Minnesota

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Under a new law that took effect in August (HF 50), drivers in Minnesota can only use voice commands or single-touch activation on their phones to make calls and texts. Violators of the state’s “hands-free” statute will be ticketed $50, plus court fees; the penalty is $275 for repeat violations. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 18 other states, including Illinois in the Midwest, have hands-free bans in place. In each of these states, the use of a hand-held cell phone is a primary offense, meaning a police officer can cite a driver for it without any other traffic offense taking place.

CSG Midwest
Income tax relief is coming to residents in at least two Midwestern states this biennium, while in a third state, legislators took the first step this year toward a major tax overhaul. In Wisconsin, under AB 56 and AB 251, rate reductions are being made to the state’s bottom two income-tax brackets. (Wisconsin’s graduated system has four tax brackets.)
CSG Midwest

If a Minnesota student wants to have the experience of attending college in another country, he or she doesn’t have to go far — and the cost can be much less than the tuition paid at a public, in-state university. That is because Minnesota has a tuition-reciprocity agreement with its northern neighbor, the Canadian province of Manitoba.

CSG Midwest
Pick the indicator, and it points to troubling times for the Midwest’s dairy industry. Wisconsin, which has led the nation in farm bankruptcies three straight years, lost 450 dairy farms in the first half of 2019 alone — on top of the 590 that closed in 2018. In all of this region’s major dairy-producing states, too, the number of licensed dairy herds is falling, by as much as 13 percent in Michigan (see map).
A worldwide surplus of milk, combined with the impact of tariffs, has led to multiple years of unfavorable market conditions for dairy farmers: Farmgate prices dropped precipitously in 2014, to below $17 cwt, and have remained down and below the cost of production, $20 cwt. (Cwt is a unit measurement equal to 100 pounds of milk).
Can states help turn around, or at least stabilize, the situation for dairy farmers?
This year, legislators in two of the nation’s top dairy-producing states have sought ways to help, including putting new dollars into price supports (Minnesota) and research (Wisconsin).
CSG Midwest
A decade ago, Ami Wazlawik, now a member of the Minnesota House, was graduating from college at an inopportune time — in the middle of the nation’s Great Recession. “I was like everyone else,” she recalls, “looking for a job.”
Instead, she found community service, working with students for a school year as a part of Minnesota’s Reading Corps, an experience that had a lasting impact not only on the students she tutored, but on her own life. Wazlawik says Reading Corps helped cement her commitment to being an active citizen, and is one reason she ran for public office.
And the program itself is often cited as a national model for how states can leverage the power of public service to address longstanding challenges or long-term goals.

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