Michigan Legislature

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Conditions are ideal for Democrats to bolster their ranks in the Michigan Legislature, but capturing a House majority to end Republican control of state government could be elusive.

  Democrats' advantages include higher voter turnout for the presidential election and the departure of dozens of Republicans who cannot run again under term limits. Democrats have gained House seats in every presidential contest since 2004.

Teachers unions and others rallied for more public school funding before classes this morning in Detroit, Kalamazoo and Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Teachers unions held early morning rallies today at schools across Michigan.

Teachers and others took part in so-called ‘walk-in’ events in Detroit, Kalamazoo and Flint. Similar rallies took place in more than 70 cities nationwide. 

Before sunrise, a steady line of buses dropped students off at Flint’s Northwestern High School. As students stepped off buses, they were greeted by people carrying signs calling for more public money for traditional public schools.

Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court / court.mi.gov

Private and parochial schools in Michigan will be allowed apply for grants that reimburse them for some state-ordered health and safety programs.

That’s despite a provision in the state constitution that forbids direct or indirect taxpayer support for private or religious schools.

Inside the Michigan Capitol looking up at the dome.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan legislators are turning their attention from away lawmaking to campaigning.

State lawmakers have a couple days on their calendar next month, but for the most part, Michigan legislators will be busy campaigning.

But as state lawmakers leave Lansing, there’s still more to do on the legislative agenda.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says it’s a common problem nearing the end of a legislative term. State lawmakers leave to campaign for re-election and leave thousands of bills waiting for action.

Inside the capitol in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Spending by lobbyists at the state capitol is on pace to break last year’s record.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports lobbyists reported spending $21.7 million during the first seven months of 2016. During the same period last year, lobbyists spent $21 million.   

In all of 2015, lobbyists reported spending a record $38.7 million wooing Michigan lawmakers. 

Students rally in Lansing
Fflickr user swskeptic/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence held a so-called "die in" Wednesday at the Capitol in Lansing, calling on the Legislature to craft stronger gun laws. 

Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas joined us to talk about the demonstration, and how much of an effect protests like this really have on the way our lawmakers think.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State legislators return to Lansing this week and there’s a lot on the agenda.

State Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph) hopes the state House will act on a package of bills aimed at reducing recidivism in Michigan’s corrections system.  A higher number of ex-cons in Michigan return to prison compared to other states.

“What can we do to off-load some of those costs, invest in areas that might increase offender success and give us the best chance towards decreasing crime in our communities and seeing that continued drop in violent crime in our communities?” asked Proos.

Ford Motor Company

This is a very busy weekend on Michigan highways.  

But in the future, many of the vehicles on the road won’t have a person behind the wheel.

The state senate is expected act quickly on a package of bills to loosen rules governing autonomous vehicles.

Kirk Steudle is the head of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  

He believes autonomous cars will eventually reduce fatalities on Michigan roads.

Steudle wants automakers to have more leeway to test driverless cars in Michigan.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan Legislature returns for voting this week after a three-month summer break, with plans for an abbreviated calendar before the crucial November election determines which party controls the House.

  Both chambers will have three weeks in session before the election, or nine days.

  There could be a lot on the docket, but lawmakers may leave until the post-election "lame duck" period final resolution of high-priority items such as energy and criminal justice legislation.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Legislature gets back to business next week after its 12-week summer break. 

Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas joined us today to talk about what we should expect to see from the Legislature in the remaining months of 2016.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Democratic Party leader is accusing Republicans of “shielding” Gov. Rick Snyder from accountability for the Flint water crisis.

Brandon Dillon is the Michigan Democratic Party chairman. At the first of a series of news conferences today, Dillon spoke in Flint about the need to not let the governor “off the hook.”

“Anybody, whether they were a state employee or a political appointee right up to the governor himself, need to be held accountable,” Dillon said, “And the Republican Legislature has so far has been shielding him at all costs.”

Steven Johnson was surprised to learn he might be heading to Lansing next year to represent Michigan's 72nd District.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The primary election in West Michigan's 72nd District to replace term-limited Republican State Representative Ken Yonker was a crowded race, and perhaps most surprised by the outcome was the winner himself.

Steven Johnson of Wayland came out on top, solidly beating the four other candidates, including one backed by the powerful DeVos family. 

After tomorrow's congressional and legislative primaries, just 97 days remain until Election Day 2016. Of course, it's never too early to look ahead to the 2018 elections and, at least one petition campaign is already making plans in that direction.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A top state official does not expect divisions over the Democratic Party’s pick for president will affect the party’s chances of winning control of the state house in November.

This could be a pivotal year for the Michigan legislature and who controls the lower chamber. But this is also a presidential election year, with most of the attention focusing on what’s at the top of the ballot.

Republican National Convention
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s House speaker says he doesn’t want the focus on Donald Trump to take away from the Republicans' need to protect their majority in the state House in November.

Republicans hold a nearly 20-seat majority in the state House: 63 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two vacant seats. Some of those seats are in safe Republican districts and others in are safe Democratic districts

But House Speaker Kevin Cotter says 15 to 20 seats may be in play in November’s general election. He says the Republican Party will need to invest its campaign money wisely to maintain its majority.

The Michigan Legislature meets today, but don't hold your breath expecting a whole lot to happen.

Our It's Just Politics team of Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta joined us today to take a look at the attendance card for the state Legislature. 

Clark told us that the House is scheduled to meet 80 days while the Senate scheduled 83, for a total of 163 days this session. That's more than 40 days short of the average 205 days per session. 

Michigan roads
User nirbhao / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

While many of us were getting ready for the holiday weekend last Friday afternoon, Governor Snyder announced his veto of a road funding bill that would have given some relief to 45 large cities.

Senate Bill 557 was sponsored by Republican Senator Marty Knollenberg of Troy. It was unanimously approved by the House and Senate, a feat remarkable in and of itself.

It would have repealed a requirement that larger cities pay for part of the state's cost for highway construction projects within their border.

Yet, the governor hauled out his veto power to whack the road bill.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Detroit school children, Flint residents and residents across Michigan will be affected when the next state budget takes effect in three months.

  Gov. Rick Snyder signed the $54.9 billion spending plan this week. It touches many corners of Michigan life - from spending on public schools and road repairs to increased dental coverage for low-income children and more troopers patrolling highways.

  Per-pupil grants for K-12 schools will increase by between $60 and $120. The gap between wealthier and poorer districts will shrink.

Flickr user Saginaw Future Inc./Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The legislature is off for its two-month summer break, but there will be a lot of work to do when lawmakers get back to work at the end of the season.  

Kenn Sikkema and Susan Demas joined us today for our weekly political roundup and two of the biggest issues that could be on the agenda when work resumes in Lansing has to do with renewable energy mandates and solar power regulations.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation requiring the history of genocide to be taught in the state's public schools.

The social studies curriculum at Michigan public schools must teach students about genocide, including the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide, as a result of legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The legislation amends the state school code to recommend a combined six hours of instruction regarding genocide between eighth and 12th grades. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Late-night drama over rescuing Detroit's school district capped lawmakers' closing days in Lansing before they broke for a summer recess.

  The $617 million bailout ultimately passed - barely. The Detroit restructuring, along with completing the state budget, were priorities.

  But legislators also finalized, advanced or left until later other legislation.

  About $165 million more is being directed to Flint's water crisis.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A plan to create a pilot roadside drug-testing program in five of the state's counties will soon be on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

  The Legislature approved bills Thursday that would allow law enforcement officers who are trained to recognize impairment due to drugs or alcohol to test drivers' saliva.

  The state police would choose five counties to start the yearlong pilot program.

  A bill analysis says the results of the roadside saliva test could be allowed as evidence in criminal prosecutions or administrative hearings in some cases.

Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, speaks to reporters on the Senate floor after the Senate passed Senate Bills 710, 711, and 819 - 822, measures that would reform Detroit's public schools.

A $617 million bailout of Detroit Public Schools was approved by Michigan late Wednesday, eliciting a range of responses from lawmakers across the state. Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, came to tears during last night’s legislative session.

“We’ve been living this for over a year,” Hansen said on Stateside. “You get to the end and it’s not exactly as you envisioned it.”

Courtesy of Michigan House Republicans

The Michigan Senate approved a $617 million bailout for Detroit Public Schools Wednesday night, and lawmakers are sharing their thoughts. State Rep. Amanda Price believes that the package’s approval will bring a “brighter future” for the kids of Detroit.

Senator David Knezek of Dearborn Heights says the legislature missed a huge opportunity to help struggling Detroit schools.
Courtesy of Sen. Knezek

State lawmakers passed a $617 million dollar package for Detroit Public Schools on Wednesday night.

Democratic Senator David Knezek of District Five, which includes part of Detroit, joined us on Stateside to discuss the package.

It’s a big step backwards for DPS, he said.

“The package that we passed last night sets up Detroit Public Schools for failure,” Knezek said. “It sets up the children for failure.”

The Michigan House of Representatives.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan state House narrowly passed a bill to bail out Detroit Public Schools tonight. But critics complain the plan does more for charter schools than Detroit kids.

The main bill in the package passed by a razor-thin margin, 55 to 53 votes.    

The legislation would allocate more than $600 million for the district, including $150 million to help transition Detroit schools to a new district.  

The school system has been under state control for the past seven years. 

House Speaker Kevin Cotter says the plan will help the district succeed.

LANSING – Coercing a woman to have an abortion would be a misdemeanor in Michigan, under a bill sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Senate approved the legislation, 26-11, Wednesday with all Democrats and one Republican voting against it. The bill would make coercion a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000; $10,000 if the accused is the father of the embryo or fetus.

Under Michigan law, Governor Snyder is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Flickr user Michigan Municipal League / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There is only one state in the entire country where, under the law, the governor is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

You guessed it: it's Michigan.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

An article in The Free Press reported 2016 is "shaping up as a raucous and competitive election season with incumbent politicians facing strong challenges up and down the ballot, and a presidential race that could influence the control of every race."

Rick Pluta and Zach Gorchow join us to talk about upcoming State Representative races, voter turnout, and how the Michigan legislature might change after this election year.

Dearborn Mayor John B. “Jack” O’Reilly, Jr.
(courtesy City of Dearborn)

When Republicans pushed through a campaign finance bill at the end of last year’s Michigan Legislative session, it was met with little resistance. In fact, many would be hard-pressed to remember what exactly the bill was attempting to fix. 

The provision, which was added just hours before the last session of the year closed, banned any public body or most public officials from using public money to spread factual information about local ballot measures in the 60-day run-up to an election.