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Higher Wages to Come for CA Workers

Hourly California workers will be earning more money thanks to a new law that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. The Los Angeles Times in September reported that Assembly Bill 10, signed into law Sept. 25 by Gov. Jerry Brown, will increase wages in two phases; the first phase would increase the current minimum wage of $8 an hour to $9 on July 1, 2014, followed by another hike to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.
Brown said he hoped the bill would help narrow the gap between the rich and poor.
“Our society over the last 30 years … has experienced a growing gap between those who do work at the bottom and those who occupy the commanding heights of the economy,” said Brown. “The minimum wage will set the floor as the ceiling keeps getting further and further apart.”
While the law has been welcomed by low-wage workers in the state, California’s business community has voiced its opposition.
A coalition of businesses, including the California Restaurants Association and the California Chamber of Commerce, argue that small businesses cannot withstand the wage hike without resorting to passing along price increases to customers, cutting worker hours or laying off some employees.
Some business owners also fear the increase in the minimum wage will lead to requests for pay increases by employees who currently make more than the minimum wage. According to Sunder Ramani, general manager of Westwind Properties, a real estate firm in Burbank, with an increase in the minimum wage “there is a natural push to pull all wages higher.”
Economist Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics said the new law is not likely to have an enormous impact in either direction, but rather is more likely to have a small, positive effect.
“You would be hard pressed to find the negative impact,” he said of the wage increase.
 
CLEAN AIR REGULATIONS
Alaska is proposing new rules to help clean up the heavily polluted air in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, which was deemed out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. The proposed regulations, if adopted, would place additional restrictions on the area’s winter-long burn ban, clarify a rule that would allow the state to prohibit the use of wood-fired heating devices, clarify the types of solid fuels that could be burned and establish particulate emission limits for new wood-fired devices, according to Alaska Dispatch.
 
POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION
Idaho state education officials hope new data on students following high school graduation will help them figure out why more students do not pursue postsecondary education, the Idaho State Journalreported in September. Only about 48 percent of Idaho high school graduates to enroll in higher education, one of the lowest rates in the country of college enrollment. State officials expect 60 percent of jobs in the state will require a postsecondary degree within five years.
 
RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA
Colorado is the first state to adopt final rules for recreational marijuana businesses. The regulations were released in September, The Denver Post reported, and cover such issues as pot shop licensing and inventory tracking, marijuana packaging and advertising. The state began accepting applications to open recreational marijuana stores Oct. 1; the first stores are anticipated to open Jan. 1, 2014.
 
TRAINING FOR THE UNEMPLOYED
Hawaii has received funding from the U.S. Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to provide training to the long-term unemployed, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The funding, part of the Workforce Investment Act Adults and Dislocated Worker training program, will support on-the-job training, registered apprenticeship programs and other training initiatives that link unemployed workers with employers.
 
ENVIRONMENTAL INCIDENTS
A new searchable database allows Utah residents to track environmental incidents like chemical spills as well as response efforts. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the database, developed by the Utah Division of Environmental Response and Remediation, provides information on the details and impacts of an incident, materials spilled, the agency charged with oversight of an incident and response efforts. Local health departments charged with overseeing the response to environmental incidents are able to update site cleanup progress within the database. 
 
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