It's Just Politics

Mondays at 8:50 AM

Politics can be messy. Politics can be confusing. But, that certainly doesn't mean politics can't be a joy-ride. Join It's Just Politics hosts Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta Monday mornings on Morning Edition as they drill down on what’s happening in Michigan politics.

Rick and Zoe tell us how the game of politics is not only fun and thrilling, but has a real impact on the policy-making that affects all of us.

Want to know what's really going on inside the state Capitol building? Or, why your lawmaker really voted the way they did? They've got the answers... and much more.

It's Just Politics – every Monday morning at 8:50 am on Michigan Radio.

Rick Pluta has covered Michigan government and politics since 1987. His first big Michigan political story was the brutal GOP presidential primary battle that pitted Vice President George H.W. Bush against former Congressman Jack Kemp and televangelist Pat Robertson. That battle spawned two competing state political conventions and the now-famous “I Survived the 1988 Michigan Republican Delegate Selection Process” t-shirt. He would pay money now that he did not pay then to get one. He collects political pins - a professional side hobby that’s hit the skids as cost-conscious campaigns have taken a tragic turn toward stickers. He is an excellent parallel parker. 

Zoe Clark is Michigan Radio’s resident political junkie. She fell in love with all things political when she was eight years old and begged her parents to let her stay up late to follow the 1992 presidential election returns. No way, they said. But she did convince them to wake her up when the race was called. (Which they did.) It was her job to wake up early for four years as the producer of Morning Edition on Michigan Radio. Now, in addition to being Michigan Radio’s resident political junkie, Zoe is the executive producer of the daily news-magazine Stateside and oversees interviews on All Things Considered. She is a better parallel parker than Rick.

Follow Rick on Twitter at @rickpluta and Zoe at @ZoeMelinaClark

As we head into the final month of 2015, campaigns in Michigan are already ramping up for Election 2016.

Lawmakers are continuing their autumn recess, but they’ll soon be back in Lansing to focus on Governor Rick Snyder’s plan for Detroit schools.

A big economic development project in Grand Rapids seems to have Republican lawmakers rethinking their opposition to industry-specific tax breaks.

 There’s been lots of debate over the past few days about the political wisdom of going ahead in Michigan with a couple of ballot campaigns after similar efforts suffered big defeats last week in Houston and Ohio.

OH to MI? Apples to oranges

It’s the upstarts versus the Establishment. Again.

And, this time, we don’t mean the Tea Party versus the Republicans. Rather, we’re talking about the gay rights movement in Michigan.

Another road funding plan is moving in Lansing but, after four years of debate, one has to wonder: has a real solution become an impossible dream?

In the state Legislature, the Senate now has the House plan. The House has the Senate plan. But, even though it’s Republicans calling the shots in Lansing, Republicans can’t agree on what to do about fixing the roads.

Governor Rick Snyder is facing a tough sell today as he tries to re-start the conversation on fixing Detroit’s schools. And, that’s just one of the political tough sells the Second Term Nerd is facing.

Republicans may be trying to break up with Dave Agema, but Dave Agema is sending plenty of signals that he’s not about to break up with Republicans.

With the hand-wringing over what appears to be short-term, hasty-decision-making in Flint (the move by a state-appointed emergency manager to try and save money by breaking away from Detroit’s water system and to, instead, pull water from the the highly corrosive Flint River), the city’s water crisis has now become a political crisis as well.

The Michigan presidential primary is underway. And by that we really mean that the ‘endorsements primary’ is underway.

You’ve got a friend

With 162 days until Michigan voters decide who they want to be their Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, the focus right now is really on the Republican side of things. 

A weekend of Republican partying on Mackinac Island wrapped up yesterday after 2,200 people with the time (and money) attended the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. 

“The Establishment Strikes Back” could be a very apropos title for the latest episode of the Todd Courser-Cindy Gamrat saga.

That’s the one where Republican leaders (with some help from Democrats) succeeded in booting the prominent and troublesome Tea Partiers from the state Legislature.

The special state House committee set up to look into the conduct of Republican state Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat is scheduled to meet tomorrow and Wednesday.

Reps. Courser and Gamrat are accused of using state resources to, among other things, cover up an extramarital affair.

Once again lawmakers are starting over as another road funding plan collapsed late last week in Lansing.

What really happened?

The latest effort to come up with more than a billion dollars for roads had pitted Republicans against Republicans. The GOP has a 63 to 46 advantage over Democrats in the state House, and a 27 to 11 margin in the state Senate. Those numbers led to the idea that GOP leaders could develop a Republican-only roads solution without having to deal with the Democrats.

Michigan lawmakers and the Snyder administration are writing up new energy policy. It’s a big deal that almost no one is paying attention to. And that means the issue will be driven by special interests.

A group of unions is launching a petition drive to raise the corporate income tax rate in Michigan. But is that really their end game?

There is no stopping him.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump can’t stop talking. But, is that really such a bad thing for his fellow Republicans?

Updated story 4:38 PM:

So, there’s definitely no deal on road funding.

The state House and Senate floor managers have let it be known there will be no attendance taken and no roll call votes this week. After that the Michigan Legislature is on a break until mid-August.

It looks like we won’t be seeing an LGBT rights question on the statewide 2016 ballot.

Yet, it was not that long ago that it seemed a near-certainty that LGBT rights groups were ready to go to the ballot next year to amend Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act if the GOP-led Legislature refused to act.

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow voters to take the authority to draw congressional district lines away from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions has many Democrats and progressives in Michigan very happy.

There’s been lots of rejoicing among those who’ve hated gerrymandering – the drawing of district lines to benefit one party over the over.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage has many people happy and relieved. None more so, politically speaking, than Republicans who’ve wanted to see the issue go away.

Moderate Republicans like Governor Rick Snyder have always detested getting wrapped up in the culture wars. 

6/25/2015 Update:

Lon Johnson will make his candidacy for Michigan's 1st Congressional District official this afternoon in the Upper Peninsula. A press release sent to reporters this morning states:

Democrat Lon Johnson will announce his candidacy for Congress in Michigan’s First Congressional District, challenging Republican incumbent Dan Benishek. Johnson will make the announcement at the Marquette County Democrats’ annual Summer Sizzle Picnic in Ishpeming, MI. 

Lon Johnson grew up in a family with five generations of Northern Michigan history and has worked in American manufacturing and as a civilian in Iraq. Lon, 44, lives in Kalkaska County and is married to Julianna Smoot. Lon is currently the Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

There are rumors that powerhouse Oakland County Executive and outspoken Republican L. Brooks Patterson may not run again in 2016, leaving Republicans in a bind.

A certain fact in politics: it is never too soon to start thinking about elections; particularly if you want to win them.

2016, 2018, 2020…

What has happened to the once-esteemed Earned Income Tax Credit?  Everyone used to love it.

The EITC is the target this week as state House Republicans continue hearings as they look for ways to raise more than $1 billion for roads without raising taxes.

This week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway on Mackinac Island. This is when Lansing, political Lansing at least, empties out of town and heads north to rub shoulders – and click cocktail glasses – with Michigan’s movers and shakers in businesses, finance and philanthropy.

In Lansing, state Senate leaders say they’re scrubbing plans for a summer break in order to work toward a road funding solution. They say they heard John Q. Public loud and clear after the massive failure of Proposal One and that, this time, they’re going to get a roads-fix done.

Last week’s defeat of Proposal One means the billion dollar question of how to pay for Michigan’s roads remains unanswered.

Lawmakers were quick to say that they’re going to work throughout the summer to come up with a new plan. But, if they haven’t been able to find a solution yet, what makes them think they’ll be able to now?

Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to take up the historic Michigan-based case that could determine the legality of same sex marriage throughout the United States.

The Court will hear arguments on four same sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Justices will weigh the rights of voters who approved the bans, the rights of gay and lesbian couples who want to be married, and the rights of same-sex couples who are already married in states that allow it.

One month from tomorrow, voters in Michigan will decide the fate of Proposal 1, the ballot measure that would raise more than a billion dollars in new money for roads.

The voting begins

For some, voting has already begun. Absentee ballots for the May 5th vote have been out for more than a week. And, along with the absentee ballots, political pollsters have been in the field, too. They’re trying to figure out just where voters stand on the issue and for those pushing Proposal 1, it doesn’t look good.

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