Capitol Ideas

Capitol Ideas is a periodic listing of story ideas and background information from new NCSL research. For more information, contact NCSL's Press Team.

Paper, Plastic, Resuable

Plastic grocery bags became a mainstay of American retail consumers in the early 1980s and quickly entered the waste stream. Environmentalists claim plastic bags not only crowd landfills, but also pollute waterways and threaten marine life. The alternative, paper bags, are made from renewable energy sources, but their production uses roughly 40 percent more energy than plastic bag production and more energy is used to transport them. Twenty-four states introduced approximately 90 bills relating to plastic bags in 2009; nine states looked at banning the bags altogether. And several bills are being considered this year. During the last two years, more than 24 bills in 15 states have addressed taxing shoppers who use bags provided at checkout counters. Request a copy of this NCSL LegisBrief.

Life After Citizens United

The U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 21, 2010, ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is certain to have a profound effect on the laws governing corporate political activity in nearly half the states. The court ruled that the federal government may not prohibit direct corporate and union spending in advertising for candidate elections. While the ruling does not directly affect state laws, there are 23 states that prohibit or restrict corporate spending on candidate elections. It is very likely that these states will act to either repeal or re-write these laws, or face legal challenges under the new standard set by Citizens United.  Furthermore, it is likely that states will no longer enforce these laws, which will radically change the political landscape heading into the 2010 elections.

State Wellness Initiatives Prevent Disease, Promote Healthy Living

Many employers, government entities and public health advocates tout “wellness initiatives” as good investments to improve health and save costs. But just what are wellness initiatives? They are policies, programs and incentives that help prevent disease and promote good health. Employers have taken the lead in promoting wellness and healthy behavior to help control their health care costs and create a more productive workforce. Between 2006 and 2009, 11 states—Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah and Washington—passed laws to allow employers to offer health insurance premium discounts, rebates or incentives for employees who participate in wellness programs.  Request a copy of this NCSL LegisBrief.

States Oppose Certain Measures in Federal Health Care Reform

States have an extensive and complicated shared power relationship with the federal government in regulating various aspects of the health insurance market and in enacting health reforms. As part of state-based responses to federal health reform legislation, individual members of at least 36 state legislatures are using the legislative process to seek to limit, alter or oppose selected state or federal actions, including single-payer provisions and mandates that would require people to purchase insurance. The measures seek to make or keep health insurance optional and allow people to choose any type of coverage they want.  Each state's language varies. Thirty-six states are considering action to block federally mandated insurance or required payments. Virginia enacted the first law in March 2010.

Coming to Washington: Spring Forum Registration Opens

At NCSL's Spring Forum, members of the media will be able to see and hear firsthand how legislators are addressing complex problems and issues confronting states now and in the future. You will also be able to learn how federal issues affect the states, and how states are developing advocacy positions before Congress and the administration. This year, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will talk to state legislators, legislative staff and members of the media about the responsibilities and opportunities states have in the current economy. For more information and registration to NCSL's Spring Forum.