Court ruling gives Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements an uncertain future

By ZARIA PHILLIPS
Capital News Service

LANSING — A U.S. district judge’s ruling that work requirements for Medicaid recipients should not have been approved in Kentucky and Arkansas could lead to a similar ruling in Michigan, say critics of the requirements lawmakers approved last year. Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., recently ruled work requirements to receive Medicaid in Kentucky and Arkansas are “arbitrary and capricious.”  That may also affect states with similar laws, according to Families USA, a nonprofit health care organization. Michigan is one of those. Republican lawmakers pursued work requirements for Medicaid recipients enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan last year, said Alex Rossman, the communications director for the Michigan League for Public Policy. They take effect next year.

Michigan lawmakers go forward on snow day forgiveness bill

A plan to help Michigan school districts with snow day forgiveness is moving through the legislature. The House Education Committee approved a bill this week to forgive the snow days when Michigan was under a state of emergency from Jan. 29-31. However, it’s not getting complete support. This bill does not give hourly school employees the pay they missed during those days .

Auto insurance premiums also burdensome in rural Michigan

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — During a seemingly endless legislative battle over how to rein in the nation’s highest auto insurance premiums, some experts worry about  rural Michiganders fleeing the state for cheaper rates. Premiums in urban centers like Detroit are disproportionately high due to non-driving factors, said Wayne Miller, an adjunct professor with the Wayne State University Law School and chair of Miller and Tischler, a law firm specializing in no-fault insurance. Some of these factors disproportionately affect residents based on race or gender, he said. But that’s not to say more sparsely populated areas aren’t burdened with steep costs. An average of premiums in rural and suburban areas across Michigan would still equate to the “eighth- to 10th-highest” in the nation, Miller estimated.

Environmental agency reorganization sparks local concerns

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s attempt to reorganize state efforts to protect the environment faces legislative rejection, some local leaders fear the action could further polarize business and environmental groups. “It’s bothersome to me, because my members who are not happy with the executive order are still people who care about clean drinking water and they’re responsible people,” said Cathi Abbs, the executive director of the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce. Even environmental groups that welcome the changes caution that they not be viewed as an attack on business. “We do ourselves no favors if we alienate parts of our community — people that own businesses or fear that regulations will negatively affect business,” said Theresa Lark, the executive director of the MidMichigan Environmental Action Council covering Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.  “At the same time, if your business practice is negatively affecting someone else, you should listen to that person too.

Proposal to add school counselors comes without money

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Legislation that would require school districts to employ one academic counselor for every 450 students has been introduced in the House, but some educators say the unfunded mandate would pressure districts into making drastic and expensive changes. Districts statewide are “woefully understaffed” with counselors, said Jennifer Smith, the director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards. Nationwide, Michigan trailed only Arizona and California for the nation’s highest student-to-counselor ratio for the 2014-15 school year, with each counselor managing an average of 729 students, according to the American School Counselor Association. That’s a problem because school counselors provide essential services like class scheduling and college application assistance, Smith said. Furthermore, they can direct students to career opportunities outside of the post-secondary realm, like technical education or dual-enrollment programs.

“Not all kids are four-year college bound, and even if you are, you need someone to talk to to see if you’re going to the right college,” Smith said.

New bill could repeal Michigan’s 10 cent bottle deposit law

Duke Medema graduated from Michigan State this past May. From western New York, he came to MSU on an ROTC scholarship. But until his six year commitment starts in January, he needs to pass the time. He’s doing so, by working at Tom’s Party Store in East Lansing

“You got an army officer just sitting out hanging out just stacking bottles,” Medema said. “I love working here, I do, I love helping people, I love talking drinks, it’s almost like a little subculture.” He works the counter, selling products, but he sometimes has to do the dirty job.

Watch Focal Point: Engler cancels Nassar survivor fund, Michigan new minimum wage and more

On the last show of the semester, Interim President John Engler has put a halt to a fund dedicated to help Larry Nassar survivors. Plus, a easy way to get money in Michigan could soon not be possible. Also, a student is trying to get more American flags installed on campus, but he’s being met with complications. In sports, the MSU football team is going west for their bowl game against Oregon. This week in entertainment, Kevin Hart gives up his Oscar-hosting gig after old homophobic slurs resurface.

Critics say lame ducks make lame laws

By NICK KIPPER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Before the end of the year, Michigan lawmakers will take up some of the most controversial bills that would:

Delay the minimum wage hike of $12 per hour until 2030 instead of 2022. Exempt employers with less than 50 employees from having to provide paid sick leave. Make provisions to the anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment that passed in November
Move oversight responsibilities on a proposed tunnel to house the Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac
Bar state agencies from disclosing information about nonprofit supporters and donors. Remove regulations from 70,000 wetlands statewide. Alter same-day and automatic voting registration standards that passed in November.

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.