Business
10:55 am
Thu May 24, 2012

AP: US Supreme Court rules in favor of Detroit-based Quicken Loans

flicker.com user:trame

 WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court says home loan applicants cannot sue a mortgage company for charging them a loan discount fee without giving them a loan discount.

The high court on Thursday unanimously ruled for Quicken Loans, which was fighting a lawsuit from Tammy and Larry Freeman and other families. The company argued Congress wrote the law to say only that the fee would be illegal if Quicken split it with someone else. The justices, in an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, agreed.

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Environment & Science
10:47 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Sport fishing groups want state to stop stocking salmon in Lake Michigan

The Desperado heads out at sunrise to go after Pacific salmon in Lake Michigan.
Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

How many salmon can Lake Michigan support?

That’s the critical question state fishery biologists have to answer this year.

Everyone involved in the salmon fishery is worried about its future... and now some sport fishing groups say drastic action might be required. They want the state to stop putting more fish into the lake.

There’s not much food for salmon in Lake Michigan these days because invasive species are changing the food web.

But there are a lot of salmon, because more and more are being born in the wild as opposed to in fish hatcheries. That combination of too many fish and not enough food wiped out the salmon in Lake Huron almost a decade ago and they never returned.

That’s why the state has proposed reducing the number of salmon stocked in Lake Michigan by 30 to 50%.

But last month the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fisher’s Association urged lake managers to consider ending all stocking for two years.

Now, a charter boat association in Muskegon has endorsed that idea too.

Paul Jensen is part of that group.

"We need to make a radical move to change the pattern and what we don’t want to do is duplicate what happened on Lake Huron."

But ending stocking might not sit well with some anglers. For decades, more fish stocking meant more fish being caught.

But researchers say the situation is bleak.

The salmon fishing is great so far this spring. But that’s a problem because it means there’s still a lot of fish in a lake without much food.

Commentary
10:14 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Commentary: Budget Follies

There is something to be said for one party controlling both the executive and legislative branches of government. This year, for the second year in a row, the state budget will apparently be passed by the beginning of June. That’s a big change from a few years ago.

Twice during the Granholm years, the parties were still squabbling over the books when the fiscal year expired at the end of September. And bad last-minute choices were made.

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Economy
10:05 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Dow Chemical gets $2 billion award for canceled Kuwait project

Dow Chemical's headquarters in Midland.
wikimedia commons

Dow Chemical says an international court has awarded it $2.16 billion in damages from its dispute with Petrochemical Industries Co., a subsidiary of state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp.

Dow shares are up 4 percent in trading Thursday before the opening bell.

Midland, Mich.-based Dow, one of the world's largest chemical companies, formed a $17.4 billion joint venture with the Kuwaiti company in 2008 to produce plastics for consumer products, automotive parts and drug processing. But the deal was scrapped later that year by that country's government following lawmaker criticism that could have led to a political crisis in the small oil-rich state.

"This outcome brings resolution and closure to the issue," Andrew Liveris, Dow`s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.  "We remain focused on continuing to move forward with our transformation and profitable business partnerships -- both in Kuwait and around the world."

Dow has Chemical Co. been doing business with Kuwait for nearly 40 years.

Politics
6:51 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Governor Rick Snyder and GOP legislative leaders reach budget deal that could lower income taxes

www.michigan.gov

 It appears a budget deal between Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature’s Republican leaders could include an election year tax cut. An early version of the proposal would accelerate a drop in the state income tax rate and increase the personal exemption.

The governor and G-O-P leaders want to wrap up the budget by the end of next week.

 Governor Snyder says he was skeptical at first, but he says revenue projections look promising enough to at least start talking about a tax cut for individuals and families.

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Economy
9:00 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

"Work share" program could help curb layoffs

Work share programs allow employees who see their hours cut collect partial unemployment benefits
Bytemarks flickr

Some Michigan workers who get their hours cut would be able to keep working and draw partial unemployment benefits, under a bill approved by the state Senate. The legislation would create what's called a "work share" program - similar to ones in about two dozen other states.

The idea is to avoid layoffs, and help maintain a skilled workforce.

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Politics
6:32 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Detroit Works online game offers residents a chance to help shape the city

Detroit 24/7 is an online game that gives people the chance to answer questions and give input about their community's future.
Community PlanIt screen shot.

Community meetings about the future of Detroit neighborhoods wrap up this week.

The Detroit Works Project focuses on how to make neighborhoods more viable, and how to keep current residents while attracting new people to the city.

Dan Pitera is co-leader of Civic Engagement for Detroit Works long-term planning. He is also also a professor of architecture at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

Some main concerns from Detroit residents, Pitera said “are safety for everybody, education and health for everybody in the city.”

Detroit Works has used several methods to engage the Detroit community. One of the newest is an online video game called Detroit 24/7. “Some people love to go to meetings, other people don’t,” Pitera said.

So far more than 900 people are playing the game, which lets players describe what they encounter everyday as they move around the city of Detroit, point out the pros and cons, and then suggest strategies that can improve the city. The idea is to engage a younger population, those ages 18 to 35.

“It actually deals with many of the same issues we are dealing with in the community conversations but done online, and we are attracting those people that are not going to meetings.”

According to Pitera, the intention of the project has been to first collect data from city residents, and then create city wide strategies that are informed by what is happening in different neighborhoods.

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Politics
5:10 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Juvenile court competency standards would include mental health treatment

Anita Patterson MorgueFile

Michigan lawmakers are expected to vote next week on two bills that would create a system to determine the mental competency of juveniles who break the law.

Some troubled children in Michigan don't have access to mental health services until they wind up in court.

The state Senate  bills would let a prosecutor or a juvenile's defense lawyer ask for a competency evaluation. A judge would also be able to order an evaluation.

Michelle Weemhoff is with the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Bills would tighten tort reform in Michigan

There's a bipartisan fight growing in the state legislature over Michigan's medical malpractice laws. 

In 1995, tort reform in Michigan made it more difficult to file a medical malpractice suit and get a jury trial. The law also put limits on monetary settlements.

Now a package of Republican-led Senate bills would further limit medical malpractice cases. Among other things, they would require proof that a physician's mistake was intentional.

The medical and insurance industries support the measures.

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Politics
4:58 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Legislators move to exempt drink pouches from Michigan's bottle deposit law

A state House committee has voted to exempt drink pouches from the state’s 10-cent bottle deposit law. The pouches are made of plastic, aluminum, and paper. They are not biodegradable or recyclable. Harold McGovern is the president of a beverage wholesale company. He said there are environmental benefits to pouches.

"It's a fraction of the up-front emissions from the standpoint of a carbon footprint. More importantly, the emissions on the transportation cycle - whether it’s delivery to our warehouse, whether it’s delivery to stores - also has dramatic incremental savings because of the weight difference between aluminum, glass, and this pouch technology," said McGovern.

If the House bill becomes law, it would preempt a state Treasury determination that the deposit could apply to alcoholic drink pouches. Environmental groups say the state should not encourage packaging that’s not recyclable.

Politics
3:17 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Granholm on voter ID laws: "un-American" and "treasonous" (Video)

screengrab from the War Room on Current TV

Yesterday, a meeting of the Michigan House Redistricting and Elections Committee was disrupted by protesters angry about proposed changes to the state's election laws.

Chief among protesters' concerns was a measure, now headed to the state House floor, that would strengthen ID requirements for voter registration in Michigan.

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Arts & Culture
3:04 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Helping Detroit's homeless with a multipurpose coat

Empowerment Plan CEO Veronika Scott shows off the coat she designed.
Emily Fox

Even though summer has just begun, I recently visited three women who were sewing coats in a big, old industrial building in Detroit. Their goal is to make 800 coats for the homeless this year.

This isn’t just any winter coat. While it looks like a super warm jacket with an oversized hood, there’s a little flap at the bottom for your feet. This coat can double as a sleeping bag. And when it’s hot, it can be folded up into an over the shoulder satchel.

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Auto
1:26 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Auto loan delinquency rates reach record low

Screen grab from TransUnion.com

Fewer Americans are falling behind on their car loan payments.

That's according to a new report from the credit agency TransUnion. They say that in the first quarter of 2012, the amount of payments 60 or more days overdue fell by 22 percent compared to the same period last year.

Those findings mark the tenth consecutive quarter that auto loan delinquency rates have declined, something that could benefit car buyers by prompting banks to make more loans.

A press release from TransUnion quoted Peter Turek, automotive vice president in the agency's financial services business unit:

"Auto loan delinquencies continue to perform exceptionally... We are seeing increases in both lending and leasing across the board, along with a higher number of loans originated in the non-prime risk segments."

Turek said that TransUnion expects delinquency rates for the rest of the year to remain low, but said that "a slight increase from this record-low level would not be surprising and should not be construed as a negative event."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
1:23 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Federal investigation highlights role of staff turnover, inexperience in Enbridge oil spill

Crews monitor the air near the site of the oil spill
EPA Region 5

An ongoing investigation into the 2010 Enbridge oil spill by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is raising concern over frequent staff turnover and inexperience among personnel in the company’s Endmonton control-room.

Last Friday, the NTSB added new materials to the public accident docket, including transcribed interviews with Enbridge staff.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports:

In the transcripts, one control-room operator likens his job to that of an air traffic controller and says he’d like to see Enbridge do more to retain control-room staff in the hot Alberta job market.

“And you just don’t have air traffic controllers coming in and out of the system like that, right, because you know that it will impact safety, right?” says the transcription. “So, I’d like to see them really look at keeping people in the control-room, keeping us happy in there, and I don’t know what it’s going to take, but that’s what I’d like to see.”

The employee added that when he started working at the company 25 years ago, he could count a combined 100 years of experience among four employees in the control-room. Now, he said, the experienced personnel in the room tend to only have three or four years under their belts.

The NTSB also reported that the time of the spill coincided with a shift change in the control-room, offering a possible explanation of why the spill went unnoticed for hours.

In a press release, Enbridge officials said that they would wait to comment on the new findings until the NTSB publishes its final report later this fall. In the release, officials added that the company been working to improve the safety of its operations in the two years since the spill by doing things like changing the “structure and leadership of functional departments such as pipeline control, leak detection and system integrity.”

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Farming
12:06 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Financial help could be coming for Michigan's fruit farmers

Blooms on a cherry tree.
William Schmitt Flickr

Fruit growers and processors in Michigan might get some help in the form of low interest loans if an expected package of bills moves through the legislature.

The loans are aimed at providing relief to those who lost most of their fruit crops after an unusual spring warm spell was followed by extended freezing temperatures.

MLive reports Michigan Department of Agriculture Director Keith Creagh said today the bills would create "five-year low interest loans":

The loans, which will be administered by banks and agricultural lenders, will meet an estimated total economic need of some $300 million in the state’s fruit growing and processing industry, Creagh said while attending the Michigan Food Processing and Agribusiness Summit.

Securing the loan guarantees at a low interest rate of 1 percent or 2 percent could cost the state about $15 million, Creagh said. The 5-year loans would be structured so borrowers would only pay interest in the first two years, he said.

Creagh says he'll also seek federal financial support for Michigan fruit growers and processors.

commentary
11:06 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Commentary: Elephants at War

For many years, there was a big difference between the two major parties when it came to their internal affairs. Democrats often didn’t get along behind closed doors and on convention floors.  And they often didn’t mind letting their disagreements show. Nor did their intra-party brawls usually seem to hurt them. That’s because the Democrats were a collection of different interest groups who didn’t necessarily like each other very much.

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Politics
10:39 am
Wed May 23, 2012

New law encourages better Internet access in rural Michigan

Gov. Snyder signed legislation aimed at improving Internet access in Michigan's rural areas.

According to Snyder's office, the new law will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install Internet infrastructure.

More from Gov. Snyder's office:

Senate Bill 499, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install facilities along state-controlled rail-trails – former railway lines converted to walking and bicycling paths. Companies will pay not more than $500 in application fees to the Department of Natural Resources, plus a one-time fee of 5 cents per linear foot used. Revenues will go into the Michigan Trailways Fund or the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

“Keeping costs low will encourage more companies to expand wireless Internet access to Michigan’s rural areas, essential to continuing our economic reinvention,” Snyder said.

The bill now is Public Act 138 of 2012.

Politics
8:44 am
Wed May 23, 2012

The Week in Michigan Politics

The Week in State Politics
Contemplative Imaging Flickr

Every Wednesday morning we check in with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry to talk about the week's political news in the state. On tap for this morning: The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that review teams that are deciding whether or not a city or school district is in financial crisis can meet behind closed doors, some Detroit officials say the consent agreement the city has with the state is illegal, and we take a look at a big shake-up in the state Republican party leadership.

News Roundup
8:36 am
Wed May 23, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Consent Agreement

Officials with Detroit’s law department say they expect to go to court to challenge the city’s consent agreement with the state. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Last week, Detroit’s top lawyer suggested the agreement was illegal because the state owes an outstanding debt to the city.  State officials say that premise is all wrong. Some City Council members oppose a legal challenge, calling it pointless and counterproductive. But council member Kwame Kenyatta took the opposite view. He says if city lawyers are right and the agreement violates the city charter, that’s a serious problem. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing declined to comment on the legal challenge.

Flint Teachers

The Flint school board has voted to lay off 237 teachers as part of an effort to eliminate an estimated $20 million deficit for the coming year, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The board voted Tuesday to lay off 108 elementary and 129 secondary school teachers. Earlier this month, the board voted to close both middle schools, along with Bunche and Summerfield elementary schools. Board documents say the district selected teachers for layoff based on recent evaluations. Statewide teacher tenure legislation last year put an end to seniority-based layoffs. The board must adopt a budget by June 30.

Kalamazoo River Update

Tests suggest household wells near the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill have not been contaminated. “Health officials have spent the past few years testing 150 wells in the spill zone.  Jennifer Gray is a state toxicologist. She says a draft report released this week by the Department of Community Health shows no organic oil-related chemicals have turned up in any of the water wells.  But she says a few wells have tested positive for iron and nickel. Gray says testing will continue for years to come," Steve Carmody reports. A pipeline break in July, 2010, resulted in more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil leaking into the Kalamazoo River.

Environment & Science
7:27 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Wildfire burning in the Upper Peninsula

SENEY, Mich. (AP) - Officials say a wildfire in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has burned at least 600 acres of a wildlife refuge.

The Mining Journal of Marquette and WLUC-TV report the fire at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Schoolcraft County is believed to have been started Sunday by a lightning strike. It grew Monday and continued to burn on Tuesday. Officials say dry conditions contributed to its spread.

A message seeking updated information about the fire was left Wednesday morning by The Associated Press with an official at the refuge.

No injuries or damage to buildings was reported. The refuge plans to evaluate whether to close trails in the area for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

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