The Detroit News. June 21, 2017
Dysfunction wins again in state Capitol
Michigan's best hope of landing 5,000 or so high-tech manufacturing jobs now rests with the governing process in Wisconsin and the other states with which it's competing being just as dysfunctional as it is here.
The state House began Tuesday with good prospects of having enough votes to pass the so-called Good Jobs package, which would offer tax incentives to big companies to bring large numbers of new jobs to Michigan.
The package is seen as essential to landing the factory that Foxconn, a Taiwanese assembler of Apple iPhones, is looking to locate in the Midwest. Michigan and Wisconsin are said to be the leading choices.
Many Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Tom Leonard, are philosophically opposed to offering corporate incentives. Still, Leonard agreed to bring the bill to the floor if backers were confident they had the 56 votes necessary for passage.
They were, at least for a while. Forty-three Republicans and more than 13 Democrats were lined up to cast yes votes.
And then everything fell off the dock.
Rumors began swirling in the House that Gov. Rick Snyder had cut secret deals with Democratic lawmakers to block any further legislation affecting labor unions for the remaining 18 months of his term if they would support the jobs bill.
Leonard, unable to discern exactly what was promised in exchange for the Democratic votes, yanked the bill back until he can meet face-to-face with the governor.
That meeting couldn't happen Tuesday, or anytime during this final week before the Legislature leaves for its summer recess, because Snyder is attending the Paris Air Show as part of a European trade mission.
These missions have been effective in bringing jobs to Michigan. But the governor called the jobs bill his top priority. He should have been around to shepherd it through. Had the governor been in the Capitol to explain his deal-making, chances are high the legislation would have passed.
As it was, his surrogates neglected to communicate with their fellow Republicans about the horse-trading that was going on with Democrats, who kept upping their list of demands. In short, Snyder's team made a mess of things.
The legislation, approved by the Senate in March, is crafted to appease those Republicans who are opposed to what they see as corporate welfare.
It would allow a company to keep half of new employee income taxes if it creates at least 500 jobs paying the average regional wage. The Michigan Strategic Fund could approve up to 15 projects a year, and the total incentives commitment could never top $200 million.
It's likely essential to capturing the Foxconn development, but also to several other large projects for which Michigan is competing. Given how important it is to their governor, the Republican caucus should have given it greater consideration. Snyder should not have to work so hard to get a job-creating measure through a GOP-controlled Legislature.
But he shouldn't have disappeared at a critical moment, either. Or at least he should have established surer lines of communication with House leaders while he is away.
Hopes are that the House will take up the bill when it convenes in a one-day session on July 12, its last meeting of the summer. The Foxconn deal will not likely wait for lawmakers to reconvene in the fall.
Snyder should make sure to be in the House that day to explain whatever steps he has to take to assemble the votes necessary for passing this important measure.
Lansing State Journal. June 25, 2017
Get involved, support refugees in the region
Across the globe, people came together earlier this month to celebrate World Refugee Awareness Week. In Greater Lansing, the week marked the efforts of several groups who have worked tirelessly to help refugees.
If you are not familiar with what supporting refugees means to this community, this is your wake up call.
Lansing, East Lansing and Meridian Twp. are welcoming cities, part of the Welcoming Michigan coalition which promotes refugee friendly communities.
Around 10,000-13,000 refugees currently live in the region, according to the Refugee Development Center located on the north side of Lansing.
St. Vincent Catholic Charities' Refugee Services resettled an average of 75 refugees per month last year, finding homes and resources throughout Greater Lansing to help them find a new beginning.
And refugees who do not have education but are too old to enter the public school system can now receive a high school diploma, thanks to the non-profit Global Institute of Lansing.
The week of awareness grew out of a United Nations Refugee Agency effort, beginning with the first World Refugee Day on June 20, 2001.
On June 13, a group of creative professionals from across the region showcased at the Capitol a project called Refuge Lansing: Stories of Resettlement in Mid-Michigan - a "non-political celebration of the refugees in our community."
Messages from many of the stories are the same: Refugees are people.
They are people who were forced to leave their homes and their country due to the threat of war, persecution or natural disaster; they often had to leave without notice, with no time to plan or pack and with little hope for the future or their very survival.
To come to the U.S., refugees go through the rigorous screening of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program - which involves the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Departments of Homeland Security, State, Defense and Health and Human Services.
A report from the United Nations states more than 65 million people were forced from their homes in 2016, from places such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and the Sudan.
Of the 22.5 million seeking asylum in another country, an estimated half are children.
Worldwide, the U.S. admits the largest number of resettlement cases each year.
Refugee resettlement is a human mission, one we should all support.
Aside from saving lives, supporting refugees brings cultural and economic benefits to the community.
Yet the number of refugees being resettled in Greater Lansing has decreased this year, most likely due to changes in policy and perception, according to charity workers.
That's why, if you haven't already, it is time to get on board. Get involved wherever you can. Give refugees the support they need to thrive in Greater Lansing.
The Mining Journal (Marquette). June 24, 2017
Do we really need switchblade knives legalized in state?
File this next one under hard to believe but true nevertheless.
There is a group of Michigan senators — principally Republicans but a handful of Democrats too — that believe switchblade knives should be legal. And they believe it strongly enough that they approved a bill repealing the ban.
Remarkably, that measure was OK'd by the senior chamber this week, 35-1. To become law, the bill must still pass the state House of Representatives and be signed by the governor.
Introduced by state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.
Jones explained to MLive that the current law harkens to a time when people saw switchblades in movies and television programs, causing worry. In addition, he cited difficulty in enforcing the current law.
"For years we've had on the books it's a violation to have a knife with a mechanical way of opening it. And this has led to a lot of people being charged with a one-year, high misdemeanor and it really isn't necessary," Jones said in the MLive story.
The lone nay vote was cast by state Rep. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit, who questioned the wisdom of providing more weapons to a society that is already violent as it is.
In a state where roads and bridges are in disrepair, where education needs fixing, where health care is approaching a crossroads and where huge numbers of families and children remain mired in poverty, we find it nothing less than incredible that our elected officials have time to write and vote on bills legalizing switchblade knives.
Maybe it's time all of us seriously consider a part-time legislature. The full-time body in Lansing clearly doesn't have enough to do.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. June 25, 2017
Carp discovery speaks to danger of inaction
The Great Lakes are steaming toward an invasive species iceberg while those with power to steer away from catastrophe continue to belligerently delay any meaningful intervention that could prevent disaster.
This week that collision catapulted closer to the point of no return as officials announced they found an 8-pound Asian carp on the wrong side of electric barriers placed in the Chicago Area Waterway System to keep the destructive invasive species from reaching the nation's most important freshwater ecosystem. It's an intersection that promises to cause preventable, irreparable damage to the lakes we all so love.
The looming debacle for years has left many Michiganders shouting for intervention, but receiving frustrating silence in return. Those calls for action have warned repeatedly that something must be done to halt the march of the carp as they migrate upstream from the Mississippi River system toward Lake Michigan through the manmade channel near Chicago.
Continuous pleas for action have been met by unending false reassurances and years of studies — the latest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' draft report is being delayed by the White House — that still aren't complete. Those reports are expected to outline the need for substantial barriers, far more than existing electric barriers, to prevent Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan where researchers say they likely would decimate delicate aquatic ecosystems by devouring plankton that forms the foundation of the food chain.
The carp, first imported to clean ponds at southern fish farms, spread into the Mississippi River system and have procreated like droves of water-borne rabbits. Once in the Great Lakes there is no doubt the aquatic mishap would turn disastrous, potentially destroying the region's $7 billion per year fisheries and dealing untold damage to our water-dependent economy.
The latest discovery proves long-held assertions by environmental and natural resource experts that the electric barriers in place south of Chicago are inadequate. It also hints at a problem potentially far worse than officials previously acknowledged.
Commercial fishermen caught a single, large-but-not-mature silver carp 34 miles closer to the Lake Michigan shoreline than any before. U.S Fish and Wildlife officials spent Friday offering reassurances that the single carp isn't a "three-alarm" emergency. They also contended the discovery doesn't necessarily mean the fish have established breeding populations in the Calumet River close to Lake Michigan.
But consider the source. These are the same people who continue to contend the electric barrier system is effectively keeping carp from migrating closer to the Great Lakes despite evidence to the contrary. They also have now taken direction from two administrations in the White House that seem content to stall and cater to special interests in the Chicago area, like the cargo barge owners who this year convinced the White House to halt the release of a draft of a long-anticipated, $8 million report many expect will call for new, more substantial barriers.
Instead, they seem content to continue playing roulette with the Great Lakes' future through inaction that should outrage all Michiganders.
Like an iceberg, the danger of Asian carp marching toward Lake Michigan isn't what we see, it's what lies below the water's surface that could sink our beloved lakes.