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BPAA Biweekly State Policy Updates - November 30

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  • Minimum wage activists look to 2020 ballots after midterm success - The campaign for higher minimum wages originated years ago in blue cities like New York and Seattle, but it’s proving pretty popular in Trump country as well. Voters in both Arkansas and Missouri, two states that went strongly for President Donald Trump in 2016, passed ballot initiatives to increase the state minimum wage during Tuesday’s midterm elections. Initiatives in Florida, Nevada and North Dakota are already in the works for the presidential ballot in 2020. “Folks in Washington are bragging about how good the economy is,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, the Washington-based advocacy group that backed this year’s measures and is leading organizing for 2020. “People don’t pay their rent or put food on the table based on the stock market — it’s how much money is in their paycheck.” Arkansans will see a boost from its current $8.50 an hour to $11 an hour by 2021, and Missouri will raise the minimum wage from $7.85 an hour in 2018 to $12 an hour in 2023. Both measures enjoyed overwhelming support, with 68 percent of Arkansas voters and 62 percent of Missouri voters voting in favor. Minimum wage ballot initiatives have also won handily in red and purple states, such as South Dakota, Nebraska and Arizona, in the past two election cycles. Read more here.
  • Bloomberg - Michigan Senate Votes to Gut Minimum Wage, Sick Leave Laws: Michigan's Republican-led Senate passed bills Wednesday that would substantially scale back citizen-initiated minimum wage and paid sick leave laws that a business lobby criticized as too burdensome, setting up expected lawsuits if GOP Gov. Rick Snyder signs them into law before making way for a Democrat in January. The Senate voted 26-12, almost entirely along party lines, to advance the two bills to the Republican-controlled House, which is expected to pass them and could vote as early as next week. One measure would delay increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour to at least 2030, instead of 2022. It would also repeal provisions to tie future increases to inflation and bring a lower wage for tipped employees in line with the wage for other workers. The current minimum wage is $9.25. Another bill would exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees from having to provide paid sick time as required under the existing law that is scheduled to take effect in March, limit the amount of annual mandatory leave at larger businesses to 36 hours, instead of 72 hours, and make other changes. To prevent the citizen initiatives from going to electorate earlier this month, where they would be much harder to change if voters had passed them, GOP legislators preemptively approved them in September so that they could alter them after the election with simple majority votes in each chamber. Read more at The Detroit News.


  • Bloomberg Government - $190M State, Local Tax Deduction Workaround OK’d by Michigan Senate - The Michigan Senate unanimously passed a bill that could provide up to $190 million in federal income tax relief for pass-through entities. The Nov. 29 vote for S.B. 1170 advances a proposed workaround to the $10,000 federal deduction cap that limited liability companies, S corporations, and partnerships can take on their federal returns. The cap was one of the most controversial aspects of the 2017 federal tax law (Pub. L. No. 115-97) because it frequently creates a disparity between a lower effective tax rate for corporations (now 21 percent) taxed as entities, and pass-through companies considered individuals. To beat the cap and allow unlimited state and local tax (SALT) deductions, the Michigan bill would allow pass-through entities to elect to pay state taxes at the entity level and then give owners a credit on the taxes paid by their companies. Thus, it would be revenue-neutral to Michigan, but would allow companies to maximize the SALT deduction and reduce income taxes to the federal government.
  • Illinois will welcome a new governor in the new year, but Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker will likely have a short honeymoon period given the state’s difficult fiscal position. Despite the tough terrain ahead, House Speaker Madigan’s public support for Pritzker’s stated tax priorities – including adopting a graduated income tax and taxing recreational cannabis and – signal a welcome path forward.
  • California: About three-fourths of almost 400 local tax measures were approved by voters. This includes sales tax increases in 11 cities in Los Angeles County and three new taxes on large tech firms.


  • WisPolitics - Schimel: Wedding barns need license to serve alcohol: A new informal opinion from outgoing AG Brad Schimel could threaten so-called "wedding barns," according to a conservative think tank. But Walker administration officials aren't saying whether they are planning to change their enforcement standards for the venues, which are rented out for weddings or other private events. Schimel in a letter earlier this month wrote that private events held at public sites would require the host to have an alcohol license in order to serve liquor. Current law generally doesn't allow venue owners of a "public place" to provide alcohol to guests that rent out their property without a license. But the term "public place" isn't defined in statute.  The opinion comes after Rep. Rob Swearingen asked Schimel to weigh in on the legality of wedding barns and other similar venues in a letter Nov. 8. The request, he said, came as he and other members of the Leg Council Study Committee on Alcohol Beverages Enforcement reviewed law enforcement's handling of the issue. Swearingen chairs the committee. Schimel wrote in his response Nov. 16 that while statute doesn't explicitly define "public place," the surrounding context of the law shows, among other things, that it doesn't become "non-public if access is temporarily limited to invited guests." 
  • "A broad 'private event' exception cannot be supported by the text of the statute; there is simply no portion of the statute that would support a distinction between a public place that hosts an event open to all the public, and a public place that may be rented out for a limited private event," he wrote. "The 'place,' in both circumstances, is 'public' in my view."  Still, he noted his informal opinion "is not meant in any way to bind or inhibit the role of the next Attorney General," who Schimel writes "is obviously free to disagree with my position."
  • AG-elect Josh Kaul's campaign didn't return a request for comment. Kaul beat Schimel to win the seat by a margin of just more than 17,000 votes.
  • Schimel, who characterized his letter as an "informal analysis," noted he can only issue formal opinions if a legislative leader, chamber or state agency head requests it.
  • Swearingen applauded Schimel's take on the venues, which aren't currently licensed to sell alcohol though they still allow people to drink on the property. "Ultimately at the end of the day this was all common sense," Swearingen said in an interview today, adding Schimel's interpretation of current law is how the Rhinelander Republican "felt about it all along." Still, representatives from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty warn if the administration plans to adopt Schimel's opinion, "they should expect a fight."
  • Read more here:


  • Overview of sports betting in the United States:
    • States that allow for sports betting:  Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia
      • Voters also legalized Arkansas sports betting this fall, though it will take several months to put the pieces in place.
      • In New Mexico, a tribal group is now offering NM sports betting under an existing Class III gaming compact.
      • New York (passed in 2013) and Connecticut (passed in July 2017): regulators have yet to draft the rules and more enabling legislation likely required for progress.
    • New Jersey allows legal sports betting online via mobile apps; Pennsylvania and West Virginia will soon.
    • Oregon state lottery believes it can authorize wagering, though there has been no legislative activity.
    • States that have introduced bills studying or permitting sports betting in 2017 or 2018: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia
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