Social Issues

Commentary & Community

Michigan House Bill 4557


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Michigan, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 4557, Authorize prison for bringing 26 or more cases of beer or wine into state: Passed 99 to 8 in the state House on May 25, 2017


To authorize up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine for bringing more than around 26 cases of wine or beer into the state without all the required licenses mandated by the state. Smaller quantities would be subject to 93 days in jail.


Comment below to share what you think of Michigan House Bill 4557!


Colorado Senate Bill 284


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 284, Mandate physicians give specified information to patients at least 24 hours before an abortion: Passed 19 to 16 in the state Senate on April 13, 2017


To require a physician whose patient has elected to have an abortion to provide verbal and written disclosures that must include any pending disciplinary or legal action against the physician, a detailed description of technical elements of the method of abortion selected, a list of physical and psychological risks associated with abortion, information on reversing certain abortion methods, and details on alternatives to abortion. Providers must also provide an opportunity to view or decline to view ultrasound images and listen to the fetal heartbeat. The disclosures would also require physicians to provide patients with a list of ultrasound providers nearby with particular emphasis on providers that do not charge a fee. Patients could refuse to sign the disclosure if they feel they have not been properly informed.


Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 284!


Pennsylvania Removing Restrictions on Alcohol Sales


It could soon be a little less complicated to buy alcohol in Pennsylvania.


On April 25, the state House of Representatives passed these bills that would make significant changes alcohol sales in the commonwealth:


House Bill 991, Allow private retailers to sell liquor: Passed 107 to 83 in the House

To permit private retailers, rather than the state government, to sell liquor. One retail license will be allocated per every 6,000 residents per county, with a minimum of 15 per county. Under this bill, retail stores would be allowed to operate from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day except Sunday. A special Sunday sale permit could be purchased for $5,000.


House Bill 975, Allow private wholesale wine sales: Passed 107 to 84 in the House

To allow private companies to sell wholesale wine instead of requiring that wholesale wine sales must be done by the state.


House Bill 438, Allow restaurants to sell liquor to go: Passed 102 to 90 in the House

To allow restaurants and hotels to purchase a permit for $2,000 that would allow them to sell up to four bottles of liquor to a customer for consumption off-premises.


House Bill 1075, End state’s wholesale liquor sales: Passed 105 to 84 in the House

To end the system where the commonwealth sells liquor wholesale. State-run wholesale liquor sales would be phased out over 10 years under this legislation.


These bills build on legislation last year that eased some state restrictions on how restaurants and other retailers sell beer and wine. The biggest change under this year’s bills is ending the state monopoly on hard alcohol sales. Currently, if you want a bottle of vodka, you must buy it from the government. If HB 991 passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, the government would be getting out of the alcohol business.


Do you support these bills? Should the sale of alcohol be something done by the private market, not the government? Or should there be tighter government control on the sale of intoxicating beverages?


North Carolina House Bill 33: Restore firearm rights to some nonviolent felons


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in North Carolina, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 33, Restore firearm rights to some nonviolent felons: Passed 113 to 2 in the state House on March 22, 2017


To restore the right to own firearms to nonviolent felons who had previously had those rights restored only to lose them due to subsequent change in state law. A nonviolent felon who completed his sentence by December 1, 1995, was allowed ownership of rifles and shotguns until laws passed in 2004 and 2010 that banned all felons from owning any firearms for 20 years.


Comment below to share what you think of North Carolina House Bill 33!


Tennessee House Bill 798: Update state alcohol laws


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Tennessee, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 798, Update state alcohol laws: Passed 27 to 0 in the state Senate on April 10, 2017 and 64 to 21 in the state House on May 1, 2017


To levy a $10,000 fine on an establishment for its second citation for selling alcohol to a minor instead of revoking the alcohol license, to allow hotels to sell sealed packages of alcohol, to mandate the inclusion of liquor-by-the-drink taxes on menus, and to make other changes to the state’s alcohol laws.


Comment below to share what you think of Tennessee Senate Bill 798!


Wisconsin Senate Bill 10: Allow wider use of cannabidiol oil


Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Wisconsin, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 10, Allow wider use of cannabidiol oil: Passed 31 to 1 in the state Senate on February 8, 2017


To allow the possession of cannabidiol oil with the certification from a physician that the oil is for the treatment of a medical condition. Current law allows the possession of cannabidiol only for the treatment of seizures.


Comment below to share what you think of Wisconsin Senate Bill 10!


New Hampshire Senate Bill 12: Allow concealed pistol carry without a license


Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in New Hampshire, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 12, Allow concealed pistol carry without a license: Passed 13 to 10 in the state Senate on January 19, 2017


To repeal the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver and to make certain other modifications to state gun laws.


Comment below to share what you think of New Hampshire Senate Bill 12!


Pennsylvania Senate Bill 3: Limit Dismemberment Abortions


Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Pennsylvania, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 3, Limit Dismemberment Abortions: Passed 32 to 18 in the state Senate on February 8, 2017


To impose strict limits on the use of abortions using the technique of dilation and evacuation, or dismemberment, and to ban the use of this technique, with limited exceptions, before 20 weeks of pregnancy.


Comment below to share what you think of Pennsylvania Senate Bill 3!


Virginia House Joint Resolution 549: Recognize Pornography as a Public Health Hazard


Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Joint Resolution 549, Recognize Pornography as a Public Health Hazard: Passed 82 to 8 in the state House on February 2, 2017


To state that the House recognizes “pornography as leading to individual and societal harms” and that there is a “need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level” regarding pornography.


Comment below to share what you think of Virginia House Joint Resolution 549!


Gun Control in Virginia


The issue of gun control is a hot topic in many states, and Virginia is no exception. With its Republican-dominated legislature, the Commonwealth’s lawmakers have advanced legislation in recent years that would expand the rights of gun owners. This has met some resistance from Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, although the two branches of government have found some common ground on this issue.


The beginning of the 2017 legislative session has already seen action on firearms legislation. For the most part, these bills are aimed at expanding the right for Virginians to carry concealed firearms:


House Bill 1582, Lower age for concealed handgun permit for military members: Passed 78 to 19 in the state House on January 18, 2017


To allow an active duty military member or a military member who has received an honorable discharge to obtain a concealed handgun permit at the age of 18. Current law allows concealed handgun permits for anyone 21 years of age or older.


Senate Bill 1362, Allow non-duty military personnel to carry concealed weapons: Passed 22 to 18 in the state Senate on January 24, 2017


To allow members of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, Armed Forces of the United States, or Armed Forces Reserves who is on non-duty status to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.


Senate Bill 1299, Allow concealed carry with protective order: Passed 27 to 13 in the state Senate on January 24, 2017


To allow anyone who is protected by a protective order to carry a concealed weapon without a permit for 45 days after the protective order is issued. Only Virginians eligible under state law to carry a concealed weapon would be permitted to do this.


North Carolina Senate Bill 4: Repeal the 'Bathroom' Bill


Check out this key bill recently voted on by elected officials in North Carolina, and go to to signup and see how your legislators voted.


Senate Bill 4, Repeal the bathroom bill: Failed 16 to 32 in the state Senate on December 21, 2016


To repeal HB 2, which prohibited local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws or employment mandates that are stricter than state law, effectively preempting Charlotte’s transgendered discrimination act. HB 2 also required schools and government agencies to designate bathrooms for people of their biological sex and requires that only people of that biological sex can use a bathroom with that designation, in addition to restricting protection from sex discrimination to discrimination based on biological sex.


Senate Bull 4, Amendment to allow local employment or public accommodation laws: Passed 33 to 16 in the state Senate on December 21, 2016


To table, or kill, an amendment to the HB 2 repeal legislation that would remove the section that banned local governments from enacting laws regulating employment practices or public accommodations or access to bathrooms or showers for six months.

U.S. House Bill 7: Ban Federal Funding of Abortion


Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in the U.S. House, and go to to signup and see how your legislators voted.


U.S. House Bill 7, Ban federal funding of abortion: Passed 238 to 183 in the U.S. House on January 24, 2017


To prohibit using federal government money to pay for abortions. The bill would make permanent the “Hyde Amendment,” which has been attached to annual spending bills to prohibit federal funding of abortions. It (or another one-year Hyde amendment) would prohibit Medicaid or other federal programs from paying for abortions, and prohibit insurance companies from selling policies that pay for abortions through the federal health care law exchanges.


"Constitutional Carry" Reform



Across most of the U.S., you must obtain a permit from the state if you want to carry a concealed firearm. But in an increasing number of states, people who are legally allowed to carry a concealed firearm can do so without a permit.


This practice of permitless carry is sometimes called “constitutional carry” by its proponents. Currently, eleven states have some form of this law. After this year’s legislative session, that number may grow.


Here are some of the state’s considering “constitutional carry” bills:


Indiana: Four Indiana legislators introduced a bill that would make Indiana a “constitutional carry” state.


Minnesota: Legislators will consider a bill this session that would end the requirement for a state permit to carry concealed firearms.


New Hampshire: the state senate has already passed a bill that would end the state’s concealed carry permit requirement. Governor Chris Sununu would likely sign such legislation.


North Dakota: A bill has been introduced in the state House of Representatives that would make North Dakota’s concealed carry permit optional.


Tennessee: Legislators will be considering a bill that would legalize openly carrying a firearm. Concealed carry would still require a permit.


Texas: A legislator in Texas has introduced a bill to allow permitless concealed carry. This would build on bills passed in recent legislative sessions that allowed concealed carry on college campuses and permitless open carry.


Utah: In 2013, Utah’s governor vetoed legislation that would have allowed concealed carry without a permit. Legislators will consider a bill this year that is similar to the 2013 legislation.


Do you think that states should require permits for anyone who wants to carry a concealed firearm?


Gun Control in the States

Gun rights or gun safety?


This is the question facing many lawmakers in states across the U.S. While Congress considered and failed to enact any gun control legislation in 2015 or 2016, state legislators have faced a variety of measures relating to gun regulation. In some states, we’ve seen stricter controls put on gun ownership or use. In other states, however, lawmakers have relaxed restrictions.


Stricter gun control laws


California legislators led the way in enacting new gun control laws in 2016, passing 12 bills that imposed new restrictions. Governor Jerry Brown signed most of them, such as a bill to require background checks for ammunition purchases, one banning guns with magazine locking devices, and one that prohibits temporary firearm loans to anyone but family members. Governor Brown vetoed bills that would have regulated unfinished firearm frames and that would have required the mandatory reporting of a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours.


Connecticut passed legislation that would prohibit those who have a temporary restraining order filed against them from possessing firearms.


Voters weighed in on gun control laws in the 2016 election, too. In California, they continued the trend started by legislators by approving a ballot measure that requires a permit to buy ammunition, bans the possession of large-capacity magazines, and advances the effective date of a state law that prohibits buying ammunition out-of-state, among other things. Washington voters approved a referendum that allows courts to issue “extreme risk protection orders,” which allows guns to be taken from someone deemed to be a significant danger to himself or others. Nevada voters supported a ballot initiative that would require anyone who sells or transfers a firearm do so through a licensed dealer who must run a background check, while Maine voters rejected a similar measure.


Removing restrictions on guns


In states that are controlled by Republicans, gun legislation generally involves loosening rules on ownership or carrying.


For instance, Tennessee lawmakers passed bills allowing both concealed and open carry of firearms on college campuses, which the governor allowed to become law. Georgia legislators also passed a bill allowing the carrying of concealed firearms on college campuses, but Governor Nathan Deal vetoed it.


There were unique dynamics in the debate over gun laws in Virginia this year. In December 2015, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring announced that the state would no longer recognize concealed carry permits issued by many other states. This prompted a backlash in the Republican legislature. Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe worked with legislators in 2016 and agreed to sign a bill that enshrines right-to-carry reciprocity in state law. In return, legislators passed bills favored by the governor that make it more difficult for domestic abusers to possess firearms and that station state police agents at gun shows to provide voluntary background checks.


Virginia legislators also passed a bill that would have allowed state workers to keep firearms in their cars and one that overturned the governor’s ban on firearms in state buildings. Both of these bills were vetoed by Governor McAuliffe.


In 2015 and 2016, four states (Kansas, West Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi) passed laws allowing the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit. Other states have considered similar legislation. For instance, Virginia senators deadlocked 20 to 20 in a 2016 vote for a similar law in that state. Both houses of the Montana legislation voted in 2015 to allow concealed carry without a permit in that state’s cities and towns (it is already legal in outside of city limits), but Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed it. New Hampshire’s governor also vetoed permit-less concealed carry legislation in 2015.


Abortion Restrictions Advancing in the States

The issue of abortion is one that has been prominent in the American political debate for over four decades. At the national level, there is often a lot of talk about abortion, but there is generally little legislative action on it. On the state level, however, we have seen a lot of measures to impose new restrictions on abortion.


Here are some of the most prominent abortion legislative trends in states:


Defund Planned Parenthood


In light of undercover videos taken of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue, legislators have moved to cut off state funding for this organization. There have been bills in Ohio and Wisconsin that would end state funding for organizations that provide abortions or make referrals to organizations that provide abortions. Virginia legislators passed a bill that would have banned state funding for abortions and for organizations that provide abortions. Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed this legislation. These bills would generally only affect Planned Parenthood.


Related to the Planned Parenthood videos, North Carolina legislators passed legislation to ban the sale of parts from aborted fetuses.


There was legislation in Congress to launch an investigation into Planned Parenthood, and 12 states launched similar investigations.


Ban certain types of abortions


While the Supreme Court has held that states cannot enact blanket abortion bans, it is legal for states to ban certain types of abortions. Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia have enacted legislation to ban abortions that involve dismembering the fetus. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban dismemberment abortions after 20 weeks. There were efforts in 13 other states this year to pass a ban on these types of abortions.


While of dubious constitutionality, 9 states considered legislation that would effectively ban abortion. Only in one state, Oklahoma, did such a ban pass the legislature, but the governor vetoed the bill.


Ban abortions after a certain time period


In South Dakota and South Carolina, lawmakers this year banned abortions after twenty weeks. Legislators in Ohio and Wisconsin considered similar bills. There are 17 states that now have this type of abortion ban on the books. Legislators in Ohio also considered a bill that would ban abortion if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat.


Abortion center safety


Twenty-six states had enacted rules on abortion clinics that imposed new rules on their operations, such as requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals or mandating that abortion clinics meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.  The Supreme Court invalidated these restrictions in June, however, in the case of Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt.


In 2017, we are likely to see further moves in state legislatures controlled by Republicans to place new restrictions on abortion. Depending on what happens with the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the death of Antonin Scalia, we may also see rulings in future years that will overturn such restrictions. It’s safe to say that abortion will continue to be a controversial issue in state legislatures for decades to come.


Voters Back Pot for Pleasure and Pain

Are Americans’ attitudes towards marijuana changing? If the results on Election Day 2016 are any indication, it seems that the tide is shifting when it comes to marijuana legalization.


Voters in four states approved ballot measures that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, but purchasers of legal marijuana will generally be paying hefty taxes for the privilege:


California: It is now legal for Californians 21 and older to buy marijuana in the most populous state in the nation, subject to a 15% retail tax. Cultivators will also have to pay a special tax on their product. The revenue from these sales is divvied up to pay for health and law enforcement programs related to legalization, youth drug education and treatment programs, environmental programs, and DUI-reduction programs.


Maine: Purchasers of legal marijuana in Maine will pay a 10% tax, with 98% of that revenue going to the state general fund and 2% to local governments.


Massachusetts: The Bay State will imposes a 3.25% tax on marijuana purchases in addition to the state sales tax. This revenue will go to the state’s general fund. The first day for legal marijuana is December 15.


Nevada: Starting January 1, Nevadans can legally possess pot. Local governments can impose an excise tax on marijuana purchases, but the state of Nevada will impose a 15% wholesale tax. The state revenue will be used for education and to administer marijuana industry regulations.


These states join Colorado, Oregon, and Washington as states that have repealed laws banning possession and sale of marijuana.


Arizona was the only state to reject a marijuana legalization initiative on Election Day.


Voters in Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana legalized marijuana for medical use. These states join 25 other states and Washington, D.C., in allowing medicinal marijuana.


Do you think that more states should relax their laws on marijuana use for recreational or medicinal purposes?