Education Corps funding bill unlikely to pass, lawmaker says

By JEREMY WAHR
Capital News Service

LANSING — A bill that would require funding for outside tutors in elementary and middle schools is unlikely to pass, but the group will continue to receive funding from the state on a year-by-year basis. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, would have guaranteed an unspecified amount of funding to reading and mathematics instructors from the Michigan Education Corps, an initiative that uses tutors to help struggling students. The bill passed without opposition by the Senate, but it is unlikely to see further action, said Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, who chairs the House Education Reform Committee where it was sent. The program already receives appropriations and it doesn’t need to be put into law, Kelly said. The Education Corps is a group of trained professionals who assist teachers, Hansen said.

Smartphone gambling–even on college sports–under review by state

By NICK KIPPER
Capital News Service

LANSING — A trio of bills that would legalize and regulate online gambling from a smartphone or computer is awaiting a vote in the Senate before year’s end.  

If the Senate approves, the state’s three commercial casinos and 24 tribal casinos could set up online platforms for players to gamble through. That includes sports betting, poker, blackjack and any online version of games offered at the casinos. Michiganders would be able to gamble on college and even high school sports, if a casino chooses. Supporters say it could boost state revenues.

State tries to boost recycling rate but critics argue it won’t be enough

By LANCE COHEN
Capital News Service

LANSING — The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is offering up to $500,000 in grants to improve local recycling programs and boost Michigan’s recycling rate. Critics argue that this isn’t enough to pull the state up from one of the lowest recycling rates in the nation. The goal is to assist with recycling infrastructure including public space recycling, bin-to-cart transitions and public drop-off recycling locations, said Elizabeth Garver, a DEQ recycling specialist. Public space recycling is when bins are placed in public parks and city streets to encourage people to properly dispose of recyclables rather than throwing them in the trash.  

Eligible applicants include cities, villages, townships, charter townships, counties, tribal governments, municipal solid waste and resource recovery authorities, school districts, health departments, colleges or universities, and regional planning agencies.

Remove Line 5 or put it in a tunnel? Michiganders divided 46 to 35 percent

By KARA HEADLEY
Capital News Service

LANSING —  Michiganders said the health of the environment is more important than economic gain, a recent poll revealed

The Healthy People-Healthy Planet Poll surveyed 1,000 Michigan residents about issues Two-thirds — 67 percent — rated environmental protection as more important than economic gain. “There are a lot of environmental issues in the state,” said Daniel Bergan, the study’s lead author. “Michigan voters are in tune to environmental issues. They see the natural beauty of the state, which inclines people to protect the coastline and the Great Lakes.”

The poll was conducted by the Health and Risk Communication Center at Michigan State University. It sought to identify Michigan residents’ attitudes towards climate change to explore how the subject and its risks can be better communicated.

Infrared cameras will track PFAS contamination from Wurtsmith

By LANCE COHEN
Capital News Service

LANSING — A wireless all-weather infrared camera system will be placed around Van Etten Lake in Oscoda Township to detect PFAS discharge from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. It’s the latest addition in a high tech monitoring of the contaminant that has already included the use of drones. State officials expect to increasingly use such technology in pollution investigations. PFAS compounds — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a group of harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging and many other consumer products. Research conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that PFAS leads to an increased risk of cancer and learning defects among children.

Jobs training program could end without legislative action

By NICK KIPPER
Capital News Service

LANSING — A statewide jobs training program that links community colleges with local employers is in danger of ending if is funding mechanism is not renewed by the end of the year  

The Michigan New Jobs Training Program is used by 21 of the state’s 28 community colleges  and has served 193 employers since its creation in 2008. Supporters of what many view as a successful program are puzzled by what they see as a mixed message from lawmakers. Extending the program should not have any significant fiscal impact to the state, according to the House Fiscal Agency. “Everything at the state level is about the urgency of job creation and job training,” said Marguerite Cotto, the vice president for lifelong and professional learning at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. “If the need is so great, why take a relatively simple tool and close it out?”

The way the program works is that a company sends new employees to be trained at a participating community college at no cost to the company.

Dead deer data helps detect wasting disease

By KALEY FECH
Capital News Service

LANSING — Data from dead deer in Wisconsin and applied to living ones in Virginia could help detect disease earlier in herds in the Great Lakes states and elsewhere. A group of wildlife agencies has developed a new statistical approach for detecting chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer. That’s important because the neurological disease, often referred to as CWD, has spread to 25 states, is contagious and always fatal. “Chronic wasting disease is an important and big problem for white-tailed deer, elk and mule deer in this country, and we need to continue to look for new techniques to manage this disease,” said Jenny Powers, acting chief for the Wildlife Health Branch of the National Park Service. “It’s going to be with us for a long time.”

Researchers from the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Princeton University and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources developed the new way to more efficiently sample a deer population to determine if chronic wasting disease has spread.

Joe Biden makes an appearance in Lansing before election

The Democratic rally got started an hour and a half late, but local residents patiently awaited Former Vice President Joe Biden’s arrival. “It’s been a rough couple of months,” Biden said. “Folks, we’ve gotta turn this around”. Democrats Gretchen Whitmer and Elissa Slotkin were among the candidates attending the rally at Lansing Community College. “I am running because it is time for a new generations of leaders,” Slotkin said.

Local and environment officials object to farm rules change

By JEREMY WAHR
Capital News Service

LANSING — An annual update to state agriculture practices could allow for farms to be built anywhere, critics say. But supporters of the update say that is untrue and that the proposal simplifies building procedures for many existing farms and that could lead to more agricultural business. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is expected to approve changes to the practices that protect farmers from lawsuits, said Catherine Mullhaupt, staff attorney for the Michigan Townships Association. The practices, known as Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices, are rules that farmers must follow to receive protection under Michigan’s Right to Farm Act, Mullhaupt said.  They are voluntary, but if farmers do not follow them, they are vulnerable to lawsuits.

State launches digital marketing effort to seek child support payments

By LANCE COHEN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan is creating Facebook and Google ads as part of a new digital marketing effort to encourage single parents to sign up for child support payments. Michigan is one of 14 states to be awarded a total of $2.2 million in federal grants to fund the initiative. The state’s share is $170,000. While not all details have been determined, the focus of the program revolves around creating content for social media, said Bob Wheaton, a public information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. This includes Facebook paid ads and Google ads to encourage single mothers to seek child support if they haven’t already, and to encourage parents currently involved in the system to continue to contribute, Wheaton said.