State lawmakers began the first sessions of the year on Tuesday with record budget surpluses, long to-do lists and looming fears of a recession.
Tax cuts, public safety overhauls and measures to increase parental control over public education are among the top priorities for Republicans. Democrats, meanwhile, zeroed in gun violence, climate change and housing costs.
We combed legislative previews in states coming into session in the next few days, and we will update this piece as more states gavel into session. Here’s what we found:
Arkansas: Education, public safety and tax cuts will be high priorities of Republicans in control of the state House and Senate. Lawmakers will consider school choice proposals, which would allow state money to follow students to private, charter or home schools, along with teacher pay raises and efforts to improve student reading levels. Public safety proposals include building a new state prison, reforming sentencing and parole standards, and recruiting more talent to law enforcement ranks. (Talk Business & Politics)
California: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will unveil a budget proposal on Jan. 10 that accounts for a projected $24 billion budget deficit. Lawmakers are considering Newsom’s proposal to tax oil and gas companies that raked in windfall profits. (CalMatters)
Colorado: Democrats who control historic majorities in the state House and Senate will focus on housing, water, gun violence and decreasing costs for housing, health care and child care. House Speaker Julie McCluskie has proposed tax incentives for first-time homebuyers. Other lawmakers have proposed eviction protections and slowing rent increases. Senate President Steve Fenberg said members are working on legislation to reduce ozone emissions and aiming to boost air quality in the state. (Denver Post)
Connecticut: Democratic leadership in the General Assembly wants to close loopholes around the possession of “ghost guns” and high-capacity magazines. Revising the state’s zoning laws to allow more affordable housing and tackling the high cost of health care are also priorities. Lawmakers are also looking to extend tax cuts and rebates they approved on a one-time basis in 2022. (Stamford Advocate)
Georgia: Publicly-funded school vouchers are on tap in the state House this year, where the late Speaker David Ralston (R) had been a fierce opponent. Legislators are likely to consider school safety measures and building security funding, along with student counseling to address a spiraling mental health crisis. (Atlanta Journal Constitution) Changes in the legislature may give sports betting proposals better odds of passing, too. (Georgia Public Broadcasting)
Iowa: Republican lawmakers plan to use their majorities in the House and Senate to pass legislation that will help reduce property taxes, although they haven’t reached consensus on a proposal. The session starts Jan. 9. (Cedar Rapids Gazette) Expect legislators to act on Gov. Kim Reynolds’s (R) proposal to allow state funding for low- and moderate-income children to attend private schools. (KMA)
Kansas: School choice expansions and steeper long term tax cuts will be on the top of Republicans’ agenda when they begin a legislative session with supermajorities in the House and Senate. Republican lawmakers want to allow parents to use public dollars to provide voucher-like programs for private education. They also want to give parents more control over classroom curriculum.
Lawmakers will also pursue changes to the way supreme court justices are appointed and funding for centers that provide assistance to pregnant women and discourage abortions. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who just won a tight reelection bid, has said she plans to use her veto power if necessary. (Kansas City Star)
Kentucky: Legislators are focused on this year’s governor’s race, but expect a tax cut to win support in Frankfort. The legislature is likely to cut personal income tax rates by half a percentage point, to 4%. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has called for teacher pay raises, and new members of the state Senate could prove the tipping point in favor of legal sports betting, which passed the state House last year. (Lexington Herald-Leader)
Minnesota: Democrats, who will control the House, Senate and governor’s office when the legislative session convenes on Tuesday, want to codify abortion protections in law, expand voting rights and create a new statewide paid leave program. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Mississippi: Debates over taxes are expected to dominate the agenda when legislators gavel in for their three-month session, starting Tuesday. House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) says he wants lawmakers to put a $1 million budget surplus toward eliminating the state income tax. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann (R), who presides over the state Senate, says he wants to give rebates to people who have paid state income tax. (Associated Press)
Lawmakers will also consider whether to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months – an issue that has divided leaders in the House and Senate – and how to stabilize rural hospitals. Mississippi is one of 11 states that has not expanded Medicaid coverage to nearly all adults with incomes up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level under the 2010 health care law.
In education, Hosemann has said he wants lawmakers to consider allowing schools to introduce year-round academic calendars and more money for preschool programs. Gunn and Hosemann have also said House and Senate leaders are in discussions about how to revive the initiative process that allows people to petition to put issues on the statewide ballot. (Jackson Clarion Ledger)
Missouri: Legislators are likely to increase requirements for voter-approved ballot initiatives, from almost doubling signature thresholds to raising the bar initiatives must clear to pass. Bipartisan proposals to expand Medicaid coverage to new mothers and to increase access to pre-K programs are likely to come up, while both Democratic and Republican leaders want to legalize sports betting. House Republicans are likely to try again to ban transgender athletes from girls’ sports. (Kansas City Star)
Montana: Proposals on how to spend or save an estimated $2.4 billion surplus will dominate the session, which starts Tuesday. Republicans who control the House and Senate are considering a mix of rebates, investments and rainy day investments. Republicans and Democrats in the legislature agree that they need to tackle the state’s housing shortage but diverge on solutions. (Missoulian)
Nebraska: Lawmakers will decide whether to allocate money toward construction of a new 1,500-bed state prison in eastern Nebraska; at the same time, lawmakers are considering criminal justice reforms to deal with prison overcrowding. They will deal with the nuts and bolts of a voter-approved constitutional amendment requiring voters to show identification at the polls. (Nebraska Examiner)
New Hampshire: House Speaker Sherman Packard (R) will launch special legislative committees on housing and child care. Other issues that will dominate the Republican Senate and narrowly divided House include Republican proposals targeting renewable energy programs in an attempt to reign in home heating and electricity prices, school choice initiatives and abortion. (New Hampshire Bulletin)
New York: An early fight over Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) nomination of a conservative judge to lead the state court system will set the tone for relations between the executive and the legislature. Moderate Democrats and Republicans want to tighten some of the criminal justice reforms passed in the last year. Hochul, meanwhile, has signaled she is cautious about big spending in the face of a possible recession. (State of Politics)
North Dakota: Tackling the state’s severe labor shortage will be a top priority for Republicans who control supermajorities in the House and Senate when they begin their session Tuesday. Legislative leaders are considering tax cuts, but they have not agreed on a proposal. Lawmakers are also likely to vote on proposals to restrict gender-affirming care, clear up the state’s abortion law and expand programs geared toward young mothers. (Fargo Forum)
Ohio: Republicans who will control the governor’s office and supermajorities in the House and Senate are in favor of a flat tax. Lawmakers will also work to restructure the state’s medical marijuana program to address high prices and a shortage of doctors who can recommend cannabis. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) has said he will prioritize passing a bill that would grant authority over the State Board of Education to the governor, rather than the partially elected State Board of Education. (Columbus Dispatch)
Vermont: Democratic leaders who control veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate will focus on the state’s housing shortage, workforce development and climate change in their session that starts Wednesday. Economic development, water and sewer infrastructure and expanding broadband internet access will also be on the agenda, according to House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D). (Associated Press)
— Reid Wilson contributed reporting.