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.

Econ Piggy

According to The National Association of State Budget Officer's State Expenditure Report, total state spending (including both state and federal funds) grew by an estimated 5.7 percent in FY 2014, a significant jump from the 2.2 percent growth rate in FY 2013. In FY 2012, year-over-year total state spending fell by 1.1 percent. The recent boost in state expenditures is due primarily to a jump in spending from federal funds, which increased by 7.6 percent in FY 2014. Spending from state funds, on the other hand, grew by 4.8 percent.

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.

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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.
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In Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, the Supreme Court will decide whether a federal court is barred from deciding a constitutional challenge to a Colorado law that requires remote sellers who don’t collect state sales tax to comply with notice and reporting requirements. The State and Local Legal Center’s ...

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

By Nevada Sen. Pat Spearman
Veterans offer unique assets to the workforce and economic development of our country. Unfortunately, many challenges exist in pairing veterans with job, career and entrepreneurial opportunities. Members of the CSG Subcommittee on Military and Veterans’ Concerns identified five categories to address this issue and ensure active service members and veterans successfully move toward their goals on the pathway to prosperity.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor announced last week that Michigan has been awarded $2.8 million to enhance and expand its short-time compensation program (STC), which is designed to help prevent layoffs through “work-sharing”. STC programs are administered through the federal-state unemployment compensation system and allow employers to reduce employee work hours during tough economic times as an alternative to laying them off. Through the STC program, employees who have had their hours reduced receive some percentage of the weekly unemployment benefits that they would have received if they had been completely laid off.  

President Barack Obama in July signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is designed to help individuals seeking employment access the needed education, training and support services to be successful in the labor market. This complimentary CSG eCademy session offers an overview of the federal law and its impact on states and explores innovative career pathway programs currently in place.

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