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One good piece of legislation coming out of the lame-duck session that ended Friday is a measure to hold fathers accountable for their children.

The law, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, creates rules for establishing paternity of children on welfare. Prosecutors will be able to order genetic testing to determine fatherhood, and then go after deadbeat dads for child support.

Too many men are fathering children and walking away from their responsibility to support them, leaving that job to the taxpayers. The new law will be a useful tool in getting such fathers to step up to their duties.

Help for former felons

Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law legislation that should make it easier for parolees to get and keep jobs.

The bills allow prisoners who show an inclination for working and staying out of trouble to earn a certificate of employability, which would be given to them when they are released and could be shown to prospective employers. Also, the legislation protects employers from possible lawsuits based on their decision to hire an ex-offender. Previously, an individual's boss could be sued if a parolee committed another crime while on the job.

Those convicted of felonies often find it particularly difficult to get work after being released from prison. The unfortunate result is that many return to a life of crime.

At $2 billion, Michigan's Department of Corrections' budget is one of the highest in the nation. Dropping the recidivism rate can only have positive effects on the state's bottom line. There are many other areas where funds could be used if the budget was trimmed — schools and roads are just two.

Getting into the holiday spirit

Showing that the Christmas spirit transcends religions, members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths will be helping out their Christian neighbors by volunteering to work at various facilities on Christmas Day.

Janet Berman, co-chair of the Mitzvah Day activities, says about 800 Jews and 130 Muslims will work in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and shelters, among other locations that normally require staffing on the holiday. The idea is for the volunteers to fill in for Christian workers, who then can spend time on Christmas Day with their families.

Mitzvah (which loosely means good deeds) Day was started about 20 years by the Detroit area Jews. Several years ago, Muslims joined. Since then, Berman notes Muslims and Jews in other metropolitan areas have been conducting similar volunteer programs.

There are many ways to show community and holiday spirit. Mitzvah Day is admirable for bringing together people of diverse faiths in a truly good deed.

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