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.

CSG Midwest logo
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.

Relatively few state legislative seats were up in 2013 and the only major change was in functional control of the Virginia Senate, where the Democrats eked out control. Republicans, however, continue to dominate the legislative branch across the country by controlling 26 state legislatures, compared to only 19 held by Democrats. Only four states have divided legislative control, representing near historic lows of split control. 

Chapter 3 of the 2014 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

CSG Midwest logo
Over the past year, Michigan legislators and a group of citizens have teamed up to pass measures using a lawmaking option available in only one other Midwestern state. Most recently, the Legislature passed a citizen-initiated statute on wolf hunting. According to mlive.com, the measure is an attempt to allow the hunting to continue. In December, legislators approved a citizen-initiated petition that prohibits insurers from including abortion coverage as a standard part of plans.
CSG Midwest logo

Earlier this year, Roll Call — the news source dedicated to covering Capitol Hill — ran a short headline that summed up much of U.S. policymaking today. "It’s the states, stupid,” the magazine declared. Gridlock continues to reign in the nation’s capital, with power divided among two political parties that have become more ideologically distinct and among members of U.S. Congress who have become more ideologically distant from one another. That contrasts with trends at the state level, where a single party now controls the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in close to 80 percent of state capitols. That is the highest rate of unified government in more than 50 years.

Pages