Ten modest model bills

Posted on December 20, 2017

Every lawmaker works on a wide variety of bills and at least some of them should be the kind that may draw bipartisan support. Here are ten such policy models from our brand-new 2018 Progressive Agenda for States & Localities.

Help nonprofits interact with government

Governments now rely on nonprofit organizations to provide a great deal of social services, from food, health care and housing to criminal justice supports, consumer advocacy, and assistance in public education. State and local governments need to increase funding to nonprofits that have a record of success. But in addition to that, because charities want to focus on serving those in need rather than on paperwork, governments should create agencies or ombudsmen that focus on making nonprofits’ interactions with government easier, e.g., simpler RFPs, easier reporting, and streamlined licensing systems. They should also find other ways to assist charities, such as allowing them to use government purchasing procedures to get discounts, making empty government office space available for little or no cost, and other in-kind contributions that would only marginally burden government agencies.

Prepare for an aging population

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 20 percent of the nation’s population will be age 65 or older by 2030. This will impact every aspect of state and local policy, from labor, housing and health care to transportation, education and social services. To address the growing and changing demand for government services, we must do more to anticipate the future. The Prepare for an Aging Population Act would establish a task force to study the state’s or locality’s aging population and recommend a plan that would provide needed services and support in the near- and long-term.

Test all rape kits

Every year, nearly two million women are sexually assaulted, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly one in five American women are raped at some point in their lives. When an assault is reported, DNA evidence is usually collected in a “rape kit” to help identify the assailant. Yet, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of DNA samples sit untested in police departments and crime labs. Several states and localities have enacted legislation to end the backlog and test all rape kits.

Offer a job piracy cease-fire

It is not unusual for states, cities or counties to use economic development subsidies to lure businesses from neighboring jurisdictions, and this can degenerate into tit-for-tat job piracy. These government-against-government disputes hurt taxpayers and are unnecessary. The state of Missouri passed a law offering to stop subsidies to Kansas businesses along the border if Kansas does the same. This is a terrific model that could be employed by any state or local government.

Outlaw price gouging during emergencies

Because of climate change, extreme weather events have become common. Any part of the country may see the next emergency. Sadly, it is not unusual for sellers to try to make windfall profits during hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and floods, and most states do not have an effective law to protect consumers. The Protection from Price Gouging During Emergencies Act deters price gouging by placing a percentage limit on the amount that certain products and services can increase in price.

Limit the expulsion of very young children

In some jurisdictions, kindergarten and even pre-K students are suspended or expelled at an alarming rate. But putting a 4 or 5-year-old child out of school is age-inappropriate and counter-productive. Both states and localities can enact legislation to curtail this practice.

Protect the security of customer data

Corporations possess a tremendous amount of personal information about customers and potential customers. When these companies are hacked, individuals may have their money, credit and identities stolen. Massive data breaches have become painfully common, from Equifax and Target to Yahoo and Sony. To ensure the security of customer records, the Data Privacy Protection Act requires that any business that handles or stores the personal information of any resident of the state must meet certain security standards to protect this information.

Mandate environmental justice

Racial and ethnic minority populations and low-income communities bear a disproportionate share of the health risks caused by polluted air and contaminated water, and by solid waste landfills, hazardous waste facilities, waste water treatment plants, waste incinerators, and other similar facilities. This is largely the result of past governmental decisions. The Environmental Justice Act establishes a commission to investigate incidents of environmental racism and coordinate government efforts to ensure that minorities and low-income citizens are not disproportionately subjected to environmental hazards.

Create local climate change action plans

Climate change will eventually impact every state and locality. Coastal areas will have to deal with rising sea levels. The South and East will see more devastating hurricanes. The Midwest and West will experience more tornadoes, drought and wildfires. Farming will be affected by higher temperatures. And areas susceptible to flooding will see catastrophic floods. Some of the effects of climate change can be predicted and some of its damage can be mitigated with planning. States and localities should create commissions to study the local effects of climate change and what policy changes could address them.

Promote voter registration to new residents

Whenever people move, they should register to vote or update their preexisting voter registration. That’s why Seattle enacted a simple ordinance in 2017 that requires landlords to provide information on voter registration and a registration form to new tenants. This can and should be replicated on the state and local levels. The Register New Residents Act goes a step further and also requires sellers to provide the same information to home buyers at settlement.