Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
Last summer, a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune on abuse in Illinois’ largest school system came with a one-word headline: “Betrayed.” The story detailed the extent to which students in Chicago Public Schools had been raped, sexually abused or harassed by adults employed by CPS. Since 2011, the district’s Law Department had investigated 430 such reports; in more than half of these cases, credible evidence of misconduct had been found.
These findings led to immediate calls for better background-check systems and stronger rules to stop and discipline perpetrators. But Illinois Rep. Ann Williams thought something was missing from these two policy remedies. She wanted to find a way of empowering young people themselves — to help prevent all forms of harassment and assault.
Part of her legislative answer: Require the state’s schools to teach consent in any sex-education curriculum that it offers. With this year’s signing of HB 3550, Illinois is set to become the first state in the Midwest with such a mandate in place. “Consent used to be thought of as simply ‘no means no,’ but we now know it means much more than that,” says Williams, the primary sponsor of HB 3550.
CSG Midwest
Under emergency rules established this fall, the Illinois Board of Education banned the use of isolated seclusion by schools, and new legislation to codify the ban is expected in 2020. The state actions are the result of an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica that documented more than 20,000 incidents of isolated seclusion over the past 15 months. Under existing state law, this practice is only permitted if a student poses a safety threat. But according to the Chicago Tribune’s investigation, in many cases, students were getting “isolated timeouts” for disobedience or refusing to do schoolwork.
CSG Midwest
As the result of a bipartisan package of bills signed into law in October, most 17-year-old offenders in Michigan will no longer be treated as adults in the state’s criminal justice system. The goal of the “Raise the Age” Law is to better treat and rehabilitate young offenders by having them go through Michigan’s juvenile justice system. For teenagers who commit certain violent offenses, a prosecutor will have discretion to try them as adults.
CSG Midwest
Kansas and Nebraska have among the strongest laws in the nation to prevent sex trafficking of minors and to help victims of these crimes, according to the advocacy group Shared Hope International. Both of those Midwestern states received “A” grades in the group’s national report card for 2019. These grades are based on 41 components of state law — for example, the criminal penalties for perpetrators and facilitators of trafficking crimes; the types of legal protections and services provided to victims; and the investigative tools given to law enforcement.
CSG Midwest
With tens of millions in new state dollars to incentivize farmers, along with a list of best practices known to reduce phosphorus runoff, Ohio will spend the next two years implementing its most comprehensive effort to date to prevent harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.
And it’s likely just the beginning of the commitment needed to tackle the problem.

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