Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief

Source: R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45160, April 12, 2018

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the nation’s civil campaign finance regulator. The agency ensures that campaign fundraising and spending is publicly reported; that those regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and by commission regulations comply and have access to guidance; and that publicly financed presidential campaigns receive funding.

FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of this writing, the FEC is operating with four commissioners instead of six. Others reportedly are considering leaving the agency. One nomination to the FEC has been resubmitted during the 115th Congress; no committee or floor action has been taken on it to date.

It is entirely possible that the FEC will retain at least four commissioners and that the agency will remain able to carry out all its duties. If, however, the FEC loses its policymaking quorum—as happened for six months in 2008—the agency will be unable to hold hearings, issue rules, and enforce campaign finance law and regulation. This CRS report briefly explains the kinds of actions that FECA would preclude if the commission lost its policymaking quorum.

This report will be updated in the event of significant changes in the agency’s policymaking quorum or the status of agency nominations….

GO Methodology scorecard inputs updated for 2018

Source: Lauren Von Bargen, Heather Guss, Katie Townsend, Alexandra S. Parker, Leonard Jones, Naomi Richman, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, April 10, 2018
(subscription required)

We have updated the institutional framework scores and the standardized adjustments that we use in the scorecard for our US local government general obligation (GO) methodology. In this publication, we provide the complete list of institutional framework scores for all major sectors with rated local government GO credits, as well as standardized scorecard adjustments we make for issuers in certain states and sectors to reflect factors not fully captured in the institutional framework scores. We use the scorecard as a tool in the assignment of ratings to GO debt. Adjusted scores generated by the scorecard are not necessarily reflective of assigned ratings, which we determine through a rating committee process.

Federal tax law to squeeze local governments in tri-state region

Source: Valentina Gomez, Nicholas Samuels, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, April 11, 2018
(subscription required)

The recent federal tax legislation will have an adverse credit effect on local governments in the tri-state region of Connecticut (A1 stable), New York (Aa1 stable) and New Jersey (A3 stable). This is due to the region’s relatively high state and local taxes and unusually high home prices, particularly in the New York City metropolitan area. The impact, however, will vary from state to state depending on tax levy formulas, fixed cost burdens and state actions to blunt the effect of the federal changes

Competing spending demands and slowing revenue growth will stymie capital investment for many cities

Source: Coley J Anderson, Rachel Cortez, Alexandra S. Parke, Katie Townsend, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, April 12, 2018
(subscription required)

US local governments are facing acute infrastructure needs following years of deferred maintenance. Local governments’ capital spending fell by 19% between 2009 and 2015, hastening a decline in the condition of public assets. This trend will continue through at least 2018. An increase in competing spending demands and a slowdown in property tax revenue growth will hamper many cities’ ability to stave off further deterioration in capital assets. Cities with growing revenue bases, ample financial reserves and low fixed costs are best positioned to increase capital spending. Cities with weak population growth, narrow financial reserves and high fixed costs will find it difficult to make capital investment a priority.

Hawaii’s Working Population: An Analysis by Industry 2012-2016

Source: Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Research and Economic Analysis Division, April 2018

From the press release:
The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report today, “Hawaii’s Working Population: An Analysis by Industry 2012-2016,” which shows the general demographic, social, and economic characteristics of Hawaii working population by industry.

“The report shows the structure of our industry from the employment perspective. The top two industries, Accommodation and Food Services and Retail Trade, are closely related to tourism and employed one fourth of our total working population,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “It is encouraging that Hawaii employees in the Accommodation and Food Services sector were paid better than their counterparts in the nation.”

Hawaii’s average labor earnings and wages, in general, are lower than the U.S. average. Females made less income than males in almost all the industries. “The analysis in this report may be helpful for those planning to enter the labor market,” said Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian “However, most of the statistics are averages for the industry combining all the occupations. We are working on another analysis looking at the characteristics of Hawaii’s working population by occupation.”….

Related:
PRICED OUT OF PARADISE
Source: Hawaii News Now, 2018
With our ongoing series, “Priced out of Paradise,” Hawaii News Now is exploring Hawaii’s high cost of living and why so many island families are struggling to make ends meet. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #HICostofLiving.

Report: In Honolulu, $40K salary now considered ‘very low income’
Source: Mileka Lincoln, Hawaii News Now, April 23, 2018

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has released its income limits for 2018 — a calculation that is used to determine who can qualify for affordable and subsidized housing programs, and also helps establish fair market rent. HUD income limits in Hawaii are increasing substantially — in some cases by more than 10 percent — as the cost of living jumps each year. This means more people are qualifying for public assistance through housing vouchers or Section 8 placement, but those options are still as limited as before. According to HUD, as of 2018, low income for a single person in Honolulu is someone making up to $65,350. Just a year ago, it was $58,600. That’s a nearly $7,000 increase from 2017.

10 Things You Should Know on Tax Day

Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), April 13, 2018

Everyone pays taxes, including those who earn the least. Our collective federal, state, and local tax system includes income taxes, payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare), property taxes, sales and other excise taxes. The total share of taxes (federal, state, and local) that Americans across the economic spectrum will pay in 2018 is roughly equal to their total share of income.

Indiana Teachers ‘Go Green’ To Track Member Sign-Up

Source: Samantha Winslow, Labor Notes, April 13, 2018

What will happen to public sector unions after the Supreme Court rules on the Janus v. AFSCME case this spring? Indiana teachers are already there. Slammed by a “right to work” law in 1996 and a new barrage of attacks in 2011, the teachers experienced what many unions are afraid of—a big drop in membership.

But the Indiana State Teachers Association didn’t roll over and give up after that. The union developed a tracking system called “Go Green” to help local leaders get membership back up.

It’s working. The first year of the program, the union narrowed its deficit between existing members lost to retirement and new members gained. The second year, it broke even. The third year, statewide membership increased.

This is in a legal environment that’s worse than right to work. Budget cuts in 2011 were paired with sweeping restrictions that kneecapped unions. Teachers bargain over only wages and benefits, and only between September and November of each year. Past that, impasse is declare and a third-party factfinder decides the final agreement.

…. So how does it work? The heart of the “Go Green” program is getting teachers in every school involved in signing up members.

Schools below 50 percent union membership are flagged as red. Schools at 50 percent or higher are coded yellow, and those at 70 percent or higher are green. The color scheme helps officers and association reps (stewards) prioritize which schools, and even which parts of buildings, need the most help. ….

….LIVING WITHOUT DUES DEDUCTION

A popular line of anti-union attack by state legislators is to ban employers from deducting dues from members’ paychecks. Dues deduction is banned for Michigan teachers, for instance, and for the whole public sector in Wisconsin.

Indiana has no such law at this point—but the teachers union opted to stop payroll deduction anyway. When new members sign up, they give the union their bank or credit card information to process dues directly.

This preempts a fight with hostile legislators and keeps the union’s focus on talking to teachers. It also takes control of union funds out of the hands of employers…..

The Special Status of Union Stewards

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, April 13, 2018

Standing up to bosses is essential to being a steward. On the shop floor and in grievance meetings, you must defend the actions of members and contest those of management.

In many cases you should be able to make your points temperately, practicing “quiet diplomacy.” But occasions will undoubtedly arise when you will want to raise your voice, challenge a supervisor’s credibility, or argue your case in other vigorous ways.

A widely accepted labor relations canon allows employers to discipline workers who fail to act respectfully toward management. Some legal treatises call this the “master-servant rule.”

But if stewards were subject to this rule while engaging in union activity, they would face an intolerable risk: speaking up for a member could put their own jobs in jeopardy. To resolve this dilemma, labor law accords a special status to union representatives. ….