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AMERIPEN Newsletter, 2018 State Legislative Overview – January 2018
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AMERIPEN Newsletter

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2018 State Legislative Overview

Key States in 2018

Where is Andy
This Month?

Project Updates

In Case You
Missed It

January 2018

2018 State Legislative Overview

As the New Year and a new set of legislative sessions begin, it is helpful to recall that in 2017, AMERIPEN monitored more than 300 pieces of legislation – a number that includes legislative requests that never matured into actual bills, plus a handful of bills that were prefiled for consideration in 2018.

These bills spanned 41 states and the District of Columbia. By raw count, a full three-quarters of these bills were filed either in New England, the mid-Atlantic states or the upper Midwest:

Looking forward to 2018, most state legislatures will be in session, but sessions will generally be shorter and many states will take up fewer bills.

Almost all state legislatures now meet every year except for four states that will not hold session this year. The Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas legislatures concluded their business in 2017, and thus will not meet in regular session this year.  AMERIPEN followed 1 bill in Montana, 2 in Nevada, and 7 in Texas, so these 10 bills will see no further action in 2018.

The other 46 states differ in terms of how long they stay in session and whether bills from 2017 carry over into 2018. Legislatures of some of the larger states – California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts, for example – basically remain in session throughout the full two-year legislative term. Smaller states typically convene twice, once for a “first regular session” in Year 1 and then for a “second regular session” in Year 2. 

For nearly all of these states, 2018 marks the start of their second session. The two outliers are New Jersey and Virginia, which hold their state elections in odd-numbered years and elect legislators for terms beginning in even-numbered years. Both of these states are therefore beginning their two-year regular legislative sessions this month, whereas in all other states the legislative term began a year ago. AMERIPEN followed 9 bills in New Jersey and 4 in Virginia; if not already enacted, those bills are now dead and will no longer be tracked in 2018.

In other states – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming – the legislature effectively starts over each year.  In these states, bills considered in 2017 do not carry over into 2018, but must instead be refiled at the beginning of the second legislative session. Approximately one-fifth of the bills in 2017 came from these states, and therefore will no longer be active in 2018; most have already disappeared from AMERIPEN’s weekly report. Some, however, will be refiled and will therefore be considered (and tracked) under new bill numbers.

In most other states, bills filed in the first year of a two-year session remain in play into the second year of the legislative term. Regardless of whether legislation carries over, a legislature’s first regular session typically runs longer than its second. (Some say this is to afford incumbents more time to campaign for re-election.) The New Mexico legislature, for example, is expected to adjourn this year in February; Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming should all wrap up by sometime in March. 11 more states should conclude in April and 9 more in May, so by June 1 all but 15 states will likely be out of session for the remainder of the year. 

In most of these states, most of which tilt conservative and Republican, we expect that a lot of new legislation will be introduced in 2018, but with less time for it to become law. By contrast, the 15 states that remain in session longer will be heavily weighted liberal and Democratic, and more of them will see bills carrying over from 2017.  These states also include some with the highest volume of bills of interest to AMERIPEN, such as New York, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. (This group also includes New Jersey, which like Virginia will just be ramping up, as their sessions have just started.)

AMERIPEN tracked bill volume by state.  Those in blue voted Democratic in the 2016 presidential race, while those in red voted Republican.

As a result we expect 2018 to bring a flurry of bill activity in the first few months, by late spring, however, the spotlight will be on a smaller number of states where a large number of relevant bills remain active, and more of them are likely to be enacted.  The pace here will be set largely by the rules and procedures of a few legislatures.  California, for example, has already demonstrated momentum in 2017, enacting legislation on such topics as PET containers, integrated waste management, cleaning product ingredient disclosure, and biodegradability standards. Massachusetts, on the other hand, has seen few bills emerge yet from committee. That will soon change after the Feb. 5 committee deadline; Massachusetts bills will then jockey for attention on crowded House and Senate calendars until July 31, when formal sessions end. 

A final consideration is that 2018 is an election year. Amid predictions that building discontent with Washington may produce a “wave election” in 2018, it will be interesting to Democrats, in particular, try to rack up legislative accomplishments in the run-up to November. It is not hard, for example, to imagine that environmental legislation in particular – especially relatively painless measures such as banning plastic bags – could get a boost in several states with the midterms looming.
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