Capitol Comments

CSG Midwest
It didn’t take long for the Midwest’s legislators, and farmers, to jump at one of the new opportunities provided in the 2018 federal farm bill — the legalization and cultivation of industrial hemp. According to a CSG Midwest survey of state departments of agriculture, more than 70,000 acres of land were licensed in 2019 for hemp production across eight of the region’s 11 states.
The three states without any licensed hemp growers in 2019 were South Dakota, where the governor has vetoed legislation to allow production, and Iowa and Ohio, which have been awaiting U.S. Department of Agriculture approval of their regulatory plans. (Ohio’s plan was approved in early 2020.)
Most U.S. states (including all in the Midwest except South Dakota) now have laws in place allowing for legal hemp production, for research and/or commercial purposes. Despite these major policy changes, though, questions remain about how hemp will be regulated and where farmers will find markets for this crop.
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.

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