Pluribus AM: States tackle workforce crisis

Good morning from Indianapolis, where the National Conference of State Legislatures is holding its annual meeting. It’s Monday, August 14, 2023. In today’s edition, states tackle workforce challenges; Illinois will allow lawsuits against gun manufacturers; abortion rights backers plot 2024 strategy:

Top Stories

This week’s newsletters look a little different: Every morning, we’ll spotlight the biggest legislative trends of the year.

WORKFORCE: A decade ago, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, governors in states across the nation spent much of their time recruiting businesses from other states. Today, states are trying to poach a different commodity from their neighbors: The workers who will staff those jobs.

Virtually every sector in the American economy is plagued by a massive workforce shortage, a deficit of workers that creates vacant classrooms, understaffed hospitals and empty tables at restaurants. Policymakers who once bid for businesses are now scrambling to make sure those businesses can find the workers they need to operate.

“The state that has the workers will be the state that wins the economic race,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said recently, touting a national workforce recruitment ad she said had attracted nearly 2,500 new residents to her state.

State lawmakers are viewing the workforce shortages through both a short-term and long-term lens — attracting workers now, and building a pipeline that will produce qualified workers over longer horizons. Vermont and West Virginia have programs that offer incentives to workers who live in other states. Noem’s program in South Dakota connects job seekers with employers who need workers. 

Over the longer term, states have sought to bolster community colleges and other training programs. Tennessee lawmakers established a College of Applied Technology, including one campus near a planned Ford plant that will manufacture electric F-series pickups and batteries. New Jersey established an apprenticeship program that will funnel future workers into water companies.

Read the full story here.

GUN POLITICS: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a law allowing residents to sue firearm retailers and manufacturers for marketing guns to those under 18. The new law will also allow lawsuits in case gun sellers fail to prevent illegal sales. (Chicago Tribune) The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday upheld a law banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines. (Pluribus News)

ENERGY: Pritzker vetoed legislation that would have ended a statewide ban on building new nuclear power plants. In a veto message, Pritzker said the bill did not include safety regulations for workers and nearby residents. He said he saw promise in small modular reactors in the future. (Pluribus News)

MARIJUANA: New York’s recreational pot industry will remain on hold for another two weeks after a state Supreme Court judge upheld an injunction barring new licenses or approval to open retail dispensaries. New York has issued 430 retail licenses for marijuana shops, though only 20 stores have opened. (State of Politics)

EDUCATION: The Arkansas Department of Education on Friday told school administrators that an Advanced Placement course on African American history would not be eligible for course credit this year. The state will not cover the $90 cost of an end-of-year test to give students the opportunity to earn college credit for the class. (Arkansas Times)

In Politics & Business

ABORTION: Abortion rights backers are laying the foundation for a series of ballot measures in states across the country next year — an echo of 2004, when Republicans used ballot measures opposing gay marriage to boost turnout for then-President George W. Bush. Democrats hope the measures, aimed at states like Arizona, Florida and Missouri, will underscore the policy differences between President Biden and the eventual Republican nominee. (Pluribus News)

ALABAMA: A three-member panel of federal judges will hear arguments today over whether a new congressional district map approved by the state legislature fixes discrimination against Black voters after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s original maps earlier this year. The legislature’s new map does not create a second Black-majority district. (

FLORIDA: Civil rights groups and the Florida legislature reached a joint stipulation agreement in a legal challenge to the state’s congressional district maps after Republicans drew a version that eliminated a North Florida Black majority district. The agreement that the new maps reduce Black voting power could reestablish the district, and hand Democrats another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Florida Politics)

WISCONSIN: The Joint Committee on Legislative Organization is deciding whether to intervene in two pending lawsuits over the state’s legislative maps. The suits allege the district lines amount to a partisan gerrymander. (Wisconsin Examiner) Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) suggested in a radio interview that the legislature could consider impeaching new state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she does not recuse herself from the redistricting case. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

OHIO: The state Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit challenging the proposed constitutional amendment to codify abortion rights, clearing its path to the November ballot. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

WASHINGTON: State Rep. Jim Walsh (R) is the new chairman of the state Republican Party after he won election Saturday. Walsh replaces Caleb Heimlich, who ran the party for five years before stepping down in June. (Washington State Standard)

PEOPLE: South Carolina Sen. John Scott (D) has died at 69. He had been in the hospital for a few days with an undisclosed medical issue. He served in the legislature since 1990. (Associated Press) Our condolences to the South Carolina political family.

By The Numbers

$600 million: The tax collection shortfall Massachusetts experienced in the last fiscal year, after years of surplus. Massachusetts collected about $2 billion less than it did the year before, 1.5% below projections. (Boston Globe)

23: The number of states that will restrict transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports. New laws take effect this school year in Kansas, North Dakota, Wyoming and Missouri. Similar laws in Arizona and West Virginia are on hold because of federal lawsuits. (Associated Press)

39,000: The number of New Mexicans who called the 988 crisis and suicide prevention hotline in its first year of operation. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing found 98% of those calls were resolved at the first point of contact, without any need for additional services. (Santa Fe New Mexican)

Off The Wall

U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) threatened to beat up a state trooper and defeat the Carson County sheriff in the next election after he was detained briefly at a rodeo outside of Amarillo last month, the sheriff’s office said in a report on the incident. Deputies asked Jackson, a medical doctor, to step back from a medical emergency four times before placing him in handcuffs. (Texas Tribune)

Remember that debate between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)? It’s looking about as likely to happen as the cage match between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. DeSantis wants a live audience, which Newsom ruled out in his proposal to Fox News host Sean Hannity, who’s supposed to moderate. (Politico)

Quote of the Day

“I do believe it’s going to create confusion among the voters.”

Humboldt Count, Nev., Clerk Tami Rae Spero, on a Nevada Republican Party plan to hold presidential nominating caucuses alongside a statewide primary. Only the caucuses will count toward awarding delegates to the national convention. (Associated Press)