Sheridan Nolen

Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signer Jack Ciattarelli Wins NJ Gubernatorial Primary

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Thursday, June 10th, 2021, 12:39 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform congratulates New Jersey Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer Jack Ciattarelli on winning the New Jersey Republican primary for Governor. 

Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) reckless tax-and-spend agenda has given New Jersey the unwelcome distinction of being ranked 50th in the country for its overall Business Tax Climate. For that reason, it should be no surprise that the Garden State has become one of the worst places in the nation to start a small business under Murphy’s leadership.  

Ciattarelli, however, has committed himself to helping small businesses and alleviating their tax burden, whereas Murphy has imposed job-killing coronavirus restrictions.  

 “As a small business owner, I know the struggles New Jersey businesses are facing firsthand. Another four years of Murphy will only bring us more economic chaos and close more Main Street businesses across the state,” said Ciattarelli on Twitter.  

Additionally, according to Bloomberg Wealth, New Jersey residents will pay the most taxes over a lifetime. Garden State taxpayers will pay an average of $931,698, well above the $525,000 national average. New Jersey is also home to the highest property tax rate in the country, sitting a whopping 2.2%. This works out to be an average of $9,196 per single-family home.  

“For almost four years, Governor Murphy has failed to deliver real change or address the issues New Jerseyans struggle with every day,” said Ciattarelli in a press release. “As our next governor, I will rebuild Main Street, get our kids back in school, and ensure our residents have the quality of life they've always envisioned.”  

New Jersey, as it recovers from the harsh coronavirus restrictions and tax hikes imposed by Gov. Murphy, needs a taxpayer advocate in Trenton like Jack Ciattarelli.  

Americans for Tax Reform offers the Pledge to all candidates for state and federal office. New candidates sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge regularly. For the most up-to-date information on these races or any other, please visit the ATR Pledge Database

Photo Credit: Jack Ciattarelli

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ATR Releases List of 2021 NJ State Pledge Signers (Primary Election)

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Monday, June 7th, 2021, 3:42 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform recognizes the New Jersey incumbents and candidates who have taken the Taxpayer Protection Pledge ahead of the June 8 primary election. The Pledge is a written commitment to hardworking taxpayers and to the American people to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.” 

“By signing The Pledge to the voters, these candidates and incumbents demonstrate that they will safeguard taxpayers from higher taxes,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. “Pledge signers understand that government should be reformed in a way so that it spends and takes less taxpayer dollars, and will oppose tax increases that prolong failures of the past.” 

New candidates sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge regularly. For the most up-to-date information on this race or any other, please visit the ATR Pledge Database.  

Candidates can still make this important commitment to voters ahead of the June 8 primary by visiting: www.atr.org/take-the-pledge 

The following New Jersey candidates and incumbents have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge: 

First Name 

Last Name 

  Office 

District Number 

 Incumbent 

Jack 

 Ciattarelli 

  Governor 

  

 No 

Denise 

Andrew 

Louis 

John 

Gregory 

Robert 

Ronald 

Serena 

John 

Brian 

Aura 

Jay 

Sean 

Edward H. 

Robert 

Seth 

Dawn 

Christopher 

James 

Samuel 

Declan 

Shirley 

Jon

Tom 

Michael 

Anthony M. 

Joe 

Holly 

 

 Gonzalez 

 Pachuta 

 Greenwald 

 Catalano 

 McGuckin 

 Clifton 

 Dancer 

 DiMaso 

 DiMaio 

 Bergen 

 Dunn 

 Webber 

 Kean 

 Thomson 

 Auth 

 Grossman 

 Addiego 

 Connors 

 Holzapfel 

 Thompson 

 O’Scanlon 

 Turner 

 Bramnick

Kean Jr. 

 Doherty 

 Bucco 

 Pennacchio 

 Schepisi 

 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly  

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Assembly 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

  State Senate 

 

 

 

 

14 

10 

10 

12 

12 

13  

23 

25 

25 

26 

30 

30 

39 

10 

12 

13 

15 

21

21 

23 

25 

26 

39 

 No 

 No 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 No 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes

 Yes

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 Yes 

 

Photo Credit: Americans for Tax Reform


New York Takes Federal Bailout, Raises Taxes Anyways

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Thursday, June 3rd, 2021, 1:53 PM PERMALINK

Now every American is paying for the government malpractice taking place in Albany, NY.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers in Albany reached an agreement on a $212 billion budget this session that is riddled with absurd levels of new spending fueled by $4 billion in tax hikes. This comes after New York state received $12.6 billion in federal coronavirus stimulus funds. 

In the approved budget, individual New Yorkers who earn more than $1 million a year and couples earning more than $2 million will see their personal income tax rate rise from 8.82% to 9.65%. Two new brackets, for those with income over $5 million and $25 million, would have an income tax rate of 10.3% and 10.9%, respectively. These taxes increases will make the combined city and state income tax burden on residents in New York the highest in the nation.  

Additionally, there is a corporate franchise tax hike for businesses with more than $5 million in annual income, jumping from 6.5% to 7.25%.  

Critics have warned that these tax hikes would cost the city much-needed revenue if residents and businesses look to take refuge in lower-tax states and cities. In fact, Citizens Budget Commission president Andrew Rein accused lawmakers of failing to “appropriately leverage the opportunity provided by the infusion of funds” from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. Translation: the state got a huge bailout that Cuomo lobbied endlessly for and yet still raised taxes recklessly. 

In effort to counter critics who say that the tax hikes will cause big earners and companies to leave New York, Cuomo claimed that there will be an “overall net” reduction if federal lawmakers restore the deduction for state and local taxes, or SALT.  

However, this is false. “There is absolutely no assurance that the SALT cap will be repealed, unless federal rates are jacked up higher than [President] Biden has already proposed,” said EJ McMahon of the Empire Center think tank. 

In his state of the state address in January 2021, Gov. Cuomo called on President Biden for this bailout, citing it as “basic economic justice and economic prudence.” Apparently, Gov. Cuomo’s definition of basic economic justice and economic prudence is to provide financial means for pork barrel spending.  

One line item in the approved budget, standing at $4,605,000, is for “services and expenses of contractual payments related to the retention of professional football in Western New York.” This translates to using state money for the Buffalo Bills football team, which so happens to be Gov. Cuomo’s favorite.  

Another $108 million payout goes towards the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx. This facility, which has been dormant for decades, is being considered to become a hockey complex.  

Hundreds of cultural, agricultural, and community groups are also set to receive money in the budget, including:  

  • $45,000 to The Belle Harbor Yacht Club for “building improvements.” 
  • $125,000 to the Christmas Tree Farmers Association to “promote Christmas trees.”  
  • $50,000 to The Hop Growers of New York to promote New York hops.  
  • $500,000 to the Brooklyn Alliance, Inc  
  • $500,000 to the Queens Chamber of Commerce  
  • $25 million to the Securing Communities Against Hate Crime Program  
  • $250,000 to Cornell University for the “Cannabis Workforce Initiative”  

 

Tens of millions of dollars in spending are also listed as “lump sum” appropriations in the budget. In other words, the public will never precisely know where the money is going.  

Gov. Cuomo is continuing to prove himself to be disingenuous, as he claims to need money from the federal government to help with budget deficits, but then turns around to tax the highest earners – and job creators – in the state.  

Cuomo’s stance here could also be a sign he’s capitulated to the Democrat supermajority in the state legislature, but is trying to keep up appearances. The Democrat legislative caucus is more radical than the Governor, and continues to hunt for even more tax hikes and more job-killing, economy-crushing policy, like a double gas tax and so-called anti-trust rules that would allow the state to police businesses activity. 

Photo Credit: Zack Seward

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ATR Releases List of 2021 VA State Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers (Primary Election)

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021, 12:06 PM PERMALINK

According to the Tax Foundation’s 2021 Business Tax Climate Index, Virginia’s tax climate is uncompetitive. The commonwealth is ranked 26th in the nation for its overall tax climate and 35th for its individual income tax rate. To compete with the likes of neighboring states Tennessee and North Carolina, Virginia needs elected officials who are committed to lowering taxes across the board for Virginians. 

As tax-hiking radicals like Terry McAuliffe and his down-ballot allies propose millions in new taxes, it is important for taxpayers to know who stands with them. Signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is the easiest, most clear way for voters to know where a candidate stands on taxes. 

The Virginia House of Delegates primary election will be held next week on June 8. Americans for Tax Reform is pleased to announce that 23 candidates for the House of Delegates in Virginia have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to voters that the candidate will vote against any and all tax increases if they are elected.   

The following candidates for office have made a written commitment to taxpayers:  

William Wampler – District 4 

Israel O’Quinn – District 5 

Charles Poindexter – District 9 

Wren Williams – District 9  

Nicholas Clemente – District 10 

Todd Gilbert – District 15 

Michael Webert – District 18 

Kathy Byron – District 22 

Isaiah Knight – District 22 

Ronnie Campbell – District 24

Tony Wilt – District 26 

Dave Larock – District 33 

Maria Martin – District 52 

Rob Bell – District 58 

Tommy Wright – District 61 

Emily Brewer – District 64 

R. Lee Ware – District 65 

Mike Dickinson – District 68 

Geoffrey Burke – District 77 

Mark Cole – District 88 

Timothy Lewis – District 88  

Philip Scott – District 88 

Margaret Ransone – District 99 

Anyone can say they are against tax hikes, but only those who are firm in their beliefs will make that commitment in writing. Just ask the 223 members of the United States Congress, 13 Governors, and approximately 1,000 state legislators across the country who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.   

Americans for Tax Reform asks all candidates for state and federal office to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Candidates in Virginia can still make this important commitment to voters ahead of the June 8 primary by visiting:  www.atr.org/take-the-pledge.   

New candidates sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge regularly. For the most up-to-date information on this race or any other, please visit the ATR Pledge Database.   

Photo Credit: Rob Pegoraro

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California Raises Tobacco Taxes...Again

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Monday, May 24th, 2021, 2:00 PM PERMALINK

Unfortunately for taxpayers in the Golden State, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) has decided to unilaterally increase the state’s tobacco tax by a whopping 11.5%. Each year, the CDTFA must reevaluate its tax rate for “Other Tobacco Products” (OTP). OTPs include pipe tobacco, cigars, and snuff. This new tax will go into effect July 1 of this year and will be re-evaluated and likely raised again by June 30, 2022. 

This tax hike on OTPs will continue to disproportionally harm California’s most vulnerable populations. Data has demonstrated that tobacco tax increases have no statistically significant impact on smoking prevalence among those with household incomes of less than $25,000, and 72% of smokers come from low-income communities. Californians have already suffered incredible hardships due to the harsh, job-killing restrictions imposed on them by Democrats in Sacramento. This tax hike will further perpetuate financial stress on individuals who are already struggling to make ends meet.   

Increased taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products consistently result in lower than projected revenues. For example, when nearby Utah raised its tobacco tax, smuggled cigarettes doubled to over 20% of the market. In New York, smuggling has reached over 50% – and California is not far behind at 47.7%  market share. As a result of these alternate unregulated markets, only three out of the 32 state tobacco tax increases studied met tax revenue estimates.  

These tax hikes promote black markets for smuggled tobacco products. Most tobacco smuggling operations are run by multi-million-dollar organized crime syndicates who also engage in human trafficking and money laundering. In addition, profits from smuggling have been used to fund terrorist activity. The US State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling a “threat to national security.”  

California is already one of the most highly taxed states in the nation, ranking 49th in the Tax Foundation’s 2021 Business Tax Climate Index. In addition to its harsh business tax climate, imposing regressive taxes - such as a tobacco tax hike - will only make the Golden State a less attractive place to live and will continue to drive businesses and families out of the state for better opportunities. The CDTFA must recognize this and begin implementing policies that will protect California taxpayers.   

Photo Credit: jjkbach

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Virginia Taxpayers can count on Youngkin, Sears, and Miyares

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Thursday, May 13th, 2021, 2:57 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform congratulates taxpayer protection pledge signers Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, and Jason Miyares on winning their nominations for executive office in Virginia earlier this week.  

Youngkin, Sears, and Miyares secured the Republican nomination for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, respectively. This is excellent news for taxpayers in the Commonwealth, as all three candidates have made a written commitment to Virginians that, if elected, they will “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” 

By making this commitment in writing, voters can make the important distinction between Youngkin, Sears, and Miyares and their radical, tax-hiking opponents like former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  

McAuliffe disingenuously promotes himself as a pro-business Democrat, but he has a history of promoting a radical-liberal, tax-and-spend agenda. During his term between 2014-2018, McAuliffe proposed Virginia’s first ever $100 billion budget. Included in that budget was Medicaid expansion funded by a hospital bed tax hike. Additionally, a month before leaving office, McAuliffe released a proposal for Northern Virginians to pay $65 million in higher taxes on real estate sales, hotel stays, and wholesale gasoline.  

More recently, as part of his campaign announcement in December 2020, McAuliffe unveiled a plan for billions in new spending. Unless checked at the ballot box this fall, it is almost certain that his allies in the General Assembly would follow his lead. Thankfully, Virginia taxpayers have allies like Youngkin, Sears, and Miyares have vowed to do the opposite. Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, released the following statement:  

“Congratulations to Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, and Jason Miyares for winning their respective Republican nominations for executive office in Virginia. I commend all of them for making it crystal clear to voters that there will be no tax increases under their watch if elected.” 

“Richmond leadership, led by Terry McAuliffe, has crippled the Commonwealth with several tax hikes in recent years. Taxpayers deserve an ally in the executive branch, now more than ever, who will not raid their bank accounts. I am confident that Youngkin, Sears, and Miyares will focus on making government more efficient, so Virginia becomes a more attractive place to live, invest, and do business.” 

With Youngkin, Sears, and Miyares committing themselves to oppose and veto any and all tax increases, Virginia has the unique opportunity to elect a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General who will retire the Commonwealth’s tax-and-spend agenda.  

Photo Credit: Glenn Youngkin

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American Rescue Plan Blocks Tax Cuts, Multiple States File Lawsuits Against Biden Administration

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Monday, April 5th, 2021, 1:21 PM PERMALINK

The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending plan enacted by President Joe Biden includes an additional $350 billion to states and localities on top of the hundreds of billions they have already received from other packages. Unfortunately for taxpayers, Senate Democrats found a way to make this blue state bailout even worse. The spending plan, disingenuously named the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), contains an unconstitutional amendment that attempts to scare states out of providing much-needed tax relief. The amendment states:

“A State or territory shall not use the funds provided under this section or transferred pursuant to section 603(c)(4) to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue of such State or territory resulting from a change in law, regulation, or administrative interpretation during the covered period that reduces any tax (by providing for a reduction in a rate, a rebate, a deduction, a credit, or otherwise) or delays the imposition of any tax or tax increase.”

In response to this unprecedented infringement on state sovereignty, which is partially an attempt to protect Democrat-run states from competition with low-tax states, 21 state attorneys general sent a joint letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in March seeking confirmation that ARPA does not strip states of their well-established sovereign authority to set their own tax policy.

"Absent a more sensible interpretation from your department, this provision would amount to an unprecedented and unconstitutional intrusion on the separate sovereignty of the States through federal usurpation of essentially one half of the State’s fiscal ledgers," the AGs wrote in their joint letter to Yellen. "We ask that you confirm that the American Rescue Plan Act does not prohibit States from generally providing tax relief through the kinds of measures listed and discussed above and other, similar measures, but at most precludes express use of the funds provided under the Act for direct tax cuts rather than for the purposes specified by the Act."

In response to the letter, Secretary Yellen wrote that Congress does have the authority to place conditions on how states use federal funding. Having deemed this response from Yellen to be insufficient, multiple state attorneys general have filed lawsuits.

“We will now take the final steps necessary to meet the Biden administration in court,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on March 24. “West Virginia cannot accept the statute’s ambiguity, and given the administration’s failure to correct this problem, we are left with no option other than seeking a court order to protect West Virginia’s interests.”

A lawsuit was filed by Morrisey and 12 other attorneys general on March 31. A similar lawsuit had already been filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

“Arizona needs clarity on the legality and meaning of this provision,” Attorney General Brnovich said. “Policymakers in the state have real and present interest in tax policy which could potentially decrease net tax revenue against some baselines. Those policymakers need to know how their decisions could interact with their use of funds under the Act.”

Prior to Attorney General Brnovich’s action, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost had filed a similar lawsuit against the Biden administration as well.

“Ohio’s argument with the federal government is not about cutting taxes; it is about whether the federal government may use its disbursal of funds to dictate state policy — about this or any other subject that is not the province of the federal government under the Constitution,” Attorney General Yost explained in a column for National Review. “The Supreme Court has held that, when the federal government wants to attach strings to the money it sends back to the states, a few thin strings are okay; coercion is not.” 

Ironically, this unconstitutional restriction on state tax cuts inhibits ARPA from actually achieving its intended purpose: helping millions of Americans recover from the pandemic. If Democrats in Congress really wanted a strong and speedy economic recovery, they would allow and encourage states to provide much-needed tax relief to individual taxpayers, families, and businesses. It’s telling that congressional Democrats sought to prevent states from providing tax relief, while green lighting states to raise taxes further despite being showered with federal cash. In fact, lawmakers in Hawaii, Maine, and other blue states are pushing forward right now with tax increases despite state coffers being awash in federal cash.

Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Congressman Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) have filed bills that would repeal the unconstitutional amendment to ARPA blocking state tax cuts. Democrats are unlikely to support it, however, so it will take a court ruling to remove this federal restriction. In the meantime, expect lawmakers in many states to proceed as though this unconstitutional provision, added at the last minute at the request of Senator Joe Manchin, will ultimately be struck down by a judge.

Photo Credit: John Brighenti

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Maine Lawmakers Not Afraid To Propose Tax Hikes During Pandemic Recovery

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Wednesday, March 31st, 2021, 4:14 PM PERMALINK

The $1.9 trillion spending bill recently enacted by President Joe Biden is set to shower state governments with an additional $350 billion in federal cash. Despite being awash in federal money, lawmakers in some states are still pushing forward with unnecessary and harmful legislation to raise taxes. In fact, Americans living at the most western and eastern reaches of the U.S. face state income tax hikes this year.  

Lawmakers in Hawaii are currently advancing both personal and corporate income tax hikes. Democrat lawmakers in Maine, meanwhile, have it made it abundantly clear that they are not afraid to support job-killing tax hikes as Mainers are desperately trying to recover from the pandemic.  

LD 495, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Osher (D), seeks to increase Maine’s personal income tax rate from 7.15% to 8.35%. It would also add an additional bracket at a rate of 11.15% for individual filers whose income is over $100,000 and couples whose income is over $200,000. This would impact about 12% of households in the state. 

Sen. Joseph Baldacci (D) introduced another income tax hike in his chamber. If enacted, LD 532 would increase the top income tax rate to 7.95% and impose a tax rate of 10.15% on capital gains and dividends. 

These proposed bills would drive people, jobs, and investment away from Maine, and that’s something that the Maine economy cannot afford as Mainers to recover a year after the pandemic hit.  

"These proposals come at a time when the Maine economy is struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic," said Michael Allen, associate commissioner for tax policy at the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services. "While we are seeing some positive signs, avoiding tax increases of this magnitude is an important component in well positioning the state to economically rebound quickly and strongly." 

In a statement to the Committee on Taxation, David Clough, Maine state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the legislation would "significantly increase taxes on thousands of Maine small business owners, because the income of most small businesses is passed through and taxed on the owners’ personal 1040 tax return." The Maine chapter of NFIB represents nearly 3,000 small businesses state-wide.  

Mainers have suffered due to the pandemic-driven downturn. Mainers need a tax cut, not an increase. LDs 495 and 532 would make Maine a much less attractive place for businesses to invest and employers to create job opportunities. If lawmakers in Maine want to help their constituents from the pandemic, they will reject these misguided tax hikes.   

Photo Credit: Ken Lund

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Michigan’s Many Criminal Justice Policy Victories in 2020

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Wednesday, March 31st, 2021, 12:38 PM PERMALINK

Last year was not a great year, but one silver lining for Michigan is the passage of drastic improvements to the state criminal justice system, under the leadership of Republicans in both chambers.  

Rising jail populations are a clear sign of a system that is not delivering the public safety, justice, and efficiency that people deserve. In 2017, it was estimated that taxpayers in Michigan spent nearly $478 million on county jails. On top of these high costs being unaffordable for taxpayers, they are a warning sign that too many people are being jailed, often for bad reasons.  

Thankfully, lawmakers in Michigan took major steps in 2020 to safely reduce the state’s growing jail population. Fewer people who pose little risk to public safety will go to jail, and if they do it will be for a shorter period of time. For example, driver’s license suspension as a penalty to try and force people to pay court debt was eliminated for offenses unrelated to road safety. This counterproductive practice can push people desperate to get to work to drive without a license, a serious offense.  

Additionally, Michigan enacted Clean Slate policies that will take effect in April 2021. These seven bills – House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 – would automatically expunge low-level, and nonviolent offenses from the records of hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who have lived crime free for at least seven years. Data show that after five years without reoffending, the recidivism rate is extremely low. Yet, these, now law-abiding people could still face issues finding housing or work because of their record.  

Also, it will be easier for people leaving the system to find work, as unnecessary barriers to obtaining an occupational license were removed. Having a decent job reduces the likelihood someone will reoffend, and it boosts the economy.  

Michiganders should be excited about strong, conservative criminal justice reform bills becoming law. Michigan is reducing the costs of the system and saving taxpayer dollars, while improving public safety.  

HB 4980: Creates an automated process to expunge eligible misdemeanors after seven years and eligible non-assaultive felonies after 10 years.  

HB 4981: Makes convictions for traffic offenses — which constitute half of all criminal cases in Michigan — are eligible for expungement.  

HB 4982: Creates a process to set aside most marijuana convictions that would have been legal as of Dec. 6, 2018, the date recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan.  

HB 4983: Reduces waiting periods to file expungement petitions of a misdemeanor conviction to three years.  

HB 4984: Increases the number of misdemeanors and felonies a person can expunge to an unlimited number of non-assaultive misdemeanors and three felonies. A person cannot have more than two assaultive felonies expunged in a lifetime or have multiple convictions of the same crime expunged if the maximum sentence for that crime is 10 or more years of incarceration. 

HB 4985: Allows multiple convictions for certain offenses arising on “one bad night” to be eligible for expungement as a single offense.  

HB 5120: Creates a rebuttal process for marijuana expungements specifying that prosecutors bear the burden of proof.  

In addition to enacting clean slate bills for adults, bills that would ensure a fresh start for youth exiting the juvenile justice system – Senate Bills 681 and 682 – were also enacted last year.  

SB 681: Allows for expungement of traffic offenses for juveniles and automatic expungement for certain offenses committed by juvenile.  

SB 682: Makes juvenile court records nonpublic beginning January 1, 2021. It also expands the categories of people deemed to have a “legitimate interest” and therefore eligible to see closed court hearings and nonpublic documents. 

House Bills 4488-4492 and Senate Bill 293, the Good Moral Character Package, were also signed into law in December. These bills reform occupational licensing to expand opportunities for Michiganders who have maintained “good moral character” post-convection or post-judgement.  

HB 4488: Limits the situations in which a licensing board may consider criminal convictions and civil actions in determining an applicant’s good moral character.  

HB 4489: Clarifies that the adjustments made in HB 4488 do not apply to determining “good moral character” for admission to the State Bar of Michigan and that for those purposes, good moral character would be determined by the Board of Law examiners.  

HBs 4490-92: Revise the definition of “good moral character” within specific acts to align with the changes in HB 4488.  

SB 293: Amends the Occupational Code to require the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to report annually to the legislature regarding applications for occupational licenses that were denied because of an applicant’s lack of good moral character.  

Lastly, several bills were enacted that eliminate driver’s license suspensions and criminal penalties for some traffic offenses; expand officer discretion to use appearance tickets instead of custodial arrests; use probation, fines, and community service as sentences for low-level crimes; and limit jail time for those who violate the rules of supervision. 

HB 5846, HB 5847, HB 5849, HB 5850, HB 5851, HB 5852, HB 6235, and HCR 29: Eliminates license suspension for violations of the law unrelated to dangerous driving. 

HB 5853: Reclassifies many traffic misdemeanors as civil infractions. 

HB 5844 and HB 5854-5857: Eliminates mandatory minimum jail sentences in the Motor Vehicle Code, School Code, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Railroad Code, and Public Health Code. 

SB 1046: Expands law enforcement discretion to issue citations for most misdemeanors and presumes citation in lieu of arrest in many cases. 

SB 1047: Ensures summonses are used for most first-time failures to appear and allows defendants to resolve low-level warrants without being arrested. 

SB 1048: Creates a presumption of a sentence other than jail for most misdemeanors and certain felonies. 

SB 1049: Expands eligibility for deferred judgment of guilt to 24- and 25-year-olds under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. 

SB 1050: Reduces probation terms, tailors probation conditions to address risks and needs, and caps jail sanctions for technical probation violations. 

SB 1051: Tailors parole conditions to address risks and needs. 

Other notable criminal justice reforms enacted last year include:  

SB 1006: Amends the Social Welfare Act to allow individuals who committed a drug-related offense, or have outstanding warrants for such offenses, to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food assistance. 

SB 700: Requires the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act limit the use of secure juvenile detention facilities for status offender. The bill also adjusts the list of offenses for which a juvenile may be detained pending a hearing, removing the status offense of running away from home and adding the violation of a court order.  

SB 893: Amends the Youth Rehabilitation Services Act to change citations to the law to reflect changes in SB 700.  

SB 894: Amends the Juvenile Boot Camp Act to change citations to the law to reflect changes in SB 700.  

These bills are tremendous victories for Michigan, and yet there are still opportunities for lawmakers in Michigan to continue improving their criminal justice system this year. 

Photo Credit: Allie Osmar Siarto

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Ohio Legislators Keep Focus on Job-Creating Occupational Licensing Reforms

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Posted by Sheridan Nolen on Wednesday, March 31st, 2021, 12:08 PM PERMALINK

Senate Bill 131, sponsored by Sen. Kristina Roegner and Sen. Rob McColley, along with its companion House Bill 203 by Rep. Jena Powell, would enact occupational license reciprocity. Under these bills, individuals who hold out-of-state occupational licenses (e.g. electricians, truck drivers, public accountants, etc.) would be recognized in Ohio if the individual is in good standing with their professional, maintains proficient work experience, and meets the minimum educational requirements.  

Too many licenses have been created at the behest of politically connected interests to restrict competition. Currently, Ohio licenses 651 occupations, which is around 18% of professions. Even worse, occupational licensing in Ohio has led to significant job loss. A study from the Institute for Justice found that Ohio has lost over 67,000 jobs due high licensing burdens, as well as over $209 million in deadweight losses in addition to the misallocation of over $6 billion.  

“Universal licensure reciprocity makes sense,” said Sen. Roegner. “If someone has been trained and licensed in one state then they should not have to jump through hoops to be licensed in another state. In theory this is similar to getting a driver’s license. How awful would it be to have to be re-licensed in each state where you want to drive! This bill will say to those licensed professionals, ‘come to Ohio, you and your skills are welcome here.’” 

Moreover, a study from The Buckeye Institute shows that older, lower-income workers, and those without a college degree, are all particularly disadvantaged by licensing barriers. By passing SB 131 and HB 203, individuals in these demographics would see an expansion in job opportunities and, in turn, economic prosperity.  

Rea S. Hederman Jr., Executive Director of the Economic Research Center at The Buckeye Institute, said, “Ohio has a long-standing challenge in attracting and retaining workers due in part to its burdensome occupational licensing requirements. Adopting universal licensing recognition…will make Ohio a more attractive place for workers to move to and it will make it easier for licensed workers to start earning a living.”   

In the past, Ohio has been a leader in occupational licensing reform by implementing a sunset review process and licensing recognition for military spouses. Other states, like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Iowa, and Missouri, however, have already passed reforms similar to SB 131 and HB 203. To keep Ohio at the front of the race with competing states, lawmakers should pass Universal Licensing Recognition through SB 131 and HB 203. 

Photo Credit: Firesign

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