Justin Fisk

Author Articles

The U.S. Export-Import Bank may receive a new breath of life after a small group of Republicans joined Democrats in filing a discharge petition Oct. 9 to force a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives that would renew the bank’s charter.

On the eve of Veterans Day, Congress took a major step in supporting the nation’s 22.3 million veterans by passing the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations, or MilCon—VA, bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. The first of 12 appropriations bills to pass both chambers of Congress in 2015, the Senate version provides $82 billion in discretionary funding for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Pentagon construction projects. The fiscal year 2016 bill provides about $8 billion more than the fiscal year 2015 level.

In late October, outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio announced his intention to “clean the barn” as much as possible before his successor took the gavel. In keeping his promise, Boehner succeeded in brokering a bipartisan, two-year budget deal to avoid a government shutdown and prevent a government default on its debt. To offset the increased spending caps for defense and discretionary programs, the budget deal included cost-saving provisions for certain programs, some of which—including the following—will have an impact on state governments.

The U.S. recently concluded a free trade agreement with countries along the Pacific Rim. It’s the largest and most ambitious free trade agreement of its kind and is estimated to generate thousands of new jobs in America. State trade offices are taking the lead to ensure that small businesses know how to take advantage of the opportunities that this agreement brings.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank may receive a new breath of life after a small group of Republicans joined Democrats in filing a discharge petition Oct. 9 to force a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives that would renew the bank’s charter.

Soon after U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio shook up Capitol Hill by announcing his retirement at the end of October, Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown by passing a funding bill that will keep the federal government operational until December.

Nearly 5 million white collar workers who make more than $23,660 a year are not eligible for overtime pay. This includes convenience store managers, fast food assistant managers, or office workers who may be expected to work overtime, yet receive no compensation for the extra time. But under a proposal by President Obama, this would soon change. Obama hopes to double the current salary threshold for overtime pay for salaried workers by 2016.

During much of the past year, the White House has been engaged in an ambitious foreign policy agenda that includes restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, finalizing a nuclear deal with Iran and negotiating a free-trade agreement with 11 countries along the Pacific Rim. In December 2014, President Obama announced he would re-establish diplomatic ties with Raul Castro’s Cuba. Six months later, Obama announced that the U.S. had reached an unprecedented multilateral agreement that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In the next few months, the Obama administration is expected to finalize one of the largest free-trade agreements ever concluded. Following is a roundup of the administration’s recent foreign policy activities in each of these areas and what it means for states.

In May, the World Trade Organization found country-of-origin labeling requirements, often referred to as COOL requirements, in the United States to be inconsistent with its international obligations. If Congress fails to repeal these requirements, Canada or Mexico may enact retaliatory trade actions valued at more than $3 billion against various companies across all 50 states.

Congress voted last week to approve a three-month extension of spending authority for federal surface transportation programs that also replenishes the Highway Trust Fund through mid-December with an $8 billion cash infusion. Despite averting a July 31 deadline after which the U.S. Department of Transportation had said it would stop authorizing payments to states for work on transportation projects, lawmakers failed to come up with a longer-term solution before the start of their August recess. Further negotiations will have to be postponed until the fall, leaving states in the same uncertain position they’ve been in for much of the past six years.

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