Capitol Comments

In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama the Supreme Court held 5-4 that when determining whether unconstitutional racial gerrymandering occurred—if race was a “predominant motivating factor” in creating districts—one-person-one-vote should be a background factor, not a factor balanced against the use of race.  And Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) does not require a covered jurisdiction to maintain a particular percent of minority voters in minority-majority districts.  The Court sent this case back to the lower court to reconsider in light of its opinion.

Econ Piggy

In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress officially designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” In honor of this month, here are a few stats about women in the United States.

I learned a few things last week when I was visiting with Indiana Rep. Ed Clere, one of the new co-chairs of CSG’s Health Public Policy Committee.

  • That week, the state announced the 100,000th person enrolled in the Medicaid expansion waiver, called HIP 2.0 in Indiana, after the program opened less than a month before. Indiana had three Medicaid managed care organizations already engaged in the state and the state Medicaid office and the
  • ...

The comment period closed for the EPA's proposed update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone on March 17th. Based on recommendations from EPA’s science advisers and staff, the EPA is expected to announce a more stringent standard, likely in the range of 70 to 60 parts per billion, down from the 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion...

CSG Midwest
Iowa became the first state in the Midwest this year to approve a plan to raise taxes for roads, but it may not be the last. According to The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s SF 257 increased the gas and diesel tax by 10 cents (to 31 cents for gas and 22.5 cents for diesel). It will bring in an additional $215 million annually for city, county and state roads. The gas tax in Iowa hadn’t been raised since 1989; the new rates took effect March 1.
 
CSG Midwest
Over the last six years, nearly $2 billion has flowed from Washington, D.C., in support of more than 2,000 Great Lakes-related projects. Much progress has been made under the historic Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, says Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters Coalition, but it’s far from a job done.

“It’s really just a down payment,” Ambs says about federal spending to date. “When you’re talking about what needs to be done to restore the Great Lakes, this initiative needs to go on for years.”

President Obama created the program early in his presidency, building on work that had been done by his predecessor, George W. Bush, through the Great Lakes Regional Collaborative. In each of his proposed annual budgets since fiscal year 2010, Obama has included a line item to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. But will the initiative continue once he leaves office?
CSG Midwest
Illinois lawmakers are hailing a new set of safeguards that they say will improve how the state oversees grants and will protect against fraud and abuse. The Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (HB 2747) was signed into law last year. The plan for implementing this act was announced in March. 
 
 
CSG Midwest
After decades of experience in Nebraska’s public schools, including 15 years as a principal, Sen. Rick Kolowski learned quite a bit about the students he taught and helped graduate. One lesson learned, he says, is that young people need to be prepared for college and careers — now more than ever before. A second lesson is the value of academic and scheduling rigor, which Kolowski says not only challenges students, but also gets them excited about their future.
 
“We need to work on maximizing the junior and senior years of high school,” Kolowski says. “It is especially important that these students have full, rigorous schedules that get them ready for college or a career.”
 
As a legislator, Kolowski is now pushing for a new law that would get the state more involved in delivering a better curriculum to students in the final years of their K-12 careers. LB 343 would reimburse school districts with successful existing programs and offer grants to schools that need help in implementing new ones.
CSG Midwest
 
 
In response to growing concerns about the standardized tests that students must take, legislative proposals have been introduced this year in a handful of Midwestern states.

 

CSG Midwest
Michigan has become the third state in the Midwest to require certain recipients of public benefits to undergo drug testing. Signed into law in late December, HB 4118 and SB 275 will operate as a one-year pilot program in three counties. In those counties, some recipients of cash assistance will be drug-tested based on an “empirically validated substance abuse screening tool.”
 

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