By John G. Matsusaka

Direct citizen participation in the lawmaking process is sometimes believed to be a modern invention that has only recently been grafted onto the “real”—representative— democracy of the country. The idea of citizen lawmaking, however, goes back to New England town meetings in the 18th century, and Massachusetts held a referendum to its constitution as early as 1780.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—State Medicaid programs increasingly are depending on managed care arrangements, Julia Paradise, associate director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, told state legislators attending the CSG Medicaid Leadership Policy Academy in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15-17. “States see managed care as a strategy to extract savings,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a 2014 study, report 259,000 preventable deaths each year. The study examined the top five leading causes of death - heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes, and unintentional injuries - that account for two-thirds of all deaths every year. The rates for these preventable deaths varied enormously across states. Where an individual lives in the United States has a direct effect on their health and, ultimately, their life span. The CDC made several recommendations to states to decrease the number of preventable deaths.

While the Supreme Court’s next term officially begins Oct. 6, its long conference is Sept. 29. The court will review a backlog of petitions that have been piling up over the summer. SCOTUSblog compiles a list of petitions it believes have a reasonable chance of being granted. Looking at long conference petitions and petitions that haven't yet been set for conference, four stand out as having a particularly significant impact on the states, if the court accepts them.

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Colorado election officials were regularly seeing 70, sometimes 80, percent of voters casting their ballots by mail. That’s because the state offered the ability to vote as a permanent absentee. To do so, however, voters had to apply for permanent absentee status. That changed with a 2013 law that standardized the vote-by-mail process. Now, everyone in the state receives a ballot by mail that they can cast by either mailing it back or taking it to a voter service center.

Colorado is among several states in recent years to pass laws improving the election system and increasing voting access.