Today, grand juries are viewed mostly as a tool for prosecutors, a means of gathering evidence and seeking indictments. But they have long had a second important function as well — to control the government and its power to prosecute.
Six states, including Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota in the Midwest, have laws on the books that put a twist on this government-checking role: Allow local citizens themselves to form grand juries. The target of these state statutes is not overzealous prosecutors, but inactive ones.
As lawmakers seek to cope with a rising tide of gun violence while preventing accidental firearm-related injuries and deaths, Ohio could become the next Midwestern state to focus on keeping guns out of the hands of kids — that is if a measure currently pending in the state Senate should advance.
Michigan has become the third Midwestern state in three years to repeal its prevailing-wage law, which requires government contractors to provide employees with union-level wages and benefits for state or local public works projects. This legislative action came in June and did not require gubernatorial action. That is because the prevailing-wage repeal was scheduled to appear on the fall ballot. Under Michigan law, the Legislature has 40 days to adopt or reject a ballot proposal. If a proposal is not enacted within this time frame, it goes to the voters. The Detroit Free Press called the Legislature’s decision “the latest blow to organized labor.”
For the first time in 20 years, South Dakota legislators are in line to receive a pay raise — big news in a state that has had one of the lowest legislative compensation levels in the nation. Starting next year, the salaries for South Dakota’s 105 part-time legislators will be adjusted annually to equal 20 percent of the state’s median household income. That means a jump in annual pay from $6,000 in 2018 to an estimated $10,200 in 2019.