Southern Pulse Newsletter, May 2023

Let the countdown begin!  We are just about 1 month away from the LARGEST Southern Legislative Conference to date.   Charleston, South Carolina, and the Host Committee are rolling out the red carpet, and we promise you will be impressed. 

Our keynote speakers, policy sessions, government staff track, and learning labs are all booked with outstanding presenters and topics selected by you, our members! We guarantee the robust programming and expert insights will spark conversation and inspire innovation. You might find your next big idea at SLC!

Registration is still open- closes June 16th- so click here to register now!

Looking forward to seeing you in Charleston!

Click here to read Southern Pulse- May 2023

The post Southern Pulse Newsletter, May 2023 appeared first on CSG South.

Interstate Housing Collaborative Examines Current Initiatives, Opportunities

This month, CSG West facilitated its second Interstate Housing Collaborative, virtually convening state legislative housing committee leaders from the West. The event featured conversations with two guest contributors: Nevada Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui and Martin Muoto, CEO and Founder of SoLa Impact.

Jauregui has spearheaded affordable housing policy initiatives during this year’s legislative session, while Muoto’s SoLa Impact is a “family of social impact, real estate funds” focused on preserving and creating high-quality affordable housing in low-income communities.

The Interstate Housing Collaborative examines existing and innovative approaches to address the current housing crisis. Key issues include incentivizing development, rent stabilization policies, alternative financing sources, and permanent supportive housing. To learn more about the collaborative, or about the CSG West Housing Committee, contact Jonathan Lennartz via email at [email protected].

The post Interstate Housing Collaborative Examines Current Initiatives, Opportunities first appeared on CSG West.

Tackling the Housing Affordability Crisis: Zoning Reform in Maine

By Rona Cohen

Five years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a wave of new migration to Maine from states as far away as California, a housing crisis already loomed in the city of Auburn. A former mill town and manufacturing hub once known as “the shoe capital of the world,” the city of 26,000 residents had an aging population, stagnant growth, and major employers like Proctor and Gamble couldn’t find enough workers.

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, who was elected in 2017, took a hard look at the factors hindering young adults and families from putting down roots in the city, and it quickly became clear that they revolved around a lack of access to housing. Specifically, it was a crisis driven by outdated, restrictive, and in some cases, discriminatory zoning regulations.

“There’s a direct correlation between stagnation, degradation, and zoning,” Levesque said during a virtual discussion organized by CSG East on May 19.

Over the course of 2019, Levesque’s administration engaged residents in a citywide planning process, asking for input on how they would reimagine the city for growth and economic sustainability.

“There were 120 residents coming together and envisioning what they wanted the future of Auburn to look like,” Levesque said. “And it was really interesting because everything they wanted — walkability, things to do, entertainment — really needed people. So, we came to the conclusion that our biggest focus was to have people. And in order to have people, you need to have housing.”

In testimony before a state legislative panel last year, Levesque described new measures the city has implemented to transform the housing landscape, including:

  • Eliminating single-family exclusionary housing zones;
  • Enacting ordinances enabling accessory dwelling units (ADUs) anywhere in the city;
  • Eliminating parking minimums;
  • Increasing density by allowing developers to build 16 units per acre, up from a previous four, if sufficient infrastructure existed;
  • Reducing the number of complicated residential zones from 32 to eight;
  • Identifying prime development areas;
  • Providing grants for energy efficiency;
  • Eliminating 40 percent of permitting fees; and
  • Simplifying the process for rehabilitating existing buildings or developing new housing, including creating a flat, $25 filing fee for new home construction.

Levesque said that by removing zoning barriers, the city of Auburn hopes to make it as easy as possible to build. Municipal staff will guide individuals through the process of building a single-family home, or duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, which are all now legal in the city. Over the last two years, more than 800 new market-rate housing units have been built in the city or are in various stages of the planning process, thanks to the reforms they have implemented.

“I can’t stress this enough: It’s about the individual. We believe people will solve the housing crisis if given the tools and the ability to do so,” said Levesque.

A population influx
In a sense, Auburn’s efforts were prescient. Over the last two years, Maine has experienced a net migration of 34,000 new residents, which is a significant influx to a state with a total population of 1.4 million. The majority of these new residents are under the age of 45, which adds to the state’s housing constraints, said former House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, who now serves as a senior advisor in the Maine Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

Home prices are rising: the state’s median home price jumped by 12 percent from 2021 to 2022, and anecdotal evidence suggests that prohibitive housing prices are making it impossible for some qualified workers to move there. In the city of Rockland, where the median price of a dwelling soared by 40 percent last year, the town hired a new police chief from out of state who was unable to find an affordable home – and ultimately, had to turn down the job.

“So this is not just an issue that’s impacting the private sector; it’s also impacting the public sector and our municipalities in terms of recruiting employees to work in education, public works and obviously, fire and police,” said Fecteau during the May 19 virtual discussion.

The state needs to build around 1,000 affordable housing units each year to meet demand, but until recently, annual construction only met a quarter of that need. In the last couple of years, however, new construction jumped to nearly 800 units in 2021 and just under 1,000 last year, spurred largely by new policies aimed at boosting development.

During his tenure as speaker, Fecteau made housing reform a priority. He established a commission that convened a wide range of stakeholders to consider how to reform zoning and land use to encourage more affordable development. The resulting legislation, enacted in 2022, included most of the municipal recommendations already adopted by the city of Auburn. The legislation established the following three key policies:

  • A density bonus for affordable housing projects that meet certain income requirements.
  • It enables up to four units of housing on any lot that is designated for residential use. The provision makes Maine the third state in the nation, after California and Oregon, that now allows building up to four units on lots that previously only permitted one single-family home.
  • It reduces nearly all barriers to building accessory dwelling units across the state.

The law created a Housing Opportunity Fund that offers grants and technical assistance to municipalities to develop new policies and plans to increase the supply of housing.

Fecteau added that the legislation included certain restrictions to allay concerns about excessive sprawl. For example, additional density would be permitted only in areas deemed “growth areas” based on local comprehensive plans. In towns without comprehensive plans in place, new development would be limited to areas with adequate water and sewer infrastructure. “It’s about nuance, and I think we were able to strike that balance,” he said.

Leveraging federal funds
Prior to the passage of LD 2003, Fecteau helped to forge a number of incentives to stimulate new, affordable housing development.

In 2019, he sponsored legislation creating a low-income housing tax credit that enabled the state to leverage federal funds. The law provides $80 million over eight years for the creation of multifamily affordable housing available to residents earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. Last year, the state added another $25 million to the fund, and this year, Governor Janet Mills’ proposed budget contains an additional $35 million for the program.

Additional initiatives include:

  • Rural Affordable Rental Program: Last year the state invested $20 million of federal American Rescue Plan funds in this new program, which is designed to build smaller projects, ranging from five to 18 rental units, that are intended to fit the character of rural communities. This year, Governor Mills’ budget proposes another $35 million for the program, which is available to residents making under 80 percent of the area median income.
  • Innovation Fund for Attainable Housing: This is a proposed $10 million fund to create new programs around housing solutions.
  • Housing First: Officials are also moving to establish a statewide initiative to tackle homelessness using the Housing First model, which has been implemented in cities and states across North America. The approach provides access to permanent housing for individuals and families without preconditions – such as treatment or sobriety requirements — and offers support services in an effort to ensure that people will stay housed. There are currently three sites that incorporate the Housing First policy, and officials are hoping to build 14 additional sites across the state with the goal of effectively ending chronic homelessness in Maine, said Fecteau.

Achieving the American dream
Getting public buy-in for a major zoning overhaul can be a contentious and emotional process, particularly among residents concerned that changing the design of their communities will diminish the value of their homes, which is typically a family’s largest source of wealth.

Fecteau admitted that while there was some pushback from groups who opposed the reforms set in motion by LD 2003, there was momentum for change across the state.

“There were probably twice as many people who were supportive of taking on this work because this is being felt in all our communities — people are struggling to find housing and employers are also struggling to find employees — so the timing was perfect.”

In Auburn, Levesque heard complaints from residents worried the reforms would change the “character” of their neighborhoods – a word that he interpreted as code for people of different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Levesque found this thinking to be so discriminatory that the city is in the process of stripping the word “character” from all of its zoning ordinances, starting with its comprehensive plan. The opposition comprised a group of “a couple dozen people at every meeting” who fought zoning changes that would allow apartments or accessory dwelling units in areas that had historically been zoned for single-family residences.

“Eventually, I just put them in a box and didn’t listen to them anymore because it all stemmed from one thing: They thought that success was finite and that the more people that achieved success through home ownership, through having a place to live, somehow diminished the amount of success that they and their family had,” said Levesque. “I found that immoral, and I told them that. Because growth is good, housing is good, the American dream is a reality — if we allow it to happen.”

This article was first published by CSG East.

Protecting Disabled Veterans in the Workforce

By Joe Paul

As long as there has been war, veterans have been coming home. Many have injuries that make work difficult or make some careers impossible. Questions surround veterans who have sustained physical or mental injury in service of their country. Will I be able to work? How can I provide for my family? Will someone hire a veteran with injuries? Given the prevalence of these concerns, there is a federal support system in place to assist veterans.

The two laws integral to protecting veterans in the workplace are the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act. USERRA provides requirements for reemploying veterans both with and without service-related injuries, while Title I of the ADA outlines what qualifies as disabilities and accommodations. USERRA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Justice.

USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment based on their military status, including military obligations resulting from duties as part of the National Guard or Reserves. Reemployment protection for persons with or without service-related disabilities is also included.

All veterans are covered under USERRA regardless of disability status. The veteran is also protected by ADA if their disability falls under the ADA. Employers must make “reasonable efforts” to help a veteran returning to employment become qualified to perform the position they would have had if employment had not been interrupted by military service or if they sustained a disability during their military service.

Title I of the ADA, enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and applying to all workers, prohibits private, state and local government employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals based on disability. Having a disability or having a history of disability cannot factor into any aspect of employment, such as hiring, promotions, assignments, training, termination, or any other terms, conditions or privileges of employment, including questions of access to training or social events that are employer sponsored.

If a veteran is diagnosed with PTSD, or if the employer believes that the veteran may have PTSD, it is illegal for the employer to refuse to hire the veteran if they are otherwise qualified for the job. The ADA also limits the types of medical information employers can obtain and strictly prohibits disability related harassment and retaliation. Section 501 applies those standards to the federal executive branch and U.S. Postal Service, among others.

If an employer can prove that employment of a person with disabilities would cause an undue hardship, employers can propose reasonable alternatives. Generally, undue hardships come at significant difficulty or expense to the employer. The ADA National Network defines “undue hardship” as an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense” given any number of circumstances. The size, resources, nature and structure of the employer’s operation must be considered. Many, if not all, of these provisions do not apply to employers of less than 15 employees. For example: if a chair lift is requested, an employer could propose a ramp as a reasonable alternative.

Many veterans self-eliminate themselves from viable career opportunities by thinking their injuries either disqualify them for a job or that performing the job would not be possible given their injuries. The reality is that veterans are protected if they meet the ADA’s definition, and the veteran is otherwise qualified for the job. An individual with a disability is a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment, such as a substantial limitation prior to undergoing rehabilitation; and (3) is regarded or treated by an employer as having such an impairment, even if no substantial limitation exists.

If the veteran is qualified for the job by meeting the employer’s requirements for education, training, experience, skills, licensure or other requirements, and would be successful in the position with or without accommodations, they must be considered. There are additional requirements if the employer is the recipient of federal funds.

Disabled veterans should be aware of the 2008 ADA Amendments Act which added the term “major life activities,” and defined them to include not only activities such as walking, seeing, hearing and concentrating, but also the operation of major functions of the brain and neurological system. A list of reasonable accommodations for veterans with any of these disabilities can be found on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website.

An impairment should not prevent or severely or significantly restrict a veteran’s performance of a major life activity to be considered substantially limiting. The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made without regard to any mitigating measures, including medications or assistive devices such as prosthetic limbs, that you may use to lessen your impairment’s effects. Impairments that are episodic or in remission, such as epilepsy or PTSD, are considered disabilities if they would be substantially limiting when active.

CSG East job opening: Policy Analyst

The Policy Analyst is responsible, through self-direction and in concert with the Director of Policy, for providing policy analysis and research support to designated constituents, including one or more CSG East policy committees, to monitor, understand, and share analysis on relevant state policy issues. The Policy Analyst conducts research, writes, and edits policy papers, articles, and other documents and correspondence, coordinates webinars, contributes to various group projects and team activities as directed, and represents the CSG East region and constituents in external forums as appropriate. The Policy Analyst also contributes to publications, online resources, and social media efforts as directed.

The Policy Analyst is a service-oriented role that allows for exercise of independent judgment under the direction of the Director of Policy and the CSG East Director. The Policy Analyst maintains a collaborative relationship with the Director of Policy, the CSG Eastern Office Director, other staff, and external parties.

This opportunity is based in our New York City office but offers flexibility to work from home part of the work week.


Apply here


What you’ll do: 

Specific responsibilities of the Meetings and Operations Coordinator include the following: 

  • Administers and provides staff support of assigned committee and program activities, including programmatic and logistical duties. Policy committees comprise state and provincial officials from the 18 CSG East member jurisdictions (New England and Mid-Atlantic states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eastern Canadian provinces.)
  • Conducts policy research, surveys, and develops suggestions for the consideration by policymakers.
  • Maintains communication, conducts outreach, and establishes rapport with legislators, as well as with federal, state, provincial, and local government officials, and representatives of other regional entities.
  • Demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a non-partisan, non-advocacy perspective.
  • Staffs one or more standing committee(s) of the CSG Eastern Office. Preference given to candidates with background in housing and fiscal issues. Specific duties include working with committee officers and members to identify, prioritize, and pursue committee objectives, including the development and production of committee workplans, meeting agendas, events, and other deliverables.
  • Develops and manages relationships with state officials and policymakers, including legislative and other governmental contacts.
  • Serves as principal staff liaison to two or more Eastern jurisdictions (states, provinces, territories).
  • Responsible for tracking state sessions and coordinating visits to member state capitols to establish and maintain professional relationships, networks, and assist with promoting CSG East programs and services.
  • Prepares concise written responses to information inquiries initiated by members of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
  • Participates in the planning, organizing, and convening of policy workshops, online webinars, technical tours, and state visits by identifying topics, arranging for speakers, supporting logistical planning, preparing information, and participating in such programs.
  • Contributes to Eastern Office publications, web-based resources, and social media efforts as directed.
  • Serves as member of other in-house teams as assigned.
  • Participates in/contributes to various CSG-wide activities.

What you’ll bring: 

  • Bachelor’s or advanced degree in public policy, political science, or related field (additional relevant experience may be substituted for education requirement).
  • Three years’ experience in state government, public policy, association management, or related field.
  • Research, writing, and policy analysis experience preferred.
  • Working knowledge of the legislative, executive, and judicial process.
  • Experience working collaboratively with multiple partners, with a preference for having worked with public officials.
  • Ability to interact effectively with diverse people in different contexts and foster equity and inclusion through self-awareness, cultural sensitivity, and valuing others.
  • Dedication to public service with an unfailing commitment to act with civility, be nonpartisan in performing CSG duties, and be a responsible steward of member and donor funds.
  • Exhibits appropriate interpersonal skills and relationships with both internal and external partners and maintains open and frequent communication with legislative members.
  • Understanding of state and federal legislative processes.
  • Maintains a network of state government contacts and resources.
  • Excellent research, writing, editing, and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to work independently and be an approachable, collaborating member of a team.
  • Ability to organize, prioritize and complete multiple projects in a detail-oriented manner.
  • Microsoft Suite and computer competency.
  • Travels by plane, train, and vehicle, overnight and for varying lengths, to fulfill duties and responsibilities as needed.

How you apply: 

If you’re interested in helping us facilitate the exchange of ideas among state leaders, you should upload the following elements with your application:

  1. Cover letter explaining your interest in the position and CSG East. Applications without a cover letter will not be considered. (See this article from Indeed on how to write a simple cover letter.)
  2. Resume

CSG believes that pay equity and pay transparency to advance workplace fairness. Compensation will be equitable and based on experience and education. The salary range for this position, based in New York City, is $65,000 to $80,000. This salary range is subject to change based on work location and market conditions.

Qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to characteristics including but not limited to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or protected veteran status. CSG is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer.


CSG, Colorado Partner to Implement Civic Sector Apprenticeships

By Mary Wurtz

State and local governments across the country are beginning to use apprenticeships to address public sector workforce shortages. Aspects of registered apprenticeships, like paid on-the-job learning, low- to no-cost training and mentorship, can create new pathways to public service careers for individuals who otherwise cannot access traditional education or credentials. This is especially true for historically underserved and low-income communities.

Governments use apprenticeship to fill shortages in trade industries, like construction, but also in non-traditional fields for apprenticeship, like information technology, human resources and health care. Registered Apprenticeship Programs, or RAPs, offer high-quality career opportunities that address such trade industry shortages. RAPs are industry-vetted and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency. Individuals in apprenticeship programs obtain paid work experience, receive progressive wage increases, earn a nationally recognized portable credential and potentially earn college credit.

On June 16, 2022, Gov. Jared Polis signed Executive Order D 2022-027 to expand the use of Registered Apprenticeship Programs, or RAPs, for Colorado’s state workforce. The order set a goal to increase the number of RAPs offered by state agencies and departments by 20% by the end of fiscal year 2022-23. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Personnel and Administration are responsible for meeting the goal, which includes:

  • Removing administrative and statutory barriers to RAPs.
  • Coordinating with related instruction providers, such as institutions of higher education, to enhance RAPs with additional credentials and certifications.
  • Developing an equity-driven recruitment and retention strategy.
  • Providing state agencies with technical assistance and resources.

The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation worked with Apprenticeship Colorado, which is a program of the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Personnel and Administration, to develop a Civic Sector Apprenticeship Toolkit. The toolkit, spanning more than 70 pages, covers the basic components of Registered Apprenticeship; how to sponsor or join an existing RAP; funding apprenticeship programs; recruitment and hiring of apprentices; supporting and protecting apprentices; and advancing apprentices within the State of Colorado personnel system.

The Civic Sector Apprenticeship Toolkit is geared toward state agency leadership and program developers and is tailored to the requirements of Colorado’s personnel system. Designed as a living document, the toolkit can be adapted by Apprenticeship Colorado and the Department of Personnel and Administration as its apprenticeship policies change.

CSG reviewed the state’s personnel system and collective bargaining agreement for state employees to identify barriers to implementing state government RAPs and potential solutions for overcoming them. As part of this work, CSG also partnered with Gov. Polis’ office to develop resources on aligning Registered Apprenticeship Programs with AmeriCorps service.

In total, Colorado has six apprenticeship programs sponsored by state agencies, including programs within the Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections and Office of Information Technology. In addition to filling personnel needs, state agencies began leveraging the RAP model to deliver core programs, like the Department of Labor and Employment’s Workforce Development Professional program for One Stop Centers and the Department of Local Affairs Operations Manager Program.

Apprenticeship Colorado at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is committed to expanding the RAP model across both the public and private sector within the state. Their team offers customized assistance to employers and organizations that want to build their own RAP or join an existing program, as well as supportive services to programs post-registration. Colorado employers are encouraged to contact Apprenticeship Colorado to access its services. The CSG Center of Innovation wants to help states continue to address their own workforce challenges through apprenticeships, work-based learning and other evidence-based career pathways. To learn more about how the Center of Innovation can partner with states on similar work, contact Mary Wurtz via email at [email protected].