What's New

California recently became the first state to restrict the distribution of plastic drinking straws in order to reduce plastic pollution and ocean waste.

The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Full-service restaurants will be prohibited from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers unless the consumer requests a straw. In bars and restaurants across the country, plastic straws have become a popular target among those aiming to reduce waste.

This month marked the one-year anniversary of the announcement by Amazon that the company would seek a location for a second headquarters somewhere in North America, bringing with it $5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs. The announcement sparked an intense competition among communities hoping to land HQ2 and resulted in 238 proposals that earlier this year were narrowed down to 20 finalists. With Amazon now expected to announce a winner before the end of the year, it’s time to check in on where things stand with the search, who’s most likely to come out on top and whether we know any more about the criteria the company will use to make their final decision.  

States are facing problems with their correctional programs, including but not limited to issues of overpopulation and inadequate budgets. Some states, including North Dakota, have high ambitions to resemble the European prison system.  Other states, including Alabama, Massachusetts and Utah are taking small steps toward progressive prison reform to save taxpayer dollars and possibly save lives.

The Missouri River Correctional Center in North Dakota, a minimum-security prison known locally as The Farm, has started to focus...

Natural disasters have continued to grow in number, strength and size since weather data has been recorded. Recently, California was subject to the largest wildfire in the state’s history; an estimated 1.2 million acres has already burned, and fire season is far from over. The East Coast and Gulf Coast have seen a stream of hurricanes for the past several years. So far this year, we’ve seen nine hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean alone with three making landfall. Many states continue to see flooding worsen as levees grow higher along the Mississippi, drainage infrastructure fails, or record rainfalls strike overnight. Hawaii continues to watch the eruption of Kilauea as well as manage Tropical Storm Olivia.

In March, Florida enacted HB 7087, which creates several one-time tax exemptions related to hurricane response, preparedness and recovery.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, awarded $18 million in funds to 47 states through the State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, to help support and increase exporting from small businesses. The STEP grant program has been a vital resource to help states increase the number of companies that export, and thus grow their economies.

Exports from the United States account for nearly 13 percent of the gross domestic product and support millions of direct and in-direct jobs. Moreover, firms that export are more diversified and pay 15-20 percent higher wages on average than their nonexporting competitors.

The criminalization of child sex trafficking victims is a pressing issue across the country. Minors who are sex trafficked are sometimes being prosecuted due to statutory inconsistencies. Children who have not reached the legal age to consent to sex are being charged with prostitution. In all other instances, these children would be viewed as victims of statutory rape or child sexual abuse.

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sex trafficking is defined as “a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” This federal law furthers the idea that any child who is sold for sex is a victim of sex trafficking.

CSG Midwest
The state of gambling in the Midwest already varies considerably from one jurisdiction to the next.
Want to try your hand at a casino table game? You have no such chance on one side of the Iowa-Nebraska line, where the latter’s constitutional language prevents commercial casinos. Cross the Missouri River from Omaha into the Iowa town of Council Bluffs, though, and three casinos are only minutes away.
How about playing a table-style casino game while at a bar or other local establishment, via a “video gaming terminal”? In Illinois, more than 6,000 locations now have these terminals. For most other states in the region, this type of activity is nonexistent, or at least limited to charitable or tribal gaming.
These state-by-state differences in gambling are the result of a mix of constitutional language, politics and legislative decision-making. These same factors are likely to cause states in the Midwest to take varying approaches to intrastate sports betting. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law that had blocked this type of gambling activity, and a handful of states outside the region already have new laws in place.
In some Midwestern states, the odds seem pretty good that sports betting will be authorized (maybe as early as next year). In others, legalization appears much more of a long shot.
CSG Midwest
A trio of recently enacted bills in Michigan aims to help legislators take a longer, systematic view of how to meet the state’s infrastructure needs. According to Gov. Rick Snyder, his state is the first in the nation to implement this type of coordinated effort to manage drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation and private utilities.
CSG Midwest
Vacancies, whether the result of a member’s death, an appointment to a new position, or resignation for other reasons, occur on a regular basis in U.S. state legislatures. Less common is for this turnover to get much or any public attention....
CSG Midwest
Illinois residents dealing with chronic pain have been given an alternative to opioids — medical marijuana. SB 336 was signed into law in August. It provides certain individuals 21 and older with temporary access to the state’s existing medical cannabis program. This access is contingent on a licensed physician certifying that the individual has a condition for which opioids might be prescribed.
Participants must then register at a state-licensed dispensary. Dispensations are limited to 2.5 ounces every 14 days and cannot exceed 90 days per physician certification. The goal of the new law is to curb opioid addiction; according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, opioid deaths in the state increased 13 percent from 2016 to 2017.

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