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BPAA Biweekly State Policy Updates - May 31, 2019

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  • What Republicans And Democrats Are Doing In The States Where They Have Total Power: The recent passage of a law in Alabama that essentially bans all abortions in the state resulted in a barrage of coverage of other abortion restrictions being adopted in conservative areas this year. But as FiveThirtyEight illustrated in a story last week, this is not a new trend — Republican-controlled states have been chipping away at abortion access since the 2010 elections, which swept the GOP into power in state legislatures and governors’ mansions across the country.
    • Still, the Alabama law got us thinking … what policies in addition to abortion limits are being passed in a multitude of states? More specifically, what laws are being passed in “trifecta” states, in which one party controls both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office? These states are ripe for bills to pass easily because the other party can’t stop them. And they serve as a good indicator of each party’s priorities and what it might do at the federal level given unfettered power.1
    • There is no formal clearinghouse for state policy changes, so I looked for legislative patterns and consulted with national groups that work on state policy, such as the left-leaning State Innovation Exchange. The result is a non-exhaustive list of legislation that has passed in multiple trifecta states, either blue or red.
    • The 14 states — which are home to about 112 million people — that are totally controlled by Democrats are pushing forward an agenda of, among other things, hiking the minimum wage significantly above the federal $7.25 per hour, banning (for minors) therapy that is designed to “convert” gay and lesbian people from homosexuality (this treatment is widely condemned by medical experts) and mandating that the Electoral College votes in states go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote.
    • Read more here at FiveThirtyEight.


  • Bloomberg Government - Migration’s Biggest Loser Is Connecticut as Florida Profits: Roughly 5 million Americans move from one state to another annually and some states are clearly making out better than others. Florida and South Carolina enjoyed the top economic gains, while Connecticut, New York and New Jersey faced some of the biggest financial drains, according to a Bloomberg analysis of state-to-state moves based on data from the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Census Bureau. Connecticut lost the equivalent of 1.6% of its annual adjusted gross income, as the people who moved out of the Constitution State had an average income of $122,000, which was 26% higher than those migrating in. Moreover, “leavers” outnumbered “stayers” by a five-to-four margin.
    • Bloomberg’s analysis included all 50 states and the nation’s capital to provide a fuller picture of aggregate income flows from migration. About 10% of the population moves annually, or about 35 million people, according to the Census Bureau. Most moves are within the same county.
    • Florida posted a net income influx of nearly 3% of the state’s adjusted gross income in 2016. South Carolina, Idaho and Oregon were also among the largest gainers in the interstate shuffle.
    • New York’s annual net loss was the highest, with a net $8.4 billion leaving the state. Exiting incomes of $19.1 billion were replaced by people who brought in $10.7 billion less in income. Illinois and New Jersey were next with net outflows of $4.8 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively.



  • Connecticut Governor Signs $15 Minimum-Wage Bill: Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation Tuesday that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $15, joining six other states and Washington D.C. Lifting the minimum wage was a centerpiece of Mr. Lamont’s gubernatorial campaign last year. The minimum wage now will increase incrementally until it hits $15 in 2023. It then will be linked to the employment-cost index, a federal measurement of the changes in the cost of labor. Connecticut’s current minimum wage is $10.10.
    • “This is perhaps one of the most impactful pieces of legislation for working families that a governor can sign,” Mr. Lamont, a Democrat, said in a news release. “This is a fair, gradual increase for the working women and men who will invest the money right back into our economy and continue supporting local businesses in their communities.” The other states that have passed $15-minimum-wage legislation are Massachusetts, California, Maryland, Illinois, New York and New Jersey.
    • Both chambers of the state Legislature, controlled by Democrats, passed the bill earlier this month over objections from Republicans, who say it will hurt businesses. Joe Brennan, chief executive of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, an industry group, sent a letter to state lawmakers Tuesday saying that the legislature was advancing numerous bills this year that are making it harder to attract new businesses. He singled out the minimum-wage bill and legislative efforts by Democrats to introduce paid-family leave and create a public option to buy health insurance through the state. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.
  • Bloomberg Government - Higher Local Minimum Wage Now Allowed in Colorado: Local governments in Colorado can boost their minimum wage above that of the state’s under a law signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D). The legislation (H.B. 1210), signed May 28, repeals an existing ban against local governments hiking their local wage requirement beyond the current state minimum, which is currently $11.10 an hour.
    • Sponsors said the bill is about providing financial security for workers, and cited studies showing local minimum wage laws can increase earnings for workers without negatively affecting employment. Similar bills had been defeated in several prior legislative sessions, but Democrats—who won the majority in the state Senate and held on to the House in November 2019—were able to push the measure through.
    • Polis signed the bill into law the same day Connecticut’s governor signed minimum wage legislation that would move that state to a $15 base rate by 2023.


  • Associated Press - Senate Re-refers House Minimum Wage Bill: The New Hampshire Senate has put a minimum wage bill on hold, but another version remains alive in the House. The state relies on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the lowest in New England. Both the House and Senate have passed slightly different bills that would establish a state minimum wage and gradually increase it to $12 over several years. The Senate voted Thursday to delay action on the House bill until next year, while the House has yet to act on the Senate bill. Democrats argue that the current rate is far below a living wage. Republicans counter that states that have enacted increases have seen jobs decline and the take-home pay for low-wage workers decrease due to reduced hours.


  • Colorado Employers Face Tougher Criminal Penalties For “Wage Theft”: Signed into law on May 16, 2019, by Governor Polis, Colorado employers will soon be at risk of a felony conviction and incarceration for “wage theft.” The new law is an express recognition of labor as a thing of value that can be subject to theft, if an employer willfully refuses to pay wages due. The new law increases the criminal penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony when the theft is greater than $2,000. It also removes the exemption from criminal prosecution for an employer that is unable to pay because of bankruptcy. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Supporters of the bill noted that increased criminal penalties may serve as additional deterrence for employers looking to skirt civil wage and hour requirements and help combat labor trafficking. The new law, however, will undoubtedly face challenges on the ground and in court. As a practical matter, wage theft is very rarely prosecuted. The risk is that criminal law enforcement against employers can ensnare workers by crippling the businesses on which they rely for employment (not to mention the possibility of cutting off economic and punitive damages to which an employee would normally be entitled).
    • The new law may be at odds with civil legislation like the Colorado Wage Act, which requires employers to make employees “whole” for unpaid wages. Moreover, it is unclear whether criminalizing the problem will increase encounters between police and unauthorized immigrants, subject to deportation, which the law is meant to protect. We will wait and see whether the wage theft law produces its intended result. Read more at JDSupra.  


  • Lawmakers To Vote To Make Wage Theft A Felony Crime In Minnesota: Minnesota lawmakers and labor groups hailed a bipartisan agreement Thursday to hold employers responsible for holding back workers’ wages, one of the nation’s firmest policies to beat back wage theft. For the first time, refusing to pay workers would be a felony under an agreement lawmakers plan to vote on in special session. The law would also broaden the state’s ability to prosecute employers in an effort to prevent the loss of an estimated $12 million in unpaid wages from roughly 39,000 Minnesota workers each year. Read more at StarTribune.


  • Vermont House Adjourns, Senate Remains as Minimum Wage and Paid Leave Deal Collapses: A standoff between the Democratic leaders of the Vermont House and Senate deepened Friday as one chamber attempted to adjourn for the year and the other vowed to remain in session.  At issue were bills to raise Vermont’s minimum wage and enact a paid family and medical leave program. Though a majority of lawmakers in both chambers appeared to support the proposals, House and Senate leaders failed, after days of intense negotiations, to resolve remaining differences.  After declaring an impasse Friday afternoon, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) gaveled out her chamber and summoned Republican Gov. Phil Scott to deliver a customary end-of-session address. But the Senate had other ideas.  In an unexpected twist, Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) refused to adjourn for the year and scheduled another Senate session for next Wednesday. He called on House members to change their minds and return next week to reach a deal.



  • Texas House, Senate Approve Budget Deal With Agreements On School Finance, Property Taxes, Hurricane Harvey Recovery: The Texas Legislature advanced a $250.7 billion two-year budget Sunday, ending weeks of deliberation over how much money to spend on the 2019 legislative session’s two highest priorities: public school funding and property tax relief. The spending plan, House Bill 1, now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who may veto individual line-items he objects to. “HB 1 is a conservative budget that pays for the needs of this state,” said state Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican and the lower chamber’s chief budget writer. “In the beginning of session, I polled every member of this body about your top priorities this session, and all 31 members [of the Senate] had the same answer: public education, teacher pay, property tax relief,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who oversaw the budget in the upper chamber. “That’s what we set out to do this session, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.” The approved $250.7 billion, made up of state taxes and fees, local property tax dollars and federal funds, marks a 16% spending increase over the two-year budget approved by lawmakers in the tight-fisted 2017 legislative session. The House approved the spending plan with just one no vote, from state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. The Senate unanimously approved the budget later Sunday evening. Read more at Texas Tribune.


  • Kansas House Falls Short In Bid To Override Governor’s Veto Of Tax Bill: The Kansas House fell six votes shy of overriding Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of legislation granting multinational corporations a state income tax exemption on overseas earnings and enabling Kansans to itemize deductions on state tax returns while claiming an elevated standard federal tax deduction. The $240 million, three-year package vetoed by Kelly would have earmarked future revenue gains from an expanded sales tax on internet transactions to buying down the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax on groceries. House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said he was surprised the House voted 78-39 on the override, which was six short of the necessary two-thirds majority of 84. It would have needed a two-thirds majority in the Senate as well. Fate of House Bill 2033 was decided by House Republicans who previously voted for the bill and backed out of a pledge to support the override, Ryckman said. “It’s unfortunate the tax bill didn’t come together,” he said. “We thought we were working along an area that would be good for our taxpayers, especially the ones who want to itemize, especially if you want a reduction in food sales tax. Doesn’t mean we won’t try again.” Read more at Wellington Daly News.


  • Bloomberg Government - North Carolina Senate Passes Franchise Tax Relief Bill: Companies doing business in North Carolina would receive more tax relief under bills advancing in the legislature. The state Senate passed a bill (S.B. 622) late May 20 that would ease franchise taxes, among other changes. Similar provisions were included in the budget bill (H.B. 966) that passed the House earlier this month. Businesses already have benefited from recent reductions in the corporate income tax rate approved by the state’s Republican-led legislature. For 2019, North Carolina’s rate is 2.5%, lowest among the states that levy such taxes. Cutting the state franchise tax is one of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s priorities, but it remains to be seen if such relief will come this year because the governor is generally opposed to additional tax cuts for corporations.


  • Illinois voters will have a historic opportunity to amend the state constitution in November 2020 to allow for a graduated income tax. The Senate approved legislation for the constitutional amendment earlier in May and lawmakers in the House voted to put the measure on the ballot on Memorial Day. 


  • Politico Reports - Republicans in Arizona, who control all the levers of government there, have agreed to a new budget deal that would include an extra $325 million in tax cuts, The Associated Press reports. Most of those tax cuts, around $217 million, would come out of new revenue the state is receiving because of the TCJA — essentially because Arizona adopted some of the federal law's new limits on tax breaks but didn't reduce its tax rates. The rest of the tax cuts would be offset by new revenue from sales taxes collected by out-of-state online retailers and from paid-off state debt. The big question now: Can the budget pass an Arizona House and Senate with slim GOP majorities, given that some Republicans are making noise about holding out and as Democrats vow to rally against tax cuts until school funding is further increased.


  • Lawmakers in Connecticut are narrowing in on a budget deal. The latest iteration would create a new mansion tax but exclude an income tax increase on the state’s wealthiest, which would raise a substantial amount of revenue ($262 million per year). Additional revenue raisers remain up for discussion.



  • Bloomberg Government - Colorado Sports Betting Bill Is Law; Voters Must OK Tax: Colorado will allow sports gambling as of May 1, 2020, if voters approve a gambling tax that could bring in as much as $6.5 million in new revenue for water resources in the state. Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a bill (H.B. 1327) May 29 decriminalizing sports betting and asking voters to approve a 10% tax on net sports betting proceeds. Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a 1992 constitutional amendment, requires voter approval for all tax hikes. 
    • The referendum (Proposition DD) will be on the November ballot.
    • The tax would generate from $6.3 million to $6.5 million in its first year, fiscal 2019-20, and between $9.7 million and $11.2 million in FY 2020-21, according to an estimate by the Colorado Legislative Council.
    • Gambling would be allowed by people 21 and older both online and in-person at Colorado’s legal casinos.
    • Funds from the new tax will go towards supporting Colorado Water Plan projects designed to ensure the safety of drinking water, healthy rivers, and sufficient water for ranches and farms.


  • Online sports betting gets its first test in Pennsylvania: The first legal online sports wagers within Pennsylvania became possible Tuesday afternoon, as SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia — the sister property of Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino — began a state-supervised test period of its app and web-based opportunities for those. SugarHouse and Rivers are both owned by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming. Both opened sportsbooks within their casinos in December, making them among the first to do so in Pennsylvania. It has been just a matter of time before they began accepting sports wagers online as well, as the state’s 2017 gambling expansion also authorized them to do so. While SugarHouse and Rush Street made no public announcement, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board confirmed Tuesday that the Philadelphia casino enabled creation of accounts at for an initial test taking sports wagers from 4 p.m. to midnight. The test will be repeated during wider hours Wednesday and Thursday. Read more at Post-Gazette.
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