Legislature divides over parenting

By KAREN HOPPER USHER
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan custody law should reflect the changing Michigan family. That’s the sentiment behind a bill in the House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors that would revise the Child Custody Act of 1970 which says parents have to be “advised” of joint custody as an option. Meanwhile, a resolution, passed by the committee, would raise awareness of parental alienation. Under the proposed “Michigan Shared Parenting Act,” courts would presume joint custody is in the best interest of the child, unless certain conditions are met. Those conditions would include the parents agreeing not to have joint custody or a judge believing the child would be “materially harmed” by joint custody.

Bill would exterminate breed discrimination

By ALEXANDER SMITH
Capital News Service
LANSING – State lawmakers are considering a bill to eliminate dog breed discrimination by Michigan cities and towns. It would prohibit local governments from putting special regulations on particular breeds. Cities that ban dogs such as pit bulls or Rottweilers would have to find breed-neutral ways to regulate them, such as stricter leash laws for dogs above a certain weight or height. There are 29 cities that have restrictions on particular dog breeds according to the Best Friends Animal Society, which supports the bill sponsored by Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township. Each focuses on pit bulls.

East Lansing Historic Districts at Risk

By Chloe Kiple

Entirely East Lansing

EAST LANSING– Proposed state legislation could put East Lansing’s historic districts in jeopardy. House Bill 5232 and Senate Bill 0270, which are currently on the floor of the Michigan legislature, propose to dissolve historic districts after ten years unless opposed by a 2/3 majority of property owners in the historic districts. The bill defined a historic district as any place with one or more resources related to history, architecture, archaeology or culture within its boundaries.  East Lansing has six historic districts, Hillcrest Village, Chesterfield Hills, College Grove, Collegeville, Oakwood and Bailey. Members of the East Lansing Historic District Commission and city council have publicly opposed this legislation for a multitude of reasons.

Bills would penalize teacher sick-outs

By JASON KRAFT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Teachers who strike illegally –or participate in sick outs– could lose their teaching certificate or be fined a day’s pay for each day that they didn’t teach, under recently proposed legislation. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, and Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg, would change the definition of a strike to include a situation when multiple teachers call in sick. The bills were approved by the Committee on Education and await action by the full Senate. “By and large, there’s a concern whether strikes are legal or illegal in Michigan,” said Brad Biladeau, associate executive for government relations at the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

Bill would compensate wrongfully convicted prisoners

By COLLIN KRIZMANICH
Capital News Service
LANSING — There’s no way for a state to give back time — sometimes decades — to people who served in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Most states do offer money to compensate people who manage to prove their innocence — but Michigan isn’t one of them. Legislation recently introduced by Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, aims to change this. Thirty states across the country compensate people who are wrongly convicted. But Michigan exonerees not only go uncompensated, they also are denied access to services available to parolees who were rightfully convicted.

Lawmakers propose tuition help for Michigan National Guard

By DANIELLE WOODWARD
Capital News Service
LANSING — Members of the Michigan National Guard could get $4,500 in tuition assistance under a bill recently introduced by legislators. It would set up a program where members could apply for help towards a college degree or vocational training, said Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, who sponsored the bill. It’s an attempt to raise the state from the bottom ranks of those offering assistance to veterans, Rendon said. “To qualify, one would have to have a service contract with the Michigan National Guard where they have committed to a six-year contract at some point in their career,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Stone of the Michigan National Guard.

State officials launch tourism initiative to promote trail network

By DANIELLE WOODWARD
Capital News Service
LANSING — Information for all Michigan trails – including those on the water – would soon be available at the click of a button under legislation recently introduced by lawmakers. That kind of accessibility is part of the Department of Natural Resource’s  plan to attract tourists to Michigan’s trails by improving them and making them easier to find. Lawmakers recently introduced a package of five bills that would label all state trails as Pure Michigan trails, use “trail towns” to connect trails between communities and make trail information available both on a computer and through an app. The department worked closely with the Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance to develop the plan and the legislation to implement it. The legislation also includes a bill that would take the snowmobile specification out of the Michigan snowmobile and trails advisory council.

Bill would require parental OK for juvenile informants in criminal investigations

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – Law enforcement agencies would need parental or guardian approval to use juvenile informants in criminal investigations under a new legislative proposal. The bill by Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, would prohibit police agencies from using under-18 informants without such permission. It also would give parents and guardians the right to a court order to stop a violation. Juveniles are most often used as confidential informants after they’ve been arrested on drug charges and asked to help police in exchange for having charges dropped, Irwin said. “This is a real problem,” he said.

Push on to toughen sex trafficking laws

By MICHAEL GERSTEIN
Capital News Service
LANSING – In the midst of what experts call the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the world after drug trafficking, some legislators are pushing for tougher punishment for sex traffickers. The new legislation would ensure that defendants convicted of coercing children ages 16 and 17 into prostitution are more stiffly punished, said Senate sponsor Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan. Sex trafficking is widely considered a form of modern-day slavery. When Michigan’s human trafficking laws were bolstered in 2010, sentences for those exploiting 16- and 17-year-olds were shorter than for younger children, Emmons said. Emmons said the bill, pending in the Judiciary Committee, would change that and set a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Right-to-Work Bills Spark Controversy

Some have described it as a ‘game changer’ while others have declared it a travesty for Michigan workers. Either way, in a matter days, a GOP majority quickly moved right-to-work legislation through a lame duck session in both the House and Senate. “In the space of 72 hours it went from ‘not on my agenda’ to ‘it’s going be a law in a couple of weeks,’ and that’s a pretty dramatic transition,” said Rick Pluta of Michigan Radio who has been following Lansing politics for more than two decades. It’s a move that marks the end of decades long “closed shop” laws in the state, meaning workers would now no longer be required to join union or pay union dues. For most of his term Gov. Rick Snyder has made it a point to steer clear of such divisive issues.