The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes in state legislative session calendars, from adjournment and postponement to special sessions. Even so, nearly 1,300 bills and resolutions have been introduced since the beginning of April. Many address issues related to the outbreak of the virus, as covered previously. However, that’s not the only business of government, even at this time. For example:
Climate change: S8200 in New York would create a revolving fund to provide zero percent interest loans for building microgrid solar power systems that could power housing owned by the New York City Housing Authority. The bill references the concept of “beneficial electrification,” which encompasses the goals of reducing energy costs and environmental impacts and supporting the electrical grid.
Toxic chemicals: Known as PFAS, the chemicals are used in applications ranging from non-stick pans and carpet protectant to surgical gowns, cellphones and low-emission vehicles. They are present in soil, water, air and the blood of 97 percent of Americans. Exposure to them has been associated with adverse health effects. SF4454, a Minnesota bill, appropriates $1.4 million to help wastewater plants, landfills and compost facilities develop ways to manage PFAS in biosolids that are applied to land.
Firearms: Michigan bill HB5707 authorizes the governor to proclaim a state of emergency. While it gives a governor the right to control the sale, transportation and use of alcohol and explosives at such times, it states that sale and purchase of “firearms, ammunition or other weapons” must still be allowed. It also forbids seizure or confiscation of these items if lawfully possessed.
Decriminalizing a psychedelic drug: Following the legalization of marijuana, some advocates are pushing for the legalization of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in so-called “magic mushrooms.” Voters in Denver recently expressed approval for such a move. A10299, another New York bill, would decriminalize psilocybin.
Monitoring sex offenders: S2326, a New Jersey bill, promotes the concept of “One Strike, You’re Ours.” It would mandate that persons convicted of sex offenses with persons under the age of 18 be “monitored for life by GPS technology” after they are released from prison.
Honoring a pure Kentuckian: SR323, enacted on 14 April, honors singer and songwriter John Prine, who passed away on April 7. “It is appropriate that this body honor those artists who performed and represented their craft at such a thoughtful and masterful level that they become elder statesmen and examples for future generations of musicians,” it states. The son of Kentucky natives, Prine was raised out of state. But as the resolution notes, throughout his long career he described his roots as “pure Kentucky.”
Bonnie Raitt & John Prine perform “Angel From Montgomery,” Prine’s classic song about the sadness of a suburban 1950s housewife, at the Americana 18th Annual Honors, November 2019.
[Data for this report provided by Quorum.us]