- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2015

The Mining Journal (Marquette). March 25.

Body camera bill leaves much to be desired

Having police officers wear body cameras generally is a good idea. It’s an official recording of what transpires during an incident, which can be invaluable when an officer’s actions are called into question and evidence is needed.

However, recently introduced legislation regarding body cameras might not be the way to oversee the use of these devices.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, would require judges and juries to accept a defendant’s version of events when a recording is lost or not made.



Under duress, even the most acute observers might not recall an incident correctly, so a defendant’s take on the matter could be a little, or worse, very inaccurate.

That, in itself, raises questions on whether the legislation is the right way to go.

However, there are other reasons the legislation has potential flaws.

As Chocolay Township Police Chief Greg Zyburt said, there always is the possibility of a technical malfunction on the body camera. The battery could go dead or the memory could be used up, for example.

Even the Michigan State Police have expressed similar views. Sgt. Amy Dehner said MSP’s current cameras have low resolution and batteries that don’t last through the entire 12-shifts of most troopers. Also, they don’t record in the dark, which is when many crimes occur.

Zyburt acknowledges body cameras make officers more aware of their actions because they know they are being recorded. That improves officers’ performance.

Should that trump the implications should cameras fail and defendants’ memory of the events are the default evidence? We don’t think so. The legislation might have good intentions but it is rife with problems.

Perhaps the most efficient means to regulate police use of body cameras is to let each department create its own policy.

There still would be oversight, but the departments typically are best suited to deciding what works best for them.

_____

MLive Media Group. March 27.

Who will take action to tighten Michigan’s too-lenient vaccination law?

Gov. Rick Snyder, senators, and representatives:

You’ve seen the data.

Michigan has the fourth-highest rate of childhood vaccine waivers in the nation, leaving many Michigan communities at risk for breakouts of serious diseases.

You’ve seen the results.

Grand Traverse County, which has one of the worst waiver rates in the state, had outbreaks of whooping cough and measles last fall.

You know what can happen.

Babies, children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems can and do die from these diseases. In the last decade, 221 infants in the United States have died from whooping cough. More than 300 people die from measles worldwide every day. Others suffer lasting consequences like brain damage.

What more will it take for you to act? Will people in Michigan have to start dying before you finally get the courage to stand up to the vocal fringe on behalf of the silent majority?

As public servants, it is your job to enact policies that protect public health for the common good. That includes protecting the most vulnerable among us, before it is too late. If we continue down this path, allowing parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for any reason other than medical and still send them to public schools, there will be deaths, as there have been in other states such as California. In that state, a bill has been introduced that would eliminate all but medical exemptions from the childhood vaccination requirements.

In fact, 33 states do not allow philosophical exemptions, and two states - Mississippi and West Virginia - do not even allow religious exemptions. Mississippi has the highest vaccination rate for kindergartners in the country, at 99.7 percent. Michigan trails far behind.

You must do better. Today, we deliver the results of a petition we launched last December, calling on you to remove the philosophical exemption from Michigan’s childhood vaccination requirements, and tighten the rules on religious and medical waivers as well.

To date, 3,200 people have signed the petition, with the vast majority leaving strong messages explaining their support. Read those messages. They are from health professionals, parents, grandparents, schoolteachers and administrators. They are pleading with you to act now.

There is no factual argument to be made against vaccines. They are safe, and they work. Herd immunity works. The science is settled.

To the legislators who oppose eliminating waivers on “personal choice” grounds, we say parents should remain free to vaccinate their children or not. The government can’t mandate that. But the government is squarely within its rights to restrict those who are not vaccinated from attending our public schools, where they can be a breeding ground for diseases to grow and spread to others.

The Supreme Court has upheld this notion time and again for more than 100 years, even in the case of religious exemptions. The constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion does not trump the right of others to have a safe and healthy public school environment.

We have heard from legislators that they fear parents will leave the public schools if philosophical and religious waivers are removed. To this we say: hogwash. It is unrealistic to think that the majority of these parents, many motivated by convenience, will suddenly be able to quit their jobs and homeschool their children or opt for the cost of private schooling. No, the vast majority will do the right thing and vaccinate their children.

Measures that require parents to simply sit through educational sessions before getting waivers - like the newly-enacted Michigan Department of Community Health rule - won’t be enough to bring herd immunity back. Studies have shown that education does not work with anti-vaxxers.

And measures like the bill introduced this week by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. requiring schools and licensed day cares to post their immunization rates either online or in their building are mere window-dressing on the problem. Parents should not have to shop around to find a school that has an adequate vaccination rate for providing herd immunity. It’s the state’s job to ensure all schools meet this standard.

The problem with allowing philosophical and religious waivers, ultimately, is it sends the message that vaccines are not really necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. When vaccine rates were high, childhood diseases all but disappeared from our country. Now that vaccination rates are waning, these diseases are roaring back.

Who among you will act, before it is too late?

_____

The Detroit News. March 27.

Nurses could ease physician shortage

Michigan faces a future shortage of doctors, and absent a sudden influx of new physicians into the state, it has to get creative in forging a solution.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, who chairs the Senate Health Policy Committee, would take a big step toward heading off the shortage and bring better over-all health care to Michigan.

The bill would clarify the duties of advanced practical registered nurses, those professionals who not only have a bachelor’s degree in nursing but also have completed a graduate degree in a specific, specialty field.

Currently, state public health codes do not have definitions for APRNs. The new descriptions would be based on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Consensus Model for APRN Regulation. Lack of such definitions has created unnecessary barriers for the advanced nurses to practice in Michigan.

Critics of the bill have expressed concerns about allowing advanced nurses to prescribe medication. Their worry would be valid if the nurses were given a completely free hand in writing prescriptions.

That’s not the case, says Cynthia McCurren, dean of the college of nursing at Grand Valley State University. She says APRNs would only be allowed to practice within the scope of their specialties.

Also, in countering concerns from some imaging specialists, McCurren says advanced nurses can only act on the results of diagnostic tests based on a radiologist’s interpretation and within that APRN’s training.

A nurse practitioner is licensed by the state and any medical treatments or actions outside their area of expertise would be illegal and subject to prosecution.

Nationally, APRNs’ reputation is excellent. Over the past 40 years, their record is of safe, quality, cost-effective care, with positive patient outcomes.

In addition, the professionals have earned support for defining the scope of their practice from many national and state organizations. These include the Federal Trade Commission, the Institute of Medicine, AARP, Michigan Primary Care Association and the Economic Alliance of Michigan, among others.

Michigan would not be the first state to recognize APRNs. Twenty states plus the District of Columbia allow them to practice to the fullest extent of their graduate education and national certification.

Benefits of approving this legislation include increasing the access to health care by state residents by making more primary care providers available to them. It would also help cope with the shortage of physicians and the aging population of practicing doctors. Michigan’s APRN working environment would also be enhanced and the state would attract more such professionals.

Providing medical care and treatment not only involves a patient’s quality of life but often life and death itself. So debate on this bill is warranted.

But when discussions are finished, the conclusion should be that the bill covers the critical areas and should be made law to improve health care in Michigan.

_____

Midland Daily News. March 24.

Pettiness of politics

Students in a fourth grade class in New Hampshire got a crash course in how government works - or should we say how government doesn’t work.

The class as part of a civics lesson drafted a harmless law that would declare the red-tailed hawk the state’s official raptor, not to step on the talon-less toes of the purple finch, the state bird.

Plus, the class found a representative to sponsor the law so it could actually make its way through the legislative branch. How exciting!

Well, here is where the ugly face of politics came to light. Lawmakers, instead of thanking students for their work and either passing the law or politely stating why they could not support it, used the harmless bill to pontificate for special interests or make themselves look good, all while the students listened live in the gallery.

One lawmaker said the bird should be the mascot for Planned Parenthood. Others found ways of mocking it, calling it - not so politely - a waste of time.

In an editorial, the Boston Globe noted that Massachusetts has an official insect and folk dance. The paper also noted that those bills were introduced in a similar way in order to introduce the legislative process to young students. Michigan has an official reptile (painted turtle), a state fossil (mastodon) and even a state soil (Kalkaska sand).

The story made the rounds on social media and online commenters decried that the students had such a rough experience in something that should have been positive.

However, others pointed out the harsh truth of the incident: this is, many times, how government works. Lawmakers can be petty, quarrelsome, inefficient, divisive and out of touch.

The New Hampshire lawmakers who made a stink about this law should be ashamed. They managed to instill a lesson about the pettiness of politics in these impressionable young students.

Government needs to be by the people and for the people, even if those people are a group of students learning, and trying to get excited, about government.

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