The Border Legislative Conference, a program of The Council of State Governments West, released a report, “The U.S.-Mexico Border Economy in Transition,” at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. The report is the result of four Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums held along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 to collectively generate a shared vision and policy recommendations to strengthen economic competitiveness. The report lays out the major issues involved in border region economic development, compiles the many innovative ideas developed at the forums and weaves them into a series of policy recommendations that draw on the experiences of those who understand the border best: the individuals who live in border communities and who cross back and forth between Mexico and the United States as a part of their daily lives.

States know that increased international exposure can contribute to economic growth and increased trade and foreign investment. While higher education institutions traditionally have focused on recruiting international students, several states now are formalizing their approach to attracting foreign students and encouraging foreign exchange in strategic economic and workforce development plans. This eCademy session identifies trends in state government activity supporting internationalization and examines why this is an area of increasing opportunity for states.

In their 2015 State of the State speeches, Governors across the country will spotlight the importance of states remaining globally competitive—creating opportunity for state exports and attracting new investment from international partners. Year on year states are increasing their international engagement, attracting investment and students from abroad and looking to export everything, everywhere. Exports have proven to be a catalyst to sustainable growth and jobs for small firms. A recent study by the International Trade Commission (ITC) found companies that exported grew by 37 percent, while non-exporting firms declined by 7 percent from 2005 to 2009.

Catherine Bray, Director of CSG Global, outlines the top five issues in international affairs policy for 2015, including export promotion programs, attracting foreign direct investment, international trade agreements, trade facilitation, and the internationalization of higher education. 

As state leaders outline their strategies and goals for 2015, they are keeping a close watch on the actions of the federal government and how such policies will impact their respective state. Such federal actions – whether in the form of federal funds, congressional legislation, executive orders, and regulations – can dramatically influence the direction and overall strategy of the state. With nearly one third of state funds appropriated from the federal government, many state programs are dependent on a consistent source of funds. This close relationship between the federal government and states has grown more complex in recent years, leaving less certainty about the roles and responsibilities of each respective government.

Andy Karellas, CSG's Director of Federal Affairs, outlines the top five issues in federal affairs policy for 2015, including unfunded mandates, pre-emption, international trade agreements, intergovernmental coordination, and the discontinuation by the U.S. Census Bureau of the Consolidated Federal Funds Report. 

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Moving cattle and pigs from North Dakota to Saskatchewan or from Manitoba to Minnesota has always required a lot of paperwork, but until recently, that didn’t slow the movement of animals between Canada and the United States. Because of the two countries’ highly integrated systems, animals have regularly traveled across the U.S.-Canada border for feeding and slaughter.

But a U.S. policy enacted as part of some recent farm bills appears to be inhibiting this movement. Mandatory country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, requires meat from outside the United States to be labeled — and thus segregated during the production process. These rules began to take effect in 2009.

With passage of this Act, Vermont enacted what observers believe is the first state anti-patent “troll” legislation in the country. Though the law still provides for legitimate claims of patent infringement in accordance with federal law, it will, however, require more detailed allegations in licensing demand letters and it increases the potential cost of making a baseless claim. Under the new law, demand letters must include detailed information about how the Vermont product, service or technology infringes on an existing patent. The demand letter must also allow for a reasonable amount of time for the licensing fee to be paid. The penalty for a bad faith claim is a bond equal to the cost of litigating the claim for the Vermont company. Violators risk being brought into court in violation of state law and the attorney general can also file suit against patent trolls who target Vermont companies without legitimate claims.

This act requires that economic development tax incentives undergo regular and rigorous evaluations including details on the scope, quality and frequency of those reviews and how evaluations should be linked to budget decisions.

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.

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