New bills aim to close the gender-wage gap

By JOSH THALL
Capital News Service

LANSING — Employers could be required to release gender-based wage information, and the state could be required to report unequal wage data, under a package of bills aiming to close the wage gap between men and women in Michigan.

The Progressive Women’s Caucus laid out a plan for a 12-bill package on April 14, saying they aren’t content to wait for the gap to close in 2086 under current trends.

The Progressive Women’s Caucus is a group of 17 Democratic women legislators who work to make sure women’s rights and needs are not overlooked in the government.
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Explaining the gender wage gap

By COLLIN KRIZMANICH
Capital News Service

LANSING — More than 50 years after Congress first acted to address the gender wage gap, many women across the country are still earning less than their male coworkers. Democrats in Michigan recently introduced a 12-bill package aimed at eliminating this disparity.

Michigan ranked tenth worst in the nation when it comes to the gender pay gap, according to the American Association of University Women. Understanding how and why this gap exists is critical in addressing the issue.

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Career choice interruptions between men and women Source: Pew Research Center

What is the gender wage gap?

Simply put, the gender wage gap is the difference, on average, between how much money men make and how much money women make. Many people, including President Obama, often bring up the statistic that, based on median earnings, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.
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Migrant workers’ housing still unsafe, civil rights official says

By CHEYNA ROTH
Capital News Service

LANSING – Five years after a report called migrant working conditions “intolerable,” Michigan is far from addressing its problems, the state’s civil rights director says.

“The migrant farmworker situation in this state, my opinion, is not as good as it should be,” said Matt Wesaw, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Wesaw, who said he worked in the fields of Southwest Michigan alongside migrant workers as a boy 40 years ago, believes housing conditions for workers are worse now than they were then.
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State pushes job opportunities for disabled workers

By ELIZABETH FERGUSON
Capital News Service

LANSING — Workers with disabilities are often overlooked, even if they have the right skills for a job, state officials say.

“There is tremendous talent out there in that segment of our community, and the opportunities to showcase that talent aren’t always there,” said Matt Wesaw, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

A new committee appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder is working to make sure state government is part of the solution and not the problem when it comes to identifying and working with disabled employees.
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State groups strengthen police, community ties

By COLLIN KRIZMANICH
Capital News Service

LANSING — As communities across the country confront mistrust between police and citizens, organizations across Michigan are working to build relationships that officials hope can avoid unrest when something goes wrong.

For two decades, parts of the state have formed trust-building initiatives to ensure lines of communication are open to address incidents such as police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, or North Charleston, South Carolina.

“It’s very important that these relationships are being built and maintained, because it’s very challenging to build a relationship in the midst of a crisis,” said Patrick Miles Jr., a U.S. attorney who serves as co-chair on the Grand Rapids Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust. “It can be detrimental if no relationship is there.”
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Advocates question Snyder’s shyness on social topics

By CHEYNA ROTH
Capital News Service

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder has a track record of trying to run Michigan like a business with a focus on jobs and the economy, but when it comes to tackling cultural or social justice issues, Snyder has a self-acknowledged history of staying away.

“I don’t spend much time on social issues,” Snyder said in an interview with Capital News Service correspondents. “I spend the vast bulk of my time on economic development, making Michigan better, public safety, all the other issues, because I think that’s typically what our citizens are most concerned with.”

Social issues, particularly same-sex marriage and the question of whether business owners can deny service to people with whom they have religious differences, have been in the spotlight recently.
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Bill would help counties replace failing snow plows

By ELIZABETH FERGUSON
Capital News Service

LANSING — Keweenaw County’s 30 road commission vehicles — which include snow plows and salt trucks — average 27 years old and 130,000 miles.

The county’s oldest snow plows are from the 1970s and have over a quarter million miles on them, said Gregg Patrick, Keweenaw County Road Commission engineer.

“Most county commissions are running their equipment twice the life they used to, and these can start to fail in the winter season,” Patrick said.
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Tax time is prime time for identity theft, officials warn

By JOSH THALL
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan residents suffer the nation’s sixth-highest rate of identity theft, and the approaching April 15 tax deadline makes people particularly vulnerable, officials said.

Tax filing season leads to increased IRS scams, as people working on their taxes respond to fake requests out of fear of getting on the bad side of government, said Marco Jones, a community service trooper for the Michigan State Police, Lansing post.

“Those (cases) are being reported to agencies across the state,” Jones said. “People will call and misrepresent themselves as a member of the IRS, basically trying to strongarm people over the phone, trying to get their information.”
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Michigan’s energy policy up for grabs

By CAITLIN McARTHUR
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s future in clean energy is up for debate, with 2008 mandates set to expire, widely divergent proposals from government leaders, and environmental groups worried the state could turn back toward fossil fuels.

Michigan’s Democrats are proud of the state’s success in shifting to 10 percent renewable energy over the past seven years. They want to increase the renewable goal to 20 percent.

Republican legislators are concerned about Michigan’s energy capacity with federal mandates set to shut down a number of coal-fired electrical plants in the coming years. They want to maintain the 10 percent renewable energy requirement and reduce restrictions on meeting state energy goals.
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Michigan elections increasingly influenced by ‘dark money’

By ELIZABETH FERGUSON
Capital News Service

LANSING — A growing number of Michigan political campaigns are being influenced by independent groups raising and spending unlimited funding, with donors not always disclosed to the public.

More money than ever was raised for the 2014 state elections, topping the previous record in 2006. The top 150 Political Action Committees raised a total of $68 million, over 30 percent more than the $51.9 million raised in the 2006 election cycle, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan network researches money in Michigan politics and works to expose anonymous funding, also called “dark money.”
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