March 23, 2012 CNS Budget

March 23, 2012 – Week 9

To: CNS Editors

From: Eric Freedman, Sheila Schimpf & Matt Hund

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.

DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AHEAD: On Monday, March 26, your correspondents will interview DNR Director Rodney Stokes. Possible interview topics include public lands acquisitions and policies, wildlife diseases, changes in hunting and fishing regulations, and protection of maritime and historical resources.


LIBRARIES: Public libraries are under economic pressure as state aid and local tax revenue drop. But they’re seeing an increase in patronage and material circulated, as well as requests for learning how to use computers and find jobs. Librarians in Marquette, Holland and Jackson and the state Library Association discuss the trends. By Jon Gaskell. FOR MARQUETTE, HOLLAND, JACKSON, LANSING & ALL POINTS.

MANUFACTURINGWORKERS: Unemployment remains high but many manufacturers, including some in Macomb County, face a shortage of skilled workers—a shortage they predict will worsen. One company offers scholarships to Macomb Community College students who take machine-related classes. Industry officials and Kalamazoo-based W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research explain. By Xinjuan Deng. FOR MACOMB, MICHIGAN CITIZEN, ROYAL OAK, ANN ARBOR, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS & ALL POINTS.

ORGANICFOODS: Economic times are still tough in Michigan and organic foods cost more than non-organics, but demand is outstripping supply. We talk to farmers in Grand Rapids and Kent City, as well as MSU, state Organic Food and Farm Alliance and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development experts. For news and agriculture pages. By Wei Yu. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, GREENVILLE, LANSING & ALL POINTS.

w/ORGANICFOODSPHOTO: Michigan State University Student Organic Farm. Credit: Wei Yu, Capital News Service.

INFANTMORTALITY: Public health agencies are working to reduce Michigan’s high infant mortality rate, a problem worsened by insufficient prenatal care, teen pregnancies and transportation difficulties in rural areas such as northern Lower Michigan. Lapeer County, Grand Traverse County and experts explain. Wayne State researchers are working on the problem too. By Saodat Asanova-Taylor. FOR MICHIGAN CITIZEN, LANSING, TRAVERSE CITY, LAPEER, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, CADILLAC, ALPENA, CHEBOYGAN & ALL POINTS.

HOMEOWNERS: Michigan has committed only 6.1

percent of its nearly $500 million allocation of federal funds to help the hardest-hit homeowners avoid foreclosure. Top counties for assistance so far are Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Saginaw and Washtenaw. By Jennifer Chen. FOR MICHIGAN CITIZEN, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, ROYAL OAK, MACOMB, ANN ARBOR & ALL POINTS.

YARDWASTEBUSINESS: A proposal by DeWitt and Frankenmuth lawmakers to modify the ban on dumping yard waste in landfills could put many private compost companies and county operations out of business, critics say. The change is intended to produce more methane as alternative energy. Companies in Zeeland, Ada, Byron Center, Lansing, Wixom and Ann Arbor, an Emmet County official and the Michigan Environmental Council discuss. By Saodat Asanova-Taylor. FOR HOLLAND, ANN ARBOR, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LANSING, GREENVILLE, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, ROYAL OAK & ALL POINTS.

HEALTHINSURANCETAX: Small business groups, U.S. Rep. Upton and business owners in Troy and Grand Rapids say a “hidden” insurance tax in the federal health care law favors big companies and unions and could cost workers at small companies an extra $500 a year. U.S. Rep. Peters disagrees. AARP Michigan, although neutral on the tax dispute, says the country should give the overhaul law time to work. By Xinjuan Deng. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, ROYAL OAK, STURGIS, HOLLAND, THREE RIVERS, SOUTH BEND, MICHIGAN CITIZEN, LANSING & ALL POINTS.

ATHLETEEATINGDISORDERS: The stress on highly competitive athletes can lead to life-threatening eating disorders, according to experts, including an MSU professor. Michigan High School Athletic Association trains coaches to prevent and recognize medical problems, including nutrition. For sports and news sections. By Patrick Lyons. FOR LANSING & ALL POINTS.

AGINGPRISONERS: The state’s aging prison population is driving up the cost of health care and mental health care for the Corrections Department. It costs about $10,000 more a year to incarcerate older than younger inmates, and an advocacy group says many older inmates could safely be paroled. By Patrick Lyons. FOR MICHIGAN CITIZEN, LAPEER, JACKSON, MARQUETTE, LUDINGTON, ROYAL OAK, MACOMB, GREENVILLE & ALL POINTS.

NURSES: Representatives from Warren, West Bloomfield, Muskegon, East Lansing and Detroit are pushing for legislation to require minimum nurse-to-patient ratios at hospitals and to ban mandatory overtime for nurses. We hear from an MSU nursing instructor, the Health and Hospital Association and Michigan Nurses Association. By Wei Yu. FOR MACOMB, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, ROYAL OAK, HOLLAND, LANSING & ALL POINTS.

NURSESPHOTO: Nurses rally at the Capitol for minimum patient-nurse rations at hospitals. Credit: Wei Yu, Capital News Service.

FLIESFORFISH: Get the waders and rods ready: Unseasonably warm weather may spur an early emergence of the aquatic insects—mayflies and caddisflies—that trout love to eat. We hear from a Grayling fly fishing guide, Trout Unlimited and experts at MSU and Northern Michigan University. By Brian Bienkowski. FOR MARQUETTE, BIG RAPIDS, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, HOLLAND, CADILLAC, CHEBOYGAN, ST. IGNACE, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, GLADWIN, CLARE, ALPENA, GREENVILLE, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, GRAYLING & ALL POINTS.

w/FLIESFORFISH: Mayfly. Credit Minnesota Sea Grant.

TIRES&SANDALS: A Detroit community group and U of M design students have teamed up to manufacture sandals from old tires. The project is intended to create jobs for homeless Detroiters and recycle material that would otherwise go into landfills. By Kam Moore. FOR MICHIGAN CITIZEN, MACOMB, ROYAL OAK, ANN ARBOR & ALL POINTS.

w/TIRES&SANDALSPHOTO: Made-in-Detroit sandal produced from scrap tires. Credit: University of Michigan.


State, researchers attack infant mortality


Capital News Service

LANSING – As infant mortality rates continue to rise across the state, the Department of Community Health is implementing a new plan that should reduce the number of deaths and disparities based on geography, socio-economic issues and race.

Last October, the Department of Community Health convened a summit to identify strategies to reduce and prevent infant deaths.

Based on recommendations from politicians, health specialists and community leaders, the department developed a plan to reduce the infant mortality rate.

Angela Minicuci, a public information officer for the department, said her agency continue to seek input as it works to update the current statewide plan. “We’re in the process of finalizing the updates to the plan which will continue to serve various populations across the entire state.” Continue reading

Proposal would allow some waste dumping


Capital News Service

LANSING – Operators of compost companies and public agencies are criticizing legislative bills that might put them out of business.

The bills propose modifying the 17-year-old ban on dumping yard waste in landfills. They would allow some disposal in landfills instead of requiring composting.

Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-DeWitt, one of the sponsors, said the measure is necessary for creating renewable energy resources. The other sponsor of the legislation is Rep. Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth.

“It will allow collection of yard waste only for those landfills that will use a gas collection system and then create alternative energy from it. The ban will still be in place for all the other landfills,” Opsommer said. Continue reading

Stress, eating disorders linked to athlete competitiveness


Capital News Service

LANSING – Life-threatening eating disorders can develop and affect athletes differently than non-athletes, experts say.

In 2009, 13 percent of Michigan high school students reported some levels of anorexic behavior, while 7 percent reported bulimic behavior, according to a survey by the Department of Education.

There is little difference between the percentages of athletes and non-athletes with eating disorders, but athletes face stress and situations that can provoke a disorder to manifest, said Marty Ewing, an associate professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University.

“We have the same body image issues outside of sports that we do in sports,” she said. Continue reading

House bill would limit nurse workload


Capital News Service

LANSING – Rep. Jon Switalski, D-Warren, wants to require hospitals to come up with a plan to set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and to ban mandatary overtime for nurses.

The bill aims to mandate that hospitals maintain detailed staff-to-patient ratios specified in the bill.

More than 500 nurses from the state recently rallied at the Capitol to bring attention to the issue.

Jeff Breslin, president of the Michigan Nurses Association, a union which represents more than 10,000 registered nurses around the state, said the rally was successful. It showed legislators that nurses are passionate about advocating for their patients not just inside the hospital, but also out in communities and in our political system as well, he said. Continue reading

Homeowners struggling despite availability of funding


Capital News Service

LANSING – Although the state has received nearly $500 million in federal funds to assist homeowners, many Michigan residents are still fighting foreclosures.

According to a U.S. Treasury Department report, Michigan has committed about $30 million, only 6.1 percent of that money, helping 2,897 homeowners avoid foreclosures. Only three states received larger grants.

It is crucial to create programs that allow families to stay in their homes, stopping a significant drop in real estate values and encouraging economic growth in all regions, said Mary Lou Keenon, communications director at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

She said Michigan uses money from the Hardest Hit program for mortgage subsidies and loans. Continue reading

Manufacturing needs workers but not enough apply


Capital News Service

LANSING – A shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing has become more acute with the recent economic recovery, industry experts say.

“The shortage is a big problem for our members,” said Delaney Newberry, director of human resource policy for the Michigan Manufacturers Association. “They do have some positions open as the old workers began to retire, and they are worried about filling the positions.”

Newberry said the skilled employee that manufacturers want falls into a wide range of positions, from basic workers to technicians and engineers.

For example, among manufacturers with shortage are Top Craft Tool Inc. and Lunar Industries in Clinton Township; KEO Cutters, Super Steel Treating Co. and Schlitter Tool in Warren; and Midwest Mold Services Inc. in Roseville, according to the association. Continue reading

Federal health law may cost small businesses


Capital News Service

LANSING – Some small businesses say they will be hurt by a “hidden” tax under the two-year-old federal health overhaul.

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said the act provides $40 billion in tax credits during the next decade to help small businesses pay health insurance premiums.

The law lowers the cost of health care, Peters said, which saves small businesses money.

However, some small business people disagree. Continue reading

Demand high, supplies tight for some Michigan-grown organic foods


Capital News Service

LANSING – Even during economic recession, Karen Lubbers, an owner of the Lubbers Family Farm in Grand Rapids, faces the challenges of growing demand at her small organic farm.

It sells beef, pork, lamb and eggs.

“Our sales increase every year,” Lubbers said. “We generally sell out of both beef and pork. During the summer months, we sell out of eggs regularly as well.”

The supply from Lubbers Farm is often hardly enough meet the demand.
According to Lubbers, its pigs are fed whey from the creamery on her farm. Whey as an animal food source is hard to come by which automatically limits the supply. Continue reading

Old tires make new sandals, new jobs


Capital News Service

LANSING — A collaboration between a 131-year old nonprofit group and University of Michigan students may result in a recycled product that employs Detroit’s homeless.

During the Great Depression, members of Cass Community Social Services served hot meals to families in need. More recently, the organization teamed with U of M students to design a product that’s easy to make from recyclable materials.

The result: Treads Motor City Sandals, a small business that could employ and support its customers and the jobless in the city. Using old tires and recyclable materials, future employees will follow the method developed by the design students to produce the sandals. Continue reading