Midwest

CSG Midwest

The scale and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned a spotlight on the role of states in responding to a new public health emergency in a manner quite unlike a tornado, flood or even recent viral concerns such as H1N1 or Ebola. By April, all states and provinces in the CSG Midwest region had declared either states of emergency or public health emergencies. In many, governors or premiers had enacted “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders for the first time in living memory.

For state legislatures, the early response centered on working with their governors (oversight, consultation, etc.) and providing emergency funding where it was needed most.

“It’s not our job to micro-manage the response, but to understand what the professionals already have in place, what they need, and what they say we’ll need next,” Minnesota Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson says. “Our job is to listen to them and have some clear conversations about how we’re going to help.”

CSG Midwest

In March, Senate President Roger Roth got the call to prepare for an unprecedented — but not unthinkable — event in the legislative history of Wisconsin. “Whatever you have to do,” he was told by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, “we need to be able to have a contingency plan in the midst of this coronavirus [outbreak].” 

Roth’s job as presiding officer: Get the state Senate ready for a first-ever virtual meeting of the entire chamber, so that it could pass essential bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping its 33 members and legislative staff safe. “I immediately called our legislative service agencies: our technology folks, our lawyers, our parliamentarians,” Roth says. “And from that point on, they haven’t stopped working.”

After much preparatory work, practice and dress rehearsals, actual virtual sessions of the Wisconsin Senate began being held in April.

“First, you want to protect the health and safety of our members, and one-third of [the senators] are 68 or older,” Roth says, noting that older people are at a higher risk of developing serious, potentially fatal, complications if exposed to COVID-19. Just as important, in the midst of these extraordinary circumstances, people are looking for stability and want to be reassured. I think it’s important to show that even in these challenging times, our government, just like our people, will endure.”

CSG Midwest
After nine months of extensive, unprecedented analysis of Michigan's county jail populations, a specially formed task force has delivered 18 recommendations to the Legislature designed to improve state policies and curb rising jail incarceration rates.
The bipartisan task force's work reflects concerns in Michigan about the impact of a growing jail population, which has occurred even amid big drops in the state's total crime rate (see line graph). 

CSG Midwest
Legislation in nearly every state in the region provides a purchasing preference to products manufactured or produced using recycled content. However, the extent of the preference varies, including whether the state has statutory language that spells out a price preference for bidders who offer recycled products.
Indiana, Kansas, Michigan and Minnesota are examples of states that specify a particular price preference. Indiana offers a price preference of between 10 and 15 percent for products containing recycled content, while Kansas provides a 5 percent price preference.
CSG Midwest
Illinois schools must now grant a two-hour excused absence for students seeking to cast a ballot. Signed into law in January, SB 1970 is for “any student entitled to vote” in a primary or general election (either on Election Day or during the state’s early-voting period). The school can specify the hours that it will allow a student to be absent.

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