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A slate of tax policy changes are set to take effect across 18 states. And just as the first day of July brings tax changes, the last day of June marks the end of another U.S. Supreme Court term. Here are the rulings that impacted states. Plus, more news to use in this week's State and Local Roundup.
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It’s Friday, June 30, and we’d like to welcome you to the weekly State and Local Roundup. As we slide into a long weekend of July 4th festivities, there’s plenty from this past week to reflect on. We here at Route Fifty are breaking from our usual approach of detailing one big story in favor of highlighting a few.
Happy new (fiscal) year! That’s right, tomorrow is the start of a new fiscal year in all states except Alabama, Michigan, New York and Texas. A new fiscal year typically means the roll out of new sales and excise tax changes, and this year is no exception.
“On July 1, 2023, at least 32 notable tax policy changes will take effect across 18 states,” according to Katherine Loughead, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation. The changes, she writes, include “sales tax rate reductions in New Mexico and South Dakota, a repeal of the corporate franchise (capital stock) tax in Oklahoma, the implementation of a payroll tax in Washington, and the implementation of taxes on newly legalized sales of cannabis products in Maryland and Minnesota.”
Also notable is a “road usage fee” that Colorado will begin phasing in on gasoline and diesel fuel tomorrow. Revenue from the fee will go toward addressing the state’s multibillion-dollar transportation project backlog. As part of the fee, Colorado “will also implement a $0.27 fee on deliveries and a $0.30 fee on rideshares,” writes Loughead.
But Colorado isn’t the only state increasing the amount collected at the pump. Six other states—Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Virginia —are also increasing gas fees or taxes just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. AAA projected that 50.7 million Americans will hit the road this holiday, potentially setting a new record for road travel.
Just as the first day of July brings tax changes, the last day of June marks the end of another U.S. Supreme Court term. Today, the court released decisions rejecting President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and dealing a blow to LGBTQ protections in a case about a Christian web designer's refusal to work on same-sex couples’ weddings.
But the high court has already dropped some big decisions this week that impact states. Perhaps the most controversial was yesterday’s 6-3 decision prohibiting both public and private institutions from considering race in college admissions.
The court’s majority backed a long-standing belief among conservatives that policies that benefit some races, even when it is intended to address continuing inequities, are prohibited by the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The ruling will affect both public and private colleges and universities in states that have not already barred affirmative action in admissions. Nine states had done so as of 2022, including California and Michigan, according to Axios.
“There’s a quote,” Luis Maldonado, vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, told Route Fifty after the ruling. “Abilities may be evenly distributed but opportunities are not.”
Also in a 6-3 ruling, although along different ideological lines, the justices on Tuesday rejected North Carolina Republican legislators’ argument that the state courts cannot review laws legislatures pass governing federal elections. Republican legislators claimed the Elections Clause in the U.S. Constitution makes legislatures the sole state authorities on federal elections law, including congressional redistricting.
Critics said the high court’s endorsement of the independent state legislature theory would have caused chaos in state elections, with states trying to enforce one set of rules for state elections and another set for federal elections.
The court also lifted its stay in a Louisiana redistricting case on Tuesday, clearing the way to add a second Black district to the state’s congressional map. The decision comes weeks after the justices ruled in a similar case that Alabama’s congressional maps were racially gerrymandered in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and almost a year after they granted a last-minute stay of a lower judge’s plan to redraw Louisiana’s map.
And finally, in a case that received less attention, the Supreme Court was 5 to 4 in a decision that upheld a Pennsylvania law that requires corporations to consent to being sued in its courts—by anyone, for conduct anywhere—as a condition for doing business in the state.
Only Pennsylvania has such a law. But the ruling may pave the way for other states to enact similar ones, giving injured consumers, workers and others more choices of where to sue and subjecting corporations to suits in courts they may view as hostile to business.
And one last bit of news from the frontlines of the workforce crisis. State and local human resources managers report that they are finally making headway on hiring, according to a new survey. Hold the applause, though, because they also report that that progress is being undercut by high turnover.
About 45% of the 249 state and local government HR managers polled in MissionSquare Research Institute’s annual survey said they are seeing more people quit this year than last year. Slightly more than half report that they are getting closer to restoring their workforces to pre-pandemic levels.
It’s not just an avalanche of resignations, state and local HR managers also report seeing more retirements.
“We're still hearing from HR directors that they are anticipating the largest wave of retirements to come in the next few years,” Gerald Young, senior research analyst with the institute, told my colleague Kery Murakami during an online conversation at the GovExec State and Local Government Tech Summit on Monday.
For more coverage from the summit, visit the website.
Don’t leave just yet. We’ve pulled what we think are some of the biggest headlines in state and local government this week. There’s plenty to keep tabs on, with more judges blocking bans on transgender care for minors, the federal USDOT handing out billions for roads, bridges, trails and ports, one of the largest counties in Tennessee scraps its HR department, drive-thrus coming under the ire of city governments, civilians being given the nod to investigate car crashes and NASCAR in Chicago.
Have a lovely Fourth of July. We’ll see you next week.
Keep reading as there’s more news to use below, and make sure to come back here for the week’s highlights. If you don’t already and would prefer to get it in your inbox, you can subscribe to this newsletter here. We’ll see you next week.
News to Use
Trends, Common Challenges, Cool Ideas, FYIs, and Notable Events
- Judges block transgender care bans for minors in Kentucky and Tennessee. Federal judges in two states intervened on Wednesday to temporarily block laws that would ban gender-transition care for minors, the latest instances where legislation targeting transgender people have been halted by the judiciary. The separate rulings in Kentucky and Tennessee came days before key provisions of the laws were set to go into effect, as a wave of legislation aimed at curbing LGBTQ rights has cleared Republican-controlled legislatures across the country this year. Several of those laws either remain tangled in legal battles, or have been ruled unconstitutional by federal judges.
- $2.2B in grants awarded for roads, bridges, trails, ports. The U.S. Department of Transportation will spend more than $2.2 billion for 162 projects in each of the 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia. The discretionary grant program has been managed by the USDOT since 2010, although the name of the program and criteria have changed with each presidential administration. The projects include improvements and expansions of roads, rail, bridges, pedestrian trails and maritime infrastructure. Under President Joe Biden, the department has prioritized projects that advance climate goals, racial equity and safety. A full list of projects is available here.
- Questions about benefits, salary, time off? Too bad. The Sumner County Commission in Tennessee has eliminated the county’s human resources department, leaving roughly 1,000 public employees without a dedicated personnel team. The decision this week, approved 19-4, is part of an ongoing approach to “streamline government and decrease bureaucratic function,” Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield said. The county is currently facing multiple lawsuits over policy actions taken by the commission since a turnover in membership ushered in a majority of members who campaigned on limiting government. The majority of Tennessee’s 95 counties lack an HR department, according to the County Technical Assistance Service at the University of Tennessee. Those that have them are among the state’s largest. Sumner County becomes the only county among Tennessee’s 10 largest to lack a dedicated HR department.
- Ohio’s former speaker of the house is going to prison. Larry Householder was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted in the largest bribery scheme in state history. Householder served Ohio for a decade as a lawmaker and eventually speaker of the house. He was sentenced by a federal judge after being found guilty of felony racketeering. Householder passed a nearly $61 million scheme for a billion-dollar bailout, House Bill 6, at the expense of taxpayers.
- There’s an urban drive-thru backlash. An estimated 200,000 drive-thrus are spread across the country. Americans visit drive-thru lanes approximately 6 billion times a year. But long lines of cars waiting for orders spill out into U.S. roads in every state, and city officials, urban planners and critics say the model is failing modern cities. Magnets of traffic and congestion, drive-thrus discourage walking, public transit use and visits to neighboring businesses, they say. They also lead to accidents with pedestrians, cyclists and other cars, and contradict the environmental and livability goals of many communities. A host of cities and regions want the sprawl to stop: Atlanta lawmakers will vote this summer on whether to ban new drive-thrus in the popular Beltline area. Minneapolis; Fair Haven, New Jersey; Creve Coeur, Missouri; Orchard Park, New York, and other cities have banned new drive-thrus in recent years. Some cities in Southern California, such as Long Beach in 2019, have passed temporary moratoriums blocking new developments.
- Ninth state bans child marriage. Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz signed a bill banning child marriage last Friday. As of July 1, the minimum age to marry will be 18 in Connecticut, the ninth state to ban child marriage in recent years. It joins Minnesota and seven regional neighbors: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. Researchers and advocacy groups say minor girls who marry are subject to sex trafficking and far greater rates of abuse than other wives.
- “Stop the Bleed” kits expand to schools across the country. Local governments in Washington state plan to distribute around 1,700 kits to control bleeding in the event of injuries sustained in schools and at other community sites. The kits, which include gauze, tourniquets and other medical supplies, are intended to give bystanders a way to slow a wounded person’s blood loss before first responders arrive to help. The supplies are from the American Colleges of Surgeons’ “Stop the Bleed” program and can be used in a variety of emergencies. The movement to distribute the kits began after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and comes as the nation has dealt repeatedly with other mass shootings over the past two decades. Schools across the country have started adding “Stop the Bleed” kits to their first-aid equipment. California requires schools to provide them and Colorado passed a law in May allowing schools to opt-in to “Stop the Bleed” kits and training.
- Civilians will investigate minor car crashes. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed into law a bill that allows police departments across the state to form civilian traffic investigation teams that could write incident reports and coordinate clearing road blockage. The new law is intended to free up police officers for more serious crimes. Investigators will not hold the same power as police officers; they won’t be able to charge or arrest anyone, or carry a gun or badge. Civilian investigators will be asked to carry around separate credentials and complete a four-week training course. The course will teach proper protocol for what to look for when responding to a crash.
- Speaking of… . NASCAR comes to Chicago. The city is days away from seeing dozens of drivers speeding through downtown streets for a historic street race never-before seen in Chicago or in NASCAR. Come Sunday, drivers will blaze past Buckingham Fountain, turn toward the Field Museum and head to Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, traveling up to 140 miles per hour, more than quadruple the usual speed limit. Still, reports The New York Times, “many questions linger—about the high-decibel roar of racecars; about the potential for epic, city-snarling traffic jams; about whether NASCAR even belongs in Chicago.”
Picture of the Week
Today is the last day of Pride month, but Massachusetts has a clear message that will resonate beyond June “for the residents of any state where LGBTQ rights are currently under attack: All are welcome here.” The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism launched a new campaign Monday with a focus on marketing the commonwealth as a welcoming and safe place for all. The “Massachusetts For Us All” campaign is made up of billboards and social media advertisements featuring LGBTQ couples photographed in locations throughout the state. The billboards have been positioned along highways in Florida and Texas, where a number of anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed, as well as in New York and throughout New England. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism)
Government in Numbers
The percentage of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that are Black. That’s 1,214 Black students out of a total enrollment of 49,587. For comparison, at UW-Milwaukee, 6.7% of the 22,866 students were Black. The figures reported date back to 2007. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last month that he wants to cut $32 million from the UW System, which he said is equal to what the system spends on diversity officers. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said he wouldn’t sign the budget if Republicans follow through on that plan. Diversity offices are designed to help minorities navigate academia.
Despite the controversy, cities are still turning to rent control to address the housing crisis
Many cities have adopted rent control measures in the past year to help with the high cost of housing. But the approach has had less success in statehouses, where opponents argue it’s ineffective.
BY MOLLY BOLAN
6 takeaways for the government workforce crisis
COMMENTARY | Public servants from coast to coast share their advice on how to successfully hire and retain government talent.
BY BOB LAVIGNA
Digital literacy, not bans, should shape states' approach to social media
Protecting children from harmful content is important, but states should help young people understand the platforms’ risks and make informed decisions about what to view, experts say.
BY CHRIS TEALE
Outdated flood data could drown out actual infrastructure needs
Historical data fails to capture current flooding conditions, which could steer communities in the wrong direction when trying to plan and recover from weather events.
BY KAITLYN LEVINSON
Billions in federal funds to make buildings more energy efficient are in jeopardy
A measure passed by House Republicans would claw back money intended to revise building codes in effort to cut energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
BY KERY MURAKAMI
Boston looks to boost employee productivity with generative AI guidance
The city’s chief information officer said the effort, among the first in the nation, is designed to encourage workers to “experiment responsibly” with the technology.
BY CHRIS TEALE
More than $42 billion in broadband funding allocations announced
President Joe Biden released how much each state will receive in funding under the bipartisan infrastructure law to expand access to high speed internet in America’s under- and unserved communities.
BY KERY MURAKAMI
With the reopening of the I-95 bridge, Shapiro has passed his first big test
The Pennsylvania governor’s handling of the disaster has won over some critics. But will it help win over a divided legislature?
BY DANIEL C. VOCK