Policy Area

CSG Midwest
Reduced federal and state investments in public health over the past decade.
Fewer workers in state and local health departments.
Growing numbers of people with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and other underlying conditions.
Inequities in the types of services and health infrastructure needed to keep individuals and whole communities well.
They all added up to a country vulnerable to being hit hard by a transmissible disease such as COVID-19, two public health experts said to legislators during a July webinar of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference.
Their message: Learn the hard lessons taught by the COVID-19 pandemic, and embed them in future policy decisions about public health. “We’re willing to spend a lot of money without question when people get sick, but we don’t spend very much money to stop people from becoming sick,” John Auerbach, president and CEO of the Trust for America’s Health, said to legislators participating in the webinar.
CSG Midwest
States are accustomed to working together and helping one another through times of crisis or natural disasters. Between 2016 and 2019 alone, via the congressionally authorized Emergency Management Assistance Compact, more than half of the U.S. states requested assistance from others. Every state but one provided help to another state during this time. In all, more than 29,000 personnel were deployed to states in need of help.
But the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has brought challenges to states that they have not previously faced. That includes how to facilitate interstate cooperation and support.
CSG Midwest
This spring, as schools across the nation shut down in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Dakota and broadband service providers in the state stepped up.
The result was a quick reduction in what has been dubbed the “homework gap.”
“What’s really impressive is that in a matter of weeks, North Dakota was able to get 90 percent of unconnected student homes hooked up to broadband,” Jack Lynch, state engagement director for the nonprofit group EducationSuperHighway, said during a July 30 webinar held by three committees of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference.
The gap in student access to internet connectivity is nothing new. What’s changed, though, is the urgency among state policymakers to address the problem, as schools rely more on remote learning to replace some or all in-person instruction and to ensure the continuity of learning if buildings have to be closed due to health- or weather-related events.

CSG Midwest
In a session year shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Iowa Legislature still managed to pass significant bipartisan legislation impacting livestock and food production. Most notably, SF 2413 (signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in June) addresses what Sen. Ken Rozenboom says are “the most critical issues facing the livestock industry in Iowa today: foreign animal diseases and protection of food production facilities.”
Under this measure, he says, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship now has a more clearly defined process for how to respond to a foreign animal disease. The state agency had participated in a U.S. Department of Agriculture mock drill earlier and found some weaknesses in its ability to respond to outbreaks of such diseases as African swine fever or avian influenzas.
Iowa’s statutory language has now been broadened by replacing the word “livestock” with the word “animals,” thus allowing the department to segregate, treat or dispose of diseased animals, including those that may be abandoned by their owners.

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The Supreme Court refused to overturn a consent decree in which Rhode Island state government officials agreed, due to COVID-19, to not enforce state law requiring the signature of two witnesses or a notary public for mail ballots.

The Court issued a statement noting that it stayed a court order in a case from Alabama similar to the consent decree in this case. However, according to the Court, in this case no state officials object to the consent...

The Supreme Court has not allowed a federal district court order to go into effect which required Oregon to include a ballot initiative with only 50 percent of the signatures required by Oregon’s constitution, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregon Constitution requires advocates of ballot initiatives to obtain signatures equal to eight percent of ballots cast in the most recent governor’s race (here about 150,000) four months before the...

Without explanation the Supreme Court stayed a preliminary injunction requiring the Orange County California jail and jail officials to implement safety measures to protect inmates during the COVID–19 pandemic.

Justices Breyer and Kagan, without explaining their reasons, indicated they wouldn’t have granted the stay. Justice Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented from the Court’s decision to lift the injunction and explained why. 

According to the...

In Idaho to get a citizen’s initiative on the ballot, petitioners must obtain signatures from six percent of electors by April 30. Reclaim Idaho asked to be temporarily allowed to gather signatures online due to COVID-19. It sued after state government officials informed it that Idaho statutes don’t allow electronic signatures for petitions and the governor didn’t intend to take executive action.

As the Supreme Court explained, “[t]he District Court in...

A federal district court has ruled that as long as there is a declared national health emergency related to COVID-19, the public charge rule may not go into effect.

Immigrants who are deemed a “public charge” are ineligible to receive green cards/lawful permanent resident status. The most recent definition of public charge, adopted in 1999, included immigrants who demonstrated a need for “institutionalization for...

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