Key developments include shifts in partisan control in one of the region's legislatures and four governor's offices, Michigan's legalization of recreational marijuana and the state's redistricting overhaul, and Nebraska's Medicaid expansion.
Two Midwestern states announced plans this fall to do more to prevent elder abuse. In Ohio, a new $1.3 million project will seek to raise public awareness, create an online referral system to report abuse, and establish new county-level collaborations. Much of the money for this new initiative is coming from a federal grant. This year, too, Ohio has expanded its mandatory-reporter law. Under HB 49, which took effect in September, many more individuals must report cases of elder abuse or face fines. The list of mandatory reporters now includes pharmacists, certified public accountants, financial planners, real estate agents and first-responders, among others.
This year, the region's legislators tackled some of the nation's biggest issues, from school safety to labor shortages. Notable changes in state tax policy, gun laws, retirement systems and legislative pay also marked the 2018 legislative year.
In September, South Dakota lawmakers met in special session to finalize a policy change that Gov. Dennis Daugaard said was “50 years in the making.” He signed two bills that allow the state to act on its new legal authority to collect taxes from remote and online sales.
Under SB 1, which takes effect on Nov. 1, South Dakota will enforce sales tax collections from online retailers who have at least $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions a year. A second bill approved in the recent special session (SB 2) requires online marketplace providers such as Amazon to attain a sales tax license and remit sales taxes on behalf of sellers that use their services.
Michigan is the first state in the Midwest with a law requiring employers to offer paid sick time to their workers. But after the legislative vote, it was unclear how long the new measure would stay on the books. The Earned Sick Time Act began as an initiative petition and was scheduled to be on the November ballot. However, the Michigan Constitution gives the Legislature the opportunity to consider proposed ballot initiatives. Legislative approval of paid sick time came in early September — meaning no statewide vote on the measure.
Indiana’s highways, largest airport, commuter rail lines, recreational trails and broadband infrastructure are set to get a $1 billion funding boost. According to the governor’s office, an amended agreement between the state and the private company that runs the Indiana Toll Road will generate the money needed for this new infrastructure investment. (In 2006, Indiana entered into a 75-year agreement to lease the toll road to private investors.) In exchange for the $1 billion, the state is allowing the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company, LLC, to increase toll rates on heavy vehicles by 35 percent.
Reflective of a national trend that has states re-examining how they evaluate the performance of teachers, Ohio is moving ahead with a revamped system that relies less on student test scores and places a greater emphasis on professional development.