NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE
Issue 105, September 2004

Table of Contents

  1. Michigan Tops List as Model for Mouse-Clickers
  2. Michigan Recreational Boating Information System Updated
  3. Nursing Home Hotline Established
  4. Michigan Pushes Permits Online
  5. Wireless Internet Access Available in State Parks,
    Marinas, Rest Areas and Welcome Centers
  6. Granholm Unveils Michigan Prescription Drug Discount Card
  7. Michigan Business Entity Documents Now Available Online
  8. State Completes Transition To Telephone And Internet Filing
    For Unemployment Benefits
  9. Michigan Wins 2 National Government Web Site Awards


(1) Michigan Tops List as Model for Mouse-Clickers

Michigan.gov is the place to go for inquisitive citizens with an Internet hookup, winning the No. 1 ranking in a new survey that rates state and local e-governments.

Michigan’s Web site, which opens with an inviting view of Luddington State Park’s Big Sable Lighthouse overlooking Lake Michigan, was first on a top-10 list of digital states honored in July by the Center for Digital Government.

The center, a for-profit research and advisory institute based in Folsom, Calif., awarded second place to Washington, which was recognized as the country’s original leading digital state in 1997. Rounding out the top 10, in order of their ranking, were Virginia, Indiana, Arizona, South Dakota (which shot up to sixth place from 49th place in 1997), Tennessee, Utah, Arkansas and, tied for 10th place, Colorado and North Carolina.

While most states now provide digital access to information such as vital statistics, vehicle registration renewals, contractor lists and child-support billing, Michigan stood out for its development of new and innovative services, said Janet Grenslitt, the director of survey and award programs at the center.

One of the state's new programs, called Map Michigan, is loaded with charts that can lead users to all the state’s waterfalls, a playing field in another town, the nearest boat launch or the fastest route to a specific address. Through the state Department of Information Technology, residents also can request maps that plot statistics, such as demographics in a specific region or the number of poor children on welfare in different parts of a city.

Another link offers a leg up to school kids. Michigan students gearing up for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program -- known as the MEAP test -- can take practice tests for the different subject exams for fourth-, eighth- and 11th-graders. Students can download the grading rubric used to evaluate the writing section or answer math word problems.

Opening the doors of state government to computer users is becoming vital state business these days. Sixty-three percent of American adults now access the Internet, and last year nearly 97 million adults -- 77 percent of Internet users -- linked up to e-government, according to a survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a research project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which also funds Stateline.org.

The Center for Digital Government survey, which was sponsored by Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, examined more than 60 criteria in four categories: service delivery, architecture and infrastructure, collaboration and leadership. High-scoring sites were specifically recognized for their security measures and ties to federal, county, city and nonprofit groups, Grenslitt, the survey’s director, said.

“Michigan was balanced; it did well in all of the judged areas. There was a lot of collaboration and effort there that resulted in a lot of savings for taxpayers in the long run. You can say that about all of the states in the top 10, but Michigan really excelled in all four areas,” Grenslitt said.

Kurt Weiss, the public information officer at the Michigan Department of Information Technology, said feedback from users helped the state develop the site and come up with more changes for the future.

“We know that the journey isn’t even close to being over. We still have a lot more great things to come,” Weiss said.

Some of Michigan’s success can be attributed to former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R), who created the Department of Information Technology as he left office two years ago in an effort to consolidate information technology programs from different state agencies, Weiss said. It started out with a budget of $420 million, but statewide cutbacks dropped its current budget to $360 million.

“What’s promising is that we’ve been able to do all of these great things in the midst of a terrible budget crisis,” Weiss said.

Although the center used to release a top-10 list ranking state governments more frequently, it switched to publishing its survey every other year, making the 2004 list the first since 2002. The change was made to provide a longer time horizon to assess state progress. Separately, the center rates legislatures' Web sites, with Nevada's Legislature rated first last year.

“It took a while for e-government to get off the ground, but now the states are off and running,” Grenslitt said.

Source: Article by Jessica Kitchin. "Michigan tops list as model for mouse-clickers", Stateline.org, July 23, 2004. Permission received.

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(2) Michigan Recreational Boating Information System Updated

Version 2 of the Michigan Recreational Boating Information System has several new features.

The "Fish Finder" allows you to select the kind of fish you would like to catch and it will bring back a list of lake sites that are known to have that species. The advanced search will allow you to search for waterbodies that have a certain kind of fish in addition to having a certain kind of ramp access, toilets, lake size or "no fees", but I can't find a way to find a certain kind of fish limited to only one county. At least the search results are listed in county order.

The second big new feature is the "Harbor Search" which provides information about the Great Lakes harbors. It provides quite a lot of information, including whether they sell gas or diesel, if they have a boat hoist, if there are marine supplies and repair, laundromat and many other facilties.

Another added feature to both the inland lake boat ramps and the harbor information is a tie-in to NOAA weather information, so you can see what today's forecast is for any particular site.

Another feature is a list of "Master Angler" entries so you can see what record-breaking fish were caught in a waterbody. I find this list amusing, it lists names, the angler's home town, how he/she caught the fish, what bait was used, and the date/time that it was caught. So far I haven't found any library employees listed in the database. To search the master angler entries apart from the lake information, go to http://www.michigandnr.com/FISH/MASTERANGLER.ASP.

Source: Kathleen Weessies, Head, Map Library, Michigan State University Libraries.

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(3) Nursing Home Hotline Established

The Michigan Department of Community Health has set up a 24-hour hotline to handle complaints about nursing home problems.

Michigan's nursing homes came under harsh scrutiny in 1999 after a federal report criticized the state for delayed investigations into resident complaints. Complaints used to have to be in writing, but now they'll be taken over the phone to ensure a timely response. The new complaint response program was mandated by a state law passed in July.

Complaints are considered "serious" if they involve injuries of unknown origin, sexual assault, intimidation or threatening actions, a fall that resulted in a fracture and is the result of suspected abuse or neglect, inadequate staffing that jeapardized a patient's health or safety, or failure to obtain appropriate care or medical services.

Citizens needing to make complaints can call (800) 882-6006.

Although the hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it is only monitored once every twenty-four hours.

Source: Lansing State Journal, August 9, 2004, B1.

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(4) Michigan Pushes Permits Online

Michigan officials unveiled today a plan to let businesses apply for permits online. The Michigan Timely Application and Permit Service (MiTAPS) Web portal is intended to do what its name says: provide a way for businesses to find and apply for permits from any state agency at any time.

Within the portal, company officials can use a guided search to determine which permits they need. They must enter their company information only once and then the site uses it for any and all subsequent permit applications. In addition, company officials can pay permit fees online and monitor their applications' status through the portal or e-mail notifications at specific milestones during the process.

For more information, see MiTAPS Information Sheet.

For complete article by Diane Frank, see FCW.com, Aug. 24, 2004.

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(5)Wireless Internet Access Available in State Parks,
Marinas, Rest Areas and Welcome Centers

Just in time for Labor Day, wireless internet can be added to the list of "must-haves" for Michigan travelers. The State of Michigan and SBC Communications have announced that wireless Internet access, or WiFi, is now available at the Holland State Park and the Grand Haven State Park, the first two state parks in the nation to provide this service.

MiWiFi is powered by the SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi service and will soon be available in many other state parks, welcome centers and rest areas across the state. The service will enable travelers to wirelessly connect to the Internet at speeds 50 to 100 times faster than dial-up. Customers can gain access to a FreedomLink hotspot when in an approximately 150-foot rage of its location.

Source: Michigan Newswire, Sept. 2, 2004

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(6) Granholm Unveils Michigan Prescription Drug Discount Card

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today unveiled the Michigan prescription drug discount card program that will lower prescription drug costs for some of the state’s one million uninsured residents.

The card is available to low income, working residents who do not have prescription drug coverage and are not enrolled in other government-sponsored prescription drug programs.

“The Michigan prescription drug discount card will provide much needed assistance for the low income working men, women and families who struggle with the high cost of prescription drugs,” Granholm said today. “With more than one million uninsured residents in Michigan, this card fills a critical gap in our health care system by making prescription drugs more affordable for those who have nowhere else to turn.”

Enrollees in the program will be able to use their discount prescription drug card at more than 2,300 pharmacies across the state, including all major chain stores.

The MI-Rx program is scheduled to officially begin October 1. The state of Michigan is currently registering individuals for the drug discount card program.

Michigan’s prescription drug card program differs from other state discount programs, such as those offered in Ohio and Arizona, by serving more than just the senior population. There is no age limit to participate in Michigan’s program.

To qualify for the program, family members must only be Michigan residents, have no other prescription drug coverage, and have an income level at or below the state’s median income level.

For a single individual, the median income level is $27,930. For a family of four that income level is $56,550.

“Governor Granholm has made a commitment to provide low cost prescription drugs to improve the health care for all Michigan residents,” said Janet Olszewski, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “This free drug discount program will be crucial as Michigan looks to close the gap among our uninsured populations.”

When enrollees present a MI-Rx card at a participating pharmacy they can expect to save approximately 20 percent off the retail price of common prescription drugs. Savings will depend on the kinds of medicines used, and if they are generic or brand name drugs.

Currently, more than one million Michigan citizens do not have access to prescription drug coverage.

You may download a PDF copy of the MiRx card application and mail it to the address on the application or you can call 1-866-755-6479 and have an application mailed to your home.

A list of participating pharmacies in PDF format is available. The list is organized alphabetically by city name. To find a pharmacy in your area, scroll down to your city.

Sources: Michigan Newswire, September 21, 2004 and Department of Community Health.

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(7) Michigan Business Entity Documents Now Available Online
New Service's Popularity Soars With 50,000 Hits
From Businesses and Consumers in 10-Day Test Run

Department of Labor & Economic Growth Director David C. Hollister has announced that Michigan business entity documents are now just a click away for businesses, consumers and media representatives.

The DLEG Bureau of Commercial Services Corporation Division worked in partnership with the Michigan Department of Information Technology (DIT) to make it easier for its customers to obtain copies of business documents for corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships. Documents now available for viewing online include articles of incorporation, annual reports, dissolution of corporations and assumed corporation names.

“Our customers now have the information they need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They no longer have to call, fax or mail a request for the documents they need – they’re just a click away,” Hollister said. “This will also free up Corporation Division staff, who answer hundreds of requests a day from businesses, consumers and media representatives seeking copies of business documents.”

To view documents, enter a corporation name in the Business Entity Search engine at http://www.cis.state.mi.us/bcs_corp/sr_corp.asp and click on “Search Database by Name” and Search. Click on the name of the business. Click on “Images Available” in the box at the bottom of the screen to view a list by date of all documents on file pertaining to that business. Click on the camera icon, which will open an image viewer to view a document. Anyone experiencing trouble with the viewer can click on the Help Menu icon at the top.

“Response has been overwhelming even before we’ve publicized this new feature. The project team silently launched this service in late August and received an impressive 50,000 visits logged in a 10-day period,” DIT Director Teri Takai said. “It became the seventh most popular page on the DLEG website in the test run and we can only imagine how successful it will be once word spreads in the business community about the ease and convenience of obtaining key documents online.”

Additional information about the Corporation Division and Business Entity Search is available by visiting http://www.michigan.gov/corporations.

Source: Michigan Newswire, September 14, 2004.

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(8) State Completes Transition To Telephone And Internet Filing
For Unemployment Benefits

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has successfully completed its transition to telephone and Internet based systems for accepting unemployment claims.

"Unemployed workers can now file claims for unemployment benefits either by telephone or by visiting our website," David Plawecki, a deputy director with Michigan's Department of Labor & Economic Growth, explained. "And if they have questions about their unemployment claims, they can receive help by calling us or by visiting one of our four Problem Resolution Offices (PRO), including one in Livonia."

How to file an unemployment claim

To file an unemployment claim by telephone, unemployed workers can call the agency's toll-free claims filing line at 1-866-500-0017, according to the following schedule, which is based on the last two digits of their Social Security numbers:

Eastern time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday & Friday
8:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m. 00-15 34-48 67-81 Open Call-In
12:30 p.m. -4:30 p.m. 16-33 49-66 82-99 Open Call-In

Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing can use TTY services by dialing 1-866-366-0004. UIA also offers language assistance for non-English speaking workers at its toll-free claims taking number.

To file a claim online, workers can visit the agency's website and apply anytime from 7:00 a.m. Monday through 7:00 p.m. Saturday.

The agency has also established an employer filed claims (EFC) program, in which seven of the state's largest employers currently participate. Through EFC, participating employers file unemployment claims on behalf of their workers during mass layoffs or plant shutdowns. UIA will be expanding the program to more employers in the future.

Where to find help with an unemployment claim

To help workers who may have questions about their unemployment claims or the claims taking process, there are several ways in which they can speak with someone at the agency.

Workers can call the agency's toll-free phone claims filing number at 1-866-500-0017 weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. By selecting the inquiry option (#3), they can speak with a customer service representative about their unemployment claim.

Those who are experiencing a problem with their claim and have been unable to resolve the problem by telephone can visit a UIA Problem Resolution Office. The offices are in Livonia, Gaylord, Lansing or Marquette and are open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Livonia PRO is located at 33523 West Eight Mile Road and serves the Detroit metropolitan area. The agency also operates a customer relations hotline at 1-800-638-3995 to resolve problems and answer general questions about unemployment benefits. The hotline is open weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Source: Michigan Newswire, August 27, 2004.

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(9) Michigan Wins 2 National Government Web Site Awards

Michigan won two of eight categories at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers 2004 Recognition Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Information Technology – this after winning earlier this year the No. 1 ranking in digital government from the Center for Digital Government.

There were 120 nominations from 36 states. Michigan’s first award came in the Digital Government - Government to Citizen category, with the selection of the Michigan Electronic Filed Unemployment Claims Project. Michigan’s telephone and Internet filed unemployment claims system is currently handling 99 percent of all unemployment claims, claims that were filed manually three years ago. This system allows citizens to submit unemployment claims from their homes using the Internet or the telephone.

Michigan’s move to a paperless system allowed for the closing of 43 branch offices. All telephone and Internet claims are processed in one of three claim centers.

Michigan’s second award came in the Security and Business Continuity category, with the selection of the Michigan Critical Incident Management System. To address an outdated information management system at the State Emergency Operations Center, the E Team Critical Incident Management System software application was selected as the preferred information management tool. E Team was installed on computers in the SEOC in conjunction with the GIS mapping software, and because E Team is a web based application, it is now being used by all state agencies, over 110 local emergency management programs, numerous local police, fire, emergency medical technicians, hospital/medical facilities, other emergency responders, and critical infrastructures within Michigan.

“Michigan continues to demonstrate how information technology is making state government more accessible and cost effective for our citizens,” said Teri Takai, Director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology.

NASCIO represents the state chief information officers from the 50 states, six U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. Members include cabinet and senior level state officials responsible for information resource management. Other IT officials participate as associate members and private sector representatives may become corporate members.

Source: Michigan Technology News, Sept. 22, 2004, and Michigan Department of Information Technology News Release, Sept. 22, 2004.

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