March Madness: State Lawmakers Press Right to Repair
With 51 right to repair laws proposed in 26 states (!!) and bills zooming out of committee, we give you a state-by-state run-down of the fight for the right to repair.
The March 9th meeting of the Colorado Senate’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee had a familiar feel to it. As the Committee moved quickly through some minor business and appointments and turned to consider HB23-1011, a right to repair bill covering agricultural equipment, a familiar dynamic began to exert itself in the Senate hearing room.
There were the familiar voices speaking in favor of the right to repair bill - Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit is a fixture of these hearings. There was, as well, impassioned testimonies from Colorado farmers like Harrison Topp of Topp Fruit (this guy), a first generation farmer in Hotchkiss, Colorado, who cited the difficulty of obtaining parts and technicians to do repairs as a major obstacle to small scale farmers and ranchers.
“We are becoming captive to machinery dealers,” he said.
And there was Kyler Brown, a farmer who testified to the Senate committee from the cab of a Case IH tractor that had a lift pump fail shortly after harvest. Brown had to wait 2 1/2 weeks to get the pump and a sensor on the tractor repaired and said he was just lucky that the part didn’t fail during his harvest. “I pay about $3,000 a day in labor during harvest season,” Brown said. “I can’t afford to have a tractor down.”
(Full disclosure: Paul Roberts, who co-authored this post, also testified in favor of the legislation, speaking as the founder of SecuRepairs.org, a pro-repair group.)
Deja vu all over again?
But that testimony was followed by a long and predictable list of opponents to the legislation: lawyers and lobbyists for agricultural and manufacturing industry groups and owners of authorized equipment dealers floating gas-lighting denials that any obstacles to repair existed, to pseudo-legal challenges on intellectual property or environmental grounds.
Those comments found a seemingly sympathetic audience from lawmakers on the panel. Senator Cleave Simpson, a farmer and rancher, had nothing but praise for his local John Deere dealership and said he, personally, hadn’t experienced any delays in getting his equipment serviced. (Note to Cleave: you’re a Senator.)
Other senators on the panel raised oft-heard concerns about stepping on federal copyright and interstate commerce laws, or wondered why Colorado - a state with a far smaller agricultural sector than its close neighbors -was getting out front on agricultural repair. Senator Kevin Priola, a Democrat, wondered whether agricultural equipment makers shouldn’t be free to pursue business models akin to the “ink jet printer” business model fashioned by the likes of HP and Epson. (And we know what that business model looks like.)
It was deja vu all over again: passionate and exasperated consumers and farmers get lots of heads nodding “yeses” from lawmakers, while monied and politically connected manufacturers work quietly behind the scenes to kill off a promising piece of legislation.
But a funny thing happened in Colorado. As the hearing wore on…and on…it was clear that thoughts (and minds) were clearly changing. In all, the Committee spent more than five hours debating the agricultural right to repair bill, heard impassioned testimony from farmers, attorneys, consumer advocates and technologists and - in the end voted 4-3 with a bi-partisan majority approving HB23-1011, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. That followed a vote in February by the Colorado House approving the same legislation.
A week later, on March 16th, the full Colorado Senate followed their lead, voting to approve the HB23-1011, the Consumer Right to Repair Agricultural Equipment Act in a 25-8, bipartisan vote. What’s left now is a procedural vote in the Colorado House, after which the bill will head to Colorado Governor Jared Polis’s desk, who is expected to sign it. You read that right: a legal right to repair agricultural equipment - long sought by farmers and repair advocates - could be signed into law in a U.S. state before the end of this month. WHAT??!
The dam is breaking in statehouses
And Colorado isn’t alone. Right to repair legislation, which spent years quietly dying on committee room floors, is suddenly rushing through committees and making its way to full legislatures for votes.
It has been a truism in the last ten years that, in spite of vast, popular support, lobbying, political gridlock, and polarization would work to keep right to repair bills from becoming law. But, after years of persistent pressure on lawmakers, the dam of successful industry opposition to right to repair seems to be breaking.
Recent weeks have seen a tectonic shift in statehouses around the country, with more than 25 right to repair bills introduced since January covering agriculture, electronics, complex rehabilitative technology, even cars. Already, a number of those bills have moved through the committees that were often unofficial “kill zones” where industry lobbyists plied their trade and snuffed out bills their clients opposed.
Your 2023 right to repair bracket:
But no longer. So far this years, 51 separate right to repair bills have been proposed in 26 states. To help you keep track of the promising right to repair landscape in 2023, we’ve pulled together the following bracket to give you a look at where things stand.
🤔 = legislation proposed | ✔️ = passed through a committee | 👍 = passed a vote in the legislature (Senate or House) | 👎 = did not pass a vote in committee or the legislature | 🎉 = signed into law!!
Alaska legislators on March 22nd introduced SB 112, the Digital Right to Repair Act, which, a general electronics right to repair bill.
In California, SB 244 covers consumer devices. A separate bill, SB 271, covers wheelchair repair and service. Hearings are expected soon.
As we noted, HB1011 - Farm Equipment, passed both chambers and is waiting on a House concurrence vote (expected early this week) after which the bill will go to Governor Jared Polis’s desk for a signature.
Two bills HB 5755 / HB 6083 propose a Wheelchair Right to Repair, modeled on the successful Colorado legislation. A third, H.B. 6512, focuses on consumer electronics, though the full text of the bill is not available.
HB41 creates the Delaware Digital Right to Repair Act and covers electronic products with the exception of motor vehicles and agricultural equipment. The bill passed through committee on March 7th.
Florida’s HB 533 and SB 422 create a Right to Repair agricultural equipment. On March 20th, the Florida Senate’s Committee on Agriculture voted to advance SB 422!
Georgia’s SB 243 is a general, electronics Right to Repair bill covering any product with a microprocessor. The bill did not clear the deadline to pass out of the Senate.
Hawaii legislators have proposed five (count ‘em) FIVE bills:
HB53 proposes a universal right to repair with the exception of cars. The bill was heard in committee, but action was deferred.
SB 1172 covers medical devices.
SB 1105 and HB 645 proposes a full right to repair minus heavy equipment and medical devices costing more than $100,000).
HB 1287 proposes a full right to repair and but does not exempt medical devices.
Iowa legislators have proposed two bills: HF 587 covering digital electronics and HF 562 covering complex rehabilitation technology (CRT).
In Illinois, HB 3602 was introduced to provide a right to repair wheelchairs, while HB 3593 is a general electronics right to repair bill that exempts medical equipment. There is also HB 3601 which applies specifically to school computers.
Massachusetts has two bills proposed: HD 3826 / SD 793 - narrowly scoped laws that would cover mobile electronics only (aka cell phones and tablets).
Maryland legislators proposed HB 712 covering agricultural equipment, but that bill was withdrawn by the sponsor. HB 1193 requires access to telematics repair data for vehicles (akin to the 2020 ballot initiative that passed in Massachusetts). That bill has had a hearing in committee.
Missouri is considering two bills: HB 698 addresses the right to repair farm equipment. HB 217 is a general electronics right to repair bill.
In Minnesota, HF 1337 (awesome bill number, btw) is a general electronics right to repair with an exemption for medical devices. The companion Senate bill, SF 1598 adds exemptions for agricultural - and heavy equipment. The House bill has passed both committees. The Senate bill awaits one more committee hearing.
Montana lawmakers proposed three right to repair bills this session: HB 475 and SB 347 cover farm equipment, while HB 195 covers wheelchairs. All three were voted down in committee.
New Hampshire 🤔
New Hampshire HB73 is a right to repair bill specific to home appliances.
New Jersey 🤔
New Jersey legislators are considering two, separate right to repair bills: AB 1538 is a broad electronics right to repair bill, while AB 3612 is focused on “farm equipment and lawn mowers.”
In Ohio, SB 273 is a general right to repair law with exemptions for automobiles, farm and forestry equipment and medical equipment.
Oklahoma lawmakers have proposed SB869 a general Consumer Right to Repair Act.
In Oregon, SB542 is a right to repair bill covering personal electronics and consumer devices.
South Dakota 👎
In South Dakota, SB 194 guaranteed a right to repair “equipment used in the state” including medical equipment, but exempting automobiles. The committee voted to defer action on the bill.
In Tennessee, SB0077 and HB0414 would create a right to repair power wheelchairs, modeled on the successful Colorado legislation from 2022.
In Texas, HB 515 would create a right to repair agricultural- and heavy equipment in the state, while HB 1606 is a general electronics right to repair bill. Additionally, there is SB 1654 which also would create a right to repair agricultural equipment.
In Washington state, SB5464 and HB1392 create a right to repair laptops, tablets and cell phones. The bill cleared the Washington House of Representatives in early March. Senate committee hearings on SB 5464 took place last week. However, time is short: the bill must get voted on by the Senate committee by the end of March.
West Virginia 👍👎
In West Virginia, HB 3384 and SB 738 create a right to repair farm equipment. The Senate bill, SB 738, passed through the state Senate. However, the legislation did not clear the House and now the legislative session is adjourned.
In Vermont, H. 81 is a right to repair bill covering agricultural equipment and counts more than 30 cosponsors in the state legislature. It is facing intense opposition from industry. (Nothing new there.) Another bill, H. 79 / S. 46 is a broader right to repair bill that excludes medical equipment.