Chronic wasting disease already is a problem in the 24 states (including all but Indiana and Ohio in the Midwest) and two Canadian provinces where it has been detected in free-ranging deer, elk or moose.
This year in Minnesota, though, legislators have been exploring just how much bigger the problem could become — if the disease continues to spread and/or if it is transmitted to humans.Minnesota’s governor and legislators were proposing a more aggressive response to CWD. Gov. Tim Walz wants to invest $4.57 million during the next biennium, and then $1.1 million annually in subsequent years, to enhance the state’s surveillance of CWD, response and enforcement activities, and outreach to landowners. His proposal came in the wake of news that the disease appeared to be spreading in Minnesota; it was found for the first time in a wild deer outside of the state’s southeastern region.Along with Walz’s funding request, the Legislature is considering a number of bills that, if passed, would make Minnesota a test site for CWD control. These measures would appropriate new general-fund dollars (rather than relying solely on hunting fees) to the fight against the disease — for example, investing in research that leads to on-site tests and early detection. Some lawmakers also want to require double fencing of farmed deer and the depopulation of farmed herds at facilities where the disease has been found.
Few if any U.S. states have been hit harder than Ohio by the crushing rise in drug use, abuse and overdose deaths. That state’s rate of overdose deaths was second in the nation in 2017: 46.5 per 100,000. Behind those numbers, too, are tragic stories that have personally touched many Ohio legislators — and helped lead their ongoing search for policy solutions.Ohio’s new law grants authority to pharmacists to dispense or administer a five-day emergency supply of naltrexone without a prescription, if they can verify the patient already has been on the drug.In 2017, Ohio expanded access to medication-assisted treatment programs (HB 49), including the creation of a specialized drug court program. According to the National Drug Court Resource Center, Ohio now has 72 drug-treatment court programs for adults, the most of any Midwestern state.An alternative sentencing option, drug courts target offenders with drug dependency problems. Treatment, monitoring, graduated sanctions and incentives are overseen by a multidisciplinary team. Drug courts have been shown to reduce recidivism and lower costs.
The agency responsible for attracting business to Tennessee has worked behind the scenes to dismantle state legislation that could increase transparency and accountability for business grants and tax breaks. Officials from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, with the backing of Gov. Bill Lee, pushed to strip nearly every significant provision from the House version of the FACTS Act, a bill designed to better protect public funds and allow taxpayers to see which companies receive tax breaks.The administration's opposition comes despite Lee's pledge for more government transparency. It also runs counter to efforts by two influential conservative groups at the statehouse: Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, and the free-market advocacy group Beacon Center of Tennessee.
Heralded as a boon to undocumented immigrant New Yorkers, the DREAM Act has been on hold for more than two months because of legislative language that would allow foreign nationals attending college on temporary visas to obtain state tuition assistance.The legislation, which bounced around the Capitol for a decade before being passed by the Assembly and Senate in January, was crafted to benefit so-called "Dreamers," undocumented immigrant students who in many cases have lived most of their lives in America. There are between 6,000 and 8,000 undocumented students in New York's higher education system.The measure's immediate fate has become ensnared in the ongoing budget negotiations, with the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hashing out changes to the eligibility requirements and identifying the $27 million in funding needed to pay for its provisions.The bill has yet to be sent to the governor for his signature. A spokesman for Cuomo, who wants the language rewritten to narrow eligibility for the funds, said officials "hope to resolve these issues soon."
The Iowa Senate has passed a bill, Senate File 548, that would prevent an organization from buying land using a state loan program for water quality and flood mitigation projects. Some Senate Republicans said Wednesday the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has been using the low-interest loan program called the State Revolving Fund to buy land and then donate it to government conservation agencies. They argue that is not the intent of the loan program, which is to fund projects to improve water quality and enhance flood mitigation projects.“The money in that fund has a lot of good uses and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation does good work," said Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-Mahaska) who introduced the bill. "Land acquisition was not one of those uses.”
Land conservation modestly increases employment rates, a traditional indicator of economic growth, according to an analysis of New England cities and towns, led by scientists at Amherst College, Harvard Forest, the Highstead Foundation, and Boston University. The study, published today in Conservation Biology, is the first of its kind, estimating the local net impacts of both private and public land conservation over 25 years (1990-2015) across 1500 cities and towns that are home to 99.97% of New England's population.The study shows that when land protection increased, employment increased over the next five-year period, even when controlling rigorously for other associated factors. "Employment gains were modest but significant across the region, and the effect was amplified in more rural areas," says Kate Sims, Chair of the Economics Department at Amherst College and a co-lead author of the study. To illustrate the study's results, she explained that if a town with 50,000 people employed increased its land protection by 50%, it saw, on average, 750 additional people employed in the next five years.
Faced with reservoirs less than half full along the Colorado River, federal authorities and negotiators for Colorado and six other Western states finalized a landmark plan to share the burden of voluntarily using less water as growing cities and warming temperatures deplete the supply for 40 million people. This “drought contingency” plan completed by the seven Western states to meet an extended federal deadline is “meant to avoid a crisis on the river,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman.After 2026, the feds will look at flows in what scientists project will be a more diminished Colorado River and, working with states, “we will negotiate our next step,” Burman said.This complex water plan hashed out since 2017 depends on all residents of the West using less water to deal with a 19-year shift toward aridity. Negotiators tinkered with fundamentals of the 1922 law that divvies up shares of Colorado River water for each state — an improvisation to try to address one of the planet’s toughest water problems caused by chronic overuse and climate change.
In an effort to stymie foreign influence in elections, several states are considering bills that would limit how businesses with some foreign ownership participate in elections.A long-standing federal statute bars noncitizens and foreign companies from donating directly to candidates or political parties at the federal, state and local levels. Another law prohibits businesses from directly donating to federal-level candidates or political parties.But the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case cleared the way for corporations and unions to pay for political ads made independently of candidates’ campaigns. The high court ruled that corporations and unions are associations of U.S. citizens with a First Amendment right to political expression.Hoping to take the decision a step further, proponents of bills under consideration in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington state would bar political spending by businesses in which non-U.S. citizens have a significant ownership stake.
Say you’re a politician running for office, and you want to call out your opponent’s votes against education or guns. If you’re in Montana, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has a new demand: Prove it. Legislators in Big Sky Country want candidates or political groups who attack a voting record to back up the charge with specifics. Under legislation that has been filed repeatedly in recent years, ads would have to include the title and number of a bill or resolution referred to and the year when the vote was taken.But the bruising fight to impose a new law in Montana shows just how difficult it is for states to restrict political speech.Since 2011, Montana courts have struck down three similar attempts to require truth in political advertising, saying the laws were “unconstitutionally vague” and therefore infringed on the free speech rights of Montanans.Those crackdowns don’t come easy, though. The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects free speech in most forms, and various courts have ruled that state laws restricting political speech infringed on those rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark 2010 Citizens United case that corporations, too, had a right to free speech and campaign donations, making some state efforts even murkier.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed landmark legislation that will mandate more solar panels and wind turbines as the state sets ambitious new renewable energy goals. The measure requires that investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives get at least half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That would jump to 80 percent by 2040.A 100 percent carbon-free mandate would kick in five years later for utilities. Electric co-ops would have until 2050 to meet that goal.