July | August 2017




Minnesota Becomes First State to Adopt Kill Switch Law

Responding to violent cell phone thefts across Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the nation’s first “kill switch” bill into law May 14. The law requires smartphones and other mobile devices sold in the state to have a software application that enables owners to disable the device remotely if it is lost or stolen.
The law, which takes effect July 1, 2015, also prohibits retailers from paying cash for used devices.
According to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, students at the University of Minnesota have been particularly vulnerable to cell phone thefts. Campus officials report that up to 62 percent of robberies at the university are now cell phone related.
In April, facing mounting pressure across the country, leaders of the cellphone manufacturing industry agreed to develop smartphone software to remotely wipe a device and prevent its reactivation by an unauthorized user.
Some smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone, already feature remote disabling applications.
Other states and the federal government may follow Minnesota’s lead. The California Senate passed a similar bill in May requiring a kill switch, while U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has introduced kill switch legislation at the federal level.
“I think whoever is first to get there and install kill switches on these devices will be very well-received by the public ... and it will probably be good for business as well,” Rep. Joe Atkins, who sponsored the Minnesota bill, told the Star Tribune,
A federal judge believes the Sept. 30 deadline for disposition of Detroit’s bankruptcy case may be unrealistic; that could put promised state funds to assist the city in jeopardy. According to The New York Times, Michigan has promised state funds to Detroit, but only if the beleaguered city gets its bankruptcy exit plan approved by the end of September. U.S. District Judge Steven Rhodes said objections to proposals to use Detroit’s famous art collection to raise $816 million to fund retirees’ pensions may make meeting the bankruptcy deadline challenging, if not impossible.

Teachers and education advocates in May protested policies by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration they say are attacks on public schools. According to The Associated Press, about 300 people rallied on the statehouse steps on the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, claiming inadequate funds for public schools prevents the country from achieving the decision’s demand for equal educational opportunities for all children.

Nebraska has a new tourism brand, the Star Herald of Scottsbluff, Neb., reported. After nine months of research and development, the Nebraska Tourism Commission adopted “Nebraska Nice” as the message of its tourism promotion campaign. According to tourism officials, the brand has a dual meaning—referring both to the reputation of Nebraskans as being nice and to the nice, special experiences visitors have in the state. The Nebraska Nice campaign started May 15 and will spotlight some of the state’s best assets.

A task force of the Ohio Supreme Court released a report May 21 urging for sweeping reforms to the state’s capital punishment policies. The report includes 56 recommendations, including creating a panel under the state’s attorney general to approve death penalty charges before cases proceed and allowing capital punishment only in cases where the crime is proved by DNA evidence, video confession or other video recording. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, lawmakers are unlikely to act on the report this year.


Just a month after the Livestock Indemnity Program—an aid program for disaster-stricken ranchers authorized by the new federal farm bill—began taking applications, nearly one-third of submissions came from South Dakota, The Associated Press reported. Ranchers suffered major losses after an October blizzard in which 43,000 cattle and other livestock across the state were killed. Of the $343,000 distributed through the program to ranchers across the country, 85 percent has gone to South Dakota.