MLC Chair’s Initiative on Workforce | Q & A with Ohio Sen. Bill Reineke

For years, Ohio Sen. Bill Reineke has been a leader in his state on issues related to workforce. That includes his sponsorship of major legislation as well as membership on the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board.

He is now helping lead a regionwide effort on workforce as chair of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference. This topic is the focus of his MLC Chair’s Initiative. In support of the initiative, CSG Midwest is producing a series of articles, research briefs and policy sessions for the region’s legislators related to this initiative.

In this interview with Sen. Reineke, he explains why he believes a ready workforce is the “bedrock” of success not only for individuals, but for states and their communities, and how legislators can play a leading role in crafting effective policy.

Question: Why have you made workforce a top priority during your time as an Ohio legislator, and now as 2024 chair of CSG’s Midwestern Legislative Conference?

Answer: Workforce is the bedrock of individual, business and community success. As a business owner, I struggled with recruiting new employees, and I could not understand why it was so difficult to attract students into the career tech and trades pathways. The opportunities for these careers are not only more modern and technology-driven than one would expect, they are truly endless.

I had thought that the K-12 education world moved the way it was supposed to, preparing students for the workforce and for college. Instead, I found that business and education have an awkward relationship, which was ultimately out of alignment with student success. At the time, about 25 percent of Ohio high school graduates needed remediation after graduation, so my goal became to merge business and education to help every student find their purpose by reforming the way we talk about education and the system of administering K-12 education.

I wanted the education system to meet students where they are and help them find success through the traditional path, certificates, work-study programs, apprentice programs or a combination of approaches — in order to develop the workforce that is needed for our students and state to succeed.

Question: From your experiences, how can legislators position themselves as leaders on this issue?

Answer: We meet with constituents, organizations and all kinds of groups. This provides an invaluable resource to understanding the needs of employers today and provides a preview of what the future will look like for companies and organizations.

The state can’t solve workforce innovation on its own. However, we can assess the needs of workforce and students to help formulate a solution. I became the sponsor of legislation that reformed how we view education in Ohio by working with my local school officials who were struggling to align students with workforce needs and skills to succeed after high school. Together, we are now looking at education as a foundation for the future workforce, instead of in silos.

Question: How do effective new laws on workforce policy get made? Do you have any tips or ideas for fellow legislators?

Answer: Hear from all parties involved, those that agree and disagree with you, when creating new legislation so that you have all your facts in order. I spent considerable time learning about the educational system and what the baseline results were in our schools, including high rates of absence, low success rates, too many study halls, high remediation rates, and understanding the failure to help each student with finding and pursuing their purpose. Go directly to the sources of what you are trying to solve. In the case of education, employers and student-centered organizations provided their perspective on the problem and how to solve it.

Question: In Ohio, what specific successes or advances in recent years would you point to as being especially significant?

Answer: In 2023, I introduced Senate Bill 1, which reorganizes the Department of Education into the Department of Education and Workforce led by a cabinet-level director. The department’s focus became two-fold: primary and secondary education, and career technical education. Both our traditional and career-technical education divisions needed to work together so our students can experience an “all of the above” approach to their futures instead of a “one-size-fits-all” model. With both of these pillars of student success under one roof, I envision more communication and collaboration.

In addition, I introduced Senate Bill 166. It is designed to combat our high remediation rate in Ohio, and will help students identify their purpose and gain much-needed experience. Likewise, it will help employers find qualified, well-trained employees. It will incentivize business to hire student workers via tax incentives, providing students with a better perspective on careers.

Question: What are the most important workforce challenges for your state and other states to address?

Answer: The biggest barrier to success out of high school is the stigma associated with not going to college and getting a four-year degree. It is crucial that we change the way we view students going straight into a career. Career and technical education isn’t even “dirty jobs” anymore. Advanced manufacturing, coding, jobs in IT and the tech space are common options, and students can avoid much, if not all, of the debt associated with college. We need to encourage parents and students to explore what works best for their child and what the landscape of certificate-ready careers looks like.

Redesigning education and workforce is essential in every state. Some states have ramped up their efforts to customize education, but as a nation, we need to be focused on our youngest citizens who will be entering the workforce of tomorrow with all of its advancements and technology. We can empower educators and students with educational pathways that help a student find their purpose and provide them employment.

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Minnesota, Wisconsin among states with new tax credits for families

Already one of six states that builds off the federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, Wisconsin is now expanding the reach of its state-level credit as the result of AB 1023, a measure that passed with near-unanimous legislative support and was signed into law in March.

The credit reimburses qualifying families for child care expenses incurred while parents or guardians work or look for work. The amount of Wisconsin’s credit has been raised from 50 percent to 100 percent of the federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit; additionally, the maximum amount of qualifying child care-related expenses was increased from $3,000 to $10,000 for one qualifying dependent and from $6,000 to $20,000 for two or more qualifying dependents.

AB 1023 is one example of legislative steps being taken by Midwestern states to implement or expand their own versions of federal tax credits for working families. Several states in the region provide for earned income tax credits, and Michigan expanded its EITC in 2023 with the passage of HB 4001. Under the new law, Michigan’s EITC jumped from 6 percent to 30 percent of the federal credit.

Last year, Minnesota became the first Midwestern state to establish a Child Tax Credit (HF 1938). The maximum amount of the credit is $1,750 per child, and there is no limit on the number of children, age 17 and under, that can be claimed. However, various income thresholds are set. For married couples who file jointly, the credit begins to be phased out starting with incomes of $35,000 a year, and it is not available for higher-earning families; for example, married couples who file jointly, have two children and make more than $96,245 annually do not qualify.

In April, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said the average credit for families thus far has been $2,508. This year’s HF 4823 would extend Minnesota’s Child Tax Credit to 18-year-olds.

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Iowa, South Dakota legislators establish new minimum salaries for teachers

New laws in Iowa and South Dakota are setting a new floor for what teachers in those two states must be paid.

With the enactment of SB 127, South Dakota joins the group of states that sets in statute a minimum salary for starting teachers. The initial threshold is $45,000 for fiscal year 2025 and will be adjusted annually based on a “target teacher salary” that also is set in statute. South Dakota school districts must begin paying the minimum starting teacher salary with the 2026-’27 school year.Map of Midwestern states showing average starting teacher salaries, with the states' U.S. ranking (in parentheses) for the 2022-23 school year.

Iowa already required that a minimum salary be paid to teachers, but this year’s HF 2612 raises the amount from $33,500 to $47,500 in fiscal year 2025 and $50,000 in FY 2026. Additionally, teachers with at least 12 years of experience will be guaranteed a salary of $62,000 or more in FY 2026.

At least three other Midwestern states also set statutory minimum salaries:

  • The minimum in Illinois is $40,000, with automatic inflationary adjustments scheduled for future school years. This year’s SB 2627 would raise the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000 in 2024-’25 and $60,000 in 2026-’27. That bill also would require the state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to determine a minimum teacher salary for the 2027-’28 school year.
  • In Ohio, the minimum salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $35,000. It would be raised to $50,000 under HB 411.
  • The threshold in Indiana is $40,000; school districts paying under this amount must provide an explanation to state officials for why this threshold cannot be met. HB 1037 would have raised the minimum salary to $60,000; it did not pass.

Wisconsin’s AB 517/SB 511, which did not pass, called for a statewide minimum salary for teachers that could not be “less than the annual salary paid to a state legislator.” Also under the bill, after 20 years of service, a teacher would make at least $100,000 a year.

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Future of carbon-capture pipelines runs through region’s legislatures

The idea seems simple: draw off the carbon dioxide (CO2) created during ethanol’s fermentation process at myriad Midwestern production plants before it enters the atmosphere and send it via pipelines to sequestration wells to be stored deep underground.

But two recent pipeline proposals faltered in the face of local opposition in the form of county-level setback requirements and landowners fighting the potential use of eminent domain. These developments drew attention from Midwestern legislators as they wrestle with both ongoing questions over the siting of pipelines and newer questions about whether and how to regulate CO2 sequestration.Image showing potential amounts of Carbon Dioxide emissions that could be captured and sequestered underground (estimated as of 2021).

For state policymakers, pipelines raise familiar, if thorny, questions about land access requirements, the use of eminent domain and where pipeline siting authority should lie, and newer ones such as whether to enact moratoria on CO2 pipeline construction pending new federal safety regulations.

In parts of the Midwestern region with the underground geology suited for sequestration, legislators are also discussing what their state’s sequestration policies should be.

Who, for example, owns underground “pore space” (the layers into which CO2 is injected)? Who owns sequestered CO2 after decades or even centuries? Is CO2 a commodity like oil or natural gas? The answers may go a long way toward determining the success of CO2 capture and sequestration, which now is a component of federal climate change policy.

Federal funding flows

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 increased federal spending for carbon capture and sequestration from $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2022 to $4 billion in FY 2023.

This includes low-interest loans for eligible CO2 pipeline projects and funding for the development of facilities that capture CO2 from industrial production processes or directly from the atmosphere (known as “direct capture”).

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 increased a federal tax credit incentivizing carbon capture from $50 per ton to $80 for removal from industry and $180 for direct capture.

“That’s why we’re seeing all of the large pipeline projects that are being developed and proposed and discussed and causing a lot of emotion across [this] region of the country,” says Matt Fry, a senior policy manager at the Great Plains Institute.

“If we’re going to actually address climate impacts, we’re going to have to capture and store these large volumes of CO2. They have to get that captured CO2 to a geology where it can actually be stored.”

New laws in South Dakota

In October 2023, citing “the unpredictable nature of the regulatory and government processes,” Navigator CO2 Ventures canceled plans for a 1,300-mile pipeline to carry CO2 from 20 ethanol plants in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to a sequestration site in Illinois.

Also last year, Summit Carbon Solutions hit regulatory roadblocks when the North Dakota and South Dakota public service commissions both rejected its initial permit applications for a 2,000-mile pipeline to carry CO2 from 34 ethanol plants in five different Midwestern states to a sequestration site in western North Dakota.

The company said it would refile its South Dakota application and, as of March, was waiting for a decision from the Iowa Utilities Board following hearings held in November.

The proposal also led South Dakota legislators to consider nine pipeline-related bills during their 2024 legislative session, of which three became law:

  • SB 201 specifies that the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has siting authority for pipelines, and allows counties to levy a new surcharge of $1 per linear foot of pipeline on CO2 pipeline operators. This revenue will be split: half as property tax relief for affected property owners, and half to be allocated as determined by the county.
  • HB 1185 changes the process for notifying landowners of surveys for “proposed facilities” and requires a new one-time payment of $500 to the landowner for access to their property (separate from payments that may be required for property or crop damage).
  • HB 1186 limits CO2 pipeline easements to 99 years and voids the easement if a pipeline is not in operation five years after the easement is recorded. Easements are also voided after five years of nonuse at any time after the Public Utilities Commission issues a permit.

Photo of South Dakota Rep. Will MortensonSouth Dakota legislators also codified a 15-part landowner “bill of rights” (SB 201) covering issues ranging from liability to repairing any property damage.

South Dakota House Majority Leader Will Mortenson, an agricultural real estate attorney, says many of the provisions now in state law have many of the same terms that he has negotiated for individual clients dealing with pipeline companies.

“To a pretty large extent, I viewed every landowner in the state as my client, and it’s my job to go in and negotiate them the best terms I could from the position I was in,” he says.

Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree says the new laws resulted from conversations over the previous 12 months among landowners, agricultural producers, the agriculture industry, utilities and other stakeholders.

Photo of South Dakota Sen. Casey CrabtreeThe linear-foot surcharge and access fee are new policies for South Dakota, he says, but are a recognition that there is a cost to landowners and counties where pipelines get installed.

Mortenson says those provisions also reflect the fact that the use of CO2 pipelines to sequester the gas underground is “fundamentally different” from using pipelines to move commodities like oil or natural gas from the ground to market.

“That’s why we have different regulations, different accommodations,” he says, “and we require a higher level of public benefit to the landowners and the counties, and everyone along the route.”

Part of the answer …

The destinations for all carbon pipelines are wells that inject CO2 into deep rock formations. These wells are known as “Class VI” wells, a designation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Underground Injection Control program. This program aims to protect underground sources of drinking water.

The wells send CO2 a mile or more deep into strata of porous rock underneath a layer of non-porous “cap” rock that blocks the gas from returning to the surface. Such formations underlie most of the Midwest, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s most recent “Carbon Storage Atlas” (released in 2015).

One of the nation’s first CO2 sequestration test sites came online in November 2011 at an ethanol production plant in Decatur, Ill. By November 2014, more than 1 million tons of CO2 from that plant had been injected into a sandstone layer. Monitoring is ongoing. Another test site is operating in northern Michigan.

A December 2023 Congressional Budget Office report notes there are 15 sequestration sites operating nationwide, seven of which are in Illinois, Michigan, Kansas and North Dakota.

Fry cites a North Dakota law from 2010 and a newer Indiana law (HB 1209 of 2022) among model frameworks for developing CO2 sequestration sites. Additionally, Nebraska enacted the Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide Act (LB 650) in 2021.

All three laws address ownership of underground pore space and require operators to pay fees into a fund to help defray monitoring costs even after a sequestration site closes — a key step to maintaining safety into the future, Fry says.

This year, Illinois legislators have been mulling a trio of bills (SB 2421 and HB 3119, and HB 569) to establish a similar framework. These bills would also ban the use of eminent domain to access surface property.

Indiana Rep. Ethan Manning, a co-chair of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference Energy & Environment Committee, says his state’s HB 1209 was designed with the future in mind.Photo of Indiana Rep. Ethan Manning

“We set the rules so everyone knows what they need to do, we provide a way for the companies themselves to pay into [a trust fund managed by the Department of Natural Resources], so it’s self-funding,” he says. “Then we say what happens after a project is complete and the state eventually takes over, so even if BP or any other company doesn’t exist in 50 or 100 years, there is oversight of these wells and what’s happening 5,000-10,000 feet below our feet.”

…Or a ‘fig leaf’?

Not everyone is convinced that CO2 sequestration is viable.

In a December opinion piece published in Scientific American, Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown, a nonprofit organization focused on stopping climate change, said industrial-scale sequestration can do no more than remove “a few seconds’ worth of our yearly greenhouse gas emissions,” removing a few million metric tons when global carbon emissions in 2023 were 40.5 billion tons.

Moreover, he said, the technology is too expensive compared to other climate solutions and, if used to extract more oil and gas, defeats its very purpose.

 


Overview of other recent carbon pipeline and sequestration legislation
in the Midwest

Pipeline moratoria or bans

Photo of a carbon capture and sequestration facility in operation on a sunny day

  • Illinois — Impose moratorium on construction of CO2 pipelines for four years or until enactment of new federal safety regulations (HB 4835 and SB 3441 of 2024)
  • Iowa — Ban issuance of permits for CO2 pipelines and prevent granting the right of eminent domain (HF 576 of 2023)
  • Nebraska — Ban transportation of CO2 in a pipeline (LB 1140)
Protecting landowners from eminent domain
  • South Dakota‘s HB 1256 and Iowa’s HF 565 (from 2023) would have required pipeline operators to get voluntary easements from 90 percent of landowners on their proposed routes before using eminent domain to secure the rest.
  • Iowa — Allow court challenges to projects using eminent domain prior to issuance of state permit (HF 2664 of 2024)
  • South Dakota — Bar use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines (HB 1219 of 2024)
Carbon sequestration policy
  • Illinois — Establish a legal framework for sequestration: ownership of pore space, banning the use of eminent domain, and establishing funds and assessing fees for long-term monitoring (HB 569, HB 3119 and SB 2421 of 2024)
  • Indiana — Establishes a legal framework for sequestration, including ownership of pore space as well as new funds and fees for long-term monitoring (HB 1209 of 2022; signed into law)
  • Iowa — Require CO2 pipeline operators to permanently sequester the gas and show that their project will “result in a significant reduction” in atmospheric CO2 (HF 682 of 2024)
  • Michigan — Defines carbon sequestration as a “clean energy system” if it is 90 percent effective in capturing and storing CO2 and is not used for enhanced oil recovery (SB 271 of 2023 session; signed into law)
  • Minnesota — Declare as state policy support for development and deployment of CO2 capture and sequestration technologies as way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (HF 342/SF 298 of 2023)
  • Ohio — Declare intent to establish a CO2 capture and sequestration framework; specify that capture and storage technologies encompass both industrial emissions and direct capture (HB 358 and SB 200 of 2023)

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States are reimagining child welfare policy, funding to address what some national experts view as a ‘design flaw’ in the traditional system

In 2022, the last year of available federal data, state child protection services (CPS) received an estimated 4.3 million referrals alleging child maltreatment. The number of children involved in those referrals: about 7.5 million.

Ultimately, though, most of these young people and their families did not receive any CPS-related supports or services.

“Families who come [to the attention] of child welfare have one set of needs, and they come to a system that is designed to do something else,” says Katie Rollins, a policy fellow at the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall.

According to Rollins, that “something else” has been to investigate and, when deemed necessary, place abused or neglected children in foster care.

David Sanders, another leading expert on state child welfare policy, says this traditional model is akin to a health system exclusively offering emergency care, with little or no capacity to deliver preventative services.

“It’s as if right now the only thing that’s offered is an ER visit, while what people really need is primary care,” says Sanders, executive vice president of systems improvement for Casey Family Programs. “That’s where the reimagining [of child welfare policy] has to occur. Many families who need help are not getting it now. All they’re getting is an investigation.”

Yet Sanders also sees reason for hope.

States are restructuring their systems in ways that invest in upstream services to prevent CPS involvement, that focus on keeping at-risk or in-crisis families together, and that provide more supports for kinship caregivers.

This shift is occurring in part because of changes in federal law, including the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 and the new policy and funding opportunities that it provides to states.

“It’s one of the most exciting things that’s happened in child protection over the past 50 years,” Sanders says

Opening new doors, narrowing others

In an April 2024 study, Rollins and her Chapin Hall colleagues provide a framework for states to fix what they see as a longstanding “design flaw.” They envision a system in which child protective agencies only get involved in the most serious cases of abuse and neglect: Narrow that “front door,” while also opening up new opportunities for families to get help through home-visiting programs, services for behavioral health or substance abuse disorder, housing and child care assistance, and concrete economic supports.

“Before things become a crisis, we might be able to prevent many families from being involved in the child welfare system at all,” says Yasmin Grewal-Kök, also a policy fellow at Chapin Hall, who has written about the value of concrete economic supports in reducing child maltreatment and improving overall outcomes.

Of those 4.3 million referrals in 2022 alleging child maltreatment, about half were “screened out” by CPS agencies, meaning the referral did not lead to an investigation or report from child protective services. But many of these “screened out” families and children often still need help, Rollins and Grewal-Kök say, and the referral itself can and should connect them to services.

About half of these referrals are “screened in,” involving an estimated 3.1 million children nationwide.

When a subsequent investigation does not find child abuse or neglect, post-response services for the child occur about 23 percent of the time. In referrals and investigations that lead to a finding of child abuse or neglect, 54 percent of child victims receive post-response services.

According to Rollins, these numbers point to a missed opportunity for states.

“Young people are struggling to find the supports they need in their communities, in their schools,” she says. “And when families are unable to handle those needs and unable to get the supports they need, kids too often end up in the child welfare system.

“And then those young people too often end up in the deep end of the system — in foster care, in congregate care and aging out.”

Indiana’s ‘community pathways’ model

Indiana often is cited as one of the states leading the way in “reimagining” child welfare policy since federal adoption of the Family First Prevention Services Act. In 2019, Indiana legislators passed HB 1001, which restructured how the state pays for family preservation services. The state implemented a per-diem payment model (vs. fee-for-service) to improve the coordination of services and accountability through a single provider, as well as to ensure the use of evidence-based interventions.

Indiana’s Family Preservation Services program is for families with a substantiated case of abuse or neglect. The Department of Child Services, though, determines that with appropriate home- and evidence-based interventions, the child can be safely cared for in the home. Early results show that the program has reduced rates of future child maltreatment.

Additionally, Indiana is an early implementer of a “community pathways” model under the 2018 federal law. Families that have certain risk factors for future foster-care involvement are identified and made eligible for Healthy Family Indiana — home-visiting services that provide parents with hands-on education and supports and that connect them to community-based resources.

Notably, these upstream services are provided prior to any child welfare involvement at all. And federal funding is available through the Family First Prevention Services Act.

“Families are getting help in the community, with resources that in the past only would have gone toward an investigation or placement of children,” Sanders says.

More help for formal and informal kin caregivers

Another option for states: boost support for kinship caregivers.

Two years ago, with the passage of SB 3853, Illinois legislators initiated a pilot program to expand services for family members who are caring for the child of a relative. This includes home visiting, parent mentoring, and customized case management.

Earlier this year, Michigan became the first U.S. state to get federal approval of a plan to establish a separate, simpler licensing standard for kin caregivers. As part of the plan, too, the state will provide kin caregivers with the same level of financial assistance that any other foster care provider would receive.

Rollins says states also can do more to help informal kin caregivers, those individuals providing for children without formal involvement by the child welfare system.

“Many times these are economically fragile families, and it’s often the grandparents, who are likely to be on a fixed income, who now need to care for the child,” she says. “They’re often not eligible for supports and services they need, and that can lead the caregiving arrangement to be disrupted.”

In Ohio, though, these informal kin caregivers are explicitly eligible for assistance under the state’s Kinship and Adoption Navigator Program.

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More sports betting, more tax revenue for states ­— with three in Midwest near the top

During the last three months of 2023, state governments collected more than $758 million in taxes from sports betting, a 26 percent jump compared to the final quarter of 2022.

Among the states bringing in the most tax receipts: Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Nationwide, only New York and Pennsylvania collected more than these three Midwestern states, which accounted for 90 percent of the total in this 11-state region (see bar graph for state-by-state information).

The end-of-year data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Quarterly Survey of State and Local Revenue.” With the exception of Wisconsin, every Midwestern state derived some revenue from sports betting, which includes parimutuel activities such as horse racing.

State legislatures have chosen different ways to use the influx of new revenue from sports betting, either targeting it for specific programs and services or using it for general-fund purposes.

As part of Ohio’s most recently enacted budget, legislators changed the allocation formula so that nearly all of the revenue from sports betting goes to general support for K-12 schools. Previous law had earmarked a portion of the money for K-12 athletics and extracurricular activities. The new budget also doubled Ohio’s sports gaming receipts tax rate, from 10 percent to 20 percent.

In Illinois, most of the money goes to capital infrastructure projects, and as of April, legislators were considering a proposal by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to increase the tax paid by sportsbooks from 15 percent to 35 percent. According to the American Gaming Association, the tax rate in Indiana is 9.5 percent, with most of the revenue going to the state general fund.

The association lists every Midwestern state except Minnesota as allowing sports betting (beyond parimutuel wagering). However, considerable variation exists in these authorization laws ­— for example, in some states, licenses are limited to Native American tribal operators, and only in-person (not mobile) wagering is permitted.

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Five strategies on how to address violent crime, with examples from the 11-state Midwest

The CSG Justice Center has created two new resources for policymakers: 1) “Five Ways States Can Reduce Violent Crime”; and 2) snapshots for each of the 50 states on what the most up-to-date data show about trends in crime, arrests, behavioral health, workforce, recidivism and more. This article describes each part of the five-point plan. For state policymakers, staff at the CSG Justice Center is available to help unpack the data and dig deeper into how to improve community safety. Please contact the CSG Justice Center’s Madeleine Dardeau to learn more.

#1: Solve more cases of violent crime

Nationwide, the number of violent crimes solved by law enforcement continues to decline. In 2022, no arrest was made in 63 percent of the violent crimes reported to law enforcement. According to the CSG Justice Center, research is clear that the certainty of getting caught — not the severity of punishment — is what can deter crime. Targeted state investments and grant programs can be used to:

  • Boost support and training for local police agencies, particularly those with low solve rates.
  • Reduce detective caseloads.
  • Improve law enforcement’s engagement with witnesses and victims. Illinois, for instance, funds a program that helps witnesses of violent crimes pay for relocation and housing-related expenses.

The CSG Justice Center also points to recent investments in the state of Ohio: more than $13 million for a Crime Lab Efficiency Program that aims to reduce and eliminate backlogs, decrease evidence processing times and upgrade lab technology.

Six years ago, the Utah Legislature established a statewide cold case unit (SB 160). Under the law, local enforcement must submit to a state-run database crimes that remain unsolved for three years. State investigators support the work in trying to solve these cold cases.

#2: Invest in data-driven violence prevention

About half of the nation’s violent crimes are never even reported to law enforcement. That fact points to the importance of having effective crime-prevention strategies.

Legislatures can be a catalyst for this work.

The CSG Justice Center singles out legislative-initiated work being done in the state of Washington: Researchers there were tasked with identifying the most cost-effective programs to prevent crime; the findings are now used to determine ongoing state investments.

As part of a statewide crime prevention strategy, the CSG Justice Center says, data-driven, evidence-based initiatives should target help for the communities most impacted by violent crime.

This can include increasing social and public health services, supporting culturally responsive violence reduction programs, and improving neighborhood infrastructures. In recent years, Illinois has allocated $250 million to the Reimagine Public Safety Act for this type of programming.

#3: Address trauma to prevent trauma

Illinois, Iowa and Ohio are among the 12 U.S. states that are home to at least one Trauma Recovery Center. The goal of this TRC model is to provide help to the survivors of violence. For example:

  • evidence-based psychotherapy to target symptoms of distress and to increase interpersonal safety;
  • clinical case management to address legal, housing, financial or medical needs;
  • help for survivors in securing the victim-compensation benefits that they are eligible to receive.

“Ensuring that individuals experiencing trauma are connected to relevant support and resources is critical to breaking the cycles of violence,” the CSG Justice Center notes.

In late 2023, lawmakers in Michigan passed the bipartisan Crime Victims Rights Package. This suite of enacted bills includes HB 4420, a measure that allows police officers or prosecuting attorneys to share victims’ contact information with domestic and sexual violence service providers who can provide supportive services.

Also last year, the Minnesota Legislature established a $500,000 grant program to address the health and wellness needs of victims, and their families, who have experienced trauma.

#4: Set statewide goals to reduce recidivism

Earlier this year, Nebraska became the fourth U.S. state to join Reentry 2030, a national initiative to improve the reentry success for people with criminal records. Within a state, the initiative establishes specific goals to reduce rates of recidivism. It involves partnerships among state and local leaders in the justice, workforce, health and housing sectors.

Among the new goals for Nebraska to reach by 2030:

  • Increase GED completion among incarcerated individuals by 30 percent and college coursework enrollment by 50 percent.
  • Expand participation in vocational and life-skills programming by 25 percent.
  • Ensure enrollment in Medicaid for all individuals who are incarcerated and eligible for this public health insurance program.
  • Make sure all individuals who are incarcerated obtain state identification and birth certificates prior to release.
  • Within 30 days of parole placement, at least 90 percent of individuals who are released from incarceration will be gainfully employed.

Nationwide, falling rates of recidivism point to progress and the impact of state-level policy changes. Still, 70 percent of people released from prison are re-arrested within five years.

#5: Improve justice data collection and use

A lack of sound data collection, reporting and analysis hampers efforts to improve criminal justice systems.

“You can’t fix what you don’t measure,” the CSG Justice Center says. “Data on crime, arrests, backlogs and punishments are hard to get.

“And despite an increasing focus on improving reentry outcomes, only half of states report data on outcomes for the millions of people sentenced to probation supervision.”

One option for states: Join the Justice Counts initiative, a nationwide coalition that is adopting a common set of metrics to provide key insights on trends, operations and outcomes in the criminal justice system.

The CSG Justice Center is leading this effort.

Iowa joined a handful of other states as a founding member of Justice Counts. Illinois and Wisconsin have secured federal grants to pursue the initiative’s goals.

The use of data also is central to the technical assistance provided to states via the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. In this region, nine states have partnered with the CSG Justice Center on this initiative: Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

The result has been the adoption of data-driven, evidence-based policies to improve public safety, save taxpayer dollars, reduce rates of recidivism, and help victims of crime.

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Remembering Former CSG West Director Kent Briggs

The CSG West family is mourning the loss of Kent Briggs, who served as the organization’s executive director from 1996 to 2011. He passed away on April 19 at the age of 82.

Kent was a larger-than-life figure who was fun, kindhearted, and had a gregarious personality. He had the ability to light up a room and enamor people with his smile, charismatic presence, and great stories, as he was a walking encyclopedia of Western politics, leaders, and issues.

Kent had a distinguished public service career, which was sparked by his keen interest and love of public policy. He worked for a U.S. senator in Idaho, two Utah governors, co-founded a public policy think tank focused on the West, and capped his career with CSG West.

While at the helm of CSG West, Kent stabilized and helped grow the organization’s budget, oversaw the establishment of the Western Legislative Academy, which is our premier training program for newer legislators to this day, and was instrumental in furthering a continental vision through engagement with policymakers from Canada and Mexico. One of his passions was advocating for the advancement of the Western region. To this end, he established meaningful and lasting relationships with public officials, staff, academics, and entities from across the region, including the Western Governors’ Association, of which he was very fond of.

Kent was a beloved friend, colleague, and mentor to staff and leaders alike. He left a lasting impression and legacy. Those of us that had the privilege of knowing him can still recall his witty anecdotes and one-liners that made us laugh and ponder, even to this day. Kent will be missed and the CSG family is grateful for his commitment, dedication, and his many contributions to advance the public good. To learn more about Kent’s contributions, please view his obituary HERE.

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