Ten really good laws enacted in 2021

Posted on December 29, 2021

In July, we presented “Five really stupid laws enacted in 2021” and two weeks ago gave you five more awful laws. This week, let’s highlight ten laws that you might want to push in your own state or locality.

1) Police Reform: Maryland HB 670 (2021) is landmark legislation that repeals the state’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, creates a statewide use-of-force standard, and launches a new police disciplinary process. Part of the same package of reforms, Maryland SB 71 (2021) mandates body-worn cameras statewide and Maryland SB 178 (2021) limits no-knock warrants and opened up records on police conduct. Other comprehensive police reform legislation includes a package of 17 bills enacted in California, and 12 bills in Washington State. See PLI’s model Police Use of Force Act.

2) Minimum Wage: Rhode Island HB 5130 (2021) raises the minimum wage in increments from $11.50 an hour to $15 an hour by 2025. Virginia HB 395 (2020) did the same last year. There are now nine states (CA, CT, FL, IL, MA, MD, NJ, RI, VA) and the District of Columbia with or on-track to a $15/hour minimum wage. Overall, 29 states and DC have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. See PLI’s model Fair Minimum Wage Act.

3) Paid Sick Leave New Mexico HB 20 (2021), the Healthy Workplaces Act, requires private employers to provide paid sick leave beginning July 1, 2022. This makes New Mexico the 16th state to require paid sick leave. Colorado SB 205 (2020) was a similar bill enacted last year. See PLI’s model Paid Sick Leave Act.

4) Eliminate Cash Bail: Illinois HB 3653 (2021), a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, includes the Pre-Trial Fairness Act, which makes Illinois the first state to entirely eliminate cash bail in 2023. Earlier laws in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. nearly eliminated cash bail with no measurable increase in crime.

5) Racial impact statements: Maine LD 2 (2021) is a first-of-its-kind measure, recognizing that many laws have produced disproportionate impacts on racial minorities, it requires future state legislation to include a racial impact statement. The goal is to provide objective, nonpartisan information to inform the legislative process. See PLI’s model Racial Impact Statements Act.

6) Easy health insurance enrollment: Maryland HB 1002 (2021) creates a system where people who file for unemployment benefits can automatically apply also for health insurance under Medicaid or the State Healthcare Exchange. This is a follow-up to Maryland’s first-of-its-kind program where taxpayers automatically apply for health insurance through their tax forms. See PLI’s model Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Act.

7) Prescription Drug Review Board: Colorado SB 175 (2021) creates a Prescription Drug Review Board to review the costs of certain drugs and establish upper payment limits for some of them. Maryland originated this law in 2019. See PLI’s model Prescription Drug Affordability Act.

8) Climate change cap-and-invest program: Washington SB 5126 (2021), the Climate Commitment Act, is a landmark “cap-and-invest” law that gives Washington the most ambitious enforceable limit on climate pollution in the United States, and the second state to put a binding limit across all major sectors of its economy. It will slash emissions to meet the state’s 2030, 2040 and 2050 goals.

9) Divestment from Fossil Fuels: Maine LD 99 (2021) makes this the first state to enact a statute ordering its government and pension funds to stop investing in fossil fuel companies as part of the global divestment movement in response to climate change. See PLI’s model Divestment from Fossil Fuels Act.

10) Fair Share Taxation: Massachusetts S 5 (2021) places on the November 2022 ballot a constitutional amendment that would impose a surtax on incomes over one million dollars, raising more than two million dollars per year for education, transportation, infrastructure and more.