Tax refunds cause local business to rise

“Tax day!  It’s like Christmas for me!  Oh happy day,” Nikole James a Lansing accountant said the morning of April 15th.

money

For many accountants this day is the best day of the year for them.  This day marks the end of most accountants’ busiest season.

After their work to help organize and enter people’s taxes into the federal system, it is finally time that their hard work is sent to the IRS to complete.

Tax day is the day that people’s income taxes are due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  It often lands at around April 15th and for individuals it becomes the time that they patiently wait for their tax returns.

“I probably won’t receive that much this year.  I didn’t work as much as I did last year,” Taylor Knisely a Lansing local said. “Whatever I do get, I’ll be going shopping

with.  I could use a new pair of sandals.”

Knisely, along with others have planned what they will be doing with their tax refunds once they receive them.  This money received tends to allow an increase in consumption for businesses in the Lansing area

“You can always tell its tax refund time because everyone seems to have money for a tattoo,” Marcy Brown an artist at Southside tattoo in Lansing said.

Southside along with other local businesses notice a spike in business around tax refund time.  People seem to be apt to go out and spend their money because they have a little extra in their pockets.

What exactly is a tax return?  According to WISEgeek, an informational site on common questions, a tax refund is the money you receive when the tax money withheld from your paycheck becomes higher than your income taxes that are due.  This allows for you to receive this difference in a check for your spending pleasure.

“It is great.  I finally have a few extra dollars to go out with my friends.  I guess working a little extra this year really did pay off,” Matt Kaas an LCC business senior said.For many working college students it is a fantastic time of year.  They have money to spend that they did not have before and seems as though they did not even have to work for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

The future of marijuana use in Lansing

Lansing is working to decriminalize marijuana use in the city.

They have successfully passed laws on medical marijuana and currently have a bill supporting private property possession of the drug.  What is the future for Marijuana use for the city of Lansing?

D/F/LT Andrew Fias, of the Michigan State Police, Western Michigan Enforcement Team (WMET) a multi-jurisdictional drug task force in west Michigan, has witnessed the effects of the dual status of marijuana’s legality in the state and federal courts.

According to D/F/LT Fias, “Subjects who wish to conceal their criminal activity under the legalized medical marijuana can find themselves facing federal criminal charges.”

Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana for people that need it.  They are regulated and can only carry certain amounts dependent on the state, according to Governing, an online site on states laws.

Graphic courtesy of www.Governing.com

Graphic courtesy of www.Governing.com

Only two states Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana completely.  They are regulated and taxed in these states for adults over the age of 21, according to their states laws.

They are allowed to posses up to one ounce of marijuana or grow up to six plants, Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and co-director of the Yes on Amendment 64 campaign in Colorado, said in Huffington Posts article.

Although marijuana is legalized and regulated within these states there is still risk due to being a scheduled 1 drug federally.

According to the DEA’s schedule, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

 

Currently in Lansing

Lansings mayor currently backs the legalization of marijuana.  According to The New York Times 8,550 voters were for the legalization compared to 5,339 apposed on an unofficial election.

The Safer Michigan Coalition has been pushing for legalization for years.  Medical marijuana also is something that has been tough to regulate in cities.

There are current medical marijuana laws in the city of Lansing.

If possessor is found with more than are allowed they would have a fine and up to 45 days of community service as a first offense according to the City of Lansing’s Ordinance.

The safer Michigan coalition added a ballot in which had a vote on allowing for up to one ounce of marijuana in possession for recreational use on private property if possessor is over the age of 21.

This ballot being proposed has 16,000 signatures already on it to prevent criminal charges for any adult to posses less than an ounce of weed on private property, according to MLive.

Cities such as Grand Rapids have been under this decriminalization and have seen positive feedback because they can focus on other crime within the city.

Lansing is one of a few other cities that are currently under petition to decriminalize marijuana use.  Mt. Pleasant, Lapeer and Clare are a few others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

What is being done to allow for same-sex marriages in Lansing

The issue

Governor Rick Snyder will not recognize the 300 some same sex marriages from Saturday, March 22nd.

He has offered to give guidance to the couples that received these marriage licenses as they are being reviewed to see if the marriages will be valid for tax, adoption, and insurance issues.

Three hundred twenty one marriages were done on Saturday between Ingham, Muskegon, Oakland, and Washtenaw countiesin celebration of Michigan being the 18th state to accept same-sex marriage.

The weddings occurred after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman had struck down a constitutional amendment that states marriage is between a man and a woman made in 2004, according to USA Today.

This amendment was supported by 2.7 million voters in Michigan, at 60 percent believed that marriages are supposed to be between a man and woman, according to USA Today.

Nearly 299 weddings took place.  In celebration of Michigan being the 18th state to accept same-sex marriage.

A day later the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals put a temporary stay on these marriages causing them to be unaware of the legalities of their marriage.  Later the hold was extended indefinitely.

This hold was put on after the marriage of  lesbian couple April Deboer and Jayne Rowse

Deboer and Rowse had been together for over a decade and have been raising their three special needs children together, but have been unable to have both names on adoption papers.

“The marriage license was obtained and executed while legal in Michigan and therefore should be recognized and afforded all of the benefits along with a legal Michigan marriage,” said Barb Byrum, Ingham County clerk on the marriages done on March 22nd.

 

LAHR

Lansing Association for Human Rights (LAHR) is Michigans oldest LGBT community organization, founded in Sept. 1979.

“LAHR has always played an advocacy role as well as an educational role and these efforts have a long history, which continues today, encouraging progress,” said Bill Beachler, who has been with the organization since 1980.

LAHR’s role is to educate and rate candidates for elected office, educa

newslerter

te voters on candidates positions on social issues and publishes newsletters to educate the public on marriage current marriage issues, according to Beachler.

Beachler is currently the publisher of the LGBT News, LAHR’s newsletter.

LAHR works in partnership with Equality Michigan, Triangle Foundation/ MOHR and the ACLU.

 

Equality Michigan

 Equality Michigan is Michigan’s only state- wide anti-violence and advocacy organization for LGBT community.  Their mission according to their website is, “Equality Michigan works to achieve full equality and respect for all people in Michigan regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”

They have been planning for same-sex marriages to legalize for months and helped to prepare LGBT community for the day they were able to be married.

A petition had been held to drop the appeal Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuett set in place for the Deboer vs. Snyder case.  According to a press release from Equality Michigan 10,324 people have signed this petition as of Saturday at 6:15PM.

 

 

ACLU

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also has involvement with the appeal on same-sex marriages.

ACLU is considered our nations “guardian of liberty” and defends individuals rights within courts and legislations according to their official website.

When the marriage was specified as legal on Saturday Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan’s Executive Director said, “Today’s decision is a huge victory for the people of Michigan. The momentum toward LGBT equality is accelerating as yet another federal court finds that denying same-sex couples the fairness and dignity of marriage is unconstitutional.”

ACLU focuses more on the actual constitutional rights for Americans and pushes to keep those rights for people.

 

 

First Legal Same-Sex marriage in Michigan

Glenna Dejong and Marsha Casper was Michigan’s first same-sex marriage.

Dejong and Casper first met at Michigan state University through mutual friends and have been together for the past 27 years.

Judge Friedman was the official that lifted the ban on same-sex marriages and when the couple found out about this through text they were “elated and began to cry.”

They did not plan to be the first gay couple married in Michigan according to Dejong.  “It must be that I am old and got up early,” joked Dejong in an interview with Huffington Post.

She had picked up her iPad at 6:34AM and saw a tweet from Byrum stating below.

tweet

Later another couple tweets were posted showing the marriage between Dejong and Casper.

tweet2

 

tweet 3

 

“I issued 57 same-sex marriage licenses on March 14, 2014 and personally performed 30 marriage ceremonies,” said Byrum.

 

 

The future

The future of legalization of same-sex marriages in Michigan is currently unclear.

There have been a lot of legal issues involving marriage in the United States currently.

“There are around 70 such cases around the country- Don Gaudard from LA, who wrote East Lansing’s first in the country civil rights ordinance, recently sent me the list of all the cases and the current statuses,” said Be.achler

After reviewing these cases Beachler believes that all issues will eventually be successfully resolved.

Those that were involved with the original legalization and marriages that occurred feel that there is hope in same-sex couples future.

“The days of having second-class citizens are over.  There is no justification for a certain class of people to be treated differently,” said Byrum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

The Loft in downtown Lansing

The Loft in downtown Lansing is a concert venue and bar owned by Jerome White.

The Loft began in April of 2010 as a mid sized 400-person venue for live music.  It has brought in all sorts of artists both local and larger and continues to have shows nearly nightly.

It is located on Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing and surrounded by other local bars and businesses.  It has ability to be used for private parties and events which includes a full bar.

Some artists that have performed at The Loft include Awolnation, Foxy Shazam, Neon Trees, Macklemore, Matisahyu and many more.

“I had a great time and got to see some bands I had never heard of,” Michael Train a student at Central Michigan University that attended a show at the loft said.  “Drinks were well priced and they had some great deals.”

They put on shows for all ages.  There is room for tables and people to sit and enjoy the performance.

“The energy and atmosphere inside the club was really cool. Everyone seemed to be really into the music,” Jim Walker an older Gentleman from Fremont, Michigan that was attending a show said.  “Overall not even knowing the band I would give the whole experience an A+.”

Local artists have the ability to perform at The Loft.  Michigan State University Junior Andrew Smoltz Jr. was able to DJ at the loft last fall.  “It was friendly and the people were nice. The only downfall would be that there is a lack of promotion in the venue for the event,” said Smoltz.

“The stage was awesome.  The sound was great too.  I would love to perform there again,” said Smoltz.

For bands that do not always get the opportunity to perform for an audience the loft allows for them to get the experience.

 

Share

House Rep looks for pothole compensation

Michigan potholes are a constant problem in the spring. This year, drivers may not have to fear the damaging nicks in the road.

Michigan Rep. Marilyn Lane recently introduced House Bill 5456. The bill would protect Michigan citizens from having insurance companies raise their rates from damage caused by potholes. Lane now has nearly 50 sponsors on the bill less than a week after the bill was brought to the House.

Lansing resident Eldon Hancock said he believes the bill provides a necessary break.

“Potholes, especially after this winter, are pretty much unavoidable,” said Hancock. “The roads are as bad as I’ve ever seen.”

Although Hancock was not sure his insurance would go up after a pothole claim, he said the city owes citizens new roads. Part of the reason people live in the city is to have basic infrastructure.

“Michigan has something called state shared revenue,” said Hancock. “Citizens pay taxes so basic needs are met. The roads in this areas are part of those needs.”

Ted O’Dell agrees with Hancock. He ran for Lansing City Council in 2013 for an at-large position. Though he lost, he remains concerned about government issues, and he knows about the sad history of Michigan roads.

“Michigan has been known for decades now for having some of the most lax engineering standards in the country,” said O’Dell. “Part of this has to do with state funds not going where they should. There is a mantra by the people that you have to cut, cut, cut. This is not how government can be run.”

A lack of funding is certainty a problem for the people of Lansing. State Senator Patrick Colbeck said that the city and the entire state suffer from low funding for road improvements. Much of the road funding was spent on road and snow plows during the harsh winter.

“We currently spend $3.3 billion per year on roads but have a need of $4.5 billion,” Colbeck said.

Whether the roads will be fixed remains to be seen, but the bill being considered by the House will definitely lessen the strain on the Lansing community.

“The people in this city, after the power outage and the horrible weather, need a break. This may be their chance,” said Hancock.

Share

Snowfall pounds local neighborhoods, families

BfROq-sCAAAguiO The snowfall over the past month in the Averill Woods community has left numerous families without power, forcing them to look to the government for help.

 Residents were furious when a large snowstorm knocked out power during the Christmas season of 2013. The Board of Water and Light, Lansing’s primary municipal power supplier, was slow to restore power. According to the BWL Twitter page, more than 40,000 people were without power for as long as 12 to 14 days.

 Many citizens in Lansing spent the bright Christmas season in the dark. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero addressed the issue in his State of the City Address Jan. 30, 2014.

 “The ice storm, which left thousands of people in the dark for far too long, was a painful experience for many of our citizens. Let me say plainly and unequivocally – the Lansing Board of Water and Light did not live up to our expectations or theirs,” Bernero said.

Bernero also talked about BWL’s shortcomings. “When the reviews are complete and recommendations implemented, our hometown power company will be ready for anything.”

Carol Woods, who was still president of Lansing City Council at the time the power went out, ordered a special council session where residents could air their concerns. She later proposed a resolution asking that “the Community Review Team (CRT) and/or sub-committee conduct any and all meetings in accordance with the State of Michigan Open Meetings Act,” so people would be informed about the investigation into how BWL handled the crisis.

Recently, the voting on the resolution was completed, with some bad results for Woods and the community.

The resolution did not pass City Council,” said Woods. “The vote was three yes votes to five no votes. Two council members said they believe there are times when it is easier to have frank discussions about issues behind closed doors. The council members believed the CRT were honorable people and would do what was right.”

Melissa Quon-Huber, President of the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association, and Woods have collaborated to help bring attention to another rough aspect of the Averill Woods area: the roads.

Quon-Huber often speaks out to the citizens of Averill on the community Facebook page to keep them updated on the location of snow plows in the area.

“The city tries to plow areas that have recycling and garbage pickup the next day,” Quon-Huber said. “Usually they work fast and can make their way around to Averill Woods within the day.”

Huber points to a graph outlining all the areas the crew needs to plow. Averill Woods is located in sector 17.

Share

Lansing programs work to increase opportunity for autistic population

by Daniella Bruce
Lansing Star Staff Reporter

Mary Sharp of Mid Michigan Autism Association

Mary Sharp of Mid Michigan Autism Association

Autism experts in the Lansing area are working to provide more social opportunities for people on the autism/Asperger spectrum.

“Autism has been this sort of mystery term and mystery condition,”  said Mary Sharp of the Mid-Michigan Autism Association. “In the last 25 years, the amount of professional literature regarding autism has just exploded.”

Sharp said the goal of the volunteer-based Mid-Michigan Autism Association is not to fight about methodology but to increase opportunity for local autistic people.

Continue reading

Share