The Grand Rapids Public Library in downtown Grand Rapids

Michigan libraries seek to stock opioid overdose meds

Opioid overdoses have increased dramatically in America over the last two decades. A pair of bills moving through the Michigan Legislature would allow librarians to store and administer opioid overdose antidotes with legal immunity, an option many are eager to have.

Proposed ban on shooting while high hard to enforce

By MAXWELL EVANS

Capital News Service

 

LANSING — A proposal to ban people high on marijuana from possessing firearms is pending in the House, but some law enforcement experts say there are too many questions around how marijuana affects the body to make such a move. Bills sponsored by Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, would criminalize possessing a firearm if a person has more than two nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter in their blood. THC is the chemical in marijuana that makes you high. Six states and Canada have set impaired driving thresholds for THC blood levels. None have set such limits on firearm possession, although the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2016 that a federal ban on gun sales to medical marijuana patients does not violate the Second Amendment.

Governor, lawmakers seek school funding boost

By MAXWELL EVANS

Capital News Service

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2020 budget proposal would increase school funding by more than a half-billion dollars. The boost to the School Aid Fund would come from a proposed transfer of all higher education funding — which has in part relied on K-12 education dollars for almost a decade — back to the General Fund. The increase would provide an additional $235 million to foundation allowances, which is the state’s funding of basic classroom needs and daily operations. That amounts to $120 to $180 per student, with the largest increases going to districts with the lowest foundation allowances. Whitmer’s budget proposal also calls for an additional $120 million in special education funding, $102 million for at-risk students and $50 million for career and technical education.

Proposal to ban conversion therapy in Michigan

A new proposal is making it’s way through the Capitol this week that aims to make Michigan a more accepting place. Two Democrats, State Senator Mallory McMurrow and State Representative Yousef Rabhi, have proposed a ban on conversion therapy in the state. Conversion therapy is the process of trying to convert homosexual or bisexual people to heterosexual. The bill wants to prevent mental health professionals from using this type of therapy on minors. “I think it would be affirming in saying that you don’t need to change this identify, this isn’t something you need to fix rather this is a real and legitimate identity,” Nick Royal, MSU LBGT Resource Center coordinator, said.

Only 25% of Michigan teachers recommend the job

By ZARIA PHILLIPS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Most teachers wouldn’t recommend that their students follow in their footsteps, according to a recent Michigan survey. Launch Michigan, a diverse coalition of groups that are sometimes at loggerheads but come together to advocate for education changes, reports that 75% of Michigan educators would not recommend education as a career. That contributes to the challenges of recruitment and retention, experts say. Launch Michigan is a coalition of business, teacher, administrator and other organizations seeking education reform. Their hope is to find solutions and strategies for the problems teachers face and retain more educators, said Emma White, the principal researcher at Emma White Research who did the survey.

Michigan universities hit with state shortfall for tuition waivers

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — The state shortfall in funding a tuition waiver program for Native American students has more than doubled over the past decade, leaving universities to make up the growing difference. The North American Indian Tuition Waiver Program waives tuition and fees for eligible students attending public universities, community colleges and tribal colleges. Participants must be at least one-fourth Native American, enrolled in a federally recognized tribe and have been a Michigan resident for at least a year. The program is “imperative for our students to move forward” in their careers and lives, said Kerstine Bennington, the higher education specialist for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. She would know — she’s a former program participant who used her waiver to attend Michigan State University.

Tampon tax relief once again under consideration

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Lawmakers are weighing whether to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales and use taxes starting June 30. The “tampon tax” unjustly burdens people who menstruate, supporters say. Critics point to the possibility of $6.5 million in lost annual revenue, just to save approximately $5 per person in annual taxes if they used a box of tampons per month. In the House, bills to exempt taxes on these basic health necessities are sponsored by Reps. Brian Elder, D-Bay City, and Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods.

Fire chiefs seek rules for disposal of risky firefighting foam

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Fifteen years ago, “way before anyone knew” about the dangers of the PFAS chemicals within, the Walker Fire Department purchased a stash of firefighting foam from the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids to be used during training. Now, roughly 100 gallons of foam purchased from the airport — stored in plastic in an unused building — have nowhere to go, said Walker Fire Chief Bob Walker. That makes it crucial that a bill package to limit the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams sets up a clear disposal mechanism for the materials, some fire chiefs say. PFAS chemicals are linked to cancer, immune system dysfunction and issues with child development, according to the National Institutes of Health. They were included in firefighting foams used on fuel or petroleum fires, said Pat Parker, the fire chief of the Grand Traverse Metro Emergency Services Authority.

Harsh weather could lead to earlier school year

By KALEY FECH
Capital News Service

LANSING — This winter’s extreme weather could be the tipping point proponents of starting school before Labor Day need. Schools across the state cancelled classes, sometimes several days in a row, due to bad weather and extreme cold. Many of those schools did not have enough snow days built into the year and had to figure out how to make up that missed time. “You see schools going quite deep into the summer, and it’s going to be hard for them to keep those kids’ attention,” said Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland. “This is going to be a heavy lift, but I think this year with all the snow days we’ve had, it might make sense to say, you know what, we need a little bit more flexibility as we go forward.”

Johnson recently introduced a bill with bipartisan co-sponsors that would leave school start dates up to local school boards, allowing classes to begin before Labor Day.