As many of you are well aware, BillTrack 50 has many cool trinkets and tools, my favorite has to be our trending bill widget on the home page. This widget shows the ten most searched bills at the moment. In leu of what 2016 was, the bills trending here at the end paint an interesting picture of the current climate of our country.
MT SB44 was introduced on (12/13/16) to prevent Montanans from incurring excessive out-of-pocket expenses in out-of-network air ambulance (helicopter) situations in a manner that is not preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act. Because of Montanans’ lifestyles, many find air ambulance services necessary, and at times – lifesaving, means of transportation during health emergencies. Stay safe on those mountain slopes, kids.
AR HB1040 was introduced on (12/8/16) to ensure that athletic trainers do not provide rehabilitation or treatment of an athletic injury or illness in a nonclinical setting while the athlete is in the the beginning recovery stage – or four weeks after a surgical operation and up to ten weeks after surgical operation. A “nonclinical setting” means a facility or setting that is unable to bill Medicare for services provided at the facility or setting like a house or home office.
US HR6184, or the Medicare Enrollment Protection Act, is currently in committee. This bill aims to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for a special enrollment period under Medicare for individuals over 65 enrolled in COBRA continuation coverage, and for other purposes. Bills (and blogs) regarding insurance coverage and plans will be quite popular in the 2017 session.
VA HB1401 was introduced to prohibit public institutions of higher education from curtailing the freedom of any individual to speak on campus. These individuals include enrolled students, faculty and other employees, and invited guests. The only “abridging” allowed is that which is permitted by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The bill’s sponsor, Steve Landes, stated “Current state code covers faculty and students, but does not cover other staff members on campus, or lecturers who come on campus or invited speakers. There has been, not necessarily in Virginia that I know of specific cases, but there have been incidences in other states where especially individuals or other speakers on campus are not allowed their free speech rights.” The University of Colorado at Boulder is currently dealing with an issue similar to this from their invitation to conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the school in January. This bill relates to almost every single contentious issue in the United States today (marijuana, state gun legislation, immigration, heritage issues, etc.)
AK HB374, or the Reinsurance Program, was signed into law in July 2016. This is an Act relating to coverage under a state plan provided by the Comprehensive Health Insurance Association and established the Alaska comprehensive health insurance fund. It also defined ‘residents who are high risks’ as residents who have been rejected for medical reasons after applying for a coverage policy within the six months of the application. Medical reasons may include preexisting medical conditions, a family history that predicts future medical conditions, or an occupation that generates a frequency or severity of injury or disease.
TN HB2510, signed in May of 2016, modified state code to require headlights to be displayed while approaching a curve on a mountain highway where the view is obstructed. The rest of the code reads “The driver of a motor vehicle traveling on mountain highways shall hold that motor vehicle under control and as near the right-hand edge of the highway as reasonably possible and, upon approaching any curve where the view is obstructed within a distance of two hundred feet along the highway, shall give audible warning with the horn of the motor vehicle.” For other (maybe a little more interesting?) information on car regulations go here or here.
FL H7099, signed in April of 2016, pertains to state taxes. Some of the changes included specifying additional uses for revenues received from tourist development taxes, revising an economic development tax exemption for certain enterprise zone businesses and exempting the sales of food or drinks by certain qualified veterans’ organizations. Here is more information about property taxes information in different counties.
FL H1411, signed March 2016, makes it harder for women to get abortions. It revises the requirements for appropriate disposal and criminal punishment for failure to properly dispose fetal remains. The bill also requires certain organizations that provide abortion referral services or abortion counseling services to register with the agency and pay a specified fee. For more information covering abortion laws, go here, here or here.
VA HB32, which died in February 2016, pertained to the acceptable forms of voter identification. It required officers of election to ascertain that a person offering to vote is a qualified voter before admitting them to the voting booth and giving them an official ballot. In order to ascertain this, the voter needs to provide one of the following: valid Virginia driver’s license, valid United States passport, any other photo identification issued by Virginia, any valid student identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any institution of higher education located in Virginia or in any other state or territory of the United States, or any valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter. For a deep dive into voting rights and ID laws, read this post.
OK HJR1059, which died in February 2016, was a Constitutional amendment providing protections for entities and individuals that refuse certain acts which violate a “sincerely held religious belief”. This bill states that an individual shall not be required to solemnize or recognize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges to people (the LGBTQ population or other protected classes) due to a sincerely held religious belief without risk of any civil or criminal cause of action. For blogs covering this ever so common issue, read this one about religious freedom and this one about freedom from discrimination.
I’d say these bills are a little slice of America right now. Confusing, kinda weird and all over the place.