Capitol Comments

As technology and demand have made unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – commonly called drones – cheaper and more accessible, concerns about their use by law enforcement have grown. In an attempt to balance public safety with privacy rights, the California legislature recently passed AB 1327, making it the most recent state to tackle the issue.

According to The Institute for Health and Social Policy, 145 of 173 countries mandate paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses. Employers in the U.S. are not required by the federal government to provide paid sick leave to employees, but two states – Connecticut and California – have passed laws that require employers to do so. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 65 percent of civilian employees – private sector and state and local governments – had access to paid sick leave in March 2014.

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Over the past year, Michigan legislators and a group of citizens have teamed up to pass measures using a lawmaking option available in only one other Midwestern state. Most recently, the Legislature passed a citizen-initiated statute on wolf hunting. According to mlive.com, the measure is an attempt to allow the hunting to continue. In December, legislators approved a citizen-initiated petition that prohibits insurers from including abortion coverage as a standard part of plans.
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Concerned about a steady decline in the proportion of state workers who are disabled, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is ordering agency heads to do more. His executive order also includes a workforce goal — that by 2018, 7 percent of the people employed by Minnesota’s state agencies be individuals with disabilities.
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In the largest binational trading relationship in the world, no crossing matters more than the link between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Currently, about 25 percent of the goods that move between the United States and Canada do so across the Detroit River via the 85-year-old, privately owned Ambassador Bridge. It is the busiest commercial crossing in North America, and one where users often face long delays and where traffic has steadily risen since the last recession.
A new bridge, the New International Trade Crossing, is scheduled to open by 2020, but as leaders of a group of the Midwest’s state and provincial legislators note, this binational infrastructure project still requires action from the U.S. government.
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama in August, the two chairs and two co-chairs of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Midwest-Canada Relations Committee ask for a federal commitment to support and staff a U.S. customs plaza at the New International Trade Crossing.
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In the largest binational trading relationship in the world, no crossing matters more than the link between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Currently, about 25 percent of the goods that move between the United States and Canada do so across the Detroit River via the 85-year-old, privately owned Ambassador Bridge. It is the busiest commercial crossing in North America, and one where users often face long delays and where traffic has steadily risen since the last recession.
A new bridge, the New International Trade Crossing, is scheduled to open by 2020, but as leaders of a group of the Midwest’s state and provincial legislators note, this binational infrastructure project still requires action from the U.S. government.
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama in August, the two chairs and two co-chairs of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Midwest-Canada Relations Committee ask for a federal commitment to support and staff a U.S. customs plaza at the New International Trade Crossing.
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Millions of people rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. But for a short time in early August, about 500,000 of those people — in the Ohio town of Toledo —were told not to use it due to an algae-related contamination. The problem of algal blooms is nothing new in western Lake Erie (the shallowest of the Great Lakes), but as Joel Brammeier of the Alliance for the Great Lakes notes, the incident in Toledo still served as a wake-up call.
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A few months after it ranked first in a national study of state spending transparency, Indiana has taken another step to provide more information online to the public. The Management and Performance Hub opened this summer. It includes details on the state budget, public retirement system and tax revenue. The site also lists and tracks indicators of performance for various state agencies.
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Over the past seven years, every state in the Midwest has established policies that aim to prevent bullying in the schools. But how detailed and far-reaching should these policies be? On that question, there is considerable variation among the states, especially in light of new laws now in place in Minnesota and IllinoiIn both of those states, the legislatures chose this year to significantly expand the role of states — and their local school districts — in bullying prevention and intervention.
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Will industrial hemp eventually become a viable cash crop for the Midwest’s agricultural producers and rural communities? Three states in the region have taken initial steps to begin exploring the possibility, and the new farm bill is also opening up the opportunity for research and pilot programs across the country.

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