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State Legislatures Magazine — January 2015: Lawmakers have a slew of hot issues to juggle as sessions rev up around the country this month

January 20, 2015 Comments off

State Legislatures Magazine — January 2015: Lawmakers have a slew of hot issues to juggle as sessions rev up around the country this month
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

The overall economy is improving. Gas prices are down and state revenues are up. Things are better, but they’re not great.

Lawmakers are reporting for duty with partisanship and polarization casting longer than normal shadows down revered statehouse hallways. Social issues continue to divide, voters’ cynicism grows for all things “government” and federal inaction threatens states’ stability.

Still, state lawmakers find ways to get things done. They look for areas of agreement, they learn from experiences in other states and they find solutions to fairly serious problems, often quite innovatively and almost always more effectively than their federal counterparts.

As lawmakers roll up their sleeves to begin work on many important issues, state fiscal conditions, at least, are stronger than they have been for several years. With only a few exceptions, state finances continue to improve slowly but steadily from the depths of the Great Recession. NCSL’s most recent fiscal survey of the states found most spending in line with appropriated levels for FY 2015. In fact, as the New Year approached, only Medicaid and corrections in a couple of states were running over-budget.

The same survey found that the top funding issues state legislatures are expected to address during 2015 legislative sessions are education (from preschool to university), Medicaid, and transportation infrastructure. Other hot fiscal issues include tax reform and gaming.

As we do this time each year, we’ve listed the topics—many new and emerging—that will likely occupy a majority of lawmakers’ time and energy across the country.

Military’s Impact on State Economies

January 15, 2015 Comments off

Military’s Impact on State Economies
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

The Department of Defense (DoD) operates more than 420 military installations in 47 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.

These installations—which may also be referred to as bases, camps, posts, stations, yards or centers—sustain the presence of U.S. forces at home and abroad.

Installations located within the United States and its territories are used to train and deploy troops, maintain weapons systems and care for the wounded. Installations also support military service members and families by providing housing, health care, childcare and on-base education.

The DoD contributes billions of dollars each year to state economies through the operation of military installations. This spending helps sustain local communities by creating employment opportunities across a wide range of sectors, both directly and indirectly.

Parental Rights and Sexual Assault

December 29, 2014 Comments off

Parental Rights and Sexual Assault
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Approximately 26 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation regarding the parental rights of perpetrators of sexual assault.

Eighteen states allow for termination of parental rights if the parent was convicted of sexual assault which resulted in the birth of the child. The other 8 states and the District of Columbia deny custody or visitation if the child was conceived as a result of a rape or sexual assault. Generally, a conviction is required before parental rights are terminated.

Also, some states (Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming) still allow child support to be collected when the custody and visitation rights have been restricted. However, in Oregon, child support is still required even though parental rights are terminated.

2014 Minimum Wage by State

October 30, 2014 Comments off

2014 Minimum Wage by State
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Summary

  • Minimum wages will go up in nine states on Jan. 1, 2015 because of indexed increases in their state law: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington.
  • 38 states introduced minimum wage bills during the 2014 session; 34 states considered increases to the state minimum wage.
    Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and D.C. have enacted increases during the 2014 session.
  • As of Aug. 1, 2014, 23 states and D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.
  • 18 states, Guam, and the Virgin Islands have minimum wages the same as the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
  • 3 states, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico have minimum wages below the federal minimum wage (the federal minimum thus applies).
  • 1 state, New Hampshire, repealed their state minimum wage in 2011, but left the reference to the federal minimum wage.
  • 5 states have not established a state minimum wage.

Identity Theft Legislation 2014

October 23, 2014 Comments off

Identity Theft Legislation 2014
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s identifying information, like a person’s name, Social Security number, or credit card number or other financial information, without permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft continues to generate the most complaints with the Federal Trade Commission.

The chart below lists state legislation introduced or pending during the 2014 legislative session relating to identity theft. Legislation in 30 states and Puerto Rico is pending in the 2014 legislative session and includes legislation regarding criminal penalties, identity theft passports and identity theft prevention. Nineteen bills have been enacted in 2014.

Promoting Entrepreneurship: Innovations in State Policy

September 22, 2014 Comments off

Promoting Entrepreneurship: Innovations in State Policy (PDF)
Source: National Conference of State Legislature

A widely accepted and enduring claim is that entrepreneurial activity is vital for healthy economic growth. Yet despite their importance to the economy, entrepreneurs are not always well-supported by state policy.

State laws and legislation related to biologic medications and substitution of biosimilars

September 11, 2014 Comments off

State laws and legislation related to biologic medications and substitution of biosimilars
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

For several decades, every state has regulated the use of brand-name and generic prescription drugs through statutes and agency or board rules. These state actions include when and how generics may be substituted for brand-name prescriptions, by pharmacists or others. Generic drugs typically have active ingredients that are identical to those of their brand-name counterpart. These traditional drugs include familiar pills used regularly by tens of millions of Americans as well as some specialty drugs.

Biologic medicines are much more complex than traditional chemically synthesized drugs. Biologics are manufactured from living organisms by programming cell lines to produce the desired therapeutic substances and consist of large molecules. Common biologics in use today include human growth hormone, injectable treatments for arthritis and psoriasis, the Hepatitis B vaccine and stem cell therapy.

Regulating biologics raises new issues for both state and federal policymakers. Because of their complexity, biologic drugs are much more difficult to replicate than the chemically produced generics for other drugs. The cell lines used and modifications in the manufacturing process affect biologic medicines. As a result, truly identical “generic” versions are currently virtually impossible to produce. However, once patents expire for the existing brand-name biologic drugs, “biosimilar” medicines can be produced, which is an occurrence that raises regulatory issues in the states.

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