Politics & Government
8:13 am
Thu April 11, 2013

This week in Michigan politics: public defense, challenge to right to work, rapid transit

Week in Michigan politics interview

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possibility of improving Michigan’s public defense system, and lawsuits challenging the state’s emergency manager law and right to work law for violating Michigan’s open meetings act. They also talk about the potential for a rapid transit system in southeast Michigan.

Improving the public defense system

A set of bills has been introduced that would take a first step toward fixing problems in Michigan’s public defense system.

Those problems include no training for public defenders, and excessive caseloads.

Michigan is known for being among the worst in the country for appointing attorneys to those who can’t afford one.

Lessenberry says, “The solution would be for the state to somehow absorb or equalize some of those costs, spreading it out maybe so the richer counties compensate the poorer ones.”

Emergency manager and right to work law challenged for violating open meetings act

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit saying a state House committee violated Michigan's open meetings law when it passed emergency manager legislation in December.

Highland Park labor activist Robert Davis brought the suit, saying he and others weren't allowed to speak during the committee hearing.

But Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette ruled yesterday the House can establish its own rules and procedures.

Meanwhile, a suit alleging the legislature violated the open meetings act when it passed right to work legislation is advancing.

Lessenberry says the judge looking at the right to work lawsuit said it could move forward, at least to the depositions stage. Lessenberry says the judge was “irked at the state” for wanting the suit to simply be dismissed. However, the judge has said it is a “long shot” for this suit to succeed.

Rapid transit in southeast Michigan

Transit advocates in southeast Michigan are heralding the start of a “new era in public transportation.”

The Regional Transit Authority’s board met for the first time yesterday.

Its mission is to coordinate the region’s transit agencies--and pave the way for more rapid transit.

Lessenberry says “If all of this works out there will be a special series of high speed busses that actually look more like train cars and they will have their own lanes. They will run all over the metropolitan area and out to the area.”

Lessenberry says before that happens, Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties need to have a vote on how to fund the rapid transit system.