Sharon Koehler

Those Pesky AmendmentsThis month I am here to talk about what I think is a sore subject for some but, no worries, it’s not going to turn out the way you think. I want to talk about the November 2020 election. Before you start yelling Trump this or Biden that, Democrats, Republicans, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, please be aware that I don’t want to talk about the presidential part. (I discuss politics with no one, not even my closest relatives or friends.) I want to talk about the amendment and /or initiative portion of the ballots. While it’s true that we are the United States, amendments on the ballots were different from state to state, and even town to town.

Now some of those amendments only affect a few certain people. For instance, here in my county we voted on an amendment to not assess personal property tax on vehicles of disabled veterans. It passed, not only in my county but in my state as well. However, this amendment was not on the ballot in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They had nine amendments on their ballot while mine only had two. In Puerto Rico, they voted on whether to become our 51st state or not. I assure you, this was not on my ballot. The point here is that amendments vary widely across the nation. Some affect how area governments are run. Some affect land or water use, state constitutional amendments or various other mundane things that the general public doesn’t always care about, but needs to know about all the same to help govern their state. However, some amendments have bearing on your taxes, finances or work (which in turn affects your finances), and you need to know which ones affect you. 

Colorado voted in a medical and family leave issue. It will give the citizens of Colorado 12 weeks of paid leave per year to take care of themselves or a family member with a serious health problem, and if it is a complication of pregnancy or childbirth, leave can be extended to 16 weeks. It is an employee- and company-funded program so everybody has to work together. 

Two downsides: This does not go into effect immediately. Contributions start in 2023 and leaves can start in 2024. Downside number two is if the company has nine employees or less, they don’t have to participate.

In Florida, they voted in an increasing scale minimum wage amendment. Due to prior government action, on January 1, 2021 the minimum wage in Florida went from $7.25 per hour up to $8.65 per hour. Then on September 30, 2021, it will increase to $10 per hour. Then every year on September 30 through 2026, the minimum wage will increase $1 per year until it hits $15 per hour. 

California passed Proposition 22 which basically says app drivers like Lyft or Doordash are independent contractors, not employees. That may not sound like much, but it will change their benefits, taxes and insurance for starters. So if you moonlight a bit (as many people do), or you know an app driver in California, this could be a big change for you or them. 

On the other side of the country, some municipalities in Maine voted to enact hazard pay for workers/employees who work or provide services under declared state of emergency situations.  There is a bit of confusion as to when this goes into law, but it you live in Maine, you might want to check it out.

More than a few states passed various laws on Marijuana. They varied widely across the country. Arizona and Montana now allow recreational use. Mississippi approved medical-use marijuana and South Dakota voters approved recreational and medical use. HOWEVER, all that being said, there aren’t any laws at this time that make it okay for employees to use, sell or be in possession of marijuana at work or while on company time. Companies should probably check the laws in their state and employees should check with their employers to find out what company policies are pertaining to this issue. 

Obviously we can’t discuss every amendment or initiative put on every single ballot. There are far too many spread out all across the US and its territories. Some affect just a portion of a state, like in Maine, and some affect whole states, like in Virginia. Check the local issues in your area and see what passed. Not all of them did. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if you are getting a raise or some other benefit? Did your taxes go up? (Or perhaps you might find yourself in a place where some taxes went down.) Just Google your locality and see what affects you. You might just be surprised.


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