Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
A yearlong pilot program in Michigan to screen welfare recipients for drug use found no substance abusers, legislators were told. The program tested 14 of 443 participants (either applicants or recipients) of the state’s Family Independence Program in three counties between October 2015 and September 2016...
CSG Midwest
Indiana and Minnesota set various state records for voter registration and turnout in the Nov. 8 general election, according to their secretaries of state. In Minnesota, 74.7 percent of the state’s nearly 4 million eligible voters ...
CSG Midwest
Illinois will give Exelon Corp. $235 million in ratepayer subsidies to keep the company’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants open, as part of a bipartisan deal that drew support from the state’s renewable-energy community. The legislation also updates Illinois’ renewable-energy portfolio standard...
CSG Midwest
Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System is having a positive impact on classroom instruction and educators’ professional climate, but it’...

The question the Supreme Court will decide in Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman is whether state “no-surcharge” laws that prohibit vendors from charging more to credit-card customers but allows them to charge less to cash customers violate the First Amendment. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief argues these laws don’t violate the First Amendment because they regulate conduct rather than speech.

Per a “no-surcharge” law if the regular price of an item is $100 credit-card customers may not be charged $103 and cash customers $100. But if the regular price is $103 credit-card customers may be charged $103 and cash customers $100.   

CSG Midwest
In 1980, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to establish a statutory bill of rights for crime victims. Since then, state constitutions across the country have been amended to provide an even greater level of protections to this group of citizens.
Most recently, voters in North Dakota (62 percent to 38 percent) and South Dakota (60 percent to 40 percent) approved November ballot measures to amend their constitutions. These new provisions to protect crime victims are part of a national movement and are collectively known as “Marsy’s Law.”
CSG Midwest
The siting of large livestock facilities continues to be a contentious issue across the Midwest, with some states such as Wisconsin preempting local authority and setting statewide standards. But Nebraska has kept local control over the rules determining decisions on new or expanded operations. Thirteen years ago, with an eye toward supporting the industry but not stripping away local zoning authority, the Nebraska Legislature gave counties across the state the chance to be designated as “livestock friendly.”
Today, nearly half of Nebraska’s counties (41 of 92) have sought and received the designation. According to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study, cattle operations in the state’s livestock-friendly counties expanded by 12 percent from 2002 to 2012. Over that same period, the growth rate for other counties was 8 percent. And although the number of hog farms dropped in most Nebraska counties between 2002 and 2012, the decline was much less severe in livestock-friendly counties: 16 percent vs. 62 percent.
CSG Midwest
Though it likely won’t change much of the work already under way to protect western Lake Erie from excessive algal blooms, Michigan’s recent designation of its part of the watershed as “impaired” signals the importance of reaching new binational goals to control phosphorus runoff.
Every two years, as part of compliance with the Clean Water Act, all states must determine which of their water bodies are polluted and/or don’t meet water quality standards. They then submit their impairment list to the U.S. Environmental Protection. The new designation for western Lake Erie is due to the presence of extensive algal blooms and their harmful impact on aquatic life and other wildlife, Michigan environmental officials say. The blooms are the result of excessive levels of phosphorus.
CSG Midwest
When the problem of tainted drinking water created a public health crisis in the Michigan city of Flint, the state’s legislators had two clear missions to fulfill. First, fix the problem, with strategies — both immediate and longer-term — that help affected residents, bring back some normalcy to their lives, and then assist in the entire community’s recovery. Second, find ways to prevent the problem from ever occurring in another Michigan city.
And that idea of prevention has spread well beyond the borders of Michigan, with legislators in nearby states taking notice of the crisis and beginning to think more about the safety of the water supply in their own districts.
CSG Midwest
Imagine being in your mid- to late 20s and walking into a workplace for the very first time as an employee. For many of today’s young Americans, this delayed entry into the workforce has become a harsh reality. During the Great Recession, unemployment rates soared for all age groups. 
But young people were hit particularly hard: In April 2010, the jobless rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 reached a record high of nearly 20 percent. Today, youth unemployment in the United States still tops 10 percent, more than double the overall jobless rate. 

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