Economics and Finance

CSG Midwest
The U.S. state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate (2.3 percent as of March) will try to attract more skilled workers with $6 million worth of new scholarships and loan repayments. North Dakota’s HB 1171 seeks to address what many policymakers have said is the state’s No. 1 economic issue — workforce shortages.

After refusing to accept or reject petitions for months the Supreme Court has finally agreed to decide whether employers violate Title VII when they discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. Among other things, Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of . . . sex.” 

Until 2017 all federal courts of appeals to consider the question had held Title VII does not protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation. This changed when the Seventh Circuit reversed itself in Hively v. Ivey Tech Community College concluding “discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

CSG Midwest
After years of court cases, requests for proposals and bidding, work is underway for a new bridge at the busiest commercial crossing along the U.S.-Canada border. Approximately 7,000 trucks — carrying goods worth millions of dollars — already pass the border most days at Detroit and Windsor, Ont. All of these crossings are done now via the privately owned, 90-year-old Ambassador Bridge.
But with the scheduled opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge in late 2024, a second option will be available for U.S. and Canadian firms.
The bridge (named after the Hall of Fame Canadian hockey player who starred for the Detroit Red Wings) will provide larger, modern ports of entry and customs facilities, while incorporating new technologies to speed up border screenings. And with two bridges up and running, the movement of commercial goods will not be as affected by accidents or other incidents at the Detroit-Windsor crossing.
CSG South

For farmers in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, the timing of the Hurricane Michael could not have been worse. Just as harvest season for many vegetable and row crops was beginning, like a plague of locusts, Michael devoured nearly every farm in its path. This SLC Regional Resource, current as of April 15, 2019, reviews the agricultural impact of Hurricane Michael on Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Across the three states, cotton and timber were hardest hit, but damage to other agricultural products and infrastructure was equally devastating.

On March 26, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed HB 323, which will improve occupational licensure portability for veterans, military spouses, and National Guard and Reserve members.1 The bill will require administrative bodies that issue occupational licenses and other regulatory authorizations to endorse and license any applicant that is a member of the National Guard or Reserves, a veteran, or the spouse of a veteran or military...

CSG Midwest
From the pork products that come from Kansas to the soaps made in Ohio, the specter of retaliatory tariffs looms large among the Midwest’s economic sectors that rely on trade with Canada and Mexico. Many of the affected industry groups continued in early 2019 to try to get their voices heard among U.S. trade leaders.
One of their latest outreach efforts: A letter signed by a diverse group of more than 40 organizations — including the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Pork Producers Council and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers — urging a return to “zero-tariff North American trade.”
CSG Midwest
In Kansas City’s metropolitan area, there is a long history of businesses crossing the Kansas-Missouri border — lured by one of the two states’ tax breaks and financial incentives. “It’s a zero-sum game when incentives are given to move a company just a few miles from where it was,” says Rep. Kristey Williams, a member of the Kansas House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee. “Essentially, taxpayers lose.”
Could this traditional type of interstate competition be replaced by an interstate collaboration, or cease-fire?
Smaller- and large-scale ideas were being proposed in the nation’s state legislatures in early 2019, including a bill known as the “border war bill” in Missouri. Passed by the state Senate in late February, SB 182 would prohibit state incentives from being offered to companies located in four Kansas border counties. Kansas would have to adopt a comparable ban for SB 182 to take effect.
According to Missouri Sen. Mike Cierpot, the bill’s sponsor, the two states have “spent over $335 million shuffling businesses back and forth over state lines … by moving a matter of miles, or in some cases blocks.”
CSG Midwest
Illinois has joined the growing number of Midwestern states to raise the minimum wage for workers. Six years from now, when SB 1 gets fully phased in, the wage floor for Illinois workers age 18 and older will be $15 an hour. That will be the highest minimum wage in the Midwest; four other U.S. states have adopted $15-an-hour laws.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of the start of this year, six states in the region — Illinois ($8.25 per hour), Michigan ($9.25), Minnesota ($9.86), Nebraska ($9), Ohio ($8.55) and South Dakota ($9.10) — had minimum wages higher than the federal government’s ($7.25). Under the laws in Minnesota, Ohio and South Dakota, wages are adjusted automatically every year to account for changes in the cost of living. In late 2018, with the passage of SB 1171, Michigan legislators eliminated their state’s inflationary adjustment while also increasing the minimum wage. The hourly rate rose to $9.45 in March and will increase to $12.05 by 2030.

As Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den illustrates, not all 5-4 Supreme Court cases involve high-profile, controversial issues where the Justices are divided on ideological lines.

In this case the Supreme Court held 5-4 that a treaty forbids the State of Washington from imposing a tax upon members of the Yakama Nation that import fuel.

An 1855 treaty between the United States and the Yakama Nation reserves to the Yamakas “the right, in common with the citizens of the United States, to travel upon all public highways.” A Washington statute taxes fuel importers who bring large quantities of fuel into the state by ground transportation. Cougar Den is a wholesale fuel importer owned by a Yakama member that transports fuel by truck from Oregon to Yakama-owned gas stations in Washington. Cougar Den argued the treaty preempted the tax.

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Seeking to survey Florida’s occupational licensing regulations for unreasonably onerous provisions, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently held a one-day “Florida Deregathon” workshop at Valencia College in Orlando.

Seventeen of Florida’s 23 licensing boards had representatives in attendance to respond to the challenge posed by DeSantis in his invitation letter to the event: “Our expectation is that each board arrives prepared to roll-up its...

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