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BPAA Biweekly State Policy Updates - January 11

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TAX UPDATE

  • Politico Morning Tax - Moving On Down the Line: The Iowa legislature enacted the largest income tax cut in state history last year — but don't think state Republicans aren't looking for new avenues to tax relief , the Quad City Times reports. Legislative leaders seem to believe that property taxes could be a particular area of focus, after hearing complaints from voters about increases. Local government usually have most say over property tax rates, but Iowa's House speaker floated the idea of a "truth-in-taxation" measure that gives taxpayers more idea about how their property taxes are being used.
  • Politico Morning Tax - New Jersey: On IRS Chief Council: It was pretty clear after Michael Desmond wasn't confirmed as IRS chief counsel before the new Congress was sworn in that at least one of the 100 senators objected to clearing his nomination. And as it turns out, it was the senator who threatened to hold up the nomination several months back — Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). Menendez's office confirmed Thursday that he blocked Desmond because the senator didn't like the IRS's efforts to keep New Jersey and other blue states from ducking the tax law's $10,000 cap on state and local deductions, as your Morning Tax author noted. Still unresolved: Whether Menendez will continue to block a chief counsel nominee this Congress, given that proposed SALT regulations are moving through the pipeline.
     
  • Politico - California Tax on Water: Gov. Gavin Newsom, newly inaugurated in California, has an idea for ensuring that disadvantaged communities have cleaner drinking water — taxing drinking water. Newsom, citing statistics suggesting that a million Californians don't have access to safe drinking water, decided to make another push for a tax, which couldn't make it past the legislature last year, instead of withdrawing from the state's surplus. The Democratic governor wants $25 million for a safe drinking fund but hasn't spelled out how the tax would work, though the proposal that stalled last year would have placed a 95 cent per month tax on residential water customers.

LABOR UPDATE

  • The Boston Globe - New minimum wages taking effect in 20 states, nearly two dozen cities: JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — At Granny Shaffer’s restaurant in Joplin, owner Mike Wiggins is reprinting menus to reflect the 5, 10, or 20 cents added to each item. Wiggins said price hikes will help offset $10,000 to $12,000 in additional annual pay as a result of a new minimum wage law taking effect Tuesday. New minimum wages take effect in 20 states and nearly two dozen cities around the start of 2019, affecting millions of workers. They range from an extra nickel per hour in Alaska to a $1-an-hour bump in Maine, Massachusetts, and for California employers with more than 25 workers. Seattle’s largest employers will have to pay at least $16 an hour; in New York City, many businesses will have to pay at least $15 — more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. The new wage laws come amid a multi-year push to raise the minimum to $15 nationwide. Few are there yet, but many states have ratcheted up wages through phased-in laws. The federal minimum was last raised in 2009. Since then 29 states, the District of Columbia, and dozens of other cities have set minimum wages above the federal floor. Advocates credit the trend toward higher minimum wages to the Fight for $15, a national protest movement. ‘‘It may not have motivated every lawmaker to agree that we should go to $15,’’ said David Cooper, at the Economic Policy Institute. ‘‘But it’s motivated many of them.”                        

ALCOHOL POLICY

  • Oregon Live - Bill would make Oregon second in nation to enact .05% DUII law: Utah on Sunday will become the first state to lower the limit for driving under the influence of alcohol from .08 to .05 percent. Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem and president of the Oregon Senate, hopes Oregon becomes the second. Courtney is gearing up to introduce a bill during the upcoming legislative session -- which starts Jan. 22 -- that would make it illegal for drivers to get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content of .05 percent or greater. “Alcohol is a deadly weapon,” Courtney said.
    • Shedelbower points to statistics circulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that say 70 percent of alcohol-impaired fatalities involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol content of .15 percent or higher. “That’s three times a .05 percent BAC,” Shedelbower said. “We think this law criminalizes perfectly responsible behavior,” said Shedelbower. In 1983, Oregon and Utah became the first states in the nation to lower the drunken driving limit from .10 percent to .08 percent. Over the next few decades, all states followed suit.
    • Courtney remembers first introducing the idea in 1981, as a freshman representative, while in committee. “The room fell silent,” Courtney said, describing the shock that a newbie would propose such a startling change. But to Courtney’s surprise, the .08 limit ultimately gained traction and passed into law two years later. Although Courtney suspects opposition to his bill in 2019, he has some hope, given Oregon’s groundbreaking passage of a lower limit 35 years ago. Courtney says his bill doesn’t mean people would have to drink less -- they can still enjoy an evening out, but they need to find some other way home, such as a taxi, Uber or Lyft.

SPORTS BETTING UPDATE

  • Legal Sports Report - Searching For Clues About Which States Will Pass New Sports Betting Bills In 2019: December 31 - Congress will go back into session this week and state legislatures throughout the country will follow shortly thereafter. When they do, legal sports betting will slot into the legislative agenda for many. Which states look ready to give sports betting a try?:
    • Kentucky is high on the list of ambition for sports betting. Although 2018 bills did not garner any real traction, lawmakers in June formed a nine-member panel to study the issue and draft legislation. A subsequent public hearing in October spurred the horses into action, and the state attorney general offered his blessings in November. Two KY sports betting bills are already up for consideration in 2019, BR 15 and BR 320. A third, BR 29, appeared to have some significant flaws as filed and was apparently withdrawn.
    • Missouri was among the most active states with sports betting legislation in 2018. Lawmakers ran no less than six bills up the flagpole without much progress, though a clear appetite exists. As with its Kentucky neighbor, many of the outstanding details in Missouri center on specifics, such as whether to include an integrity fee in legislation. Only one of the previous six bills included such a fee.
    • Ohio is one of the few on this list that did not consider a sports betting bill in 2018. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien did introduce a shell of a bill in August. It is short enough to cite the full text here: Section 1. It is the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering.
      • Though that bill didn’t move, lawmakers are expressing an ongoing interest. Sen. Bill Coley, for example, attended a sports betting policy summit in Washington DC in November, where he spoke favorably regarding regulation in 2019.
    • Tennessee law prohibits all forms of gambling, with changes requiring a voter referendum at the county level. That’s happened twice before — once for lottery and once for pari-mutuel horse betting. A third opportunity could come before voters in 2020, it seems:
      • After radio silence most of the year, the two gubernatorial candidates saw fit to weigh in on sports betting during their 2018 campaigns. And a new bill has suddenly appeared on the calendar for 2019. The Tennessee sports betting bill (H 1 / S 16) is the first bill pre-filed in the House for next year. It would create a new agency, the Tennessee Gaming Commission, to regulate both retail and online/mobile wagering.
    • Virginia: Back in July, state officials were publicly predicting a movement to legalize sports betting. Geographical peer pressure could light a fire under Virginia lawmakers, too. Its neighbors to the north and west have either passed or considered sports betting legislation, including mighty Washington D.C.
    • Other states - A number of other states could be grouped into a third tier of legislative appetite. Each has shown some level of interest for sports betting in recent years, and each will no doubt resume the conversation in 2019: Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, and Massachusetts.
  • Fox4kc.com - Sports gambling could be coming to Kansas phones and sports bars: It`s been nearly six months since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for states to legalize sports betting. But what are the odds we'll see it here any time soon? Lawmakers in Missouri and Kansas are expected to take up the issue early next year. Bills were introduced in both states last year, but they didn't gather much traction since that was before the historic Supreme Court ruling. Missouri's proposal would have restricted sports betting to riverboat casinos. But a Kansas version expected to be filed again in the 2019 session would reach much farther.
    • At McGuire`s Tavern in Overland Park, while most people have their eyes glued to sports action, others watch for their Keno numbers to flash across the TV screen. "We don`t make a lot of money off it. But it keeps people here, and it gives them something to do, and it`s fun," McGuire's owner Mike Ray said.
    • But there`s another gaming proposal for the Kansas lottery that could bring sports bars a lot more business. State Rep. Jan Kessinger of Overland Park introduced the bill earlier this year. "I think one of the keys to the success of sports betting in Kansas would be to make it accessible widespread. Some people say, 'Oh, let`s just have it at the casinos.' You can`t have sports betting at just four locations in Kansas," Kessinger said. That`s why Kessinger wants to extend it to sports bars offering Keno through the Kansas Lottery. Kessinger said legislators will also toss around the idea of having sports gambling available on people's phones.
    • "It could generate about $75 million once we get it up and running. That`s $75 million to the state where they could add it to education, put it to the highway fund. We could fix the foster care system. A lot of things we could do with that," Kessinger said. Kessinger said, if approved, the earliest sports betting could be legal in Kansas is July 1.
  • Politico Tax NewsStates Want You To Gamble - The rush for states to legalize sports gambling is on, after the Supreme Court waved the green flag last year. But Richard Auxier of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center warns that "raising large amounts of tax revenue from sports gambling is no sure bet ." The challenge that states will have is setting a tax rate on a casino's revenue that doesn't depress betting. "Casinos and other gambling providers already operate on very small margins so high tax rates can discourage them from promoting or funding sports betting—or even operating a sports book at all," Auxier wrote, noting that it took Pennsylvania casinos six months to actually offer sports betting after the state government made it legal.
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