Saturday Shorts: A smart move on pensions

The Detroit News

The Wayne County Commission made a smart move this week when it voted to eliminate the pension system's Inflation Equity Fund, from which the "13th check" for pensioners is distributed.

The fund came under fire in recent years as the county's financial position grew more precarious and the health of the pension system became more dire. The 13th check survived a 2010 effort by then-Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano to eliminate it and place its funds, which are the result of investment monies beyond eight percent growth, into the county budget.

County Executive Warren Evans' plan is to roll the inflation equity fund back into the pension system, which is only 45 percent funded. With Wayne County possibly heading toward a consent agreement with the state, such moves are good signs that lawmakers are in touch with reality on the county's financial picture.

International effort best way to protect the lakes

A joint initiative between Michigan, Ohio and Ontario is being launched to cut the amount of phosphorus flowing to Lake Erie.

Involving all of the stakeholders in the campaign is the most practical way to solve the runoff problem, which is blamed for a rash of harmful algae blooms on Lake Erie. The growth has contaminated drinking water supplies and contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones that have killed fish.

Researchers link the toxic algae to phosphorus from farm fertilizers and livestock manure, among other things. It flows into rivers and streams that drain into the lake. Consequently, the states and the province are going to be working with farmers to reduce the pollution. Action will include not spreading manure on frozen and rain-soaked fields and training farmers how to safely use commercial fertilizers.

Protection of the Great Lakes should be a top priority for all who border the bodies of water, and so more international efforts such as this one should be encouraged when problems arise.

Take "fibbing" out of the voting process

The state House is considering legislation that would allow any registered voter to obtain an absentee ballot. It's a good idea and should be approved.

Admittedly, it's not difficult now to obtain a ballot. But individuals supposedly have to meet one of several conditions, including being a senior citizen or unable to get to the polls on election day. One reason that has been used by countless people — and which usually isn't verified by a local clerk — is that the person will be out of town.

In many respects the legislation isn't needed because absentee ballots are so easily accessible. But at least with the bill's passage, people won't have to lie to get a ballot. All they have to do is be a resident of the community and have a valid form of identification, usually a driver's license.

Making it easier for people who are legally registered to vote can only enhance our democracy and possibly even increase the often pathetic turnout for elections.