Minnesota Launches Grants to Help Convicts Reenter Workforce

Minnesota will spend $3 million in fiscal years 2023-2024 to help Minnesotans who have served their prison sentences reenter the workforce, the state announced Friday.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said it received up to $10 million in First Step Initiative funding from the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Justice to support formerly incarcerated individuals transition back to the community.

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Connecticut Will Use Federal Funds to Get People Back to Work

Connecticut is focusing on a workforce investment designed to place state residents from underserved communities into high-demand jobs.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday the state was awarded $23.9 million through the American Rescue Plan’s Good Jobs Challenge through the U.S. Department of Commerce. The funds will be invested into the Office of Workforce Strategy programs designed to place more than 2,000 residents into the workforce.

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Yelp Exec: Abortion Access Is ‘Fundamental’ to Women’s Success in the Workplace

A Yelp executive said women need access to abortions to be successful at work as the company announced it would fund travel expenses for employees traveling out of state for abortions.

“The ability to control your reproductive health, and whether or when you want to extend your family, is absolutely fundamental to being able to be successful in the workplace,” Miriam Warren, Yelp’s chief diversity officer, told The New York Times.

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Ohio Commits More Federal COVID-19 Money to Law Enforcement

Ohio plans to use more federal COVID-19 money to help local law enforcement agencies reduce violent crime, Gov. Mike DeWine announced.

The state plans to add $50 million from American Recovery Plan Act funds to the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program, which began this year with $8 million in the state budget.

“One of the most important things that we can do to support our law enforcement officers is to give them the tools they need to keep themselves and the public safe,” DeWine said. “By significantly increasing the amount of funding available, we can help more law enforcement agencies better combat crime and protect their communities.”

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Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Launches Veterans’ Diversion Program

Woman in Army uniform

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is launching a new pre-trial diversion program for military veterans. 

The Veterans’ Diversion Program, which begins on April 4, 2022, aims to provide evidence-based services and treatment to some veterans before a conviction.

The County Attorney’s Office notes that some veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cannot access treatment. The office notes that this can result in domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health disorders, and suicide. 

The Veterans’ Diversion Program will try to identify and treat those issues, according to a press release issued on Wednesday this week. A veteran who completes the program can have their charges dismissed.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer to Sign $4.8 Billion Spending Package

Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will sign a $4.8 billion spending plan into law to focus on water, broadband internet, and housing.

“The Building Michigan Together Plan makes bold, bipartisan investments in the kitchen-table issues that matter most to Michigan families, including clean water, smooth roads, fast internet, and beautiful parks,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I am so proud that the Michigan Legislature and I were able to come together to get this done. This bill will make a real difference in our communities, support tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and set up Michigan’s economy for decades of success. It is a testament to what is possible when we put Michiganders first.”

However, she didn’t say when she would sign it. Her office hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment. 

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Ohio Employers Not Struggling as Much to Fill Jobs as Rest of Nation

While filling jobs continues to be a source of struggle for businesses across the nation, Ohio employers seem to be dealing with it better than most, according to a recently released study.

A WalletHub report compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the rate of job openings for the latest month and the past 12 months.

“Lots of businesses are struggling to hire enough workers, which has sometimes led to delays in services and reduced business hours,” the report read. “In fact, the labor force participation rate has experienced the slowest recovery of any recession since World War II. Some businesses aren’t even able to keep the employees they already have – as Americans are quitting their jobs at record rates in what’s been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation.’ ”

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Rochester Schools Collect Dossier, Call Employers on Critical Parents

Rochester Community School (RCS) officials were sued for compiling a dossier on parents who commented negatively on the school’s virtual learning policy. One official even called a parent’s employer, which possibly resulted in the parent’s termination.

Parent Elena Dinverno sued the district in 2021, claiming school officials called her place of work in the fall of 2020, and told her employer Dinverno was part of a group threatening the school district. She was fired in December 2020.

The Detroit News first reported the story.

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Minnesota Democrats Introduce $13 Million Plan for Meeting Demand for Police Officers with Strong Moral Character

Group of people walking outside on a sunny day

Democrats announced a plan Monday to promote police officer recruitment that mirrors proposals of Gov. Tim Walz and Republicans.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler authored the bill, HF 3581, which was developed in consultation with the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, and Minnesota Department of Public Safety. He said at a news conference announcing the bill that law enforcement leaders want to recruit officers who reflect the community, have a high social-emotional set of skills and are committed to community services, but they’re struggling to do that.

“[The bill] is built on the premise that Minnesota can recruit, can hire, can train and can retain the kinds of police officers who reflect our communities’ values,” Winkler said.

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Survey: More Than One-Third of Wisconsin Businesses Plan to Pay More

woman working in a warehouse

It is a good time to be a worker with in-demand skills in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group, on Monday said its latest Employer Survey shows many businesses across the state plan to raise wages by more than 4% at some point this year.

“Wages are rising much faster than they have in recent memory,” WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer said. “Wisconsin does not have enough people to fill the jobs we have available, and that creates an aggressive competition for talent. We are seeing wages rise at a faster rate, sign-on bonuses, work flexibility and many other strategies from companies to attract and retain talent.”

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Tennessee Education Commissioner Vows Arts Teaching Jobs Will Not Be Outsourced

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn made clear Thursday the state’s new public school funding formula will prioritize teachers and will not outsource teaching responsibilities in the arts.

Schwinn was asked about the outsourcing after questions arose from comments she made during a Feb. 3 steering committee meeting when asked about schools working with nonprofits for art education.

Schwinn clarified Thursday she was referring to the flexibility of getting added help for additional arts programs. She said the new formula, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISP), would have the same allowances the current Basic Education Program (BEP) has for schools to get additional help for custodial contracts or after-school programs from outside sources.

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Report: 12 Percent of Law Enforcement Officers Were Assaulted While on Duty in 2020

people protesting in front of law enforcment

Nearly 12% of police officers were assaulted while on duty in 2020, according to annual state level data collected by the FBI. Alaska reported the greatest percentage, California the greatest number.

A total of 60,105 officers were assaulted nationwide, with the overwhelming majority assaulted, and injured, by assailants’ hands and feet.

Nationwide, 26% of assaults in 2020 involved a deadly weapon that wasn’t a firearm; 5% involved a firearm.

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Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi Sue Biden over Minimum Wage Hike for Federal Contractors

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration again Thursday, this time for requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 an hour minimum wage. It’s the 21st lawsuit the attorney general has filed against the administration. Joining him are the attorneys general from Louisiana and Mississippi.

“The president has no authority to overrule Congress, which has sole authority to set the minimum wage and which already rejected a minimum wage increase,” Paxton argues.

Their lawsuit follows one filed last December by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of outdoor adventure guides, Arkansas Valley Adventures (AVA), ​​a licensed river outfitter regulated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, and the Colorado River Outfitters Association (CROA). The CROA, a nonprofit trade association, represents more than 150 independent operators who primarily conduct business on federal lands using special use permits through Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.

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State Budget Makers Approve $194 Million for Childcare in Wisconsin

three kids holding hands

Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers are, perhaps surprisingly, on the same page when it comes to spending more money on childcare in Wisconsin.

The state’s budget-writing panel, the Joint Finance Committee, on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to spend $194 million in federal funds to support childcare across the state.

“$194 million is a lot of money,” Rep Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, told lawmakers. “This is our job as a committee and members of the legislature to have a voice in how these programs are supported or created or expanded. Or in some cases not created and not expanded.”

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Department of Labor Expands Michigan’s Federal Jobless Waivers

The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) granted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request to expand the eligibility for waivers for Michiganders who wrongly received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) because of the state jobless agency’s mistake.

“Michiganders should not be penalized for doing what was right at the time they applied for federal pandemic benefits,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Coupled with the waivers we applied earlier, we are looking to help Michiganders who needed unemployment benefits to pay their bills, keep food on the table, and continue supporting small businesses. I look forward to working with our legislative partners to continue putting Michiganders first and keeping more money in their pockets.”

The USDOL updated its waiver guidance to approve five new scenarios for consideration of a waiver may apply blanket waivers for recovery of overpayments:

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State Senate Republicans Pitch $65 Million Law Enforcement Recruiting Package for Minnesota

Minnesota Senate Republicans pitched a 2022 “top priority” $65 million law enforcement recruiting package Wednesday.

The proposals – dubbed the “Creating Opportunities in Public Safety” (C.O.P.S) program – would incentivize law enforcement recruitment statewide to address a police officer shortage, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said in a news conference. 

“Across the state, we’ve been hearing from law enforcement agencies that are struggling with staff,” Miller said. “Law Enforcement officers are leaving the force in far higher numbers than they are applying to join the force and it’s hitting a critical stage for their ability to provide for safe communities,” “This isn’t an accident. These losses are a direct result of the ‘Defund the Police’ and anti-police rhetoric, that has demonized police officers and left them personally demoralized and their agencies diminished in size and standing.”

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Ohio Proposes 10 Percent Cut to Workers’ Compensation Premiums

three people in hard hats looking at a clipboard

Private businesses in Ohio would save nearly $106 million over the next fiscal year if a proposal to cut the state’s workers’ compensation premiums by 10% is approved.

The reduction would follow a 10% rate reduction for public employers – counties, cities, schools and others – that went into effect Jan. 1. If approved at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) board meeting Feb. 25, it would be effective July 1.

“At the request of Gov. [Mike] DeWine, we are proposing a new rate reduction for private employers,” BWC Administrator and CEO Stephanie McCloud said. “This proposed rate reduction confirms the dedication and hard work Ohio’s private employers have towards workplace safety.”

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Gubernatorial Candidate Benson Proposes Changes to Minnesota’s Substitute Teacher Licensure

blonde woman in floral blouse

Many Minnesota schools are struggling to find substitute teachers.

State Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, on Friday posted on her campaign website her proposed changes to substitute teacher license regulations, which she claims would increase the pool of short-call substitute teachers and help schools stay open.

Currently, substitute teachers in Minnesota must have a bachelor’s degree (or U.S equivalent as verified by a foreign evaluation) in any field; be enrolled in a teacher preparation program; have completed student teaching, or, for candidates in career and technical education (CTE) fields, have professional certification, associate’s degree, or at least five years of relevant work experience in the CTE field, according to the state application. If they meet those qualifications, they can teach up to 15 consecutive days per teaching assignment. Their license is valid for three years. Currently tiered licensure teachers can use their teaching license.

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Missouri Considers Pension Changes to Solve Teacher Shortage

Man standing in front of a room, giving a lecture with a presentation

Legislators are considering changes to Missouri’s teacher and non-certified school employee pension plans to alleviate pandemic-related teacher and staff shortages.

HB2114, sponsored by Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, will reduce restrictions on pensions if a retired public school teacher returns to the classroom or to a non-teaching position in a public school. The legislation also increases from two to four years the length of time a retired teacher or retired non-certified public school employee can work while still receiving their pension.

During testimony before the House pensions committee, Rep. Black, the committee vice chairman, said similar legislation was passed by the House and died in the Senate last year as the legislative session ended in May. He said the legislation simplifies and improves the amount retirees can earn before their pensions are restricted.

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Ohio’s Jobless Claims Higher than Most of Nation

A recent report shows Ohio continues to struggle to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic when compared with the rest of the nation.

A state-by-state comparison from the personal-finance website WalletHub showed the among the biggest increases in unemployment claims compared with a week ago. Ohio had the ninth-largest increase week-over-over.

“Ohio’s unemployment claims experienced the ninth-biggest increase in the past week. Compared to the same week in 2019, there are almost 75% more claims registered, and over 62% more compared to the first week of 2020, some of the highest increases in the country,” WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Ohio has had an over 120% rise in unemployment claims, the 13th-largest nationwide.”

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Minnesota Launches $200 Vaccine Incentive Program

Families who get their child in the 5- to 11-year-old age group vaccinated for COVID-19 are eligible for a new round of $200 incentives, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday.

Families will receive one $200 VISA gift card per child who receives both doses between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, the news release said. Registration for the gift cards, which is possible following completion of the series, opens at 10 a.m. Jan. 24 and closes at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 28.

“In light of the Omicron variant, there is a new sense of urgency in our response, and we are doing whatever we can to encourage Minnesotans to get their vaccine and keep themselves and their communities safe,” Minnesota Department of Health Information Officer Doug Schultz told The Center Square in an emailed statement Thursday. “Getting as many eligible Minnesotans vaccinated as possible is critical to helping curb the spread of COVID-19 and keep Minnesota families safe.”

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Awaiting Supreme Court Decision, Iowa OSHA Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Businesses

man in yellow hardhat and work jacket

Iowans are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees. In the meantime, they’re moving ahead with actions of their own.

Iowa Department of Education Communications Director Heather Doe told The Center Square in an emailed statement that since Iowa is a state-plan state, the Iowa Division of Labor typically enforces workplace safety in Iowa instead of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The state is required to notify OSHA whether it will adopt a given Emergency Temporary Standard or provide notice it will not adopt it because its standards are as effective as the new federal standard. Iowa needed to respond to the standard by Jan. 7.

Iowa Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts did so, saying that the Hawkeye State will not adopt or enforce the mandate.

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Georgia State Employees Could See $5K Pay Raise

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaking

As lawmakers convene in Atlanta on Monday for the start of a new legislative session, Gov. Brian Kemp wants to give state employees $5,000 raises and increase their benefits.

Two budgets are passed through the General Assembly every legislative session. Lawmakers must review and approve spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, also known as the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) budget, and approve the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Kemp told state agencies in August not to propose spending increases for the next two years as a safeguard against uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Arizona Small Businesses Don’t Want California-Style Employment Laws

Person using Apple Pay at cafe

Copper State small business owners appear to have embraced the local colloquialism “Don’t California my Arizona,” according to results of a new survey.

The Arizona chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business released its annual poll of Main St. entrepreneurs Monday. 

NFIB got responses to three questions from 247 small business owners across the state this month. 

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Labor Board Orders New Union Election at Amazon Warehouse

Amazon warehouse in Maryland

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered a new unionization election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, ruling that the company violated federal labor law during the first election.

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace – and as the Regional Director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement Monday.

“Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union,” he continued.

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Whitmer Directive Accelerates Replacing Michigan’s Lead Service Water Lines

Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is trying to use federal funds from a recently-signed infrastructure package to accelerate the replacement of lead service lines.

Whitmer signed an executive directive (ED) for the Legislature to work with the State Budget Office to spend federal funds to accelerate the replacement of lead service lines (LSL).

“Right now, we have an incredible opportunity to put Michiganders first by using the funds we will be getting under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to ensure every community has safe drinking water,” Whitmer said in a statement. “With this executive directive, we are accelerating the timeline to replace 100% of lead service lines in Michigan, prioritizing communities that have been disproportionately impacted, fostering enhanced collaboration across departments, and ensuring that the projects are built by Michigan workers and businesses. I look forward to working with the legislature to invest these dollars and get the job done.” 

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20 Months into Pandemic, over 20,000 Michigan State Workers Remote

Woman working in the evening on her laptop

Twenty months after the COVID-19 pandemic struck Michigan, downtown Lansing hasn’t recovered fully. Half of the state’s roughly 48,000 employees are still working remotely.

The disappearance of daily consumption habits of more than 22,000 state workers have hurt local businesses, whether that’s grabbing a bagel from The New Daily Bagel, rolls from AnQi Sushi Express or a shake from Soul Nutrition. Some businesses have adjusted accordingly, cutting hours, closing locations, and reducing menus.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) Spokesman Caleb Buhs said about half of state workers are working remotely on a daily basis.

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New Michigan Budget Expands Cheaper Child Care

Boy in short sleeve shirt writing name with brunette woman next to him at a desk

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer welcomed the expansion of free or low-cost child care to 105,000 more kids via the expanded income eligibility criteria in the latest bipartisan budget.

Families of four earning up to $49,000 will be eligible for free or low-cost child care under new criteria, helping parents return to work 

“We need to continue working hard to drive down costs for families and expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare so parents can go to work knowing that their kids are safe and learning,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I was proud to put childcare first in the bipartisan budget I signed in September. Together, we lowered costs for working families by expanding low or no-cost care to 105,000 kids and providing grants to improve childcare programs and empower childcare professionals. Countless working parents rely on childcare, and we must continue expanding high-quality care to help every working family thrive.”

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Requests $59M Increase in Next Year’s Budget

Gov. Bill Lee

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation requested a $59 million budget increase in its budget hearing this week with Gov. Bill Lee and advisers.

The request includes $24.9 million for a career path initiative that will assist with recruitment and retention of staff, an issue many government agencies cited in hearings this week.

TBI’s proposal also included requests for $11.7 million for one-time training and equipment and $10.2 million to hire forensic services positions, including $5.65 million in recurring expenses and $4.5 million in one-time expenses.

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Starbucks Announces Wage Hikes Amidst Labor Struggles

Outside view of Starbucks Coffee

Seattle-based Starbucks announced it will increase hourly wages next year as the coffee giant faces the dual pressures of unionization attempts and staffing shortages.

According to a press release from the company, starting in January of 2022, hourly employees with two or more years of service could see a 5% raise and those with five or more years of service could see a 10% raise.

By the summer of next year, the company says its average hourly pay will be $17, up from the current average of $14. Employees will make between $15 and $23 an hour across the country, depending on location and tenure.

The press release did not address what impact the moves will have on coffee prices.

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Arizonans Fired over COVID Vaccination Might Not Get Unemployment

Arizona’s largest hospital system and others have set a Monday deadline for their employees to be vaccinated or face termination, but some employees who already have been fired for refusing a vaccine are learning they aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. 

Banner Health, ValleyWise Health, HonorHealth and Dignity Health are set to require COVID-19 vaccinations Monday. Others have set deadlines that already have passed.

Mayo Clinic, a Minnesota-based hospital nonprofit with two facilities in the valley, announced in July it would require all employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 17. In a release, it said staff who declined to be vaccinated for COVID-19 “must complete education modules and will be required to wear masks and socially distance when on campus.”

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Bipartisan Michigan Bills Aims to Restore Tax Incentives for Business Development

Mark Tisdel and

A bipartisan bill aims to revive a killed business subsidy incentive that they say will spur new job creation in Michigan.

State Reps. Mark Tisdel, R-Rochester Hills and Angela Witwer, D-Delta Township, introduced House Bills (HB) 5425 and 5426 that aim to form the Michigan Employment Opportunity Program (MEOP) to provide incentives for business developments similar to the Good Jobs for Michigan (GJFM) program, which expired in 2019. 

“The Michigan Employment Opportunity Program will form a public-private partnership to bring good jobs to our state,” Tisdel said in a statement. “Government can make it easier for businesses to invest in our communities and support more Michigan workers, bringing economic growth – and the revenue that comes with it.”

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COVID Vaccination Mandate Bill in Front of New Ohio Committee

An Ohio bill that would end COVID-19 vaccination mandates and nearly passed the House last week is back in front of another committee with health care groups from around the state lined up in opposition.

House Bill 435, the Vaccine Fairness Act, received hearings in front of the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Wednesday and Thursday.

The legislation would provide broad exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination mandates from public and private employers and schools. It also would stop any entity from mandating a COVID-19 vaccine that has not been fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prohibit government-ordered vaccine passports.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s Reinstated Prevailing Wage Rules Rewards Union Donors, Critics Say

Gov. Grethcen Whitmer announces that Michigan received a $10 million grant to support the state’s registered apprenticeship expansion efforts and increase employment opportunities for Michiganders.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement this week that she is reinstating the state’s prevailing wage rules is drawing accusations that the move is nothing more than a sop to the governor’s extensive list of donors affiliated with organized labor.

“Governor Whitmer is putting campaign donors before Michigan’s hardworking taxpayers,” Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action, said in a statement that included an extensive list of skilled trades unions that have contributed to the governor’s campaign war chest. “Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders worked to place this initiative in front of the legislature, and her unilateral decision to break the law is another example of Whitmer pandering to her highest donors.”

Among the donors listed by MRA are the Painters & Allied Trades Political Action Committee; Michigan Council of Carpenters PAC; Michigan State AFL-CIO; and several pipefitters unions.

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Ohio Judge Allows Municipal-Income-Tax Challenge to Go Forward

Dr. Manal Morsy

A judge has ruled a lawsuit challenging the city of Cleveland’s ability to collect income tax from a doctor who had not worked in the city during the pandemic can go forward.

Dr. Manal Morsy’s lawsuit, one of several filed against Ohio cities by The Buckeye Institute, tests a state law that was altered during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to allow cities to collect taxes from workers who did not work in those cities.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose denied Cleveland’s motion to dismiss Wednesday.

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Georgia Department of Public Safety: Salary Increase for Employees Is ‘Mandatory’

officer using radar gun in SUV to check Georgia residents' speed

One of Georgia’s top law enforcement officials is calling on Georgia lawmakers to increase taxpayer-funded pay and benefits for state law enforcement employees.

Georgia Department of Public Safety Chief of Staff Maj. Joshua Lamb told members of the Senate Retirement Security for Georgians Study Committee on Thursday it is “mandatory” to increase pay to recruit and keep current law enforcement employees.

Lamb said the department has a 22% turnover rate and annual job applications have decreased by 60% over the past three years.

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University of Michigan-Flint Grant to Support 300 Jobs, $10.4M Investment in Flint

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $3.8 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Recovery Assistance grant to the University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, to construct the university’s new College of Innovation and Technology.

The grant, to be matched with $4.9 million in local funds, is expected to create 126 jobs, retain 175 jobs, and generate $10.4 million in private investment.

“We are grateful to Secretary Raimondo and the Biden Administration for investing in University of Michigan-Flint’s College of Innovation and Technology,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This grant will help us usher in a new era of prosperity by supporting over 300 good-paying jobs and generating $10.4 million in private investment.” 

Mayor Sheldon Neeley welcomed the investment.

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Arizona Fully Recovers Pandemic Job Losses

Person using a laptop, pointing to the screen

More than 100% of private sector jobs in Arizona have been recovered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the August employment report. 

 The Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity report showed that Arizona has recovered 325,500 private-sector jobs since April 2020, representing 101% of private-sector jobs lost. 

 Between July and August, Arizona’s unemployment fell by about 13,000 people. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.6% to 6.2%, marking the largest rate decline of the year. 

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Thousands of Public Workers Seek Vaccine Exemptions in Washington

Doctor with mask on holding COVID-19 Vaccine

Some 4,800 state employees in Washington have already requested medical or religious exemptions from Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

According to information released this week by the state, those requests amount to nearly 8% of the 60,000 state workers who fall under Inslee’s 24 cabinet departments. As of Sept. 6, less than 50% of all employees in those agencies were verified as being fully vaccinated.

Inslee last month issued an executive order that all state employees, as well as K-12 and state university staff, must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face dismissal.

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Arizona Police Recruiting in Washington Days After Vaccine Mandate

Arizona state trooper SUV in desert

Arizona’s state police force is in the Pacific Northwest in an attempt to bolster its ranks. The push comes on the heels of news that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee isn’t allowing exceptions to his vaccine mandate.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety announced that they would be in Washington from Sept. 7 through Sept. 19 to recruit potential new officers. 

Their counterpart, the Washington State Patrol, shared Arizona’s announcement on Twitter. 

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Detroit Schools Reach New Contract with Union

Terrence Martin and

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), Michigan’s largest public education system responsible for educating 51,000 children, has reached a new agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) Local 231 on a two-year successor contract before starting the ’21-22 school year.

DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and DFT President Terrance Martin agreed to terms on August 26, and DFT members ratified the agreement on September 1.

In August, the unit reached a safe reopening plan outlining the safety guidelines, additional hazards, and blended learning bonuses.

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Report: Afghan Women Forced into Marriages with Men Eligible for Evacuation

Afghan women in Kabul

Afghan women were reportedly forced into marriages with men who were eligible for evacuation from the country, CNN reported Thursday.

U.S. officials notified the State Department about some Afghan women and girls showing up with men pretending to be their husbands or after being forced into marriages with men eligible for evacuation, two sources familiar with the matter reportedly told CNN.

Some women are reportedly resorting to these unusual relationships in order to flee Taliban rule, CNN reported. Families of Afghan women at a transit hub in the United Arab Emirates arranged for such marriages at the Kabul international airport in Afghanistan so that women may leave, according to CNN.

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Michigan Lawmaker Calls on Unemployment Insurance Agency for Answers About Benefit Blunder

Rep. Steve Johnson

The leaders of the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) knew as early as Jan. 6 they erred in developing qualifications for benefits, but didn’t tell the 700,000 Michiganders affected for nearly six months.

The Detroit News first broke the story.

After Jan. 6, the UIA tried to retroactively charge some benefit recipients up to $27,000 for the state’s mistake, instead of admitting it erred.

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Rieth-Riley Workers Win Settlements Against Union for Illegal Strike Retaliation

Rieth-Riley Construction paving a parking lot

Michigan Rieth-Riley Construction Company employees Rob Nevins and Jesse London won settlements against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union.

The settlements order IUOE union bosses not to discriminate against London and Nevins for leaving the union and pay $364 to London for owed health insurance premium.

The settlements stem from charges of retaliation the workers filed during the strike IUOE union bosses ordered in mid-2019. London and Nevins ended their union memberships and chose to keep working.

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Ohio State Employees to Be Paid to Get Vaccinated

Doctor giving vaccination to patient

Ohio plans to spend more federal tax dollars to convince more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced the state plans to pay $100 to each state employee for getting the vaccine. Their spouses would receive $25.

For spouses and employees enrolled in the state medical plan, the money will come from funds dedicated to state employee health and wellness, which is funded through state employee payroll deductions and state agency contributions. For those not enrolled, the state will use coronavirus relief funds. That is a small number of employees, according to Molly O’Reilly McGhee, public information officer for the Administrative Support Division.

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Report: Many Tennessee Economic Indicators Trend up, Others Mixed

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Nashville, Tennessee. One of Nashville's renowned honky-tonk bars, Tootsie's has featured over the years many performing artists who have since become famous, such as Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Kris Kristofferson.

How is Tennessee’s economy doing? A lot of it is doing well when compared to the COVID-19 lows on many economic indicators such as employment, a new Sycamore Institute report shows.

But other items are troubling, such as there being 40% fewer small businesses in Tennessee as of late June data than there were before the pandemic. That’s considering that 99% of private sector workers in the state work for small businesses, defined as companies of 500 employees or less.

“There are a lot of things going on here,” said Brian Straessle, the Sycamore Institute’s Director of External Affairs. “There isn’t like one nice neat narrative of the economy right now.”

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Michigan Jobs 322,000 Under Pre-Pandemic Level

Detroit skyline at night

Sixteen months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Michigan is still behind 322,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic in Feb. 2020. 

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 5% percent was unchanged in June, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

“Michigan’s labor market indicators were little changed in June,” Wayne Rourke, the associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The Michigan unemployment rate has been near 5.0 percent for five consecutive months. Payroll job counts in June were similar to March levels.”

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Ducey Invests Millions of Federal Dollars to Start Visit Arizona Initiative

Three people on bikes in Arizona during sundown

Gov. Doug Ducey is investing $101.1 million from the federal American Rescue Plan funding to launch the Visit Arizona Initiative to increase tourism spending in Arizona and expedite its economic recovery. 

“Tourism is essential for Arizona’s booming economy and job growth,” Ducey said in a release. 

He said that when tourists stay at Arizona hotels, eat at restaurants, buy Arizona products, and partake in the state’s recreational activities, Arizona’s economy booms.

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New Unemployment Claims Jump 42 Percent in Tennessee

Tennessee State flag

Nearly 9,400 new unemployment claims were filed in Tennessee last week; the highest weekly total since mid-April.

Only nine states had more new unemployment claims than Tennessee last week. The 9,376 new claims last week represented a 42% increase from the previous week’s 6,596 new claims.

The jump in new claims came after the state stopped its participation in the federal supplemental pandemic relief unemployment program, which gives those on unemployment an additional $300 weekly through the first week of September. The final two weeks of June were the lowest claims totals since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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