Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, the official start of a holiday that long ago became as much a secular as a religious one. Tonight and tomorrow, we mark an occasion in which Americans of nearly all faiths  celebrate our strenuous attempts to please the gods of retail sales.

Early indications are that we’ve done fairly well.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is reviewing hundreds of bills approved by the Legislature in the waning days of the lame-duck session.

Lawmakers sent the governor 224 bills since the November election.

user memories_by_mike / Flickr

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss some of 2014's top political stories. Funding for road repairs, Detroit's bankruptcy case and gay marriage all made headlines in Michigan this year.


Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters will decide in May whether to raise taxes for roads and education.

Keith Allard chairs the Grand Rapids Taxpayer Association, a group formed to oppose a city income tax extension in Grand Rapids. It passed last May.

Now he’s opposing a proposed increase in the Michigan sales tax that residents will vote on in May.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Natasha Henderson admits there are challenges ahead.

Henderson was introduced today as Flint’s incoming city administrator. Starting in February, she’ll take over running the day-to-day operations of a city still struggling to shake off a multi-million dollar budget deficit and ongoing crime problems. 

Today on Stateside:

  • Will a market-based approach prevent an Enbridge Energy spill in the Great Lakes?
  • Clayton Eshleman spent decades translating the works of  renowned Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo.
  • It's been a year since that massive ice storm knocked out power to much of Lansing. What’s changed?
  • We hear about a funk and soul band from Ann Arbor called the Third Coast Kings.
U.S. Govt Printing Office

ALBEE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Former three-term Democratic Michigan U.S. Rep. Don Albosta has died. He was 89.

C.M. Humpula Funeral Home says Albosta died Thursday. 

The Saginaw-born Albosta served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and was a farmer. He was elected to the Saginaw County Commission and Michigan House before serving in Congress in 1979-1984.

Albosta lost his re-election bid to Republican Bill Schuette in 1984.

Today on Stateside:

  • A look back at the year for the auto industry
  • An interview with author Kathleen Flinn about her latest book, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good (archive segment)
  • How Detroit’s sound influenced an entire generation (archive segment)
Pension protest in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Detroit's two pension funds will get $195 million from the state on Feb. 9.

A three-member board overseeing Michigan's contribution to Detroit's bankruptcy case approved the payment Monday. The money is intended to strengthen the pension funds and prevent cuts from going deeper than 4.5 percent for retirees. It also prevents any sale of city-owned art.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Environmentalists raised their voices in song on Friday to express their disappointment in the Michigan Legislature this year.

The group that gathered to sing carols at the foot of the holiday tree outside the state Capitol on Friday were not the best singers. But with songs like “Smoggy the Coalman," the quality of their singing was obviously not the point. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak is not seeking another two-year term, which means someone else, will lead the party through the 2016 election cycle.

user Tqycolumbia / Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a long-awaited plan to fix Michigan’s roads, job cuts to one of the state’s largest agencies, and some holiday cheer from Rep. John Dingell.

Roads deal

After weeks of hemming and hawing over how to fix the state’s roads, Michigan lawmakers have OK'd plans for a sales tax hike.

Governor Rick Snyder ended the lame duck session closer to his goal of more money for roads. But, we’re not ready to put this one in the ‘win’ column for the governor. Not yet, at least.

 That’s because the state won’t see a dime of this money unless voters approve the package in May.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A proposed tax hike aimed at improving Michigan's transportation infrastructure and schools is heading to voters.

  The Michigan Legislature has put a sales tax increase on the May statewide ballot as part of a road funding plan.

Today on Stateside:

  • Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders have struck a deal on road funding.
  • A visit to Flatsnoots Christmas Trees in Ann Arbor. Spending time with owner Duke Wagatha is all part of the experience of finding that perfect evergreen.
  • Michigan historians Priscilla and Larry B. Massie of Allegan joined us.
  • Don Julin and Billy Strings. The bluegrass duo sits down with Stateside's Emily Fox.
  • Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes talks about where Gov. Snyder will find his “second-term mojo."
  • Is businessman Dan Gilbert poaching Oakland County companies to fill his downtown buildings?
Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans Founder and CEO
Quicken Loans

There was some recent sand-throwing between Oakland County's feisty executive, L. Brooks Patterson, and Dan Gilbert, who is arguably Detroit's No. 1 booster, both in terms of buying, building, and enticing companies to move to Detroit. 

Michigan lawmakers want you to decide on roads.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Human Services said it is eliminating jobs because of a $7.5 million dollar budget cut.

According to spokesman Bob Wheaton, the department has notified employee unions.

Wheaton said it is too soon to know the net reduction in jobs or the total number of layoffs.

"There certainly will end up being some people who are laid off," he said. "But we're hoping it will be as close to zero as possible."

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit retirees face some big cuts in 2015—and hundreds of them packed two area churches to hear more about it Wednesday.

Detroit’s non-uniform retirees will take 4.5% direct pension cuts as a result of the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan, which took effect Dec. 10.

Governor Rick Snyder plans to sign an executive order this morning to create a new state department with a focus on improving the state's workforce. It will be called the Department of Talent and Economic Development.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be moved into it. So will the state's unemployment agency. Governor Snyder says developing talent will give Michigan an edge over other states and countries in attracting employers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint firefighters’ next contract will be decided by a state board.

Last night, the Flint city council approved an alternative contract to the one the city’s emergency manager wants to impose on Flint firefighters.

Satori World Medical / Flickr

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is in its second year. Many of the benchmark plans that were available for 2014 are changing for 2015.

How has enrollment been going and what do we need to know as we enroll? Marianne Udow-Phillips is the Director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan.

*Listen to Udow-Phillips above.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

In Michigan, you can be fired or denied housing for being gay. That's because there are no LGBT protections in the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The story of  teacher Gerry Crane illustrates that. Crane, a gay high school music teacher, was outed by his students, forced to resign, and several months later died of a stress-related heart attack. 

Christine Yared, an attorney from Grand Rapids, is writing a book about Crane's life. The book will be called "Gay Teacher: A Story About Love, Hate, and Lessons Yet To Be Learned."

Today on Stateside:

  • Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act enters its second year. Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan, was on the show to discuss it.
  • Federal law guarantees that children with disabilities have equal access to education, but is that really the case in practice? Sarah Alvarez with State of Opportunity and Bridge Magazine writer Ron French discuss what's actually the case for Michigan kids.

Released by the family

Update 4:30 pm: 

Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint's disrict,  says news of Hekmati's hunger strike is worrying, but:

"I understand that he’s sitting there in the lonely and quiet of his own cell feeling like he’s isolated, where he can't see all the ongoing efforts on his case, where he would feel like he could do something to call attention to his case. He’s doing what I think he thinks he can do.

"We literally work on this case every single day. Our main goal, and hopefully Amir hears this, our main goal is to keep his case in frontal lobe of everyone who is paying attention to Iran, so that if a moment occurs when Iran see it’s in their interested to make a gesture towards the international community, they will see that the release of Amir Hekmati would be a tangible gesture that demonstrates that they are truly serious about becoming a member of the international community. "

Michigan Radio has learned that Amir Hekmati, the US citizen and former Marine who has been imprisoned in Iran for 3 years on charges of spying, which he denies, has sent a letter to President Obama describing his fading hopes for release and begging that his own fate not be tied to nuclear negotiations. 

His sister Sarah Hekmati has confirmed to Michigan Radio that he has also launched a hunger strike. 

The full letter is below: 

user Kcdtsg / wikimedia commons

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the final days of lame duck, including the hold up on a plan to fix the roads, a pair of Senate-approved abortion coercion bills, and a bill that would impact online purchases made in Michigan.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is handing out $75 million to help a dozen cities deal with blighted homes.    $50 million is going to Detroit.

Mary Townley is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.    She says the federal grant dollars are intended to remove dilapidated homes and help neighborhoods.

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

A couple hundred people showed up outside the state Capitol to protest House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Five-nine-five-eight is a license to discriminate!” the group chanted on a march around the Capitol and through downtown Lansing.

Bob Pratt of East Lansing was one of the protesters. He says it’s aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.

“There’s no reason for a bill like this. And to then call it the religious freedom bill when it really is a license to discriminate,” he said. “It’s the freedom to discriminate against people that you don’t like and then hide behind religion for it.”

Jake Neher / MPRN

A group of semi-truck drivers made some noise Tuesday outside the state Capitol.

Several 18-wheelers circled the building with horns blaring to protest legislation that would increase fines and fees for overweight vehicles. It’s likely to be part of a compromise plan to increase funding to fix Michigan’s roads.

State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says too many lawmakers are blaming truckers for poor road conditions.

“What are some of the folks here doing? They’re pointing fingers at them as if they’re the problem – and, ‘Go get ‘em!’ I think they’re frustrated with that and I think they’ve had enough,” said Casperson.

Gov. Rick Snyder.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Michigan has faced and tackled many issues in 2014. Zoe Clark talked to Gov. Rick Snyder about the past year, and what he'd like to achieve in the future.

A bill allowing suspicion-based drug testing for people on welfare has passed the Michigan House and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s decision.

Snyder says he still needs more time to review the bill in detail. A number of states have already passed similar policies, and Snyder says he is paying close attention to their effects.

Michigan State Police

Detroit-area residents are getting a reported $246 million in federal recovery money after the August floods.

FEMA has approved $141 million in grants, while businesses will get another $104 million in low-interest loans.

But others are still waiting.

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