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State of Michigan

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State lawmakers look to expand natural gas in rural communities

New legislation in Lansing would make it easier for utilities to expand access to natural gas in rural Michigan.

A state House panel will hold a hearing on the bills Tuesday.

Supporters hope it will help people keep the heat on during the cold winter months. A number of Michigan communities faced propane shortages during this past winter.

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Michigan teachers could soon get some tax relief for donating materials to the classroom.

Ann Arbor State Representative Jeff Irwin has proposed a bill that would give a tax credit to educators who spend up to $1,000 on supplies for their students.

Irwin says this issue is a symptom of a much larger problem facing public education in Michigan, and shows the state is not doing enough to fund public education.

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Statewide teacher evaluations move forward in state Legislature

Legislation that would create a statewide teacher evaluation system has cleared its first hurdle in the Michigan Legislature. A state House panel approved the bills Tuesday with bipartisan support.

A diverse coalition of Michigan education groups recently came out in support of the legislation. Supporters say that could help clear the way for the Legislature to approve the bills before lawmakers leave Lansing in June for two months.

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Detroit EM tries to sell bailout to lawmakers

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is spending a couple of days in Lansing for closed-door meetings with state officials. He's primary mission is to convince reluctant state lawmakers to support the Detroit bailout package.

The state's share, which would have to be approved by the Legislature, is $350 million dollars. That would help mitigate cuts to pension benefits as part of the city's bankruptcy, and
ensure the assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts are safe from the auction block.

Gun Owners Converge On State Capitol

Apr 29, 2014
Michigan Public Radio Network

Pro-gun activists pack heat at the state Capitol

More than 200 gun owners descended on the state Capitol in Lasing Tuesday - many of them openly carrying firearms. Several pro-gun groups from across the country participated in the annual 2nd Amendment Day demonstration.

They say the rally is an important way to remind state policymakers to protect residents' gun rights.

Wages Focus Of Lansing Protests

Apr 29, 2014
Michigan Public Radio Network

Minimum wage and equal pay advocates join forces at state Capitol
 

Women's rights advocates say boosting the state's minimum wage would be a big step toward equal pay in the workplace. Groups backing both causes joined forces Tuesday during an equal pay rally at the state Capitol.

"Women are disproportionately represented in low-wage work. So, when we raise the minimum wage we are raising them a little bit more out of poverty," said Danielle Atkinson with Raise Michigan, a coalition working to put a minimum wage increase on the November ballot.

eWashtenaw.org

Washtenaw County's jail system could soon see an influx of new prisoners.

State Senator John Proos is proposing a bill to limit the number of inmates held in the state's prison system. If passed, it would restrict Michigan's prison population to 38,000, or about 6,000 less than are currently housed in state prisons.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton says if the bill is left unchanged, it could lead to overcrowding in county jails.

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A Republican state Senator's legislation to raise Michigan's minimum wage from $7.40 and hour to $8.15 an hour is drawing criticism from local lawmakers.

Legislation introduced by Rick Jones of Grand Ledge would also raise the minimum wage for tipped employees ten cents to $2.75 and hour. 

Democratic State Representative David Rutledge says he'd rather see the minimum wage issue decided by voters, because people recognize fairness.

E-Cigarettes: Tobacco Products?

Apr 28, 2014
en.wikipedia.com

Bill would define e-cigarettes as tobacco products in Michigan

Efforts to keep electronic cigarettes out of the hands of minors continue this week in Lansing. A state House panel will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on legislation that would make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors.

The smokeless devices produce a nicotine-laced vapor, but do not contain any actual tobacco. The bipartisan bill would define e-cigarettes as tobacco products. But it would also exempt them from the state's tobacco tax.

Inmate Limit Proposed

Apr 25, 2014
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Lawmakers could set limit on number of inmates in Michigan prisons

One Michigan legislator wants to put a limit on the number of inmates in state-run prisons.

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, says legislation he introduced this week could save the state tens of millions of dollars. It would require the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to keep the number of inmates in its prisons under 38,000. Right now, that number is about 44,000.

SenatorRickJones.com

State GOP Senator offers minimum wage hike alternative

A Republican in the state Senate wants to boost Michigan's minimum wage to $8.15 an hour.

Sen. Rick Jones' introduced the legislation Thursday, which would be an alternative to a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage.

That ballot drive would boost the rate from $7.40 an hour to $10.10 an hour. It would also eventually raise the rate for tipped workers from $2.65 to $10.10 an hour.

Republicans At Odds Over Detroit Pensions

Apr 23, 2014
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Gov. Snyder and Senate leader not embracing Bolger's union demands

Republican leaders in Lansing are not joining House Speaker Jase Bolger's calls for unions to contribute to Detroit's bankruptcy settlement.

Gov. Rick Snyder and several foundations have signed off on a complicated deal to protect retiree pensions and artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state's contribution to the so-called "grand bargain" would be about $350 million, and state lawmakers would have to approve that money.

michigan.gov/eaa

EAA debate heats up in Lansing, final vote possible this week

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville hopes to hold a final vote this week on a bill to expand the state's Education Achievement Authority (EAA).

The EAA is the entity the state uses to take over persistently failing schools. Right now, it runs 15 schools in Detroit. The bill would pave the way for it to expand up to 50 schools statewide.

Richardville, R-Monroe, says the EAA is not a perfect solution, but it's better than doing nothing.

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Ruth Johnson announces reelection bid for Secretary of State

Ruth Johnson will seek another term as Michigan's Secretary of State.

Johnson made the announcement Monday and kicked off a four-stop campaign tour across the state. She says the Secretary of State's office has become more efficient under her direction, largely because of technological improvements.

Peters files nominating petitions for US Senate

Congressman Gary Peters has filed petition signatures to put his name on the ballot. Peters is a Democrat running to succeed retiring US Senator Carl Levin. Peters' support for the federal healthcare law has been an issue in the campaign. Peters says that's OK with him.

Road Funding Debate Begins In Lansing

Apr 17, 2014
Andrew Cluley

Legislature begins debate over $500 million road funding plan

A plan to boost state road spending by about half-a-billion dollars a year is taking shape. State lawmakers introduced four bills Thursday that are now part of the package.

Schauer Says Education Is Tops In Schools Plan

Apr 16, 2014
Michigan Public Radio Network

Schauer calls education his "top priority" in schools plan

The Democrat likely to challenge Gov. Rick Snyder in November says improving public schools would be his top priority in office.

Former Congressman Mark Schauer and his running mate, Lisa Brown, unveiled their education plan Wednesday in Lansing.

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Local governments: Tax Day study shows state not paying fair share

Local officials say not enough of the revenue Michigan takes in around Tax Day goes to cities, towns, and counties.

The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council released a study Tuesday that shows state revenue grew by more than $1 billion between 2009 and 2012. At the same time, local government revenue dropped by about the same amount.

Michigan Public Radio Network

Gay couple trying to force state to recognize their marriage, "for our 13 kids"

The ACLU of Michigan is suing the state to force it to recognize the marriages of about 300 same-sex couples who got married last month.

Clint McCormack and Bryan Reamer are one of eight couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday.

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The American Civil Liberties Union is asking a judge to force the state of Michigan to recognize more than 300 same-sex marriages performed in March.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of couples who say their constitutional rights are being violated by Gov. Rick Snyder. He won't recognize the marriages for the purpose of benefits until federal courts decide the status of Michigan's ban on gay marriage. 

Jay Kaplan is staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project.  Kaplan says the Governor is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Scrap Metal Theft Bill Becomes Law

Apr 10, 2014
Michigan Public Radio Network

Bill to fight scrap metal theft signed into law

Michigan now has tougher laws on the books meant to crack down on scrap metal theft.

Under a bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder Thursday, people can no longer get instant cash when they sell commonly-stolen items for $25 or more.

Supporters say mailing payments for those items will help law enforcement by creating a paper trail. They say communities all over the state have been literally ripped apart by illegal scrapping.

Immigration Center Approved For Michigan

Apr 9, 2014
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Feds approve center to encourage immigrant investment in Michigan

Michigan will be only the second state in the country to run a statewide center meant to encourage investment from immigrants.

The center will provide visas for people who invest at least $1 million in the state and create at least ten jobs. The required investment goes down to $500,000 if it is made in a rural community or one with high unemployment.

State Schools Superintendent Defends Teachers

Apr 8, 2014
www.michigan.gov

Flanagan defends teachers after report says Michigan schools falling behind

The state's top education official says people should not blame teachers for a new report that shows Michigan schools are falling behind.

The Education Trust-Midwest presented its study to the state Board of Education Tuesday. It shows student growth improving in other states while Michigan students lag behind, especially minority and low-income students.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the report is troubling. But he says it's important to provide some context.

Andrew Cluley

Some prominent Democrats skeptical about proposal to fix roads

A state House Republican plan to fix Michigan's crumbling infrastructure is drawing criticism from some prominent Democrats.

The proposal seeks to boost road funding by about $500 million a year. That's well short of the $1-2 billion most estimates say is needed to adequately address the problem.

Some Democrats say the plan could make passing a more comprehensive solution unlikely any time soon.

Kurt Lowenstein
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Schuette asks for fast action marriage case

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked a federal appeals court to put the legal challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage on a fast track. Schuette is defending Michigan’s ban.

Schuette’s filed a motion with the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to skip a hearing before a three judge panel and go directly to the entire 15-judge court. That could shave months, maybe as much as a year, off the appeals process. Schuette says the question needs to settled regardless of who wins in the end. 

Schauer Announces Running Mate

Apr 3, 2014
Michigan Public Radio Network

Lisa Brown announced as Schauer's running mate in governor's race

Mark Schauer has made it official. He has chosen Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown to be his running mate in this year's race for governor.

Schauer, a former congressman from Battle Creek, is the likely Democratic challenger to Governor Rick Snyder in November.

T. Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
glfc.org

Michigan replies to Army corps invasive species report

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed the state's response to the US Army Corps of Engineers invasive species report. Schuette says his biggest complaint is the report fails to outline an aggressive plan to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

The report came out in January, and it outlines possibilities without making specific recommendations on what should happen next.

That was a disappointment, says Joy Yearout, Schuette's communications director.

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Michigan's expanded Medicaid program starts today
By Jake Neher

Michigan's Medicaid expansion is officially up and running. That means hundreds of thousands of low-income Michiganders are now eligible for government-sponsored health care.

People making 133% of the federal poverty level or less are now eligible for the program, which is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. That's about $15,000 dollars or less a year for an individual and about $32,000 or less for a family of four.

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Michigan petition circulator law
By Rick Pluta

A bill to let out-of-state residents gather petitions signatures is awaiting Governor Rick Snyder's signature. Because of the bill, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the state.

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       LANSING - A report by a private foundation finds the well-being of Michigan's white children slightly below the national average while black children significantly lag the nation.

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