Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

The Capital Dome in Lansing, Michigan.
Joe Dearman / Flickr

Each week, Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, join me to talk Michigan politics.

This week, we talked about a plan in the State House that would change how Michigan distributes its Electoral College votes.

You can listen to our conversation below.


Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Bills that seek to reduce prison spending in Michigan seem to have momentum going into the last weeks of the Legislature’s 2014 session.

Michigan spends about $2 billion every year on prisons. The legislation seeks to reduce the length of some prison stays and provide more supervision for people after they are released from prison.

The most widely supported proposal would create a commission to oversee sentencing guidelines and discuss other corrections policies.

“It creates a forum for exploring all this. And it’s something Michigan badly needs,” said Barbara Levine with the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.

Freshman year in Congress isn't that different from freshman year in college.

Michigan has five new "rookie representatives-elect" that now have to worry about making new friends, finding a place to live, and even taking part in a freshman orientation before they can begin their work.

We talked to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, author of the New York Times piece After Victory Laps, Settling In As Rookies, about what new Congressional members go through during the transition to Washington.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More Detroiters living next to vacant lots will get a chance to buy them.

The city is ramping up a program to sell “side lots” to neighboring homeowners for just $100. The Detroit City Council recently transferred thousands of properties to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which is running the program.

The land bank currently has a little more than 7000 properties in its inventory, says spokesman Craig Fahle.

Rick Snyder / Flickr

Governor Snyder leaves for China today on his fourth trade mission to Asia. Tom Watkins has spent many years, in many different roles, campaigning for stronger ties between China and Michigan.

Watkins says Governor Snyder has two goals for this trip: promote Michigan goods and services, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI). China has plans to invest $1 trillion around the world, so it is important for Governor Snyder to attract FDI in order to create new jobs and opportunities within the state, says Watkins.

Watkins says there is a chance to develop a good relationship with China, as Chinese car companies have set up several R&D plants in southeast Michigan.. There are also a number of international students from China at state universities here. But Watkins warns it's not quick or easy work. "Doing business in China is not an economic one night stand," said Watkins. "You can’t just do one trip there.” Listen to our conversation with Watkins below:


Today on Stateside:

  • Road funding is once again being discussed in Lansing, but Chris Kolb says we need to think beyond just fixing roads and bridges. Find out where he thinks the state should invest more of its money.
  • A good meal can become a great meal if the restaurant has the right ambiance. For example, good music can improve the overall experience. But what about the other way around? Interlochen Public Radio’s David Cassleman talks about a conductor and chef who are teaming up in Traverse City to find out.
  • Ypsilanti singer-songerwriter and Civil War history buff Matt Jones has a new album out called “The Deep Enders.” See what he has to say about his Civil War influences and song writing for “The Deep Enders.”
US Supreme Court

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss a Michigan couple whose case could determine constitutional same-sex marriage rights, a challenge to Michigan’s right-to-work law, and a Republican-proposed plan for changes to the Electoral College.

Today on Stateside: 

  • A new report from Public Sector Consultants projects Michigan will lose enough energy production for one million people in 2016. We look at what this means for Michigan residents. 

  • Chris Cook, chief restaurant and wine critic at Hour Detroit Magazine joins us to discuss how American eating and cooking went through a drastic change post-World War II. 

  • How much has the American family changed? Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research have been digging into this for a report called The New American Family: All Are Welcome and You Don't Even Have To Get Married. We talk with U of M professor of Sociology, Pamela Smock. 

  • Automakers are on track to sell 16.5 million cars and trucks for 2014. Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader.com joins us to talk about the future of long-term loans and leases that are being sold to buyers. 

  • More than half of all hospital deaths are caused by sepsis. Dr. Jack Iwashyna, research scientist at the Ann Arbor-VA Healthcare System, and Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, join us to explain what exactly sepsis is and the challenges it poses. 

Today on Stateside:

  • The legal team for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed their appeal today with the US Supreme Court.  They want the court to rule that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network is here. 

  • Michigan Radio's newest project is The Next Big Idea. Here with us today are Joe Linstroth and Jeff DeGraff, who discuss what innovation means to them and what they're looking for.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

Many Michigan families remain at very high risk of homelessness after the Great Recession, says an advocacy organization.

Eric Hufnagle, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, say there are things cities can do other than wait for the economy to improve – like increase the amount of affordable housing.

Hugnagle says many people who become homeless  have jobs, but the jobs don't pay enough to let them afford rent.

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

A plan to change the way Michigan awards its electoral votes for president got largely panned at a state House hearing on Monday.

The legislation would award up to seven of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes to the presidential runner-up in Michigan. The number of votes they get would depend on how close the popular vote is.

user BGilbow / Flickr

Metro Detroiters hard-hit by last summer’s flash floods have a bit more time to apply for federal aid.

The deadline to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was November 24.

But FEMA officials are now pushing it back to December 14.

They say that about 120,000 people have registered for aid so far — but they think up to 30,000 more should do so.

Total flood damage is estimated at more than $1 billion.

Governor Rick Snyder is hosting the 2014 North American International Summit.
michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder is hosting Michigan's third summit to address cyber security issues in government, business and other sectors.

The North American International Cyber Summit takes place today at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

Experts from across the country will talk about trends and best practices in cyber security.

Featured speakers include the governor, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, military leaders and private-sector experts.

Data theft and security breaches can be costly, both to businesses and the government. According to the state, the Michigan government suffers more than 500,000 computer attacks each day, including spam, web browser attacks and network intrusion.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state House panel is scheduled to meet Monday to consider changing the way Michigan awards its Electoral College votes for president.

Right now, the state assigns all of its 16 electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. A new Republican proposal would allow the runner-up to get up to seven of those votes – depending on how close the vote is.

“What this does is it says, if you want to do well in Michigan, you got to actually come here and talk about our issues,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Twp.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Cold weather will slow water shutoffs in Detroit, but not halt a nearly yearlong push to collect on past due accounts.

  Detroit Water Department spokeswoman Curtrise Garner tells The Associated Press that crews will stop disconnections only during long bouts of below freezing temperatures when the ground is too hard to reach water connections.

  Service has been disconnected to 31,300 customers since Jan. 1. A several-week moratorium allowed some customers to enter into payment plans.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder's upcoming trip to China to coax companies to expand in Michigan won't be cheap, but economic development officials say the money is well spent and producing results.

The governor's last investment mission to Asia cost $251,000 and a concurrent trade trip totaled $173,000. Expenses included flights, lodging, other travel, meals, gifts and receptions.

  Nearly $219,000 of the bill for Snyder's trip was covered with money Michigan receives from American Indian casinos' gambling profits.

Get ready for more potholes this upcoming spring season.
User _chrisUK / flickr.com

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a move to fix the state’s roads, the most recent ruling involving same-sex laws, and a new standardized test for Michigan’s public schools.


Lex Dodson

The deadline for people affected by last summer’s flooding in Metro Detroit to apply for most federal assistance is quickly approaching.

The Small Business Administration has approved at least $63 million in long-term, low-interest loans so far.

“As more and more loans are approved, that number will continue to grow,” says SBA spokesman Michael Peacock.

The “disaster loans” are available to homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profits.

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are considering multiple plans that would significantly increase state road funding. The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would raise the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements.

But state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says they could still try to pass a plan that would raise the state’s sales tax.

“We may look to change the sales tax. And that may be a better way to fix the structural problem that we know exists at the pump already,” Richardville told reporters on Thursday.

 There’s a split in Lansing about how far and how aggressively to push for gay rights in Michigan -- specifically to update the state’s civil rights law.

Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act

This is as much a cultural split between Lansing lobbyists and the LGBT community and how they view their mission as it is a difference of opinion about tactics and priorities. However, it has now jeopardized, if not already doomed, the effort to update Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA).

The ELCRA already has protections against housing and employment discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and weight, among other things.  It’s long been a goal of Michigan’s LGBT advocates to add LGBT protections to the law.

History repeating itself

Thirty years ago, that effort cost state Representative Jim Dressel (R-Holland) his job. He lost his Republican primary in 1984 after he introduced a bill to add the phrase “sexual orientation” to the law.

This past summer, state Representative Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) suffered a similar fate for being the millennial Republican leading the effort on the GOP side of the aisle. His hope was to leave the introduction of the law a part of his political legacy.

Gender identity

But, efforts to accomplish that goal in this year’s “lame duck” session are now hung up on the words “gender identity.” That phrase would ensure that transgender people are also covered under the law.

A business coalition, put together and led by AT&T of Michigan President Jim Murray, was pushing the issue saying it’s not just a question of fairness, but talent - convincing people that Michigan is open, inclusive, and a good place to look for a job. Not only was it a persuasive group on its own but pretty much every multi-client lobbying firm in Lansing was also engaged in the effort.

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