In 2021, every state legislature in the country will meet, with the vast majority beginning their sessions in January. While lawmakers might not meet until next month (or later), most states allow lawmakers to prepare pre-filed legislation. Only 13 state legislative bodies do not allow for the pre-filing of legislation.
Pre-filing legislation allows bills to be prepared before a regular session, increasing the legislative process’s efficiency.
Pre-filing legislation also gives advocates a jump-start on advocacy and government affairs efforts. Learn more about advocating in the age of COVID-19 here, or how to interact with lawmakers in grant-writing efforts here.
Texas Pre-Filed Legislation: Criminal Justice Reform, Ending DST, and Expanding Medical Marijuana
Texas lawmakers started pre-filing legislation on Monday, November 9. 549 bills were pre-filed the first day. Bills pre-filed include:
- H.B. 88 – the George Floyd Act would make several criminal justice and policing reforms. This includes requiring law enforcement agencies to adopt detailed policies regarding the use of peace officers, liability for peace officers, requiring law enforcement to adopt policies regarding the issuance of citations for misdemeanors, including traffic offenses that are punishable by fine only, and more.
- HB 104 – would require the Secretary of State to implement a program to allow a person with an unexpired driver’s license or personal I.D. card in Texas to complete a voter registration application over the Internet.
- SJR 13 – proposed a constitutional amendment abolishing daylight saving time in Texas.
- S.B. 90 and H.B. 94 – both bills would expand Texas’ medical marijuana program by making more patients eligible and lower fees associated with operating a dispensary.
- The bills define a “debilitating medical condition” that qualifies for medical marijuana to include cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, sickle cell anemia, severe fibromyalgia, spinal cord disease, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or post-concussion syndrome, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, or an incurable neurodegenerative disease.
- The bills further define a “debilitating medical condition” to include a chronic medical condition that produces, or the treatment of a chronic medical condition that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, or spasticity or severe and persistent muscles spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis, or any other medical condition approved by department rule or any symptom caused by the treatment of a medical condition that is approved as a debilitating medical condition by department rule.
Virginia: From Unmanned Aircraft Registration Requirements to Voter Registration Requirements & More Pre-Filed Legislation
Virginia lawmakers also pre-filed a myriad of legislation heading into the 2021 session. This includes:
- SB 1098 – exempts an owner of an uncrewed aircraft from the requirement to register the aircraft.
- HB 1735 – expands the privileges of farm winery licensees by allowing them to sell at retail beer manufactured by limited brewery licensees for on-premises consumption. The bill also expands the privileges of limited brewery licensees by allowing them to sell at retail wine manufactured by farm winery licensees for on-premises consumption.
- SJ 271 – allows a Governor elected in 2025 and after to succeed themselves in office. The amendment allows two four-year terms (either in succession or not in succession) but prohibits a third term. Service for more than two years of a partial term counts as service for one term.
- SJ 272 – establishes the sole qualifications to vote in Virginia: be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a resident of Virginia, and registered to vote. The bill lifts restrictions on qualifications to vote for those convicted of a felony or adjudicated to be mentally incompetent.
- SJ 270 – proposes the repeal of the constitutional amendment dealing with marriage approved by voter referendum in the 2006 election, which defined marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” That provision of Virginia’s Constitution is unconstitutional considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to marry as a fundamental liberty.
Florida: Regulatory Reform, Repealing Confederate Holidays, & More Pre-Filed Legislation
Florida’s 2021 legislative session may not begin until March 2, but lawmakers are already introducing legislation on various topics. In the Florida House, a member may not file more than seven bills for a regular session. Of the seven bills, lawmakers must approve at least two for filing with the Clerk no later than noon on January 29. Bills introduced thus far include:
- HB 6007 – removes the designations of the birthdays of Robert E. Lee & Jefferson Davis and Confederate Memorial Day as legal holidays, effective July 1, 2021.
- SB 134 – allows certain food service establishments to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption if specified requirements are met. The bill also revises provisions that authorize a restaurant to allow patrons to remove partially consumed bottles of wine from a restaurant for off-premises consumption and revises requirements for the sale of alcoholic beverages by certain vendors.
- SB 138 – revises the Department of Transportation’s goals relating to mobility. The bill requires the department to set up the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Grant Program, supplying grants to certain entities to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
- SB 140 – creates additional fees for electric vehicles, creating a license tax and an additional fee for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The bill requires the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to increase the added fees, subject to specific requirements on specified dates. SB 140, if passed, would be effective only if SB 138 or similar legislation takes effect.
- SB 152 – sets up the Red Tape Reduction Advisory Council within the Executive Office of the Governor.
- SB 198 – allows a public educational customer to enter into a contract for the installation, maintenance, or operation of a renewable energy source device on property owned or controlled by the public educational customer, providing that financing arrangements for such contracts are not considered retail sales of electricity.
Iowa: Music Therapy Legislation
One bill is currently listed under the Iowa legislature’s “pre-filed” bills. The bill addresses music therapy. The bill defines “music therapy” as the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals for people of all ages and ability levels within a therapeutic relationship by a music therapist.
The bill stipulates a person shall not profess to be a music therapist or board-certified music therapist or use any initials, words, letters, abbreviations, or insignia indicating or implying they are a music therapist unless they hold and maintain the music therapist board-certified credential granted by the certification board for music therapists or is designated as a registered music therapist, certified music therapist, or advanced certified music therapist and is in good standing on the national music therapy registry.
Anyone who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally violates this bill is guilty of a simple misdemeanor, punishable by confinement for a maximum of 30 days or a fine of between $105 and $855.
Missouri Pre-Filed Legislation: From Allowing Sports Wagering to Penalties for Campaign Yard Sign Theft or Destruction
Missouri lawmakers are already pre-filing legislation as well before the session starting on January 6. Legislation pre-filed includes:
- S.B. 18 – authorizes sports wagering by allowing the Missouri Lottery Commission to offer games based on sporting events’ outcomes.
- S.B. 61 – authorizes expungement of certain offenses. The bill also lowers the $250 surcharge on all expungement petitions to $100 and allows a judge the discretion to waive the surcharge if the petitioner is found to be indigent or unable to pay the cost.
- SB 124 – modifies the Indoor Clean Air Act to include vapor products such as electronic cigarettes and vapor cartridges in the definition of “smoking,” thereby extending existing prohibitions on smoking in public places and child daycare facilities, outside of designated areas, to such products.
- H.B. 26 – would allow, beginning January 1, 2022, established political parties to use a state-funded, closed political primary system conducted by local election authorities. The local election authority will allow registration of voters as members of a political party and enforce time limits on registration or changing political parties as specified in the bill.
- H.B. 30 – the bill stipulates in addition to criminal penalties for violations involving the destruction or theft of campaign yard signs, a person found guilty of such offenses may be ordered to pay $500 or the sign’s cost, whichever amount is higher.
- H.B. 55 – sets up the “Missouri Monument Preservation Act” to protect monuments displayed on public property.
- H.B. 66 – increases the number of hours of operation per year a noncommercial aircraft at least 25 years old can fly from less than 50 hours to less than 100 hours to be assessed and valued at 5% of the aircraft’s actual value for property tax purposes.
Pennsylvania Pre-Filed Cosponsor Memos: From Local Police Radar to Voter ID
Keystone State lawmakers began sending out co-sponsor memos to their colleagues for the 2021 session on December 1. Memos sent out include new bills, as well as bills from the last session.
- Police Radar Legislation (former H.B. 74) – sets up a six-year pilot program for accredited municipal and regional police to use radar as a speed timing device in the Commonwealth.
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Instruction in High School (Former HB 934) – would ensure high school students receive hands-only instruction and require the Department of Education to collaborate with trusted national organizations to define existing curriculum requirements, so students are taught the most recent techniques in CPR.
- Allowing Small Businesses to Stay Open During States of Emergencies – would allow one customer to shop at a time in small business stores during a state of emergency, allowing small stores to be permitted to sell the same things “big box” stores sell. This bill is like HB 2376 from the last session that passed the House.
- Voter ID Law – applies a voter I.D. requirement to every election and includes both photo and non-photo options on the list of acceptable forms of I.D.
- Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Healthcare Workers Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic – would create a targeted, loan forgiveness program to support frontline healthcare workers that have worked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Repeal of No Excuse Absentee Ballot Mail-In Voting – would repeal the no-excuse absentee mail-in voting provisions contained in Act 77 of 2019 following concerns over the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rewriting specific provisions of the Act.
- State Correctional Institutions Safety Reform – the bills in the package would address seven key areas to improve safety for the Department of Corrections (DOC) staff and the public. The bills would also impose harsher penalties on inmates who assault prison staff.