Business
5:50 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

State AG officially wades into Lansing casino fight

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has officially lodged his opposition to a proposed Lansing casino with the federal government.

The attorney general sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior about the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians' casino plan.

The tribe is in the middle of a land deal with the city of Lansing. That's the first step toward a planned $245 million casino near the state Capitol.

In the letter, Schuette says the state "is gravely concerned about the consequences" of allowing the casino to operate. He says it would justify the operation of a casino far from the tribe's reservation lands. The same tribe - which is based in the Upper Peninsula - already operates a casino in Detroit.

Schuette's letter says the tribe's plan violates state and federal law.

The tribe disagrees. A spokesman says the tribe plans to vigorously pursue its right to do the project.

Once the land sale is complete, the tribe will ask the federal government to take the land into trust. That would allow the tribe to conduct gaming on that land. A court fight is expected.

Politics
5:35 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

What does Roy Schmidt's switch say about politics in Lansing?

Michigan State Capitol building, in Lansing.

Every Thursday we take a look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The big political story in Michigan this week was the decision from Representative Roy Schmidt to switch his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican, about 10 minutes before the filing deadline for this fall’s election.

This November, Schmidt will try to hold onto his House seat in Michigan’s 76th district, which includes Grand Rapids.

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Health
3:40 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

State legislators still resist health care exchange

The Obama administration has given new leeway to states to choose their level of involvement in running health care exchanges. States are required to create the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

The exchanges will allow individuals and small businesses to shop for health care plans.

Ari Adler is the press secretary for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger.

He says Bolger doesn't plan to move forward on the exchanges until the Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act.

"If we are put in a position where we have to have some sort of health exchange, " says Adler, " [Bolger] is willing to work with the governor and others to put something in place at the state level -- so we do not have the federal government coming in and controlling our health care in Michigan."

Governor Snyder says he wants the Legislature to send him a bill that would create an exchange. He's said waiting too long could leave Michigan vulnerable to missing the federal deadline for creating the exchanges.

He's directed some staff to do preliminary work on setting up an exchange. That work includes creating a database of possible health care plans, and reviewing software programs that other states are developing.

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio's Jennifer White sat down with Helen Levy, a Research Associate Professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research who worked with President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors in 2011.

White talked with Levy about how health insurance exchanges work and  what health care options they may provide to individuals.

Take a listen to their conversation below or read a transcript here.

 

Politics
3:26 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Michigan Court of Appeals hears arguments on EM ballot question

District I offices of the Michigan Court if Appeals in Detroit
Mike Russell wikimedia commons

The question of whether voters should get to weigh in on the state’s emergency manager law now rests with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

A panel of the court heard arguments today both for and against putting the referendum on the November ballot.

A coalition of labor and other activist groups collected more than 220,000 petition signatures to do just that.

But the state Board of Canvassers blocked the question based on a complaint that some of the type on the referendum petitions was in the wrong size.

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Economy
2:10 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

White House hosts forum for urban entrepreneurs in Detroit

Screengrab from White House video stream

Small business owners and hopeful entrepreneurs are in Detroit today to get advice on  starting or improving a business.

The Urban Economic Forum, held by The White House Administration, hopes to help entrepreneurs in Detroit connect to resources and network with other business leaders.

The White House Administration said it is committed to supporting the Detroit area’s small businesses.

CBS Detroit reports:

Among the topics of discussion were the resources available to minority and urban entrepreneurs who are trying to access capital for their businesses. Mentors were also available to provide advice to business owners.

In a press, release the White House Administration wrote that other Urban Economic Forums will be held in Chicago, Illinois, and Columbus, Ohio.

Opinion
11:46 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Fact checking David Sedaris: Does comedy need a disclaimer?

WBUR

In my large Irish family, our stories get better with age. It’s not that we lie about what’s happened to us, but when we get together for holidays or family events, we usually tell the same stories and they get better every time.

They start out as true of course, and the people, places and events all stay the same, but over time the funny parts get a little more funny, the dialogue a little more snappy and clever, and the reactions from onlookers a little more outrageous.

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Commentary
11:03 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Commentary: Falling unemployement rates

There are people who lose their jobs during the best of times, and those who are wildly successful even during a depression.

But what really matters is the overall trend. When you look at that, and at a flurry of new numbers that came out yesterday, it seems clear that Michigan is in fact doing better than a year ago.

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Economy
9:06 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Banks turn to "short sales" in Michigan as home foreclosure rates continue to decline in April

The number of foreclosure filings dropped 28 percent in April compared to a year ago.

Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac said a big reason for the decline of homes being repossessed is that banks are turning more and more to "short sales."  A short sale is where a mortgage lender allows a property to be sold for less than the amount owed on a mortgage and takes a loss.

“Based on other data we’re looking at that’s a trend that’s going to continue this year. Short sales are going to become a much more attractive alternative to more lenders," said Bloomquist.

The nation’s five largest mortgage lenders Ally Bank, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase have significantly stepped up their use of  "short sales."

Earlier this year the five mortgage lenders agreed to pay $25 billion as part of a national settlement of claims of abuse in the mortgage and foreclosure process.

Michigan is getting about $800 million from the settlement.

Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Neighbors feel pressured by Enbridge's new pipeline plans

Beth Duman with one of her four dogs.
Logan Chadde/Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy operates the pipeline that ruptured in Marshall almost two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of thick tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.  The oil spill is still being cleaned up.

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline. It’s known as Line 6B.

Now, the company plans to replace the entire pipeline from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan. 

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News Roundup
8:52 am
Thu May 17, 2012

In this morning's Michigan headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MI Economic Outlook

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped by two-tenths of a percentage point in April to 8.3 percent. Rick Pluta reports:

That news came amid predictions that Michigan’s economic recovery will continue, but at a slower pace than it has. George Fulton is a University of Michigan economist.  He says Michigan’s jobless rate remains high, but the state has been outpacing the nation in creating new jobs. “The largest job gains have been the higher wage sector and we see job growth continuing for the next few years, but not quite at the pace we saw last year,” Fulton says. Fulton says that’s largely because of an expected slowdown in car and truck sales, plus overall slow growth in the national economy. Still the mostly good economic news was enough to convince state budget officials to up their revenue projections based on expected income improvements and more consumer spending.

Balancing the State’s Checkbook

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January. “That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services. The news came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing. State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs. Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1,” reporters in the Michigan Radio Newsroom explain.

MI More Optimistic

Michiganders are becoming more optimistic about the economy, according to new results out today from Michigan State University's State of the State Survey.Michigan Radio's John Wilson reports:

The survey says state residents haven't been this positive about the economy since 2005, with 54 percent of survey participants characterizing their financial situation as "good" or "excellent" and 61 percent expecting things to get even better in the year to come. MSU notes, “In the fall 2011 survey, conducted from mid-September through early November, only 46.2 percent of those answering the survey called their financial situation "excellent" or “good.”

Health
9:38 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

System allows doctors to send immunization records electronically to the state

Doctors are already required to send immunization records to the State of Michigan. With the new system, the data will arrive in real time with no extra steps for the doctors or hospitals.

The system was launched by a non-profit called Michigan Health Connect. Executive Director Doug Dietzman says eventually the data could travel both ways – so doctors could avoid giving patients shots they don’t need. He outline tetanus as a common example. 

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Lansing
9:19 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Lansing's mayor changes his mind on a new police headquarters

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.
Michigan Municipal League

Lansing’s mayor is scrapping plans to build a new police headquarters, at least for now.

Mayor Virg Bernero included more than $400,000 in his budget proposal for next year to pay for design and engineering plans for a new consolidated police headquarters.

But Wednesday,  the mayor announced he wants to redirect that money to a fund to pay for 11 police officer positions currently supported by a federal grant that expires in 2015.

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Politics
8:46 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Detroit budget process churns on with Law, Health Department talks

Another Detroit city department says it simply can’t function if proposed budget cuts go through.

The law department says “there is no way” the unit can run on what’s allotted in Mayor Dave Bing’s budget proposal.

Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittenden told the Detroit City Council the city’s new charter gives the law department new responsibilities.

Bing proposes slashing their budget by more than half. But the Council moved to restore most of that funding.

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Education
5:29 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Debt collectors pursue more unpaid student loans in Michigan

hmm360 MorgueFile

Michigan students who default on their college loans are more likely to be sued in federal court.

That's according to a Syracuse University study, which shows the eastern half Michigan has the second highest rate per-capita of suits against students who don't pay their loans.

Dorothy Barrick is with GreenPath Debt Solutions of Farmington Hills.  She says ignoring the debt just makes things worse.

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Education
5:22 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager send out 158 pink slips

Three members of the Muskegon Heights’ school board have resigned, the same day the district’s emergency manager also announced he’s laying off more than 150 employees.

This is the second week on the job for the emergency manager of Muskegon Heights schools. On Wednesday, Don Weatherspoon made two announcements; that he’s delivered pink slips to 158 employees – including teachers, administrators and support staff. And two, that he’s accepted the resignations of three members of the school board.

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Auto
5:11 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Electronic stability control proposed for big rigs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may soon require big rigs and other large trucks to have electronic stability control systems.

The technology could prevent a lot of accidents and rollovers. 

NHTSA already requires electronic stability control systems on passenger cars. The systems are able to automatically apply the brake on individual wheels. 

It's estimated electronic stability control reduces accidents where the driver loses control of the car by at least 40%.  There could be a similar benefit for big rigs, busses and other large trucks.

Russ Rader is with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"The technology is available, it's not expensive, and we should get it on large trucks."

NHTSA says a rule could become final within two to four years. 

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute estimates at least 4,600 truck accidents could be prevented if electronic stability control were required, and at least 126 lives saved per year.

Economy
5:02 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Michigan residents more upbeat about Gov. and economy

Michiganders are becoming more optimistic about the economy and that positive thinking is adding a bit of extra shine to Gov. Rick Snyder's image.

That's according to new results out today from Michigan State University's State of the State Survey.

An MSU press release says state residents haven't been this positive about the economy since 2005, with 54 percent of survey participants  characterizing their financial situation as "good" or "excellent" and 61 percent expecting things to get even better in the year to come.

More from MSU:

"The Michigan economy has added 150,000 jobs since the job market bottomed out at the end of 2009," said Charles Ballard, MSU economics professor and director of the State of the State Survey. "The improvement in the economy is reflected in the brighter mood in our latest survey."

The findings are based on the latest quarterly phone survey conducted from Feb. 14 to April 15. A total of 963 Michigan adults were questioned in the survey which has an error rating of +3.16 percent.

In the fall 2011 survey, conducted from mid-September through early November, only 46.2 percent of those answering the survey called their financial situation "excellent" or "good."

Gov. Snyder's approval ratings also improved amongst those surveyed, rising to 33 percent compared with 19.3 percent last fall.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Read more
Economy
4:35 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Michigan court district ranks No. 1 in lawsuits filed against student loan defaulters

wikimedia commons

Federal data show that a federal court district in Michigan ranks number one in the country for the number of federal lawsuits filed against individuals who default on their student loans.

Relative to population size, defaulters in the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit) were prosecuted at a rate about 10 times the national average during March 2012.

The Central District of California (Los Angeles) came in second, and the Northern District of New York came in third.

Out of the 279 suits filed in March, 57 were filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, 140 in the Central District of California and 13 in the Northern District of New York.

The report, published by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, compared the total number of civil filings per month since March 2007. The number remained relatively stable (between 200 and 250) until Spring 2009, when it dipped slightly, bottoming out at 168 in December of that year.

The number then rose substantially to 598 in April 2011 before declining again towards the early 2009 average.   

The Eastern District of Michigan’s leadership in per capita student debt lawsuits is nothing new. The court topped the ranks five years ago and came in second last year, according to the TRAC report.

The Institute for College Access & Success, a non-profit research and policy organization, reported that 60 percent of 2010 Michigan graduates carried student debt, owing an average of $25,675 — the 11th highest average in the nation.

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
4:34 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Survey measures how Michigan residents feel about the economy, Gov. Snyder and Pres. Obama

The findings are based on the latest quarterly phone survey conducted from Feb. 14 to April 15. A total of 963 Michigan adults were questioned in the survey which has an error rating of +3.16 percent.

Every quarter, Michigan State University releases its State of the State survey. The survey questioned 963 Michigan adults about issues such as the economy, taxes, and Michigan’s financial future.

Charles Ballard is Michigan State University Professor of Economics. He said Michigan residents are more optimistic about the economy.

Those responding to the survey, 54% said their current financial situation was excellent or good. And, 61% of  said they believe they will better off a year from now.

When people are feeling better about the future, Ballard said “they are more likely to make an investment, they’re more likely to spend money and that can have a positive effect on the economy.”

But according to Ballard, trust in government is not so good.

“State government – 16% said that they think they can trust the state government all of most of the time. Twelve percent said they could trust the federal government all or most of the time. It’s a little better for local governments, it’s up in the 30’s, but still those numbers for all levels of government have trended downward, which I think is a reflection of some dissatisfaction at grid lock in Lansing and in Washington.”

Learn more about the approval rating for Governor Snyder and President Obama here.

The findings are based on the latest quarterly phone survey conducted from Feb. 14 to April 15. A total of 963 Michigan adults were questioned in the survey which has an error rating of +3.16 percent.

Transportation
4:33 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Drivers should look out for lots of bicyclists tonight

KTesh Creative Commons

Hundreds, if not thousands of bicyclists in Michigan are expected to take part in a ride of silence tonight. The international ride of silence honors those who’ve been injured or killed riding their bikes. The rides all start at 7p local time.

The event is in memory of a cyclist who died in 2003 in Texas when he was clipped by the side mirror of a moving bus. 

Rides of silence begin at seven tonight in Detroit, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Holland, Ann Arbor and at least two dozen other cities in Michigan.

Tom Tilma heads the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition… which is organizing one of the rides. He says cyclists and drivers are making progress, but both need to be better at sharing the road to make it safer for everyone.

"I think cyclists are learning to follow the rules of the road more. I’m seeing more cyclists waiting for the red light to turn green before we go through the intersection. That’s very important we think. And we’re seeing more drivers chill out and not follow cyclists so close,” Tilma said.

The ride of silence coincides with national ride your bike to work week.

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