Capitol Comments

There is no question that dental sealants prevent tooth decay and school sealant programs have been found to reduce the incidence of tooth decay by an average of 60 percent. 

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report that grades states on how well they are reaching third graders, whether high-need schools are providing dental sealant programs and what other state policies are in place to encourage this evidence-based...

The Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in Oneok v. Learjet is a solid win for states, consumer protection, and the Ninth Circuit. The Court held the Natural Gas Act does not preempt state-law antitrust lawsuits alleging price manipulation that affect both federally regulated wholesale natural-gas prices and nonfederally regulated retail natural-gas prices.

Historically, federal regulation of the natural-gas industry has been divided into three segments:  production, interstate gas pipelines (wholesale), and local gas distribution (retail). The federal Natural Gas Act regulates only the second segment—the interstate shipment of gas including rate setting—states regulate the other segments. Since deregulation in the 1970s, pipeline wholesalers have sold natural gas at market rate based on price indices of voluntarily reported data of natural gas sales. In 2003 the indices were found to be inaccurate because natural-gas traders had been reporting false data. 

In this week’s issue of The Current State, CSG’s weekly e-newsletter, I write about the factors that allowed Georgia and Iowa to be successful this year in passing legislation to fund transportation. Georgia and Iowa are two of the five states that have passed major funding measures so far this year. Iowa Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman and Georgia House Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts told me that gubernatorial leadership, uncertainty about what’s going to happen at the federal level and the lessons of past failures all played a role in their 2015 success. In this unused portion of my interviews with the lawmakers, they also suggest an inclusive process helped pave the way to success. I also have items on Georgia’s new electric vehicle fees and South Dakota’s road to success as well as a look at some key meetings coming up this Spring.

In a 6-3 decision in Rodriguez v. United States the Supreme Court held that a dog sniff conducted after a completed traffic stop violates the Fourth Amendment. 

Officer Struble pulled over Dennys Rodriguez after he veered onto the shoulder of the highway and jerked back on the road. Officer Struble ran a records check on Rodriguez, then questioned his passenger and ran a records check on the passenger and called for backup, and next wrote Rodriguez a warning ticket. Seven or eight minutes passed between Officer Struble issuing the warning, back up arriving, and Officer Struble’s drug-sniffing dog alerting for drugs.  Rodriguez argued that prolonging the completed traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment.

CSG Midwest
When it comes to improving health outcomes, many policymakers look first to strategies that can provide better care for people who are ill. But some experts argue that medical care itself accounts only for a small part of positive health outcomes. The vast majority of interventions that can make people healthier, and reduce spending on health care, need to happen long before someone enters a doctor’s office.
That’s why states across the Midwest are exploring ways to address so-called “social determinants” to health — from low levels of income and education, to high levels of community violence, to a lack of access to housing and transportation.
CSG Midwest
Of all the bills considered and signed into law so far this year in the Midwest’s state capitols, one has captured the most attention around the country: Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Passed by comfortable margins (mostly along partisan lines) in the Republican-led House and Senate, SB 101 was signed into law in late March.
What followed were calls for boycotts of Indiana (Connecticut’s governor, for example, signed an executive order banning state-funded travel there), concerns raised by top business leaders, and a front-page editorial in The Indianapolis Star to “Fix This Now.” The backlash over Indiana’s RFRA centered on its potential impact on gay and lesbian rights. Would a business, for example, be legally protected if it refused to provide services to a gay patron or same-sex couple?
CSG Midwest
The United States and Canada signed a preclearance agreement in March that will allow people traveling from one country to the other to be prescreened before they cross the border. When fully implemented, thisAgreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport will allow U.S. agents to be stationed in Canada (and Canadian agents in the United States) and to carry out immigration, customs and agriculture inspections of people entering the U.S. from Canada by any mode of transportation.
A preclearance program for airline passengers is already in place at eight of the largest Canadian airports; it will be expanded under the new accord.
CSG Midwest
Across the Great Lakes region this year, bills have been introduced to ban the manufacture and sale of certain products containing plastic microbeads. This legislative trend began last year, in response to a two-year scientific study of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Its conclusion: Microbeads (tiny particles that are often too small to be captured by wastewater systems and that are also part of the trash left on beaches) account for the highest count of plastic pollution in the freshwater system.
CSG Midwest
In 1985, Minnesota became the first U.S. state to allow and provide funding for high school juniors and seniors to take college-level courses. Thirty years later, the program has evolved and grown, and it may expand once again this year under a plan to improve affordability and accessibility to “concurrent enrollment”: students taking college-level courses at their own high schools.
This opportunity to earn college credits without leaving a high school campus has clearly caught on: Since 2009, participation in concurrent enrollment has grown by 24 percent.
But Minnesota Sen. Greg Clausen, a principal for 15 years in the Twin Cities area, says the state’s current level of support for the program — $2 million in net aid per year — isn’t enough to address student demand for these courses.
“It’s an underfunded program right now,” says Clausen, who has proposed an increase in state funding, to $9 million a year, under legislation introduced this year (SF 995). “We allocated [up to] $150 per student registration, and right now, that does not cover the cost. So we have our secondary schools paying out of their general fund.”
Additional state dollars would be used to reimburse school districts, expand the number of courses offered by postsecondary institutions, and pay for teacher and staff development. The bill would also make ninth- and 10th-graders eligible for concurrent enrollment, at the discretion of their districts.
CSG Midwest
Ask employers what their biggest challenges are, and one of the first responses will often be the difficulty in filling jobs with qualified workers. Ask policymakers what the biggest challenges facing their state’s economy are, and it won’t be long before they mention the need to build a trained workforce — one that can fill good-paying jobs and enable individual economic mobility.
This policy challenge is particularly acute in regard to middle-skill jobs — those requiring more than a high school diploma, such as an associate’s degree, certificate or other postsecondary credential, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Last year, in fact, none of the 10 fastest-growing occupations required bachelor’s degrees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers could instead qualify for these jobs through such means as skills certificates, on-the-job training or apprenticeships.
In an effort to match state policy with these labor-market realities, new legislation is being introduced and innovative programs are being implemented across the Midwest that target middle-skill jobs and workers.

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