Feb. 27, 2015 Budget

Capital News Service Budget – Feb. 27, 2015

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 SIBLINGSEPARATION: At 14, Tiana Randolph called the police on her mother and stepfather in an attempt to protect her four younger siblings. Four years later three of the five children remain in foster care with the other two adopted out. State law allows for the adoptive families to limit or refuse contact with biological families, and Tiana has been cut off from two siblings. Sibling separation is a problem plaguing Michigan’s foster care system, child advocates say. Bob Wheaton, communications manager for the Department of Human Services, said around half the siblings who enter the system end up being split into different homes across the state. With commentary from children’s advocates and state officials. By Caitlin McArthur. FOR ALL POINTS

w/SIBLINGSEPARATION_PHOTO_Tiana_Randolph: Photo of Tiana Randolph, 18, who has been separated from her siblings after their adoption.

 GRAYWOLVESSCIENCE: In all the political debate about the fate of the gray wolf, the scientists who actually study the animals have largely been overlooked. This story explores areas of scientific consensus and disagreement on the gray wolf’s recovery, including the central question of whether ending federal protection should revolve around the numbers of wolves, or the extent of their range. With scientists from the Department of Natural Resources, Olivet College, and around the Great Lakes states. By Brooke Kansier. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT ST. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, PETOSKEY, MANISTEE, TRAVERSE CITY, ALPENA, ALCONA, BAY MILLS, LEELANAU, HARBOR SPRINGS, BIG RAPIDS, ALL POINTS

 UBERLAW: The app-based taxi service Uber has grown quickly across Michigan with hubs in Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Metro Detroit. A state lawmaker has reintroduced a bill that would set statewide standards for transportation network companies like Uber. But some legislators are not thrilled with removing local control from cities that have already set up rules for cabbies. By Cheyna Roth. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, AND ALL POINTS.

 WINTERTOURISM: Since 2013, Traverse City Tourism has reshaped its promotional activities to reflect all the area has to offer winter tourists, which is much more than outdoor recreation. Local ski hills and culinary businesses make up the bulk of this area’s attractions. These local businesses attribute an increase in visitors to both Traverse City Tourism and Travel Michigan’s promotional strategies. We hear from state and local tourism officials, and two wineries about their new events that pair outdoor recreation with indoor tastings. By Elizabeth Ferguson. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, CADILLAC, PETOSKEY, CHEBOYGAN, HARBOR SPRINGS, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, LAKE COUNTY, BIG RAPIDS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, AND ALL POINTS.

 DISABILITYFRAUD: The State of Michigan has been looking at ways to prevent people from committing disability fraud, including an organization that works mainly to prevent these types of crimes to save taxpayers money. State officials say it is difficult to nail down a specific way of deciding what is and isn’t fraud since judges and doctors decide these issues on a case-by-case basis, and they do not have a set type of disabilities that would allow someone to qualify. By Josh Thall. FOR ALL POINTS

 SNOWMOBILESAFETY: A recent state law has lowered the blood alcohol content level allowed for snowmobilers, contributing to the state’s 15-year effort to reduce snowmobile accidents linked to alcohol consumption. We hear from the executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, the Alger County Sheriff, and an Eastern Upper Peninsula DNR recreation specialist about the continuous effort to keep snowmobile trails and snowmobilers safe. By Elizabeth Ferguson. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, BAY MILLS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, CHEBOYGAN, ST. IGNACE, ALPENA, GRAYLING, LUDINGTON, CADILLAC, LAKE COUNTY, BIG RAPIDS, GLADWIN, AND ALL POINTS.

DEGREEDEBATE: The debate surrounding the benefits of a two-year degree versus a four-year degree has heated up in recent months. As graduating high school students struggle with deciding on career paths, Michigan officials are sending mixed messages on whether they should focus on a two year or a four year degree. The real answer is it depends. With comparative employment statistics and comments from the university Presidents Council, higher education experts. By Cheyna Roth. LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, AND ALL POINTS.

 BUDGETWINNERS: Not many areas are in line for a funding increase in Gov. Snyder’s austere 2016 budget, but some departments and programs are being singled out as priorities, including sexual assault investigations, third grade reading, and children’s dental health. This is an in-depth look at areas of the budget that enjoyed spending increases, and how that money will be spent. By Collin Krizmanich FOR ALL POINTS

 ADULTEDGRANTS: A previously discontinued grant for those unable to finish their community college degree could be renewed under Gov. Snyder’s 2016 budget proposal. This could drive many adults to go back to school, giving them a boost in the job market. With comments from Mid Michigan Community College, Kellogg Community College, and the Michigan Community College Association. By Brooke Kansier. FOR PETOSKEY, CHEYBOYGAN, ST. IGNACE, TRAVERSE CITY, LANSING CITY PULSE, GLADWIN, AND ALL POINTS

 HEROINUSE: Heroin-related deaths across the state is continuing to rise. Kent County, Manistee and Traverse City are identified as areas seeing an increase in overdoses. An upcoming forum will include a panel of experts discussing what they say is an epidemic for the state. Comment from university experts, a mental health worker in Traverse City, and the Department of Community Health.  By Caitlin McArthur FOR TRAVERSE CITY, MANISTEE, GREENVILLE, AND ALL POINTS.

 ABSENTEEVOTING: Michigan has fallen behind many other states in terms of how easy it is to vote and different ways that people can vote. A recent bill to allow no-reason absentee voting was defeated by Senate Republicans, but advocates are still pushing for reform. With reaction from state senators, a political science professor, and the Secretary of State’s office. By Josh Thall. FOR HOLLAND, LANSING, BLISSFIELD, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS AND ALL POINTS.

 FISHHEADS: New research at MSU is using a stone found in the ears of Chinook salmon to identify what stream the fish was born in. The discovery may help scientists better understand how many salmon move from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan and, therefore, help fisheries managers may stocking decisions. By Eamon Devlin. FOR ALPENA, ALCONA, ST. IGNACE, SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, LUDINGTON, MANISTEE, HOLLAND & ALL POINTS.

w/ FISHHEADSPHOTO: Young boy and father catching a Chinook salmon on Lake Michigan. Image: Eamon Devlin

 THIRDGRADEREADING: Gov. Rick Snyder recently proposed funding for a statewide third grade reading initiative. We talk to experts on education and childhood learning to determine the scientific and sociological rationale behind the Governor’s initiative. By Collin Krizmanich. FOR ALL POINTS


Michigan officials seek strategy to encourage voter turnout

Capital News Service

Lansing — With voter turnout in Michigan steadily declining, some lawmakers and state officials are looking for ways to make voting easier.

In the 2014 midterm election, 41.6 percent of Michigan’s voting-age population turned out, according to the Michigan Secretary of State website. That’s a drop from 50.7 percent in the midterm election of 2006 and 42.9 percent in 2010.

To help encourage voting, Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren, recently introduced an amendment to the Michigan Election Law to allow for no-reason absentee voting. That means voters would no longer need an excuse to get an absentee ballot.
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Who won in Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal?

Capital News Service

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal came on the heels of an executive order that cut $106 million from the current budget, and legislators are now considering slashing $100 million more to address an unexpected deficit.

Next year could be even worse, as the state could take in more than a half a billion dollars less than originally expected in 2016. As a result, nearly all programs and departments are facing cuts.

But Snyder has favored several programs with a proposed budget increase. Here is a look at some of the winners in Snyder’s budget.

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Heroin’s spread in Michigan concerns health advocates


LANSING — Heroin and related drugs are spreading across Michigan and have become more deadly in recent years, some experts say.

Michigan-wide numbers of unintentional overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999, according to a Department of Community Health (DCH) report. Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to other drugs such as cocaine has gone down, according the report.

Genesee, Macomb and Wayne Counties account for the highest recent heroin and opioid-related death rates, according to the DCH. But the problem is creeping into other areas: DCH data shows Antrim, Manistee, Clare, Hillsdale and Cass counties all recorded opioid-related overdose rates higher than the state average between 2009 and 2012.
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Grant could offer a second chance to finish community college

Capital News Service

LANSING — People who never got the chance to finish their degree just might if a proposal in Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget to renew funding for an education grant is approved.

The Independent Part-Time Student Grant was discontinued in 2009 during a budget crisis. But the governor’s $6 million proposal to revive the grant could mean a big difference for students who never finished their community college degree.

“There’s a significant number of these people, they start and for whatever reason, don’t finish with a degree,” said Michael Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association. “Maybe because you ran out of money, because life things got in the way.”
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Lower alcohol levels for snowmobilers advances safety efforts

Capital News Service

LANSING — A new law lowering the maximum blood alcohol content allowed for snowmobile drivers is a step in the right direction for the Michigan Snowmobile Association.

The association has discouraged snowmobilers from consuming alcohol since 1999, and by reducing the legal limit from .1 percent to .08 percent — the same as the motor vehicle limit — beginning March 1, legislators have brought more awareness to the issue, executive director Bill Manson said.

Manson said many snowmobilers are already limiting their alcohol consumption or not drinking at all while snowmobiling.
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Special events, indoor promotions increase winter tourism

Capital News Service

LANSING — Vacationers in the Grand Traverse region this winter can do a lot more than ski.

At Shanty Creek Resort, skiers can take a shuttle to downtown Bellaire, home of popular breweries like Short’s Brewing.

Black Star Farms winery in Traverse City now offers horse-drawn sleigh rides on the winery’s grounds.

As of last year, visitors can snowshoe a trail connecting Brys Estate Vineyard, Bowers Harbor Vineyards and the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery of Old Mission Peninsula.
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Beyond politics — the science behind gray wolves

Capital News Service

LANSING — Over a hundred years ago, gray wolves roamed North America from Maine to California. With numbers likely in the hundreds of thousands, the top predator had a large impact on its surroundings, from controlling deer population to altering the behavior of other species such as coyotes.

But during the 1800s and 1900s, this keystone species began to clash with another predator — the humans who increasingly inhabited the land. People significantly reduced wolf populations as they competed for food and threatened livestock, according to Leah Knapp, an ecologist and professor at Olivet College.

It’s a clash that particularly resonates today, as politicians, activists and hunters fuel heated debates on the current state of the species’ endangered status.
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Michigan working to stop disability fraud at the front door

Capital News Service

Lansing — A new unit investigating disability fraud in Michigan projects that it has already saved taxpayers $700,000.

The Cooperative Disabilities Investigations Unit (CDI) is a joint organization of the Social Security Administration and the Michigan Department of Human Services formed last August. Michigan is one of 24 states that now has a branch of the organization since it was created nationally 17 years ago.

The Michigan branch has found 50 suspicious applications. Of those, 16 have been investigated further, 10 are still open and the six that have been denied that would have cost the taxpayer $700,000 over the next five years if they went unnoticed, said Bob Wheaton, acting manager of communications and public information officer for the Department of Human Services.
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What’s better: 2- or 4-year degree? It depends

Capital News Service

LANSING – This spring, thousands of students across Michigan will collect high school diplomas with sights set on higher education.

But where those students can get the best education for their needs has become a matter of debate between the governor and the universities.

Gov. Rick Snyder has pushed hard for more students to consider two-year community college degrees, earning skills needed to fill a growing number of technical job openings across the state. In late February, he announced the distribution of $50 million in grants to community colleges to support technical training.
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