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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.

 

Comment below to share what you think of U.S. House Bill 1180!

 

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?

 

States Taking Action on the Minimum Wage

 

Unions and other liberal groups are going all-in with their “Fight for 15.” Will they be successful?

 

There is a nationwide push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The federal government sets the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, but states can mandate higher minimum wages.

 

With Congress in Republican control and Donald Trump in the White House, the national minimum wage is unlikely to change. However, there is movement in the states and some cities on this issue. In some places, legislation is being considered to raise the minimum wage. In other states, however, there is legislation advancing that would prohibit local governments from taking this step.

 

Here are some of these state and local developments:

 

Arizona – In Flagstaff, the minimum wage was scheduled to increase to $12 this summer. The city council recently voted to cut that increase to $10.50.

 

Iowa – In response to some Iowa towns mandating minimum wages above the state level, legislators passed a bill that would prevent local governments from doing this. Governor Terry Branstad signed this bill into law in late March.

 

Maine – State voters approved a ballot measure in 2016 to increase the minimum wage. Legislators are considering bills that would limit the impact of this increase. One would stop automatic minimum wage increases as the inflation rate goes up. Another would allow employers to pay students and minors less than the minimum wage.

 

Maryland – In Baltimore, the city council voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15. The mayor vetoed the legislation because of concerns over how it would impact city businesses.

 

Missouri – Legislators are considering a bill that would ban local governments from having a higher minimum wage than the state rate.

 

Nevada – There were dueling minimum wage increase bills in the Nevada legislature this year. One would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, while another would have increased it to $11 an hour. Neither bill passed.

 

New Hampshire – In late March, state senators voted along party lines to kill a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by September 2018.

 

North Carolina – Senate Democrats introduced legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15. The bill is unlikely to be successful in the Republican-dominated legislature.

 

Do you support increasing the minimum wage? Or do you think it’s a good idea to keep the minimum wage at its current level?

 

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 166: Ban Deduction of Fees for Union Political Activity

 

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

 

Senate Bill 166, Ban Deduction of Fees for Union Political Activity: Passed 28 to 22 in the state Senate on February 8, 2017

 

To prohibit governments from deducting money from employees on behalf of unions that the unions will then use for political purposes.

 

 Comment below to share what you think of Pennsylvania Senate Bill 166!

 

Iowa House Bill 291: Limit Collective Bargaining for Unionized Government Workers and Require Ongoing Recertification of Unions

 

Check out this key bill recently passed 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 291, Limit collective bargaining for unionized government workers and require ongoing recertification of unions: Passed 29 to 21 in the state Senate and 53 to 47 in the state House on February 16, 2017

 

To limit the scope of collective bargaining for union of government workers, require ongoing elections of employees to keep a union in place, and prohibit the government from collecting dues or political contributions for a union. Some parts of this act do not apply to public safety employees.

 

Also of note: Legislators in both chambers attempted to 'kill' the bill before its passage - 

 

Senate Bill 213, To kill a bill that would limit the scope of collective bargaining in government: Failed 21 to 29 in the state Senate on February 14, 2017

 

To amend the bill that limits the scope of collective bargaining for government employees by deleting its "enacting clause," effectively killing the bill.

 

House Bill 291, To kill a bill that would limit the scope of collective bargaining in government: Failed 41 to 55 in the state House on February 15, 2017

 

To amend the bill that limits the scope of collective bargaining for government employees, effectively removing its prohibition on collective bargaining for most topics.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 213!

 

Updates to Missouri Senate Bill 19: Adopt a "right to work" law

 

 

Check out this key bill recently 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 19, Adopt a "right to work" law: Passed 21 to 12 in the state Senate on January 26, 2017 and 100 to 59 in the state House on February 2, 2017

 

To prohibit employers from requiring employees to join or financially support a labor union as a condition of employment.

 

Senate Bill 19, Submit 'right-to-work' law to statewide voter referendum: Failed 12 to 21 in the state Senate on January 23, 2017 and 64 to 91 in the state House on February 2, 2017

 

To submit to the voters in November of 2018 a referendum to prohibit employers from requiring employees to join or financially support a labor union as a condition of employment.

 

Senate Bill 19, Limit union ability to delay right-to-work law in workplace: Failed 10 to 20 in the state Senate on January 25, 2017 and 60 to 98 in the state House on February 2, 2017

 

To delete language from the new Missouri right-to-work law that defines any changes made to an existing collective bargaining agreement as essentially making it a new agreement. The law becomes effective in a particular workplace only after its current union contract expires. In some states that recently enacted right-to-work laws, public employee unions and employers claimed to make themselves exempt by extending the duration of existing contracts. Missouri's law prohibits doing that here, and the amendment would have removed that language.

 

Senate Bill 19, Change the penalty for violating right-to-work law: Failed 12 to 20 in the state Senate on January 24, 2017

 

To change the penalty for violations of a Missouri right-to-work law from a "class C misdemeanor" to an "infraction" (which means no threat of jail or prison).

 

Comment below to share what you think of Missouri Senate Bill 19!

 

Iowa Follows Wisconsin’s Lead on Unions

 

 

The fight over government worker unionization has come to Iowa.

 

Last week, the legislature passed a bill that would limit the power of government employee unions. Here is how VoteSpotter described the bill:

 

To limit the scope of collective bargaining for union of government workers, require ongoing elections of employees to keep a union in place, and prohibit the government from collecting dues or political contributions for a union. Some parts of this act do not apply to public safety employees.

 

With Republicans controlling the legislature and the governorship, this bill faced little serious opposition on its way into law.

 

Republicans in the Hawkeye State were inspired by legislation from Wisconsin in 2011. That was when Governor Scott Walker and Republicans in that state’s legislature enacted a bill, known as Act 10, to limit collective bargaining for government workers over fierce pushback by union and activists. By contrast, the Iowa legislation did not feature nearly the heated theatrics and political wrangling as occurred in Wisconsin.

 

What will happen in the wake of this bill’s enactment in Iowa? It may face a court challenge, as Act 10 did. If courts uphold the law, then Iowa will likely see a decline in government union membership, given the experience of Wisconsin. One analysis concluded that Act 10 produced $5 billion in savings for Wisconsin taxpayers over five years, so something similar could occur in Iowa, too. In fact, it seems that the effects of Act 10 are still being sorted out in Wisconsin, so it may take Iowa years to see the full impact of this legislation.

 

What do you think of this type of legislation? Are government unions too powerful? Or are legislators on the wrong track in limiting collective bargaining for government employees?

 

Michigan Senate Bill 40: Expand State Subsidies for Particular Companies on State Line

 

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

 

Senate Bill 40, Expand state subsidies for particular companies on state line: Passed 24 to 14 in the state Senate on February 9, 2017

 

To let particular businesses that are near the state line, and that have been selected by political appointees on a state 'economic development' program board, to each collect up to $10 million in state business subsidies for hiring people who do not live in Michigan.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Michigan Senate Bill 40!

 

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