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photo by Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

Lawmakers need to be more transparent. That was the message sent by the House today when it approved bills to expand Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The bi-partisan bills would open state lawmakers and the governor to freedom of information requests. Those offices are currently exempt. They would create what they are calling the Legislative Open Records Act, which is a FOIA specifically for the legislature.

A child reading.
morgueFile

Third graders who fail the state’s reading test might not be able to graduate to 4th grade. That’s if Governor Rick Snyder signs a bill that is headed his way.

The bill stalled a bit over the summer, but Wednesday it quickly jumped from the House to the Senate for a final vote. Wednesday was the last time the Senate and House would meet on the same day before the election.

The Bigfoot (not pictured) captured by the trail camera turned out to be a black bear.
flickr user Robert Emperley / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A recent photo from Michigan flew around the internet: a trail cam photo showing the rear end of a big, dark-furred "something or another."

See it below:

Some believed the big critter was a Bigfoot, until a second photo from the same trail cam showed it was in fact a bear.

But that is not deterring the quest to find and photograph a Bigfoot - or, if you will, Sasquatch.

Jan Worth-Nelson told us that high-quality writing and photography have always been staples of "East Village Magazine."
Courtesy of East Village Magazine

This year marks the 40th anniversary of East Village Magazine.

The nonprofit magazine has been bringing community news to people in Flint since 1976, a labor of love for its founder, the late Gary Custer.

East Village Magazine has hung in there to become one of the nation's oldest community media outlets. 

"Human trafficking has gone underground," Stephanie Sandberg said. "It's gone on to places where you can no longer see it, and so you have to find ways to recognize it in a new way."
Courtesy of Stephanie Sandberg

ArtPrize opens today in Grand Rapids. 

Among the 1,453 artist entries for this year's competition is a play being performed each evening by ADAPT. Theatre Company of Grand Rapids.

The play is Stories in Blue: A Pilgrimage to Heal Human Trafficking.

It's theater, it's an art piece, and it's a social justice campaign.

Tracey r / CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan is one of 21 states seeking to block the Obama administration's efforts to make more white-collar workers eligible for overtime pay.

The coalition of states filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Texas asking the court to stop a new U.S. Department of Labor rule from taking effect on December 1.  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups also filed a legal challenge to the rule on the same day.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton is making changes that emphasize and strengthen the partnership between communities and their police forces.
flickr user Elsa Blaine / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The rise in police shootings of unarmed black people, and the sharp rise in ambush-style attacks on police officers, among other factors, have many law enforcement agencies taking a new look at the way they protect and serve their communities.

That's certainly the case with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, where Sheriff Jerry Clayton is implementing "fundamental" changes in staff training and in talking with the community. 

Inside the capitol in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Spending by lobbyists at the state capitol is on pace to break last year’s record.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports lobbyists reported spending $21.7 million during the first seven months of 2016. During the same period last year, lobbyists spent $21 million.   

In all of 2015, lobbyists reported spending a record $38.7 million wooing Michigan lawmakers. 

You might think, some days, that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were actually running for president of Michigan.

Trump has been to the state repeatedly, and will be in nearby Toledo for the second time in the last few weeks today.

Chelsea Clinton, the candidate’s only child, will be campaigning and fundraising in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Flint Thursday and Friday. You might think they are paying a lot of attention to one medium-sized state that has only 16 of the 270 needed electoral votes.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Doug Tribou talk about a sudden rule change that takes away Flint's power to sue the state over the city's lead-tainted drinking water crisis.

Lessenberry and Tribou also discuss Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's plan to keep out Syrian refugees and a push to strengthen lead regulations in Michigan before Election Day. 


The Michigan State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

Michigan is one of two states that completely exempts the governor's office from the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Massachusetts is the other. Michigan's public records law also exempts the Legislature, one of a minority of states to do so.

That could change under a package of bills being voted on by the House today.

David Stojcevski
Courtesy Photo / Stojcevski family

“The evidence does not support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.”

That’s what the government has told Macomb County officials after investigating the death of David Stojcevski.

Stojcevski died in 2014, after a 16-day stint in the Macomb County jail, where he had been serving 30 days on a reckless driving charge.

The cause of death: “acute withdrawal” from prescription drugs.

Harrowing video recorded in the run-up to his death showed Stojcevski behaving erratically and growing visibly emaciated during that time.

Flickr user/_chrisUK / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the summer road construction season moves into its final weeks, you might find yourself wondering: instead of pouring time and money into patching roads that crack every year during the winter, why not make better concrete?

A classroom in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Michigan non-profit group will provide more healthcare resources for Flint public schools.

The Genesee Health Plan is expanding its Community Health Workers program to all Flint Community Schools. The program wants to identify the health care needs of students and families in the community. 

Jim Milanowski is the president and C.E.O. of the health plan.

Flickr user/Devon Buchanan / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It was a case that ignited the nation: Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind an alley dumpster after a party.

Cara AnnMarie and Jacléne Wilk in a scene from the film "Liberty's Secret"
Tripp Greene Press

Take a presidential campaign. Mix in a large serving of old-fashioned musicals, and top it off with two women realizing they are in love, and you've got the new film Liberty's Secret.

Andy Kirshner is the writer, composer, director, producer and he has a role in the film, which is having its premiere this Thursday at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor. Kirshner is also an associate professor of both music and art & design at the University of Michigan.

The film, which the website describes as "the all-American lesbian movie-musical," tells the story of a struggling presidential campaign fronted by moderate Republican Kenny Weston, who recruits the charismatic Liberty Smith to be his running mate. This singing and dancing preacher's daughter is just what the campaign needs to get back into the race to the White House. That is, until she falls in love with one of the campaign's political consultants, who is a woman.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Amidst the headlines about Attorney General Schuette's criminal investigation and charges filed in the Flint water disaster, there is another legal story unfolding.

Four separate civil lawsuits were filed on behalf of thousands of Flint residents between November of last year and this past April. And, as we mark one year since the breadth and depth of the Flint water crisis became known to the world, we decided to measure the progress of these suits.

Average surface temperatures for 2015.
NOAA

Every day, you and I burn up all kinds of things.

We burn gasoline to get to work, mow the lawn, or fly to a conference. We burn natural gas, coal, or heating oil to heat our homes. And we burn up coal or natural gas when flipping on that light switch.   

Whenever we burn stuff, we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Burned a gallon of gas driving around town? You just put around 20 pounds of CO2 into the air.

That CO2 traps heat, and all the burning we do is causing the planet to warm dramatically.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

During a hearing today, U.S. senators quizzed officials with Midland-based Dow Chemical, DuPont and other major chemical companies about major consolidation in the chemical industry.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley calls it a “tsunami” of consolidation.

The Book of Mormon
Tuesday, November 1 at 8:00 PM – Opening Night!
Fisher Theatre, Detroit

This outrageous musical comedy follows the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries, sent halfway across the world to spread the Good Word. Now with standing room only productions in London, on Broadway, and across North America, The Book of Mormon has truly become an international sensation. Contains explicit language.

University of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued federal policy for automated, or self-driving vehicles, to spur innovation while taking a proactive approach to safety.

"Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.

Reporters getting a closer look at the Chevy Bolt concept.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Many people are open to the idea of buying an electric car, according to a just-released survey by the Consumer Federation of America.

Thirty-six percent of people who don't know much about electric cars said they'd be interested in buying one someday; 57% who do know a fair bit about electric cars said the same.

Teacher at a chalkboard explaining to his students
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A survey of educators in Michigan shows many teachers are feeling demoralized by state mandates and a lack of funding.  

Eleven-thousand teachers across the state responded to the anonymous survey by Michigan’s two major teachers unions, the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

MEA President Steve Cook says the survey puts down on paper the same frustrations he’s been hearing for years.

Unifor members at a rally in Canada
Unifor

Unifor, the union that represents most Canadian auto workers, says it has reached a tentative contract with General Motors after "round the clock negotiations." The strike deadline was 11:59 p.m Monday.

The terms of the deal include a major concession by Unifor, according to the CBC:

A major concession in the talks was an agreement by the union to convert all new employees to a defined contribution pension plan. That's different from the defined benefit plans that legacy employees all have. 

Cobb power plant in Muskegon, which shut down in April 2016
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan and its Midwest electric grid operator, MISO, believe they've come up with a solution to a potential shortage of electricity that could happen as early as 2018.

That's the year yet another power plant in the grid will shut down (this time in Indiana); Michigan's Consumers Energy shut down six smaller power plants in April. 

The shutdowns mean there might not be enough electricity generation capacity during times of peak demand.

Kayaks and a rowing shell on the Huron River
Deb Nystrom / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Update Friday, September 23:

Recreation on the Huron River has been resumed and, so far, water tests show no threat to human health, according to an updated press release by the city of Ann Arbor.

It is believed that the leak was caused after a motorist drove through barriers near the entrance to Gallup Park. The investigation of that incident is ongoing.

Raw sewage flowed out of the pipe from Saturday, September 17 to Monday, September 19.

More from the city’s press release:

Plastic bag
user Newtown grafitti / Flickr -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

LANSING, Mich. - Efforts to rid Michigan communities of plastic shopping bags would be banned under a bill set to advance in the Republican-led Legislature.

The House Commerce and Trade Committee could vote on the legislation Tuesday. The measure won Senate approval in May.

The bill would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that regulate, prohibit or impose a fee on the use or sale of "auxiliary containers" - which is defined as reusable or single-use bags, cups, bottles or other packaging from stores and restaurants.

Years ago, I heard a young reporter ask an old editorial writer what the difference was between Republicans and Democrats.

The old guy said, “Democrats love big government, preferably controlled by and run from Washington. Republicans are in favor of smaller, less intrusive government, and local control,” he said, and then paused.

“Except, that is, when they’re not.”

The young reporter asked when that was. “Whenever local government does something they don’t want it to do,” the old cynic said. That was long before the Tea Party or Rick Snyder.

Filling a sample bottle.
Courtesy photo / Virginia Tech

This week, a state lawmaker from Flint says he’ll introduce legislation that would make Michigan’s regulations on lead in drinking water some of the strictest in the U.S.

Governor Rick Snyder first rolled out the proposal in April in reaction to the Flint water crisis. He said federal rules on the amount of lead allowed in drinking water were “dumb and dangerous” because they’re not based on protecting public health.

Handguns
user Joshuashearn / wikimedia commons

A man who was once hospitalized for depression cannot legally buy a gun in Michigan – at least not without a court fight. That’s the decision handed down recently by a federal appeals court.

Michigan resident Clifford Tyler was turned away by a gun dealer after a background check revealed his history of being hospitalized for depression. Tyler is 74, and his hospitalization was more than 30 years ago following a divorce. Tyler says he has not had any mental health issues since.

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