Policies for the Jurisdiction of the Labor and Economic Development Committee
Below are the policies of the NCSL Standing Committee on Labor and Economic Development as of the annual business meeting, which was held on August 22, 2014.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) strongly urges the federal government to better coordinate its economic development activities with the states.
- NCSL urges the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration to each establish a designated liaison to coordinate economic development activities among the four agencies and with the states.
Arts, Culture and Economic Development
- NCSL encourages the federal government to support arts and culture through investments in State and Local programs that will promote economic development, job creation and community revitalization.
- NCSL encourages collaboration and coordination among the Federal Government’s disparate arts, culture and economic development agencies as they consider State and local programs ensure that the policy and program outcomes meet the needs and goals identified by state policymakers.
Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization & Funding
- In order to train and maintain a highly skilled workforce NCSL believes that states should be given flexibility to meet the broad goals set out in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and that state discretion to establish and administer workforce development services should be maintained.
- Reauthorization of WIA should not include inflexible federal mandates and restrictions on how funds can be used by states and the localities which deliver these services. In addition, workforce development reporting should be streamlined to promote program and administrative efficiencies.
- NCSL believes that the components of an integrated WIA system should be appropriately funded in appropriation and reauthorization.
- NCSL believes that administrative and technological funding for One-Stops should be central to WIA appropriation and reauthorization.
Responsible Housing and Housing Finance
- NCSL encourages the Congress and the Administration to support flexibility and state discretion in housing programs and avoid unfunded mandates.
- NCSL encourages efforts to promote a greater state role in administering federal housing programs, subject to sufficient funding and flexibility.
- NCSL is encouraged and supportive of public private partnership programs and initiatives that increase the availability of financing for homeownership opportunities. NCSL supports first time home buyer tax credits to promote homeownership prospects, preserving the Mortgage Interest Deduction, and low-income housing tax credits that produce new, affordable housing.
- NCSL strongly urges the federal government to consult state legislators and other state officials as voucher program reforms are designed to ensure that they will meet state needs, provide the flexibility we desire, avoid cost shifts to states, and continue with ample federal funding for program and administrative costs.
- Additionally, we urge the Congress to sustain funding levels sufficient to maintain existing vouchers, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) programs and already committed project based Section 8 subsidies.
The Federal Role in Career and Technical Education (CTE)
The federal government should provide additional funding and support the authority of states for flexibility to allocate some funds through a competitive grant administered by the state in pursuit and support of innovative, high quality and effective programs.
- NCSL believes that CTE competitive grant programs should be used to incentivize and modernize state and local programs in order to meet the evolving needs of students. NCSL supports adequate funding for CTE competitive grant programs.
- These funding decisions can best be handled at the state level rather than by individual schools and/or districts.
- States should continue to have the authority to determine the split between secondary and post secondary CTE programs.
- The existing CTE funding formula for the allocation of federal funds to the state should be maintained.
Labor and Employment
Regarding matters of labor and employment, federal and state governments should continue their partnership to ensure that workers are protected on the job, when they are unemployed, after they retire, and that employers are given the assistance they need to comply with federal and state employment and labor laws. While the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recognizes federal lawmakers’ obligations to implement measures under federal jurisdiction to make certain that the rights and needs of both employers and workers are protected, when states are required to implement federal laws, the federal government should ensure adequate federal funding for such initiatives, both for states’ administrative and benefits cost.
NCSL supports the federalism structure adhered to between federal and state governments, reflected in such laws as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage and hour laws. NCSL supports adequate federal funding for all U.S. Department of Labor offices to fully enforce federal wage and hour laws.
Workplace Safety is another area where federal and state governments share jurisdiction. NCSL strongly supports efforts by the federal government to improve the safety of all workplaces. Federal action should not preclude or preempt states from pursuing stronger approaches that are appropriate for them. Where the federal workplace safety agencies as tasked with protecting workers’ health and safety on the job, the federal government must ensure that these agencies have sufficient funding to perform all of its important functions. In addressing workplace violations, these agencies should determine what remedial or punitive actions are required based on the severity of the infraction, the employer’s history of health and safety violations, and good faith efforts to comply with federal workplace safety laws and regulations in order to achieve effective enforcement and protection of workers.
NCSL supports the federalism structure as to workplace leave benefits granted by federal and state governments. The federal government should ensure that any new federal laws or regulations in this area do not unduly burden the states with unfunded mandates.
Safety Net Benefits
NCSL recognizes that federal safety net entitlement programs such as Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and Medicare are partnerships between the federal government and state governments. These programs also reflect a commitment by the federal government to the American employers and wage earners who contribute directly into these systems. As such, NCSL calls on the federal government to fully honor these commitments to unemployed workers, and current and future retirees.
The basic unemployment insurance (UI) program is a well-established federal-state partnership. NCSL opposes federal laws or regulations that would create new barriers to the receipt of state UI benefits. NCSL supports adequate federal funding for state UI administrative costs, including the processing of UI claims, job search assistance, and reemployment programs. NCSL also supports federal funding to state UI programs to ensure adequate income support for the unemployed. And, NCSL supports ensuring that payroll taxes in dedicated UI trust funds continue to be used solely for payment of unemployment compensation, as required by federal law. States should retain their broad authority under existing federal UI guidelines to define labor market attachment eligibility rules, benefit levels, and disqualification penalties for separations other than layoffs. New administrative burdens on state UI programs must be shown to be necessary to strengthen the programs and should be adequately funded by the federal government. The severely-underfunded Employment Service should receive additional federal funding so that it can carry out all of its important labor market functions in the states.
As a means of stabilizing the economy, NCSL supports extensions of the federal-state Extended Benefits (EB) program when unemployment rates are high. NCSL further supports the development of more effective triggers for EB so as to improve its responsiveness during periods of high unemployment. NCSL also supports continued reauthorization of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program when unemployment is high.
NCSL urges the federal government to move the dedicated Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) trust fund from the discretionary to the mandatory side of the federal budget and to not use the fund to offset the federal budget deficit.
Any effort to balance the federal budget or reduce the federal debt should not be accomplished by reductions to Social Security benefits.
Congress and the Administration should continue to provide the expected and earned benefits promised by Social Security, and the important role of Social Security in alleviating poverty should not be lost in the efforts to restore long-term solvency or reform the program.
NCSL opposes expansion of mandatory Social Security and Medicare coverage to public employees of state and local governments who are not already covered.
NCSL opposes federal regulation attempts of state and local pension plans, including federal reporting requirements.
NCSL urges Congress to enact legislation that will reduce or eliminate the impact of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) on state and local government retirees, particularly those who have earned lower uncovered government pension benefits or partial Social Security monthly benefits, including Medicare.
Retiree and Employee Healthcare Costs
Congress should support federal policies that allow public sector retirees to deduct health care premium costs and/or additional medical expenses from their taxable income, as well as federal efforts to allow retirees to save for health care costs through tax-preferred vehicles.
Military and Vetrans' Affairs (Resolution)
NCSL recognizes that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides benefits and services to veterans of America's armed forces, including a number of specialized programs for disabled, minority, homeless, and women veterans. NCSL supports and urges Congress and the President to protect VA funding of benefits for veterans from budget cuts.
NCSL further urges Congress to provide funding to streamline the VA processes for securing all benefits in a timely manner for those veterans coming home from deployment, including appropriate health care for physical injuries and psychological wounds.
Federal Impact Aid
NCSL recognizes that School districts with military installations are potentially disadvantaged because of their inability to levy taxes against the federal government. NCSL recognizes the importance of Federal Impact Aid to help off-set the loss of tax revenue and supports continued funding of the program at FY 2012 levels.
Federal Funding Cuts and Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC)
When closing or considering property transfers in a BRAC, NCSL supports federal grant incentives for community involvement during the re-development of bases.
Employment of Veterans
Regarding matters of labor and employment for veterans, the federal government should continue its partnership with states to assist veterans in their transition from military service to the civilian workforce. NCSL supports programs of the Small Business Administration (SBA) that help veteran-owned businesses. NCSL also supports and encourages federal assistance, including training and tax credits, for employers who hire veterans into their workforce.
Educational Assistance and GI Bill
NCSL urges Congress to fully fund all programs associated with educational opportunities for returning veterans, particularly those returning from deployment, to have those benefits equivalent to the GI Bill of previous years.
Preserve the Army National Guard
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recognizes that the Army National Guard (ARNG) is a vital tool for helping states manage and respond to emergencies and natural disasters at home and abroad. A strong ARNG ensures an operational resource and a strategic reserve for our active duty military branches in combat roles overseas, as well as adapting to complex missions domestically.
NCSL urges the federal government to maintain current funding levels for the ARNG in order to preserve their highly regarded capabilities and to ensure that they are always prepared for duties in the states and abroad in service to our country.
NCSL recognizes that any effort to reduce our nation’s federal deficit requires reductions across all federal agencies. However, reductions should not be made without a thorough review of the overall Army force structure across the active, Guard and Reserve components.
NCSL further urges that any congressional or Department of Defense review of the Army structure, including the role of the ARNG, include appropriate input from state policy makers.
NCSL also opposes any effort to preempt domestic control of the ARNG from state authority.
Services being provided to our veterans should also include members of the ARNG to help them transition into society and have equal access to job training and other benefits.
Furthermore, NCSL supports equipment return, replacement, and upgrade to address destroyed material left abroad during deployment.
Expires August 2015
Free Trade and Federalism
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) supports expanding U.S. net exports through well-crafted international trade agreements that are consistent with traditional American values of constitutional federalism, and protect state legislative, judicial and regulatory authority.
NCSL supports federal legislation that promotes collaboration between the states and the federal government on trade policy. NCSL supports efforts to negotiate new trade or investment agreements and its implementing legislation that secure free and open access to overseas markets for American products. In negotiating new agreements, NCSL believes that federalism and state sovereignty protections must be included.
NCSL urges the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to collaborate with state legislatures as well as governors about trade policy that may affect state practices and policy on procurement, investment, services, and any action that would remove a foreign entity from state authority. USTR should not bind a state to an international procurement agreement without formal consent from the state legislature.
NCSL encourages USTR to utilize the “positive list” approach for making services, procurement, and investment commitments in trade agreements. Only state laws that are specifically committed should be covered in the agreement. Following appropriate consultations with USTR, the states must be able to set and adjust their commitments – a right the states have and which USTR has repeatedly recognized. USTR should therefore make clear to trade negotiating partners that U.S. states retain the ability to make adjustments to commitments regarding state-level services, procurement, and investment policies.
NCSL will not support Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) or Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with investment chapters that provide greater substantive or procedural rights to foreign companies than U.S. companies enjoy under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a non-discriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.
NCSL believes that BIT and FTA implementing legislation must include provisions that deny any private action in U.S. courts or before international dispute resolution panels to enforce international trade or investment agreements. Implementing legislation must also include provisions stating that neither the decisions of international dispute resolution panels nor international trade and investment agreements themselves are binding on the states as a matter of U.S. law.
NCSL supports the authorization and appropriation of resources to USTR, so they are equipped to fully collaborate with state legislatures, while representing their interests and the American public’s in trade negotiations and agreements.
NCSL encourages Congress to require the Government Accountability Office to develop state economic and sovereignty impact statements for international trade and investment agreements under negotiation.
NCSL urges the USTR to collaborate with state legislators as well as governors prior to the onset of trade negotiations about state procurement practices, investment, and services issues. NCSL supports federal efforts to provide Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to affected workers.
NCSL supports federal efforts to assist in building the trade capacity and trade agreement compliance of developing countries, including funding infrastructure and rural development, and ensuring that laws and institutions related to labor and the environment are improved and strengthened.
NCSL believes that all international services agreements entered into by the United States must include provisions that preserve the right of federal, state, and local governments to provide and regulate services in the public interest on a non-discriminatory basis.
NCSL encourages the federal government’s efforts to limit or deny access to the U.S. capital marketplace to firms that are identified as violating U.S. laws, rules, policies or any other decree by providing support to terrorism or aiding in genocide. Further NCSL supports the continued ability for states to divest from countries or companies that commit or support human rights atrocities.
The federal government's intelligence, military, diplomatic and financial regulatory communities are best positioned to identify, monitor and report on foreign and domestic companies that may be engaging in activities with countries that are potentially threatening to our national security, or our allies.
Companies who are involved in these atrocities are counterproductive and volatile investments for the future and undermine our security measures.
NCSL urges the federal government to provide authoritative information to U.S. investors, including state and local public pension plans, about foreign and domestic firms and their financial and investment activities in specific countries, such as those identified by the U.S. Department of State as State Sponsors of Terrorism.
World Trade Organization Negotiations
NCSL recognizes the benefits of international trade in creating jobs, raising living standards and stimulating growth in the United States. NCSL supports U.S. efforts to increase the transparency, accessibility, participation and accountability of the World Trade Organization (WTO). NCSL supports broadening participation in the WTO and addressing environmental and labor matters. NCSL also endorses the call within the WTO to further reduce trade barriers in manufactured products, agriculture and services.
NCSL will only support trade agreements that preserve state law and the authority of state legislatures.
Implementing legislation for trade and investment agreements must also be crafted to include protections for our constitutional system of federalism. Reservations must be made to trade and investment agreements to “grandfather” existing state laws that might otherwise be subject to challenge. NCSL opposes private rights of action in U.S. courts or international dispute resolution panels based on international trade or investment agreements.
General Agreement on Trade in Services
NCSL urges a renewed commitment to state-federal collaborate in financial, energy, environment, distribution and education related services. NCSL also urges the USTR to oppose further WTO constraints on domestic regulation of the service sector.
NCSL calls upon Congress to renew the notice to include state government notification and approval provisions for the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations as well.
USTR must recognize that governors are not authorized to bind state governments unless legislatively permitted and NCSL strongly recommends that USTR, for all future procurements, include state legislatures. The federal government must cooperate with state legislatures to provide that decisions about state procurement practices or other matters governed by state laws under our federal system are not made without the consent of the legislature. Additionally, NCSL encourages USTR to strictly observe the states’ constitutional authority to set procurement policy to promote these public interests while negotiating any modifications to WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) or procurement chapters in free trade agreements.
NCSL urges USTR to collaborate regularly and meaningfully with state governments during any renegotiations of the GPA.
Export Promotion, Export Finance and Trade Agreements
The states and the federal government have a role in export promotion, particularly to help small- and medium-sized businesses who may find it difficult to obtain financing or insurance for their goods.
NCSL urges the federal government to improve its coordination and cooperation with state programs and by providing adequate federal financing.
NCSL urges more funding for federal export programs such as the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) of the Department of Commerce, which would permit it to properly staff overseas posts and reopen vital offices that have been closed in recent years. Funding for the Export-Import Bank's direct and guaranteed loan programs should also be maintained, and NCSL particularly supports a constant level of funding for the Bank's City/State Program.
NCSL supports the federal government’s efforts to work through multilateral negotiations to open markets that are currently closed to U.S. products and to reduce the use of trade-distorting subsidies.
NCSL supports increasing capacity at the Office of the USTR to work with state governments and ensure that our trading partners are adhering to the terms of our agreements.
NCSL strongly urges the federal government to support training for inspection professionals and the development of new technologies to secure the health and safety of imported foods and agricultural products.
Affirming and Strengthening the President’s Order on Safeguarding Federalism in Trade
NCSL requests that the President by executive order clarify that trade and investment agreements and bi-lateral investment treaties negotiated by the USTR should avoid conflicts with state governing authority, under the same terms as the executive order on preemption.
NCSL requests that the President establish, by executive order, a more effective federal-state consultation system that includes greater involvement and notification of state legislatures.