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State of Michigan

Lawmakers encourage Year-Round School

Feb 18, 2014

State lawmakers look to encourage year-round schoolsBy Jake Neher Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round. A state House panel heard testimony on the idea Tuesday. In his budget address this month, Governor Rick Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling.

Lawmakers encourage Year-Round School

Feb 18, 2014

State lawmakers look to encourage year-round schoolsBy Jake Neher Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round. A state House panel heard testimony on the idea Tuesday. In his budget address this month, Governor Rick Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling.

Landlords could ban tenants from smoking or growing medical marijuana under billBy Jake Neher  Some Michigan medical marijuana patients and caregivers could soon be banned from smoking or growing cannabis where they live.  A state Senate panel approved a bill on Tuesday that would let landlords decide whether to allow tenants to grow or smoke medical marijuana. "We've had a lot of apartment owners that have people smoking marijuana or growing marijuana, doing damage to the apartments, creating danger for other residents," said state Sen.

Campaign Sets Sights on Higher Minimum Wage

Feb 17, 2014

Minimum wage campaign sets its sights at $10.10
By Rick Pluta

The campaign to increase Michigan's minimum wage has upped its goal to $10.10 an hour in four years.

The petition drive had initially set its sights on raising the state minimum wage from its current $7.40 an hour to $9.50 by 2016, and then indexing the wage to inflation. The new wage target is part of an amended filing with the state.

Lawmakers to probe Army Corps of Engineers report on invasive species Tuesday
By Jake Neher

State lawmakers want to know whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inflating the cost and time it would take to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Army Corp officials will face questions from legislators Tuesday about a report it released last month. It says separating the lakes from the Mississippi River would take more than two decades and up to $18 billion to complete.

Michigan's college students could soon have a new way to pay for school. Democrats in the state legislature are proposing a pilot program that would completely pay for a student's college tuition. State Representative Jeff Irwin says students who use the program would pay back a percentage of the their yearly income for the next 20 years, rather than a fixed amount of money like with a typical student loan. If approved, the 53rd District Democrat says the pilot program would assist 200 students, divided evenly between 2-year community colleges and 4-year universities.

As the state debates how best to have school district make up snow days, there's no question how the superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District would prefer to address the issue.  

Michigan Public Radio Network

MI corrections director: Ionia prison escape "had nothing to do with" budget cuts
By Jake Neher

The head of the state's prison system blames a murderer's recent escape from an Ionia prison largely on human error. That prisoner escaped earlier this month, and was caught in Indiana the next day.

Report says parole systems costs taxpayers millions
By Rick Pluta

A new report says Michigan's parole system is too stingy when it comes to releasing prisoners with sentences of up to life in prison.

The report by the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending says there are 850 lifers in Michigan prison for second-degree murder and other violent crimes who could be paroled. In many cases, they're older and the report says very unlikely to re-offend.

Backyard Farmers Upset with State Proposal

Feb 12, 2014

Backyard farmers blast proposal to exclude them from "Right to Farm" law
By Jake Neher

A state board is expected to decide next month whether to strip protections from Michiganders who raise chickens and other livestock in residential areas.

Dozens of "backyard farmers" and their supporters blasted the proposed rule change Wednesday at an agriculture commission meeting in Lansing. It would exclude them from Michigan's Right to Farm Act, which protects farmers from nuisance complaints and lawsuits.

The Michigan State Board of Education hopes public school funding will be a top priority for voters when they head to the polls in November.

MI agriculture commission closer to decision on backyard livestockBy Rick Pluta The Michigan Commission on Agriculture and Rural Development is about to hold its final hearing on a controversial new rule. It would end Right to Farm protections for people who raise chickens and other livestock in residential areas.  The 1981 Right to Farm Act is the state's effort to preempt nuisance lawsuits filed against farmers as more people moved from cities and suburbs to rural areas.

The Superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District says he's glad to see an increase in funding for K-12 education in Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal. Scott Menzel says the proposal would bring an increase of $83 to $111 in per-pupil funding to school districts in the county. Menzel says with several county districts working with small fund balances, and one district operating at a deficit, it's difficult to determine the actual impact the additional state money will have on students. 

Menzel believes the most important part of the Governor's education funding plan is a $65,000,000 investment in the Great Start Readiness Program for low-income Pre-school students.

State Representative Jeff Irwin
Courtesy Photo / housedems.com

State Representative Jeff Irwin sees some things to be excited about in the Governor's budget proposal, but funding for K-12 education is not one of them. 

The Democrat from Ann Arbor says restoring about $100 in per-pulpil state funding doesn't go far enough to replace cuts made in 2011.

Irwin says he was glad to see higher education getting a 6.1 %  increase in state funding, and he likes that the Governor is moving forward to make dental care more accessible for low-income kids.

Legislation to raise Michigan's minimum wage all but ruled out, ballot drive likely
By Jake Neher

Legislation to raise Michigan's minimum wage is not likely to go anywhere in 2014.

Republican leaders in the state House and Senate are not eager to take up bills to raise it above $7.40 an hour.

"It's a firm 'no' for me," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. "I think that individual CEOs of companies in Michigan should make those decisions based on the marketplace, not some arbitrary law."

Income tax reduction clears committee, goes to full state Senate
By Jake Neher

Plans to reduce Michigan's income tax rate are moving forward in the state Legislature. A state Senate panel approved a bill Wednesday that would phase in the tax cut over three years.

The income tax rate would go from 4.25% to 3.9% by 2017.

"This is a tax on work," said Scott Hagerstrom with the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity of Michigan. "You want more of something? Tax it less. We want more work and more productivity."

Bill would require felons to declare their past if they go into politics

By Rick Pluta and Jake Neher  

The state House could vote soon on a measure to require political candidates to reveal felony convictions that occurred within the prior 10 years. A state House committee approved the legislation today (Tue.) that would require political candidates to declare felony convictions within the past 10 years.   

Push for Part-Time State Legislature Begins

Jan 24, 2014

Campaign launches effort to make the state Legislature part-time

By Jake Neher

Michigan voters could see a question on the November ballot this year asking them to make the state Legislature part-time.

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature has turned in petition language to the state Bureau of Elections.

Snyder breathes new life into balanced budget amendment efforts

By Rick Pluta

It took a push from Governor Rick Snyder, but efforts to put Michigan on record as supporting a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution are moving again at the state Capitol. Governor Snyder supported the idea last week in his State of the State address. Today (Thu.), a state House committee held its first hearing on two resolutions calling on Congress to convene a convention of the states to draft a balanced budget amendment. 

“Right-to-work for lawyers” bill introduced in Lansing

By Jake Neher

Attorneys would no longer be required to pay membership dues to the State Bar of Michigan under a new bill in Lansing.

In 2012, the state made it illegal to require workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

Statewide Teacher Evaluations Debated in Lansing

Jan 22, 2014

Bipartisan legislation in Lansing would create a statewide system to evaluate teachers and school administrators. The evaluations would be based partly on student growth and standardized tests.

State Jobless Rate Drops

Jan 22, 2014
pjbaldes / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point last month to eight-point-four percent.

Snyder announces plan to shield DIA assets from Detroit bankruptcy

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder has proposed committing up to $350 million to help mitigate cuts to Detroit pension benefits – as well as keep assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts off the auction block.

The state’s offer would play out over 20 years and would match money raised from private donations to make sure DIA paintings, sculptures, and other works of art don’t get sold off to pay pension benefits that are central to the bankruptcy negotiations.

Snyder renews call for “civility” in MLK Day address

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder used a Martin Luther King Day speech to call for more public civility. His remarks come as a state Republican leader continues to roil his party with comments about gay people and Muslims.

Budget surplus quells fears of cuts to school funding in Michigan

By Jake Neher

A state budget surplus is easing some concerns about funding for public schools in Michigan.

Last year, the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan warned recent funding increases for schools and early childhood programs might not be sustainable. It estimated they would create a $240 million hole in the state’s School Aid Budget.

Adam Zemke

State Representative Adam Zemke supports tax relief for Michigan residents, but not in the form being discussed in Lansing. 

The 55th district Democrat says he'd rather see the earned income tax credit restored than a cut in the state income tax. Zemke says that would better help Michigan's low-income families displaced by the state's fluctuating economy.

Zemke is also outlining his legislative goals for 2014, and education is at the top of the list.

Zemke says Michigan's most valuable resource is the talent of its residents. He has been calling for an increased focus on STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - in public schools.

House Dems

As Michigan's Republican legislators talk about using  a state budget surplus for an income tax cut, one local State Representative says she doesn't support the idea. 

52nd District Democrat Gretchen Driskell says she does not support a tax cut.  She says she doesn't see any reason to cut taxes at this point.

Driskell says Michigan's system for collecting revenue needs to be fixed before a tax cut in instituted.

SEE ALSO: Bolger, State House GOP Stands Firm Against Repealing Tax on Pensions

She says she thinks the tax cut proposal is more of an election year idea, and the surplus would be better used toward education.

Bolger, state House GOP stand firm against repealing tax on pensions
By Jake Neher

State House Republicans on Thursday formally unveiled their priorities for 2014 - and an election-year tax cut is near the top of the list.

The big question is, who will get that tax cut?

Democrats say it should be retirees. A couple years ago, the state stopped allowing people to exempt pension income from their taxes. Democrats say that policy unfairly burdened retirees and needs to go.

But state House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says he's not open to that idea.

"If you're going to tax income, all income should be treated the same," Bolger said.

"I would be very resistant to undoing the reform we did last time. That is a reform that makes our tax system more fair."

Many Republicans in Lansing favor reducing the state's income tax rate.

Bolger says improving Michigan's roads and bridges and overhauling the state's controversial auto no-fault law are also among legislative priorities in the new year.

Hunters Miss Target for historic First Wolf Hunt

Dec 31, 2013
michigan wolf hunt
J.A. Vucetich and R.O. Peterson

  Hunters fall far short of killing 43 wolves in historic first hunt

By Jake Neher

The end of 2013 also marks the end of Michigan’s historic and controversial first wolf hunt. The state had allowed 43 wolves to be killed during the 46-day hunt. But hunters only killed a little more than half that amount.

“We didn’t even come close to that, obviously,” said Ed Golder with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “But it’s important to remember that was a ceiling, not a target.”

State Workers Await Board Decision on Benefits

Dec 17, 2013
MPRN

State worker unions rally on eve of contract decision

By Jake Neher

Thousands of state employees could see their health benefits reduced Wednesday. That’s if a state board votes to approve a new contract.

Public employee unions couldn’t reach a contract agreement with the state this year, so the Michigan Civil Service Commission will vote on a compromise plan drawn up by an independent panel. 

Unions say it includes too many concessions while, at the same time, state officials are expecting a budget surplus.

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