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5:04 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

State officials want Feds to pass Balanced Budget Amendment

Matthileo Flickr

State officials want Feds to pass Balanced Budget Amendment

Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger wants Congress to approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government to pass a balanced budget every year. 

Bolger sent a letter encouraging approval of the Balanced Budget Amendment so states could work to ratify the amendment as well.

Three-quarters of states would have to approve the amendment to get it into the constitution.

Bolger says lawmakers in the federal government need to be fiscally responsible.  

“I hope they understand what the citizens of our state want, and that is that responsibility.”

Bolger says Michigan approves a balanced budget every year.

“As we’ve shown, it’s possible to balance a budget by facing fiscal reality, and our own government needs to face reality. I’m very concerned about the future of our kids, grandkids, and with the way our federal government is going, even our great-grandkids, and the debt that’s being passed onto them that they’ll be saddled with.”

Bolger says he thinks he could persuade Democrats in the state to ratify the amendment, which would require supermajorities. But Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says Bolger is using a partisan issue to flirt with a run to unseat U-S Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Bolger denies any interest in leaving Lansing for Washington D.C.

Auto/Economy
4:40 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Median household incomes in Michigan are shrinking

Michigan's median household income dropped over the past decade.
Photo by penywise morgueFile

The median income for Michigan households has dropped by more than $9,000 over the past decade. Only one other state, Hawaii, has seen a bigger loss in income.

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Environment
4:39 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Current beach closures and advisories around Michigan

There are 15 beach closings or advisories around the state.
user andrea_44 Flickr

When bacteria levels get high, county health departments close the beaches. The latest news of a beach closure is on Lake St. Clair:

A week after the Macomb County Health Department gave the all-clear message to swimmers at Memorial Park Beach in St. Clair Shores, the beach has again been deemed unsafe for swimming.

The department issued a no-swimming advisory today for the beach because of high E. coli levels

Blossom Heath in St. Clair Shores remains under the no-swimming advisory because of its E. coli levels, as it has been since May 26.

County health departments issue the warnings and closures, and the state keeps track of them.

The Michigan BeachGuard System has a map with red flags marking closures and advisories.

Currently, there are 15 advisories or closures at public beaches around the state - that's 15 out of 1,211 public beaches.

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Business
3:26 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Michigan high-tech start-ups get funding

Andrew Magill Flickr

Michigan Smartzones and Ann Arbor SPARK helped eight high-tech start-up companies get money to help accelerate their businesses. The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund program matched 1-point-8-million-dollars in outside investments with hopes that the companies create jobs and stimulate the economy. They have invested more than 13-point-4-million-dollars in 62 Michigan companies to date.

Skipp Simms manages the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund at SPARK. He says the program has made great use of state capital.

"It’s 21st century jobs fund money and we think that it certainly is one of the programs that is already delivering some pretty significant returns to the state on this economic development type investment," Simms said.

The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund is in its third year.

The eight companies getting funding are:

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Investigative
3:15 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP: Club promises inquiry into fatal boat race mishap

The sponsor of a boat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island says it will investigate the capsizing of a sailing vessel that caused the deaths of two crew members during a storm in northern Lake Michigan.

Race chairman Greg Freeman said Tuesday that the Chicago Yacht Club commodore will establish a review board. Speaking online with reporters, he said the club wants to understand what happened and look for ways to improve safety guidelines.

The 35-foot boat WingNuts from Saginaw overturned during fierce gusts around midnight Sunday about 13 miles off Charlevoix.

Fifty-one-year-old skipper Mark Morley and 40-year-old crew member Suzanne Bickel died. A rival boat rescued the other six crew members.

Freeman says the storm arose after the race was well under way, so postponing it wasn't an option.

Environment
2:48 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Giving policymakers a bird's eye view

LightHawk volunteer Bob Keller donates his Cessna and flight time for environmental causes.
Photo by David Sommerstein

Environmental issues can be tough to convey to the public – and to policymakers – because they’re landscape-scale. Flying high above, say, a forest, a factory, or a wetlands complex can give better perspective. But few environmental groups can afford to pay for private flights. For 30 years, the not-for-profit group LightHawk has been bringing together volunteer pilots and environmental causes. David Sommerstein took to the skies and sent us this report:

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Politics
2:07 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Polls say voters optimistic about economy, negative about some politicians

The Lansing-based polling firm, EPIC-MRA, released a couple of polls today. 600 "likely Michigan voters" responded for each one (margin of error is +/- 4%)

One poll indicates that more voters are optimistic about the economy. From the Associated Press:

40%...  say the state economy has bottomed out and is starting to improve, while a third say it has
bottomed out but isn't getting any better...

In May 2010, when Michigan's jobless rate was 2.5 percentage points higher than now, only 35% said the economy was starting to improve.

The other polls show Senator Debbie Stabenow's (D-MI) and Governor Rick Snyder's (R-MI) negative job ratings.

57% gave Governor Snyder a negative job rating.

51% gave Senator Stabenow a negative job rating.

From the Associated Press:

The poll released Tuesday says 38 percent gave the Democrat a positive job rating and 11 percent were undecided...

Stabenow's favorability rating was at 47 percent. Her unfavorable rating was 35 percent and 17 percent were undecided.

Senator Stabenow faces re-election in 2012. So far, the candidates who have lined up for the Republican nomination to challenge her are:

  • John McCulloch - Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner
  • Randy Hekman - Former West Michigan judge Randy Hekman
  • Peter Konetchy - northern Michigan businessman
  • Chad Dewey - a businessman who is a "self-described constitutional conservative."

Former Former Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate, Pete Hoekstra, is reconsidering his decision not to run against Senator Stabenow.

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Economy
1:28 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Unemployment rate makes Michigan retailers nervous

User: Justin.Beck Flickr

The continued high unemployment rate is making Michigan retailers nervous about sales this summer. Rising commodity prices for things like cotton and petroleum products are costing retailers more. Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association. He says some retailers are slashing prices for their shoppers, but generally retailers are optimistic despite the uncertainties.

Our unemployment rate seems to be stuck. We’re not seeing much improvement there, so that’s certainly a big concern. One thing that is helping is the recent drop in gas prices.

Scott recognizes gas prices could spike at any time.  He says if shopping continues to move in a positive momentum, retailers should be fine.

-Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
1:25 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP: Smoke from Canadian fires seen across parts of UP

Smoke from Canadian fires is covering parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
mainfr4me Flickr

Police say a layer of smoke covering parts of Michigan's central and western Upper Peninsula is from forest fires burning in Ontario, Canada.

Michigan State Police say Tuesday that people in the area have been calling in reports to public safety officials with concerns about the smoke.

Planes flying for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been checking for smoke, and pilots report it's blowing across Lake Superior.

Police say there are no reports of fires in the Upper Peninsula.

Economy
12:47 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP analysis: Economic stress rises in Midwest

WASHINGTON (AP) - Counties in the Midwest and South that have a high number of autoworkers have seen a jump in economic stress levels, according to an Associated Press monthly analysis.

But Midwestern states also have seen the largest decreases in economic stress since the recession ended. That's primarily because of growth in manufacturing. Ohio has added 7,600 factory jobs in the past year.

The AP's Stress index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score signifies more economic stress.

Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11. By that standard, about a quarter of the nation's 3,141 counties were stressed in May, roughly the same as in April.

Weather
11:05 am
Tue July 19, 2011

What do all the heat warnings, advisories, and watches mean?

The calculation of the heat index triggers all the warnings, watches and advisories. It's a measure of air temperature and relative humidity.
NOAA

Media outlets around the state want you to know... IT'S HOT!!

They have several different ways of telling you it's hot.

There are heat advisories, warnings and watches, heat indices, and ozone action days.

But what do all these terms really mean?

Here's a breakdown of the terms you might be reading or hearing about.

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Commentary
10:58 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Ohio bill poses threat to Lake Erie

We’ve had more than enough to worry about in Michigan this year -- and more than enough game-changing legislation to follow.

But perhaps as a result, most of us missed something that happened in Ohio that could have had a tremendous negative impact on us, and on everyone in the Great Lakes states.

And the threat isn’t over yet. Earlier this month the Ohio Assembly, which is their legislature, passed a bill that would have allowed businesses to withdraw as much as five million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie -- without even getting a state permit.

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Economy
10:53 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Borders closes: 10,700 workers to lose jobs

Borders will begin to close some of its stores as early as this week.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

After 40 years in the business, the national bookstore chain Borders has officially called it quits.

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News Roundup
7:59 am
Tue July 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 19th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Borders to Close

Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. announced yesterday that it plans to close down after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business. It’s being reported that the 40-year old company could start liquidating its remaining 399 nationwide stores as early as Friday. Borders employs 10,700 people, 400 of which are located in Ann Arbor.

Snyder Talks Immigration

Governor Snyder and other leaders talked about immigration and Michigan’s economic future at a conference yesterday in Detroit . Sarah Cwiek reports:

Organizers say they want to change the conversation about immigrants and the economy. They maintain immigration is a key driver of economic growth… Governor Snyder says the state needs to do more to attract immigrants, and get them to stay once they’re here. Snyder says Michigan needs to get over what he calls its “shrinking pie” mindset about immigrants, the economy and jobs… Snyder gave a broad outline of what he’s calling the state’s “Global Michigan Initiative” to do just that.

Hoekstra Changes His Mind?

Former West Michigan Congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012… but, reports say Hoekstra may be reconsidering a bid. “The spokesman for Hoekstra’s previous campaigns says the former congressman is not rushed to make a decision on whether he will run for the Republican nomination to face Senator Stabenow. But he says Hoekstra was persuaded by political insiders and influential Republicans not to give up on the idea. The spokesman says Hoekstra most likely will not decide until late in the summer,” Laura Weber reports.

Economy
7:03 am
Tue July 19, 2011

News roundup: Borders to go out of business

The closure of Borders is making headlines across the country this morning
Lornais Flickr

Borders Group Inc., the Ann Arbor-based bookstore chain, announced yesterday that it is closing after failing to find a buyer. Some stores will close as early as Friday. The liquidation of Borders is making headlines across the state and around the country:

Meanwhile, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's office says the closing of Borders is more a reflection of publishing industry problems than a statement about Michigan's business climate, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

His office says the fall of Borders marks the end of an important piece of Michigan history. Snyder is a former Ann Arbor businessman who was elected as a Republican in November.

Spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher says the Snyder administration will "want to look closely from the jobs perspective of people in the state."

Education
6:44 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Snyder to sign teacher tenure bill

Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) is set to sign new teacher tenure rules into law this afternoon
Woodley Wonder Works Flickr

Governor Snyder is set to sign new teacher tenure rules into law today. Changing the state’s tenure laws has been a priority of Governor Snyder and the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to sign into law changes to the state's teacher tenure system that supporters say will make it easier to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Supporters say the legislation… makes teacher performance rather than seniority the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs within a district.

Democrats say the proposals are part of a continued legislative attack on teachers and union rights and won't improve the state's schools.

Teachers already are reeling from state budget cuts to education that could force layoffs in many districts headed into the next academic year.

GOP lawmakers also are working on legislation that would require many teachers and other public employees to pay a larger share of their own health insurance costs.

Environment
11:15 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Man arrested, police shut down public hearing in Saugatuck

Police arrest 70-year-old Garrit Sturrus after he tries to hold open the doors to the meeting so the crowd in the hall could hear. Police asked him to leave but he refused.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The township is seeking public input on a proposed legal settlement with a billionaire looking to develop property along the Lake Michigan shore.

The public hearing will have to be rescheduled since police shut it down before anyone got a chance to speak. More than 400 people tried to fit into a space that holds half that.

“This was not a good venue to do this,” Saugatuck-Douglas Police Chief Ken Giles said.

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Politics
5:24 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Snyder, other leaders want a more immigrant-friendly Michigan

Staff Michigan Municipal League

Governor Snyder and other leaders talked immigration and Michigan’s economic future at a conference in Detroit.

Organizers say they want to change the conversation about immigrants and the economy. They maintain immigration is a key driver of economic growth.

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Politics
4:53 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

ACLU sues Genesee County Parks

Steven Depolo Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Genesee County Parks over petitioning restrictions. A woman was kicked out of Linden County Park last month while gathering signatures for the Committee to Recall Governor Snyder. When she asked why, the parks said their new policy does not allow petitioning in the park without a permit. Petitioners with permits were given an isolated 9-square-foot spot in the 135-acre park.

Michael Steinberg is with the ACLU in Michigan. He says barring petitioning except for a tiny spot in a park is especially shocking under the First Amendment.

"This problem of restricting petitioners is not isolated to Genesee County. We’ve been getting calls from people all across the state," Steinberg said.

Steinberg says he hopes the lawsuit will be an example for all Michigan officials.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
4:35 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Borders Books is going out of business

The liquidation process for Borders stores could start as early as Friday, July 22.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Borders Books is officially going out of business.

The Ann Arbor bookstore chain issued a statement this afternoon saying the company Hilco and Gordon Brothers will "purchase the store assets and start the liquidation process." 

Borders Group President Mike Edwards:

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