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BPAA State Policy Update - October 16, 2020

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking


Political Update

  • States Shatter Early Voting Records Millions of Americans are breaking voter-turnout records with three weeks to go before Election Day and Democrats are casting early ballots at a far higher rate than Republicans. Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic have increased mail-in voting and led to unprecedented levels of early voting, especially among Democrats. More than 21.2 million voters have cast their ballot early, either in person or by mail, in states that report voting data, according to the University of Florida Elections Project. As President Donald Trump and the Republican Party bet on Election Day in-person turnout, states that he won by a small margin in 2016 are seeing more Democrats voting early. With 18 days of frenetic campaigning by Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden still ahead, many states allow early voting. This year, with enthusiasm running high, voters have already cast 15.3% of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election. Battleground states like Ohio and Georgia among others have already set records in voter turnout. In other critical states, such as Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin, early voting turnout has already reached 20% or more of the total turnout for the 2016 election. Read more at BGOV.

  • Supreme Court asked to extend Wisconsin absentee votingDemocrats and their allies asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to allow for absentee ballots in battleground Wisconsin that are received up to six days after the election to be counted — a move being fought by Republicans who have opposed other attempts across the country to expand voting. Democrats argue that the flood of absentee ballots and other challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic make it necessary to extend the period in which ballots can be counted. Wisconsin is one of the nation’s hot spots for COVID-19, with hospitals treating a record high number of patients with the disease. Read more here. 

Business Liability Protections

  • Struggling Delaware businesses need protection from frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits | Opinion Delaware recently announced a $100 million grant to help small businesses survive the unprecedented economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While this is great news for those small businesses that qualify and receive the grant, this will do little to make up for the havoc wreaked on the state’s economy, with the restaurant industry in the state alone facing $700 million in losses, forcing 23,500 people to lose their jobs over the past five months. Given the unfortunate position we find ourselves in, it is critical that our elected officials do everything in their power to support small businesses, or we risk further job losses and business closures. One way officials can help small businesses is by supporting reasonable liability protections, particularly for essential businesses like convenience and grocery stores that remained open throughout the course of the pandemic to continue providing much-needed goods and services. Read more Delaware Online.

  • Michigan Legislature OKs amended COVID-19 business liability package, bills on nursing homes, unemployment The Michigan Senate passed an amended legislative package of bills that will provide coronavirus liability protections to businesses during an overnight session and after hours of negotiations between legislative leadership and the governor's office. Legislation allowing public bodies to meet remotely, implementing task force recommendations on housing COVID-19 patients in centers run by nursing homes and extending unemployment benefits also were decided during a session that stretched into early Wednesday morning. House and Senate action became necessary to extend various measures Whitmer took through executive orders that were rendered moot following a state Supreme Court decision earlier this month that declared unconstitutional a 75-year-old law that had underpinned Whitmer's restrictions. Her administration last week reinstated mask requirements, business capacity restrictions and other regulations under a public health law. And Wednesday, her administration issued emergency workplace safety rules that mirror ones previously in place. Read more at Crains Detroit. 


  • Indiana business organizations seek liability protections, a freeze on new regulations from General Assembly The logistics of the Indiana House meeting outside chambers in the state capitol for the 2021 legislative session pale compared to the financial issues the General Assembly expects to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic's economic effects. The House plans a meeting location change possibly to the Government South conference center thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting safety measures. The state Senate is still slated to meet in the statehouse. The next considerations are how to safely include the public, staff, lobbyists and media. Indiana business organizations want the lawmakers to take action to move the economic recovery along by helping businesses survive. Read more here. 


  • Governor Ivey (AL) talks business protection liability, economic incentive programs; special session under consideration As businesses begin to reopen and serve patrons whilst under a health pandemic, many are pushing for liability protection in order to avoid COVID-19 related lawsuits. Governor Kay Ivey addressed this very concern in the virtual forum for the Chamber of Commerce. She stated that with her working alongside BCA and the Mobile Chamber of Commerce, among others, the business liability protection was included as part of her state of emergency executive order. Additionally, Ivey revisited the possible extension of the economic incentive programs set to expire by the end of 2020 that would assist in bringing in more business for the state. For Alabama to achieve economic stability pre-coronavirus, Ivey considers a special session regarding the previously mentioned issues. Read more at WKRG.



Minimum Wage Update

  • ‘Two sides to it’: Workers and businesses at odds when it comes to Amendment 2 Here are some of the things that Odeimy Melendres would do if she earned $15 an hour: keep a savings account, go to a nice restaurant once in a while, and pay for needed medication her insurance doesn’t cover. For now, as a University of Miami janitor making $11.15 hourly, she lives month-to-month. Though Melendres is not yet a citizen and can’t vote, Wednesday she and about two dozen others rallied on Calle Ocho in favor of Amendment 2, a ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage in Florida to $15 an hour. In November Floridians will decide whether to change the constitution and scrap the state’s current minimum wage of $8.56 an hour. The amendment would implement a gradual change that will raise that figure to $10 hourly starting next September. The wage would increase by $1 yearly thereafter until it hits $15 in 2026. Read more at Miami Herald.

Tax Update

  • California’s Next Big Tax Gulp: Sooner or later California’s public unions had to hit up the hoi polloi to pay for their pensions after soaking what’s left of the state’s millionaire class, and here they come. On Nov. 3, Californians will vote on a “split roll” ballot initiative (Prop. 15) that seeks to enact the biggest tax hike in state history. In 1978 voters enshrined protections against runaway property taxes in the state Constitution (Prop 13). Prop. 15 would abolish those protections for businesses while maintaining limitations—at least for now—on homes. Under current law, tax rates on residential and commercial property are capped at 1% of their assessed value—i.e., the purchase price—and can increase by no more than 2% annually. If the property values of homes or businesses rapidly inflate, owners won’t see their bills increase by more than 2% per year. This is the only balm in California’s oppressive tax climate and acts as a modest restraint on the government spending ratchet. Unions know that attempting to repeal this entirely would spur a homeowner revolt, so they are targeting businesses. Read more on Wall Street Journal. 


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