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Every year is filled with countless changes, some good and others not so good. This year has not been an exception. 2014 has brought numerous issues to the forefront and not all of them have been solved. In an article via the Corporate Counsel Advisory newsletter, the authors recap the regulatory changes of 2014, while analyzing the situation and where each issue stand as we head into 2015.
1. Minimum Wage
Forty-three states (as well as District of Columbia) have considered minimum-wage bills in 2014. Most of the bills have the minimum wage maxing out around $10/ hour. Massachusetts has theirs set at $11/hour (beginning 2017) while D.C. has theirs at $11.50/hour. The top minimum wage stays with Seattle, who boasts a whopping $15/hour. While San Diego has approved an increase in minimum wage, it will not go into effect in 2015 like originally planned, but instead be voted for on the 2016 ballot.
2. Medicaid Expansion
Only one state, New Hampshire, has made the decision legislatively to expand their Medicaid programs. Twenty-six other states as well as D.C have also opted in while 18 have opted out. Five states- Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan—have proposed their own alternative plans that are still pending federal approval. Virginia rejected an expansion proposal.
3. Pension Reform
There are enactments pertaining to state pensions in 35 states including a passage California AB 1469, which increases the amount teachers have to contribute to their pensions. Illinois Supreme Court ruled that “that state's constitution prohibited any “diminishment” of health-care benefits for public retirees.” This rule hurt the historic pension overhaul last year.
4. Patent Infringement
In 2014, 12 states followed Vermont’s lead by adopting “bad faith” patent infringement laws. Illinois and New Hampshire have also joined the movement with newly-signed laws with Illinois going into effect in 2015 while New Hampshire going into effect immediately.
5. Digital-Driven Economy
After facing resistance from government officials, digital technology-driven businesses like Lyft or Uber are now being more accepted. This year California’s governor signed legislation regulating ride-sharing services. Colorado joined California in regulating those services as well. California also signed legislation allowing people to use other currency such as Bitcoins to pay with.
6. Internet Sales Tax
One state has passed an internet sale tax bill while nine states have tried, but have failed at passing similar bills. Congress could resolve the issue by passing the Marketplace Fairness Act which would allow each state to impose sales and use taxes on online retailers with at least $1 million in sales within their borders, regardless of whether or not the retailers have a physical presence there. A version of this action has been passed, but remains hung up in the House.
Twenty-one states have considered hydraulic fracking bills during 2014.Regulators in Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa are thinking about imposing new rules regarding the disposal of fracking-created wastewater. This comes after those respective states experienced and increase in seismic activity in areas around fracking wastewater injection. On June 30, New York Court of Appeals said that the Empire States have the power to block fracking within their own borders.
8. Transportation/ Infrastructure Funding
States have been left to their own devices to meet their infrastructure needs. Last year, Pennsylvania enacted a law in which gradually increased the state’s gas taxes and motorists fees over five years. In August, Missouri voters declined a .75 increase of their 4.225 percent sales tax.
9. Cannabis Oil
New York became the 23rd state since 1996 to allow limited use of medical marijuana. A growing trend has been allowing the using of low-TCH cannabis oil to treat seizures and similar illnesses in children. States such as Minnesota, Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and South Carolina have adopted measures to allow the use of cannabis oil under specific conditions.
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