NCSL in the News | March 2020

3/4/2020

March 11

'Put down the bong': Kennedy dismisses the FCC's 5G auction plan, still presses for legislation
Politico Pro
The National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National League of Cities and other groups, meanwhile, issued a statement Tuesday calling on Congress to leverage the C-band auction "for a large-scale expansion and upgrade of broadband across communities."

Coronavirus threatens to pose an unprecedented challenge to the 2020 elections
The Washington Post
Four states hold all elections entirely by mail, and at least 21 states allow certain elections to be conducted entirely by mail, depending on the circumstances, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Former convict in Detroit becomes first-time voter at age 60: 'It felt really good'
USA Today
Michigan is among 16 states and the District of Columbia where people convicted of crimes lose their voting rights only while incarcerated and automatically have their rights restored upon release, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 
 
Washington State Lawmakers Vote to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags
Bloomberg
If the measure is signed by Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Washington would join California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont in enacting bans on single-use plastic bags, according to data by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Election officials rush to make changes to address coronavirus concerns
The Guardian
Forty-five states have provisions that allow for changes to elections in case of emergency, though the procedures vary widely from state to state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In eight states – Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – the governor has statutory power to delay elections.
 
States Scouring Landscape for New Pots of K-12 Revenue
Education Week
"The fact of the matter is, most revenue sources are pretty well tapped out," said Dan Thatcher, a school funding expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures, which a few years ago successfully sued an internet company so states could start to collect online sales tax. "And we're operating on really outmoded systems to begin with that came to being after World War II. Property tax is hated, but the thing about it is that it's the most stable source of income for school districts."

Fine Print: How New $50M Program Is Supposed to Make College in NJ Affordable
NJ Spotlight
College promise programs such as the Garden State Guarantee are becoming increasingly common; according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of March 2019, 17 states had them, although almost all at the community college level. For four-year colleges, New York’s Excelsior Scholarship provides free tuition at SUNY schools for eligible students, as does the Washington State Grant for certain in-state baccalaureate institutions.

North Carolina levies a total tax on lodging of 4.8%
The Center Square
Hotel room bills in North Carolina tack on a total state lodging tax of 4.8 percent, the 40th highest lodging tax rate in the nation, according to a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Need to take a day off because of coronavirus? Know your Vermont paid sick day rights
Burlington Free Press
Vermont is one of 12 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that require paid sick days, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

March 10

Coronavirus threatens to pose an unprecedented challenge to the 2020 elections
The Washington Post
At least 45 states have laws that anticipate Election Day emergencies such as natural disasters, but these laws vary widely, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In eight states, including Florida, Texas and Virginia, the governor has the statutory power to delay or reschedule an election.

Companies are putting out hand sanitizer. But for years, many have campaigned against sick pay.
The Washington Post
Since 2011, 13 states and the District of Columbia have required employers to offer sick pay, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

In Baltimore, parents owe hundreds of millions in child support. Here’s how other states have made changes for the better.
The Baltimore Sun
At least 20 states, including Maryland, have some type of policy to address arrears that accumulate during prison sentences, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Bee Lawns Generate National Buzz
PEW
At least 28 states have enacted pollinator health laws in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

You abhor Daylight Saving Time. 32 states do too. But it's up to Congress to change things
WRCB TV
Read on for the list of states that have proposed and approved daylight saving legislation and resolutions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

March 9

Paid sick leave is a public health policy
The Hill
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, less than a dozen states and Washington D.C. provide paid sick leave. Some cities also provide paid sick leave to qualified individuals, but estimates are that 27 percent or 32 million private-sector workers in the U.S. are unable to take a single paid sick day.

Most Pa. House committee leaders who steer legislation have no opposition in this year’s elections. Here’s why that matters.
Morning Call
Fourteen states use a commission of some sort to draw legislative maps, according to Wendy Underhill of the National Conference of State Legislatures. In many of those, including Pennsylvania, lawmakers are involved.

Colorado among states fixing child support system; Maryland urged to 'do something profound’ and make changes here
The Baltimore Sun
At least 20 states, including Maryland, have some type of policy to address arrears that accumulate during prison sentences, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Time isn’t on the side of a permanent time change in Iowa
Sioux City Journal
Iowa is one of 32 states that this year are considering or have passed laws that would affect daylight saving time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

March 6

Maryland lawmakers reject bill to expand the state's sales tax
Washington Post
Maryland would have joined just a handful of states that broadly tax services: Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia. Other states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, have tried to impose such a tax but have been mostly unsuccessful, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

House Democrats press ahead on paid family and medical leave
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Nine states already have passed paid family and medical leave laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while Minnesota is one of 20 states currently considering them.

National, Texas Democrats file lawsuit to keep straight-ticket voting for 2020 election
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
In 2020, only seven states will permit straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Michigan, a push to keep straight-ticket voting was unsuccessful, with the Supreme Court denying a request to preserve it in 2018.

Critics say new work rule will hurt hospitals, boost homelessness
The Columbian
However, states with high unemployment or few jobs have been able to waive time limits. Every state except Delaware has sought a waiver at some point, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Food stamp change fueling anxiety
Maui News
However, states with high unemployment or few jobs have been able to waive time limits. Every state except Delaware has sought a waiver at some point, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

What to know about voting in the 2020 Michigan primary if you've spent time in prison
Detroit Free Press
Michigan is among 16 states and the District of Columbia where people convicted of crimes lose their voting rights only while incarcerated and automatically have their rights restored upon release, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Michiganders can vote while on parole or probation.

Part-time legislature bill finds its committee
The Guam Daily Post
Part-time state legislatures are not an alien concept. The National Conference of State Legislatures organizes lawmaking bodies into three categories: Green, which is equivalent to full time; Gray, which are hybrids; and Gold, which are part-time. Four states are under the Green category and six are under what the NCSL calls "Full-time Lite." Half of all states are in Gray territory, while 10 are "Part-time Lite" and four are part-time, with low pay and small staff sizes.

March 45

Maryland lawmakers reject bill to expand the state’s sales tax
Washington Post
Maryland would have joined just a handful of states that broadly tax services: Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia. Other states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, have tried to impose such a tax but have been mostly unsuccessful, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Ransomware Attacks Prompt Tough Question for Local Officials: To Pay or Not to Pay?
Governing
All 50 states have computer crime laws, and most address unauthorized access or computer trespass, according to Pam Greenberg, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ransomware potentially could be prosecuted under those statutes or extortion laws, she said.

February general revenue tops forecast by $8.6M
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
In 2019, tax modernization was a key theme with states changing their tax codes to implement online sales tax collection and expanding taxes to new products, although net revenue changes were still minimal in an aggregate sense, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in a recent report.

Despite more registered voters, McLennan County turnout down compared to 2016 primaries
Waco Tribune-Herald
“Texas is one of the more dispersed election systems,” said Wendy Underhill, who analyzes election policy at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Pot distribution charges dropped against man transporting hemp through state
Rapid City Journal
South Dakota, Idaho and Mississippi are the only states that ban hemp cultivation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

A coronavirus reprieve? Washington State votes by mail on Tuesday
The Washington Times
Washington is one of four states that conduct all elections by mail, along with Oregon, Colorado and Hawaii, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

States scramble to prepare ahead of food stamps rule change
WSBT
However, states with high unemployment or few jobs have been able to waive time limits. Every state except Delaware has sought a waiver at some point, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

March 4

States Scramble to Prepare Ahead of Food Stamps Rule Change
The New York Times
However, states with high unemployment or few jobs have been able to waive time limits. Every state except Delaware has sought a waiver at some point, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Tuesday round-up
SCOTUSblog
Additional commentary [on California v. Texas] comes from Ian Millhiser, also at Vox, and from Lisa Soronen at The NCSL Blog.
 
State of Wayfair: Sales Tax Patchwork ‘Nightmarishly Complex’
Bloomberg Tax
Beth Sosidka, director of state and local tax policy for AT&T, in February asked the MTC to send letters to state tax administrators encouraging them to recommend their legislatures adopt the model marketplace-facilitator legislation proposed by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The NCSL “narrow definition” model would allow large sellers such as AT&T to opt out of having marketplace facilitators such as Amazon and eBay collect and remit taxes on remote sales.

School buses safer than cars for kids
Fenton Tri County Times
About half the states in the U.S. have no law requiring seat belts on school buses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Michigan is among states like Ohio, Arizona and Oregon that don’t require seatbelts or stop arm cameras to catch illegally passing vehicles.

Ohio election change is cleared for state review
Martins Ferry Times Leader
Twenty-one states plus the District of Columbia have same-day voter registration, and more than a dozen have some manner of automated voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

March 3

5000 emails in three hours: Blast of opposition to Md. bill expanding sales tax
Washington Post
Numerous other states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, have tried to impose such a tax but have been mostly unsuccessful, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some others, including Connecticut and North Carolina, have taken incremental steps to tax the purchase of services.

At Least 43 California Companies Failed to Add Women to Corporate Boards, Despite New Law
Time
California frequently sets legislative trends, but most states are waiting to see how the new law plays out in the courts. Illinois and New York have opted for diversity disclosure rules instead of quotas for now. Legislators in Hawaii, New Jersey and Washington have introduced bills this year that would add quotas, but the efforts are in early stages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

‘It’s a very unfortunate conundrum.’ As coronavirus spreads, the CDC urges sick workers to stay home—but what if you don’t get paid sick leave?
MarketWatch
Eleven states and the District of Columbia now require that some employees receive paid sick leave, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. 
 
Mississippi considers limit on drug called kratom
Mississippi Business Journal
As of 2018, kratom was illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The group said Illinois and Louisiana ban the sale of kratom to minors.
 
Stop Milking It, Dairy Farmers Tell Plant-Based Competitors
PEW
Last year, Louisiana, Nebraska and Pennsylvania passed resolutions urging the federal government to act, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
New York Becomes the Latest State to Ban Single-use Plastic Bags
Travel & Leisure
The ban makes New York one of eight states that have enacted legislation to nix single-use plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont. In 2014, California became the first state to do so, banning the bags at large retail stores.

March 2

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. 
 
The 2020 race could become the coronavirus election. Is America ready?
Los Angeles Times
According to the most recently available research from the National Conference of State Legislatures, “At least 45 states have statutes that deal with Election Day emergencies in some way, though there is little consistency between states on what events would be covered and exactly what plans will be followed in each emergency.”
 
FYI—Flap over conservative ALEC turns some Utah House Democrats against federalism resolution
The Salt Lake Tribune
HCR 16 calls on the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to establish a federalism task force that would convene a series of summits and develop plans “for restoring and maintaining clearly discernible divisions in the roles and responsibilities of the national government and the states.”
 
How it unfolded: King County death first in U.S. linked to coronavirus
The Seattle Times
State and local governments are primarily responsible for this task. But the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is charged with monitoring and responding to the spread of communicable disease across national or state borders, or if a state government is unwilling or unable to respond, according to the  National Conference of State Legislatures.
 
Sports betting back on table in Missouri
The Joplen Globe
Tax rates among Missouri’s neighbors vary, but even Illinois’ 15% and Arkansas’ 13% rates are well below Pennsylvania and Eastern states such as Delaware and Rhode Island that tax half of sports betting revenues. Iowa has one of the lowest rates in the nation, matching Nevada’s 6.75% rate, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
 
Wireless tech proposal brings concern about cities’ rights
The Gadsen Times
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, prior to 2019, 21 state legislatures had enacted guidelines for the deployment of small cells, while 23 other states considered legislation last year.
 
Missouri Republicans look to reinstate voter ID law
The News Tribune
Thirty-five states have some form of a voter ID law, which include requirements for non-photo IDs, an affidavit affirming the voter's identity or photo IDs, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.