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The Michigan Legislature has codified the use of an objective, evidence-based scoring system that determines a prisoner’s probability of parole success. Under ...
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This past year marked the 100th anniversary of daylight saving time in the United States, and it also included the introduction of numerous bills — in the Midwest and elsewhere — seeking an end to the “spring forward, fall back” ritual that now occurs in communities across the country.
Similar proposals are likely to appear in the year ahead. Entering 2019, only two U.S. states, Arizona and Hawaii, did not observe daylight saving time — an option for all states under federal law. At one time, much of Indiana did not observe daylight saving time, but that changed with the passage of legislation 14 years ago instituting its use across the state.
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In future Michigan elections, getting initiatives on the ballot will require more than simply gathering enough valid signatures from anywhere in the state. HB 6595, signed into law in late December, requires what its supporters have called “geographic diversity.” No more than 15 percent of the signatures used to determine the validity of an initiative petition can come from a single congressional district. Michigan has 14 congressional districts. This new law applies to voter-initiated constitutional amendments, statutes and veto referenda.
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A first-of-its-kind study in Minnesota details a dramatic rise in the use of telemedicine in that state. Between 2010 and 2015, the state’s number of “virtual visits” jumped from 11,113 to 86,238. These new findings, the result of research conducted by the state Department of Health and University of Minnesota School of Public Health, show that telemedicine “may be emerging as an option to overcome some of the geographical barriers of accessing specialty care,” state Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm says.
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Two states in the Midwest have new laws in place that aim to improve the safety of nurses and other health care professionals. The Illinois General Assembly passed HB 4100 in response to two high-profile incidents. In one case, the Chicago Tribune reports, two nurses were taken hostage after an inmate being treated at their hospital got hold of a corrections officer’s gun. One of the nurses was sexually assaulted before police fatally shot the inmate. A month later, a nursing assistant and corrections officer were taken hostage at another hospital.
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State fiscal conditions were the focus of several recent national studies — here are some of the key findings for the Midwest.
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Michigan Sen. Curt VanderWall calls it the “most scrutinized pipeline in the nation.” And whatever one thinks the state should do about the future of Line 5 ­­— which is located under the Straits of Mackinac and carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids every day — it’s hard to disagree with the observation. Built in 1953, the twin pipelines have been called a “sunken hazard” that put the “Great Lakes at risk of a catastrophic oil pipeline rupture.”
But VanderWall and others note that Michigan relies on the energy supplies being shipped via Line 5. He says, for example, that most of the propane used in the Upper Peninsula comes from the 645-mile pipeline, which starts in Wisconsin, goes under the Straits, and then winds through Michigan before reaching Ontario.
“To get the same supplies by truck, you’d need 2,400 trucks doing it every day, nonstop,” says VanderWall, a member of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus Executive Committee. “The pipeline is the safest way to transport the oil. We need to make it safer.”
The state’s policy solution, at least for now, is this: Allow Line 5 to continue to operate for another few years, under enhanced inspections. Meanwhile, begin construction on a utility tunnel, located up to 100 feet beneath the lakebed, that would secure a new pipeline.
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As she’s worked on policies to improve how her state handles sexual assault investigations and helps victims, Nebraska Sen. Kate Bolz has talked to advocacy groups and consulted with experts. But she also has in her mind a constituent, a survivor who approached her after a town-hall meeting.
“She was so young and had been so hurt by her circumstance,” Bolz says, “and she talked about the kind of support and information she needed.”
“Over the past couple of years,” she adds, “we’ve heard a lot from survivors.”
The same likely can be said for legislators across the Midwest, as evidenced by statistics on the prevalence of sexual assault and the burst of activity in state capitols. According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every 98 seconds. And more than 20 percent of women report having been a victim of rape (either attempted or completed) during their lifetimes, federal data show.
States have explored various ways to improve their policies around sexual assault, and the result has been several new laws that aim to help victims and improve investigations of the crime, particularly through a better handling of sexual assault kits. Here is a look at some of the strategies being proposed and implemented in the Midwest.
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At a time when net U.S. farm income levels have fallen to a 16-year low, the Midwest’s agriculture producers were looking for some good news at the end of 2018. The new farm bill is largely thought to be just that.
Passed by the U.S. Congress in December, the bipartisan Agricultural Improvement Act maintains and expands crucial loan, insurance and conservation programs for farmers, while also making new investments in areas such as rural broadband and urban agriculture.
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Population data released at the end of 2018 show South Dakota and Minnesota growing at the fastest rates in the Midwest. They also were the only two states in this region to eclipse the U.S. growth rate of 0.6 percent between July 2017 and July 2018 (South Dakota, +1.0 percent; and Minnesota, +0.8 percent), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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