March 16, 2012 CNS Budget

March 16, 2012 – Week 8

To: CNS Editors

From: Eric Freedman & Sheila Schimpf

For technical problems, contact Brandon Kirby (kirbybra@msu.edu734-718-5292).

All articles ©2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.

MICHIGAN JOURNALISM HALL OF FAME: The Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame will induct Nolan Finley, Diana Lewis, Dwayne X. Riley, Joe Swickard and Bill Thomas on Sunday, April 22, at MSU’s Kellogg Center. Philip H. Power will receive a special recognition award. For information and reservations call 517-353-6430 or see

WELCOME CRAWFORD COUNTY AVALANCHE: We’re pleased to welcome the Crawford County Avalanche as the newest CNS member.

IN-DEPTH WEEK AHEAD: Our second in-depth file of the semester will be next Friday, March 23.



NATURALGAS: Lower natural gas prices could spur Michigan producers to drill less, industry experts say. Reasons include a growing supply and the warmer-than-usual winter. We hear from a Traverse City energy company, the state Oil and Gas Association and MSU experts. By Jennifer Chen. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, CLARE, GLADWIN, CADILLAC, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, BIG RAPIDS, LANSING & ALL POINTS.

FIRESAFETY: Cost and lack of knowledge are largely responsible for a lack of working home smoke detectors, increasing the risk of serious injuries and deaths. The state fire marshal, a Jackson landlord and fire officials in Three Rivers, Traverse City, Grand Rapids and Jackson discuss the problem By Saodat Asanova-Taylor. FOR THREE RIVERS, STURGIS, SOUTH BEND, TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN CITIZEN, JACKSON, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS & ALL POINTS.

MENTALHEALTHCOURTS: The governor wants to spend more money on mental health courts, including a new one in Saginaw County, to reduce the number of mentally ill criminals sent to prison. The money would expand a pilot program operating in Grand Traverse, Jackson, Berrien, Genesee, Wayne, Oakland, St. Clair and Livingston counties. A U of M study says 20 -25 percent of inmates have severe psychiatric problems. By Jon Gaskell. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN CITIZEN, ANN ARBOR, JACKSON, LANSING, SOUTH BEND & ALL POINTS.

PRISONPATROLS: The union representing corrections officers says the Snyder administration’s plan to eliminate round-the-clock patrols outside prisons could endanger staff, inmates and the public. The Corrections director says new technology can provide enough security and save the state $13 to $15 million a year. Protestors included officers from prisons in Jackson, New Haven, Adrian, Detroit and Eastlake. By Wei Yu. FOR MARQUETTE, LAPEER, JACKSON, MACOMB, LANSING, MICHIGAN CITIZEN, BLISSFIELD, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, TRAVERSE CITY, ROYAL OAK, GREENVILLE & ALL POINTS.

w/PRISONPATROLSPHOTO: Corrections officers picket Department of Corrections headquarters to protest elimination of round-the-clock prison exterior patrols. Credit: Wei Yu, Capital News Service.

ANIMALSHELTERS: Voluntary tax return check-offs have generated another $134,000 for pet spaying and neutering services across the state. Shelter officials in Jackson, Traverse City and Livingston County tell how they’ll use the money. Other recipients include facilities in Grayling, South Haven, Atlanta, Ionia, Jackson, Oxford, Muskegon, Columbiaville, Otsego and Prudenville. By Patrick Lyons. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, JACKSON, LANSING, ALPENA, GREENVILLE, GRAYLING, LUDINGTON, ROYAL OAK, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS & ALL POINTS.

w/ANIMALSHELTERSGRAPHIC: Table of grants to local animal shelters and public agencies.

ENERGYSTANDARDS: An Onekama lawmaker wants to repeal the state’s energy standard that requires 10 percent of electricity to be renewable by 2015, while an environmental coalition wants the standard raised to 25 percent. We hear from municipal utility agencies in Marquette and Zeeland.  Co-sponsors include lawmakers from Caledonia, Brown City, Ray Township and Newaygo. By Patrick Howard. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, HOLLAND, BROWN CITY, MACOMB, LUDINGTON, MANISTEE, TRAVERSE CITY, CADILLAC, LANSING & ALL POINTS.

WETLANDS: New  $1 million federal grants will protect wetlands and migratory bird habitat in the Saginaw Bay area, Southeast Michigan and the West Michigan coast. The projects are  partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited and organizations such as the Michigan Nature Association and Nature Conservancy. By Xinjuan Deng. FOR MACOMB, ROYAL OAK, HOLLAND, LUDINGTON, BLISSFIELD, MANISTEE, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, TRAVERSE CITY, JACKSON, SOUTH BEND, BROWN CITY, ANN ARBOR, GLADWIN & ALL POINTS.

MERCURYBIRDS: Scientists are finding more Great Lakes birds, especially songbirds, with elevated mercury levels. Aquatic species such as loons and swans remain at greatest risk., say experts at DNR, a loon research group in Hancock and a national biodiversity institute. By Sam Inglot. FOR MARQUETTE, ST. IGNACE, CHEBOYGAN, ALPENA, CADILLAC, GRAYLING, CLARE, GLADWIN, LUDINGTON, TRAVERSE CITY, MANISTEE, HOLLAND, GREENVILLE, HARBOR SPRINGS, PETOSKEY & ALL POINTS.

MERCURYBIRDSGRAPHIC: Species vary in their sensitivity to mercury. Credit: Biodiversity Research Institute.

WHITEPINE: The population of Michigan’s state tree has dropped drastically during the past two centuries. Forest ecologists explain how that loss threatens forestry diversity, vital habitats and one of the region’s most beneficial trees. Ecologists are trying to repopulate the white pine despite significant hurdles. By Erica Hamling: FOR CADILLAC, ALPENA, LUDINGTON, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, MARQUETTE, ST. IGNACE, HARBOR SPRINGS, CLARE, GLADWIN, BIG RAPIDS, GREENVILLE, CHEBOYGAN, LAPEER, GRAYLING, BROWN CITY & ALL POINTS.

w/WHITEPINEPHOTO: Old-growth white pines form a supercanopy, rising 32 to 50 feet above the general hardwood canopy. Credit: Robert Fahey, Morton Arboretum.

ABSENTEEOWNERS: Landowners in Michigan increasingly don’t live on the property they own, making it difficult for conservation officials to reach them and teach them about stewardship. Foresters and conservation experts say the situation is more about who cares than who’s there — but recent research shows that caring isn’t always enough. Michigan Forest Association and other experts explain. By Brian Bienkowski. FOR MARQUETTE, BIG RAPIDS, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, HOLLAND, CADILLAC, CHEBOYGAN, ST. IGNACE, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, GLADWIN, CLARE, ALPENA, GREENVILLE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LANSING, GRAYLING & ALL POINTS.


Debate reopens on renewable energy standards


Capital News Service

LANSING – Proponents of the state’s alternative energy optimization standards are at odds with a suggestion to eliminate current standards.

The proposal by Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, would repeal standards that require 10 percent of energy generated by utility companies to be renewable by 2015.

The standards, adopted in 2008, include guidelines to utility companies.

According to Jim Weeks, executive director of the Michigan Municipal Electric Association in Lansing, Franz’ bill could address those guidelines which concern small companies. Continue reading

Wetland restoration snags millions for two projects


Capital News Service

LANSING – Two federal grants of $1 million each will help restore wetlands and migratory bird habitats in Michigan.

The projects include work on water control and distribution structures in the Saginaw Bay area, Southeast Michigan and the Lake Michigan area.

Tom Melius, Midwest regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said, “Wetlands in the upper Midwest not only serve as indicators of water quality for our communities, but also serve as the breeding and resting grounds for hundreds of species.” Continue reading

Mental heath courts could expand


Capital News Service

LANSING – Officials are looking to expand a pilot program that has kept hundreds of mentally ill defendants from going to prison.

In his address on public safety, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed $2.1 million in new funding for mental health courts, a pilot program operating since 2008 that allows defendants to avoid jail time by completing court-monitored treatment.

Snyder also proposed starting a new mental health court in Saginaw County, bringing the total number to nine.

The program is currently funded by $1.6 million in federal stimulus money, which will no longer be available by the end of the year. Continue reading

Natural gas supply exceeds demand, forcing prices down


Capital News Service

LANSING – Falling natural gas prices in the state might prompt drilling companies to cut production, according to the Michigan Oil and Gas Association.

A growing supply of natural gas in the state has weakened prices, putting pressure on drillers, said association president Frank Mortl.

With dropping prices, producers are hurting, but consumers are huge winners, he said.

Michigan ranked 13th among the states in natural gas production in 2006, according to Oil Gas Michigan. Continue reading

State promotes spaying, neutering of pets


Capital News Service

LANSING — Grants to support spaying and neutering in Michigan shelters will help save animal lives, experts say.

Steve Hall, the director of the Jackson County Animal Shelter, received $9,173 from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to allow his shelter to pay for more work time from its veterinarian.

“That would allow us to spay or neuter an additional 312 animals, and that is 312 animals that would otherwise be euthanized,” Hall said. Continue reading

Union, Corrections face off on prison patrols


Capital News Service

LANSING – The Department of Corrections is looking at new technologies to reduce staffing costs without reducing security.

According to the department, 27 prisons will no longer have armed perimeter patrols 24 hours a day. It also will change the job classifications of some corrections officers in April as a cost-saving strategy.

However, union leaders say the move could endanger the public and staff.

Corrections Director Daniel Heyns said the changes will reduce the $2 billion Michigan spends annually on prisons, about one third of the state’s general budget. Continue reading

Smoke detectors could prevent many deadly fires


Capital News Service

LANSING – Some Michigan residents fail to recognize the importance of smoke detectors, creating a risk of serious injuries and deaths, safety experts say.

Christine Jackson, who owns an apartment building in Jackson, said it has been a difficult task to keep her tenants safe.

“As landlord, I am required by the city to provide operational smoke detectors, but tenants fail to maintain them. Either the batteries are taken out, or the smoke detectors are completely removed from the wall,” she said. Continue reading

More songbirds found with high mercury levels


Capital News Service

LASNING — Scientists are finding more Great Lakes birds with high levels of mercury in them.

A recent report by the Biodiversity Research Institute says the increased levels are found particularly in songbirds that rely on insects for food.

Aquatic birds still face the greatest risk for mercury exposure, said Joe Kaplan, a researcher with Common Coast Research & Conservation, a nonprofit loon research group based in Hancock.

Two factors impact how mercury affects a bird, he said: the amount of mercury it’s exposed to and the bird’s sensitivity to the metal. Continue reading

More land owned by absentees, study finds


Capital News Service

LANSING – Landowners in Michigan and other Great Lakes states increasingly don’t live on the property they own, making it difficult for conservation officials to reach them and teach them about stewardship.

Foresters and conservation experts say it’s more about who cares than who’s there — but recent research shows that caring isn’t always enough.

Absentees include farmers who rent their property to others, as well as people who buy land as a place to play or as an investment. Continue reading