On Friday night, close to midnight, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision rejected a request from a number of California churches to strike down the portion of California governor’s stay-at-home order limiting attendance at places of worship to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote a brief, concurring opinion explaining his vote. First, he noted that the churches face a high bar in obtaining...

CSG Midwest
With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, and a rise in deaths from the disease, “social distancing” has become a familiar term and way of life across the country. But how is social distancing possible for people whose days are spent in a 6-by-8-foot cell with another person? How can state and local governments maintain public safety while protecting inmates? How can they prevent outbreaks from starting in correctional facilities, and then spreading to the wider community?
These are some of the questions that have vexed criminal justice administrators, inmates, staff and family members for months. 
CSG Midwest
After the end to an unforeseen school year across the Midwest, state and local education leaders now face a new set of challenges and uncertainties as the start of another year looms. “We have been encouraging our district leaders and our school leaders to have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C,” Illinois State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in May during a Facebook Live discussion organized by Illinois Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch.
“We may see the start of school [in the fall] in a remote fashion. We may see a combination where some children are allowed to come to school on certain days, or where we take the upper grades and are able to spread them out in a school building with social distancing norms. Or we may be able to come back full force.”
CSG Midwest
Name the commodity critical to the Midwest’s agricultural producers and rural communities, and evidence of the devastating, immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is plain to see. Futures prices for hogs and feeder cattle? Down 53 percent and 25 percent, respectively, between the start of this year and beginning of April, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Over that same time period, futures prices fell for ethanol (-33 percent), corn (-20 percent), soybeans (-13 percent), Class III milk (-22 percent) and wheat (-4 percent).
“We are definitely living in uncertain times, with every aspect of our economy affected,” Minnesota Rep. Paul Anderson said in April during a webinar hosted by The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. “Agriculture has taken a big hit from the pandemic, and it will take many months, if not years, to recover.”
One of the takeaways from that webinar: State legislatures can play a central role in helping the Midwest’s farm operations and other rural businesses survive, and recover.
CSG Midwest
Even as the U.S.-Canada border shut down earlier this year to all but trade and the movement of essential workers, the strength and durability of the relationship between the two countries was on display.
“[They] worked as partners to restrict, but not [totally] close, the border,” Chris Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said during a May webinar for state and provincial legislators.
This cooperative effort (which included Mexico, via a separate border agreement with the United States), he said, was “historic.” And looking ahead, as the border begins to “reawaken,” he views the North American trading relationship as potentially more important than ever before.
According to Sands, one of the likely takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic will be a push to change supply chains for essential goods such as medical equipment and supplies — away from producers in markets such as China to those in North America. Not only will this be a deliberate policy shift among governments, he said, some manufacturers “will no longer want to put their supply chains at risk.”
CSG Midwest
Since early April, Rep. Dave Greenspan and 23 other members of a specially formed Ohio House task force have been meeting, sharing ideas, and getting the perspective of business owners across various sectors and geographic areas.
One question above all else is guiding his work on the task force: What can we do to help businesses reopen, and remain open, safely?
“We’re not looking at the same things that the governor is looking at as far as public health protocols,” Greenspan says. “Our attention is on what we can do either directly through legislation or by facilitating, through other bodies, actions that allow [businesses] to open.”
That Economic Recovery Task Force in Ohio is an example of the important work being done by the Midwest’s legislatures, even during a time when the powers of governors have been strengthened due to the public health emergencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in two cases involving subpoenas of President Trump’s pre-presidency tax returns and other financial documents from third parties.

Trump v. Mazars involves House Committees’ subpoenas of the President’s financial records. According to the House Committees, the Supreme...

In Kelly v. United States the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the federal fraud convictions of the Bridgegate masterminds because they didn’t seek to obtain money or property.

The Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, refused to support then-governor Chris Christie’s re-election. As punishment, under the guise of conducting a traffic study, one of Christie’s staff members and two high ranking Port Authority employees decided to close...

With no details or dissents, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for an emergency stay of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision upholding Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order “compelling the closure of the physical operations of all businesses and entities that he deemed to be nonlife-sustaining.”

Wolf allowed non-life sustaining...

Beginning this week for the first time ever the Supreme Court is holding oral argument over the phone and allowing the public to listen in live. Today’s argument in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania illustrates the myriad ways live, phone argument is different from the traditional in-person version. 

Other than Justice Thomas asking questions, the Chief Justice’s role is the most...

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