In an attempt to position Michigan as the center of research for autonomous vehicles, the Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a package of four bills that allows for the testing of driverless cars in the state. Without any discussion or debate, the House of Representative passed the package with overwhelming majorities. The Senate concurred this afternoon with technical changes made by the House and sent the bills to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. The bills — SB 995-998 — approve testing of the new technology on 122 miles of roads in the state and open the way for the American Center for Mobility to redevelop the old Willow Run airport for autonomous vehicle testing and research. One of the bills ends a requirement that a human be inside driverless cars ready to take over if needed. Those driverless cars, used mainly by ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft, would have to be monitored by an individual who wouldn’t have to be inside the vehicle.
Amid a national push for greater police accountability, voters in several major cities have approved measures to create or strengthen civilian oversight of law enforcement. The trend reflects growing public demand for independent reviews of misconduct claims after deadly police encounters in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and New York spotlighted police use-of-force and interaction with minorities. Voters in New Orleans, Honolulu, Miami and San Francisco passed plans Tuesday to bolster existing civilian oversight programs. In Oakland, California, voters created a powerful civilian-run police commission to investigate problems within the department reeling from a sex scandal involving several officers. Denver voters added provisions to the city charter to protect the existing independent monitor system. The measure makes it impossible for officials to cut the position without another public vote.
John Price is a Louisiana rancher. But instead of hooves and horns, his livestock have scales and claws, and sometimes they put their food into what's known as a "death roll." That didn’t seem to faze Price on a sunny October afternoon as he threw open the door to one of the low-slung barns where his animals live, even as he pointed to the scars on his arms and hands he's gotten from them. After all, these creatures — ranging in size from foot-long hatchlings to an 8-footer that stared unblinkingly from 6 feet away — are his business, and business is about to get a little better on his 15-acre ranch near Abita Springs. Indeed, alligator ranchers across the state got some good news last month: The commission that regulates their industry voted to lower the proportion of ranched alligators that must be returned to the wild, starting next year. The cut — from 12 percent to 10 percent for alligators that are at least 48 inches long — may seem small, but it's nevertheless a boon for ranchers and a sign that Louisiana's efforts to bolster the population of wild alligators are paying off.
A Florida county has cleared the way for the first U.S. test using genetically modified mosquitoes to fight against the species that spreads Zika virus. Monroe County, Florida, voted to allow a test of GMO mosquitoes created by the British biotech company Oxitec. Oxitec has created genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, adding genes to the same insects that transmit Zika virus. The GMO variety passes on genetic traits to their offspring that cause them to die in the wild, dramatically reducing the overall population of the mosquitoes. They have conducted tests in the Cayman Islands, Panama and Brazil and have wanted to do a test run in the U.S. since 2010.
Indiana voters have approved a constitutional amendment to protect the right to hunt and fish. The amendment states that the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to laws prescribed by the General Assembly. Hunting and fishing are popular in Indiana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates Indiana has about 392,000 hunters and about 801,000 anglers. The amendment's author, Republican Sen. Brent Steele, says he wants to ensure animal rights groups do not endanger those rights.
Montana’s Initiative 177 was soundly rejected by voters in the Gem State on the Nov. 8 ballot. The initiative would have banned trapping on all public lands, including city and county parks, municipal golf courses and more.
Donald Trump blames Mexico and China for stealing millions of jobs from the United States. He might want to bash the robots instead. America has lost more than seven million factory jobs since manufacturing employment peaked in 1979. Yet American factory production, minus raw materials and some other costs, more than doubled over the same span to $1.91 trillion last year, according to the Commerce Department, which uses 2009 dollars to adjust for inflation. That’s a notch below the record set on the eve of the Great Recession in 2007. And it makes U.S. manufacturers No. 2 in the world behind China. Trump and other critics are right that trade has claimed some American factory jobs, especially after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and gained easier access to the U.S. market. And industries that have relied heavily on labor — like textile and furniture manufacturing — have lost jobs and production to low-wage foreign competition. U.S. textile production, for instance, is down 46 percent since 2000. And over that time, the textile industry has shed 366,000, or 62 percent, of its jobs in the United States. But research shows that the automation of U.S. factories is a much bigger factor than foreign trade in the loss of factory jobs. A study at Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research last year found that trade accounted for just 13 percent of America’s lost factory jobs. The vast majority of the lost jobs — 88 percent — were taken by robots and other homegrown factors that reduce factories’ need for human labor.
Exactly how President-elect Donald Trump's policies will affect agriculture remains virtually unknown, a group of panelists said at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual convention here the morning after Election Day. There are a number of questions to be answered that are critical to agriculture. That includes who will be the next secretary of agriculture, what happens with the next farm bill, the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade policy in general, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and the fate of the waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said when it's all said and done, he believes trade issues will be what carried the day for Trump in rural America. "I think this is a big deal in this election," he said. "Farmers Union is in a different position than other agriculture groups in that we have been skeptical of what we hear about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Fundamentally, Trump has antipathy for trade agreements. We think we've done not a very good job with these trade agreements. I would say a lot of agriculture and farmers are in support of TPP, but that's not necessarily so for others in rural areas." In addition, Johnson said a "regulatory malaise" coming from Washington, D.C. -- including the WOTUS rule -- motivated rural America to vote for Trump. In general, he said, farmers are tired of what they perceive is an elite ruling class in D.C. handing down a bevy of regulations.
This first of a three-part introspective series for communities takes a serious look at why Iowa's rural population continues a downward spiral and the personal responsibility we all have to grow. The article was originally published in the October, 2016 issue of "Iowa County," a monthly publication of the Iowa State Association of Counties. * Today's column is a "state of the state" of much of rural Iowa, and suggests questions and topics citizens should be discussing among themselves and with their elected officials. The accompanying pyramid emphasizes that most business/job creation takes place in new and expanding existing businesses, not on "chasing smokestacks." * The second will look at healthcare and what may be happening in your local hospitals and medical facilities, a sobering snapshot of rural healthcare in America. It will also share 10 solid strategies for rural to grow. * The final article commends collaboration by working together on public issues and opportunities with BIG vision. It describes the need to eliminate "silos," between organizations, agencies, departments, communities, and offers six markers of success. An illustration of what can happen when business ideas are supported -- or not -- concludes the series.
Charges of “terrible” trade deals, the shipping of jobs overseas and the dangers of globalization dominated the presidential campaign. But many states are aggressively courting foreign companies to boost and diversify their economies. “People make it too complicated,” said Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, a big proponent of foreign — especially Chinese — investment in his state. “Globalization is clearly a huge trend that’s been going on for some time and is only going to continue. If you want to be a strong economic engine … you have to engage.” In Snyder’s and other Rust Belt states, U.S. manufacturers left behind willing workforces and abandoned buildings when they departed. In California, foreign tech giants and pharmaceuticals are tapping a supply of skilled workers and access to North American markets. Many states and regions are looking for foreign investors as a way to boost economic growth. At the same time, there is increasing interest among overseas firms in investing in the relatively stable U.S. economy