Minimum Wage Increase, Healthcare among issues state legislatures will focus on
As state legislatures across the country gear up for their next sessions, many are turning their attention to issues that directly impact small business. From higher minimum wage to healthcare, unemployment insurance, and tax-related ballot initiatives, state legislatures are wrapping up their 2023 sessions as election season winds down. In this article, we will explore some of the key issues that state legislatures are currently focused on.
One of the pressing issues for state legislatures is the push for a higher minimum wage. In 2023, 24 states raised their minimum wage rates based on increases adjusted for the cost of living or inflation, previously scheduled increases and ballot initiatives.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that raises the minimum wage for fast food workers from an average of $16.60 per hour to $20 per hour beginning in 2024. The new law also establishes a Fast Food Council consisting of employers and employees with the authority to assist in setting wage and workplace standards and raise the minimum wage for fast food workers annually. The new law applies to franchisees with 60 or more locations nationwide and repeals the FAST Recovery Act passed into law last year that established stricter guidelines for franchisees in addition to raising the minimum wage for fast food workers, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in Oct. gradually increasing the minimum wage for healthcare workers to $25 an hour by 2026. By signing these two bills, California has set up a dual system of minimum wages and regulation of labor that is of great concern to small businesses owners. Today its fast food and healthcare workers, which industries will be targeted next by unions?
Gov. Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 627, that would have provided additional protections for franchisee workers who are employed by franchisees that own and operate 100 or more locations nationwide. The proposal would have required franchisees to provide their employees with a 60-day displacement notice in the event of closures, and the opportunity to transfer to a different franchisee location upon location closure.
With the ongoing debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and rising healthcare costs, many states are taking matters into their own hands. Some are working to expand Medicaid coverage, while others are exploring ways to lower prescription drug costs.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that codifies the ACA into state law. This move was pushed by Gov. Whitmer to enshrine the current system in Michigan law, should the U.S Supreme Court rulings weaken Obamacare. The new includes the similar protections offered by the ACA relating to preexisting condition, preventative coverage and insurance costs. On Oct. 4, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 616 into law, which expands California’s mandatory paid sick leave from three days (or 24 hours) to five days (or 40 hours). The increased paid sick leave requirements take effect on January 1, 2024. In addition to paid sick leave, California has 16 different leave laws in place.
State legislatures are also looking at ways to improve their unemployment insurance (UI) systems. Many states are also working to modernize their systems to make it easier for individuals to apply for and receive benefits. Unfortunately, some of these proposals include attempts to increase benefits and expanding eligibility requirements that increase UI employer taxes.
In California, Gov. Newsom vetoed a bill lawmakers passed in September that would have extended UI benefits to striking workers. Gov. Newsom pointed to the fact that the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which provides UI benefits to workers and funded through business taxes, is close to $20 billion in debt. Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania have tried replicating this to no avail. There is no federal law guaranteeing strikers jobless aid, but New York and New Jersey have instituted their own policies, offering benefits to workers who withhold their labor in protest of their employment conditions.
Tax-Related 2023 Ballot Initiatives
With 2023 being an off-year in elections, state legislatures are keeping an eye on tax-related ballot initiatives. These initiatives can have a significant impact on state budgets and policies. Some of the most common tax-related ballot initiatives include proposals to raise or lower taxes, implement new taxes, or change how tax revenue is allocated.
In Texas, Proposition 4 would “increase the homestead tax exemption from $40,000 to $100,000; authorize the state legislature to limit the annual appraisal increase on non-homestead real property; exclude appropriations made to increase state education funding from the state appropriations limit; and authorize the state legislature to provide for four-year terms for members of the governing body of an appraisal entity in counties with a population of 75,000 or more.” NFIB supports Proposition 4.
In Colorado, Proposition HH would provide temporary relief for property owners facing large property tax increases. In exchange for relief, the state would keep some of the money that would otherwise go back to taxpayers in the form of Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds. Instead, the state would backfill or replace funding for counties, fire, ambulance, hospital, and school districts that depend on property taxes. NFIB opposes Proposition HH.
Voting on NFIB’s current Federal Issues Ballot – ballot #583 – remains open, and our member votes are critical in guiding our advocacy efforts. NFIB members can cast their votes by logging into their account at NFIB.com/votemyballot.