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Week in Review: The end of Flint water bill subsidies and the right to literacy

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The state's water bill subsidies for Flint residents ended this week, and that means customers will see a price spike when they get their bills next month. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about how that could give way to more problems for Flint water customers already behind on their accounts.

They also talk about a call from Michigan State University faculty members for the college to turn the investigation surrounding Dr. Larry Nassar over to an outside police agency, an uphill battle to add the right to literacy to the state constitution, and a bill that would require employers to let employees earn paid sick time.

Sex assault investigation

A signed letter from 150 faculty members at Michigan State University asks the college to hand a sex abuse investigation over to an outside police agency. 

Right now MSU police are the lead investigators in the case surrounding Dr. Larry Nassar, who's been accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women and girls.

Lessenberry says turning over the case would be in MSU's best interest.

"This is mushrooming into a major scandal and may well threaten the presidency of Lou Anna Simon and some other officials. The question here is who knew what and when did they know it," Lessenberry said.

Water bill subsidies

Flint residents who've been receiving subsidies from the state on their water bills, will see a price spike on their water bills next month.

The state's water bill subsidies for city residents ended this past week, despite protest from Mayor Karen Weaver.

Lessenberry says Gov. Rick Snyder's refusal to budge on the matter could hurt both the people of Flint and Snyder's political party. 

"The state again is being penny wise and pound foolish," Lessenberry said. "People in Flint have suffered a great deal of distress at the hands of the state. I think we need to bend over backwards to make sure they're made whole."

The right to literacy

March is Reading Month, and this week in Lansing, some lawmakers began an uphill battle to make the right to literacy part of the state constitution

House Democrats who introduced the bill say the state isn't doing enough to protect the rights of children to read. Republican House leaders say education is a local issue, and this legislation "won't see the light of day."

Lessenberry says the bill is "an attempt with a meat ax" to ensure equality when it comes to public education. 

"It's well-documented that kids in poor areas don't have the same resources and don't do as well as [kids in affluent areas]. This is an attempt to redress the balance," he said.

Paid sick leave

Democrats in Lansing have found some common ground with President Donald Trump.

Trump promoted paid family leave during his first joint address to Congress on Tuesday. The next day, lawmakers in the state House and Senate introduced legislation that would require employers to let full and part-time workers earn sick time.

Similar legislation has failed in the past in Michigan, and Lessenberry doesn't think the President's support will make this round any different.

"There's no chance, as I can see it, that the Republican-controlled Congress is going to want to ante up that much money," he said.

Rebecca Kruth is the host of Weekend Edition at Michigan Radio. She also co-hosts Michigan Radio’s weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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