- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

Detroit News. May 13, 2017

GOP must get behind strong ethics rules

There’s nothing an influence peddler likes better than the outstretched palm of a lawmaker. Some leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature seem hell-bent on keeping the grease flowing to those hands.

A very sensible package of bills that would tighten Michigan’s weakest-in-the-nation ethics laws are stalled in Lansing because some key GOP lawmakers won’t come on board.

In March, House Democrats introduced a package of bills requiring legislators to disclose their personal finance information. The proposals won the conditional support of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and House Speaker Tom Leonard, both Republicans.

But they’ve gone nowhere because other Republicans aren’t so eager to allow constituents to search their financial records for potential conflicts.

The House did pass an ethics-related bill in March on a bipartisan vote that would lift the Freedom of Information Act shield on the governor and lawmakers.

That bill is stalled in the Senate, blocked by Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof.

Lansing’s wild west ethical landscape must be tamed. Lawmakers are relatively free to take all sorts of sweeteners from lobbyists, including meals, event tickets and even some trips.___

Times Herald (Port Huron). May 3, 2017

Our roads get riskier; only you can help

Automakers and government regulators tell us that vehicles are safer than they’ve ever been. One agency’s video shows a modern sub-compact car colliding with a large, full-size sedan from the early 1970s, when bigger meant safer. The mini-car tears the wide-body classic in half, and the dummies inside the new car would have walked away from the accident.

So why are our highways becoming so much more dangerous?

For the second year in a row, the Michigan State Police are reporting a 10 percent increase in highway fatalities for 2016. The 1,064 people who died on Michigan roads last year represent the largest number in a decade and continue a trend that only seems to be accelerating.

Crashes were up from 2015 to 2016, injuries were up, and fatalities were up - from 963 to 1,064.

There is some good news in the grim statistics. Alcohol-involved highway fatalities fell 11 percent. The number of fatalities involving young drivers ages 16 to 20 fell 7 percent year over year. But there is bad news, too. The number of crashes, injuries and deaths involving drivers who are impaired by drugs appears to be increasing, the State Police report.

Then there are statistics to blame. Analysts suggest that highways here and across the country are becoming more hazardous simply because more of us are driving, and we’re driving more. That’s because the rebounding economy puts more people on the road going to jobs, shopping and recreation. And lower gasoline prices make all that more affordable.

But we also have to believe a larger factor involved is that we are losing our driving skills. Even if we know what we are doing behind the wheel, we are not doing it because we are distracted by cell phones, text messages, vehicle dashboards full of complicated dashboards and the breakfast we picked up at the drive-through window. We’d all be better drivers if only we paid attention to driving while we were doing it.

Attitudes toward each other and toward the laws designed to protect us are also slipping. Aggressive and hostile driving, coupled with disregard for simple protective devices like red lights and stop signs put everyone at risk.

Yes, it is always the other guy. Just remember the first person to arrive at your next traffic collision will probably be you.


The Times Herald. May 11, 2017

Avoiding your voters is not helping, congressman

We think Rep. Paul Mitchell misunderstands the Harry S. Truman quotation.

When the 33rd president barked at one of his appointees, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” he was not telling him to go hide in a closet somewhere. Instead, he was telling him he shouldn’t have taken the job if he was not prepared to do it.

We understand Mitchell’s reluctance to attend this week’s town hall arranged by St. Clair County Democrats. It was political theater at best, and none of the people who arranged or attended it ever seriously expected Mitchell to appear.

Mitchell, though, has all but refused to meet with his constituents in a public forum. He and his staff say they fear that any such meetings would devolve into a political circus of demonstrators, impolite behavior and histrionics. Maybe, but that does suggest a low opinion of his constituents.

Mitchell and his staff probably also expect hard questions from people who don’t agree with what he, the Congress and the Republican Party have been doing since he was elected in November. Those hard questions are what Truman was talking about when he mentioned overheated kitchens.

A congressman who cannot listen to his constituents’ ideas, concerns and complaints is not prepared to do his job.

Mitchell’s roots in Michigan’s 10th District are shallow at best. He moved here to run for Congress. Other than knowing that 10th District voters were likely to elect a Republican, we’re not sure that he knows what his constituents are doing or thinking or likely to ask questions about.

Avoiding us is not the way to get to know us better. Avoiding us is not the way to serve us better. Another former president has advice for Mitchell and his colleagues who choose to stay cocooned in their Washington offices and out the demanding glare of their constituents.

“The best minds are not in government,” Ronald Reagan said. “If any were, business would steal them away.”

In other words, cloistering with congressmen in Washington instead of meeting with your constituents in Michigan will not teach you what you need to know.

Tenth District voters might be angry and could even be confrontational. Ignoring them is not lowering their temperatures or their expectations.___

The Mining Journal. May 9, 2017

New marijuana ballot proposal effort underway

A new effort to place legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes on the state ballot, perhaps as early as November, was launched last week.

Coordinated by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a ballot drive started Friday to gather about 252,000 signatures needed to qualify for a statewide vote, The Associated Press reported. In terms of process, the Michigan Board of Canvassers must first approve the ballot language before actual signatures can be collected.

“Our country’s marijuana prohibition laws have failed miserably,” effort spokesman John Truscott told AP. He said arresting 20,000 nonviolent offenders a year in the state of Michigan for marijuana possession and cultivation is a waste of taxpayers’ money. “This initiative would make Michigan a leader in responsible adult-use marijuana laws, while also creating an entirely new industry and generating badly needed tax revenue for our state.”

We expect proposal proponents to key on two basic issues: That marijuana, consumed in reasonable amounts, is no more harmful than alcohol; and legalization for recreational use will generate vast sums of money that can be put to use for the greater good.

According to AP, if the proposal would go on the ballot as it currently reads, adults 21 and over could legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in their residence. Public consumption and driving under the influence of the drug would be illegal. A 10 percent tax on marijuana would be assessed, in addition to the 6 percent sales tax. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be generated for K-12 schools and road construction projects. The proposal is complicated, with additional language addressing marijuana businesses and growing operations.

We realize that the majority of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. Although one Gallup poll put the support number at 60 percent, other polls have pegged it even higher. It’s unclear what percentage of Michigan residents support legalization for recreational use. Voters in Michigan voted approval for medical marijuana in 2008.

Marijuana currently resides on Schedule I of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, along with nasty drugs like heroin and cocaine, something even many police officers think is ridiculous. But because arresting and locking up pot offenders is big business in the U.S. - think cars, guns, equipment, training, personnel, privately run prisons - we don’t anticipate any changes there. There’s just too much money being made by too many people with connections to all the right places in Washington for anything to change.

And it will still be against federal law, even if the Michigan ballot proposal is approved.

We think recreational legalization will happen in Michigan. It’s only a matter of time. Residents should research the proposal now, before someone asks them to sign a petition.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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