Lawmakers seek permanent ban on funding Planned Parenthood

By JOSHUA BENDER

Capital News Service

LANSING – A new bill would make permanent last year’s ban on state funding for abortion providers.

Many proponents of the bill want measures ensuring state funds aren’t used to violate what they believe is the public’s consensus on abortion in Michigan.

“This bill does not close a single Planned Parenthood or outlaw abortion,” said Genevieve Marnon, public affairs associate at Right to Life of Michigan’s Mid-Michigan Resource Center. “It only addresses the use of state taxpayer dollars.”

Some opponents of the bill argue it would harm the ability of agencies receiving state funds to fulfill their obligations to the public.
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Vocational, technical programs draw more student interest

By STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN

Capital News Service

LANSING — The education pendulum that directed so many students toward college degrees is swinging the other way, education experts say, now pointing students more toward skilled trade training as well as college.

The push for young students to attend college, which negatively affected those who weren’t interested in it, went too far during former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration, said Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA).

The MEA is the state’s largest union of teachers and other school employees.
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Outdoor activities can boost tourism economy, influence Great Lakes restoration, study says

By COLLEEN OTTE & ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Ecosystem assets in the Great Lakes region, such as sport fishing, boating, beach use, park visits and birding, contribute significantly to the tourism economy of shoreline communities and can help shape restoration priorities for the lakes, according to a new study that incorporates highly detailed maps.

Such “cultural ecosystem services” are valuable to society and have “great potential for benefiting natural resource management and conservation,” it said.

Those services or activities vary in where they take place, and so do stressors, threats, to the Great Lakes, said the lead author of the study, David Allan, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.
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Job creation cuts unemployment rate

By STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN

Capital News Service

LANSING — The unemployment rate in Michigan had a significant drop of 1.6 percent from September 2014 to September 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The creation of additional jobs cut Michigan’s unemployment rate to 5 percent. That is less than the national average and 9.9 points below the state’s unemployment peak during the Recession.

One of the sectors leading the charge in job creation is manufacturing.
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Poverty challenges Michigan schools

By ZHAO PENG

Capital News Service

LANSING— Numerous studies show that poverty and income are the two best predictors of a student’s success in school. This has been proven in Michigan recently, according to education experts.

The average scores of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) are low, with 12 percent proficient in science at the bottom and 50 percent proficient in English at the top, according to the Education Department. Meanwhile, 16 percent of Michigan children live in school districts with concentrated poverty, one of the largest percentages among the states, according to a Kids Count in Michigan report by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Gretchen Dziadosz, executive director of the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the state’s largest teacher and school personnel union, said the increase in poor students and poor school districts hurts students’ academic performance. She attributed that increase to the fact that Michigan hasn’t fully recovered from the recession.
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Number of uninsured Michigan residents drops

By SIERRA RESOVSKY
Capital News Service

LANSING— Although Michigan isn’t one of the top five states to see a decrease in the number of residents without health insurance, the number without insurance continued to decline last year, according to data released by the Census Bureau.

In 2013, 11 percent of residents were uninsured, especially those living in rural areas, compared to 2014 when only 8.5 percent lacked coverage.

Of the top five counties with the most significant decline, Van Buren County showed the biggest difference. 15.6 percent of its residents were uninsured in 2013, compared to 8.9 percent in 2014.
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Homelessness continues despite some improvements

By ZHAO PENG
Capital News Service

LANSING — The coming winter and the dropping temperature are a great concern for people without a place to live.

Homelessness has improved across Michigan over the past decades but not enough, according to the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.

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Literally homeless are people on the streets or in shelters. Overall homeless also includes people living with friends or family due to a housing crisis. Credit: State of Homelessness in Michigan

“There are services available throughout the state. And many communities have seen increases in the types of services that are available, but those are not significant increases that are across the board,” said Eric Hufnagel, the executive director of the coalition.
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Higher rents squeeze low income workers

By SIERRA RESOVSKY
Capital News Service

LANSING – Real estate experts across the state say the cost of renting a home is rising and the trend toward higher rent will only continue.

Recent economic turmoil has raised barriers when it comes to owning a home, sparking a surge in the rental market across the country. But what happens when wages and income level don’t line up with the rising cost of rent?

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition in Washington, D.C., one in four renters pays half of his or her income in rent.
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Grants boost hunter access in northern Lower Peninsula

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — In portions of the northern Lower Peninsula next year, farmers in need of relief from hungry deer and hunters in search of turf might mutually benefit from an expanded state land-access initiative.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) initiative, called the Hunting Access Program, would open more private land to hunters in the northern Lower Peninsula with a new federal grant of nearly $1 million.

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Counties: Mason, Lake, Manistee, Wexford, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, Charlevoix, Otsego, Emmet, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda, Alcona, Ogemaw and Iosco.
Map courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources


Among the counties included are Alcona, Montmorency, Emmet, Cheboygan, Antrim, Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Manistee, Mason, Lake and Wexford.
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Community colleges push job training for new workers

By YUEHAN LIU
Capital News Service

LANSING—Michigan employers can get free job training for their new workers from local community colleges.

While Michigan companies are expanding and hiring more workers, many need training for skills.

Where can employers find an organization to provide that training? The Michigan Community College Association says: their local community college.
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