Pluribus AM: What we’re watching in 2024

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, January 2, 2024.  Happy New Year! We hope you had a great break. In today’s edition, the legislative trends we’re watching in 2024; Ohio governor vetoes gender-affirming care ban; Colorado earns billions from pot sales:

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Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are the first states to kick off the 2024 legislative sessions when they meet today. In this special edition, we take a look at the policy trends Pluribus News staff are watching this year:

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: States are likely to adopt laws regulating deepfakes, related to both elections and adult content. Watch for the contours of the first big AI guardrail bills to emerge in the later part of the year in states like California and Connecticut, where lawmakers have been at work for months.

TECHNOLOGY: Eight states passed digital privacy laws in 2023. Expect more to follow next year. We expect to see lots of states try to protect kids on social media sites, either by requiring parental permission or targeting addictive features on the apps.

ENERGY: At the same time states are trying to shift energy portfolios from carbon-based sources to renewables, lawmakers are aware that things like AI and crypto mining take up gobs of energy. Some states are also working to preempt local authority over renewable energy facilities, like wind farms and solar farms, to speed construction.

EDUCATION: The hottest policy trend of 2023 was the expansion of red-state school voucher programs. Those programs attracted far more students than anticipated, so those states will have some budget adjustments to make. Red state lawmakers are turning their attention to higher education systems, and especially diversity, equity and inclusion offices.

HEALTH CARE: The 10 remaining red states that have not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act may take another look, after North Carolina’s decision to expand coverage in 2023. Lawmakers in Florida and Colorado are pressuring the Biden Administration to allow them to import cheap pharmaceuticals from Canada. And blue states are setting up panels that would set payment limits on high-cost drugs.

PUBLIC HEALTH: We expect lawmakers to continue to test new solutions to the opioid crisis. Some blue states are considering harm-reduction strategies like safe injection sites, and most states are moving to legalize drug paraphernalia like fentanyl test strips. States are also increasing the penalties for drug dealers whose illicit product harms or kills a user.

ABORTION: Two years after the fall of Roe, most legislators have gone as far as they can to protect or restrict abortion rights. But some new frontiers remain: Watch for blue states to restrict so-called crisis pregnancy centers, and to protect data privacy for health services. Red states may try to adopt restrictions on interstate travel for abortion, measures that will certainly end up in court.

BUDGETS: The good news: States have more in their rainy day funds than ever before, and the economy appears headed for a soft landing. The bad news: Some states, most notably California, have entered a new era of deficits and cuts. But some states have budget outlooks that remain bright enough that tax cut proposals are still on the table, and many states have to act to curb skyrocketing property taxes caused by the booming housing market.

In Politics & Business

OHIO: Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Friday vetoed legislation that would have barred physicians and mental health professionals from treating transgender minors and banned transgender women from school sports. Republican lawmakers said they will consider attempting to override DeWine’s veto. (Pluribus News)

WISCONSIN: Attorneys for the Republican majority have asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider their decision to strike down legislative district maps, which the court ruled last month were unconstitutional gerrymanders. Replacement map proposals are due with the court on Jan. 12. The state Elections Commission says final maps must be in place by March 15. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

MISSOURI: Republican lawmakers have filed at least 17 bills to raise the threshold future ballot initiatives would have to reach to pass, ahead of a push by abortion rights backers to secure an initiative on the 2024 ballot. Some of the bills would require any future initiative to win a majority of the vote in each of the state’s congressional districts. (KCUR)

GUN POLITICS: Florida Sen. Jonathan Martin (R) has proposed legislation to eliminate a three-day waiting period to purchase a rifle or a shotgun. The bill would maintain a waiting period to purchase handguns. (Orlando Sentinel) A federal appeals court has allowed a new California law barring licensed gun holders from bringing weapons into many public places to take effect, reversing a district court judge’s temporary hold last month. (Los Angeles Times)

By The Numbers

181,000: The number of people experiencing homelessness in California, accounting for almost 30% of the nation’s total homeless population. The U.S. homeless population increased by 12% between 2022 and 2023, to more than 650,000 people, the highest figure since the Department of Housing and Urban Development started collecting data in 2007. (Bay Area News Group)

$2.4 billion: The amount of state tax revenue Colorado has generated from recreational marijuana sales, which became legal a decade ago. Colorado stores have sold $11.7 billion in cannabis products, the equivalent of about 3.7 billion joints — enough to circle the globe more than once. (Colorado Public Radio)

$88,710 to $161,639: The salary range Connecticut’s Office of Healthcare Advocate will pay for a new cannabis ombudsperson, tasked with overseeing the state’s medical marijuana industry. The office is accepting applications through Jan. 23. (Norwalk Hour)

Off The Wall

The federal Energy Information Administration projects that in 2024, the amount of renewable electricity will surpass electric power generated by coal for the first time in history. The EIA projected that, by 2027, wind and solar power will generate as much energy as the total power capacity of China today. The EIA cited the war in Ukraine for building “unprecedented momentum” for renewables in the U.S. (Casper Star-Tribune)

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) has returned a $2,450 electronic dog door purchased in June for the Governor’s Residence. A spokesman said the door was purchased after staff raised concerns that possums or raccoons could get into the mansion through a manual dog door. (Tribune News Service)

Quote of the Day

“The bipartisanship to me is what’s key here. There are so many things that we can fight and argue about.”

Florida Rep. Joel Rudman (R), who has teamed with Sen. Shervin Jones (D) to sponsor legislation requiring businesses to accept cash amid the rise of cashless transactions. (Orlando Sentinel)