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BPAA State Policy Update - January 15, 2021

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking


State Budget and Stimulus Updates

  • The Texas Legislature convenes for its 2021 session and here are 5 things to watch The 2021 session of the Texas Legislature will commence Tuesday under pervasive uncertainty. Lawmakers have been waiting for months to see how it will be conducted safely as the coronavirus pandemic rages. Both chambers are expected to convene at Noon. Watch the House and Senate streams here.
    • And after a pro-Donald Trump mob rushed into the U.S. Capitol last week, leaving five people dead and leading to dozens of arrests, some Texas lawmakers are on edge about the potential for unrest in Austin. The Texas Department of Public Safety is deploying additional resources and personnel to the state Capitol, and Gov. Greg Abbott promised Monday that DPS will “continue to remain on top of” safety at the building.
    • Meanwhile, three clear top priorities have emerged for the agenda: the budget, redistricting and the pandemic. But it remains to be seen how much space — or political appetite — there will be for more polarizing proposals, especially among Republicans coming off a successful November election. Read the list here at NEWS4SA.


  • Wisconsin Senate Passes Scaled-Back COVID-19 Package The Republican-controlled state Senate has passed a COVID-19 bill that has the backing of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers — but not top GOP leaders in the state Assembly.
    • The Senate approved an amendment to the bill Tuesday that passed the chamber on a 29-2 vote before concurring in the overall bill on a voice vote.
    • Much of the legislation includes proposals negotiated with Evers, including a provision requiring health insurers to cover COVID-19 prescriptions, testing and vaccines.
    • But other, more controversial elements of a bill that passed the Assembly were removed from the plan. They include potential punishments for schools that don't return to in-person instruction, restrictions on local public health officers and a ban on mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.
    • The measure that passed the Senate still included new restrictions on COVID-19 lawsuits, a priority of Republicans and Wisconsin's business lobby. But that measure was scaled back enough Tuesday to win Evers' support. Read more at WPR.


  • Colorado lawmakers will look at updating state stimulus bill following lawsuit When Colorado's 2021 legislative session begins on Wednesday, it will last three days, and not 120 days. Lawmakers will pause after Friday, taking one month off because of COVID-19 concerns. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled last year that the 120 days required for the legislature does not have to be 120 consecutive days. Read the latest in the CO legislature here.


  • Mass. Getting $9 Billion Jolt From Latest Federal Stimulus Bill Massachusetts has at least nine billion reasons to be happy about the latest federal COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus law. In response to a State House News Service request for information, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration estimated that Massachusetts is positioned to receive at least $9 billion under the law assembled by Congress in December and signed late last month by President Donald Trump. The measure was passed after months of partisan wrangling.
    • And the state's estimate does not include its share of the largest single program in the new law: $284 billion in small business assistance arriving in the form of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. Read more at NBC Boston.


COVID-19 Updates

  • Illinois Governor to Announce Lifting of Some COVID Restrictions Friday, But What About Dining? As some Illinois regions prepare to lift certain coronavirus restrictions beginning Friday, questions remain over the future of indoor dining in the state.
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to end the work week by announcing which regions can start to roll back the restrictions that have been in place for months, suspending indoor dining across the state and closing down museums and casinos.
    • Some officials in the state are urging the governor to bring back indoor dining. All of Illinois' 11 regions have been under Tier 3 mitigations since Nov. 20.
    • According to the governor's office, some regions are set to move back to Tier 2, others possibly to Tier 1, and some will remain in Tier 3 - under the data reported Thursday afternoon. Read here.


  • Walz allows restaurants, bars to reopen Monday. Wedding receptions, movies, bowling and pools can also resume. Minnesota restaurants and bars will be able to reopen to indoor service — with coronavirus restrictions — starting next Monday, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday morning.
    • In addition, wedding receptions and other private parties will be allowed to resume — also with restrictions — and swimming pools will be able to more fully reopen, though also with restrictions, Walz announced.
    • Here’s a summary of the rules that will be in effect, starting Monday, according to Walz’s office:
      • Indoor events and entertainment — like bowling alleys, movie theaters and museums — may open at 25 percent, with no more than 150 people in each area of the venue. Face coverings are required, and they may not offer food service after 10 p.m. Read full article at TwinCities.


  • Michigan extends COVID-19 order through end of January, but permits more physical activities Officials have extended the COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan through the end of January, but the order has been revised to allow more forms of physical activity. The announcement was made Wednesday by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and MDHHS chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
    • The order, which was scheduled to expire Friday (Jan. 15), has been extended until Jan. 31. Restaurants are not allowed to open for indoor dining and entertainment venues can’t offer concessions during that time, Gordon said. Read more here.


  • What is the Healthy Washington COVID-19 reopening plan and how does it work? Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery consists of two phases and breaks the state into eight regions instead of going by county, which was done with the Safe Start plan last summer. The Safe Start plan had four phases and was used to guide the opening of the state’s 39 counties after Gov. Jay Inslee’s March 23 stay-home order.
    • In November, Inslee ordered broad restrictions for all counties no matter what phase they were in. Those restrictions went into effect Nov. 16, and were extended by Inslee a number of times since then.
    • When Inslee ordered the restrictions in November, the state was dealing with rapidly increasing COVID-19 infections heading into Thanksgiving. Cases of the disease peaked in early December while hospitalizations continued to rise through the end of the year. Read Inslee’s plan for Washington plan here.


  • Nevada’s COVID-19 Restrictions Extended Another 30 Days With the number of daily COVID-19 cases continuing to remain high in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak opted to extend his statewide “pause” that keeps restaurants, bars, and casinos at 25 percent capacity for another 30 days.
    • Sisolak initially reduced the operating capacity for these businesses, implemented mandatory reservations at restaurants and bars, and allowed only four people per table on November 24, and then extended the measures until January 15. Read more here.


  • Cuomo OKs Indoor Dining in NY Orange Zones (for Now) After State Supreme Court Ruling A state Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of a number of Erie County restaurants that had sued the state over their orange cluster zone designation; the judge granted a preliminary injunction
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo's legal counsel says the state is reviewing the decision, with which it strongly disagrees; in the meantime, it is allowing orange zone restaurants to operate under yellow zone rules
    • As of Cuomo's latest update, there are seven orange cluster zone areas in the state, including parts of Westchester County and NYC, where indoor dining is banned independent of the cluster rules. Read more here.


  • When can I get my COVID-19 vaccine? See a state-by-state guide The emergency use authorization of two vaccines offers some hope for the end of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the vaccine rollout has been complicated by limited supplies, logistical difficulties, and more. To make sure that the most vulnerable are able to access the vaccine, states are administering the vaccine in phases, meaning that only some people can get the shot right now. Some states are already planning for the future and allowing people to preregister for the vaccine or put their names on interest lists for when they are eligible; other states have released detailed information about when people can expect to be vaccinated and where they might receive it. See the full state guide here.


Minimum Wage and Labor

  • Half of U.S. states will raise their minimum wage in 2021—and more pay hikes could be on the way The push for a $15 minimum wage notched a big win through President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, but it’s unclear if his administration will be able to pass a new federal minimum wage.
    • On the local level, half of U.S. states will raise their minimum wage in 2021.
    • Companies like Walmart and Starbucks also announced new hikes to their pay floors as they tried to recruit workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Click here to view the chart.


Tax Update

  • Gov. Newsom Offers Tax Credit Expansion, SALT Cap Buffer California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to expand several business tax credits as part of a larger recovery plan for the state’s economy. Newsom, a Democrat, will ask lawmakers to approve the changes in a state budget plan he will release Jan. 8 to help bounce back from the pandemic, he said Tuesday.
    • The plan includes increasing annual funding for the California Competes tax credit from $180 million to $270 million in the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year, and adding $250 million for a one-time grant program. The California Competes credit was created in 2014 as an economic development tool, requiring companies to apply for a slice of the money allocated each year in exchange for commitments to increase jobs and capital investment in the state.
    • Newsom also wants to soften the impact of the federal $10,000 cap on deductibility of state and local taxes for S corporation shareholders by using a mechanism that resembles what a number of other states have done.
    • Under the state and local taxes cap workaround, S corporations—which as pass-through entities usually don’t pay income tax—could elect to pay a 13.3% state income tax. This would reduce the amount of income passed on to shareholders, who would get a tax credit “equal to 13.3% or their passed-through income,” the governor’s Department of Finance said. Read more at Bloomberg Government.


  • N.J.’s Murphy Enacts Up to $14 Billion of Corporate Tax Breaks Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill authorizing as much as $14 billion in corporate-tax credits over seven years, aimed at luring companies to New Jersey and keeping existing ones from moving to lower-cost states. Murphy, a first-term Democrat running for re-election in November, let the previous $11 billion tax-incentive program lapse in 2019 as his administration reviewed questionable deals awarded to politically connected business owners. The governor has said he supported incentives but saw regulatory flaws in the program. New Jersey’s high costs give it the worst business tax climate in the nation, according to a ranking by the Tax Foundation. At the start of 2020, New Jersey had a 9% corporate tax rate. Murphy signed a budget in September that extended through 2023 what was to be a temporary 2.5% surcharge on corporate income of more than $1 million, making the effective tax rate 11.5% on that amount. Only Iowa has a higher rate. Read more at Bloomberg Government.
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