Policy Area

In a fractured 6-3 opinion in Ramos v. Louisiana the Supreme Court held that for convictions of serious crimes state court jury verdicts must be unanimous.

In 48 states and federal court, a single juror’s vote to acquit prevents a conviction. Louisiana and Oregon allow convictions for serious crimes based on 10-to-2 verdicts.

The Sixth Amendment states that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy...

In a 7-2 decision in Atlantic Richfield v. Christian the Supreme Court held that landowners located on a Superfund site who wanted additional remedies beyond the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to clean up the site could not sue in state court.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund statute, seeks “to promote the timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and to ensure...

CSG Midwest

In mid-March, the nation’s education community — school administrators, teachers, students and parents — began a crash course in e-learning. For state legislators, too, there have been important lessons to learn about their schools’ rollout of this alternative to face-to-face instruction, as well as many policy issues to consider about the potential fallout.

One likely consequence, for example, is a lag in student achievement, says Georgia Heyward, a research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which has created a database detailing and comparing the e-learning plans of school districts across the country.

“I think a learning slide should be expected,” she says. “Early on, we have been seeing very few school districts that offer live instruction, where you have a [professionally trained] teacher guiding the students rather than a harried parent. “And you have very few districts doing progress monitoring of students.”

That learning slide also may be unevenly distributed. Early on, anecdotal evidence pointed to disparities in the richness of the e-learning plans being developed and implemented by school districts.

On March 18, 2020, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), providing certain workers up to ten paid sick days and up to twelve weeks of emergency family leave in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 1, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule implementing the FFCRA. In a lawsuit, New York challenges four aspects of the final rule.

Generally, New York objects to the final rule because it...

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.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of federal-state vocational rehabilitation programs and services. The 1920 Smith-Fees Act, also known as the Civilian Rehabilitation Act, put forth the necessary funding for states to provide prosthetics, vocational guidance, training, occupational adjustment and placement services to individuals with disabilities.

Since the passing of this bill, state legislators have not only sought to fund research regarding vocational rehabilitation (VR)...

Pennsylvania Disability Summit Billboard

Pennsylvania Representative Dan Miller hosted his seventh annual Disability and Mental Health Summit in Pittsburgh at the beginning of March.  The event highlights a variety of critical issues faced by people with disabilities. Over 2,000 legislators, advocates, youth, and practitioners were in attendance.

The all-day event covered a variety of topics including sessions on Building a Youth Mental Health Advocacy Network, Navigating Medicaid for a Child with a Disability, and From Referral to Job Placement: Led by the...

Whether lower courts may issue nationwide injunctions is one of a number of legal issues the Supreme Court will decide in Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sister of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. Nationwide injunctions are controversial because they benefit non-parties. For...

CSG Midwest

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one in five 15-year-olds doesn’t understand basic financial concepts. For those young people, too, some very important financial decisions lie only a few years ahead — how to save and invest, how to choose between college and work, how to borrow wisely, how to manage debit and credit cards, etc.

One response by states to the challenge of improving personal financial literacy: Require more of high schools and students in this subject area, with the hope that it lays the groundwork for long-term economic success. “Well-implemented state financial education mandates lead to a clear improvement in financial behaviors,” according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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