In the largest binational trading relationship in the world, no crossing matters more than the link between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Currently, about 25 percent of the goods that move between the United States and Canada do so across the Detroit River via the 85-year-old, privately owned Ambassador Bridge. It is the busiest commercial crossing in North America, and one where users often face long delays and where traffic has steadily risen since the last recession.
A new bridge, the New International Trade Crossing, is scheduled to open by 2020, but as leaders of a group of the Midwest’s state and provincial legislators note, this binational infrastructure project still requires action from the U.S. government.
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama in August, the two chairs and two co-chairs of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Midwest-Canada Relations Committee ask for a federal commitment to support and staff a U.S. customs plaza at the New International Trade Crossing.
Most states in the region have a private license system for the sale of alcoholic beverages. Private enterprises, including liquor and grocery stores, apply for a license to sell alcohol. The licenses are granted at the discretion of the licensing authority in the state. Three states in the region — Iowa, Michigan and Ohio — are called control states. None of these states operates retail liquor stores, but they do control the sale of distilled spirits at the wholesale level.
Concerned about the economic impact of a proposed fee increase on truck shipments moving across the U.S.-Canada border, the Midwest’s state and provincial legislators are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reconsider the plan.
To explain Minnesota’s nation-leading election figures — high percentages of eligible voters who are registered, for example, and who turn out on Election Day — Rep. Steve Simon doesn’t start by talking about his home state’s laws.
He begins with a factor that is unwritten and transcends generations.
“Minnesota has a civic culture that encourages and celebrates voting,” he says. “It isn’t something you can legislate.”
Across much the Midwest, in fact, that tradition of civic engagement is strong; voter turnout rates, for example, are higher than the national average — sometimes much higher in states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
But while state election laws don’t tell the whole story, their importance in the nation’s democratic system is widely understood, with the recent political and legal battles over voter identification being perhaps the most prominent recent example.
During the last year, residents of neighborhoods in Chicago and Detroit have had to deal with growing piles of petroleum coke, or petcoke. These piles were often left uncovered, allowing winds to disperse black dust into surrounding communities and nearby waterways.
Four decades ago, only about one-quarter of the U.S. students attending kindergarten went for the full day. Today, the numbers are essentially reversed — only one-quarter of kindergartners attend a half day, according to Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center.
And another change is beginning to occur as well — how states fund kindergarten.
In North Dakota, the parents of many soon-to-be kindergarten students in the state are getting some early education of their own — up to 16 weeks of programming on child development and the importance of school readiness.
In Minnesota, meanwhile, nearly 113,000 children and their families took part last school year in the state’s Early Childhood Family Education program, which offers everything from local parent-discussion groups and learning activities for children, to home visits and health and child-development screenings.
And this year, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn highlighted a new Birth-to-5 Initiative for his state, an early-childhood program that focuses in part on improving families’ access to community services and training opportunities.
February 2014 marks the three-year anniversary of a joint U.S.-Canada effort to reduce unnecessary regulatory differences that raise the cost of doing business across the border — and can raise prices for consumers as well. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper created the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council to guide bilateral work to streamline and harmonize regulations. The council works toward mutual acceptance of each other’s standards when harmonization is not possible, and seeks other ways to simplify the cross-border regulatory process, such as recognizing common testing procedures and enforcement.
Iowa families who homeschool their children have some new options as the result of legislative actions this year that remove reporting requirements and allow parents to teach unrelated students. Included as part of the state’s major education-reform package (HF 215), the new provisions also allow for parent-taught driver’s education.
For many years, the livestock industry in Canada and the U.S., especially for cattle and pigs, has been integrated, with animals moving both ways across the border for feeding and slaughter. But new U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements may change this relationship.