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States Pave the Way For Higher Minimum Wage

During his State of the Union speech this year, President Barack Obama called on the U.S. Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. In doing so he also took advantage of his own executive powers to increase the rate to $10.10 for federal contractors. A federal bill that would extend this benefit to all workers around the country, U.S. S 460, has not seen movement in the Democratically-controlled Senate in nearly a year.

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Health Care Reform Remains On Center Stage

In deep-red Georgia, legislators have introduced a bill that attempts to block implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). HB 707, which is currently awaiting consideration in the House Judiciary Committee, would prohibit the state from participating in any health care exchange and preclude any state or local government agency or employee from actively aiding in the enforcement of the ACA.

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States Begin to Convene for 2014 Sessions, Focus on Fiscal Outlooks

Lawmakers in 46 states will start returning to their respective capitols this month to debate the year’s pressing policy issues, most dominantly taxes and spending, healthcare, education, immigration, energy and election reform.

Legislators once again be tasked with preparing budgets in a climate of fiscal austerity; state are still struggling to recover from the recession. Program growth will be small and new taxes rare; it is after all an election year.

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States Look to Tax and Regulate E-Cigarettes in 2014

The U.S. Congress, the European Union, the FDA and state legislatures from coast to coast are examining ways to regulate, tax, or ban advertising of e-cigarettes, a $1.7 billion industry in the U.S. and growing. Because these products generally contain no tobacco, they fall outside the jurisdiction of most traditional state laws regulating tobacco products. Legislation was introduced in almost every state in 2013 and Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina passed bills, primarily addressing the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to minors. Other states and municipalities have moved to more broadly regulate advertising or have added e-cigarettes to existing regulations banning indoor smoking in public spaces.

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