gretchen whitmer

Sen. Arlan Meekhof, Michigan's next Senate Majority Leader.
Jake Neher / MPRN

Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, will be the new state Senate majority leader in 2015.

Republican senators chose Meekhof to replace term-limited Sen. Randy Richardville to lead their caucus.

Republicans will likely add one seat to their 26-12 majority in the Senate next year, although Democrats are considering a recount in one race.

Senate Democrats selected Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint as the next state Senate minority leader. He will replace term-limited Sen. Gretchen Whitmer.

Republican state Representatives will choose a new state House Speaker this afternoon.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Lansing public library's effort to ban openly carried firearms has ended

"The Michigan Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal of a case involving libraries and guns. Lansing’s library system had banned openly carried firearms in its branches.  But the Court of Appeals found that violated a state law preventing local units of government from banning weapons," Steve Carmody reports.

Bill would affect taxes related to oil and gas wells

A bill in Lansing would exempt things like piping, machinery, tanks and other equipment used to develop oil and gas wells from personal property taxes. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"Leaders of some of Michigan's poorest counties in the northern Lower Peninsula say the change would cost their communities millions of dollars while giving a tax break to oil and gas companies."

Gretchen Whitmer will not be on 2014 ballot

Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer confirmed yesterday she will not be on the statewide ballot in 2014. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"She announced early this year that she wasn’t going to run for governor in 2014. But speculation had been rampant that Whitmer could be a serious and credible candidate for Attorney General or Lieutenant Governor. 'But it’s just not the time,' she told the Free Press Thursday. 'My girls are 10 and 11, and I thought when they got to this age they wouldn’t need me as much, but they need me more.'"

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

Earlier this summer, the state’s House and Senate chambers got facelift. The $370,000 renovations included replacing the chamber’s carpet, which was held together by duct tape in several spots.

Now that carpet is being cut up, and put on the market for anyone who wants a piece of legislative tapestry — er, history.

As the Detroit Free Press’s Kathleen Gray reported, at least 170 people have requested swatches of the Senate’s old carpeting, which are “being sold for $25 for an 8-by-14-inch swatch and $50 for a 27-by-27-inch square.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A plan to improve Michigan’s roads and infrastructure will probably not be on the November ballot. That’s according to leaders of both parties in the state Senate.

Governor Rick Snyder wants the state Legislature to boost road funding by more than a billion dollars a year. But lawmakers have not embraced his plan to raise registration fees and the state’s gas tax to pay for it.

Instead, multiple plans have surfaced that would include asking voters to increase the state’s sales tax.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has called on state Senate Republicans to return to Lansing to vote on the Medicaid expansion. If not, Snyder says he could see the pattern repeated on raising more money for roads, student performance standards, and other controversial issues. He’s already been rebuffed on creating a state-run insurance exchange. 

But the governor says he remains optimistic that there is a path to winning an expansion of Medicaid.

Gretchen Whitmer is the state Senate Democratic leader, and she supports the expansion. She says the vote never happened because too many Republicans fear a Tea Party backlash, and she expects it will happen again.

She said this signals future problems ahead with issue like infrastructure, and called the Tea Party pressure "the tail is wagging the dog."

The governor wants the Legislature to tackle road funding once a Medicaid deal is approved. He wants that done within 30 days, but the Senate is not expected to reconvene until late August. The governor says that would be too late.

Scott Hagerstrom is the Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity. He says his group won’t stop trying to block policies that could lead to a growth in the size of government.

“The governor pushes on – ‘relentless positive action’ – and it’s never really over. It’ll never be over until he’s out of office, so on that note, we’ll just have to continue to educate Michigan citizens.”

Hagerstrom says that will hold true in the future as the governor pushes for more revenue for roads or any other tax or fee hikes. He says there are some things the governor has done that conservatives like.

Hagerstrom says his group will push the Legislature to keep the governor in check.

user Marlith / Flickr

In 2004, 58% of Michigan voters voted yes to a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

But that was nearly a decade ago. Since that vote, there's been an annual survey testing Michiganders' attitudes towards the issue. And the latest survey by the Glengarriff Group shows a major turnaround in the way we view same-sex marriage.

Today, Michigan voters back gay marriage by a 57% to 37% margin — almost an exact reversal of the vote on the constitutional ban.

With that backdrop, four Democratic senators have proposed a package of legislation that would advance recognition of same-sex marriage in our state.

Christopher Webb / Flickr

The Michigan Senate has passed a budget bill that would boost state funding to public schools by about 3%. Universities and colleges would also get a roughly 2% increase.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R- Monroe) praised the schools budget, saying it addresses issues like teacher retirement costs while giving more money to districts.

“The education budget this year may be the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been up here,” said Richardville.

But many Democrats say the plan does not do enough to make up for cuts to education over the past couple of years.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Battle Creek State Senator Mike Nofs says he doesn’t think higher than expected revenue in the school aid fund should be used to bail out struggling school districts.

Nofs says at today’s revenue estimating conference, state officials will announce the school aid fund has nearly $100 million more than predicted.

Nofs expects there will be push to use that money to help the struggling Pontiac and Buena Vista school districts. But he says that’s not a good idea.

Christopher Webb / Flickr

It’s day four of no school for Saginaw-based Buena Vista School District, as the district prepares to declare a financial emergency.

As Mark Brush reported on Tuesday, the school district canceled classes earlier this week after teachers were laid off. The layoffs come after the district of about 450 students learned the state was withholding funding for April, May and June.

Regardless of your politics, it may not have escaped your notice that Governor Rick Snyder is not universally popular.

He angered many voters by first taxing their pensions, then agreeing to throw thousands of children off welfare. Business taxes were lowered; spending for education at first slashed.

But the reaction to all that was mild compared to what happened last December, when the governor reversed his course and supported ramming right to work through the legislature in a day, without the courtesy of a single committee hearing.

Since then, his popularity has plummeted. His job performance ratings show more negatives than positives, and some polls show he would lose to just about any Democratic challenger.

What’s most curious about this is that you might think that with a track record like that, Democrats would be swarming all over themselves to run for governor. But here’s the reality: They don’t have a candidate.

What a week in Michigan politics! The litigating has begun on the state’s new right-to-work law, keeping the controversy alive, in the media, and in the public eye. There’s a right-to-work case in a lower court as well, but Governor Snyder asked the Michigan Supreme Court to make some key rulings so state employees can start dropping out of their unions as soon as the end of March.

Electoral College Changes?

Two days ago, the  expectation among many Democrats was that Senate Minority Leader Gretchen  Whitmer would be their candidate for governor next year.

Attractive, articulate  and charismatic, she has been the party’s primary and most visible public voice  since Rick Snyder became governor two years ago.

Yesterday, however,  she took herself out of the running. She has two pre-teen daughters, and said,  sensibly, “to be the kind of Mom I want to be for my girls simply does not allow  me to make the kind of commitment necessary to run a successful campaign for  governor at this point in their lives.’

Some may think that is a  cop-out, that she isn’t running because she thinks Snyder is unbeatable. But I  talked yesterday to someone who knows her well and says she is being completely  honest. Her daughters do mean a lot to her, and I think you have to admire that. 

This is a dilemma, by the way, many women in politics face. Republican Danialle  Karamanos just resigned as a member of the Wayne State Board of Governors,  because she has four small children and concluded that she couldn’t do both  jobs.

Senator Whitmer's office

In a letter to supporters this morning, State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) announced that she won't make a run for the Governor's seat in 2014. She cited family as the reason for her decision. MLive has the full text of her letter to supporters. Here's a portion: 

I've said all along that I wouldn't be making this decision alone, but rather would be doing it along with my family, and in particular, what's best for my 2 girls. They're 9 and 10 years old now, and without question, being their Mom is the single most important thing in the world to me.

So, while making this decision is undeniably difficult, knowing why I'm making it also makes it very easy. To be the kind of Mom I want to be for my girls simply does not allow me to make the kind of commitment necessary to run a successful campaign for Governor at this point in their lives.

She released this video on Facebook this morning explaining her decision:

The Detroit Free Press lists the following people as potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates for Michigan's 2014 race.

  • Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer
  • U.S. Rep. Gary Peters
  • Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel
  • and State Board of Education president John Austin
Michigan Senate Democrats

Listen to the full interview.

The Michigan legislature enters the lame duck session this week. Republicans held onto a majority in the State House, so they’ll be setting the legislative agenda, but Democrats will be watching closely.  Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer talks with Jennifer White. Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, was overturned by Michigan voters last week, could a new version of the law emerge? Plus, a discussion on right to work. And, what could the repeal of the personal property tax on businesses mean for local municipalities?

Michigan GOP / file photo

Senate Minority leader Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer want a special investigation into the case of Democrat-turned-Republican State Representative Roy Schmidt.

The Kent County Prosecutor says Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger tried to “perpetrate a fraud” on voters. But he says they didn’t commit any crimes. You can read his full report that was released last month here.

But Whitmer isn’t so sure. She believes there’s evidence to prove that Schmidt and others conspired to commit perjury and obstructed justice.

“My biggest fear is that people just brush it off as, you know, one of those odious things that happens in the capitol and it’s just not the case. It is very serious,” Whitmer said.

It’s hard to see the future. If you had been around during the Cretaceous Period, sixty-five million years ago, it would have been obvious that the world belonged to the huge and magnificent dinosaurs which dominated the planet.

Nobody would have paid much attention to the little rat-like things called mammals scurrying around the forest floors. But in the end, they would inherit the earth.

automotiveauto.info

The first hearing will be held tomorrow on a Republican plan to phase out taxes on most industrial equipment in Michigan.

Local governments collect about $400 million in revenue a year from the industrial property tax.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley helped design the plan to get rid of the tax over the next several years. He says Michigan is unique in how it taxes industrial property -- and he says it’s driving investments to other states and countries.

“So at the end of the day, it’s about jobs and removing the penalty for investing in Michigan,” Calley said.

But local leaders say the way the phase-out is drafted now, it would force disinvestment in schools, and city services. That’s because it does not replace all the revenue lost to local governments.

Some state lawmakers like Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer agree.

“At best, they only intend to replace 81 percent of the dollars,”Whitmer said. “So does that mean that they are going to cut our fire services 19 percent? They’re also going to cut our police service 19 percent? They’re going to cut our schools an additional 19 percent? How is that made up?”

The communities that would be most affected are industrial cities with the most factories. That includes Michigan's third-largest city, Warren.

Warren mayor Jim Fouts says the city stands to lose $12 million a year in revenue if the tax is repealed.

“It would be absolute disaster," said Fouts, who said he'd be forced to cut public safety and other vital services. 

"It’s a good example of short-term thinking without looking at the long-term consequences, which are draconian consequences.”

Fouts says Lansing has recently shifted more costs and mandates to local governments, while also cutting off their sources of revenue. He sent a letter expressing his concerns to Governor Snyder.

Michigan’s governor and legislative members are not subject to state open-records law, but Democrats in the State Senate are trying to change that.

Gretchen Whitmer is the Democratic Senate leader. She thinks requiring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is an important step towards promoting honesty from elected officials.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring ethical conduct by people in the legislature and setting a standard that’s very clear, and a system that is transparent," says Whitmer.

Her request comes a few days after emails were released by the Oakland County Democratic Party, which suggest the county’s redistricting process was motivated by partisan goals.

Legislation attempting to lift this thirty-six year old exemption is not new. It has been introduced several times before, most recently in the 2009 term. At that time, it was sponsored primarily by Republican representatives, who were in the minority.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Photo courtesy of Senator Whitmer's office

A developing proposal from Senate Democrats would allow Michigan high school graduates to get grants of up to roughly $9,500 a year for attending college by ending some tax credits and other revenue changes.

The grants could be used to pay tuition or associated costs for attending public universities and community colleges in the state.

The plan would be paid for by closing what Democrats call "tax loopholes" and ending some tax credits, collecting sales tax from out-of-state Internet retailers and saving money on state contracts.

Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it's a bold step needed to make Michigan more prosperous and attractive to businesses.

The proposal likely would face stiff opposition in the Republican-dominated Legislature, particularly at a time of tight state budgets.

http://whitmer.senatedems.com/

Michigan State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in today's Detroit Free Press. She writes that Senator Rick Jones' (R-Grand Ledge) comparison of a prominent female public relations professional to a "hooker" is one of many incidents of sexism that she's witnessed in Lansing.

The Michigan Senate today passed the House version of an anti-bullying bill.

It’s headed to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

The bill as passed did not include the controversial exception in an earlier Senate bill that protected statements that came from moral or religious convictions.

The Michigan Senate received national attention for that bill - some calling it a template for how to get away with bullying. 

Senator Whitmer spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White earlier today about her opposition for the bill approved by the Senate, and about the reaction to the YouTube video of her reacting to the bill.

Here she is telling her colleagues in the Michigan Senate "you may be able to pat yourself on the backs today and say that you did something today, but in actuality you're explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying... This is worse that doing nothing. It's a Republican license to bully."

Photograph courtesy of Senator Whitmer's office

The Michigan Legislature is back in session this week, so we took some time to speak with state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-23rd) about what she would like to see happen in the state legislature this fall.

Recall campaigns against the state’s elected officials have until the end of the week  to hand in petition signatures to be considered for the November ballot. There have been more than two dozen recall campaigns against Republican lawmakers, and just three against Democratic lawmakers. 

Two of those lawmakers – State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and state Representative Barb Byrum – are in the clear after an elections panel in Ingham County rejected petitions language against them. 

Allieosmar / Flickr

Leaders in the state Legislature say there is still a lot of work they would like to get done before lawmakers take a two-month summer break.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says some of the issues she expects to see in the coming weeks include education reforms, redrawing Michigan’s political maps, and whether the state should build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada.

“I expect most of that will be done before we break for the summer, yes. June ought to be a very busy time around here. Just because the budget bills get signed into law next week doesn’t mean we won’t be working very hard around here for the next month or so.”

The Republican-led Legislature sent Governor Rick Snyder the state spending plan last week. The governor is expected to veto some items within that budget and sign them into law next week.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature have reached a budget deal for the coming fiscal year.

The plan will use hundreds of millions of dollars from a tax revenue windfall to lessen proposed cuts to K-12 schools.

Democratic leaders say the plan violates a deal they agreed to last week, because the money doesn’t go directly to replace the cuts. Instead it will be used to urge schools to cut costs, and help make retirement payments.

"I think that we should motivate people to do the right thing and to find efficiencies where they can," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer. "And if you want to incentivize them with extra dollars, I’m comfortable with that idea. But this violates the agreement that we had, and the agreement was that we would mitigate the per-pupil foundation allowance so that the dollars would get right into the classroom with the kids."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says negotiations could have gone more smoothly with Democrats.

"There was no malice, there was no intent to mislead or anything like that, we don’t have that kind of a relationship. But this is the first time that this group of people is actually getting together and negotiating a deal, so there may have been some improvements laid out, we could probably do things better than we did, and we’ll continue to work toward that."

There is about a week and a half left before Governor Snyder’s self-imposed, May 31 budget deadline.

Richardville says he expects the Legislature to meet that goal.

Yesterday the state Senate passed a comprehensive tax overhaul bill. It went to the House where it was approved and it’s now headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his signature.

The tax overhaul includes the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, in favor of a corporate profits tax.  It also eliminates a host of tax breaks, including the income tax exemption for pensions.

Seven Republicans joined the twelve Democrats in the Senate in voting against the proposal. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer is opposed to the tax restructuring

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Whitmer. Here's the interview.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

It appears Michigan may be in for a revenue windfall of about $500 million dollars more than  it was expected to take  in this year.

The state Senate Democratic leader says Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature should use that money to avert cuts to schools.

The state Senate Democratic leader is calling for protections in the Michigan Constitution against using the School Aid Fund for any purpose other than K-through-12 education.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says she’s looking for any way she can to avert school aid cuts as high as $470 per student.

Photo courtesy of www.senate.mi.gov/whitmer

Democrats in the Michigan Senate want a constitutional amendment passed next year that would protect K-12 schools funding. The amendment would not allow community colleges and universities to tap money from the state's school aid fund.

At a news conference today, the Associated Press reports that Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said, “K-12 schools wouldn't need to absorb the $470-per-student cut Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing for 2011-12 if he wasn't trying to give nearly $1 billion from the $12 billion school aid fund to community colleges and universities.”

Dawson Bell of the Detroit Free Press explains:

To appear on the ballot, the proposal would need two-thirds majorities in both the state House and Senate. Whitmer and her Democratic colleagues believe a majority of Republicans, who control both chambers, would support the proposal.

Michigan Senate Democrats

The Democratic response to Governor Snyder's State of the State address was delivered by Gretchen Whitmer, leader of the Michigan Senate Democrats. You can watch the response on the Michigan Senate Democrats website. The transcript of Whitmer's speech follows:

Good evening,

The election this past November saw Michigan government turn the page on an unproductive time of Michigan history.

Photo courtesy of www.senate.mi.gov/whitmer

Democratic state Senator Gretchen Whitmer will be Michigan's next Senate Minority Leader. Whitmer's fellow Democratic Senators elected her to the position yesterday. She'll be the first woman to hold the job. She became a state Senator in 2006.  Before that, she was as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2000 to 2006.