In the News | December 2020

12/4/2020

Dec. 16

Schools Work to Speed Up Internet in Rural Homes for Remote Learning
The Wall Street Journal
At least 39 states have said they would use funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act to help school districts close the tech gap, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Lawmaker’s Death Chills U.S. Statehouses Where Masks Are Shunned
Bloomberg
In some states, like New Hampshire, legislatures have a large number of retirees. Across the U.S., the average age for a state legislator is 56, nine years older than the population at large, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Report suggests WV must embrace renewable energy for economic growth
Charleston Gazette-Mail
West Virginia is one of only 13 states without any renewable portfolio standard or target, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Fact-check: Does Wisconsin not allow absentee ballots to be counted before Election Day?
Austin-American Statesman
The National Conference of State Legislatures compiled details on how each state handled absentee ballots for the 2020 election.

Stop the clock swap? SC lawmakers to try to end daylight savings time practice
The State
Along with those states, several U.S. territories like American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico also do not observe the tradition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Blount pushing for ‘common sense’ election law reforms
WLBT
Prior to COVID, states that offered no-excuse early voting included Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS).
 

Dec. 15

As Electoral College meets, one group works to rid nation of 'an ugly, old mess'
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"That's why states that have Democratic majorities are more interested than states with Republican majorities," said Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Tensions over governor’s executive powers grow ahead of 2021 legislative session
The Goshen News
In Indiana, lawmakers, by concurrent resolution, may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several other states including Arkansas, Idaho, Colorado and Florida have the similar statues.
 
Senate committee passes 'stand your ground' bill
The Courier
At least 25 states do not require retreat before shooting in self-defense, according to a May research brief from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Analysis of Antrim County Ballot Machines Made Public
9 & 10 News
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures – Michigan requires full compliance with federal standards.”
 
Constitution 101: What to expect as Electoral College meets Monday in Ohio, across country
The Columbus Dispatch
They must vote and sign their ballots, with one copy going to the president of the U.S. Senate to be officially counted and others transmitted to the secretary of state and the National Archives and Records Administration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 

Dec. 14

Legislatures across country plan sweeping election reform push
The Hill
At least 60 election-related bills have been introduced in Texas, 26 are pending in New Hampshire and 41 in Montana, according to a count compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Critics of Electoral College push for popular vote compact
PBS News Hour
“That’s why states that have Democratic majorities are more interested than states with Republican majorities,” said Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

With Congress stuck, states are stepping in with relief for residents and businesses
CNN
"States are trying to just get these dollars out to areas in need the most," said Emily Maher, policy associate at the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is tracking the distribution.

'Old, ugly mess': Critics of Electoral College push for national popular vote system
WYFF Greenville
“That’s why states that have Democratic majorities are more interested than states with Republican majorities,” said Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures. The 15 state legislatures that have passed a national popular vote bill since 2007 are all controlled by Democrats: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
 
Tensions over governor's executive powers grow
Washington Times Herald
In Indiana, lawmakers, by concurrent resolution, may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several other states including Arkansas, Idaho, Colorado and Florida have the similar statues.
 
Should State Mandate COVID Vaccine?
The Post-Journal
According to the National Conference of Legislatures, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have laws requiring certain vaccines for students, and exemptions vary by state.

Significant food safety action this past year during state legislative sessions
Food Safety News
State legislatures introduced more than 700 bills regarding food and food safety in 2019, with 132 being enacted and 17 adopted into law, reports The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
 

Dec. 11

Legislatures across country plan sweeping election reform push
The Hill
At least 60 election-related bills have been introduced in Texas, 26 are pending in New Hampshire and 41 in Montana, according to a count compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “We can expect a busier than ever elections agenda for the states in 2021,” said Wendy Underhill, director of the NCSL’s elections and redistricting programs.
 
Economists warn against excluding state aid from COVID-19 relief
The Hill
Though shortfalls today are well below some of the estimates made in the early days of the coronavirus downturn, states are still expected to slash spending anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent to keep their budgets balanced, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Incoming senator hopes to tackle mental health parity among insurance coverage
Missouri Times
This bill would bring Missouri more in-line with requirements “many other states currently have,” Karmen Hanson with the National Conference of State Legislatures said.  A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Insurance did not respond to a request for comment.
 
Can Your Boss Force Your Vaccination? Employer Mandates Explained
Bloomberg Law
Essential workers in other industries are expected to be next in line, although states have the authority to decide who falls in that category. Industries that have been deemed essential under federal guidelines and state orders include transportation, child care, energy, and critical retail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Leading Idaho by example, this is not
Post Register
NCSL Cited
 
South Bay legislators hit the ground running in new posts
San José Spotlight
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states have some kind of option for publicly funding a campaign. They include Hawaii, Maine, Arizona and Connecticut. Some states only publicly finance gubernatorial campaigns, while others limit that support to legislative seats or positions on the state’s Supreme Court.
 

Dec. 10

Winners and Losers from 2020 State Battles
Washington Post
“The battle for state legislatures was also historically static. You have to go back to the 1940s to find an election when so few chambers flipped parties,” said Tim Storey, the executive director of the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
'The Canary in the Coal Mine?' What Teacher Layoffs in One City Could Mean for U.S. Schools
U.S. News & World Report
At least 14 states cut education spending this year in response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Businesses weigh in on how they are still feeling the impact of first shut down, as neighboring states tighten restrictions
FOX Carolina
In a recent letter sent to Congress, the coalition highlighted the millions of jobs, small businesses, and vital government services that are on the line. The letter stated, “If Congress fails to act, millions of employees will be furloughed or terminated; millions of unemployed Americans will lose their unemployment insurance pandemic benefits.” Steering committee members for the coalition include: National Conference for State Legislatures (NCSL)
 
Trump’s meddling was a failed coup
New York Daily News
Twenty-one states allow same-day registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Forty-three offer some form of early voting in person, while five states have done away with in-person voting altogether and now conduct balloting entirely by mail.
 

Dec. 9

'The Canary in the Coal Mine?' What Teacher Layoffs in One City Could Mean for U.S. Schools
Reuters
At least 14 states cut education spending this year in response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Leading Idaho by example, this is not
Lewiston Morning Tribune
At least half the states told the National Conference of State Legislatures they will allow remote participation by lawmakers, Russell noted. If Idaho were to follow Washington’s example, it would close the Capitol to the public and lobbyists. Much of the Legislature would meet remotely.
 
South Bay legislators hit the ground running in new posts
San Jose Spotlight
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states have some kind of option for publicly funding a campaign. They include Hawaii, Maine, Arizona and Connecticut. Some states only publicly finance gubernatorial campaigns, while others limit that support to legislative seats or positions on the state’s Supreme Court.
 

Dec. 8

Women make record-breaking gains across state legislatures
The Hill
Ultimately, the increase in women serving at the state legislature level is likely to strengthen the pipeline of women seeking higher office. A number of incoming female federal lawmakers in the House, such as Reps.-elect Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) and Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), previously served as state legislators. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 46 former state legislators served as senators during the 116th Congress, while 198 served in the House.
 
What’s next for climate change in Florida Legislature?
Tampa Bay Times
Florida is one of 13 states to not have some kind of specific goals or standards for how much energy comes from renewable sources like solar power, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Do states verify citizenship of voters in federal elections?
PolitiFact
Wendy Underhill, an election expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that in some states, driver’s license records are better for verifying citizenship than they’ve ever been. Some state driver’s license systems are set up to ask a person if they want to register to vote only after they have shown a birth certificate or naturalization paper that proves citizenship.
 
Oregon parents again tried to keep transgender students from using school bathrooms, and the Supreme Court wouldn't even hear the case
Business Insider
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina is the only state to have passed legislation restricting access to bathrooms and sex-segregated facilities on the basis of gender or sex assigned at birth, rather than gender identity. The legislation was later repealed in March 2017.
 

Dec. 7

Report: State Spending Spikes, Revenues Fall in Fiscal Year 2020
U.S. News
Most state fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
What’s next for climate change in Florida Legislature?
Tampa Bay Times
Florida is one of 13 states to not have some kind of specific goals or standards for how much energy comes from renewable sources like solar power, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A law last year, introduced by Rodríguez and Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, would have targeted 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, but it did not get a vote.
 
States Can Shorten Probation and Protect Public Safety
Stateline
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reviewed probation sentencing statutes in all 50 states. This report provides a first-of-its-kind national and state-level portrait of the average length of probation and explores whether term lengths can be safely reduced and what options are available for state policymakers looking to improve their system’s outcomes.
 
Oregon's COVID-19 deaths climb while vaccine wait will be 'several months' for most
Capital Press
The National Academy of Medicine was asked by the National Conference of State Legislatures to create a model list of vaccine priorities. Their report listed: Phase 1a:  High-risk health workers and first responders. Phase 1b: People with significant comorbid conditions (two or more) and older adults in congregate or overcrowded settings.
 
Week ahead: 3 things to know
KMBC
Efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election are coming to a close. All recounts and legal contests over results must be completed by Tuesday, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

 

Dec. 4

Court upholds North Carolina’s Voter Identification
The Washington Post
NCSL Information Cited.
 
Report: State Spending Spikes, Revenues Fall in Fiscal Year 2020
U.S. News & World Report
Most state fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
104 Idaho lawmakers gather in person despite pandemic

Idaho Press
Other state legislatures have taken varying steps to address their upcoming sessions in January. Utah announced plans for daily testing of lawmakers and staff and a virtual participation option. Several other states are exploring moving their sessions to large convention centers for more distancing. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than half of states have acted since March to allow remote participation or voting by legislators.
 
States Can Safely Cut Probation Terms
Stateline
The average length of probation in the U.S. and its impact on supervision populations had not previously been well documented. To address this gap, Pew analyzed U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics data from 2000 and 2018, the National Conference of State Legislatures reviewed sentencing statutes in all 50 states, and external researchers examined data from Oregon and South Carolina from 2009 to 2014 to determine whether some people could have served shorter terms without affecting recidivism.
 
Ohio General Assembly passes resolution urging Congress to keep Daylight Saving Time year-round
Cleveland.com
Thirteen other states have passed legislation urging year-around Daylight Saving Time in the past three years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States that have done so this year include Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming.
 
New Maine Legislature sworn in for pandemic-altered session
WMTW TV
Rep. Ryan Fecteau, of Biddeford, 28, is now the is now the youngest state house speaker in the United States, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Massachusetts lawmakers pass policing reform bill to ban chokeholds and limit tear gas use
WRCB TV
Twenty-six other states have enacted laws in the six months since George Floyd was killed, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

 

Dec. 3

Massachusetts lawmakers pass policing reform bill to ban chokeholds and limit tear gas use
CNN
Twenty-six other states have enacted laws in the six months since George Floyd was killed, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Much of the legislation passed by states in the last six months is aimed at expanding the type of information police agencies make public or report to state legislatures or other oversight bodies. Eight states have enacted laws aimed at gathering better data related to policing, six have increased oversight or commissioned studies and three have done both, NCSL data shows.
 
Maine just elected the nation's youngest House speaker
CNN
At 28, Ryan Fecteau is also the first out gay person in the Maine Legislature's most powerful role, according to Maine's House Clerk and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Court upholds North Carolina’s voter identification law
The Washington Post
Eighteen states ask for a photo ID to cast ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seventeen other states also accept non-photo identification such as a bank statement with a name and address.
 
Editorial: After Madigan, the rules must change
Chicago Daily Herald
Shake up committee perks. Some states have members choose legislative committee chairs. Some states assign the role to the most senior member from the majority party, reports the National Conference of State Legislatures. Leaving it up to the speaker to name committee chairs, whose stipends add to their legislative pay, is yet another way power accrues for the leader, not for the people of Illinois.
 
Straight-ticket, absentee voting results in for Lee County
Opelika – Auburn News
Alabama, along with Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina, are the six remaining states to offer straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Lawmakers eye curbing governor's powers during health crises
Tulsa World
More than half of states give their Legislatures some power over whether to end a state of emergency, putting Tennessee in the minority of states that don't, according to a list from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
 

Dec. 2

‘Campus carry,’ ammunition-background-check bills pre-filed in Florida
The Center Square
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 10 states allow concealed weapons on college campuses.
 
Arkansas Begins 2020 Election-Audit Pilot Program
KAUF NPR 91.3
In 2008, fewer than half of states required any type of post-election audit. Now, at least 38 states and the District of Columbia have a post-election audit process, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
 
Gas tax bill aims to eliminate $14B backlog in road and bridge projects
KLFY – Louisiana
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, since 2013, 30 states have enacted legislation to increase gas taxes. McFarland said Louisiana has not altered its sole funding for roads and bridges in over 30 years.
 
Pa. GOP lawmaker calls for repealing state's newly expanded mail-in voting option
for repealing state’s newly expanded mail-in voting option

Patriot News
Gregory was among the 138 mostly Republican House members voting in favor of legislation in October 2019 that added this option to in-person voting and the long-standing option of requesting an absentee ballot if a voter can’t make it to the polls on Election Day due to a disability, unexpected illness or last-minute absence. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, this vote-by-mail option is now in place in 33 other states, plus the District of Columbia.
 
 

Dec. 1

Will Biden Cancel Your Student Loans In January?
Forbes
The original version of the Heroes Act included $10,000 in student loan forgiveness. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the provision would cost between $250 and $300 billion. Increasing the loan forgiveness amount to $50,000 would of course increase this cost, although not by a factor of five. The average student loan balance upon graduation is about $32,000, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Redistricting mapmakers mainly face the old partisan rules
Herald & Review
Although it's not clear how many more districts they can carve out for themselves than they did in 2011, their continued redistricting advantage will only help the Republicans' already solid prospects for picking up the half-dozen or so seats they will need to win back the House in 2022. Such midterm elections almost always favor the party not in the White House in any case. Sources: Princeton Gerrymandering Project, National Conference of State Legislatures
 
When does the Electoral College vote? Key dates and deadlines to know as final states certify
Fast Company
This is the deadline by which all state election disputes—including court challenges and recounts—must be resolved, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Think of this as a kind of point of no return. Note: This is next week.