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FRIDAY, Oct. 28 — A roundup of news from around the state, provided by our partners at Capital News Service. Follow the links for the full stories.
New law creates higher fines for unendorsed motorcyclists: Unlicensed motorcyclists face higher fines next year in an attempt by state officials to keep more of them alive. As many as 40 percent of riders killed in Michigan accidents do not have license endorsements indicating that they’ve taken skills and safety tests. The endorsement is required for riding on public roads, but many riders fail to get it as they do not need it to register their motorcycle.
Technology could improve state’s mental health: A lack of psychiatric counselors, particularly in rural areas, and an increase in mental illness has created the need for health care that transcends county and city lines. Mental health therapy provided through video conferences is one answer, some health officials say. But some experts are concerned that it can be adequately regulated.
Despite insurance, people skip doctor visits due to cost: More Michiganders have health insurance, but people still skip doctor visits and blame it on cost. The percentage of Michiganders who say they haven’t been to the doctor in the past 12 months because of the cost has dropped slightly since 2011, according to state officials.
Specialty plates — new and old — spark army of bills: State lawmakers are considering yet another specialty license plate, this one to benefit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. But critics say the state has plenty of license plates. There is also legislation pending that would limit to 10 the number of fundraising plates the state has at any one time.
Speed limits could be 75 mph if bill passes: Motorists could travel up to 75 mph on some stretches of the state’s rural highways under bills in the Senate. And on gravel county roads, the speed limit would be brought down from 55 mph to 45 mph in counties with at least 1 million residents (Oakland and Wayne).
Feds paying for state lead abatement training: Federal funds triggered by Flint’s water crisis can be used to remove lead from old homes statewide, but a shortage of contractors certified to do the work is an obstacle to getting the job done. A desperate need for lead abatement contractors has prompted state officials to divert some federal funds to cover training and licensing of lead removal specialists, a shift that could benefit owners of lead-contaminated homes statewide.
Plastic fibers emerge as Great Lakes pollutant: A Michigan river had the greatest concentration of microplastic pollution in a new study of Great Lakes tributaries. The study found three new categories of plastic pollution beyond the beads in consumer products like bath wash previously discovered.
Insects could add protein to our diets: Michiganders raised on meat and potatoes may soon notice a new high-protein food on their plates — if they can be convinced to eat bugs. North America’s first conference on eating insects was held in Detroit where one company seeks to have the state’s first urban insect farm. Similar efforts are expanding in the Great Lakes region.
Converting invasive plants to power plants: Researchers are searching for environmental benefits from invasive plants such as phragmites and sawgrass for biofuel, fertilizer biofuel and other purposes. A project in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is harvesting and shredding invasive cattails to use as farm fertilizer. A Lake Superior State University professor uses invasive biomass to make fuel pellets for pellet stoves.