Capitol Comments

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 131st anniversary of America’s first state park at Niagara Falls. Park visitation has become more popular than ever, with 2015 being a record-breaking year for visitors to national parks as well as state parks in Michigan, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

A recent report released by the Economic Innovation Group paints a lopsided picture of how the United States has recovered from the Great Recession of 2007-08.  According to the study, job growth and new business formation in the post-recessionary period has been heavily concentrated in roughly 70 counties and almost exclusively clustered in large metropolitan regions. Twenty counties, which account for less than one percent of roughly 3,100 counties in the U.S., were home to half of new business startups between 2010 and 2014. Likewise, half of the new jobs created in the same time period were located in only 73 counties.

According to two recent studies, states that chose to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act have experienced budget savings, revenue gains, and stronger hospitals as a result.

On Tuesday, voters in California approved a constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to suspend members without pay with a two-thirds majority vote.  Proposition 50, which received support from 75 percent of voters, was billed by supporters as an important anti-corruption measure that would keep suspended legislators from receiving salaries, pensions, and other benefits and privileges associated with holding office.  The impetus for the measure came after the legislature was unable to suspend the salaries and benefits of three former lawmakers who were indicted on criminal charges. 

Kratom, the popular name for leaves of the mitragyna speciosa tree, is a botanical supplement that has grown in popularity and usage across the United States in the last few years.  Originating from Southeast Asia and sold in gas stations, ‘head shops’ , and through a variety of online vendors, kratom has gained an array of users who seek it’s mood elevating and pain reducing properties.  In addition to the rise in popularity of kratom, it has increasingly caught the attention of state lawmakers concerned about possible negative consequences associated with unregulated sale of the non-FDA approved plant.

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