Economics and Finance

Paid leave laws are only found in three states; California, Rhode Island and New Jersey.  14 states total have leave laws that provide unpaid or paid leave beyond the employee supports found in the federal Family Medical Leave Act, known as FMLA.  The infographic below highlights information on leave laws and the impact they have on employees and employers.  

The New York Times says that the oil industry is in its “deepest downturn since the 1990s, if not earlier”. The price of a barrel of oil has plummeted, falling more 70 percent since mid-2014, and gas prices at the pump have followed – falling from $2.21 one year ago to $1.70 today (AAA). Unfortunately, a drop in energy prices means a headache for several states that rely heavily on severance taxes for revenue.

A majority of states (35) impose at least one form of severance tax, which is a tax on natural resource extraction. While overall severance taxes don’t make up a large percentage of total state taxes collected – 2.1 percent in 2014 – they have very different impacts across the states. For example, in 2014 severance taxes collected ranged from 72 percent of total tax revenue in Alaska and 54 percent of revenue in North Dakota to less than 1 percent in 18 states. In seven states, severance taxes make up 10 percent or more of total tax collections. 

Efforts around the country to revitalize downtowns and create economically vital and aesthetically pleasing communities, often centered on transit hubs, have created a greater need for a private-public entity that can manage these areas to ensure their long-term sustainability. While most states have laws on the books to enable these special districts, some experts say they are still too difficult to establish and that some of the decades-old laws may need to evolve to reflect the expanding mission of these districts and the changing nature of the communities they serve.

On January 29, President Obama announced an executive action that will require companies with 100 employees or more to report to the federal government how much they pay their employees, broken down by gender, race and ethnicity. The action is part of a larger effort to close the pay gap between men and women.

All states have statutes which allow individuals to delegate substitute decision-making authority. In Idaho, the main examples are financial powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney and mental health powers of attorney. If the person executes the document in Idaho and stays in Idaho, the documents will be recognized. However, in our mobile society, individuals move, travel, and may end up needing the document to be recognized in another jurisdiction. This Act is creating that ability.

The Act requires that in the event of a data security breach information holders are to contact anyone whose data may have been accessed by an unauthorized person. Additionally, this Act requires that cloud computing service providers will not process student data without parental permission.

The Act establishes ABLE savings trust accounts to be administered by the Virginia College Savings Plan to facilitate the saving of private funds for paying the qualified disability expenses of certain disabled individuals. Under the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014, Congress authorized states to establish ABLE savings trust accounts to assist individuals and families in saving and paying for the education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, and other expenses of individuals who were disabled or blind prior to the age of 26. Earnings on contributions to ABLE savings trust accounts are exempt from federal income tax. Because Virginia conforms to the federal income tax laws, earnings on contributions to ABLE savings trust accounts will also be excluded from Virginia taxable income.

The Act encourages local workforce investment boards to implement pay-for-performance contract strategy incentives for training services as an alternative model to traditional programs. The Act also authorizes local workforce investment boards to allocate funds to the extent permissible under §§ 128(b) and 133(b) of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-128) for pay-for-performance partnerships.

Under the Act, covered employers will be required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees or applicants for employment for limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The Act allows employees to request modified duties and other accommodations as long as they do not place undue hardship on employers. It allows such accommodations as bathroom breaks and assistance with manual labor. The Act also requires employers to provide nursing women time to express breast milk. It bars employers from turning away a qualified job applicant out of concern she might be asked to provide some accommodations for her pregnancy.

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