Budget and Taxes

CA Considering COVID-19 Relief for Renters: With residential evictions resulting from coronavirus-related job losses a major concern in California, a bill under consideration in the Senate would authorize the state to take over the immediate burden of making rent payments and give tenants up to 10 years to pay the debt back.

The state would assume responsibility for the rent via tax credits that homeowners would be able to sell to investors for cash. Tenants who received such credits would have to reimburse the state in monthly installments starting in 2024. And the tenants wouldn’t be charged any interest if their payments were made on-time.

“The reality is that we do not have enough housing units of any type in California and cannot risk families losing their existing housing as they try to reenter the workforce,” the bill’s author, Sen. Anna Caballero (D), said in a statement.

Caballero had no cost estimate for the plan. (ABC10, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)

FL Gov Plans to Fix Budget Single-Handedly: The Florida Legislature unanimously passed a $92.3 billion budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year back in March, using revenue projections made in January, two months before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state’s economy.

Democrats want to hold a special session to address that issue, as well as others including problems with the state’s unemployment system and racial bias in policing. But Republicans who control the Legislature have rejected that idea and seem inclined to go along with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) plan to balance the state budget himself through a combination of vetoes, $4 billion in reserves and federal CARES Act money.

The state’s Constitution stipulates that “no money shall be drawn from the treasury except in pursuance of appropriation made by law.” But DeSantis maintains that the emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic allows him to spend the CARES funds without legislative approval. (ORLANDO SENTINEL)

Budgets in Brief:

Coronavirus Pandemic Taking Huge Toll on ME Hospitals: Maine’s three dozen hospitals have been losing about $250 million per month since suspending elective and preventative care in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal bailout funds for the U.S. health care system have covered less than a third of those losses. (PORTLAND PRESS HERALD)

NM Seeks Permission to Plug Oil Wells: Some New Mexico officials are urging the U.S. Department of the Interior to allow oil well operators to temporarily plug wells. With oil and gas prices having slumped due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of oilfield workers have filed for unemployment in the state. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK


Politics and Leadership

CA Will Sen All Voters Mail-in Ballot: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed legislation (AB 860) that will ensure every registered voter in the Golden State receives a mail-in ballot for the November election. The measure codifies an earlier executive order the governor issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In-person voting will also remain in place for any registered voter who prefers to cast their ballot that way. But Assemblymember Marc Berman (D), who authored the bill, said it was critical to ensure that voters could protect themselves while still registering their choices come November.

“No one should have to risk their health and possibly their life to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Berman said in a statement. “In the midst of a deadly health pandemic, giving all California voters the opportunity to vote from the safety of their own home is the responsible thing to do.” (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

 

Governors

Hutchinson Signs AR Workplace COVID-19 Orders: Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) issued a trio of executive orders last week addressing workplace concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, including civil liability for businesses, similar immunity for health care workers, and workers compensation for employees who contract the disease. 

Hutchinson said he would have preferred that lawmakers handle all three issues, but that with the state’s infection rate rising rapidly it was not a good idea to call them back to Little Rock.

“Without the practical recognition that this is not the best time for a special session, I would not be signing these executive orders today,” Hutchinson said.

The first order (EO 20-33) addresses one of the more controversial issues related to re-opening businesses shut down by the pandemic: liability for spreading the disease. Under Hutchinson’s directive, businesses are granted immunity from liability from civil suits filed by anyone who claims to have acquired the disease on their premises, though that immunity does not apply if a business shows a willful or careless disregard for adherence to public health guidelines.

Arkansas Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd (R) said the intention was to ensure businesses that are “making the right effort” would not face legal trouble should a worker or customer become ill.

“It’s important to keep in mind, this is not absolute immunity,” Shepherd said. “We’re providing some protections from frivolous litigation.”

Hutchinson’s second order (EO 20-34) also granted civil immunity to health care and facilities workers, with the same caveat for “willful, reckless, or intentional misconduct.”

The third order (EO 20-35) assures that workers who contract the virus will be covered by workers compensation insurance during their illness. The order does, however, require there be a causal connection between the worker’s job and acquiring the disease.

The civil immunity orders drew immediate fire from critics who questioned whether they would hold up to legal scrutiny.

“It doesn’t matter if it is the Legislature, the governor, whomever, no one can take away the rights of the citizens under the [Arkansas] Constitution,” said Paul Keith, the president of the Arkansas Bar Association, predicting that the executive order would be overturned on a legal challenge.

All three orders took effect last Monday. (ARKANSAS GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT GAZETTE [LITTLE ROCK], KNWA-TV [FAYETTEVILLE], KATV [LITTLE ROCK])

Newsom Adds CA to States with Mask Mandate: Saying “we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued an executive order requiring all residents to wear a face mask while in public or in high-risk settings.

California becomes the latest – and by far the largest – state to impose a statewide mask mandate. According to the National Governors Association, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and New Mexico have previously issued such directives.

Newsom made the decision in the wake of the Golden State experiencing a significant spike in COVID-19 infections since businesses started re-opening after Memorial Day. The state recorded over 4,100 new cases last Wednesday, with 80 more deaths. That brought the total number of Californians who have contracted the disease to 163,211, with 5,279 deaths.

“California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations,” Newsom said in a statement. “That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”

Face coverings have become highly politicized around California and across the nation. Some state and local health directors have resigned amidst harassment and even death threats over policies that recommend masks, and many businesses that require masks for both workers and customers have reported angry and occasionally violent reactions from some patrons.

Newsom was not the only governor to act on masks. On Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) reversed his earlier position by allowing local governments to impose their own mask mandates. And Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued a mandatory mask requirement for indoor public spaces in the tri-county Portland metro area. (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, LOS ANGELES TIMES, POLITICO, WILLAMETTE WEEK, ARIZONA REPUBLIC [PHOENIX], NATIONAL GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS)

Governors in Brief:

Cuomo, Northam Make Juneteenth State Worker Holiday: Saying “I don’t think it has been recognized for the importance it denotes,” NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued an executive order that makes Juneteenth – the day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States - a holiday for Empire State public employees. His announcement came a day after VIRGINIA Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued a similar order in the Old Dominion. His order applies this year only to executive branch employees, but Northam said he will work with lawmakers to make it a statewide holiday going forward. (ABC NEWS, ALBANY TIMES-UNION, NEW YORK GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

IA Gov to Order Restoration of Felon Voting Rights: IOWA Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said she would soon issue an executive order to automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons in the Hawkeye State who have completed their sentence. Reynolds said the order would be completed well before the November election. (RADIO IOWA, NEW YORK TIMES)

Polis Issues New CO Eviction Order: COLORADO Gov. Jared Polis (D) issued Executive Order 2020 101, which will effectively delay legal eviction proceedings against Centennial State tenants for another month. Polis ordered a moratorium on evictions in March as the COVID-19 shutdown was forcing many businesses to close, leaving workers without incomes. The new order will allow landlords to post eviction notices – the first step in the eviction process – but grants tenants 30 days to get caught up on the rent rather than the 10 days under current law. (DENVER POST, COLORADO PUBLIC RADIO)

Federal Judge Upholds WA Business Closures: A federal judge ruled that WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) stay-home order and system of reopening businesses in phases is within his authority to protect the public. U.S. Judge Thomas Rice refused to grant a request for a temporary restraining order that would allow an Evergreen State water park to open for the summer, saying “the public interest in mitigating and combating the significant danger posed by the spread of COVID-19 outweighs individual business interests in continued operations.” (SPOKESMAN-REVIEW [SPOKANE])

Baker Intros MA Police Reform Bill: Saying it is “clear that now is the time to get this done,” MASSACHUSETTS Gov. Charlie Baker (R) introduced police reform legislation that would create a certification system for Bay State law enforcement, with a mechanism for stripping the license of officers who commit egregious violations. The measure is one of many such proposals lawmakers could consider before the July 31 deadline. Massachusetts is one of only five states without a statewide system to decertify police officers when they’ve been fired or resigned amid serious misconduct allegations. (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE [BOSTON], VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD)

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

Hot Issues

Business: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that the federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex also applies to sexuality and gender identity. The ruling came out of the court’s consideration of separate cases filed in GEORGIA and MICHIGAN. Previous to the decision, it was legal in more than half of the states to fire workers for being gay, bisexual or transgender. (NEW YORK TIMES). VERMONT Gov. Phil Scott (R) signs legislation that makes several changes to the state’s captive insurance laws, including simplifying disclosure rules for agency captive owners, allowing cells to form separate accounts within a given protected cell, and lowering the minimum core capital for a sponsored cell captive from $250,000 to $100,000 (VERMONT GOVERNOR’S OFFICE). LOUISIANA Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signs HB 211, which protects Pelican State banks and credit unions from being penalized by state regulators for servicing legal cannabis businesses (MARIJUANA MOMENT).

Education: FLORIDA Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signs SB 646, a bill that makes the Sunshine State the third to allow college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image or likeness. CALIFORNIA and COLORADO previously adopted a similar statute (FLORIDA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Health & Science: The GEORGIA Senate unanimously endorses HB 888, a “surprise medical billing” measure that would limit patients to paying no more than their deductible, copay or other in-network payment level determined by their plan. It moves to Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who is expected to sign it into law (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION). LOUISIANA Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signs HB 819, which allows patients to obtain medical marijuana prescriptions for any debilitating condition their doctors see fit. Gov. Edwards also signs HB 418, which provides legal protections for doctors who recommend medical marijuana and authorized medical facilities that have cannabis patients in their care (MARIJUANJA MOMENT).

Immigration: The Supreme Court of the United States rejects an attempt by the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the administration did not follow procedures required by law, and did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation, and the ability to work legally (WASHINGTON POST).

Social Policy: The Supreme Court of the United States declines to consider eight separate cases asking the High Court to reconsider “qualified immunity,” legal doctrine created by judges that has shielded police and other government officials from lawsuits over their conduct (WASHINGTON POST). NEW JERSEY Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announces that all Garden State law enforcement agencies must publicly identify officers who commit serious disciplinary violations starting later this year. His order applies to all state, county and municipal agencies (NORTHJERSEY.COM). IOWA Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signs HB 2647, which prohibits the use of a chokehold in an arrest, except when a person cannot be captured any other way or has used or threatened deadly force (CNN). CONNECTICUT Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issues an executive order that bars State Police from using chokeholds. Lamont and lawmakers are working on legislation that would impose the prohibition on all local law enforcement agencies as well (CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Local Front: The Supreme Court of the United States declines to hear a challenge to a lower court’s ruling that upheld the right of CALIFORNIA cities to declare themselves sanctuaries that do not have to aid federal authorities in upholding immigration laws (NBC NEWS).

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

News by the Number

81%: The percentage of people in a recent poll that said they would support removing election and other political information from social media that was intentionally false or misleading. (REUTERS)

17.7%: The increase in retail sales from April to May 2020. (MARKETWATCH)

-6.6%: The decline in retails sales from April 2019 to May 2020. (MARKETWATCH)

13: The number of consecutive weeks with at least 1 million new unemployment filings. (NEW YORK TIMES)

14.3%: Unemployment rate for women in May 2020 (STATISTA)

12.2%: Unemployment rate for men in May 2020 (STATISTA)

$166K: The cost to encase the desks of Rhode Island lawmakers on three sides in plexiglass to mitigate against the possible spread of the coronavirus. (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL)

649: The number of bills and resolutions introduced in Congress related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the State Net COVID-19 Legislative and Regulatory tracking site. (STATE NET)

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN