Capitol Comments

After a year in 2015 when eight states raised gas taxes, 2016 saw less activity. New Jersey raised its gas tax by 23 cents and Rhode Island funded a multi-year bridge repair program with a new toll on large commercial trucks and a combination of borrowing and refinancing. But other than those states and a couple of others that approved bond measures for infrastructure projects and the like, most postponed or agreed to extend their transportation revenue discussions into 2017. That means a large number of states could see activity next year on that front. While some have been embroiled in the funding debate for months or years and will continue those conversations, others had a special task force in 2016 to explore revenue ideas and could look to move those ideas forward during the 2017 legislative sessions. Here’s a list of the 14 most likely candidates.

CSG’s Military Ballot Tracking Pilot Program deployed a robust tracking system of both blank and voted ballots (around 3,500 ballots) throughout the mail flow, including blank ballots navigating through the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Military Postal Service during the 2016 November General Election. California, Colorado, Texas, and Florida are the four states participating in the pilot program that involves coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), the U.S. Postal Service, and...

CSG Midwest
Struggling young readers in Michigan will get more instructional help to reach levels of proficiency under a new law that also could keep some of them from entering fourth grade. Signed this fall by Gov. Rick Snyder, HB 4822requires students to perform well enough on a standardized reading test in order to be promoted to fourth grade. However, the law does provide for some “good cause exemptions,” including if parents and school officials agree it is in the child’s best interests not to be held back.
CSG Midwest
One-third of the electrical power used in Minnesota’s Capitol Complex will come from solar and wind sources under a new deal with Excel Energy. State officials say the 20-year agreement with Excel locks in prices for renewable energy that will save about $100,000 over that time period. The state spends about $5 million on electricity annually for the Capitol Complex.
CSG Midwest
A U.S. circuit court has dismissed claims by several Ohio death-row inmates that a state law on capital punishment unconstitutionally conceals information from them. The November decision affirmed a lower court ruling that the prisoners had no standing because they couldn’t prove harm from the denial of information, The (Toledo) Blade reports.
CSG Midwest
Easing ex-prisoners back into civilian life helps reduce recidivism, and one step states can take is to ensure that just-released inmates have a valid state identification card. In a letter earlier this year to all 50 governors, the U.S. Department of Justice asked states to provide IDs for federal prisoners being released, and according to The Atlantic, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are among 17 states that have had preliminary talks with federal officials about taking that step.
CSG Midwest
Decades ago, after a session of Iowa’s part-time Legislature dragged into July, the state’s lawmakers agreed they needed to find a way to prevent that from ever happening again. Their bipartisan solution at the time: Create a series of deadlines for when bills had to advance or die.
CSG Midwest
Most Midwestern legislatures provide sign-language interpreter services and/or closed captioning in order for the deaf and hearing-impaired to follow and take part in legislative activities such as committee hearings, floor debates and State of the State addresses.
To comply with state law and/or the federal American with Disabilities Act — Title II of which forbids discrimination by any public entity — many legislatures also provide these services for meetings between individual legislators and constituents, provided these services are requested in advance.
CSG Midwest
Starting in January, states that chose to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act will have to begin paying part of the associated costs, and three of the Midwest’s expansion states say they will rely at least in part on revenue from their taxes on health care providers.
CSG Midwest
Two years ago, Gov. Terry Branstad announced that he wants 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025. Since then, he and state legislators have taken a series of steps to meet that goal.

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