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March 31, 2013 - Chris Tomassucci
A few disturbing news items in our state over the past couple of days.

Prolonged high unemployment

Michigan's unemployment rate is still stuck at historically high levels. Although it recently fell by 0.1 percent according to the state, unemployment is still up at 8.8 percent. In the Upper Peninsula, it’s well over 10 percent.

Here, from the Associated Press, are Michigan's unemployment rates by region in January, 2013. You'll notice the U.P.’s rate soared from 9.4 percent to 10.3 percent from December 2012 to January 2013.

Michigan's major labor market areas, their seasonally unadjusted jobless rates for January, followed by December:

—Michigan, 9.7 percent, compared with 8.9 percent.

—Ann Arbor, 5.3 percent, compared with 5.2 percent.

—Battle Creek, 7.4 percent, compared with 7 percent.

—Bay City, 9.4 percent, compared with 8.3 percent.

—Detroit-Warren-Livonia, 11.3 percent, compared with 10.2 percent.

—Flint, 9.9 percent, compared with 9.1 percent.

—Grand Rapids-Wyoming, 6.6 percent, compared with 6.3 percent.

—Holland-Grand Haven, 6.7 percent, compared with 6.4 percent.

—Jackson, 8.8 percent, compared with 8.2 percent.

—Kalamazoo-Portage, 7.7 percent, compared with 7.3 percent.

—Lansing-East Lansing, 7.6 percent, compared with 6.8 percent.

—Monroe, 8.9 percent, compared with 7.6 percent.

—Muskegon-Norton Shores, 9 percent, compared with 8.3 percent.

—Niles-Benton Harbor, 9.7 percent, compared with 8.8 percent.

—Saginaw-Saginaw Township North, 9 percent, compared with 8.3 percent.

—Upper Peninsula, 10.3 percent, compared with 9.4 percent.

—Northeast Lower Michigan, 13.7 percent, compared with 11.9 percent.

—Northwest Lower Michigan, 11.2 percent, compared with 10 percent.

Source: Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

Michigan is number five in outdated gas lines

According to a report in the Detroit Free Press today, when it comes to which state has the most outdated, leaky cast-iron and wrought-iron natural gas pipes, we are number five.

3,153 miles worth of these leaking pipes need to be replaced in the state. And they’re dangerous.

From the report:

Only four other states have more old iron gas mains than Michigan. These pipelines don't just increase the chances of a leak -- they're already leaking.

And the process of replacing them can lead to deadly results. On Feb. 27, as a Consumers Energy work crew replaced pipelines dating to 1929 in a Royal Oak neighborhood, a natural-gas explosion occurred, killing a man, leveling his house and damaging 30 other homes nearby. Consumers later fired an unspecified number of employees for "failure to follow established policies and procedures." Investigations by the utility, the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Royal Oak Fire Department continue.

DTE seems to be the worst offender.

In 2010, the PSC expressed "great concern" about DTE's "ability to provide safe and reliable service" because of its significant amount of aging pipelines and lack of action to replace them. A report noted that DTE Gas had 23.8 gas leaks per 100 miles of main in 2008 -- more than 10 times the 2.3 leaks experienced by Consumers Energy, the state's largest gas utility, with 1.7 million customers.

With the above in mind, let us check in on Lansing and see what the Republican led Michigan Legislature is working on. Maybe they are working on a bill to attract good, high-paying jobs back to the state for their unemployed constituents.

Perhaps they are already hard at work on a bill to handle those thousands of miles of leaking gas lines. At least a panel or commission.

Abortion clinics need license, check for coercion under new Michigan law

By Dave Eggert
Associated Press

Oh, I see. They’re pushing through a contentious abortion bill that will actually cost the taxpayers money.

One issue is whether the state has enough money to do licensing and annual inspections. While the Legislature allocated more funding to inspect all outpatient facilities, it is only enough to do them once every three years — not yearly — according to the House Fiscal Agency.

It’s not the most thoughtfully formed piece of legislation either:

The law has a glaring loophole.

It requires abortion providers to post a notice in a prominent location stating it is illegal for anyone to coerce a woman into having an abortion. But no such crime exists — lawmakers never gave final approval to separate legislation that would have criminalized pressuring a woman to get an abortion. A woman also must sign a consent form saying she understands coercive abortion is illegal.



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