Legislative Newsletter - August 2016

Legislative Newsletter

In February 2016, NAAG sent a legislative survey to all states and territories on their priorities for the 2016 legislative session. There were 15 responses to the survey and NAAG monitored the top legislative priorities throughout the 2016 legislative period. The top five “high priority” responses were, in order: marijuana, W-18 and prescription drug abuse, data breaching and cybercrime, body-worn cameras and campus sexual assault. The top two write-in answers were sexual exploitation of minors and firearm regulations. A summary of legislative efforts on all of the mentioned topics are below. If you would have any questions or would like additional information on any of the pending legislation below, please contact Katie Coyne at kcoyne@naag.org or 202-326-6262.

Marijuana

Legislators in 46 states introduced a total of 1,227 pieces of legislation during their 2015-2016 sessions on the legalization of marijuana in their respective states.

Legislators from Pennsylvania and Utah proposed legislation on medical marijuana. Pennsylvania Senate Bill 3, “The Medical Marijuana Act,” was signed by the governor in April 2016. This bill establishes “a medical marijuana program; providing for patient and caregiver certification and for medical marijuana organization registration” and more. Utah SB 89 “modifies and enacts provisions related to medical cannabis-based medicine.” This bill will allow individuals with a “qualifying illness who registers with a state electronic verification system to possess and use cannabis-based medicine under certain circumstances.”

Maryland and New Hampshire introduced legislation on the criminalization of possessing marijuana. Maryland HB 565, “An Act concerning Criminal law—Possession of Less Than 10 Grams of Marijuana – Code Violation,” would find that the “use or possession of marijuana in the amount of 10 grams or more is guilty of the misdemeanor of possession of marijuana; altering a certain provision of law so as to provide a finding of guilt, rather than a violation.” HB 565 was approved by the governor in May. New Hampshire SB 498, “An Act relative to penalties for possession of certain controlled drugs,” changes the penalties for possession of marijuana and hashish. The bill eliminates a specified amount of hashish and class of the misdemeanor. The bill now reads, “In the case of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, [or 5 grams or less of hashish,] the person shall be guilty of a [Class A] misdemeanor.”

Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse

Legislators in 27 states proposed legislation to combat opioid and prescription drug abuse. The 114th Congress has had 11 bills introduced to date, one of which has been signed by the President.

On March 25, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed house bill HB 375 titled “Prescription Drug Abuse Amendments”. The bill requires use of the controlled substance database to determine if a patient may be abusing opioids. Amendments to the bill include defining terms, amending the Controlled Substances Database Act, limiting liability for those who contribute and use the database and requiring dispensers to contact the prescriber if the database suggests potential prescription drug abuse.

On June 8, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed S 243 titled “An Act relating to combating opioid abuse in Vermont.” This bill establishes a statewide prescription drug disposal program and increases the number of prescribers of buprenorphine to patients with a substance use disorder. It also increases the amount of continuing medical education certain physicians must complete in order to prescribe controlled substances.

The 114th Congress passed the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA),” S. 524 and HR 953, sponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). This Act will expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement and first responders, improve prescription drug monitoring programs, help redirect resources towards identifying and treating incarcerated individuals who are suffering from addiction, and prohibit the Department of Education from including any questions regarding incarceration for drug convictions on the Free Application for federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In September 2015, a sign-on letter was circulated in support of this legislation. Attorney Generals Sam Olens (R-GA), Greg Zoeller (R-IN), Eric Schneiderman (D-NY) and Peter Kilmartin (D-RI) were co-sponsors of this letter; it received thirty-eight signatures. CARA was signed by the President on July 22, 2016.

Data Breaching and Cybercrime

Legislators in 11 states introduced bills targeting data breaching and cybercrime. The 114th Congress has not yet introduced any bills on this topic.

Ransomware

SB 1137 was introduced in the California Senate, “An Act to amend Section 502 of the Penal Code, relating to computer crimes.” This bill defines ransomware and makes it a crime “for a person to knowingly introduce ransomware into any computer, computer system, or computer network.” There was a hearing in front of the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

Data Breaching

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed SB 2005, “An Act to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 47, relative to release of personal information,” in March 2016. This will require that notification of a breach be provided to any affected resident within 45 days of discovery. The existing statute required notification only in a breach of unencrypted personal information.

Massachusetts legislators introduced SB 184, which amends GL 93H. “New provisions include those requiring a store or other entity that caused a data breach to reimburse the financial institution that issued any credit cards of access devices for the costs or reasonable actions undertaken by the financial institution as a result of the breach in order to protect the information of its cardholders.” It was referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means in May 2016.

Body-Worn Cameras

Legislators in 22 states introduced bills relating to body-worn cameras. The 114th Congress is considering six pieces of legislation. Many states considered, and several passed, legislation ensuring body-worn camera recordings are not public record.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed House bill HB 124, “An Act relating to law enforcement,” into effect on April 13, 2016. This bill will allow funds from the sale of confiscated firearms to be used to purchase body-worn cameras and establish guidelines. This amends KRS 16.220, “Public auction of confiscated firearms.”

On June 24, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan signed HB 1584, “An Act relative to body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers.” New Hampshire is one of the states that passed legislation to regulate an agency’s use of body-worn cameras. This act will also exempt “such recordings from the wiretapping and eavesdropping statute and, under certain circumstances, from the right-to-know law.”

The 114th Congress passed HR 2029, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016” allotting funds for state and local law enforcement assistance. Included in the Act is a $70,000,000 allotment for “initiatives to improve police-community relations,” $22,500,000 of which is for a “competitive matching grant program for purchases of body worn cameras for State, local and tribal law enforcement.” Research and statistics on body-worn cameras and community trust issues also received a $5,000,000 portion of the allotment.

Campus Sexual Assault

Legislation was introduced in nine states to combat campus sexual assaults. The federal government introduced two bills, neither of which has left their respective committee.

In January, the New York legislature updated the text of Chap.537, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) in December 2015 on accurate reporting. The new text requires institutions inform victims of their options to notify proper law enforcement, their right to report or not report the offense, and offers the option to be assisted by campus authorities in notifying appropriate law enforcement authorities.

Legislators in the 114th Congress introduced two bills recognizing September as “National Campus Sexual Assault Awareness Month” and updated text in the “21st Century Women’s Health Act of 2015.”

Sexual Exploitation of Minors

Legislation on the sexual exploitation of minors was proposed in six states; in two states the bills have been signed into law. Legislators in the 114th Congress introduced two bills.

In March, the Maine legislature passed LD 1114, “An Act to protect Maine’s children from sexual abuse and exploitation.” This Act defines the guidelines for one to be guilty of sexual exploitation of minor, provides sentencing terms, and describes the appropriate crime class.

Several other states introduced legislation that has not yet been passed. Rhode Island introduced legislation in May titled, “An Act relating to criminal procedure – Safe harbor for sexually exploited children,” H 8187. Under that bill, the attorney general would assist in identifying a screening/risk assessment tool as well as implementing uniform response protocols to be used by the Department of Children, Youth and Families when responding to such incidents.

The 114th Congress passed the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015,” S. 178. S 575, the “HERO Act has been referred to the committee on Judiciary. The text was updated in January 2016. The “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015,” S 178, was signed into law in May 2015.

Firearm Regulations

Legislators in 49 states plus Puerto Rico and the 114th Congress introduced legislation during the 2015-2016 legislative session for a total of 3,775 total bills submitted covering many different perspectives of the gun debate.

Colorado Senate bill SB 16-176, “An Act concerning the governor’s authority to restrict the distribution of firearms during a state of disaster emergency,” would “eliminate the power of the governor to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of firearms during a state of disaster emergency.” The bill passed the Senate in April 2016 and was postponed indefinitely in the House Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs.

The Indiana General Assembly considered legislation to expand their open carry laws. House Bill 1056 would “repeal the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Indiana” and specifies that “a person who may otherwise legally carry a handgun is not required to obtain or possess a license or permit from the state to carry a handgun in Indiana.” It was referred to the Committee on Public Policy.

California and Rhode Island adopted legislation on the surrendering of firearms. California passed six bills, including AB 950, “Firearms: gun violence restraining orders”. This bill “would allow a person who is subject to a gun violence restraining order to transfer his or her firearms or ammunition to a licensed firearms dealer for the duration of the probation. If the firearms or ammunition have been surrendered to a law enforcement agency, the bill would entitle the owner to have them transferred to a licensed firearms dealer.” Rhode Island bill S 2492, “An Act relating to criminal offenses—weapons” requires “any person convicted of a felony domestic offense be ordered by the court to surrender all firearms in their possession, care, custody or control to either the state/local police or federally licensed dealer and file proof of surrender of those firearms with the court having jurisdiction over the case.”


If you would have any questions or would like additional information on any of the pending legislation, please contact Katie Coyne at kcoyne@naag.org or 202-326-6262.
Legislative Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General.
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