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Governors Spotlight: Sports Betting, Mental Health, Climate Bills & More

August 19, 2022 (4 min read)

Baker Signs MA Sports Betting, Mental Health, Climate Bills

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has signed a number of bills into law this month, including measures that address sports wagering, clean energy, and mental health.

Baker signed HB 5060 – a broad measure that, among several things, allows 10 Bay State communities to completely ban or restrict the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels in new construction projects – in spite of reservations about several of the restrictions.

In a letter to lawmakers, Baker lamented that “because this legislation rejected virtually every meaningful amendment I put forth, this bill does not have the same shared sense of purpose that all previous climate legislation embodied, which is unfortunate.”

The law also requires all new vehicle sales in the state to be zero emission beginning in 2035, codifies the state’s commitment to secure 5,600 MW of electricity via wind power by 2030, and bars new industrial-scale biomass plants from being considered renewable as part of the state’s renewable portfolio standard program.

The governor also signed HB 5164, which allows residents 21 years or older to bet on professional sports and most collegiate sports at the state’s casinos, slots parlors, simulcast centers and through mobile platforms. The law bars betting on Massachusetts colleges or universities unless the teams are participating in a tournament with at least three other participants.

Baker also endorsed SB 3097, a wide-ranging bill that addresses a number of mental health issues, including the elimination of a prior authorization requirement for mental health acute treatment. The new law also requires commercial insurers to cover emergency service programs, guarantees insurance coverage for annual mental health wellness exams, and creates an expedited admissions process for minors under 18. (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE [BOSTON], CBS NEWS, ASSOCIATED PRESS, WBUR [BOSTON])

PA Gov Issues EO Restricting Conversion Therapy

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued an executive order that bars the Keystone State from using public funds to pay for so-called gay conversion therapy, a widely discredited psychological practice designed to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In addition to requiring state agencies to ensure public funds aren’t being used on the practice, Wolf’s order (EO 2022-02) directs state agencies to discourage the use of conversion therapy and take steps to promote evidence-based best practices for LGBTQIA+ individuals that are supported by the scientific and medical communities. (PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, NBC NEWS)

FL Gov Wants Retired First Responders to Fill Teacher Gap

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has proposed using retired police and other first responders to fill some of the state’s 4,500 vacant teaching positions.

DeSantis’s proposal follows up on another recent one that allows military veterans with at least 60 units of college credit to obtain a five-year teaching certificate. Applicants would also have to pass a state subject matter exam and pass a background check. (MIAMI HERALD, NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA)

Ducey Signs AZ Anti-Hazing Bill

In the wake of the alcohol poisoning death of an Arizona State student, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has signed legislation outlawing hazing on Grand Canyon State college campuses. The measure, HB 2322, bans any activity involving physical or mental brutality or sexual humiliation, or which forces someone to consume excessive amounts of alcohol, food, drugs or other substances that might harm them physically or emotionally. Arizona had been one of only six states without an anti-hazing law. The remaining states are Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico and Alaska. (PBS, NOHAZE.ORG, CAMPUS SAFETY MAGAZINE)

Newsom Seeks to Extend Life of CA Nuke Plant

Citing the vulnerability of the state’s power grid, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has proposed committing up to $1.4 billion in state funds to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open for another 10 years. 

If lawmakers agree, the funds would be in the form of a potentially forgivable loan to beleaguered utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which operates the plant.

The state’s last remaining nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon provides about 10 percent of the state’s electrical power. Citing the rise of cheaper forms of energy, PG&E informed regulators in 2016 it was planning to close it by 2025.

Newsom’s plan drew immediate criticism from environmental groups, who contend the nuclear plant needs significant repairs and maintenance to avoid becoming a serious threat to public safety. It also comes at a time when Newsom is asking lawmakers to endorse what many observers consider the most ambitious climate proposal in state history.

The climate change package would, among several things, create a legally binding goal that the state achieves carbon neutrality by 2045 and ban new oil wells and extraction facilities within 3,200 feet of homes, schools and parks. It would further require existing wells within the safety zone to follow strict pollution controls. (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, POLITICO, SACRAMENTO BEE)

--Compiled by RICH EHISEN


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