What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/14
FL: Florida House panel backs undoing post-Parkland age limit to buy long guns
A Florida House panel approved a bill that would lower the minimum age from 21 to 18 to buy rifles and other long guns in the state. The bill would reverse part of a 2018 law that set the minimum age at 21 after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
TX: Texas Senate gives first OK to make illegal voting a felony again
The Texas Senate gave initial approval to legislation that would raise the penalty for voting illegally from a misdemeanor to a felony, a priority for Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other conservative lawmakers who have worked to remake the state’s voting laws since the 2020 election, despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state. If the bill becomes law, a person found guilty of the crime could face up to 20 years in prison and more than $10,000 in fines.
AR: Arkansas Senate passes bill restricting transgender people from using bathroom of their choice at public schools
The bill would require Arkansas public schools and open-enrollment public charter schools to prohibit people from using a multiple-occupancy restroom that does not correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate. It also would apply to places at schools where people “may be in various stages of undress” around others, which would include locker rooms, changing rooms and shower rooms.
TN: Tennessee Senate OKs push to define ‘sex’; may risk funding
Transgender people in Tennessee would be prevented from changing their driver’s licenses and birth certificates under legislation approved by Republican senators. The legislation, which still must clear the House chamber, would define male and female in state law and base people’s legal gender identities on their anatomy at birth. Legislative officials have warned that enacting the bill could cost the state millions in federal funding because the definition conflicts with federal rules.
MD: Maryland governor supports phase-out of gas-powered cars
Maryland Democratic Gov. Wes Moore and state environmental officials announced they will adopt rules to phase out the sale of new, gas-powered cars by 2035, calling for a seismic shift in the state’s vehicle market to curb climate change.
IL: Illinois governor signs measure requiring paid leave for workers beginning Jan. 1
Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a bill that mandates paid leave for Illinois workers. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, grants employees of businesses of any size one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 total paid hours per year.
OR: Oregon public schools hemorrhaged students during pandemic
Oregon’s public schools have hemorrhaged students since the onset of the pandemic, leaving thousands of children outside the bounds of a system that is supposed to be both a safety net and launch pad. The state’s enrollment losses, which total 30,000, or 5%, were the second highest in the country.
WY: Wyoming governor signs into law legislation governing Native American adoptions
Wyoming now has its own law to prioritize the placement of Native American foster and adopted kids within their tribal communities after Republican Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill to codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act into state statute. The new law, which was championed by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, will act as a backstop in case the 1978 federal act is thrown out as unconstitutional.
NV: Nevada lawmakers cut thousands of higher ed employees out of state worker bonus bill
A bill backed by Nevada Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo proposing a pair of $500 bonuses for state employees is being amended to exclude more than 7,700 professional employees in the Nevada System of Higher Education.
GA: Georgia governor signs midyear budget with an almost $1B property tax break
Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a midyear spending plan that includes a property tax cut of nearly $1 billion and repays the Georgia Department of Transportation $1.1 billion it lost last year when the state suspended the motor fuel tax to stem the impact of high gas prices.
AZ: Arizona may crack down on lawmakers’ campaign filing errors
Few Arizona candidates and officeholders are ever held accountable for mistakes, omissions or late filings on campaign finance reports. Tardy filers may incur thousands of dollars in late fees, but the secretary of state’s office has typically waived them upon request. New Democratic state leaders want to change this.
MN: Minnesota legislators will get 7.25% pay hike
Minnesota legislators will get a 7.25% raise in July. The state’s appointed Legislative Salary Council boosted lawmakers’ salaries by $3,500 to $51,750, aiming to entice and retain qualified leaders amid rising inflation.
OK: Oklahoma House passes bill barring citizen-controlled police review boards
The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a bill requiring that any “citizen review board” with authority to investigate “an allegation of misconduct by a law enforcement officer” and recommend or impose disciplinary action be made up of at least two-thirds certified law officers.
MT: Montana governor signs $1B tax-cut package into law
Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a package of bills that will provide short-term property and income tax rebates and cut state income taxes on an ongoing basis. The new laws also cut the state’s business equipment tax, pay off $125 million of state debt, restructure the state’s corporate income tax, streamline capital gains taxes and put $100 million into a highway construction fund.
ID: Accuracy of Idaho’s wolf count is questioned
Critics of the counting technique using motion-triggered cameras say the Idaho wildlife agency still hasn’t addressed their concerns just days before a commission is due to decide on a management plan that could reduce the state’s wolf population by two-thirds. An incorrect population estimate could eventually put wolves back on the Endangered Species Act list if their numbers are allowed to drop too low.