Statehouses prioritizing workforce shortages, housing and AI this year

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Workforce shortages, housing and synthetic intelligence are more likely to dominate state legislatures this year as 37 start their periods in January and one other 9 will observe within the coming months.

Last year, roughly 170,000 payments had been launched in statehouses throughout the nation, whereas about 39,000 had been enacted, based on the National Conference of State Legislatures. The price range is usually the only largest subject taken up, however many legislatures centered on abortion, schooling and transgender-related measures in 2023.

Legislative specialists say it may very well be a quieter year for culture-war-related payments, with many states holding shorter periods — as is typical for even-year phrases with elections on the horizon. Still, some anticipate such points to resurface forward of the 2024 presidential election.

“The election will be looming in the background,” NCSL chief government Tim Storey mentioned on a current media name. “These are policy institutions, but they are political institutions as well.”

While 21 states have already restricted or banned abortion, about 20 states and the District have handed measures to guard abortion entry or suppliers, based on Washington Post reporting and the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit analysis group that helps abortion rights. Virginia Democrats, newly within the majority, have signaled that abortion protections will likely be a precedence.

Both pink and blue states in all probability will tackle dependancy and deaths associated to the artificial opioid fentanyl, whether or not by passing legal guidelines that exclude take a look at strips from being categorised as drug paraphernalia, as Kansas did final year, or outlawing public drug use, as Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) recommended the legislature there do. Some states will even contemplate payments limiting or increasing entry to firearms.

Other anticipated priorities are schooling, immigration, local weather change and natural-disaster response — the final a serious concern for Hawaii’s legislature after the catastrophic wildfires in Maui final year.

From faculties to hospitals to authorities companies, the workforce shortages in states throughout the nation span public and personal sectors.

Some states plan to extend compensation for academics and health-care employees, an trade wherein demand is outpacing the availability of employees. Washington will consider eradicating some obstacles for skilled licenses, together with citizenship standing, in an effort to bolster its workforce. New Hampshire already has a regulation making it simpler for employees to switch their credentials to the Granite State.

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At least 16 states, together with Virginia and Maryland, have eliminated diploma necessities from some authorities jobs, based on the NCSL. Legislatures plan to encourage extra veterans to enter the workforce — and ease processes for navy spouses to retain skilled licenses when transferring, as Massachusetts has carried out. New Jersey, for one, passed laws for a faster-track instructor coaching program.

Housing may very well be the highest-profile subject many legislatures take up this year, based on Reid Wilson, the founder and editor of Pluribus News, a website that focuses on coverage in each state.

With homelessness rising in lots of cities, legislators in each pink and blue states plan to suggest scores of payments. The NCSL mentioned statehouses launched practically double the quantity of housing laws final year as they did in 2022. Experts suppose the rely will likely be even better this year as housing more and more turns into a statewide subject.

States might contemplate loosening native zoning legal guidelines, as Florida and California have carried out, or creating different dwelling items, as Denver has tried to do.

No state has a ample quantity of reasonably priced housing, based on the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

In states reminiscent of Delaware and Colorado, the place Democrats management each chambers, legislators are contemplating eviction protections, expanded tenants’ rights and payments permitting for the development of extra reasonably priced housing items.

Schools have been the middle of many culture-war battles over the previous few years, together with which books kids can learn, which bogs they will use or which sports activities staff they will be a part of. Hundreds of anti-trans payments had been launched in 2023. Some aimed to restrict trans girls’ participation at school athletics, others to dictate how classroom discussions may tackle gender id.

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But Kate Blackman, the NCSL’s vice chairman of coverage and analysis, anticipates a quieter year on that entrance.

“I’m sure it will bubble up in some states here and there,” mentioned Blackman, whose group talked to greater than 30 legislative leaders nationwide. “But there are other things that are the priority, too.”

Four years after many faculties closed and went digital throughout the pandemic, states are nonetheless addressing the educational and psychological well being results.

Several states, reminiscent of Maryland, are contemplating payments to raised put together college students for a vocation, together with growing apprenticeship applications, as Minnesota did in 2023. Others might broaden on school-choice insurance policies which have attracted extra college students — and require extra state cash — than projected. Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) desires the legislature to take up the problem once more this year for that cause, although Republicans have mentioned they don’t need to change this system.

Some Republican-led legislatures might goal greater schooling and range initiatives and workplaces inside universities, together with in Kentucky, the place a GOP senator launched a bill prohibiting state universities from selling “divisive concepts” reminiscent of some individuals being “inherently privileged” due to their race or intercourse and Kentucky or the United States being “irredeemably racist or sexist.”

“Republicans are going to target the infrastructure of higher education in an effort to roll back what they would call ‘woke’ policies,” Wilson mentioned.

Artificial intelligence and digital privateness

As Congress tries to determine methods to strategy synthetic intelligence, Storey and others anticipate states to behave.

“It’s happening so fast,” he mentioned. “States know there has to be some guardrails.”

Some states are organising process forces to analysis AI, whereas others, together with South Carolina, are taking a look at limiting using deepfakes made in marketing campaign promoting, Storey famous. About 15 states have already adopted resolutions or enacted legal guidelines round AI.

Connecticut was one of many first, establishing an workplace centered on AI whereas introducing preliminary restrictions on the trade. It plans to think about additional limitations this year.

“Everyone is paying attention to artificial intelligence, both the role of government in regulating it and the economic benefit,” Wilson mentioned.

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) hopes to steer the legislature to move her $275 million proposal to fund AI analysis there to place the state at what she mentioned would be the “forefront of the artificial intelligence transformation.”

Utah and Arkansas are among the many states which have handed digital privateness legal guidelines or payments of rights to restrict using social media by minors or prohibit social media corporations’ use of buyer info. Idaho might contemplate comparable payments this year after Gov. Brad Little (R) asked lawmakers to “protect” kids from social media platforms in his State of the State tackle.

In 2023, states and courts each broadened entry to voting whereas others additional restricted how individuals may vote. Kareem Crayton, the senior director of voting rights and illustration on the Brennan Center for Justice, expects extra of the identical forward of the presidential election.

A Michigan Voting Rights Act that will have protected in opposition to vote dilution of minority voters and added protections for voters with disabilities didn’t move, however Crayton expects legislators to take up the proposal once more this session.

Yet in neighboring Wisconsin, he mentioned, legislators will contemplate payments to dissolve the state elections fee and give the legislature “unprecedented control over routine election administration activities.” And in Missouri, a proposed invoice would mandate hand counts and enable any voter to contest election outcomes, which Crayton categorised as election “interference.”

Storey famous that states anticipate to spend extra money this year on election administration and offering safety for election officers.

A lot of states are additionally reacting to litigation surrounding redistricting. In the final months of 2023, courts dominated on redistricting in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, the place Gov. Jeff Landry (R) has referred to as for a particular session to deal with the problem. Utah’s high court docket continues to be contemplating whether or not legislators violated state regulation by splitting Salt Lake County, and South Carolina’s disputed map continues to face court docket challenges, as do North Carolina’s and Florida’s.

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