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Fri July 1, 2011
Lawmakers wrap up work before summer break
State lawmakers wrapped up their work late last night before they take a two-month summer break. As Michigan Public Radio’s Laura Weber reports, one of the issues that pushed debates into the night was big changes to teacher tenure rules:
The tenure bills would make it easier for school districts to get rid of teachers in underperforming classrooms. But many Democrats say teachers should not be held responsible for the shortcomings of school districts and for deep cuts to education funding.
Democratic state Senator Coleman Young says the proposed changes to teacher tenure won’t help students.
“Paris Hilton has a better chance of winning an Oscar than this bill does of doing anything positive or for reforming the public education system.”
Those cheers came from teachers’ union members and supporters filling the Senate gallery. But the bills did pass the Senate, moved to the House for final approval, and are now on their way to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.
Lawmakers target public worker health costs
The Republican-led state House passed another version of a bill that would require many public employees to pay more of their own health insurance costs, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:
A bill approved by a 56-52, mostly party-line vote Thursday would cap the dollar amount a public employer can pay toward health insurance for a public employee. An example would be $15,000 a year for family coverage.
Local governments and school boards could vote to change that requirement so that public employees must cover at least 20 percent of their health coverage costs.
It's possible the proposal will be a compromise between versions previously passed by the House and Senate. It was not immediately clear if Senate leaders would be on board with the House plan.
House votes to regulate hunting ranches
The state House has approved a measure to regulate hunting ranches as an alternative to new regulations that would outlaw wild boar. Boar hunts are a core part of the business of many hunting ranches in the state. Rick Pluta reports:
There are about 60 to 65 hunting ranches in Michigan. Operators say some of them will shut down if they cannot offer the unique experience of wild boar hunts.
The complaint, though, is that boar escape, breed prolifically with other feral swine, and run amok.
State Representative Vickie Barnett says the boar are not from the Great Lakes region and a proven threat to farmland, wild habitat, and other species. She says the boar won’t be contained by fences.
“It will spread. It will escape. And these pigs are dangerous."
The House bill has no chance of becoming law before the regulations to outlaw wild boar take effect July 8th. But supporters hope the bill will encourage the state to move slowly to enact the rules.