- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Highlights of Gov. Rick Snyder’s fifth annual State of the State address:

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SOCIAL SERVICES

- Snyder announced plans to merge the state’s Department of Community Health and Department of Human Services into a new 14,000-thousand employee Department of Health and Human Services. His administration is drafting an executive order likely to be issued in the next weeks. His intent is to “dramatically” restructure government in his second term to better help those in need by making the state less “program-centric” and more “people-centric.” It is not yet known if there will be layoffs.

- He called for bolstering programs such as Pathways to Potential, which embeds social workers public schools, and Community Ventures, which has led to nearly 3,000 unemployed residents of Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac landing jobs.

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ROADS

- Snyder called for passage of a lawmaker-approved constitutional amendment on the May 5 statewide ballot that would increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent as part of a deal to pump $1.3 billion more annually into roads, bridges and public transit.

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EDUCATION

- Snyder asked legislators to authorize spending for an outside commission to focus on third-grade reading - considered a critical benchmark - and other prenatal-to-third grade issues to improve children’s outcomes. He will give more details on Feb. 11, when he presents his proposed spending plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

- He said he will increase efforts to improve the transition from high school to higher education, with a focus on career counseling, technical training in the skilled trades, and dual-enrollment and online learning. He plans to include specific trades-related spending in his budget proposal.

- He outlined but did not detail his desire for improved accountability and transparency in local schools and governments. He earlier told The Associated Press that there is an “uncoordinated” educational environment in Detroit, which has traditional schools, charter schools and a state-run turnaround district for failing schools. Snyder is waiting for the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, which formed in December, to make recommendations after a three-month review.

- He renewed a call for lawmakers to put in place a new statewide evaluation system for public school teachers and administrators.

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GAY RIGHTS

- Snyder urged continued debate on legislation that would amend Michigan’s civil rights law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation on gender identity. Bills stalled last year in the Republican-controlled Legislature, and key GOP backers of the effort have left under term limits. Snyder told the AP there is still an “opportunity to hopefully do something.”

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ENERGY

- Snyder called for a rewrite of the state’s energy law this year to make it “affordable, reliable, environmentally sound and also adaptable.” Utilities must generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2015, and Snyder and legislators are expected to debate boosting targets for green power and energy efficiency for future years. Another issue is the level of competition for business customers between dominant utilities and alternative suppliers. He will wait to detail specifics in March, when he plans a second special message on the topic.

- Snyder aides said he will create a state energy agency. He is expected to provide more details in March.

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DRUG ABUSE

- Snyder said more must be done to combat prescription drug and heroin abuse, saying 650,000 residents have a substance abuse disorder. He plans a special message on the topic for October.

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JOBS

- Snyder said he will appoint regional “prosperity” teams of experts to ask communities around the state how the state can help with job creation and turnaround efforts.

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COST OF LEGISLATION

- Snyder called for a fiscal note process in the Legislature, so lawmakers find ways to pay for the impact of legislation instead of waiting until the yearly budget process.

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