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Governors Spotlight: Gun Control, Legal Weed, An Opioid Alternative & More

June 03, 2022

Govs Push Different Directions on Guns

If anyone thought another murderous rampage would bring America’s two major political parties together to work on a solution to the nation’s mass shooting epidemic, think again.

In the wake of two more horrific mass shootings – one at a Buffalo grocery store, followed days later by the slaughter of children at an Uvalde, Texas school – Democrats and Republicans are once again heading in familiar but entirely different directions on gun control.

In short, Dems still want people to have less access to guns while Republicans still want them to have more.

Within days of the latest rounds of mass slaughter, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and state legislative leaders said they will work together to fast-track the following quartet of gun control measures:

AB 2571, which limits gun advertising aimed at minors.

AB 1621, which restricts ghost gun kits and the parts used to build them.

SB 1327, which creates a first-in-the-nation private right of action for citizens to use against those who manufacture, distribute, transport, import into California, or sell assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns, or ghost gun kits.

AB 1594, which allows governments and gun victims the right to sue manufacturers.

Newsom promised to sign all of them. He was also not alone in pushing lawmakers to tighten gun laws.

Citing the rampages in Buffalo and Uvalde, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) worked with Empire State lawmakers to introduce 10 new gun control measures, including one to raise the legal age for buying an AR-15, the semi-automatic rifle of choice for those bent on carrying out mass killings of their fellow Americans, from 18 to 21.

Other proposals would bar anyone but police from obtaining body armor, require information to be shared between state, local, and federal agencies when guns are used in crimes, and require microstamping for new guns.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) also urged lawmakers to bring every gun bill to a vote, regardless of whether it is to curb guns or expand their availability.

“Let’s put every gun bill up so the people of New Jersey can see in no uncertain terms who support gun safety and who wants New Jersey's streets and communities to be flooded with guns,” Murphy said at a press conference in Trenton. “At the same time, let’s see who the gun lobby banks with their blood money.” 

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Republican lawmakers around the country scoffed at such measures, insisting that gun control laws don’t work and arguing states should focus on mental health care instead.

In a letter sent to lawmakers last Tuesday, Abbott urged them to develop solutions for preventing future school shootings. He cited several possibilities, including more emphasis on mental health and police training, but made no mention of stricter gun control laws.

His tack was echoed by GOP governors and gubernatorial candidates from Alaska to Nevada to Pennsylvania. One notable exception was Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said last week that we “at least have to be able to have a conversation” about raising the legal age to buy AR-15s.

But Hutchinson is a definite outlier in GOP circles, where fealty to guns is rivaled only by their dedication to banning abortion.

More Republicans are firmly in the camp of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who in the wake of Uvalde’s murder spree preached another popular GOP talking point, calling for “highly trained teachers to safely and discreetly conceal carry” firearms in school. 

He is not alone in wanting school teachers to start including pistols among the pencils and art supplies they use to teach K-12 students. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), at least 100 such bills have been introduced in states in recent years, though most have failed.

Texas is in fact one of nine states that already allow school personnel to carry guns.

But having an armed guard didn’t save the 19 children and two teachers gunned down at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, nor did it save the 10 shoppers slaughtered in Buffalo. Nothing, in fact, has managed to prevent firearms from becoming the number one cause of death for U.S. children. And with consensus nowhere in sight, it’s anything but clear when that will change. (NEW YORK TIMES, ABC NEWS, VOX, NORTHJERSEY.COM. STATELINE, TEXAS TRIBUNE, NEW YORK GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

DE Gov Vetoes Weed Legalization Bill

Saying he doesn’t believe “that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people," Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) vetoed a bill that would have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure, HB 371, returns to lawmakers for a potential override vote. (DELAWARE ONLINE, MARIJUANA MOMENT)

MD Gov Addresses Hundreds of Bills

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) closed out the Old Line State legislative session by vetoing 18 bills and allowing nearly 300 more to become law without his signature.

Measures he rejected included HB 172, a bill to allow union dues to become tax-deductible, and a pair of bills that would have aided renters facing eviction by requiring a landlord to comply with a county’s licensing regulations before filing for repossession of property (SB 384) and staying eviction proceedings for tenants awaiting a determination about rental assistance (SB 563).

Hogan did allow SB 592, which requires landlords to accept rental assistance payments from government agencies as a form of payment to avoid eviction, to become law. (MARYLAND MATTERS, WASHINGTON POST)

RI Gov Signs Weed Legalization Bill

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee (D) signed SB 2430, a bill that makes the Ocean State the 19th to legalize recreational marijuana use. The measure will eventually allow up to 33 recreational cannabis dispensaries around the state, with the state’s three medical marijuana dispensaries permitted to sell cannabis for recreational use as well. (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, MARIJUANA MOMENT)

CO Gov Signs Opioid Alternative, Donor Bills

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a bill (SB 120) that creates a regulatory framework for the legal sale of kratom, a plant that advocates say can serve as a safer alternative to opioids and also help treat symptoms of addiction withdrawal. Among other things, the law sets minimum safety standards for kratom products, bars their sale to anyone under 21, requires businesses selling them to notify state regulators of any reported adverse effects of kratom use, and mandates the creation of a state database of companies that sell the product.

Polis also signed SB 224, legislation that makes Colorado the first state to give individuals conceived via sperm donation the right to learn their donor’s identity when they turn 18 and access that person’s medical history before that. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2025, also caps the number of families that can use a specific donor and will require sperm and gamete banks to permanently maintain a donor’s records and regularly update their medical history. The minimum age to donate will be raised to 21. (MARIJUANA MOMENT, DENVER POST)

MI Gov Orders Expedited Infrastructure Permitting

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued Executive Directive 2022-6, which directs state agencies to identify areas to accelerate permitting for infrastructure projects of $50 million or more. The U.S. Department of Transportation says the Wolverine State is expected to receive $7.8 billion over the next five years in federal funding for highways and bridges, $169 million to reduce transportation emissions, and $192 million to increase the resilience of transportation systems. (DETROIT NEWS, MICHIGAN GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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