Capitol Comments

Approximately 56.7 million Americans live with a disability and a significant percentage of these individuals continue to have difficulty finding, securing and retaining employment, despite the unemployment rate hovering at a 50-year low. National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) highlights the expertise and skill sets people with disabilities possess and the vital role they play in America’s economy.

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Vaping burst into the national consciousness this summer when hundreds of people reported lung damage and at least 12 people died from what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “vaping-associated pulmonary injury.”...
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In a national report on policies to promote K-12 instruction in computer science, Indiana is singled out as one of the nation’s five leading states.
Authors of the September study say that 45 percent of the nation’s high schools teach computer science. They note, too, that certain groups of students are more likely to attend a school that does not offer instruction in this subject area — minorities, young people living in rural areas, and low-income students. How can states close this gap? The “2019 State of Computer Science Education: Equity and Diversity” identifies nine policies in areas such as certification, professional development, statewide standards, and a requirement that all secondary schools offer computer science.
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With a law on third-grade reading set to take full effect in the spring and fall of 2020, Michigan legislators are doubling down on a key element of its plan to improve literacy among young learners. The state’s new education budget, signed into law in September, spends an additional $14 million (a total of $21 million) to bring more early-literacy learning coaches into Michigan schools.
“Teaching literacy is complex and challenging,” says Lisa Brown, a program consultant for the Michigan Department of Education. “What the coaches do is break down the research practices for teachers and help with implementation of literacy instruction.”
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Three years after Michigan legislators authorized a pilot program for roadside testing of drug use by motorists (SB 207 and SB 434), law enforcement is taking the initiative to every county in the state. Police use the saliva of drivers to test for the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.

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Nearly every state in this region identifies certain professions and workers that must report known or suspected cases of neglect. Earlier this year in Ohio, for example, police officers joined the state’s list of mandatory reporters, the result of legislation signed into law in late 2018 (HB 137). The Ohio statute already was fairly extensive, covering professions ranging from attorneys and podiatrists, to animal control officers and speech pathologists.
Ohio’s list also includes the professions most commonly included in the mandatory-reporting statutes of states across the country, according to a study released this year by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families. In the Midwest, for example, with the exception of Indiana, every state singles out law enforcement, teachers and other school personnel, and doctors and/or other health care workers as mandatory reporters. Most states in the region also include child care providers, members of the clergy, social workers and counselors.

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Illinois has a new law to ensure that children with diabetes have access to the medical care they need. Under HB 822, which received unanimous approval in the state General Assembly, schools are given the authority to store an undesignated supply of glucagon.
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Opposition to a proposed pipeline that would bring more oil from Canada to refineries around the United States has come from many directions since being introduced more than a decade ago. Landowners and Native American tribes along the route have fought the Keystone XL proposal. Environmental groups have said it would trample on sensitive land, endanger water resources and enlarge the nation’s carbon footprint.
For many years, the state of Nebraska has been at the center of this political and legal fight. But it may now be over in the Cornhusker State, as the result of a ruling this summer by the Nebraska Supreme Court affirming a 2017 Public Service Commission decision to OK a pipeline route.
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Parts of a two-year-old Iowa law that require voters to show identification at the polls were upheld by a state District Court judge in September. Opponents of the 2017 law (HF 516) argued that the ID requirement suppressed voting by certain groups of citizens. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate has said the law aims to “make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.”
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Uninsured rates have dropped sharply since 2010, and poverty rates are down as well. During this decade, income has been distributed less equally among households across the Midwest; still, income inequality is less pronounced in most states in this region compared to the rest of the nation.

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