Nov. 22, 2011 CNS Budget

THIS WEEK’S FILE:

EFFICIENTCOURTS – State lawmakers are considering funding incentives to encourage courts to consolidate resources and improve use of technology. But county officials fear that a proposed bill containing incentives supported by Gov. Rick Snyder could further threaten their state funding. By Jacob Kanclerz.  FOR ALL POINTS

BRIDGECARDFRAUD – To prevent abuse of welfare funds, Michigan lawmakers want to charge Bridge Card holders for replacement costs if they lose the cards a second time. The approximately $4 cost would cover replacement costs but some experts question if it would have any impact on curbing fraud. By Shannan O’Neil. FOR HOLLAND AND ALL POINTS

SMOKINGBAN – State health authorities say Michigan’s ban on smoking in restaurants and casinos has cut indoor air pollutants by 93 percent. They are also launching a study of whether it has cut health care costs and the rate of hospitalizations for heart problems. By Courtney Culey. EDITORS NOTE LIST OF CITIES WHERE AIR WAS TESTED; FOR ALL POINTS. Continue reading

Lawmakers weigh court efficiency incentives; counties fear loss of revenue

By JACOB KANCLERZ

Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan counties could lose up to $60 million if they don’t get their courts to comply with best financial practices under proposed incentives supported by Gov. Rick Snyder.

A bill before the House Appropriations Committee would tie counties’ access to local court revenues to incentives designed to save money and encourage consolidation. The money is generated by court fees and other revenues and redistributed to counties to pay for the court system and other general expenses, said Deena Bosworth, the legislative aide for the Michigan Association of Counties.

Bosworth is opposed to the bill, saying counties don’t have direct control over what courts do, putting them at risk of losing a critical portion of the state funding that they need. Continue reading

Students, others seek clarity in conflicting interpretation of medical marijuana law

By Alex Mitchell

Capital News Service

LANSING—Michigan’s Attorney General says police become drug traffickers under federal law if they return confiscated medical marijuana to patients.

But Lansing defense attorney Matt Newburg says that’s ridiculous since Michigan’s law states marijuana can be returned after verifying a patient’s information.

Such disputes are evidence of the confusion surrounding medical marijuana, leaving students and others struggling to understand a law that can seemingly change overnight. Continue reading

Michigan smoking ban cuts indoor air pollution 93 percent; state officials launch health, economic study of the impact

By COURTNEY CULEY

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s 18-month-old ban on smoking in restaurants is allowing Michigan patrons to breathe cleaner air.

A recent study found a 93 percent reduction in air pollutants given off by second hand smoke in restaurants across the state, said Teri Wilson, public health research and evaluation consultant with the tobacco section at the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Officials anticipated the Smoke Free Air Law would be passed and tested restaurant air to gauge its effectiveness, Wilson said. Seventy-seven restaurants from 13 cities were tested for air quality between 2005 and 2008. Continue reading

Lose your Bridge Card? Pay for replacement

By SHANNAN O’NEIL

Capital News Service

LANSING- Michigan Bridge Cards help those who can’t afford groceries, but now some lawmakers want to crack down on reports of cardholders selling them for cash.

The state House has approved a plan to charge recipients the second time they lose their cards. Some people who say they lost their cards have really sold them for cash and got another one for free, said Lindsay Vogelsberg, legislative aide for Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, who introduced the bill.

Selling Bridge Cards is only one way people have abused the system. Other bills pending in committee would prohibit putting money on the cards of prisoners and lottery winners. Continue reading

Michigan underground newspapers fueled political activism before the Internet and social media

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING – The Vietnam War, the drive for civil rights and demands on college campuses for student power all fueled a 1960s media revolution in which Michigan played a major role.

Student unrest and dissent were beginning to spread across America, not only in liberal-leaning Detroit but even at politically conservative Michigan State University, according to a new memoir by underground press activist Michael Kindman.

For example, that movement sparked East Lansing’s first underground newspaper, The Paper, in 1965. The Paper was born because of a philosophical split within the State News—at the time MSU’s official rather than independent student daily–as Kindman tells it in his posthumously published book, My Odyssey through the Underground Press (MSU Press, $39.95). Continue reading

Research may strengthen biofuel production from non-edible sources

By BRIAN BIENKOWSKI

Unlocking the energy in yard clippings, corn stalks and leaves may get much easier, according to a recent Michigan State University study.

That would help bioenergy producers switch to cheaper sources that cause fewer environmental headaches. What’s more, it may mean less reliance on plants that people eat.

The study treated plants with ammonia to convert them to fuel more quickly. Continue reading