For nearly 40 years, South Dakota Rep. Fred Romkema has run a jobs training center for a segment of his state’s population that he says is too often forgotten. About 140 people with disabilities are currently served at the Northern Hills Training Center, and 108 of them are earning a regular paycheck.
“With the right supervision and training and supports, they can succeed in employment in the community,” Romkema says about his experience working with people with developmental disabilities.
And that job success, he adds, is good not only for the individual, but the community — and the state — where he or she lives.
“There is potential there that we are not tapping,” Romkema says of the state’s population with disabilities. “There is a cadre of potential employees who can certainly contribute in some of the jobs that are difficult to fill.”
Through a mix of legislation and actions taken by governors, new initiatives are being launched in states across the Midwest to remove workforce barriers and to help get more disabled individuals into the workforce.
For states interested in partnering with the federal government on capital improvements to passenger rail, the current options are severely limited. Since fiscal year 2011, the main federal grant program — the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program — has not been funded by the U.S. Congress.
In the most recent round of TIGER funding, only one passenger-rail improvement project successfully secured a grant — $12.5 million to upgrade parts of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route in Kansas and Colorado. Matching funds of $9.3 million will come from a mix of state, local and private sources.
Breast milk contains important nutrients, immune-system antibodies and growth factors that all contribute to a baby’s health, particularly babies who are vulnerable because they are premature or underweight. But a number of circumstances — including maternal illness, death, surgery, use of drugs or medications, and certain chronic conditions — can prevent a mother from being able to breastfeed.
One potential alternative for some babies, then, is the use of human donor milk. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio are among the states with nonprofit human-milk banks that have been certified by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. (The association’s certification standards were established with input from the federal government and the blood and tissue industries.)
Think of the American Midwest, and you may think first of natural resources. A land of Great Lakes and Great Plains, the region is world-renowned for its sparkling waters and its fertile soil. But the region’s strength depends on much more than natural abundance.
Part industrial heartland, part agricultural breadbasket, the Midwest is also home to an extensive network of world-class academic institutions, many of which trace their roots to a 19th-century movement to make higher education more practical and more readily available to rural and working-class citizens.
In time, that movement would change the face of higher education in America, with several Midwestern states playing key roles as pioneers in the establishment of new colleges that offered courses in agriculture and the mechanic arts, as well as other scientific and classical studies.
Should high school students be required to pass a U.S. citizenship civics test as a prerequisite for graduating from high school? Some key state leaders in North Dakota believe so and will be introducing legislation in 2015, The Bismarck Tribune reports. Under the proposal, students would take a 100-point exam focusing on American government, history and geography; they would have to answer at least 60 of the questions correctly.
Teachers across Indiana were in line for some bonuses this holiday season as the result of a performance-based grant program included in the state’s budget. According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, more than $30 million went to 1,300 schools across Indiana.
Can voters in California dictate how Midwestern farmers house their hens? If the farmers want to sell eggs to California, the answer could be “yes” — unless an appeal filed by Iowa, Nebraska and four other states is successful. Beginning Jan. 1, egg farmers in California must comply with Proposition 2: a new law, approved by voters in 2008, under which hens must be able to stand up, turn around and spread their wings without touching their cage or another bird.
The ballot initiative came in response to criticism of conventional cages. According to groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, which organized the effort to put the measure on the ballot, the cages are cruel. Critics also say the stress and confinement make hens more susceptible to diseases, including salmonella.
Moving cattle and pigs from North Dakota to Saskatchewan or from Manitoba to Minnesota has always required a lot of paperwork, but until recently, that didn’t slow the movement of animals between Canada and the United States. Because of the two countries’ highly integrated systems, animals have regularly traveled across the U.S.-Canada border for feeding and slaughter.
But a U.S. policy enacted as part of some recent farm bills appears to be inhibiting this movement. Mandatory country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, requires meat from outside the United States to be labeled — and thus segregated during the production process. These rules began to take effect in 2009.