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BPAA State Policy Update - October 30, 2020

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking


Political Update

  • NYT reports, Races to Watch in California Ultimately, the presidential election is likely to serve more as a lure to the polls for many Californians, who have voted early in record-breaking numbers; they’ll have much more say in a dozen statewide ballot measures and local contests — including congressional races. In some House districts, Republicans are fighting to retake seats lost in the so-called blue wave of Democratic wins in 2018, particularly in previously long-held Republican strongholds, like in Orange County. Several of this year’s races are expected to be tight, and they’ll test the durability of those shifts.
    • District 21- The challenger is David Valadao, a Republican running for office in a part of California that has long been the deep red heart of a blue state. But don’t expect to see Mr. Valadao invoking the president as he wages a tough, personal campaign to win back the Central Valley House seat he narrowly lost in 2018 to Representative T.J. Cox. Instead, Mr. Valadao, a dairy farmer from Hanford, has been portraying himself as a moderate option who can bridge partisan divides, while slamming his opponent as a Bay Area-style liberal who’s out of touch with the needs of constituents in an agricultural economy.
    • District 25- The voters of this suburban district north of Los Angeles have had something of a roller coaster year. The Democratic newcomer Katie Hill won the seat in 2018 as part of the state’s “blue wave.” But her resignation a year ago reopened the field to a wide range of contenders, including Ms. Hill’s predecessor, the Republican Steve Knight, and the progressive talk show host Cenk Uygur, who was at one point endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders before the endorsement was retracted amid an outcry over offensive comments Mr. Uygur had made previously.
    • District 48- For years, this coastal Orange County district was dominated by the Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who was closely allied with President Trump and had been called “Putin’s favorite congressman.” In 2018, though, a former Republican from Laguna Beach, Harley Rouda, unseated Mr. Rohrabacher after three decades. Read more here at the NYT. 
  • U.S. Supreme Court refuses to expedite Pa. mail ballot case, but could still intervene; nearly 2 million Pa. voters have already returned ballots Elections officials in Cumberland County, just outside Harrisburg, won’t begin counting mail ballots until the day after Election Day, citing the need to focus their attention and resources on in-person voting next Tuesday. “The Board of Elections, comprised of the Cumberland County Commissioners, is committed to counting every vote and not certifying the results in Cumberland County until every eligible vote, whether completed at the polling place or via mail-in or absentee ballot, is properly counted,” Gary Eichelberger, chair of the county commissioners, said in a statement Wednesday. And officials in Erie County, in Northwestern Pennsylvania, plan to only count mail ballots for a few hours late Tuesday night, CNN reported. More than 117,000 voters have requested mail ballots in the two counties, meaning those votes won’t be reflected in the unofficial results on election night. Read more at the Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Colorado Republicans’ best hope for political relevance is to retake control of the stateSenate this election After Democrats’ sweep of most state offices two years ago, Colorado Republicans’ best hope for political relevance is to retake control of the state Senate this fall, or at least to keep Democrats’ lead there narrow enough to block their most progressive efforts. Democrats, though, are outspending Republicans in an effort to flip several more seats. Democrats lead by a comfortable 17 votes in the state House but only three in the Senate. That has made it difficult for them to pass measures that some Democratic moderates haven’t supported, including an eviction moratorium and a paid family and medical leave program — the latter of which has instead been put in front of voters. Read more at the Denver Post. 

Business Liability Protections

  • Struggling COVID-19 Liability Shields: Today’s Legislative Trend, Tomorrow’s Legal Defense Seyfarth Synopsis: State lawmakers continue to search for ways to pave the path for their economies to reopen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest trend in that effort: equipping businesses with a shield against legal liability for claims related to the contraction of COVID-19. In this article, we examine the protections these shields provide, as well as their limitations. 
    • Today, in a new chapter of the saga, sixteen states across the country have endeavored to answer these questions and help businesses to confidently reopen by enacting COVID-19 liability shields. Similar legislation has been considered in many more states, as well as at the federal level. While not a complete cure for pandemic-related litigation, these shields should help to manage the pain presented by a wave of COVID-19 litigation that is likely to continue for years to come.
    • As of today, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming have enacted COVID-19 liability shields via statute or executive order. Although each state’s liability shield differs in myriad ways, they generally share these features:
      • They protect businesses (as well as their employees) from civil suits related to actual or potential exposure to COVID-19;
      • They do not protect willful, reckless, intentional, or grossly negligent misconduct; and
      • They do not prevent employees from filing workers’ compensation claims related to actual or potential workplace exposure to COVID-19. Read the full article at JDSupra

Minimum Wage Update

  • Colorado, Florida, California: State Leave, Wage Initiatives Raise Employer Fears A paid family leave ballot measure that would cost about $1.3 billion is opposed by Colorado employer groups who say it’s too expensive during the pandemic-induced recession.
    • Family Benefits:Proposition 118 would create a state-run paid family and medical leave insurance program, with employers and employees splitting the cost of funding the program via a new premium set initially at 0.90% of wages per worker in the first two years. Employees could receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually, with a weekly maximum of $1,100 in the first year of the program, to be with a newborn or to care for themselves or a family member. Their jobs would be protected while on leave.
    • National Measures:TheColoradoinitiative is one of four major workforce-related ballot measures going before voters in November. A $15 minimum wage proposal is up for a vote inFlorida, whileCaliforniawill consider an affirmative action petition and a measure to exempt rideshare and food delivery drivers from a 2019 law requiring them to be classified as employees and not independent contractors.
      • The Colorado measure poses an argument taking place in many states and in the federal government: How to pay for expensive leave that is nonetheless needed by many workers who are sick, concerned about their health, or caring for family members.
    • Business Concerns:“This would be a government mandate that assumes every business of every size can afford to offer what big companies offer their employees,” said Tony Gagliardi, Colorado State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business. He said 70% of the 7,000 NFIB member businesses in Colorado already offer some form of paid leave to their employees.

Tax Update

  • Bloomberg Government reports, California May Change Landmark Tax-Cap Law for $12 Billion Californians are deciding whether to make the most significant change to the state’s signature tax-limitation law, a shift that would roil its politics as well as major businesses and real estate investing. Approval of Proposition 15 would allow property taxes on most commercial buildings worth more than $3 million to increase by pegging the levy to market value, rather than its purchase price. Polls show the outcome as far from clear, even as big names including Governor Gavin Newsom, billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden support its passage.
    • Currently, under the state’s Proposition 13, property taxes on both homes and businesses are limited to 1% of the purchase price and annual assessed taxable valuation increases are capped at 2%.
    • Backers of this year’s measure say Proposition 13 has shortchanged schools and created an unequal system benefiting large corporations such as Walt Disney Co., which pays taxes on Disneyland based on the 1970s but charges customers 2020 fees. Switching the assessment to market value, which would take effect starting in 2022, could generate as much as $11.5 billion annually for local governments, schools and community colleges, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
    • Opponents say it would increase the cost of living for everyone as businesses would likely pass along the higher levies. They also argue that changing the commercial portion of Proposition 13 is a stepping stone to easing its limits on residential property tax increases.

  • Tracking 2020 State and Local Tax Ballot Measure Results Our state policy team recently compiled and analyzed the most notable 2020 ballot measures, including proposed income tax changes (Arizona Proposition 208, Colorado Proposition 116, Illinois Allow for Graduated Income Tax Amendment), property tax changes (California Proposition 15, Colorado Amendment B,) and excise tax changes (Arizona Proposition 207, Colorado Proposition EE, Montana I-190, New Jersey Question 1, South Dakota Amendment A). Read the full list here at The Tax Foundation. 



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