Nov. 21, 2017 – CNS Budget

Nov. 21, 2017 — Week 12
To: CNS Editors
From: Sheila Schimpf

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Editors note that if you need additional copy to fill holiday papers you may also wish to review last week’s file for stories you have not yet used.

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STUDENTATHLETES: Michigan high school sports officials are angered by a national report by the Korey Stringer Institute that ranks the state 41st in terms of protecting student athletes from injury. They say that Michigan loses points for not requiring athletic trainers be onsite for contact sport practices, as well as having an undeveloped athletic emergency action plan. MHSAA officials say the study tried to take a one-size-fits-all approach and ended up with a one-size-fits-nothing. By Jack Nissen. FOR  AND ALL POINTS

BALLASTWATER: Since Michigan cracked down on how ships discharge ballast water into the Great Lakes, the state’s exports via shipping have dropped, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association. Shipping advocates say they can rebuild that industry by easing Michigan regulations so that they match federal requirements. But advocates for the stricter standards say they are necessary to keep out invasive species which also have an economic cost. By Kaley Fech. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LUDINGTON, MANISTEE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, OCEANA, ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, HOLLAND, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, LEELANAU, HARBOR SPRINGS AND ALL POINTS.

RAISETHEAGE: Experts agree that it makes sense to handle 17-year-old lawbreakers in the juvenile justice system rather than as adults the way Michigan does. It’s cheaper and there is a better chance that they won’t become repeat offenders. But making that switch is fraught with funding challenges. By Stephen Olschansky FOR LANSING CITYPULSE AND ALL POINTS


EMERGENCYCALLS: An improved emergency 911 system would allow more Michigan residents to text police if they are held hostage by an active shooter. Crime victims could text for help without alerting a burglar in the next room. And police could accurately locate crime victims who use cell phones to report when they are threatened. But lawmakers are struggling to figure out how to pay for the expansion of the new system called Next Generation 911. We talk to the bill sponsor from GRAND LEDGE, a Traverse City dispatcher and an Upper Peninsula communications official.  By Jingjing Nie. FOR CITY PULSE, TRAVERSE CITY, SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE AND ALL POINTS.

PREDICTWEATHER: A network of weather stations called flux towers atop five offshore lighthouses on Lakes Michigan, Huron, Superior and Erie are helping meteorologists more accurately predict lake-effect snowstorms and other weather events. Experts say more towers are needed to give meteorologists the lake-wide measurements necessary for better forecasting. By Jacqueline Kelly. FOR ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, HOLLAND, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, BAY MILLS, ST. IGNACE, LUDINGTON, OCEANA, MANISTEE, TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU & ALL POINTS.

w/PREDICTWEATHERMAP: Location of flux towers on five Great Lakes lighthouses. Credit: Lindsay Fitzpatrick

w/PREDICTWEATHERPHOTO: Stannard Rock Lighthouse with flux tower in Lake Superior. Credit: Chris Spence, Environment and Climate Change Canada

New technology would make 911 better, but at a cost

Capital News Service

LANSING — An improved emergency 911 system would allow Michigan residents to text police if they are held hostage by an active shooter.

Crime victims could text for help without alerting a burglar in the next room.

And police could accurately locate crime victims who use cell phones to report when they are threatened.

But lawmakers are now struggling to figure out how to pay for the expansion of the new system called Next Generation 911.

“The problem we have right now is many 911 centers around the state are only able to trace a call to a landline,” said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who has introduced a bill to expand the Next Generation 911 system beyond the 33 counties that have it now.  “However, most people nowadays are changing to cellphones.”

The current 911 system is almost 40 years old. Meanwhile, around 70 percent of 911 calls are made from cellphones that cannot be accurately traced, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Michigan residents now pay 19 cents a month for state 911 fees per device. Prepaid wireless users pay 1.92 percent per retail transaction.

If the bill passes, the state 911 fees would go up to 25 cents per month, and prepaid wireless users would pay 4.53 percent per retail transaction.

Without the change, even the counties that already have Next Generation 911 will lose it when their funding runs out next year, said Harriet Miller-Brown, the state 911 coordinator.

“Even though they have it, it won’t be paid for, and there is no more money for new counties to join,” Miller-Brown said.

Next Generation 911 makes it easier for dispatchers to help each other out when they are flooded with calls, said Thom Sumbler, vice president of sales and business development for Peninsula Fiber Network, which installs systems for counties.

Dispatchers are flooded with calls when accidents happen, said Sumbler. ”There might be only two or three people taking calls and they might be getting 25-30 calls at one time,”

If someone called in about an unrelated heart attack, the call might not go through with the old system, he said. With the Next Generation 911, calls can be routed to dispatch centers that are less busy.

“This is an enormous improvement,” Sumbler said.

Next Generation 911 also allows users to text to 911.

“Always call when you can, text when you can’t,” said Jason Torrey, director of Grand Traverse County Central Dispatch/911 and the president of the Michigan Communication Directors Association.

But under certain circumstances, text is the better option.

“If you’re a victim of domestic violence and the assailant is in the immediate vicinity and you don’t feel safe placing a voice call, you can use that text solution to silently notify dispatch and 911 that you need help,” Torrey said. “We’ve had that occur, right here in our own town.”

The feature is also helpful for people who are deaf or partially deaf, Torrey said.

Next Generation 911 is also more reliable.

“With the older system, one backhoe digging the line somewhere can take out multiple 911 centers,” said Torrey.

With the newer system, there is always another route so that call can be delivered, he said.

“There are so many opportunities and so much diversity that you can have with this new network,” said Torrey.

The bill was referred to Energy and Technology Committee.

Federal ballast water rules would replace state’s, if bill passes

Capital News Service

LANSING — MIchigan’s ballast water regulations are deterring oceangoing vessels from entering Michigan ports to pick up exports.

Rep. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, has introduced a bill that he says will bring those ships back to the state. The bill has passed the House and is headed for the Senate.

“Michigan’s ballast water regulations are the most stringent,” he said. “The regulations drove the state’s export business to neighboring states.”

His bill would get rid of the current ballast water discharge requirements for oceangoing vessels and adopt the federal regulations.

Ballast water is water in a ship that is taken in and let out, depending on the weight of the ship’s cargo, increasing the ship’s stability.

Ballast water has been blamed for the introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes. Some environmentalists worry that easing the standards will bring more invasive species.

The regulations have deterred oceangoing vessels from entering Michigan ports to pick up exports like grain, said Jim Weakley, the president of the Lake Carriers’ Association.

Instead, these vessels pick up Michigan grain in cities like Toledo and Windsor, he said.

As a result, grain is transported by truck or train out of the state and loaded on the ships in other ports.

“They basically stopped calling on Michigan,” Weakley said. “The grain is trucked to these other ports and loaded on to those same ships that would have gone to Michigan ports if not for Michigan laws.”

This impacts revenue for Michigan farmers, he said. Farmers pay more to send their grain to ports out of state, but they cannot charge more for it because the buyer would then simply buy it from someone else.

“When that happens, the additional cost of trucking the grain out of Michigan simply cuts into the profit the farmer receives,” he said. “The farmer has to pay for double handling.”

Moving Michigan’s exports out of the state by truck or rail also creates more air pollution, Weakley said. Because a ship can carry more cargo than a truck or train, more trucks and trains are needed to transport the cargo to another port. One ship can carry the cargo of multiple trucks or trains while consuming less fuel and emitting less exhaust.

Michigan’s regulations were created in 2005 because the Legislature felt the federal standards did not do enough to protect the Great Lakes. Oceangoing vessels are prohibited from discharging ballast water in Michigan waters without a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality. The permit allows four types of ballast water treatment, and every oceangoing vessel has to use one of the four approved treatments.

Since then, the U.S. Coast Guard has updated its standards for ballast water. Oceangoing vessels have several options for ballast water management. The regulations set a performance standard for discharged water and allow for more treatment options than those allowed by Michigan law, Weakley said.

Changing to those standards would put the states and Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region on a level playing field, Lauwers said.

“This bill simply says Michigan is going to use the Coast Guard federal standards as the requirement for seeking a permit to be able to discharge ballast water in the state,” he said.

Some environmental groups  are concerned that changing the state’s standards will open the door for invasive species.

“We think it’s really sending the wrong message,” said James Clift, the policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “We think that the Michigan standards are where everyone should be.”

This bill would give the power to protect the Great Lakes to the federal government at a time when the federal protections for natural resources are being cut back, Clift said.

If Michigan’s regulations were to fall in line with federal regulations, Weakley said he believes oceangoing vessels would return to Michigan ports.

“It’s always a risk when business goes away to try and get it to come back,” he said. “You have to give them an incentive to come back. I do think they’ll come back; whether it’ll be the same volume, I don’t know.”

Lauwers said his bill is meant to bring the export business back to Michigan.

“Everyone else has continued shipping all along,” he said. “By making it clear in the legislation that we are adopting the federal standards, we’re telling the world Michigan ports are open for export.”

Imagine a Great Lakes weather forecast that’s always right

Capital News Service

LANSING — If you live in the Great Lakes region, you know that feeling when unexpected weather rolls in, especially in the winter.

Why can’t they get the forecast right?

You probably recall a meteorologist telling you that there would be only 2 to 4 inches of snow and when the 12 to 14 inches came, they were blamed on the deceptively friendly-sounding “lake-effect” snow.

That uncertainty could be a thing of the past, said Lindsay Fitzpatrick, an atmospheric data analyst with the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research in Ann Arbor.

She and her team are looking for ways to more accurately predict that lake-effect snow and give more advanced warning of it before it hits. Lake-effect snow strikes many areas of the Great Lakes region, but it hits northern and western Michigan and western New York the hardest.

Working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the researchers have been developing a network of weather measuring stations called flux towers.

Each tower has instruments that measure temperature, wind speed, wind direction, solar radiation and other meteorological variables. They also measure heat flux — the amount of energy transferred to and from a surface. That is useful in measuring evaporation. And that’s important because the greater the evaporation from the lake, the more water goes into the air.

And the more water in the air, the more likely it is to fall as snow.

The instruments are on top of five offshore lighthouses–two on Lake Superior and one each on lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie. There are none yet on Lake Ontario.

“Without their observations, we would have no way to gauge how well current models are actually working,” Fitzpatrick said. “With more measurements, we can fine-tune current models to create more accurate predictions of lake-effect snow and ideally down the line, all weather that impacts the Great Lakes.”

The trouble is that there aren’t enough towers to fine tune the models. Fitzpatrick figures two to three towers on each lake would give meteorologists the lake-wide measurements that they need.

But the towers are expensive to purchase, set up and maintain, she said. Each costs roughly $70,000 to $80,000.

Weather experts say the investment is worth it to develop computer models needed to better predict lake-effect snow.

“As we begin to incorporate these new observations to our current models, we will be much better prepared.” said Jeff Andresen, the state climatologist at Michigan State University. “The towers provide single site observations, but these observations allow us to have a greater understanding of the entire lake since they should represent the entire lake climate.”

It is difficult to predict lake-effect snow because the models haven’t captured finely enough the elements that cause it, he said. Even so, understanding them has improved with the towers that exist now.

“The flux towers are very important because they quantify the fluxes of energy and water taking place between the lakes and the atmosphere above something we really couldn’t do very well until the towers went up,” he said.

The U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission funded a project to build the first flux towers in 2008. The others were supported by subsequent projects and grants.

“These towers require constant monitoring, which requires bigger teams, and if we want to be able to rely on these towers for predictions, we need to have more on every lake,” Fitzpatrick said.

Her team recently published a study in an American Meteorological Society journal about the turbulent heat fluxes in Buffalo during a lake-effect snow event. They said they hope the study will help others see the importance of these towers.

The study measured latent heat fluxes, or the amount of energy (or heat) needed for evaporation. That helped the researchers estimate the amount of evaporation at the lake’s surface and to study whether such measurements help forecast lake-effect snow.

The study shows that models now do a poor job of simulating latent heat flux, Fitzpatrick said. Better models created from more flux tower measurements can better predict snow, location and intensity.

And they may also give a glimpse of what’s ahead as the climate’s air and water temperatures rise, Andresen said.

“Collectively, they should help better determine what lake-effect precipitation patterns might be like in the distant future.”

Jacqueline Kelly writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Policies that protect high school athletes under scrutiny

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is fighting a national report that says it isn’t doing enough to protect student athletes.

The claim was in a nationwide study that analyzed policies related to student athletes. The Korey Stringer Institute, a part of the University of Connecticut that advocates for student athletes, ranked Michigan at 41st.

While Michigan scored points for heat exertion policies it has in place, it lost points for not requiring athletic trainers be onsite for contact sport practices, as well as having an undeveloped athletic emergency action plan.

MHSAA says the institute’s method for ranking states is flawed.

“They try to take a one-size-fits-all approach, and basically it’s a one-size-fits-nothing,” said John Johnson, MHSAA’s director of broadcast properties. “There’s lots of things it totally misses the mark on.”

Michigan has a coaches’ education policy and mandatory concussion reporting, two policies that Johnson said aren’t acknowledged in the report.

“There are too many things that vary from state to state, that you can’t just dump it into a matrix and it spits out rankings.”

The reason behind the study is to develop better state policies to address common reasons students die in high school sports, said Samantha Scarneo, the director of sport safety at the institute. The four primary causes of death in high school sports are heat stroke, brain-related trauma, cardiac arrest and a sickle cell trait, she said.

“We appreciate states that aren’t happy with where they are ranked,” Scarneo said. “The purpose of this study was not to point fingers, but to educate parents.”

The rankings were based on public information that the institute compiled. Any policies or laws the state and athletic association mandated for school districts to follow, coupled with how clear the wording of those policies were, helped determine the score each state received.

The ranking relied too much on the same laws standardized across all states, Johnson said. If you think about summer conditioning and climate change, it’s very different for those that practice in the middle of July in Alabama or the end of August in Michigan, he said.

“You’re not going to get that kind of standardization in 50 states on anything,” he said. “Even in Michigan, you can go to DeTour and find completely different weather on any given day than what you find in Detroit or Decatur.”

But the ranking method accounts for these factors, modifying the scores to reflect laws relative to the state, Scarneo said.

“We’re not saying every state has to have the same exact policy. What we’re saying is every state has to have a policy. That’s what sets the standard of care.”

For Michigan’s athletic trainers, the standard of care means taking a proactive role in keeping student athletes healthy. Some cultures promote a win-at-all-cost mentality, Mitch Smelis, who chairs the secondary school committee of the Michigan Athletic Trainers Society, wrote in an email.

“At some point a student’s participation in competitive athletics will come to an end. When that happens, what is the health status and how then are they able to function in society in the years ahead?” he said.

The trainers’ society says it looks at the institute’s report as a bridge to discussion about being more prepared.

“As an organization we look forward to partnering with others across the state,” Gretchen Goodman, the society’s president, wrote in an email, “as we engage in meaningful dialogue and implementation of plans and resources to help promote the safety and well-being of our secondary school athletes.”

In 2011, the Licensure of Athletic Trainers in Michigan was enacted to require that all athletic trainers meet several standards if they want to practice in the state. That includes a degree from an accredited college program, a certification from the Board of Certification and maintaining continuing education every three years.

Between 1982 and 2015, 735 students died as a result of participation in high school sports, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.

MHSAA mandates its members report head injuries and, offers concussion insurance and sideline testing programs. We’ve been at the leading edge of addressing issues like concussions, Johnson said. “We’re not Johnny-come-late to the party when it comes to head issues.”

Johnson says there are enough policies in place that some high school coaches and administrators think MHSAA has too many rules. “So maybe the silver lining in the institute’s ranking is so we can point to it and say ‘here is someone who thinks differently.’ But there’s no way we’re 41st.”

Debate continues over whether 17 is an adult or a juvenile

Capital News Service

LANSING — Public policy advocates say it’s common sense to raise the age for a person to be tried in Michigan criminal courts as an adult from 17 to 18 years old.

The reason is, young people in adult prisons are at higher risk for sexual assault, restraint, solitary confinement and suicide, they say.

“We are a super-minority in the nation when it comes to the age of criminal responsibility for kids,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, the Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Placing them in juvenile facilities also gives them a better chance to rehabilitate, advocates say.

“In contrast, young people in the juvenile justice system have opportunities for education, rehabilitative programs and interventions that may help them to succeed,” said Jessica Feierman, associate director of the Juvenile Law Center, a national public interest law firm.

But county officials are unsure who will pay for the hundreds of 17-year-olds and younger in the adult system who would move to juvenile facilities.

Lowering the age would create a lot of changes to the juvenile justice system, and the counties could be unprepared for those changes, said Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs for the Michigan Association of Counties.

Currently, the state and the counties are responsible for the upkeep and care of prisons. Counties pay for juvenile facilities.

Bills passed the  House in 2016 to raise the age from 17-years-old to 18-years-old but the Senate is waiting for a cost study commissioned by the Legislature before moving the bills.

The Association of Counties has been worried about the pending bills in the past for monetary reasons. County funding has been down since the 2008 recession, and the state is underfunding county programs, it says.

Furthermore, the  association says the proposed legislation does not require the state to cover additional local costs.

Costs are expected to go up for counties but the actual amount is unknown and will depend on the results of the cost study that was commissioned by the Legislature, Bosworth said.

The cost study is expected to be released within months. The study will look to see if there are savings for treating 17-year-olds as adults.

Since potential costs are unknown, the impact on counties financially is unknown but rural and more northern counties could feel a larger burden, Bosworth said.

The Human Impact Partners, a national public policy research and advocacy group, studied juvenile facilities, adult facilities and community-based programming in Michigan. To house a youth in a juvenile facility costs nearly $179,000 a year while to house a youth in an adult facility it costs just over $40,000 per year.

The counties are worried they won’t be able to adequately fund the transition of prisoners from the adult system to the juvenile system and afford the higher costs of the juvenile system.

Advocates are adamant that the age for adult prisons needs to be raised. Michigan is one of only five states in which the age to be tried as an adult is not 18..

Kids who commit crimes need rehabilitation at a facility equipped to handle their developmental status and recognizes they are not adults, Guevara-Warren said.

“In other parts of our laws, 17-year-olds aren’t old enough to vote, they’re not legally old enough to drop out of school, they’re not old enough to buy fireworks,” Guevara Warren said.

Other reasons to raise the age stem from the more supportive treatment of young people in juvenile systems, which allows them to stay in touch with families and communities.

“It’s designed to help young people with their education and to provide treatment and rehabilitation,” Feierman said. “When the juvenile justice system is really working well, it is an intervention that helps young people. The criminal justice system just isn’t designed to fulfill those goals.”

The battle over raising the age, however, is not about the policy implications but over how to pay for it.

Feierman and Guevara Warren said states are recognizing the age raise is better policy and better financially in the long run.

“Youth prosecuted as adults earn 40 percent less over their lifetime than youth in the juvenile justice system which translates in a loss of state tax revenue and economic productivity,” Guevara Warren said.