Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents.
Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.)
Friesen is hopeful, though, that a mix of recent policy changes and new recommendations can help begin closing the state’s connectivity gap. This fall, a rural broadband task force laid out a plan for state action. According to Friesen, who served on the task force and sponsored the legislation creating it (LB 994 from 2018), two strategies stand out as ways to help build out broadband in Nebraska: one, modernizaton of the state’s Universal Service Fund (USF); and two, support for the Public Service Commission’s use of “reverse auctions.”
CSG Midwest
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents.
Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.)
Friesen is hopeful, though, that a mix of recent policy changes and new recommendations can help begin closing the state’s connectivity gap. This fall, a rural broadband task force laid out a plan for state action. According to Friesen, who served on the task force and sponsored the legislation creating it (LB 994 from 2018), two strategies stand out as ways to help build out broadband in Nebraska: one, modernizaton of the state’s Universal Service Fund (USF); and two, support for the Public Service Commission’s use of “reverse auctions.”
CSG Midwest
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents.
Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.)
Friesen is hopeful, though, that a mix of recent policy changes and new recommendations can help begin closing the state’s connectivity gap. This fall, a rural broadband task force laid out a plan for state action. According to Friesen, who served on the task force and sponsored the legislation creating it (LB 994 from 2018), two strategies stand out as ways to help build out broadband in Nebraska: one, modernizaton of the state’s Universal Service Fund (USF); and two, support for the Public Service Commission’s use of “reverse auctions.”
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
Pick the indicator, and it points to troubling times for the Midwest’s dairy industry. Wisconsin, which has led the nation in farm bankruptcies three straight years, lost 450 dairy farms in the first half of 2019 alone — on top of the 590 that closed in 2018. In all of this region’s major dairy-producing states, too, the number of licensed dairy herds is falling, by as much as 13 percent in Michigan (see map).
A worldwide surplus of milk, combined with the impact of tariffs, has led to multiple years of unfavorable market conditions for dairy farmers: Farmgate prices dropped precipitously in 2014, to below $17 cwt, and have remained down and below the cost of production, $20 cwt. (Cwt is a unit measurement equal to 100 pounds of milk).
Can states help turn around, or at least stabilize, the situation for dairy farmers?
This year, legislators in two of the nation’s top dairy-producing states have sought ways to help, including putting new dollars into price supports (Minnesota) and research (Wisconsin).

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