Capitol Comments

On November 10, 2015 the Department of Justice released a legislative package meant to benefit state election administrators as well as members of the military, veterans and their families. Specific amendments have been proposed to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) that will make the voting process for absentee voting citizens more convenient. The amendments are designed to increase the number of valid absentee ballots received as well as encourage voter participation in state elections and not just...

Eight states—Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah and Washington—raised their gas taxes in 2015. Two other states—Kentucky and North Carolina—made adjustments to their gas tax mechanisms to make revenues more reliable. The state of Delaware meanwhile enacted legislation to raise several vehicle and license fees in order to fund road repair and maintenance. And states such as Maine and Texas approved ballot measures that will result in more money going to transportation. All that activity surpassed 2013 when six states produced major transportation revenue packages. But despite all that activity and despite the fact that 2015 could see Congress approve a new long-term federal transportation bill, 2016 also could see a large number of states join the club, particularly if many of those states that have come close in recent years or have had processes in place to examine revenue options end up moving forward. Here’s a roundup of the states to watch in transportation funding next year and some additional resources where you can read more.

Like many cases involving the death penalty, Williams v. Pennsylvania is a long story.

Terrance Williams was sentenced to death for killing Amos Norwood during a 1984 robbery in Philadelphia when Williams was eighteen. Williams claimed at trial he did not know Norwood, who was fifty-six.

In 2012 Williams’ co-conspirator Marc Draper revealed, among other things, that the prosecutor urged him to falsely testify that the motive for the murder was robbery, not that Norwood had sexually abused Williams, and the prosecutor wrote an undisclosed letter to the parole board on behalf of Draper. A hearing revealed the prosecutor failed to disclose extensive evidence of Norwood’s homosexual ephebophilia (attraction to teenagers).

After the passage of Megan's Law in 1994, state governments began imposing residency restrictions on registered sex offenders. Most of these statutes prohibit sex offenders from living within a set distance of schools or daycare centers. Some states impose additional restrictions, such as prohibiting sex offenders from living near public parks, youth centers, churches, or other places youth may congregate. Some states lack residency restriction statutes, allowing local governments to determine their own restrictions.

On October 10, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill passed by the California State Assembly that will automatically register to vote all eligible voters when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses at any California Department of Motor Vehicles branch, instead of requiring them to fill out a form. Those eligible may opt out of voter registration and those existing registered voters will still be able to change party affiliation or cancel their registration entirely.  Approximately 6.6 million unregistered but...

When the Virginia legislature redrew congressional voting districts following the 2010 census it increased the number of minority voters in District 3, the state’s only majority-minority district, from 53.1 to 56.3 percent.

The plan was challenged before a three-judge federal district court in Virginia. Plaintiffs argued that the plan unconstitutionally packed minority voters into District 3 thus diluting their ability to influence races in other districts.

Medicare pays between $16,500 and $33,000 for hip or knee replacements depending upon the hospital and geographic area of the country, but with a new payment program Medicare expects to save $343 over the next five years.

On Nov. 16, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced they would begin to make bundled payments for these surgeries in 800 hospitals in 67 geographic areas under a model program over the next five years.

Recently, the Supreme Court’s already interesting docket got even more high profile. First, it agreed to decide whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) birth control mandate violates religious nonprofits rights. Then, it agreed to decide whether a Texas abortion law is unconstitutional.

CSG Midwest
For most new state legislators, only a few weeks separate their November election victories and their first day in office. There is a lot to learn in that short time frame — everything from the legislative process and constituent services, to information about the staffing and resources available to them.
Orienting these new members, then, is crucial to helping make the legislative branch run smoothly, especially in states and in election years with high rates of turnover due to term limits and other factors. Offered in every Midwestern state legislature, new-member orientations are run by nonpartisan staff, often with oversight from legislative leaders or a joint or bipartisan legislative committee.
CSG Midwest
In 2014, the first year that many provisions in the federal Affordable Care Act began to take effect, more than 300,000 people in Minnesota still did not have health insurance. That figure amounts to 5.9 percent of the population — in a state where the rates of uninsured have been among the lowest in the nation and where Medicaid was expanded early on to cover more low-income residents.
“There is more hard work that needs to be done,” Stefan Gildemeister, program director for health economics at the Minnesota Department of Health, says about reducing the number of residents without health coverage.
The Affordable Care Act, while contributing to a rise in insurance coverage across the Midwest, has not been a cure-all. In fact, in some states, the percentage of people without coverage still hovers around the double digits, federal data for 2014 show. Who remains uninsured in this country?
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, many of these individuals (49 percent of the total uninsured population) are eligible for some kind of financial assistance, either through state Medicaid and children’s health insurance programs or via subsidies on the newly established health care exchanges.