This year, the region's legislators tackled some of the nation's biggest issues, from school safety to labor shortages. Notable changes in state tax policy, gun laws, retirement systems and legislative pay also marked the 2018 legislative year.
In September, South Dakota lawmakers met in special session to finalize a policy change that Gov. Dennis Daugaard said was “50 years in the making.” He signed two bills that allow the state to act on its new legal authority to collect taxes from remote and online sales.
Under SB 1, which takes effect on Nov. 1, South Dakota will enforce sales tax collections from online retailers who have at least $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions a year. A second bill approved in the recent special session (SB 2) requires online marketplace providers such as Amazon to attain a sales tax license and remit sales taxes on behalf of sellers that use their services.
Michigan is the first state in the Midwest with a law requiring employers to offer paid sick time to their workers. But after the legislative vote, it was unclear how long the new measure would stay on the books. The Earned Sick Time Act began as an initiative petition and was scheduled to be on the November ballot. However, the Michigan Constitution gives the Legislature the opportunity to consider proposed ballot initiatives. Legislative approval of paid sick time came in early September — meaning no statewide vote on the measure.
Indiana’s highways, largest airport, commuter rail lines, recreational trails and broadband infrastructure are set to get a $1 billion funding boost. According to the governor’s office, an amended agreement between the state and the private company that runs the Indiana Toll Road will generate the money needed for this new infrastructure investment. (In 2006, Indiana entered into a 75-year agreement to lease the toll road to private investors.) In exchange for the $1 billion, the state is allowing the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company, LLC, to increase toll rates on heavy vehicles by 35 percent.
Reflective of a national trend that has states re-examining how they evaluate the performance of teachers, Ohio is moving ahead with a revamped system that relies less on student test scores and places a greater emphasis on professional development.
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.
Answer: A mix of state and federal laws makes it illegal for certain individuals to own or possess a firearm. At the federal level, the U.S. Gun Control Act prevents gun access to convicted felons, individuals addicted to a controlled substance, domestic violence abusers, and certain people with mental illnesses, among others.
By 2022, every hospital emergency room in Illinois must have staff that can provide specialized care to victims of sexual assault. This new requirement is the result of HB 5245, a bill passed unanimously by the General Assembly and signed into law this summer. Under the law, a trained provider will have to be present in the emergency room within 90 minutes of the patient arriving in the hospital. According to the Illinois attorney general’s office, few hospitals currently provide specialized care for sexual assault victims.