December 2, 2016 CNS Budget

To: CNS Editors

From: David Poulson and Sheila Schimpf

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STATEOFTHESTATE: The Michigan public is dissatisfied with state government’s handling of environmental issues. That’s what the latest State of the State Survey found when it asked more than 1,000 residents how they feel their state and local government officials are doing on the environment. Forty-two percent of respondents rated Gov. Snyder as “poor” in carrying out environmental responsibilities, with a 34.2 percent “poor” rating for the Legislature, 27.7 percent “poor” rating for state agencies and only 15.8 percent “poor” for local officials. We also talk to an aide to the Republican chair of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee and to the Sierra Club. Exclusive to Capital News Service. By Marie Orttenburger. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS. Continue reading

Local clerks scramble to implement election recount


Capital News Service

LANSING – Local election officials are preparing for something no one has ever done in Michigan – recount the ballots of a presidential election.

The  Board of Canvassers Friday deadlocked 2-2 over President-elect Donald Trump’s objection to a recount. That means the recount will go ahead, election officials said.

“If the board adopts the objection from a three-one vote, then the recount would be over with,” said Fred Woodhams, a press aide for the Secretary of State’s Office which administers elections. “If the board does not adopt the objection, either from a three-one vote or on a two-two deadlock, the recount would start.”

And now election clerks have to scramble to get counting. The clerks will receive $125 reimbursement from the state for each precinct recounted, which is how they will help pay for the extra staff needed to handle the recount, said Mary Hollinrake, the Kent County clerk. Continue reading

Senate passes bill to expand tax collecting job for business


Capital News Service

LANSING — Employers across the state would start withholding city income taxes from employees who live in cities that have income taxes even if the business isn’t in the city, according to bills proposed in the Legislature.

The bills, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, and Rep. Al Pscholka R-Stevensville, would mandate that suburban employers collect the local income tax of employees who live in the 22 cities across the state that impose the tax.

The Senate version has cleared the Senate Committee on Government Operations and the House version is still in the House Committee on Tax Policy.

Employers in cities with income tax now have to withhold and remit the tax on behalf of their employees. Continue reading

Business groups, community colleges push to expand job training


Capital News Service

LANSING – Business groups and community colleges are pushing to expand a statewide new job training program.

Community colleges run the program for employers that create new jobs. It gives the new employees free training.

It is paid for by capturing the state income tax revenue of the newly hired employees for the first year. After that, those revenues revert to the state, said Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association.

The program was approved in 2008 with a $50 million cap. When that cap is reached, the additional new revenues revert to the state’s general fund.

But the demand for more training programs is greater, supporters say. And now that the cap has been reached, the community colleges and employers  must wait for for the amount in the fund to dip below it before they can start new programs, Hansen said. Continue reading

Faster decomposing trees can save energy costs


Researcher Steven Karlen studies plants in a greenhouse lab. Image:Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

Researcher Steven Karlen studies plants in a greenhouse lab. Image:Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

Capital News Service

LANSING — Poplars and other trees can be bred to break down more easily to make biofuel and other products such as paper, according to scientists at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

Their new study found that zip-lignin, an enzyme that indicates the high degradability of plants and that they injected into trees, is already in most plants. Plants that naturally have the highest amount can be selectively bred.

The center is a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University and other partners. It was established by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Continue reading

Inmates who throw bodily fluids could get book thrown back


Capital News Service

LANSING — Inmates who throw excrement and other bodily fluids at their jailers could be charged with a felony if legislation under consideration by the Senate passes.

The proposal, sponsored by Sens. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and  Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, would turn “dressing out” (throwing excrement, urine, spit, semen or blood onto a corrections employee) into a felony punishable by up to four years in the slammer. The new bill is necessary because convictions are unlikely under a current assault law that could add 10 to-15 years to sentences, O’Brien said.

The bill recently passed  the Senate Judiciary Committee. An amendment may be included to make sure the punishment is in addition to the current sentence an inmate is serving of at the same time, O’Brien said. Continue reading

State energy bill could increase costs for solar users


Capital News Service

LANSING — Environmental and renewable energy advocates are concerned that proposed legislation would discourage investment in clean energy.

Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, introduced bills in 2015 to meet the state’s energy requirements as coal plants continue to shut down as utilities use cleaner fuel sources over the next three years.

The bills have passed the Senate and await action by the House, where Nofs said he hopes to see them pass before the end of the year..

But some supporters of alternative energy say that new language added to the bill would create a utilities charge for state residents who use solar power to generate their electricity. The bill does not specify the amount, but gives the Public Service Commission the power to decide how much it would be. Continue reading

Students outside community college districts could get tuition breaks


Capital News Service

LANSING– Some students could pay cheaper community college tuition if lawmakers approve a change in state law before the end of the year.

What’s more, some employers could get better access to community college job training programs under legislation the Senate is poised to take up.

It would give voters in counties that don’t border community college districts the chance to approve joining a district.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, could be voted on by the Senate Education Committee as early as Tuesday.

Co-sponsors include Reps. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids; Philip Potvin, R-Cadillac; Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia; Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville; and Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan.

If the bill, which won unanimous House approval, becomes law, the decision to annex would be left up to the board of the community college district and the voters requesting annexation. Continue reading

Researchers battle bird botulism


Capital News Service

Williams and Ray walk along the Sleeping Bear Dunes coast looking for dead birds. Image: Samuel Corden

Williams and Ray walk along the Sleeping Bear Dunes coast looking for dead birds. Image: Samuel Corden

LANSING — Two researchers are monitoring the Lake Michigan coast where dead birds have washed up.

Dan Ray of the National Park Service and Jeanie Williams of the Inland Seas Education Association walk a beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore littered with about two dozen dead birds including scoters, loons and ducks.

Researchers say the birds are dying because of a toxin called avian botulism, which can form on the lake bed under certain conditions.

Standing over a dead duck, Ray describes what he sees, and the procedure that follows.

“So we have a long-tailed duck, and we’re going to pick that up away from the shoreline, take it up into the foredune,” Ray says. “And then we dig a hole two feet deep, and bury it so that it’s away from park visitors and pets and no longer a threat to public health.” Continue reading

Hunting with horses and hounds rides on in Michigan


Capital News Service

Bob Carr, huntsman of Battle Creek Hunt, rides in a field in Augusta, Michigan with the hunt’s hounds. Photo: Karen Hopper Usher

Bob Carr, huntsman of Battle Creek Hunt, rides in a field in Augusta, Michigan, with the hunt’s hounds. Photo: Karen Hopper Usher

AUGUSTA — From the far side of a plowed field comes the sound of a brassy bleat. A red-coated figure astride a small chestnut horse crests a small slope.

The man is Bob Carr, the joint master of foxhounds and huntsman at Battle Creek Hunt. As a joint master of foxhounds, Carr is responsible for hunting operations. As a huntsman, he is in charge of the hounds.

The iconic mounted sport of chasing foxes with hounds lives on in Michigan, other states and Canada through a club system. The Masters of Foxhound Association has 155 clubs or “member hunts” and around 20,000 foxhunters in the two countries. In the Great Lakes region, there are at least 14 clubs. Continue reading