May 12, 2016

Posted on May 12, 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. **Florida’s governor signed into law SB 1044 and Nebraska’s governor signed into law LB 1106 both of which would reform civil forfeiture and reduce wrongful seizures of personal property.  **Virginia’s Governor ordered the restoration of voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons. **Louisiana’s governor issued an executive order that protects state workers and citizens seeking state services from discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Consumer Protection

The Oregon governor signed into law 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.  **Washington’s governor signed into law HB 2545 which allows 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 into law 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 into law 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 passedSB 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 **Washington’s governor signed into law HB 2730 to expand access to a prescription monitoring program in order to combat a growing epidemic of opioid addiction. The Alaska Senate passed SB 1 banning 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 **California’s Governor signed into law 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.. ** Pennsylvania’s governor signed SB 3 that would create a comprehensive public medical marijuana program in the state. **California’s low-income health program will now providefree health coverage to immigrants younger than age 19 living in the state without papers.

Public Safety

**The New Mexico House and 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. **Idaho’s governor signed 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. **Tennessee Governor signed into law HB 1550 which strengthens background check and disclosure requirements in child care agencies. **The Oklahoma governor signed in law, HB 2472, HB 2479, HB 2751, and HB 2753 all which seek to reduce the state’s high incarceration rates and provide nonviolent offenders with treatment instead of prison time.

Reproductive Rights

**The Washington House and Senate passed SB 6149 to require employers to offer reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth-related health conditions. Also see our modelPregnant Workers Fairness Act. **Tennessee’s governor signed into law SB 1677, a bill that allows women 18 years or older to obtain contraceptives directly from pharmacists. **Maryland’s governor signed the Contraceptive 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’s governor signed into law SB 2 that puts in place a health plan tax package that will fund services for the developmentally disabled. **Louisiana’s governor signed into law HB 27 which raises taxes on beer, wine, malt beverages and liquor. The New York State Senate unanimously passed abill that would exempt feminine hygiene products from 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. **Maryland’s governor signed into law theFreedom to Vote Act which expands voter registration opportunities to nearly every state agency and updates technology at existing agencies offering voter registration services. **The state of Vermont has implemented a new voting registration process which automatically registers eligible citizens when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or other state-issued I.D. **The Nebraska legislature approved LB 580 which would have created an independent citizens commission for redistricting in the state, yet was vetoed by the Governor.

Wages & Benefits

**Oregon’s governor signed into law SB 1532 which increases the minimum raise in tiers across the state. The New York Assembly passed AB 3870 to 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. ** Tennessee signed into law SB 2440, which “bans the box” and prohibits state employers from including any 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 a resolution 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. **Governor Brown signed into law AB 908 which expands California’s paid family leave program by raising reimbursement rates from 55 percent to 70 percent for a six-week period. **The Maryland legislature passed HB 1003 which strengthens state law that prohibits pay discrimination based on gender and gender identity. **The Los Angeles City Councilvoted to require that all employers in the city offer workers at least six days of paid sick leave a year.