Policy Area

The Supreme Court heard oral argument—yet again—in two cases arguing it should adopt a standard for when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Before argument court watchers were focused on Chief Justice Roberts, but during argument Justice Kavanaugh stole the show.

In 1986 in Davis v. Bandemer six Supreme Court Justices agreed that some amount of partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. But the Court has never laid out a test for making the determination.

Most recently, last term, with Justice Kennedy still on the bench, the Supreme Court again failed to articulate a standard for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The two cases before the Court today came from North Carolina and Maryland favoring Republicans and Democrats, respectively. By almost any measure the gerrymanders were unapologetic and extreme.   

Now that the Court has five solidly conservative members many have speculated that these Justices will rule that partisan gerrymandering claims raise non-justiciable political questions, effectively ending litigation over this question.

CSG Midwest
From the pork products that come from Kansas to the soaps made in Ohio, the specter of retaliatory tariffs looms large among the Midwest’s economic sectors that rely on trade with Canada and Mexico. Many of the affected industry groups continued in early 2019 to try to get their voices heard among U.S. trade leaders.
One of their latest outreach efforts: A letter signed by a diverse group of more than 40 organizations — including the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Pork Producers Council and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers — urging a return to “zero-tariff North American trade.”

All the Supreme Court Justices, even those not living in the D.C. area at the time, will remember the D.C. Snipers. Malvo’s case before the High Court is complicated.

In Miller v. Alabama (2014) the Supreme Court held that juvenile offenders convicted of homicide can’t receive a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Instead the sentencing court must take into account how children are different from adults and only sentence the “rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption” to life imprisonment without parole. In Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) the Supreme Court held that Miller’s rule applies retroactively to juveniles convicted and sentenced before Miller was decided.  

The question in Malvo v. Mathena is whether Lee Boyd Malvo may have his sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, issued before Miller, reconsidered under Miller even though they weren’t mandatory.

CSG Midwest
Two of the Midwest’s newly elected governors — one Democrat, one Republican — shared a similar message to legislatures in their first-ever State of the State addresses: It’s time to invest more in our transportation and water infrastructures.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called for raising the gas tax to fix their respective states’ roads and bridges. A third new governor in the region, Minnesota’s Tim Walz, proposed an increase as well in his first budget address.
DeWine referred to his proposed 18-cent-per-gallon hike — which would raise an estimated $1.2 billion a year — as a “minimalist, conservative approach ... the absolute bare minimum we need to protect our families and our economy.”
CSG Midwest

Few if any U.S. states have been hit harder than Ohio by the crushing rise in drug use, abuse and overdose deaths. That state’s rate of overdose deaths was second in the nation in 2017: 46.5 per 100,000. Behind those numbers, too, are tragic stories that have personally touched many Ohio legislators — and helped lead their ongoing search for policy solutions.

“For multiple years, multiple general assemblies, it has been a legislative priority,” says Ohio Sen. Jay Hottinger, a member of the General Assembly since 1995. “If you wrote just a paragraph on each bill, it would be about 17 or 18 pages.”
He was a sponsor of one of Ohio’s most recently passed bills — last year’s SB 119, known as Daniel’s law in honor of a young Ohio man who died from an opioid overdose after years of fighting addiction. Daniel Weidle had found success in his fight through the use of naltrexone (one of the medications federally approved for treatment of opioid-use disorder), but after losing his provider, Daniel got turned down several times in trying to refill his prescription.
CSG Midwest
A legal dispute in Indiana over private property rights and the public trust doctrine ended in February when the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. In 2018, Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled that public use of the Lake Michigan shoreline extended to the lake’s “natural ordinary high water mark.” Some lakefront property owners argued that the “water’s edge” should instead be used as the legal dividing line. The Indiana justices disagreed: “At a minimum, walking below the natural [ordinary high water mark] along the shores of Lake Michigan is a protected public use.”

CSG Midwest
In Kansas City’s metropolitan area, there is a long history of businesses crossing the Kansas-Missouri border — lured by one of the two states’ tax breaks and financial incentives. “It’s a zero-sum game when incentives are given to move a company just a few miles from where it was,” says Rep. Kristey Williams, a member of the Kansas House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee. “Essentially, taxpayers lose.”
Could this traditional type of interstate competition be replaced by an interstate collaboration, or cease-fire?
Smaller- and large-scale ideas were being proposed in the nation’s state legislatures in early 2019, including a bill known as the “border war bill” in Missouri. Passed by the state Senate in late February, SB 182 would prohibit state incentives from being offered to companies located in four Kansas border counties. Kansas would have to adopt a comparable ban for SB 182 to take effect.
According to Missouri Sen. Mike Cierpot, the bill’s sponsor, the two states have “spent over $335 million shuffling businesses back and forth over state lines … by moving a matter of miles, or in some cases blocks.”
CSG Midwest
Illinois has joined the growing number of Midwestern states to raise the minimum wage for workers. Six years from now, when SB 1 gets fully phased in, the wage floor for Illinois workers age 18 and older will be $15 an hour. That will be the highest minimum wage in the Midwest; four other U.S. states have adopted $15-an-hour laws.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of the start of this year, six states in the region — Illinois ($8.25 per hour), Michigan ($9.25), Minnesota ($9.86), Nebraska ($9), Ohio ($8.55) and South Dakota ($9.10) — had minimum wages higher than the federal government’s ($7.25). Under the laws in Minnesota, Ohio and South Dakota, wages are adjusted automatically every year to account for changes in the cost of living. In late 2018, with the passage of SB 1171, Michigan legislators eliminated their state’s inflationary adjustment while also increasing the minimum wage. The hourly rate rose to $9.45 in March and will increase to $12.05 by 2030.
CSG Midwest
Chronic wasting disease already is a problem in the 24 states (including all but Indiana and Ohio in the Midwest) and two Canadian provinces where it has been detected in free-ranging deer, elk or moose. This year in Minnesota, though, legislators have been exploring just how much bigger the problem could become — if the disease continues to spread and/or if it is transmitted to humans.
“It has the potential to change hunting as we know it,” Minnesota Rep. Rick Hansen says. “As a hunter, I am concerned about field processing and consumption of deer, and other hunters should be too.”
No human is known to have gotten ill from eating venison from a CWD deer, but that might not always be the case, a state expert warned lawmakers at a legislative hearing earlier this year in Minnesota.

CSG Midwest
In early March, the North Dakota and South Dakota legislatures passed bills that aim to make a clear distinction between how animal-based meat and meat substitutes are labeled for consumers.
North Dakota’s HB 1400 defines “meat” as only edible flesh from an animal raised for human consumption. Cell-cultured “meats” would need to be clearly labeled as “a cell-cultured protein food product.” They also “may not be packaged in the same, or deceptively similar, packaging as a meat food product.” Under South Dakota’s SB 68, a food product is “misbranded” if labeled in such a way “that intentionally misrepresents the product” as meat. Both measures were signed into law in early March; they received overwhelming support in the North Dakota and South Dakota legislatures.

Pages