Clash of Laws: The Growing Dissonance between State and Federal Marijuana Policies

Source: Heather Trela, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Policy Brief, January 25, 2018

This policy brief examines the growing separation between the federal government and the states when it comes to marijuana policy and the federalism implications of this divide. Since the 2016 election, the states and the federal government have been on a collision course over the implementation of state marijuana policy and the enforcement of federal law. The essays collected in this brief highlight some of the major issues currently at play in United States marijuana policy and potential issues to watch in the coming year.

How Should States Respond to Recent Federal Tax Changes?

Source: Michael Leachman and Michael Mazerov, January 23, 2018

From the summary:
Many states expect to see a change in revenues due to the major federal tax legislation enacted last December. States should respond with substantial caution to the possibility of a revenue boost and focus their response on preparing for potential cuts in federal funding for states, as well as the next recession. They also should strongly consider raising revenue from corporations and other wealthy interests that just received a large federal tax break in order to invest in stronger education systems, more efficient transportation networks, and other public services that undergird broadly shared prosperity.

Some have called for states to cut taxes, claiming that most states will see revenue “windfalls” thanks to the federal changes. That’s overstated. Roughly 29 states will lose revenue, see no impact, or see modest revenue gains totaling less than 1 percent of general fund revenue, according to early estimates.  And in many of those states that could see larger revenue boosts, the added revenue would come disproportionately from lower-income families (due to the elimination of the states’ personal exemptions), which would partially reverse states’ substantial progress in recent decades in eliminating income taxes for families in poverty.  At least some of these states are unlikely to allow this to occur.

The real windfall from the federal changes will go to corporations and the highest-income households, whose annual tax cuts will vastly exceed any revenue gain for states. States’ revenue gains — in the aggregate — will also be much smaller as a share of their revenue than what they received from the last major federal tax overhaul, in 1986…..

SNAP Is Linked with Improved Nutritional Outcomes and Lower Health Care Costs

Source: Steven Carlson and Brynne Keith-Jennings, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 17, 2018

From the summary:
New and emerging research links the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, with improved health outcomes and lower health care costs. This research adds to previous work showing SNAP’s powerful capacity to help families buy adequate food, reduce poverty, and help stabilize the economy during recessions…..

Kansas Provides Compelling Evidence of Failure of “Supply-Side” Tax Cuts

Source: Michael Mazerov, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 22, 2018

from the summary:
The deep income cuts that Kansas enacted in 2012 and 2013 for many business owners and other high-income Kansans failed to achieve their goal of boosting business formation and job creation, and lawmakers substantially repealed the tax cuts earlier this year. Former supporters have offered explanations for this failure to prevent the Kansas experience from discrediting “supply-side” economic strategies more broadly.  But the evidence does not support these explanations.  Rather, the Kansas experience adds to the already compelling evidence that cutting taxes does not improve state economic performance…..

Working 9 to 5? Union Membership and Work Hours and Schedules

Source: Ryan Finnigan Jo Mhairi Hale, Social Forces, Advance Access, Published: January 22, 2018
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From the abstract:
Millions of workers in the United States experience volatile weekly working hours and nonstandard shift work, particularly following the Great Recession. These aspects of work schedules bring greater economic insecurity and work-life conflict, particularly for low-wage workers. In the absence of strong and widespread policies regulating work hours in the United States, labor unions may significantly limit varying hours and nonstandard shifts. However, any benefits of union membership could depend on local unionization rates, which vary widely between states. This paper analyzes the relationship between union membership and varying weekly work hours and nonstandard schedules among hourly workers using data from the 2004–2007 and 2008–2012 Surveys of Income and Program Participation. The results show that union members were significantly less likely to report varying numbers of hours from week to week, particularly in states with relatively high unionization rates. In contrast, union members were more likely to report nonstandard schedules. The earnings penalties for varying hours and nonstandard schedules are significantly weaker among union members than non-members. Altogether, the results demonstrate some of unions’ continued benefits for workers, and some of their limitations.

Domestic Outsourcing, Rent Seeking, and Increasing Inequality

Source: Eileen Appelbaum, Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 49 no. 4, December 2017
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From the abstract:
This paper argues that an important mechanism linking increasing rents and the rising earnings’ inequality among workers with similar skills is the increase in domestic outsourcing and the growth of networked forms of production. This has multiplied contractual relationships and legal claims to profit and rents that reflect interfirm power relations. Firms with the greatest clout are able to claim the largest share of the rents; the weakest struggle to remain viable.

Related:
Comments on “Domestic Outsourcing, Rent Seeking, and Increasing Inequality” by Eileen Appelbaum
Source: John Schmitt, Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 49 no. 4, December 2017
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Biggest gains in union membership in 2017 were for younger workers

Source: John Schmitt, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, January 25, 2018

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on changes in union membership from 2016 to 2017. It was good news for workers, as the total number of union members grew by 262,000 in 2017. Three-fourths of these gains (198,000) were among workers aged 34 and under, who account for less than 40 percent of total employment…..

A Recession-Era Economic Myth Goes Up In Smoke

Source: Meagan Day, Jacobin, January 25, 2018

For years, the media was filled with stories about jobs going unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. Now we know how wrong they were….

Facing a tight labor market, employers are starting to hire workers they previously considered unqualified. Once-picky companies are realizing they can’t sleep on imperfect applicants, lest their job vacancies go unfilled and profits sag. The trend is great news for those typically excluded from the job market, such as formerly incarcerated people. It’s also a victory for left-wing economists, dealing a blow to the supply-side argument that inadequate worker skills are to blame for high unemployment. A new article in the New York Times profiles people on either side of the hiring desk, and they all confirm that corporations are diving uncharacteristically deep into the labor pool to fill vacancies. “We see employers really knocking on the door of our organization in a way that we haven’t seen in probably twenty years,” said a Minneapolis nonprofit director whose organization helps formerly incarcerated people reenter the workforce….

Public Sector Union Dues: Grappling with Fixed Stars and Stare Decisis (Part I)

Source: Victoria L. Killion, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10042, December 4, 2017

The Supreme Court long ago described the First Amendment’s protection against compelled speech as a “fixed star in our constitutional constellation.” This Term, the Court may decide whether it has steered too far from that shining precept in the area of public employee union dues (or agency fees) in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. Specifically, the Court will consider whether to overrule its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court announced the basic test for determining the validity of “agency shop” arrangements between a union and a government employer. Agency shop arrangements (sometimes called “fair share” provisions) require employees to pay a fee to the union designated to represent their bargaining unit even if the employees are not members of that union. The Abood Court held that these arrangements do not violate the First Amendment insofar as the union uses the fees for “collective bargaining activities” and not “ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining.” In its October 2015 Term, the full Court heard oral argument on whether to overrule Abood, but ultimately divided four-to-four on this question following the death of Justice Scalia. Now that Justice Gorsuch has joined the bench, it remains to be seen whether a majority of the Court will reaffirm Abood or chart a new course. Part I of this two-part Sidebar provides general background on Abood and the case law leading up to Janus. Part II then discusses the perspectives Justice Gorsuch may bring to Janus and the potential implications of the decision for public sector collective bargaining and compulsory fees more broadly.

Public Sector Union Dues: Grappling with Fixed Stars and Stare Decisis (Part II)
Source: Victoria L. Killion, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10041, December 4, 2017

As discussed in Part I of this two-part Sidebar, on March 29, 2016, an eight-member Supreme Court divided equally over whether to overrule its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and hold that public sector agency fees violate core First Amendment principles (the Court’s “fixed star”). Earlier this Term, the Court agreed to consider the question again in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. Part II of this Sidebar begins with a brief summary of the parties’ arguments in Janus. It then highlights some key statements from the prior decisions of Justice Gorsuch, who is likely to be a critical voice in deciding whether to overturn Abood. The post concludes by exploring the potential implications of the Janus decision.

Private Sector Financing: A Review of Service Delivery Models in Eight Communities

Source: Jeff Hughes, Lexi Kay Herndon, Journal – American Water Works Association, Volume / Number: 110, Number 1, January 2018
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From the abstract:
A study of private financing models in the water industry examines variations in implementation and design and whether outcomes differ from initial expectations.