CSG Midwest
Best known today for its use in the U.S. Senate, the filibuster is a legislative tactic that dates back centuries — even to the days of ancient Rome. But for most legislators serving in the 11-state Midwest, this maneuver to stall debate or block a bill’s passage is much more a curiosity than a legislative reality or obstacle.
The one exception is Nebraska, home to perhaps the most unique legislative branch among the 50 U.S. state governments. In that state, where 49 senators serve in a one-house, nonpartisan chamber, the filibuster — or the threat of it — is a common occurrence.
“We operate more like a senate here rather than like a house in that we give the members great latitude to discuss, debate, cajole their colleagues,” says Patrick O’Donnell, clerk of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

On Tuesday, the Legislative Council, which handles budget and business when the full legislature is not in session, voted 10-1 to file a lawsuit against Gov. Bill Walker over his unilateral executive action to expand Medicaid eligibility, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

Gov. Walker, after unsuccessfully trying to get the legislature to approve his budget proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility during the 2015 session, followed the lead of governors in Kentucky and West Virginia and took action without the legislature’s approval.

The new Medicaid rules are to go into effect on September 1 and would made Alaska the 30th state to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

Unfunded mandates. Congressional imposition. The erosion of federalism. These terms often are tossed around as state and the federal governments continue to navigate the tricky waters of federal-state relations, particularly in the legislative branch. In the second in a series of three all-star webinars about the state of federalism as it applies to the states and the federal government, CSG explores the roles of the Congress and state legislatures, highlighting the inter-workings of congressional and elected state legislators. Panelists provide concrete examples, including health care reform, to clarify this relationship, which is crucial to the smooth functioning of the states, but can sometimes be blurry and complicated.

The opinion upholds the constitutionality of the redistricting commission as a method to draw congressional and legislative redistricting lines after a Census.     

CSG Midwest

Seeking to improve transparency and remove conflicts of interest for elected officials, Indiana lawmakers have revamped their state’s ethics laws. According to the South Bend Tribune, legislators will be required to report more on their financial-disclosure forms and on their statements of economic interest. They must now report close relatives who are lobbyists, for example, and also disclose any business interest worth at least $500,000.

CSG Midwest
Love them or hate them, lame-duck sessions are indisputably a time on the legislative calendar when big things often get done. In early 2011, for example, during the final days of Illinois’ 96th General Assembly, legislators passed an income-tax increase, legalized same-sex marriage and abolished the death penalty.
More recently, in late 2014, the Michigan Legislature approved a $1.2 billion plan to raise more money for the state’s roads. (Voters ultimately rejected this legislatively referred constitutional amendment.)
The term “lame duck,” used for decades in American politics, refers to an official leaving office due to retirement or an election loss.
For some states in the Midwest, lame-duck sessions don’t occur because of the typical calendar for a part-time legislature: Lawmakers adjourn well ahead of Election Day. But at the federal level, and in states such as Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, “lame duck” sessions occur regularly — after fall elections but before a new legislature convenes.
Some legislators in Michigan and Illinois say it is time to kill the lame duck in their states.

While oral argument is hardly a fool proof indicator of what the Supreme Court will do, it seemed the majority of the Justices favored the Arizona legislature in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The issue the Court will decide in this case is whether Arizona’s Proposition 106,...

Despite political gridlock and partisanship in Washington, D.C., Congress and the president recognize intellectual property as a driver of economic growth in America. Unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise, and intellectual property is oftentimes the primary target of cyber criminals. To protect intellectual property, the White House, Congress, and state governments all are working diligently to enhance cybersecurity.

On Dec. 16, the president signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last week. The legislation is a mix between a short-term continuing resolution, known as a “C.R.,” and a long-term omnibus spending bill. The legislation, known as the “CR-omnibus,” funds most of the government through September 2015. The exception is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only through Feb. 27, 2015.

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More than 100 years ago, the state of Wisconsin started what has since become an indispensable part of the daily work of state legislatures — the nonpartisan legislative service agency. From bill drafting to a host of research services, agency staff help make the legislative process work in capitols across the country, as political scientist Gary Moncrief noted this summer in a presentation to the Midwest’s state legislators.

Since the 1970s, he said, state legislatures have been professionalized and their role in public policy enhanced thanks to a series of reforms, among them a rise in legislative staff. For example, between 1979 and 2009, the median number of legislative staff per member of the legislature has risen from 2.7 to 3.9. (That also includes partisan staff and staff for individual legislators.)

“These reforms were largely effective in making legislatures co-equal branches of government,” Moncrief told the Midwestern Legislative Conference.
But while all states rely heavily on nonpartisan staff, the structure and duties of these agencies can vary.

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