Many bills “died” this week, not advancing out of their chamber of origin by Tuesday evening, but there are still some big things still moving along. And, as is typical with less than three weeks to go, what remains tends to be controversial.
SB 5155 is a tort liability bill carried over from last year. This bill would allow interest on judgments for tortious conduct to begin to accrue from the date on which a person suffers an injury or loss. This means the interest would start to accrue before a claim was filed and, in some cases, even before a county was made aware of the injury or loss. Current law provides that interest begins to accrue on the date a judgment is entered by a court. The date when the interest starts is especially important in an era where litigation and even settlement negotiations can drag on for years. Much delay can result from plaintiff choices or court schedules, neither of which is in county control. The Senate adopted an amendment (currently in the bill) that exempts local governments from its application, but we are concerned the House will take this out. This bill is set for a hearing on February 18, and we will testify in support of the exempt-local-government amendment already adopted in the Senate. We will include real-life examples of how case timelines work from one of our risk pool directors, Derek Bryan, who is also testifying.
The Voting Rights Act, SB 5597, passed the Senate yesterday and is in the House. WSAC worked on an amendment with the cities to change which local governments would be in preclearance (that is, have to seek permission from a court or the Attorney General before taking covered actions), but it was not adopted. We continue to believe that putting a city or county into preclearance simply on the basis of population (which captures 22 counties) is poor policy and difficult to calculate (demographics change constantly), so we believe basing it on past violations is a better standard. We have managed to get some changes: Drop box placement is out of the preclearance standards, the population threshold was raised (to 50,000 for counties), and all of the preclearance provisions will sunset on June 30, 2029, but we continue to work on issues relating to preclearance standards, finality, appeals, and attorney’s fees.