Dec. 9, 2011 CNS Budget

THIS WEEK’S FILE:

COLLEGEALCOHOL – Michigan community college and university students can now drink alcohol in class. But that doesn’t mean students can crack open a beer in the middle of math. A recent state law change allows community colleges with accredited culinary or hospitality programs to more easily teach the pairing of alcohol and food and in cooking. By Sam Inglot. FOR GRAND RAPIDS, LANSING, DETROIT AND ALL POINTS; EDITORS NOTE LOCALIZATION POTENTIAL WITH LIST OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES THAT HAVE SUCH PROGRAMS.

COALPLANTS – Consumers Energy is closing seven coal-fired plants near Luna Pier, Muskegon and Bay City and cancelling a new one in favor of wind and solar energy. Environmentalists hail the move as the wave of the future. By Nick McWherter. FOR LUDINGTON, BAY CITY, AND ALL POINTS

PROPERTYTAXREFORM – With the governor set to propose personal property tax reforms to spur economic growth, Michigan counties, business groups and public officials are scrambling for ways to ease at least a short-term drop in revenues. We interview Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, the administration’s point person on tax reform, on his ideas for making up a significance loss in local government revenues that reforms could bring. By Alex Mitchell. FOR BLISSFIELD AND ALL POINTS Continue reading

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State change allows educational alcohol consumption

Editors: For localization potential note list of community colleges with culinary and hospitality programs at end of story

By SAM INGLOT
Capital News Service

LANSING– Michigan community college and university students can now have alcohol in class.

That doesn’t mean students can crack open a beer in the middle of math.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law a bill that allows accredited culinary or hospitality business programs to serve alcohol on campus. But the occasion must help students learn more about the industry.

Before the law some colleges couldn’t host events that served alcohol as part of instruction because Michigan liquor laws prohibit alcohol from being served on state-owned land. That includes community college and university property. Continue reading

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Coal-fired plants to close; wind and air to step up

BY NICK MCWHERTER

Capital News Service

LANSING- Wind farms and solar power are finally getting a big-scale opportunity to prove their worth. Consumers Energy announced last week the closure of seven coal-fired power plants in Michigan and cancelled construction of another to focus on clean energy.

Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity to nearly 6.5 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents.

Consumers will phase out three plants at the J.R. Whiting Generating Complex near Luna Pier, two at the B.C. Cobb Generating Plant in Muskegon and two at the Karn/Weadock Generating Complex near Bay City. Continue reading

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Counties, business groups, state officials seek ways to stem revenue loss from tax reform

By ALEX MITCHELL

Capital News Service

LANSING—With Gov. Rick Snyder planning to propose reforms to Michigan’s personal property tax this month, many counties and businesses are speculating about potential ways to replace lost revenue.

Businesses pay personal property tax on their equipment. Critics say the tax discourages businesses from growing because they pay more as they invest in equipment. But local governments are worried because the tax accounts for anywhere from 3 percent to 27 percent of revenue for Michigan counties.

“We won’t be proposing to totally do away with personal property taxes but to both change the way the system works and get rid of certain classifications of personal property taxes that do the most harm to Michigan,” Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said. Calley is the administration’s point person on the issue. Earlier he led efforts to reform Michigan’s business tax. Continue reading

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Counties could lose millions of dollars from wind farm tax change

By SAM INGLOT

Capital News Service

LANSING—Michigan counties with wind farms stand to lose millions of dollars in property tax revenue due to a recent change in tax policy.

Wind turbines are considered industrial personal property and taxed on their market value, said Rep. Kurt Damrow, R-Port Austin. Formerly each turbine’s tax liability was based on 100 percent of its value for the first year and depreciated over 15 years until bottoming out at 30 percent.

But the State Tax Commission changed the tax code in early December so that turbines are now taxed at 80 percent on the first year and that drops to 30 percent within five years, Damrow said. Continue reading

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Bill would expand right to paternity test

By SHANNAN O’NEIL

Capital News Service

LANSING- Daniel Quinn of Fenton says he hasn’t seen his daughter in three years because under state law, he is not allowed to prove he is her father.

Quinn said that five years ago he fathered a child with a woman who was separated from her husband. Quinn and the woman raised the girl for more than two years together.

When the woman returned to her husband, Quinn said he lost all rights to see his child. Quinn’s case prompted Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren, to introduce a bill to change Michigan’s Paternity Act. Continue reading

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Layoffs could be eased by state work share program

By JACOB KANCLERZ

Capital News Service

LANSING – To reduce layoffs during tough times, Gov. Rick Snyder, legislators and business groups favor a program that allows both businesses and the state unemployment insurance program to contribute to workers’ paychecks.

The program, known as work sharing, allows businesses to keep employees during down periods in the economy by reducing their hours and wages. A part of the employees’ lost income is then made up through partial payments of unemployment insurance. The program is an alternative to full unemployment benefits paid to laid-off workers. Unemployment insurance is funded through payroll taxes on Michigan businesses.

Twenty-three states have similar programs. President Barack Obama supported it as part of his jobs package, said Neil Ridley, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C. Continue reading

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Painting toy guns to look real could be outlawed

BY NICK MCWHERTER

Capital News Service

LANSING- Young teenagers playing with toy guns could have been killed in a mall parking lot a few years ago when police responded to the scene.

This close call sparked legislators to develop a bill banning any modification of a toy to make it look more like a real gun.

The incident with the toy guns took place in Taylor and could have been dangerous because others in the parking lot, as well as police, thought the guns were real. Continue reading

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Michigan study says key to good schools is involvement by parents

By COURTNEY CULEY

Capital News Service

LANSING—More than half of Michigan residents surveyed by Michigan State University said the most important reason schools have struggled is a lack of parental involvement.

Big Rapids High School officials say encouraging such involvement is a reason the school was selected as one of the top 20 high schools in Michigan in 2010 by U.S. News and World Report.

“It’s important to the community for parents to be involved,” said Tim Haist, Big Rapids Public Schools superintendent. The schools stress those relationships. Continue reading

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