Legislative Branch

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
As part of her study of the nation’s state legislative institutions, on topics such as term limits and oversight of the executive branch, Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson found herself viewing old, archived committee hearings in Michigan from a few decades ago.
The subject was turkey habitats. The place was a cramped committee room in Lansing. Led by two lawmakers — one Democrat, one Republican — the legislative branch was grilling members of the executive branch on implementation of a law to protect the state’s population of wild turkeys.
“They were sharing notes and drilling down with an incredible amount of knowledge, about the law and about turkeys,” she says. “It was a gold standard in legislative oversight.”
That work in Michigan was being done largely outside the public eye, on a subject not likely to win or lose anyone an election. Yet this bipartisan group of lawmakers found it to be an integral part of their responsibility.
“I would hope that legislators see oversight as a big part of their job, at least one-third of it,” says Sarbaugh-Thompson, a professor of political science at Wayne State University. “If we’re spending the money [on a program, agency or regulation], we ought to want to make sure it’s going where it’s supposed to go and that it’s working.”

There have been many innovative and diverse ways for coalitions to form in state legislatures. As the groups of people who participate in the political process change, one such innovative legislative tool to ensure all voices are heard would be a legislative caucus.

Like the constituents they serve, state legislatures across the country are made up of policymakers with diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and life experiences. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30 years ago represented in a fundamental...

CSG Midwest

In March, Senate President Roger Roth got the call to prepare for an unprecedented — but not unthinkable — event in the legislative history of Wisconsin. “Whatever you have to do,” he was told by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, “we need to be able to have a contingency plan in the midst of this coronavirus [outbreak].” 

Roth’s job as presiding officer: Get the state Senate ready for a first-ever virtual meeting of the entire chamber, so that it could pass essential bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping its 33 members and legislative staff safe. “I immediately called our legislative service agencies: our technology folks, our lawyers, our parliamentarians,” Roth says. “And from that point on, they haven’t stopped working.”

After much preparatory work, practice and dress rehearsals, actual virtual sessions of the Wisconsin Senate began being held in April.

“First, you want to protect the health and safety of our members, and one-third of [the senators] are 68 or older,” Roth says, noting that older people are at a higher risk of developing serious, potentially fatal, complications if exposed to COVID-19. Just as important, in the midst of these extraordinary circumstances, people are looking for stability and want to be reassured. I think it’s important to show that even in these challenging times, our government, just like our people, will endure.”

Chapter 3 of The Book of the States 2019 contains the following tables:

CSG Midwest
With few exceptions, the Midwest’s legislatures have more women serving in them this year than in 2018. And in six of the region’s states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio — the numbers are at historic highs.
Why the jump? Why is there a gender gap in politics? What kind of effect does more female representation have on policymaking? Those questions have been the subject of much political science research over decades, and the answers are sometimes simple, sometimes complex. Here is what CSG Midwest learned in a interview with Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
CSG Midwest
How should the powers of a state’s attorney general be weighed against those of a state’s legislative branch? That question arose most recently and prominently at the end of 2018 in Wisconsin, when lawmakers made statutory changes in an extraordinary session which altered that power balance in favor of the Legislature.
CSG Midwest

This year, the region's legislators tackled some of the nation's biggest issues, from school safety to labor shortages. Notable changes in state tax policy, gun laws, retirement systems and legislative pay also marked the 2018 legislative year.

CSG Midwest
Vacancies, whether the result of a member’s death, an appointment to a new position, or resignation for other reasons, occur on a regular basis in U.S. state legislatures. Less common is for this turnover to get much or any public attention....

By Briana Bell

The National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, began in 1968 and has since focused on providing insurance to high-risk flood communities. The program, although intended to mitigate the financial effects of floods, has come under criticism from some who believe the...

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