Valdosta Daily Times


February 2, 2014

The Business of Legislation

Issues that could affect the economy this year

VALDOSTA — It’s hard to predict what a new year will bring for the legislative branch of the United States.

You might end up with something akin to the 111th Congress, which between Jan. 3, 2009 and Jan. 3, 2011 enacted more than 30 acts, or you might end up with something like last year, the first year of the 113th Congress, which enacted four acts last year and one act this past January.

Legislative predictions are, at best, a tough call, but it’s something you want to keep an eye on, regardless of the nature of your business, whether you’re running it from the kitchen table or doubling down on an expansion. And with various members of the House and Senate talking about addressing jobless benefits, minimum-wage increases and immigration, among others, possible legislation or lack thereof could have a far-ranging impact throughout the country and in Lowndes County.

It’s something Dr. Sherman Yehl has seen previously. Before becoming a political science professor with Valdosta State University, Yehl spent decades working with cities, going from an assistant city manager in Iowa to a city manager in Texas and Florida to working as governance advisor in Iraq with USAID.

He works in the classroom now, but he’s seen the ground-level impact legislative acts — or the lack of them — can have on communities. While he would offer the same caveat noted at the beginning of this article, he can make a fair guess as to what could happen as the result of legislation passing or not.

Jobless benefits

With long-term unemployment benefits expiring this past December, the Senate has been having a stalled conversation about whether to extend them or let them die. The Senate is roughly divided by party lines on this issue, though several Republican senators have indicated they’d vote for an extension.

But, even if it passes the Senate, it faces a tougher test in the House, and even if passed, would then return to the Senate.

“The unemployment program really seems to be on the hit list for Republicans for whatever reason,” said Yehl. “I think it’s going to be difficult for the House leadership to pass a bill that the Senate would agree on.”

Unlike some legislation where it’s hard to suss out the impact it has on individuals, unemployment benefits can play a direct role.

“There are some impacts on the economy. Obviously, people who are unemployed have less resources to pay for food, clothing and gas, those types of things. I’m not an economist, so I can’t make any broad proclamations, but even being able to put a little bit of money into the local economy helps.”

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