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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

May 27, 2019

Detroit News. May 22, 2019

Wait for new Roe ruling before deciding abortion

Even before one fight to restrict abortion in Michigan has been resolved, activists are pushing another, more severe limit that clearly runs afoul of the guidelines of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Last week, the Michigan House and Senate passed separate bills to outlaw a procedure commonly used in second-term abortions. The technique, which dismembers a fetus before removing it from the womb, was used in nearly 1,800 abortions in the state last year.

The legislation would not outlaw second term abortions, but would force doctors to use a different procedure that mimics a miscarriage.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to veto the bill, if a reconciled version makes it to her desk.

That’s brought the promise of a citizens initiative from Right to Life of Michigan. Under state law, backers of a bill can collect 340,000 valid petition signatures to force action by the Legislature. If the proposal is approved by lawmakers, it becomes law without the governor’s signature. If the Legislature doesn’t approve, it goes to the ballot for voters to decide.

This week, the group Michigan Heartbeat Coalition announced plans for a second citizen’s initiative to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Several states have passed fetal heartbeat laws, most of which have been blocked by the courts because they too strictly limit a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, which Roe v. Wade forbids.

Backers of more restrictive laws are betting a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will revisit Roe and will return the responsibility for regulating abortion to the states.

Right to Life actually opposes the heartbeat ban because it fears it would actually weaken Michigan’s law, which was passed in 1848 and bans all abortions except to save the life of a mother.

In Michigan, residents are divided on abortion, as they are in most of the country. A Pew Research poll found 54 percent of state voters say abortion should be legal in most circumstances, while 42 percent they should be mostly illegal.

Policy on abortion should reflect the values of the state.

The prudent course here would be to wait for the Supreme Court to settle Roe, and then begin a debate on how Michigan should respond.

Using the initiative approach would seem to short-circuit what should be a far more deliberative and inclusive process. It will be impossible, of course, to satisfy everyone on this issue.

But whatever abortion law looks like after Roe v. Wade is relitigated - if it is - it should hew as closely as possible to the views of a majority of state residents.

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Lansing State Journal. May 26, 2019

Schools must report bullying, it’s Michigan law and common-sense leadership

Laws are not optional. If they were, they’d be called guidelines.

Yet a Lansing State Journal investigation showed the majority of mid-Michigan school districts are not following Matt’s Law, which requires all Michigan school districts to investigate reports of bullying and inform school boards of the scope of these incidents.

Only two of the 18 school districts the LSJ reviewed were fully compliant with the 8-year-old law, named for Matt Epling, an East Lansing teenager who died by suicide in 2002. His father, Kevin, fought for years to get the Legislature to implement an anti-bullying law.

But a law does little good if it isn’t enforced and educators disregard various portions of it.

The report showed that many of the schools that had some sort of reporting mechanism failed to follow up with it by including any action steps. Reports provided to the school board are often verbal and informal, failing to capture the scope of incidents.

Read the story: Is your school following Michigan’s anti-bullying law? Probably not.

With the well being of young people at stake, every school district should be fully on board with the law.

Tracking reports of bullying and the actions taken to address those reports will help school board members, parents and the community understand the extent of issue in their districts.

Those reports also allow educators to spot trends and create a mechanism to address potential problems before they exist. What gets measured gets fixed.

The spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education said it has no role in ensuring compliance with the bullying law. Once a district files a policy with the state, the agency says individual districts are responsible for monitoring themselves. Clearly, that isn’t working.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who sponsored an early version of Matt’s Law during her time as state senator, said the original draft “had more teeth,” but what it ended up as was only a “modest step forward” that didn’t do enough.

Whether educators agree with the law doesn’t matter. Following it, and leveraging it to improve student safety and community education, is common-sense leadership.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. May 23, 2019

Our libraries keep turning new pages

In this day of smart, small technology that brings us everything we need to work, play and survive, are we surprised that millennials carry library cards?

We’re not.

Today’s libraries are as close as many of us get to seamless, orderly, space-age technology. (Unrelated question: when will that miraculous bed that scans a stack of stuff at once be available at the grocery store?)

You don’t even have to “go” anywhere as today’s library unlocks the virtual door to books, movies, genealogical research, etc. from around the world, digitally and easily from the comfort of home.

It’s a long way from where libraries started, as dusty collection points for clay tablets 5,000 years ago.

But libraries have a way of making themselves indispensable in every age, for every age.

Pew found that more than half of the millennials surveyed — aged 23 to 38, as of 2019 — used the library in the 12-month survey period, compared to 45 percent of Gen Xers, 43 percent of Baby Boomers and 36 percent of the preceding Silent Generation.

Bradley Chaplin, director of the Suttons Bay-Bingham District Library, explained it as an economical choice for entertainment and free wi-fi.

“To me, what I see with the millennial crowd is they’re much more thrifty, money savvy, and apt to use things like libraries,” Chaplin said.

Our local statistics likely skew to another thrifty crowd — older, retired adults. But this powerful, local constituency has gladly turned out their pockets to expand and grow our libraries in Interlochen, Elk Rapids, Glen Lake and on Old Mission Peninsula.

We are lucky, as libraries in other communities across the country tell a different story.

Anti-tax opposition in Douglas County, Oregon closed 11 county libraries, though several have sprung back up as township or volunteer libraries. The Noralina Town Board decided to close its library in 2017 because of expenses and disuse. Libraries are also on the federal chopping block, as the $4.7 trillion budget calls for the total shutdown of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supports 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums.

Across the pond, 130 public libraries closed in Britain last year because of local funding austerity.

Even in these places where funding is scarce, libraries are “popular,” drawing cadres of volunteer forces and pushback.

A recent study in The Atlantic pointed at funding as a deciding factor in overall usage, though cuts and shortened hours tended to funnel the same numbers of people into smaller windows.

Our windows are getting larger, and for that, a thank-you to the communities that support our thriving and robust libraries system is long overdue.

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