Michigan News

Democrats in the state House of Representatives are calling for the release of more than $350 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid.

That money is from a December 2020 stimulus package.

Leadership is characterizing that money as being tied up in Washington D.C., waiting for the state to officially accept it.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) said the decision is in her Republican colleagues’ hands.

A legislative committee has adopted and sent to the Senate floor a bill to ban the state or a local government from demanding proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

The bill says it would be illegal for a unit of government to create a “vaccine passport” or require proof of vaccination to access a public service.

The bill was adopted by the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee Thursday on a party-line vote.

Republican Representative Sue Allor dialed in testify online in support of her bill, which has already cleared the state House.

A recent study finds the Flint water crisis increased the rate of low birth weight in babies born to moms who were exposed to lead in the city's tap water.

The Yale School of Public Health reviewed data on 15,425 children born in Flint between 2008 and 2015, compared with 5,476,852 newborns born in 162 similar cities around the country.

First Lady Jill Biden visited the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation’s cultural center in Mid-Michigan Sunday to hear about a mental health program that tribal educators started with federal funding.

Biden, accompanied by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, talked to tribal leaders, teachers and students about Project Aware, which aims to help teachers address students’ mental health needs. Biden said the program could be a model for schools across the country.

State health department officials are encouraging Michiganders who qualify to get their COVID-19 booster shots.

Nearly 69% of Michiganders age 16 and up have gotten at least their first dose of one of the three vaccines.

But research shows the effectiveness of the vaccines fades somewhat over time.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) says there are now booster recommendations for all three available COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

The infrastructure and Build Back Better packages in Congress include billions of dollars for electric vehicles. 

As part of the weekly series MichMash, Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher talk with state Sen. Mallory McMorrow about what passage of that legislation would mean for the auto industry in Michigan.

Blue Triton Brands, formerly known as Nestle Waters North America, has withdrawn its controversial permit allowing the company to extract more Michigan groundwater near Evart, Michigan.

The permit allowed Blue Triton Brands to increase extraction from 250 gallons of groundwater per minute to 400 from its White Pine Springs well. Instead, the company said it will increase to just 288 gallons per minute in a September 28 letter to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Behavioral health emergency response bills pass the Senate

Oct 22, 2021

A pair of bills to boost local emergency response programs for people dealing with a mental health crisis has passed the state Senate.

SB 637 and 638 would create a Jail Diversion Fund and community crisis response grant program. They would provide resources to local law enforcement and community-based intervention services.

State Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) is a bill co-sponsor, along with Senator Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes). Chang said the bills aim to make sure people are getting the help they’re looking for when they dial 911.

The state Senate Appropriations committee Wednesday heard testimony on a bill that would spend $2.5 billion on water infrastructure.

SB 565 is part of the effort to spend billions of remaining dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds left over from the state’s most recent budget.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are still figuring out what an appropriate split with local governments—many of whom have their own funds—would be.

Flickr User Bart / http://J.Mp/1SPGCl0

The water situation in Benton Harbor became more complicated Wednesday when the city experienced what was described as a large water main break which resulted in a system-wide loss of water pressure across the city.

The city issued a warning to residents not to drink the water until further notice. City residents had already been under a recommendation not to drink the water due to high lead content.

First Lady Jill Biden will stop in Michigan Sunday

Oct 21, 2021

First Lady Jill Biden will be in Michigan this weekend.

The First Lady is scheduled to stop in Mt. Pleasant on Sunday afternoon. She and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy are scheduled to hold a listening session with members of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. Youth mental health issues are the focus of the meeting.

Both the Michigan House and Senate have passed their own version of a bill package that would create so-called “Student Opportunity Scholarships.”

The bills would allow eligible families to use tax credit-driven scholarships to pay for education-related expenses—like private school tuition or standardized testing fees.

State Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) is defending the package from critics who say it would take funds from public schools.

Enbridge said it temporarily shut down part of its Line 5 pipeline Tuesday after protesters tampered with its safety valve equipment near Vassar, Michigan.

Chanting "Stop Line 5,” the protesters streamed live video on Facebook as one of their group's members used a wrench to twist a pipeline control valve. They said Line 5 poses an immediate threat to the environment.

An Enbridge spokesman countered that the protesters' actions put themselves, first responders and local property owners' safety at risk.

A new state Department of Corrections directive outlines the rights of pregnant prison inmates to medical resources and support.

The directive expands rights for pregnant inmates to choose one non-medical person to support them as they give birth, and it allows a new mother to spend more time with a newborn before returning to prison.

“Every pregnant Michigander deserves access to a safe birth, critical maternal health care, and essential postpartum supports,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement released Tuesday.

A new Michigan State University study finds less than one percent of Michigan third graders were held back this year for failing to meet the state’s reading standard.

It’s been warmer than usual this fall, and that’s resulting in more people visiting emergency rooms for tick bites.

Since about mid-September, the number of people going to the ER for tick bites has exceeded seasonal averages in the Midwest.

Last week, there were 64 reported visits. In 2017 through 2019, there was a weekly of average of 36 for this time of year.

Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

The Benton Harbor City Commission declared a local state of emergency Monday night in response to high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited the city Tuesday morning for a listening session with residents and local political leaders.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce wants President Joe Biden to rethink a proposed COVID vaccination mandate.

The regulation could be finalized in the coming weeks.

A new University of Michigan study finds many COVID-19 patients can expect to pay thousands of dollars if they are hospitalized.

Dr. Kao-Ping Chua is a health policy researcher and pediatrician at Michigan Medicine and the Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation Research Center. In his research, Chua focuses on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Democratic State Representative Julie Brixie says there are enough votes in the state House to fix the worst aspect of Michigan's new auto insurance law - which applies it retroactively to people who suffered catastrophic injuries prior to 2019.

The law allows insurance companies to cut the fees they pay long term care providers for auto accident patients by nearly half. Many of the providers are going out of business, or discharging their auto accident patients because they can't afford to care for them anymore.

Foreclosure filings rise sharply in Michigan

Oct 18, 2021

There's a dramatic rise in foreclosure filings in Michigan, according to new data.

But housing-industry experts are downplaying the increase.

According to Attom, a foreclosure industry tracking company says foreclosure filings jumped 65% in Michigan during the third quarter of the year, that's compared to the second quarter of 2021. Compared with the third quarter of 2020, filings were up 143%. Both percentages were about twice the national increase.

The increase followed the end of a federal moratorium on foreclosure in July.

A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers is proposing people convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge be banned from possessing firearms for eight years.

The sponsors say Senate Bills 678 and 679 and House Bills 5371 and 5372 would bring Michigan law into partial alignment with current federal protections.

Screenshot captured via Facebook

Berrien County Health Department Acting Health Officer Courtney Davis has resigned, saying in a statement that she can “no longer effectively do her job” due to the “politicization of public health” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer vetoes pair of election-related bills

Oct 18, 2021

Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed two election-related bills Friday that were sent to her by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The governor said in her veto letter that the bills would divert resources from the Secretary of State’s and local clerks’ efforts to conduct fair elections.

One of the bills would give the Secretary of State 100 days to wrap up a check of petition signatures filed by a campaign to initiate a law.

Group representing small farmers wants market fairness

Oct 18, 2021

Smaller Michigan Farmers are looking to Washington to make things more fair.

These farmers say corporate farms and the consolidation of processing plants is making it tough for them to survive.

“I think President Joe Biden said it very succinctly back in July that capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism, it’s exploitation,” said Bob Thompson, president of the Michigan Farmers Union.

fotoblend/Pixabay

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is warning Benton Harbor residents to be on the lookout for price gouging, particularly of bottled water. 

Due to lead contamination in the city’s water, health officials have advised residents to use only bottled water for drinking, cooking, teeth brushing, and mixing baby formula.

The attorney general said in a Friday release that’s created the opportunity for local retailers to unfairly hike the price of bottled water. 

Federal court rules against tree protection ordinance

Oct 15, 2021

Environmentalists are concerned a federal court ruling this week could limit tree protection ordinances.

The ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt with landowners’ private property rights and Canton Township’s tree ordinance. The ordinance requires landowners who remove trees to plant new trees or pay into a fund to ensure there’s not a net loss of trees.

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

Michigan residents will soon get a chance to weigh in on new draft maps that could define state legislative and Congressional districts for the next decade.

 

As part of the weekly series MichMash, Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk with a reporter who has been covering the redistricting process about the new maps and how you can get involved.

 

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a pair of bills Thursday that would get rid of use and sales taxes on feminine hygiene products.

It’s the latest in a years-long effort to make those items tax free.

A House Fiscal Agency analysis of the bills notes the state currently collects a six-percent sales tax on those goods as “luxury items.”

State Representative Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods) is a bill sponsor.

She said she feels like the effort gained traction this year because the governor announced it as a priority going into the budget process.

Michigan House adopts voter ID legislation

Oct 15, 2021

The GOP-led state House gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would require people to show a photo ID to vote.

Democrats opposed the bill as an unnecessary obstacle to voting.

Representative Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw) said it’s an insult to people who fought for voting rights.

“My vote is my voice. My vote is my voice," O'Neal said. "My vote is my voice.”

Representative Helena Scott (D-Detroit) said the bills needlessly cast doubt on the fairness of elections and the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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