Three years after Michigan legislators authorized a pilot program for roadside testing of drug use by motorists (SB 207 and SB 434), law enforcement is taking the initiative to every county in the state. Police use the saliva of drivers to test for the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.
Nearly every state in this region identifies certain professions and workers that must report known or suspected cases of neglect. Earlier this year in Ohio, for example, police officers joined the state’s list of mandatory reporters, the result of legislation signed into law in late 2018 (HB 137). The Ohio statute already was fairly extensive, covering professions ranging from attorneys and podiatrists, to animal control officers and speech pathologists.
Ohio’s list also includes the professions most commonly included in the mandatory-reporting statutes of states across the country, according to a study released this year by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families. In the Midwest, for example, with the exception of Indiana, every state singles out law enforcement, teachers and other school personnel, and doctors and/or other health care workers as mandatory reporters. Most states in the region also include child care providers, members of the clergy, social workers and counselors.
Illinois has a new law to ensure that children with diabetes have access to the medical care they need. Under HB 822, which received unanimous approval in the state General Assembly, schools are given the authority to store an undesignated supply of glucagon.
Parts of a two-year-old Iowa law that require voters to show identification at the polls were upheld by a state District Court judge in September. Opponents of the 2017 law (HF 516) argued that the ID requirement suppressed voting by certain groups of citizens. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate has said the law aims to “make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.”
Uninsured rates have dropped sharply since 2010, and poverty rates are down as well. During this decade, income has been distributed less equally among households across the Midwest; still, income inequality is less pronounced in most states in this region compared to the rest of the nation.
After years of trying, Iowa lawmakers and others wanting to tweak or completely replace a decades-old system of selecting state Supreme Court judges were able to proclaim legislative victory in 2019. But as of early October, they still needed some wins in court to ensure the change.
At issue is Iowa’s 57-year-old merit-based selection process: State supreme court justices are appointed by the governor, whose choices are limited to a list of three candidates submitted by a judicial nominating commission. Four other Midwestern states also use some form of merit selection.
Under a new law that took effect in August (HF 50), drivers in Minnesota can only use voice commands or single-touch activation on their phones to make calls and texts. Violators of the state’s “hands-free” statute will be ticketed $50, plus court fees; the penalty is $275 for repeat violations. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 18 other states, including Illinois in the Midwest, have hands-free bans in place. In each of these states, the use of a hand-held cell phone is a primary offense, meaning a police officer can cite a driver for it without any other traffic offense taking place.
Income tax relief is coming to residents in at least two Midwestern states this biennium, while in a third state, legislators took the first step this year toward a major tax overhaul. In Wisconsin, under AB 56 and AB 251, rate reductions are being made to the state’s bottom two income-tax brackets. (Wisconsin’s graduated system has four tax brackets.)
With her signing of an executive order in August, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly pronounced the end of a longstanding “economic border war” between her state and Missouri. Her action, combined with legislation passed in Missouri this year (SB 182), stops the two states from offering tax incentives to companies in the Kansas City region. For the war to truly end, The Wichita Eagle reports, local governments on both sides of the border need to follow the states’ lead. Because they are not bound by the Kansas executive order or new Missouri law, cities and counties could still offer property tax abatements to lure businesses.