Saturday Shorts: Clean up state Constitution

The Detroit News

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a non-profit research group, says it’s time to ask voters to erase defunct parts of the state constitution. These include regulations requiring voters to be at least 21-years-old and stating that only heterosexual couples can marry.

Eric Lupher, president of the CRC, says courts or the U.S. Constitution have rendered those restrictions, and others, illegal. He notes only voters can change the constitution. Consequently, CRC is proposing the legislature, by a two-thirds vote, put the question on the November ballot. Lupher says this an easier and less expensive route than collecting thousands of petition signatures for a ballot issue. He admits he hasn’t yet lined up any lawmakers to support the plan.

Updating the constitution certainly isn’t a bad idea but with all of the other, more pressing issues in Lansing, it’s not a high priority. So, lawmakers can put it on the back burner for now, but they should address this going forward.

Cost-savings for senior care

The Southfield-based Area Agency on Aging 1-B has developed a new service to help senior citizens with medical problems stay in their homes. The cost savings could be huge.

SameAddress is a pilot program whose target audience are seniors in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

Tina Abbate Marzolf, CEO of the agency, says she is confident the program will be successful.

Marzolf says the programs and services will vary based on the individual needs and wants of the seniors. Typically, costs range from $100 to $1,000 a month to treat a person at home compared to $3,000 to $7,000 a month to stay in a nursing home.

“We’re trying to create a lower cost alternative for people and give them the option to get at home a lot of the types of services they might get in a senior facility,” she says.

Generally, treating seniors at home will be cost-effective. If successful, the program should be expanded throughout the state.

Put smart meter controversy to rest

Opponents of utility “smart meters” are again speaking out about the devices that measure energy usage.

However, they are blowing out of proportion a recent Michigan Court of Appeals order that the Michigan Public Service Commission look more deeply into opt-out fees.

Judy Palnai, spokeswomen for the commission, says the court wants the commission to more thoroughly look at the issue but hasn’t said the fees are too high or too low. The court concedes a fee is needed to cover opt-out costs.

Complaints have been irrational. Some argue radio frequency waves cause health problems. Others say the meters are a safety hazard. So far, they have not been proven dangerous.

Concerns about hacking are equally exaggerated. Utilities must constantly monitor their cyber security and follow MPSC guidelines.

There’s talk of legislation to cap opt-out fees but that is unnecessary and would cater to a small number of utility users.

As Dennis McKee of Consumers Energy notes, the vast majority of customers, 99.5 percent for Consumers, realize the new meters are more efficient and cost effective.