As a supplement to its Information Helpline — a research service intended to help lawmakers, legislative staff and state officials from across the region — CSG Midwest publishes a Question of the Month section in the monthly newsletter Stateline Midwest. The Question of the Month is often based on a request made to our Information Helpline. Please see our most recent questions below. If you like additional information based on the questions and answers below, please contact us at 630.925.1922 or via email.
Q. What states permit the use of medical marijuana, and in those states, how is use of the drug regulated?
Medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Only one of those states — Michigan — is in the Midwest, though several bills were introduced in the region this year to legalize medical marijuana, which is used to relieve severe pain, control nausea and stimulate appetites. More »
Q. What have Midwestern states done to address childhood obesity?
A. Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades, leading to a rise in state efforts to combat the trend. And since children spend much of their day in school, new state laws and regulations have focused on the types of foods and levels of physical activity offered at school. More »
Q. Which states in the Midwest offer tax credits for K-12 education-related expenses?
A. Three states in the Midwest, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, allow income tax credits or deductions for parents and guardians of students in elementary and secondary schools.
Iowa and Indiana offer a tax credit for charitable contributions to nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations. More »
Q. What is an “essential health benefit” package, and how have states implemented this new federal requirement?
A. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, all individual and small-group plans available in state health care exchanges must cover certain services, or “essential health benefits.” More »
Q. Do any states place per-beneficiary restrictions on the number of prescriptions covered under their Medicaid programs?
Q. What Midwestern states require exit exams for high school students?
A. According to the Center on Education Policy, Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio are among the 26 U.S. states that require students to pass an exit exam before they are awarded a high school diploma. More »
Q. What are states doing, or can they do, to promote urban agriculture?
A. New initiatives in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio illustrate the role that states can play in promoting urban agriculture, which has attracted more interest in recent years due to concerns about vacant land, food insecurity and the environment. More »
Q. Which states in the Midwest require school board members to receive training, and what does the training entail?
A. Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota are among the 21 U.S. states that require some type of training for individuals elected to school boards, according to a recent survey by the National School Boards
Association. More »
Q. What are Midwestern states’ policies on public notification of lawn pesticide application?
A. Seven Midwestern states (see map) require companies to post signs immediately after applying pesticides to public or private lawns or gardens, parks and other public spaces. More »
Q. How many states in the region have adopted renewable portfolio standards, and how far along are the states in meeting them?
A. In the Midwest, 10 of 11 states — all but Nebraska — have passed a renewable or alternative energy portfolio standard or voluntary goal. More »
Q. What states in the Midwest have freedom-of-conscience language in their constitutions or statutes?
A. Every state constitution in the Midwest has language guaranteeing freedom of religion; in addition to these constitutional protections, many states have inserted statutory language often referred to as “conscience” or “refusal” clauses. More »
Q. What states have laws to provide compensation for individuals wrongfully convicted of crimes?
A. According to the Innocence Project, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin are among the 26 U.S. states with laws to provide compensation for individuals wrongfully convicted of crimes. Michigan would be added to this list under bills (SB 61, HB 4171) introduced earlier this year. More »
Q. Which states in the Midwest post the salaries of employees on their websites?
A. As part of websites created over the past five years to improve state-spending transparency,
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and South Dakota post the salaries of public employees. In Kansas, wages can be viewed by job title
and agency. More »
Q. What requirements do Midwestern states have for health education in K-12 public schools?
A. Over the last few years, the number of Midwestern states including health education as a requirement for high school graduation has increased — a policy move that reflects growing recognition of the link between healthy kids and academic achievement, and between public health and safer, healthier communities. More »
Q. What are Midwestern states’ rules regarding protests and demonstrations in capitol buildings?
A. In the last year, state capitols in the Midwest have become hotbeds of political protest as lawmakers have debated highly contentious issues. That activity has led, in some states, to a re-examination of rules that aim to seek a balance between public safety and public access. More »
Q. What is the National Popular Vote compact, and how many states have adopted it?
A. The goal of the proposed National Popular Vote (NPV) compact is to guarantee that the U.S. presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes wins the presidency. More »
Q. What states in the Midwest have graduated driver’s license laws,
and what are the differences and similarities in these laws?
A. According to the National
Transportation Safety Board, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for
teenagers, and multiple studies have shown that graduated driver’s license (GDL)
laws are effective in improving teen driving safety. Under these laws, a state
imposes restrictions on young drivers until they gain more experience behind the
wheel. More »
Q. Which states have banned the use of credit history for employment-related decisions?
A. A growing number of states are questioning the use of credit checks for purposes of employment. Prior to the 2011 legislative session, only four states had enacted restrictions on this practice. Hawaii and Washington were the first states to ban pre-employment credit checks in 2007; Illinois and Oregon followed by enacting bans in 2010. More »
Q. How many states have implemented the requirements of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, Title 1 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act?
A. Since passage of the federal law in 2006, states have grappled with implementation of its various provisions, while also questioning the value of complying with it at all.
The compliance deadline (July 27) has come and gone, and as of September, only 14 states — including Kansas, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota — had “substantially implemented” SORNA, which sets minimum standards for states’ sex offender registries and
notification laws. More »
Q. What standards do states set for the minimum amount of instructional time that schools must provide for students?
Q. How much Canadian oil and gas are imported into the Midwest?
A. The U.S. is a net energy importer in terms of oil and gas trade with Canada. Canada’s energy exports to the United States were valued at $76 billion in 2009, while U.S. exports to Canada were valued at $11.5 billion. More »
Q. How are state-supported passenger rail routes funded?
A. Today’s system of state-supported passenger rail is based on the federal legislation passed in 1970 that created Amtrak. That measure allowed states to request additional passenger rail service if they agreed to pay a portion of the costs. More »
Q. What mechanisms do states use to review the efficacy and/or oversee the use of their tax incentives for businesses?
A. The recent economic downturn has pushed states to find ways of attracting new businesses, retaining old ones and encouraging job creation, but at the same time, the fiscal crisis has put a premium on getting the most out of the grants and tax incentives that are offered to companies. More »
Q. What do states in the Midwest charge for hunting and fishing licenses, and what kind of discounts do they offer?
A. Midwestern states vary a great deal regarding the types of hunting and fishing licenses they offer, as well as how much they charge for each permit. More »
Q. Which states require supermajority votes in the legislature to pass tax increases?
A. As most states continue to struggle to balance their budgets, state lawmakers will be weighing tough decisions regarding spending cuts and tax increases. In a number of states, increasing taxes takes more than gaining the simple majority vote required to pass most legislative proposals. More »
Q. What kind of population variations among state legislative and U.S. congressional districts are legally permissible?
A. The once-a-decade task of redistricting is now in full swing in the Midwest, a region that will lose six seats in the U.S. Congress as the result of reapportionment and that, like the rest of the country, continues to see shifts in population from rural to metropolitan areas. More »
Q. How many states in the Midwest have their own meat-inspection programs, and how do they operate?
A. Nine states in the region — all but Michigan and Nebraska — are among the 27 nationwide that have their own inspection programs. Around the country, state inspectors oversee about 1,800 facilities. (Wisconsin and Ohio have the highest number of state-inspected processing plants in the country.) More »
Q. How do states in the Midwest handle recounts in legislative and statewide elections?
A. Election recount laws vary greatly in the Midwest. In some states, recounts are automatically triggered in close races. In addition, a number of states in this region allow candidates, election officials or the voters themselves to request recounts. More »
Q. What regulations have been placed on the short-term lending industry
in the Midwestern states?
A. State legal restrictions on the short-term loan industry have
included: capping the interest rates applied to loans;
restricting the areas in which loan stores can locate; capping the maximum
loan amount allowed; and limiting the number of times a loan can be
“rolled over” or renewed for additional time to pay it back. More »
Q. How are states in the Midwest regulating commercial animal-breeding facilities, or "puppy mills"?
A. For some pet owners, the joy of bringing home a new puppy or kitten can quickly turn to regret when the new pet turns out to be seriously ill. This is a problem many consumers have faced, and one that a number of Midwestern states have moved to correct. In Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn signed HB 5772 in August to require that consumers have ready access to breeder information before they take home a dog or a cat.More »
Q. How are states in the Midwest implementing the new national health insurance program for people with pre-existing conditions?
A.In 2014, under the federal health reform bill passed in March,
federal law will prohibit health insurers from denying coverage based on health
status.But in the meantime, a new national program — in some states
administered by the states themselves, in others by the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services — is being made available for individuals who have
been denied coverage in the traditional insurance market because of a health
Q. What veto powers do governors in the Midwest have on appropriations bills?
A. According to the 2010 version of CSG’s "The Book of the States," Indiana is the only state in the Midwest — and one of only six U.S. states — that does not give the governor the power to veto a line item in an appropriations bill. A line-item veto enables the governor to nullify specific provisions in a bill while leaving the rest of the legislation intact. More »
Q. How are supreme court justices selected and retained in the Midwestern states?
A. In five Midwestern states (Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota), supreme court judges are appointed by governors with guidance from judicial nominating commissions. After each term ends, sitting judges enter retention elections in which voters simply vote "yes" or "no" on whether the individual should stay in office.
In Illinois, supreme court judges are elected to their first term of office in a partisan election; after that, they run in retention elections.
In other states, however, judges must compete in a contested election for each term. More »
Q. What have states in the Midwest done to limit political "robocalling"?
A. Four Midwestern states — Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota — currently have laws on the books that are worded broadly enough to restrict automated political telephone calls, also known as "robocalls." More »
Q. Which states have "pay-to-play" restrictions limiting campaign contributions by businesses holding or seeking government contracts?
A. According to Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, legislation has been enacted in nine U.S. states to restrict campaign contributions from government contractors. In the Midwest, only Illinois and Ohio have "pay-to-play" laws on the books. More »
Q. Where do states in the region rank in terms of mortgage foreclosures, and how have policymakers responded to the problem?
A. Mortgage foreclosures continue to rock parts of the Midwest. According to RealtyTrac, Michigan and Illinois were among the 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates in 2009, with 2.5 percent of their housing stocks in foreclosure proceedings at some point during the year. (Click map for state-by-state data and trends.)
Legislatures in those two states were among several in the region that passed foreclosure-related bills in 2009. More »
Q. What physical education requirements do states in the Midwest set for their high school students?
Q. What states in the Midwest are so-called “donor states” with regard to federal transportation funding?
A. As a 2004 Congressional Research Service report notes, one of the perennial, and most heated, debates about federal transportation policy revolves around what critics contend is the unfair distribution of Highway Trust Fund dollars. In some states, including a majority in the Midwest, a state’s highway users put more into the fund than the state gets back in return.More »
Q. Who is responsible for redrawing legislative districts in Midwestern states and provinces?
A. In all but two Midwestern states, redrawing and approving district maps is left up to the legislatures and governors.
In Ohio, redistricting for the state legislature is conducted by a five-member panel consisting of the governor, the state auditor, the secretary of state, and two other members — one appointed each by legislative leaders of the majority and minority parties. The plan does not need to be approved by the legislature, and the governor does not have veto power.More »
Q. What additional compensation do Midwestern lawmakers receive for leadership positions they hold within their legislatures?
A. Most states provide more pay to legislators who take on the extra duties and responsibilities — and often additional time — associated with being a committee chair, ranking minority member on a committee, presiding officer or caucus leader. The lone exceptions in this region are Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (The Wisconsin Assembly, however, does provide its presiding officer with an additional $25 per month.) More »
Q. How do states in the Midwest handle sales taxes on food?
A. The Midwestern region has generally avoided taxing food, and those states that do so either tax food at a lower rate or offer refunds to lower-income households. According to the Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA), as of early 2008, eight of the 11 states in the region exempt food purchases, but not restaurant food, from sales taxes. More »
Q. Which states in the Midwest have systems in place for the public financing of campaigns?
A. According to Common Cause, a nonpartisan citizens’ advocacy group, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin are among the 15 U.S. states that offer direct government financing to candidates. More »
Q. Which states in the Midwest have laws regarding bullying in schools?
A. A number of states, including seven in the Midwest, have passed laws aimed at protecting children from the physical and emotional damage of bullying — mostly by requiring schools to develop policies for addressing such behavior — according to Bully Police USA, an organization that advocates for anti-bullying legislation. More »
Q. What are the trends in the Midwest for state action on local government consolidation?
A. Many states, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, have complex, multilayered local government systems. Advocates say this keeps government close to the public, while critics say streamlining the system would simplify government and save money.More »
Q. How do Midwestern states fill interim vacancies in their U.S. Senate seats?
A. With the spotlight on recent events in Illinois surrounding the filling of President Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, there has been a lot of interest in how various states fill such vacancies, as well as about what changes have been proposed. More »
Q. What actions have states taken to deter employers from hiring undocumented workers?
A. The hiring of undocumented workers — whether it’s done knowingly by unscrupulous employers or unknowingly by those duped by the fake documents of prospective employees — has been a central part of the policy debate in state capitols about illegal immigration. As a result, some lawmakers want their states to make greater use of the federal E-Verify system. This free, Internet-based program allows employers to access the immigration and citizenship status of workers through federal databases. More »
Q. What provisions do states in the Midwest have in place to conduct criminal background checks on teacher applicants?
A. Forty states nationally and all Midwestern states require some type of teacher background check, though the type of provision varies.
All the Midwestern states except Indiana require both federal and state criminal-history checks. Indiana currently requires only a state database check.More »
Q. What procedures do states in the Midwest have in place for the impeachment of governors?
A. As with states around the country, the procedures in place in the Midwest are similar to the federal rules for impeaching a U.S. president.
But according to CSG’s 2008 "The Book of the States," some variations do exist, most notably in the one U.S. state with a unicameral legislature — Nebraska. In that state, a majority vote in the 49-member body is required to impeach the governor.More »
The Mission of CSG
and CSG Midwest
The Council of State Governments is the nation's only nonpartisan association of state officials serving all three branches of government in all 50 states and the U.S. territories. CSG is a regionally-based, national organization that promotes excellence in state government. CSG fosters the interstate exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy, and it offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships. CSG Midwest focuses on meeting the needs of state policymakers and leaders in the nation's heartland, including 11 Midwestern states.