Policy Area

Following the lead of 1990 proposal from the federal Department of Education, some states have policies that deny or revoke occupational licenses from student loan borrowers in default. New federal legislation seeks to end this practice.

After refusing to accept or reject petitions for months the Supreme Court has finally agreed to decide whether employers violate Title VII when they discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. Among other things, Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of . . . sex.” 

Until 2017 all federal courts of appeals to consider the question had held Title VII does not protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation. This changed when the Seventh Circuit reversed itself in Hively v. Ivey Tech Community College concluding “discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

Boston, Chicago, D.C., Las Vegas, Toronto, San Francisco and New York City are improving their paratransit options through an Uber initiative. Since Uber’s launch, the company has invested in ensuring that its features and technologies are accessible to all users. In November 2018, Uber, a CSG Associate member, announced plans to widely expand paratransit for individuals using wheelchairs and other motorized mobilization devices.
Wheelchair accessible rides are available through Uber WAV. These rides are priced at the same as an Uber X. Six of the eight cities listed above have a wait time of fifteen minutes or less, and Uber is working to achieve the same success in the other two cities over the next few months. Half of Uber’s business in the United States and Canada is represented by the eight cities that have launched this initiative. Uber plans to learn from these cities and expand this model across the country.

CSG Midwest
Four years ago, Michigan legislators began funding a pilot farm-to-school project with at least two goals: One, get more fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes on the plates of K-12 students; two, open up new markets for local farmers. On both counts, state officials and national leaders in the farm-to-school movement say, the Michigan experiment is showing signs of success.
“It is a gold standard program,” Helen Dombalis, senior director of programs and policy for the National Farm to School Network, says of Michigan’s 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms. “Other states are looking at it as a model.”
Administered by the Michigan Department of Education, the program provides matching funds to school districts — equal to 10 cents per school meal — to purchase food products from nearby farms. Over three school years, the number of students served through the pilot project has risen from 48,000 to 135,000, and the legislative appropriation for 10 Cents a Meal has increased from $250,000 to $575,000.
CSG Midwest
After years of court cases, requests for proposals and bidding, work is underway for a new bridge at the busiest commercial crossing along the U.S.-Canada border. Approximately 7,000 trucks — carrying goods worth millions of dollars — already pass the border most days at Detroit and Windsor, Ont. All of these crossings are done now via the privately owned, 90-year-old Ambassador Bridge.
But with the scheduled opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge in late 2024, a second option will be available for U.S. and Canadian firms.
The bridge (named after the Hall of Fame Canadian hockey player who starred for the Detroit Red Wings) will provide larger, modern ports of entry and customs facilities, while incorporating new technologies to speed up border screenings. And with two bridges up and running, the movement of commercial goods will not be as affected by accidents or other incidents at the Detroit-Windsor crossing.
CSG Midwest
In Europe, non-dairy products cannot have “dairy sounding” words such as “milk,” “butter” and “cheese” in their names. In France, plant-based or cell-cultured products can’t have animal-based labeling (“meat” or “sausage,” for example). This year, the global debate over food products and labeling came to the Midwest and its state legislatures, with North Dakota and South Dakota adopting their own versions of “truth in meat labeling” laws.
“We wanted to keep the legislation very simple, to make sure that when a consumer purchases a product, they can clearly understand if it came from a carcass or a vat,” South Dakota Sen. Gary Cammack says of SB 68, which was signed into law in March.
CSG South

For farmers in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, the timing of the Hurricane Michael could not have been worse. Just as harvest season for many vegetable and row crops was beginning, like a plague of locusts, Michael devoured nearly every farm in its path. This SLC Regional Resource, current as of April 15, 2019, reviews the agricultural impact of Hurricane Michael on Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Across the three states, cotton and timber were hardest hit, but damage to other agricultural products and infrastructure was equally devastating.

Timbs v. Indiana has received a lot of attention because it deals with a controversial subject—civil asset forfeitures. But as a practical matter this case is unlikely to have much of an impact. What this case now requires under the federal constitution has long since been required under state constitutions.

 

In Timbs the Supreme Court held unanimously that the Eighth Amendment Excessive Fines Clause applies to states and local governments. This ruling is unsurprising given that the Supreme Court has “incorporated” almost all of the Bill of Rights against states and local governments since the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted in 1868.

 

The Supreme Court’s opinion explains why this case doesn’t change much. All 50 states constitutions have excessive fines clauses which apply to states and local governments—some for centuries. It is possible that some of these state constitutional provisions have been interpreted differently than the federal provision. But there is so little federal case law on what is an excessive fine that it is unlikely most interpretations of state constitutions contradict the scant federal case law.

The issue the Supreme Court will decide in McDonough v. Smith is whether the statute of limitations for a due process fabrication of evidence claim begins to run when the criminal proceedings terminate in the defendant’s favor, or when the defendant becomes aware of the tainted evidence and its improper use. The States and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief argues for the latter standard.

Edward McDonough, former Democratic Commissioner of Rensselaer County Board of Elections, approved forged absentee ballot applications which he claims he didn’t know had been falsified. Youel Smith investigated and prosecuted McDonough. McDonough claims Smith “engaged in an elaborate scheme to frame McDonough for the crimes by, among other things, fabricating evidence.” After two trials, McDonough was ultimately acquitted.

In its amicus brief in Mitchell v. Wisconsin the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues that when police officers encounter an unconscious motorist they have probable cause to believe is impaired it should be permissible for the motorist’s blood to be drawn without a warrant. Wisconsin and 28 other states allow this practice. 

Most, if not all, states have adopted “implied consent” laws where drivers may be tested if police have probable cause to suspect they have been driving while intoxicated. Drivers may withdraw consent and refuse to take a test, subject to penalties. In Birchfield v. North Dakota (2016) the Supreme Court held that generally police must obtain a warrant to require a blood test (versus a breath test) where officers have probable cause.

But what if a driver is unconscious and unable to withdraw consent to a blood test (and unable to take a breath test)? The question the Supreme Court will decide in Mitchell v. Wisconsin is whether a statute authorizing a blood draw from an unconscious motorist provides an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.

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