State Roundup

Coalition seeks to give women greater voice

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A nonpartisan coalition in Michigan wants to give women a greater voice in policy decisions that affect their health and economic security.

The coalition announced this week called "MI Lead" includes leaders from more than 30 social and professional organizations. Those involved said the goal is to make Michigan a model and leader in women's rights by strengthening laws for women and families.

"Protecting women's rights and empowering women leads to stronger, more stable families and a more equal and more prosperous Michigan, which benefits everyone in the state," Kindra Speech of the Michigan Partners Project, one of the coalition members, said in a statement.

The coalition plans to work to address gender inequality across the state in the areas health, safety and economic security. And members hope to influence policymakers on issues such as pay equity, women's access to health care and maternity leave policies.

Other organizations involved include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, Business and Professional Women of Michigan, the AFL-CIO, Michigan League for Public Policy and the Michigan National Organization for Women.

"Equal economic opportunity and access to quality health care is an important matter for all citizens in Michigan," said Lara Chelian, co-director of the coalition.

Michigan State Police seek OK to use aerial drone

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State Police have asked for authorization to use an aerial drone to photograph vehicle crash scenes and give a bird's-eye view of other emergency situations across the state.

The agency hopes to get permission next month from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly a small, $158,000 remote-controlled helicopter that state police pilots have been training to use for more than a year, The Detroit News reported.

The drone, for example, would reduce the time required to survey and reconstruct major crash scenes, such as this month's 193-vehicle pileup that killed one man and closed a stretch of Interstate 94 between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek for two days.

"That would have been so useful," said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police.

The time it took to reopen the freeway was dictated in part by the needs of crash investigators, who had to take detailed measurements and photos of the scene before they could begin clearing passenger vehicles and semi-trucks, Etue said.

The Aeryon SkyRanger unmanned aerial vehicle takes hundreds of overlapping photos that a computer program stitches together to create a three-dimensional map of a crash, helping investigators reconstruct how vehicle pileups occur, 1st Lt. Chris Bush said.

"The quicker we can get accidents cleared, to me that's a game changer for how we do law enforcement," said Bush, commander of field support and aviation.

The FAA has granted licenses to fly unmanned aerial vehicles to a handful of municipal police agencies across the country, the newspaper reported. FAA officials plan to be in Lansing next month to make a final review of the state police's training and drone use policies, Bush said.

The drone, which fits inside a backpack, is limited to a maximum altitude of 400 feet, and operators must be able to see the device, Bush said.

Plans call for one drone based out of the state police's aviation unit at the Lansing airport, Bush said. More could be added later in other locations. State police also asked the American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan chapter review its policies for operating its drone.

"We have no qualms really with the state police," said Shelli Weisberg, legislative affairs director for the ACLU of Michigan. "We understand it's a good tool for them to use for accident reconstruction."

Meekhof: GOP frustration has subsided after Snyder vetoes

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The leader of the Michigan Senate says frustration over Gov. Rick Snyder's recent vetoes of gun, e-cigarette and forestry bills has subsided among Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof told reporters Tuesday that Snyder recently visited a GOP caucus meeting and explained his vetoes. Meekhof says Republicans still don't agree with Snyder, a fellow Republican, but their "frustration level has gone down."

Snyder vetoed gun bills because they would have let some people obtain concealed pistol licenses even if they had personal protection orders against them. Senators appear ready to pass the legislation again without that provision.

Other Senate bills would have prohibited e-cigarettes from being regulated as tobacco products and limited the state's authority to designate public land for the promotion of biological diversity.

Woman reports chinchilla stolen during break-in

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A Flint woman reports that thieves took electronics, jewelry and her pet chinchilla during a break-in at her home.

A report released Monday by Flint police says officers responded Friday to a home on the city's south side after the 26-year-old woman reported the break-in.

The Flint Journal reports the woman recently moved into the home and she says electronics, jewelry and shoes were taken along with a cage containing the chinchilla.

Police didn't immediately release any suspect information.

Stabenow, Kirk elected co-chairs of task force

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow has been elected co-chairwoman of the Senate's Great Lakes Task Force.

The Michigan Democrat will join Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois in leading the bipartisan working group. It advocates for programs benefiting the Great Lakes environment and oversees regulatory agencies that deal with the lakes.

Among the group's top priorities is continuing federal funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which focuses on problems such as toxic pollution, invasive species and runoff that causes toxic algae blooms.

Stabenow previously has sponsored legislation to ban oil and gas drilling in the lakes and to require federal action that would shield them from invasive Asian carp.

Published: Wed, Jan 28, 2015