Only a few months after celebrating key congressional victories at the end of 2016, Great Lakes advocates are now fighting to prevent a complete elimination of funding for a federal program that has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that protect habitat, stop the spread of invasive species and clean up “Areas of Concern.”
President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for an end to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It says “specific regional efforts,” such as those related to the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, should instead be the responsibility of state and local entities.
Over the course of a two-week period in late March and early April, the rules for prescribing painkillers were tightened in Ohio, an improved drug-monitoring system was unveiled in Michigan, and nine bills to prevent opioid abuse won passage in the Wisconsin Assembly. The flurry of activity in those three states illustrates just how big the opioid problem continues to be in many parts of the Midwest, as well as how much of a priority legislative leaders have placed on finding new ways to address it.
Near the top of that priority list is better controlling how prescription drugs are dispensed, prescribed and used.
Federal laws and regulations on the environment often serve only as a “floor,” with states having the leeway to enact tougher rules or statutes of their own. However, some state legislatures and governors have adopted measures (either state laws or executive orders) designed to rein in the actions of their own environmental agencies. Most recently, in February, Indiana’s HB 1082 became law. It applies to any Department of Environmental Management rule that is “more stringent than a restriction or requirement imposed under federal law” or “applies in a subject area in which federal law does not impose a restriction or requirement.”
From demonstrations trying to stop proposed pipelines to rallies denouncing deadly police encounters with civilians, the number of protests in the Midwest has been unusually high over the past year. The region’s legislators have taken notice, revisiting their states’ laws on criminal trespassing, loitering, picketing, blocking roadways and disorderly conduct. As of early March, protest-related legislation had been introduced in 2017 in at least five of the region’s 11 states. North Dakota and South Dakota were the first two Midwestern states where those bills became law.
Starting in July, Minnesotans will have the option of buying alcohol on Sunday, the result of legislation (HF 30) signed into law in March. Minnesota and Indiana have been the only two states in the Midwest with Sunday-sales bans. Indiana’s SB 83, introduced in January, would allow the state’s grocery and drug stores to get a supplemental dealer’s permit and sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday; liquor store dealers would not need this permit.
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.