measures call for converting vacant prisons into treatment centers and expanding insurance coverage for addiction treatment. Other bills attempt to address the problem in schools, where laws would give administrators greater latitude in administering overdose treatments and more prevention resources. At least 18 states have passed measures to combat the drug this year.

6. Hot Market For Cold Cash

This year, 64 percent of Florida home purchases were cash deals. Florida is not alone. Nationwide, nearly 43 percent of home sales in the first quarter of 2014 were all-cash, up from 19 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based firm. The average sales price in the first quarter was $207,668. The biggest cash buyers are investors and retiring baby boomers who are buying second homes or downsizing and using the cash to buy smaller homes. After Florida, states with the highest percentage of all-cash sales are New York (59 percent), Alabama (56), Georgia (52), South Carolina (52), Nevada (50) and Michigan (50).

7. If A Tree Falls

Connecticut lawmakers tackled that age-old question, “If your neighbor’s tree falls on your property, can you make a noise about it?” They said yes. By wide margins, both chambers agreed a tree owner must pay to remove a tree or branches if they fall on a neighbor’s property if the neighbor previously notified the owner that the tree was diseased or likely to fall, or the owner failed to remove or prune the tree within 30 days after being notified of it. Governor Dannel Malloy, however, vetoed the bill: “It gives no avenue for a tree owner to contest a neighbor’s assertion that their tree or branch is ‘likely to fall’.” Also, he said, under present law, a person can remove limbs hanging over his or her property. Lawmakers could try an override, but would it bear fruit?

’Bama Boating Law 

For many Americans, boating and beer go together like bait and tackle. But in Alabama, anyone who combines the two should designate a driver. Under the new law, boaters who kill or injure someone while under the influence will face roughly the same penalties as drunken drivers do. Previously, “homicide by vessel” carried a sentence of up to five years; now, it’s up to 10 years. Alcohol was the leading known contributing factor in U.S. fatal boating accidents last year, responsible for 75 deaths, according to federal statistics.

Most Boating Deaths, 2013

  • Florida: 10
  • Missouri and New York: 6
  • Texas and Washington: 5
  • Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina: 4

Source: 2013 Recreational Boating Statistics, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.

9. Smart Money

If you’re looking for good money managers, forget Wall Street. Head to New Hampshire. Residents there came out No. 1 in a recent financial literacy analysis by WalletHub, a social media company that reviews financial products. WalletHub compared financial education programs and consumer habits in 50 states, including grades received in high school financial literacy classes, dropout rates, percentage of residents with rainy day funds and percentage who spend more money than they make. 

Most Financially Literate

  1. New Hampshire 
  2. Utah
  3. Virginia
  4. New Jersey
  5. Minnesota
  6. South Dakota
  7. North Dakota 
  8. Maryland
  9. Idaho
  10. Massachusetts

 

10. A Chocolate Mess

The Hershey Company has sued Maryland Senator Stephen Hershey Jr., alleging his re-election signs look too much like its logo. The Pennsylvania chocolate maker asked a court to bar the senator from using its “famous trade dress,” claiming the senator’s signs, featuring white block letters over a brown background, may mislead voters into thinking the company endorses the candidate. But the senator isn’t melting under the pressure. The allegations “raise serious questions about infringing on my constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association and participation as a candidate in the political process,” Hershey said, adding he’s confident he’ll win in court.

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