Labor and Employment

CSG Midwest logo
For nearly 40 years, South Dakota Rep. Fred Romkema has run a jobs training center for a segment of his state’s population that he says is too often forgotten. About 140 people with disabilities are currently served at the Northern Hills Training Center, and 108 of them are earning a regular paycheck.
“With the right supervision and training and supports, they can succeed in employment in the community,” Romkema says about his experience working with people with developmental disabilities.
And that job success, he adds, is good not only for the individual, but the community — and the state — where he or she lives.
“There is potential there that we are not tapping,” Romkema says of the state’s population with disabilities. “There is a cadre of potential employees who can certainly contribute in some of the jobs that are difficult to fill.”
Through a mix of legislation and actions taken by governors, new initiatives are being launched in states across the Midwest to remove workforce barriers and to help get more disabled individuals into the workforce.

Registered apprenticeship programs combine structured learning with on-the-job training and upon completion, participants receive an industry issued, nationally recognized credential that certifies occupational proficiency. Program duration ranges from one to six years with a majority lasting four years.

The U.S. Department of Labor is now accepting applications from public and private partnerships to receive one of approximately 25 grants to expand registered apprenticeship programs in high-skilled, high-growth industries like healthcare, biotechnology, information technology and advanced manufacturing. The grants will be worth $2.5 million to $5 million each with a total of $100 million awarded.

This act extends certain basic labor rights and protections to domestic workers. Specifically, this measure prohibits an employer from discharging or discriminating against an individual employed as a domestic in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that individual's race, sex including gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, color, ancestry, disability, or marital status; applies the wage and hour laws to domestic workers except for individuals employed in domestic services on a casual basis and individuals providing companionship services for the aged or infirm; and adds definitions of “casual basis”, “companionship services for the aged or infirm”, and “domestic service” to the state’s wage and hour laws.

What if a middle-skills job—one that requires more education than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree—could be a ticket to the middle class? It’s possible, experts say, but not enough state policymakers are taking the steps to help ensure the middle can grow. It’s going to take good data, innovative programs and the will to work together, experts say, but growing the middle class can be done.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Although Congress did not pass minimum wage legislation in 2014, a number of states have taken action and others likely will address this issue in 2015. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that from 2013 to 2017, about 7 million workers will benefit from minimum wage increases enacted by state and local governments.1

Today the EPA released its proposed update to the air quality standards for ground-level ozone.  The proposal lowers the ground-level ozone standard from 75 parts per billion, where it’s been since 2008, to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion.   EPA estimates most areas will be in compliance with the standard by 2025. 

A revised ozone standard of 70 to 60 parts per billion was recommended by the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, a scientific panel that advises EPA in setting the national ambient air quality standards...

Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, the 2014 Council of State Governments national chair and a 2002 CSG Toll Fellow, selected “State Pathways to Prosperity” as his chair’s initiative. He believes states can play a role in helping to ensure residents have the necessary skills to fill the jobs. The initiative focuses not only on education, but also on other issue that might affect an individual’s ability to work.

What a difference a year makes. On Jan. 1, 2014, only 21 states had a minimum wage higher than the federal wage. One year later, more than half of states – 29 – are set to have a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25/hr. Ten states enacted minimum wage increases during the 2014 legislative session and four states passed a wage hike via ballot initiative.

CSG Midwest logo
Due to a mix of legislative actions and ballot initiatives this year, the minimum wage for workers has recently increased in two Midwestern states and will rise in two others starting in 2015. Proposed wage hikes appeared on ballots in Nebraska and South Dakota in November and won by comfortable margins.

Pages