CSG Midwest
The latest tangible sign of high-speed passenger rail service in the Midwest should arrive before the year is out: New, state-of-the-art “Charger” locomotives are ready for delivery, attendees of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission’s annual meeting were told in September.
The locomotives, made in Sacramento, Calif., by Siemens, have been successfully tested along Amtrak’s Northeast corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City, and at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo., said Dave Ward, vice president of Siemens Locomotives’ North America division.
CSG Midwest

Michigan, Ohio lead nation in new ‘Digital States Survey’

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Michigan and Ohio have been recognized as national leaders in how they employ technology to improve state government operations and services. Released in September, the biennial “Digital States Survey 2016” graded all 50 states on criteria that ranged from cost savings to improved service delivery.
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For patients who develop sepsis, the ability of a health professional to recognize it early on can mean the difference between life and death, or between full recovery and permanent organ damage. For doctors and nurses, though, early recognition of this condition (caused by the human body’s response to an infection) can be difficult.
“The symptoms are like those for the flu and many other diseases,” says Kelly Court, chief quality officer at the Wisconsin Hospital Association. “So you need to get the entire clinical team at a hospital to think sepsis when evaluating a patient, because early detection is so important.”
Four years ago, that early detection did not take place in a case that led to the tragic death of a 5-year-old girl in Illinois. The girl, Gabby Galbo, died from sepsis after a tick bite caused a bacterial infection.
Gabby’s Law (SB 2403), signed into law this summer after receiving unanimous legislative approval, puts in place new statewide requirements for hospitals, which will now have to establish and then periodically implement evidence-based sepsis protocols — for example, a process for screening and early recognition, identification of the infectious source, and guidelines for how to administer fluids and deliver antibiotics to patients. Direct-care staff in Illinois’ hospitals will have to receive periodic training on these protocols.
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In early 2012, a 17-year-old stood up in a high school cafeteria in northeast Ohio and began shooting. Three students died, three were injured. For the leaders of Ohio’s systems of mental health and developmental disabilities, that tragic incident became a call to action.
“After the fact, people said, ‘We had seen signs,’ but nobody knew what to do or how to connect with resources,” notes Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
What could the state do to help fill those resource gaps? How could it assist families and communities wanting to help a troubled young person? In part, the response has been the creation of Strong Families, Safe Communities, the goal of which is to improve care coordination and crisis-intervention services for individuals between the ages of 8 and 24 at risk of harming themselves or others due to a mental illness or developmental disability.
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One long-standing, widespread state strategy to collect debt has been the use of offset programs — ensuring that any pending payments to individuals or entities (tax refunds, for example) are used to cover their delinquent obligations.
In fiscal year 2015, for example, Iowa’s Offset Program collected $47.2 million in debt, a 162 percent increase from FY 2006. Two primary factors have contributed to this increase in debt recovery. First, certain casino winnings must now be used to pay an individual’s debt. (Other offsets can come from tax refunds, lottery winnings, and payments to vendors for goods and services.) Second, Iowa allows local governments to participate in the program. This local involvement also takes place in states such as Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Only about half of workers participate in a workplace retirement plan according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. In other words, more than 30 million full-time, full-year private-sector workers ages 18 to 64 don’t have access to an employer-based retirement plan and most Americans aren’t confident they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement. States have taken notice and are taking action.

A new annotated reference guide to state budgets, financial reports, and fiscal analyses - State Budget Sources: An Annotated Guide to State Budgets, Financial Reports, and Fiscal Analyses, from the Volcker Alliance - is now available online. The report is designed to help public officials, policy advocates, journalists, academics, and concerned citizens fully understand the critical fiscal decisions that governors and legislators must make.

The issue in Lee v. Tam is whether Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which bars the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks, violates the First Amendment.

Simon Shiao Tam named his band The Slants to “reclaim” and “take ownership” of Asian stereotypes. The PTO refused to register the band name finding it likely disparaging to persons of Asian descent. Tam sued the PTO arguing that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment Free Speech Clause.  

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Out of sight, out of mind — until they aren’t — pipelines are as yet a necessary piece of the nation’s energy puzzle, moving oil and natural gas from their origins to refineries, and thence into our gas tanks, stoves, roads, roofs and more.

But against a backdrop of heightened environmental and climate-change awareness, crude oil pipelines now also carry controversy, raising the stakes for the states, which are more or less on their own when it comes to regulating the siting of such pipelines (as long as their regulations aren’t pre-empted by applicable federal laws).

Companies that operate pipelines come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And once pipelines are operational, the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act assigns oversight to the Office of Pipeline Safety (housed within the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration).

The latest pipeline to make headlines is the Dakota Access Pipeline, a planned 1,134-mile underground pipe from the Bakken oil fields in northwest North Dakota that would run through South Dakota and Iowa to the Patoka Tank Farm in south central Illinois. If/when completed, the $3.7 billion pipeline is projected to carry more than 450,000 barrels of fracked crude oil per day.

CSG Midwest

This school year, officials of K-12 public schools in Illinois are revisiting their student-discipline policies in accordance with a new law that aims to reduce the number of students who receive out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.

“The goal is to ensure that this only happens when absolutely necessary,” says Illinois Sen. Kimberly Lightford, the sponsor of SB 100.

Students who receive exclusionary punishments are at a significantly higher risk of falling behind academically, dropping out of school, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system, according to a 2014 report from The Council of State Governments Justice Center.

For instances in which a student commits minor misconduct, the new Illinois law requires school leaders to use non-exclusionary methods of discipline — such as in-school suspension, detention or loss of privileges — and to exhaust all other methods of intervention before removing the student.