NCSL in the News | February 2020

2/1/2020

Feb. 28

Legislators Face Tech-Heavy Agenda as They Confront the Future: Digital Issues to Watch
Governing
A total of 160 bills addressing consumer privacy have been introduced this year in 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Which time to choose?: Changing your clocks could be bad for your health
Canton Daily Ledger
More than 200 state bills have been filed since 2015 to either keep summer hours or go to permanent standard time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As Texas Becomes More Diverse, GOP Invests In Voter Registration for First Time In Years
Houston Public Media
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 39 states offer online voter registration, but not Texas. Antonio Arrellano said he sees this as a major obstacle for registering young voters. 

$90M bond issue for voting machines clears Pa. financing agency
WHYY NPR
Only Delaware and Ohio have issued debt specifically to buy election equipment, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Feb. 27

Weinstein Is Convicted. Where Does #MeToo Go From Here?
The New York Times
Since 2017, at least twelve states have passed laws restricting their use [of nondisclosure agreements], according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Legislators Face Tech-Heavy Agenda as They Confront the Future: Digital Issues to Watch 
Governing
A total of 160 bills addressing consumer privacy have been introduced this year in 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That’s a lot, but roughly the same number of bills were introduced in about the same number of states in 2019. Few of them reached the governor’s desk.

Felons would be allowed to vote while in prison under proposal heard by Nebraska lawmakers
Omaha World Herald
Currently, Maine and Vermont do not strip felons of voting rights while in prison, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Flagstaff Christian School to begin four-day week this fall
Arizona Daily Sun
The four-day week is a growing trend for school districts nationwide. An estimated 560 districts in 25 states have at least one school on a four-day schedule, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Ohio Senate urges Congress to make Daylight Saving Time year-round
Cleveland News
Eight other states have approved binding legislation – or, in California’s case, a statewide ballot issue – to make Daylight Saving Time permanent in their respective states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

$90M bond issue for voting machines clears state financing agency
Pennsylvania Post
Only Delaware and Ohio have issued debt specifically to buy election equipment, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Feb. 26

Missouri bill would restore ex-felons' right to vote sooner
Joplin Globe
Missouri is among 21 states where felons lose the right to vote until they complete their probation or parole terms, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Tom Steyer's push for term limits is a truly awful idea 
Vox
A 2006 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures examined states with term-limited lawmakers. It determined that term limits tend to increase the influence of lobbyists and lead to a “decline in civility” that “reduced legislators’ willingness and ability to compromise and engage in consensus building.” Term-limited lawmakers, the NCSL explained, “have less time to get to know and trust one another” and “are less collegial and less likely to bond with their peers, particularly those from across the aisle.”

Colorado lawmakers set to approve death penalty repeal 
WHBL News
Twenty-nine U.S. states, including Colorado, have the death penalty on their books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Capital punishment also remains in the criminal code of the federal government and U.S. military justice system.

With Cash to Spend, States Throw Down Big Bucks For K-12 Finance Studies 
Education Week 
And in New Hampshire, a legislative committee is negotiating with the University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy and the National Conference of State Legislatures over a $500,000 contract to design a new funding formula for the state. The contract requires the school to interview educators about their experiences, establish the cost of an adequate education, and provide the state technical support in implementing a new funding formula.

Feb. 19

Despite Iowa missteps, most Americans not worried about election security
PBS NewsHour
In 2020, 21 states have raised their minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Overall wages this year are expected to creep up to 3.3 percent, according to a July survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

North Carolina Appeals Court Puts Voter ID Requirement on Hold
Wall Street Journal
Thirty-five other states have laws that request or require identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The number has grown steadily since 2000.

6 questions about traveling with marijuana, answered.
The Washington Post
You can check where marijuana is legal on websites such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and Leafly.
 
Changing clocks is bad for your health, but which time to choose?
Chicago Tribune
More than 200 state bills have been filed since 2015 to either keep summer hours or go to permanent standard time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Half of Americans have unused gift cards, and it’s costing them over $21 billion
CNBC
If your gift cards barely have any money left on them, you may be able to exchange them at the store for cash, depending on the state you live in, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
 
Foster care payments, bill of rights passes W.Va. House
WHSV
At least 15 states have enacted bills establishing a foster children's bill of rights and 17 have foster parent bill of rights, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Will 2020 be the year Colorado bans plastic bags, Styrofoam and other single-use plastics?
The Durango Herald
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states have banned single-use bags. Last year, 95 bills were introduced at the state level to consider a ban or fee. About 15 states, including Colorado, have a preemption in place.

Feb. 18

Half of Americans have unused gift cards, and it's costing them over $21 billion
CNBC
If your gift cards barely have any money left on them, you may be able to exchange them at the store for cash, depending on the state you live in, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and a handful of others have different balance requirements. In California, you can get cash if your gift card has less than$10, whereas in Montana and New Jersey your card needs to have a balance of less than $5.

Changing clocks is bad for your health, but which time is best?
WRCB
More than 200 state bills have been filed since 2015 to either keep summer hours or go to permanent standard time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Is North Carolina's voter ID law 'lenient?'
WRAL
The NCSL says there are 36 states that have voter ID laws, but only about half of those states require voters to display a form of photo ID.
 
Michigan faces election challenges with absentee votes
Toledo Blade
However, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, most states allow clerks to at least prepare absentee ballots to be counted before Election Day, and some count them early. No cases of improperly leaked data have been recorded.

Feb. 17

Changing clocks is bad for your health, but which time to choose?
NBC News
More than 200 state bills have been filed since 2015 to either keep summer hours or go to permanent standard time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

To Protect Future Elections, Look To Old Tech
WGBH
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 14 states require paper ballots, Iowa and Florida included. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., require a voter-verifiable paper record. Nine states, including Massachusetts, either use paper ballots or machines with a paper trail, even though there’s no statutory requirement

What Does It Take To Run An Election? Pennsylvania Currently Has No Training For Officials
90.5 WESA
That’s not uncommon, according to Wendy Underhill of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Underhill noted the minimal prerequisites for a number of public offices – e.g. many coroners and sheriffs – “even though there’s a very specific skill set.”

Feb. 14

That Valentine’s Day Dinner Will Cost More This Year
The Wall Street Journal
Twenty-one states raised minimum wages for workers in January, up from 18 at the start of last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republican senators revisit controversial 'religious freedom' bill at the Iowa Capitol
Des Moines Register
Since 1993, 21 states have passed their own version of the act in some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Will 2020 be the year Colorado bans plastic bags, Styrofoam and other single-use plastics?
The Colorado Sun
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states have banned single-use bags. Last year, 95 bills were introduced at the state level to consider a ban or fee. About 15 states, including Colorado, have a preemption in place.

Senate mum on future of gag clause bill
The Meadville Tribune
At least 33 states have bans on gag clauses for prescription drug prices, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That includes Maryland and West Virginia, which both banned these types of gag clauses in 2018.

Oklahoma Senate Approves Bill to Allow More Armed Teachers
Public Radio Tulsa
Oklahoma is already one of at least nine states — along with Idaho, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming — that allow districts to authorize teachers to carry firearms on K-12 school grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Feb. 13

Kansas' New Elections Chief Sparks Own Voting-Rights Dispute
The New York Times
Sixteen states, starting with Colorado in 2004, have enacted laws allowing counties to run “voting centers” rather than traditional polling places, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Schwab said it typically takes a state three to four years to iron out security and computer issues and even under his timetable, Kansas would do it in two.

Missouri bill would ban in-state tuition for some students
Washington Post
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states have adopted laws allowing in-state tuition for students living in the U.S. illegally. At least three — Arizona, Georgia and Indiana, enacted laws to ban the practice. Alabama and South Carolina prohibit those students from attending public colleges and universities.

Nasheed drives her ‘legislative legacy’ to restore voting rights: ‘Enough is enough’
The Missouri Times
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), two states (Maine and Vermont) allow everyone to vote. Additionally, 16 states plus Washington, D.C., automatically restore voting rights to individuals following incarceration. (Some states have caveats for those convicted of voting-related crimes.) 
 
Daylight Saving Time, the bane of sleepers everywhere, may be headed for a bipartisan solution
The Gazette
In 2019, 40 states looked at 78 bills on one form or another of DST, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures, and 17 came close to adopting measures on ending the change, not including the seven states that took the permanent step.
 
Nobody can explain why a meeting of the entire Minnesota Legislature is closed to the public
MinnPost
Tuesday, Gazelka said one highlight of the conference is a tutorial on effective negotiations by an expert from the National Council of State Legislators, “so chairs and (bill) authors of bills can actually talk about doing that better.”
 
‘Like Eggs in a Carton’: Why Most School Buses Don’t Have Seat Belts
NBC Philadelphia
To date, only eight states – California, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas – require seat belts on school buses. Even then, school bus seat belt laws in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas “are subject to appropriations or approval or denial by local jurisdictions,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Electric cars are sleek, fast and cool – but also expensive
FOX10 News
Alabama is not the only state to impose such a fee, but it is among the nation’s highest. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, six states impose fees of $200 or more on electric car owners. Georgia’s rate, $212.78, is the nation’s highest.

Feb. 12

Unexpected shock: Surprise medical bills hit 1 in 5 surgery patients, study says
USA TODAY
Unexpected medical bills for emergency care and optional procedures alike have prompted nine states to pass laws preventing surprise billing, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but they have their limits.

Missouri bill would ban in-state tuition for some students
Washington Post
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states have adopted laws allowing in-state tuition for students living in the U.S. illegally. At least three — Arizona, Georgia and Indiana, enacted laws to ban the practice. Alabama and South Carolina prohibit those students from attending public colleges and universities.

Colorado to consider bill similar to one that prompted DHS to cut off “trusted-traveler” programs for New Yorkers
The Colorado Sun
Both New Jersey and Nevada, which also allow people living in the U.S. unlawfully to get driver’s licenses, restrict DMV information from being released for the purposes of immigration enforcement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
House Democrats vote to remove Virginia's photo ID requirement for voting
WHSV 3
Former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell signed SB 1256 into law mandating voters have a form of ID with a photograph. Virginia is one of the 18 states with such voting requirements, according to the National Conference of Legislature.
 
As Wichita Considers Regulating Plastic Bags, State Bill Would Prevent A Ban
KMUW Wichita 89.1
If a bill is passed, Kansas would join 15 other states that have already enacted pre-emptive laws against plastic bans; that’s compared to the eight states that have passed plastic bag bans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
STATE'S DIVIDED GOVERNMENT WILL GET NEW TEST
KNSI Radio
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he and Hortman plan to bring in experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures to teach a class to lawmakers on negotiating, in hopes of heading off impasses at crunch time.

Feb. 11

New York Sues Trump Administration Over 'Punitive' Ban From Traveler Programs
The New York Times
Fifteen states - including conservative Utah - and the District of Columbia have Green Light laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Global Entry: What to Know About the Enrollment Freeze
The New York Times
New York is among 15 states that have passed green light laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
New Bail Laws Leading to Release of Dangerous Criminals, Some Prosecutors Say
The Wall Street Journal
Since 2012, at least 19 states have moved to reduce the use of financial conditions for a defendant’s release in an effort to keep those who pose little public safety risk from being jailed before trial, according to Amber Widgery, who analyzes criminal justice policy for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Utah Senate votes to adopt year-round daylight saving time
The Salt Lake Tribune
[Sen. Wayne] Harper said representatives from Utah have met with counterparts from other states through events and organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and that there is growing interest around a multistate push for permanent daylight Time.
 
Minnesota’s divided government experiment will get new test
News Observer
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he and Hortman plan to bring in experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures to teach a class to lawmakers on negotiating, in hopes of heading off impasses at crunch time.

Feb. 10

‘Extortion’: N.Y. Assails Trump Administration Over Traveler Programs
The New York Times
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have passed so-called green-light laws allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures; they include solidly Democratic states like Washington and California, and conservative bastions like Utah.
 
Virginia poised to aid undocumented immigrants with driver’s licenses, other measures
The Washington Post
Ann Morse, who analyzes immigrant-related laws for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said officials around the country “are trying to weigh encouraging people to sign up for driver’s licenses and become insured versus the concern that ICE is now coming into state databases and hijacking that information.” 
 
National firestorm on horizon as states consider criminalizing transgender treatments for youths
USA TODAY
The health care bills rely on misinformation and fear, Cook said, following a similar strategy to the bathroom bills. In 2017, the year North Carolina rolled back HB2, 16 states considered restricting people to restrooms that matched their sex assigned at birth, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Top state, local elected officials should release tax returns
Newsday
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Cuomo's legislation would be unique in the nation.
 
Manufacturers that offer top-paid, skilled jobs oppose efforts in Connecticut to legalize marijuana
Hartford Courant
Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 
 
Calls for school CO detectors ignored
The Eagle Tribune
To be sure, only five states — Connecticut, Maine, California, Maryland and Illinois — require CO detectors in schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 
 
National firestorm on horizon as Oklahoma, other states consider criminalizing transgender treatments for youths
The Oklahoman
NCSL Information Cited. 
 
From the Hall: Supreme Court to hear challenge to Del.’s court balance law
Delaware State News
Delaware’s five most recent governors and three most recent chief justices, along with the Republican National Committee, the Delaware State Bar Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and other organizations and individuals, filed briefs last week in support of a case set to be argued before the Supreme Court next month.
 
Here's what could help save more black infants' lives. But NC isn't doing it.
Greensboro News & Record
Eight states and Washington, D.C., have adopted paid family-leave laws, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, while 11 states and Washington, D.C. have paid sick-leave laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

HB 896 aims to let grads pay in-state tuition regardless of immigration status
11 Alive
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nineteen states have enacted similar laws to offer in-state tuition to students regardless of immigration status.

Feb. 6

Despite Iowa caucus disaster, U.S. election systems are better than you think. Really.
USA Today
"It's still very much in the future," says Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "We really aren't there yet."


Senate could seek more power for judges, justices
Politico
In the state legislature, though, Jersey girls are under-represented: 31% of the seats are held by women, just 2 percentage points higher than the 50-state average, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 


Bill would make New Mexico presidential primary first in U.S.
La Cruces Sun News
New Mexico will hold its primary election this year on June 2, which is tied for the latest date in the country, along with Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Bills that would deny bail for violent offenders face challenges
Times Daily
North Carolina and Maryland are the only states that don’t have an explicit presumption of pretrial bail in their state constitutions or statutes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Bills that would deny bail for violent offenders face constitutionality questions
WBRC 6 News
Fourteen states including Alabama only have capital offenses as their reason for refusing bail. North Carolina and Maryland are the only states that don’t have an explicit presumption of pretrial bail in their state constitutions or statutes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Feb. 5

States are working to ensure your employer can't force you to wear a microchip
New York Post
If the bill passes, Indiana would join four other states that outlaw mandatory microchipping for employees, said Pam Greenberg, a researcher on privacy and technology policy issues at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a resource organization for state governments.

Bill would make New Mexico presidential primary first in US
Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico will hold its primary election this year on June 2, which is tied for the latest date in the country, along with Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Ballot question replacing closed primary with ‘top two’ system filed by GOP state senator
The Nevada Independent
According to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Nevada is one of nine states with a “closed” primary, requiring voters to be registered with a political party to vote in a primary election.
 
Washington Lawmaker Wants To Ban Openly Carried Guns At The State Capitol
OPB
As of 2017, Washington was among 23 states that permitted guns in the Capitol, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More up-to-date information was not immediately available.
 
Changes to Missouri primary elections floated in Senate
The Missouri Times
Aside from Missouri, 14 other states have open primaries, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). They include: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Feb. 4

Angel Mom: Granting illegal immigrants driver's licenses will create more Angel Families
USA TODAY
Thanks to so-called Green Light Laws, illegal immigrants can already obtain licenses in 13 states, as well as Washington, D.C., according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and more states are jumping on the bandwagon.

States are cracking down on companies microchipping their employees — how common is it and why does it happen?
Marketwatch
If the bill passes, Indiana would join four other states that outlaw mandatory microchipping for employees, said Pam Greenberg, a researcher on privacy and technology policy issues at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a resource organization for state governments.
 
NJ lawmakers mull ban on single-use plastic, paper bags
WFMZ 69 News
So far, eight other states have already banned plastic bags, and fifteen others have passed a bill to take action on prohibiting them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
South Dakota Is the Latest State Looking to Outlaw Plastic Bag Bans
Food & Wine
According to a report released last week from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), currently, eight states have banned single-use plastic bags—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont—and similar bans have been passed elsewhere in individual municipalities. 
 
Prisons, lottery, raises, mental health on legislative agenda

WAFF 48 News
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 33 states allow for medical marijuana.

Feb. 3

NJ takes up ban on plastic, paper bags after bill stalled
Washington Times
Eight states have already banned single-use plastic bags. They are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Some states, though, have gone in the other direction. Fifteen states have passed bills to preempt local governments from prohibiting plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Wisconsin Governor Creates Student Debt Task Force
U.S. News & World Report
At least 35 states now offer a loan forgiveness or repayment program, meaning that the states forgive at least a portion of a student's loans if he or she meets certain requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Illinois lawmakers hear more about how to address conflicts of interest in government
MDJOnline.com
Illinois Policy's Adam Schuster, state Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, Nicholas Birdsong with the NCSL and House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, talk about ethics reforms

2020 Legislative session convenes Tuesday
Times Daily
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 33 states allow for medical marijuana.

Commission says the problems are not confined to Springfield
WJBC News
As for one of the big ones hanging over the Capitol, “I wasn’t able to find any state that restricts the ability of state legislators to act as lobbyists to local governments,” said Nicholas Birdsong of the National Conference of State Legislatures, “at least explicitly in the statute.”
 
North Carolina redistricting puts power at stake in 2020 legislative elections
WXII 12
“The 2020 election is the premier election when it comes to redistricting, because it is the election that will set the players in place who will do redistricting come 2021,” said Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Senate OKs plan to move up Pennsylvania primary; House unconvinced
The Meadville Tribune
Only Kansas, Indiana, Nebraska, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold primaries after Pennsylvania, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Wolf renewed call for $15 minimum wage; GOP isn’t interested
The Times
Twenty-one states, including four Pennsylvania’s neighboring states, began 2020 with a higher minimum wage, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. 
 
Kate Bond Middle School safe to resume classes following suspected carbon monoxide leak
WMC 5 News
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only five states require carbon monoxide detectors in school buildings. Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi are not required.