Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 13, 2013

Michigan in Brief: 03/13/2013


— Gov. signs sex offender registry expansion

LANSING — More people will be added to Michigan’s public sex offender registry under a bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The bill signed Tuesday will require people convicted of a single Tier I offense for some crimes involving minors to be placed on the online registry. Offenses that qualify include possessing child pornography and surveillance of a minor.

Republican Sen. Rick Jones is the bill’s sponsor. He says it will add about 250 people to the public registry.

People convicted of such crimes must already register with the state, but their information is made available only to police. Currently only people convicted of Tier II and III offenses are placed on the public registry.


DNR’s outdoor plan gets federal approval

LANSING — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says its statewide outdoor recreation plan has won federal approval.

The endorsement from the National Park Service is important because it makes the state eligible for federal funding to boost outdoor recreation opportunities.

About $40 million is available nationwide each year under the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. To qualify for grants, states must prepare and win approval of a recreation plan that’s updated every five years.

Michigan’s newly approved plan covers the years 2013-2017. DNR Director Keith Creagh said Tuesday that putting together the document helped the department learn about trends and needs in outdoor recreation.

About half the money allotted to Michigan goes to local governments, which are required to match 50 percent of their grants.


Council appeals manager findings

LANSING — Detroit City Council members on Tuesday made a longshot appeal of the state’s declaration that the city has no adequate plan to fix its fiscal crisis, arguing that more time is needed to implement a budget-cutting deal reached with the state less than a year ago.

“Stay the course. A deal’s a deal,” David Whitaker, the city council’s research and analysis director, told a deputy state treasurer presiding over an hour-long hearing in Lansing.

In a report to Gov. Rick Snyder last month, a state-appointed review board declared that Detroit was facing a financial emergency because of its $14 billion of debt, $327 million budget deficit and other issues. The board said Mayor David Bing and the city council lacked a good plan to turn things around, and the Republican governor agreed, setting in motion the possible appointment of a manager to oversee the city’s finances.

While the council decided to challenge the finding, Bing declined to go along, saying it was a losing battle.

Also speaking at the hearing was a member of the review team. State Treasury Department lawyer Frederick Headen said there was a “lack of enthusiasm” from city officials to implement a consent agreement struck in April 2012, even after legal appeals had been exhausted. He said Snyder’s appointment of a second review team late last year was effective in getting the city to act, but that was already after the board had begun to determine that a financial emergency existed.

City officials countered that a plan is in place, though, and the understanding was always that it would take years to implement it.

Chief Deputy Treasurer Mary MacDowell is expected to report back to Snyder within days. He is expected to stand by his finding and appoint an emergency manager.

Council President Charles Pugh told reporters after the hearing that he was holding out hope that Snyder may ultimately not appoint a manager

“I feel like the governor’s a reasonable person,” he said. “We feel like we have the tools necessary to do it, that somebody else does not have to come in and do it for us.”

The report given to Snyder said the accumulated deficit as of June 30, 2012, would have topped $900 million if Detroit leaders in recent years had not issued bonds to pay some of its bills.

Also Tuesday, Bing separately released a progress report on the city’s restructuring plan. It said Detroit has implemented or identified cost savings to address its $150 million annual structural deficit.

The report forecast savings from unpaid furlough days imposed on 1,200 workers, pension cost deferrals, job cuts and vendor spending cuts.