Indiana, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Iowa have made the top-10 list in a recent U.S. News & World Report studythat explores how well state governments are being administered across the country. Four metrics were used to evaluate all 50 states: fiscal stability, government digitalization, budget transparency and state integrity.
Individuals put in prison for a crime they did not commit are now eligible for compensation in Michigan. For every year in which a person was wrongfully incarcerated, he or she will be eligible for $50,000 from the state. Individuals have 18 months upon being released from custody to seek compensation via the Michigan Court of Claims. SB 291, signed into law in late 2016, directs Michigan’s treasurer to establish a wrongful-imprisonment compensation fund.
Big changes in public-sector collective bargaining are coming to Iowa under one of the first bills signed into law during the 2017 session. According to The Des Moines Register, HF 291 got passed along mostly partisan lines and brought labor-union representatives from across Iowa to the Capitol to protest the rewrite of a 43-year-old state law.
The term “boarded up” may not go away anytime soon, but in Ohio, the practice of covering the windows and doors of abandoned buildings with plywood will soon be a thing of the past. HB 463 was signed into law in January. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the new plywood ban will be a “boon ... for clear boarding”: the use of clear polycarbonate on windows and doors. The bill’s proponents say the statutory change will make vacant properties more visually appealing and less of a magnet for criminal activity.
Recently released data from Indiana show that policymakers and law enforcement are making progress in their efforts to curtail methamphetamine manufacturing in the state. The number of meth labs fell by 35 percent in 2016, Indiana State Police statistics show.
Some schools and day care facilities in Illinois must have their water tested for lead under a bill passed and signed into law in January. The new requirements apply to buildings constructed before 2000 where pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade classes are held.
The first bill signed into law in Minnesota this year will provide relief to the state’s 125,000 residents who purchase their health insurance in the individual market and are not eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The cost of premiums for Minnesotans in this population is rising by 55 percent in 2017.
Tax policy quickly emerged as a high-priority issue this year in many of the Midwest’s states, with a mix of proposed tax hikes and cuts making their way into governors’ State of the State addresses and proposed budgets, as well as some of the first bills introduced in legislatures.
When it came to helping craft a complex, landmark package of bills to revamp the state’s energy policy and map out the future of electric power in Michigan, Sen. Mike Nofs tried to at least keep one part of the legislative work simple and unchanging — the measure’s overarching goals.
“We wanted to control our destiny, regardless of the policies being set at the federal level,” he says. “And that meant focusing on affordability, reliability and clean energy.”
And that, in turn, led him and other lawmakers to make efficiency — or “waste reduction,” as it is now referred to in Michigan statute — a big part of the state’s new energy law, which was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in late 2016 (SB 437 and SB 438). Only weeks before, another Midwestern state, Illinois, also took sweeping actions on energy policy, with a law that includes new incentives and standards for its utilities to achieve greater efficiency.
For 40 years, Mary Murphy has been introducing legislation and casting votes that shape public policy in her home state of Minnesota. But the longtime state representative always had her eye on being part of another vote, and this past year, she finally got the chance. In December, Rep. Murphy and nine other fellow Minnesotans met in St. Paul to make the state’s official votes in the U.S. Electoral College. A packed room of people — some of them high school teachers and students who had participated in a statewide mock election run by the secretary of state — watched the proceedings in the Senate Office Building.
“It was everything I expected, and more,” Murphy said a few days after casting her votes for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.
The event had special meaning for Murphy because of her many years as a high school history and civics teacher. But for most people, in most presidential elections, the Electoral College is little more than an afterthought. This time was different. First, for one of the few instances in the nation’s history, the winner of the nation’s popular vote (Clinton) lost the race for president. Second, between the Nov. 8 general election and the Dec. 19 Electoral College vote, some electors in states where Donald Trump won the popular vote were pressured to cast a vote for someone else.