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Give Michigan drivers relief from high auto insurance premiums

 

Michigan drivers pay above-average prices for auto insurance.

Michigan drivers pay above-average prices for auto insurance.

By Michael Van Beek and Matt Coffey, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

A new legislative session kicked off in January, and once again, there’s talk in Lansing about reforming auto insurance in Michigan. This is a perennial issue: Since 2001, legislators have introduced 340 bills about auto insurance regulations, according to MichiganVotes.org. But like drivers in the Indy 500, lawmakers keep going around in circles without getting anywhere. This pattern needs to stop and policymakers should fix the problem.

The interest in reforming auto insurance stems from a well-known fact: Michiganders have the regrettable privilege of paying some of the highest premiums in the country. According to research from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average annual premium in Michigan was $1,351 in 2014, second only to New Jersey and Louisiana and 37 percent more than the national average.

Bad drivers aren’t to blame for Michigan’s abnormally high auto insurance premiums. After all, Michiganders can navigate the most miserable conditions, thanks to our winter wonderland. When a snowflake falls in Atlanta, on the other hand, there are ditches full of cars and highways are backed up for miles.

What is to blame, however, are Michigan’s unique auto insurance laws. The state’s no-fault approach is similar to that of just 11 other states, and no other state forces all drivers to buy unlimited personal injury protection.

Michigan’s current auto insurance system was created in 1973, and a solid case can be made that it has been, by and large, a failed experiment. For instance, the no-fault system—which gives insurance benefits to anyone injured in an auto accident regardless of who was to blame—was meant to reduce litigation. Since the law guarantees insurance benefits for all accident victims, the theory goes, there should be fewer lawsuits, reducing costs for both insurance companies and the courts.

That’s not what’s happened in practice. Michigan still allows an accident victim to sue an at-fault driver if a certain threshold for injuries is met. The Michigan Supreme Court has interpreted the law in a way that lowers this threshold—effectively undoing what no-fault set out to achieve. The result is that Michigan drivers pay a hefty premium for no-fault protection but don’t really benefit from it. Not surprisingly, Michigan ranks as one of the most litigious states in the nation, according to the Pacific Research Institute.

The failed no-fault system is only half the problem. Requiring insurers to provide unlimited PIP is even more problematic. It’s easy to figure out how this approach contributes to astronomical insurance premiums, why it’s rife with abuse and why no other state uses it.

With no limit on what insurers must cover, anyone injured in an auto accident can seek and “afford” the most expensive treatment possible. What’s worse: While private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid have fee schedules that limit what medical providers can charge, there are no schedules for what they can charge for services they provide to accident victims. That’s why it’s common for hospitals to charge auto insurers significantly more than they charge medical insurers or Medicaid and Medicare for exactly the same service.

The generous benefits available through Michigan’s unlimited PIP system, as might be expected, attract those who see an opportunity for profit. For instance, unlimited PIP covers paying a caregiver to serve accident victims in their own homes. There are very few limitations on who can provide this care and, again, there is no fee schedule. As a result, family members of accident victims can and do bill auto insurers for 24 hours of care each day at hourly rates as high as $30. That works out to be a nice six-figure salary. While it is unlikely that this is the norm for those providing home-based care, the opportunity for abuse is clear.

Considering these problems with Michigan’s auto insurance system, one might wonder why nothing has changed. After all, each lawmaker has thousands of constituents who are harmed by these steep premiums. The answer to this riddle is what economists call “concentrated benefits and diffuse costs.” The status quo provides concentrated benefits to medical providers, attorneys and accident victims, and they will spend significant resources lobbying the Legislature to protect these benefits. The costs, meanwhile, are diffuse, paid by drivers all across the state. Diverse and unorganized, drivers’ voices are easily drowned out by the loud, coordinated and well-funded voices of those who defend the status quo.

It’s time to admit that our no-fault auto insurance system has largely failed. As a result of court rulings, it has strayed from its original purpose and its promised benefits have not materialized. For the sake of Michigan drivers, policymakers need to overhaul it and make our state competitive again.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues. Visit them online at www.mackinac.org.

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Charger Voices Perform at District Festival

Charger Voices students perform at District Festival with teacher Jeremy Holtrop and pianist Bethany Holtrop.

Charger Voices students perform at District Festival with teacher Jeremy Holtrop and pianist Bethany Holtrop.

CTA’s Charger Voices had the opportunity to participate in the Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA) District Festival for the first time in March. This was the first year for the choir to do so and the experience was a very successful and enjoyable one. Charger Voices was the first performing group of the day, performing at 8:00 a.m. The group performed two songs, “Jonah” by Rollo Dilworth and “River, Sing Your Song” by Eugene Butler. After the performance, an adjudicator came onto the stage and worked with the group on things they could improve. Choir members were appreciative of the feedback and enjoyed trying the different things the adjudicator coached them on. The second part of the festival was sight reading, during which the students had to sight read music that they had never seen before and only had twenty minutes to do so before performing the piece. The experience was challenging, yet rewarding. As an added bonus after the festival, students got to spend the remainder of the day at Craig’s Cruisers. The day was a very positive experience and students were already excited to participate next year.

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Cedar loses to Lowell, wins at N. Muskegon

Peyton Newman turns back from a lead off in Friday’s win over North Muskegon.

Peyton Newman turns back from a lead off in Friday’s win over North Muskegon.

JV Baseball

The JV Red Hawks baseball team lost a three-game series against the Lowell Red Arrows last week. The games were led by the bats of Seth Biggs and Peyton Newman, who both provided timely hitting and good base running.

Coach Tyson Hoffman said, “Lowell was a good team, with very disciplined and well coached athletes. We were able to stick with them for a lot of the game and made some good plays, but also showed our youth. We have to work on our fundamentals to get to their level.” Tuesday’s double headers ended with a loss of 12-4 and 5-4. Thursday’s loss was 12-3.

Last Friday’s battle against North Muskegon proved a win. The team was able to grind out at bats driving the starting pitchers count up to 91 in four innings. Peyton Newman was starting pitcher for Cedar Springs, who held the Norsemen at bay for the first four innings. Jerome Patin provided just over two innings of relief for the save, while Lucas Secord made multiple catches in the outfield, showing very good range for the position. The final score was 11-8.

The Red Hawks play against Grant, Greenville, and Holland West Ottawa this week.

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Amash talks partisanship, Syria, healthcare

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N-Amash-pullquoteBy Judy Reed

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash told the crowd at Cedar Springs High School Monday night, April 10, that the partisanship in Washington is the worst he’s ever seen, and that the leadership doesn’t seem to be interested in breaking the gridlock.

“I’ve always said that we need to work with each other, have honest debate, and let things fall where they may. The only way you fix it is by choosing a speaker of the house who is non-partisan. It takes tremendous will, and I haven’t seen that with this or the previous speaker,” remarked Amash.

N-Amash2The town hall meeting was the first of several that Amash is holding throughout the district over the next week.

He explained that the only things that go to the floor for a vote are the things that the leadership wants, things that have no chance of passing, or things too mild to affect anything. “We either need a change in direction from this speaker, or we need a new one,” he said.

Amash is a firm believer in the principles of the Constitution. He is known for not only standing up for those principles, but also for not mincing words when it comes to politicians he feels are violating them, such as President Trump. That was the case with the President’s recent strikes on Syria.

“The process was not right,” said Amash. “He risked escalating the situation. The framers of the Constitution gave to Congress the power to declare war because we are the closest to the people. I’m here holding the town hall meeting, not Donald Trump. With war, I might be sending your son or daughter off to be killed. To think you can launch a missile strike with no consequence is naïve.”

Amash explained that the War Powers Resolution is often used to justify one-off strikes. Those cases are supposed to only happen when the U.S. itself has been attacked. It says: “The President’s powers as Commander in Chief are exercised only pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization from Congress, or a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States” (50 USC Sec. 1541).

“It did not give the president the authority to do what he did,” noted Amash. “There are times we want him to act quickly. But it’s not for offensive acts against another government.”

Amash said the framers of the Constitution left it up to the people to decide whether they want war, and the president then conducts the war.

He did say he thought they should continue to go after ISIS, but that they should update the 2001 mission and goal, and have more debate about it in Congress. “I don’t think you can have perpetual war; it’s dangerous,” he said.

Amash also talked about why he didn’t support the failed Republican proposal on healthcare. “It didn’t repeal the ACA, just tweaked it,” he explained. “The ACA is not functioning the way we’d like it to function. Premiums are going up for a lot of people. It helps many, but also hurts many. We need to start over, in a bipartisan way. The Republican proposal just restructures it, and tweaks can make it worse. It left the sickest and most vulnerable at risk.”

He said that there is no reason to rush it. “We want to make sure we get it right. They just wanted to get it done quickly. It was just a political plan. I’m part of the Freedom Caucus, and I’m sure you heard that we caused it to fail. It’s not true. There were more Republicans going to vote against it than were part of the Freedom Caucus.” Amash said that 50-80 Republicans would have voted against the bill. “It would have been actually very embarrassing, and that’s why they pulled it,” Amash said.

After the failure of the bill, an aide to President Trump called Amash a liability over Twitter and urged Trump supporters to vote for a different Republican candidate in 2018.

But Amash isn’t letting that sway him. “We should’ve worked with the Democrats on it. It needs to be bipartisan. We need buy-in. I still believe the best system is to let states regulate health care. They have different people, different demographics. Allow them to try out a variety of ways. There would be more alternatives, more choices, and would cause the least amount of tension. If you didn’t like it, you could move to another state. I think it would be easier to move out of state than out of the country,” he said, which brought a chuckle from the crowd.

Amash touched on several other topics including immigration, Internet privacy, education, the presidential transparency act, and more, and answered questions for two hours. He also encouraged residents to let him know their feelings on possible war with Syria, and to reach out to his office if they have problems, such as veterans getting assistance, immigration issues, and other concerns.

You can contact the Grand Rapids office at (616) 451-8383 or send physical mail to 110 Michigan St NW, Suite 460, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. You can also email him through his website. Visit https://amash.house.gov/contact-me.

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Major US-131 project starts this week

MDOT plans to reconstruct the stretch of US131 from south of 14 Mile to two miles north of where it crosses over White Creek Ave.

MDOT plans to reconstruct the stretch of US131 from south of 14 Mile to two miles north of where it crosses over White Creek Ave.

The road project many residents have hoped for finally begins this Thursday, April 13.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will invest $22 million to reconstruct northbound and southbound US-131 between 14 Mile Road and White Creek Avenue (just north of 17 Mile Road). Work also includes repairing three bridges, culvert and drainage improvements, new signs, and ramp reconstruction at 14 Mile Road and 17 Mile Road.

Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in each direction with the use of temporary crossovers and a split-merge traffic shift. This configuration is scheduled to go into effect April 21. Intermittent ramp and lane closures will be used throughout the project.

Ramp closures for ramp reconstruction will be allowed for a maximum of 14 calendar days per ramp. Ramps to be reconstructed include all 17 Mile Rd ramps, northbound 14 Mile Rd on ramp, and southbound 14 Mile Rd off ramp.

Visit www.Michigan.gov/drive for updates and sign up to receive Kent County traffic notices via text or email.

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The Post travels to the Bahamas

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The Post recently traveled to the Bahamas with the Mabie family. Shown here is June Mabie, with her great-granddaughters, Emerson and Failla, in the Bahamas during the first week of March.

Thanks so much for taking us with you to the warm, sunny Bahamas!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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House burned for training

Pictured here with area firefighters is Taylor and Eli Gunderson, during the last burn on their old home. Courtesy photo.

Pictured here with area firefighters is Taylor and Eli Gunderson, during the last burn on their old home. Courtesy photo.

When a Cedar Springs family decided to build a new home on their property, they decided to donate their old home to a good cause—fire training.

According to Jaime Gunderson, they built the new home behind the old one, and offered the old home to the Solon Fire Department, who has used it for the last year for training. On March 25, Solon and firefighters from other area departments burned it down.

Gunderson said the property has been in the family for 75 years. “We will clean up the mess and fill in the hole (basement), and turn it into a yard (with grass) for our new house,” explained Gunderson.

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School board considers privatizing busing

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By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting on Monday, March 27, to finalize contract issues, and heard information on the possibility of privatizing transportation.

Earlier in March, a split board had voted to issue non-renewals of contracts for high school principal Ron Behrenwald and transportation supervisor Jerry Gavin. Those were rescinded after Behrenwald and the administration agreed on a contract, and Gavin decided to retire from public education. It appears he will likely go to work at Dean Transportation, and do the same job he is doing now with Cedar Springs, if the school chooses to privatize.

The board did vote 5-2 to approve a non-renewal for part time employee Linda Bayink. Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn explained that Linda had been with the school for many years and they couldn’t appreciate her more, but they needed someone full time in that position. She said that Linda understood, and that they were hoped to keep her in the district, and that they were checking out other positions for her. Both Ted Sabinas and Michelle Bayink voted no, with Sabinas saying he didn’t think it was an accurate account.

The board heard a presentation on the possibility of subcontracting busing to Deans Transportation. Dean’s currently buses Cedar Springs special education students, and several area districts also currently use them, including Sparta, Tri County, Muskegon, Reeths Puffer, Grand Rapids, Kent Intermediate School District, and Ottawa Intermediate School District.

VanDuyn said that the same team that currently oversees Cedar Springs transportation would be running it for Dean’s, using the same software, and from the same building they currently work out of. The buses would be housed at Cedar Springs, and Dean’s is willing to hire the drivers.

In January they received an informal quote from Dean’s, then meetings began with the district and the bus drivers. VanDuyn said they wanted the drivers to know what it would look like to be employed by Dean’s, what their pensions would like, etc., so had Dean’s meet with the drivers, then the drivers met with the administration. Then, in a private vote, the bus drivers voted to go with Dean’s. There were 21 drivers present, with 16 voting yes, 3 no, and 2 undecided.

Gavin said that when he started in the 1970s in transportation, it was a whole different type of job—many retirees and others who only needed some part time work took advantage of the job. He said that now, with all the changes, such as training and medical requirements, it’s no longer really part time. “You can’t expect to keep people working split shifts with no insurance and no summer hours. We haven’t been fully staffed for the last 6-10 years.” He also noted their aging bus fleet. “If Dean comes in, we’ll automatically nine buses out,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s the right thing to do at this point.”

Bus driver Rebecca Fisk, who has been with the district for 15 years, spoke to the board on behalf of the bus drivers. She told the board that to be honest, she was going to work for Dean (no matter what they decided). “They have what I need,” she said. She explained how she is supposed to be unassigned—to sub for other drivers—but they are understaffed. “When Obamacare hit, it reduced my hours to 28. It hurt. That’s $300-$400 a month. At Dean’s we can get that,” she said.

The 2016/2017 Transportation Budget is $2,943,208, The 2017/2018 Transportation Budget is set at $3,683,314, which includes six new buses and two mechanics instead of just one, because they cannot keep up with the repairs.

The proposed budget from Dean’s, comparing apples to apples will be $1,774,274. The school will still be responsible for fuel ($270,000) and payments to other schools ($1,146,000), for a total of  $3,190,274. That’s a savings of $493,040.

Dean’s will also purchase their bus fleet at blue book value, which causes a one-time infusion into the budget of $638,600. Between the savings and the purchase of the bus fleet, the school would see a financial impact of $1,132,640.

They also received bids from three others:

Durham bid $1,615,000 plus requiring CSPS to buy buses as follows: 1st yr 12, 2nd yr 1, 4th yr 13.

First Student bid $1,450,000, a generic quote per bus figure but it was verbal only with nothing in writing.

Operation Engineers Local 324 – Operate as they  currently do or $3,683,314 with CSPS running all operations.

Sabinas noted that when he was asked if he could attend the meeting between the administration and the bus drivers, he was told yes (by board president Matt Shoffner) and that later he was told no by VanDuyn.

“I know that I said that,” explained Shoffner, “but I did send an email rescinding that saying that it probably wasn’t the best thing for one of us to be there.”

Sabinas noted that it was a big decision. “We will be remembered as the board that decided,” he remarked.

The board may vote on it at their next meeting on April 24, at 6:45 p.m.

In other action, the board also voted to update facility fees for users within and outside of the community.

For a complete list of items discussed and voted on, visit the school website at www.csredhawks.org. The meetings are also recorded on video, and you can access them through the school website.

 

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Tornado confirmed in Kent/Ionia Counties

This covered bridge at Tyler Creek in Bowne Township sustained damage from Monday night’s tornado. It was built in 1955. Photo from Woodtv.com.

This covered bridge at Tyler Creek in Bowne Township sustained damage from Monday night’s tornado. It was built in 1955. Photo from Woodtv.com.

By Judy Reed

Tornado sirens sounded here in Cedar Springs and all across Kent County Monday evening, April 10, as severe thunderstorms rolled through.

N-Tornado2-pathThe National Weather Service in Grand Rapids confirmed that a brief EF-1 tornado formed and touched down in southeast Kent County about 8:36 p.m. and traveled about five miles into.

According to the NWS report: “Dozens of large trees were snapped or uprooted and three barns were heavily damaged. The damage began on 100th St just east of Alden Nash Ave and then continued to the east-northeast, crossing Wingeier Ave where a barn lost metal roofing. One metal section was carried 0.6 miles by the tornado and landed in a field. The tornado damage intensified as the funnel narrowed and crossed 92nd St in the vicinity of the Tyler Creek Golf Course, where a swath of trees were snapped and uprooted. Peak winds in this area were estimated at 90 mph. The tornado crossed Freeport Ave and Keim Road. It then crossed Hastings Road with peak winds estimated around 65 mph, taking down large tree limbs. The damage ended around Bell Road north of Keim Road.”

The tornado lasted about five minutes. It was the first tornado in Kent County this year. Last year there were two.

Next week (April 16-22) is Severe Weather Awareness Week, and according to Michigan’s Committee for Severe Weather Awareness, there were 16 tornadoes across Michigan in 2016. Michigan averages about 15 each year. Six of the 16 tornadoes occurred across the Upper Peninsula, a record for that peninsula. All of the tornadoes in Michigan were in the weak categories of EF0 and EF1 (tornadoes are rated from the weakest EF0 to the strongest EF5).

The August 20, 2016 tornado outbreak across southwest Lower Michigan was the most damaging and significant event across the state in 2016. Six tornadoes touched down from Bangor to Grand Rapids to Orleans, causing over $5 million in damages. The longest and strongest of the August 20 tornadoes touched down just southwest of Bangor and then tracked through the town. The 10-mile long EF-1 winds estimated up to 110 mph, caused the entire city to lose power and downed hundreds of trees. Multiple structures in Bangor were damaged, including the police department. The outbreak also produced two EF0 tornadoes in the metro Grand Rapids area. The first hit Grandville and Wyoming, and the second was in Grand Rapids. Both of these tornadoes downed trees, some onto homes.

Kent County has seen 35 tornadoes from 1950-2016, the second highest number of tornadoes in the state. Genesee leads with 45 tornadoes during that same time frame, and Kent is followed by Monroe County with 34, and Allegan with 33.

“Severe Weather Awareness Week is the time of year to learn what to do before, during and after severe weather occurs,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “That includes flooding, thunderstorms and tornadoes. By taking the initiative and learning about possible hazards, you and your family will be better prepared when an emergency or disaster happens.”

Spring and summer frequently bring fast-changing weather conditions that increase the potential for severe weather. Steps can be taken to prepare before severe weather strikes to minimize damage and ensure safe evacuation or shelter, such as understanding severe weather warnings and terms, preparing an emergency supply kit, making an emergency plan, and creating an emergency contact list.

To learn more about severe weather in Michigan and what you should do, download the Severe Weather Awareness packet at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/msp/SWApacket_554981_7.pdf.

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WMP wrestlers end season at national tournaments

By Barbra Chong

West Michigan Pursuit had wrestlers registered to compete in two different National tournaments last weekend.

Drew Moro traveled to Missouri for the Adidas Nationals. Moro entered the 2nd Grade division in the 61 lb wt class. He went 3-1 for the day, finishing in 2nd Place, and earning All American status. He ended with a 44-11 season record. Moro also entered their Mohawk contest and won with 190 votes.

The rest of the team traveled to Battle Creek for NUWAY Nationals. As a team, West Michigan Pursuit finished 32 out of 297 teams. WMP entered seven wrestlers and five earned All American status by placing in the top 8.

Chayson Eberspeaker entered the 7/8 age group in the 64 lb wt class. He went 2-2 for the day, finishing in 7th Place and ending with a 36-11 season record. Quinten Cassiday entered the 7/8 age group in the 61 lb wt class. He went 4-2 for the day, finishing in 5th Place and ending with a 52-6 season record.

Josh Vasquez and Blake Werkema both finished in 4th Place. Vasquez entered the 9/10 age group in the 59 lb wt class. He went 4-2 for the day and ended with a 48-7 season record. He also made the top 100 for number of pins for the National tournament. He had 3 pins with a combined time of 4:45 out of 1,221 wrestlers. Werkema entered the 4/6 age group in the 47 lb wt class. He went 3-2 for the day and ended with a 50-5 season record.

Kellen Weckesser entered the 7/8 age group in the 54 lb wt class. He went 3-1 for the day, finishing in 2nd Place and ending with a 40-15 season record.

“My mission from the start has always been the Pursuit of Champions,” said Head Coach Dave Andrus. “I am extremely proud of the success we are having. It’s not always about how these kids win; recovering after an emotional loss and continuing to succeed is equally important. These are valuable life lessons as they continue to grow and mature. I feel fortunate to have so many parents trust me as I try to instill these values into their kids.”

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