state legislature

Politics & Government
4:13 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

What's the future of Michigan's libraries?

The main atrium of the Library of Michigan, in Lansing.
Credit user: imzadi1979 / Wikimedia Commons

The State Legislature created the Library of Michigan 32 years ago to collect and preserve Michigan publications, conduct research and to support libraries statewide. 

For the past 10 years, Michigan's state librarian has been Nancy Robertson, but now she is retiring. She joined us to speak about the future of libraries in Michigan, and the role of Michigan's state library. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Investigative
8:46 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Part-time Michigan Legislature could mean more power for bureaucrats and lobbyists

A proposal would cut legislators to part-time and cut their pay.
Aaron Olson

You might be asked to sign a petition next year to cut Michigan legislators’ pay and make their job part-time. The state constitution will have to be amended to accomplish that.

There could be some unintended consequences in doing that.

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Politics & Government
6:05 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Banning Bridge cards in strip clubs, liquor stores and casinos ?

Michigan's Bridge Card, which provides food and cash assistance benefits.

Bridge card users could soon be unable to get cash out of ATMs inside strip clubs, some liquor stores, and casinos.  That's the idea behind a package of bills the state Senate passed today. 

Bridge cards are mostly associated with food assistance, but they also let families with kids get temporary cash assistance for things like child care and rent. 

So what happens if you live in a rural or urban area where the only ATM is in a liquor store? 

That's what state Sen. Morris Hood (D-Detroit) says he's worried about. 

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Stateside
5:02 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Latest Michigan Public Policy Survey shows 54% think the state's headed in the right direction

Tom Ivacko
Twitter

An interview with Tom Ivacko of the Ford School's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy.

When it comes to "performance reviews" for politicians, the Big One is the one they face at the ballot box.

For Governor Rick Snyder and state lawmakers, that performance review comes up in November 2014.

But in the interim, the latest Michigan Public Policy Survey gives us all something to chew on. This one looks at how local officials view the job Governor Snyder and the State Legislature are doing.

The survey is done by the team at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Tom Ivacko is with the Ford School's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy. He joined us today to discuss the results.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Culture
5:00 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Stateside for Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Billions and billions of federal dollars, hundreds of different policies, all rest in the U.S. Farm Bill. With very little bipartisanship in Washington these days, it's not too surprising that it's taken so long for Congress to make a deal on the legislation. But, time is running out. Why can’t the 2013 Farm Bill just get done and what does it means for the Michigan and U.S. economies?

And, we took a temperature-check. Just how do local officials think the state Legislature is doing?

Also, the Dearborn Planning Commission approved changes in rules governing the way residents may use their garages, but some people in the Arab community feel the changes are a direct slap at them.

First on the show, there's been an apology from Detroit's emergency manager for those now-infamous comments made in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. That's where Kevyn Orr described Detroit in these words: "For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich."

Orr offered up a mea culpa in an interview with WXYZ-TV.

What effect will those words and the apology have on Orr's ability to work with Detroit leaders and citizens?

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined us today.

Education
6:00 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Are schools gaming the system or following the rules?

Derringer recently wrote a piece for Bridge Magazine
Nancy Nall Derringer LinkedIn

Governor Snyder’s school reform agenda includes rewarding schools for so called best practices.

Those include providing physical education, offering online instructional programs or blended learning opportunities, or being a school of choice. Districts meeting seven out of eight of those best practices are eligible to receive 52 additional dollars per pupil in the district.

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Stateside
5:18 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Annual Pew legislative review shows that one-party states get a lot done

The state legislature has approved changes to some public employee health benefits.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

An interview with Scott Greenberger, an editor for Stateline.

One of the criticisms frequently aimed at Congress is that "gridlock" where decisions come slowly, if at all, as both sides draw their respective lines in the sand, and there's just not much compromising.

That is not the case with state legislatures across the country where, thanks to one-party control in 37 states, we're seeing action and lots of it.

Stateline is an independent, non-partisan news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts. This week it released its annual review of state legislatures, giving us a look at the major budget and policy developments at all 50 state capitols.

Scott Greenberger, an editor for Stateline, joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Education
3:14 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Michigan public schools could get a funding boost

School work
Jane M Sawyer morgue file

Michigan public schools would get a three-percent overall funding boost under a plan in the state Legislature.

It comes up for final votes next week.

No school would get less money per student than it did last year under a plan approved by a state budget panel.

Lawmakers added language that would guarantee every school gets at least five dollars more per student than last year. Without that provision, some schools could have seen cuts because of reduced payments to cover teacher retirement costs. 

Schools that get the minimum amount of state funding right now could see up to $60 more per student next fiscal year. That total amount is right around $7,000 per student.

The bill now goes to the floors of the state House and Senate.

Politics & Government
5:16 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Just how public is our government?

Gov. Rick Snyder talks to reporters at the Lansing Center.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

How transparent should the process of our government be?

That’s the question behind the use of “work groups” or “task forces” — unofficial, closed-door committees being created in Lansing to help design and craft policy.  Following the revelation of the so-called “skunk works” education work group that was made public by the Detroit News two weeks ago, we wanted to look at how these groups operate in Lansing. Have work groups increased under Governor Rick Snyder? What’s the possible impact on our democratic system of government?

Chad Livengood from the Detroit News and Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss the growing awareness of Lansing’s work groups, and how voters can know who or what is influencing these committees.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
2:15 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Blue Cross changes approved without abortion provision

Blue Cross Blue Shield building
Wikipedia

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A state House committee has approved bills to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, leaving out anti-abortion provisions that torpedoed an earlier effort to change the status of the state's largest insurer.

Bills headed to the House don't include language to prevent insurers and businesses from providing elective abortion coverage in employee health plans.

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill less than two months ago over last-minute abortion provisions.

Some lawmakers discussed restoring abortion restrictions.

The proposed overhaul seeks to modernize but not sell Blue Cross, which is governed by a separate law from other insurers and waits longer for its rate changes to be reviewed.

Before Thursday's 11-0 vote, senior advocates testified about concerns that costs will rise because of the legislation. Three Democrats abstained from voting.

Politics & Government
6:38 pm
Mon January 21, 2013

Bill seeks to make state Legislature part-time

Michigan Municipal League flickr

Michigan’s legislature would only serve part-time under a measure in the state Senate.

Starting in 2015, lawmakers would only meet in regular session up to 90 days a year. They could have special sessions to address emergencies.

Republican state Senator John Proos is sponsoring the legislation. He said it would force state lawmakers to work more efficiently.

“Ultimately it saves taxpayers money and decreases the overall size of government. I think that those are good, laudable efforts as we try to reform state government,” Proos said.

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Politics & Government
2:43 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Political Roundup with Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas: The start of the new session

Jennifer White speaks with Susan Demas and Ken Sikkema.

The new legislative session kicked off yesterday in Lansing.

Republican lawmakers were greeted by protesters angry about right to work legislation and other controversial moves made during the lame duck session. 

House Speaker Jase Bolger was reelected as leader of the house though there were two dissenting votes from Democrats in what would historically have been a unanimous vote.  

Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants talk the new session.

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Politics & Government
2:19 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

New legislation attempts to curtail concussions

New legislation in Michigan seeks to protect student athletes from concussions.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan's legislators have moved to protect student athletes from concussions. The AP has more:

The Senate on Tuesday passed measures requiring the Michigan Department of Community Health to develop educational materials and training for athletes, parents and coaches on concussion-related injuries and treatments.

The materials would identify the nature and risk of concussions and criteria for removing athletes from activity when they're suspected of having a concussion.

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It's Just Politics
5:46 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

State Republicans say they want income tax relief... can Democrats afford to vote 'no'?

Republicans in Lansing say they want income-tax relief... can Democrats afford, politically, to say "No?"
Matthileo Flickr

Taxes, as we all know too well, are a powerful political issue. And the issue has come up yet again at the state Capitol. A cut in the state income tax has become part of the negotiations as Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature's top Republican leaders wrap up their budget negotiations. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I sit down to talk politics every Friday and today, in It's Just Politics, it is all the politics of taxes.

Rick Pluta: The governor and the Legislature have set this deadline of June 1 for wrapping up the next state budget.

Zoe Clark: And that's important, because - even though the state's fiscal year begins October 1 - schools, community colleges, cities, townships, and counties all have budget years that begin July 1. They all have budgets that are tied into state spending.

RP: Right. Now, in the final days of discussions, Republicans have put an income tax cut on the table. State House Republicans will roll out the legislation next week.

ZC: So, that begs the question: why are they doing it now?

RP: Well, for a year and a half, Democrats in Lansing have hammered Republicans because all the tax and budget reforms have focused on reducing costs for businesses: eliminating the Michigan Business Tax on 95,000 businesses and the proposal to eliminate the tax on industrial equipment.

ZC: At the same time, a dozen tax credits and exemptions claimed by homeowners, parents, seniors on pensions, and  poor families earning incomes were ended.

RP: And Democrats have been pounding Republicans with that incessantly and with an eye toward the November elections - when, we should note, all 110 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for election.

ZC: So now, courtesy of Republicans, a proposal for income tax relief.

RP: The main bills in the tax rollback package will be sponsored by state Representatives Holly Hughes and Ed McBroom, Republicans representing districts that are considered marginally - 51, 52 percent - Democratic.

ZC: And Democrats most certainly want those seats back.

RP: Exactly, and this shows Republicans intend to put a fight in these seats by giving their incumbents these bills. One accelerates a reduction in the income tax rate; the other increases the personal exemption. But the bottom line is Republicans want the message to be: Republicans equal tax cuts. Democrats, however, have already revealed their counterattack.

ZC: And the counterattack is really what their message has been all along. Since last year, GOP hegemony in Lansing has meant tax cuts to businesses while seniors, homeowners, and working poor families all lost tax breaks that they've counted on, as well as reductions for schools, universities, and local governments.

RP:  Right, so Democrats say this so-called "tax relief:" 50 cents a week, nine dollars a person per year  is pretty meager compared to the costs that everyone has had to pick up in the name of improving the business climate.

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It's Just Politics
3:10 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Machination in Michigan: Rep. Roy Schmidt and the offer he couldn't refuse

Politics can be messy. Politics can be confusing. But, that certainly doesn't mean politics can't be a total thrilling joy-ride. Every Friday afternoon Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta  sit down for a fast-paced spin around Michigan politics.

ZC: It’s Just Politics. I’m Zoe Clark.

RP:And, I’m Rick Pluta.

ZC: We start this week with a tale of intrigue, deception,  and – dare I say it? Betrayal.

RP: Yes, Zoe. A defection. This has not happened in Lansing since the 1990s. Democrats thought they had a reasonably safe seat in the 76th state House District in Grand Rapids... Competitive but marginally Democratic with a strong incumbent in Representative Roy Schmidt.

ZC: But then….A tergiversation,  a flip.

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State Legislature
8:02 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan Senate votes to phase out industrial tax

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

The Michigan Senate has voted to phase out an industrial tax that’s a big revenue generator for school districts and local governments. Republicans amended their original plan to make sure much

of that money for local services and education would be replaced.

State Senate Majority Richardville says if money from the state falls below a certain level, communities could return to taxing industrial property.   

“It’s kind of a poison pill, as we call it in legislative jargon, where, if we don’t keep our promises than the whole program disappears, so it forces the state government to say we will keep you at the level we say it will,” Richardville says.

Richardville acknowledges there’s no way to guarantee schools and local governments won’t see some reductions. The money for the replacement would come from the sunset of other tax breaks.

Republicans say Michigan’s tax on business and industrial property is unique in the Midwest and drives investment elsewhere.

The Senate rejected efforts by Democrats to link the tax phase-out to job creation targets.

Commentary
11:41 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Commentary: Senator wants lawmakers to pay more for health care

State Senator Rick Jones of Grand Ledge might want to watch his back for the next few weeks, or maybe, decades. Yesterday, he threatened to violate a time-honored legislative custom.

Lawmakers at all levels are traditionally known for telling the people “do what we say, not what we do.”

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State Legislature
6:52 am
Tue April 17, 2012

Michigan lawmakers return; budget high priority

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Michigan lawmakers are headed back to the state Capitol after a two-week spring break, with the state budget remaining their top priority.

Legislative sessions resume Tuesday. Lawmakers say they hope to wrap up a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts in October within the next two months.

There are some differences between developing budget plans from Republican lawmakers who hold the majority in the state Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's initial budget proposal.

Some Republicans want to spend less than Snyder proposed on the state prison system and some other state departments. They say they worry that state revenues won't come in as high as state economists projected earlier this year.

The House and Senate appropriations committees have meetings scheduled for this week.

Politics
6:10 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Dems see political opportunity in tax deadline

Allieosmar Flickr

Democrats in Lansing plan to use this week’s tax-filing deadline to re-open the debate about last year’s tax overhaul at the state Capitol.

Democrats think the tax issue will help them in elections this year. Seniors born after 1946 have their pensions taxed for the first time. Deductions and tax breaks for many charitable donations will be gone when state taxpayers file next year. At the same time, taxes were lowered for many businesses.

Democrats intend to remind voters of that as they try to win an additional nine seats in November to take control of the state House. They say more than a dozen swing districts will be the target of fierce campaigning on the issue of taxes.

Republicans says there are elements of the tax overhaul that were unpopular, but necessary to streamline and simplify tax filing and to make Michigan a more business-friendly state.

Politics
3:57 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

Michigan gets an "F" on "Corruption Risk Report Card"

Michigan fails the integrity test.
State Integrity Investigation

In the opening of his State Integrity Investigation piece, reporter Chris Andrews shows us why Michigan gets the failing grade:

The campaign finance system here has more holes than I-94 after a spring thaw. Big spenders and special interests can easily shovel millions of dollars into election activities — secretly if they choose... And the financial disclosure system for state elected officials?

Well actually, there isn’t one.

Welcome to Michigan, the “Trust Us” State when it comes to transparency. Reform efforts are frequently launched, sometimes debated, always shelved.

The State Integrity Investigation is a project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.

The project aims to "expose practices that undermine trust in state capitols -- and spotlight the states that are doing things right."

You can see how all the states stack up here.

Clearly, Michigan is not going to make the highlight reel.

Overall, after looking at 330 specific measures of "state integrity," Michigan ranked 43rd among the 50 states.

And while Lansing has not been rocked by scandals seen in some other state capitols around the country, Andrews writes there are "glaring holes," when it comes to transparency in money spent to lobby lawmakers, and in the money spent to elect or defeat candidates in Michigan.

Michigan Supreme Court elections, a seat money can buy

How money can influence the perceived integrity, or the real integrity of an office was highlighted in a recent piece by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham.

In his Michigan Watch report, Money Talks: Campaign money and Supreme Court justice candidates, Graham illustrated how once a candidate wins a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court "no one really knows if a case is being decided strictly on the merits, or because of someone’s hidden political donation and its influence."

Graham spoke with former Michigan Supreme Court justice Betty Weaver about this:

“It isn’t just the appearance of impropriety, this money does have influence. Common sense tells you it does. I’ve been there,” said Weaver.

LG: Do you think you’ve seen on the court influence because of a large donor at one time or another?  

“Yes, I do think that the ability to control who gets appointed and who gets elected has an effect on the decisions of the court, so you can pretty well guess how it’s going to go,” said Weaver.

In his State Integrity Investigation piece on Michigan, Chris Andrews notes that Gov. Snyder proposed an ethics package when he was running for governor in 2010. Snyder called for banning gifts from lobbyists, "cooling-off periods," and regulating issue advertising.

But while Snyder achieved many of his campaign goals after taking office in 2011, these reforms were put on the back burner.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, told Andrews that lawmakers in Michigan are unlikely to change anything unless the public demands it.

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