FRIDAY, Dec. 9 — A roundup of news from around the state, provided by our partners at Capital News Service. Follow the links for the full stories.


Michigan lags in solitary confinement reform: State officials are worried that solitary confinement in prisons can exacerbate violence and mental health issues among inmates. Michigan has no age or time limits for putting inmates in administrative segregation, most commonly known as solitary confinement. While advocates push for statewide reforms, Marquette’s Alger Correctional Facility is pioneering ways to minimize the impact of solitary confinement.


Physician assistants could expand access to health care: Michigan residents particularly in rural areas could gain greater access to health care if lawmakers allow physician assistants to practice with less supervision and a greater ability to prescribe drugs. The bill attempts to address a wildly fluctuating ratio of physicians to population throughout the state. If approved, the state would be the first in the nation to allow that level of authority.


New Soo Lock could prevent trillion-dollar crisis: The decades-long effort to build a new lock connecting Lakes Superior and Huron at Sault Ste. Marie is getting renewed state attention while advocates hope it will also gain from President-elect Donald Trump’s push for a huge investment in federal infrastructure. The project could boost Michigan employment, boost Great Lakes shipping and protect the nation’s economy.


Lawmakers move toward plan to license midwives: Pregnant Michigan women might soon have another state-recognized labor and delivery option. More than a year after the House approved the licensure of midwives, a similar bill is before the Senate. Supporters say the bill improves access to pregnancy care and paves the way for Medicaid reimbursement. Critics say the education requirements just don’t compare with certified nurse midwives and obstetricians and gynecologists and are not clear enough about when and how women should be sent to doctors and hospitals.


Military spouse attorneys could get bar licensing break: Attorneys married to someone on active duty in the military would be admitted to the Michigan Bar without taking the exam, if a pair of bills passes. The idea is to make things easier for lawyers to follow their spouses as they are posted around the country. Twenty-two states already allow such an exemption.


Community colleges look to add four-year nursing degrees: Michigan community colleges are pushing to add nursing to a limited list of four-year degrees they now offer to meet a growing need. That requires state legislation for a significant expansion from the culinary, maritime technology, energy technology and cement technology four-year programs they now offer. Supporters say it will give more access to people wanting the four-year degree that hospitals increasingly require. But officials representing four-year universities that offer the program now say there is plenty of access and that community colleges will have difficulty finding qualified instructors.


Bill would define drone misdemeanors: An increase in the use of drones across the state has prompted lawmakers to regulate their use for commercial and private use. While some drone operators see the proposed regulations as necessary, others see them as barriers.


Bills to regulate dog breeders advance in Legislature: Lawmakers are considering a new Animal Welfare Commission to create new rules for licensing and inspections for breeders. But critics say it is unnecessary in light of other regulatory controls. Dog organizations have rallied against the bills.


Help butterflies: plant native prairie plants: Only .01 percent of remnant prairie has been left unaltered in Michigan but planting native plants at home to restore prairies is increasing. The Pierce Cedar Creek Institute near Hastings helps property owners restore prairie plants and teaches children about their value. The DNR’s Southwest region has a stewardship program for volunteers to collect native seeds to continue the expansion of prairies in state parks.


Hobbyists not getting “do not release” message: A federal public education and outreach program designed to inform aquarium and water garden hobbyists about the risks of releasing non-native fish, animals and plants into the environment is poorly known in Michigan and other Great Lakes states, a new study finds. However, Michigan has a similar program called RIPPLE that seems more successful.


Great Lakes, wherever they are, face similar threats: The Great Lakes are under siege, and not just those in North America. Lake Victoria, one of East Africa’s Great Lakes – and larger than Superior – confronts many of the same problems, including pollution, invasive species, agricultural runoff, overfishing and micro-plastics.