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Investigative
6:00 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Another tax break for Michigan businesses?

Large corporations such as automakers and their suppliers say they need tax relief at the state level.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are considering eliminating the Personal Property Tax.  That’s a tax businesses pay on equipment.  The money goes directly to local units of government.  Businesses say it’s a complicated tax that punishes them for investing in equipment.  Cities, townships, counties and schools say if the tax is eliminated, that revenue has to be replaced. 

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Environment
5:31 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

Emerald ash borer hits Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
user rkramer62 Flickr

An invasive insect may wipe out the ash trees at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The emerald ash borer has infested up to 90 percent of the ash trees on the lakeshore's mainland in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. The first case was discovered in June and the tree-killing pest has spread quickly.

Lakeshore officials are considering their options to try to control the ash borer, but things look bleak.

Education
3:53 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

Disability training center starts classes Monday

Students can study the culinary arts at MCTI
Flickr/Jaymi Heimbuch

A job training center for people with disabilities starts its fall session on Monday. The Michigan Career and Technical Institute is in Plainwell, about 20 miles north of Kalamazoo.  It's the second largest program of its kind in the country.

Up to 350 students live on campus while taking classes. The institute offers 14 training programs to people with various disabilities.

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Education
3:00 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

"Detroit College Promise" awards $500 tuition grant to students

The Detroit College Promise awards DPS seniors $500 if they attend a Michigan college or university.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Detroit last week, he brought up the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program. He called it the “best economic development tool” for a city, and urged Detroit to develop something similar.

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September 11th
12:01 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

Candlelight vigils will mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks

 Many Michiganders have paused to remember 9/11 at numerous events today.  There are a few more commemorations planned for this evening.    

Governor Rick Snyder is scheduled to take part in special ceremonies on the front lawn of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.   The candlelight vigil is being sponsored in part by the Dearborn Area Ministerial Association.   Organizers say the point of the event is to promote the sense of unity that many Americans felt immediately after the attacks. 

Sports
11:56 pm
Sat September 10, 2011

Record crowd under the lights sees Wolverines win in final seconds

Denard Robinson threw a 16-yard pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left, lifting Michigan to a 35-31 heart-pounding win over Notre Dame on Saturday night. 

The Wolverines took their first lead on Robinson's 21-yard pass to Vincent Smith with 1:12 left, then lost it. Briefly. 

Tommy Rees threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left, but the Fighting Irish left Jeremy Gallon wide open on a pass that let Michigan go from its 20 to the Notre Dame 16. 

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Education
4:36 pm
Sat September 10, 2011

MSU & Saginaw Valley see increase in students

Flickr/Ohio University Libraries

Two Michigan universities have reported more students on campus as the new academic year gets under way.
 

Michigan State University said Friday that preliminary enrollment is about 47,800 students, up from 47,131 last year. The East Lansing school says they had a record 28,547 applications this year.
    

Meanwhile, Saginaw Valley State University in University Center has broken its enrollment record this year with 10,790 students. That's up from 10,656 during the last school year.

(Associated Press)    

Politics
2:16 pm
Sat September 10, 2011

Recall effort for Paul Scott approved

A double dose of bad news for Republican state Representative Paul Scott this weekend. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has formally approved a question to recall him for the November ballot. She says a teacher union-backed effort turned in enough valid petition signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

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September 11th
12:01 pm
Sat September 10, 2011

Remembering Michigan's 9/11 victims

Meredith Lynn Whalen

 An East Lansing based group is remembering those September 11th victims with ties to Michigan.   The Michigan Remembers 9/11 Fund is collecting memories about those who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  

Susan Moriarty is with the Fund.   She says it’s important to remember that the attacks struck close to home, not just far away.  

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Sports
10:00 am
Sat September 10, 2011

Wolverines to host first-ever night game

U of M athletic director Dave Brandon
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

University of Michigan football fans are gearing up for an historic game tonight, when the Wolverines host their first-ever nighttime game against Notre Dame.

There’s been plenty of hype in the lead-up to the event, and ESPN will broadcast the prime-time game.

U of M athletic director Dave Brandon said he hopes there will be more night games in future seasons:

"If this goes well, I would like to do one night game a year. If it goes well. If it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t matter what I’d like to do."

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Politics
6:18 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Court agrees to reconsider affirmative action ruling

Update 6:18 p.m.

Here's a copy of the court order.

5:42 p.m.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will reconsider a decision to strike down Michigan's ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions.

A panel of the court ruled in July that the affirmative action ban violated equal protection rights in the U.S. Constitution.

The new hearing will take place before more than a dozen judges that make up the entire sixth circuit appeals court based in Cincinnati.

Michigan voters approved the amendment to the state constitution in 2006. The amendment was challenged in federal court by several civil rights groups. Oral arguments and a decision in the case are not expected before next year.

Here's an excerpt from a press release from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette:

On July 1, 2011, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued a 2-1 decision that declared Michigan’s constitutional ban on racial preferences in public education unconstitutional on the grounds it allegedly violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.   

Schuette appealed the ruling through a formal request for rehearing en banc with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.  A rehearing en banc involves presenting the case to the full court of the 6th Circuit for review.  This process is reserved when new decisions conflict with previous rulings, and for questions of “exceptional importance” (Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure - 35).

MCRI was approved by a 58% majority of Michigan voters in November, 2006.   The day after the measure was approved, several organizations filed suit to invalidate MCRI.  The measure was previously upheld in December 2006 when a separate three judge panel from the 6th Circuit issued a preliminary ruling that unanimously concluded the measure passed Constitutional muster. 

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will remain in force pending a final decision by the court.

5:21 p.m.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider a decision to strike down Michigan's ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions.

 

Offbeat
5:46 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Bringing a horse to water, and water to Haiti

Brandy and Ashley Nelsey with Febero, Prince and Red.
http://horsebackforhaiti.jimdo.com/

This is not your typical road trip. Brandy and Ashley Nelsey, sisters from West Branch, will be traveling across the country on horseback and raising money for the Haiti Water Project along the way. Jennifer White spoke with Brandy Nelsey about what inspired the trip.

“We knew that we loved our horses—that’s something we really enjoy doing and that’s a passion of ours—and we also love the lord greatly. So we thought, well, why not travel the country, see if we can meet other Christians, and see what other opportunities and people are out there. ”

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Environment
4:56 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Grand Rapids airport proposes new plan to deal with runoff from de-icing fluid

Photo courtesy of the Gerald R Ford International Airport

Airplanes across the country use de-icing fluid, and airports have to figure out how to deal with the run-off from the fluid.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport has come up with a $15 million plan to deal with the run-off which contains a substance called glycol. The Grand Rapids airport currently mixes glycol with storm water and dumps it into a tributary, where it breaks down and creates a bacterial slime.

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Education
4:10 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Detroit students share thoughts on attendance problems

It’s no secret that Detroit Public Schools have long been plagued by chronic attendance problems.

Now, the district is turning to students themselves to figure out why.

Students from a number of Detroit schools lined up at a forum Friday, to tell school officials why so many of their peers don’t come to class regularly.

Among the most common complaints: high teacher turnover, classrooms without proper supplies, a lack of parental involvement, and transportation issues.

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Economy
3:53 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Red Cross strike suspended, blood drives to resume this weekend

American Red Cross workers walking a picket line earlier this week in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 A strike by American Red Cross blood workers in Michigan has been suspended after two days.   More than 200 American Red Cross workers started walking picket lines Wednesday.    The unions representing the Red Cross workers called the strike, after working for more than 2 years without a contract.   

The strike affected blood donations in 65 Michigan counties.  The strike did not include 8 counties in southeast Michigan.  

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Politics
2:46 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Senate leader does not want "right-to-work" in Michigan

The Republican leader of the state Senate says he has no interest in making Michigan a right-to-work state.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says union workers have already made many concessions to help Michigan’s economic outlook.

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Environment
2:08 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Army Corps bumps up the juice on fish barrier to block carp

Fisheries biologists use electric probes in the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal to find Asian carp near the electric fish barrier located in Romeoville, IL in 2009.
Petty Officer Bill Colclough U.S. Coast Guard

Officials at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District say they plan to pump up the electricity at their fish dispersal barrier along the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. The increase is intended to repel smaller fish.

From the U.S. ACOE's statement:

While extensive research and monitoring indicate that small Asian carp currently are not currently within the vicinity of the fish barrier, and all field telemetry research indicates the barrier is highly effective, the Corps is taking this conservative approach to operating the electrical dispersal barrier out of an abundance of caution.

Corps officials say they'll turn up the power "later this fall."

In the statement, Corps officials say they have an aggressive monitoring program and have tracked nearly "1.9 million detections of tagged fish in the barrier area, with no indication of tagged fish having crossed any of the electric barriers in the upstream direction."

Environmental DNA (eDNA) evidence was found above the barrier leading some to wonder whether the fish are establishing themselves in waters close to the Great Lakes.

Officials at the Corps say while DNA testing has some advantages, but "eDNA does not provide conclusive proof of the physical presence of live fish."

Politics
1:44 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Judge strikes down Michigan law barring protests at military funerals

Update 1:44 p.m.

A federal judge has struck down the Michigan law that bars protests at funerals.

Detroit U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington says the law violates free speech rights and is too vague too enforce.

Lewis and Jean Lowden challenged the law after they were stopped and removed from a funeral procession by police.

They had signs critical of President George W. Bush taped to their car windows.

They were on their way to the burial of a family friend who died in Iraq.

Dan Korobkin is the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented the Lowdens. He says it is still illegal to disrupt a funeral.

"But what’s not against the law is to express your own views on a public street and risk being arrested or penalized for that just because your views don’t accord with the views of other people – either at the funeral or, even in this case, the police officers who were directing traffic," said Korobkin.

The law was passed largely to stop the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at the funerals of fallen service members. Members of the church show up outside military funerals with signs that say the deaths were caused by America’s tolerance of homosexuality.

10:55 a.m.

This just came in from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

A federal judge has struck down the state law barring protests at military funerals.

The Michigan law was passed in 2006 to keep members of the Westboro Baptist Church from demonstrating at military funerals. More than 40 states passed similar legislation barring the practice, according to the First Amendment Center.

Last March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro protesters in the "Snyder v. Phelps" case.

Last month, a similar state law in Missouri was found to be unconstitutional by a federal judge.

We'll have more from Rick Pluta later today.

Politics
1:00 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Stampfler resigns, new emergency manager appointed for Pontiac

The city of Pontiac is under the control of a new state-appointed emergency manager - Bud Schimmel.
Dave Garvin Flickr

The Associated Press is reporting the Michael Stampfler, Pontiac's emergency manager has resigned. A new manager has been appointed.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed a new emergency manager for the city of Pontiac, which faces a projected $12.5 million deficit.

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Education
12:48 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Republicans introduce their education reform effort

Republicans in the Michigan Senate have introduced seven bills aimed at reforming the education system in Michigan. Critics say the Republicans are trying to "destroy" public education in the state.
user alkruse24 Flickr

Michigan Republican legislators introduced legislation this week that they say will reform education in Michigan. The legislators call the seven bills they introduced the "Parent Empowerment Education Reform" package.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Eartha Jane Melzer of the Michigan Messenger summed up the effort this way: 

The seven bill package would remove limits on the number of charter and cyber schools, allow parents and teachers to force schools to convert into charters, and let districts hire teachers through private companies.

It also imposes new requirements on schools, specifying that students be allowed to simultaneously enroll in high school and college courses beginning in the 9th grade, that schools accept students from out of district, and that services be provided for homeschoolers and private school students.

In a statement on his website, State Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), and the chair of the Senate Education Committee said he and his colleagues are following through on Governor Snyder's request to "expand the schools of choice program, empower parents and ensure that every student has access to a quality education."

From Pavlov's statement:

"Every parent in the state wants the very best for their children," said Pavlov.  "Unfortunately, when it comes to educating our kids, adult issues too often get in the way.  The Parent Empowerment Education Reform package is about freeing parents to pursue the opportunities that work best for their children and giving schools the freedom they need to innovate and excel."

The Michigan Education Association published a statement calling the reforms an "attack on public education" and an attempt to privatize the system:

Many of the concepts introduced in these bills were first mentioned by Gov. Snyder in his education message this spring. But it's apparent that the attacks on public education continue. None of these bills are meant to improve education. This is more of the same push to destroy public education: schools run by private entities, back-door vouchers, policies based on rhetoric rather than research, and more state mandates -- despite the Republican cut of $1 billion from public schools earlier this year.

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