Saturday Shorts: Pay judges competitive wages

The Detroit News
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An arcane bill moving through the Legislature could help improve the quality of Michigan's judiciary.

The bill, passed by the Senate and pending in the House, would remove all judges except Supreme Court justices from State Officers Compensation Committee jurisdiction and make them regular civil service employees.

The change would allow judges to get the same pay increases that non-union state employees receive. Currently, pay hikes for judges must be approved by the Legislature, which hasn't done so since 2002.

Keeping wages competitive for judges would help draw more qualified candidates. Thirteen years of no pay hikes for judges suggests the current system isn't working.

Empty school put to work

The 9,400-square-foot Max Thompson Community Center in Warren was previously a vacant school building.

But it's been transformed into a facility that offers several Macomb County community agencies and the Van Dyke School District some financial benefits while giving low-income residents badly needed services.

The center will provide programs for the Community Services Agency, which includes Head Start and WIC food program, Meals on Wheels and the Michigan State University Extension Service.

The school district is leasing the building to the groups at no cost other than having them pick up utility and custodial expenses. The money saved from these maintenance costs and can be used elsewhere in the school budget.

The center is in an area where many residents need the services and, as Superintendent Joseph Pius says, the agency offices are under one roof and within walking distance for many who otherwise would have to find transportation to Mount Clemens.

Schools districts around the state are wondering what to do with vacant buildings. Finding new purposes for these structures benefits communities on multiple levels.

With body cams, consider privacy

State Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, is working to protect privacy rights in regard to the use of police body cameras.

Runestad's bill would limit access to the videos, which are becoming popular among police agencies.

To make sure his legislation doesn't inadvertently violate a person's right to know or hamper criminal investigations, Runestad has contacted a variety of groups for input. They range from law enforcement agencies to press associations and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The bill would allow for law enforcement to use recordings in court for prosecutions and civil actions but limits access when people filmed are not connected to any criminal or civil case.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies would be required to retain potential criminal or civil case recordings for at least 30 days or until the investigation and associated legal proceedings are complete. Some recordings could be kept for up to three years.

Runestad has done his homework in trying to protect citizen privacy rights without interfering with criminal investigations. It seems a fair approach.

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