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Politics
7:05 am
Thu September 1, 2011

Decision expected today on state employee layoff notices

It’s expected that the Snyder administration will announce today whether the state will issue layoff notices to some 50,000 state employees, the Detroit News reports. The administration wants $265 million worth of concessions from state employees but state employee unions say there are other ways for the state to save money.

Negotiations have been under way between the Snyder administration and state employees since July but a deal has not been reached. From the Detroit News:

Gov. Rick Snyder met Wednesday with his top budget officials, just ahead of today's deadline for sending out notices if the state opts to lay off employees Oct. 1.

Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said internal discussions were continuing…

State officials have been told to prepare contingency plans for layoffs in case concessions can't be negotiated.

Because a 30-day layoff notice is required, the state would have to send out notices today if it wanted to achieve a full year of savings by making any layoffs effective Oct. 1.

Talks have been under way, but no progress has been made, Weiss said.

"State employee unions say state government is top heavy with managers and has too many contracts – and the Snyder administration should look those first before looking to squeeze more from frontline workers or lay them off," Lansing reporter Rick Pluta explains.

Election 2012
6:47 am
Thu September 1, 2011

McCotter complains of exclusion from debate

Michigan Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (far right)
Republican Conference Flickr

U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter is complaining about his exclusion from next week's MSNBC Republican presidential debate because of his standing in the polls.

Booth Newspapers says MSNBC required candidates to get at least 4 percent support in one of eight polls. McCotter is a recent entrant to the race, officially declaring July 4.

Speaking Wednesday on "The Dennis Miller Show," the Livonia congressman said some of the eight candidates who'll be on stage Sept. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library are tied with him in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. That's because they did better in earlier polls.

That poll shows McCotter, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum all at 1 percent.

The Associated Press left phone and email messages with MSNBC seeking comment after business hours Wednesday.

Politics
5:28 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Michigan court strikes down medical marijuana legal defense

The Michigan Court of Appeals struck down Brian Reed's medical marijuana legal defense today.
Garretttaggs55 wikipedia commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected the legal defense of a man who got a medical marijuana card after he was busted for possession.

This the second time in two weeks the appeals court has narrowed the scope of the state’s medical marijuana law.

Last week, the appeals court ruled shops where money is exchanged for medical marijuana are illegal.

Now the court has ruled people who grow marijuana better have their state-issued medical marijuana cards in hand – getting one after a police raid is no defense against prosecution.

The court struck down the defense against marijuana charges that has been tried in several Michigan counties.

Brian Reed’s home was raided after a police drug team spotted six marijuana plants growing in his backyard.

Reed says he never got a medical marijuana card because his regular doctors work for a clinic that would lose its federal funding if they prescribed marijuana to patients.

Between the raid and when he was formally arrested and charged, Reed got a different doctor’s approval and a state-issued medical marijuana card as a treatment for chronic back pain.

Reed said that should be enough to protect from prosecution under Michigan’s medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 2008.

The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling and agreed a person busted for marijuana possession cannot use getting a doctor’s permission after the fact as a legal defense.

The ruling could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which already has two other medical marijuana cases on its docket.

Education
4:01 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Security takes center stage as Detroit schools prepare to open

Detroit Public Schools, the city of Detroit, and several public safety agencies are launching what they call an “unprecedented, multi-agency” school safety initiative.

The initiative includes updated monitoring equipment; designated safe routes and patrols around three schools deemed “hot spots”; and monitoring social media sites for potential problems.

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Insurance
3:32 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

10 reactions to our story on eliminating no-fault auto insurance

The Michigan legislature will debate about changes to the state's no-fault insurance laws. Commentators shared their thoughts about the potential changes.
user H.L.I.T. Flickr

We received a lot of reaction from people about our story on the potential consequences of eliminating the mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) part of Michigan's no-fault auto insurance.

This seemingly bureaucratic story about potential changes to Michigan's insurance laws has a lot of devastating human stories behind it.

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Flu shots mandatory
2:27 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

More hospitals require flu shots as condition of employment

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

More hospitals in Michigan are requiring all their employees to get flu shots this year.

Last year, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital made flu shots for all employees mandatory for the first time.

Lakshmi Halasyamani is the Chief Medical Officer for the hospital.

She says some employees were upset about the requirement – but most of them came around after hearing the reasons for the new policy.

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Lansing
2:18 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Lansing eyes land swap deal with private college

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero (left) sits with Davenport University president Richard Pappas at a news conference discussing the proposed land swap. The Oliver Towers stands in the background.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing officials hope a proposed deal with a private college will help the city replace a long empty public housing complex with a new campus.   The Oliver Towers have sat largely unused since a fire a decade ago.   Numerous attempts to find a new use for the site, a few blocks from the state capitol, have failed to pan out.

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Crime
2:10 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

"Operation Hot Wheels" uncovers vehicle theft ring

Arrests have been made in Detroit and San Diego after a vehicle theft ring was uncovered.

From the Associated Press:

More than a dozen people have been arrested in the theft and transporting of luxury rental cars and sport utility vehicles from the United States to Canada for shipment and sale in the Middle East.

The U.S. attorney's office in Detroit says nine people were arrested in Michigan and four others in San Diego following a two-year investigation dubbed "Operation Hot Wheels."

An indictment unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit says members of an organization rented vehicles from national chains in Michigan and Ohio and drove them into Canada.

Police reports later were filed claiming the vehicles were carjacked or stolen in Detroit.

Five vehicles were found in containers at a Montreal port awaiting shipment to Iraq.

One man still was being sought by authorities.

Environment
12:14 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Swimming Upstream: A documentary from The Environment Report

Photo by Lester Graham

We've been spending the past couple months going on fishing trips, and talking to people who fish for fun and for a living... to bring you stories about everything you never knew you wanted to know about fish and fishing in the Great Lakes.

Today, you can hear the result of our effort in a special one-hour documentary we're calling Swimming Upstream.

We'll tag along on a salmon fishing trip with Lester Graham, go on an Asian carp rodeo on the Illinois River, meet commercial fishers (both tribal and non-tribal), and go fishing with Dustin Dwyer as he gets into the mind of a fish.

We think of the Lakes today as a great place to play on the beach, to swim, to go fishing. But those huge, beautiful lakes are changing.

The changes are happening so fast that the agencies which manage fishing cannot keep up with them.

On average, a new foreign species gets into the Lakes every seven months. Each could be a threat to the lakes and the fish in the lakes. We explore the health and future of the Great Lakes, and hear stories about fish and the people who catch them.

Listen to it here:

Or tune in today at 1pm and 8pm on Michigan Radio to hear Swimming Upstream and let us know what you think.

Find out more about fish consumption advisories: in Michigan,  in Ohio, in Wisconsin, in New York, and in Illinois.

Arts/Culture
11:46 am
Wed August 31, 2011

Artpod: The power of comics

Working a six-panel story
Kyle Norris

On today's podcast, we hear about a group of Michigan cartoonists who think comics can be an educational and valuable tool for kids.

As Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris explains, cartoonist Jerzy Drozd has picked 21 rural and urban towns in Michigan where he knows people are having a tough time making ends meet. Drozd has been visiting those towns and offering comic-drawing workshops, free of charge, to the kids in those areas. 

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Politics
11:00 am
Wed August 31, 2011

Michigan Political Roundup

Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller announced her support for former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra in the 2012 primary election against incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
Republican Conference Flickr

13th District: Johnson Is In

State Senator Bert Johnson just got into the race for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. Johnson made the announcement yesterday in Highland Park. Many political observers believe Johnson will face U.S. Rep. John Conyers in a Democratic primary for the seat. Though Rep. Conyers currently represents the state’s 14th Congressional District, it’s believed, due to redistricting, that he’ll run in 2012 in the 13th District. U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke, who currently represents the state’s 13th District, announced earlier this month his intention to run in 2012 in the new 14th Congressional District.

Miller Supports Hoekstra

Michigan Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller says she supports former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoesktra in his bid to become the GOP challenger in the 2012 election against incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow. Earlier this week, Governor Rick Snyder formally endorsed Hoekstra as well. Hoekstra faces fellow Republicans Clark Durant, a Detroit charter school executive; Randy Hekman, a former Kent County Probate Judge; Gary Glenn, President of the American Family Association of Michigan; and businessman Pete Konetchy.

Melton Steps Down

Democratic State Representative Tim Melton of Pontiac is stepping down from his seat in the state legislature. Melton, who made the announcement yesterday, is taking a job in California with StudentsFirst, an education reform group lead by Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington D.C., public school system. When Democrats controlled the state House, Melton was chair of that chamber’s Education Committee. Melton is the third state lawmaker in recent years to leave office early for another job. Melton says term limits could make leaving early a trend for state politicians.

Arts/Culture
10:50 am
Wed August 31, 2011

Remembering a Motown founder: Esther Gordy Edwards' funeral today

Esther Gordy Edwards started the Motown Museum in 1985. According to Berry Gordy Jr., his sister preserved "the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started."
user dig downtown detroit Flickr

Esther Gordy Edwards gave her brother, Berry Gordy Jr., an $800 loan to start Motown Records back in 1959. She went on to become an integral part of her brother's company and started the Motown Museum back in 1985.

Edwards died last week at the age of 91. Today is her funeral.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Hundreds are expected to say good-bye to Esther Gordy Edwards, the sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. who helped him build the company and led efforts to turn its original Detroit headquarters into a museum.

The funeral for Edwards is 11 a.m. today at Bethel AME Church in Detroit. She died last week at age 91.

Politics
9:09 am
Wed August 31, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Matthileo Flickr

Every Wednesday morning, we speak with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst, about what's going on in state politics. This morning, we talk about the resignation of Democratic State Representative Tim Melton to become a lobbyist, Governor Snyder's plans for reforming the state's personal property tax, and the possibility that the Highland Park school system could be taken over by a state-appointed emergency manager.

Asian Carp
6:29 am
Wed August 31, 2011

Attorneys General urge Great Lakes, Mississippi split

Attorneys general in some Great Lakes states want to cut an artificial link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds that provides a pathway for invasive species, including Asian carp.
Kate.Gardner Flickr

Attorneys general in the Great Lakes region want a multi-state campaign to cut an artificial link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds that provides a pathway for invasive species.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the attorneys general invite their counterparts in 27 other states to pressure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for quicker action.

The Corps is studying whether to separate the drainage basins in the Chicago area, where they were joined more than a century ago by construction of a canal. Zebra and quagga mussels have used the waterway to invade states farther south, and the Asian carp is threatening to migrate into the Great Lakes.

The Corps report is due in 2015. The letter demands a faster timetable.

Offbeat
6:00 am
Wed August 31, 2011

GOLD! Pursuing the precious metal in southern Michigan

Barry Anderson points to a speck of gold he's found in a southern Michigan creek
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

With the price of gold soaring to near $1,900 an ounce this summer, you may have fantasized about striking it rich prospecting for gold.

Some people are doing more than fantasizing.  They are looking for gold in southern Michigan.  

You wouldn’t think to look at it, but this nondescript campground about 15 miles due south of Battle Creek is one of the centers for gold prospecting in southern Michigan.

Most gold prospectors here are using decidedly low-tech methods.

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CRIME
9:18 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Oakland County looks to expand crime lab to analyze DNA

Oakland County could soon help ease a statewide backlog of DNA evidence that in some cases has delayed the prosecution of criminal cases.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard says years of work to upgrade his crime lab have paid off. The lab has been certified by a national group to handle DNA evidence. And Bouchard says that will allow the county to apply for federal grants to make final preparations and hire staff to do the work.

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Politics
5:16 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

A conversation with Republican State House Speaker Jase Bolger

Michigan State House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Michigan Municipal League / flickr

The state legislature is getting back to work after a two month summer recess.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with State House Speaker Jase Bolger to find out what lawmakers will be up to this fall.

Politics
5:04 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Appeals Court: Kilpatrick book sale proceeds must go to Detroit first

The Michigan Court of Appeals says former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick does not get to keep the money from sales of his new book until he has paid his restitution to the city.

Kilpatrick argued, through his attorney, that the government could not take the profits from his book without violating his First Amendment rights. He said that would keep him from earning a living by telling his story.

A lower court judge ordered profits from the book put into an escrow account under a Michigan law. It does not allow felons to profit from talking or writing about their crimes if they still owe restitution. The state is also trying to collect $15,000 from Kilpatrick to reimburse taxpayers for his 14-month prison stay.

Kilpatrick was recently released from prison. A judge in Detrot found he'd hidden assets that could have gone toward paying his $860,000 debt to the city.

Kilpatrick has been living with his family in a Dallas suburb since his release from prison. He is also traveling the country promoting his book. He could appeal the court decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Education
4:46 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Report: Michigan students pay about half the "sticker price" of tuition

Northern Michigan University, one of Michigan's 15 public universities.
The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan

A coalition of Michigan’s public university officials says college is still affordable, despite tuition hikes.

A report from the Presidents Council says need-based financial aid is on the rise, and universities are covering more student costs.         

Michael Boulous is executive director of the Presidents Council.

"The bottom line is aid is available if you have need. College still is affordable, and we don’t want that to be a discouraging piece in attending any post-secondary institution."

Boulous says a college education is more important than ever for workers in Michigan.

"The number of jobs for workers with high school diplomas is shrinking rapidly," says Boulous. "In many cases, entire industries that employed these workers are vanishing. Unemployment for people who have gone to college is half the rate it is for those who have only a high school diploma."

        The report says merit-based scholarships have decreased slightly over the past few years. But the report says need-based financial aid has nearly doubled in that time.

The Presidents Council says the average student pays about $4,800 in tuition at a public university. Housing and books can add about $9,000 to that price tag.

School officials say about two-thirds of students qualify for financial aid.

Politics
4:43 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Protesting pie throwers heading to jail

Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin recounts the apple pie throwing incident in a YouTube video.
screen grab of YouTube video

Two people will spend the next month in federal custody for throwing a pie in the face of U.S. Senator Carl Levin.  

The incident happened a year ago as Michigan Senator Carl Levin met with constituents at a restaurant in Big Rapids. Levin was unhurt.  The pie was supposed to be a protest of the senator’s foreign policy positions. 

23 year old Ahlen Mohsen threw the apple pie. 24 year old Max Kantar bought the pie. The two plead  guilty to federal charges.  

A federal judge in Grand Rapids sentenced the pair to 30 days in federal custody.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that during the sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell said he needed to show that attacks on elected officials meeting with constituents cannot be tolerated.

Here's how Levin remembered the incident:

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