Michigan News

A citizens group wants to change how political boundaries are drawn in Michigan. Right now, the Legislature draws new lines for legislative and congressional districts every 10 years following the Census.

John Hanieski is an economist who says, right now, the numbers don’t add up. He says the state is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. But he says the GOP wins a lot more seats. 

He says the current system allows lawmakers to put their interests ahead of their constituents.

Michigan’s maple syrup producers are hoping for a return to more winter-like weather.

Maple syrup relies on days above freezing for the sap to flow, and nights below freezing to make it sweet. 

Lately, the days and nights have been too warm for Kirk Hedding. He’s the president of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association. Hedding says this is turning into a "bitter" season for some maple syrup producers.

“As the sap flows, the sugar content will eventually start dropping if we don’t have any freezing weather,” says Hedding.

This week, Flint residents will lose a state subsidy on their monthly water bills.

The state has spent more than $40 million subsidizing Flint’s water bills, as part of the response to the city’s lead-tainted tap water crisis. However, the governor’s office says the credits are ending this month because Flint’s water quality is improving.

Ticks that carry Lyme disease have become active in Michigan with the recent unseasonably warm temperatures. The range for ticks has been expanding in Michigan for years, bringing with it a spike in Lyme disease cases. 

Jean Tsao, an associate professor at Michigan State University's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, said that a student brought in several ticks that were found on a dog in Lansing.

"The ticks that are out now are the black-legged adults. Those usually overwinter. But they can become active if you have several days that are warmer," says Tsao.

Michigan's refugee community has some basic needs that aren't being met, according to several refugee services organizations.

Arab-American rights and service groups in metro Detroit want to find ways to better coordinate with one another to more adequately serve refugee and immigrant families.

Haifa Fakhouri, president of the Arab American and Chaldean Council, or ACC, wants these groups to fill in the holes when it comes to the services they provide.

Lawyers for Saginaw and Kalamazoo school districts say the state does not have the authority to close four of their low-performing schools.

The complaint was filed late Wednesday on behalf of the two school districts and more than a dozen parents. They argue the governor violated the state constitution when he signed an executive order in 2015 moving the School Reform Office into a department under his control, instead of the state superintendent and the education department.

The office is considering closing 38 schools.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is joining nine other attorneys general to oppose a bill in the U.S. Senate.

It would change how ballast water in ships is regulated. Invasive species can hitch a ride in ballast water.

The bill would create a single, national standard and pre-empt states from creating their own standards.

The shipping industry likes that. But the attorneys general are concerned about losing the ability to have stricter state standards.

For more than a decade, double crested cormorants could be killed in 24 states in the eastern U.S. In the Great Lakes, it was mainly done to protect sport fish like perch and bass.

But last spring a federal judge stopped the program, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t doing the research on cormorants necessary to justify killing them.

Sport fishing groups hoped that research would have been done by now and the program could resume.

In the first vote of the session, Republican leaders in the state House came up short.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the House took a roll call vote on legislation that would roll back the state income tax.

It was significantly different from its first iteration, but Republican leaders still couldn’t shore up enough votes to gain the majority.

The Flint Islamic Center held a meeting tonight to go over what the Trump administration’s immigration policies could mean for Muslim families in Michigan.

Trump had said his administration would unveil the new order this week, but a White House official says that has been delayed until next week.

The original order temporarily banning all entry into the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations and pausing the entire U.S. refugee program was blocked in the courts. The directive sparked confusion at airports and protests across the country.

A former sports medicine doctor for Michigan State University and the U.S. Olympics gymnastics team faces another 22 felony charges of sexually assaulting his patients.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the new charges today. He says five of the charges are related to victims who were younger than 13 years old.

“I cannot imagine the heartbreak, and the anger, and the heartache experienced by parents who took their child to a physician, seeking help, who then sexually assaulted their daughter,” Schuette said.

A girl and her dog, Wonder, are one step closer to victory in their lawsuit against her former school.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Wednesday 13-year-old Ehlena Fry can move forward with a lawsuit her family filed when officials would not let her use her goldendoodle as an aid during school.

Fry has cerebral palsy and has had Wonder since kindergarten.

When her family filed the lawsuit, the school argued Fry would have to go through an administrative process first.

Michigan could have some older judges on the bench if a measure in Lansing moves ahead.

A recently introduced resolution to eliminate the age limit for Michigan judges got a hearing this week before the House Judiciary Committee. 

Right now, the Michigan Constitution says nobody can be elected or appointed judge after reaching the age of 70.

If the resolution passes by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the state Legislature, voters would decide at the next general election whether to amend the Constitution to get rid of the age ceiling.

Some Michigan members of Congress have been criticized lately for avoiding constituents. But two Republican congressmen from West Michigan are hosting in-person events over the next few days.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-2nd Dist., has his first in-person town hall of the year set for this Saturday at noon in Baldwin. The tiny town about an hour north of Grand Rapids was supposed to be a part of Huizenga’s annual snowmobile tour. There’s not enough snow this year, but he didn’t cancel the event.

In a letter to Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan's Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives asked that he stop the Michigan School Reform Office from closing 38 schools.

U.S. Reps. John Conyers, Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, and Sander Levin requested that the governor not close any schools without input and support from local communities.

The representatives cited the negative impacts of school closings, such as the burdens placed on working families that may face longer commutes.

You may have heard that the state is planning to close as many as 38 schools by this summer, the bulk of which are in Detroit. That’s a big deal for a whole lot of families, and so far, the state isn’t giving them much guidance about what to do. So let’s walk through where things stand.

A survey of local officials across the state finds wide interest in overhauling Michigan’s emergency manager law.       

The survey of officials from 1,300 cities, counties, townships, and villages was conducted by the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy.

There was no consensus on what to about financially struggling local governments, says survey director Tom Ivacko. But he says says there was general agreement that emergency managers have too much power.

Lawmakers in Lansing might not try to do away with the state income tax after all; but, they are still looking to reduce it.

A new version of the bill would gradually cut the tax from 4 point 25 percent to 3 point 9 percent.

Bill sponsor Representative Lee Chatfield says he is happy with the changes.

“Our goal all along has been to deliver on the promise made to the people back in 2007, and we think the legislation in its current form with the substitute accomplishes that goal,” he said.

2016 was a good year for Michigan home builders – just not as good as expected.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 15,176 permits were issued in Michigan for new home construction in 2016. That’s the highest since 2006 (16,538).  

But that’s 1,700 fewer permits than were forecasted.    

Bob Filka, with the Michigan Home Builders Association, says the industry should be doing better.

“When you look at the job creation numbers in the state, the unemployment level,” says Filka, “we should have more housing investment happening right now and we’re not.”

Planning your next winter excursion in Michigan could get harder this year. 

Unusually warm temperatures throughout the state, including record highs in certain areas over the weekend, have led tourism experts and representatives to question whether enough snow will stay on the ground to support outdoor activities. 

Students at Michigan State University can no longer have message whiteboards mounted on their dorm doors, starting this fall. Misuse of the whiteboards has made them more trouble than they're worth.

Kat Cooper is Director of Communications for Residential Services at MSU.  She says too often, students would scrawl offensive comments on the whiteboards. 

"Racist, sexist, anything in that category. Those have happened. There's been issues with them for a long time," says Cooper. "People write things on them that really aren't not part of our value set at MSU."

Dr. Larry Nassar, a former athletic doctor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison today.  He pled guilty to seven counts of sexual assault in Ingham County court last November.

Last summer Nassar also pled guilty to federal charges for possessing thousands of images of child pornography. More than 120 women and girls tell MSU police that Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of treatment.

Nassar was fired from MSU in September 2016. The university has hired attorneys to investigate who knew what about the allegations against Nassar.

MSU says it has no plans to release that internal review.

Meanwhile, lawsuits against Nassar and the university allege that MSU officials have been receiving reports of abuse since 1999.

State funding for higher education in the U.S. is showing continued growth overall. That's according to the results of the latest Grapevine survey, an annual compilation of data on state fiscal support for higher education.

State funding rose by 3.4% across the U.S. from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 fiscal years. James Palmer is a professor of higher education at Illinois State University and Grapevine Editor.

State House Republicans are aggressively pushing through an income tax cut and rollback, despite numerous questions raised during a committee hearing about what funding cuts could happen in other areas if the bill passes.

A bill that would cut the state income tax and eventually phase it out altogether over 40 years was voted out of committee Wednesday. This happened after an hour and a half of testimony and over requests to hold off on a vote from some Democratic members.

A federal appeals court says the Jackson County Commission regularly violated the U.S. Constitution by opening its meetings with a Christian prayer.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held the commission violated the Establishment Clause.  The Establishment Clause says government bodies cannot favor one religion over others.

Members of the MSU women's gymnastics team were told to say "no comment" to any reporters or police asking about sexual abuse allegations against the team physician, Dr. Larry Nassar.

That’s according to a lawsuit (which you can read here) filed by a scholarship student on the team, who also says she was repeatedly assaulted by Nassar as a child.

A team meeting in September 

The Michigan Board of Education wants Governor Snyder's School Reform Office to call off closing any schools this fall. It joins a growing chorus of protest by parents and school administrators against possible school closures.

Last month the School Reform Office announced that 38 schools are at risk of closure because of persistently low standardized test scores. The office said it was reviewing whether a closing would create "unreasonable hardship" before it reaches a final decision on closing a school.

One of Governor Snyder’s key advisors says “there’s no way in the world” the state will close 38 “failing” schools this year.

That’s what Rich Baird told the crowd at a Detroit meeting about potential school closures Monday night.

The State School Reform Office has sent letters to parents at 38 schools across the state, warning they could be shut down because of persistently low test scores. 25 of those schools are in Detroit.

A Michigan agency is seeking public comment on a recommendation creating uniform standards for public defenders in the state.

The 15-member Michigan Indigent Defense Commission created the proposal. The standards include better education and training for attorneys and mandatory interviews with defendants, along with other practices that improve legal service.

Commission Chair James Fisher says that these recommendations are necessary to improve a Michigan public defense system that, in his eyes, is failing and inconsistent in too many areas. 

After 27 years on the job, Kathie Klages is resigning as head coach of women’s gymnastics at MSU. She denies any knowledge about Dr. Larry Nassar’s alleged years-long, repeated sexual abuse of MSU gymnasts.

Two women have filed court documents claiming they told Klages about Nassar’s alleged assaults back in the 1990s. He wasn’t fired from MSU until earlier this past fall.  

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