May 26, 2016

Posted on May 26, 2016

** Indicates new legislation since our last report

Civil Rights & Liberties

The Iowa Senate passed SF 2284 which 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 1185which 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, Nebraska’s governor signed LB 1106, and **Maryland’s governor signed HB 336, all of which reform the practice of civil forfeiture and reduce wrongful seizures of personal property. Virginia’s Governorordered 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 or sexual orientation. **The New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed SB 992 to help close the pay gap between male and female workers, but it was vetoed by the governor. Also see our model Fair Pay Act and our Equal Pay Remedies and Enforcement Act. **Both houses of the Illinois legislature have passed SB 2228 which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. **California’s Assembly passed AB 1732which requires all single-occupancy restrooms in businesses, government buildings, and places of public accommodation to be open to all genders. 

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 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 1547to strengthen the state’s renewable energy mandate and require that Oregon’s two largest utilities phase out the use of coal by 2030. The Maryland Senate and House passed SB 198 to limit the use of certain pesticides to protect declining bee populations. **Colorado’s governor signed HB 1005which legalizes rain barrels as a water conservation tool.

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.


**Florida’s governor signed HB 7019, which requires colleges and universities to inform students of the costs of textbooks before classes begin and adopt policies to make textbooks more affordable.


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 which expands access to a prescription monitoring program in order to combat the 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 which regulates the use of electronic cigarettes. Pennsylvania’s governor signed SB 3 which creates a comprehensive public medical marijuana program in the state. California’s low-income health program will now provide free 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. Idaho’s governor signed into law 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’s 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 the opportunity for treatment instead of prison time. **Maryland’s governor signed into law SB 1005, which eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and provides other criminal justice reforms. **The Louisiana Senate passedSB 357 which would require municipalities to post signs notifying motorists of red light cameras.

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 into law the Contraceptive Equity Act which prohibits health insurers from applying a copayment, coinsurance or prior authorization requirement for certain contraceptive drugs and devices. Also see our Playbook’s models on contraception.


California’s governor signed into law SB 2 which implements a health plan tax package that will fund services for the developmentally disabled. The New York State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales tax. **The West Virginia Senate passed SB 1005, to increase the state’s cigarette tax and increase taxes on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Voting & Elections

The Maryland legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of SB 340 to restore the right to vote to select ex-offenders in the state. 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 the Freedom 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 hasimplemented 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. **The Illinois Senate passed SB 250 which would allow residents to automatically register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or state ID.

Wages & Benefits

Oregon’s governor signed into law SB 1532 which increases the minimum raise in tiers across the state. 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. **Maryland’s governor signed HB 1003 which strengthens state laws that prohibit pay discrimination based on gender and gender identity. **Minnesota’s Senate passed HF 3931 which would require some employers to offer up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave to their employees.