Budget and Taxes

Changes to State Marketplace Laws Likely in 2020: States may make changes to their state marketplace facilitator laws next year to address industry concerns about inconsistencies among them, according to Richard Cram, Director of the National Nexus Program at the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC).

In an address he delivered at the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board’s annual meeting this month in Charleston, West Virginia, Cram said the National Conference of State Legislatures was working on model legislation and the MTC was drafting a whitepaper to assist states in making their laws more uniform.

Among the issues the two organizations are looking to provide states some direction on are the variation among states’ gross sales thresholds for marketplace sellers to opt out of having marketplace facilitators collect taxes for them and inconsistencies among state marketplace definitions, with some including food delivery services and others not, and some applying only to sales of tangible personal property, while others also include sales of services.

But Cram expressed concern that NCSL’s and MTC’s efforts would only encourage states to make piecemeal changes to their statutes rather than work toward achieving true uniformity.

“My sense is states are going to be reluctant to go back in and just wipe the slate clean and adopt a totally different definition,” he said. (LAW360 TAX AUTHORITY)

Budgets in Brief:

IN COMMENCES ONLINE SPORTS BETTING: DraftKings and Rush Street Interactive launched mobile sports wagering platforms throughout INDIANA last week, making the state the eighth to offer legal online sports betting. Sports betting became legal in the state on Sept. 1, but only in-person wagering was authorized. (INDIANAPOIS STAR)

ELECTRIC VEHICLE USER FEE STALLS IN PA: A bill (HB 1392) that would have replaced PENNSYLVANIA’s existing alternative fuels tax on electric vehicle users - which few pay - with a user fee stalled in the House last week, after it was amended to increase the fee from $150 per year to $250 per year. According to a spokesman for House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R), the proposal was tabled to allow members more time to consider the fee’s impact, but it could be reconsidered this session. (MEADVILLE TRIBUNE)

MI SEEKS TO BOOST REVENUE FROM STATE PARKS FEE: MICHIGAN lawmakers are considering a bill (HB 4486) that would make a currently optional vehicle registration fee - $11 for cars and $6 for bicycles - to park at state parks and campgrounds automatic, requiring vehicle owners to opt out of paying it when they register their vehicle. The change could increase the proportion of drivers opting into the “Recreation Passport” program from its current 33 percent rate to 50 percent, boosting revenue from the fee from $29 million to $44 million. (MLIVE.COM [GRAND RAPIDS])

--Compiled by KOREY CLARK

 

Politics and Leadership

AK JUDGE SUSPENDS UNION OPT-IN PROCEDURE: On Oct. 3 an Alaska Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state from implementing an administrative order from Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) changing union membership procedures for state workers.

Dunleavy’s administrative order, issued on Sept. 26, calls for state employees wishing to belong to a union to file a form with the state indicating they are opting in to paying union dues and were not coerced into doing so. The order also allows state workers to opt in or out of paying union dues at any time.

Conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity hailed the governor’s order, saying it would make the state the first to enforce a clause in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME (2018) stating that workers must “clearly and affirmatively consent” to paying union dues before such dues are collected.

Although Janus concerned the collection of union dues from non-unionized workers, Alaska General Kevin Clarkson (R) determined that the justices decision applied to union members too.

“We have interpreted the plain implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision to apply to all monies the state collects from employees and pays to unions, whether agency fees or dues,” he said.

But Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller ruled that Clarkson’s interpretation was not only “contrary to the express wording of Janus,” but also “contrary to the memorandum opinion issued by his predecessor in office, contrary to all known opinions from other states’ attorneys general, and contrary to nine federal court decisions, two administrative agency decisions, and two arbitration awards.”

Miller also found “merit” with the argument made by the Alaska State Employees Association, which challenged Dunleavy’s order, “that the state’s insistence that the state control the authorization forms for union dues seems likely to discourage union membership.”

In addition, he found that the “state’s conduct” seemed “directly at odds” with a collective bargaining agreement the state entered into with the ASEA in August, allowing union members 10 days each year to opt out of paying dues by communicating with the union.

Molly Brown, an attorney for the union, praised the ruling.

“This is good news for working Alaskans, union members and people who live in this state,” she said. “It’s an example of the judge reaching the correct conclusion and telling the state they can’t re-create or weaponize a U.S. Supreme Court decision.”

But Clarkson viewed the ruling as just a minor setback.

“This Superior Court decision is just the first — a speed bump — in a much longer legal battle which will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. (ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, ALASKA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, ALASKA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE)

NY Hospitals Get Major Concession After Big Political Donation: Last year when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was facing a tough primary battle, his campaign asked the Greater New York Hospital Association, one of Albany’s biggest power players, representing New York City’s largest healthcare institutions, to make a big contribution to the state Democratic Party. The association obliged, writing two checks totaling over $1 million, two times more than it had donated to any political in a decade.

Not long afterward, despite Medicaid costs that were already soaring, the state quietly approved its first across-the-board increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates since 2008, a move the hospital association had sought for years and one that is expected to cost the state about $140 million more a year.

The Cuomo administration denied the two events were connected, saying the increase in the reimbursement rate had been under consideration for months before the hospital association made its donations.

“Yes, health care costs are increasing and that is not a news flash, but rather a well-documented national phenomenon that has nothing to do with politics, the weather or religion,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi. “The only news is how low our increases have been: 1.5 and 2 percent after flat funding for more than eight years.”

But Bill Hammond, director of health policy for the nonpartisan Empire Center, who noticed the state also delayed making $1.7 billion in scheduled Medicaid payments for three days to push a looming shortfall in the Medicaid budget into the subsequent budget year, said this is “everything that’s wrong with Albany in one ugly deal.”

“The governor was able to unilaterally direct a billion dollars to a major interest group while secretly accepting its campaign cash and papering over a massive deficit in the Medicaid program.” (NEW YORK TIMES)

Politics in Brief: 

SCOTUS DECLINES TO CONSIDER WV SUPREME COURT IMPEACHMENT CASE: The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of an October 2018 ruling by a specially appointed WEST VIRGINIA Supreme Court halting impeachment proceedings against four justices for alleged maladministration, corruption and neglect of duty, among other things. Consequently, the state Supreme Court’s decision that the House violated the justices right to due process by failing to adopt a formal impeachment resolution will be allowed to stand. (WEST VIRGINIA GAZETTE-MAIL [CHARLESTON])

WI ASSEMBLY CONSIDERS PROPOSAL TO FACILITATE VETO OVERRIDES: WISCONSIN’s GOP-controlled Assembly was expected to vote Oct. 10 on a proposal that would allow the chamber as many attempts as necessary to reach the two-thirds vote threshold required to override vetoes by Gov. Tony Evers (D). Under current law only one veto override vote is permitted. (WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO)

TWO MORE APPOINTEES JOIN MD LEGISLATURE: Last week MARYLAND Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Carl Jackson and Cathi Forbes to fill two seats in the state’s House of Delegates vacated by lawmakers who resigned to join the administration of Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. That brings the total number of appointees serving in the state’s 188-member General Assembly to 36, meaning nearly 20 percent of the Maryland’s lawmakers – including House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D), as well as the chairmen of the House Appropriations Committee and two Senate committees - were chosen by a small group of political insiders instead of elected by the state’s voters. (BALTIMORE SUN, MARYLAND MATTERS [TACOMA PARK])

LACK OF DIVERSITY IN TX GOP: All of TEXAS’ Republican delegates to the U.S. House could be white next year, with the only two current GOP delegates of color, U.S. Reps. Will Hurd and Bill Flores, having announced they will retire at the end of the current term. Ninety-six percent of Republicans in the state Legislature are also white, while the population of the state is only 41 percent white. (TEXAS TRIBUNE)

-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK

 

Governors

Newsom Signs CA Rent Control, Housing Bills: Calling it a “a profoundly important moment,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed one package of bills last week aimed at protecting Golden State renters from excessive rent increases and unprovoked evictions and another intended to spark the building of new housing.

The most significant of the rent control measures – AB 1482 – caps annual rent increases to no more than 5 percent plus inflation. The law also bars landlords from kicking out tenants who have lived in their residence for at least a year unless they can show proof the tenants violated the conditions of their lease.

“We’re living in the wealthiest as well as the poorest state in America,” Newsom told reporters at an event to mark the signing. “Cost of living. It is the issue that defines more issues than any other issue in this state. You can’t have a homelessness conversation without having a housing conversation. You can’t have a poverty conversation without a housing conversation. You can’t have a fill in the blank, an honest conversation, unless you’re addressing this issue.”

The law, however, contains a number of exemptions. It will not apply to apartments built within the last 15 years or to single-family home rentals unless they’re owned by corporations or other institutional investors. The caps will also not apply to units already covered under local rent control ordinances.

The law drew strong resistance from landlords and property owners around the state. Many predicted landlords would raise rents significantly before the law goes into effect in January. But that could be a temporary thing – the law requires landlords to reduce rents to the rate in place on March 15 of this year, plus the allowable increase.

Newsom signed several other measures as well. Some of those include:

SB 39, which bars landlords from discriminating against tenants who receive Section 8 or other government-backed rent vouchers;

AB 1110, which requires landlords to give 90 days’ notice to a tenant before imposing rent increases of more than 10 percent; and

SB 644, which lowers the amount that a landlord can charge service members for a security deposit on residential rental housing.

Newsom followed that up by inking his name to 18 bills intended to address the state’s severe housing shortage. At the top of that list was SB 330, a bill that will limit the ability of cities to impose new building standards that help drive up construction costs. Other bills Newsom signed include:

SB 6, which requires the state to create a public inventory of local sites and surplus state lands suitable for residential development;

AB 1483, which requires local jurisdictions to publicly share information about zoning ordinances, development standards, fees, exactions, and affordability requirements; and

AB 1743, which limits the ability of local agencies to reject housing projects because they qualify for the state property tax welfare exemption.

All of the measures go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, LOS ANGELES TIMES, SACRAMENTO BEE)

DeSantis Pushes Pay Raise for FL Teachers: Citing a worsening teacher shortage, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) proposed raising the minimum annual salary for Sunshine State teachers to $47,500, up from the current $37,636. DeSantis asked lawmakers to approve his call for an additional $600 million in the state budget to pay for the increase, which would impact about 100,000 teachers across the state.

“With a strong economy and plenty of jobs available in other fields, unfortunately too many college graduates are unwilling to enter the teaching profession. My proposal...will help alleviate this shortage and elevate the teaching profession to the level of appreciation it deserves,” he said.

He called funding the hikes “easily doable.” (ASSOCIATED PRESS, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL)

Governors in Brief:

BAKER PUSHES MA IMPAIRED DRIVING BILL: Responding to the state Cannabis Control Commission moving closer to allowing social consumption marijuana lounges, MASSACHUSETTS Gov. Charlie Baker (R) urged Bay State lawmakers to act on legislation (HB 71) he proposed earlier this year to address impaired driving. Lawmakers would still need to approve the so-called “pot lounges” before they could go into operation, but Baker said their eventual presence “underscores the reality” that weed legalization presents “new public safety challenges.” (BOSTON GLOBE, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE [BOSTON])

LEE NOT READY TO IMPOSE TN VAPING BAN: Saying there is “not a lot of clear understanding yet,” in the nationwide surge in vaping-related illnesses and deaths, TENNESSEE Gov. Bill Lee (R) said he’s not inclined to follow other governors in banning or imposing restrictions on the sale of vaping products. Lee said that without a definite answer as to what is causing the problem, a ban would not be “appropriate.” (WREG [MEMPHIS])

LAMONT TO INTRO NEW CT TRANSPORTATION PLAN: In the wake of his failed push for electronic toll roads, CONNECTICUT Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is preparing a new transportation proposal that will outline specific choke points that need to be fixed to help improve the state’s troubled road system. The plan will also focus on alternative transportation financing from the federal government. (HARTFORD COURANT)

MURPHY ANNOUNCES NJ SCHOOL LEAD TESTING EFFORT: NEW JERSEY Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced a three-pronged effort to combat lead contamination in school drinking water supplies. The plan calls for more frequent testing for lead-contaminated water, earmarking $100 million for lead pipe and faucet replacement, and creating a centralized database where parents can easily find test results. (NORTHJERSEY.COM)

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

Hot Issues

Business: CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs SB 616, which bars debt collectors from garnishing a debt holder’s bank account once the balance reaches $1,724, the bare minimum the state Department of Social Services says a family of four in California needs to get by each month (LOS ANGELES TIMES). Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Newsom signs AB 170, which exempts newspaper distributors from a new state law (AB 5) that forces many employers who use contractor workers to convert them to employees (CALIFORNA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE). Staying in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Newsom signs SB 317, which bars companies from selling DMV appointments. Violators could face fines up to $250 (SACRAMENTO BEE). CALIFORNIA Gov. Newsom also signs AB 880, which bars rideshare companies from hiring drivers who have been convicted of human trafficking offenses (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Education: CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoes AB 773, which would have required the state to develop curriculum for 12th graders on voter registration and voting (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE). Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Newsom signs AB 1172, which allows the state to suspend or revoke the certification of a nonpublic school that fails to protect the health and safety of special needs students (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Energy: CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs AB 1166, which will require natural gas utilities to supply “electronic positive response” to regional utility notification centers before excavations. Those notification centers will then be required to make those responses available to public or private excavators (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Environment: CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs AB 187, which requires mattress recycling organizations to review their plans for the recovery and recycling of used mattresses and to determine whether amendments are necessary at regular intervals (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET). Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Newsom signs AB 1162, which bars Golden State hotels and other lodging establishments from providing guests with miniature bottles of shampoo, conditioner and other similar items (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET). CALIFORNIA officials announce the state will ban the sale of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which they say has been linked to brain damage and other health defects in children. Under an agreement reached with the pesticide’s manufacturer, sales will end Feb. 6, 2020, and agricultural growers will not be allowed to possess or use it after Dec. 31, 2020 (NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO).

Health & Science: NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs SB 1092, which bars medical professionals from performing pelvic exams on an anesthetized or unconscious person without informed consent. The law takes effect 180 days from that signing (NEW YORK GOVERNOR’S OFFICE). CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs three prescription drug bills into law: AB 824, which will require pharmaceutical companies to prove they aren’t engaging in anti-competitive behavior when they pay generic drug producers to delay introducing new medications; SB 464, which will require all perinatal health care providers to undergo implicit bias training to curb the impact of bias on maternal health; and SB 159, which allows Golden State pharmacists to dispense HIV prevention drugs without a prescription (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Social Policy: NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs AB 7584, which amends the criminal procedure law to clarify that individuals convicted of petty offenses will have their records sealed by default (NEW YORK GOVERNOR’S OFFICE). CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs SB 730, which bans the distribution of manipulated videos and pictures that maliciously aim to give someone a false impression about a political candidate’s actions or words within 60 days of an election (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Local Front: CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs AB 1482, which caps annual rent increases at 5 percent plus the rate of inflation and bars landlords from evicting tenants without just cause (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE). Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Newsom signs AB 1215, which bans police departments from using facial recognition programs on officer body cameras (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

 
Once Around the Statehouse Lightly

A Memory Like an Elephant: The last time California Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins was acting governor, she took advantage of the opportunity to declare it “Tony Gwynn Day” in the Golden State to honor the late, great Padres Hall of Famer. As the Capitol Morning Report notes, that kind of juice was clearly addictive to her dog Joey, a.k.a. “Acting First Dog.” Atkins told the CMR that Joey was miffed to learn he had not retained the position he had taken on in July 2014. While noting he was “still bitter about the transitory nature of his title,” she assuaged his hurt feelings with a few delicious snacks.

Some Things Never Change: President Donald Trump loves him some rallies: the adoration, the blind acceptance, the leaving without paying. Wait, what? Yes, as Politico reports, since 2016 the Don of Mara Lago has stiffed at least 10 American cities out of a cumulative $840,000 in costs associated with his “yay me” fests. And with Trump showing no inclination to stop holding said rallies, that tally could well go higher. Which brings us to Minneapolis. As the New York Times reports, The Donald took time off from braying about possibly being impeached to instead bray about the $530,000 the city wanted up front for the extra security needed for the rally he held there last Thursday. He specifically went after Mayor Jacob Frey, who didn’t seem concerned about being the latest target of a Trump Twitter meltdown. His response: “Yawn... Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors.” Those other cities? Well, they can join the lonnnnnng list of contractors and others who have filed liens against The Donald over the years for nonpayment.

-- By RICH EHISEN