Policy Area

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.

During the Great Recession, states faced enormous challenges related to funding a number of vital programs. One of those programs was adequately financing their unemployment insurance trust funds, a program that originated in the 1930s. As a result of the doggedly high unemployment rates in so many states during the Great Recession and previous actions taken by states (such as expanding unemployment benefits and cutting unemployment insurance taxes), the unemployment insurance funds in a majority of the states were thrust into perilous shape. By 2013, the funding position of these funds improved as a result of an advancing economy and a series of actions initiated by states.

A 2011 study by Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute found that American manufacturing companies could not fill as many as 600,000 positions—or 5 percent of manufacturing jobs—due to a lack of qualified candidates, and 56 percent of manufacturers anticipate that shortage will increase in the next three to five years. Technological advancements, particularly in the manufacturing area, mean that workers need more specialized skills to both get and keep jobs. To get to those skilled workers, companies must make a decision: Look for new, qualified employees or retrain their current workforce.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Draft Five-Year Strategic Plan includes an emphasis on Next Generation Compliance, a model that focuses on achieving a higher rate of regulation compliance using advances in both emissions monitoring and information technology. A key component of that strategy shifts reporting responsibilities to industry, requiring companies, states and other entities to submit compliance data electronically. In this webinar, the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies convenes a group of experts to discuss how the new focus will affect the EPA's current enforcement approach; practical implications for state enforcement staff; changes in reporting requirements for states; and state implementation of new compliance technologies as well as the cost.

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.

The issues state leaders from across the political spectrum can agree on are rare, but the promotion and cultivation of homegrown entrepreneurs might just be one of them. State leaders know entrepreneurs not only create jobs, but also contribute to an increase in wages and standards of living.

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,...

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...

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