Laura Weber en From Michigan's U.P. to Detroit, political allies from the unlikeliest of places <p>A lawmaker from the Upper Peninsula says every region in the state could benefit from a strong and vibrant Detroit.</p><p>Republican state Senator Tom Casperson has become an unlikely advocate for a regional transit system in southeast Michigan that would connect Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw counties.</p><p>Casperson&rsquo;s district in the U.P. would not benefit directly from the transit system. But the U.P. could benefit long term from newfound political ties to Detroit.</p> Fri, 02 Mar 2012 11:36:31 +0000 Laura Weber 6460 at From Michigan's U.P. to Detroit, political allies from the unlikeliest of places Romney camp feeling good about the odds tonight <p>Vote tallies are starting to come in for Michigan&rsquo;s Republican primary election.</p><p>Early results show Rick Santorum with a <span style="color:#1f497d">slim </span>lead over his rival Mitt Romney.</p><p>But Romney&rsquo;s supporters in southeast Michigan say they&rsquo;re optimistic and feeling good about the Michigan-native&rsquo;s odds.</p><p>Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is heading up Romney&rsquo;s campaign efforts in the state. Schuette says he is disgusted that Santorum encouraged Democrats to vote in the GOP primary against Romney.</p><p style="margin-left:.5in">&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s stupid, and I think most people view that as cynicism or hypocrisy in its worst form. I don&rsquo;t get too stressed by it. What it really does show is there&rsquo;s something in the air of desperation from the other side,&rdquo; said Schuette.</p><p>But Schuette says he thinks Romney will walk away with a win in Michigan tonight. Wed, 29 Feb 2012 01:51:26 +0000 Laura Weber 6418 at Romney camp feeling good about the odds tonight Michigan lawmakers proposing changes to medical marijuana law <p>Michigan&rsquo;s medical marijuana law is the focus of ongoing discussions at the state Capitol this week.</p><p>Lawmakers are considering proposals that would add regulations to how users can grow and store medical marijuana, and could change how police officers gather information about medical marijuana ID holders.</p><p>State Representative John Walsh (R- Livonia) chairs the House committee discussing the medical marijuana proposals.</p><p>He said he knows not everyone will be happy with the measures, but he says it&rsquo;s not his intention to dramatically alter the medical marijuana law as it was approved by voters.</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve worked hard to be as open as possible, and to prove to the skeptics that we&rsquo;re open minded,&rdquo; said Walsh.</p><p>Supporters of medical marijuana say lawmakers are &ldquo;nipping away at the edges&rdquo; of the medical marijuana law by considering the changes. And they say they are particularly concerned with a proposal in the state Senate that would eliminate glaucoma as a medical condition that is treatable with marijuana.</p><p>Walsh says medical marijuana users don&rsquo;t need to be concerned about the proposed changes.</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&quot;We&rsquo;re not doing away with the law, or undoing what voters asked for when they passed it, and I think we made that very very clear, to the point that when I left the room a number of medical marijuana came up and said, &lsquo;Wow, we thought you were out to crush the whole movement, and now we understand you&rsquo;re open to different things,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Walsh. Tue, 28 Feb 2012 20:28:37 +0000 Laura Weber 6410 at Michigan lawmakers proposing changes to medical marijuana law Santorum makes final campaign stops in Michigan today <p>Rick Santorum is making his final campaign stops across southern Michigan today. He told a crowd of about 300 people in a small hotel ballroom in Lansing that the&nbsp;manufacturing industry needs to &ldquo;explode&rdquo; with new jobs again.</p><p>Santorum highlighted the disparity in employment levels between people with college degrees and those without, and says the solution is to create more jobs that&nbsp;don&rsquo;t require a college degree.</p><p>&quot;We need to see Michigan again full of people who want to work and creating job opportunities for people to get training and skills so they can get that entry-level job,&quot; said Santorum. &quot;They can improve and upgrade their skills as they work in those jobs and move up the ladder and become a foreman and to go up maybe even into management someday. That&rsquo;s the ladder of success.&rdquo;</p><p>Santorum told his supporters that Michigan&rsquo;s primary could be a &quot;game changer&quot; for the national primary season.&nbsp;He did not directly mention&nbsp;Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, but&nbsp;Santorum&nbsp;did&nbsp;refer&nbsp;to himself as the true conservative&nbsp;in the race, and the best candidate to beat President Obama in the general election&nbsp;this fall.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 1.2em">&quot;To be attacked on television by someone who is not an authentic conservative by a Massachusetts governor &ndash; [laughter and applause] &ndash; is a joke. Michigan, you have an opportunity to stop the joke.&quot;</p><p> Tue, 28 Feb 2012 00:57:55 +0000 Laura Weber 6393 at Santorum makes final campaign stops in Michigan today Romney stops at Ford Field to address the Detroit Economic Club <p>Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney received a warm reception from the Detroit Economic Club today.</p><p>Romney and his rivals vying for the Republican nomination have just a few days left to woo voters before the state&rsquo;s Republican primary on Tuesday.</p><p>Romney spoke to the group on the 30 yard line of the vast, mostly empty Ford Field about his proposals to reduce individual and corporate income taxes, and end federal subsidies for Amtrak and funding for Planned Parenthood if he is elected president.</p> Fri, 24 Feb 2012 20:15:43 +0000 Laura Weber 6360 at Romney stops at Ford Field to address the Detroit Economic Club Emergency legislation to keep kids in school, Highland Park school board meets tonight <p>Lawmakers at the state Capitol have approved a proposal to make sure students from Highland Park schools are able to attend classes next week.</p><p>The school district is on the brink of immediate shutdown after the district&rsquo;s state-appointed emergency manager was removed.</p><p>A circuit court judge ruled the district&rsquo;s financial review team violated the Open Meetings Act and must begin its work over again.</p><p>Ari Adler is the spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger. He said the emergency legislation is necessary to protect students.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to set this up so parents and students will have a choice; they will have some options of where they can continue their education for the school year. Speaker Bolger has drawn a clear line of distinction between the Highland Park district and the Highland Park students. We&rsquo;re done trying to save the Highland Park school district, we don&rsquo;t believe it can be saved, but we are trying to save the students,&rdquo; said Adler.</p><p>Adler said a payless payday tomorrow appears to be a foregone conclusion for employees in the destitute district.</p><p>Republican leaders say they are not willing to forward more money to the district while the school board remains in control of its finances.</p><p>Democratic House Minority Leader Rick Hammel said the Republican plan to provide money for kids to attend other public or charter schools in the area will hurt the students of Highland Park.</p><p>Hammel thinks a local intermediate school district should be allowed to take over Highland Park schools until a more permanent solution is found.</p><p>&quot;The number one thing is those kids stay in that school &ndash; that&rsquo;s the number one thing for us,&quot; said Hammel. &quot;Now, the devil&rsquo;s in the details. And we have taken an opportunity to just fund Highland Park schools through a responsible source, and created law with lots of stuff that goes in there that doesn&rsquo;t have anything to do with taking care of Highland Park.&rdquo;</p><p>The Highland Park school board will meet tonight to decide its next move. Thu, 23 Feb 2012 22:39:52 +0000 Laura Weber 6345 at Emergency legislation to keep kids in school, Highland Park school board meets tonight Republican presidential candidates on the environment <p>The Republican candidates for president have taken their messages of energy independence on the road in Michigan. The state&rsquo;s primary is just a few days away.</p><p>Rick Santorum has been the most vocal candidate about energy and environmental issues on his campaign stops in Michigan. He says &ldquo;radicals&rdquo; are blocking energy independence and economic growth in the country.</p><p>At a campaign stop in west Michigan this week Rick Santorum was asked for his stance on man-made global warming. He responded:</p><p>&ldquo;There is a radical ideology of radical environmentalists, who, in fact, do put the earth above the needs of man, and see them in conflict with each other.&rdquo;</p><p>Santorum says the federal government should focus on the needs of people first &ndash; such as the need for more jobs. He says when people have their needs met they are better able to take care of themselves and, in turn, the earth. He says ultimately the responsibility of environmental stewardship is on the individual. But Santorum says radical environmentalists are using global warming to manipulate the federal government.</p><p>&ldquo;And so I never signed on with global warming. I realized&hellip;[applause]&rdquo;</p><p>And then Santorum clarified&mdash;</p><p>&ldquo;Let me be specific so I&rsquo;m not taken out of context&mdash;manmade global warming. I do believe the Earth warms, I do believe it cools.&rdquo;</p><p>Santorum rejects the science of climate change &ndash; though the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and caused mostly by people.</p><p>Santorum also says the federal government needs to stop hoarding and protecting the country&rsquo;s bountiful natural resources. He says natural gas and coal could be used to enrich the United States, lower fuel costs at the pump, and establish energy independence. His rival, Michigan-native Mitt Romney, agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;Coal, oil, gas, nuclear, solar, wind, ethanol &ndash; use all those resources, so we have an ample supply of energy ourselves, and don&rsquo;t have to send hundreds of billions of dollars buying energy every year. And by the way, put in place that keystone pipeline. That&rsquo;s a no-brainer.&rdquo;</p><p>But environmentalists in Michigan say the proposal to install an oil pipeline from Canada, through the middle of the U.S., is not a no-brainer for Michiganders. The <a href="">Enbridge pipeline ruptured</a> in the Kalamazoo River two summers ago.</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, I think Michigan has seen the dangers firsthand that communities around the country face.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s Jordan Lubetkin with the Michigan chapter of the National Wildlife Federation.</p><p>&ldquo;Pipeline spills are not a rare occurrence. In fact they happen hundreds of time per year.&rdquo;</p><p> Thu, 23 Feb 2012 18:30:07 +0000 Laura Weber 6334 at Republican presidential candidates on the environment House panel to begin medical marijuana hearings <p>A state House panel is expected to begin hearings at the state Capitol today on a series of bills that would add regulations to the state&rsquo;s medical marijuana law.</p><p>The bills before the state House panel would add regulations to how medical marijuana ID photos are taken and how the IDs are distributed. They would also add requirements for transportation of medical marijuana in a car. Several state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said the medical marijuana law is too vague and needs some clarification.</p><p>But supporters of the law say it was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008, and lawmakers should not tamper with it. Similar public hearings to the one scheduled this week have attracted hundreds of medical marijuana supporters &ndash; many of them in wheelchairs and suffering from chronic disease or pain. Thu, 23 Feb 2012 12:01:02 +0000 Laura Weber 6327 at House panel to begin medical marijuana hearings Romney visits southeast Michigan, praises right-to-work <p>Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a couple campaign stops in southeast Michigan before traveling to Arizona for a debate with the other Republican candidates. Romney told people at a town-hall-style meeting in Shelby Township that the federal government is not working for Michiganders.<br /><br /> &ldquo;We know what it takes to get Washington to work so that America can work, so that Michigan can work, so that people here can have confidence that the promise of America &ndash; and that is hard work and education &ndash; will be the promise of prosperity and security, that that promise is one that we will live and we will fulfill, and I&rsquo;ll get that job done if I&rsquo;m your president,&rdquo; said Romney.<br /><br /> Romney also weighed in on Michigan&rsquo;s ongoing debate over compulsory union membership.</p><p>&ldquo;My view is, every person in America ought to have the right to choose whether to join the union or not, so I&rsquo;m in favor of Right-to-Work legislation,&rdquo; Romney said.</p><p>Governor Rick Snyder &ndash; who endorsed Romney &ndash; says he thinks the right-to-work debate is divisive and he has no interest in pushing right-to-work legislation in the near future. Tue, 21 Feb 2012 21:10:09 +0000 Laura Weber 6307 at Romney visits southeast Michigan, praises right-to-work Santorum touts candor and consistency to Michigan voters <p>Republican candidate for president Rick Santorum says he thinks he would appeal to Democrats and independents in Michigan if he is on the November ballot.</p><p>Appearing on public television&rsquo;s &ldquo;Off the Record,&rdquo; Santorum said he was able to attract votes when he ran for the US Senate in his Democratic-leaning home state of Pennsylvania. And he said, if he is the Republican nominee for president, independent voters will appreciate his honesty.</p><p>&ldquo;You know what policies I&rsquo;m going to be out there advocating for, I&rsquo;m someone you can trust, I&rsquo;m someone who is open to listening but who has a very clear vision for where I want to take the country,&rdquo; Santorum said. Fri, 17 Feb 2012 17:42:38 +0000 Laura Weber 6265 at Santorum touts candor and consistency to Michigan voters Santorum: autos would be doing better without bailout <p>Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told members of the Detroit Economic Club that he still thinks the federal bailout of the auto industry was the wrong move.</p><p>Santorum said he thinks auto companies should have been allowed to thrive or fail in the free market.</p><p>&ldquo;Would the auto industry look different than it is today? Yes it would be. Would it still be alive and well? I think it would be equally alive and better,&rdquo; said Santorum.</p> Thu, 16 Feb 2012 22:41:12 +0000 Laura Weber 6254 at Santorum: autos would be doing better without bailout Michigan AG Schuette still pushing for 1,000 new cops <p>Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette hopes lawmakers will make room in the budget for his plan to hire 1,000 new police officers. Gov. Rick Snyder did not include Schuette&rsquo;s plan in his executive budget proposal.</p><p>Schuette says state officials need to be forward-thinking with public safety.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to be decisive, we need to be solution-oriented in this new Michigan, and that means in terms of this linkage between economic growth and public safety.&rdquo;</p><p>Schuette would also like the state Legislature to toughen sentencing guidelines for repeat violent felons. Governor Snyder plans to deliver a special message on public safety next month. Wed, 15 Feb 2012 17:47:43 +0000 Laura Weber 6231 at Lawmakers working to replace Michigan's gas tax with a sales tax increase <p>Voters may soon decide whether Michigan should scrap the 19-cents-per-gallon tax on gas at the pump in favor of a sales tax increase of 1 percent.</p><p>The change would help generate more money for transportation funding.</p><p>A proposal to put the question to voters is gaining momentum with some legislative leaders.</p><p>That change would require a constitutional amendment and put the question to voters on the ballot.</p> Tue, 07 Feb 2012 21:18:35 +0000 Laura Weber 6131 at Lawmakers working to replace Michigan's gas tax with a sales tax increase Michigan Democrats unveil ethics and campaign finance reform package <p>State House Democrats say it&rsquo;s time to beef up Michigan&rsquo;s campaign finance and political ethics laws.</p><p>House Democrats unveiled a set of proposals that include a constitutional amendment that would require corporations to disclose political and lobbying activity, and a measure that would prevent state lawmakers from being lobbyists in the state for two years after a political term.</p><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Every year that goes by that we have not passed meaningful reform is another year that the bad actors in the state are allowed to spend money to influence public opinion with little or no accountability,&rdquo; said State House Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal.</p><p>Ari Adler is the press secretary for Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger.</p><p>Adler says at first glance he&rsquo;s not impressed.</p><p>&ldquo;Saying you support better campaign finance and ethics laws is like saying you support the sun coming up tomorrow. It&rsquo;s difficult to argue with the concept, but the devil is in the details, and we need time to look at them,&rdquo; said Adler.</p><p>Adler says he is particularly concerned that labor unions are exempt from some of the disclosure proposals.</p><p>Democrats say unions are already required to follow federal financial disclosure laws, and corporations in Michigan should be held just as accountable.</p><p>Democratic House Minority Leader Richard Hammel said their measure addresses one of Governor Rick Snyder&rsquo;s key concerns for 2012.</p><p>&ldquo;The governor touched on it when he called for campaign finance and ethics reform in the state, in his State of the State address,&rdquo; said Hammel. &ldquo;It has now been two weeks since that address, and we have yet to see majority Republicans hold any hearings on the changes the governor said are needed.&rdquo;</p><p>A spokesman for House Republicans said the package of bills would need major changes before winning bipartisan support. Thu, 02 Feb 2012 22:24:49 +0000 Laura Weber 6076 at Michigan Democrats unveil ethics and campaign finance reform package Community college baccalaureate degrees before Senate panel <p>Community college students may soon be able to get a bachelor&rsquo;s degree without transferring to a four-year college or university. A bill before a state Senate panel would allow community colleges to offer the degrees in a few fields.</p><p>The measure would allow community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in culinary arts, maritime studies, concrete technology, energy production, and nursing. State Representative John Walsh says the state needs more highly trained nurses. &ldquo;We do at present have a shortage, and it&rsquo;s only going to increase according to every study, including ones conducted by our own government.&rdquo;</p><p>Those who oppose the measure say it would create unnecessary competition between community colleges and universities, especially in the field of nursing. But supporters of the bill say many people are not within a reasonable driving distance of a university, and community colleges could offer people in rural areas more opportunities to pursue four-year degrees. Thu, 02 Feb 2012 11:59:43 +0000 Laura Weber 6060 at Highland Park leaders gather against state take over of school district <p>The new emergency manager appointed to run the Highland Park schools began work today.</p><p>Meanwhile, community leaders gathered at the school district&rsquo;s administrative building to call for residents and parents to publicly challenge the state&rsquo;s decision to appoint an emergency manager and the emergency manager law.</p><p>Democratic State Senator Bert Johnson said state officials should view Highland Park as an opportunity to include residents and parents in on the conversation about turning school districts around.</p><p>&ldquo;Once an emergency manager has left, what has resulted from their leadership, or the lack-there-of, the citizens will grapple with into the future,&rdquo; said Johnson. &ldquo;And so I hope they understand that this is a smart move in the right direction. And if you can&rsquo;t get behind this, you can&rsquo;t get behind democracy.&rdquo;</p><p>Glenda McDonald is a resident of Highland Park and a former school district employee. She said students have been leaving the district in droves because of chronic disinvestment in the schools and community.</p><p>&ldquo;We want our children to come back,&rdquo; said McDonald. &ldquo;And in order to do that, the community must be a part of this process. We must have community involvement. We must have parent involvement.&rdquo;</p><p>The Highland Park district joins Detroit Public Schools as the only school districts with emergency managers. The cities of Ecorse, Pontiac, Flint and Benton Harbor also have emergency managers. Mon, 30 Jan 2012 20:47:55 +0000 Laura Weber 6007 at Governor Snyder preparing Michigan budget proposal <p>Governor <a href="">Rick Snyder</a> says he has heard many opinions about how projected <a href="">surplus tax revenue</a> in the state budget should be spent. But, the governor appears to have his own ideas as he prepares to present his budget proposal next week.</p><p>Governor Snyder says he agrees with the many Democratic lawmakers who want more money to be spent on education. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve also been fairly clear, though, it shouldn&rsquo;t just be about writing checks. It should be about making sure we&rsquo;re setting some standards to see real performance and encouraging student growth in particular,&quot; Snyder said.</p><p>Governor Snyder says he is not ready to reveal his plans for K-12 or higher education in the budget. However, Snyder does appear cool to a proposal to spend surplus money in the budget to hire a thousand new police officers, or another to decrease the state&rsquo;s income tax rate. He says the state needs to make sure it&rsquo;s paying down long-term liabilities and approving adequate funding for existing programs. Mon, 30 Jan 2012 11:24:16 +0000 Laura Weber 5994 at Governor Snyder preparing Michigan budget proposal Lawmakers weigh rail-to-trail dilemma <p>A conversation at the state Capitol about turning an old stretch of train track in Petoskey into a public recreation trail has become a debate about the future of train transit in Michigan.</p><p>Officials in Petoskey are asking lawmakers to give them the go-ahead to purchase a section of train track from the state to add onto an existing trail. Kelly Bartlett is with the Michigan Department of Transportation, which supports the request from Petoskey. Bartlett said the state does not sell viable train track.</p> Fri, 27 Jan 2012 21:14:52 +0000 Laura Weber 5985 at Lawmakers weigh rail-to-trail dilemma Decision on emergency manager for Highland Park schools expected soon <p>Governor Rick Snyder says he will decide no later&nbsp;than tomorrow whether to place an emergency manager in charge of the Highland Park public schools.</p><p>Snyder says he understands that parents are concerned about what could happen to&nbsp;the school district if it is taken over. But he says it&rsquo;s important the school district is&nbsp;able to stay open to students for the rest of the year.</p><p>&quot;Well the main answer on all of this is let&rsquo;s make sure that kids can finish the school year because Highland Park got themselves in a situation where they couldn&rsquo;t meet their payroll,&quot; Snyder said.</p><p>&nbsp;Snyder&rsquo;s office has received phone calls from about 100 concerned parents in&nbsp;Highland Park since a financial review panel determined there is a financial emergency in the district.</p><p>Detroit Public Schools is the only school district in the state currently run by an&nbsp;emergency manager.</p><p>The governor says he wants families to be assured that Highland Park students will be able to finish the school year. Thu, 26 Jan 2012 21:34:12 +0000 Rick Pluta & Laura Weber 5967 at Michigan drivers could soon pay more for gas and vehicle registration fees <p>Drivers in Michigan may soon pay nine cents more per gallon at the gas pump.</p><p style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; ">A&nbsp;package of bills that would change funding for the state&rsquo;s aging bridges and roads&nbsp;has been rolled out at the state Capitol.</p><p style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; ">It would get rid of the fuel-tax at the pump&nbsp;in favor of a tax at the wholesale level. That would result in drivers paying a few&nbsp;cents more per gallon.&nbsp;</p><p>Drivers might also have pay more to register their vehicles. The package of bills also&nbsp;includes a plan to increase vehicle registration fees&nbsp;by 67 percent.</p><p>That should generate about $500 million dollars for&nbsp;transportation.</p><p>State Representative Rick Olson (R-Saline) said generating money to maintain&nbsp;roads is similar to a driver changing the oil in a car.</p><p><wbr><wbr><wbr></wbr></wbr></wbr></p><p><wbr><wbr><wbr><p><wbr><wbr><wbr></wbr></wbr></wbr></p><wbr><wbr><wbr><p><wbr><wbr><wbr></wbr></wbr></wbr></p><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><p><wbr><wbr><wbr></wbr></wbr></wbr></p><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><wbr><p style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1.2em; margin-left: 0px; ">&quot;Why do you do that? Because you want to save your engine,&quot; said Olson. &quot;Same thing with roads; unless we do some of this capital preventative maintenance on a timely basis, we&rsquo;re going to have more and more roads fall into the &lsquo;poor&rsquo; category when then it costs 6 to 8 times as much to repair.&quot;</p><p>There are no plans to turn any of&nbsp;the state&rsquo;s major highways into toll roads. But Olson said the conversation could come&nbsp;up in the future.</p><p>&quot;Oh, it&rsquo;s a possibility, but I don&rsquo;t hear anyone pushing that at this point. Toll roads, tolls are a relatively inefficient way to collect funds for roads,&quot; said Olson. &quot;Does create jobs, but those are government jobs, so why not then create the net revenue the most efficient way we can.&quot;</p><p>The package of bills also includes a plan to create a regional transit authority in&nbsp;southeast Michigan.&nbsp;</p><p>Governor Rick Snyder called on lawmakers to find about $1.5 billion&nbsp;in additional revenue to adequately fund transportation needs.</p> Thu, 26 Jan 2012 19:25:08 +0000 Laura Weber 5961 at Michigan drivers could soon pay more for gas and vehicle registration fees