Pluribus AM: How Covid changed the states

Good morning from Indianapolis and the final day of the National Conference of State Legislature’s annual meeting. It’s Wednesday, August 16, 2023. In today’s edition, how Covid changed states’ approach to public health; North Carolina lawmakers vote on gender-affirming care ban; Maine, Colorado join forces to cut retirement savings costs:

Top Stories

This week’s newsletters look a little different. As lawmakers gather in Indianapolis for NCSL’s annual meeting, we’re spotlighting the biggest legislative trends of the year.

PUBLIC HEALTH: The coronavirus pandemic forced states to rapidly rethink public health and safety net systems. Three years after the pandemic’s onset, and three months after the expiration of the federal public health emergency, here are some of the ways the pandemic changed government:

Telehealth: A surge in demand in 2020 prompted numerous changes in the patchwork of confusing state and federal regulations that had hampered its growth. Lawmakers have approved hundreds of bills in the last three years to extend temporary measures or revise out-of-date regulations.

Postpartum Medicaid expansion: At least eight states decided in 2023 to seek federal approval to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months. The option has proven popular in red and blue states as they grapple with high maternal mortality rates and seek to care for expected increases in birth rates after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Vaccination and medicine access: More than a dozen states that have enacted laws to make it easier for pharmacists to prescribe and administer vaccines. Proponents say people are more likely to get routine shots if they do not have to go to the doctor’s office.

Read Stephanie Akin’s full story here.

LGBTQ RIGHTS: North Carolina lawmakers meet today in an attempt to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of legislation that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors and limit transgender participation in school sports. Republicans hold exactly the number of seats they need to override the vetoes. (Associated Press) A Michigan Democrat plans to introduce legislation to allow transgender people to change their legal name on a driver’s license or state ID at the local Secretary of State’s office, rather than having to petition a court. (Michigan Advance)

ABORTION: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) has signed legislation guaranteeing abortion rights. The measure will require parental consent for those under 15, but providers can waive parental consent requirements if they determine the child would be harmed by informing parents. (Oregon Capital Chronicle)

GUN POLITICS: The National Shooting Sports Foundation filed suit in the Southern District of Illinois on Monday challenging a new Illinois law that restricts how gun dealers and manufacturers market their products. The group says the law violates the First, Second and Fourteenth amendments. (Capitol News Illinois) Michigan lawmakers plan to introduce legislation in September to suspend someone’s access to firearms if they are convicted of domestic violence charges or are subject to a personal protection order. (Bridge MI)

RETIREMENT: Maine and Colorado have entered into a first-in-the-nation partnership to lower fees associated with automatic retirement savings programs. Both states have programs meant to provide retirement accounts to the 40% of employees whose employers do not offer benefits; the agreement consolidates their programs through a single administrator to cut costs. (Pluribus News)

In Politics & Business

FLORIDA: Voting rights groups that sued over Florida’s redrawn U.S. House district lines have agreed to narrow the scope of their lawsuit to a single congressional district in North Florida. The remap, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), carved up the district held by then-U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (D), dividing Black voters in his district between several others held by white Republicans. (Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA: The legislature is advancing an elections overhaul package that would require absentee ballots to arrive before polls close on Election Day and bar local elections boards from accepting private money to administer elections. A third provision would require state courts to send information to elections officials about potential jurors who are disqualified because they are not U.S. citizens. (Associated Press)

KENTUCKY: Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) will meet for four debates and forums ahead of their November general election showdown. The two will meet Sept. 20, Oct. 12, Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. Cameron has committed to three additional events that Beshear has not yet agreed to. (Lexington Herald Leader)

WISCONSIN: The ousted director of Wisconsin’s state courts system has filed a complaint against the four liberal Supreme Court justices who fired him. The ousted official, Randy Koschnick, says he isn’t trying to get his job back, but he argues that his replacement cannot serve as director until her term as a Milwaukee County circuit court judge ends in July 2025. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

UTAH: Utah has appealed to the 10th Circuit Court after losing a lawsuit seeking to roll back the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) made it clear his goal is to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Utah says President Biden overstepped his authority’s in designating the 3.2 million acre monuments. (Salt Lake Tribune)

By The Numbers

$9.41 million: The amount spent by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide security for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2023, up from $5.94 million the previous year. The increased costs came as DeSantis sought re-election, and then began his presidential run. (Politico)

5,413: The number of New Yorkers who died from opioid-related overdoses in 2022, a more than 400% increase in the last decade. New York plans to spend the $2.6 billion it has won in settlements with opioid manufacturers to tackle the overdose crisis. (State of Politics)

$400 million: The value of unclaimed property returned to residents in Kansas since the state Treasurer’s office began its program in 1979. State Treasurer Steven Johnson (R) says his office still has more than $500 million in property waiting to be claimed. (KSNT)

Off The Wall

A Nevada man who wanted to deliver a stern message to interloping Californians can keep his license plate, after a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative judge ruled in his favor last week. The man’s license plate reads: “GOBK2CA.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Kansas children are going to get a lot more books, thanks to Dolly Parton. Parton and Gov. Laura Kelly (D) celebrated the statewide expansion of the singer’s signature Imagination Library program that delivers books to kids from 0-5 on Tuesday, after the legislature approved Kelly’s budget recommendations to extend the program to all 105 counties. (Kansas Reflector)

Missouri parents risk jail time if their children are chronically absent from school, after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a new state law requiring school attendance does not violate the state constitution. Two parents have been sentenced to jail because of chronic absences by their children. (Kansas City Star)

Quote of the Day

“Last night I went to ChatGPT and I said, write me a joke for opening a convention session. And it wasn’t very funny, I’m going to be honest.”

— Connecticut Sen. James Maroney (D), moderating an NCSL panel on AI. (Pluribus News reporting)