State Legislature in session early

The state legislature will begin its 2016 regular session in January this year— not March, in an effort to eliminate costly special sessions that have plagued the House and Senate in the last year.

Here are a few proposed bills that may impact you:

SB6 — raises the state minimum wage to $15 per hour and annually adjusts the state minimum wage for inflation.

HB15 — creates a loan forgiveness program for teachers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields.

SB68 — allows concealed carry licensees to bring a concealed weapon onto university and college campuses.

SB84 — allows a defendant to ask a judge to depart from three-year minimum sentencing for minor drug offenses. The defendant can only deviate from three-year minimum sentencing once in his/her lifetime.

SB 96 — revises graduation requirements for high school students. Replaces half a year of electives with financial literacy and money management curriculum.

SB110 — allows churches or other religious organizations to deny services and marriages to citizens if it would violate that church’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

SB128 — appropriates $2 million to the Department of Children and Families to provide behavioral health services to combat veterans and their families.

HB41/SB130 — declares a misdemeanor to discharge a firearm recreationally in a residential area with one or more houses per acre.

SB134 — prohibits drivers from using a cell phone in a school zone or on school property while driving. Includes voice communication, instead of just texting.

SB154 — prohibits the display of the Confederate flag or any Confederate military or naval symbols on state or municipal property. Does not exclude publicly owned museums or living history re-enactments.

SB158 — allowing one’s status as a lifetime freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, hunting, sportsman licensee or boater safety identification cardholder to be displayed on one’s driver’s license.

SB168 — brings the return of controversial traffic light cameras.

SB186 — prohibits an employer from having access to an employee’s social media account, prohibiting an employer from taking retaliatory action against an employee over social media posts.

SB188 — extends unemployment benefits to citizens who voluntarily leave work if they are victims of domestic violence.

SB200 — prohibits a person from confining an animal in an unattended motor vehicle in conditions that endanger the well-being of the animal, declares it a misdemeanor to do so and allows a first responder to remove the animal to a place of safekeeping.

SB218 — declares criminal penalties for exchanging EBT benefits for cash.

SB300 — allows concealed carry licensees to carry firearms openly, allows an officer to arrest a citizen if he has probable cause to believe that citizen is unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon.

SB304 — prohibits local governments from limiting agritourism on agriculturally-zoned, unincorporated lands.

SB306 — allows certain municipalities to regulate or ban use of disposal plastic bags.

SB392 — prohibits the sale or possession of powdered alcohol.

SB406 — requires new and existing playgrounds to meet certain safety requirements.

SB440 — appropriates $300,000 annually for the care of retired law enforcement dogs, requiring the Department of Law Enforcement to contract with a not-for-profit organization to oversee this endeavor.

SB474 — declares criminal penalties for landlords that do not maintain minimum standards, protects tenants from landlord retaliation for reporting inadequate conditions.

SB544 — exempts agricultural buildings from consideration special assessments.

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