The Detroit News. July 31, 2018

Court right to leave gun decision to school districts

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday that schools can ban guns on their property, upholding policies against open carry that Ann Arbor and Clio districts put in place as safety measures to prevent disruptions. This was a good call for upholding both the law and common sense.

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Bridget McCormack, stated: "The Legislature has the authority to preempt school districts from adopting policies like the ones at issue that regulate firearms on school property; however, not only has the Legislature not done so, it has expressed its intent not to preempt such regulation."

If the Legislature wanted to prevent school districts from making rules on open carry, it could have done that. But it didn't.

In the course of their deliberations, the justices had to grapple with the nature of a statute which keeps local units of government from enacting or enforcing firearms ordinances. But they were right to affirm that since school districts were not defined by the law as a local unit of government like a city, village or township, districts decide whether or not gun-toters can walk their campuses.

Though state law prohibits concealed weapons in schools, the statute does not expressly prohibit permit holders from openly carrying.

In an era of school shootings, districts are actively engaged in keeping unauthorized guns out of their schools. It would be irresponsible — just plain stupid — to ask them to sort out which open carriers are safe, and which are intent on doing students harm.

In the case of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, someone brought a sidearm into a high school choir concert, which caused the school board to make a rule that bringing any gun into the school should be met with emergency response, including evacuation of students.

This was not an affront to the Second Amendment any more so than banning guns from airplanes, courtrooms and other places where security concerns are paramount.

As an Ann Arbor school official said: "This is an important ruling on behalf of both children and local governance. In our community we believe guns do not belong in schools and our policies are an effort to achieve that. We work hard to provide a safe environment for education and believe this ruling enables us to do that work, especially on behalf of our students."

Other school districts may feel differently, but it's hard to imagine that any system would want take on the burden of sorting out which carriers present a threat.

If the Legislature really wants to ensure school visitors can keep their pistol lashed to their hips, lawmakers can have that debate. We would advise against that. In the meantime, school districts get to decide the best way to protect their students and monitor their school environment.

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The Alpena News. July 31, 2018

Endorsements can be yummy, but they may make you sick

Political endorsements are like your Mom's favorite chicken soup. It may not cure all your ills, but it doesn't hurt . or does it?

With an electorate that often doesn't know squat about a candidate's qualifications, the office seeker often turns to someone the voter does know and uses that endorsement to win.

Ask Bill Schuette.

Ask John James.

Ask Brian Calley.

Ask Abdul El Sayed.

Ask Gretchen Whitmer.

Mr. Schuette has made no secret that President Donald Trump has blessed the Schuette bid for governor. And to drive home the point, he likes to remind everyone that his major opponent, Brian Calley, once un-endorsed Mr. Trump. But he doesn't bother to add Mr. Calley later re-endorsed him.

Mr. Calley has hooked his election hopes to his endorsement from his boss, Gov.Rick Snyder, who urges everyone to cotinue the "Michigan comeback" by supporting his lieutenant governor.

By the numbers, Mr. Schuette appears to have the upper hand, in that 79 percent of the Republicans in Michigan support Donald Trump, while only 65 percent of the Republcians back Rick Snyder. That may account, in part, for the attorney general's substantial lead going into the Aug. 7 vote.

U.S. Senate candidate John James, a virtual political unknown seeking statewide office for the first time, netted the president's blessing, probably much to the chagrin of his opponent, Sandy Pensler, who also affirms he voted for Mr. Trump, too. But Mr.James has tried to take the edge off of that by questioning the sincerity of Mr. Pensler's commitment to Mr. Trump, while Mr. Pensler accuses his opponent of twisting the truth on that point.

Since this contest is a dead heat, Mr. Trump stepping in could be significant.

Democratic governor candidate Dr. El Sayed picked up the endorsment of Bernie Sanders, whom you will recall pulled off an upset victory over Hillary Clinton in the Michigan presidential primary. Dr. El Sayed probably had most of the Bernie-crats on his side to begin with, but having the endorsement could cement that support and bring some stragglers into the fold.

Gretchen Whitmer wins the endorsement contest as she boasts lots of labor, Emily's List, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others. She is also working on landing former Gov. Bill Milliken's blessing, for those of you who remember the moderate GOP governor whom she admires.

But there is a downside to endorsements, too.

The aforementioned Ms. Clinton also had every endorsement Ms. Whitmer has, but managed to lose in this state. Clearly, there were other factors — namely that lots of voters did not like her. There is no evidence that Ms. Whitmer is loathed by voters a la the Hill.

And then there is the impact of a Trump endorsement in a general election, in which the electorate is broader than the narrow GOP primary. There are those who figure if Bill Schuette wins the nomination, he can't win in November with just his Trump supporters.

Popular wisdom suggests he'll need to supplement that base with some independents, some dissonant Democrats and some moderates. But how does he do that if he continues to boast about his White House support?

Which, if correct, means he has two choices. Put some distance between himself and Mr. Trump or continue to cuddle up as close as he can get. If he choses the former, he'll risk offending the Trump folks but others will accuse him of flip-flopping to save his own political neck if he tacts to the center to win.

Bottom line, here, is the "chicken soup" of endorsements may taste yummy for awhile but it could also sour make you sick as in losing an election.

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The Detroit News. August 1, 2018

Raise glass, not regs, to beverage boom

Breweries, wineries and distilleries are popping up all over Michigan, making the state a go-to destination for craft beverages. The economic benefits to Michigan are real, and lawmakers should welcome this boom — not regulate it to death.

Michigan controls the sale and purchase of alcohol more heavily than most states. And despite hopes for deregulation which grew from Gov. Rick Snyder's formation during his first term of a 21-member Liquor Control Advisory Rules Committee to look into reforms, only small steps have been taken to modernize the antiquated system.

One of the few reforms that has actually occurred came last October when the Michigan Liquor Control Commission voted to remove a rule prohibiting liquor stores from operating within a half-mile of each other.

The "half-mile" rule repeal was a small step toward the alcohol deregulation the industry needs.

The biggest issue with the current system, however, is its fundamental structure — a holdover from the prohibition era. Because each tier — producers, distributors and consumers — must remain separate, wineries, breweries and distilleries cannot distribute their own products. This makes for a flabby, expensive system.

Local brewery owners can't walk their beer down the street to a grocery store to sell. Instead, a wholesaler must collect the beer, drive it to a warehouse to log it, and then distribute it to stores and restaurants, skimming a tidy profit in the process. Though nearly all producers would say that wholesalers are necessary to distribution, the mandate forces inefficiencies.

An example: A brewer in Saugatuck on the coast of Lake Michigan wants to sell his beer to a restaurant down the street. Due to the government mandate, a wholesaler based out of Kalamazoo (the closest wholesaler) must pick up the beer, drive it to Kalamazoo, log it, and then return it to Saugatuck. It is a government mandated 100 mile round trip just to move the beer a few blocks.

The structure of the system cannot be changed by the MLCC. It can only be done through legislation.

"We are in a holding pattern for alcohol legislation," says Michael Lafaive, senior director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "Snyder had initial intent to get rid of onerous regulation in alcohol control, but even he would agree that not enough has been accomplished."

Jim Storey, who served as a Michigan Liquor Control commissioner from 1997-2007, says there are too many constraints concerning liquor marketing and too many roadblocks to obtaining a liquor license.

"We are a Pure Michigan tourist state, but we make it difficult to let people into the hospitality industry," he says.

Doing away with the three-tiered system would cause alcohol prices to fall dramatically, which some fear would harm public health. Making booze cheaper won't neccessarily translate into higher consumption. But it could spur a craft beverage boom that would boost local tourist business.

This is an exciting industry that has tremendous growth potential, if the state gets out of its way.

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The Mining Journal. August 1, 2018

Loans, grants needed for infrastructure

If there's water and sewer infrastructure, there are bound to be upgrades.

Since those typically don't come without a price tag, it's beneficial for municipalities to acquire funding.

So, the good news is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $7 million to Munising and Houghton to improve their water and sewer facilities.

Munising will receive a $4.65 million USDA loan to improve the city's water system, while Houghton will receive $2.25 million in loans and $1.5 million in grants to improve its water and sewer systems.

The money is provided through the USDA's Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. This year's omnibus spending bill allows for investment in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

Many people should be helped with this funding. For example, Munising's water system serves over 1,000 customers. Since sections of the water main under busy M-28 are over a century old, that could be problematic.

Houghton plans to use its $3.75 million total allocation to upgrade its water and sewer systems, which serve over 1,200 residential customers and nearly 400 commercial customers.

Houghton, whose infrastructure in general has been tested with the recent June flooding that devastated the Copper Country, has a water system that, according to the USDA, has exceeded its useful life. It also has multiple leaks and recurring maintenance issues, and violates the Michigan Safe Drinking Act.

The sewer system has old structures and deteriorating pipes that lead to infiltration and inflow of groundwater as well as high maintenance costs.

The Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program helps qualified applicants by providing long-term, low-interest loans, which may be combined with grants to keep user costs reasonable.

USDA Rural Development operates this program to help small communities in need of financial help extend and improve their water and waste treatment facilities. In the long run, upgraded facilities save tax dollars, help businesses locate or expand operations, and improve the environment.

It's gratifying to see smaller communities receive help for ever-important infrastructure. Bigger cities tend to have have deeper pockets, so the smaller ones really could use the help.

So, we say: Lend money to those who really need it.

Residents of small cities, towns and village deserve safe drinking water and well-functioning sewer systems.

Those are basic needs, and we're glad to see Munising and Houghton will receive assistance in getting them.