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Flint's lead-tainted water has refocused attention on something usually buried in the minds of the public: The water supply, and how it's piped into homes.
"Potholes you can see when you hit them. You see a rusted-out bridge," said Pat Lindemann, drain commissioner of Ingham County, who referred to water pipes as the orphan child of infrastructure.
While much has been made of the state's roads and efforts to pump more funds into them, some experts have portrayed the aging water infrastructure across the state as underfunded and decades behind in repair and replacement.
Not only that, but some officials concede there are instances where local governments have no idea what condition their systems are in or even where they're located underground.
"We have a lot of old infrastructure under there and half the time -- most of the time -- we're clueless as to exactly where it is," Lindemann said, after describing an instance when the county discovered some wooden water pipes running beneath a section of Old Town in Lansing.
The American Society of Civil Engineers bestowed Michigan's roads with a "D" grade in a review of the state's infrastructure. Also receiving substandard grades were Michigan's drinking water (D) and wastewater (C).
This is despite the state being surrounded by some of the cleanest sources of water in the country, said James CLIFT, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC).
Yet the issue is often the old infrastructure the water runs through.
For the full article, see "Old Water Pipes Not Just A Flint Issue", Inside MIRS Today, October 6, 2015.
Other topics covered include:
MIRSNews.com is available via the MSU Library electronic resources page. Access is restricted to the MSU community and other subscribers.
Michigan state Sen. Steve Bieda was at a conference in Washington D.C. last week when he learned about a tragic shooting at an Oregon community college. When he flew home days later, he was struck by the fact that he had to remove his shoes before before boarding.
"The whole nation does that based on one clown that had some explosives in his shoe," said Bieda, D-Warren, referencing the so-called "shoe bomber" who boarded a flight between Paris and Miami in 2001."We did that for a plot that was foiled, yet every time we see another mass shooting, nothing ever happens."
Nine people died and several others were injured Thursday at Umpqua Community College when 26-year-old student Christopher Harper-Mercer opened fire in a classroom and then killed himself following a gun battle with police.
President Barack Obama, clearly frustrated, said he was disappointed that mass shootings have become "routine" and predicted a "routine" response from "those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation." Critics quickly accused him of politicizing the shooting.
Bieda said he shares in the anger that the president expressed and believes "we need to do a lot more on this issue," but he suggested that the gun debate should be approached in "an intelligent manner, without emotion, without a knee-jerk reaction."
Closing the so-called gun show loophole and making it harder for people with mental illnesses to obtain firearms are "common sense" policies the state should consider, according to Bieda.
"I always hear the NRA say 'guns don't kill people, people kill people.' They're right. Let's do background checks on those people," he said.
But Democratic legislation calling for universal background checks has not seen any action so far in the Michigan Legislature, where the Republican majority has moved to streamline gun rules in recent years.
For the full article, see Jonathan Oosting, "More regulations? More guns? Michigan lawmakers debate solutions in wake of Oregon shooting", MLive, October 6, 2015.
Michigan lawmakers want to make it costlier for stores that sell cigarettes to minors and the minors who illegally buy them.
Violating the law is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 per violation, which has not changed in at least 27 years. Legislation approved unanimously Tuesday would double the fine to $100 for an initial violation and impose up to a $500 fine for each subsequent violation.
The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren moves to the House for consideration.
For the full article, see "Michigan Senate raises fines for selling cigarettes to minors", Detroit Free Press, October 6, 2015.
Rep. Holly Hughes, R-White Lake Township, has introduced a bill (House Bill 4059) which would allow those retired for at least a year to be hired to teach for up to three years in shortage areas. It would also allow retirees to come back to work as substitute teachers, instructional coaches and school improvement facilitators. It wouldn’t hurt their retirement benefits, but retired teachers also wouldn’t be able to use the time or money earned to recalculate their retirement benefits.
There is nothing in state law that prohibits a retired teacher from returning to the classroom. But the state's Public School Employees Retirement Act currently limits how much a retiree who returns can earn. If retirees earn more than they're allowed, they could forfeit their retirement benefits until after they stop working.
The second bill — Senate Bill 491 — would expand the number of subjects in which districts can hire noncertified teachers. State law already allows nontraditional hires in hard-to-fill subjects such as math, science and foreign language. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, would add writing, journalism, health sciences or any subject in which there’s a shortage.
Also part of the Senate bill: A noncertified person who doesn’t have a college degree in math or science topics can still be hired to teach as long as the person has had had five years of job experience in the subjects within the last six years.
For the full article, see Lori Higgins, "Bill would get retired teachers back in the classroom", Detroit Free Press, October 6, 2015.
A bill that would authorize the Michigan State Police to set up a roadside drug testing pilot program in three Michigan counties is on its way to the Senate after getting unanimous support in a Senate committee Tuesday afternoon.
The bill, inspired by the fatal car crash that killed Thomas and Barbara Smith in the Upper Peninsula in 2013, would allow police officers to take both a breathalyzer and a saliva sample during a traffic stop to determine if a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The man who was driving the logging truck that hit the Swifts was found to have marijuana in his system. He was found guilty and sentenced to “a measly five years in prison,” the Swift’s son Brian Swift told committee members.
For the full article, see Kathleen Gray, "Road side drug testing project approved by Senate panel", Detroit Free Press, October 6, 2015.
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