Friday Roundup: Paid leave, the tech skills gap, charter public schools, Tri-City boom, permits for MBT, ballot initiatives

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:

Seattle Times (Melinda Gates op-ed): Passage of paid-family-leave act shows power of working together

Washington’s new paid family and medical leave policy makes me proud of my state. It’s not just the groundbreaking policy, which fills a need for every worker in Washington. It’s also the way our state government worked together to hammer out a paid-leave bill that people across the political spectrum wanted to support…

But just as important as the policy itself is the way Washington arrived at it. The bill was passed with strong bipartisan support, including sponsors from both parties. A Democratic governor, a Republican Senate and a Democratic House rallied around the law.

The collaboration didn’t stop with our elected officials. Businesses large and small, labor and advocacy groups across Washington saw the need for paid leave, and they worked together with legislators to design a bill they could support.

Wired: The Tech Skills Gap Will Test Foxconn’s New Wisconsin Factory

With this announcement, Foxconn could play a role in supplying the high-skilled advanced manufacturing work people want. According to one 2016 White House report, over the next decade, the United States will need to fill 3.5 million advanced manufacturing jobs. And yet, that same report predicts that some 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled because of the skills gap in the United States. New plants of this sort won’t work unless the government funds training programs to make sure people have the skills to do the job.

Seattle Times (Talton): Rural internet can help shrink economic gap

According to a report last year from the Brookings Institution, 39 percent of rural areas lacked broadband with decent speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps). That compares with 4 percent for urban areas…

Another report by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration showed 69 percent of rural residents using the internet vs. 75 percent of urban residents….Meanwhile, poverty and lack of opportunity are often concentrated in rural America.

Tri-City Herald: Thanks to Auto-Zone, Tri-Cities Could Shatter Jobs Record

The Tri-City economy is about to post its best jobs month ever.

Unemployment fell to 4.8 percent in June in the Mid-Columbia, compared to 5.2 percent in May and 6.2 percent a year ago, according to figures released Tuesday by the Washington Employment Security Department…

There is good reason to think July will be a banner month. Memphis, Tenn.-based Auto Zone Inc. began operations of its much-anticipated distribution warehouse in Pasco this month. 

The Fortune 500 company invested more than $50 million in the project and hired about 200 people to service its auto parts retail network.

A controversial Spokane ballot initiative would fine fossil fuel businesses planning to transport their commodity through city limits, which opponents say violates federal law, and would harm Washington’s trade network and industry…

John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington State Farm Bureau, expressed concern with the initiative’s goal and its effect on the agriculture industry.

“Rail is the lifeblood of our state and for our region. This is a serious threat to our farmers, growers, ranchers, manufacturers and exporters who depend on rail to move through Spokane,” he said in the KWC release.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: Public Charter School Students Graduate from College at Three to Five Times National Average

New research from The 74 Million finds that public charter school students are graduating from college at three to five times the national average for children from the lowest-income families. The research, reported through the multimedia series The Alumni, focuses on nine large charter school networks that have instituted innovative programs and supports to get their students to and through college—helping to ensure students earn a four-year bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating from high school.

State legislators across the country fought back this year against a recent surge in citizen-generated ballot initiatives by modifying or scrapping voter-approved laws and passing new laws to make it harder for people to put measures on the ballot in the first place.

South Dakota state legislators scrapped voter-approved campaign finance and lobbying restrictions. Maine lawmakers repealed a new tax on the wealthy. And in Florida, lawmakers decided a new law legalizing medical marijuana wouldn’t allow users to smoke it — prompting a lawsuit by one of the primary backers of the initiative.

There were 76 citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in 2016, the highest number in a decade. The renewed interest in 2016 stemmed in part from legislatures’ reluctance to deal with controversial issues like marijuana legalization and minimum wage hikes.