March | April 2017



Virginia Ranked Number 1 for Business

Virginia was recently named the “Best State for Business” by Forbes magazine.  The state moved up one spot from last year’s rankings. The last time the state garnered the top spot was in 2009. Virginia received high marks as a result of the state’s enterprising business policies and solid incentive offerings.
Forbes cited the Mercatus Center in saying Virginia’s tort structure is ideal for businesses. Virginia is one of 24 right-to-work states, with only 4.4 percent of its workers in unions, according to Forbes.
The commonwealth also has been recognized for its flexible incentive programs and diverse economy. Virginia’s $446 billion economy was somewhat more stable than other states during the Great Recession as a result of spending by the federal government and the state’s diverse economy with assets in bioscience, logistics, manufacturing and technology, Forbes reported.
In fact, tech companies have increasingly converged on Virginia as they seek to capitalize on the largest high-tech labor force in the nation, according to TechAmerica Foundation’s annual Cyberstates report. Recently, brought around 2,000 jobs to the state to staff two distribution centers and its cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services. Microsoft invested $1 billion to establish a data center in southern Virginia. With more than 30 companies with sales greater than $3 billion headquartered in Virginia, the state is seventh in terms of aggregation of large companies in the U.S., according to Forbes.
The criteria for Forbes’ Best States rankings include 35 data points related to businesses costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. Business costs, which include labor, energy and taxes, are weighted the most heavily.
Virginia is the only state to rank in the top five in four areas. 
Efforts to rewrite the Alabama Constitution, the longest in the country, have been growing in the past decade. In 2011, the Alabama Legislature created the Constitutional Revision Commission to review and rewrite the entire 1901 constitution, according to The Anniston Star. Advocates for more local control of regulations had hoped for a revision that afforded local governments more authority, but in the end, the articles outlining these powers remained mostly unchanged.
In 2012, North Carolina owed the federal government $2.5 billion for loans taken to ward to pay state unemployment benefits during the Great Recession, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. In response, the legislature took strong measures to cut that debt on a strict schedule, equally increasing taxes on employers and decreasing benefits for the unemployed. Former House Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell was recently appointed to lead the state’s Division of Employment Security and is charged with implementing the policies.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services in September announced an expansion of the client pool eligible for services. Since 2001, Tennessee has categorized people with disabilities based on a four-tier system. In 2012, the state began serving people designated as the second-highest priority. The department on Oct. 1 expanded its vocational rehabilitation services to those in the third-highest priority category, expanding coverage to 1,000 people on the waiting list.
The U.S. Department of Education has granted Texas a conditional waiver for the No Child Left Behind Act . Texas is themaking it the 42nd state to receive relief from the mandated reading and math proficiency requirements, according to the San Antonio Express-News. In 2013, more than 4,000 Texas schools and 72 percent of school districts failed to meet adequate yearly process. Texas’ waiver allows its school districts to provide tutoring services instead of hiring outside vendors.
Last year, Kentucky, one of the first states to adopt the common core state standards in reading and math, began testing its students using the new standards. New statewide data on student test results indicate the commonwealth’s high school students increased their average score by almost 10 percent, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Kentucky’s Performance Rating for Educational Progress, or K-PREP, measures schools not only on academics, but also on student progress, specific socioeconomic and ethnic population’s performance, and college and career readiness.