Political corruption knows no party, history shows

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — The recent FBI and State Police search of Sen. Bert Johnson’s office in Lansing and home in Highland Park serves as a reminder that illegal conduct, corruption and scandal don’t carry party labels.

Details of the federal-state investigation of Johnson, D-Highland Park, remain incomplete, but news reports suggest it may relate to questionable staff payroll practices. Evidence in Michigan and elsewhere in the country demonstrates that some politicians — regardless of party affiliation — don’t respect the law, the public or the oath they swore

Think about recent history in the state: Continue reading

Gender imbalance in Michigan Legislature persists

By ISAAC CONSTANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — There are 148 members of the Legislature. Just 34 are women. One is in a leadership position.

“You’re not getting kind of that balance between who your representatives are and who your constituents are,” said Rep. Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, the House minority floor leader. “That is a problem, and I think that’s what skews the issues that get talked about.”

The House includes 15 Democratic and 15 Republican women, while four women — three Republicans and one Democrat — are in the Senate. Much of the diversity in both gender and race comes from the southeastern region of the state.

As imbalanced as gender representation is in Michigan, policy can be even more male-dominated. Continue reading

Severe impact predicted in Michigan if new health care bill passes

By ISAAC CONSTANS

Capital News Service

LANSING — About 2.5 million Michiganders could lose health care coverage under the Republican-proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The study comes on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office projection that the recently introduced American Health Care Act(AHCA)  would cause 24 million people to lose their insurance over 10 years, while reducing the federal deficit by about $337 billion.

The Republican proposal jeopardizes the Healthy Michigan Plan, the Michigan Medicaid expansion that has insured 650,000 residents under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The ACA would be repealed and replaced with the AHCA. Continue reading

New Adrian representative is working for her community

By CAITLIN TAYLOR
Capital News Service

LANSING — Bronna Kahle’s campaign for state representative came full circle when she was sworn in at a ceremony in her hometown of Adrian, rather than the state capital.

“A lot of people do that in Lansing,” said Kahle, R-Adrian. “But I just had to do it in Adrian. I’m representing Lenawee County.”

Over 100 people watched as Kahle took the oath of office administered by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in an Adrian College lecture hall in mid-December. Looking into the audience, she said it was humbling to recognize everyone in the room who helped with her campaign.

“I remember when I did that with that person, I remember when they made phone calls — oh, they hosted a coffee with me,” Kahle said in her Lansing office, gesturing toward the community members she recalled sitting in her swearing-in crowd. “I am honored to serve these people.” Continue reading

State Senate: Make February about taking care of you

By CAITLIN TAYLOR

Capital News Service

LANSING — If taking time for yourself often feels like an impossible task, now you have a reason to be a little more selfish.

A  Senate resolution promoting healthy lifestyle choices was adopted at the end of January. Introduced by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, the resolution recognizes February 2017 as Self Care Month.

The resolution’s sponsors include Sens. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage; John Proos, R-St. Joseph; and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

According to the resolution, self-care is a lifelong commitment to good hygiene practices, monitoring changes in health, knowing when to consult a healthcare practitioner and preventing infection and illness.

While there are many types of self-care, the resolution highlights knowing when it is appropriate to self-treat physical health conditions with over-the-counter medications.

Schuitmaker said Perrigo, an over-the-counter pharmaceutical company in Allegan, asked her to propose Self Care Month.

Continue reading

Women’s marches inspire increased activism across Michigan

By CAITLIN TAYLOR

Capital News Service

LANSING — Amy Shamroe felt proud to hear Traverse City recognized in a speech by Michigan filmmaker Michael Moore at the Women’s March on Washington.

“Michael Moore said Traverse City is a place where people are active and engaged and you can find people there who make a difference,” said Shamroe, a Traverse City city commissioner and president of the local American Association of University Women (AAUW) chapter.

Though she was pleased by the shout-out, Shamroe wasn’t surprised: Since Election Day, she has seen increased engagement with AAUW Traverse City, which focuses on empowering women and girls. Shamroe has always had to recruit members, but now they’re coming to her.

“It’s something I haven’t seen in my six years in this community,” she said. “People are showing up and saying, ‘Where do I sign up?’ and ‘How can I help?’”   Continue reading

Does infrastructure upgrade include Soo Locks? Only Trump knows

By CARL STODDARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — Almost everyone agrees the Soo Locks in the Upper Peninsula need to be upgraded. Modernizing the locks won’t be cheap, however, and so far Congress hasn’t approved funding for the work.

But there are signs that might change under the administration of President Trump, who has pledged to repair the country’s aging infrastructure.

Congress already has approved construction of a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie but hasn’t approved spending money on the project. The total construction cost is estimated at $580 million and would likely take 10 years to complete, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the locks on the U.S. side.

“I think it’s too early to say with any certainty what Trump’s infrastructure improvement plan will mean for Michigan, but I’m optimistic,” said newly elected U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, a Republican from Watersmeet whose district includes Sault Ste. Marie. Continue reading

Proposed voter ID cards would cost $10 million

By CAITLIN DeLUCA

Capital News Service

LANSING — Three bills to increase voter photo identification requirements passed narrowly through the House and are on their way to the Senate.

Under this package, voters without an ID at the time of voting would fill out a provisional ballot. It would be valid only  if the voter returns to the clerk within 10 days to either show an ID or provide evidence of why they can’t have one. That might include religious reasons or an inability to afford one.

Current law allows registered voters withourr a voter ID to fill out an affidavit attesting to their identity. They can then vote.

The bills are controversial. Even some Republicans went off party lines to vote against them. Continue reading

Local clerks scramble to implement election recount

By CAITLIN DeLUCA

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

Researchers battle bird botulism

By SAM CORDEN

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