Michigan lawmakers look to make schools safer with legislation

Over the past few months, Michigan lawmakers have been hard at work, even across the aisle, in an effort to make schools safer. In early June, a package containing seven bills focusing on school safety was passed in the Senate.  The bills target a wide range of topics, including inspecting new school buildings or renovations to existing buildings, developing emergency operations plans for every school and increasing funding to school resource officers and mental health counselors. Senate Bill 983, which was passed June 7, would require school districts to work with law enforcement to conduct a review of the school’s emergency operations plan.  Each school would have its own plan should a potentially dangerous event occur, including threats of school violence and attacks, bomb threats, fires, intruders and several others.

Michigan Dems propose change in voting age to 16

Following the increase of activism from middle and high school students across the country, the “Sweet Sixteen” voting reform introduced by Democrats in the Michigan Legislature could change the shape of the state’s political landscape. House Bill 6183 and Senate Bill 1064, which were both introduced June 12, seek to change the legal voting age in Michigan from 18 to 16.  The bills come after the unexpected stream of activism from students following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 17 students and teachers were killed in the shooting. “A diverse coalition of students have set politics aside in order to bring about positive change in our political system,” said the Senate Bill’s sponsor, Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights.  “Young people identify the issues they want to see changed, but they don’t get the chance to vote to see that change happen.”

The sponsor of the House Bill, Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, noted that 16-year-olds are allowed to drive and pay taxes, but are deemed by many to not be old enough to fully understand political change. “These kids work hard, they’re mature enough to decide how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent,” Rabhi said.  “Otherwise, it’s taxation without representation.”

Faith Keating, a student at Troy High School, agrees for the most part with the legislators, but she has her doubts.

As MSU plans for new president, Izzone leader speaks out

Michigan State University hopes to hire a new president to help steer the school away from the Larry Nassar scandal by June 2019. Trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster announced on Wednesday that the university hopes to form a 15-member search committee by August to find a new president.  The first applicants will be interviewed by November. “Our new president must have that intellect that can understand people’s feelings and internalize that and be able to show compassion,” Byrum said. This comes after criticism of interim president John Engler and several recent comments that he has made concerning the case surrounding former MSU doctor Larry Nassar.  Engler is expected to remain the interim president throughout the search but will have no involvement. Last week, leaked emails from April showed that Engler speculated that the first woman to speak out against Nassar, Rachel Dehollander, was receiving referral fees or kickbacks.

Michigan schools may soon be required to test water for lead

Michigan lawmakers may soon require schools and other facilities to regularly test their water for lead and other harmful contaminants. The House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on a series of proposed bills that would require yearly testing at both public and private schools, including colleges and universities, child care centers, hospitals and veteran centers. House Bills 4120, 4372 and 4378 each focus on specific areas of education. All three bills have sat in the House for over a year, some going back as far as January 31, 2017.  Recently, there has been an increase in the support of the bills from both sides of the aisle. Committee Chairman Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, voiced his support for the bills, and added that he can’t imagine there will be much resistance.

20 Michigan schools to receive salad bars thanks to initiative

A collaboration between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and United Fresh Start Foundation will introduce salad bars to 20 Michigan schools this year. The initiative, called Salad Bars to Schools, is a national program which has already introduced salad bars to over 320 schools throughout the United States.  The program was founded by the Chef Ann Foundation, National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, United Fresh Start Foundation and Whole Foods Market in support of former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. The 20 salad bars will benefit over 6,000 students by offering healthier school meal alternatives, allowing students to choose fruits and vegetables, and introducing them to making and keeping healthier habits.  Nationally, Salad Bars to Schoolshas granted over 5,000 salad bars to schools, benefiting over 2.6 million children.

“Yes Means Yes” legislation introduced in Michigan

Recently, news headlines across the United States have been jam-packed with stories about sexual assault. The #MeToo movement has been making a large splash for several months now. The case surrounding ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar has drawn national attention as several survivors of his sexual attacks came forward. Michigan State University has found itself at the forefront of discussion concerning on-campus sexual assault during recent months. The Nassar case has caused several university leaders to step down. Several reports about student athletes sexually assaulting other students have come out, giving the university a black eye that it certainly doesn’t want. All of these reports bring up questions surrounding sex education in public schools.

Cyberbullying now a heavier crime in Michigan thanks to new bill

Bullying someone online just became a much more serious offense in Michigan thanks to two bills passed by the House of Representatives. House Bills 5017 and 5018, which were passed on March 22, define cyberbullying as a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.  The bills passed easily with votes of 91-17 and 92-17, respectively. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, says the personal interaction of bullying is taken out when it is done through the internet. “Right now, you can’t prosecute someone for an internet crime,” Lucido said. “Police deal with these types of cases every day, and they want some help.”

Lansing bike program teaches more than just bicycle repair

On the outside, it just looks like some small storage building. The plain red bricks and few windows don’t exactly shout out “Welcome!” to whomever passes by. Step in through the garage door, though, and you’ll find something that might surprise you – hundreds of bicycles, just waiting to be taken home. Frank Wheeler sits inside the shop of Lansing’s Kids Repair Program working on an old bike that was dropped off at the police station just a few days earlier. He’s been retired for a few years now, but that doesn’t stop him from coming in and volunteering whenever he’s got the chance.

Demolition of Lansing mobile home park brings hope to surrounding residents

John Croffe stands on his porch in Lansing, looking across South Washington Avenue at the army of bulldozers and workers destroying what once stood there. “This neighborhood has waited a long time for this to happen,” Croffe says with a smile. “It was a tough thing to look at.”

What once stood there was the Life O’Riley Mobile Park, and after almost three years of being condemned and vacant, it was torn down recently. The mobile park was the subject of much controversy over the past few years, even when it was being used. According to the Ingham County Health Department’s 2014 Annual Health Report, the 14-acre area was condemned during February of that year due to unsanitary conditions, forcing over 200 people off the property.

Meals on Wheels offers more than just a plate

Casey Copp loads boxes of pre-made meals into the back of a truck outside Lansing’s Tri-County Office on Aging. It’s a weekly thing for him, as he says he enjoys giving back to his community. “I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now,” Copp said. “It’s nice to know that you’re helping to put a smile on someone’s face and some food in their stomach.”

The only problem is, who knows how long Copp will be able to keep doing this. President Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year includes increased investments in defense programs. However, these investments will be paid for through cuts to community service programs, such as Meals on Wheels.