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A roundup of recent editorials in Michigan newspapers

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The Detroit News. May 26, 2015

Keep the Michigan economy competitive

A bill working its way through the Legislature would prevent local governments from interfering with state-mandated employer-employee relationships. Anything concerning wages, working hours and benefits would be exempt from local control. That's the right approach.

The legislation makes sense because the local ordinances would create a regulatory hodge podge, with mandates imposed by one community having a negative affect on its neighbors — and on the state economy. Employers should not have to comply with conflicting employment rules.

"The bill will make clear that employment rules in Michigan are properly set by state and federal government and not by local ordinances," says Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, main sponsor of the bill.

He notes, however, the bill does not preclude local anti-discrimination ordinances dealing with hiring.

Poleski says the legislation is in response to a national trend of cities are passing ordinances that put businesses at competitive disadvantages.

For example, Los Angeles last week raised the minimum wage almost 70 percent, to $15 an hour from $9 an hour over the next five years. San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Oakland, California, have already approved such increases. Reportedly, similar minimum wage boosts are being considered in New York, Kansas City and Washington D.C.

Last year San Francisco became the country's first jurisdiction to limit how chain stores can alter their employees' schedules. The law requires any retail chain with 20 or more locations worldwide that employs 20 or more people within the city to provide two weeks' notice for changes in a worker's schedule. Violations would not only force employers to pay higher hourly wages for any time worked but also compensate employees for hours lost. Other big cities are considering comparable laws.

That is unacceptable meddling in the operations of a business.

Local wage and work rule regulations will boost the cost of companies doing business in a community. To adjust, businesses will be forced to take action affecting employees, such as reducing hours and laying off workers. Ironically, laws aimed at helping employees will do just the opposite. In addition, they will make it more difficult for businesses to stay open.

Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, says without this proposed bill, local regulations could create an unwieldy patchwork of laws that would make Michigan a business nightmare.

She notes it could place some businesses on a "high-cost island" of unfair competition. Some companies in one community would have higher expenses not faced by a competitor just a few blocks away in another municipality.

Without this legislation, Michigan's 1,800-plus local governmental units could enact each their own regulations.

The bill is intended to treat employees and employers fairly.

The Legislature should approve this legislation. And Gov. Rick Snyder, who pushes to improve Michigan's business climate, shouldn't hesitate to sign it.


The Time Herald. May 27, 2015

Deer illness poses dire threat to Michigan

It may be a while before we feel the ripples — and we hope we never will — but Michigan's suffered a severe blow this week. For the first time in the state, a free-ranging deer was found to be suffering from chronic wasting disease.

Chronic wasting disease among deer is the same sort of disease as mad cow disease. Rogue proteins attack the animal's brain and eventually and always kill it. It's highly infectious and all but unstoppable. It's been blamed for devastating deer and elk herds in the Mountain West, parts of Canada, Wisconsin and New Mexico.

Smaller outbreaks have occurred in half a dozen other states.

State officials announced yesterday that a single deer in Ingham County's Meridian Township has tested positive for the disease. A homeowner called police because the deer was hanging around his house and acting strangely.

The Department of Natural Resources is implementing a response plan developed in 2002. It has a 13-year-old response plan because it all but knew this was coming. The only way for chronic wasting disease to get to Michigan is by some person bringing an infected deer to Michigan.

The state has controls on the movement and importation of captive deer and elk. But rules and regulations can only be as effective as the consciences of those involved in the business of buying, selling and hunting captive deer. The DNR probably should have outlawed the captive deer trade when we had our first scare in 2008, when a deer from a privately owned Kent County facility tested positive.

Lobbyists objected, and the bomb was allowed to continue ticking. It hasn't gone off yet, but smoke is showing.

What happens when it goes off?

A Kentucky study predicted that a widespread outbreak in that state would cost 15 percent to 20 percent of its hunting-related economic benefits and lead to the loss of about 1,500 jobs directly and indirectly related to deer hunting.

Deer hunting is bigger here, and worth more than $2 billion to Michigan's economy. Fifteen percent is hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

It may be too late, but the state must say no to the captive deer lobby.


The Grand Haven Tribune, May 27

Reading Programs crucial to our children's development

From childhood on into adulthood, the constant message is that reading is an important part of our mind's development.

And for good reason.

According to Veronica Pechumer, Ottawa County Great Start Collaborative coordinator for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, reading to children early — even before birth — can do wonders for their development.

In a story by Tribune reporter Krystle Wagner, Pechumer said hearing more words helps the brain make connections, and that the more language-rich a home is, the faster a child will talk and read.

Experts say reading to children also helps them know how to hold books, and how to read and write.

With reading being so crucial to the early development of children, it's nice to see programs being put into place that encourage early childhood reading and reading to kids.

This includes the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, which is taking place at both Spring Lake and Loutit libraries.

The program is aimed at getting parents to read to their kids. Participants are given various incentives along the way in order to keep up with their reading.

And it isn't like it takes much to read to your youngster. A thousand books equates to about three books a day for a year, or one book a day for three and a half years.

With so much riding on kids' ability to read, it's good to see that our community libraries are getting involved in the literacy effort.

Our hope is that these efforts pay off in the coming generations, and our local school districts are filled with countless bright young minds.

After all, these kids might just wind up being our next honor students and Science Olympiad participants.


Lansing State Journal. May 29, 2015

Blocking the path of embezzlers

The headlines suggest the trend: across mid-Michigan, a growing number of embezzlement cases are winding their way through courts.

The victims range from major institutions to small businesses to parent groups coming together to benefit youngsters or their schools. The cases compel curiosity even as they engender revulsion. Experts who discussed embezzlement with LSJ criminal justice reporter Matthew Mencarini point to a key reason such cases capture community attention: there is an added emotional element when trust is shattered.

There's also fascination with the sort of person who can manage such a crime, one that requires interacting with victims again and again over time, in constant risk of discovery. Indeed, one expert told Mencarini that most embezzlers rationalize the crime initially by believing they intend to pay the money back. Some actually gamble in casinos with the stolen money, apparently trying to win enough to pay back what they took and still have the extra money they seek.

Those who steal over long periods of time not only rationalize the theft but may develop a sense of superiority because those around them have failed to discover the crime.

Law enforcement and accounting experts believe the Great Recession may have contributed to growth in the crime though multiple ways — first, by creating the financial stress that motivates embezzlers and second by prompting staff cuts that may have made some companies reduce operational procedures that help protect against thievery.

From a business perspective, a good model of money management would have different employees handing incoming money, keeping the books, making bank deposits and signing checks that authorize withdrawals. With tasks divided among many, theft becomes difficult.

Likewise, with small nonprofits run by volunteer boards, putting too many tasks into one set of hands or leaving one person in charge of money matters for an extended period can create opportunity for theft. Experts recommend putting new faces in treasurer posts every year to limit both temptation and opportunity.

Organizations as large as Michigan State University and as small as a Lansing elementary school's parent-teacher organization have been victimized by embezzlement. Wise leaders will heed warnings, take stock of procedures now and address any shortcomings.

There will always be people tempted to take what's not theirs. Strong organizations, large or small, will recognize the risks and put procedures in place to block them.

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