Gender imbalance in Michigan Legislature persists

Capital News Service
LANSING — There are 148 members of the Legislature. Just 34 are women. One is in a leadership position. “You’re not getting kind of that balance between who your representatives are and who your constituents are,” said Rep. Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, the House minority floor leader. “That is a problem, and I think that’s what skews the issues that get talked about.”
The House includes 15 Democratic and 15 Republican women, while four women — three Republicans and one Democrat — are in the Senate.

Lawmakers want citizen oversight of environmental decisions

Capital News Service
LANSING — Bills introduced by House and Senate Democrats would establish citizen oversight commissions to restore a layer of accountability in environmental enforcement – commissions which have not existed in Michigan for a quarter-century. The boards would allow public input and oversight over the Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality, water quality and oil and gas operations throughout the state. Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, the House sponsor of one bill, said high-quality oversight like this is necessary to ensure that incidents like the Flint water crisis will not happen anywhere else in the state. “We had multiple failures in the state department, which had been tasked with making sure things were safe for residents,” said Neeley in regards to Flint. “Moving forward, I think if we put these commissions back into place, we won’t see another [crisis like] Flint,” said Neeley.

Bills seek to tighten standards for sampling water

Capital News Service
LANSING — Bills in the House and Senate would tighten water sampling practices to improve detection of dangerous elements such as lead. Among the changes proposed would be to eliminate “preflushing” when taking a water sample. Preflushing is the practice of leaving cold water running for a few minutes the night before taking a water sample. Opponents of the practice say running water before testing it does not match how people actually consume water day-to-day. Preflushing “flushes” out the lead that’s stored in a pipe or faucet and as a result, some lead might not be detected in a sample, Robert Gordon, lead lobbyist for the Michigan Sierra Club chapter, said.

Senator renews push for African-American affairs commission

Capital News Service
LANSING — At 14 percent, African-Americans are the largest ethnic minority group in Michigan, according to census data, but there is no state commission dedicated to the needs of this community. “Currently in Michigan, we have a Hispanic/Latino Commission, an Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission and a Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs, but we have nothing in terms of civil rights for African-Americans,” said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I think this is a huge oversight.”
To bridge the gap, Jones re-introduced legislation this month to create an African-American affairs commission focused on improving equality and opportunity for African-Americans in the state. According to the bill, the commission would consist of 15 members who have a particular interest or expertise in the African-American community. They would be appointed by the governor.

Legislature divides over parenting

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.

Arrival of Uber means fewer cabs, cab drivers

Capital News Service
LANSING – Uber may be a household name, but the entrepreneurial ridesharing company reached Michigan only two years ago, tacking Detroit and Ann Arbor onto its momentum for global popularity. Since then, the service has expanded to Grand Rapids, Lansing, Flint and Kalamazoo. Meanwhile, many taxi companies, including ones in Michigan, have struggled to keep up with the technology and new business model Uber offers. And they face setbacks. In Grand Rapids, for example, the number of taxi drivers with active licenses is down 22 percent since last year, according to the city clerk’s office.