Capitol Comments

Per the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) may designate land a “critical habitat” for an endangered species. The ESA mandates that FWS consider the economic impact of specifying an area as a critical habitat. FWS may exclude an area if the benefits of excluding it outweigh the benefits of including it.

In its amicus brief in Weyerhaeuser Company v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues courts may review FWS decisions not to exclude an area from a critical habitat because of the economic impact of the designation.

CSG Midwest

The Arizona Legislature is considering a bill that would create a hotline where students can anonymously report threats against their school, classmates or themselves. The hotline would let students from any school in the state report potential threats. While individual schools may have similar programs, a single statewide channel can reduce confusion as to where and how reports can be made. According to the bill, the information reported will then be “promptly...

In June 2017, Oregon became the first state to pass legislation requiring retail, hospitality, and food service employers with more than 500 employees to give workers their schedules at least one week in advance. The legislation also requires workers to be given a 10-hour break between shifts or receive extra pay. After passage of the bill, Gov. Kate Brown stated on ...

Cybersecurity has become a serious concern for state officials in preparation for this year’s upcoming midterm elections. As the nation’s election system continues to age, many say there are not enough funds available to make all of the needed...

Voters in Nashville will head to the polls May 1 to consider a ballot measure that would increase four taxes to pay for a multibillion-dollar mass transit proposal. The referendum was made possible by Tennessee’s 2017 transportation funding legislation, known as the IMPROVE Act, which in addition to increasing gas and diesel taxes and registration fees also allowed voters in the state’s largest counties and four largest cities to consider local tax increases that would be dedicated to transit projects. The Nashville referendum is perhaps the most significant transportation-related initiative on the ballot in the 2018 primaries and is being touted as Music City’s best opportunity to keep mounting traffic woes at bay in the years ahead.

CSG Midwest
By next year, school districts across Iowa must begin to provide at least an hour of annual training on suicide prevention and “postvention” — the coordinated school response following a student’s suicide — for all licensed personnel who have regular contact with students.
CSG Midwest
To advocates of greater transparency in government, the phrase “gut and go” is a legislative nightmare that happens when one chamber takes a bill already passed by the other, strips and replaces the language with an unrelated measure, and then advances it with little or no debate.
CSG Midwest
In September 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states (including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin in the Midwest) that Russian hackers had targeted their voting systems before the 2016 elections. 
While most of the attempts were not successful, voter registration systems were breached in at least two states: Arizona and Illinois. (According to DHS, there was no evidence that any information had been altered in these two states.)
Fast-forward to today, with just months before the 2018 general elections that will determine partisan control of the U.S. Congress and several state legislatures, and elections security experts are recommending that immediate steps be taken to secure the country’s election infrastructure — for example, identifying the potential avenues for attacking election systems, replacing outdated voting machines, ensuring the security of registration systems, and conducting post-election audits.

Whether and when this occurs will depend in part on a mix of help from the federal government and new state-level policies and investments.

CSG Midwest
Late in 2017, Michigan lawmakers ended their legislative year seeking a fix to another problem with drinking water in the state. It wasn’t lead contamination this time, but rather the discovery of 28 sites in the state with known levels of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The Legislature allocated $23.2 million for various response and mitigation measures.
In early 2018, the Minnesota attorney general finalized an $850 million settlement with 3M over groundwater contamination in the east metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. The cause: The company’s disposal, over decades, of PFAS chemicals used for products such as Scotchgard, stain removers and fire retardants.Though these chemicals were used for decades, and many of them have been phased out of production, they are considered an “emerging contaminant” — because environmental and health officials have only recently begun to test for the presence of PFAS chemicals in drinking water, detect them, and understand their potential impact on human health.
The new funding in Michigan will be used to purchase new lab equipment, expand testing of drinking water, and purchase filtration systems for affected residents. A longer-term fix is likely to be more problematic and costly, whether it’s pumping out all the groundwater and removing the chemicals or hooking up the owners of private wells (this has been the group most affected in Michigan) to a municipal system.
CSG Midwest
When President Trump announced that he intended to levy a 25 percent tariff on imported steel, and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, U.S. trade partners were surprised — and angry.  
His actions came after a U.S. Commerce Department report found that the unfair “dumping” of steel and aluminum (exporting these products to the United States at below domestic market value) by other countries was leading to plant closings and job losses. This has been deemed by the Trump administration a threat not only to domestic manufacturing, but also to national security.
At first stating that there would be no exceptions to the tariffs, Trump stepped back from that position by the time of his formal declaration. He exempted Canada (the largest exporter of steel and aluminum to the United States) and Mexico from the tariffs, at least temporarily.
For the many integrated industries in the Midwest that rely on cross-border trade, such as the auto sector, this exemption was particularly important. 

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