Caroline Llanes | Michigan Radio
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Caroline Llanes

Newsroom Intern

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled on the side of The Traverse City Record-Eagle in a case about transparency. The ruling says that Traverse City Area Public Schools cannot use the Open Meetings Act to withhold documents.

covid vaccine card or immunization card
Marco Verch / bit.ly/1xMszCg

The Michigan House Overnight Committee met on Thursday morning to discuss a bill that would ban the state government's use of a vaccine passport. This follows last Thursday's hearing, wherein some speakers promoted conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Committee Chair Steven Johnson (R-Wayland) presented changes to House Bill 4667 today, including exempting the CDC immunization card from the definition of passport.

wood gavel in front of book
sergign / Adobe Stock

In 2018, the Republican-led lame duck legislature prevented  minimum wage and sick time laws from getting on Michiganders' ballots by adopting the proposals and then gutting them. Now, a new lawsuit is asking a court to overturn then-Attorney General Bill Schuette's opinion that the move was legal, and implement the original proposals.

PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Minnesota-based company 3M is suing the state of Michigan over its regulations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or the PFAS family of chemicals. Michigan's regulations on PFAS in drinking water were finalized in August 2020, and are among the most stringent in the country.

A sign of the University of Michigan Central Campus
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is planning for a mostly in-person fall semester after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many operations to go remote. 

Part of that process is getting faculty and staff who have been working remotely back on campus for in-person work. President Mark Schlissel announced today that the school is beginning a gradual phasing-in of on-site work.

Spectrum Health

Plenty of Michiganders went to neighboring states like Ohio and Indiana to get the COVID-19 vaccine, especially when availability was more limited at home. Now, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is asking them to notify their primary care provider.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently announced a plan for the state's reopening called MI Vacc to Normal. The plan will relax COVID-19 restrictions to the percentage of residents that are at least partially vaccinated.

hatim elhady with UPAMM holds a sign at a rally
Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents recognized United Physician Assistants of Michigan Medicine, or UPAMM, in July of 2020. Now, the union is bargaining for its first contract with Michigan Medicine.

Nearly 50 members and community members gathered at E. Medical Center Drive on Tuesday to show support for the bargaining team, which is on day four of its seven day bargaining marathon.

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization and the Lecturers' Employee Organization were among those who showed up.

Edward Lofton and his mom, Joanna sitting on a grey sofa
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Edward Lofton loves road trips with his mom, Joanna. He’s like a human GPS: he doesn’t need maps or a phone, he knows exactly where to go.

“I have a gift for roads, freeways, for directions. I can tell you how to get to mostly anywhere in the country, to any downtown city.” 

U.S. Marshal

Associated Press DETROIT (AP) -  A Detroit contractor who got millions of dollars of city work through extortion will be released early from prison. Judge Nancy Edmunds is citing Bobby Ferguson's health. But the judge also says it would be unfair to keep Ferguson locked up when former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was released by President Donald Trump.

Exterior of fence and prison grounds
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Lawmakers in Michigan's House of Representatives have introduced a package of bills designed to make changes to existing laws regarding public safety.

The seven-bill package has bipartisan support, and seeks to lower recidivism rates and provide support to victims of crimes.

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan put in place drinking water standards for the chemical family of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in August 2020. Those are among the most stringent in the country.

Nearly eight months later, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy says it's been seeing a lot of success in getting public water systems in compliance with the new rules. Michigan has roughly 2,700 public water works, and EGLE reports that most of those systems are in compliance.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

A hospital emergency room entrance.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Hospitals and health care systems around Michigan are feeling the strain of increased COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Over 4,000 patients are currently hospitalized with the disease, and test positivity rates are up in many regions.

One of those regions is the Thumb, where three counties have positivity rates of over 30%: Tuscola at 30.5%, Sanilac at 35.3%, and Huron at 36.9%.

Map of 1,4-dioxane plume in Ann Arbor.
Scio Residents for Safe Water

The plume of 1,4 dioxane in Washtenaw County's groundwater is one step closer to getting federal help with its cleanup. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy requested today that the Environmental Protection Agency initiate the assessment of the site for the National Priorities List of Superfund sites.

ann arbor city council
Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution Monday night directing the city administrator to establish an unarmed team to respond to public safety calls.

The idea behind the team is to reduce violent encounters with the police. The resolution posits that experts, specifically non-police people who have training in public health, mental health, and human services, are better equipped to respond to certain emergencies. 

Oakland University Campus
Oakland University

Any Oakland University student living in on-campus housing this fall will need to be get the COVID-19 vaccine before fall move-in in August. Students can get an exception for a religious or medical reason.

Bob Murphy is the chief policy officer at the Michigan Association of State Universities. He says although Oakland may be the first state university to have some sort of vaccine mandate, it won't be the last.

black and white photo of ron weiser
University of Michigan

The University of Michigan's board has censured a Republican regent who called Michigan's female Democratic leaders "witches" whom the GOP would prepare for a "burning at the stake" in the 2022 election.

Ron Weiser, who chairs the state Republican Party, said Friday he takes "full responsibility" for his comments but won't quit despite the board's call for his resignation.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is hoping that a federal law will be able to help speed up Department of Defense cooperation with cleaning up contamination from per- and polyfluoralalkyl sybstances, or PFAS, in Oscoda Township near Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

In 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act included section 332. It allows a governor to request changes or an entirely new cooperative agreement over remediation at sites by PFAS as a result of DOD activities.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed COVID-19 relief bills into law in December, and one of those bills extended unemployment benefits through March 31. Now, those benefits are set to expire.

For one, not being able to work due to COVID-19 will no longer be a valid reason to claim state unemployment benefits. Those who are eligible for federal unemployment benefits would still be able to collect it for COVID-related reasons.

a hospital hallway with people at the end of it
Robin Erb / Bridge

Michigan's COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising, and they're rising fast.

Teacher at a chalkboard
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

From August of 2020 to February of 2021, 749 Michigan teachers retired. That's a 44% increase from the 519 teachers who retired in the same time period during the 2019-2020 school year.

Those who work in education say the COVID-19 pandemic has likely played a role in retirement numbers increasing, but teachers leaving the profession is an issue the state has struggled with for years.

testing swab
Shutterstock image

With Michigan in the midst of rising cases again in the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Clair County is being hit especially hard. St. Clair County's average test positivity rate over the last two weeks, at 20.3%, is nearly double the statewide average. The county's hospitalization rate is currently the highest in the state, and is more than double the hospitalization rate in the next hardest hit county, Crawford. 

work being done under Mackinac bridge
Enbridge

Attorneys general from Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana are requesting amici status in Enbridge Energy's case against Governor Gretchen Whitmer's revocation of the easement for the Line 5 pipeline, which carries crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac.

faucet running water
Marina Shemesh / Public Domain

The statewide moratorium on water shutoffs expires at the end of the month, and some groups are concerned that many Michiganders won't be able to catch up on unpaid utilities and prevent more shutoffs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) says she plans to introduce legislation in the next few days that would extend the moratorium. She emphasized the need to act quickly, because the Legislature goes on its in-district work period, or "spring break" next week.

michigan absentee ballot
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson put out guidance to county and local clerks for signature matching on absentee ballots in October, prior to the 2020 election. Now, a Court of Claims judge has ruled that guidance to be invalid.

In October, Benson said that a signature on an absentee ballot should be presumed valid unless it differed “in multiple, significant and obvious respects from the signature on file.”

detroit homeowners file a lawsuit against the city for property tax over assessment
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit against the city of Detroit, Wayne County, and the state of Michigan over inflated property tax assessments in 2017.

Judge Nancy Edmunds cited the Tax Injunction Act, writing, "because there is a state remedy that is plain, speedy, and efficient, this Court, a federal court, lacks subject matter jurisdiction over these claims."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs are appealing the dismissal, arguing that clients' federal constitutional rights to due process were violated, therefore making federal court the right place to litigate the issue.

cougar in ontonagon county in the upper peninsula august 2020
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports 14 confirmed cougar sightings in 2020, all located in the Upper Peninsula. That's the highest number reported since 2008, when the DNR first began tracking cougars.

The sightings were spread across seven counties: three of the sightings were in Delta County, three were in Luce County, and another three were in Mackinac County. The others were spread across Baraga, Chippewa, Ontonagon, and Schoolcraft Counties.

A neighborhood in Detroit
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Starting this week, Michiganders can get emergency COVID-19 rental and utility assistance through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

FOIA
Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are once again considering legislation that would increase transparency and access to public records. A 10-bill package would remove exemptions for the governor and lieutenant governor's office from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as well as create the Legislative Open Records Act for the state legislature.

Ann Arbor city hall.
Heritage Media / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Ann Arbor City Council will finalize their budget for the next fiscal year on May 17. In the meantime, council members have already begun discussions about what items will get funding this budget. One idea that's been discussed is an unarmed crisis response team that would respond to psychiatric emergencies instead of the police.

The idea was first brought up at a council work session on February 22. In a March 1 meeting, Lisa Jackson, chair of the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission, expressed her support for the idea, and encouraged the council to find money in the budget to make it happen.

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