Capitol Comments

The Supreme Court has allowed the third travel ban to go into effect at least temporarily while two federal circuit courts of appeals review decisions from lower courts temporarily blocking enforcement of the travel ban. Even if the government loses before the appeals courts the travel ban will remain in effect until the Supreme Court rules on it or refuses to rule on it (unless the government doesn’t appeal to the Supreme Court).

The president’s second travel ban prevented people from six predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. In June the Supreme Court temporarily prevented it from going into effect against those with a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United State” until the Court could hear the case on the merits in early October.

On November 30, 2017, Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced H.R. 4492, the “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Reauthorization Act of 2017.” The bill reauthorizes and doubles the funding levels for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, a credit assistance program designed to accelerate investment in our nation’s water infrastructure....

The House of Representatives is set to vote today on H.R. 3017, the “Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment, and Reauthorization Act of 2017.” The legislation, sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), reauthorizes the EPA’s brownfields program which expired in 2006.

A brownfield is “a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant,...

The Council of State Governments will release a new report, "Diabetes in the United States: Examining Growth Trends, State Funding Sources and Economic Impact", on state spending for diabetes at the 2017 CSG National Conference in Las Vegas on Dec. 15. 

CSG, with assistance from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, surveyed all 50 states to discover how many states appropriate funds for diabetes prevention and management. Half of the states reported state funds used in fiscal...

CSG Midwest
Up to 15 communities in Michigan now have the chance to become “Promise Zones,” areas of the state where local students are ensured access to college scholarships. SB 98, signed into law in November, increased the reach of a program that has been in place since 2008. Prior to the new law, the number of communities was limited to 10.

The Fifth Amendment says no person shall be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In Hays, Kansas v. Vogt the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Fifth Amendment is violated when a public employee’s compelled, self-incriminating statements are used against him or her at a probable cause hearing rather than at a trial.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief supporting the City of Hays arguing that the City should not be liable for the use of such statements because it has no control over how a prosecutor uses them. 

CSG Midwest
A work group established earlier this year by the Iowa Legislature has issued a series of recommendations for strengthening computer science education in the state’s K-12 schools. Ideas include:
  • allowing students to use computer science to meet certain math credit requirements (after they’ve taken courses that cover the state’s required math standards);
  • better integrating computer science courses into schools’ career and technical education pathway; and
  • eventually making computer science a part of the state’s high school graduation requirement.
CSG Midwest
Four years ago, Northwestern University Medicine researchers completed the largest-scale study to date of depression among postpartum women. The findings were surprising to some (including the researchers), and disturbing to most everyone: 14 percent of women in the study screened positive for depression, a condition among new mothers that often isn’t treated or even screened in today’s U.S. health care system.
“It’s the No. 1 complication of pregnancy,” says Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, advocacy chair for the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health.
And without effective intervention, she adds, depression during pregnancy and among new mothers can negatively impact birth outcomes, child development, and a woman’s own long-term health.
More federal resources for states to help with this public health problem will soon be on the way.
Under the U.S. 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law in late 2016, federal grants will be awarded to states to develop or strengthen programs that improve the availability of maternal depression screening and treatment. Funding priority will be given to states that propose “to improve or enhance access to screening services … in primary care settings.”
As of late October, it was not yet known exactly how much money would be appropriated for this new competitive federal grant program. According to Belsito, it most likely will be between $1 million and $5 million annually over the next five years.
CSG Midwest
In Midwestern communities that host nuclear power plants, the utilities generate more than just electricity. The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that, on average, a nuclear power plant pays almost $16 million in state and local taxes each year.
Today’s energy markets are being driven by abundant and inexpensive natural gas, which is good for ratepayers, but bad for nuclear generators.
“Nuclear plants make the bulk of their income by energy sales, and the average price of a megawatt hour is down sharply in energy markets around the country,” says Matt Wald, a spokesman for the institute. “In some places, this price is lower than the cost of operating the nuclear reactor.”
Unfavorable market conditions led FirstEnergy, the utility that owns the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants in Ohio, to seek a devaluation — or reduction in the taxable value — of its plants. The devaluations were granted by the Ohio Department of Taxation in early October, meaning municipalities will see the first impact of the tax payment changes in 2018. State officials approved a 73 percent reduction in the tax valuation of Davis-Besse, from $184 million to $49 million.
CSG Midwest
In May and late June, heavy rains fell on the Maumee River, which begins in Fort Wayne in Indiana, runs through agricultural areas in northeast Ohio, and eventually flows into Lake Erie in Toledo. The river, scientists say, has high concentrations of phosphorus, and with all of the spring and summer precipitation, those nutrients discharged into the smallest of the five Great Lakes.
The end result: One of the worst observable algal blooms in Lake Erie. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only the years 2011, 2013 and 2015 had more severe blooms. The federal agency’s findings were the latest reminder of the “poor” and “deteriorating” health of Lake Erie (see table), and of the importance of states and the province of Ontario reaching their agreed-upon goal: reduce nutrient runoff into the lake by 40 percent by 2025. 

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