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Bridges4Kids LogoSenate Panel Gives Youths An Out From Sex Offender Public Registry
Gongwer News Service, March 2, 2004
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A Senate committee on Tuesday toughened some aspects of legislation giving a break to young persons convicted of age-based sex crimes as proponents said they were trying to strike a new balance in the operation of Michigan's sex offender registry program.

Although a group critical of the current law for lumping "Romeos and Juliettes" in with sexual predators said the central bill in the package (HB 4920) represents an improvement, it was disappointed in the changes made by the Senate Families and Human Services Committee.

The central dispute is whether the youthful offenders must remain covered by the sex offender registry, but simply not disclosed to the public, as in the Senate version, or could be removed from the list as in the House-passed version. Under both versions, the registry requirements would apply for 10 years, rather than the 25-year period that would remain for adult offenders.

The bill covers two groups of offenders who have consensual sex with another person under the age of consent: juveniles under age 16 and those up to 21 years old who are tried as adults under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. To be considered consensual sex, there can be an age gap of no more than three years between the two persons involved.

Sen. Bill Hardiman (R-Kentwood), committee chair, said, "We tried to draw a balance to keep offenders on the list, but allow a person to petition to the court to be removed from the list."

The juveniles who successfully petition the court to be removed from the public list (posted on the Internet at http://www.mipsor.state.mi.us/) after they reach age 18 would have to comply with registry requirements including regular notification of whereabouts for 10 years rather than the 25 years under current law.

Youths who were convicted prior to October 1, 2004 (the effective date for the proposed changes) would have three years to petition courts to be removed from the public list. The private list of names on the registry are available only to law enforcement agencies.

Courts could not grant petitions in cases of assaultive or coercive sex, when a person has a prior offense, or when a person is also charged with an unrelated felony.

But Linda Zimmerman of Grand Haven, a founder of a group called Citizens for Second Chances and the mother of a teenage boy who is on the registry for having sex with his girlfriend, said the new version would still leave Michigan with provisions that do not properly distinguish between criminals who are truly dangerous and those who have just exercised bad personal judgment.

"It's just unfortunate that they're all lumped together regardless of whether they're pedophiles, predators or Romeos and Juliettes. Other states have been able to make the distinction," she said.

The committee also approved HB 5240, which would prevent juveniles convicted of second- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct offenses from obtaining youthful trainee status under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, and HB 5195 requiring the State Police to include photos of the offenders on the registry as of May 1.

The committee took no testimony on the bills before reporting them to the full Senate on 5-0 votes.

Under current state law, juveniles charged with first- or second-degree criminal sexual conduct must register on the sex offender list every three months after their 18th birthday for 25 years. Those between 15 and 21 years old who are tried as adults may be considered for the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which provides a counseling and probation period that, once completed, ends in 25 years on the registry.

Michigan's sex offender registry was briefly taken down after a U.S. District Court ruled in 2002 it failed to meet constitutional due process requirements, but federal appeals courts covering both the Michigan jurisdiction and Connecticut have ruled the registry does not violate the rights of the offenders on the list.
 

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Granholm, Watkins Push Teacher Development
Gongwer News Service, March 2, 2004

The state cannot require that schools offer professional development to teachers. But if schools want the training to qualify for credit against their instructional time, it will have to be demonstrably linked to meeting federal improvement standards, Governor Jennifer Granholm and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins announced Tuesday.

The language is part of Ms. Granholm's school aid fund budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year. The budget requires that schools provide 1,098 hours of instructional time each year, but they can include up to 51 hours of professional development as part of that instructional time.

Under the proposal, only training deemed by the Department of Education as helping the school move toward reaching adequate yearly progress could count as part of the 51 hours of professional development time.

"For the first time in Michigan we're going to require that schools' professional development activity help teachers help schools meet No Child Left Behind goals," Ms. Granholm said. "This is an issue the federal government has clearly put a stake in the ground on. We want to make sure the teachers' professional development is aligned with that."

"Having a highly qualified teacher in front of all of our children really matters," Mr. Watkins said.

Forcing schools toward particular topics of professional development assumes there are schools providing training that does not meet the standard, but neither Ms. Granholm nor Mr. Watkins could provide examples of courses that would not be acceptable under the proposal.

Ms. Granholm also noted there is no provision to require schools to offer 51 hours of professional development because there is no state funding specifically laid out to pay for that.

"What we are encouraged by is the governor is recognizing the importance of professional development," said Margaret Trimer-Hartley with the Michigan Education Association. "The resources to provide professional development are also critical. We've been coming up short."

But Ms. Trimer-Hartley said the language also has to be flexible enough that schools are able to meet their particular needs. "We would support permissive rather than prescriptive language in the package," she said. "There's a great range of professional development that can help to improve student performance. ...We need to focus on quality professional development instead of the superficial professional development."

A.C.T.: As far as the administration is concerned, the idea of switching from the Michigan Educational Assessment Program High School Test to the ACT is all but dead.

"It's got to be something that's aligned with No Child Left Behind and it can't cost more money," Ms. Granholm said.

And Mr. Watkins said the proposal misses on both of those counts, according to information provided to the State Board of Education to date.

The Education Alliance of Michigan had recommended that the Legislature continue looking at the proposal if some concerns the group raised about the ACT can be addressed, and Mr. Watkins said the department is working with the group to try to address its concerns about the current testing system.
 

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DEQ Implements Large Animal Farm Permits
Gongwer News Service, February 27, 2004

The state's largest animal feeding operations will now have custom permits to meet their needs under new regulations issued by the Department of Environmental Quality.

DEQ Director Steven Chester on Friday issued the final determination and notice regarding surface water discharges from new Large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which, in compliance with federal rules issued in April 2003, requires that any new operation housing at least twice the federal definition of a CAFO, or with plans to expand to 3.5 times the baseline, and having open manure and wastewater structures have an individual permit.

Smaller new facilities still meeting the federal definition of a CAFO will have to apply for a general permit, which is still under development.

Under new federal rules, a CAFO has at least 700 dairy cows, 1,000 beef cattle, 2,500 swine or 5,000 birds.

Existing CAFOs fall under an earlier general permit already in place.

    

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