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Governors Spotlight: UC Enrollment, Gas Tax, Equal Pay & More

March 18, 2022

CA Gov Signs Bill Restoring UC Enrollment

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a measure (SB 118) last week that removes public college enrollment as a separate consideration under the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA.

The new law nullifies a recent court ruling that required UC Berkeley to freeze admissions at 2020 levels, a response to a lawsuit by a Berkeley community group that wanted the university to stop growing enrollment without also ensuring proper housing for the additional students.

The school’s long-range plan adopted in 2005 called for enrollment to reach about 33,000 in 2020. But by fall of that year, the university had instead enrolled approximately 43,000 students, a total the community group Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods said had put an undue strain on public services, transportation and housing.

Under the court’s ruling, the school would have had to cut back enrollment by 2,600 students.

The bill Newsom signed blocks community groups from claiming student enrollment a “project,” which thus prevents enrollment from falling under CEQA rules. It further blocks courts from capping enrollments but allows the courts to require schools to address housing issues for the additional students. (CAL MATTERS, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)

Govs Call for Gas Tax Suspension

With gas prices soaring nationwide, governors across the country are facing increasing calls to suspend state gas taxes as a means of giving consumers some relief at the pump. But not all governors are on board with such a move.

One who is, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), signed a measure (HB 304) last week to temporarily suspend the Peach State’s 29.1 cents-per-gallon gas tax through May 31, 2022.

He was joined by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who signed a measure to suspend the Old Line State gas tax for one month, which will save drivers around 36 cents-per-gallon.

Similar suspensions have been proposed by governors in Virginia and Connecticut, while a half dozen Democratic governors from Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have urged the Biden administration to suspend the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), however, is not likely to join either camp.

“We should be expanding energy production and not pursuing gimmicks,” he told the Arizona Daily Star, further noting that gas taxes help pay for much needed road infrastructure.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has also been hesitant, noting the Empire State gas tax provides about $1.2 billion a year for roads and other transportation infrastructure.

“I want to make sure that we have a guarantee that consumers are actually going to get a benefit from this, as opposed to us having to figure out how to plug a hole of $1.2 billion,” she said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) took another tack, using his recent State of the State address to call for giving residents a one-time gas tax rebate rather than tinkering with the gas tax. The idea drew a sigh of relief from legislative Democrats, who pushed through a new gas tax formula in 2017. A group of 10 Democratic lawmakers responded last week with a proposal to issue every California taxpayer a $400 rebate check. (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, POLITICO, LOS ANGELES TIMES, ARIZONA DAILY STAR, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MS Gov Signs CRT Ban

Saying that students are being “dragged to the front of the classroom and...coerced to declare themselves as oppressors” and “taught that they should feel guilty because of the color of their skin or that they are inherently a victim because of their race, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed a measure (SB 2113) banning the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in Magnolia State K-12 classrooms. The state Department of Education contradicted Tate’s assertion, saying the only place anywhere in the state where CRT is on the curriculum is a single class at the University of Mississippi School of Law. (MISSISSIPPI TODAY)

OR Gov Signs Equal Pay Amendment

Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed SB 1514, legislation that allows Beaver State employers to offer vaccine incentives, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses until 180 days after the expiration of the COVID-19 state of emergency without violating the state’s Equal Pay Act. (JD SUPRA)

NM Gov Signs Off on Cap for Consumer Loans

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed a measure (HB 132) on March 1 that will drastically reduce the annual percentage rate (APR) applicable to loans made under New Mexico’s Small Loan Act of 1955 (SLA) and Bank Installment Loan Act of 1959 (BILA). Current law allows lenders to charge a rate of up to 175 percent on loans of $5,000 or less. The new law caps the APR at 36 percent. It goes into effect in January, 2023. (JD SUPRA)

WY Gov Signs Abortion “Trigger” Bill

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) has signed HB 92, a bill that would ban abortions in the Cowboy State should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn its landmark abortion ruling Roe vs. Wade. Under the new law, abortion will be illegal in the state except in cases where the mother faces serious risks of death or irreversible physical impairments or in the case of rape or incest. (COWBOY STATE DAILY)

WI Gov Signs Trio of Opioid Bills

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed three measures intended to curb opioid abuse in the Badger State. Evers inked his name to SB 352, which creates three tiers of felonies for manufacturing, dealing and possessing fentanyl; SB 600, which decriminalizes the use of testing strips used to confirm a substance as fentanyl; and SB 49, which starts a process to create a state database tracking methamphetamine and opioid use. (WISPOLITICS.COM, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT)

 --Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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