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Friday, January 24,2014

This week from Capital News Service

Spending budget surplus; bear hunting; insects and the cold; evaluating public-school teachers; and more

by CNS correspondents
Friday, Jan. 24 — Each week, City Pulse runs a series of stories produced by Capital News Service correspondents at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism. This week’s topics include ideas on how to spend the state’s budget surplus, opening bear-hunting season earlier, how insects are responding to the cold weather and more.
  • It may be good politics to spread Michigan’s $971 million budget surplus across many needs, but some experts say that strategy makes for lousy economics.  Even if you stuck all of it into tax relief, it would average only about 34 cents a day per family. We speak to the House Appropriations chair from Holland who favors the political solution. But an MSU economist and a former state treasurer prefer targeting the money to a single need such as roads or education. By Becky McKendry.
  • A U.P. lawmaker whose corn has been ravaged by bears is pushing legislation to open bear hunting season earlier in areas where the animals destroy crops. While most bears live in the Upper Peninsula, they are increasingly moving south.  We hear from the DNR, MUCC, Farm Bureau and PETA. Some sponsors are from Vulcan, Marquette, Newaygo, Petoskey, Lake City, Presque Ile, Onekama, Clare and Calumet. By Darcie Moran.
  • Some harmful Michigan insects are taking a hit from this winter’s frigid temperatures. But others, like the emerald ash borer, are already acclimated to low temperatures and snug under the bark of the trees they destroy. DNR and MSU experts don’t expect much cold-induced relief from their onslaught. By Lacee Shepard.
  • A move to expand how much state land the Department of Natural Resources can buy and manage has stalled while local and state officials discuss how best to handle land buying decisions.  We hear from the sponsor from Traverse City, the Townships Association and the Association of Counties. By Ashley Weigel.
  • Lawmakers from Portage and Ann Arbor are pushing for a common statewide system of evaluating public school teachers and administrators. A Rochester Hills lawmaker isn’t convinced. We also talk to the Education Department, Grand Rapids School officials, Studentsfirst and Midwest Trust. By Danielle Woodward.
  • So far the cold isn’t much of a threat to Michigan’s wine industry, although it could be a problem if the deep freeze returns after a spring thaw. Tourism could be hurt as well. Southern Michigan wineries are most vulnerable, a Brooklyn winemaker says, while one from Suttons Bay says Northwest Michigan varieties are used to cold and snow. By Nick Stanek.
  • Law enforcement agencies should get parent or guardian approval to use juveniles as confidential informants in criminal investigations, say legislators from Detroit, Ann Arbor, White Lake, Warren, Rochester Hills and Clarklake. We talk to the Cass County prosecutor and experts at University of Detroit-Mercy, Sheriffs’ Association, ACLU and Bay County Public Defender’s office. By Eric Freedman.
  • Biologists are tracking the migration of endangered Kirtland’s warblers with tiny backpacks that record their location by measuring daylight. It’s part of an effort to further the recovery of the warblers that summer in Michigan and then somehow fly to the Bahamas for the winter. By Lindsay Dunbar.
  • Michigan lost a bid to attract one of six federal drone test sites early but state officials say they remain optimistic about the fledgling industry that they are determined to lure here.  The site had been proposed for the northern Lower Peninsula. We talk to state aviation officials and officials at Alpena Community College and Northwestern Michigan College. By Jessica Batanian and Evan Kreager.
  • A Grand Rapids company is shooting video of off-road races, adventure sports and high-end real estate from an unmanned aerial vehicle — more commonly referred to as a drone. Expertise in Aerial Imaging is among the pioneers in an industry that doesn’t yet have federal regulatory approval. By Heather Hartmann.
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