Michigan News

Some Michigan members of Congress have been criticized lately for avoiding constituents. But two Republican congressmen from West Michigan are hosting in-person events over the next few days.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-2nd Dist., has his first in-person town hall of the year set for this Saturday at noon in Baldwin. The tiny town about an hour north of Grand Rapids was supposed to be a part of Huizenga’s annual snowmobile tour. There’s not enough snow this year, but he didn’t cancel the event.

In a letter to Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan's Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives asked that he stop the Michigan School Reform Office from closing 38 schools.

U.S. Reps. John Conyers, Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, and Sander Levin requested that the governor not close any schools without input and support from local communities.

The representatives cited the negative impacts of school closings, such as the burdens placed on working families that may face longer commutes.

You may have heard that the state is planning to close as many as 38 schools by this summer, the bulk of which are in Detroit. That’s a big deal for a whole lot of families, and so far, the state isn’t giving them much guidance about what to do. So let’s walk through where things stand.

Let’s start with the now-infamous letter

A survey of local officials across the state finds wide interest in overhauling Michigan’s emergency manager law.       

The survey of officials from 1,300 cities, counties, townships, and villages was conducted by the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy.

There was no consensus on what to about financially struggling local governments, says survey director Tom Ivacko. But he says says there was general agreement that emergency managers have too much power.

Lawmakers in Lansing might not try to do away with the state income tax after all; but, they are still looking to reduce it.

A new version of the bill would gradually cut the tax from 4 point 25 percent to 3 point 9 percent.

Bill sponsor Representative Lee Chatfield says he is happy with the changes.

“Our goal all along has been to deliver on the promise made to the people back in 2007, and we think the legislation in its current form with the substitute accomplishes that goal,” he said.

2016 was a good year for Michigan home builders – just not as good as expected.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 15,176 permits were issued in Michigan for new home construction in 2016. That’s the highest since 2006 (16,538).  

But that’s 1,700 fewer permits than were forecasted.    

Bob Filka, with the Michigan Home Builders Association, says the industry should be doing better.

“When you look at the job creation numbers in the state, the unemployment level,” says Filka, “we should have more housing investment happening right now and we’re not.”

Planning your next winter excursion in Michigan could get harder this year. 

Unusually warm temperatures throughout the state, including record highs in certain areas over the weekend, have led tourism experts and representatives to question whether enough snow will stay on the ground to support outdoor activities. 

Students at Michigan State University can no longer have message whiteboards mounted on their dorm doors, starting this fall. Misuse of the whiteboards has made them more trouble than they're worth.

Kat Cooper is Director of Communications for Residential Services at MSU.  She says too often, students would scrawl offensive comments on the whiteboards. 

"Racist, sexist, anything in that category. Those have happened. There's been issues with them for a long time," says Cooper. "People write things on them that really aren't not part of our value set at MSU."

Dr. Larry Nassar, a former athletic doctor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, is accused of assaulting a young girl under the age of 13 in his home. He has been ordered to stand trial. If convicted, Nassar faces up to life in prison.

State funding for higher education in the U.S. is showing continued growth overall. That's according to the results of the latest Grapevine survey, an annual compilation of data on state fiscal support for higher education.

State funding rose by 3.4% across the U.S. from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 fiscal years. James Palmer is a professor of higher education at Illinois State University and Grapevine Editor.

State House Republicans are aggressively pushing through an income tax cut and rollback, despite numerous questions raised during a committee hearing about what funding cuts could happen in other areas if the bill passes.

A bill that would cut the state income tax and eventually phase it out altogether over 40 years was voted out of committee Wednesday. This happened after an hour and a half of testimony and over requests to hold off on a vote from some Democratic members.

A federal appeals court says the Jackson County Commission regularly violated the U.S. Constitution by opening its meetings with a Christian prayer.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held the commission violated the Establishment Clause.  The Establishment Clause says government bodies cannot favor one religion over others.

Members of the MSU women's gymnastics team were told to say "no comment" to any reporters or police asking about sexual abuse allegations against the team physician, Dr. Larry Nassar.

That’s according to a lawsuit (which you can read here) filed by a scholarship student on the team, who also says she was repeatedly assaulted by Nassar as a child.

A team meeting in September 

The Michigan Board of Education wants Governor Snyder's School Reform Office to call off closing any schools this fall. It joins a growing chorus of protest by parents and school administrators against possible school closures.

Last month the School Reform Office announced that 38 schools are at risk of closure because of persistently low standardized test scores. The office said it was reviewing whether a closing would create "unreasonable hardship" before it reaches a final decision on closing a school.

One of Governor Snyder’s key advisors says “there’s no way in the world” the state will close 38 “failing” schools this year.

That’s what Rich Baird told the crowd at a Detroit meeting about potential school closures Monday night.

The State School Reform Office has sent letters to parents at 38 schools across the state, warning they could be shut down because of persistently low test scores. 25 of those schools are in Detroit.

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