Pluribus AM: California plans vote on landmark AI bill

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, July 2, 2024. In today’s edition, blue states embrace gig worker protections; California lawmakers to vote on AI bill; Texas plans major grid expansion:

Top Stories

GIG ECONOMY: Massachusetts is the latest blue state to strike an agreement with gig economy leaders Uber and Lyft to raise wages for drivers, even as those companies fight to continue treating workers as independent contractors. Massachusetts gig drivers would be paid a minimum of $32.50 per hour before expenses, including sick leave and insurance. (Pluribus News)

Colorado, California, Minnesota, New York and Washington have all reached deals or passed laws raising standards for gig workers in recent years.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: California lawmakers will vote today on legislation that would require AI companies to test their systems and create safety measures to protect against attacks on the electric grid or other nefarious acts. The bill, carried by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), would apply to AI systems that cost more than $100 million to train. (Associated Press)

SOCIAL MEDIA: The U.S. Supreme Court has sent a legal challenge to Texas’s law preventing social media companies from censoring user content based on political views back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Justices said the circuit had not properly analyzed the scope of the legal challenge. (Texas Tribune)

The high court previously sent a similar Florida law back to the 11th Circuit for further consideration. Tech groups claimed victory. Both laws remain on hold while the cases play out in lower courts.

MORE: A federal judge has blocked implementation of a new Mississippi law that would require social media companies to verify users’ ages. The lawsuit, brought by tech industry trade group NetChoice, is similar to those that have blocked other laws in Arkansas, California and Ohio. (Mississippi Free Press)

HEALTH CARE: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has proposed a plan to increase federal payments to hospitals in exchange for those hospitals forgiving old medical debt held by low- and middle-income patients. The plan would erase about $4 billion in debt for two million state residents. (NC Newsline)

HOUSING: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is considering legislation to allow tenants to use reusable screening reports when applying for rental properties. The bill would allow tenants to use a third-party screening service to offer reports to landlords valid for 30 days, to save costs on rental applications. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed similar legislation in 2022. (Center Square)

In Politics & Business

CALIFORNIA: State lawmakers have reached agreement on two potential $10 billion bond packages they will ask voters to approve this year. The bonds would pay for climate change impacts and school repairs, after the legislature made steep cuts to balance the state budget. (Sacramento Bee)

TEXAS: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Monday the state will double the Texas Energy Fund, meant to expand the power grid as demand for electricity skyrockets, from $5 billion to $10 billion. Voters approved the fund in 2023 to offer low-interest loans to develop new gas-fueled power plants. (Texas Tribune)

By The Numbers

14: The number of consecutive years in which Massachusetts has begun a fiscal year without a budget. Lawmakers are still working on the budget for FY 2025, which began Monday. (Boston Herald)

16: The number of college employees in Connecticut who earned more than $1 million in salary last year. The list is led by UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley, who made $5.2 million in 2023. Several senior Yale officials and presidents of Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and the University of New Haven all topped seven figures. (CT Insider)

$141 million: The cost of lost toll revenue Maryland will miss out on over the next six years from the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, according to a state estimate. (Maryland Matters)

Off The Wall

For the first time, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is worth more than company co-founder Bill Gates. Microsoft shares have gained enough that Ballmer’s fortune is worth an estimated $157.2 billion, outpacing Gates by about half a billion dollars. (Bloomberg)

Fight of the butterflies: The Michigan House has approved legislation to designate the black swallowtail as the official state insect. Competing lawmakers have also introduced bills tapping the monarch butterfly and the Karner blue, two endangered species. (Bridge MI)

Quote of the Day

“Next time I’m going to ask them aliens to do it at a time when I’m not busy already.”

Lori Graves, owner of Fresh Dairy Farm in Bellvue, Colo., where a mysterious shiny monolith appeared about a week ago. Since then, Graves says her farm has been overrun by visitors who stampede her crops and cut her fences. (Denver Post)