Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
After years of trying, Iowa lawmakers and others wanting to tweak or completely replace a decades-old system of selecting state Supreme Court judges were able to proclaim legislative victory in 2019. But as of early October, they still needed some wins in court to ensure the change.
At issue is Iowa’s 57-year-old merit-based selection process: State supreme court justices are appointed by the governor, whose choices are limited to a list of three candidates submitted by a judicial nominating commission. Four other Midwestern states also use some form of merit selection.
CSG Midwest
Before they voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, legislators in Illinois committed to learning as much as possible from the experiences of other states. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, lead sponsor of the bill signed into law in June (HB 1438), and others spent two years visiting growers, processors and dispensaries across the United States; they also held more than 100 stakeholder meetings in the state.
The end result: a 600-plus-page bill much different than any other state’s law on marijuana legalization. For example, the bill focuses heavily on ensuring diversity in ownership of the new businesses that come from legalization, and investing in the communities and people disproportionately impacted by enforcement of the state’s old laws on cannabis. But another facet of the new law stands out as well, and reflects what lawmakers found in their fact-finding work prior to the bill’s introduction. “[We were] struck by the intensive power and water usage involved in growing marijuana,” Cassidy says. In response, lawmakers included environmental requirements and efficiency standards for those seeking a license to cultivate marijuana.

CSG Midwest
Wisconsin remains on a path to dramatically overhaul its juvenile justice system, but to get to the finish line, the state may need to find more money than originally expected.
AB 953, a bipartisan bill passed in 2018, aims to keep most young offenders in smaller, regional facilities, rather than locked up in a larger, faraway youth prison in northern Wisconsin. That goal aligns with research on how to best rehabilitate young people, says Mary Jo Meyers, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services.

When the lines are long and the protesters loud, predicting the path the Supreme Court might take is a perilous practice. Especially if the Justice who voted most in the majority last term—Justice Kavanaugh—is nearly silent.

And yet…when the lawyer arguing that gender identity is covered under Title VII, David Cole, spends most of him time explaining how the case the Court will decide after he wins should be decided—it is hard to suspect his hasn’t already won.

The D.C. Circuit upheld most of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 order retreating from net neutrality. But the court struck down the portion of the order disallowing states and local governments from adopting measures preempting the order. Numerous states and local governments challenged the legality of the order. 

Net neutrality requires internet service providers to treat all Internet communications the same and not block, speed up or slow down any content. Net neutrality was federal policy until the 2018 order.

The issue the Supreme Court will decide in June Medical Services LLC v. Gee is whether Louisiana’s law requiring physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital conflicts with Supreme Court precedent.

If the legal issue in this case sounds familiar that is because it is. In 2016 in a 5-4 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the Supreme Court struck down Texas’s admitting privileges law. In June Medical Services LLC v. Gee the Fifth Circuit upheld Louisiana’s law noting that the “facts in the instant case are remarkably different” from the facts in the Texas case.

Nevada hosted its 2019 Occupational Licensing Policy and Practice Learning Consortium In-State meeting on Sept. 6 in Las Vegas. The state’s Occupational Licensing Consortium Core Team of legislators, executive branch employees and regulatory board members convened to review this year’s progress and plan for future success. The Nevada officials were joined by representatives from The Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governor’s association to provide technical assistance and...

CSG Midwest

Under a new law that took effect in August (HF 50), drivers in Minnesota can only use voice commands or single-touch activation on their phones to make calls and texts. Violators of the state’s “hands-free” statute will be ticketed $50, plus court fees; the penalty is $275 for repeat violations. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 18 other states, including Illinois in the Midwest, have hands-free bans in place. In each of these states, the use of a hand-held cell phone is a primary offense, meaning a police officer can cite a driver for it without any other traffic offense taking place.

CSG Midwest
Income tax relief is coming to residents in at least two Midwestern states this biennium, while in a third state, legislators took the first step this year toward a major tax overhaul. In Wisconsin, under AB 56 and AB 251, rate reductions are being made to the state’s bottom two income-tax brackets. (Wisconsin’s graduated system has four tax brackets.)
CSG Midwest

If a Minnesota student wants to have the experience of attending college in another country, he or she doesn’t have to go far — and the cost can be much less than the tuition paid at a public, in-state university. That is because Minnesota has a tuition-reciprocity agreement with its northern neighbor, the Canadian province of Manitoba.

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