Five new model bills for 2023

Posted on January 11, 2023

Our 2023 Progressive Agenda for the States & Localities recommends 50 bills for this year, many of them brand new. Here are five innovative model bills on a variety of subjects.

Fight back against hate speech

Fueled by unhinged conspiracy theories, hate speech and hate crimes have been increasing at alarming rates. Racist, nationalist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ falsehoods are poisoning our communities.

The Truth and Tolerance Commission Act creates an office and commission that seeks to de-legitimize stereotypes and specific lies that promote racist, nationalist, antisemitic or anti-LGBTQ messages. The commission will identify hate speech and combat it by stating truth, promoting tolerance, and encouraging civic, business, religious and government leaders, with a united voice, to actively respond to hate with the tactic of “counter-speech.”

This model is similar to recent efforts in states and localities, including California’s Commission on the State of Hate AB 1126 (2021), New York’s NY SB 123A/A.5913A (2022) which begins a statewide campaign, the Virginia Governor’s Commission to combat antisemitism, and Montgomery County, Maryland’s Committee Against Hate/Violence. Virtually all states and localities could—and should—do something to combat prejudice-based hate and lies, either by legislation or executive order.

Require honesty in campaign disclosures

Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court have made it impossible to prevent unlimited election campaign spending by special interests. The only regulation allowed is public disclosure and it is essential that voters be able to easily distinguish between paid election campaign communications from candidates and those from special interests.

The Honesty in Election Campaign Disclosures Act requires that authority lines on campaign ads must make it clear who has authorized such ads. Specifically, ads from a political candidate would say “This ad is authorized by [candidate’s name], candidate for [office sought].” Ads from a political action committee or independent expenditure effort would include: “This ad is not authorized by any candidate.”

And if the name of a political action committee or independent expenditure effort listed in an authority line does not reasonably inform an average citizen who paid for the advertisement, then the authority line shall also state “The five largest contributors for this advertisement are:” and list them. A series of initials, like “XYZ PAC,” or a generic name, like “citizens for better schools,” or a demonstrably false name, do not reasonably inform an average citizen and require a listing of contributors. A reasonably specific name, like “REALTORS Political Action Committee” or “Citizens for Charter Schools” does reasonably inform and does not require a listing of contributors.

Protect tenants’ right to collective action

For residential tenants, collective action is often the most effective, or only, way to solve legitimate grievances against a landlord. And yet, some landlords harass, intimidate, and retaliate against residents who attempt to organize their fellow tenants.

Based on laws in California, New York, Seattle and the District of Columbia, the Tenants Right to Organize Act enumerates specific activities that residents must be allowed to engage in, without penalty, for establishing and operating a tenant organization.

The bill guarantees that tenants be able to hold meetings, disseminate informational literature, engage with non-tenant organizers to assist organizing efforts, and advocate for each other as a unified group.

Limit property taxes for residents who can’t afford them

Elderly homeowners living on a fixed income as well as under- or unemployed homeowners struggling to pay their bills are at risk of losing their homes because of skyrocketing property value assessments.

The Property Tax Limitation and Deferral Act limits the property taxes payable each year by households earning less than a certain income and provides for a program in which eligible individuals may defer amounts owed above that limit by filing an annual application with local tax authorities.

Regulate pet insurance

More than four million pets, mostly cats and dogs, are covered by their own health insurance policies. Pet insurance is becoming a big industry; premiums across the U.S. total more than $2.5 billion. And yet, pet insurance is nearly unregulated and it’s difficult for potential customers to know what they’re really buying.

The Pet Insurance Act, based on model legislation from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, creates a legal framework for the sale of health insurance for pets. It requires disclosure of coverage and coverage exclusions, conditions, and benefit schedules, a 15-day period to cancel the policy, and a prohibition on specific unfair sales practices.