STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FIRSTS THAT CHANGED AMERICA

The states and their local governments have performed time-honored roles as constitutional and policy innovators in the federal system. In the earliest years of the republic, Virginia was the first state to adopt a constitutional bill of rights, New York established the first popularly elected chief executive, and Maryland first constitutionalized the separation of powers. The diffusion of these innovations passed to other states and later to the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights. Since those founding days, the federal system has been characterized by, among other things, diffusions of state and local innovations across the states and from the states to the federal government. At times, the federal government acts only after various states have established working precedents.

This compendium lists first state and local government constitutional provisions, laws, ordinances, supreme-court rulings, and other actions that have served, or are likely to serve, as models for adoption by many states and/or adoption by the federal government.

Agriculture

“Ag-Gag” Law: Iowa was the first state to enact a law sharply restricting the ability to record or film at a farm, slaughterhouse, or similar animal facility without the permission of the facility’s owner (2012). The law was later struck down in a court challenge as an unconstitutional burden on free speech in 2015. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Agricultural Experiment Stations: Wisconsin was the first state to establish an agricultural experiment station (1883).

Agricultural High Schools: Wisconsin established the first county agricultural high school (1901).

Agricultural Short Courses: The University of Wisconsin was the first to offer short courses on agriculture (1886).

Department of Agricultural Economics: The University of Wisconsin was the first to create a Department of Agricultural Economics (1909).

Farmers’ Institutes: Wisconsin was the first state to establish regular institutes to give farmers information developed by the University of Wisconsin and experiment stations (1885).

Farming, Right to: Pilesgrove Township, New Jersey, was the first jurisdiction to enact a right-to-farm law, protecting farming as “a natural right” (1979). North Dakota was the first state to amend its constitution to guarantee a right to farm and ranch using the latest technology (2012). Every state had a similar provision by 2015, usually to protect farmers against public-nuisance suits by neighboring suburbanites and increased regulation supported by animal-rights and environmental advocates.  Link to background story. 

Farmworker Overtime Pay: California was the first state to require overtime pay for farm workers above 40 hours of work per week (2016).

Filled Milk: Wisconsin was the first state to ban the production and sale of filled milk, namely, fat or oil added other than milk fat (1921).

Grading Cheese and Fruits: Wisconsin was the first state to standardize the grading of fruits, poultry, eggs, vegetables, hay, honey, and cheese (1921).

Hemp Growing: Colorado became the first state to certify industrial hemp seeds that lack THC (2016). Link to background story.

Local Food Sovereignty: Maine was the first state to pass an Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems allowing local governments to enact ordinances regulating local food producers and consumers for home consumption and community events such as church suppers (2017). Link to background story.

Pure Food and Drug Act: The first state to enact a pure food and drug law was Virginia (1847). Link to background story. 

Weather Service: Iowa was the first state to establish a Weather and Crop Service office, established in 1875 by Dr. Hinrichs, who received state funding in 1878, providing weather forecasting for the region. Link to background story. 

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Substance Regulation

“Fake” Marijuana: Sweetwater, Florida, was the first jurisdiction to ban the sale or possession of so-called fake marijuana – substances typically packaged as incense packets and consumed despite being labeled as not for human consumption (2012). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Liquor Server Liability: Wisconsin was the first state to allow individuals whose person or property is injured by an intoxicated person to sue the individual who provided the liquor for damages (1849).

LSD Ban: California and Nevada were the first states to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly referred to as “acid” (1966)

Marijuana and Autism: Pennsylvania was the first state to add autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana (2016). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Marijuana Ban: Massachusetts was the first state to ban cannabis (1911).

Marijuana Decriminalization: Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana (1973).

Marijuana Legalization: Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana (2012). Vermont was the first state to allow the recreational use of marijuana through the legislative process (2017). States that had previously allowed the use of marijuana had done so through voter referenda.  Link to background story. 

Opium Criminalization: San Francisco was the first jurisdiction to criminalize operating or attending an opium den (1875). California was the first state to do so (1881). In 1891 California created the State Board of Pharmacy, which was likely the first to regulate all drugs including the sale of poisonous drugs. In 1907, the California legislature extended the regulation of poisonous drugs by banning the sale of opium, morphine, and cocaine without a doctor’s prescription.  Seven years later the federal government passed the Harrison Act regulating the production and distribution of narcotics. In 1913, New York had become the first state to pass an anti-narcotic law directed specifically at cocaine. Link to background story.

Opioid Prescriptions: Massachusetts was the first state to limit an opioid prescription to a one-week supply for first-time adult prescriptions (2016). The law similarly limited opiate prescriptions for minors, with certain exceptions. Link to background story.

Narcotics Addicts: Connecticut was the first state to declare that “narcotic addicts” are incompetent to attend to their personal affairs (1874). Link to background story.

Peyote: The territory of Oklahoma passed the first law outlawing peyote (mescal) by name (1897). Link to background story. 

Prohibition: Maine passed the first law prohibiting the sale of alcohol (1846). It followed this up in 1851 by becoming the first state to prohibit both the sale and manufacture of alcohol. Twelve other states enacted similar laws by 1855, and the Maine law served as a prototype for the Eighteenth Amendment.

Prohibition, Constitutional: Kansas was the first state to adopt a constitutional provision outlawing alcoholic beverages (1881).

Animal Welfare

Abused Animals, Legal Representation: Connecticut was the first state to allow a court to appoint lawyers to represent the interests of abused animals (2016).  Link to background story.

Accredited Herd Policy: Wisconsin was the first state to develop this policy aimed at preventing bovine tuberculosis (1915).

Animal Abuser Registry: Tennessee was the first state to create an animal abuser registry (2016).

Animal Control: New York State passed the first dog-license law requiring dog owners to purchase an annual permit for ownership to protect lost and strayed animals and secure the owner’s rights (1894). This is believed to be the first animal control law.  Link to background story.

Animal Welfare: The first animal welfare law was created by the Massachusetts Bay Colony to prevent the cruel treatment of animals normally kept by the colonists (1641). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Breed-Specific Legislation: Hollywood, Florida, was the first jurisdiction to enact a breed-specific ordinance requiring pit bull owners to obtain special registration and proof of public-liability insurance (1980).  Link to background story. 

Bullhooks: Rhode Island was the first state to ban the use of elephant goads, commonly called bullhooks, on grounds that their use can injure the animals (2016). California banned bullhooks one month later. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Cat Declawing: West Hollywood was the first jurisdiction to ban the practice of declawing cats (2004). Link to background story.

Cockfighting: Massachusetts was the first state to ban cockfighting (1836). Link to background story.

Gestation Crates: Florida was the first state to ban gestation crates for pigs (2002).

Orca Whale Breeding: California was the first state to ban the captivity and breeding of orca whales (2016).  Link to background story. 

Pets Custody: Alaska was the first state to require courts to consider “the well-being of” animals in divorce proceedings and to award joint custody of pets when deemed to be in the best interest of pets (2016).

Arts and Humanities

Artist Rights: California was the first state to regulate the resale of fine art (droit de suite statute) entitling artists to a royalty payment upon resale of their art, subject to certain circumstances (1976). Link to background story.

Art Agency: The Utah Art Institute was the first state arts agency (1899).

Art Conservatory: The first state-supported conservatory in the United States was established at the North Carolina School of Arts (1963) to prepare students for professional not liberal arts education in the arts. Link to background story.

Art Museums: North Carolina was the first state to establish an art museum using state funds (1956). Link to background story. 

Art School: Massachusetts established the first publicly funded free-standing art school, the Massachusetts Normal Art School (1873). Link to background story. 

Percent for Art Programs: Philadelphia (1959) was the first city, and Hawaii (1967) was the first state, to require developers to spend at least 1 percent of construction costs on art.

Symphony Orchestra: The first state-supported symphony orchestra was established in North Carolina (1932).

Theatre: The first state-supported theatre (Playmakers Theatre) dedicated to the development of American drama was established at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (1923).  Link to background story.

Banking, Finance, and Domestic Commerce

Benefit Corporations: Maryland was the first state to pass legislation providing for benefit corporations (2010). Such corporations are required to benefit society as well as shareholders by creating a positive impact on society. Link to background story.

Blue Sky Laws: Kansas enacted the first “blue sky law” requiring public financial reports by companies selling securities to protect the public from fraud (1911). Link to background story.

Digital Assets Inheritable: Delaware is believed to be the first state to allow executors, trustees, and other fiduciaries the right to access the digital content, including social-media accounts, of an account holder (2014). The law recognizes digital assets, such as online art or computer code, as property items that people can pass to heirs as is done with other forms of property. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Free Banking Law: Michigan passed the first law eliminating the need for a special charter to operate, instead allowing incorporators to establish a bank by following statutory requirements (1837). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

General Antitrust Law: Kansas enacted the first general antitrust law (1889). At least 11 states followed before Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1990. Link to background story.

General Corporate Law: New York is believed to have enacted the first general law (as opposed to specific, legislatively granted charters) for business corporations (1811). Link to background story.

Gold and Silver Legal Tender: Utah was the first state in the contemporary era to declare gold and silver coins issued by the U.S. Mint and valued by weight to be legal tender and to eliminate all state taxes on gold and silver (2011).

Homestead Protection: Texas was the first jurisdiction to enact a homestead exemption, which bars seizure of a person’s home by creditors (1839). Mississippi in early 1841 and Georgia later that year were the first states to pass such a law. Link to background story (at page 291). 

Insurance Regulation: New Hampshire was the first state to establish a commissioner of insurance to regulate the insurance industry (1851).

Limited Partnership: A New York statute brought the limited partnership into American law (1822).

Mechanic’s Lien (aka Mechanic’s and Materialman’s Lien): Maryland was the first state to recognize a mechanic’s lien–a legal right in land granted to someone who improves the land through labor or the provision of materials (1791). Maryland passed the law to encourage builders to contract for the construction of Washington, DC, by providing builders stronger assurances that they would be paid. Link to background story (at page 225).

State-Mandated Cybersecurity: New York was the first state to put mandatory cybersecurity rules in place for companies offering financial services (2017). Similar federal rules (from the Securities and Exchange Commission) had previously been in place, but the federal rules lacked specificity about what was required of financial firms. The SEC rules also did not say what firms must do after a security breach occurs or how noncompliance would be penalized. Link to background story. 

Superintendent of Banks: New York created the first superintendent of banks (1851).

Civil Rights and Liberties

Abortion Allowed: Hawaii was the first state to allow abortions at the request of the mother (1970). Link to background story.

Abortion: Partial Birth or Late Term Bans: Ohio was the first state to adopt legislation banning partial birth or late term abortions (1995). Link to background story. 

Abortion Regulation: Connecticut enacted the first law regulating abortion, which prohibited inducement of an abortion with poison after the fourth month of pregnancy (1821). Link to background story (at page 85). 

Adult Visitation: Iowa was the first state to enact a law ensuring the right of adult children to have access to parents who are under the care of a legal guardian (2015). Adult children would have such rights unless the parent’s adult guardian convinces a court that the visitation would not be in the parent’s best interests. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Affirmative Action: Proposition 209 made California the first state to ban affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting (1996).

Alien Suffrage: Illinois was the first state to restrict alien suffrage (1848) leading other states to follow suit such that the election of 1928 was the first in which no alien had a right to vote in any election in any state.

Anesthesia During Abortions: Utah was the first state to require doctors to provide anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later (2016). Proponents of the law claimed that, despite the increased risk to the health of the mother posed by anesthesia, the drug should be administered to make the procedure more comfortable in the event that a fetus at this stage of development feels pain. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Benefit Corporations: Maryland was the first state to pass legislation providing for benefit corporations (2010). Such corporations are required to benefit society as well as shareholders by creating a positive impact on society. Link to background story.

Bill or Declaration of Rights: Virginia was the first state to ratify a constitutional declaration of rights, written mainly by George Mason (June 1776), followed by Delaware (September 1776), Pennsylvania (September 1776), Maryland (November 1776), and North Carolina (December 1776).

Black Codes: Mississippi produced the first black codes, a series of laws that defined the inferior legal status of formerly enslaved African Americans in the post-Civil War South (1865).  Link to background story. 

Breastfeeding in Public Protected: New York was the first state to pass a law protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public (1994). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Conversion Therapy: California was the first state to ban conversion therapy for gays and lesbians for anyone under age 18 (2012). Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first municipality to ban conversion therapy (2015). Link to background story.

Deceptive Anti-Abortion Facilities: California was the first state to prohibit certain deceptive practices that some facilities have used to prevent or dissuade women from having an abortion. (2015). Link to background story.

Farming, Right to: Pilesgrove Township, New Jersey, was the first jurisdiction to enact a right-to-farm law, protecting farming as “a natural right” (1979). North Dakota was the first state to amend its constitution to guarantee a right to farm and ranch using the latest technology (2012). Every state had a similar provision by 2015, usually to protect farmers against public-nuisance suits by neighboring suburbanites and increased regulation supported by animal-rights and environmental advocates. Link to background story. 

Fetal Pain as Abortion Restriction: Nebraska was the first state to ban most abortions 20 weeks or later after conception based on the theory that such abortions cause the fetus pain (2010). Link to background story.

Fetal Remains Burial: Indiana was the first state to require burial of all fetal remains (2016).  Link to background story.

Firearm Registration: Hawaii was the first state to require that firearms be entered into a tracking database (2016).  Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Foreign Language Ban: States in World War I banned the use of the German language in public, but Iowa Governor Warren Harding became the first governor to issue a proclamation, known as the “Babel Proclamation,” banning the use of all foreign languages in public (1918).  Link to background story. 

Gender-Neutral Restroom Signage: California was the first state to require public, single-use restrooms to be identified with signage that such restrooms are gender neutral (2017). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

 Handguns Banned in Public: Texas was the first state to ban the carrying of a handgun outside the home (1871). Texas passed the law during Reconstruction as an effort by Republicans to disarm Confederate sympathizers. The carrying of handguns outside the home remained legal in frontier counties that were, according to the law, “liable to incursions by hostile Indians.” Link to background story. 

Hunt, Trap and Fish Rights: Vermont was the first state to establish such a constitutional right  (1777).

Miscegenation Law Voided: The California Supreme Court was the first to strike down an anti-miscegenation law in Perez v. Sharp (1948). The U.S. Supreme Court voided all such laws in Loving v. Virginia (1967).

Miscegenation Prohibited: Virginia barred whites from marrying either African Americans or Indians (1691). Link to background story. 

Movie Censorship: Maine became the first state to pass movie censorship legislation when it banned prizefighting films (1897). Link to background story. 

Movie Censorship Board: Pennsylvania was the first state to establish a state censorship board (1911). Link to background story. 

Non-Binary Driver’s License:  Oregon was the first state to offer a third gender option on driver’s licenses (2017). “X” was provided as an option for people who did not identify as female or male. Link to background story. 

Obscenity: Oregon was the first state to abolish the offense of obscenity when its supreme court so ruled in State v. Henry (1987). Link to background story.

Pornography Official Appointed: Utah was the first state to appoint an official with statewide authority to help local communities combat pornography (2001). Link to background story.

Press Freedom: A New York jury’s acquittal of newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger established the principle, argued by Zenger’s lawyers, Alexander Hamilton and William Smith, that truth is a defense against libel charges (1735).

Privacy: Georgia was the first state to recognize a right to privacy in Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co. (1905).

Religion-Based Registries: San Francisco, California, was the first city to refuse to participate in any type of registry based on people’s religious beliefs (2017). The action was a preemptive one taken, according to city officials, out of concern that the administration of Donald Trump would attempt to create a registry based on religious beliefs. Link to background story. 

Remorse for Slavery: Virginia was the first state to express regret for its past support for slavery (2007). The resolution did not offer an apology or reparations to descendants of slavery. Link to background story.

Reparations for Police Brutality: Chicago, Illinois, was the first city to formally offer reparations to survivors of police brutality (2015). The reparations include cash payments, paid college tuition, social services, and an apology from the city’s mayor. Link to background story.

Same-Sex Discrimination in State-Funded Adoptions: South Dakota was the first state to allow a state-funded adoption agency to, on the basis of the agency’s religious beliefs, prohibit same-sex couples from fostering or adopting children (2017). A similar bill in Texas was the nation’s second. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Same-Sex Marriage: Massachusetts, through its Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage (2003).

Same-Sex Marriage Prohibited: Maryland was the first state to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman (1973). Link to background story. 

Sexual-Orientation Discrimination in Employment: Wisconsin was the first state to ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (1982). Link to background story.

Shield Law: Maryland was the first state to enact a law protecting journalists from revealing their sources to the government (1896). Link to background story.

Slavery Abolition: Massachusetts was the first state to fully abolish slavery (1783). It was preceded by Vermont’s partial abolition of slavery (1777) and Pennsylvania’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery (1780).

Subminimum Wage Banned: New Hampshire was the first state to prohibit the paying of less than minimum wage to people with disabilities (2015). Link to background story. 

Technology Training for Lawyers Required: Florida was the first state to require lawyers to take training in technological advances related to the practice of law (2016). Link to background story.

Transgender Restroom Law: North Carolina was the first state to pass a law requiring people to use restrooms that are consistent with the gender on their birth certificate rather than the gender that they live with (2016). The law was repealed the following year. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Transgender Rights: Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the first jurisdiction to prohibit discrimination against transgender people (1975).

Transgender Birth Records: California was the first state to establish a streamlined administrative procedure for amending birth records of transgender residents (2014). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Validation of Consumer Debt: Massachusetts was the first state to require that creditors take steps to confirm the correct identity of a consumer from whom they are attempting to collect a debt, even if the creditor is collecting its own debt (2012). Other states had laws with similar verification requirements for third-party creditors, but Massachusetts was the first to require such steps with creditors attempting to collect debts that they own. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Women’s Discrimination: California was the first state to adopt a state constitutional provision to protect women against discrimination in employment (1879). Wisconsin was the first state to eliminate all legal discrimination against women (1921).

Women’s Rights: Wyoming was the first state to constitutionalize women’s rights comprehensively (1890); and Illinois was the first state to adopt a constitutional equal rights amendment (1970) similar to the proposed Equal Rights Amendment that was not ratified for the U.S. Constitution.

Women’s Suffrage: Wyoming was the first jurisdiction to enact unrestricted women’s suffrage (in 1869 as a territory and 1890 as a state). Link to background story. 

Community Development and Housing Issues

Building Code: The first statewide building code was enacted by Wisconsin (1913).

Deconstruction of Older Houses: Portland, Oregon, was the first jurisdiction to require that houses built before 1916 be dismantled for recycling rather than demolished (2016). Link to background story. 

Plywood on Abandoned Homes Prohibited: Ohio was the first state to ban the use of plywood to secure abandoned structures, instead requiring use of clear boarding over open spaces in buildings. Fannie Mae and some cities had, not long before Ohio’s ban, also prohibited the use of plywood in an effort to curb urban blight and reduce crime (2017).  Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Rural Zoning: Wisconsin was the first state to allow counties to regulate rural development through zoning (1929).

Short-Term Rentals: Portland, Oregon, was the first city to legalize the short-term renting (of the type commonly arranged through companies such as Airbnb) of privately owned housing (2014). Link to background story. 

Zoning: New York City enacted the first zoning ordinance (1916).

Consumer Protection

Anti-Theft Cell Phone Technology Required: Minnesota was the first state to require cell phones to have anti-theft technology either preloaded or set up to have such technology easily downloadable (2014). Supporters of the law argued that it would reduce the number of assaults occurring during cell-phone thefts. Link to background story. 

Breach Notification: California was the first jurisdiction in the world to pass a breach-notification law requiring firms that have experienced a data breach to inform their customers and take remedial measures (2002).  

Fire-Safe Cigarettes: New York was the first state to enact a law requiring the sale of fire-safe cigarettes that self-extinguish (2003).

Halal Food: New Jersey was the first state to pass a law protecting consumers of halal foods by providing guidelines that must be followed by distributors and sellers of such foods (2000). Link to background story. 

Junk Telephone Calls: Wisconsin was the first state to prohibit pre-recorded messages in telephone solicitations without consent of the party called (1977).

Negative Reviews Protected: California is believed to be the first state to protect consumers who post negative online reviews of businesses (2014). The law voids so-called disparagement clauses in customer contracts that some businesses use to assess damages against customers who speak negatively about the business. Link to background story. 

Patent Infringement: Vermont was the first state to enact a law banning a “bad faith assertion of patent infringement” (2013).  Link to background story.

Search of Electronic Data: Missouri was the first state to provide a constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures of electronic communications and data (2014).

Stigmatized Property: California passed the first stigmatized property statute requiring disclosure of certain “psychologically impacted” histories of a property such as property where a murder or suicide had been committed (1986). Link to background story.

Warrantless Email Surveillance Prohibited: Texas was the first state to ban the surveillance of emails without a court order (2013). Link to background story. 

Criminal Justice

Anti-Lynching Law: Virginia was the first state to pass an Anti-Lynching Law defining lynching specifically as a state crime (1928). Link to background story. 

Bullying of Teachers: North Carolina was the first state to make bullying of teachers and school staff—including comments made via social media—a crime (2012). Link to background story. 

Cash Bail Elimination: Washington, D.C., was the first jurisdiction to eliminate cash bail so as to reduce incarceration of poor people unable to post bail (1992). Link to background story.

Bar Exam: Delaware was the first jurisdiction to establish a bar exam for aspiring attorneys (1763).

Blue Lives Matter Law: Louisiana was the first state to enact a Blue Lives Matter law, which expanded the state’s hate-crime statute to include attacks on police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel (2017).

Burial Protection: Iowa was the first state to pass a burial protection act in 1976. The law, covering American Indian remains would be followed by federal legislation in 1990. Link to background story. 

Capital Punishment Abolition: Michigan was the first state to abolish the death penalty (1847), followed by Rhode Island (1852) and Wisconsin (1853).

Capital Punishment, Lethal Injection: Oklahoma was first state to adopt lethal injection as method of execution (1977). It was first used in Texas in 1982.

College Students’ Right to an Attorney: North Carolina was the first state to guarantee college students facing non-academic disciplinary charges at public universities the right to an attorney (2013). Link to background story. 

Conciliation: North Dakota adopted the first statewide conciliation act (1921). Conciliation refers to a third person, usually a court official, who settles a dispute between parties. Source: Gosnell, Cullen B. and Lynwood M. Holland. 1951. State and Local Government in the United States. New York: Prentice-Hall, p. 367.

Conjugal Visits: Mississippi was the first state to allow prisoners to have conjugal visits (circa 1900). Mississippi stopped such visits in 2014. Links to background story 1, background story 2 and background story 3.

Consensual Sexual Activity Defined: California was the first state to define consent in a sexual encounter (2014). The law requires, as a condition of state funding, that colleges in the state adopt policies defining consent to sexual activity as an affirmative statement rather than simply the absence of a refusal. Link to background story. 

Corporal Punishment of Children by their Parents: Delaware was effectively the first state to outlaw spanking by parents when it redefined child abuse to anything that causes “pain” (2012).

Crime Victim Compensation: California was the first state to establish a crime victim compensation fund (1965).

Crime Victims Rights: Wisconsin was the first state to pass a crime victims bill of rights (1980).

Debtor’s Prisons: Kentucky was the first state to abolish debtor’s prisons (1821).  New York was the first to abolish incarceration for debt (1831). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Degrees of Murder: Pennsylvania is believed to be the first state to have differentiated murder by “degrees” (1794). Link to background story. 

DNA from Arrestees: Louisiana was the first state to allow for the collection of DNA evidence from people under arrest (1997). Link to background story.  

Drones: Idaho was the first state to enact a law barring the use of drones by law enforcement without a probable-cause warrant. The law also contained restrictions on the private use of drones (2013). https://www.aclu.org/blog/first-state-laws-drones In 2015, North Dakota became the first state to legalize law enforcement use of armed drones. Link to background story 1 and background story 2

Exclusionary Rule: In a 1902 case (State v. Height), the Iowa Supreme Court is believed to be the first state court to bar the use of evidence obtained in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. The U.S. Supreme Court had begun to develop exclusionary-rule jurisprudence before this case, but the Court did not announce a strong exclusionary rule based firmly on the Fourth Amendment until Weeks v. United States in 1914. Link to background story.   

“Gay-Panic” Defense Banned: California was the first state to ban the so-called gay-panic defense in criminal cases (2014). The law prohibited criminal defendants from claiming to be so shocked in discovering that the victim was gay or transgender that the defendant was justified in acting violently. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Grand Juries in Police Shootings: California was the first state to ban the use of grand juries (which meet in secret) in cases involving shootings by police (2015). The law was passed in response to a number of police shootings in other states where grand juries refused to indict the police officers. Under the California law, prosecutors decide whether to charge police officers in such cases. Link to background story. 

“Guilty But Mentally Ill”: Michigan was the first state to statutorily recognize a form of verdict in which a jury rejects a defendant’s insanity defense but recommends psychiatric treatment because of mental illness (1975). The law recognizes a middle ground between finding a defendant “guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity.” This kind of verdict acknowledges a defendant’s need for treatment for mental illness while not excusing him or her from legal responsibility for a crime. Link to background story. 

Gun Printing: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the first jurisdiction to ban the manufacture of guns with 3D printers (2013). Link to background story. 

HIV: Iowa was the first state to update its HIV criminalization statute to decriminalize inadvertent transmission of HIV (2014). The law requires intent to transmit HIV to support a criminal conviction. Link to background story. 

Innocence Evidence: North Carolina was the first state to require prosecutors and defense attorneys to disclose evidence of innocence discovered post-conviction (2017). Many states had similar rules for prosecutors, but this was first time defense attorneys in private practice were also required to disclose such exculpatory information. Link to background story. 

Jury Right: The right to a jury trial in criminal cases was granted by the English crown to the Virginia Company the year before the company established its first colony in Virginia at Jamestown (1606).  Link to background story (Footnote 15, p. 870). 

Juvenile Court: Chicago, Illinois, established the first general court with separate hearings and special judges for juveniles (1899).

Juvenile Execution: Plymouth Colony was the first jurisdiction to execute (by hanging) a 16-year-old  juvenile–Thomas Granger (1642). Link to background story.   

Juvenile Immunity from Prostitution Charges: Illinois was the first state to grant immunity from prostitution charges to juveniles under the age of 18 (2010). Link to background story. 

Lethal Injection for Capital Punishment: Oklahoma was the first jurisdiction to authorize the use of a lethal injection to carry out a capital-punishment sentence (1977). Five years later, Texas became the first state to actually use this technique to execute a death sentence. Link to background story. 

Marital Rape: Nebraska was the first state to criminalize sexual assault occurring within a marriage (1976). Link to background story. 

Megan’s Law: New Jersey was the first state to enact this law requiring sex offenders to be placed on a public registry and communities to be notified of offenders’ residential presence (1994). The Congress enacted a federal Megan’s Law in 1996 and required all states to enact such a law.

Notification of Gun Purchase: Washington was the first state to require the authorities to notify domestic-abuse victims that the perpetrator has attempted to purchase a firearm (2017). Link to background story. 

Online Clemency Requests: South Dakota was the first state to offer an entirely online application for a pardon (2017). Link to background story. 

Outside Investigation of Police Shootings: Wisconsin was the first state to require that deaths occurring in police custody be investigated by outside organizations, using independently gathered evidence (2014).  Link to background story. 

Parole: New York was the first state to use parole (1876).

Physical Violence Toward Wife Prohibited: Massachusetts and Alabama outlawed a husband’s right to physically assault his wife (1871). Link to background story. 

Pregnant Women Protected: New Mexico is believed to be the first jurisdiction to enact a law that criminalizes conduct that injures a pregnant woman in a way that causes her to lose her unborn child (1985). Link to background story. 

Prisoners Counted at Home Address: Maryland was the first state to require that the home addresses of incarcerated persons be used in federal census counts (2010). The U.S. Census considers prisoners as residents of the place where they are incarcerated. Maryland passed the law to require state and local governments to use prisoners’ home addresses for purposes of redistricting. Link to background story. 

Prison-Monitoring Drones: Ohio is believed to be the first state to use a type of unmanned helium drone to monitor prisons (2014). The drones are equipped with high-definition cameras and infrared devices. Link to background story.

Probation: Massachusetts enacted the first probation statute (1859). Link to background story. 

Prostitution: Massachusetts was the first state to ban prostitution as a specific act (1917). Link to background story. 

Public Defender: Los Angeles County, California, established the first public defender office (1914).

Public Executions Prohibited: Pennsylvania was the first state to ban public executions, moving those executions instead to correctional institutions (1834). Link to background story.   

Rape Kits Tracked: Washington was the first state to create a tracking system for rape kits (2016). The state passed the law to attempt to better preserve evidence from sexual assault cases. The law’s supporters argued that many sexual-assault cases had to be dismissed because law-enforcement agencies lost track of rape kits.  Link to background story

Rape Shield: Michigan was the first state to enact a law that limited the ability of someone accused of sexual assault to explore the accuser’s past sexual activity (1974). Most other states adopted such laws before federal legislation. Link to background story. 

Red-Flag Law: Connecticut was the first state to enact a red-flag statute allowing law enforcement to temporarily confiscate weapons from a person deemed dangerous by a judge (1999). Link to background story. 

Repressed Memory: In 1988 (effective 1989) the state of Washington passed the first law allowing for “repressed memory” cases to proceed outside of statutes of limitation as they pertain to sexual abuse accusations. Link to background story. 

Sodomy Law Repealed: Illinois was the first state to repeal its criminal sodomy law (1961). Link to background story. 

Stalking Law: California was the first state to pass a law criminalizing the act of repeatedly following or contacting someone for the purpose of harassment (1990). Link to background story.  

Stand-Your-Ground: Florida was the first state to pass a law allowing a person to use deadly force in response to a perceived threat rather than requiring the threatened person to retreat before resorting to deadly force (2005). Link to background story. 

Taped Interrogations: Illinois was the first state to require the police to record interrogations of homicide suspects (2003). Link to background story. 

Trafficking Training: Ohio was the first state to require law officers and truck drivers to take human-trafficking training (2016). Link to background story. 

Trafficking Victims Convictions Vacated: New York was the first state to give courts the authority to vacate convictions directly related to an individual’s history as a trafficked person (2011). Link to background story. 

Unauthorized Dissemination of Sexually Explicit Images: New Jersey was the first state to make it a crime to distribute sexually explicit images of someone (commonly known as “revenge porn”) without that person’s permission (2004). Link to background story. 

White-Collar Crime Registry: Utah was the first state to create a registry of white-collar crime offenders (2016). Link to background story. 

Defense and Veterans Benefits

Black Infantry: The First Regiment Kansas Colored Infantry was the first black unit to fight in the Civil War (1862). The famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment depicted in the movie Glory was formed in 1863. Link to background story. 

Conscientious Objection: Pennsylvania was the first state to constitutionalize a right of conscientious objection to military service on religious grounds (1776).

Military Pensions for those Disabled During Service: The colony of Virginia was the first to adopt the practice of giving disability pensions to individuals who were injured while serving the colony (1644).  Link to background story (page 19). 

Preferential Employment Decisions for Veterans: Washington was the first state to pass a law allowing veterans preferential treatment in employment decisions (2011). Link to background story. 

USA PATRIOT Act: Ann Arbor, Michigan, was the first jurisdiction to pass a resolution opposing what the city deemed to be unconstitutional provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act (2002). Arcata, California, was the first jurisdiction to enact an ordinance prohibiting municipal employees from cooperating voluntarily with federal officials to carry out any unconstitutional actions under the PATRIOT Act (2003).

Veterans: Wisconsin was the first state to dedicate money for the hospitalization and rehabilitation of World War II veterans (1943).

Diversity of State and Local Officials

African American Governor: Louisiana had the first African American governor–Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, a Republican—who came into office after the removal of his predecessor (1872). Virginia elected the first black governor in his own right—Douglas Wilder, a Democrat (1989).

African American Woman Attorney: Charlotte Ray became the country’s first African American woman attorney when she was admitted to the bar in Washington, DC (1872).  We include this item because state bars determine who can practice in particular states. Link to background story. 

African American Woman Lieutenant Governor: Ohio elected the first black female lieutenant governor—Jennette Bradley, a Republican (2002).

African American Woman Mayor: Taft, Oklahoma, elected the first black female mayor–Lelia Foley-Davis (1973).

African American Woman Secretary of State: C. Delores Tucker became the first African American woman to serve as secretary of state after being appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp (1971). Wisconsin elected the first black woman as secretary of state–Velvalea Phillips, a Democrat (1979).

African American Woman Speaker: The California House of Representatives elected the first black female speaker (2008).

African American Woman State Legislator: West Virginia appointed the first black woman to serve in a state house of representatives– Minnie Buckingham Harper, a Republican (1929). Pennsylvania elected the first black woman–Crystal Dreda Bird Fauset, a Democrat–to a state house of representatives (1938).

African American Woman U.S. Representative: New York elected the first black woman to the U.S. House of Representatives—Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat (1968).

African American Woman U.S. Senator: Illinois elected the first black woman to the U.S. Senate–Carol Moseley Braun, a Democrat (1992).

Asian American Male Governor: Washington elected the first Asian American male governor—Gary Locke, a Democrat (1996).

Asian American Woman Lieutenant Governor: Hawaii elected the first Asian American female lieutenant governor—Jean King, a Democrat (1978).

Asian American Woman Mayor: Long Beach, California, was the first major city to elect a female Asian American mayor—Eunice Sato (1980).

Asian American Woman U.S. Representative: Hawaii elected the first Asian Pacific woman to the U.S. House of Representatives—Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Democrat (1965).

Hispanic Governor: The first Hispanic governor was José Antonio Romualdo Pacheco, Jr. who served briefly as governor of California (February 27, 1875 to December 9, 1875). New Mexico elected the first Hispanic governor in his own right–Ezequiel Cabeza De Baca (1916).

Hispanic Woman Lieutenant Governor: Illinois elected the first Hispanic female lieutenant governor—Evelyn Sanguinetti, a Republican (2014).

Hispanic Women Legislators: New Mexico elected the first Hispanic women to a state house of representatives– Fedelina Lucero Gallegos, a Republican, and Porfirria Hidalgo Saiz, a Democrat (1930).

Indian U.S. Senator/Vice President: Kansas elected the first Indian U.S. Senator–Charles Curtis (1906). He became the first Indian vice president when elected with Herbert Hoover in 1928. Link to background story.   

Indian American Governor: Bobby Jindal of Louisiana was the elected as the nation’s first Indian American governor (2007). Link to background story. 

Indian American Woman Governor: Nickki Haley of South Carolina was the country’s first female Indian governor (2011).

Jewish Governor: Moses Alexander of Idaho was the first practicing member of the Jewish religion to be elected governor (1914). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.  

LGBT Female Governor: Oregon elected the first openly LGBT/bisexual governor–Kate Brown, a Democrat (2015).

LGBT Male Governor: Jim McGreevy, a New Jersey Democrat, was the first known gay governor–who came out during his resignation speech (2004).

LGBT Female House Speaker: The Oregon House of Representatives selected the first openly lesbian speaker (2012). Link to background story. 

LGBT Justice: Oregon appointed and voters retained the first openly gay justice to sit on a state supreme court—Rives Kistler (2003).

LGBT Male U.S. Representative: Massachusetts elected the first LGBT man to the U.S. House—Gerry Studds (1972).

LGBT Male Mayor: Tempe, Arizona, elected the first openly gay mayor—Neil Giuliano (1988).

LGBT Woman Representative and Senator: Massachusetts elected the first openly LGBT woman to the state house of representatives—Elaine Noble, a Democrat—and Minnesota elected the first openly LGBT man to a state senate—Allan Spear, a Democrat (1974).

LGBT Woman U.S. Representative and Senator: Wisconsin elected the first openly LGBT woman to the U.S. House–Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat (1998). She also became the first LGBT woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate (2012).

LGBT Woman U.S. Senator: Wisconsin elected the first openly LGBT person to the U.S. Senate–Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat (2012).

Puerto Rican Woman U.S. Representative: New York elected the first Puerto Rican woman to the U.S. House of Representatives–Nydia Velasquez, a Democrat (1992).

Transgender Mayor: Silverton, Oregon, elected the first transgender mayor (2008). Link to background story. 

Woman Attorney: Iowa licensed the nation’s first woman attorney–Belle A. Mansfield (1869). Link to background story. 

Woman Attorney General: Rhode Island elected the first female attorney general (1984).

Woman Chief Justice: Arizona selected the first female chief justice of a state supreme court—Lorna Lockwood (1963).

Woman Governor: Oregon was the first state to have a woman serve as governor—Carolyn B. Shelton, who served for a weekend (1909). Wyoming was the first state to elect a woman governor–Nellie Tayloe Ross, a Democrat–though it was to replace her deceased husband (1925). Connecticut was the first state to elect a woman governor in her own right–Ella T. Grasso, a Democrat (1975).

Woman Hispanic Secretary of State: New Mexico elected the first female Hispanic and non-white secretary of state—Soledad C. Chacón, a Democrat (1922).

Woman House Speaker: The North Dakota House of Representatives was the first to choose a female speaker (1933).

Woman Lieutenant Governor: Michigan appointed the first woman lieutenant governor—Matilda Dodge Wilson, a Republican (1940). Vermont elected the first female lieutenant governor–Consuelo Bailey, a Republican (1955).

Woman Mayor: Argonia, Kansas, was the first city to elect a woman mayor—Susanna Salter (1887).

Woman Representative: Colorado was the first state to elect women to the state house of representatives–Clara Cressingham, Carrie C. Holly, and Frances Klock (1894).

Woman Senate President: The New Hampshire Senate was the first to choose a woman president—Vesta Roy, a Republican (1983).

Woman State Senator: Utah was the first state to elect a woman to a state senate– Martha Hughes Cannon (1896).

Woman State Superintendent: North Dakota was the first to elect a woman to a statewide executive office—Laura Eisenhuth as school superintendent (1892).

Woman U.S. Senator: Arkansas appointed the first woman to the U.S. Senate who then served two full elected terms–Hattie Wyatt Caraway, a Democrat (1932). Maine elected the first female U.S. senator from the outset–Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican (1948).

Women Presidential Convention Delegates: Wyoming was the first state to choose a woman– Frances Warren–delegate to a Republican presidential convention (1900). Utah sent a woman to the Democratic national convention to replace an indisposed male delegate (1900).

Women’s Legislative Caucus: The first women’s legislative caucus was the Women Legislators of Maryland (1972). The Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues was created five years later (1977).

Education

Ban the Box for Ex-Convicts: Louisiana was the first state to prevent state universities from asking about a student’s criminal history on college application forms (2017). Link to background story.   

Bilingual Education: Ohio was the first state to enact a law allowing bilingual education in public schools (1839). Under pressure from the state’s major German population, the law allowed the use of the German language in instruction on petition by a large number of parents. Illinois was the first state to mandate bilingual education in public preschools (2010). Links to background story 1, background story 2, and background story 3 

Biliteracy Seal: California was the first state to adopt a statewide Seal of Biliteracy, a program awarding students with languages skills (2012). Link to background story.  

Black Liberal Arts: North Carolina Central University was the first state-supported liberal arts college for black students under the original name Durham State Normal School (1923).

Bullying of Teachers: North Carolina was the first state to make bullying of teachers and school staff—including comments made via social media—a crime (2012). Link to background story. 

Charter Schools: Minnesota enacted the first charter-school law (1991).

Child Guidance: The first child-guidance program, the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute, was established by Chicago, Illinois (1909).

Citizenship Test Required to Graduate: Arizona was the first state to require high school students to pass a citizenship test before graduation (2016).

Common Core: Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core education standards (2010).

Community College Tuition: Tennessee was the first state to make community-college tuition free for the state’s recent high-school graduates (2014). The state expanded the program to include adults in 2017. Link to background story. 

Compulsory Attendance: Massachusetts was the first state to enact a compulsory attendance law (1852), and the Massachusetts Bay Colony may have been the first jurisdiction to enact a compulsory education law (1642).

Computer Science Required: Virginia was the first state to require that computer science be taught at all school levels (2016). Link to background story. 

Consensual Sexual Activity Defined: California was the first state to define consent in a sexual encounter (2014). The law required, as a condition of state funding, that colleges in the state adopt policies defining consent to sexual activity as an affirmative statement rather than simply the absence of a refusal. Link to background story.   

Corporal Punishment: New Jersey was the first state to ban corporal punishment in public schools (1867), followed by Massachusetts (1971).

Dropout Age: Kentucky was the first state to raise the high school dropout age to 18 (2013), followed by Maryland in response to a call by President Barack Obama to do so. Link to background story.  

Education Savings Account: Arizona enacted the first education savings account program (2011). Link to background story. 

Exercise in Public Schools: Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first city school system to require physical education (1855). California was the first state to pass a law requiring twice per day physical exercise in public schools (1866). Link to background story. 

Extension Courses: The University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin were the first to offer extension courses along the lines of the English model (1892).

Faculty’s Right to Speak: Tennessee was the first state to pass a law that ensures the right of college faculty to speak freely in the classroom as long as the speech does not stray too far from the subject matter of the class (2017). Link to background story. 

Gay and Lesbian History: California was the first state to mandate that the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and people with disabilities be included in the curriculum to teach the history of California and the United States (2011). Link to background story. 

Guns in Schools: South Dakota was the first state to allow teachers and staff to carry guns in public schools (2013). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Internet Safety: Virginia was the first state to require that all grade levels in schools teach internet safety (2008).

Librarians: Wisconsin was the first state to pass comprehensive certification requirements for librarians (1921).

Lunch Shaming: New Mexico was the first state to ban practices—such as stamping “I Need Lunch Money” on children’s arms—intended to embarrass students who are behind on paying for their school lunches (2017). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

“Redskins” as a Team Name: California was the first state to ban schools from using the “Redskins” as a team name or mascot (2017). Link to background story. 

Scholarship Displacement: Maryland was the first state to ban scholarship displacement – a university’s practice of reducing its student aid by the amount of aid that a student receives from other sources (2017). Link to background story. 

Scholarship Tax Credit: The first scholarship tax credit program was enacted by Arizona (1997).  Link to background story. 

State Superintendent: New York appointed the first superintendent of common schools (1812).

Student Loan Help for City Employees: Memphis, Tennessee, was the first city to assist its employees in repaying their student loans (2017). The city offered to pay $50 per month toward the student debt of employees who have worked at least a year for the city. Link to background story. 

Student Privacy Law: California, with the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act, was the first state to enact a law designed to comprehensively address concerns about the use of information about K-12 students (2016). The law prohibits targeted advertising to students and mandates security measures such as encryption of data. Link to background story. 

Student Suspensions: California was the first state to ban school suspensions for young students (kindergarten through third grade) (2014). The law also banned suspensions of older students for minor misbehavior such as failing to have school materials. Link to background story.   

Sunscreen Legislation: California was the first state to allow students to apply sunscreen at school without a doctor’s note (2002). Considered an over-the-counter drug by the US Food and Drug Administration, all states had previously treated it like a medication. Link to background story. 

Tax-Supported Public Library: The Peterborough Town Library in Peterborough, New Hampshire, was the first totally taxpayer supported library (1833).

Teacher Hiring: Wisconsin was the first state to prohibit the use of national origin or race in employing teachers (1933).

Teacher Retirement: New Jersey established the first statewide teacher-retirement annuity system (1896).

Universal Free Public Education: The Vermont Constitution was the first to mandate a free public education for all children funded by the state (1777).

University Tuition: New York was the first state to offer free tuition to its four-year state universities to state residents. The grant is available to students whose families make less than $100,000 annually (2017). Link to background story. 

Vouchers: Wisconsin enacted the first voucher program (1990). Link to background story.

Elections, Election Regulation, and Direct Democracy

Automatic Voter Registration: Oregon was the first state to implement automatic voter registration at motor-vehicle agency offices whereby applicants are registered to vote automatically unless they opt out of registration (2016). Illinois was the first state to use automatic voter registration when citizens use a broad range of government agencies in addition to the Department of Motor Vehicles (2017). Links to background story 1, background story 2, and background story 3  

Election-Day Registration: Minnesota first and then Wisconsin were the first states to permit voters to register on election day at their polling place (1975).

Electric-Voting Machine: The Wisconsin Assembly was the first to use an electric voting machine (1915).

Initiative: The initiative was first provided in Georgia’s constitution (1777), which gave citizens the exclusive right to propose constitutional amendments. South Dakota was the first state to enact the modern popular initiative (1898), followed by 23 other states.

Internet Voting: Alaska became the first state to allow all voters to submit their absentee ballots online (2012). Link to background story. 

Governor Election: New York was the first state to provide for a popularly elected governor (1777).

Judicial Elections: Georgia was the first state to implement judicial elections for inferior court judges (1812). Mississippi was the first state to require all judges to be popularly elected (1832). Link to background story. 

Literacy Test: Oregon was the first state to adopt a literacy test for voting (1924). 

Mail Voting: Oregon was the first state to require all elections to be conducted by mail (1998).

Poll Tax: North Carolina was the first state to enact a poll tax (1876).

Presidential Delegate Primary: Wisconsin was the first state to allow primaries to select delegates to national party conventions (1905).

Presidential Preference Primary: North Dakota in March and Wisconsin in April were the first states to establish a presidential preference primary (1912).

Primaries: Wisconsin was the first state to enact a statewide primary law (1903).

Proportional Representation: Ashtabula, Ohio, was the first of 24 U.S. cities to implement the single transferable vote form of proportional representation (1915). Michigan was the first state to declare PR elections unconstitutional (1920).

Ranked-Choice Voting: Maine was the first state to enact ranked-choice voting, by which voters rank candidates by preference rather than choosing a single candidate (2017). If no candidate wins a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters vote for the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate wins a majority. However, the state constitution in effect at the time provided for a plurality vote. Link to background story.  

Recall of Elected Officials: The Los Angeles charter was the first state or local jurisdiction to provide for the popular recall vote of official (1903). Oregon and then Michigan were the first states to adopt the recall statewide (1908). Link to background story.  

Referendum: Massachusetts was the first state to hold a statewide legislative referendum (1778).

Same-Day Voter Registration: Maine was the first state to enact same-day voter registration whereby voters can register to vote on election days (1973). Link to background story.  

Secret Ballot: Louisville, Kentucky, was the first city to adopt the secret ballot in elections (1888). Massachusetts became the first state to adopt the practice the same year. Links to background story 1 and background story 2  

Selection of U.S. Senators: Nebraska was the first state to provide for some popular choice in the selection of U.S. senators (1875).

Term Limits: California, Colorado, and Oklahoma were the first states to enact state legislative term limits (1990).

Universal White Male Suffrage: South Carolina was the first state to provide fir universal white male suffrage (1810). Link to background story.  

Voter ID: South Carolina was first state to enact a voter identification law (1950).

Voting Age: Takoma Park, Maryland, was the first city to lower the voting age for local elections to 16 (2013).

Women’s Suffrage: Wyoming was the first jurisdiction to enact unrestricted women’s suffrage (in 1869 as a territory and 1890 as a state). Link to background story.

Energy

Coal Divestiture: California was the first state to mandate its public pension funds to divest from coal companies (2015). Link to background story. 

Coal Use: Oregon became the first state to commit itself to completely eliminating the use of coal (2016). The state set a goal of eliminating the use of coal by 2035. Link to background story. 

Competitive Electricity Market: California was the first state to partially deregulate the electricity market (1996). The state lifted caps on wholesale electricity, but left retail consumer caps in place. Link to background story. 

Energy Storage Tax Credit: Maryland was the first state to offer a tax credit for energy-storing systems (2017). The tax credit is available for residential and commercial uses. Link to background story. 

Market Demand Law: Oklahoma passed the first Proration Statute (regulatory mechanism on oil production) to avoid overproduction by limiting oil production to market demand (1915).

Nuclear Energy: Pennsylvania was the first state legislature in the nation to host a nuclear energy caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to focus on nuclear energy issues (2017). Link to background story. 

Oil and Gas Drilling: The first well spacing rule (oil and gas development) legislated in the United States was passed by the Railroad Commission of Texas (Rule 37) in 1919.

Renewable Energy: Iowa was the first state to establish a Renewable Energy Portfolio (1983). Link to background story. 

Environment

Air Pollution: Chicago, Illinois, and Cincinnati, Ohio, were the first U.S. jurisdictions to enact air-pollution laws (1881), mainly to control smoke and soot from locomotives and furnaces. Oregon was the first state to enact an overall air-pollution law (1952), followed by the first federal air-pollution law that mostly provided federal funds to states for air-pollution research and abatement training (1955).

Alignment with Paris Climate Agreement: Hawaii was the first state to enact a law that aligns its carbon emission goals with the Paris climate treaty (2017). The law was intended to support the commitments and goals of the Paris agreement, despite the rejection of the treaty by the administration of Donald Trump in 2017. Link to background story. 

Appliance Efficiency: California was the first state to implement appliance-efficiency standards (1974). The new law required the California Energy Commission to promulgate standards for appliances. Link to background story. 

Bee Protection: Maryland was the first state to eliminate consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides–a leading driver of global bee declines (2016). Link to background story. 

Bisphenol A Ban: Suffolk County, New York, was the first jurisdiction to ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic compound useful in making plastics, in empty beverage containers intended for children under the age of three (2009). Link to background story. 

Bottle Bill: Oregon passed the first container-deposit law in the nation, offering a small refund for each returned bottle (1971). The law was amended in 2009 to include water bottles. Link to background story. 

Brownfields: Ohio was the first state to adopt a uniform law on the regulation of brownfields – land that has suffered environmental contamination (2005). A key aspect of the law is the durability of restrictive covenants that outline how the land can be used safely as the land is transferred over time to different owners. Link to background story.  

Building Energy Usage Publicly Available: California was the first state to require public access to data concerning the efficiency of entire buildings (2015). A goal of the law is to force building owners to compete with one another over energy efficiency. Link to background story. 

Coal Use: Oregon became the first state to commit itself to completely eliminating the use of coal (2016). The state set a goal of eliminating the use of coal by 2035. Link to background story. 

Environmental Protection Departments: Minnesota and Wisconsin were the first states to locate all environmental protection functions in one state department (1967).

Fisheries Commission: New Hampshire was the first state to establish a fisheries agency (1865).

Fracking: Pittsburgh was the first jurisdiction to ban fracking (2010). Vermont was the first state to ban fracking (2012). Maryland became the first state with proven gas reserves to ban fracking (2014). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

“Green” Roofs: San Francisco, California, was the first city to require that new buildings devote a portion of their roofs to “green” surfaces (surfaces with vegetation and a growing medium) or solar panels (2016). Link to background story. 

Lead in Ammunition: California was the first state to prohibit the use of lead in ammunition for hunting (2013). Link to background story. 

Methane Leaks: Colorado was the first state to limit pollution caused by methane leaks from oil and gas operations (2014). Link to background story. 

Microbead: Illinois became the first state to ban microbeads in personal care products and drugs in an effort to prevent water pollution (2014). Link to background story.  

Oil and Gas Conservation: Louisiana was the first state to pass an oil and gas conservation law (1906). Link to background story. 

Oil and Natural Gas Waste Products Banned: New York City was the first jurisdiction to ban the discharge or use of all waste products associated with any kind of oil or gas extraction (2016). Link to background story. 

Passive House Tax Credit: Pennsylvania was the first state to offer a tax credit for passive housing (2015). A “passive house” is a structure built to a high level of energy efficiency. Link to background story. 

Plastic Retail Bags: San Francisco was the first jurisdiction to ban disposable, non-recyclable plastic carry-out bags (2007). California was the first state to ban distribution of single-use plastic bags at large retail stores (2014); however, the law was subjected to a veto referendum, which voters rejected in 2016. Hawaii’s four county councils made Hawaii the first state to implement a statewide ban plastic bags at retail stores (2015).

Plastic Water Bottles: San Francisco was the first city in America to ban the sale of plastic water bottles (2015).

Reclaimed Trash for Energy: Baltimore, Maryland, was the first city in the world to use litter reclaimed from its waterways to generate electricity (2015). The city uses a large water wheel to scoop up trash from the city’s harbor, which is then sent to a company that processes the trash in a way that generates electricity. Link to background story. 

Renewable Energy: Iowa was the first state to establish a Renewable Energy Portfolio (1983). Link to background story. 

Repeal of Alternative Energy Goals: West Virginia was the first state to repeal alternative-energy goals that the state had earlier set for itself (2015). The repealed mandate would have required the state’s electrical utilities to generate at least 25 percent of their power through the use of non-fossil fuel energy sources. Link to background story. 

Sewage Treatment: Worcester, Massachusetts, constructed the first chemical-precipitation sewage-treatment plant (1890).

Solar Power’s Value: Minnesota was the first state to create a statewide formula for calculating the value of customer-generated solar power (2014). Link to background story.

State-Administered Air Pollution Cap-and-Trade System: California was the first state to establish cap-and-trade regulations for airborne emissions (2011). In this context, a cap is a greenhouse gas emission limit. Companies that exceed the cap pay a penalty. Trade refers to the market that companies use to buy and sell emissions allowances that permit them to emit a specified amount of greenhouse gases. California enacted the regulations to address climate change and help the state achieve its goals for greenhouse gas emissions. Link to background story. 

Styrofoam Use: Berkeley, California, was the first jurisdiction to limit the use of styrofoam (1988). Link to background story. 

Water Pollution: South Carolina was apparently the first jurisdiction to enact a water-pollution law providing: “Should any person cause to flow into or be cast into any of the creeks, streams or inland waters of this State any impurities that are poisonous to fish or destructive to their spawn, such person shall, upon conviction, be punished” (1671).

Water Works Supply: Boston, Massachusetts, constructed the first public water works using wood pipes (1649).

Family

Adoption: Massachusetts passed the nation’s first modern adoption law (1851). Adoptions had occurred before this law, but this statute was the first to focus on children’s welfare rather than adult interests. Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Anti-Heart Balm Statute: Indiana was the first state to ban “heart balm” lawsuits (1935), also known as breach-of-promise actions, brought by a person formerly in a marital engagement against the other person to soothe the pain resulting from the latter’s termination of the relationship. Some states still allow this cause of action. Links to background story 1 (p. 338) and background story 2 (p. 337).

Covenant Marriage: Louisiana was the first state to enact covenant marriage legislation requiring premarital counseling and making divorce more legally difficult to obtain (1997). Link to background story. 

Domestic Partnership: Berkeley, California, was the first jurisdiction to enact a domestic partnership ordinance (1984). California was the first state to enact a domestic partnership law (1999).

Marital Rape: Nebraska was the first state to criminalize sexual assault occurring within a marriage (1976). Link to background story. 

Marriage License: Massachusetts was the first jurisdiction to require a marriage license (1639).

Married Women’s Property Act: Mississippi was the first state to enact a statute giving married women control over their separate property (1839). New York was the first state to broadly protect married women’s property (1848), followed by California and Wisconsin in 1850. Links to background story 1 and background story 2  

No-Fault Divorce: California enacted the first no-fault divorce law in the country when it passed a law allowing married couples to divorce without proving fault in the marriage (1969). Links to background story 1 and background story 2  

Parens Patriae and Juvenile Justice: Massachusetts first articulated the idea of parens patriae (“parent of the country”) in relation to accusations of juvenile misconduct (1944). Under this concept, the state acts as a “parent” to the youth, giving the state the power to intervene when doing so in the child’s best interests. Link to background story. 

Physical Violence Toward Wife Prohibited: Massachusetts and Alabama outlawed a husband’s right to physically assault his wife (1871). Link to background story. 

Prenuptial Agreements: The Florida Supreme Court was the first to hold that a premarital agreement that contemplates divorce does not, per se, violate public policy (1970). Courts had previously been skeptical of such agreements in light of the inequality of women’s legal and economic rights. Link to background story (p. 252). 

Probate: Idaho was the first state to allow estates to be probated without an attorney (1971).

Same-Sex Marriage Prohibited: Maryland was the first state to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman (1973). Link to background story.

Fiscal and Economic Issues

Bitcoin Regulations: New York was the first state to establish rules for businesses accepting, selling, or buying virtual currencies (2015). Link to background story.

Blockchain Taxes Prohibited: Nevada was the first state to ban local governments from taxing the use of blockchains (2017). A blockchain is a distributed database consisting of a continuously growing list of records (i.e., blocks) that cannot be altered without the alteration of all other blocks. Link to background story. 

Border Wall Divestment: Berkeley, California, was the first city to pass an ordinance that would divest the city from investing in, or working with, any company that involves itself with the border wall with Mexico proposed by President Donald Trump (2017). Link to background story. 

Budget: California and Wisconsin were the first states to enact laws establishing a formal state budget (1911).

CEO Pay Taxed: Portland, Oregon, was the first city to place a tax on companies that pay their chief executive officers 100 times the median pay of their workers (2016). Link to background story. 

Cigarette Tax: Iowa was the first state to tax cigarettes (1921). Link to background story. 

Constitutional Debt Limit: Rhode Island was the first state to adopt a constitutional debt limit prohibiting the legislature from incurring debts exceeding $50,000 “without the consent of the voters, except in time of war, insurrection, or invasion” (1842).

Corporate Income Tax: Hawaii was the first jurisdiction to enact a corporate income tax (1901). Source: Tax Foundation.

Divesting from Private Prisons: New York City was the first city to fully divest from for-profit private prison companies in its pension fund investments (2017). Link to background story. 

Economic Development Agency: Alabama was the first state to create a permanent agency—Department of Agriculture and Industries—to publicize and promote the development of its agricultural and industrial resources (1923).

Energy-Efficient Computers: California was the first state to set energy-efficient limits for computers and monitors (2016). The limits take effect in 2018. Link to background story. 

Finance Department: Illinois created the first Department of Finance (1917).

Fiscal Note: Wisconsin was the first state to require fiscal notes estimating the fiscal impacts of proposed legislation (1955).

General Tax: Massachusetts was the first jurisdiction to enact a general tax assessing each man “according to his estate and with consideration of all other his abilityes whatsoever” (1634).

Gift Tax: Oregon first and then Wisconsin were the first states to enact a gift tax (1933).

Gold Depository: Texas was the first state to enact a law creating a state depository for gold bullion (2015).

Impact Fees: The first impact fee was levied by the Hinsdale Sanitary District in Illinois (1947).

Inheritance Tax: Pennsylvania enacted the first inheritance tax (1826). Illinois enacted the first progressive inheritance tax (1896).

Insurance Reserves: Massachusetts was the first state to enact a law requiring insurance companies to hold reserves adequate to cover claims (1837). Link to background story. 

Marketplace Companies Collect Sales Taxes: Minnesota was the first jurisdiction to require “marketplace” online providers (e.g., Amazon and eBay) to collect sales and use taxes on behalf of third-party businesses that have a presence in the state and sell goods offered by the online providers (2017). Link to background story. 

Personal Income Tax: The first state to enact a personal income tax was Virginia (1843). The tax  became a general income tax in 1863.

Pet Insurance: California was the first state to impose basic requirements for pet insurance, including the disclosure of basic policy information such as reimbursement benefits and pre-existing condition restrictions (2014). The law also requires insurers to give customers a 30-day period during which customers can return their policy for a full refund. Link to background story. 

Sales Tax: West Virginia was apparently the first state to levy a sales tax (1921), although there is debate as to whether it was Kentucky or Mississippi in 1930, in part because the definition of a sales tax evolved until adoption of basically the same type of sales tax by about 11 states by 1933.

State Prison Privatized: Ohio was the first state to sell one of its prisons to a private company (2011). Link to background story. 

Gaming and Sports

Dog Racing: Florida was the first state to legalize dog tracks for legal racing (1931). Link to background story. 

Esports Sponsored: Washington, DC, was the first city to sponsor an esports (competitive multiplayer video game) team, the NRG eSports (2017). Link to background story 1 and background story 2.

Facial Protection: Kentucky was the first state to require softball pitchers and players at first and third base to wear face masks (2017). Link to background story. 

Fantasy Sports: Maryland was the first state to pass a law legalizing pay-to-play fantasy sports (2012). However, the state’s attorney general claimed the legislature had no authority over the matter without first changing the state constitution. Kansas, therefore, became the first state to pass a law specifically authorizing pay-to-play fantasy sports (2015). Virginia enacted the first state law legalizing and regulating daily fantasy sports involving money (2016).

Fisheries Commission: New Hampshire was the first state to establish a fisheries agency (1865).

Helmet Law for Winter Sports: New Jersey was the first state to require skiers and snowboarders under age 18 to wear a helmet (2011). Link to background story. 

Hunt, Trap, and Fish Rights: Vermont was the first state to establish such a constitutional right (1777).

Lottery: Puerto Rico created the first modern government-sponsored lottery (1934), followed by New Hampshire in 1964. The first multi-state lottery was formed by Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (1985). Illinois was the first state to sell lottery tickets online (2012). Link to background story. 

Prizefighting: New Jersey was the first state to ban “prizefighting” (1835), though the previous year Ohio passed a law against “fisticuffs” amidst the rise of prizefighting. Link to background story. 

Safety Plan for College Athletes: Boston, Massachusetts, is believed to be the first city to put in place safety measures for National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes who play in the city (2014). The law requires local colleges to have an emergency medical action plan for all host venues and bars players with concussions from playing. The ordinance also requires the presence of a neurotrauma consultant for Division I football, ice hockey, and men’s lacrosse events. Link to background story. 

Sports Safety Ratings: Tennessee was the first state to establish a way for parents to see whether various youth sports leagues are in compliance with state safety protocols (2017). Participation in the program by sports leagues is not mandatory. Link to background story. 

Health

Abortion: Partial Birth or Late Term Bans: Ohio was the first state to adopt legislation banning partial birth or late term abortions (1995).

Abortion Regulation: Connecticut enacted the first law regulating abortion, which prohibited inducement of an abortion with poison after the fourth month of pregnancy (1821). Link to background story (p. 85). 

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Training: West Virginia was the first state to train law enforcement and first-responder personnel statewide about how to interact with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia (2016). Link to background story. 

Baby Boxes for Abandoned Newborns: Indiana was the first state to allow the use of lockable boxes at fire stations for mothers to abandon unwanted newborn babies (2016). Link to background story. 

Baby Boxes for Newborns: New Jersey was the first state to provide new and expectant mothers with cardboard cribs with firm mattresses designed to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (2017). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.    

Barbers Licensed: Minnesota was the first state to establish licensing standards for barbers (1897). Link to background story. 

Bisphenol A Ban: Suffolk County, New York, was the first jurisdiction to ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic compound useful in making plastics, in empty beverage containers intended for children under the age of three (2009). Link to background story. 

Breastfeeding in Public Protected: New York was the first state to pass a law protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public (1994). Links to background story 1 and background story 2  

Birth Control Without Prescription: Oregon was the first state to allow over-the-counter hormonal contraceptives (2016). Link to background story. 

Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Minnesota was the first state to require, under Sophia’s Law, all motorboats with “enclosed accommodation” areas, such as toilet compartments, sleeping areas, and galleys with sinks, to have a hard-wired, marine-certified, carbon monoxide detector (2015). Link to background story. 

Care for Disabled: New York established the first state-funded asylum for the care and education of people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities (1853). Link to background story. 

Cigarette Vending Machines: Utah was the first state to ban cigarette vending machines, except in places where minors were not allowed (1990). Numerous other municipalities had such ordinances; however, Utah was the first statewide ban in an effort to curb access by minors. Link to background story. 

Cooperative Health Associations: Wisconsin was the first state to authorize sickness and health plans through cooperative associations (1947).

Conversion Therapy: California was the first state to ban conversion therapy for gays and lesbians for anyone under age 18 (2012).

Crib Bumper Pads: Chicago was the first jurisdiction to pass legislation to ban the use of cushions in infant cribs because of the suffocation risk posed by the cushions (2011). Link to background story. 

Doctor-Patient Privilege: New York enacted the first law preventing a physician from giving medical testimony without the patient’s consent (1828). Depending on the jurisdiction, this could apply in both criminal and civil cases. Link to background story (p. 676).  

Drug Price Gouging: Maryland was the first state to enact a law prohibiting “unconscionable” price increases for generic drugs and authorizing the state’s attorney general to sue drug companies to lower prices (2017).

Eugenics: Indiana passed the first eugenics law providing for mandatory sterilization for certain individuals in state custody (1907). Kansas followed in 1913. Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Flavored Vaping Liquids Banned: San Francisco was the first city to ban the sale of flavored nicotine-containing liquids used in electronic cigarettes and other vaping products (2017). Link to background story. 

Fluoride Warning: New Hampshire was the first state to require the presence of a warning to consumers that infant formula mixed with fluoridated water can discolor an infant’s teeth (2012). The law required that notices be included in consumer notices from the state’s water-supply system. Link to background story. 

Genetically Modified Food: Connecticut was the first state to require the labeling of genetically engineered food sold in the state (2013). Connecticut anticipated significant resistance to the rule changes, declaring that the new rules would take effect only after at least four other states in the Northeast where at least 20 million people lived passed similar laws. Links to background story 1, background story 2, and background story 3

Glyphosate Listed as a Carcinogen: California was the first state to list glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup, a widely used herbicide produced by Monsanto – as a carcinogen (2015). Link to background story.

Head Injuries During Youth Sports: Washington was the first state to require that any youth who suffers a head injury during a sporting event be removed from the event and not be allowed to return to play until a licensed health-care provider clears the youth to return (2009). All states now have such return-to-play laws. Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Healthcare Pricing: Massachusetts was the first state to require health insurers to disclose the price of healthcare procedures offered in the state (2014). The law required insurers to post prices for services ranging from office visits to surgical procedures. Link to background story.

Health Department: Massachusetts was the first state to establish a public health department (1869).

Health Insurance Mandatory: Massachusetts was the first state to require its residents to purchase health insurance (2007). This requirement served as part of the state’s plan to get Massachusetts as close as possible to universal health care (2007). Link to background story.

Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders: California had the first law requiring bicycle passengers under age 5 to wear a helmet (1987). States gradually increased the ages of riders requiring helmets.  New Jersey was the first to mandate them for 14 year olds (1992 – although the law was rescinded in 2005), Georgia and Connecticut 16 year olds (1993), and California for everyone under 18 (1994). Chico, California was the first municipality to require helmets for bikers of all ages in its Bidwell Park (1991).

Helmet Laws for Motorcyclists. New York was the first state to pass law requiring motorcycle riders to wear a helmet (1967). Link to background story. 

Helmet Laws for Tricycle Riders: New Mexico was the first state to include tricycle riders in its helmet laws (2007).  Link to background story. 

Helmet Law for Winter Sports: New Jersey was the first state to require skiers and snowboarders under age 18 to wear a helmet (2011). Link to background story.

Hepatitis C Law: New York implemented the nation’s first hepatitis C testing law to increase the number of people who knew their hepatitis C status (2014). The law mirrored 2012 recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control. Link to background story.

HIV Disclosure: Florida, Tennessee, and Washington were the first states to enact HIV-specific criminal laws that required persons with the disease to disclose that fact to potential sexual partners (1986). Link to background story.

Laboratory: Minnesota established the first public health laboratory (1890).

Lead-Based Paint: Baltimore, Maryland, passed the country’s first restriction on the use of interior lead-based paint (1951).

Lead Testing in All Schools: New York was the first state to require that all schools in the state be tested for the presence of lead in drinking water (2016). Link to background story.

Living Will: California was the first state to provide for living wills (1976).

Marijuana in Bars and Restaurants: Denver, Colorado, was the first governmental body in the nation to allow the use of marijuana in bars and restaurants (2016). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Medical Equipment: Wisconsin was the first state to enact a certificate of need to control medical equipment outside of hospitals, such as physicians’ offices and nursing homes (1975).

Medical Marijuana: California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana (1996).

Menstrual Equality Law: New York City was the first jurisdiction to provide free feminine hygiene products to students in the city’s public schools, women in jails, and homeless women living in shelters (2016). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Mental Institutions: Virginia was the first state to provide public funds to build an institution (Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg) for treatment of the mentally ill (1773).

Menu-Labeling Law: California was the first state to pass a law requiring restaurants to list the calorie counts of their food (2008). Link to background story.

Midwife Licensing: New York City was the first jurisdiction to license midwives (1716).

Miscarriage Certificates: Florida was the first state to issue certificates to parents of miscarried fetuses (2017). The law requires the state to issue the certificates to parents who request them. Link to background story.

Mosquito Spray for Medicaid Recipients: Texas was the first state to issue, free of charge, mosquito repellant to the state’s Medicaid recipients (2016). Texas launched the program in an effort to slow the spread of the Zika virus. Link to background story.

Narcotics Addicts: Connecticut was the first state to declare that “narcotic addicts” are incompetent to attend to their personal affairs (1874). Link to background story. 

Non-consensual Prisoner Sterilization: California was the first state to ban the sterilization of women inmates without their consent (2015). Link to background story. 

Nurse to Patient Ratios Established: California was the first state to put in place minimum nurse–to-patient ratios for hospitals (1999). Link to background story.

Off-Label Uses of Medication: Arizona was the first state to allow pharmaceutical companies to discuss “off-label” uses of prescription drugs with medical professionals (2017). The law applies to medication that has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, but for uses or dosages different than those approved by the FDA (i.e., uses other than for uses stated on the label). Link to background story.

Opioid Antidote: New Mexico was the first state to reduce legal barriers to prescribing the drug naloxone by physicians and administering the drug by people other than physicians without fear of legal repercussions (2001). The legal changes were made to help combat the use of opioids.  New Mexico then became the first state to require law-enforcement officers to carry antidote kits to reduce deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses (2017).  Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Opioid Prescriptions: Massachusetts was the first state to limit an opioid prescription to a one-week supply for first-time adult prescriptions (2016). The law similarly limited opiate prescriptions for minors, with certain exceptions. Link to background story.

Organic Food: Oregon was the first state to enact legislation regulating organic food (1973). Link to background story (see page 4). 

Paid Sick Leave: Connecticut was the first state to require private employers to provide paid sick leave (2011). Illinois was the first state to mandate that paid sick leave could be used to attend to the medical needs of family members (2016).  Links to background story 1 and background story 2

PANDAS Coverage: Illinois was the first state to require insurance companies to cover treatment for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) (2017). A case of strep throat in some children can lead to PANDAS, in which the child’s immune system attacks the brain. Link to background story.

Pharmaceutical Price Hikes: Vermont was the first state to require pharmaceutical makers to justify price hikes (2016). The law required state officials to identify drugs with the most significant price increases. The state would then contact the drug makers and require an explanation for the price increase. Link to background story.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers: Maryland was the first state to regulate Pharmacy Benefit Managers (2008). These firms administer prescription benefits for health insurance companies and employers. Link to background story.  

Physician-Assisted Suicide: Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide through its voter-approved Death with Dignity Act (1994).

Physician Education: Wisconsin was the first state to require anyone treating the ill to complete training in physiology, anatomy, pathology, and diagnosis (1925).

Physician Licensing: California and Texas were the first states to license physicians (1876).

Planned Parenthood: Maryland was the first state to mitigate any pending federal Planned Parenthood cuts by pledging to replace federal funding support, effective July 1, 2017. Link to background story. 

Plumbing Regulated: Ohio was the first state to establish statewide minimum standards for the installation of plumbing (1910). Link to background story.

Pornography: Utah was the first state to enact a resolution declaring “pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms” (2016). Link to background story.

Prescription Drugs: Maine was the first state to allow residents to import prescription drugs (2013).

Prescription Medication Reuse: Georgia is believed to be the first state to allow unused prescription drugs to be donated for reuse to other persons within the same long-term care facility (1997). Link to background story.

Prescription Medication Take-Back Program: Massachusetts was the first state to require prescription-drug manufacturers to pay for and manage the return of unused medications (2016). Link to background story.

Prescriptions by Psychologists: New Mexico was the first state to allow psychologists to write prescriptions for psychotropic medications (2002). Link to background story.

Prisoner Sex-Reassignment Surgery: California was the first state to pay for sex-reassignment surgery for a prisoner, Shiloh Heavenly Quine (2016).

Public Defibrillator Use: Florida was the first state to enact broad-ranging legislation encouraging the use by the public of automated external defibrillators in an effort to decrease the number of deaths from heart attacks (1997). Link to background story.

Reactive Chemicals: New Jersey was the first jurisdiction to address the heightened risk posed to workers and communities by reactive chemicals – substances that can explode when accidentally exposed to air or water, or when they are mixed improperly with other chemicals (2003). The regulation requires companies dealing with these chemicals to prepare accidental-release prevention plans and to examine safer technologies to minimize the risk of industrial incidents. Link to background story.

Restrictions on Firearm Discussions: Florida was the first state to prohibit health-care providers from asking patients whether they owned guns or stored them safely (2011). The law was struck down on free-speech grounds in 2017, but a number of other states have introduced similar legislation.  Links to background story 1 and background story 2. 

Right to Try: In its “Dallas Buyers Club Bill,” Colorado was the first state to allow patients to work with pharmaceutical companies to access drugs not yet approved by the FDA (2014). Link to background story.

Sick-Day Leave: Connecticut was the first state to require employers to provide sick-day leave to employees (2011). Link to background story.

Smokeless Tobacco: San Francisco was the first jurisdiction to ban the use of smokeless tobacco products at all sports venues (2015). Link to background story.

Smoking Age: Hawaii was the first state to increase the legal tobacco smoking age to 21 (2016).

Smoking Bans: The Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first to ban smoking in public places (1631), though the ban was not for personal health reasons but fire prevention. Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act was the first statewide ban on smoking in most public spaces (1975). San Luis Obispo, California, was the first city in the world to prohibit indoor smoking at all public places, including bars and restaurants (1990).

Soda Tax: Berkeley, California, was the first city to levy a soda tax aimed at combating excessive sugar intake and obesity (2014).

Stem-Cell Therapy: Texas was the first state to approve the use of unproven stem cell interventions without the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Sunscreen Legislation: California was the first state to allow students to apply sunscreen at school without a doctor’s note (2002). Considered an over-the-counter drug by the US Food and Drug Administration, all states had previously treated it like a medication. Link to background story. 

Syringe Vending Machines: Nevada was the first state to offer syringes, free of charge, via vending machines (2017). The syringes, available only via electronic scan card to persons participating in an assistance program, are intended to combat the state’s rising rates of HIV and heroin addiction. Link to background story.

Tanning Bed Ban: California was the first state to ban tanning bed access by those under the age of 18 (2011). Link to background story. 

Telepharmacy: North Dakota was the first state to regulate telepharmacy, the delivery of pharmaceuticals via telecommunications to patients who are in locations where they might not have direct contact with a pharmacist (2001). Link to background story.

Tobacco Help Via Telephone: Oregon was the first state to offer over-the-telephone assistance to people wanting to quit using tobacco (1998). Link to background story.

Tobacco Product Sales to Minors (younger than age of 16): New Jersey was the first state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to minors (1883).

Tobacco Tax: Iowa was the first state to tax cigarettes (1921). California was the first state to tax tobacco products with the stated intention to use the revenue for tobacco-use reduction programs (1988).

Triclosan Banned: Minnesota was the first state to ban the use of triclosan, a germ-killing agent, in soap (2016). Researchers had linked the substance to a variety of health and environmental issues. Link to background story.

Tuberculosis Prevention: Maryland was the first state to enact a comprehensive tuberculosis-prevention law (1904).

Water Chlorine Treatment: The Boonton Reservoir, which supplied water to Jersey City, New Jersey, was the first to use chlorine regularly as a disinfectant for the water supply (1908).

Water Fluoridation: Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first city in the world to fluoridate its drinking water (January 1945), followed by Newburgh, New York, in May 1945 and Evanston, Illinois, in January 1946.

Immigration and Refugee Issues

E-Verify: Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina were the first states to require state agencies or businesses contracting with the state to use E-Verify to guarantee new employees were citizens (2006). Arizona was the first state to mandate that all employers use E-Verify (2007). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Illegal-Immigrant Rental Housing: Farmers Branch, Texas, was the first jurisdiction to prohibit landlords from leasing housing to persons in the United States illegally (2006). Link to background story.

Illegal Immigrants Driver’s License: Washington was the first state to allow individuals to procure a driver’s license without providing a Social Security number (1993), thus allowing undocumented immigrants to get state identification. New Mexico (2003) was the first state to pass legislation specifically allowing distribution of driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. Links to background story 1 and background story 2 

In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants: Texas was the first state to allow illegal immigrants to pay only in-state tuition at state institutions of higher education (2001). Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants: New York established the first legal defense fund to help illegal immigrants facing deportation (2017). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Sanctuary-City Ban: Mississippi was the first state to enact a statewide ban on sanctuary cities, counties, and state colleges and universities (2017). Texas was the first state to enact criminal penalties for city, county, and university officials of so-called sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests (2017). Link to background story. 

Sanctuary State: California was the first state to declare itself a sanctuary state (2017).

 

International Affairs, Foreign Aid, and Foreign Trade

Anti-BDS Law: South Carolina was the first state to pass an anti-Boycott, Divestiture and Sanctions law aimed at preventing the state from doing business with companies that participate in boycotts of Israel (2015). The legislation did not specifically name Israel, rather it mentioned boycotts of any “jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade.” Illinois was the first state to specifically mention Israel in anti-BDS legislation related to public pension fund investments (2015). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.  

State Foreign Office: New York was the first state to open an office in Europe for purposes of commerce and tourism (1963) followed by Illinois and Virginia (1968). Link to background story. 

State Foreign Trade Office (Africa): Ohio was the first state to open a trade office in Nigeria (1983). Though it has since closed, other states have opened offices for commerce in Africa. Link to background story.

Labor and Employment

Administrative Law: Wisconsin was the first state to create an industrial commission placing all labor-law enforcement in one agency and, through this, was the first state to allow agency formulation of administrative law rather than statutes to regulate industry (1911).

Ban the Box Law: Hawaii was the first state to ban private employers from asking questions about criminal convictions on employment applications (1998). The law stipulated that no questions about conviction history could be asked until an offer of conditional employment was extended to the individual.  Links to background story 1 and background story 2.  

Ban the Box Local Preemption: Indiana was the first state to prevent local governments from adopting ban the box laws. Proponents of the law argued that a patchwork of local laws banning questions about criminal convictions on employment applications would be too costly for businesses operating in the state (2017). Link to background story. 

Bereavement Leave: Oregon was the first state to require certain private-sector employers (25 or more employees) to provide bereavement leave to their covered employees. Under the law, employees are entitled to up to two weeks leave for the death of a family member (2014). Link to background story. 

Bureau of Labor: Massachusetts was the first state to establish a Bureau of Labor Statistics advocated by the labor movement (1869). A U.S. Bureau of Labor was created in 1884, and President Chester A. Arthur asked Carroll D. Wright of the Massachusetts bureau to be the first U.S. Commissioner of Labor.

Child Labor: Connecticut and Massachusetts enacted the first child-labor laws (1842).

Disability: Wisconsin was the first state to enact a law prohibiting employment discrimination due to disability (1965).

Employment Office: Ohio established the first public employment office (1890).

Labor Day: Oregon was the first state to recognize Labor Day (1887), followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York (1887). The U.S. Congress recognized Labor Day in 1894.

Lowering Minimum Wages: Iowa was the first state to take back the higher minimum wages that workers had already begun to receive under increased-wage laws passed by local government (2017). Link to background story. 

Minimum Wage: Massachusetts was the first state to enact a minimum wage law (1912). California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin enacted such laws in 1913. The Congress enacted the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.

Paid Parental Leave: California was the first state to offer paid family leave to care for a newborn or ill family member (2004). The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993 but did not require that employers continue to pay employees during the leave. Link to background story. 

Paid Sick Leave: Connecticut was the first state to require private employers to provide paid sick leave (2011). Illinois was the first state to mandate that paid sick leave could be used to attend to the medical needs of family members (2016). Link to background story 1 and background story 2

Pension Plan: Massachusetts was the first state to establish a pension retirement plan for its public employees (1911).

Public Employee Collective Bargaining: New Hampshire was the first state to allow municipalities to bargain collectively with public-employee unions (1955), followed by Massachusetts and Wisconsin in 1959.

Right-to-Work Law: Florida was the first state to enact a right-to-work law (1943). The first constitutional right-to-work provisions were ratified in Arkansas and Florida in 1944.

Salary History Requests Prohibited: Massachusetts was the first state to prohibit employers from asking potential employees about their salary history (2016). Employers are allowed to request this information only after making a job offer.  Link to background story. 

Sanctuary City Lawsuit: San Francisco was the first city to sue the federal government for its attempt to require local governments to enforce federal immigration laws (2017). Link to background story. 

Sick-Day Leave: Connecticut was the first state to require employers to provide sick-day leave to employees (2011). Link to background story. 

State-Run Retirement Plan: Illinois was the first state to establish a publicly run retirement plan for private-sector employees who do not have one from their employer (2015). All private employers with more than 25 workers are required to automatically sign up their employees, although employees can opt out. Link to background story.  

State-Run Retirement Plan for Private Employees: California was the first state to create a state-run retirement plan for low-income private-sector employees (2012). Employers with more than five employees are required to withhold three percent of employees’ income unless the employees opt out of the program. Link to background story. 

Subminimum Wage Banned: New Hampshire was the first state to prohibit the paying of less than minimum wage to people with disabilities (2015). Link to background story. 

Ten-Hour Day Law: New Hampshire was the first state to enact a working hour limit (1847).

Timely Scheduling: Oregon was the first state to require large employers in the retail, hospitality, and food-service industries to give employees written schedules a week or more ahead of time (2017). Link to background story. 

Unemployment Compensation: Wisconsin was the first state to enact an unemployment compensation law (1932).

Unionized Ridesharing: Seattle, Washington, was the first city to allow rideshare drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize (2017). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Women’s Labor: Massachusetts was the first state to enact a law regulating women’s working hours (1874).

Worker’s Compensation: Maryland was the first state to enact worker’s compensation (1902); however, the law was ruled unconstitutional. The first worker’s compensation law to be upheld was enacted in 1911 in Wisconsin. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.    

Workplace Bullying Banned: Tennessee was the first state to prohibit verbal abuse by employees in the workplace (2014). The law, which applies only to public-sector employers and employees, aims to lessen verbal abuse at work by offering immunity to employers who adopt policies that comply with the law.  Link to background story. 

Worker’s Safety: Massachusetts passed the first law to protect workers when it required protective devices for employees working around elevators, machinery, and hoists (1877). Link to background story. 

Yellow-Dog Contracts: Wisconsin was the first state to ban yellow-dog contracts (1929). Such contracts bind workers to not join a union.

Local Government and Governance

Ban the Box Local Preemption: Indiana was the first state to prevent local governments from adopting ban the box laws. Proponents of the law argued that a patchwork of local laws banning questions about criminal convictions on employment applications would be too costly for businesses operating in the state (2017). Link to background story.  

City Charter: York, Maine, was the first city to be chartered (1641) and the first incorporated city (1642). Link to background story. 

City “Storyteller”: Detroit, Michigan, was the first city to hire “storytellers”—writers charged with the task of writing about the people, events, and projects of the city’s neighborhoods (2017). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Commission: The commission form of municipal government originated in Galveston, Texas (1901).

Corporate Mining: The Pennsylvania community of Blaine Township was the first to prohibit mining by corporate-owned companies within its jurisdiction (2006). This provision is part of legislation that aimed to reduce corporate influence in local governance and to re-establish local self-governance in response to state legislation perceived locally as protecting corporations. Link to background story. 

Council-Manager: Staunton, Virginia, appointed the first city manager (1908), but Sumter, South Carolina, is credited with establishing the first successful council-manager system (1912).

Home Rule: Home rule was first established in Missouri (1875).

Local Food Sovereignty: Maine was the first state to pass an Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems allowing local governments to enact ordinances regulating local food producers and consumers for home consumption and community events such as church suppers (2017). Link to background story. 

Municipal Investments: Oregon was the first state to permit municipalities to join state investment funds (1974).

Property-Tax Circuit Breaker: Wisconsin enacted the first property-tax circuit breaker for relief of low-income and elderly homeowners (1963).

Public Employee Collective Bargaining: New Hampshire was the first state to allow municipalities to bargain collectively with public-employee unions (1955), followed by Massachusetts and Wisconsin in 1959.

Sewage Treatment: Worcester, Massachusetts, constructed the first chemical-precipitation sewage-treatment plant (1890).

Water Works Supply: Boston, Massachusetts, constructed the first public water works using wood pipes (1649).

Occupational Regulation

Abuse Reporting by Hairstylists: Illinois is believed to be the first jurisdiction to require salon workers to receive training to recognize the signs of domestic abuse (2017). As part of their training, hairstylists receive a list of resources they can refer clients to for help. Link to background story. 

Alcohol Servers: Oregon was the first state to require training for all servers of alcohol in the state (1985). Link to background story. 

Board of Nursing: North Carolina was the first state to establish a board of nursing (1903). The law required the registration of nurses who had completed formal education programs. Nurses in the state had to pass a licensing examination beginning in 1905. Link to background story.

Dental Hygienists: California was the first state to create a separate regulatory agency for dental hygienists (2009). Hygienists had previously been regulated by the state’s dental profession. Link to background story. 

Engineers Licensed: Wyoming was the first state to require engineers and land surveyors to be licensed (1907). Links to background story 1 (see page 26) and background story 2.

Financial Recommendations by Lawyers Restricted: Pennsylvania was the first state to bar lawyers from recommending investments in which they or their family members have a financial stake in the transaction (2015). Pennsylvania’s rule differed from rules in other states by barring such transactions even when the conflict of interest is disclosed.

Multistate Nursing License: South Dakota was the first state to enact the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows nurses to practice in their home state as well as other NLC states (2016).

Private Detectives: Wisconsin was the first state to require private detectives to be licensed (1919).

Public Safety

911: Haleyville, Alabama, established the first 911 emergency telephone system (1968).

Fire Department: Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first city to establish a paid career fire department (1853).

Firearm Registration: Hawaii was the first state to require that firearms be entered into a tracking database (2016). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Handguns Banned in Public: Texas was the first state to ban the carrying of a handgun outside the home (1871). Texas passed the law during Reconstruction as an effort by Republicans to disarm Confederate sympathizers. The carrying of handguns outside the home remained legal in frontier counties that were, according to the law, “liable to incursions by hostile Indians.” Link to background story.  ed the first municipal police force (1838), followed by New York City in 1845, Albany, New York, and Chicago, Illinois, in 1851, New Orleans and Cincinnati in 1853, Philadelphia in 1855, and Newark, New Jersey, and Baltimore, Maryland in 1857.

State Police: Texas was the first jurisdiction to establish a state law-enforcement arm, the Texas Rangers (1823). Pennsylvania was the first state to create a modern, sworn, uniformed state police force (1905).

Public Lands, Parks, and Water Management

Community Forest: Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was the first jurisdiction to establish a community forest (1924).

Forest/Water Management: Maryland passed the first no-net-loss forest management act aimed at maintaining a 40 percent tree canopy level (2013).

Interactive Online Trails: San Juan Capistrano, California, is believed to be the first city to create an interactive virtual tour of all of the city’s hiking, biking, and equestrian trails (2017). Link to background story. 

Playground: New York City established the first municipal park (Seward Park) equipped with a permanent playground (1903).

Public Historic Site: New York was the first state to preserve and operate a historic site, George Washington’s Headquarters (1850). Link to background story. 

State Park: Many states claim the title of the oldest state park. Georgia claims that Indian Springs State Park has been operated by the state as a state reserve and then a state public park since 1825. The federal government ceded Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to California in 1864 until it became Yosemite National Park in 1890. Wisconsin dedicated a large area of its northern forests as a state park in 1878, but much of it was sold to lumber companies within decades. New York claims Niagara Falls as the first state park (1885). Michigan claims Mackinac Island State Park in 1895 as the first official designation as a state park.

Water Distribution: Colorado was the first state to provide for the distribution of water by public officials (1879). The administrative system divided the state into ten water districts. In each district, a water commissioner divided the water according to priorities of the various ditches within the district. Link to background story. 

Wilderness Protection: The New York Constitution, Article XIV, mandating that the state’s Adirondack Forest Preserve “be forever kept as wild forest lands” was the world’s first wilderness protection law (1895). The first U.S. wilderness area was established in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico in 1924.

Ratification of the Federal Constitution and its Amendments

Federal Constitution of 1787: Delaware was the first state to ratify the Federal Constitution on December 7, 1787.

Bill of Rights: Congress proposed 12 constitutional amendments to the states in 1789. The requisite number of states approved the last ten in 1791. The first to ratify was New Hampshire on January 25, 1790. The original second amendment on compensation of members of Congress was ratified as the Twenty Seventh Amendment in 1992. The original first was never ratified.

Eleventh Amendment: This amendment on state sovereign immunity was first ratified by New York on March 27, 1794.

Twelfth Amendment: This amendment on the electoral college was first ratified by North Carolina on December 21, 1803.

Thirteenth Amendment: Illinois was the first state to ratify this amendment outlawing slavery on February 1, 1865.

Fourteenth Amendment: First ratified by Connecticut on June 30, 1866, this amendment included important provisions on the primacy of federal citizenship, due process, privileges and immunities, and equal protection under the law.

Fifteenth Amendment: First ratified by Nevada on March 1, 1869, this amendment prohibited the denial of voting rights to male citizens on the basis of race.

Sixteenth Amendment: First ratified by Alabama in 1909, this amendment gave Congress the power to levy and collect a tax on income.

Seventeenth Amendment: First ratified by Massachusetts on May 22, 1912, this amendment provided for the popular election of U.S. senators.

Eighteenth Amendment: First ratified by Mississippi in 1918, this amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquor.

Nineteenth Amendment: First ratified by Wisconsin, this amendment prohibited the denial of voting rights to citizens on account of sex.

Twentieth Amendment: First state to ratify was Virginia on March 4, 1932. This amendment had several provisions including setting the end of presidential, vice presidential, and congressional terms, the annual assembly of Congress, and presidential succession in the absence of a president-elect.

Twenty-First Amendment: This amendment repealing the Eighteenth Amendment was first ratified by Michigan on April 10, 1933.

Twenty-Second Amendment: The first state to ratify this amendment on presidential term limits and time of service was Maine on March 31, 1947.

Twenty-Third Amendment: First state to ratify extending voting rights to D.C. citizens in presidential elections was Hawaii June 23, 1960.

Twenty-Fourth Amendment: First ratified by Illinois in 1962, this amendment prohibited denying the right to vote for failure to pay a poll tax or any other tax to vote.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment: This amendment on presidential succession was first ratified by Nebraska on July 12, 1965 and Wisconsin the next day.

Twenty-Sixth Amendment: First ratified by Connecticut on March 23, 1971, this amendment prohibited denying the right to vote to citizens eighteen years of age or older.

Twenty-Seventh Amendment: Originally proposed as part of the Bill of Rights, this amendment on the compensation of members of Congress was first ratified by Maryland on December 19, 1789. However, this amendment was not ratified by the requisite number of states in the 1790s, so it remained unratified until the 1980s when a student resumed the ratification drive for it and the requisite number of states ratified in 1992.

Social Welfare

Blind Pension: Illinois passed the first law authorizing pensions for the blind (1903). Link to background story.   

Charities: Massachusetts established the first Board of State Charities (1863).

Child Abuse Registry: Indiana was the first state to create a registry of convicted child abusers (2017). Link to background story. 

Closed-Captioning for Public Televisions: Portland, Oregon, was the first city to require that closed-captioning be turned on for any publicly displayed television (2015). Link to background story. 

Disability Care: Wisconsin was the first state to provide assistance payments for totally and permanently disabled people (1945).

Drug Testing: Michigan was the first state to require drug testing for public-assistance applicants (1999).

Elder Care Placement: Washington became the first state regulate elder care placement agencies by requiring them to disclose information about their practices to consumers (2011). Link to background story. 

Mother’s Pension: Illinois created the first statewide mother’s pension program (1911). By 1934, such laws existed in 46 states, Washington, DC, Alaska, and Hawaii. These laws were models for the federal Social Security Act’s Aid to Dependent Children (1935) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children programs

Old-Age Pensions: Arizona was the first state to pass an old-age pension law (1921).

Public Welfare Department: The city council of Kansas City, Missouri, created the first Public Welfare Department (1910). The first state Department of Public Welfare was enacted in Illinois (1917). Link to background story.   

Space, Science, Technology, and Communications

Citywide Sensors: Chicago, Illinois, was the first city to install a variety of sensors (called the “Array of Things”) across the city to monitor air quality, climate, traffic, and other urban features (2016). Link to background story. 

Digital Identity: Virginia was the first state to create a uniform digital-identity law aimed at preventing data breaches (2015). The law seeks to encourage the use of strong credentials offered by identity providers. The providers receive legal protections in the event of data breaches if the providers have complied with the state’s minimum requirements for such credentials. Link to background story. 

Spaceport: Florida was the first state to establish a spaceport initiative through its Spaceport Florida Authority (1989).

Taxation of Internet Access: Indiana was the first state to prohibit taxes on internet access (2015). Such taxes had been banned previously by the federal government, but the federal ban was set to expire shortly after the Indiana law took effect. Indiana passed the law to ensure that internet access would not be taxed in the state. Link to background story. 

State Government and Governance

Central Purchasing Agent: Iowa was the first state to establish a central purchasing agent for state agency purchases (1897).

Civil Service Commissioner: New York was the first state to establish a civil service commissioner with authority to prepare and administer tests for state government employment (1883). Massachusetts did the same in 1884, followed by Wisconsin and Illinois in 1905.

Coal Divestiture: California was the first state to mandate its public pension funds to divest from coal companies (2015). Link to background story. 

Constitution: New Hampshire adopted the first state constitution (January 5, 1776).

Governor Election: New York was the first state to provide for a popularly elected governor (1777).

Governor Line-Item Reduction Veto: The governor of Pennsylvania was the first to assert the line-item reduction veto (1899).

Governor Line-Item Veto: Georgia was the first state to give the governor the line-item veto for appropriations bills (1865).

Governor Term of Office: Kentucky was the first state to give the governor a four-year term of office (1800-1844).

Governor Veto: South Carolina was the first state to give the governor veto power over bills passed by the legislature (1776).

Judicial Council: Ohio established the first modern judicial council (1922) though it was preceded by a similar body called a Board of Circuit Judges in Wisconsin (1913).

Judicial Elections: Georgia was the first state to implement judicial elections for inferior court judges (1812).  Mississippi was the first state to require all judges to be popularly elected (1832). Link to background story. 

Judicial Review: The first exercise of judicial review occurred in New Jersey in Holmes v. Walton (1790).

Legislative Reference Service: New York was the first state to appoint a legislative reference librarian (1890). Wisconsin was the first state to combine legislative reference and bill drafting into one department in 1907, which became a model for other states and for the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress, which became the Congressional Research Service.

Lobbyist Registration: Massachusetts was the first state to require lobbyists to register with the secretary state and disclose their fees and expenses (1890).

Missouri Plan or Merit Plan: Missouri was the first state to adopt this judicial-selection method (1940).

Nepotism: Texas enacted the first anti-nepotism law (1907) followed by Oklahoma (1908).

Open City Government: San Francisco is believed to be the first municipality to require its departments to make their electronically held data public (2010). Link to background story. 

Opt-Out Voter Registration: Oregon was the first state to enact opt-out voter registration (2016). In this form of voter registration, residents of Oregon are automatically registered to vote during interactions with the state’s department of motor vehicles (such as renewing a driver’s license). Links to background story 1 and background story 2

Pension Plan: Massachusetts was the first state to establish a pension retirement plan for its public employees (1911).

Proportional Representation: Ashtabula, Ohio, was the first of 24 U.S. cities to implement the single transferable vote form of proportional representation (1915). Michigan was the first state to declare PR elections unconstitutional (1920).

Revisor of Statutes: Wisconsin established the first revisor of statutes (1909).

Separation of Powers: Maryland was the first state to constitutionalize the separation of powers (1776), although Massachusetts is credited with constitutionalizing the complete framework of government based on separation of powers (1780).

Unicameral Legislatures: Pennsylvania and Vermont were the first states to adopt unicameral General Assemblies in 1776 (both later became bicameral). Thereafter, Nebraska was the first and only state to create a unicameral legislature in 1937, provided by a state constitutional amendment of 1934. That amendment also provided that the legislature be nonpartisan. Link to background story.  

State and Local Government Holidays and Symbols

Christmas Holiday: Alabama was the first state to observe Christmas as a legal holiday (1836). Christmas was declared a federal holiday in 1870.

Citizenship Day: Wisconsin was the first state to observe Citizenship Day (1939).

Code of Ethics: Wyoming was the first state to adopt an official state code of ethics (2010), but it was a symbolic code listing principles of the cowboy West. Link to background story.    

Decoration Day: In honor of those who died in the Civil War numerous municipalities (mainly in the North) issued proclamations and held ceremonies acknowledging Decoration Day; however, Michigan was the first state to officially observe Decoration Day as a state holiday (later became Memorial Day) in 1871. Other Northern states would pass similar legislation by 1890. Link to background story. 

Flag Day: While several municipalities claim the first Flag Day, Pennsylvania was the first state to make Flag Day an official state legal holiday in 1937.  Both Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day and Congress passed federal legislation in 1949; however, Pennsylvania remains the only state to maintain Flag Day as a legal holiday. Link to background story.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday: Illinois was state the first to pass legislation making King’s birthday a legal holiday (1973). Link to background story.  

Labor Day: Oregon was the first state to recognize Labor Day (1887), followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York (1887). The U.S. Congress recognized Labor Day in 1894.

State Bird: Kentucky was the first state to adopt an official state bird, the Kentucky cardinal (1926). Link to background story. 

State Cookie: New Mexico was the first state to adopt an official state cookie, the biscochito (1989). Link to background story.  

State Dinosaur: Colorado was the first state to adopt an official dinosaur, the Stegosaurus armatus (1982).

State Flower: Maine was the first state to adopt an official state flower, the white pine cone and tassel (1895).

State Fossil: Nebraska and North Dakota were the first two states to designate a state fossil (1967).

State Reptile: Oklahoma was the first state to adopt an official state reptile, the common collared lizard (1969). Link to background story. 

State and Local Governments in the Federal Union

Lobbying Office in Washington, DC: New York established the first lobbying office in Washington, DC (1941) followed by Connecticut (1942).

Nullification: Kentucky was the first state to attempt to nullify an act of Congress in 1798 (Kentucky Resolution authored by Thomas Jefferson followed by Virginia Resolution authored by James Madison).

Secession: South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in December 1860. Link to background story. Tennessee was the first of the seceding states of the Confederacy to rejoin the Union in 1866. Link to background story. 

State in Union: Delaware was the first state to join the union by ratifying the U.S. Constitution (December 7, 1787).

Transportation

Airport: College Park Airport, Maryland, is probably the world’s oldest continually operating airport (1909).

Automobile Driver Testing: Chicago, Illinois, and New York City were the first jurisdictions to require testing before driving a car (1899). Rhode Island was the first state to legislate driver testing (1908). Link to background story. 

Automobile Driver’s License: Massachusetts and Missouri were the first states to require a license to drive an automobile (1903). Pennsylvania was the first state to put an age limitation on driver’s licenses when it mandated no one under 18 could apply (1909). Link to background story.

Automobile License Plates: New York was the first state to require license plates, but they were made by the owners and displayed their initials (1901). Massachusetts was the first state to issue state license plates (1903). Link to background story. 

Autonomous Vehicles: Nevada was the first state to authorize the operation of autonomous vehicles (2011). Link to background story. 

Bicycle Lanes: Davis, California, was the first jurisdiction to install lanes for bicyclists alongside lanes for motorized vehicles (1967). Link to background story.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Minnesota was the first state to require, under Sophia’s Law, all motorboats with “enclosed accommodation” areas, such as toilet compartments, sleeping areas, and galleys with sinks, to have a hard-wired, marine-certified, carbon monoxide detector (2015). Link to background story.   

Child Booster Seats: Washington was the first state to pass a booster-seat law for children (2000). Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Cloverleaf Interchange: The first cloverleaf interchange was built in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey (1929).

Digital Driver’s License: Iowa was the first state to allow the use of a digital driver’s license (2014). This type of license, expected to be available as a software app in 2018, will be downloadable onto smartphones. Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

Distracted Driving: Brooklyn, Ohio, is believed to be the first jurisdiction to ban drivers from talking on cell phones while driving (1999). New York became the first state to ban talking on hand-held cellphones while driving (2001). New Jersey (2002) was the first state to ban teenagers from texting and driving while Washington (2007) was the first state to ban the practice for all drivers. Links to background story 1, background story 2 and background story 3

Drunk Driving Prohibited: New Jersey is believed to be the first state to criminalize by statute the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (1906). The U.S. Supreme Court recognized this historic act in the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota (2016).  Links to background story 1 and background story 2.

DWI Screening Roadblocks: North Carolina was the first state to pass legislation that allowed for DWI Screening Roadblocks (1983).

Electronic Vehicle Titles: Pennsylvania was the first state to require the use of electronic lien and title (ELT), by vehicle lien holders (2006). This type of “paperless” lien replaced traditional hard-copy lien documents. Link to background story.

Gasoline Tax: Oregon was the first state to levy a motor-fuels tax (1919) plus Colorado, New Mexico, and North Dakota (1919).

Helmet Laws for Bicycle Riders: California had the first law requiring bicycle passengers under age 5 to wear a helmet (1987). States gradually increased the ages of riders requiring helmets.  New Jersey was the first to mandate them for 14 year olds (1992 – although the law was rescinded in 2005), Georgia and Connecticut 16 year olds (1993), and California for everyone under 18 (1994). Chico, California was the first municipality to require helmets for bikers of all ages in its Bidwell Park (1991).

Helmet Laws for Motorcyclists. New York was the first state to pass law requiring motorcycle riders to wear a helmet (1967). Link to background story. 

Helmet Laws for Tricycle Riders: New Mexico was the first state to include tricycle riders in its helmet laws (2007). Link to background story. 

Highway Numbers: Wisconsin was the first state to designate highways by numbers (1918).

Lemon-aid Laws: Connecticut was the first state to pass the “lemon-aid” law, which regulates the repair and replacement of new automobiles (1982).

Liability Insurance Required: Massachusetts and Connecticut were the first states to require that vehicle owners either have liability insurance or show financial responsibility of at least $10,000 (1925). Link to background story.

Limited Access Road: The Long Island, New York, Motor Parkway or the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway was the world’s first limited access road (1911).

Motorcycle Lane Splitting: California was the first state to allow motorcyclists to pass other vehicles by riding between them on the lane line (2016). Link to background story.

No Left Turn: Buffalo, New York, erected the first “No Left Turn” sign (1916).

Non-Binary Driver’s License:  Oregon was the first state to offer a third gender option on driver’s licenses and identification cards (2017). “X” was provided as an option for people who did not identify as female or male. Link to background story.  

Protected Bicycle Lanes: Portland, Oregon, was the first jurisdiction to require that every proposed bicycle lane be a protected lane (i.e., a lane set off from motorized traffic with a barrier, such as a curb) unless the proposal explains why the lane should not be protected (2015). Link to background story.

Railroad Commission: Massachusetts was the first state to establish a Railroad Commission authorized to investigate operations, issue reports, and recommend railroad policies (1869).

Railroad Grade Crossings: Wisconsin was the first state to enact a comprehensive railroad grade-crossing law (1909).

Restraints for Front-Seat Passengers: New York became the first state to require that it was mandatory for front-seat passengers to wear a seatbelt (1984).

Rest Stop Advertising: Virginia was the first state to sell the naming rights to its roadside rest stops (2011). Link to background story.

Rideshare Regulation: California was the first state to legalize rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft (2013). Colorado was the first state pass legislation authorizing rideshare services (2014). Link to background story.

Rideshare Taxed: Massachusetts was the first state to impose a tax on rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft (2016). Link to background story.

Robotic Delivery: Virginia was the first state to legalize the use of sidewalks and roads by remotely monitored robots to deliver items to consumers (2017). Link to background story.

Seat belts: Wisconsin was the first state to require seat belts in all cars (1961).

Speed Limit: Connecticut enacted the first speed-limit law (1901). Motor vehicle speed limits were set at 12 mph in cities and 15 mph in rural roads.

Stop Sign: The first stop sign was erected in Detroit, Michigan (1915).

Subway: The first subway was constructed in Boston, Massachusetts (1895-1897).  Link to background story. 

Superhighway: The Pennsylvania turnpike was the first long-distance limited-access superhighway and a model for the interstate highway system (1940).

Texting While Crossing a Street: Honolulu, Hawaii, was the first jurisdiction to ban texting while crossing a street (2017). Link to background story.

Texting While Driving: Washington was the first state to ban texting while driving (2007).

Traffic Circle: The first traffic circle opened in Pennsauken, New Jersey (1925).

Traffic Light: The first electric traffic light was installed in Cleveland (1914). The first three-color traffic light was installed in New York City (1918).