NAFTA 2.0?

After nearly a year of high-level negotiations, the United States and Mexico announced a preliminary agreement on a major overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a trilateral accord negotiated by the governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Meanwhile, Canadian officials are in Washington to try and salvage the 24-year-old accord that accounts for more than $1 billion in annual trade.

NAFTA’s terms, which were implemented gradually through January 2008, sough to remove barriers to trade and investment between the three countries.

Manufacturing

The new deal would require auto manufacturers to produce at least 75% of a car’s value in North America, up from the NAFTA threshold of 62.5%, to qualify for NAFTA’s zero tariffs. Automakers would also be required to buy more steel, aluminum, and auto parts locally, and ensure workers in Canada and the US have higher wages.

These proposals are designed to reverse years of outsourcing and improve wages in both the United States and Mexico.

Agriculture

The new deal will keep tariffs on agricultural products traded between the United States and Mexico at zero and set new standards for agriculture and calls for innovations in biotechnology. It requires Mexico to raise environmental standards to be more in line with standards in the United States.

In an effort to drive Mexican wages higher, the agreement also contains enforceable labor provisions that require Mexico to adhere to more stringent labor rights and standards.

Sunset 

The United States had insisted that the new agreement contain a “sunset” clause that would cancel the agreement unless it was renewed every five years, but backed off the demand after businesses complained that it would disincentivize long-term investment in the region.

Instead, the United States and Mexico agreed to a 16-year lifespan for NAFTA, with a review every six years. That longer time horizon would give lawmakers a chance to assess the pact’s progress, while providing businesses with more economic certainty.

The Path Ahead

The White House plans to notify Congress on Friday of its intention to enter into a new trade agreement, to provide the required 90 days’ notice that would allow NAFTA 2.0 to be signed by December 1, when Mexico will install a new president.

According to Bloomberg:

President Donald Trump said talks with Canada to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement are going well, expressing optimism the two countries could reach a deal this week.

“We’re doing really well,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday, referring to negotiations between U.S. and Canadian officials in Washington. “They want to be part of the deal. And we gave till Friday and I think we’re probably on track.”

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is trying to reach agreement with the U.S. this week. But Trudeau added that Canada won’t sacrifice its goal of getting the “right deal.”

Useful Links

Read the full article from Bloomberg

White House Statement on NAFTA Renegotiation

Howard County Announces Trade Apprenticeship Program

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced plans for an apprenticeship program, starting in 2019, to fill electrical, plumbing and HVAC-R jobs in Howard County. Howard County is among a handful of jurisdictions that recently earned approval from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) to use registered apprenticeships to attract skilled workers in needed employment areas.

According to a press release:

“Howard County, among other jurisdictions, is losing some of its best tradespeople in the workforce to attrition and retirement,” said Kittleman.  “Before those skills and expertise are gone, we hope to help transfer those abilities to a new generation of electricians, plumbers and HVAC-R technicians. These are solid career paths that will always be needed in the government sector.”

DLLR Secretary Kelly M. Schulz shared that, “Maryland’s local governments are discovering what many of our businesses have known for decades. Registered apprenticeship is a great way to build your workforce, whether you are in the private or public sector.”

The three apprenticeships being developed in Howard County for July of 2019 are full-time, paid positions with benefits. Candidates in the 4-year program also will attend trade school for free with 144 classroom hours per year, as well as complete 2,000 on-the-job training hours, in exchange for a commitment to remain employed with the county for at least two years after the program.

“It is increasingly difficult to compete with the private sector for skilled tradespeople and the technology and energy-efficiency standards are constantly evolving and improving,” said Jim Irvin, Director of the Department of Public Works. “We are looking to develop our own talent to help us keep county facilities operating safely and effectively for our residents, visitors and co-workers.”

Apprentices will mainly work for the Bureaus of Facilities, Utilities and Environmental Services within the Department of Public Works to maintain more than 2.5 million square feet of county government facilities among 172 buildings. Assignments will span residential maintenance at county-owned properties, commercial operations at county office buildings and industrial settings like wastewater treatment facilities and the landfill. The candidates will be overseen and trained by master tradespeople associated with AFSCME 3085, the local Howard County trade union for public employees of the Department of Public Works.

The positions are included in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget and are expected to be filled in July of 2019.  Details of the policies and procedures for the program are expected to be finalized prior to the end of 2018.

Read the full press release for more information.

Washington & Frederick County Youth Apprenticeship Program Gets Boost

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation announced that the FirstEnergy Foundation has once again offered $15,000 to Washington and Frederick County businesses to support the hiring of youth apprentices through the successful Apprenticeship Maryland Program (AMP).

According to a press release:

“We knew that youth apprenticeship would help businesses build a pipeline of talented, energetic employees,” said Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz. “What we didn’t know is the profoundly positive impact that youth apprenticeship would have on students, employers, and their communities. The FirstEnergy Foundation understands the value in the apprenticeship program and has, through their partnership, given us the ability to create opportunities and life-changing experiences for our youth.”

FirstEnergy Foundation’s donation brings their total contribution to the program to $45,000. Since 2016, five Washington County companies have utilized $22,500 in grant funds. The businesses use the funds to offset costs related to hiring and training the youth apprentice.

The AMP, founded in 2015 as a pilot in Frederick and Washington counties, is a partnership between the Maryland Department of Labor, the Maryland State Department of Education, the Department of Commerce, the county public school system, community educational and business partners, and area employers. Youth apprenticeship is open to all industries, with a priority on high-growth career tracks such as science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and manufacturing.

Learn more about the Apprenticeship Maryland Program or contact Targeted Populations Grant Program Manager Jeffrey Smith from the Maryland Department of Labor at 410-767-2246.

The [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is considering recommendations to expand apprenticeship programs and other opportunities to participate in a career while in high school.

MACo’s Summer Conference will include a session on education funding and accountability, and how to best ensure that Maryland students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. The session, “Angling for Educational Excellence: Kirwan 2.0,” is scheduled for 10:15 am – 11:15 am on Saturday, August 18, 2018.

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

WMATA Strike Threat + Big Ballgame = OMG, Traffic!

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 members have authorized a strike against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) – a move which could leave All-Star Game attendees at Nationals Park in the lurch, and obviously, significantly impact traffic in the D.C. metropolitan region. metro-station-398840__340

According to a union press release, organization officials are meeting with WMATA management on Tuesday to

have a genuine conversation about the issues that got us to this point. it is not our intention to disrupt the MLB All-Star Game[.]

The union last voted to strike in 1978, “resulting in a weeklong ‘wildcat’ strike,” according to Progressive Railroading.

State Revs Up Corrections Recruitment Efforts

Acknowledging a years-long problem with understaffing at state correctional facilities, the State Division of Corrections plans to step up its recruitment efforts.

The Division continues to hold job fairs and testing all around the state, and most recently announced that it plans to hire a private recruiting firm to fill vacancies.

Herald-Mail highlights frustration from unions, correctional officers, and state elected officials relating to the staffing shortage:

“I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation for three years in a row,” Patrick Moran, president of Council 3 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told Herald-Mail Media on Thursday. …

“What I’m getting is there’s frustration from the correctional officers with the administration and the union,” Del. Mike McKay, R-Washington/Allegany, said. “They feel their concerns are not getting to where they need to go.

“The staffing shortage is unacceptable,” he added.

Last session, the General Assembly included a number of provisions in the budget related to Corrections’ understaffing.

Feds Report More Jobs, Slight Increase in Unemployment Across US

The Department of Labor Statistics reports 213,000 jobs gained, and 4% unemployment during the month of June.

wiatrowski
William J. Wiatrowski
Acting Commissioner
Bureau of Labor Statistics

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 213,000 in June, and the
unemployment rate increased to 4.0 percent. Job gains occurred
in professional and business services, manufacturing, and health
care, while retail trade lost jobs.

Incorporating revisions for April and May, which increased
nonfarm payroll employment by 37,000, monthly job gains have
averaged 211,000 over the past 3 months.

For more information, see the Bureau of Labor Statistics Acting Commissioner’s Statement and Economy adds 213K jobs in June, unemployment ticks up to 4 percent from The Hill.

Conduit Street Podcast: Beating the Heat, Janus v. AFSCME, & Primary Races We’re Still Watching

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss how counties are helping their residents beat the heat, explore the potential impacts of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Janus v. ASFCME, and review some of the county primary races that remain too close to call.

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Some County Primary Races Still Too Close to Call

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Supreme Court Ruling May Affect Maryland Unions

White House Releases Government Reform Proposal

On Thursday, the White House released a 132-page report detailing specific opportunities for reform of the Federal government. The comprehensive report lists 32 recommendations for organizational realignments, reassignments, consolidations, privatization of certain government services, disposition of government-owned assets, technology upgrades, customer service improvements, process reform, and more.

The report contends to address the federal government’s inefficiencies. It does not make recommendations for reducing the federal workforce – another goal put forth by the Administration.

The federal government is bloated, opaque, bureaucratic and inefficient.

– Mick Mulvaney, Director, White House Office of Management and Budget

silhouettes-81830_1920The report, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations,”  comes out as most of the country focuses on immigration policy and reform. In fact, it appears few news outlets have picked up the report release at all.

But, Route Fifty did – with focus given to potential affects on local governments

One noteworthy change would shift the $3 billion community development block grant program, or CDBG, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new Bureau of Economic Growth under the Department of Commerce. …

The reorganization plan would also move the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, out of the Department of Agriculture and into the Department of Health and Human Services, which would then be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare.

Other noteworthy recommendations include:

  • Merging the Departments of Education and Labor into one Department of Education and the Workforce
  • Moving the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Civil Works out of the Department of Defense (DOD) to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of the Interior (DOI)
  • Reorganizing the Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection
    Service and the food safety functions of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into a single agency within USDA
  • Merging the Department of Commerce’s (Commerce) National Marine Fisheries Service with DOI’s Fish and Wildlife Service, centralizing dam permit review
  • Selling specific transmission assets owned by the Department of Energy (DOE), and generally, focus on disposing unneeded or undesired federal real estate
  • Either wholly restructure the postal system or privatize it altogether
  • Reorganize the Department of Transportation
  • Limit federal support for home purchasing:

….ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reducing their role in the housing market, and providing an explicit, limited Federal backstop that is on-budget and apart from the Federal support for low- and moderate-income homebuyers.

Read the full report here.

 

Conduit Street Podcast: SCOTUS Sounds Off, Early Voting Boom, Riveting Races, & More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss the surge in early voting numbers in this year’s primary election, explore the role of county governments in state and local elections, examine the impacts of three major Supreme Court decisions, review MACo’s Legislative Initiatives process, and look ahead to the 2018 MACo Summer Conference.

*Note: We’ll be back next week with a special edition of the Conduit Street Podcast to breakdown the results of the primary election.

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: SCOTUS Opens Door To State Taxation of Internet, “Remote” Sales

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: SCOTUS Sides With Lower Court In Maryland “Gerrymandering” Case, But Questions Remain

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Early Voting Numbers Up 53% from 2014

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Soliciting 2019 Legislative Initiative Proposals

Hogan Vetoes Three Education Bills

Governor Larry Hogan today vetoed three education bills passed during the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly. SB 739 would have altered the makeup of the Maryland State Board of Education, HB 643/SB 678 sought to change the categories of employees in the state Department of Education and in local school systems – making more employees eligible to join unions, and HB 808 would have made it more difficult to terminate political appointees at the Maryland State Department of Education.

Hogan’s vetos are final because it is an election year, and the General Assembly may not override gubernatorial vetos during the first year of a new legislative term. MACo did not take a position on any of these bills.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office:

Governor Hogan vetoed Senate Bill 739 – State Board of Education – Membership – Teachers and Parent. Senate Bill 739 would have changed the process Maryland uses to select members to the State Board of Education, a move that would have diluted the independence of the State Board of Education by giving teacher unions control over two additional seats on the Board, and dictating that three seats be chosen by just two stakeholder groups, a move that would risk turning this critical policy-making body into a collection of special interest group representatives.

Governor Hogan also vetoed House Bill 643/Senate Bill 678 – State Department of Education – Employment Categories and Practices. This legislation would weaken the Maryland State Department of Education’s capacity to achieve the state’s educational goals – at a time when strengthening the performance of Maryland’s schools and students is more important than ever – by hindering the Department’s ability to compete in an already competitive job market and acquire talented employees.

Finally, Governor Hogan vetoed House Bill 808 – Collective Bargaining – Education – Supervisory Personnel. This legislation would remove local authority to determine who is classified as a “supervisory employee” and give authority over local school system organizational charts to the Public School Labor Relations Board. This new structure would prohibit school leadership from ensuring an efficient operation best suited for the needs of their local school system.

“These pieces of flawed legislation join the unfortunate litany of attempts by the General Assembly over the past four sessions to pass legislation to enhance the power of partisan special interests, while eliminating transparency and usurping accountability,” said Governor Hogan. “At a time when unethical behavior and mismanagement continue to hold our school systems back from serving school children, this sequence of bills that I am vetoing today seek to move Maryland in exactly the wrong direction. Instead, we need to be working together to restore accountability for our students, teachers, and families.”

Read the governor’s veto letter here.