Capitol Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor is using $100 million dollars of current funds to increase the use of apprenticeships in the workforce.  As part of President Obama's charge to Vice President Biden to build a stronger middle class, these competitive grants will allow state partnerships to develop and increase the use of internships that lead to employment.

On April 22, the Supreme Court issued a decision in one of the biggest cases of the term. And that case might affect your state today—or could affect it soon.  In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action the Supreme Court held 6-2 that voters may by ballot prohibit affirmative action in public universities admission decisions.

As NCSL’s Affirmative Action:  State Action chart describes, a number of states prohibit the use of affirmative action in a variety of contexts.  While this case was limited to the use of race in public university admission decisions, Michigan’s constitutional amendment also prohibits the use of racial-preference in state and local employment and contracting.  Presumably, these provisions are also constitutional. 

On April 16, 2014, President Obama asked Vice President Biden to take the lead on investments necessary to assist individuals get trained with the skills needed to land a job. Following training the initiative strives to help hard-working Americans get placed in a good, middle class job.  The first effort offers competitive grants to partnerships of community colleges, employers and industry so they can create job-driven training programs.

In 2007, Washington became the first state to ban texting while driving. Seven years later, 43 states and the District of Columbia have passed bans. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, driver distraction is a leading factor in many crashes and texting is one of the most common distractions.

August 29 now appears to be the "drop dead date" for Congressional action to avert a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, the U.S. Department of Transportation said this week. Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx hit the road to make the case for infrastructure investment as state officials from around the country continued to talk about the impact of federal uncertainty on their projects. I also have my usual roundup of items on state activity on transportation revenues, public-private partnerships and tolling and state multi-modal strategies.

Already there are complaints that servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, as recommended for a healthy diet, are more expensive than other less healthful foods.  The Wall Street Journal reported this week on an Arizona State University’s study of price increases due to the three year drought in California.

...

According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, which tracks new business creation across the U.S., Montana had the highest entrepreneurship rate in 2013 with 610 per 100,000 adults creating businesses each month during the year. Montana is followed by Alaska (470 per 100,000 adults), South Dakota (410 per 100,000 adults), California (400 per 100,000 adults) and Colorado (380 per 100,...

Federal Judge Rya Zobel issued a preliminary injunction yesterday overturning Gov. Deval Patrick’s ban of the sale of the FDA approved painkiller, Zohydro. She concluded “that the Commonwealth’s emergency order is preempted by federal law.” Further, she stated, "If the Commonwealth were able to countermand the FDA’s...

With the end of tax season, CNBC has compiled some interesting graphics related to federal and state taxes. Using data from the Tax Foundation, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department, the article details where federal and state revenues come from and how they are spent. The top three spending items for the federal government were Health and Human Services, Social Security and Defense. An interactive map of the United States allows users to see several state-level measures, including total taxes paid, average deductions and state tax rates. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued a report last week detailing the 13,500 megawatts (MW) of electric utility capacity added in 2013.  According to the report, the total capacity added is down roughly 50% from 2012.  Natural gas and solar were the top industries generating additional capacity at just over 50% and 22% respectively. 

Pages