Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Illinois will give students time off to vote … Virginia Senate passes red flag law … Wisconsin governor calls for special session.
The New York City Council passed a bill last week requiring businesses to accept cash in response to the growing cashless trend, especially among restaurants and coffee shops that prefer card or electronic payments. The measure would create penalties for businesses that refuse cash, fining them $1,000 for a first violation and $1,500 for subsequent offenses. Community advocates say that cashless policies discriminate against people who don’t have bank accounts. At least one in nine New York households don’t have a bank account, according to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. That concerned Councilmember Ritchie Torres, who introduced the legislation. “I worry about the real-world discriminatory effect that cashless business can have on New Yorkers, especially in communities of color. Consumers should have the right to choose if they want to pay in cash or not. We are reining in the excesses of the digital economy,” Torres said. Stephanie Martz, general counsel for the National Retail Federation, said that the choice about payment types belongs with the businesses, not with consumers. “Retailers should have the right to choose which payments to accept and to decide for themselves whether going cashless makes sense for their businesses,” Martz said. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supported “the intent” of the bill, but that the administration has not yet completed a review of the legislation. If de Blasio signs the measure into law, New York City will not be alone in requiring businesses to accept cash. New Jersey, Philadelphia, and San Francisco approved similar bans last year, while Massachusetts has had a law requiring retailers to accept cash in place since 1978. [New York Times; Eater; NBC New York]
STUDENT VOTING | Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation that will allow high school students to be excused from school for two hours to vote early or on the day of an election. Under the new law, which applies to every primary, general, and special election after June 1, the school can choose the hours during which students are excused. “With this new law, our voting-eligible young people will have the freedom to fit voting into their school day without fear of repercussion for engaging in the very civic education we should all be proud to encourage. The young people who advocated for this legislation recognized how important it is not only to vote, but to make the act of voting as accessible for all who can vote as possible,” Pritzker said. The legislation was introduced by state Sen. Elgie Sims, who said high school students brought him the bill. “The advocacy of the students in my district convinced me I had to sponsor this legislation, and their passion helped get it over the finish line … Hopefully, this new law will excite Illinois students and encourage them to take their civic duty as voters seriously,” Sims said. [Chicago Tribune; KFVX]
RED FLAG | In the same week as a large gun rally at the state capital, the Virginia Senate passed a ‘red flag’ gun law. Also known as an extreme risk protective order, the measure allows local law enforcement to ask a judge for an emergency order to prohibit someone from purchasing a firearm, and in some cases, remove firearms from someone’s possession if they are a threat to themselves or others. Seventeen other states have similar red flag laws, which advocates say can help prevent mass shootings when authorities are alerted about potential warning signs. Republican lawmakers in Virginia, like Sen. Amanda Chase, said the measure went too far. "Legislators who vote in favor of this bill are deemed traitors of the Commonwealth and their vote will be posted on my page for all Virginians to see,” she said. The bill passed along party lines and will now move to the state House. Jake Rubenstein, a spokesperson for Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, said that common sense gun control measures are a priority for House Democrats. "Virginians spoke loud and clear on Election Day demanding common sense gun violence protections, and make no mistake, we will deliver on that mandate," Rubenstein said. [CNN; NBC News]
SPECIAL SESSION | Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced plans to recall lawmakers back to the state capital for a special session of the legislature focused on passing bills to aid farmers. The dairy industry employs nearly 80,000 people in Wisconsin and generates $43.4 billion in revenue. But those numbers aren’t what they used to be, Evers said, as approximately one-third of the state’s dairy farms closed between 2011 and 2018. “At the end of the day, these numbers tell the story of the folks whose sweat, work, and pride have been the pillar of our state for generations … We have not forgotten those who have shared the harvest and bounty, feeding our families, our communities, and tonight, we say that we are ready to be a partner in the promise of posterity,” Evers said. The Democratic governor’s proposed legislative package includes bills that would increase the state’s dairy exports, expand mental health services in rural areas, and create the state’s first Office of Rural Prosperity. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican, said he was "on board" to listen to the governor's plans. “There have been a number of proposals by the Legislature but I’m all ears on what the governor has to offer. It sounds like he’s been working on something comprehensive so absolutely I think the Legislature should take time to see what the special session includes and work on those bills,” he said. [WMTV; WKOW]
STATE TRAVEL | Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order banning all “non-essential” state-funded travel to California. The Republican governor said the move comes in response to California's effort to "politically threaten and intimidate Oklahomans for their personal values.” In 2018, California banned state-funded travel to Oklahoma because of objections to laws considered discriminatory towards the LGBTQ community, such as allowing private adoption agencies to turn away couples with different moral beliefs. In 2019, San Francisco banned city-funded travel to the state because of restrictive abortion laws. "Enough is enough. If California’s elected officials don’t want public employees traveling to Oklahoma, I am eager to return the gesture on behalf of Oklahoma’s pro-life stance. I am proud to be Governor of a state that fights for the most vulnerable among us, the unborn,” Stitt said. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that “California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry.” [KFOR; News 9]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.