laws

CSG Midwest
As a library media specialist in a Minnesota middle school, Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein comes across potential teachers all the time. It’s the students themselves. “At our school, students are often mentoring other students, and we are flabbergasted at what we see,” she says. “They have the patience. They have the understanding. They connect well with that other student.
“And we think, ‘This kid would make such a great teacher.’”
As a legislator, Rep. Kunesh-Podein also thinks about this: What state policies could expose more of these young people to the profession, and get them on a path to becoming a teacher? One idea, part of a legislative proposal in Minnesota this year (HF 824/SF 1012), is to bring college-level, credit-bearing Introduction to Education classes into the state’s high schools; another is to identify and eliminate barriers (financial or otherwise) that stand in the way of lower-income individuals getting certified to teach.
Attracting more teachers, as well as retaining them, has been on the minds of many state policymakers in the Midwest, as evidenced by the burst of new legislative proposals, laws and investments over the past few years.
CSG Midwest
Wisconsin legislators have ended a decades-long prohibition on the cultivation of industrial hemp with the hope of opening new economic opportunities for the state’s farmers. Gov. Scott Walker signed SB 119 in November after it received unanimous support in the state House and Assembly.
CSG Midwest
Starting with the next school year, K-12 officials in Michigan will be required to consider certain factors before suspending or expelling students, under a set of new laws that aim to reduce the number of students who are removed from school. 
“Public education is a great way to improve people’s lives, but that requires them to be in school,” says Rep. Adam Zemke, who was part of a bipartisan group of legislators that led efforts to pass the bills (HB 5618-5621 and HB 5693-5695) late last year. 
CSG Midwest
When it came to helping craft a complex, landmark package of bills to revamp the state’s energy policy and map out the future of electric power in Michigan, Sen. Mike Nofs tried to at least keep one part of the legislative work simple and unchanging — the measure’s overarching goals.
“We wanted to control our destiny, regardless of the policies being set at the federal level,” he says. “And that meant focusing on affordability, reliability and clean energy.”
And that, in turn, led him and other lawmakers to make efficiency — or “waste reduction,” as it is now referred to in Michigan statute —  a big part of the state’s new energy law, which was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in late 2016 (SB 437 and SB 438). Only weeks before, another Midwestern state, Illinois, also took sweeping actions on energy policy, with a law that includes new incentives and standards for its utilities to achieve greater efficiency.
CSG Midwest
As the movement to legalize marijuana or, at least, medical marijuana gathers steam, the Midwest is living up to its reputation as neither the first nor last region of the country to adopt big changes. There are no signs that any Midwest state is ready to follow Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska by fully legalizing recreational use, although marijuana industry observers say that has more to do with the industry’s “Coasts First” focus.
But Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and, as of June 8, Ohio, have established medical marijuana programs. In addition, four states in the region — Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Nebraska — have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
North Dakotans will vote in November on a ballot proposal to legalize medical marijuana; Michigan voters might, too, depending on whether state courts rule that the signatures gathered in support of that petition are valid.

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