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Friday, February 7,2014

This week from Capital News Service

Tax breaks for brewers; Legislature overusing special recognitions; snow kiters thrive; new contamination evidence in otters and more

by CNS correspondents
Courtesy photo

Friday, Feb. 7 — 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 state lawmakers considering a tax break for brewers who use Michigan-grown crops in their beer, making the case for a part-time Legislature and more.

  • Lawmakers are considering a tax break for brewers who use Michigan-grown crops in their beer in a bid to boost farming and craft beers and promote the state. The measure recently was introduced by a lawmaker on the House agricultural committee who is also a home brewer. The bill applies to makers of beer, mead, wine and hard cider. By Ashley Weigel.
  • Michiganders had a lot to celebrate in 2013 — so much so that only 23 days went without some kind of special recognition approved by the state legislature. Critics say that means lawmakers have too much time on their hands and that it supports arguments for a part-time legislature. House lawmakers recently approved limits to the practice that has resulted in such things as talk like a pirate day and Michigan flower planting day. By Darcie Moran.
  • Michigan’s frigid winter has iced Great Lakes surfing, making it difficult for surfers to access open water. But the news isn’t all bad as the ice fields on the lakes have opened new territory for snow kiters. By Nick Stanek.
  • State lawmakers narrowly approved a bill that protects trampoline court owners from certain injury-related lawsuits if they inform jumpers of risks and meet certain safety standards. Opponents said it protects owners more than jumpers and that it represents inappropriate government intrusion. By Danielle Woodward.
  • State officials who rooted out an invasive plant last fall that killed everything else in a Michigan pond are watching for its re-emergence yet this spring. Called parrot feather, the plant may have come from tropical fish owners who dumped their aquariums. By Lacee Shepard.
  • The U.S. government isn’t expected to open airspace for civilian unmanned drone flight at least until 2015. But Northwestern Michigan College students can fly drones today. It is the only school in the Great Lakes region and one of a handful in the nation with federal approval to teach courses on unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones. The college teaches U.S. drone law, drone technology and how to operate the school’s unmanned fixed-wing airplanes and quadcopters — helicopter-like unmanned aircraft with four rotors. By Greg Monahan.
  • Michigan’s otter population is healthy and growing, especially in the U.P. and northern Lower Peninsula, DNR says. However, a new Illinois study of otter livers found unexpectedly high levels of contamination with chemicals from pesticides used on cornfields in that state and Michigan, although the pesticides were banned 35 years. That could signal health risks for people who eat fish from contaminated waters. By Eric Freedman.

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