Rick Pluta

books in a library
Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0 / Wikimedia.org

A state panel will be named soon to look into improving Michigan’s dismal literacy rate.

Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order Wednesday creating the new PreK-12 Literacy Commission.

Michigan has one of the nation’s worst literacy rates. It’s ranked 40th when it comes to student literacy in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Nearly half of all third graders in the state don’t read at grade level, according to last year’s standardized student tests. Anna Heaton is the governor’s press secretary.

She says trend is moving in the wrong.

Voters in Michigan will be allowed to vote for an entire party ticket with a single mark on the November ballot. A federal judge says a new law to ban that option violates the rights of urban, African-American voters.  

A study showed the straight-ticket option was used on 70 percent of the ballots cast in Detroit and Flint in recent elections. The cities typically have high Democratic voter turnout.

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Michigan’s monthly job rate has dropped slightly to 4.6 percent.

But it’s not because more people are working.

The one-tenth of a percentage point is because of a shrinking number of people competing for jobs.

The shift in the jobless rate is slight. But it is the second month in a row that the unemployment rate has dropped because the workforce got smaller.

Plans are getting underway to send less trash to landfills in Michigan and find more ways to re-use it.

The task force plans a hearing in Lansing tomorrow.

Sean Hammond of the Michigan Environmental Council serves on the task force.

He says the idea is that a lot of what is currently tossed out as trash be converted to a new use, composted, or re-cycled into energy or new products.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says convicted felons must be sentenced in person, and not via a video hookup between the jail and the courthouse.

Video links are commonly used for early procedures like arraignments, because it’s less expensive and more secure than moving defendants between the jail and the courthouse.

Using video links for sentencing is still rare.

But in this case out of Hillsdale County, defendant Trenity Heller was sentenced via video from jail while everyone else – including his lawyer – was at the courthouse.

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The state Elections Bureau says the petition drive to legalize marijuana in Michigan has failed to gather enough signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

The bureau rejected many of the signatures because they were gathered outside a 180-window for collecting names of registered voters.

The bureau’s recommendation will be voted on Thursday by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers.

The MI Legalize campaign says those signatures should be counted. Jeff Hank of MI Legalize says court is the next stop if the signatures are rejected.

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