Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
In a session year shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Iowa Legislature still managed to pass significant bipartisan legislation impacting livestock and food production. Most notably, SF 2413 (signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in June) addresses what Sen. Ken Rozenboom says are “the most critical issues facing the livestock industry in Iowa today: foreign animal diseases and protection of food production facilities.”
Under this measure, he says, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship now has a more clearly defined process for how to respond to a foreign animal disease. The state agency had participated in a U.S. Department of Agriculture mock drill earlier and found some weaknesses in its ability to respond to outbreaks of such diseases as African swine fever or avian influenzas.
Iowa’s statutory language has now been broadened by replacing the word “livestock” with the word “animals,” thus allowing the department to segregate, treat or dispose of diseased animals, including those that may be abandoned by their owners.

The Supreme Court refused to overturn a consent decree in which Rhode Island state government officials agreed, due to COVID-19, to not enforce state law requiring the signature of two witnesses or a notary public for mail ballots.

The Court issued a statement noting that it stayed a court order in a case from Alabama similar to the consent decree in this case. However, according to the Court, in this case no state officials object to the consent...

The Supreme Court has not allowed a federal district court order to go into effect which required Oregon to include a ballot initiative with only 50 percent of the signatures required by Oregon’s constitution, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregon Constitution requires advocates of ballot initiatives to obtain signatures equal to eight percent of ballots cast in the most recent governor’s race (here about 150,000) four months before the...

Without explanation the Supreme Court stayed a preliminary injunction requiring the Orange County California jail and jail officials to implement safety measures to protect inmates during the COVID–19 pandemic.

Justices Breyer and Kagan, without explaining their reasons, indicated they wouldn’t have granted the stay. Justice Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented from the Court’s decision to lift the injunction and explained why. 

According to the...

In Idaho to get a citizen’s initiative on the ballot, petitioners must obtain signatures from six percent of electors by April 30. Reclaim Idaho asked to be temporarily allowed to gather signatures online due to COVID-19. It sued after state government officials informed it that Idaho statutes don’t allow electronic signatures for petitions and the governor didn’t intend to take executive action.

As the Supreme Court explained, “[t]he District Court in...

A federal district court has ruled that as long as there is a declared national health emergency related to COVID-19, the public charge rule may not go into effect.

Immigrants who are deemed a “public charge” are ineligible to receive green cards/lawful permanent resident status. The most recent definition of public charge, adopted in 1999, included immigrants who demonstrated a need for “institutionalization for...

The presence of federal officers in Portland has generated significant litigation. Two of the cases brought so far get to the heart of a big question for local governments nationally:  what authority do federal officers have to do police work in local communities?

Both lawsuits...

In Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak the Supreme Court allowed the Nevada governor’s COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people who may attend religious services to stand.

The lower courts refused to grant the church an injunction in this case so they...

CSG Midwest
As most states in the Midwest entered a new fiscal year in July, the unknowns about FY 2021, and beyond, far outweighed the knowns. Will more federal assistance be made available to help close budget shortfalls? How big will those shortfalls be? Will the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic be felt the entire fiscal year?
“It’s been very hard for states to forecast given the uncertainty of the public health emergency,” Shelby Kerns, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, said during a July webinar of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference.
But she told legislators of one unmistakable fiscal reality: “States will be grappling with the impact of COVID-19 for years to come.”
The options to fix out-of-balance budgets fall into three broad categories: cut spending, raise more revenue or tap into savings. But some of the specific strategies traditionally used by legislators may not be available this time around. “What’s different about this fiscal crisis is the public health emergency, which can limit or change some of the options,” Kerns said. “In addition to increased spending being required to respond to the pandemic, some cuts may be impossible, or least unwise.”

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