Politics
3:37 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Democrats feel slighted on budget deal

A budget deal was reached between Governor Snyder and the State Legislature, but democrats say they feel slighted by the deal.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature have reached a budget deal for the coming fiscal year.

The plan will use hundreds of millions of dollars from a tax revenue windfall to lessen proposed cuts to K-12 schools.

Democratic leaders say the plan violates a deal they agreed to last week, because the money doesn’t go directly to replace the cuts. Instead it will be used to urge schools to cut costs, and help make retirement payments.

"I think that we should motivate people to do the right thing and to find efficiencies where they can," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer. "And if you want to incentivize them with extra dollars, I’m comfortable with that idea. But this violates the agreement that we had, and the agreement was that we would mitigate the per-pupil foundation allowance so that the dollars would get right into the classroom with the kids."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says negotiations could have gone more smoothly with Democrats.

"There was no malice, there was no intent to mislead or anything like that, we don’t have that kind of a relationship. But this is the first time that this group of people is actually getting together and negotiating a deal, so there may have been some improvements laid out, we could probably do things better than we did, and we’ll continue to work toward that."

There is about a week and a half left before Governor Snyder’s self-imposed, May 31 budget deadline.

Richardville says he expects the Legislature to meet that goal.

Smoking Ban
3:29 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Michigan's smoking ban - One Year Later

(photo by Michigan Radio Staff)

State health officials received nearly 15 hundred complaints about businesses violating Michigan’s public smoking ban during the first year of the ban’s existence.  The smoking ban took effect on May 1st, 2010.

James McCurtis is with the Department of Community Health.     He says for a lot of businesses getting a citation for violating the smoking ban has been like getting a speeding ticket from a state trooper. 

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Politics
2:52 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Computer outage at Secretary of State offices will not be fixed today

The Michigan Department of Management, Budget and Technology says the computer outage affecting Secretary of State branch offices will not be fixed before the close of business today.

A spokesman says technicians will work through the night, if necessary, to fix the problems.

The shutdown of a mainframe computer also prevents State Police troopers from conducting license and vehicle checks, but not from issuing tickets.

Economy
2:02 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Two minimum wage incomes needed to purchase a home

 A Michigan family needs two people working full-time at minimum wage in order to afford a modest home. That’s according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The report says, the cost of housing has risen 27% in Michigan over 11 years, but wages have not increased.

Danilo Pelletiere is with the housing coalition. He says the gap between housing prices and wages has become a problem in the state.

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Environment
1:54 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Southwest Detroit residents want health investigation

Many people call Detroit a “post-industrial” city.

But residents in one corner of the city still live alongside a cluster of heavy industry, and they say it’s affecting their health. Now, community members in southwest Detroit want the state to do more to find out just how extensive those health impacts might be.

Southwest Detroit is home to a number of heavy industrial sites. Some effects can be seen with the naked eye: from hazy diesel truck fumes to an eerie metallic dust residents say has rained down on their neighborhood. But others are more subtle. The neighborhood is full of children with asthma. Residents also blame the pollution for cancer and other deadly illnesses, though such a link hasn’t been definitively established.

Now, southwest Detroit residents are pushing hard for the government to launch a thorough investigation into those potential health impacts.

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Environment
1:50 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

More corn in your gas tank?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says gas stations can now sell gasoline blended with 15% ethanol for all cars built in 2001 or after. Right now, when you fill up in Michigan, your gasoline has 10% ethanol.

The EPA says E15 gasoline will help reduce our need for foreign oil. Ethanol is made from plants like corn. The EPA only tested the effects of E15 on emissions and catalytic converters.

But ethanol is corrosive. Patrick Kelly is with the American Petroleum Institute.

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Culture
1:15 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Jack Kevorkian in hospital with kidney problems

Jack Kevorkian speaking at UCLA last January.
Greg Asatrian wikimedia commons

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) - A lawyer says assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian is in a Detroit-area hospital with pneumonia and kidney problems.

Mayer Morganroth says Kevorkian was reluctant but agreed to go to Beaumont Hospital on Wednesday night. He predicts Kevorkian will be there for several days.

Kevorkian turns 83 next week. Morganroth says his health is not in grave danger but "it's not a good thing right now."

Kevorkian was released from a Michigan prison in 2007 after serving eight years for second-degree murder. He claims to have assisted in at least 130 suicides.

Commentary
1:06 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Film Tax Credits

It seems all but certain now that the film tax credit is dead. Governor Rick Snyder came to office saying he had a dim view of it, and that he was against the state trying to pick winners and losers.

That view does make some sense. My guess is that most of the major recent new industries, from camera phones to  Google,  wouldn’t have been immediately appreciated by governments.

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Economy
11:51 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Governor Snyder to deal with bond ratings after budget

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says he plans a trip to New York to discuss the state's bond ratings.

Snyder told reporters following a speech in Detroit Thursday that he and top financial officials in his administration will make the trip after current negotiations over the state budget conclude.

As a new governor, Snyder says it's important to establish a good relationship with agencies that rate Michigan's bonds.

Snyder says he believes the agencies would look more favorably on a state with a "stable, thoughtful tax system," something the Republican former businessman says he has taken steps to achieve.

A top bond rating is a sign of sound fiscal practices and enables an entity to borrow money at the most favorable rate.

Economy
11:51 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Hitting the road for Memorial Day weekend

A view of Lake Michigan from near Frankfort, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

AAA Michigan predicts state highways will be busy on Memorial Day.     The automobile club’s survey shows one point one million Michiganders plan to travel during the 5 day holiday period, 91% by car.

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Obituary
10:26 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Detroit businessman Don Barden dies

Don Barden (Dec. 20th, 1943-May 19th, 2011)
(Black Entrepreneur's Hall of Fame)

Detroit businessman Don Barden has died after a long bout with lung cancer.   Barden was a major player in the nation's casino industry.

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Auto/Economy
10:01 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Report: Chrysler to repay loans

$3 million in interest per day.

That's how much Chrysler paid in interest on its government loans last year according to the Associated Press.

Those high interest rates, and the stigma of being financed by the government, are driving Chrysler to pay off the government loans.

Sources told the Associated Press a deal could be reached next Tuesday:

Chrysler is close to repaying its government bailouts.

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News Roundup
8:12 am
Thu May 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

State Senate: Public Employees Should Pay More Health Costs

The Republican-led state Senate approved a bill yesterday that would require most public employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health benefit costs. Laura Weber reports:

The measure was approved along a mostly party line vote. The Senate also approved a constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature control over the benefit plans of university employees and state civil service employees. That plan is unlikely to clear the state House, where Republicans don’t have the two-thirds majority needed to put the measure on the ballot.

Michigan Jobless Rate Continues to Decline

The state’s unemployment rate was down to 10.2 percent in April. That’s a drop of one-tenth of one percent from March and, is a full three percentage points down from where it was at the same time last year. Job growth in the state, however, remains weak. The state added only three thousand jobs from March to April.

Report: Michigan’s Public Defender System “Abysmal”

Michigan’s system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants is so bad it amounts to a, “constitutional crisis” according to the Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice. Sarah Cwiek reports:

The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice produced a report called “Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems."The report says Michigan has abdicated its “constitutional responsibilities” by failing to ensure its counties supply, train and supervise public defenders… Michigan’s public defender system was listed near the bottom another recent national report. The state ranks 44th in terms of per capita spending on public defense.

State Budget
6:37 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Legislative leaders meet to finalize budget targets

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Thetoad Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder met with legislative leaders to refigure budget plans, now that the state is expected to collect more tax revenue than originally predicted.

An application on Snyder’s i-Pad reminds him every day of a looming, self-imposed budget deadline of May 31st. He says he and lawmakers are going to meet that deadline.

"There’s still work to be done, but we’re moving in a very positive direction, and we’re moving on a path to have the Legislature get the budget done by May 31st – so those countdown clocks could pay off.”

Details could be made public as soon as today.

Part of the deal appears to include about $25 million in tax credits for the film industry, and rolling back cuts to K-12 schools. That’s more money than Governor Snyder or the Legislature had originally proposed.

Unemployment
6:33 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Michigan’s April jobless rate drops very little to 10.2 percent

Michigan’s new monthly jobless rate of 10-point-two percent signals the state continues to recover slowly from the recession. The new unemployment figure is a drop of one-tenth of a percentage point from March to April, and is a full three percentage points below where it was at this time last year.

There’s plenty of evidence that Michigan is in the early stages of a comeback, but job growth remains anemic. The state added just three thousand jobs from March to April.

One early, promising sign, though: so far this year people are no longer giving up their job searches and leaving the workforce. But, Bruce Weaver of the state Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives says disgruntled ex-jobseekers aren’t resuming their search for work, either. When that happens, he says, that could signal growing faith that a recovery is underway.

“One of the first impacts you will often see is an increase in individuals entering the workforce, seeking jobs. There’s not any evidence in these numbers that’s happening yet in Michigan.”

And Michigan’s rate of under-employment, while edging downward, remains high. The combined rate of unemployment and under-employment is 20 percent.

Energy
12:17 am
Thu May 19, 2011

Holland takes cautious steps on plan to build a wind farm

warrenski Creative Commons

The City of Holland is buying the option to lease more land it wants to use for a wind farm. City Council approved the lease agreements Wednesday night to spend $40,000 for roughly 860 acres of land south of Holland. The area has been identified as one of the best in the state for wind energy potential.

The city has been collecting more detailed wind data since last fall. If everything goes smoothly, Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says wind turbines could begin to go up as soon as next year.

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Politics
5:12 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Bing: Human Services Dept. investigation will continue 'until we uncover every instance of abuse'

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has suspended the director and several staff of the city’s Human Services Department. The department is believed to have misspent at least $200,000 intended for services to the poor.

Mayor Bing says an investigation is under way. He says it’s not clear yet how big the problem is, "but it is important enough to this administration, to this city and our indigent population that we act immediately to make sure that we right the wrongs."

Science/Medicine
4:38 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Flame retardant found in baby products

A study of baby products made of polyurethane foam found many contained toxic flame retardants.
Photoglife Morguefile

An environmental group says some baby products made of foam could contain toxic chemicals. It also says parents are likely not aware of the danger.

A study published in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology found 83 percent of baby items it tested in Michigan contained flame-retardant chemicals linked to adverse health effects or that the products had not been adequately tested.

The study looked at 18 products from Michigan; some were new and others were donated by parents. Fifteen of the 18 contained the flame-retardant chemicals.

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Politics
4:26 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Report calls Michigan's public defender "abysmal"

Michigan’s system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants is so bad it amounts to a “constitutional crisis.”

The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice produced the report called “Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems.”

It profiles 13 men who spent time in prison, even though there was evidence of their innocence.

One is Frederick Mardlin, who spent three years in prison for arson.

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Politics
4:25 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Senate bill passes - requires public employees pay 20% of health benefit costs

The Michigan Senate chamber.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

Most public employees would be required to pay at least 20 percent of their health benefit costs under a bill approved by the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate.

The measure was approved along a mostly party line vote.

Republican state Senator Mark Jansen sponsored the measure. 

"Not all of us are all that excited all the time about doing these things," said Jansen. "In fact we know people that this impacts – in fact if you look in the mirror, it’ll impact each one of you sitting here today. But we know it’s the right thing to do – and I know that’s very subjective."

Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says the state is asking too much from public employees – especially teachers.

"I heard Governor Snyder defend the $250,000 price tag for his budget director by saying 'you get what you pay for,'" Whitmer said. "Well isn’t that true for the most important people to our kid’s success as well? Why is that rationale sufficient for the governor paying taxpayer dollars, and not true for the people working every day to help our kids?"

The Senate also approved a constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature control over the benefit plans of university employees and state civil service employees.

That plan is unlikely to clear the state House, where Republicans don’t have the two-thirds majority needed to put the measure on the ballot.

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