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In a rare move, the U.S. Marshals Service is providing security for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is from the Grand Rapids area.

Earlier this month, protesters temporarily blocked DeVos from entering a public school in Washington, D.C. She entered through another door. A protester who was arrested that day has pleaded not guilty to assault charges after he reportedly pushed DeVos and tried to block her vehicle.

DeVos was one of President Donald Trump’s most polarizing nominees, and she had a bruising battle in the Senate that made history when the vice president came to cast the tie-breaking vote to clinch her confirmation.

The Marshals Service does not typically provide protection for cabinet members, although it did so for the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy when it was a cabinet-level position prior to 2009.

“We are not aware of providing a protective detail for the U.S. secretary of education in the past,” said Nikki Credic-Barrett, a spokeswoman for the Marshals Service.

As part of its mission, the Marshals Service provides security for 2,200 federal judges at courthouses across the country, in addition to protecting other court officials, witnesses, jurors and defendants, and the visiting public. The agency also provides protection for Supreme Court justices when they travel outside Washington and for the deputy attorney general.

The attorney general authorized the marshals to provide DeVos’ protective detail, which began Feb. 13, Credic-Barrett said.

She referred questions about what prompted the security request to the Department of Education, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Former president eulogizes Mike Ilitch

Former President George W. Bush doesn’t make many public appearances, but he showed up at the Fox Theatre Wednesday to honor Mike Ilitch at the invitation of the family.

The former Texas Rangers owner came to Detroit to pay his respects to the former Tigers owner, calling him the definition of a patriot. Ilitch supported the community where he lived, set an example of commitment for his fellow citizens and understood the “ideals that make us unique,” Bush said.

“Mike understood that our country benefits when people come to our shores to try to realize the American dream,” said the nation’s 43rd president. “After all, that’s what his mom and dad did” as Macedonian immigrants.

A question he gets a lot is: Does he miss being president? “Not really,” Bush said, though he added that it was annoying to stop at traffic lights on the way from the airport — something that didn’t often happen with the Secret Service.

Despite the accolades, Bush took a lighthearted poke at Mr. I: “The guy was a piece of work.”

Term-limited lawmakers’ new jobs

Former legislators forced out of office by term limits when the calendar flipped to 2017 continue to quickly find jobs in state government under Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority Board, whose members were largely appointed by Snyder, on Wednesday unanimously approved former state Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, to serve as the organization’s new executive director.

“I’m confident his strong track record of service in both the public and private sectors will help further the authority’s mission and goals,” Snyder said of Poleski, a certified public accountant.

He replaces Kevin Elsenheimer, whom Snyder appointed as a 13th Circuit judge in January.

Poleski joins a handful of term-limited legislators who have quickly found new jobs in Lansing, including former Rep. Al Pscholka, a Stevensville Republican now working as the governor’s budget director, and former Rep. Harvey Santana, a Detroit Democrat working as tri-county deputy for the Michigan Office of Urban Initiatives.

Snyder last week appointed former Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, as Michigan Lottery commissioner. Nesbitt, who had chaired the House Energy Committee and House Republican Campaign Committee, replaced M. Scott Bowen, who announced his resignation in October.

“I thank Aric for his continued service to the great state of Michigan. He has served many years in public service and I am confident that experience will suit him well in this role,” Snyder said.

GOP’s remote ‘town halls’

As many Republicans in Congress face protesters and angry crowds at home, fewer are deciding to host town halls in person compared with last year, according to an analysis by the website LegiStorm, which collects data on town halls.

So far in 2017, 41 percent of the 228 town halls scheduled by Republicans are to be held remotely by phone, Facebook or radio. Last year, only 19 percent of GOP town halls were held remotely.

However, Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is skewing the numbers by holding 45 town halls, all in person. Excluding Sensenbrenner, more than half of the Republican town halls are being held remotely.

By comparison, 12 percent of the 193 town halls announced by Democrats will be conducted remotely, LegiStorm found.

Lawmakers are still scheduling town halls, so LegiStorm’s figures could change in the coming weeks and months.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, has held two in-person town halls this year and plans more, including one in Battle Creek at 12 p.m. Thursday. He has called on his colleagues in Congress to hold town halls to engage and learn from their constituents.

When Trump on Twitter this week accused “liberal activists” of planning the “so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans,” Amash responded:

“They are our fellow Americans with legitimate concerns. We need to stop acting so fragile. I’m proud to defend liberty and the Constitution.”

Schlissel visits Lansing over income tax plan

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel came to Lansing Tuesday to dissuade Michigan House Republicans from their initial plan to eliminate the state’s personal income tax of 4.25 percent over 39 years.

GOP conservatives have been pursuing tax relief because the increase from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent in 2007 was supposed to be temporary until Gov. Rick Snyder helped freeze it at 4.25 in 2012. But Schlissel, whose university in Ann Arbor is a renowned home for left-wing activism, wasn’t sympathetic.

“This isn’t really conservatism, this is radicalism. It’s hard to understand where we’re going as a state if we can’t maintain a commitment to our children and their future through education,” he said, alluding to the possibility of reduced education aid because of the resulting $1 billion shortfall.

Other Lansing observers were quick to pounce on Schlissel’s comment.

“President Schlissel is one of the highest-paid government employees in the state. His advocacy for more taxpayer spending isn’t exactly radical either,” said Michael LaFaive of the free-market-oriented Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland.

“The state would simply be cutting state revenues by slightly less than the projected growth in the state budget over the next two years.

A capital city contest

Lansing has suffered another indignity, finishing No. 34 among the states as the best capital in which to live, according to an analysis of 42 factors by persona-finance website WalletHub.

Austin, Texas, not surprisingly finished first among the nation’s capital cities when judged by “key metrics” such as quality of life, educational quality, cost of living, income, crime and bars per capita. Jackson, Mississippi finished last.

Michigan’s elected officials will be chagrined to learn that Lansing was bested by such out-of-the-way capitals as Juneau, Alaska; Helena, Montana; and even good old Pierre, South Dakota, according to WalletHub.

But cheer up, Lansing lug nuts. Michigan’s capital city finished a mere two spots behind Honolulu. And it edged such regional competitors as Harriburg, Pennsylvania (No. 38) and Indianapolis (No. 41), while trouncing the likes of Trenton, New Jersey, and Montgomery, Alabama.

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke, Jonathan Oosting and Richard Burr

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