Budget and Taxes

MN Facing Labor Market Slowdown: Minnesota’s labor market is in pretty good shape right now. The state’s unemployment rate is hovering around 3.4 percent. And with nearly 70 percent of working-age residents employed or looking for jobs, employers have a decent labor pool to draw from.

But economists have been saying for some time that far fewer people will be entering the state’s labor force over the next ten years, making it harder for employers to fill critical jobs.

“It’s definitely a major issue for employers in the state,” said Cameron Macht, regional analysis and outreach manager for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

She added that “looking forward it may become an even bigger deal.”

Census data shows that about 30 percent of working-age Minnesotans aren’t looking for work, and it may be difficult to change that. Over half of the labor-force holdouts are 65 or older, a number that’s expected to increase as more baby boomers retire. Nearly 60 percent of them are women, many of whom may lack sufficient childcare. And about 45 percent have completed no educational studies beyond high school. (MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE)

Budgets in Brief:

FEDERAL RULE COULD END FOOD ASSISTANCE FOR 33,000 IN CO: A newly proposed federal rule would cut off food assistance for 33,000 COLORADO residents, including about 11,000 children. The state currently allows those earning up to twice the federal poverty level to qualify for food assistance and free school lunches, but the new rule would set that limit at 130 percent of the poverty line. (DENVER POST)

MD GOV WARNS EDUCATION COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS WOULD TRIGGER MAJOR TAX INCREASE: MARYLAND Gov. Larry Hogan (R) warned last week that the recommendations of a commission charged with improving the state’s public education system would necessitate either a 39 percent increase in the state income tax, an 89 percent increase in the state sales tax or a 535-percent property tax increase. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education - nicknamed the Kirwan commission after its chairman, William “Brit” Kirwin – has called for higher teacher pay and full-day prekindergarten for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds, among other things, which all told would cost the state an additional $3.8 billion a year. (BALTIMORE SUN)

SPORTS BETTING WON’T BEGIN IN MT UNTIL AT LEAST END OF YEAR: MONTANA’s lottery director told an interim legislative committee last week that sports betting won’t begin in the state until the end of the year or even later, depending on when new regulations are finalized. In May the state became the seventh to legalize sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a federal ban on such wagering last year. (BILLINGS GAZETTE)

--Compiled by KOREY CLARK


Politics and Leadership

Ranked-Choice Voting Ballot Measure Proposed in MA: A group called Voter Choice Massachusetts has proposed a ballot measure for the state’s 2020 election that would replace the state’s current winner-take-all election system with a ranked-choice system.

Under a ranked-choice system, voters are asked to rank the candidates for each applicable office in order of preference. Any candidate who receives over 50 percent of the vote in their particular race is declared the winner of that contest. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the candidate who receives the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to the second-choice candidate of each impacted voter. This “instant runoff” process is repeated until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote.

Supporters of the idea say it facilitates the election of candidates whose views are more in line with the broader electorate, rather than just the extreme right or left, and encourages voter turnout because more people think their vote will make a difference. But opponents say the system is confusing and leads to election campaigns in which candidates avoid taking a stand on issues to avoid losing the support of voters on either side of them.

Ranked-choice voting isn’t entirely new to the state. The city of Cambridge has used it to elect members of its City Council and School Committee since the 1940s. Other U.S. cities, including San Francisco and Santa Fe, New Mexico, also use it. But Maine is currently the only state that has adopted it, via a 2016 referendum that has been delayed from being implemented until this year by legal challenges. Lawmakers in at least 14 states considered bills dealing with ranked-choice voting in 2017, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (GLOUCESTER TIMES)

Judges Strike Down NC Legislative Districts: A three-judge panel consisting of two Democrats and one Republican unanimously ruled last week that legislative district maps drawn by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2017 - to replace maps drawn in 2011 that were struck down by the courts - were unconstitutional and must be redrawn before next year’s elections. The judges concluded that the new maps violated the state’s Constitution because “it is the carefully crafted maps, and not the will of the voters that dictate the election outcomes in a significant number of legislative districts and, ultimately, the majority control of the General Assembly.” The state’s Senate leader, Phil Berger (R) said he wouldn’t appeal the decision and would start working on new maps. (RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER)


Politics in Brief:

UNION MEMBERSHIP WAY DOWN IN WI: An annual labor report from the University of WISCONSIN-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) indicates that union membership in the state has declined by 53.9 percent since 2011, three times the 14.9-percent decrease in neighboring Minnesota over the same period and well over the 21.2-percent drop nationally. In 2011, the state passed Act 10, stripping public unions of their bargaining rights, and in 2015 it passed a law allowing union-shop workers to decline paying union dues. (WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL [MADISON])

ACLU SUES TO BLOCK NEW VOTER REGISTRATION LAW IN TN: The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a new Tennessee law from taking effect on Oct. 1. The law (HB 1079), enacted in May, would impose civil and criminal penalties on backers of voter registration drives who fail to meet certain requirements. (TENNESSEAN [NASHVILLE], LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)

SEVERAL GA CITIES STICKING WITH PAPER-BALLOT VOTING SYSTEMS: GEORGIA is scheduled to roll out a new $107 million electronic voting system in time for the state’s presidential primary on March 24. But election officials in several Peach State cities - which are not obligated to use the voting system mandated by the state for county, state and federal elections - say they’ll keep using their existing paper-ballot systems. (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK



Newsom Wheels and Deals as CA Session Winds Down: With the legislative session winding down, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has been steadily working behind the scenes to broker deals on a number of high-impact measures lawmakers are close to sending to his desk.

After negotiating a deal between state teacher unions and charter school advocates last month on legislation (AB 1505) to impose new restrictions on those schools, the governor moved on to working a deal on another controversial issue: rent control. Under that bill (AB 1482), annual rent increases statewide would be capped at 5 percent plus inflation, with renters also receiving protection against being evicted without the landlord offering a valid reason.

A joint statement from Newsom and legislative leaders hailed the bill, saying it would “protect millions of renters from rent-gouging and evictions and build on the Legislature’s work this year to address our broader housing crisis.”

But it did little to appease rent control advocates working to place a new statewide rent control initiative on the 2020 ballot. Voters soundly rejected a similar measure last year, but Michael Weinstein, head of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is pushing the measure, said their effort will continue.

Newsom also weighed in last week on two of the highest-profile and controversial measures of the year: AB 5, which would codify a previous court order requiring companies that use so-called gig workers to make most of those workers employees, and SB 276, which would crack down on doctors that issue large numbers of vaccine exemptions. Both measures have drawn copious lobbying for an against, with tech companies spending big money fighting AB 5 and small armies of anti-vaccine protestors descending on the Capitol for every vote on SB 276.

The governor said he supported the vaccine measure, but only with what he called “technical – but important – changes.” The bill’s supporters, however, say that what the governor has asked for, including delaying the bill’s effective date, are much more than minor technical changes. The bill’s author, Dr. Richard Pan (D), has said he’s willing to work with Newsom, but that it is too late to change the bill.

Newsom had stayed out of the AB 5 argument all year before saying last week that he supports the measure and would sign it into law if it gets to him. That sparked a pledge from rideshare companies and other tech firms to spend up to $90 million on a ballot measure to carveout an exemption for their – but nobody else’s - business models.


Baker Ramps Up Pressure on MA Housing Bill: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) was joined last week by six former top state housing officials from thee different gubernatorial administrations in urging Bay State lawmakers to pass a bill before the end of the year to stimulate housing production. Baker filed the measure (HB 3507) to lower the threshold for approving new housing projects from a two-thirds majority in the applicable municipality to a simple majority in February. Lawmakers failed to pass a similar bill last year, and have so far not acted on this year’s bill either.

“For a very long time, we have all acknowledged as a public policy community that we have a problem,” Baker said. “Whether people called it a crisis or a problem or an existential threat, it is all of the above, and it’s really time for us to get something done.”

The proposal has strong support from many local officials and housing advocacy groups, but legislative leaders have refused to bring it to a vote, saying it is not comprehensive enough. (BOSTON HERALD, MASSLIVE.COM, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE [BOSTON])

Governors in Brief:

WA LEG SUES INSLEE: The WASHINGTON Legislature filed suit against Gov. Jay Inslee (D), arguing the governor had violated the Evergreen State Constitution when he issued several partial vetoes of the 2019-21 transportation budget. Inslee acknowledged the unusual nature of the vetoes in his veto message, but said they were necessary “to prevent a constitutional violation and to prevent a forced violation of state law.” (WASHINGTON STATE WIRE, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)

TX GOV ISSUES EIGHT MASS SHOOTING EXECUTIVE ORDERS: Following two mass shootings in the span of a month, TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued eight executive orders last week intended to bolster reporting requirements for law enforcement involving suspicious individuals and raise public awareness about identifying potential mass shooters. Abbott had previously tweeted that he was working on a legislative package that could include “expedited execution for mass murderers.” Any legislation before lawmakers return in 2021 would require Abbott to call a special session. (TEXAS TRIBUNE, TEXAS GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, HILL)

FL GOV WANTS COURT TO DECIDE WEED LAW: After an appeals court refused to take up the question, FLORIDA Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) asked the state Supreme Court to rule on whether the Sunshine State medical cannabis program’s vertical integration requirement that requires licensed operators to grow, process and distribute cannabis and derivative products is unconstitutional. A circuit county judge ruled in July that the current system violates the constitutional amendment voters endorsed in 2016. (TAMPA BAY TIMES, MARIJUANA BUSINESS DAILY)

AL GOV WON’T RESIGN OVER BLACKFACE: ALABAMA Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said she won’t resign in the wake of her admission that she participated in a racist skit that involved blackface more than 50 years ago while a student at Auburn University. Ivey initially denied she was part of the act, but later admitted she had been in at least one such performance while at the school. She issued a video apology, saying “I offer my heartfelt apologies for the pain and embarrassment this causes, and I will do all I can – going forward – to help show the nation that the Alabama of today is a far cry from the Alabama of the 1960s.” (AL.COM)

LAMONT ISSUES CT ENERGY ORDER: CONNECTICUT Gov. Ned Lamont (D) issued Executive Order No. 3, which requires Constitution State regulators to lay out a plan to reach 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. (UTILITY DIVE)

-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

Hot Issues

Business: The CALIFORNIA Senate Appropriations Committee kills AB 161, a bill that would have banned most paper receipts at large retailers unless customers requested one (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET). The MICHIGAN Department of Health and Human Services adopts rules that will make the Wolverine State the first in the nation to prohibit online and retail sales of flavored nicotine vaping products. The rules will go into effect immediately (DETROIT FREE PRESS).

Education: The CALIFORNIA Senate Appropriations Committee holds AB 376, a bill that would have established a student loan borrower’s bill of rights, hired a state borrower advocate to respond to consumer complaints, and monitored loan servicers’ performance. The measure is now dead for the year (CALMATTERS [SACRAMENTO]). Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs SB 711, which requires public schools to update the records for transgender and nonbinary students so that they match their legal name and gender identity. The law goes into effect Jan 1, 2020 (BAY AREA REPORTER [SAN FRANCISCO]). NEW YORK Andrew Cuomo (D) signs SB 4070, legislation that requires Empire State public schools to provide sex abuse prevention classes to students and their parents every year in kindergarten through eighth grade (ALBANY TIMES-UNION). Also in NEW YORK, Gov. Cuomo signs SB 2958, which requires tackle football programs to provide the parents or guardians of all participating children with informational packets regarding concussions and sub-concussive blows, and the injuries that may result from receiving such blows (NEW YORK GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Environment: The CALIFORNIA Senate Appropriations Committee declines to endorse AB 572, a bill that would have barred the state from doing business with companies whose products contributed to deforestation (CALMATTERS [SACRAMENTO]). Also in CALIFORNIA, the Senate Appropriations Committee tables AB 719, a bill that would have delayed until 2025 implementation of a law that bans the importation of products made from alligators or crocodiles (CALMATTERS {SACRAMENTO]). Staying in CALIFORNIA, the Assembly Appropriations Committee kills SB 166, which would have required state water officials to develop guidelines for wineries and breweries to recycle the water used in their production process (CALMATTERS [SACRAMENTO]). CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs AB 273, which makes the Golden State the first to ban commercial fur trapping statewide (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).

Health: The CALIFORNIA Senate gives final approval to SB 276, which would allow the state Department of Public Health to review and potentially reject medical vaccine exemptions written by doctors who have granted five or more in a year. The measure heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for consideration (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET). NEW HAMPSHIRE Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signs a pair of bills designed to help prevent cancer in firefighters: SB 257, legislation that mandates the removal of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, from firefighting foam; and SB 193, which prohibits the use of flame retardant chemicals in furniture.

Social Policy: CALIFORNIA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs SB 245, which allows military veterans to have adoption fees waived for dogs and cats available at animal shelters (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET). Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Newsom signs SB 192, striking down a law that makes it a crime to refuse a police officer’s request for help in making an arrest (SACRAMENTO BEE). NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs AB 1213, which allows Empire State officials to access and consider out-of-state mental health records for people applying for a gun permit (NEW YORK GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).

Local Front: The SEATTLE City Council unanimously approves an ordinance requiring the city Department of Transportation to build protected bike lanes any time those lanes are included in the city’s long-term bike plans and a paving project is worth more than $1 million (SEATTLE TIMES). The SAN FRANCISCO Board of Supervisors unanimously endorses a resolution declaring the National Rifle Association to be a domestic terrorist group. The resolution further declares the city’s intention to assess its financial and contractual relationships with vendors that do business with the NRA (WASHINGTON POST).

 -- Compiled by RICH EHISEN


Once Around the Statehouse Lightly

Corn Dogs and Cotton Candy: The biggest question awaiting an answer in the annual rush to the end of the California legislative year doesn’t actually involve legislation. As the Capitol Morning Report notes, the race between Sen. Scott Wilk and Assemblymember Tom Lackey to be the first one to lose 20 pounds is down to the wire. With about two weeks left in their duel, Lackey had dropped 17 pounds, while Wilk was down 16.5. Wilk had apparently dropped a bit more, but his communications director Eileen Ricker notes he had a bit of a setback. Or more directly, “The Antelope Valley Fair will get you every time.”

Shame, Shame, Shame: A former North Dakota gubernatorial candidate has had it with the secrecy of his fellow lawmakers. Had, had, had it! Now, Rep. Marvin Nelson is going to do something about it. as the Bismarck Tribune reports, Nelson said he will livestream legislative committee meetings as a way to “shame” his colleagues into being more transparent with voters about what goes on behind closed doors. Not surprisingly, the idea has drawn a lukewarm reception – at best – from legislative leaders like House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, who groused it would “politicize” legislative meetings. Because who would possibly think that politics would be involved in political activities. Or for that matter, that shame would be.

And Then They Charged for Air: There isn’t anything in this universe that someone somewhere won’t try to package and sell. Case in point comes from California, where a company is leveraging the DMV’s notorious appointment backlog by offering expedited appointments...for a fee. Yep, as CalMatters reports, for $24.99 you can have someone go online and scour all the DMV sites in your area and grab one that fits your schedule. Which is pretty amazing given that the DMV doesn’t charge for setting up said appointments. So essentially charging people for being too lazy to do it themselves. Alas, it also pretty much allows people with money to cut in front of folks without, which some folks think is pretty lame. And some of those folks are lawmakers, who have unanimously endorsed a bill that would ban the practice.