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The start of this new year is bringing with it some new state laws. Thousands of bills were passed in state legislatures in 2022, but there are a few issues that stand out for which many states have decided to take action. Stephanie Sy has a look at some of the changes on the way.
The start of this new year is bring with it some new state laws. Thousands of bills were passed in state legislatures last year. But there are a few issues in particular that stand out, for which a number of states have decided to take action.
Stephanie Sy has a look at some — of some of the changes on the way.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade, some states have new laws taking effect to protect abortion services.
Caren Hester, California Voter:
The number one issue for me is women's rights and all of our rights that are being slowly taken away from us.
That includes California and New York, which would expand abortion care. But, in Tennessee, a new restriction abortion went into effect that requires a licensed physician to prescribe abortion pills.
Tennessee already has a near total ban on abortion,alongside 12 other so-called red states. There's much less polarization around legalizing weed. Last week, celebration erupted at the historic opening sale of New York's first marijuana dispensary. The state, which legalized cannabis last year, will now sell it to anyone over 21.
Recreational use of marijuana was also legalized in Missouri and Maryland. Workers in at least 23 states will get higher paychecks this year, as new minimum wage increases kick in. But the size of that increase varies. In Nebraska, it's gone from $9 to $10.50 an hour. And, in Washington, D.C., it will hike up to $17 an hour in July.
To alleviate the pain of inflation, Kansas and Virginia are lowering their sales taxes on groceries. And about two-thirds of states also approved income tax cuts or rebates last year, with many taking effect this month.
2023 is expected to be yet another busy year on the state level, especially with divided federal government.
Reid Wilson tracks this all closely as the founder and editor of the state news Web site Pluribus News.
And he joins me now.
Reid, happy new year. And thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."
I want to launch right into this. So, several state legislators addressed the abortion issue last year. How high does that remain on state legislatures' priority lists in this new year?
Reid Wilson, Founder, Pluribus News:
I think it's going to be tremendously high. We're going to see divergent states here, really the red states and blue states of America.
Red states are going to try to continue restricting abortion. And that's actually bring up an interesting conflict within the Republican Party. How far do you go? Do you ban abortions beginning at 15 weeks, at six weeks, or altogether? And, if altogether, should there be exceptions in cases of rape or incest or even the life of the mother?
On the other hand, blue states are moving fast to codify abortion and reproductive rights in their state constitutions. And a number of blue states are also working on data privacy laws that would specifically shield people who come to those states from red states seeking reproductive health care and shield their data from red states that might try to prosecute them.
Reid, we just heard what some states are doing to try and alleviate inflation, but what else are you seeing state legislatures do in terms of trying to compete economically with other states?
You know, a decade ago, when I started reporting on state politics, the story was really about states competing for businesses, trying to land businesses in their states.
Now states are competing for workers. And that's a sea change that it's hard to describe sort of the magnitude of. And the fact is, in areas across the economy, there are massive worker shortages, thousands of teacher shortages, thousands of manufacturing worker shortages, thousands of correction worker shortages.
As the Baby Boom generation begins retiring, continues to retire, we're going to see those work force shortages exacerbated. So states right now are doing as much as they can to attract people to their borders and to train up the next generation of workers, whether that's in community colleges or technical education, even reducing licensure requirements.
States realize, I think, that a state without a work force is a state that doesn't have much of an economic future.
I want to turn to some other major issues that you mentioned in a post today on Pluribus
You're seeing states tackle the issue of mental health. What kinds of laws are you seeing considered around that issue, which, of course, we really saw come to the forefront during the pandemic?
Yes, and it's only gotten worse during the pandemic.
The drug overdose crisis, the loneliness crisis in America, and more and more legislators are trying to figure out how to tackle what is the mammoth challenge of the next decade, how to build more facilities, how to get more people spotting those who might have mental health problems, whether it's at school, in terms of teachers and counselors, or in the workplace and beyond.
One of the big crises, though, that the mental health field is facing is a work force challenge. There simply aren't enough doctors, nurses, providers who can staff the beds at needed in a lot of these hospitals. I have been talking to legislators who are 200 and 300 doctors short in their own little legislative district.
You also mention in your blog election reform.
This was a midterm election issue where you saw some Republican candidates talk about, for example, the need for stricter voting I.D. laws. It appears you think that will be a theme again for legislatures in 2023.
So, I see this as another issue where red America and blue America are diverging significantly.
We're going to see a lot of red states tackling those what they would call election integrity issues over and over again, voter I.D., limiting the number of early voting days, cracking down on absentee ballots and the requirements for signatures and dates and things like that.
In blue states, you're going to see a lot of expanding the franchise, trying to add early voting days, trying to get more people to show up to vote. Democrats think that this midterm election gave them a mandate to fix voting laws in America. And we're going to see a lot of blue states trying to pursue that.
Now, there is a middle course here. And that middle course is something that would speed up the actual counting of elections. I think you're going to see both Democrats and Republicans spending money on election administration, which is a core part of our democracy, but which isn't always funded as well as it needs to be.
If those funds come through, hopefully, we will see ballots counted a lot faster in the future.
Well, should be an interesting year.
Reid Wilson, the editor and founder of Pluribus News, thanks so much for joining the "NewsHour."
Thanks for having me.
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Stephanie Sy is a PBS NewsHour correspondent and serves as anchor of PBS NewsHour West. Throughout her career, she served in anchor and correspondent capacities for ABC News, Al Jazeera America, CBSN, CNN International, and PBS NewsHour Weekend. Prior to joining NewsHour, she was with Yahoo News where she anchored coverage of the 2018 Midterm Elections and reported from Donald Trump’s victory party on Election Day 2016.
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