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Legislative Watch: Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic

State legislatures have introduced more than 200 bills relating to COVID-19 since the beginning of the year to address public health issues only government can handle. Here’s our rundown.

The Pa. Capitol, closed to public access due to the coronavirus, which is the subject of more than 200 bills nationwide since the start of the year.
Deadlines for legal proceedings: Responding to a declaration of a statewide public health emergency by the governor, Louisiana’s state Legislature has introduced HCR 23, which calls for suspending provisions of law that establish deadlines in legal proceedings. The postponement would apply to “any state or municipal criminal, juvenile, wildlife, or traffic matter within the state,” and be cancelled or shortened under direction of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Lost wages: New Jersey’s A3846, which had passed both houses as of March 19, would create a “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program.” The bill calls for the appropriation of $20 million to be split evenly to allow workers to file claims for wages lost due to COVID-19 and to assist employers that pay wages to workers that have been ordered to quarantine by a licensed health-care practitioner. It also establishes fines for false claims.

First responders: Accompanied by a petition from the New England Police Benevolent Association, Massachusetts Senate bill SD2865 would establish the presumption that any coronavirus illness experienced by first responders, and any resulting hospitalization, quarantine or self-quarantine, should be considered to be work-related. Any time spent in recovery or quarantine would be counted as duty time. This would apply to all involved in emergency response, including dispatchers, police, firefighters and correction officers as well as EMTs, nurses and paramedics.

Insurance: Another New Jersey bill, A3844, would require insurers to cover claims for business interruption caused by the coronavirus to companies with less than 100 employees that had such coverage in place on or before March 9, 2020. Insurers would be allowed to apply to the Commissioner for Banking and Insurance for reimbursement through funds collected from companies other than providers of life and health insurance.

Presidential election: At the federal level, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden have proposed legislation that will enable the November election to be conducted without disruption caused by the pandemic at that time. A rule change proposed by the executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, and approved on a temporary basis by the state’s Codifier of Rules, adds “disease epidemic” to the list of disasters resulting from natural causes that would allow modifying the schedule or operations of the November 2020 election. Watch for more legislation addressing election security and integrity.

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Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @governingwriter.
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