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Tesla Battling to Sell Cars Directly to Connecticut Consumers


If you live in Connecticut and want to buy a Tesla, you have to travel to a neighboring state. Connecticut law mandates that new cars can only be sold through franchises, but Tesla sells their cars directly to consumers. Legislators are considering a bill that would change the way cars can be sold in Connecticut, but it has garnered fierce opposition from existing franchise owners.


For decades, Connecticut has prohibited automobile manufacturers from selling vehicles directly to people who want to buy them. Instead, the state mandates that car sales must be made through independent franchises. This law is similar to laws that all 50 states passed to protect independent vehicle dealers from what was perceived as unfair competition from automobile manufacturers. Lawmakers at the time saw manufacturers as having too much power to undersell or coerce independent dealers, so passed laws that prohibited these manufacturers from selling directly to the public.


Tesla does not operate its sales in the same was as other automobile companies, however. It contends that independent dealers will not prioritize sales of its cars, so it wants the ability to market them directly to people who are interested in buying them. The company has been working in states around the country to change laws that prohibit it from making sales in this way. Connecticut consumers can buy cars from Tesla dealerships in New York or Massachusetts, and some do. Tesla contends that Connecticut is losing out on tax revenue by banning the car’s sale in the state.


Franchise owners say that if legislators change the law, it will lead to an un-level playing field for them. They argue that Tesla dealerships have fewer employees and lower overhead, so they will have an unfair advantage. They also argue that jobs will be lost at franchises if the state allows for manufacturers like Tesla to sell directly to consumers.


Legislators have been debating this issue for four years in Connecticut. There have been attempts to find a compromise between dealers and Tesla, but so far the two sides cannot come to a consensus. It remains to be seen if this will be the year that lawmakers break through the impasse and allow Tesla’s cars to be sold in the state.


Do you think that state laws should prohibit Tesla from being sold directly to consumers? Or do you think it is a good idea to have laws that mandate cars be sold through independent franchises?



Job Licensing Reform Dies in Florida



If you want to work as a hair braider or a boxing announcer in Florida, the state mandates that you get a license. Some legislators think that workers pursuing these jobs should not be forced to get permission from the state. They passed a bill in this year’s legislative session that would have de-licensed these and a few other occupations. But this push for occupational license reform did not survive the legislative process, meaning that anyone wishing to work in these jobs must still get a state license.


In early January, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that would end the requirement that people looking to work in the occupations of hair braiding, hair wrapping, body wrapping, boxing timekeeping, and boxing announcing must obtain a state license. The bill also reduced the number of hours of mandatory training that someone seeking to work as a barber, nail specialist, face specialist, or a full beauty specialist must complete. The legislation was the same as a bill passed the previous year in the same body.


Those supporting this reform contend that occupational licenses are a barrier to Floridians seeking work. These licenses keep people from being able to get jobs and act to protect those already in the occupation from competition. They also say that the licenses may be defended as a way to protect the public, but the evidence indicates that these licenses don’t offer a public benefit.


The bill met stiff opposition from barbers and those in the beauty field. The professional associations and licensed workers testified that the longer training hours were necessary to ensure that the public is not harmed by barbers or beauty workers who did not know their craft. They said that the state should mandate more hours to protect the public, not cut the mandatory hours.


While this legislation passed the House of Representatives, it died in the Senate. Given the history of this proposal, a similar bill is likely to be debated in the 2019 Florida legislative session.


Do you think that the state should impose a mandatory license on hair braiders and boxing announcers? Should the state require barbers complete 1,200 hours of training before they cut hair professionally?



Wisconsin Bans Local Wage and Hour Laws



Across the nation, city and county governments are passing laws that regulate how employers pay their employees or what benefits they provide. In Wisconsin, however, these local governments recently lost their power to enact such ordinances.


In mid-April, Governor Scott Walker signed legislation that pre-empts local authority to regulate employee wages and hour. The bill to do this passed 58 to 32 in the Assembly and 18 to 14 in the Senate. Governor Walker is a Republican, and both of the legislative bodies are controlled by Republicans.


This act prohibits local governments from doing the following:

  • Imposing mandatory “labor peace agreements,” which are requirements that businesses enter into agreements with unions as a condition for doing government work
  • Regulating employee hour and overtime
  • Regulating employment benefits
  • Prohibiting employers from asking job candidates their past salary information


Nationwide, local proposals to increase the minimum wage or mandate paid sick leave generally occur in cities led by liberal leadership but located in states that have a conservative state government. The actions of local officials in this area often prompt a backlash from state officials, such as was seen in Wisconsin. Local governments have no inherent authority to regulate these areas; states can pre-empt any efforts by cities or counties to pass laws on this subject.


Supporters of these pre-emption laws say that they are necessary to provide uniform labor laws across the state. They contend that a patchwork of local labor laws makes it difficult for businesses to operate. Opponents of the state pre-empting local government labor regulations say that cities and counties should have the power to adopt laws that meet needs in their jurisdiction, which may be different from what works in other jurisdictions across the state.


Do you think that Wisconsin cities should be able to enact laws, such as a higher minimum wage, than what state law allows? Or should there be uniform wage and labor laws that apply across Wisconsin?



Democrats Pushing for $15 Minimum Wage in Ohio


If Ohio Democrats have their way, it will soon be illegal for businesses in the state to pay their workers less than $15 an hour.


Advocacy groups and legislators are pushing to change the state’s minimum wage. Under their proposal, it would increase to $12 per hour in 2019. Then it will go up by 50 cents a year until it reaches $15 an hour in 2025.


Currently, the state’s minimum wage is $8.30 ($4.15 for tipped workers). The state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 that ties the minimum wage to inflation, so it increases every year. Smaller businesses are allowed to pay $7.15 an hour, and businesses can pay that rate to workers who are 14- or 15-years-old.


Advocates of this proposal contend that this increase will help working families and boost consumer spending. They say that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty.


Opponents of the measure say that it will hurt businesses who cannot afford to pay dramatically higher wages. This will lead to workers either losing their jobs or not being hired.


With the Ohio General Assembly controlled by Republicans, a minimum wage hike is unlikely to pass. Some legislators have said that the voters made their decision on this issue in the 2006 vote, so the state should stick with the formula outlined in that constitutional amendment. Democrats are likely to use this as an issue in this year’s elections, however. One of the leading sponsors is a Democratic state senator who is running for governor.


Do you think that workers will be helped with a higher minimum wage? Or will a higher minimum wage kill jobs?

Will Trump Tariffs Help or Hurt the Economy?

When Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency, his attacks on foreign trade drew big cheers from crowds. Now he’s taking steps to turn his “fair trade” rhetoric into reality.


On March 1, the president announced that he would be signing an order to impose a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum. His power to do this comes from a federal law that allows tariffs to be imposed on certain goods if the Commerce Secretary determines their importation undermines national security.


Such tariffs may boost domestic manufacturers of steel and tariffs, possibly even leading to a growth in these industries. However, U.S. businesses such as car makers rely on imported steel. They will be forced to pay higher prices for the inputs they need, as will U.S. consumers. Such tariffs could also provoke retaliatory trade barriers from foreign countries.


According to Christine McDaniel, an economist who works for George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the president is hurting American workers with this action:


“Import taxes on steel and aluminum will raise the prices of those products, which in turn will raise the price of doing business for U.S. manufacturers. There are more people in U.S. manufacturing sectors that rely on steel than there are in the U.S. steel industry. In terms of the economics, the trade-off does not make sense.”


Other observers praised the move. Dave Burritt, president and CEO of U.S. Steel, said, “it's for our employees, to support our customers, and when we get this right it will be great for the United States of America. We have to get this done.”


The affected nations will likely take their case against these tariffs to the World Trade Organization once the president imposes them.


Do you think that President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum will help U.S. industry? Or will workers be hurt because consumers and the industries that rely on imported steel will be paying higher prices?


Should Government Employees Be Able to Withhold Union Fees?


This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could have profound effects on government workers. The court is widely expected to rule that public sector employees may not be compelled as a condition of employment to pay fees that cover union administration and collective bargaining expenses.


The case is Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. Mark Janus is an employee of the state of Illinois who must pay the union an “agency fee” even though he chooses not to be a member of AFSCME. The union argues that this fee is fair because the union’s activities benefit non-members like Janus.


Mark Janus contends that compulsory payments to the union violate his First Amendment rights. He argues that supporting public sector unions is necessarily subsidizing their political engagement, since the bargaining and other activities of these unions directly impact public policy decisions. Janus says that he should not be compelled to pay for speech that is essentially the same as lobbying.


In the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, the Supreme Court permitted the compulsory fees, judging that that non-union members covered by a collective bargaining agreement could not be “free riders” who benefit from union bargaining but pay nothing to support it. The court also accepted the argument that this would avoid labor strife. This decision was challenged in the 2016 case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether to overturn the earlier decision approving mandatory union payments.


Unions are urging the court not to strip the power from government employee unions to obtain fees from non-members. They say that if the court does this, it will weaken these unions and the overall labor movement. On the other side, business groups and some workers say that union officials should not be able to force non-members to pay for endeavors that are little more than political activities.


A decision is expected in the late spring.


Do you think that non-members should be forced pay fees to government employee unions? Or do you think that it is only fair to make workers who benefit from union activities pay money to help fund them?


Virginia Minimum Wage Hike Coming in 2018?


A minimum wage showdown could be coming to Richmond next year.


Virginia’s incoming governor, Ralph Northam, made increasing the minimum wage a centerpiece of his campaign. He cannot enact this policy without the help of legislators, however. While Republicans saw their numbers reduced in the General Assembly, it is likely they still control both chambers (a few key races have yet to be decided). It is unlikely that the governor will find much support for his proposal with these legislators.


During the campaign, Northam said, “Nobody in 2017 can support themselves, let alone their families, on a $7.25 an hour, so it's incumbent on all of us to make sure we raise the minimum wage here in Virginia.” However, he has not explicitly supported a minimum wage increase to $15, a key goal of many progressive activists.


Currently, Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal wage floor. Some of Virginia’s neighboring states have higher minimum wages. Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia all mandate a higher wage.


The effects of increasing the minimum wage are hotly debated by economists and politicians. Opponents of such a mandate say that it prices low-wage workers out of the marketplace by banning businesses from paying them what their labor is worth. Supporters contend that workers deserve to be paid a wage that allows them to support a family.


Do you think that Virginia should increase its minimum wage? Or would a minimum wage hike be bad for the Commonwealth’s economy?


High Court Takes Aim at Mandatory Government Union Fees


If you are a government worker, you may soon be able to choose whether or not you want to pay union fees.


The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit challenging state and local laws compelling non-union government employees to pay fees to unions. Currently, 22 states require employees who are not union members to pay an agency fee to unions as compensation for collective bargaining.


While agency fees cannot be used for political activity, the non-union members bringing the suit contend that when it comes to government workers, collective bargaining is inseparable from political activity. When bargaining with the government, their argument goes, it means being involved with spending and taxing decisions. This means that these non-union employees are subsidizing political speech when unions advocate for pay or benefits.


Unions counter that since all employees benefit from the contracts they negotiate, then all employees should pay for their services. It is not fair to unionized members to subsidize activity resulting in higher pay and benefits that also go to non-union members, they contend.


This case, Janus vs. AFSCME, is being brought by a government employee in Illinois. It is similar to a case heard by the Supreme Court in 2016. In that instance, the court deadlocked at 4-4 after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. The court’s tie vote meant that it was still legal for states to compel non-union members to pay agency fees, but it did not set a precedent. A majority vote in this new case will determine a national precedent. With a conservative majority, many observers think the court will decide against mandatory fees.


Do you think that government workers should be forced to pay fees to unions when they aren’t members? Or do you support mandatory fees as a way to prevent workers from getting a free ride from union activities?


Nominee May Set Up Fight over Export Subsidies


A Senate fight may be brewing over one of President Trump’s nominees. But this fight may be different from the usual partisan wrangling we see in Congress.


The nominee is former U.S. Representative Scott Garrett. The agency is the Export-Import Bank. Garrett is an unconventional pick to head the Export-Import Bank because of his past opposition to the bank’s operation.


The Export-Import Bank is an independent federal agency that loans money to foreign companies that are making purchases of products made in the U.S. The former president of the bank, Fred Hochberg, left office in January.


Arrayed against Garrett’s nomination are Republican-friendly entities like the National Association of Manufacturers and Boeing, the aircraft maker. They contend that the Export-Import bank is essential for the competitiveness of American companies abroad and should not be led by someone who fought against it while in Congress.


Export-Import Bank opponents say that the institution is a way to steer corporate subsidies to big businesses that could operate fine without them. They note that Garrett cannot shut down operations of the bank if he is confirmed, but could bring a critical eye to ensure that the bank is run better.


Over the past two years, conservatives in Congress have tried various ways to shut down or hobble the bank’s operation. They refused to renew the bank’s charter for five months, effectively shuttering it. They have also refused to confirm members to its board, which makes it impossible for the bank to make loans in excess of $10 million.

Garrett’s nomination could result in a Senate vote that has not yet been seen in the Trump presidency. If pro-business interests succeed in persuading Republicans to oppose Garrett, this could be the first instance of large-scale GOP defections on a Trump nomination. There is also criticism about the Export-Import Bank from liberals, so Garrett may find some support from the more liberal Senate Democrats. Generally these liberals have been steadfast in their opposition to Trump nominees.


Do you think that Scott Garrett should be confirmed as the president of the Export-Import Bank? Or do you think that someone who is a strong supporter of the agency should be leading it?


Should States Stop Local Minimum Wage Increases?


In May, St. Louis began mandating that business owners pay a minimum wage of $10 an hour. In August, that mandate will be rolled back because of state law. After five months with a higher minimum wage, St. Louis business owners will face the same wage laws as the rest of the state.


Some see this as a heartless move to cut workers’ pay. Others see it as a way to establish a uniform wage policy across the state to encourage economic growth.


At is heart is the issue of state government pre-emption of local laws. Depending on state constitutions, state governments have broad power to limit or delegate power to city and county governments. In Missouri, state legislators and the governor used their authority to restrict the types of wage laws that local governments could pass. 


Pre-emption of local laws is common around the country. It has gotten special attention where legislators in conservative states, such as Missouri, enact laws that roll back legislation enacted by liberal city officials, such as happened in Missouri.


The issue of how local governments can regulate wages or other labor issues has also come up in Alabama, Ohio, and Arizona. States have also acted to pre-empt local laws on LGBGTQ rights, plastic bag bans, tobacco use, and “sanctuary city” policies.


Another area where pre-emption often occurs is with gun laws. There are 43 states that have passed laws taking away authority from local governments to enact gun and ammunition laws that are stricter than state law. Some states, such as Arizona and Florida, levy fines against local elected officials if they enact such laws. Kentucky makes it a crime for a local official to pass gun control laws.


Supporters of pre-emption laws contend that states have a duty to ensure that there are uniform laws across their jurisdiction. They contend that a series of inconsistent laws in counties or cities makes it difficult for businesses to operate or citizens to know if they are acting legally. Opponents of pre-emption say that local governments should have the power to enact laws that respond to their particular circumstances, not have legislators from other parts of the state telling them how to manage their problems.


Do you think that state governments should stop local politicians from enacting certain laws? Or should local elected officials have broad leeway to enact the types of laws that they see fit?


Missouri Senate Bill 182

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Missouri, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 182, Ban Union Preference on Government Contracts Passed 23 to 9 in the state Senate on May 15, 2017.


To prevent the state or local governments from requiring or giving preference to bidders for public works projects who are parties to union contracts, or discriminating against those who are not, for any project involving taxpayer funding.  Currently there is a 50% state funding threshold for the non-discrimination provisions to kick in.


Comment below to share what you think of Missouri Senate Bill 182! 


Iowa House Bill 518


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Iowa, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 518, To change the state's law on worker's compensation: Passed 29 to 21 in the state Senate on March 27, 2017


To change several parts of Iowa's law on worker's compensation, including to let companies deny a claim if an employee tests positive for drug use. The bill also creates a program for workers with shoulder injuries to undergo retraining.


Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 518!


Missouri Senate Bill 240


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Missouri, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 240, Impose a state licensure mandate on electricians: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on April 6, 2017


To create a statewide license for electrical contractors.


Comment below to share what you think of Missouri Senate Bill 240!


U.S. House Bill 10


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Congress, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 10, Repeal portions of Dodd-Frank financial regulations: Passed 233 to 186 in the U.S. House on June 8, 2017


To repeal a ban on banks investing in securities and derivatives, end limits on fees charged to retailers for debit card transactions, exempt banks from some regulations if they maintain certain capital-to-asset ratios, remove the Financial Stability Oversight Council's authority to regulate non-bank financial institutions under “too big to fail” rules, and expand congressional oversight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among other things.


Comment below to share what you think of U.S. House Bill 10!


Missouri Senate Bill 395


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Missouri, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 395, Lower minimum age for accountant licensing: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on April 6, 2017


To lower the age that someone can become licensed as an accountant from 21 to 18 and revise several definitions related to the profession of accountancy.


Comment below to share what you think of Missouri Senate Bill 395!


Iowa Senate Bill 438


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Iowa, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 438: To prohibit state or local governments from requiring "project labor agreements" on public works projects: Passed 57 to 41 in the state House on April 4, 2017


To prohibit government managers from requiring "project labor agreements" on taxpayer-funded construction projects. In effect, such agreements require union labor.


Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 438!


U.S. House Bill 1180


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Washington D.C., check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 1180: Allow more flexibility in overtime compensation: Passed 229 to 197 in the U.S. House on May 2, 2017


To allow private sector employers to offer employees paid time off instead of monetary compensation for every hour that employee works overtime. The paid time off shall be given at a rate of one-and-a-half hours per every hour worked overtime.


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Ohio Senate Bill 29


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 29, Simplify banking regulation system: Passed 32 to 0 in the state Senate on March 8, 2017


To create a single system for regulation of banks, savings and loan associations, and savings banks in the state.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio Senate Bill 29!


Missouri Senate Bill 182: Ban union preference on government contracts


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Missouri, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 182, Ban union preference on government contracts: Passed 23 to 9 in the state Senate on February 16, 2017


To prevent the state or local governments from requiring or giving preference to bidders for public works projects who are parties to union contracts, or discriminating against those who are not, for any project involving taxpayer funding.  Currently there is a 50% state funding threshold for the non-discrimination provisions to kick in.


Comment below to share what you think of Missouri Senate Bill 182!


Trump Wants us to “Buy American, Hire American”


President Trump has signed an executive order that is aimed at increasing the hiring of U.S. workers and ensuring that government agencies buy U.S. goods. Called “Buy American, Hire American,” some people are asking what this means for the average person.


The executive order directs federal agencies to step up efforts to police abuse of a visa program that allows high-skilled foreigners to work in the U.S. The order also tasks agencies to find ways to modify this visa, called an H-1B, so it would be re-oriented to go to the most highly-skilled and most highly-paid foreign workers. That’s the “Hire American” part of the plan.


The “Buy American” aspect of Trump’s order would make some changes to federal purchasing rules so it would be more difficult for agencies to buy foreign products. There is a requirement already on the books that the federal government buy American products when possible, but waivers can be granted to get around it.


Supporters of the president’s actions say they will prioritize American workers and American businesses. Foreign workers using H-1B visas, the argument goes, take jobs from American workers. Changing the system to prioritize higher-paid foreign workers will ensure that there are more jobs for Americans to do. And strengthening the “Buy American” law already in place will stimulate U.S. companies that supply goods to the government.


Opponents of this order point out that many companies need foreign workers to compete in the global marketplace. They say this is especially true of companies that use H-1B visas, since they tend to be in the high-tech industry. Without foreign workers, the argument goes, these companies would not be able to fill the jobs they need filled. As for “Buy American,” critics contend that government should be looking for the lowest price possible for products, regardless of where they come from. Anything less is wasting taxpayer money.


What do you think? Do you support President Trump’s actions to help U.S. workers and businesses? Or will this executive order hurt high-tech companies and taxpayers?


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