Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
The state of North Dakota is partnering with one of its public universities to help school districts address a persistent, widespread workforce challenge — the shortage of licensed special-education teachers. Using a $750,000 grant from the state, Minot State University will create a new scholarship program that allows 20 education paraprofessionals to earn a degree in special education. These 20 individuals already have been working with special-education students in the state. North Dakota is using a portion of its money from the federal CARES Act to fund the scholarship program, which will cover seven semesters of instruction for each recipient.
CSG Midwest
A requirement on where legislatures “shall meet” is a common element of state constitutions. This year, that language demanded an unusual amount of attention among state legislative leaders, as they grappled with ways to protect the health of members while still conducting the business of their state during a pandemic.
According to research done by the Midwestern Office of The Council of State Governments (including a survey of most of the region’s legislative service agencies), at least eight of the Midwest’s 11 states have constitutional provisions on where legislatures must meet and hold sessions.
CSG Midwest
After 18 months of negotiations, the state of Michigan agreed in August to pay $600 million to individuals and businesses affected by the water crisis in the town of Flint, with close to two-thirds of the money going to children age 6 and under at the time of their first exposure. The crisis in Michigan's seventh-largest city began in 2014, when the town's supply of water was switched to the Flint River, leading to toxic levels of lead in drinking water. The consequences included an uptick in deaths from Legionnaires' disease and lead poisoning among children.
CSG Midwest
The funding of a project to stop the introduction and spread of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species continues to enjoy bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, but Great Lakes advocates also see many obstacles in the way of construction and completion.
For the Great Lakes ecosystem and the region's economy, “the stakes are really high,” says Anna-Lisa Castle, water policy manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes says.
“You think about all of the boating, angling, and tourism and recreation in the Great Lakes, the $7 billion fishing economy,” she says. “And the other thing about [Asian] carp is that they won’t stop there. You could see carp make their way to the waterways that connect to the Great Lakes.”
The next big step in control efforts is the placement of new barriers at Brandon Road Lock and Dam, which is part of the Chicago Area Waterway System, a mix of natural and engineered waterways that connect the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. This system is the most likely pathway for Asian carp to reach the lake.
In July, the U.S. House passed the Water Resources Development Act (HR 7575), which authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Brandon Road Lock and Dam project at a cost of $863 million. The U.S. Senate also has passed a measure with authorization language in it.
CSG Midwest
As they met at an unusual time of year for legislative session — namely the middle of summer, due to the postponement of session days caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — Nebraska lawmakers faced a familiar challenge: How can we reduce the property tax burden for homeowners, farmers and businesses? Their answer was passage of LB 1107, a bill being hailed by proponents as a major breakthrough after previous years of trying to address this perennially high-priority issue.

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