A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials – Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

The Detroit News. October 5, 2017

Focus on sex registry rewrite on risk

Michigan’s ill-advised scheme to pile on punishment for convicted sex offenders failed to get even a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving the Legislature to craft a new law that will restore both sanity and fairness to the state’s sex offender registry.

The High Court said Monday it will not take up Michigan’s appeal of a 6th Circuit Court ruling that struck down its practice of applying new restrictions retroactively to those on the list.

Now, the state has no choice but to draft new rules for monitoring sex offenders, and restricting their activities.

It’s a blessing in disguise for the state.

The Michigan Sex Offender Registry is a bloated mess. There are roughly 44,000 names on the list. That would be a frightening number if all of the individuals named were sexual predators who presented a grave danger to society.

But most aren’t. The registry is filled with individuals who had consensual sex when they were teenagers with girlfriends not yet 16 years old. In some cases, men are on the list for sexual activity with women who are now their wives.

And some have landed on the list for being caught urinating outdoors.

They are not a danger to society. They are not sexual predators. But they are subjected to strict monitoring and compliance rules. For many, if they leave town for more than a week they have to report to police the reason for their trip.

Likewise, they have to report every change of address, email accounts and phone numbers.

If they’re on the list, they may not be able to visit their children’s schools or attend their sporting events or other activities.

They are handicapped in finding jobs and housing and have to live under the constant worry they’ll be found out and ostracized.

And they face living under those conditions for the rest of their lives. Getting off the list is virtually impossible.

A registry this massive is expensive and time consuming to maintain, and because of its size and the range of offenses covered, it’s not much use to the law enforcement agencies it was intended to serve, or to neighbors in the community.

It often leads to isolation of the person on the list, increasing the odds that they will engage in anti-social behavior again.

In rewriting the law, common sense should prevail, and public safety should be the only goal.

First off, teens who were busted for consensual sex should never go on the list. And if they do, youthful offenders should have their cases reconsidered once they reach adulthood.

The registry should be limited only to those who present a real danger to the community. A conviction alone should not determine risk. Those on the registry should have a path off, and the ability to present evidence as to why they are not a threat.

For lower level offenders, restrictions on housing and participation in family and community events should be lifted.

The registry should not serve as a means to perpetually punish those who have served their sentences.

The Supreme Court has handed Michigan an opportunity to revamp its egregious sex offender registry in a way that protects the public without destroying lives.

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Lansing State Journal. October 5, 2017

East Lansing voters should adopt the income tax

East Lansing voters should seize the opportunity to address city debt and adopt the proposed income tax ordinance on the ballot for the Nov. 7 general election.

The proposal is for a 1% tax on the income of residents and .5% for non-residents who work in the city, expected to bring in an additional $10 million to city coffers in the first year.

Along with a proposal for decreased property taxes, an offset for some, this could help address city debt with a net $5 million in new revenue each year.

Voters should approve this common sense solution.

In trying financial times, it is ludicrous not to consider every tool in the arsenal for addressing city debts. And for a city looking at $200 million in unfunded pension and health care liabilities, this is a sensible way to chip away at it.

Relying on state government is not an option: The City of East Lansing must step up to take care of the City of East Lansing.

More: LSJ Editorial: East Lansing income tax should be decided by voters

A response to those who raised the concern that this would unfairly target MSU professors, staff and students: That’s just nonsensical.

As a part of East Lansing, these groups use city infrastructure and services every day. They are exactly the groups that should be called on to help support the needs of the whole, not just the university they work for.

To add perspective: this proposal would cost $250 annually for a non-resident earning $50,000 a year, $500 for a resident earning $50,000 a year.

And the East Lansing City Council is considering a proposal that would include a $5,000 threshold for a poverty exemption to the income tax – which would also prevent around 10,000 MSU students from being subject to the tax with little impact on revenue.

For those who have thought that having an income tax is a harbinger of a failing city, we bring you Grand Rapids. There they have a 1.5% income tax on residents, .75% for non-residents, and it is helping the city address debt and thrive.

In fact 22 municipalities across the state have an income tax – cities such as Lansing, Battle Creek, Jackson, Port Huron, Saginaw and Detroit.

East Lansing leadership has come to the table with a plan that makes sense for the people of East Lansing – the people. Not just the property owners or small business owners, but everyone who uses East Lansing for work or for play.

This money will mean a reduction of debt, which in turn facilitates infrastructure improvements and special projects.

The LSJ Editorial Board endorses this proposal. East Lansing voters: Vote yes on Ordinance No. 1413 to adopt the income tax.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). October 4, 2017

Expect less from auto insurance ‘reforms’

Fixing the auto insurance business has been a perennial priority for the Michigan Legislature probably since the no-fault system went into place in 1973. The clamor from Lansing seems louder this session, but that does not mean that significant reform is likely any time soon.

The problems just might be too complicated for lawmakers and lobbyists to sort out.

As originally envisioned in Michigan and the dozen other states that have no-fault auto insurance, everyone was going to save money — and insurance companies were going to profit — because all the ambulance-chasing lawyers were going to be put out of business. Lawyers are more resilient than that, though, especially after they and their clients realized that insurers weren’t serious when they said they’d pay their customers’ claims.

Insurance companies don’t want to pay claims, no matter who files them, and that will never change. Paying claims isn’t how they make the profits that make directors wealthy and stockholders happy. When they don’t pay, lawyers sue. What no-fault means is customers have to sue their own insurance companies instead of the other guy’s.

Two things are unique about Michigan policies, though. The first and biggest is our state’s unlimited, lifetime personal injury coverage. Someone has suggested a $50,000 cap as a reasonable reform. That isn’t reasonable reform; that is a cruel joke. Remember, with no-fault insurance, you’re buying coverage to pay your own medical bills if you ever need it. Fifty grand will buy you a day or two in the intensive care unit if you’re ever in a bad crash.

How much coverage would you want if you or someone you loved were maimed or disabled in a car crash? How much would you pay for that?

And if you didn’t have enough personal injury coverage, who do you think would pay for it?

The other issue that gets everyone’s attention is an illusion. Consumers pay for catastrophic coverage in every insurance policy they buy. Only in Michigan no-fault auto coverage is it so transparent.

In case it isn’t obvious, the main drivers of auto insurance “reform” are the insurance companies. Their lobbyists who have lawmakers in such a dither are worried about their profits, not your premiums.

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Petoskey News-Review. October 6, 2017

Shining a light on the hidden curriculum

Students go to school not only to be educated, but also to develop well-rounded social and emotional behaviors as well. Now, many schools are bringing the “hidden curriculum” into focus as part of the daily school experience.

In a News-Review article from Sept. 21, Harbor Springs schools superintendent Mark Tompkins said understanding social, emotional and mental health issues in the classroom is often called “the hidden curriculum.”

In recent years, many schools have been stepping up the programs and support services available to students struggling with mental health issues.

The Public Schools of Petoskey are entering the second year of the Petoskey Wellness program, which provides on-site therapists at the high school, middle school and two of the four elementary schools. In its inaugural year, more than 200 students were helped through the program.

“When a student’s in crisis, it’s a barrier to their education,” Jon Wilcox, principal of Petoskey Middle School, said. “They can’t focus on reading, writing or math when they’re going through some type of crisis without help in dealing with that crisis and that’s where this program is so beneficial. It allows them to access their education and deal with that crisis.”

Other school districts also offer programs and supports for students. In East Jordan, the school district welcomed a new wellness center in September to help meet a growing need.

“I couldn’t be happier for our kids and our parents and our community to increase our service model and include more of that behavioral mental health component,” East Jordan schools superintendent Matt Stevenson said. “It’s an easier access for our families. We’ll help support those in need and ultimately create a great learning environment here in East Jordan.”

Around the area, school officials said students could be struggling with issues ranging from depression to anxiety to eating disorders to relationship problems. The dilemma is not just seen on a local level either. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five youth (or 21.4 percent) age 13-18 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.

We commend the school districts for broadening the number of services available for students and eliminating barriers for those who are seeking help. With in-school programs, students and their families do not have to find private or community resources on their own, instead school counselors and therapists can help them determine the right course of action for each individual case. It also keeps students in school and allows parents to continue working without having to worry about finding transportation or taking time off to take their children to appointments during school hours.

We also encourage students or their family members to ask their school officials about what services are available. Do not be afraid to seek help if you have questions or concerns. Families can also consult their primary care physician or other private and community resources for help if need be.

More resources can be found at the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, www.nwhealth.org, the Alcona Health Center, www.alconahealthcenters.org, and the National Alliance on Mental Health, www.nami.org.

As part of a yearlong series, the News-Review will consider a number of different issues relating to mental health and mental illness in Northern Michigan. Each month will feature a story on mental health in the community.

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