Friday Roundup: Environmental policy, Colorado limits initiatives, Texas pensions, Portland surtax, localism, and graduation plateaus

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

National Conference of State Legislatures: States May Find Themselves in Driver’s Seat for Environmental Policy

It’s impossible to predict what may become of recent EPA rules and many of the executive actions taken by the Obama administration. Going forward, some states may choose to impose more stringent laws and regulations aimed at lessening the impacts of industrial processes and human activities, especially if they see a rollback happening federally that is misaligned with larger environmental strategies already in place. On the flip side, other states may use the likely shift in the executive branch to expand manufacturing or encourage energy development projects that have been previously curtailed.

Texas Tribune: Billions in pension shortfalls threatening Texas cities’ budgets

The state’s largest cities face tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities to employee pension funds, a series of separate financial situations that is spurring massive account withdrawals, ongoing lawsuits, mounting political friction and national media attention. 

Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio collectively face $22.6 billion worth of pension fund shortfalls, according to a new report from credit rating and financial analysis firm Moody’s. 

Denver Post: Amendment 71 made it harder to get initiatives on the ballot

But while initiative-weary voters clearly wanted to make it harder to add things to the constitution, there’s another consequence that many may not have intended.

All the amendments that have been made over the last 140 years to make Colorado’s constitution one of the longest in the country — from legal marijuana to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to the new minimum wage — just became that much harder to change.

 American Enterprise Institute: The case for a rump TPP

…the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP presents the other eleven TPP nations with difficult alternatives. They can stand by and just allow the TPP to lapse; they can turn to the Chinese-led option, the Regional Comprehensive and Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement; or, finally, they can recreate the TPP without the United States. This analysis will argue that recreating the TPP is by far the best course for the eleven remaining TPP members.

New Geography: How the Left and Right Can Learn to Love Localism

By 64 percent to 26 percent, according to a 2015 poll—Americans say that they feel “more progress” on critical issues take place on the local rather than the federal level. Majorities of all political affiliations and all demographic groups hold this same opinion.

The preference for localism also extends to attitudes toward state governments, many of which have grown more intrusive in recent years. Some 72 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, trust their local governments more than they do their state institutions…

Washington Post: Supply of U. S. high school graduates is stagnating, posing challenges for colleges

The nation’s total output of high school graduates peaked in 2013 at nearly 3.5 million and is projected to stagnate for most of the next decade, but the Hispanic share is expected to boom, according to a new report.

The demographic shifts point to major recruiting challenges for colleges following an era of steady growth in high school graduates that started in the late 1990s…

Jeff Strohl, director of research for Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, said colleges face major recruiting hurdles. One is persuading students to apply. He cited federal data showing that the share of recent high school graduates enrolled in college fell from 70.1 percent in 2009 to 65.9 percent in 2013.

“The disheartening part is that fewer students are trying to go to college,” he said. 

New York Times: Portland Adopts Surcharge on CEO Pay in Move vs. Income Inequality

Moving to address income inequality on a local level, the City Council in Portland, Ore., voted on Wednesday to impose a surtax on companies whose chief executives earn more than 100 times the median pay of their rank-and-file workers.

The surcharge, which Portland officials said is the first in the nation linked to chief executives’ pay, would be added to the city’s business tax for those companies that exceed the pay threshold. Currently, roughly 550 companies that generate significant income on sales in Portland pay the business tax.

Under the new rule, companies must pay an additional 10 percent in taxes if their chief executives receive compensation greater than 100 times the median pay of all their employees. Companies with pay ratios greater than 250 times the median will face a 25 percent surcharge.