Today, grand juries are viewed mostly as a tool for prosecutors, a means of gathering evidence and seeking indictments. But they have long had a second important function as well — to control the government and its power to prosecute.
Six states, including Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota in the Midwest, have laws on the books that put a twist on this government-checking role: Allow local citizens themselves to form grand juries. The target of these state statutes is not overzealous prosecutors, but inactive ones.
Answer: A mix of state and federal laws makes it illegal for certain individuals to own or possess a firearm. At the federal level, the U.S. Gun Control Act prevents gun access to convicted felons, individuals addicted to a controlled substance, domestic violence abusers, and certain people with mental illnesses, among others.
By 2022, every hospital emergency room in Illinois must have staff that can provide specialized care to victims of sexual assault. This new requirement is the result of HB 5245, a bill passed unanimously by the General Assembly and signed into law this summer. Under the law, a trained provider will have to be present in the emergency room within 90 minutes of the patient arriving in the hospital. According to the Illinois attorney general’s office, few hospitals currently provide specialized care for sexual assault victims.
The state of gambling in the Midwest already varies considerably from one jurisdiction to the next.
Want to try your hand at a casino table game? You have no such chance on one side of the Iowa-Nebraska line, where the latter’s constitutional language prevents commercial casinos. Cross the Missouri River from Omaha into the Iowa town of Council Bluffs, though, and three casinos are only minutes away.
How about playing a table-style casino game while at a bar or other local establishment, via a “video gaming terminal”? In Illinois, more than 6,000 locations now have these terminals. For most other states in the region, this type of activity is nonexistent, or at least limited to charitable or tribal gaming.
These state-by-state differences in gambling are the result of a mix of constitutional language, politics and legislative decision-making. These same factors are likely to cause states in the Midwest to take varying approaches to intrastate sports betting. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law that had blocked this type of gambling activity, and a handful of states outside the region already have new laws in place.
In some Midwestern states, the odds seem pretty good that sports betting will be authorized (maybe as early as next year). In others, legalization appears much more of a long shot.
A trio of recently enacted bills in Michigan aims to help legislators take a longer, systematic view of how to meet the state’s infrastructure needs. According to Gov. Rick Snyder, his state is the first in the nation to implement this type of coordinated effort to manage drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation and private utilities.
Vacancies, whether the result of a member’s death, an appointment to a new position, or resignation for other reasons, occur on a regular basis in U.S. state legislatures. Less common is for this turnover to get much or any public attention....
Illinois residents dealing with chronic pain have been given an alternative to opioids — medical marijuana. SB 336 was signed into law in August. It provides certain individuals 21 and older with temporary access to the state’s existing medical cannabis program. This access is contingent on a licensed physician certifying that the individual has a condition for which opioids might be prescribed.
Participants must then register at a state-licensed dispensary. Dispensations are limited to 2.5 ounces every 14 days and cannot exceed 90 days per physician certification. The goal of the new law is to curb opioid addiction; according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, opioid deaths in the state increased 13 percent from 2016 to 2017.
According to the Council for Economic Education’s “Survey of States,” which analyzes and compares laws across the nation, every state in the Midwest shares at least one policy — the inclusion of personal finance in its K-12 standards. But from there, the policies of states diverge, and they’ve also been changing in recent years due to the enactment of new laws.
The number of people with disabilities working for the state of Minnesota has risen considerably over the past four years, reflecting a concerted effort across agencies to improve outreach, recruitment and hiring practices. The latest state figures show that 7 percent of the workforce has a disability of some kind — the goal set by Gov. Mark Dayton in a 2014 executive order. “We need a state workforce that reflects the diverse populations we serve,” Minnesota Management and Buget Commissioner Myron Frans says.
Ohio has become the latest state in the Midwest to address school safety through a mix of new laws and funding. Under HB 318, signed into law in August, a $12 million grant program will be established for schools to pursue training in a number of areas, from how to deal with an active shooter to how to help students with mental health issues. Over the next few months, too, the Ohio Department of Public Safety will conduct studies of school security in order to ensure the proper infrastructure is in place to keep students safe.
One particular emphasis of Ohio’s new law is school resource officers. HB 318 establishes new qualifications and training requirements for these police officers working inside schools, while also specifying the type of services that they can provide (for example, fostering problem-solving strategies and contributing to emergency management plans).