Work Gears

PELL GRANT REFORM COULD MEAN GOOD PAYING JOBS FOR MIDDLE AMERICA

By NATALIA CASTRO

President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan won’t just be looking to refurbish the nation’s bridges and roads but is also aiming at reforming our nation’s educational institutions. To combat some of the most significant problems within our labor force and education system, President Trump has included a provision in his infrastructure plan that could increase access to non-college job training programs without increasing spending.

As the legislative outline for Trump’s infrastructure proposal explains, the American workforce is integral to a properly running country and economy. But with nearly seven million individuals around the country looking for work and six million unfilled jobs, America’s skills gaps are leaving workers behind.

Despite jobs growth and decreasing unemployment, while a disproportionate share of Americans go to college, jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, called middle-skilled jobs, are not being filled. In states like Iowa, more than half of all available jobs are middle-skilled jobs, which leaves both jobs unfilled and skilled workers unemployed.

In Palm Beach County, Florida jobs for welders and mechanics are going continually unfilled.  Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post notes how strange this phenomenon is in their area, considering top welders can make $70,000 a year or more, and skilled mechanists can earn $65,000.

However, following the insecurities generated from the Great Recession and the fueling misconception that a four-year degree is necessary, owing to lower unemployment rates for college-educated individuals, middle-skilled jobs go unfilled. Besides the higher education bubble, other factors to the skills gap include Baby Boomers retiring and regional mismatches.

To make up for this, the Trump administration has called for Pell Grants to be made available for students achieving certifications as part of apprenticeship programs and has expanded Pell Grant eligibility to pay for these more of these short-term programs.

President Trump also calls for changes our post-secondary education system and workforce development policies in order to encourage students to enter technical fields.

As the President’s plan explains, “The Federal Work Study program (FWS) currently is not well-suited or targeted to support students pursuing career and technical education, especially for low-income and low-skilled students seeking to enter or return to the workforce quickly. FWS funds are disproportionately distributed to four-year non-profit and flagship public institutions, leaving out quality two-year programs, many of which have a uniquely strong focus on workplace readiness.”

Agree or disagree with the Pell Grant program, the question the administration is addressing is how to best allocate the funds Congress is already providing. By reforming this program, Trump does not add money to the existing budget but instead reprioritizes funds to more proportionately represent the needs of our economy.

Before announcing this plan, the President met with 70 mayors to discuss needs of cities across the country. Mayor Karen Best of Branson, Missouri explains to the Branson News, “My question was geared towards jobs and workers. Finding the workforce to fill those jobs… The infrastructure bill is going to have to do with workforce, workforce training, workforce management, also making Pell Grants available to trade schools, not just four-year universities and colleges…Being at the White House yesterday gave a name and a face to the community of Branson.”

These holes in the labor force already offer high paying opportunities; the federal government now must remove barriers that discourage students from pursuing two-year degrees. Trump’s plan allows for this to occur, giving a chance to employers and students across the country.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.

Americans for Limited Government is a non-partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms, private property rights and core American liberties.  For more information on ALG please visit the website at www.GetLiberty.org.  You can also read more articles at www.dailytorch.com.

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earned family leave

EARNED SICK LEAVE IN NEW JERSEY

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

The New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee approved bill, S-2171, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Linda Greenstein. This bill would implement a statewide earned sick leave policy.  By a vote of 8-3-1, the bill was released from committee and now heads for a full vote in the Senate.  If enacted, this legislation would preempt all other sick leave laws.  An employer would be required to provide earned sick leave to each worker that is employed in New Jersey.  An employee would earn sick leave for one hour for every thirty (30) hours worked.  The employees pay rate for earned sick time would be at the typical amount earned but not less than the state minimum wage.  There is also a provision to protect an employee from retaliatory action by the employer.

As Senator Weinberg explained, “We know that many employers offer paid sick time to ensure their employees are healthy and productive, but too many people are in jobs where sick days are not available. These workers are in an incredibly vulnerable situation. If they or a loved one gets sick, they have to decide whether to take time off, or to pay the rent or mortgage, the electric bill or to buy groceries. This will give workers the protections they deserve.”   The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has reported that there are an estimated 1.2 million New Jerseyans without the protection of earned sick leave pay.  Other states like Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and Oregon have already passed similar legislation.  “Earned sick leave is a basic workers’ right that should be extended to all employees. It will create a healthier and safer work environment for our residents, but also will protect the health of the public,” added Weinberg.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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Life

LIFE & DEATH AND TAXES

By SNOR

Phone call from our accountant.  Tax time again.  The accountant asks:  “Could you really have so many unpaid medical expenses?  I stoically explain that surviving cancer is expensive.  Even though we have insurance, the oncologist, surgeon, genetic testing, and diagnostic tests cost a fortune.  Then the insurance jargon takes over:  copay, coinsurance, individual deductible, family deductible, in network services, out of network (no discounted rate), other specifically excluded items (genetic testing), and medications.  It makes it difficult to celebrate life when you owe everyone money.  I cling to the gift of life anyway.  What would life be if there were no insurmountable challenges?

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funding

NEW JERSEY FUNDING: OPIOID EPIDEMIC vs. CANCER CRISIS

By SNOR

While Governor Phil Murphy’s plans to allocate $100 million from his Fiscal Year 2019 budget to counteract New Jersey’s opioid epidemic, he has “eliminated $2 million in funding for the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research,” as explained by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) New Jersey Government Relations Director Brian Shott.  According to Shott, “This [eliminated] program supports research in our state that has provided significant advances in the fight against cancer and in saving lives and protecting health. If this elimination of funding is sustained, it puts at risk current cancer research as well as our ability to keep some of our country’s top clinicians in our state.”  Furthermore, “It is projected that in 2018 more than 53,000 New Jerseyans will hear the message that they have cancer. More than 16,000 of our state’s residents will lose their lives to cancer this year.”

Governor Murphy’s recognition of “the scourge of opioids” that is “decimating communities throughout New Jersey” could easily be applied to the ravages of a cancer diagnosis.  The methodology for spending the money for opioid addiction consists of $56 Million for prevention, treatment, and recovery; 31 Million to address social risk factors, and $13 Million for infrastructure and data.  This model works just as well for addressing the “cancer crisis.”

So how is it decided?  Is it based upon the number of people afflicted?  Is it the publicity of a particular cause?  Is it fair?

The battle for limited resources continues.  ACS CAN (American Society)’s Director Shott,  stated, “We know that we can and must do better. Governor Murphy often has spoken of the need to keep our state at the forefront of innovation, and this development is certainly contrary to that pledge.”  The politicians will be held accountable for their decisions.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org

SNOR proud cancer survivor and advocate for humanistic medical care.

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housing

CONGRESS SUCCEEDS IN GUTTING OBAMA HUD RACIAL AND INCOME ZONING RULE IN OMNIBUS

By ROBERT ROMANO

One good thing that came out of the omnibus spending bill signed into law by President Donald Trump is that it defunds a key aspect of the Obama era Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

This was the rule enacted in 2015 that allowed HUD to order more than 1,200 cities and counties that accepted any part of $3 billion of annual community development block grants to rezone neighborhoods along income and racial criteria.

This was always a vast overreach, where the federal government could come in and tell communities what must be built and where. Now, it’s over.

Under Division L, Title II of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, Section 234, it states, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to direct a grantee to undertake specific changes to existing zoning laws as part of carrying out the final rule entitled ‘Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing’ … or the notice entitled ‘Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Assessment Tool’ …”

This provision utterly guts the HUD regulation, which had already been delayed by HUD Secretary Ben Carson earlier this year until 2020.

Now, with the backing of Congress, Carson needs to go the extra mile and either rescind this regulation completely, or revise it to comply with the new law.

Congress has spoken on this issue under its Article I power of the purse, and is now saying that the Fair Housing Act, community development block grants and this regulation can no longer be used to direct communities to undertake any changes to zoning.

Believe it or not, this is a game changer.

Without Congress acting, simply rescinding this regulation would have been far riskier for Carson and Trump.

In 1983, the Supreme Court decided Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association v. State Farm Mutual that rescinding any regulation issued an agency is obligated to supply a reasoned analysis “for the change beyond that which may be required when an agency does not act in the first instance.”

The outcome was that it is much more difficult to rescind an existing regulation than it is to either modify it or never have issued it in the first place, leaving every single regulatory rescission subject to judicial review.

Ultimately, the rescinding agency has to argue not only that rescinding the regulation in question is rational based on the statutory scheme, but prove that enacting it was irrational to begin with.

Carson and Trump will now have no problems on that count if they choose to rescind or roll back most of the HUD zoning regulation. The regulation, which absolutely affects zoning, no longer rationally rests within the statutory scheme. It’s now illegal to spend money on implementing it as it was written.

Now nobody can argue that the Fair Housing Act implicitly requires such changes be made to zoning laws. Thanks to U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), the representative who first pushed to defund this regulation, Congress has changed the terms of the game.

Realistically, that will remain true so long as Congress keeps carrying forward the defund language in every single omnibus spending bill going forward. Republicans will have to fight to defund this provision every year so long as the regulation remains in place.

Should Democrats win the midterm elections in November, they might seek to strip this language out of next year’s HUD appropriations bill. To avert this possibility, Carson must begin the regulatory rescission process immediately. There is not a moment to lose.

While there were many problems with the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, one thing the Republican-led Congress got absolutely right was defunding Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing from being used to force communities to make changes to local zoning law.

Congress has done its job. Now it is up to the Trump administration with Carson in the lead to rescind this regulation with the window of opportunity Congress has given, so that no administration ever again attempts to take over local governments across the country.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

Americans for Limited Government is a non-partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms, private property rights and core American liberties.  For more information on ALG please visit the website at www.GetLiberty.org.  You can also read more articles at www.dailytorch.com.

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autism

APRIL IS AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

What is autism?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes  “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability  that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.”  https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

What does awareness accomplish?  People fear what they don’t understand.  The goal is to educate about the spectrum of behaviors and building acceptance by society.

My 21 year old daughter is on the autism spectrum.   She inspires me each day with her brave beauty and brilliant mind.  I realize how the sensory world assaults her and how she struggles with frustration that leads to rage.   I first became her advocate when we were seeking a learning environment where she would be successful.  Then I met various other parent-advocates and realized the transforming power of love.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News and a proud advocate mom.   The featured image is her interpretation of the autism spectrum with watercolor and permanent ink on cold press paper.

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debt-relief

BURIED BY STUDENT LOANS

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

My student loans haunt my nightmares.  I feel buried alive by the burden.  Therefore, when I read that Republican congressional candidate Daryl Kipnis, New Jersey’s 12th District, raised the issue of student indebtedness, he captured my attention.

He stated. “When elected, I will proudly sponsor a bill expanding loan assistance programs, refinance options, income-based modification of loan balances, and most importantly, the ability to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, which is greatly needed to take people who are badly struggling financially and place them in a position where they are empowered to grow our economy and live the American dream.”

Kipnis, who practices law in Somerset, explained that “For many of our youngest, and most promising citizens, student debt has forced almost an entire generation into a form of indentured
servitude. Their debt runs in the thousands to more than $100,000, giving them the equivalent of a mortgage payment before most of them even have a job.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that student loan debt has increased from $516 billion to more than $1.3 trillion from 2007 to 2017.  During the same period, the number of students owing money has gone from 28.3 million to 42.6 million as shown by this data.

“We must act now to avert the impending cataclysm of more than $1.3 trillion in current student debt before it destroys the financial health of an entire generation,” he added. Furthermore, “Unless we ease the financial burden of these loan debts for some 42 million students now, the future financial impacts will be devastating to our overall economy.”

In addition to legislation to help students with existing debt, Kipnis also wants to work on reforming the system that causes students to borrow way beyond their means. One of his strategies is to rely upon “free market forces to work, bringing costs down and delivering the product of education to the masses at a reasonable cost.”

Another method involves “stackable credentialing.”  The U.S.Department of Labor defines stackable credentialing as a “part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications and help them move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher paying jobs.”

Kipnis still must take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman before he can wrestle with the law in Congress.  At the very least, there is a dialogue about this topic and ideas about how to improve the system.  It is too late to save me, but young people should have access to affordable education and equal opportunities for future financial success.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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Match

JOHN PAUL STEVENS IS DEAD WRONG ABOUT HIS TYRANNICAL CALL TO REPEAL THE SECOND AMENDMENT AND BAN SEMI-AUTOMATIC GUNS, BUT AT LEAST HE’S HONEST

By ROBERT ROMANO

Finally, an honest liberal stands up and tells us all what he really thinks.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in the New York Times has called for the Second Amendment to be repealed, presumably so that Congress and the states can start banning guns.

Therein, Stevens acknowledged that under current Supreme Court precedent, although he disagreed with the D.C. v. Heller decision in 2008, owning firearms is still an individual right secured by the Constitution.

Here, Stevens, who is dead wrong in calling for the Second Amendment’s repeal, is underscoring the real challenge facing activists pushing for decisive action in the wake of the Parkland massacre pushing for more gun “control” measures.

Stevens too advocates for more aggressive gun control laws, which he defines in calling for lawmakers “to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons.” So, there is a big ol’ ban in there.

Of which, there are more than 300 million guns nationwide owned by about 80 million people. About 85 million of those are estimated to be semi-automatic guns, which would be banned under Stevens’ plan.

In meantime, there are about 132,000 schools public and private nationwide.

Which do we suppose will be easier to secure: The 80 million gun owners who believe their right to defend themselves from a tyrannical government is God-given?

Or the 132,000 schools where armed guards could be posted?

You shouldn’t have to think too long about this. Do the math.

In the John Paul Stevens version of America, the Second Amendment would be repealed and Congress would begin banning categories of guns, one by one, until finally, a national ban might be implemented. Stevens wants to start with the 85 million semi-automatics.

It would be up to the government to round up the guns. Those who refuse would be subject to force, apprehending or killing those criminals still owning or manufacturing guns.

More passive means might be devised for individuals to turn over their weapons willingly such as buybacks and the like. But at the end of the day, there would still be holdouts — perhaps tens of millions of holdouts — who would refuse to leave themselves and their families defenseless.

It would tear this country apart.

Or the schools could be secured with armed guards, say, two in every school. If they were each paid on average $50,000 a yea, the schools could be secured for about $13 billion.

It could even be done out of existing dollars. So, instead of hiring another janitor or two, schools could prioritize and bake into their budgets real school security.

For what it’s worth, Congress sneezes out almost that much money every day, spending about $11 billion a day out of the $4.1 trillion budget.

Then there is a major political problem Stevens faces. To pass the Stevens amendment, he would need two-thirds of the House and Senate, and then 38 state legislatures to ratify it.

By comparison, a simple majority would be needed to hire the armed school security guards if it was done by Congress via budget reconciliation, or a simple majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate for regular order bills.

Again, do the math. Securing the schools with guards would be far easier to both pass and ultimately implement than attempting tyrannical gun bans and a Second Amendment repeal.

And, unlike a nationwide gun ban, securing the schools would actually have a real deterrent effect as the targets were hardened. It would save lives.

When you get down to it, everyone has a right to live. And a part of that is the right to defend oneself. By calling for a national ban on semi-automatic guns by repealing the Second Amendment, Stevens believes the government ought to deny everyone that right. What he may not realize is that he and those who support his call are playing with fire.

Let’s all hope they don’t light the fuse.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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marriage

NOT MARRIAGE BUT MERGER ACQUISITION AGREEMENT

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

I don’t believe in marriage.  Perhaps representing a client in a final judgment of divorce this week has warped my view.  However, it seems to me that marriage is all about property and how it is distributed when there has been a breach of the promises.  The sadness of losing the relationship and financial consequences to the parties are harsh.  Why would a person ever voluntarily choose to marry?  Why take the risk?

Marriage creates a legal fiction that merges the property acquired by the parties into one entity.  Equitable distribution tries to divide and separate out equal shares.  Alimony and child support are attempts to quantify intangible contributions to the partnership.  So what are we left with:  Anger?  Violation of trust?  Loving hate?

A property settlement agreement, uniform summary support order for child support, and final judgment of divorce with a gold seal are considered a victory.  Freedom to love and marry again?

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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veto

LINE ITEM VETO POWER

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

My father-in-law was ready to argue with me.  He declared, “Why does the U.S. President not have the line-item veto like the Governor of New Jersey?”  I don’t know but can find out.  When I researched this issue, the answer surprised me.

I did not know that former President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Line Item Veto Act but it was repealed.  The 1998 Supreme Court case Clinton v. City of New York, in a 6-3 ruling, upheld the District Court’s decision that the line item veto violated the “Presentment Clause,” (Article I, Section 7), of the U.S. Constitution.  (Citation: https://www.thoughtco.com/robert-longley-3319731 by Robert Longley).  Justice John Paul Stevens wrote: “there is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes.”  Essentially, the executive branch of government does not create laws.  This power is exclusively given to the legislature (congress) not the executive (president).  This power would intrude on the separation of powers promulgated by the founding fathers (and mothers).

I know that my father-in-law will challenge me.  He will say why is it okay for states like New Jersey to continue to permit their executive branch (Governor) the line item veto power?  Wouldn’t this power have helped President Donald Trump?

All that I can say is that this is not my fault.  Women voting did not create this problem.  However, I will continue to investigate.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.
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