CSG Midwest

A push in Iowa by environmental groups to establish new state water quality standards ended in defeat this fall. In a unanimous vote, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission rejected a proposal to create numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The Sioux City Journal reports that state officials want more time to study the efficacy of current nutrient-reduction strategies before implementing any new rules.

For better or worse, federal spending makes up a large portion of state economies — a point underscored by the recent federal government shutdown as well as recent data released by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Just how reliant are states on federal expenditures?

In a legal setback for states seeking to collect taxes from Internet sales, the Illinois Supreme Court in October struck down the legislature’s 2011 Main Street Fairness Act. According to USA Today, the decision marks the first time a state’s Internet sales tax law has been invalidated. Illinois’ measure is known as an “Amazon” law, named after the online retailer.

Nuclear power is the source of 19 percent of the electricity generated in the United States and 15 percent in Canada, making up a significant percentage of each country’s share of energy derived from non-fossil-fuel sources. Producing this electricity generates waste in the form of highly radioactive spent fuel and other nuclear waste that, while less radioactive, still requires isolation from the biosphere. The challenges of finding a site for permanent disposal of spent fuel are well known. But disposing of waste that is less radioactive can be difficult as well, as Ontario Power Generation, or OPG, is finding out with its plans for a deep geologic repository less than a mile from Lake Huron. The repository, if licensed, could open by 2018. It would be the first permanent disposal facility for radioactive waste to operate in the Great Lakes basin.
Over the past six years, most U.S. states have cut per-pupil funding for education, with double-digit reductions not uncommon. And then there is the case of North Dakota. Lawmakers there have taken advantage of the state’s remarkable economic ascent to completely remake how K-12 education is funded. In doing so, the legislature has accomplished what policymakers in many other states have tried but failed to do — take the burden of paying for schools off the backs of local property taxpayers.