A Slice of Life, December 2016

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 “passé” in the United States today (marijuanastate gun legislationimmigrationheritage 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 herehere 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.

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Hunting for some new legislation?

For being an activity that only 6% of Americans partake in, hunting is one of America’s most important regulatory segments. Pulling in 38.3 billion dollars in revenue, hunting and fishing drive a large part of the American economy and way of life. With news stories like Cecil the lion breaking last year, public attention has been brought back to hunting and related issues.

History of Hunting and Regulations

The human race has used hunting as a way to sustain ourselves and our communities throughout time. After the expansion west in the United States, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, black bears and whitetail deer all but disappeared due to market-hunting and habitat loss. President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the pioneers in establishing hunting regulations and habitat conservation groups. Modern day hunting has become a sport/food hybrid. Most people who hunt do not do so out of necessity and are in it more for the challenge, but also many do consume the animal they kill. Only a small amount of the population (126,000 animal trophies a year) who participates in “trophy” hunting – killing wild animals for their body parts, such as head and hide, for display but not primarily for food or sustenance.

The history of regulations for hunting are as follows: The first law protecting wildlife was proposed in 1900. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act became law, making it unlawful to take, possess, buy, sell, or barter any migratory bird, including feathers, parts, nests, or eggs. The first “permit” was introduced in 1938, with the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act  requiring all waterfowl hunters aged 16 and over to possess a “Duck Stamp.” The following year, the Lacey Act was expanded to prohibit foreign commerce in illegally taken wildlife. The Bald Eagle Protection Act became law, prohibiting a variety of activities involving the species, including import, export, take, sell, purchase, or barter in 1940. In 1969, the Endangered Species Conservation Act prohibited the importation into the US of species “threatened with extinction worldwide”. This Act specifically allowed the animals to be imported for zoological and scientific purposes. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, many different actstreaties and cases before the Supreme Court made their way to become the hunting and animal regulations we see today.

This infographic from the National Shooting Sports Foundation details the current landscape of hunting in the United States

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The Bills

Throughout the last two centuries regulations for wildlife have been on the rise. This partially has to do with increasing human population, thus increasing the hunting population while at the same time decreasing wildlife habitat. Regulations are in place today to ensure that hunting is safe both for the hunters and the hunted population as a whole. Currently, there are over 2500 bills introduced that have to do with “hunting”, let’s take a look a few of them.

First, there are currently seven states that have legislation to allow “pink blaze” to be an officially accepted hunting color.
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There have been some negative reactions to the idea of blaze pink. Some women oppose the bills, calling them sexist, or seeing them as a cynical and insulting ploy to increase female interest in the sport.

Taking a different approach to widening participation in the sport, New York introduced A08358 in order to lower the age for universal hunting licenses from 14 years old to 12 years old. This bill allows the state to open up hunting to more people, “We rely on hunters to help us meet our science-based population management goals, and these new regulations will help us explore alternative season structures that will advance improved population management,” said Commissioner Seggos. The US introduced the SHARE Act (Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement) to expand access to, and opportunities for, hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting.

There are other bills that have to do with the methods of hunting: crossbows, new regulations for rifles, allowing semiautomatic firearms and air-or gas-powered rifles, allowing suppressors through “Hunting Freedom Acts” and body gripping traps. Pennsylvania Representative Matt Gabler’s bill for semiautomatic firearms and air-or-gas powered rifles was “the NRA’s top legislative priority in our state and the most significant pro-gun legislation passed by the General Assembly this session.” In regards to suppressors, New Hampshire Rep. John Burt stated “The main reason I put HB 500 in was to protect hunters hearing. There are several good side effects that have been brought up from others that support HB 500. Reduces gunshot noise for the homes nearby, reduces the high pitch noise which causes hear loss and many others benefits.”

Florida proposed a bill, HB1072, which would give the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the ability to allow hunting, cattle grazing, timber farming and RV camping in Florida’s parks and preserves. Virginia proposed a bill to allow a licensed hunter or trapper to manufacture and sell products made from wildlife that they legally harvested.

In Alabama, they proposed HB43 which would have authorized the taking of whitetail deer or feral swine by means of bait. There are many states that proposed legislation pertaining to the use of bait with many different animals: bearturkeysbobcatswolvesarmadillos and birds.

There are also laws aimed at making it a more fair “sport” to the animals. This includes giving rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people who injure or kill game or other protected species along with requiring the convicted person to forfeit the amount of the reward to the state. New Jersey proposed a law declaring the horseshoe crab the state arthropod and NY proposed A8218 in hopes of helping save the endangered, life saving crab.

There are serious repercussions for illegally hunting as well. West Virginia proposed a bill outlining the penalties for shooting a deer without the correct permit. In Indiana, they proposed a bill relating to the harvesting penalties for turtles. Maine introduced a bill outline acts that are not allowed when it comes to threatened or endangered species.  South Carolina introduced a bill to provide penalties for violations in the new law disallowing residents to take or possess certain Hammerhead Sharks. It requires that once caught, these sharks must be released and remain in the water at all times. This means no selfies with the sharks, you could be convicted of a misdemeanor.

This photo is thanks to YourNewsWire
This photo is thanks to YourNewsWire

Michigan proposed SB1187 which many fear would reauthorize wolf hunting, after the state defeated PA 520 (or SB1350) in 2014. This bill allowed for establishing wolf hunting seasons and designated the wolf as a game animal. New Jersey introduced two bills, S2702 and SR48, that attempt to end the legal hunting of black bears and  oppose any expansion of the legal bear hunting season and calls for it to be restricted to the original six-day hunt.

Conclusion

It is interesting to see where the different legislation lies. There are so many different areas of hunting to regulate; which is the best color to hunt in? How many animals can be taken? Where can they be taken from? How long can you hunt? What is the appropriate level for “vermin” control? Does a bear count as a vermin? What type of tool can you use to hunt? Where are you allowed to put traps? Which animals are worth protecting?

Where do you think laws have gone too far and what areas still need more work?