Starting in 2017, all of Nebraska’s high school juniors will take a college admissions exam such as the ACT or SAT. Under the recently enacted LB 930, the state Department of Education can use lottery proceeds to pay for administration of the test.
One of the more notable trends in state policy over the past decade has been the increased legislative activity and investment around early childhood education. In the Midwest, countless laws and programs (some new, some long-standing) are now in place, from “Preschool for All” in Illinois to “Gearing Up for Kindergarten” in North Dakota.
Voters in two Midwestern states may soon have the chance to take the power of drawing legislative districts out of the hands of their legislatures. In South Dakota, a proposed constitutional amendment has already been certified and will appear on the fall ballot. It calls for a nine-member, independent commission to handle the state’s redistricting process. No commissioners could have served in state political office or a political party’s office within the last three years. In addition, no more than three people from the same political party could be named to the commission.
Earlier this year, to coincide with an open-government initiative known as Sunshine Week, reporters from the Associated Press sent requests for the records of legislative leaders in all 50 states. They asked for lawmakers’ daily schedules as well as emails from their government accounts.In most cases, AP reported in March, its reporters came away empty-handed, as they ran into more denials for the requests than approvals.
This right to deny access to certain records is a long-standing, widespread prerogative of legislators in states across the country — the result of a mix of constitutional language and principles, statutory language, and legal opinions.
The end of a years-long journey by a Wisconsin town to use the Great Lakes for its supply of drinking water appears near, and the entire process has helped mark the beginning of a new era in regionwide management of this invaluable resource.
Under a new law that received unanimous approval in the state Legislature, Iowa is making it easier for members of the military and other overseas residents to vote. HF 2147 gives overseas voters an extra 30 days to request and return special absentee ballots. (The period of time was extended from 90 days to 120.) Statutory language also was changed to prevent overseas ballots from being rejected by county auditors.
Eight years ago, Minnesota lawmakers established a new way of paying for health care that they said should lead to lower costs and higher-quality care. The hopes for this “health care home” model appear to have been realized. A five-year evaluation found that this model saved Medicaid and Medicare $1 billion. In addition, participating health clinics outperformed others on various quality measures, University of Minnesota investigators found.
The nation’s leader in wind energy and use has hit yet another milestone. Iowa is now getting more than 30 percent of its electricity from this renewable source — the only U.S. state that has reached this threshold. According to Gov. Terry Branstad, the state has the potential to reach 40 percent within the next five years....
Indiana legislators want more of their state’s “best and brightest” to enter the teaching profession, and they plan to spend $10 million on a plan to steer young people in that career direction. HB 1002, signed into law in March, establishes a Next Generation Hoosiers Education Scholarship.