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Legislation designed to help Flint passes in the State Senate

A collage of the Flint River
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Flint River (images on left), Flint Water Treatment Plant (images on right)

UPDATED at 10:28 on 10/21/16

Two bills to help Flint recover from the water crisis are making their way through the legislature. Both bills passed through the Senate Thursday with a near-unanimous vote.

One bill will make Flint a so-called “promise zone.” That would create a public-private fund to give money to high school students for college.  Kalamazoo and other cities in Michigan already have this distinction. The money would go to Flint students that graduate with a high school degree and would give them at least an associate’s degree at a higher education institution in the city.

Democratic senator Jim Ananich sponsored both bills and was on a committee to look into what the legislature can do to help Flint and prevent another water crisis in Michigan. Ananich says Flint’s students deserve this opportunity.

“All aspects of Flint have been struggling because of this water crisis,” he said. “And now we have some momentum on the private side, raising quite a bit of private dollars. To have this extra designation I think would give people reason to stay and, you know, we need to give the Flint schools some advantages after all the people of Flint have been through.”

But one senator voted against the bill. Republican Senator Patrick Colbeck says the legislation does not apply equally to everyone. He thinks there is a better way to fund college tuition.

“First of all, make sure no zip code based legislation,” he said. “Second of all if you really want to go off and do it in a responsible manner for paying for higher education, do the educational savings accounts like the MESPs that are out there right now –  the Michigan Educational Savings Plans – that’s what we need to do.”

The other bill would create an 11-member authority that could propose a tax levy to be voted on by the electorate and borrow money to fix the city’s water infrastructure.

Ananich also sponsored this unanimously passed bill.

“That was a tool we wanted to give to local communities so that – obviously city has responsibilities picking up trash, police, fire,” he said. “And obviously dealing with a massive crisis is not something any city is necessarily prepared on day one to equip with.”

Both bills will now start to make their way through the State House.

This story was updated to clarify the resp0nsibilities of the proposed 11-member authority.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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