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BPAA State Policy Update - March 12, 2021

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking 


COVID Liability Protections & Updates 

  • Missouri businesses testify in opposition of COVID liability protection during House hearing As COVID-19 cases continue to decline in Missouri, some lawmakers are concerned that lawsuits regarding the pandemic will increase.  Nearly half of the country has passed COVID liability, which protects businesses, churches and schools for being held liable for COVID-19 exposure. During a House hearing Tuesday, businesses spoke in opposition of the bill, worried this will bring them more lawsuits. Read more here. 
  • Proposed State COVID Liability Protections Could Soon Become Law Proposed state legislation to shield businesses and health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits could pass early this session. "I look forward to these great bills becoming law early this session," State Senate President Wilton Simpson told fellow lawmakers in his opening address. With support from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state could join many others that have already adopted similar COVID-19 business liability protections. "The vast majority of these businesses made a good faith effort to adhere to ever-changing guidelines," he said. "Our bills strike the right balance between shielding those that did their best under difficult circumstances while protecting consumers.” Read more here at WUSF.  
  • States Increasingly Considering COVID-19 Liability Protections As we approach one year from the WHO’s declaration of the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic, many state legislatures are adopting or considering laws shielding businesses from liability related to COVID-19. Generally, the bills protect businesses that comply with public health requirements from lawsuits alleging injuries related to COVID-19. However, reckless or intentional misconduct is usually specifically excluded. The below overview of select states is representative of the types of legislation being debated or adopted in the country. 
    • The Missouri General Assembly is considering an expansive bill shielding healthcare providers, premises owners and business owners. If an entity posts a warning notice, a rebuttable presumption is created that the plaintiff assumed the risk of exposure.  
    • Colorado has two pending bills to create immunity from civil liability for COVID-19 exposure, loss, damage, injury or death if a business used good faith to comply with public health guidance. 
    • Read here for information on Florida, California, Virginia, and other states. 


Minimum Wage 

  • Delaware lawmakers renew push for $15 minimum wage A coalition of business groups and politicians spoke Monday during a virtual event in favor of a $15 minimum wage in Delaware. Legislation introduced by Sen. Jack Walsh would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Delaware is one of 30 states that sets its own minimum wage above the federal standard. The wage increased from $8.25 in 2015 to $9.25 in 2020. However, many efforts to increase the state’s minimum wage over the years have struggled. Read more at WHYY. 
  • Pennsylvania lawmakers aim to dig into implications of minimum wage hike proposal Gov. Tom Wolf’s continued call to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage was scrutinized at a recent budget hearing with the head of the state’s Independent Fiscal Office. Wolf’s proposal includes an instantaneous increase in the minimum wage, from the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour in July to $12 per hour. Thereafter, Wolf is proposing 50-cent hourly increases in the minimum wage each year before reaching a $15-per-hour threshold in 2027. But the would-be hike comes alongside a number of other weighty issues on the jobs front, including indications unemployment will be a challenge for years to come. The state’s fiscal condition also has been a concern legislators have raised. Read more here. 
  • State lawmakers want to bump minimum wage in Michigan Michigan’s minimum hourly wage would jump nearly 14 percent starting next year, under a bill introduced by House democrats. The current rate of $9.65 an hour would increase to $11 beginning Jan. 1, 2022. It would go up a dollar through 2026, when the hourly rate for workers in Michigan would be $15, according to the bill, which was introduced earlier this week. Read more here.  
  • When it comes to minimum wage, North Dakota and its neighbors go opposite directions A proposal to raise the minimum wage in North Dakota to $15 an hour by 2027 met a fairly predictable fate Tuesday, Feb. 16, in Bismarck. After the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee voted 12-2 to give the bill a "do not pass" recommendation, House Bill 1341 was practically dead on arrival when it was returned to the House for a vote. Republicans, who generally oppose minimum wage increases, outnumber Democrats in the chamber by an 80-14 margin. Read more here.  


Sports Betting 

  • Legal Sports Betting Bill Updates: Where Georgia, Arizona & 4 Other States Stand No state has technically passed a sports betting bill into legalization in 2021, but one state legislature has passed a bill while another five have advanced bills through at least one of their legislature’s chambers. Here’s where these six sports betting hopefuls stand. 
    • Arizona Sports Betting Bill: Passed House, now in Senate committee 
    • Georgia: Passed Senate, now in House committee 
    • Kansas: Passed Senate, now in House committee 
    • Maryland: Passed House of Delegates, now in Senate committee 
    • South Dakota: Awaiting Gov. Kristi Noem’s signature 
    • Wyoming: Passed House, now in Senate committee 
    • Read the details about the bills here at Action Network.  
  • Maryland House Passes Sports Betting, Advances State Song Repeal The House of Delegates approved a bill to establish a sports gaming industry in Maryland on Thursday, with little discussion or opposition. House Bill 940, sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), passed the chamber 130-9 and moves on to the Senate. The bill would allow in-person sports wagering at 22 locations including the state’s six casinos, professional sports venues, the Maryland Jockey Club, the State Fairgrounds and the Riverboat on the Potomac in Charles County. The 10 remaining in-person licenses would be awarded through competitive bids administered by the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which could consider any “remedial measures” necessary to advantage minority- and women-owned businesses. Read more here at Maryland Matters. 
  • Can New Texas Sports Betting Bills Cross The Goal Line This Term? Texas lawmakers are not giving up on sports betting legislation this session. Two lawmakers filed bipartisan legislation this week that would legalize casinos and sports betting in TexasHJR133 was filed in the House on Tuesday, with SJR49 filed in the Senate. It’s the latest effort to expand legalized gambling in Texas, despite opposition from high-ranking politicians. But the clock is ticking: the Texas legislative session runs to the end of May, then doesn’t return until 2023. And of course, any bill to expand gaming must be approved by two-thirds of lawmakers before being put to a referendum. Read the full article here at Legal Sports Report.  


Political Rundown 

  • Michigan: Ronna McDaniel Says She Will Not Run for Governor She signed a contract with the RNC for two more years as chair. With RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel (R) out of the running, the possible candidates to watch include former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R), Rep. Lisa McClain (R-10), and state Rep. Jack O’Malley (R).  
  • North Carolina: Cooper Won’t Run Because Republicans Would Take Over Governorship. He said it’s not because he thinks he would lose—in fact, he thinks he would win. Cooper is term-limited as governor and will leave the post in 2024. He has been floated as a potential running mate for Vice President Kamala Harris if she were to run for president in 2024. COOPER SAYS: “I’ve promised the people four years as governor and that’s what I want to do. … We also have a Republican lieutenant governor and if you look at who he is and what he stands for, I’m not sure that North Carolina needs two years of that, because if I ran, I believe that I would win.” Read more at Raleigh News & Observer
  • New York: Calls for Cuomo’s Resignation Mount, AOC and Jerry Nadler The latest allegation against him was referred to the police. The calls for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign are mounting, including members of Congress: Reps. Grace Meng (D-06), Nydia Velazquez (D-07), Yvette Clark (D-09), Jerry Nadler (D-10), Carolyn Maloney (D-12), Adriano Espaillat (D-13), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14), Jamaal Bowman (D-16), Mondaire Jones (D-17), Antonio Delgado (D-19), and Brian Higgins (D-26). New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) also officially called for Cuomo to resign. (NY1) A majority of New York state legislators have now called for Cuomo's resignation. (AP)  
    • NADLER SAYS: “[T]here is a difference between formal investigations that may end in criminal charges and a question of confidence in our political leadership. The question before us is squarely a political judgement. Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York. Governor Cuomo must resign.” (release)  
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