CSG Midwest has staff dedicated to answering questions from legislators, legislative staff and other state elected officials from the Midwest. The staff liaison for each state is listed below with his or her contact information. You also can call the CSG Midwest off ice at 630.925.1922 or send an email. Whether you need background information on a pressing issue or want to know how other states have addressed a key public policy concern, we can help.
The monthly newsletter Stateline Midwest includes one question based on a request made to CSG Midwest for research assistance. The questions and answers can be found below.
Q. Do any laws in the Midwest restrict state agencies from adopting environmental rules more stringent than federal regulations?
Federal laws and regulations on the environment often serve only as a “floor,” with states having the leeway to enact tougher rules or statutes of their own.
However, some state legislatures and governors have adopted measures (either state laws or executive orders) designed to rein in the actions of their own environmental agencies. Most recently, in February, Indiana’s HB 1082 became law. More »
Q. What signature requirements do states have for ballot measures?
Six states in the Midwest have “direct democracy”-type provisions that allow voters to veto bills passed by their legislatures or to adopt statutory or constitutional changes via the ballot.
One of the first steps for groups seeking a ballot proposal is to get the requisite number of signatures, and that threshold can vary — depending not only on the state, but also on the nature of the proposal (veto referendum, initiated statute or constitutional amendment). More »
Q. What are the civil forfeiture standards in the Midwestern states?
Unlike criminal forfeiture, in which a legal action is brought as part of the crime that a person is charged with, civil forfeiture laws by and large allow assets to be seized by police upon only upon a suspicion of wrongdoing.
In recent years, stories of innocent citizens having cash and other property seized — and facing arduous, uphill battles to reclaim their property — have prompted efforts from entities as disparate as the Charles Koch Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union to modify or repeal civil forfeiture laws. More »
Q. Do states in the Midwest provide crime victims with constitutional rights and protections?
In 1980, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to establish a statutory bill of rights for crime victims. Since then, state constitutions across the country have been amended to provide an even greater level of protections to this group of citizens. Most recently, voters in North Dakota (62 percent to 38 percent) and South Dakota (60 percent to 40 percent) approved November ballot measures to amend their constitutions. More »
Q. Do legislatures provide sign-language interpreter services, including services needed by legislators in their work with constituents?
Most Midwestern legislatures provide sign-language interpreter services and/or closed captioning in order for the deaf and hearing-impaired to follow and take part in legislative activities such as committee hearings, floor debates and State of the State addresses. To comply with state law and/or the federal American with Disabilities Act — Title II of which forbids discrimination by any public entity — many legislatures also provide these services for meetings between individual legislators and constituents, provided these services are requested in advance. More »
Q. How do states in the Midwest go about collecting the debt owed to them?
One long-standing, widespread state strategy to collect debt has been the use of offset programs — ensuring that any pending payments to individuals or entities (tax refunds, for example) are used to cover their delinquent obligations. More »
Q. What alternatives to traditional marriage are recognized in the Midwestern states?
Three alternatives to traditional marriage are recognized in different parts of this region: domestic partnerships, civil unions and common-law marriages. More »
Q. What policies do Midwestern states have regarding the carrying of concealed firearms into capitols by the public and legislators?
States in ther region are split on whether to allow individuals to carry weapons, and this policy question has led to proposals in a handful of legislatures in recent years. More »
Q. Do any Midwestern states require post-election audits to ensure that electronic voting systems accurately record and count votes?
Three states in the Midwest (Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin) currently have laws requiring these audits, which are done by comparing a hand count of voter-verified paper records with totals collected by the electronic voting system, according to the Verified Voting Foundation. Legislators have established these mandatory checks to deter fraud, find errors, reveal when recounts are necessary, and promote public confidence in the elections process. More »
Q. Do any Midwestern states still have federal waivers that suspend work requirements for individuals to receive food stamps?
One policy consequence of the Great Recession was a rise across the country in the use of these waivers, which lift limits on the amount of time that able-bodied adults without dependents can receive payments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
More recently, though, with jobless rates falling in many parts of the country, federal policy has reverted to pre-recession rules under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. More »
Q. Have any states banned weaponized drones with legislation that restricts or regulates the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles?
When videos emerged online last year showing armed drones firing a pistol and roasting a turkey with a homemade flame thrower, legislators nationwide took notice. Now bills proposing to ban the use of armed drones are appearing in state legislatures across the country. More »
Q. What age criteria do states use to determine jurisdiction in cases that involve a young person charged with violating the law?
According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, every state has a set of “age boundaries” that help determine jurisdiction in these cases — in particular, whether they should go through juvenile court or criminal court. More »
Q. Do states have statutory provisions allowing paramedics to provide non-emergency health services?
Community paramedicine programs — sometimes known as field emergency medical services (EMS) or mobile integrated health care — expand the role of certified paramedics and allow them to provide non-emergency, preventative health care services to patients in their communities. More »
Q. Do any states in the Midwest have bans on the construction of new nuclear power plants?
The idea of providing tuition-free community college got a major boost in early 2015, when President Barack Obama included it in his State of the Union speech. TheAmerica’s College Promise Actwas subsequently introduced this past summer in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.If signed into law, the act would create a new state-federal partnership to waive student tuition and fees at community colleges, with the federal government providing $3 for every $1 invested by a state. As of late 2015, the legislation had not passed out of any congressional committees. A handful of U.S. states, meanwhile, moved ahead with tuition-free plans of their own in 2015, including Minnesota withpassage of SB 5.More »
Q. Do state legislative committees in the Midwest allow for remote testimony by video conferencing or other means?
Most legislatures do not have firm rules in place, and nearly all committee witnesses still make their statements in person, according to a recent CSG Midwest survey of the region’s legislative service agencies. However, most states in the Midwest do provide remote testimony as an option in certain situations — especially those in which an invited committee guest faces travel-related obstacles.More »
Q. Do local school districts charge participation fees for students to participate in extracurricular activities, and do any states ban such fees?
Q. Do any states in the Midwest have bans on the construction of new nuclear power plants?
Minnesota is the only U.S. state with an outright ban on construction of new nuclear power facilities. The state’s prohibition dates back to legislative actions taken in 1994 amid concerns and legal disputes about how and where to store the high-level radioactive waste from these plants. Minnesota has had two such facilities in operation since the early 1970s (Prairie Island, which has two units, and Monticello). More »
Q. What laws and regulations do states have in place regarding schools’ use of restrictive procedures such as “seclusion” and “restraint”?
Over the past decade and a half, via legislation and/or administrative rules, many states in the Midwest have established new standards, training requirements and limits on the use of these procedures, which are typically used in response to serious behavioral problems exhibited by students. More »
Q. Which states in the Midwest have veterans treatment courts and how do these courts function?
Veterans treatment courts operate in most states in the Midwest, and there are more than 200 nationally. Most of these are run by county or other local court systems, and the treatment court usually convenes once a week, depending on the need. Currently, about 11,000 veterans are being served by these courts. More »
Q. What level of compensation do jurors receive in the Midwestern states for their services?
Juror compensation varies not only from state to state, but often from one county to the next. Other factors, such as time served and distance traveled, also determine the level of compensation.
According to the National Center for State Courts, pay for jurors can range from a high of $50 per day (in Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota) to a low of $10 per day — the minimum rate set by Iowa, Kansas and Ohio. Individual county courts can pay higher than that amount. More »
Q. What is the status of “shared parenting” legislation and laws in the Midwest?
The National Parents Organization, a group that advocates for “shared parenting,” defines the term this way: “require equal or, when that’s not feasible, nearly equal parental responsibilities” in child custody cases.
In the Midwest, many “shared parenting” laws have been considered in state capitols and on statewide ballots. But to date, proposals to mandate (with some exceptions) joint and/or physical child custody have failed. More »
Q. Which states have laws or are considering legislation requiring employers to provide paid leave?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Employee Benefits Survey,” 76 percent of the nation’s part-time private-sector workers and 26 percent of full-time employees had no access to paid sick days in 2014.
In the Midwest, 43 percent of all full- and part-time workers do not have paid sick leave — the highest percentage of any U.S. region. More »
Q. What “blue laws” are still in place in the Midwestern states?
“Blue laws” date back centuries and typically place restrictions or bans on certain Sunday activities. Today, they mostly target some type of economic activity, such as liquor or retail sales.
Indiana and Minnesota, for example, are among the 12 U.S. states that still ban the retail sale of alcohol on Sundays, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. (Kansas and Ohio are among the 16 states that have repealed their bans since 2002.) More »
Q. What states require individuals to have auto insurance, and do they provide any exemptions to this mandate?
Most U.S. states, and all in the Midwest, require motorists to have auto insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, New Hampshire is currently the only state where auto liability insurance is not compulsory. In that state, drivers can go without coverage by demonstrating they have sufficient funds in the event of an at-fault accident. More »
Q. What laws do states have in place to regulate the sale of scrap metal?
As the value of copper, steel, scrap iron and other metals has risen over the past several years, so too has the number of cases involving scrap-metal theft. This, in turn, has led legislators in states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio to pass measures that aim to crack down on scrap-metal thieves. More »
Q. What guidelines and regulations exist regarding human donor milk for infants whose mothers cannot provide breast milk?
Breast milk contains important nutrients, immune-system antibodies and growth factors that all contribute to a baby’s health, particularly babies who are vulnerable because they are premature or underweight. But a number of circumstances — including maternal illness, death, surgery, use of drugs or medications, and certain chronic conditions — can prevent a mother from being able to breastfeed.
One potential alternative for some babies, then, is the use of human donor milk.
Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio are among the states with nonprofit human-milk banks that have been certified by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. More »
Q. How are states and localities regulating ride-sharing services?
In just a few short years, the presence of ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar has spread to more than 60 metropolitan areas across the country — 15 of which are in the Midwest. A few states, none in the Midwest, have recently decided to regulate these ride-sharing companies. More »
Q. What policies are states adopting to encourage people to seek assistance during drug and alcohol overdoses?
In the United States, 113 people die each day from a drug overdose, the leading cause of injury death. Among people age 25 to 64, drug overdoses kill more people than do motor vehicle accidents, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Between 2010 and 2012, federal data show, deaths from heroin overdoses doubled. Partly in response, state policymakers have looked for new ways to help prevent these tragic incidents. One idea has been to create new immunity laws: protecting a person who seeks medical attention for someone believed to be in danger of overdosing. More »
Q. What states in the Midwest have toll roads and how much revenue is collected from them?
Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Ohio have toll roads on part of their interstate highway systems, and a fifth Midwestern state, Minnesota, now offers express toll lanes to motorists who use some of the highly traveled interstates in the Twin Cities area. More »
Q. How do states in the Midwest tax and regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages?
Most states in the region have a private license system for the sale of alcoholic beverages. Private enterprises, including liquor and grocery stores, apply for a license to sell alcohol. The licenses are granted at the discretion of the licensing authority in the state.
Three states in the region — Iowa, Michigan and Ohio — are called control states. None of these states operates retail liquor stores, but they do control the sale of distilled spirits at the wholesale
level. More »
Q. What laws or licensing requirements do states have in place to ensure new teachers are prepared to be effective in the classroom?
From the standards they set for becoming a teacher to how they oversee the programs that train the future education workforce, state policymakers can play an important role in teacher preparation. And strengthening that oversight role has been the focus of measures passed in several states — including Indiana and Wisconsin — in recent years. More »
Q. How many states have banned the use of handheld cellphones while driving?
As of mid-April, 12 U.S. states had general statutory bans on drivers’ use of handheld cellphones, including Illinois in the Midwest, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. More »
Q. What laws have states passed regarding sports-related concussion prevention and treatment?
In the span of just two years (during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions), every Midwestern state adopted laws to better protect young people from concussion-related injuries. These so-called “return-to-play” laws had three key components. More »
Q. Which Midwestern states have authorized the creation of local land banks via legislation?
High foreclosure and vacancy rates are not only symptomatic of economic problems; they contribute to them and are linked with increases in crime and declines in home values and local property tax revenue.
In response, some states — including Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio in the Midwest — have instituted local land banks: public entities that acquire and manage tax-foreclosed properties. More »
Q. Can states require a photo ID on the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards used by individuals who receive food stamps?
Under federal law, states can require that EBT cards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) include photos of the beneficiaries or that customers show photo ID to use the cards. Massachusetts is the only state that currently has such a law. SNAP is federally funded, but administrative costs are shared by states and the federal government. The photo ID requirement on SNAP cards aims to stop “trafficking” — trading food benefits to others for cash. More »
Q. What steps have states taken to prevent human trafficking?
Human trafficking involves the detention of people against their will, who are then forced to work — in factories or local businesses, for example, or as domestic workers in homes. One of the more common forms of trafficking involves coercing individuals to work in the commercial sex trade. According to the Polaris Project, a national organization working to prevent human trafficking, certain groups of people are most vulnerable to trafficking, including undocumented immigrants and homeless/runaway youths. More »
Q. Do states in the Midwest require fiscal notes that estimate the impact of proposed legislation on local governments?
Through either statutory provisions or legislative rules, most states in the Midwest have policies to ensure that lawmakers understand the monetary impact of proposed bills on local governments. A 2013 CSG Midwest survey of nonpartisan legislative service agencies (which provide these fiscal estimates for lawmakers) highlighted the different policies employed by the region’s legislatures.
In some instances, fiscal notes are only prepared
upon request. More »
Q. What is “ban the box” legislation, and what states have enacted it?
“Ban the box” is a nationwide effort to remove inquiries about criminal history from employer job applications. Supporters argue that the question should be deferred until later in the interview process and not used as an automatic bar to employment at the application stage.
Ten states have enacted “ban the box” measures, including Illinois and Minnesota in the Midwest, according to the National Employment Law Project. More »
Q. What state laws and programs are in place to encourage physicians to volunteer in free clinics?
Every state in the Midwest, except Nebraska, has a law in place to help protect certain volunteer physicians from being sued in conjunction with care they provide, according to the American Medical Association. The goal of
these state laws is to promote volunteerism in the medical community and help care for the uninsured.
handful of states in this region, too, have special licensing programs for retired doctors wishing to serve
communities. More »
Q. Do state laws in the Midwest allow local units of government to levy sales taxes?
With the exceptions of Indiana and Michigan (which allow for local income taxes), all Midwestern states give local governments the statutory authority to impose a local-option sales tax — revenue collected for use by a city and/or county. More »
Q. What states in the Midwest allow no-excuses absentee or early voting, and what are the key differences in these states' laws?
Every state allows citizens to either vote early or vote absentee (by mail or in person), and most states allow both. States offer these options to make it more convenient for people to vote; in-person voting also avoids some of the delays encountered when sending applications and ballots up and back by mail. More »
Q. Do states in the Midwest provide property tax exemptions or credits to disabled veterans?
Every Midwestern state offers property tax breaks to certain disabled veterans, though the scope and amount of these credits and exemptions vary. More »
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 »
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.