Michigan smoke-free law to be enforced on Saturday

The Lil’ Chef restaurant in Mount Pleasant hasn’t offered a smoking section for several months — and very soon, smoking won’t be allowed in almost any Michigan business.

“Some of the people were a little sour about it – they kind of took it personally.  Most of those clients actually came back.  And a lot of the other customers were actually very positive about the change.”

Jamie Martin is the General Manager of Lil’ Chef.  In a recent renovation, the entire restaurant became smoke-free.  Martin says there were several reasons to do so, including protecting employee and customer health, as well as preventing smoke damage to the building.  Martin says he’s seen different clientele because of it.

“More families with children than we would have had before, that didn’t want to bring them into the smoking environment.”

Overall, Martin says it was worth it for Lil’ Chef to go smoke free.

Dave Sprunger is the owner of Smoker’s Club, a tobacco specialty shop in Mount Pleasant.

“I believe it should be up to the individual business owner, whether or not they want to allow smoking in their particular business.”

Customers will still be allowed to smoke in his shop – but he’s seen sales change somewhat with the Michigan’s smoking ban approaching.

“The biggest impact that I see coming to my business is an increased sales of electronic cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a water vapor.  There’s no tobacco, and no fire, and no smoke.”

As part of the law, Sprunger can no longer allow anyone under the age eighteen into his store – so with tongue-in-cheek, he advises customers to leave kids with a trusted adult at a liquor store.

Opponents of the ban have launched efforts to combat it – including a petition to exempt all private clubs.

Meanwhile, supporters plan to celebrate with events like smoke-free pub crawls.

Regardless of your feelings about the ban, enforcement is just around the corner.

“It covers the typical smoking of cigarettes or cigars in a restaurant, bar, or any other establishment,” says James McCurtis, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Under the law, he says, no tobacco product can be smoked in almost any business across the state.

“It apples to private clubs, like VFW halls, bingo halls; it applies to a lot of areas in the state.  Smoking will not be allowed on a deck or patio that is connected to a restaurant that is intended to serve food.  Even if they decide, you know what, we’re not going to serve food there anymore, we want to just have people out there for smoking.  It’s still a part of the restaurant, and it still falls under the umbrella of that facility’s food license.”

In addition, those businesses must also remove smoking paraphernalia – ashtrays and the like – from their premises.  McCurtis points out that some businesses are exempt from the ban – including the gaming floors at the three Detroit casinos, for instance, as well as some niche establishments.

“Cigar bars typically sell cigars.  People are there to get the flavor, or taste the flavor, of the cigars they are smoking.  So they have to apply for an exemption.  They have to fill out an affidavit.  Similar law or procedure applies for tobacco specialty shops, as well.”

In order to be considered a ‘Cigar bar’ the business must earn ten percent or more of its annual income from the rental of humidor space or the sale of cigars.  The cigars each have to retail for more than one dollar.  In a recent clarification of the law, the Department of Community Health determined cigar bars will be allowed to serve food and drink.

Tobacco specialty shops must earn at least 75 percent of their annual revenue from the onsite sale of tobacco products and smoking paraphernalia.  These specialty shops may also sell a limited amount of prepackaged food, along with drinks from vending machines.

Hookah lounges operate under the definition of a tobacco specialty shop, but establishments cannot serve both food and hookah.

Cigar bars, tobacco specialty shops, and hookah lounges that want to get an exemption under the new smokefree law must have been in existence on or before May first.  Home offices are exempt from the law, unless they employ at least one person other than the owner or lessee.

McCurtis points out the law actually takes effect a few hours after the calendar shows May first – so folks may still smoke until bars close in the early morning.
“It’s going to start at six o’clock AM on May the first.  So the complaints that happen before then – they will not be valid.”

The Department of Community Health will rely mostly on complaints to enforce the smoking ban.


Senate pushed forward with texting ban

Michigan Public Radio Network

The Senate sent the final piece of the texting ban bill back to the House, stripping the measure of a Democratic amendment to use money from texting tickets to eliminate driver responsibility fees.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.  

“Really, the reason for the bill in the first place was to ban texting.”

The bill now heads back to the House, where Democratic state Representative Lee Gonzales says lawmakers are ready to finalize the work.

“We’ve got to get to the point that we put this out there as a law, and then get about the business of how will it be enforced.”

Gonzales says work could be completed on the texting ban this week.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN.

National survey shows increase in job creation, Michigan job market still competitive

A recent survey shows that industries across the nation are seeing an increase in profits and job creation.

While this is good news for the rest of the country Michigan is still pulling itself out of the unemployment hole.

The survey was done by the National Association for Business Economics. 

37 percent of businesses who participated say they plan to increase employment in the next six months.

The Department of Labor and economic growth says that while Michigan’s Labor Market is still tight they’re no longer seeing rapidly increasing unemployment rates. 

Instead the unemployment rate has remained at around 14 percent.

Bruce Weaver is an analyst with DLEG

 “We have not reached the point where which we can add jobs on a consistent basis nor is the really U.S began to add jobs on a consistent basis.  But certainly the pace of job loss has slowed” says Weaver

Weaver says despite these numbers there are still many job applicants for each job in the state. 

He says over the past year the level of available jobs in the state has declined by 2.5 percent.

Weaver says the two areas that have seen an increase in job openings are education and healthcare services.
 The DLEG says the economic downturn has hit the manufacturing and construction sectors the worst, but one positive thing about struggling industries are that jobs have leveled off over the past six months.


Officials mull options after SCoTUS refuses carp case

Michigan Public Radio Network

The case pits Michigan and other Great Lakes states against Illinois, the city of Chicago, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Illinois officials say closing the canal would imperil five billion dollars in economic activity and thousands of jobs.

Michigan and the other states can start over now in a lower court, or hope for a political solution from Congress or the Obama administration.

John Sellek is with the state attorney general’s office.  He says Michigan was anxious to get a solution in place before the spring thaw.  

“Once the weather warms up, the fish are a lot more likely to head toward Lake Michigan. We’ve had some pretty darn nice days out lately.”

The Asian carp has already infested the Mississippi water system. Experts say if Asian carp invade the Great Lakes, the invasive fish could starve out other species and decimate the seven billion dollar Great Lakes fishing industry.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN.     

Michigan high school finalist for President Obama commencement speech

Michigan Public Radio News

The field of six will be cut in half by the end of the week after a public vote determines which schools presented the best package to win a commencement speech by the president.

Alex Lee is with the Kalamazoo Public Schools. He says the students at Central High School were very excited when they found out they made it to the final six schools.

“Absolutely, and they put together a very emotional and strong video that can be seen at the White House site now.”

Videos from the six finalists are up on the White House website for a public vote through Thursday. President Obama will choose one among the top three vote-getters to deliver a commencement speech.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN.

US Fish and Wildlife Service targets young sea lampreys

The US Fish and Wildlife Service will apply pesticide to the Big Salt River system in Isabella and Midland counties this weekend to control the sea lamprey population.

Jeff Slade is the station supervisor at the Ludington Biological Station.  He says the goal is to prevent larval lampreys from getting into the Great Lakes.

“The larval sea lampreys go through a metamorphosis when they get about five or six inches long, where they develop their eyes and their teeth.   And then they will migrate out into the Great Lakes and begin their parasitic life stage where the cause damage to the fishery.  So the objective here is to apply the lampricide to the stream before those animals develop their eyes and their teeth and go out into the Great Lakes.”

Slade says the pesticide selectively targets lampreys, although it may cause minimal mortality among some sensitive species, including some broadleaf plants and some spawning fish.  In large part, though, other wildlife is not affected by the lampricide.

He says the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service typically applies selective pesticide to lamprey spawning grounds periodically.

“Most tributaries where we have experienced annual recruitment of sea lampreys are treated every three to four years.  Because every three to four years, those larvae recruit to the stream, and then they grow to about a hundred millimeters, or a hundred twenty millimeters in length, and that necessitates another lampricide application.”

Slade says the selective pesticide is one of several techniques to control the lamprey population.  The Fish and Wildlife Service also releases sterilized male lampreys into spawning grounds to prevent the animals from reproducing.

The lampricide will be applied to Bluff Creek on Friday and to the Big Salt River on Sunday.  Slade advises people to avoid contact with those waters for at least twenty-four hours during and after the lampricide application.

Enhanced driver’s license turns one year old

Michigan’s enhanced ID cards eliminate the need to carry multiple forms of identification when traveling by land or sea.  Technology on the cards also helps speed border crossings by identifying bearers as US citizens.

Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, says demand is especially high among people traveling to Canada.

“So many of our residents travel to and from Canada to do business or play.  So it makes very good sense for the people in Detroit, and Port Huron, and especially in the Sault area, that go back and forth.  So we’re seeing a lot of people get the enhanced driver’s license.”

Chesney says the cards are convenient for travelers – and they help border security, too.

“You just hold up your enhanced driver’s license when you’re approaching an American border station, and the technology speeds you through.  There’s no personal information that’s transmitted.  It just lets the border personnel know that you are an American citizen, and eligible to cross the border.  It actually bolsters our security at the border.”

The enhanced cards are not required, but they are an acceptable form of identification for travelers visiting Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean by land or sea.

In the last year, Chesney says the state has received more than 170,000 applications for the cards, which are available only to Michigan residents who are US citizens.