Rep. Sells’ Newsletter: Non-competes, Rail Safety, State Budget

Banning excessive non-compete agreements

Over 20 percent of American workers are subject to non-compete clauses in their contracts, including janitors, hair-stylists, technology workers, doctors, musicians, and fast-food workers.

signing contract

Non-compete clauses typically require workers to wait for a year or more after leaving an employer before they can work for another company in the same industry.

While it may make sense for some higher-paid employees, so they do not immediately go to work for a competitor, the practice has become too common in jobs that don’t involve the same level of knowledge or information.

House Bill 1450 curbs these unfair agreements, which will help ensure lower and middle-income employees have the economic mobility they need to have financial security. It passed the House on March 12.

oil train

Rail safety measures will protect workers, communities

The House and Senate recently each passed one of a  pair of rail safety measures that would protect both rail workers and the public from high-hazard, flammable trains. Communities along rail routes across the state are seeing an increase in rail shipments of Bakken crude oil and other dangerous, flammable materials.

House Bill 1841 establishes minimum crew size requirements for freight and passenger trains and trains carrying hazardous materials. With U.S. rail carriers reducing train crew sizes sometimes down to only one crew member, these minimums are needed to ensure both worker and public safety.

Senate Bill 5579 requires oil producers to meet safer vapor pressure standards prior to shipment from the Bakken region, in order to reduce the risks posed by shipping highly flammable crude oil. It also imposes fines of up to $2,500 per day per rail tank car for violations.

Wipeout: State budget surplus meets education ‘bow wave’

Spending decisions in previous legislative sessions have impacts on future budgets, also known as a “bow wave.” That’s the case with money the bipartisan school funding agreement appropriated in 2017, and additional funds appropriated last year to amply fund K-12 schools. The Legislature has to keep funding schools each year – in other words, it’s not a one-time expenditure.


The funding increase from last year means an additional $4.2 billion is needed to maintain that level of spending in this next two-year budget.

You may have heard that the state has billions in surplus funds. It does. But coincidentally, that surplus is just about equal to the additional $4.2 billion in education funding needs, which wipes out the surplus (this was before the most recent revenue forecast, which added around $500 million for the two-year budget).

If we want to improve our mental health system so that our friends and family members get help in a crisis; or improve special education programs allowing ALL kids to thrive; or make higher education more accessible and affordable, we have to figure out a way to pay for these investments.

I’m sure funding will be a hot topic until session adjourns on April 28. If we’re going to raise more money, I say let’s not increase the burden on low- and middle-income families and ask the very wealthy to also invest in our communities. Did you know the poorest people in the state pay six times more as a percent of their income than the richest people do? That doesn’t make sense!

My goal for any funding ideas would be this: If you’re not a multimillionaire and you don’t own a mansion, you won’t see any tax increases – in fact, you might see a drop in some taxes.

I’ll have more on this in the upcoming weeks so stay tuned.

If you’d like more information on these or any other legislative issues, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.


Sells sig