Cheyna Roth

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As Michigan lawmakers continue to examine new methods for holding schools accountable, the State School Reform office is defending its current system.

   The Senate education committee held another meeting on a bill that would repeal the law allowing the state to close consistently low performing schools.

Superintendents and parents previously criticized the office for not being involved enough in the schools and for not having clear and consistent ways for measuring progress.

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Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget brought mixed reactions, in some cases from his own party.

Snyder presented the budget proposal today.

While there was a lot for Lansing Democrats to love – like increased spending in a variety of government programs – other groups came away frustrated.

   Some charter school advocates blasted the governor’s proposal saying not enough money is available for so-called “innovative” schools.

   But state superintendent Brian Whiston  says the budget is a success for Michigan’s education goals.

 

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Education, public safety, and paying down the long term debt will be Governor Rick Snyder’s top priorities when he unveils his 2018 budget Wednesday.

Some Republicans in Lansing are really hoping to make some aggressive tax cuts this year.  Especially since Michigan has a 330 million dollar surplus in the budget.

But as Governor Rick Snyder gets ready to roll out his budget plan, he’s shying away from major tax cuts.

State Budget Office spokesperson Kurt Weiss said tax cuts need to be balanced with replacement revenue, even though there is a hefty surplus.

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Governor Rick Snyder is going after Michigan’s mountain of unfunded retiree liabilities. He created a task force to look into – quote – “responsible retirement reform”

   Last year, Republicans lawmakers tried and failed to overhaul public employee pensions and retirement health benefits. They said it was an effort to fix Michigan’s unfunded liability problem.  

   Now this task force will come up with a list of pension and health care reforms by this spring.

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Cities cannot refuse to sell tobacco products to people between the ages of 18 and 20. That’s coming from state Attorney General Bill Schuette who issued an opinion today.

Last July the city of Ann Arbor passed an ordinance forbidding the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.

Andrea Bitely is with the Attorney General’s office.

In his opinion, Attorney General Bill Schuette says the ordinance is contrary to the Age of Majority Act – which says anyone 18 years old or older is considered a legal adult.

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The city of Escanaba is taking on big box stores in the Michigan Supreme Court. The city says the home improvement store Menards  is dodging taxes.

It’s called the “dark store” loophole, and it’s been used more often in recent years. It determines property taxes for fully-functioning retailers like Target and Wal-Mart based on nearby empty stores.

Jack Van Coevering  is the attorney for the city of Escanaba – which is going up against the home improvement chain Menards. He says the city wants the big box stores to be taxed like other stores.

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Feminine hygiene products are too essential to tax. That’s according to lawmakers who want to get rid of the so-called “tampon tax.”

Michigan exempts food, medication and other necessities from taxes, and lawmakers argue feminine hygiene products are just as essential.  

       Democratic Representative Winnie Brinks is one of the bills’ sponsors.  

“It’s not optional. It’s certainly not a luxury item and you need it for 40 years. So it’s really unlike most other items that are taxed.”

 

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Michigan lawmakers are moving forward with repealing Michigan’s so-called “failing schools” law. A Senate committee heard testimony from parents, teachers and superintendents Tuesday.

The law on the chopping block determines Michigan’s worst-performing schools based on their test scores. And it puts those schools under the supervision of a state school reform officer. Schools on the list for too long could be closed for good. There are currently 38 schools up for potential closure this year.

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Attorneys in Michigan and elsewhere are still trying to get information about and access to people detained at ports of entry. That’s after Friday’s immigration order signed by President Trump.

The executive order triggered protests at airports across the US and resulted in over one hundred travelers being detained or sent home. 

       Several states fielded lawsuits, some resulting in federal judges blocking parts of the executive order.

Susan Reed is the managing attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. She says they haven’t filed any lawsuits yet.

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       Democrats in the state House say they want to make the redistricting process as impartial as possible. Representatives introduced legislation Thursday  that would completely change Michigan’s redistricting process.

New political boundary lines are drawn every ten years after the census. Usually the majority party in the Legislature controls the redistricting process.

But State Representatives Jeremy Moss and Jon Hoadley are leading the charge for a new, non-partisan way of drawing district lines.

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