Decades ago, after a session of Iowa’s part-time Legislature dragged into July, the state’s lawmakers agreed they needed to find a way to prevent that from ever happening again. Their bipartisan solution at the time: Create a series of deadlines for when bills had to advance or die.
Buy America requirements, provisions added to federal legislation to require domestic content when purchasing materials for government-supported projects, are showing up more regularly in major bills passed by the U.S. Congress.
The most recent example of this trend came in September, when the U.S. Senate approved its version of the comprehensive Water Resources Development Act. The legislation would mandate that only American-made iron and steel products be used in drinking water infrastructure projects that receive funding from a federal revolving-loan program.
For supporters such as U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the rationale for these domestic content requirements is this: If taxpayer dollars are going to the projects, why not make sure that the money goes to American workers, foundries and mills?
But in seeking ways to protect and expand domestic job opportunities, Buy America (or “Buy American”) can complicate another part of the U.S. economy — the integrated supply chains that have developed across the U.S. and Canadian borders. In this type of market, a product or piece of equipment may be ready for sale only after crisscrossing the border multiple times. Domestic content requirements, then, can disrupt the way some products are made.
Fourteen years after a binational agreement between Canada and the United States led to the use of preclearance facilities at select airports, a legislative push is on to expand the program to other modes of travel between the two countries. These facilities allow people traveling to the United States (U.S. citizens and residents, as well as foreign nationals) to clear U.S. immigration and customs from their departure point rather than their arrival point. They currently operate at eight Canadian airports.
Canada and the United States have long been each other’s most important energy partners, with annual trade between the two countries in this economic sector at nearly $100 billion. Cross-border pipelines bring natural gas and oil south to major U.S. markets, and two Midwestern states, Minnesota and North Dakota, imported 12 percent of their electricity from Canada in 2014.
“North America is an integrated market,” notes Dan D’Autremont, speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan.
But leaders at the federal, state and provincial levels are taking steps now to deepen the two countries’ relationship, this time with an emphasis on sharing information and working more closely on innovations to reshape the future of energy policy and energy use across the entire continent.
The Midwest is not known as a center of solar energy development, but in fact, electricity from the sun is being generated across the region. And at the same time, perceptions about solar energy are changing — including which parts of the country can be leaders in further developing and using this renewable power source.Of the top 10 solar-producing states in the nation, for example, three are in the Northeast...
Within days after a World Trade Organization decision in December authorizing substantial retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico, the long-simmering trade dispute over country-of-origin labeling ended.
After several years of discussion that produced no solution, the U.S. Congress and the Department of Agriculture responded to the ruling by abolishing the labeling requirement.
Most legislatures do not have firm rules in place, and nearly all committee witnesses still make their statements in person, according to a recent CSG Midwest survey of the region’s legislative service agencies. However, most states in the Midwest do provide remote testimony as an option in certain situations — especially those in which an invited committee guest faces travel-related obstacles.
For most new state legislators, only a few weeks separate their November election victories and their first day in office. There is a lot to learn in that short time frame — everything from the legislative process and constituent services, to information about the staffing and resources available to them.
Orienting these new members, then, is crucial to helping make the legislative branch run smoothly, especially in states and in election years with high rates of turnover due to term limits and other factors. Offered in every Midwestern state legislature, new-member orientations are run by nonpartisan staff, often with oversight from legislative leaders or a joint or bipartisan legislative committee.
The NEXUS trusted-traveler initiative is helping people travel more seamlessly between the United States and Canada, but policy experts say program enrollment has been hampered by an inconvenient, unclear application process. Once accepted into the program, NEXUS members use designated lanes at land borders (and machines at airports) that speed their entry process. These travelers have a NEXUS card that can be scanned to retrieve all of the relevant personal data needed by a border inspector.