Tax the Rich: Implementing a State Tax on Investment Gains

Tax the Rich: Implementing a State Tax on Investment Gains


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The concentration of wealth in the hands of the elite few impacts every facet of our lives. It is directly connected to expanding wealth disparities and the rising cost of living, the existential climate crisis and the rampant expansion of authoritarianism, and it threatens the very existence of the multiracial democracy that we strive for.

This concentration of wealth did not happen by accident; it is not the result of inevitable forces. It is a product of deliberate policy choices over decades and centuries. Billionaires and centi-millionaires (those with at least $100 million in wealth) in America are amassing wealth, with a record 700% increase in inflation-adjusted unrealized capital gains over the last three decades.

Racism, sexism, and classism are entrenched in our current economic system, by design. As a result, Black, immigrant, and Indigenous people, working class and rural communities, women, and queer people are disproportionately exploited and denied prosperity by our economic policies. Some of these problems could be mitigated if the extremely wealthy paid their fair share toward meeting vital social needs, particularly in terms of spurring opportunities for communities experiencing structural poverty. For example, considerable research has shown that high-quality preschool can play an enormous role in helping every child reach their potential. Given the scale of wealth involved, getting the extremely wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes could raise substantial revenues toward vital initiatives like this. 

Unfortunately, the absurd regressivity that is evident at the very top of our tax system at the federal level is even more evident at the state level. This is partly because income taxes, as currently designed at the federal and state level, do not reach unrealized gains. For example, billionaire Jeff Bezos was paid about $1.7 million in total compensation by Amazon in 2022, but his net worth in 2023 increased by a massive $70 billion, which amounts to almost $8 million per hour. Furthermore, states have not levied taxes on broad forms of wealth for almost a century, while other countries, including Switzerland since 1848 and Norway since 1892, have retained their wealth taxes. The extremely wealthy in America have employed armies of lobbyists to ensure that their effective tax rates are kept low and that neither federal nor state taxing authorities can effectively tax intergenerational wealth transfers. 

Historically, state legislators, in collaboration with the communities most impacted by these policy choices, have led the fight in challenging corporate and billionaire power by organizing communities and building economies that empower people. Modernizing the tax code is an essential piece of this vision. Taxing unrealized gains, in particular, offers an opportunity to reverse the increasingly widening wealth disparities in the United States and to fund our future.

Note on Terminology

Unrealized gains are the increased value of assets that have not yet been sold (or “realized”).

Unrealized capital gains are a type of unrealized gains, specifically, the increased value of stocks, bonds, and other financial securities that have not yet been sold.

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Wealth Tax Overview

Wealth includes ownership of many different types of assets, including real estate, vehicles, and art, but the largest category among the very rich is ownership of businesses, stocks, and mutual funds. Through a series of tax loopholes dubbed “buy, borrow, die,” the ultra-wealthy can hold on to and use financial securities as collateral for loans (often securities-backed lines of credit) instead of selling investments to cover expenses. The loopholes also allow their inheritors to receive these financial assets on a legally allowed “stepped-up” basis (i.e., based on valuing the inherited stock at the current market value) without paying any capital gains taxes (McCaffery, 2019). This means that all inherited capital gains are provided a tax benefit that would not be allowed if someone sold off their financial securities before their death. To make matters worse, the ultra-wealthy would only need to retire and/or move to a state that does not tax income before realizing their capital gains to avoid state taxation (Galle et al., in press). 

For example, although Jeff Bezos relied on public investments in physical and human capital infrastructure in Washington State to establish Amazon, he waited until he moved to Florida (a state without a capital gains tax) before selling $2 billion in Amazon stock, depriving Washington of almost $600 million in state revenue. It is imperative that unrealized gains are taxed, or the massive income and wealth inequalities in our country will continue to grow unabated, with the impacts disproportionately felt by communities structurally denied opportunities (Addo & Darity, 2021). 

Note on Securities-Backed Line of Credit (SBLOC)

SBLOC is the most common way to borrow in the “buy, borrow, die” scheme and is similar to a home equity line of credit, but financial investments are the collateral instead of real estate. SBLOC’s advantages include: (1) no capital gains taxes, (2) flexible repayment schedules, (3) simple and low-cost approval process, and (4) relatively low interest rates.

While no state currently has a wealth tax on a broad range of assets, the U.S. does levy taxes on some forms of wealth. Property taxes are an example of taxing assets before they are sold, though overall the property tax is regressive. Another example is the federal expatriation tax, which includes a tax on net unrealized capital gains for individuals with a net worth of at least $2 million who have relinquished their U.S. citizenship. As tax codes are common but can be complicated, the policy design and implementation of a new wealth tax model could benefit from the experience of other countries, from academics who have spent time researching these models, and from state legislation at the forefront of this reform in this country. 

The following is a policy design discussion focused on taxing one major category of wealth: unrealized capital gains. This discussion pulls primarily from academic sources and focuses on real-world policy decisions. This is not meant to serve as “model” language, but instead to provide policy design considerations and options that policymakers should discuss with local movement groups and impacted communities.

Notes on Income vs. Wealth

“Income is the sum of earnings from a job or a self-owned business, interest on savings and investments, payments from social programs and many other sources. It is usually calculated on an annual or monthly basis. Wealth, or net worth, is the value of assets owned by a family or an individual (such as a home or a savings account) minus outstanding debt (such as a mortgage or student loan). It refers to an amount that has been accumulated over a lifetime or more (since it may be passed across generations).” (Source: Pew Research Center)

Realized capital gains are considered income, and unrealized capital gains are sometimes understood as a form of future income. But as these gains are part of assets that the wealthy can use as collateral, we refer to them in this report as a form of wealth, and a tax on unrealized capital gains as a type of wealth tax.

Please note: The case Moore v. United States was argued in the Supreme Court in part to decide whether unrealized gains can be treated as income from a federal tax perspective, but states are not necessarily limited by this ruling, as it is focused on Congress’ power of taxation under the 16th Amendment.

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Types of Assets Included (or Exempted) and Asset Valuation

The first and perhaps most impactful policy design decision is which types of assets to include as taxable forms of wealth. The broadest definition of wealth includes total net assets, or the market value of all financial and nonfinancial assets after debt. For example, a French wealth tax exempts business assets, shares acquired from capital subscription (e.g., agreement to purchase an IPO), artwork, antiques and collectibles, and intellectual property, and is calculated by taxpayers based on the market value of all their other assets (Garbinti et al., 2023). A U.S. example of a broad wealth tax is 2023 CA AB 259, which, if enacted, would eventually apply a 1% tax on worldwide net worth in excess of $50 million and 1.5% on net worth over $1 billion. Care should be taken when considering what types of assets to exempt, as one study found that European wealth taxes that exempted wealth from owner–manager businesses created a tax loophole for the ultra-rich (Piketty et al., 2023).

Note on Financial Assets

“Financial assets include fixed-claim assets (checking and saving accounts, bonds, loans, and other interest-generating assets), corporate equity (shares in corporations), and noncorporate equity (shares in noncorporate businesses, for instance, shares in a partnership). Financial assets can be held either directly or indirectly through mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies, and trusts.” (Saez & Zucman, 2020)

Unrealized Capital Gains 

While wealth takes many forms, proposals by advocates, academics, and policymakers in the U.S. have primarily focused on taxing one category of wealth: unrealized capital gains. Not only is this form of wealth massive (estimated at $8.5 trillion nationally), but it is likely the most politically feasible to address and the least complicated to tax as well. A tax on unrealized capital gains is a relatively simple idea, but there are several policy design options that interested state policymakers and advocates can consider. Many of these proposals assess the value of unrealized capital gains based on gains or losses relative to a year-end market value, also referred to as mark-to-market. Two of the issues around a tax on unrealized capital gains using mark-to-market valuation are the price volatility of financial markets and the uncertain valuation of illiquid assets (Saez et al., 2021). 

S&P 500 Historical Annual Returns 

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(Source: Macrotrends, LLC)

For example, looking at the history of S&P 500 returns above, how can a state budget office develop accurate revenue forecasts when the financial markets shift so quickly? The following policy options include unrealized capital gains tax designs that would help to address these mark-to-market tax concerns.

Unrealized Capital Gains Tax Terminology

“Cost basis” is the original purchase price that the asset was acquired for and is used to calculate net gains or losses.

“Deemed realized gains” are unrealized gains (or built-in gains) that are treated as realized for tax purposes and therefore potentially subject to taxation.

“Exemption threshold” is the amount of net wealth exempted from taxation (e.g., the first $10 million) and therefore determines who the tax applies to.

“Realized capital gains” are the profits from the sale of an asset, calculated as the amount received for the sale minus the cost basis.

“Recognized gains” are the amount of realized or deemed realized gains that are subject to taxation (e.g., after subtracting deferred gains).

“Tax limit” is the maximum amount of tax on a given asset (also referred to as a “cap”).

Phased Mark-to-Market Unrealized Capital Gains Tax

A relatively straightforward proposal for taxing unrealized capital gains is to tax a portion of the increase in value of the underlying asset by comparing the current fair market value at a given point in time to the original purchase price (i.e., mark-to-market). One way to do this is to phase in the tax by effectively recognizing only a portion of the deemed realized gains every year. This phased-in approach reduces the risk of volatility inherent in a mark-to-market tax, as only a portion of financial assets would be taxable in a given year. Academic writing on this idea proposes that 50% of deemed realized gains should be recognized as taxable income, which would effectively include 50% of these shares as taxable income in tax year 1, 25% (half of 50%) in tax year 2, 12.5% in tax year 3, and so on (Gamage & Shanske, 2022). The percentage of deemed realized gains to recognize for tax purposes is a policy decision: a larger percentage would raise tax revenue more quickly and reduce the risk of the extremely wealthy using lobbyists to weaken the tax code, while a smaller percentage would minimize tax revenue volatility and the concern of impacting illiquid taxpayers (Gamage & Shanske, 2022). 

Legislative Example: Phased Mark-to-Market

Vermont (2024 VT HB 827)

Under this bill, Vermont taxpayers with net assets in excess of $10 million (the exemption threshold) would be required to include 50% of their unrealized capital gains (i.e., deemed realized gains) in their taxable income for the year, as if all assets had been sold at fair market value on the last day of the year. This taxable amount has an annual tax limit that cannot exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s net assets in excess of $10 million (Gamage, 2024). The bill also provides for an exclusion of $1 million per category of assets (e.g., real estate, nondistributed interest in a trust, and personal property, such as vehicles or art/collectibles) when calculating the net assets for the tax limit. This helps to simplify the valuation process, as a wealthy individual would only need to assess significant asset holdings, which may have already been done for insurance purposes. This bill does not apply a specific tax rate, but instead adds deemed and recognized capital gains to taxable income for individual income tax calculations. The bill also proportionally reduces the tax for residents who have lived in the state for less than 4 years.

Calculation Example: Phased Mark-to-Market

Income deemed realized and recognized:

  • Assuming a taxpayer holds stock X with fair market value of $25 million and cost basis of $15 million ($10 million deemed realized gain), and stock Y with fair market value of $25 million and cost basis of $30 million ($5 million deemed realized loss), then: 

  • Total deemed realized gains from stock X and stock Y = $5 million ($10 million – $5 million), and 50% of deemed realized gains are recognized = $2.5 million.

Tax limit/phase-in cap amount:

  • Assuming stock X and stock Y are the taxpayer’s total assets ($50 million), and assuming personal debt of $20 million, net assets = $30 million: 

  • The cap is 10% of net assets beyond $10 million, or 10% x ($30 million – $10 million) = 10% x $20 million = $2 million. 

The lower amount from these two calculations, $2 million, is added to taxable income. All else being equal (assuming no other taxable income or tax credits/deductions) and assuming a Vermont income tax of $17K + 8.75% of taxable income over $279K, this would result in a state income tax of about $168K.

Calculation Example: Phased Mark-to-Market for Jeff Bezos

If Jeff Bezos paid this type of unrealized capital gains tax on Amazon shares he owns:

The lower amount from these two calculations, $19.849 billion, is added to taxable income. As above, all else being equal and assuming a Vermont income tax of $17K + 8.75% of taxable income over $279K, this would result in a state income tax of about $1.737 billion.

Withholding Tax on Unrealized Capital Gains

Another policy option is to require extremely wealthy individuals to prepay future realized capital gains taxes through a type of withholding tax (i.e., “pay-as-you-go,” where a portion of estimated tax is sent periodically to the taxing authority before the full amount is due) on unrealized capital gains. This estimated prepayment could be based on the value of unrealized capital gains above a specific exemption threshold, which could be set high enough to not target illiquid millionaires and could also include progressive tax rates based on the amount of unrealized capital gains (Saez & Zucman, 2020). An academic proposal of this withholding tax includes both liquid and illiquid assets (except for retirement accounts) and recommends that the withholding tax rate be one-tenth of the top federal capital gains tax rate (Saez et al., 2021). As with the phased tax above, compared to traditional wealth tax models, the withholding tax model would help to smooth out asset valuation volatility, which is especially important to states, as they are required to enact balanced budgets (Saez et al., 2021). 

Valuing Private Businesses/Unlisted Shares

One area of asset valuation that warrants careful consideration is shares of private businesses, which is a major asset class for many of the ultra-wealthy (Saez & Zucman, 2020). In France, the tax administration provides guidelines on how taxpayers can value stocks from unlisted companies (Garbinti et al., 2023). There are many ways that states could consider valuing unlisted shares.

Large Private Businesses. For large private businesses, the value could be based on secondary market valuation, such as by venture capitalists, private equity funds, financial analysts, or recent stock trades (Saez et al., 2021). For wealthy individuals who are unable or unwilling to sell their private shares to cover a tax on unrealized capital gains, a government-run credit program could be created to provide taxpayers with government loans, secured by their illiquid assets, with interest accrued at the Treasury rate and repayment triggered when either the asset becomes liquid or control of the asset is transferred to another party (Saez et al., 2021).

Small Private Businesses. Shares in small private companies could be valued using a straightforward formula based on book value, sales, and profits; for example, Switzerland has successfully used this type of formula (Saez & Zucman, 2020). By utilizing a formula with easily available information, small private businesses would not incur significant administrative costs if one of their owners were subject to an unrealized capital gains tax. Data on small business employee size shows that over 80% of small businesses have zero employees and another 16% have only 1–19 employees, and additional data on business owners reveals that private businesses with more than five employees are owned by families with a median net worth of only $1.25 million and median business assets of $400K. It is clear that relatively few small businesses would need to be valued, and the ultra-wealthy likely have accountants who track basic financial data on their small businesses, which might be needed when selling these businesses or using them as collateral for a loan. Valuation of defined benefit pension plans could also be based on a simple formula that looks at age, tenure, and current salary to approximate accrued benefits (Saez & Zucman, 2020). 

Calculation Example: Swiss Private Business Valuation Formula 

The value of private businesses in Switzerland is calculated as a three-year average of current net asset value (i.e., total assets minus total liabilities) and a three-year average based on a double weighted and capitalized earnings value. This sounds more complicated than it is. The formula is:

Business Value = [(Average of 3 Years of Adjusted Net Profits) x 2 + Net Asset Value] x 1/3

                                                      Capitalization Rate

Let’s suppose that this model is used in the U.S. and a private company had a net asset value of $10 million at the end of 2023 and adjusted net profits of $1 million in 2021, $2 million in 2022, and $3 million in 2023. Let’s also assume a capitalization rate (i.e., expected rate of return) of 8%, which would be determined by statute or regulation. This formula results in a total valuation of $20 million:

2023 Business Value = [(($1M +$2M + $3M)/3) x 2) + $10M] x 1/3 = $20M


   Source: Eckert & Aebi (2020)   

Legislative Examples: Business Valuation 

Both a California bill and a Vermont bill use a straightforward business valuation formula of book value plus 7.5 times book profits in a given year. In particular cases, certified appraisal values can be used to determine the worth of private business assets.


 California (2023 CA AB 259)

50308. (c) (3) (D) For purposes of this part, if a valuation is to be calculated by the proxy valuation formula for business entities, that valuation shall be the book value of the business entity according to GAAP plus 7.5 times the book profits of the business entity for the taxable year according to GAAP. However, if the taxpayer can demonstrate with clear and convincing evidence that a valuation calculated via the proxy valuation formula would substantially overstate the value as applied to the facts and circumstances for any taxable year, then the taxpayer can instead submit a certified appraisal of the value of the taxpayer’s ownership interests in the business entity for that year and use that certified appraisal value in place of applying the primary valuation rules of subparagraph (F) or (G).


(F) For business entities for which the valuation calculated by the proxy valuation formula for business entities is less than fifty million dollars ($50,000,000), the value of the taxpayer’s ownership interests in the business entity will be presumed to be the percentage of the business entity owned by the taxpayer multiplied by the valuation calculated by the proxy valuation formula for business entities.

(G) For business entities for which the valuation calculated by the proxy valuation formula for business entities is fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) or greater, the taxpayer shall submit a certified appraisal of the value of the taxpayer’s ownership interests in the business entity. The value of the taxpayer’s ownership interests in the business entity will then be presumed to be the greater of the following:

(i) The certified appraisal value.

(ii) The percentage of the business entity owned by the taxpayer multiplied by the valuation calculated by the proxy valuation formula for business entities.


Vermont (2024 VT HB 827)

5604. (c) (3) (D) Except for assets and entities governed by subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection (c), assets excluded under subdivision (A) of this subdivision (3), and assets attached to an ODA, for all other interests in any business entities including all equity and other ownership interests, all debt interests, and all other contractual or noncontractual interests, the fair market value of those interests at the end of any tax year shall be presumed to be the sum of the book value of the business entity according to generally accepted accounting principles for the tax year plus a present-value multiplier of 7.5 times the book profits of the business entity for the tax year according to generally accepted accounting principles, with this entire sum then multiplied by the percentage of the business entity owned by the taxpayer as of the end of the tax year. However, if the taxpayer can demonstrate with clear and convincing evidence that such a presumption would substantially overstate the fair market value, the taxpayer may instead submit a certified appraisal and then use the certified appraisal value as the fair market value.

      Indirectly Held Assets. Another consideration is how to deal with assets that are held by trusts or other intermediaries. To reduce tax avoidance, experts recommend that intermediary assets that are controlled by or for the benefit of wealthy individuals be included in a wealth tax, but allocated based on different levels of priority so that the impact is on the wealthiest individuals who control the funds and much less on nontaxable charities that use trust funds for programmatic purposes (Saez & Zucman, 2020). For example, the trust would be responsible for any tax liability related to trust assets unless the beneficiaries receive all of its income distributions, in which case the entire trust would be subject to the withholding tax (Saez et al., 2021).

      Legislative Example: Assets in a Trust 

      A bill in Washington State specifies how to treat the assets of a trust depending on who benefits from or has control over the trust, as well as what happens when intangible assets are transferred to a minor relative.


      Sec. 3. TAX IMPOSED. […] (4) The tax imposed in this section does not apply to a resident based on that person’s status as a trustee of a trust, unless that person is also a beneficiary of the trust or holds a general power of appointment over the assets of the trust.

      (5)(a) If an individual is treated as the owner of any portion of a trust that qualifies as a grantor trust for federal income tax purposes, that individual must be treated as the owner of that property for purposes of the tax imposed in this section to the extent such property includes intangible assets.

      (b) A grantor of a trust that does not qualify as a grantor trust for federal income tax purposes must nevertheless be treated as the owner of the intangible assets of the trust for purposes of the tax imposed in this section if the grantor’s transfer of assets to the trust is treated as an incomplete gift under Title 26 U.S.C. Sec. 2511 of the internal revenue code and its accompanying regulations.

      (6) Intangible assets transferred after the effective date of this section by a resident to an individual who is a member of the family of the resident and has not attained the age of 18 must be treated as property of the resident for any calendar year before the year in which such individual attains the age of 18.

      Unliquidated Tax Reserve Account (ULTRA)

      Another option for taxing assets that are difficult to value is to allow wealthy taxpayers to grant the government a “notional equity interest” on the assets in lieu of a tax payment (Galle et al., 2022). This interest would not confer any voting rights and would only be used for future valuation, as the taxing authority would only receive funds after the assets are sold/liquidated. If the value of the assets rises or falls, the government’s eventual tax revenue would also rise or fall, as it is effectively pegged to the stock’s value, not a set dollar amount. If a taxpayer holds on to these assets for several years, they could defer the tax payments by granting additional equity interest to the government. To address concerns that the wealthy will take advantage of this delay in taxation by lobbying for tax code changes instead of paying their fair share, this policy option could be designed in a way that would only allow taxpayers with liquidity challenges (e.g., all of their wealth is in a single private stock) to defer paying a wealth tax on difficult-to-value assets until their private stocks/assets are sold (Galle et al., 2022). The extremely wealthy, who do not face these liquidity issues, could instead be required to prepay a portion of their deferred tax every year (Galle et al., 2022).

      Calculation Example: ULTRA “Ownership”

      For example, for a 2% unrealized capital gains tax on private stock, the taxpayer could instead provide the government with 2% “ownership” of these assets. If the taxpayer holds on to these stocks, they begin the second tax year with 98% ownership of the private stock (since, in the first tax year, they chose to grant the government 2% notional equity interest in lieu of a tax payment), and therefore the government would receive an additional 1.96% equity interest (i.e., 2% of 98%), for a total of 3.96%.

      Legislative Example: ULTRA

      A version of an ULTRA was written into a California bill as a liquidity-based optional unliquidated tax claim agreement (LOUTCA).


      California (2023 CA AB 259)

      50310. (a) Liquidity-based Optional Unliquidated Tax Claim Agreements, to be referred to as LOUTCAs, shall be governed by the following rules:

      (1) Taxpayers who are specified as liquidity-constrained taxpayers and who have ownership interests in designated highly illiquid assets, such as startup business entities, shall be able to elect to initiate a LOUTCA to be attached to their ownership interests in those designated highly illiquid assets instead of the net value of those ownership interests or the net value of those assets being assessed at the end of a tax year.

      (2) Any taxpayer subject to the tax imposed by this part is presumed to not be specified as a liquidity-constrained taxpayer if the taxpayer’s designated highly illiquid assets are less than 80 percent of the taxpayer’s total net worth. The Franchise Tax Board may adopt regulations in regard to substantiating who is a specified liquidity-constrained taxpayer and in regard to what is a designated highly illiquid asset. It is the intent of the Legislature that most taxpayers subject to the tax imposed by this part should not be specified as liquidity-constrained taxpayers and that publicly traded assets and ownership interests conferring control rights in substantially profitable privately held business entities shall not be designated as highly illiquid assets.

      (3) To initiate any LOUTCA, a taxpayer shall sign forms to be created by the Franchise Tax Board that shall have the effect of creating a binding contractual agreement between the taxpayer and the state. A LOUTCA shall be legally binding on the taxpayer, and also on the taxpayer’s estate and assigns, until such time as either the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s estate reconciles the LOUTCA so as to fully liquidate the accumulated tax claims and to then pay all tax due on those liquidated tax claims.

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      Exemptions, Deductions/Credits, and Limits

      As with most taxes, a key policy decision is to determine what amount of a taxable asset should be exempted (i.e., the asset threshold) and what specific tax deductions or credits should be allowed.

      Exemption Threshold 

      A national wealth tax in France, for example, included all French residents and potentially all worldwide assets above a €1.3 million threshold (Garbinti et al., 2023). One study found that having a low exemption threshold (e.g., €1 million) created political opportunities for opponents to highlight cases of illiquid millionaires struggling to pay their wealth tax (Piketty et al., 2023). Applying that lesson, a wealth tax proposed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren had a $50 million threshold and applied a 2% wealth tax rate up to $1 billion in wealth and a 3% tax rate after that (Saez & Zucman, 2020). An academic paper also proposes a $50 million exemption threshold, which would impact the top 0.05% wealthiest families, or about 100,000 households (Saez et al., 2021).

      Legislative Examples: Phase-In Cap

      Another taxation limit introduced in recent state legislation is a “phase-in cap amount” to limit the amount of unrealized net gains subject to taxation. For example, a bill in New York would set a phase-in cap of 25% of net assets above a $1 billion exemption threshold, and a bill in Vermont would set a phase-in cap of 10% of net assets above a $10 million exemption threshold.


      New York (2023 NY SB 1570)

      612-a. (b) Subsequent to two thousand twenty-three, resident individual taxpayers with net assets that are worth one billion dollars or more at the end of the last day of any tax year shall recognize gain or loss as if each asset owned by such taxpayer on such date were sold for its fair market value on such date, but with adjustment made for tax paid on gain in previous years. Any resulting net gains from these deemed sales, up to the phase-in cap amount, shall be included in the taxpayer’s income for such taxable year. […]

      (c) For each date on which gains or losses are recognized as a result of this section, the phase-in cap amount shall be equal to a quarter of the worth of a taxpayer’s net assets in excess of one billion dollars on such date.


      Vermont (2024 VT HB 827)

      5601. (4) “Phase-in cap amount” means an amount equal to 10 percent of the worth of a taxpayer’s net assets in excess of $10,000,000.00 at the end of the day on the last day of an applicable tax year.


      5602. TAXATION OF UNREALIZED GAINS (a) Tax is imposed for each taxable year on resident individuals with net assets worth more than $10,000,000.00 at the end of the day on December 31 of the taxable year. A taxpayer shall be deemed to realize 50 percent of the gain or loss as though each asset owned was sold for fair market value at the end of the day on that date. A proper adjustment shall be made for assets previously subject to taxation under this section in prior years, pursuant to subsection (b) of this section. All other adjustments to the basis of a taxpayer’s assets shall be made prior to a partial deemed sale under this section. Any resulting net gains from a partial deemed sale, up to the phase-in cap amount, after accounting for losses carried forward, shall be recognized and included in the taxpayer’s taxable income for that taxable year. 

          Deductions and Credits

          The withholding model referenced earlier differs from a basic wealth tax, such as the property tax, in that it allows the withholding to be used as a tax credit when financial assets are sold and capital gains are realized (Saez & Zucman, 2020). This tax credit could have a “withholding account” that carries forward until any of the taxpayer’s financial assets are sold and capital gains are realized (Saez et al., 2021). This way, there is no risk of double taxation, as these capital gains are only taxed once.

          Similar to the withholding model, the ULTRA policy option would provide that any prepayment of a deferred wealth tax would generate a tax credit that could be applied against a future tax liability from the sale of a difficult-to-value asset (Galle et al., 2022). In order to take into account individual contributions to assets by wealthy individuals, the percentage of the government’s “stake” in assets that increase due to financial contributions could also be added to the tax credit (Galle et al., 2022).

          Calculation Example: ULTRA Tax Credit 

          Let’s assume that a wealthy individual has difficulty valuing shares of a private company and signs an ULTRA agreement with the government. If, over time, the government builds up a notional equity interest of 10% of those shares and the wealthy individual buys an additional $50 million in that stock, then $5 million (10% of $50 million) could be applied as a tax credit when the stock is sold. 

          If, soon after, the wealthy individual sells their ownership in this private company for $200 million, then the government would be entitled to $15 million (10% of the $200 million minus the $5 million credit).

          Tax Limit

          There are many ways that a tax limit can be designed. For example, the French wealth tax provides a tax ceiling of 75%–85% of net taxable income (Garbinti et al., 2023). The phase-in example mentioned earlier includes an annual tax limit of 10% of the taxpayer’s net assets in excess of $10 million. And an academic proposal for a withholding tax on future capital gains proposes limiting the withholding to 90% of the potential federal capital gains tax, which would be accumulated over a nine-year period (Saez et al., 2021). See below for more on this model.

          Decision Tree: Withholding Tax on Unrealized Capital Gains

          Chart Withholding

          Withholding Tax Example for Jeff Bezos

          • Assuming Bezos owns about $166 billion in Amazon stocks, and given that he has only ever bought a single share of Amazon stock, we can estimate an unrealized capital gain of $166 billion.

          • Assuming a $50 million exemption threshold, a 37% federal income tax rate for the highest income tax bracket, and a withholding rate of 10%, then for tax year 1, the withholding calculation would be: 37% x 10% x $165.95 billion = $6.14 billion.

          • If all else stays constant (e.g., no sale or purchase of additional Amazon shares or change in market value), then Bezos would continue to pay $6.14 billion per year through tax year 9, at which point he would have paid $55.26 billion, which is 90% of the $61.4 billion he could have owed based on a 37% tax rate (after the exemption threshold). 

          • If Bezos sells his shares after that, $55.26 billion in his withholding account would be credited against his realized gains to offset that capital gains tax. If, instead, he continues taking advantage of the “buy, borrow, die” scheme and leaves his Amazon shares to his heirs, then the withholding tax would never be credited back or refunded.

          Adjusting the Cost Basis

          To ensure that unrealized capital gains are not taxed twice, one policy option is to adjust the cost basis (i.e., the cost used to calculate gains/losses) of these assets based on deemed realized gains or losses. For example, 2024 VT HB 827 would increase the cost basis of assets with deemed realized gains by the amount of gains that are actually recognized, which is the lesser of 50% of total deemed capital gains or the cap amount plus any gains that were offset with the deemed capital losses. This basis increase is proportionally allocated among all assets with deemed capital gains based on their share of total gains. To ensure that deemed capital losses are not taken into account more than once, the bill provides for reducing the basis of these assets by the amount of their recognized deemed capital losses (Gamage, 2024).

          Adjusted Cost Basis Example for Jeff Bezos

          Going back to our example of a phased mark-to-market tax on Jeff Bezos:

          • Assuming Bezos owns about $166 billion in Amazon stocks and has a total net worth of about $198.5 billion, and estimating an effective cost basis of $0, since he only ever bought a single share of Amazon stock, then: 

          • In tax year 1, the lower amount from two calculations (tax limit calculation) results in $19.849 billion being added to Bezos’ taxable income.

          • Assuming that in the next tax year (tax year 2), Bezos does not sell or buy any additional shares, the value of Amazon stock stays that same, and his net worth holds constant, then the amount applied to his taxable income the previous year would be added to the cost basis in tax year 2:

            • Total deemed realized gains would be $146.151 billion ($166 billion – $19.849 billion), and 50% of deemed realized gains recognized = $73.076 billion.

            • Tax limit is 10% of net worth beyond $10 million, or 10% x ($198.5 billion – $10 million) = $19.849 billion.

          The lower amount from these two calculations, $19.849 billion, would again be added to the taxable income and to the cost basis of the Amazon stock shares (for tax year 3). Eventually, all else being equal, the cost basis would become large enough to reduce the deemed and recognized realized gains to below the tax limit.

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          Tax Administration

          While different state revenue agencies promulgate administrative rules to implement their state’s unique tax code, there may be additional lessons to learn regarding how to design strong reporting requirements and enforcement tools.

          Reporting Requirements

          In the French tax system, taxpayers were required to report their wealth tax based on January 1st of the reporting year (Garbinti et al., 2023). For example, if a wealthy taxpayer was filing income tax forms in 2023 for income earned in tax year 2022, they would also complete wealth tax forms for assets as of January 1, 2023 (not 2022). The French tax system provided both a regular tax form and a simplified form for individuals without exemptions or deductions, but a recent study found that simplified reporting may lead to more misreporting of wealth (Garbinti et al., 2023). 

          A mark-to-market unrealized capital gains tax could follow current tax reporting practices, in which financial institutions share information on assets directly with customers/taxpayers and some third-party reports are shared with the IRS (Saez et al., 2021). This would require filing a new tax form and reporting to the state tax administration both the purchase price and the fair market value of financial assets held by the very wealthy, in order to estimate the taxable value of these unrealized capital gains (Saez et al., 2021). IRS Form 8854, which is used to calculate the federal expatriation tax, is an example of a mark-to-market calculation. Bank valuation of financial securities used as collateral for loans made as part of the “buy, borrow, die” loophole could also be reported to the relevant state tax authority. 

          Legislative Examples: Tax Forms

          An Illinois bill would require the state’s department of revenue to create or amend relevant tax forms, and the bill specified asset categories to include in these forms. A California bill with an ULTRA provision included additional reporting requirements that apply even if residents move to another state, as well as requirements placed on a deceased taxpayer’s estate.


          Illinois (2023 IL HB 3039)

          (a) The Department of Revenue shall amend or create tax forms as necessary for the reporting of gains by assets. Assets shall be listed with (i) a description of the asset, (ii) the asset category, (iii) the year the asset was acquired, (iv) the adjusted Illinois basis of the asset as of December 31 of the tax year, (v) the fair market value of the asset as of December 31 of the tax year, and (vi) the amount of gain that would be taxable under this Act, unless the Department determines that one or more categories is not appropriate for a particular type of asset.

          (b) Asset categories separately listed shall include, but shall not be limited to, the following:

          (1) stock held in any publicly traded corporation;

          (2) stock held in any private C corporation;

          (3) stock held in any S corporation;

          (4) interests in any private equity or hedge fund organized as a partnership;

          (5) interests in any other partnerships;

          (6) interests in any other noncorporate businesses;

          (7) bonds and interest bearing savings accounts, cash and deposits;

          (8) interests in mutual funds or index funds;

          (9) put and call options;

          (10) futures contracts;

          (11) financial assets held offshore reported on IRS tax form 8938.


          California (2023 CA AB 259)

          50310. (a) (4) If a taxpayer has initiated a LOUTCA in any prior year, until that LOUTCA has been reconciled and closed, the taxpayer shall annually complete and file any form or forms that shall be created by the Franchise Tax Board for the purposes of reporting any material transactions made with regard to the LOUTCA. These reporting requirements shall continue even if and after the taxpayer is no longer a resident and shall then be enforced as a legally binding contract with the state. Failure to file these annual forms shall be treated as a breach of contract and shall also be subject to the same penalties as failure to file income tax forms for residents who are required to file income tax forms. Upon the death of any taxpayer who has initiated a LOUTCA that has not been fully reconciled and closed, that taxpayer’s estate and assigns shall be required to reconcile the LOUTCA so as to fully liquidate the accumulated tax claims and to then pay all tax owed on those liquidated tax claims, treating these claims as an unpaid tax liability of the taxpayer owed to the state.

            Enforcement Mechanisms

            At the most basic level, the potential revenue from a wealth tax is simply: Tax base = total wealth × top wealth share × (1 − evasion rate) (Saez & Zucman, 2020). Minimizing evasion rates is critical to realizing the full benefits of a wealth tax. 

            The French wealth tax provided that if a wealthy individual is audited and found to be noncompliant with the wealth tax requirements, they may be required to amend their tax returns for up to the last 10 years, depending on the type of noncompliance issue found (Garbinti et al., 2023). A study looking at European wealth taxes found that tax evasion through the use of offshore accounts was a major detriment, along with weak enforcement due to heavy reliance on self-reported assets, and this study recommends the use of a common reporting standard for offshore assets (Piketty et al., 2023). 

            Legislative Examples: Penalties

            Legislation in Washington State would impose a penalty of either 30% or 50% for understating asset valuations, depending on the level of understatement or misstatement. The bill would also require audits of a percentage of wealthy taxpayers, with the required minimum ramping up from 10% in 2025 to 20% in 2027. Legislation in California would add claims, records, and statements made to comply with the proposed wealth tax’s reporting requirements to the state’s false claims act, which could result in civil action and treble damages for costs that the state incurs to recover penalties or damages when a false or fraudulent claim is made.


            Sec. 10. SUBSTANTIAL WEALTH TAX VALUATION UNDERSTATEMENT PENALTY IMPOSED. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, if any portion of an underpayment of tax due under this chapter is due to a substantial wealth tax valuation understatement, there must be added to the tax an amount equal to:

            (a) In the case of any substantial wealth tax valuation understatement that is a gross wealth tax valuation misstatement, 50 percent of the portion of the underpayment due to the valuation understatement; or

            (b) In all other cases, 30 percent of the portion of the underpayment due to the valuation understatement.

            (2) The penalty imposed under subsection (1) of this section does not apply unless the portion of the underpayment attributable to substantial wealth tax valuation understatements for the calendar year exceeds $5,000.

            (3) The penalty imposed in this section is in addition to any other applicable penalties imposed under this chapter or chapter 82.32 RCW on the same tax due, except for the penalty imposed in RCW 82.32.090(7).

            (4) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

            (a) “Gross wealth tax valuation misstatement” means the fair market value of any financial intangible assets reported on a return required by this chapter is 40 percent or less of the amount determined to be the correct amount of such fair market value.

            (b) “Substantial wealth tax valuation understatement” means the fair market value of any financial intangible assets reported on a return required by this chapter is 65 percent or less of the amount determined to be the correct amount of such fair market value.

            Sec. 11. ENFORCEMENT. Beginning in calendar year 2025, to the extent that sufficient funds are specifically appropriated for this purpose, the department must initiate audits of at least 10 percent of individuals who are registered with the department to pay the tax imposed in this chapter, increasing to 15 percent in calendar year 2026, and 20 percent in calendar year 2027 and thereafter.

            This Washington State bill would also add the following language to the statutory section on tax avoidance:

            Sec. 16. RCW 82.32.655 and 2010 1st sp.s. c 23 s 201 are each amended to read as follows:


            (d) Arrangements through which a taxpayer attempts to avoid tax under chapter 84A.--- RCW (the new chapter created in section 21 of this act) through intentional deception, such as by concealing assets or evidence of the location of the taxpayer’s domicile in this state, by transferring assets prior to December 31st when the taxpayer effectively retained control of the assets, or by effectively converting taxable assets into nontaxable assets prior to December 31st when the taxpayer engages in a substantially offsetting transaction. This subsection (3)(d) does not apply to substantial wealth tax valuation understatements subject to the penalty in section 10 of this act.


            California (2023 CA AB 259)

            12651. (f) (1) This section shall apply to claims, records, or statements made under Part 27 (commencing with Section 50300) of Division 2 of the Revenue and Taxation Code only if the damages pleaded in the action exceed two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).

            (2) For purposes of this subdivision only, “person” has the same meaning as that term is defined in Section 17007 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.

            (3) The Attorney General or prosecuting authority shall consult with the taxing authorities to whom the claim, record, or statement was submitted prior to filing or intervening in any action under this article that is based on the filing of false claims, records, or statements made under the Revenue and Taxation Code.

            (4) Notwithstanding Section 19542 of the Revenue and Taxation Code or any other law, the Attorney General or prosecuting authority, but not the qui tam plaintiff, is hereby authorized to obtain otherwise confidential records relating to taxes, fees, surcharges, or other obligations under the Revenue and Taxation Code needed to investigate or prosecute suspected violations of this subdivision from state and local taxing and other governmental authorities in possession of such information and records, and such authorities are hereby authorized to make those disclosures. The taxing and other governmental authorities shall not provide federal tax information without authorization from the Internal Revenue Service.

            (5) Any information received pursuant to paragraphs (3) and (4) shall be kept confidential except as necessary to investigate and prosecute suspected violations of this subdivision.

            (6) This subdivision does not and shall not be construed to have retroactive application to any claims, records, or statements made under the Revenue and Taxation Code before January 1, 2024.

            Withholding Model Enforcement

            The unrealized capital gains tax withholding model could potentially reduce the risk of undervaluing financial assets, as this valuation could provide a future tax credit (Saez & Zucman, 2020). Enforcement could be supported by requiring financial institutions and private businesses to disclose relevant purchase prices and market value estimates, as well as valuing financial assets separately from business operations and assets held indirectly through private businesses, which could limit the risk of tax avoidance through shell corporations (Saez et al., 2021). 

            Another major benefit of this model for state tax collection is that it reduces “wealth flight,” which is more likely after retirement, as wealthy individuals would not be able to avoid paying taxes on their unrealized capital gains during “productive years” and then retire to a state with no income tax to avoid paying taxes on realized capital gains (Saez et al., 2021). Additionally, the tax withholding allowance would presumably only be useful for individuals who realize their capital gains in a state with a similar withholding tax system (Saez et al., 2021). This may mean that an interstate agreement or compact will become an important tool to avoid double taxation and to support cross-state retirement/establishment of residency.

            Note on Wealth Flight

            “It is possible that the tax could encourage successful entrepreneurs to leave early to avoid the tax. For example, a [California] billionaire might decide to move to Florida now to avoid paying the withholding annual 1% tax on his accumulated gains (instead of moving to Florida later before realizing capital gains). However, it is difficult to move while you are still running a business (and moving the headquarters of the business is much more difficult). Therefore, mobility risk is most important for retired billionaires.” (Saez et al., 2021)

            An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on interstate migration data and academic studies found the following:

            • Large numbers of households — including high-income households — move into higher-tax states every year.

            • Highly educated and high-income households in higher-tax states are not disproportionately moving to no-income-tax states.

            • State income tax cuts for high-income people haven’t meaningfully boosted in-migration.

            • State income tax increases for wealthy people have not led to substantial numbers of them moving to lower-tax states, certainly not enough to result in eroding more than a small fraction of the revenue the tax increases generated.

            • The most comprehensive nationwide study of millionaire migration ever conducted concluded that “millionaire tax flight is occurring, but only at the margins of statistical and socioeconomic significance.”

            shutterstock 1921133657 scaled


            A state tax on unrealized capital gains is a relatively new proposal in the U.S., but not globally, and academic experts have analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of various wealth tax models and developed innovative mechanisms to address some of the greatest challenges to practical implementation and political viability. These lessons can provide state policymakers with a starting point for policy design, but as “laboratories of democracy,” state legislatures should prioritize both collaborating with their communities and fostering a spirit of experimenting with, evaluating, and improving their state’s tax revenue laws. 

            The State Innovation Exchange (SiX) exists to advance a bold, people-centered policy vision in every state in this nation by helping vision-aligned state legislators succeed after they are elected. If you are working to strengthen our democracy, fight for working families, advance reproductive freedom, defend civil rights and liberties, or protect the environment, reach out to to learn more about SiX’s tailored policy, communications, and strategy support and how to join this network of like-minded state legislators from across the country.

            Academic References

            Celebrate Black Maternal Health Week 2024 with SiX

            Celebrate Black Maternal Health Week 2024 with SiX

            Black legislators are spearheading the advancement of Black maternal health outcomes in their states. This year, Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) will take place April 11-17th, 2023 and the theme is Our Bodies STILL Belong to Us: Reproductive Justice NOW! 

            Founded by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, BMHW was created to raise awareness, inspire activism and build community support for the issues and policies impacting the health and rights of Black mothers. This week centers the work, values, and traditions of the reproductive and birth justice movements.
            In honor of #BMHW24, SiX is uplifting state legislators across the country who are committed to supporting Black maternal health.

            Show your support as a legislator in the SiX network leading the fight to improve Black maternal health outcomes and please share the following graphic and messages on social media.

            BMHW Evergreen X

            Sample tweets:

            Message 1: I’m taking part in this year’s #BlackMaternalHealthWeek with @Stateinnovation & @blkmamasmatter! Come engage in unforgettable activities & conversations aimed at shifting the state of Black Maternal Health in the U.S. Learn more: #BlackMamasMatter #BMHW24

            Message 2: @BlkMamasMatter advocates for the advancement and investment in practices and solutions that incorporate the true needs, wants and desires of Black women and birthing people! Throughout the week, I’ll be sharing how I am uplifting & empowering Black Mamas through policy. #BMHW24

            Message 3: It’s #BlackMaternalHealthWeek and I'm joining @Stateinnovation in centering Black women’s scholarship, maternity care work, and advocacy. #BlackMamasMatter #BMHW24

            Message 4: Black women are 3 times more likely to die from preventable pregnancy-related causes than white women. This #BlackMaternalHealthWeek, let's raise awareness and center Black Mamas’ experiences to find solutions! #BMHW24 @Stateinnovation

            *Official toolkit from Black Mamas Matter Alliance*

            How States Can Stop the Corporate Campaign To Roll Back Child Labor Protections

            BI AB010 ORGANI M 20150707112322

            How States Can Stop the Corporate Campaign To Roll Back Child Labor Protections

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            Executive Summary

            The enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938 marked the passage of the first federal standards for child labor in the U.S., prohibiting the long hours, dangerous jobs, and abusive practices that many children suffered at the time. Now, nearly nine decades later, state legislatures, spurred by political operatives working on behalf of deep-pocketed corporate interests, are the epicenters of a national campaign to turn the clock back on child labor protections. 

            Since 2021, at least 61 bills to roll back child labor protections have been introduced in 29 states, and at least 17 bills have been enacted in 13 states. The proposals, some of which would directly conflict with federal standards, include provisions that would repeal work permit requirements, extend work hours, legalize employment in hazardous occupations, allow children to be paid less than the state minimum wage, lower the minimum age for alcohol service, and preempt the passage of stricter child labor protections at the local level. Without adequate federal or state enforcement capacity, the recent onslaught of legislative activity to bring back 19th-century child labor standards promises to intensify a growing national crisis of child labor violations, especially among migrant youth.

            State lawmakers and advocates have the power to organize and push back against these coordinated attacks and to put forward a different vision for the future where labor policies safeguard the safety, well-being, and education of children. This publication is intended to serve as a resource to legislators and state advocates in resisting efforts to deregulate child labor protections. It offers policy options that can strengthen labor protections for young workers. A stronger framework for child labor standards at the state level should consider the following:

            1. Enhancing child labor protections. States can and should establish labor protections that go above and beyond federal standards for young workers. Examples include time and hour restrictions for 16- and 17-year-olds, prohibitions on hazardous occupations, rest or meal break requirements, work permit requirements, repealing youth subminimum wage laws, and strengthening protections for children in agricultural work.
            2. Enhancing enforcement and penalties. States should adopt an enforcement strategy that maintains a credible ability to enforce against violations and includes a penalty regime that provides effective deterrence.
              • State lawmakers can establish strong civil and criminal penalties, including minimum penalties and damages payable to workers, in addition to enhanced penalties for egregious violations. 
              • Legislators can also enhance enforcement by establishing anti-retaliation protections, extending the statute of limitations on violations, expanding agency enforcement powers, and boosting enforcement capacity, particularly by adding language and cultural capacity to appropriately support migrant children.
              • State legislators can consider strategies that support enforcement on behalf of the state, like community enforcement programs, private attorneys general laws that authorize aggrieved employees to bring enforcement actions on behalf of the state, or dedicated grant funding to local prosecutors to support labor enforcement actions.
              • Lawmakers can ensure that children have appropriate legal remedies when they are harmed by child labor violations by ensuring that injured or killed workers are not limited to workers’ compensation as an exclusive remedy and by establishing a private right of action.
            3. Extend liability to all entities that profit from child labor. State lawmakers should modernize child labor protections to account for 21st-century business structures that often allow the most powerful entities to evade accountability. Examples include laws that hold lead corporations responsible for violations committed within their supply chains and laws that establish joint liability for franchisors and franchisees.
            4. Establish public procurement compliance requirements. States can set a standard for strict compliance with child labor protections through the procurement process by requiring contractors to disclose child labor violations and maintaining compliance with child labor protections as a condition for eligibility for public contracts.
            5. Support education, outreach, and service coordination efforts. Legislators can also enable improved enforcement outcomes by supporting education and outreach efforts that ensure that children and their families are adequately informed of their rights under the law and by facilitating coordination among labor officials, public education systems, social services, and immigrant legal services to ensure that investigations of violations do not leave families without access to material and legal support.

            The scheme to deregulate child labor state by state is inseparable from attacks on workers’ rights, safety net programs that help families get back on their feet during hard times, the right to an honest and quality education, a fair tax system where wealthy corporations pay what they owe, and our freedom to vote and our right to fair representation. Altogether, these conjoined efforts—driven by insatiable corporate greed and bolstered by outsized elite influence over our democracy—paint a bleak future of an endless race to the bottom for cheap labor, enshrined by the exploitation of children at the expense of their health, safety, and education.


            In recent years, state legislatures have been the focus of a national operation to repeal laws that protect young people’s health, safety, and educational rights. The campaign to drag labor protections back in time to the 19th century is part of a sweeping, multi-issue effort to further concentrate corporate power, undermine worker rights, and dismantle government regulation, all while cementing wealth inequality by stratifying access to public education and tearing down anti-poverty programs. Since 2021, at least 61 bills to weaken child labor protections have been introduced across 29 states, including 17 bills that have been enacted in 13 states.

            The ultimate intent of the corporate lobby is clear: to pave a path to national deregulation of child labor, one state at a time. State lawmakers have the power to put a stop to the plot to build an economy that allows businesses to profit on the backs of children, even in the most dangerous jobs. This publication is intended to serve as a resource to legislators and advocates in responding to the ongoing efforts in state capitols to deregulate child labor. In addition to examining the industry-backed actors behind the corporate conspiracy to roll back child labor protections, the publication outlines the types of regressive legislation that states have considered and passed in recent years and offers potential policy options that legislators may consider to further strengthen state protections for young workers.

            History Repeats Itself: A Look Behind the Curtain of the Campaign To Roll Back Child Labor Protections

            In the years following the proposal of a constitutional amendment authorizing Congress to regulate child labor in 1924, a new organization called the Farmers’ States Rights League (FSRL) distributed over a quarter-million pieces of literature opposing the amendment, spreading false claims that children would be prevented from doing chores around the home and family farm. The propaganda spread through half-page advertisements in small-town newspapers, leaving readers with the misguided impression that the campaign was funded organically by a group of farmers who came together in opposition to the amendment.

            In reality, the FSRL was operated by David Clark, a frontman for wealthy Southern textile factory bosses—an industry that thrived on child labor—to create the facade of public resistance to the amendment in rural America. Clark, a virulent white supremacist who frequently railed against integration as the publisher of the influential Southern Textile Bulletin, was also the mastermind behind a litigation strategy to stonewall new child labor protections. His efforts, which included selecting a friendly federal judge and cajoling young cotton mill workers to serve as plaintiffs in lawsuits he paid for, resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down two newly enacted federal child labor protections. One of the plaintiffs handpicked by Clark, when interviewed by a reporter years later, reflected: “I’d been a lot better off if they hadn’t won it. Look at me! A hundred and five pounds, a grown man and no education.”

            While the proposed amendment was never ratified, Congress eventually enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938, prohibiting children from being employed in certain types of hazardous work, establishing a minimum age of 16 for most types of work, and limiting the number of hours and the time of day that children are allowed to work to protect school attendance. Nearly a century later, a different set of actors, funded by the newest generation of billionaire industrialist barons, are playing the same cast of characters in another astroturfing production to fabricate the illusion of widespread support for policies that only serve to line the pockets of the wealthy through increasingly dangerous child labor.

            Industry Fronts: Agribusiness, the Foundation for Government Accountability, and the Opportunity Solutions Project

            Agricultural industry groups continue to be outspoken proponents of weakening child labor protections. In the same model as the FSRL, they point to these protections as being burdensome for family farmers when, in truth, these groups represent multinational agribusiness corporations. Groups opposing a proposed federal rule to increase child protections in the FLSA in 2011, for example, included some of the biggest actors in the industry, such as pesticide trade group CropLife America, the National Cotton Council, and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The AFBF, in particular, was founded in 1919 as a contemporary of the FSRL but has remained a powerful lobby group in the century since—calling itself “the voice of agriculture” while representing large agribusiness interests. In addition to advocating for weaker child labor protections, the AFBF supported the repeal of both the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Affordable Care Act while consistently pressing for policies that harm the independent family farmers it claims to represent. 

            Other proponents of child labor rollbacks in statehouses across the country reflect a similar array of lobbyists and trade associations for other businesses and industries that stand to benefit most from child labor, including the restaurant, hospitality, and retail industries. During a hearing on a bill to repeal work permits in Arkansas, the legislative sponsor acknowledged that the legislation came from a Florida-based organization called the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). At the same time, emails obtained by reporters revealed that similar bills were sent by FGA lobbyists to Florida and Missouri lawmakers.

            Before the organization turned its attention to making it easier for businesses to exploit child labor in recent years, the FGA spent over a decade parachuting into statehouses on behalf of corporate interests—in the past seven years, the FGA and its advocacy arm, the Opportunity Solutions Project (OSP), have deployed 130 lobbyists into 29 state capitols. The group’s parallel efforts to gut public assistance programs (which primarily serve children experiencing poverty and their families), push the long-discredited idea of work requirements for safety net eligibility, and weaken state unemployment benefits illustrate a clear agenda: to ensure that low-wage workers are forced to accept poverty wages or abusive working conditions. More recently, to dilute the political power of voters and lock states in minority rule, the FGA has also waged attacks on our freedom to vote and direct democracy.

            Reflecting on its work during the 2021 legislative session in states across the country, the FGA boasted in its annual report that thanks to the expansion of its “Super State strategy, which involves doubling down in key states to drive national change with big reforms,” Arkansas legislators enacted 48 “FGA reforms,” while Florida had implemented 26 of the organization’s solutions. Just two years later, lawmakers in Arkansas and Florida, in addition to two of the newest FGA Super States, Iowa and Wisconsin, passed bills to weaken child labor protections.

            The FGA and OSP are funded by a number of ultra-wealthy industrialists who have funneled billions into a vast network of organizations to do the bidding of large corporations and conservative extremists. Some known funders of the FGA and OSP are also behind other industry investments to capture judicial and legislative power:

            The similarities between the tactics of modern pro-child labor groups and their forebears are striking: front organizations are financed by a wealthy network of elites to create the pretense of citizen-driven campaigns for policies that make benefactors even more profitable in their industries. When paired with the ongoing crusade to push our democracy, state by state, into crisis, policies designed to enact economic oppression on the most vulnerable workers promise to ensure that the power to hoard wealth and opportunity remains a feature of our nation’s laws for generations to come.

            Federal and State Enforcement Capacity is Insufficient Amidst Increased Violations and Conflicting State Laws

            The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution provides that federal law takes supremacy over conflicting state laws. While states may enact laws that provide legal protections above federal law, they may not lower the “floor” set by federal law. State legislatures have a long tradition of establishing and enforcing higher labor standards for their residents, including establishing some of the country’s first child labor protections a century before the passage of the FLSA.

            States that roll back state child labor standards are actively diminishing their important, long-standing roles in enforcing child labor protections, leaving more and more of the enforcement burden to an already short-staffed federal Department of Labor (DOL) at a time when employer violations are sharply increasing. Weakening state standards signals to unscrupulous employers that child labor violations are less likely than ever to be investigated in a certain state while creating new confusion, even for well-intentioned employers, about what is and is not legal, increasing the likelihood of additional violations.

            During the 2023 legislative session, federal DOL officials responded to a request from Iowa lawmakers regarding a bill (2023 IA SF 542), which has since been enacted into law, to confirm that several provisions were inconsistent with federal law. The DOL more recently alerted employers that they remain legally obligated to comply with federal child labor protections rather than newly enacted and weaker state laws, reminding employers that “[w]here a state child labor law is less restrictive than the federal law, the federal law applies. Where a state child labor law is more restrictive than the federal law, the state law applies.”

            Despite the legal impotence of some provisions contained in new state child labor laws, they are deliberately intended to introduce confusion to the existing regulatory framework, take advantage of a vastly under-resourced and understaffed federal labor enforcement agency, and heighten conflicts between state and federal standards to build a case for lowering standards nationwide. The ultimate goal, as the FGA outlined in a recent report, is to “open the door to federal regulatory reform” by getting “enough states to successfully implement a reform.” 

            In response to an 88% increase in child labor violations since 2019, federal officials have announced new enhanced enforcement efforts and provided additional guidance to local Wage and Hour Division (WHD) offices to ensure full utilization of the agency’s enforcement authority. Still, the WHD recently reported that it lost 12% of its staff between 2010 and 2019 due to its funding remaining flat. In 2019, WHD investigators were responsible for twice as many workers as they were four decades ago, while compliance officers with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were responsible for three times as many workers over the same time period.

            The Realities of the Child Labor Catastrophe

            Proponents of weakening child labor protections frequently trot out feel-good stories suggesting that the rollbacks will open opportunities for teenagers working at the local movie theater or grocery store to save up for a prom dress when, in reality, these types of jobs are already fully legal options for teens as young as 14 in all states. Deregulation is instead aimed at stripping long-standing safety and scheduling standards that protect the health and education of children. Removing these guardrails will have the most dire, life-threatening consequences for children who are working to survive in some of the most dangerous and hidden jobs in our economy. This is made all the more urgent by a recent increase in unaccompanied migrant children driven from their home countries by economic desperation. State legislatures are the most important stopgap today for preventing the continued abuse, serious injury, and death of children in the workplace.

            Compounded by violence and the disastrous effects of climate change, the economic fallout from the pandemic pushed many in Central America into a severe economic crisis. Many families facing extreme hunger and poverty had little choice but to send their children to the U.S. through a narrow opening in an otherwise broken immigration system that, until recently, closed the southern border to unauthorized arrivals and asylum seekers, except for children. 

            Nearly 350,000 unaccompanied children were released by federal officials in a three-year period between 2020 and 2023—almost a 180% increase from the previous three years. Whereas the majority of unaccompanied minors in years past were primarily released to parents already living in the country, today, only one-third are sponsored by parents, with the remainder being sent to relatives, acquaintances, or strangers. Unaccompanied children are held temporarily at shelters under the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) while caseworkers vet sponsors to identify red flags for potential trafficking, such as sponsors that have claimed responsibility for dozens of unrelated children

            About one-third of unaccompanied children who are identified as high-risk continue to receive case management services after release. In most instances, children are released to sponsors with the number of a national hotline and receive a phone call from federal officials within a month of release. In 2022, HHS reported not being able to contact one-third of minors in the month after their release to sponsors, while trafficking reports to the national hotline have increased by 1,300% in just five years. 

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            Child Labor Violations Are Widespread and Largely Unchecked

            The stories gathered from interviews with migrant children themselves, as well as the caseworkers, teachers, and community members around them, all bear strikingly repetitive refrains. Upon arriving in the country alone and without work permits, unaccompanied migrant children, often saddled with debt from their journey and with the obligation to support families back home, inevitably end up filling some of the most undesirable jobs that are often outsourced and persistently vacant due to the refusal of corporations to pay fair wages. These children frequently end up dropping out of school or never enrolling at all.

            Though federal law prohibits children from being employed in many of these roles, employers frequently look the other way, as was in the case of a 13-year-old worker who presented documents that identified them as a 30-year-old. Even when multimillion-dollar corporations are caught in a federal investigation, the maximum civil penalty for child labor violations—less than 1% of the penalty for insider trading—is trivial to those corporations when balanced against the profits generated by ignoring labor protections. Some of the most egregious violations have been at worksites that are within the supply chain of major household brands like Tyson, Hyundai, and General Mills, which are insulated from liability by layers of subcontractors and third-party agencies.

            Over and over, reporters and federal investigators have laid bare the widespread nature of child labor violations in today’s economy. Each story below, alongside many more, shares similar themes of exploitation and willful ignorance by employers, who often face little to no accountability, even in cases involving serious injury or death:

            On its own, the idea of allowing children to work full-time or on graveyard shifts while attending school, to operate dangerous industrial equipment sharp enough to butcher cattle, to work in a bar at the age of 14, to toil in fields while inhaling toxic pesticides at 12, or to handle caustic cleaning solutions while wearing protective gear several sizes too large for less than minimum wage and without oversight is shocking and dangerous. But when taken together with the other priorities of the shadowy network of industry-funded groups that have cloaked their campaign to deregulate child labor as simply a matter of cutting “red tape,” the effort presents an existential threat to the future that most of us envision for our children.

            Given the improbability of federal action on child labor, even in the face of rising violations, new conflicting state laws, and lack of federal enforcement capacity, state lawmakers have a central role to play in protecting the health and safety of children in the workplace. In addition to fighting back against continued child labor rollbacks, legislators can strengthen child labor standards and boost enforcement capacity at the state level.

            The Campaign To Weaken Child Labor Protections

            Since 2021, at least 61 bills to weaken child labor protections have been introduced across 29 states:

            Recent legislation to weaken protections for children in the workforce has generally included some combination of the following provisions.

            See Table 1 for a summary of legislation to weaken child labor protections that have been considered since 2021.

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            Strategies for Organizing Against the Rollback of Child Labor Protections 

            In organizing against the campaign to deregulate child labor, state legislators should consider the following strategies: 

            Table 1. State Child Labor Legislation

            Note: This table summarizes the provisions of state legislation related to child labor identified by the authors as of February 9, 2024. The status of each bill reflected in this table may not reflect its current status.

            Opportunities To Strengthen Child Labor Protections

            State lawmakers have the power to take immediate action to protect young workers against the staggering uptick in child labor violations, especially among children working in dangerous industries. The following sections include examples of provisions that lawmakers may consider in developing a stronger framework for child labor protections in their states, drawn from bills that have been considered at the federal and state levels. In addition to legislation specific to child labor, this section also includes enforcement approaches from other areas of labor law that may be effective against child labor violations.

            See Table 1 for a summary of bills referenced in the following sections, in addition to other bills with similar provisions.

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            Enhancing Labor Protections

            State lawmakers have the power to counteract the spread of child labor deregulation by ensuring that state-level protections continue to prioritize the health, safety, and education of young workers. At a minimum, legislators in states where child labor protections are weaker than the FLSA should raise state standards to align with federal requirements.

            Modernizing Agricultural Labor Protections

            While federal law clearly identifies the certain occupations considered unsafe for children under 18, the law remains extremely weak when it comes to employment in agriculture: even children under the age of 12 can work on farms in certain circumstances. The exclusion of farmworkers from child labor protections, much like the exclusion of farmworkers and domestic workers from other areas of labor and employment law, has deep roots in slavery and subjugation in the name of profit. 

            Much of the progress that has been made to improve conditions for farmworkers, including children, has been the result of decades of sustained organizing by farmworkers and their allies across the country. Some of these efforts have yielded legally binding codes of conduct between farmworkers and employers, which prohibit child labor and provide other important standards for worker safety and dignity. The Fair Food and Milk With Dignity Codes of Conduct are two models; these may offer inspiration for policy change. 

            Lawmakers can bring protections for farmworkers into the 21st century by raising state standards to minimize the risks that children face in agricultural work.

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            Enhancing Enforcement and Penalties

            The growing incidence of egregious child labor violations suggests that existing enforcement mechanisms—and the likelihood that enforcement will occur at all—are insufficient to deter employers from violating the law. For profit-driven corporations, the decision is simple math: one analysis of DOL data found that federal penalties for minimum wage and overtime violations are “often relatively small when weighed against the small probability of detection of the violation for many firms.” In other words, an effective enforcement strategy must consider the cost of noncompliance in addition to maintaining a credible ability to enforce.

            Increasing Penalties

            Research shows that higher penalty amounts are an effective deterrent for labor violations; one study comparing minimum wage violations with state employment laws across all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that “the stronger the state’s employment laws, the lower the incidence of minimum wage violations…states that implemented the strongest penalties—treble damages—experienced statistically significant drops in violation rates.” 

            Enhancing Enforcement

            State lawmakers can also ensure that more employers are compelled to comply with child labor laws by the plausible belief that officials have the capacity to enforce the law. In order to be effective, an enforcement regime must give aggrieved workers the confidence that they will be protected and made whole throughout the process of an investigation.

            Authorizing Enforcement on Behalf of the State

            To add to state enforcement capacity, state legislators can also consider options that empower other entities to carry out enforcement actions on behalf of state officials. As recent reporting on the child labor crisis shows, migrant children and their families, concerned by the looming threat of deportation, are fearful of government officials. However, they may be eligible for programs like the Deferred Action for Labor Enforcement (DALE) program, which provides temporary protection against deportation and work authorization to noncitizen workers who have witnessed or been victims of labor violations.

            As an additional layer of deterrence against the most grievous violations of child labor protections, lawmakers can also ensure that aggrieved children have pathways to seek adequate legal remedies against their employers. 

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            Extending Liability to All Entities That Profit from Child Labor

            The increasingly complex nature of businesses that utilize temporary workers, staffing agencies, contract workers, independent contractors, and other work structure strategies “challenge the nearly century-old workplace policies built around direct, bilateral employment relationships.” Federal employment law generally holds that more than one entity may be held responsible as joint employers for the purposes of labor violations. In announcing its Interagency Child Labor Task Force, the DOL recently signaled that its enhanced enforcement efforts would apply scrutiny to violations committed by entities within an employer’s supply chain, including contractors or staffing agencies. At the state level, legislators can extend liability to include the most powerful and well-resourced entities that have escaped accountability.

            Establishing Public Procurement Requirements

            State lawmakers can also amend public procurement processes to require strict compliance with child labor protections by government contractors and their supply chains.

            Supporting Education, Outreach, and Coordination of Services

            Adequate enforcement of any labor law requires that workers are supported with knowledge that empowers them to exercise their rights. In the case of children, who are new to the workforce and may be unaware of their rights under child labor laws, education and outreach efforts can yield long-term benefits in a workforce well-versed in their rights. States can also fill a critical role by identifying service gaps that exist for children vulnerable to labor exploitation, especially migrant children and children in families with language or literacy barriers. 

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            Industry-driven attacks on child labor standards rely on a false narrative that children universally have the opportunity to “choose” a job where they can learn important lessons for adulthood and “sock away” savings in a Roth IRA. And yet, that narrative couldn’t be further from reality for the children who would be most affected by the deregulation of child labor. As recent reporting and data show, the children most subject to child labor violations have no good choices; they have only the choice to survive.

            Trapped in the jaws of our nation’s profit-driven economy and brutally inhumane immigration system, both designed by a relentless corporate lobbying machine that has captured statehouses and courts, migrant children are pushed into the shadows where they are exploited without recourse. In some of the most shocking investigations, employers receive a slap on the wrist, if any at all, and continue operating with their reputations and profit margins intact. Even in cases of injury and death, these children’s families are not afforded the dignity of any measure of accountability or care. 

            In defending against the corporate conspiracy to deregulate child labor, state legislators should be clear that the campaign is just one piece of a massive and generational project to remake the economy into one that gives corporations license to extract exorbitant profits from increasingly unregulated and dangerous child labor. Other critical pieces of the destructive plan seek to eviscerate the social safety net to ensure that workers have no choice when faced with unsafe and abusive working conditions; to dismantle critical institutions like public schools by robbing taxpayer coffers to pay for colossal corporate tax subsidies; and by demonizing and punishing immigrants, to create a class of workers who suffer violations in silence for fear of deportation and family separation.

            Additional Resources

            Economic Policy Institute

            Migration Policy Institute


            A special thank you to Jenn Round, the Director of Beyond the Bill at the Workplace Justice Lab@Rutgers University, for her insightful comments and valuable improvements to this publication.

            A State Legislator's Guide to Direct Pay: Building Jobs & Sustainable Public Energy

            A State Legislator's Guide to Direct Pay: Building Jobs & Sustainable Public Energy

            Solar Panels 2 1 scaled e1701721940181Executive Summary

            The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes Direct Pay tax credits that have the potential to bring nearly unlimited funding for clean energy projects into the communities that need them most. Direct Pay tax credits will radically expand publicly owned energy, support communities transitioning away from polluting energy sources, generate affordable—and potentially free—electricity, and create good jobs for local communities. This guide is designed to help state lawmakers seize this historic opportunity for their communities through: 
            1. Community education and outreach: State legislators are trusted messengers who can spread the word about this opportunity to local governments, community organizations, and other eligible entities within their state. 
            2. Implementation: State legislators can ensure that the state government enthusiastically implements the IRA and secures Direct Pay funding for their state by implementing eligible projects across all levels of state government. 
            3. Funding and policy making: State legislators can help other eligible entities like local governments and nonprofits implement Direct Pay projects by providing matching funds, creating revolving funds or low/no-interest loans, creating technical assistance programs, and building in policy incentives to increase equity and protect workers within Direct Pay programs in the state. 
            Direct Pay tax credits are available to tax-exempt entities like state governments, local governments, schools, hospitals, public utilities, houses of worship, and nonprofit organizations for the first time ever. Direct Pay tax credits can fund a wide range of renewable energy projects like solar arrays, wind turbines, electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, and storage resources like batteries. Every project that meets the Direct Pay requirements will receive the tax credit, so communities can implement project after project without competing for limited and dwindling funds. However, it will take robust leadership from state-level elected champions to fully realize this opportunity. State governments can receive Direct Pay tax credits, which can provide significant funding for state-owned green energy projects and can be used on an uncapped number of qualifying projects. In addition, state governments have a critical role to play in ensuring that state residents understand this opportunity and have the knowledge, financing, and technical support needed to seize this opportunity through policies like grants, revolving funds, and technical assistance. This guide is intended for state governments to use and to better understand how to use Direct Pay to help expand resilient, sustainable energy, lower energy costs, take action on the climate crisis, and create good-paying local jobs.



            About Direct Pay

            For the first time ever, thanks to the IRA, the federal government will give tax-free direct cash funding to tax-exempt entities like state governments, local governments, schools, hospitals, public utilities, houses of worship, and nonprofit organizations to build renewable energy projects like solar arrays, wind turbines, EV charging infrastructure, and storage resources like batteries. This provisioncalled Direct Pay, or sometimes Elective Paygives tax-free cash payments from the IRS. These Direct Pay tax credits create an opportunity to radically expand publicly owned energy, support communities transitioning away from polluting energy sources, generate affordable—and potentially free—electricity, and create good jobs for local communities.

            Understanding the Funding Available Through Direct Pay

            The funding available through Direct Pay can be unlimited! Direct Pay funds come in the form of refundable tax credits. Since eligible entities like state governments are tax-exempt, the tax credits are cash payments from the federal government and are paid directly to the eligible entity once the project begins generating energy. The credits last until 2032, and once the IRS determines that the project qualifies, the eligible entity will receive direct tax-free funds covering 30% to 70% of the project costs or an amount for each kilowatt generated. Every project that completes a pre-filing process and meets the IRS’ requirements will get Direct Pay funds. Projects that meet worker protection standards, buy American-made materials, and support communities with the greatest need will also qualify for more funding.  The state governments, cities, counties, nonprofit organizations, and other eligible entities can all access this funding simultaneously and do not need to compete with each other for it. Eligible entities are not limited in the number of eligible projects they can undertake. For example, state governments could put solar panels on state-owned buildings, invest in EV charging infrastructure for state fleets, and create a program to build state-owned solar panels and wind turbines in communities across the state. Each of these projects would be eligible for Direct Pay funding once completed, and there is no limit to the number of eligible projects that the state could complete. 

            Expanding Racial and Economic Justice Through Direct Pay 

            Creating Good Green Jobs

            Eligible entities can maximize economic justice for working people by meeting the IRA’s requirements to pay workers a prevailing wage and use registered apprentices on projects so workers get the training they need to build careers. State and local governments can also ensure their projects create safe, high-quality jobs and that projects stay on time and budget by using union labor. State governments can also maximize their impact on economic justice by attaching additional worker protection requirements for Direct Pay-eligible projects that receive state grants or state technical assistance. See the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center’s (CPCC) FAQs on How to Protect Direct Pay Project Workers and Guide to IRA Worker Protection Requirements for more information. 

            Lowering Energy Burdens

            In addition to creating good green jobs, states can use Direct Pay to increase economic and racial justice by lowering the burden of high energy costs on low-income households. Twenty-five percent of all U.S. households struggle with a high energy burden (i.e., spend more than 6% of their income on energy bills), and 67% of low-income households face a high energy burden. Black households have a 43% higher rate of energy burden compared to non-Hispanic white households. Native American households face a 45% higher burden, and Hispanic households face a 20% higher burden than non-Hispanic white households. Renters and older people also face disproportionate burdens. Publicly owned clean energy infrastructure can play a critical role in lowering energy costs for households struggling to afford to heat and cool their homes because publicly owned energy can serve the public interest rather than shareholder profits, keeping costs down.  

            Addressing Environmental Racism

            Governments can maximize racial justice by taking on projects that serve the communities that have been hardest hit by racist policies, fossil fuel extraction, and pollution. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are more likely to live in communities with high pollution burden, that are near dirty power plants, or that are facing catastrophic harm in the climate crisis. For example, the American Lung Association found that people of color are 3.7 times more likely than white people to live in a county with high levels of air pollution. People of color are also disproportionately likely to live in areas affected by heat or flooding and work in occupations where they are exposed to toxic conditions. A rapid and just green energy transition is critical to achieving racial justice. The unprecedented funding offered by Direct Pay is a critical opportunity to begin investing in the communities that have borne the greatest burden under the current extractive energy economy. For example, a state government might build publicly owned resilient power in communities prone to blackouts and outages. Similarly, a state government could build publicly owned utility-scale renewable energy projects to transition away from coal-fired power plants, install community solar for public housing units, or install public EV charging stations in frontline communities. 

            Redressing Redlining and Bluelining

            Environmental racism subjects communities of color to higher rates of toxic exposure and climate risk. Decades of disinvestment and racist policies like redlining also mean that these same communities are more likely to need help securing the up-front funding to pay for green energy projects. The impact of disinvestment and redlining is magnified in many communities by bluelining and systematic financial discrimination against communities because of perceived environmental risk. This financial discrimination could prevent communities of color and low-income communities from securing the financial resources to build clean energy infrastructure and benefit from the green energy economy. State governments can play an important role in ensuring an equitable implementation of Direct Pay by creating grant programs or revolving funds that provide no-cost or low-cost funding for green energy projects, especially by reserving funding for projects serving communities of color and other environmental justice communities. 

            Centering Community Voices

            Direct Pay is a perfect opportunity to engage directly with frontline communities so that state-run and state-funded projects reflect the needs and demands of communities themselves. Governments can also prioritize workers of color when hiring for Direct Pay project jobs. Tools like pre-hire collective bargaining agreements can include hiring targets for workers of color, women, workers with disabilities, or veterans. These agreements bring jobs to target communities and shrink racial and gender pay disparities. 

            The Role for State Elected Champions

            State-level elected champions can help their communities seize this historic opportunity in three key ways
            1. Community education and outreach: State legislators are important and trusted messengers who can spread the word about this opportunity to local governments, community organizations, and other eligible entities within their state. 
            2. Implementation: State legislators can ensure that the state government enthusiastically implements the IRA and pursues Direct Pay projects across the state government and state agencies. 
            3. Funding and policy making: State legislators can use their policy-making function to help other eligible entities implement Direct Pay projects by providing matching funds, creating revolving funds or low/no-interest loans, creating technical assistance programs, and building in incentives to increase equity and protect workers within Direct Pay programs in the state. 

            Community Education and Outreach 

            Many eligible entities are unaware of the Direct Pay provision in the IRA and its potential to create good green union jobs, lower energy costs, clean up our air and water, and more. State legislators are trusted messengers who can help spread the word about this opportunity to city and county governments and other eligible entities among their constituencies, including school districts, public universities, nonprofit hospitals, houses of worship, and nonprofit community organizations. Opportunities to spread the word about Direct Pay include:
            • Host a town hall or public meeting on Direct Pay opportunities in your community.
            • Host a meeting with city and county officials, school board members, key community groups, and leaders of key anchor institutions in your district, such as large public universities, nonprofit hospitals, and school districts, to encourage them to take action with Direct Pay.
            • Host a meeting with utilities serving your district to encourage them to actively support Direct Pay projects by making interconnection agreements simple and equitable.
            • Host a meeting with local community foundations and other local philanthropists to encourage them to offer grants and funding to support the construction of Direct Pay projects by small eligible entities. 
            • Share information about Direct Pay on social media. 

            Sample Direct Pay Communications Materials

            • The CPCC has created a partner toolkit on Direct Pay that includes sample messaging, sample social media posts, shareable graphics, and a shareable video explaining Direct Pay. 
            • CPCC has created a sample presentation on Direct Pay that you are free to use without attribution or adapt for your purposes however you see fit. 

            State Implementation 

            State governments and state agencies are eligible entities under the Direct Pay provisions. The scale of projects possible at the state level helps ensure that the promise of the IRA is made real.  Example state-level sustainable Direct Pay projects:
            • A state implements a 100% clean energy plan or other climate action plan and uses Direct Pay to supplement the cost of implementing widespread clean energy projects across the state. According to the Initiative for Energy Justice’s Environmental Justice Scorecard, New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (SB 6599) and Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (SB 5116) reflected more environmental justice principles in the creation, implementation, and design of their programs than most existing state 100% clean energy plans. Many of the plans envisioned in these laws would now qualify (at least in part) for Direct Pay tax credits. 
            • A state uses Direct Pay to supplement the cost of electrifying the state fleet through building out solar-powered EV charging infrastructure for state-owned and -operated vehicles. Oregon, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Washington have announced plans to electrify state fleets. Today, building EV charging infrastructure as part of those plans would be eligible for Direct Pay tax credits, and many other parts of the IRA include funding for clean vehicles that could further supplement these plans. 
            • A school district in Batesville, Arkansas, installed solar panels and made its buildings more energy efficient, saving nearly $300,000 per year. The district then used the money saved to raise teacher pay. Today, adding solar panels to school buildings or other state-, city-, or county-owned buildings would also qualify for a Direct Pay tax credit, reducing the cost of the initial investment and creating even more savings that can be applied to teacher pay or other critical community priorities.
            • A state puts solar panels on state-owned buildings from the state house to state agencies, creating good green jobs and lowering energy costs for the state. States can add solar, wind, or other clean energy infrastructure to state-owned buildings directly and claim Direct Pay tax credits or create grant programs to add clean energy infrastructure to other publicly owned buildings. 
            • A state housing agency updates public housing and affordable housing units, including adding rooftop solar to lower energy costs. For example, investments in public housing such as the Massachusetts’ Affordable Homes Act could be expanded using Direct Pay.
            • A state supports state-funded schools to transition to electric buses by matching federal funds to transition local bus fleets and building solar-powered charging stations on school property. For example, Delaware and Maryland are among the states that are moving toward school bus electrification. The school system saves money and reduces dangerous diesel emissions that put our kids at risk. The school system would be able to claim a reimbursement for up to 70% of total project costs with Direct Pay credits for building EV charging stations and solar panels to help offset the costs of transitioning the school bus fleet and could match that with other federal funding for the purchase of electric vehicles.
            • A state builds publicly owned utility-scale renewable energy projects on state-owned land, including Brownfield land or equity-focused community solar projects, and uses that clean energy to transition away from coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. 

            State Policy, Funding, and Incentives  

            Eligible entities will face a number of challenges in seizing the Direct Pay opportunity, including navigating an unfamiliar process with the IRS, planning and implementing sometimes complex energy projects, and finding the up-front capital to cover the cost of construction and bridge the difference between project costs and the portion eligible for Direct Pay funds. State legislators have a central role in ensuring that their communities can fully embrace this opportunity to take urgent action on the climate crisis, lower energy costs, clean up our air and water, and create good-paying green jobs.  Beyond ensuring that state governments implement Direct Pay-eligible programs, state legislators have the opportunity to help other eligible entities make the benefits of the IRA real in their communities by using state funding and state policymaking tools to help other entities access Direct Pay tax credits. Policies like those that call for 100% sustainable energy by 2030 create the demand and market assurance necessary to fully maximize the benefits of the IRA, but only if they are created and implemented with a central focus on improving life for communities on the frontlines of the extractive energy economy and the climate crisis. This must include community participation in the lawmaking and implementation process and significant, measurable, and enforceable programs designed to restore the communities that have been most harmed.  Providing matching funding will be especially critical for communities with the least access to resources, including frontline and fenceline communities, communities of color, communities transitioning away from extractive economies, rural communities, and low-income communities. Below, we outline some possible examples of Direct Pay financing. We plan to update this when we have more information from the federal government. 

            Funding for Direct Pay Projects

            While Direct Pay tax credits can provide substantial funding for renewable energy, these projects will need additional funds to cover the full project completion costs. Eligible entities will have to cover the cost of project construction before they receive the tax credit. Depending on the exact Direct Pay tax credit, the payment will either be disbursed as a one-time credit covering between 6% and 70% of total project costs when the project is completed or as a payment based on electricity production over ten years. To learn more about the structure of the specific tax credits, see the CPCC’s in-depth explanation of how the investment tax credit (ITC), the production tax credit (PTC), and other bonus credits work here. The Center for Public Enterprise has produced a financial model that makes it possible to compare the ITC and the PTC for a planned project.   Many under-resourced communities must raise funds to complete a project before Direct Pay funding is available, which poses a significant obstacle. Access to reliable public funding to match federal funds is necessary for many communities to access the benefits of Direct Pay, or they may be vulnerable to predatory lending. State governments can dramatically increase the reach of the Direct Pay tax credits by providing direct funding through grants and by helping local governments and other eligible entities find safe, reliable, and low-cost financing options that do not undermine the public nature of the ownership of these new sustainable energy generation assets.  State funding for Direct Pay-eligible projects increases equity and justice in implementation by adding additional incentives or requirements to target funds toward projects that create good local union jobs and projects that serve frontline communities. The federal government set the floor with the IRA. Now, state legislators can break through the ceiling in achieving maximized benefits for vulnerable communities, the environment, and workers. For example, it is critical to prioritize projects that include community input and reflect community demands rather than simply defining projects by geography, which may unintentionally result in funding projects that disempower or further harm frontline communities.  For more information on how to define environmental justice communities in order to prioritize funding for the communities that have been harmed the most, see the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund’s report on defining environmental justice communities in policy Truly just and equitable implementation of Direct Pay will only be possible if policymakers ensure that frontline communities have access to nonpredatory funding. State policymakers can play a critical role in expanding access to Direct Pay in a number of ways, including: 

            Direct State Funding

            States can appropriate funding for grants to local governments or other eligible entities to cover the up-front costs of projects. States can maximize equity and justice in implementation by requiring projects that receive state funds to meet higher labor and community benefit standards. Additionally, they can prioritize grants for the communities that need them most, such as frontline communities and communities of color.  For example, several states have implemented grant programs to fund clean energy projects. Washington State’s Department of Commerce provides grants for school sustainability, and Minnesota has proposed a grant program to support the installation of solar panels on public buildings. Minnesota also established a state competitiveness grant fund to award grants to local and tribal governments, utilities, nonprofits, and other eligible entities when they required matching funds to access IRA funds. This type of state grant program is critical because it allows local governments or community nonprofits to finance their projects, and Direct Pay ensures that state funds go further. 

            State Revolving Funds

            To maximize state funds, states could provide funding in the form of a no- or low-cost loan from a revolving fund. While there is not a federally created revolving fund for clean energy, states can establish their own revolving funds to finance clean energy projects. Direct Pay makes those revolving funds considerably less risky, as eligible entities will have a head start on repayment with their Direct Pay reimbursement funds. A no- or low-cost revolving loan fund could work as follows:
            1. A state establishes a no- or low-cost revolving loan fund for local governments, tribal governments, and nonprofit entities within the state. States can add additional worker protections, community participation, and targeting for projects serving the hardest hit communities to the loan fund.
            2. Eligible entities apply to the state for a loan and use the loan funds to complete their project.
            3. The eligible entity pre-files with the IRS once their project is near completion and then applies for Direct Pay tax credits once their project is completed.
            4. The eligible entity receives their Direct Pay funds from the IRS and can apply that toward repaying their loan to the state.
            5. The state reinvests in the next eligible project. 
            Many states already have an energy loan fund that supports the generation of clean energy projects or energy retrofits within the state. These loan funds could be expanded or modified to create more opportunities to fund Direct Pay-eligible projects and accelerate the clean energy economy. For example, Texas’ LoanSTAR Revolving Loan Fund currently supports energy efficiency retrofits but could be easily expanded to include Direct Pay-eligible EV charging stations and energy generation projects like rooftop solar or wind turbines.

            State and Municipal Bonds for Matching Funds

            States, cities, and other government entities can authorize the use of bonds to cover the costs of Direct Pay-eligible projects. States can use bonds to fund state-owned Direct Pay projects or authorize bonds to collectively fund smaller projects at the local level. More information on using bonds for renewable energy is available in the Department of Energy bond resource guide for state and local officials. In 2024, California voters will vote on a ballot measure to authorize $15.5 billion in bonds to finance projects for climate resilience, extreme heat mitigation, and clean energy programs, including a $500 million appropriation to the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission for grants to assist in obtaining or receiving a state match to regional hubs for IRA funds. In addition to securing federal grant funds, many of the projects financed by this bond, if it passes, may be eligible for Direct Pay. 

            State Green Banks

            Some states have Green Banks, which are financial institutions designed to lower energy costs and encourage the construction of sustainable energy infrastructure by blending public and private capital and financing a broad range of sustainable energy projects. While “Green Bank” is often used as an umbrella term for many types of public-private partnerships that finance sustainable energy projects, the IRA contains specific requirements for Green Banks to be able to receive funding. Many states already have established some form of Green Bank, but some are still creating theirs or are still working to meet the new Green Bank requirements in the IRA. 

            Using Other Federal Funding Sources

            In some cases, eligible entities will be able to further supplement Direct Pay funding by using other sources of funding in the IRA (for example, using grant funding for rural electric co-ops) or using funding from other federal programs such as funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or remaining American Rescue Plan funding.  

            Going Beyond the Worker Protection Requirements in the IRA

            State funding and state technical assistance programs offer an opportunity to support community uptake of Direct Pay, go beyond the IRA labor requirements, and impose additional protections as a condition of receiving state funds. For example, a state revolving fund to support renewable energy programs could require that programs that receive the state matching funds use union labor. Similarly, state funding could be contingent on the use of pre-hire agreements like local hire programs, Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), Community Workforce Agreements (CWAs), and Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs). It is critical that any state incentives or requirements include strong community input and strong enforcement mechanisms. For more information, please see the CPCC’s Guide to IRA Worker Protection Requirements and FAQs on How to Protect Direct Pay Project Workers States have a critical role to play in supporting workforce development efforts to build the diverse skilled workforce needed to fully embrace a green energy economy. In addition to the jobs created by the IRA and the growth in green energy infrastructure, more than 1.7 million workers are expected to retire over the next decade. Black, Latino, Native, and Asian individuals, and women are dramatically underrepresented in these growing fields, and state agencies must help build inclusive and equitable workforce development programs. The National Skills Coalition has published a report with recommendations for states in building a just workforce development plan.

            Technical Assistance and Coordination 

            States can maximize the number of eligible entities that can access Direct Pay by coordinating technical assistance programs. Creating programs that will qualify for the Direct Pay provisions often requires specialized planning, including conducting an energy audit, creating an interconnection agreement with a utility, and more. Many smaller nonprofit organizations, local governments, and communities that have been systematically excluded, like low-income communities and communities of color, will need help. 

            Technical Assistance

            State governments can reduce barriers by funding technical assistance that could include:
            • Public information campaigns about the opportunity 
            • Free energy audits 
            • Hands-on support in planning projects 
            • Support in creating interconnection agreements 
            • Help finding reputable high-road union contractors 
            • Support in completing pre-filing paperwork and IRS documentation. By definition, eligible entities do not usually file complex taxes with the IRS and may lack information and experience in navigating the process. 
            Some states have established technical assistance programs to support their state’s access to IRA funds. For example, Washington established a statewide Building Energy Upgrade Navigator Program to support building owners in accessing electrification and energy efficiency services, with specific priority for low-income households, vulnerable populations, and overburdened communities. Washington also appropriated $2.5 million to support activities related to securing federal funds, including funding to help community-based organizations, local governments, and ports in overburdened communities apply for financial resources.  State-funded technical assistance programs can help increase equity with implementation efforts. Communities of color that have experienced high levels of contamination, communities transitioning away from extractive industries, tribal governments, rural communities, and other communities facing systemic exclusion are more likely to struggle to secure the up-front capital necessary to complete a Direct Pay-eligible project. State-funded technical assistance programs targeted to communities that need them most can ensure that all communities have equitable access to the benefits of the Direct Pay tax credits, including cleaner air and water, new green energy jobs, and lower energy costs.

            State Direct Pay Coordination Program

            Centralizing efforts within a state-run program or with a cross-agency coordinator can help maximize Direct Pay programs that would actively identify possible Direct Pay projects and build them using the state as the eligible entity. A state entity could actively search out Direct Pay-eligible opportunities within communities and build the projects directly (for example, put solar panels on all the schools in a local school district, perform energy retrofits on nonprofit-owned affordable housing units, or build utility-scale solar farms on Brownfield land). If the state retained ownership of the energy-generating facility, the state should claim the credit directly and lift the burden of paperwork from the smaller eligible entity. If the smaller entity plans to retain ownership of the energy-generating facility, the state could still carry out the project and receive funding by creating a side agreement with the eligible entity to transfer the credit to the state in exchange for the state completing the process.  Either of these models would streamline the need for many smaller governments and nonprofit organizations to take on the administrative burdens of designing and building eligible programs and navigating the process to receive the tax credit. These types of programs would be embedded within a relevant state agency such as a state department of energy and would need to work closely with local communities to identify projects that reflect community needs, desires, and priorities. This type of approach requires a larger commitment from state champions, but it could significantly increase the speed at which projects could be implemented, reduce administrative burdens on other eligible entities, and allow the state to prioritize projects that serve historically excluded communities. 

            Further Resources

            The Congressional Progressive Caucus Center will provide regular updates and further resources on Direct Pay. You can sign up for CPCC updates, including invitations to webinars, technical assistance to help your community get Direct Pay funds, resources to build support for Direct Pay projects, and more. You can also find additional materials, like FAQs on Direct Pay, on the CPCC’s website. You can also request technical assistance on a Direct Pay project through the CPCC’s website by filling out our technical assistance intake form The State Innovation Exchange (SiX) exists to advance a bold, people-centered policy vision in every state in this nation by helping vision-aligned state legislators succeed after they are elected. If you are working to strengthen our democracy, fight for working families, advance reproductive freedom, defend civil rights and liberties, or protect the environment, reach out to to learn more about SiX’s tailored policy, communications, and strategy support and how to join a network of like-minded state legislators from across the country. For a constantly updated roundup of resources on the Inflation Reduction Act, Direct Pay, and equitable implementation strategies, please visit the Direct Pay master resources list


            A joint publication from:

            CPCC LogoSIXlogo horizontal RGB highres

            Fractured: Stories From a Post-Roe America

            Fractured: Stories From a Post-Roe America

            A new series coming June 24, 2023 chronicles the experiences of state legislators from across the country as they fight to defend abortion rights and expand access for all Americans.

            Fractured: Stories From a Post-Roe America
            Fractured follows state legislators from across the country as they fight to defend abortion rights and expand access for all Americans after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade

            American Responsibility to Afghan Refugees

            After twenty years of war in Afghanistan—after 800,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, after 20,744 American service members were injured, and after 2,461 American personnel were lost—President Biden refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight in a war that should have ended long ago. We must continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid while also supporting Afghan families seeking refuge here. 

            Here are some ways to use your power as a legislator to advocate for Afghan families seeking refuge. 

            Examples of state legislation to support Afghan and other refugees:

            Speak out

            Redistricting and Public Health

            Redistricting reforms will be considered by state legislators across the country in several states in the Fall of 2021, including Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. Unfair redistricting practices such as gerrymandering exacerbate disparities in public health outcomes, while fair and equitable redistricting has the potential to help communities better address inequities in public health, including reproductive and maternal health and wellbeing. 

            The Impact of Redistricting on Public Health 

            Fair, transparent, and accountable redistricting led by independent commissions ensures more equitable representation in state legislatures and increases the likelihood that public health concerns (physical, environmental, and social) are addressed with policy solutions. 

            This is particularly important for communities of color, who, due to systemic and structural racism, experience greater disparities in public health outcomes (including mental and physical health during and after pregnancy) than white communities.

            Legislatures created with gerrymandered maps allow legislators to pass policy that the majority of their constituents do not support- including policies that can cause significant public health harm such as restrictions on abortion care and contraceptive access.

            Gerrymandering keeps conservative politicians in power and hinders the ability of states to expand Medicaid. Communities of color are underrepresented in state legislatures (and Congress) due to gerrymandering and deliberate voter suppression. Medicaid expansion is associated with improvements in health outcomes, mortality rates, lower rates of housing evictions, lower rates of medical debt, and higher rates of financial wellbeing. 

            Prison gerrymandering—the counting of incarcerated individuals in the county where they are imprisoned rather than their home communities—impacts representation, power building, and community funding, and disportionately affects communities of color who are incarcerated at higher rates due to the discriminatory judicial system. For example, the Wisconsin legislature's refusal to switch to vote by mail in the midst of the 2020 COVID pandemic resulted in long, crowded, lines and increased risk of voter exposure to infection.

            The Impact of Public Health on Redistricting

            The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the 2020 census...which has delayed the redistricting cycle. 

            Delaying the map-drawing process could mean that new maps are not ready before legislative elections in some states, such as Virginia. Delayed maps may force other states, such as Texas, to address redistricting during special sessions. Special sessions have less oversight and increase the risk of unfair maps being drawn. 

            Digital Tips: Smartphone Photography

            As state legislators, you juggle many hats, and sometimes have to be your own photographer.

            These five tips will help you capture high-resolution photos using your smartphone:

            Smartphone Photography Tips

            1) Avoid zooming; instead, move closer to the subject. Most smartphones have a "digital zoom" that enlarges the image artificially, which decreases the resolution. The more you zoom in, the more resolution you lose. So when it's safe to step closer, move towards your subject rather than pressing zoom.

            Split-photo of lifesaver ring; on the left side, the photo is low-resolution. On the right side, the photo is high-resolution.
            Example: The photo on the left was taken approximately 40 feet away, using the iPhone 7's digital zoom. The photo on the right was taken from about 5 feet away, using no zoom. Notice the difference in photo quality.

            2) Stabilize your shot with a tripod or by simply leaning up against a wall.

            3) Hold down the shutter button until the photo is complete. If you move your finger away too quickly, the image may be blurry. On an iPhone, you can reduce motion by using the volume controls instead of the shutter button.

            4) Find the best lit setting for the photo. Most smartphones can take pictures in low-light conditions, but the photo's quality will suffer as a result. Where possible, use a window or the sun as your primary light source. Generally, you should not shoot facing the main light source. (That's why sunset pics are so hard to nail!) Instead, position the light source behind the person shooting the picture. 

            5) Finally, don't text that photo! Ever wondered why pictures you receive via text message look grainy? The likely culprit isn't the phone itself but the method used to send the photo. Most text messaging apps highly compress images sent via cellular networks. (The same issue holds for videos.)

            Instead of texting, save the photo to Google Drive, Dropbox, SendAnywhere, or your preferred file storage or photo app, and then share the link with others. You can also use AirDrop or e-mail, but be careful: some e-mail programs also significantly compress images.  

            With all that being said, rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes, the best photos are unintentional or gloriously blurry. But when you're taking a professional picture for use in press, print, or the web, be sure to reference the recommendations above.

            Fighting Back Against Anti-Trans Legislation

            Anti-transgender lawmakers set records this year with their harmful and hateful legislations: thirty-three states introduced more than 100 anti-transgender rights bills across the country.

            SiX convened a panel with Colorado Rep. Brianna Titone, Dominique Morgan (Black & Pink), and Corinne Green (Equality Federation) to discuss how state legislators can fight differently and fight better against anti-trans legislation.

            Q&A: Fight Better Against Anti-Trans Bills

            What SCOTUS’s Latest Blow to Voting Rights Means for States

            The Supreme Court has dramatically weakened one of the remaining, most vital tools we have to defend and advance multi-racial democracy in America: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

            In today’s 6-3 decision, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court held that two Arizona voting laws that disproportionately disenfranchise Latino, Black, and Native voters do not violate the Voting Rights Act. While the Court did not eviscerate Section 2 wholesale, as many feared, it imposed stricter standards for evaluating future voting rights claims. Moving forward, it will be significantly harder to challenge and overturn racially discriminatory voting laws in federal courts – including the wave of anti-voter bills enacted in 2021.

            To help unpack the details of the case, check out pieces from The Guardian, Election Law Blog, Vox, and Slate. You can read the Court’s opinion here, including Justice Kagan’s powerful dissent (starting on p. 45).

            Why the Brnovich decision matters for states

            Our democracy is at a turning point. In 2021 alone, conservative legislators in nearly every state have introduced over 400 anti-voter bills in a coordinated, national strategy to win elections for the Right. This wave of laws poses an alarming threat to our freedom to vote and intentionally silences the voices of voters of color, young voters, low-income voters, and new Americans. With Republicans in control of 61 of 98 state legislative chambers, there is no end in sight to the assault on our democracy.

            The Supreme Court already struck down the Voting Rights Act’s crucial preclearance requirement in Shelby v. Holder (2013), and the For The People Act – which would create national standards for voting – is being blocked by conservatives in Congress. By narrowing the application of Section 2 in Brnovich v. DNC, the court damaged one of the last, most vital tools we have to defend and advance multi-racial democracy in America.

            In his majority opinion, Justice Alito endorsed conservative state legislators’ baseless lies and policies on election fraud, noting that a state “may take action to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur within its own borders” – even if those laws discriminate against Black and Brown voters. SCOTUS’s nod to a known conservative strategy – invoke fraud to deny our freedom to vote – makes the threat to our democracy even more urgent. 

            What To Do

            State legislatures are the key battlegrounds to protect the freedom to vote. Absent federal legislation, it's crucial that legislators in every state step up. Following the Brnovich decision, legislators can:

            1. Review and strengthen your state’s voting rights protections and legal remedies (like Virginia just did in passing their own voting rights act this year, and as Campaign Legal Center’s report recommends);
            2. Speak boldly about protecting the freedom to vote (using these messaging resources);
            3. Connect directly with your constituents on voting rights (like these legislators in North Carolina and Florida);
            4. Collaborate with your caucuses to advance a cohesive pro-voter and defensive democracy strategy, well in advance of the 2022 legislative season;
            5. Make every effort to engage communities directly in the 2021 redistricting process to ensure political maps are fair and representative (as we discussed in a recent webinar); and,
            6. Advocate for national standards for voting, redistricting, and campaigns proposed in The For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

            Additional Information on the Case

            The Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decision substantially narrows Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act – one of the last remaining tools Americans have to fight racial discrimination in voting.

            In 2016, the Democratic Party challenged two Arizona voting laws as racially discriminatory under Section 2 of the VRA and the 15th Amendment. Section 2 enables voters to dispute policies that disproportionately prevent minority voters from casting ballots and electing representatives of their choice. The two Arizona policies in question barred mail ballot collection by anyone other than a voter’s immediate family, and required election officials to discard all ballots cast by voters in the wrong precinct. 

            While Section 2 has been primarily used to defend against racial gerrymanders and minority “vote dilution,” this section has become much more important for election policy cases after SCOTUS halted the VRA’s preclearance requirements in Shelby v. Holder (2013). Before Shelby, places with histories of racial discimination in elections had to preclear all voting policy changes with the federal government before going into effect. In fact, Arizona’s ballot collection policy in question in Brnovich was effectively blocked by preclearance in 2011.

            In January 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that – in Arizona’s context – ballot collection and out-of-precinct voting restrictions have discriminatory impacts on Native, Latino and Black voters in violation of Section 2. Native Arizona voters who live far away from precincts and mailboxes are much more likely to rely on community ballot collection than White voters. Native, Latino, and Black Arizonans are also much more likely to move residences and to have their precincts relocated than White voters. The Ninth Circuit also found evidence that the ballot collection law was purposefully enacted to target minority voters.

            Arizona Republicans petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the case, and conservatives nationwide urged the Court to limit the application of Section 2 going forward. Amid an unprecedented wave of racialized, anti-voter laws, Brnovich v. DNC further restricts options for protecting voting rights in America. And it could reshape our democracy for years to come. For additional background on Brnovich, check out resources from The Brennan Center and Harvard Law School.

            Digital Tips: Using Instagram Highlights

            This resource is adapted from our Digital Tips e-mail series. To sign up to receive these resources in your inbox regularly, join our network.

            Did you know you can see how many people visit your Instagram profile each month? Every visitor may not opt to follow your Instagram, but each visit is a valuable chance to introduce yourself to constituents and shed light on your current priorities.

            Instagram Stories Highlights are an easy way to ensure new visitors can easily find updates about you and your work. You can use Instagram Stories Highlights to highlight legislative updates, break down important issues, and share your personal story.

            Screenshot of Kansas Rep. Haswood's Instagram Stories Highlights
            Kansas Rep. Haswood's Instagram Story Highlights

            Below, find three steps to create a quick Instagram Highlight. I did all of the following steps on my iPhone 7 in a few minutes. 

            Creating a quick Instagram Highlight 

            1. Find visuals: Start with an app like Unsplash (also available on desktop) to find free, high-quality photos related to the theme of your Instagram Story. 

            If the subject matter is difficult or inappropriate to visualize, use a photo of your legislature instead, or search "texture" on Unsplash to find an abstract background.

            2. Create the first Story: In the first Story, add a photo and a large title to introduce the topic.

            Instagram Stories Example

            3. Add details in consecutive Stories: You can use the same background photo or a different one in the next set of stories. Break up your explanatory text across multiple stories, so the information is not overwhelming. And always provide context: keep in mind that visitors to your profile may be entirely new to the issue you're discussing or even to how a state legislature works.

            If you'd rather create a selfie video instead of using text, go for it! Just be sure to add captions, which can be auto-generated within Instagram Stories

            Use emojis and GIFs to help illustrate the information, but don't go overboard. (Tip: You can paste in any photo or GIF from your phone to Instagram Stories!)

            Instagram Stories example

            4. Create the Highlight: After posting your Story, you can easily create an Instagram Highlight. Then, give the Highlight a short title and "cover." or thumbnail.

            Instagram Highlights demo
            After posting your Instagram Story, you can add it to your Instagram Highlights

            Free Downloads

            Here's a little help to get started: download one of SiX's Instagram Stories templates and use our collection of icon thumbnails to make your highlights easy to identify. You can also screenshot all of these resources in SiX's Instagram Highlights!

            Digital Tips: We ❤️ Legislator Tweets

            This resource is adapted from our Digital Tips e-mail series. To sign up to receive these resources in your inbox regularly, join our network.

            In this issue of Digital Tips, we'll help inspire your social strategy by analyzing three tweets from legislators in our network.

            Tutorial: Tweets from Legislators

            A check-in tweet from Sen. Julie Gonzales

            Why We Love It

            Colorado State Sen. Julie Gonzales' tweet illustrates how informal but genuine posts can enrichen your social media strategy. Asking your audience a question—and then engaging with their answers— is a great way to build community and connect directly with constituents.


            It takes time to build a space where people feel comfortable sharing publicly. Don't be discouraged if, at first, you don't get responses. Try enlisting a colleague or friend to answer the question (using their account) so that you can reduce the barrier to participation for other followers.

            You can also tailor your question to a particular issue you're championing. For example, if you're advocating for expanded child care access, you can ask, "Parents and caretakers: what's been your experience finding child care for your kids?"

            An accessible explainer thread from Rep. Rayner-Goolsby

            Why We Love It

            This tweet from Florida Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby is the first in a four-part thread about the ongoing battle over voter restrictions in Florida. Sometimes, it's precisely when an issue is front-page news that an accessible explainer is needed.


             In addition to drawing upon facts, use personal anecdotes (or constituent experiences) to present a complete picture and leave readers with a memorable mental image.

            Whenever possible, avoid legislative jargon if there's a more straightforward way to get across the same point.

            A heartfelt message from Sen. Polehanki

            Why We Love It

            Michigan State Sen. Dayna Polehanki's video for Teacher Awareness Week is an excellent example of how a thoughtful message—whether written or on video—can set your content apart and make your followers feel seen.


            Captioning your videos is essential, and there are lots of low-cost and free ways to do it. Here are a few tools I like: MixCaptions (free or paid; for desktop and mobile), Kapwing (free or paid; best for desktop), and (paid; for desktop.)

            Finally, note that the length of Sen. Polehanki's video is just 37 seconds. Though Twitter videos can be up to 140 seconds long, it's best to keep them short.

            Quick Links: Digital Resources From Around The Web

            📱  Why Do Videos Sent from My iPhone Vary so Much in Quality?

            🪄  How to Make The Facebook Algorithm Work For You

            📸 5 Instagram Accessibility Tips

            🤳🏾  Taking Great Selfie Videos and Photos

            Digital Tips: Text Spacing in Graphics

            This resource is adapted from our Digital Tips e-mail series. To sign up to receive these resources in your inbox regularly, join our network.

            Tutorial: Line Height

            Look at the paragraphs below. Which one is easiest for you to read?

            Two paragraphs with different styles of line spacing; the first paragraph is cramped, while the second paragraph displays optimal line spacing.

            If you chose option 2, you, like most people, find proper spacing essential to readability.

            One of the most important elements to consider when adding text to graphics is line spacing, also known as leading.

            Here's a handy rule: Line spacing should be 125% to 150% of your font size. Different programs measure line spacing differently; since many legislators use Canva for graphic design, I'll use it in this example.

            Canva line spacing demo

            In Canva, the line spacing value (called "line height") is relative to the font size. So you should set your line spacing to a value between 1.2 and 1.5.

            Bonus Tip: Don't squash too many details in one graphic! Remove unessential information and include extra details in the post or tweet's caption.

            Quick Links: Digital Resources From Around The Web

            🗣  Tips for Getting Used To The Sound of Your Own Voice

            🏳️‍⚧️  The Gender Spectrum Collection: Stock Photos Beyond the Binary

            📸  Twinsta: Share Your Tweets on Instagram

            🔠  The Ultimate List of Social Media Acronyms and Abbreviations

            Against Hate: Responding to Anti-Asian Violence

            Asian American communities have experienced an alarming rise in racially-motivated attacks since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts fear many incidents are going unreported.

            No one should have to live in fear of being attacked for who they are. The resources below can help you and your constituencies report, respond, and join in collective action against anti-Asian attacks.

            Learn how to intervene and stand against racism

            Take action in your state

            Document incidents

            By sharing what you experienced or witnessed, you can educate the public, empower others, show service providers where help is needed, and strengthen advocacy efforts for hate crimes response and prevention.

            Other resources

            What Should I Post? Building a Social Media Strategy for Legislators

            Legislators and staffers often wear many hats, including the role of social media manager. Is it possible to build an engaged social media following while juggling other priorities? Yes! And having a solid strategy can help. 

            A successful social media strategy requires more than tweeting regularly—it involves identifying realistic goals and concrete steps to reach those goals. Use the prompts and resources below to start developing a social strategy today.

            Strategy Prompts

            Big Picture
            Style & Tone


            Cheatsheet: Help! What Should I Post?

            Got time?
            Don't have time?

            Tools & Resources

            (All of these websites are free to use, but some have premium options for more features.)



            Preparing for Statehouse Violence

            Table of Contents

            Following the January 6 attacks, we have compiled important information with recommendations on how legislators can protect their personal and digital safety, demand accountability, and commit to a generation of cultural transformation.

            Govern Safely

            Commit to transformation

            As we allow ourselves the space to grieve and rage, let us also be emboldened by the knowledge that our strategy is working. We must continue to fight tirelessly to build a robust, multi-racial democracy and dream of the country we want to live in.

            Downloads & Other Resources

            What Just Happened in the States

            Partisan Control of State Legislatures Remains Largely Unchanged

            In November 2020, nearly 6,000 of the nation’s 7,383 state legislative seats were up for election. Come January 2021, the partisan control of state legislatures will look almost identical to how they looked two years prior: of the 98 chambers that have partisan control, 59 are held by Republicans, 37 by Democrats (as of this writing, the Arizona Senate and House remain in flux; Nebraska is a unicameral, nonpartisan chamber).

            Though communities of color in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan beat back Donald Trump’s fascism and division federally, gerrymandering and other structural barriers kept their state legislatures relatively unchanged. For example, in Wisconsin, Joe Biden won 49.4% of the vote (as of November 5th), but Republicans retained 61% of all state legislative seats.

            Progressive Policy Victories Were Achieved via Ballot Measure

            Voters of all political persuasions overwhelmingly support progressive public policy options, mostly through direct democracy in the ballot measure process.

            Statehouses Across the Country Will Be More Diverse

            The 2020 election produced a diverse new class of progressive electeds in red and blue states alike.

            The pipeline of public leadership is starting to look more like America— but we still have far to go. We can never achieve justice if our decision-makers are older, whiter, and more affluent than the people they represent; only 29% of state legislators who hold office are women and 78% are white.

            In many states, legislators are part-time, paid very little (if at all,) and required to drop everything to be fully available for their legislative sessions. This has led to state legislatures being disproportionately composed of retirees, independently wealthy people, and those whose educational and career privileges allow them to hit pause on their careers for up to several months per year without repercussions.

            What Comes Next

            The most immediate challenge facing all state legislatures next year will be swelling budget deficits due to the pandemic and the recession. At the same time, state legislators face an extreme risk across the progressive movement—that all hopes are laid at the feet of the new President without an acknowledgment that state legislatures have significant power to shape the political terrain for generations to come.

            We know that bold champions can make a difference in every legislative context — majorities, minorities, and split governance states — and our champions need resources and support to create transformative change. SiX is designed precisely for this work.

            The road ahead isn’t easy, but the work to transform this country is a long arc. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and are so grateful to be in this generational struggle.

            COVID Response: Resources for State Legislators

            As the coronavirus situation continues to unfold, we’re compiling resources here to help you navigate the many challenges this presents to your community.  We know that crises like these have disproportionate impacts on vulnerable and low-income communities and want to make sure we stand up for those most at risk. As legislators, you are uniquely positioned to find solutions that mitigate the harm for at-risk medical populations (people with chronic health conditions, people with disabilities, the elderly), hourly workers, the millions of Americans without access to health care or paid sick days, and everyone who is one health emergency away from financial ruin.

            The resources we've linked to below can help you use your platform to provide clear, scientifically-based information to the public and advocate for better policies.

            If you have actions or new policies that are happening in your states, please share them so we can provide them to other legislators across the country. Please email

            Canva null scaled

            Race and the Virus: Bias, Data, Testing, and Impact

            The spread of COVID-19 took longer to reach rural America, however, once it did, it highlighted some basic infrastructure needs that are lacking for rural residents. During COVID-19, rural people have faced many of the same challenges as urban residents, yet have struggled to access adequate information, medical services, food and medicine due to an erosion of public investment in rural infrastructure. 

            See more here.

            hospital scaled

            Health Care

            In addition to the risks to individuals’ physical health, the COVID-19 pandemic affects every health care system in the United States (medical, public health, insurance) and each of their corresponding workforces. State legislatures have a responsibility and opportunity to ensure that these systems are operating effectively and equitably for the health of all people.

            See more here.

            business office scaled

            Unemployment and Worker Protections

            The Covid pandemic has had devastating impacts on every single worker and every aspect of our economy, particularly women and Black, Brown, and Indigenous workers. Too many are grappling with how to pay for the basic necessities they need to survive and many are being forced to decide between going back to a job that may be unsafe or protecting their health. Fortunately, legislators and partners can implement  innovative solutions that will make our workforce and our local economies safer and stronger.

            See more here.

            projects housing apartments scaled

            Preventing Evictions

            Our nation is in the midst of a housing crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under our nation’s system of racial capitalism, housing serves more as a financial asset or investment than a basic human right. The current system disproportionately harms working-class, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (BIPOC)—leaving them out of both asset building opportunities and housing protections. Evictions already place a disproportionate harm on Black women and their families, who are almost four times as likely to be evicted as households led by white men. Housing stability has always been a civil rights issue that directly descends from our nation’s history of segregation and racist housing practices. 

            See more here.

            Official Election mail voting register scaled

            Democracy and Voting

            2020 Census 

            Voting & Elections


            Reproductive Rights

            COVID-19 poses specific threats to reproductive health care access and needs; further, some states have taken advantage of the crisis to play politics and restrict abortion care access. But research shows that even in the midst of COVID—and despite disinformation spread by the anti-choice opposition—people continue to oppose restricting access to reproductive freedom. 

            See more here.

            education young black student writing on white board


            The Department of Education and the White House are pressuring schools to open in the fall but are providing little to no guidance for doing so safely, threatening to withhold funding for states or districts who do not comply. While the pressure to reopen schools in the fall grows, so does the number of coronavirus cases, leaving school districts and states scrambling to keep up with a quickly changing situation. States will have to consider how to keep all students, teachers, faculty and support staff safe—not just those in wealthy communities—through budget considerations, remote learning options, financial aid, school meals, testing and tracing, and more.

            See more here.

            tolu bamwo nappy

            Food Systems and Agriculture

            Covid-19 demonstrated that the corporate food supply chain is one crisis away from failing, which puts communities at risk of being food insecure and could cause barriers for local farmers working to address the food needs of their community. In order to ensure that communities are resilient in their ability to access food during a crisis, legislators should work to ensure that there is a sound regional and/or local alternative food supply chain with a plan to get food to those who need it while also ensuring that food and farm workers are adequately protected in their workplaces.

            See more here.

            Canva Close up of Globe scaled


            Undocumented Immigrants make up a disproportionate share of frontline workers and are especially concentrated in high-risk industries such as food production, health care, and transportation. However, these same immigrant workers have been excluded from any economic relief included in the CARES Act and are unable to access unemployment insurance. To compound this devastating situation, Trump’s immigration enforcement machine continues to target undocumented residents and separate families at astounding rates, which has led to extreme health risks within immigration detention centers across the United States.

            See more here.

            rural wind turbine scaled

            Rural Communities

            The spread of COVID-19 took longer to reach rural America, however, once it did, it highlighted some basic infrastructure needs that are lacking for rural residents. During COVID-19, rural people have faced many of the same challenges as urban residents, yet have struggled to access adequate information, medical services, food and medicine due to an erosion of public investment in rural infrastructure. 

            See more here.

            shutterstock 1091186714 scaled

            Defend Against Harmful Policies

            State legislatures are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, trying to do their best to protect and provide vital social services to their constituents. While some states are passing inclusive policies to stabilize our local economies, others are using the pandemic as an opportunity to pass harmful policies that will have devastating impacts on our communities. Additionally, some policies are intended to support struggling families but are having unintended consequences. 

            See more here.

            COVID Resources: Unemployment and Worker Protections

            The Covid pandemic has had devastating impacts on every single worker and every aspect of our economy, particularly women and Black, Brown, and Indigenous workers. Too many are grappling with how to pay for the basic necessities they need to survive and many are being forced to decide between going back to a job that may be unsafe or protecting their health. Fortunately, legislators and partners can implement  innovative solutions that will make our workforce and our local economies safer and stronger.


            COVID Resources: Reproductive Health Care

            COVID-19 poses specific threats to reproductive health care access and needs; further, some states have taken advantage of the crisis to play politics and restrict abortion care access. But research shows that even in the midst of COVID—and despite disinformation spread by the anti-choice opposition—people continue to oppose restricting access to reproductive freedom. 

            Always work with your state’s reproductive rights, health, and justice coalition - contact us for support if needed!


            COVID Resources: Race, the Virus: Bias, Data, Testing and Impact

            Existing demographic data has revealed the disproportionate health effects of the coronavirus on Black and Brown people, communities of color, and Indigenous people. However, comprehensive racial and ethnic data does not exist in every state nor are there uniform reporting guidelines across the country. In order to better address racial disparities, legislators are pushing for improved data collection, an investment in contact tracing programs, and greater transparency on racial impact.


            COVID Resources: Preventing Evictions

            Our nation is in the midst of a housing crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under our nation’s system of racial capitalism, housing serves more as a financial asset or investment than a basic human right. The current system disproportionately harms working-class, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (BIPOC)—leaving them out of both asset building opportunities and housing protections. Evictions already place a disproportionate harm on Black women and their families, who are almost four times as likely to be evicted as households led by white men. Housing stability has always been a civil rights issue that directly descends from our nation’s history of segregation and racist housing practices. 

            Now, with the pandemic and economic crisis already harming Black Americans and people of color at astonishing rates, inaction by policymakers will drastically intensify the housing crisis, destroy the lives of millions of people, and destabilize our entire nation.

            As of September 4, there is now a federal eviction moratorium from the CDC that extends protections to some renters at risk of eviction for nonpayment of rent during the COVID pandemic. For more on this, see  NLIHC for this overview of the moratorium and this FAQ for Renters. At-risk renters should contact their local legal aid  offices, tenant associations, or local bar associations ASAP.  

            In addition to pressuring Congress to pass emergency rental assistance, broaden eviction preventions, and suspend rent and mortgage payments, what action can state lawmakers take?

            First, see how your state ranks on Eviction Lab’s COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard. Then consider what immediate emergency measures your state needs to prevent mass evictions and what longer-term solutions should come next.


            Whether by bringing legislation (if in session) or by pressuring the governor, these are key policies to consider to immediately put in place:  

            LONGER TERM 

            The national housing crisis will exist past the end of the pandemic, and we need systemic solutions to provide affordable housing and protect renters. These are key policies that states can pursue:


            To watch and listen:

            Organizations, online resources, and written materials:

            COVID Resources: Immigration

            Undocumented Immigrants make up a disproportionate share of frontline workers and are especially concentrated in high-risk industries such as food production, health care, and transportation. However, these same immigrant workers have been excluded from any economic relief included in the CARES Act and are unable to access unemployment insurance. To compound this devastating situation, Trump’s immigration enforcement machine continues to target undocumented residents and separate families at astounding rates, which has led to extreme health risks within immigration detention centers across the United States. 


            COVID Resources: Health Care

            In addition to the risks to individuals’ physical health, the COVID-19 pandemic affects every health care system in the United States (medical, public health, insurance) and each of their corresponding workforces. State legislatures have a responsibility and opportunity to ensure that these systems are operating effectively and equitably for the health of all people. 


            COVID Resources: Food Systems and Agriculture

            Covid-19 demonstrated that the corporate food supply chain is one crisis away from failing, which puts communities at risk of being food insecure and could cause barriers for local farmers working to address the food needs of their community.

            In order to ensure that communities are resilient in their ability to access food during a crisis, legislators should work to ensure that there is a sound regional and/or local alternative food supply chain with a plan to get food to those who need it while also ensuring that food and farm workers are adequately protected in their workplaces. 


            Support for Farmers

            Local Food Infrastructure

            Food Security

            Farm & Food Worker Safety

            COVID Resources: Education

            The Department of Education and the White House are pressuring schools to open in the fall but are providing little to no guidance for doing so safely, threatening to withhold funding for states or districts who do not comply. While the pressure to reopen schools in the fall grows, so does the number of coronavirus cases, leaving school districts and states scrambling to keep up with a quickly changing situation. States will have to consider how to keep all students, teachers, faculty and support staff safe—not just those in wealthy communities—through budget considerations, remote learning options, financial aid, school meals, testing and tracing, and more.

            General Resources

            Resources: K-12

            Resources: Institutions of Higher Education (IHE)

            COVID Resources: Rural Communities

            The spread of COVID-19 took longer to reach rural America, however, once it did, it highlighted some basic infrastructure needs that are lacking for rural residents. During COVID-19, rural people have faced many of the same challenges as urban residents, yet have struggled to access adequate information, medical services, food and medicine due to an erosion of public investment in rural infrastructure. 


            Paid Sick Leave Policy Playbook Supplement and Polling Memo

            Over 33 million people in the US do not have access to paid sick leave, and this has a disproportionate impact on low and moderate wage workers. Access to paid sick days is even more critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus health crisis has revealed the need for access to paid sick leave more than ever — particularly for lower wage, Black, or Hispanic workers and working mothers whose incomes and families are more directly affected by the coronavirus. Fortunately, states without robust paid sick leave laws are taking action to help increase access.

            Since we first released our Paid Sick Days Policy Playbook in 2016, the number of states requiring employers to provide paid sick days has jumped from 5 to 14. In light of these changes, and folks’ urgent need for paid sick leave access, SiX has released the Paid Sick Days Policy Playbook Supplement. In addition to reflecting new paid sick leave legislation, SiX is releasing Pre-Session Polling on Paid Sick Leave which evidences the high public support for paid sick leave in three states where legislatures have yet to act — Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

            Abortion is Essential Healthcare

            Crisis does not erase inequality. It lays it bare.

            We've seen how low-income communities of color, have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. And we've seen how anti-abortion officials are pulling out all the stops to use this crisis as an excuse to ban abortion.

            During this unprecedented pandemic, our elected officials should be focused on our families’ health and safety. It’s unconscionable that politicians would use a national crisis to try to deny critical health care to anyone. Now more than ever we should be coming together as communities to make sure everyone can safely get the healthcare they need, not actively working to deny our neighbors care--including and especially abortion care.

            That's why SiX Repro Team worked with legal, medical, and legislative experts to release a 19-minute video on abortion as essential healthcare.

            Legislating in a Pandemic: Transparent & Remote Governance


            As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing list of state legislatures have postponed session and legislators themselves have started testing positive for the virus. While some states quickly moved to remote sessions and amended open meeting laws to prevent crowds at state capitols, many are struggling to make this transition in a transparent and accessible manner. Other states have limited or no government continuity plans in place, and some are grappling with constitutions or state laws that appear to prohibit remote governance and voting altogether.

            While this is an unprecedented time in American history, where preserving the public health and the continuity of government collide, it will not be the last time that legislatures must shift how they do business. At extraordinary moments like today, state legislatures must adopt methods of flexible, remote governance while prioritizing transparency and public access.

            State legislatures adapting to the new reality of governance can learn from early experiences, challenges, and critiques that other state and local governments have faced in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that shifting your state’s approach to governance will not be easy and that there will be hiccups and mistakes along the way. To anticipate and overcome these challenges and to find viable solutions to keep government working and accessible, we encourage state legislators to work with their executive branch counterparts, state technology officers, local officials, state/local advocates, peer legislators from across the country, and of course, SiX.

            After reading this blog, email with your remaining questions and your asks for direct support. We are all taking this transition one step at a time, and we want to meet you and your state where you are.

            Considerations for Transparent & Accessible Governance in Emergencies

            Common Cause released a strong set of transparency recommendations for national, state, and local officials to follow when transitioning to remote forms of governance and adjusting open meeting laws. SiX strongly recommends that state legislatures consider these guidelines when setting up new, emergency governance structures: 

            SiX also recognizes that, even by following the above principles, a rapid transition to remote governance can and will exacerbate barriers to participation in governance for many community members. While continuity of governance through remote voting and committee hearings is key as this crisis evolves, legislators must consider how this transition will impact equitable access for marginalized constituents and work to find creative solutions. This includes (but is not limited to) ensuring access for people with:

            Examples of Remote Governance Transitions

            Below we highlight several examples of rule changes, statutory changes, and executive orders that have enabled states to adapt and govern flexibly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Note that these are not perfect examples and many could benefit from stronger or clearer transparency provisions in line with the above guidance from Common Cause. That said, we hope sharing these examples offers a helpful base of information for other states to analyze and build on.

            We will continue to update this list with new examples as more states make this transition and learn from each other.


            Vermont legislators and other public bodies must now convene electronically and provide virtual public access to all meetings. Legislators are primarily using Zoom to convene and deliberate. (This Tweet from a Vermont government reporter offers a taste of what remote legislating looks like!)

            2020 Vermont H 681


            It is the intent of the General Assembly that during the continued spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the State of Vermont public bodies should organize and hold open meetings in a manner that will protect the health and welfare of the public while providing access to the operations of government. Public bodies should meet electronically and provide the public with electronic access to meetings in lieu of a designated physical location. Accordingly, this act sets forth temporary Open Meeting Law procedures in response to COVID-19.


            (a) Notwithstanding 1 V.S.A. § 312(a), during a declared state of emergency under 20 V.S.A. chapter 1 due to COVID-19:

            (1) a quorum or more of the members of a public body may attend a regular, special, or emergency meeting by electronic or other means without being physically present at a designated meeting location;

            (2) the public body shall not be required to designate a physical meeting location where the public may attend; and

            (3) the members and staff of the public body shall not be required to be physically present at a designated meeting location.

            (b) When the public body meets electronically under subsection (a) of this section, the public body shall use technology that permits the attendance of the public through electronic or other means. The public body shall allow the public to access the meeting by telephone whenever feasible. The public body shall post information on how the public may access meetings electronically and shall include this information in the published agenda for each meeting. Unless unusual circumstances make it impossible for them to do so, the legislative body of each municipality and each school board shall record its meetings held pursuant to this section.

            (c) In the event of a staffing shortage during a declared state of emergency under 20 V.S.A. chapter 1 due to COVID-19, a public body may extend the time limit for the posting of minutes prescribed in 1 V.S.A. § 312(b)(2) to not more than 10 days from the date of the meeting.

            Rhode Island

            On March 16, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo issued Executive Order 20-05 which relieved state/local officials from open meeting law prohibitions on the “use of telephonic or electronic communication to conduct meetings.” Though the Executive Order provided for virtual public access to government meetings, technical challenges and ambiguities to these rules became apparent in just the first week. Common Cause Rhode Island and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island quickly sent a letter to state officials urging modifications to the Executive Order including: clarifications to transparency requirements for government bodies that continue to meet in person but are no longer accessible to the public (i.e. because of closed capitols) and protocols to safeguard public participation in the event of technological glitches or connectivity issues (i.e. dropped video conference or conference call lines). Other states can anticipate and learn from the Rhode Island experience.


            Pennsylvania lawmakers enacted multiple pieces of legislation to enable remote governance. Legislators in both the House and Senate are now able to vote on legislation and participate in committee hearings remotely. As of March 26, 2020, the State Capitol remained open for (in-person) session but a large portion of legislators intentionally participated remotely via video chat to enable social distancing.

            2020 Pennsylvania HR 834 RESOLVED, That a member who is not present in the Hall of the House may designate either the Majority or Minority Whip to cast the member's vote on any question as to which there has been consultation between the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader; and be it further
            RESOLVED, That, after consultation between the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader, if the process permitted for designated voting under this temporary rule is not agreed upon, the vote shall be cast pursuant to the Rules of the House of Representatives in existence on March 15, 2020; and be it further
            RESOLVED, That a designation shall be accomplished by filing an attestation with the Chief Clerk which affirms that the member will not be present in the Hall of the House and identifies either the Majority or Minority Whip as the designee; and be it further [...]
            RESOLVED, That, unless amended or revoked by the House, the temporary rules adopted in this resolution shall expire when the declaration of disaster emergency issued by the Governor on March 6, 2020, is terminated by executive order, proclamation or operation of law.

            2020 Pennsylvania S.R. 318 RESOLVED, That, notwithstanding Rule 14(h) of the Senate, members may remotely participate in committee meetings as follows: remote participation means simultaneous, interactive participation in a committee meeting by committee members not physically present at the location of the meeting, through means of communication technologies designed to accommodate and facilitate such simultaneous, interactive participation; committee members participating remotely shall be counted for the purpose of determining a quorum; a quorum shall be established through a roll call; and technology employed for remote committee meetings must safeguard the integrity of the legislative process and maintain the deliberative character of the meeting by providing for simultaneous, aural and verbal communication among all participants.


            Before adjourning early for 2020, Maine lawmakers enacted legislation to allow public bodies covered by the state’s open meeting law to conduct business remotely provided that the public is given advance notice, all participating members are able to hear and speak to one another, there is a clear method of electronic public participation, and all official votes are taken by roll call.

            2020 Maine LD 2167 §403-A. Public proceedings through remote access during declaration of state of emergency due to COVID-19

            1. Remote access. Notwithstanding any provision of law or municipal charter provision or ordinance to the contrary, during a state of emergency declared by the Governor in accordance with Title 37-B, section 742 due to the outbreak of COVID-19, a body subject to this subchapter may conduct a public proceeding through telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means of remote participation under the following conditions:

            A. Notice of the public proceeding has been given in accordance with section 406, and the notice includes the method by which the public may attend in accordance with paragraph C;

            B. Each member of the body who is participating in the public proceeding is able to hear and speak to all the other members during the public proceeding and members of the public attending the public proceeding in the location identified in the notice given pursuant to paragraph A are able to hear all members participating at other locations;

            C. The body determines that participation by the public is through telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means of remote participation; and

            D. All votes taken during the public proceeding are taken by roll call vote.

            2. Application to legislative proceedings. This section does not apply to public proceedings of the Legislature, a legislative committee or the Legislative Council, except that while the state of emergency as set out in subsection 1 is in effect, the Legislature, a legislative committee or the Legislative Council may restrict attendance by the public to remote access by telephonic, video, electronic or other similar means. This section also does not apply to town meetings held pursuant to Title 30-A, section 2524 or regional school unit budget meetings pursuant to Title 20-A, section 1483.

            3. Repeal. This section is repealed 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency as set out in subsection 1.


            On March 17, 2020, “Governor Pete Ricketts issued an executive order [(Executive Order No. 20-03)] to permit state and local governmental boards, commissions, and other public bodies to meet by videoconference, teleconference, or other electronic means through May 31, 2020. The Governor’s order stipulated that all such virtual meetings must be available to members of the public, including media, to give citizens the opportunity to participate as well as to be duly informed of the meetings’ proceedings. The Governor’s order did not waive the advanced publicized notice and the agenda requirements for public meetings [(set forth in (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-1411)].”

            New Jersey

            The New Jersey legislature enacted a fairly simple statute to allow lawmakers to use technology or electronic means to conduct business if the Governor has declared a state of emergency. It does specifically outline transparency requirements. Lawmakers simultaneously enacted a law that allows local government bodies to govern remotely as well (see 2020 New Jersey A 3850).

            2020 New Jersey A 3852
            b. All sessions of the Legislature shall be held at Trenton or, on a temporary basis, for ceremonial or commemorative purposes or, notwithstanding section 1 of P.L.1963, c.118 (C.52:1-1.1), by reason of emergency or other exigency, at such other locations in the State as shall be designated by the Legislature by concurrent resolution.
            c. During a period of emergency or exigency, as determined by the Governor pursuant to the laws of this State or by the Legislature pursuant to concurrent resolution, the Legislature may use any technology or electronic means to conduct its business or otherwise carry out its purposes, or to comply with the requirements of paragraph 6 of Section IV of Article IV or, for the purpose of ensuring the continuity of governmental operations, of paragraph 4 of Section VI of Article IV of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey.


            On March 16, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott suspended provisions of the state’s open meeting law that requires “government officials and members of the public to be physically present at a specified meeting location,” while emphasizing key transparency provisions for remote meetings. According to the Governor’s office:

            The directive also allows state and local officials to contact the Texas Department of Information Resources for information and support setting up teleconferences and video conferences. Governor Abbott invoked emergency authority under Texas Gov. Code § 418.016 to change these requirements.

            Reads & Resources

            COVID-19 Repro Resources

            In this urgent global health pandemic, anti-abortion lawmakers are once again playing politics with people's lives and health, and there are very real reproductive health impacts and needs this moment presents.

            Click here for general RFLC talking points on the coronavirus.

            Important: Here are some issues that you should talk to your repro coalition and abortion and family planning providers about. In some states, they may want public support and in other places, it may be harmful to raise these issues at all, even within the administration or with other, less friendly, legislators or officials. Your support of reproductive health care is crucial at this time. Please check in with the state coalition organizations and reproductive health care providers to see how best you can support them during this difficult time, and we encourage you to reach out to us to connect you if you don’t already have an existing relationship.

            Fighting Back Against Anti-Transgender Legislation in the States

            The bad news: Across the country, there's been a rise in hateful legislation that attacks the basic dignity and humanity of transgender youth.

            The good news: These bills have already been stopped in states including South Dakota and Florida, and there are resources to help in every state! 

            The bottom line? Transgender young people know who they are and all of the data shows that when they are affirmed in their gender they have comparable outcomes to their peers. By contrast, when denied treatment and affirmation, transgender people experience high rates of suicidality and negative health outcomes. These bills are based on false and/or deliberately misleading notions of health care for transgender youth and on fear of trans inclusion in public life.

            Please reach out if you would like support defeating these bills in your state. 

            Anti Trans Bill in the States: A Conversation

            Jessie Ulibarri, SiX Co-Executive Director teamed up with Chase Strangio from the ACLU, Katrina Karkazis from Yale University and Florida State Rep. Carlos Smith for a conversation about these bills. Watch or listen below.

            Audio: Anti Trans Bill in the States: A Conversation

            Inspiration from South Dakota and Florida

            Check out  this video of FL Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith taking down the false claim that care for transgender youth is experimental or unproven: 

            As with any issue, stories are the most powerful messengers. If you have five minutes, check out this story from 17-year-old Quinncy Parke, one of the many heroes who helped stop South Dakota's #HB1057, which sought to ban transition-related care like puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for trans minors. 


            Restoring A Fair Workweek

            State Policies to Combat Abusive Scheduling Practices

            By the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and SiX

            Today a majority of working Americans – over 80 million people – clock into a job with an hourly wage. As millions of families benefit from higher minimum wages (thanks to the work of many of you!), these victories are undermined by unstable work hours. Many hourly workers are expected to be available 24/7 to work part-time jobs with no guaranteed hours, and experience huge fluctuations in weekly income.

            That's why we've teamed up with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) to bring you resources on how you can restore a Fair Workweek for workers in your states.

            See below for a new policy brief, video and audio interviews with experts, an example op-ed, and sample social media. 

            Download the brief here.

            Screen Shot 2020 01 17 at 4.41.59 PM

            We all need a workweek we can count on – one that allows all of us to care for our families, stay healthy, and get ahead. This new policy brief outlines the problem, the research, and the ways to create new work hour protections that ensure that hourly workers at large service-sector chains have a greater voice in their workweek, predictable schedules, and the opportunity to work full time. 

            Also check out these video and audio interviews on Fair Workweek legislation that break down research on the problem, policy reforms, and legislative strategy:

            Protecting the Power of the Ballot Initiative

            Table of Contents

            The SiX Democracy Project is teaming up with the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) to help state legislators protect the ballot measure process and champion direct democracy.

            The resources below highlight why you, as a state legislator, should care about this important tool for change and how you can identify and disrupt common tactics conservatives deploy to undermine direct democracy.

            A Video Guide for Legislators: Protecting the Power of the Ballot Initiative

            BISC State Legislative Manager, Jaspreet Chowdhary, introduces us to ballot measures, reviews major progressive policy wins at the ballot box, and outlines common tactics conservatives deploy to undermine direct democracy.

            Ballot Measure Basics

            Ballot measures, specifically citizen initiatives, are direct democracy – a place where eligible voters can make decisions about policies that impact their daily lives. Advocates use ballot measures to win public policy that has stalled under the dome, apply pressure, raise awareness about an important topic, or change the underlying narrative about an issue. Here are a few quick resources to get legislators up to speed on ballot measures:

            Legislative Threats to Direct Democracy 

            Legislative threats to direct democracy are on the rise. In 2019, there were more legislative attacks on the ballot measure process than the previous two years combined. 2020 is on track to be another record breaking year. The resources below highlight common tactics used to undermine direct democracy and how legislators can evaluate proposed changes to the ballot measure process.

            Five Ways Legislators Can Learn More & Support Ballot Measures

            1. When considering changes to your state’s ballot measure process, check with local progressive allies, BISC, and SiX to make sure you don’t inadvertently create barriers to direct democracy.
            2. Help advocates draft language for ballot measures that is politically and legally sound. When legislators and advocates team up, ballot measures are more likely to withstand challenges and less likely to be undermined.
            3. Email and to learn more about your state’s ballot measure process, threats, and how to fight back.
            4. Become a SiX Democracy Champion. Join a cohort of over 200 legislators from all 50 states who have committed to championing reforms for an equitable, inclusive, and participatory democracy – with dedicated policy, messaging, and strategy support from SiX. Visit to learn more and join the fight.
            5. Join the BISC listserv to receive the latest news on ballot measures,

            The Census Is a Year Away: How State Legislators are Ensuring a Fair & Accurate Count

            DENVER, Colo. – Advocates across the nation are recognizing April 1, 2019, as Census Day of Action, marking a year until the 2020 Census begins. Every ten years, the federal government conducts a census to track changes in population and demography, and this data is used for important determinations related to how federal, state, and local actors allocate their resources, essential public research, and the determination of future political representation. State legislators play a crucial role in ensuring that all people count.

            Census data determine the allocation of more than $800 billion in annual federal funding and are often used in state and local policy making, decision making, and research. An inaccurate census in 2020 would jeopardize funding for a range of programs and services like fire departments, highways, hospitals, and the national school lunch program. It would also compromise crucial supports for all communities – white, black, and brown alike. Census data are also used for the processes to draw local, state and federal political maps – known as reapportionment and redistricting – and therefore are vital to advancing a fair and representative democracy.

            “Progressive lawmakers across the country are using their voices and their positions to ensure every single resident in their state is counted, fairly, accurately and without fear in 2020,” said SiX Executive Director Jessie Ulibarri. “State legislators recognize that critical resources and electoral representation are at stake for their communities. We recognize that all people must count and applaud legislators who are dedicating resources to reach hard-to-count groups such as communities of color, low-income communities, immigrants, and young children.”

            Below is an overview of various state legislation to support a fair and accurate census. So far this year, at least 59 bills from 25 states have been introduced to support 2020 Census preparation and participation. Most bills aim to do one or more of the following: