A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. Senate passes railroad legislation to prevent a strike
After both bills cleared the House on Wednesday, the Senate on Thursday approved a measure meant to avert a railroad strike — without the paid sick days rail workers have been asking for.
Senators passed the bill to force unions to accept a tentative agreement reached earlier this year between railroad managers and their workers and make an imminent strike illegal — without making any changes — by an 80-15 vote. They rejected a measure to offer paid sick leave, 52-43. Both measures required 60 votes to clear the Senate.
“Working together, we have spared this country a Christmas catastrophe in our grocery stores, in our workplaces and in our communities,” said President Biden in a statement. The measure now goes to the President’s desk for his signature, which could happen as early as today.
2. November Jobs Report: U.S. hiring continues at robust pace, complicating Fed’s path
The U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs in November, according to the latest jobs report by the Labor Department, released today. The report shows a continued demand for workers despite the Federal Reserve’s push to curb inflation by tamping down hiring.
The labor market has been surprisingly resilient in the face of successive interest rate increases by the Fed, adding an average of 323,000 jobs for the last six months.
But economists found reasons for concern in the evidence that growth is now largely coming from service sectors like education, health care and hospitality, which powered November’s job gains. Hiring in industries most sensitive to rising borrowing costs, like construction and manufacturing, started to level off.
“I don’t want to paint this as a weak report by any stretch, because it’s not,” said Drew Matus, chief market strategist at MetLife Investment Management. “But I do think there are parts of it that just don’t ring like something that’s repeatable month in and month out.”
3. House Democrats prepare for unfamiliar territory: New leaders, in a minority
Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) was elected Wednesday to lead House Democrats in the next Congress, making history as the first Black person to lead either party in either chamber and taking on the responsibility of keeping the caucus united on policies and messaging as they set their sights on winning back the majority next term.
Jeffries, as well as Minority Whip-elect Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) and Caucus Chair-elect Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), will take on their positions during a moment of transition for the party, which will be fighting to protect two years of legislative victories won under a Democratic president with control of both chambers in Congress.
This news comes after the November 17th announcement from Maryland Democrat and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, that he is stepping down from the role he has held since 2003.
Hoyer said he looks forward to returning to the House Appropriations Committee, where he served during the years when he was not in party leadership.
4. Judge to decide if federal challenge to Maryland’s digital ad tax can continue
A federal challenge to Maryland’s first-in-the-nation digital advertising tax is in limbo after an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge struck down the tax in October, finding it unconstitutional.
Now, U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby must decide if the federal lawsuit can continue despite the state court decision. Central to the federal challenge is the law’s “pass-through prohibition,” which bans digital advertising companies from passing on the cost of the tax directly to consumers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which filed the federal lawsuit in early 2021, claims the prohibition is a restriction on companies’ speech that violates the First Amendment.
5. Will Maryland replicate California’s ban on new gas cars by 2035? Advocates say it must.
Maryland legislators and environmental groups are urging Governor Larry Hogan’s administration to adopt California’s new electric vehicle standards by the end of the year, or risk falling behind California’s vehicle emissions standards.
As of August, California’s regulation requires by model year 2035, all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state will need to be electric, with a maximum of 20% of models being plug-in hybrids.
According to Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, Maryland must eventually do the same. That’s because in 2007, state legislators passed a law pledging to adopt and maintain California’s vehicle emissions standards, which were stricter than the federal government’s.
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