Capitol Comments

In January 2008, employment in the U.S. hit a historic high of 138.4 million. Just over two years later, that figure had fallen considerably, reaching a 10-year employment low of 129.7 million in February 2010. Since hitting that low more than four years ago, the U.S. has added almost 8.3 million jobs but total employment is still 437,000 below the historic high reached in 2008. Only 15 states have gotten back to their pre-recession employment peak.

If you follow Supreme Court Fourth Amendment cases you know that seeing unusual line ups of Justice isn’t unusual at all.  Justice Scalia siding with the criminal defendant is usual though.  In Prado Navarette v. California Justice Scalia dissents with the three female Justices from a majority opinion that he claims “serves up a freedom-destroying cocktail.”

In this case an anonymous 911 caller reported that a vehicle had run her off the road.  The Court held 5-4 that a police stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated.  When police stopped the Navarette brothers they smelled marijuana.  A search of the vehicle revealed 30 pounds of marijuana.    

When a Nevada rancher sparked a standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing his cattle without paying fees to the federal government, it highlighted once again the longstanding debate over ownership of federal lands in the West.

 Policymakers from eight Western states gathered April 18 in Salt Lake City for a legislative summit to discuss the transfer of public lands from the federal government back to the states. Some state leaders believe they are better prepared to manage the land and will do so in an economically and environmentally responsible way.

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.

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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,...

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