April 14, 2016

Posted on April 14, 2016

** Indicates new legislation since our last report

Civil Rights & Liberties

The Massachusetts Senate passed SB 2107 and the **New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed SB 992 to help close the pay gap between male and female workers. Also see our model Fair Pay Actand our Equal Pay Remedies and Enforcement Act. The Iowa Senate passed SF 2284 that would make it a hate crime to commit an offense against a person because that person identifies as transgender and the Colorado House approved HB 1185 which would allow transgender individuals to change the gender listed on their birth certificates without having surgery or seeking a court order. **The Florida Senate and House approved SB 1044 which would reform civil forfeiture and reduce wrongful seizures of personal property.

Consumer Protection

**The Oregon governor signed HB 4143 which increases renter protections and regulates when landlords can raise tenants’ rents. The Oregon House passed HB 4122 to require the labeling of genetically engineered fish. Also see our model Labeling GMO Foods Act. The Washington House passed HB 2545 to allow the Department of Health to restrict the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals in certain types of consumer products.

Environment & Smart Growth

**The Maryland governor signed SB 323 which aims to reduce  greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 2006 levels by 2030. The Massachusetts Senate passed SB 2092 to require the state to develop a climate change mitigation plan and meet long-term carbon emission reduction benchmarks. Also see our model Climate Change Impact Assessment Act.  The Oregon Governor signed SB 1547 to strengthen the state’s renewable energy mandate and require Oregon’s two largest utilities to phase out the use of coal by 2030. **The Maryland Senate and House passed SB 198 to limit the use of certain pesticides and protect declining bee populations.

Government Performance

The Massachusetts Senate passed SB 2120 to improve and simplify the process for requesting and obtaining public records. Also see our model Open Data Act.


The Massachusetts governor signed into law HB 4056 which implements a seven-day limit on opioid prescriptions and the Washington Senate passes HB 2730 to expand access to a prescription monitoring program in order to combat a growing epidemic of opioid addiction. California’s Senate passed SB 7 which raises the legal minimum age to purchase and consume tobacco products to 21 years of age and SB 5 regulates the use of electronic cigarettes. **The Alaska Senate passed SB 1banning smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in most public places including enclosed areas and certain outdoor spaces. Also see our model E-cigarette Smoke-Free Act. ** The Pennsylvania House and Senate passed SB 3 that would create a comprehensive public medical marijuana program in the state.

Public Safety

The New Mexico Senate passed SJR 1 to overhaul the bail system and prevent the state from holding non-dangerous defendants in jail solely because they cannot afford a bail bond. The Oregon House passed HB 4147 to extend the maximum amount of time for the police to conduct a firearm purchase background check from one to ten days. The Idaho Senate passed HB 528, a bill that lays out requirements for the testing and tracking of all sexual assault evidence kits within a reasonable timeline. **The Saratoga Springs City Council in New York passed a law that would require guns to be safely stored when they are not in the owner’s possession or in use. **The Tennessee House passedHB 1550 which would strengthen background check and disclosure requirements in child care agencies.

Reproductive Rights

The Washington Senate passed SB 6149 to require employers to offer reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth-related health conditions. Also see our model Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The Tennessee Senate approved SB 1677, a bill that allows women 18 years or older to obtain contraceptives directly from pharmacists. **The Maryland House and Senate passed theContraceptive Equity Act that prohibits health insurers from applying a copayment, coinsurance or prior authorization requirement for certain contraceptive drugs and devices. Also see our models on contraception.


California’ Senate passed SB 2 that puts in place a health plan tax package that will commit a few hundred million dollars to services for the developmentally disabled. The Louisiana House of Representatives voted on HB 27 which raises taxes on beer, wine, malt beverages and liquor. **The New York State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would exempt feminine hygiene products from from the four percent state sales tax.

Voting & Elections

To help ensure that every citizen can vote, the Maryland legislature overrode the Governor’s veto ofSB 340 to allow ex-offenders to vote. Also see our model Restoration of Voting Rights Act. The Washington House passed HB 2682 to automatically register as voters any citizen who applies for a driver’s license, health insurance or social services. **The Maryland Senate passed the Freedom to Vote Act that expands voter registration opportunities to nearly every state agency and updates the technology at existing agencies offering voter registration services.

Wages & Benefits

The Oregon legislature passed, and the Governor has promised to sign, SB 1532 to increase minimum raise in tiers across the state; by 2022, the minimum will reach $14.75/hour in Portland, $13.50 around Portland, and $12.50 in more rural areas. The New York Assembly passed AB 3870to provide paid leave, granting workers up to two-thirds of their pay to care for a sick loved one or newborn child for 12 weeks. Vermont enacted HB 187 to mandate that employers provide their employees with at least three days of paid sick leave, increasing to five days in 2019. The governor of Pennsylvania signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage by nearly $3 an hour, to $10.15, for state government employees and workers on jobs contracted by the state. **The Tennessee House and Senate passed SB 2440, which would “ban the box” and prohibit state employers from including a question about felony convictions on job applications. See also NELP’s“Ban the Box” model.  **California and New York both recently committed to raising the minimum wage in their states to $15 dollars an hour. **The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed aresolution that requires employers to offer six weeks of fully paid parental leave for new parents. **The Maryland House passed HB 580 that would require employers with at least 15 workers to provide paid sick leave for employees.