Capitol Comments

It is no secret that state funding to universities has been declining over the last several years, and universities are trying to find ways to make up the loss. One of the more popular ideas is increasing the number of foreign students, who generally pay higher tuition rates than in-state or other US students, even preferring them to higher-achieving US students. 

There has been a wave of legislation in 2013 regarding the banning of single-use plastic shopping bags. Los Angeles has become the largest city with a plastic bag ban; starting in 2014 all plastic bags will be banned and there will be a 10 cent fee for paper bags starting with large stores and phasing in smaller retailers later in the year.

In 2008, Chicago was the first city to privatize their parking meters, selling 36,000 of them in a 75 year lease for an initial $1.2 billion payment. This public-private partnership was seen as a way to help close budget gaps and save money. In 2012, the company Chicago Parking Meters LLC, which is backed by Morgan Stanley, made a record $140 million in profits; in 2008 when parking was still owned by the city revenues totaled $23.3 million. 

The practice of fracking, or extracting natural gas from underground shale by fracturing the rock, has become increasingly popular as technology has improved to make it cost-effective. However, despite the promise of creating thousands of jobs, it remains highly controversial. 

Laws which ban smoking in public places and within certain areas such as near schools are intended to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, which has dangerous health implications.  Everyone is free to smoke, but not to force others to inhale their smoke.  However, with the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, states have to decide how these rules apply to the new form of smoking, or “vaping.”