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Capitol Clips | A Look at Recent News from Around the Region




Waivers abandon parts of No Child Left Behind in favor of new approach

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Minnesota and Indiana were among the first 11 U.S. states this fall to formally seek waivers from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Their applications were filed seven weeks after the U.S. Department of Education announced it would provide more flexibility under the federal law. For example, states that receive waivers will no longer have to set targets requiring all students to be proficient by 2014 and will be given more discretion over the use of federal education dollars. In exchange, states must implement federally approved plans for their K-12 education systems that include:

• college- and career-readiness standards and tests;
• evaluation systems for teachers and principals that measure effectiveness based in part on student progress;
• new accountability systems for low-performing schools and schools with persistent student achievement gaps.
According to Education Week, every Midwestern state except Nebraska has indicated that it will apply for an NCLB waiver by the spring deadline.



Indiana legislature will reduce paper trail by relying more on iPads


by Tim Anderson ~ December 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Like other state legislatures, the Indiana General Assembly uses lots and lots of paper — an estimated 17 tons every session. For a single piece of legislation last year (the state’s budget bill), a total of 133,080 pages were printed out. That is the equivalent of 16 trees.

In 2012, though, Indiana lawmakers hope to use a little less paper under a pilot project that will have them relying more on iPads. According to the Northwest Indiana Times, two legislative committees will go “paperless“ next year. Committee reports and documents will be distributed electronically, via iPads. Meanwhile, the state will examine ways to build out the technologies needed to expand the use of computer tablets as lawmakers familiarize themselves with the devices.
An Indiana Legislative Service Agency study found that 18 states have already launched paperless initiatives. In the Minnesota Legislature and Wisconsin House, one or more legislative activities have been converted to a paperless process. The Kansas and Ohio legislatures have also taken steps to reduce the use of paper. The same study estimated that during Indiana’s 2011 session, $550,000 was spent “moving paper.” This total includes actual paper and equipment costs as well as the time that staff devotes to distributing, filing and retrieving paper documents.



Cameras to target speeders on roads near parks, schools

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois lawmakers have paved the way for speed cameras to be used in designated safety zones in the city of Chicago. SB 965, passed by the legislature in November, establishes these zones as being roadways within one-eighth of a mile of a school or park. An individual will be ticketed if he or she is caught by a camera driving more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. The fine is $50 a day for driving up to 10 mph over the limit and $100 for higher speeds. The cameras will be used between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and signs must be posted at the intersections warning motorists.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a pedestrian study done by the city of Chicago served as the impetus for the legislation. Between 2005 and 2009, the study found, there were 861 crashes involving children near schools around arrival or dismissal times.
Most states in the Midwest do not have laws addressing the use of speed or red-light cameras. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Wisconsin is the only state in the region with a law that expressly prohibits the use of automated enforcement technologies. Illinois, on the other hand, already allows local municipalities to employ red-light cameras. In Iowa and Ohio, automated enforcement programs are operating under local ordinance.



Questions about future of fracking reaching Midwest’s capitols

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the practice of hyrdaulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on the rise, state lawmakers are increasingly being asked to weigh in on a process that boosts oil and gas production but also raises environmental concerns.
In North Dakota, the General Assembly has voiced its support for this method of extracting more oil and natural gas from the ground. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation (HB 1216) designating fracking as “an acceptable recovery process” and adopted a resolution (HCR 3008) urging the U.S. Congress to delegate regulatory responsibility to the states. Then, during a special legislative session in November, legislators set aside $1 million for a potential lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it attempts to regulate fracking. According to The Bismarck Tribune, fracking is now widely used in parts of North Dakota. It involves the pressurized injection of water and chemical additives into a geologic formation. Environmental concerns center on its potential impact on drinking water and groundwater; the EPA is now conducting a major research study on the issue.
Meanwhile, in states such as Michigan (HB 5150) and Ohio (SB 213), bills have been introduced over the past few months to prohibit fracking until research on the environmental risks can be completed.