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State Law
7:52 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Snyder signs Michigan film incentive measure

Governor Rick Snyder (MI-R)
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation allowing more flexibility for Michigan's movie and film incentive program.

The legislation that Snyder announced signing Tuesday gives the Michigan Film Office the ability to negotiate the size of the credits it offers to movie, television and video game producers.

The incentives offered can be lower than the 42 percent subsidy now provided automatically when a project is approved for credits.

Supporters of the change say the current system may provide more taxpayer support for projects than necessary.

The state's movie and film credit program will be capped at $25 million in the fiscal year that starts in October. The state's current incentive program is not capped and offers some of the most generous credits in the nation.

Election 2012
7:44 am
Wed July 13, 2011

State GOP could host early presidential primary

Michigan Republicans could host an early presidential primary next year.
Cle0patra Flickr

Michigan Republicans may try to boost their clout by holding a closed-party presidential primary a week before the Super Tuesday elections next year. The plan must still be formally approved by GOP leaders in August.

Michigan Republicans plan to hold their presidential primary either February 28th or March 6th of next year. Only people who declare themselves Republicans would be eligible to vote in it.

The state GOP's policy committee unanimously adopted the plan during a conference call.

Michigan Republicans risk losing half their national convention delegates if they hold a primary before Super Tuesday voting on March 6th, but some GOP leaders say the state could reap political rewards by going early.

The proposal must still be approved by the Michigan Republican State Central Committee at its August meeting, and then adopted by the Legislature and approved by Governor Rick Snyder.

Michigan Democrats plan to hold closed-party caucuses in May. President Barack Obama is expected to be the only contender for the Democratic nomination.

State Legislature
7:36 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Midsummer session today at the State Capitol

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Allieosmar Flickr

The state Senate is meeting today to take up a few outstanding issues. The session comes as lawmakers are in the middle of a two-month legislative break. A stricter limit on welfare benefits is one issue that is expected to be brought up during the session. The Associated Press reports:

One of the bills that could come up for a vote Wednesday would put a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits into state law. The legislation would reflect welfare limits approve earlier this year as part of the state budget plan. Michigan's current law has a similar time limit but it has more exceptions than the revised plan. The current law is due to expire in late September unless it's renewed or changed by lawmakers. Critics say the limits would boot some needy families off public assistance. The House already has approved the welfare limits legislation.

Meanwhile, State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says lawmakers will also likely continue debate over what to do about wild boar on hunting ranches. Laura Weber reports:

The Department of Natural Resources has pushed back enforcement of a rule that would require hunting ranches to get rid of wild boars. Ranch operators say that would put many of them out of business. Richardville says he’s not deeply moved by the issue, but understands it is an important to the agriculture community.

The Senate is also expected to deal with health insurance benefits for public employees.

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Election 2012
6:51 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Stabenow has $4M on hand for re-election race

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI-D)
Studio08Denver Flickr

A campaign finance document U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is filing with the Federal Elections Commission shows the Michigan Democrat has $4 million in the bank for next year's re-election race. The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained a copy of Stabenow's July quarterly report. It's due to the FEC by Friday.

The report says Stabenow raised $1.46 million in the period that ran from April 1 to June 30 and has $4.08 million on hand in the run for her third term in the Senate.

Former Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman and Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy are in the race on the GOP side. A number of high-profile Republicans have decided against challenging Stabenow. They include ex-U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

Politics
6:36 am
Wed July 13, 2011

MI Dept. of Education reverses confidentiality rule

The state Department of Education will no longer require people who serve on advisory panels to sign confidentiality agreements. The agreements required committee members to support all of a panel’s policy recommendations – even ones they don’t agree with.

The panels are made up of experts and stakeholders who help develop policy recommendations that go to the department and, sometimes, to the Legislature. People in the education community complained the signed statements seemed designed to stifle views that don’t go along with the group or the department. The department says it will no longer ask advisory panel members to sign the agreements.

Martin Ackley is with the state Department of Education. He says the goal is still to get the vast array of interests in education policy to reach consensus on complex questions.

“But if they don’t agree with the final consensus recommendation of the entire group, they can provide for a minority report that is in dissent.”

A government watchdog says it was a good idea to reverse the policy because it undermined public confidence that government is open to all opinions.

Arts/Culture
10:15 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Mr. B pedals his 'boogie woogie' piano across Michigan

Marc Braun (right), Brian Delaney and Pete Siers pedal the 352-pound piano across Michigan.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

A quintet of musicians has been traveling across the state for the past 10 days. They don’t have a tour van or a u-haul stuffed with instruments. Instead, the guys are pedaling their bikes from Holland to Detroit…with their instruments in tow! They're also raising money for various charities along the way.

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Politics
5:35 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Tea Party Caucus and budget negotiations (audio)

Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan's 7th district.
US House of Representative

The divide over budget and debt ceiling talks continues between Congressional Republicans and Democrats. Within the Republican Party, the Tea Party Caucus is a prominent voice against any deal that contains tax increases.

Republican Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan’s 7th district and is a member of the Tea Party Caucus. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about what he thinks it might take for both Republicans and Democrats to agree on a budget.

Politics
5:01 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Could Social Security checks be threatened by federal budget talks?

Officials with AARP Michigan are expecting to get a lot of telephone calls from concerned senior citizens, now with the president saying that their August Social Security checks might be delayed by federal budget talks. President Obama says without a budget deal the government may not send out social security, veterans and disability checks early next month.

Mark Hornbeck is the associate state director of AARP Michigan.    He says that could affect nearly 2 million Michiganders.

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Politics
4:56 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Bing says Detroit land use overhaul moving along

Mayor Dave Bing at a recent Detroit Works-related project announcement.
Via detroitworksproject.com

The federal government is throwing its support behind Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project.

That’s a controversial effort to focus resources on Detroit’s more vibrant neighborhoods. It appeared to have stalled in recent months.

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Changing Gears
4:35 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Your Story: Highs and lows of working in the family business

Amber Turner and Jordan Ceresnie are engaged and work together
Submitted by Amber Turner

Family bonding can be a reward for working in a family business. But there is also plenty Amber Turner worries about.

The restaurant industry took a beating in the economic downturn. Although some Wall Street analysts expect restaurants to pick up soon, a lagging restaurant industry makes Turner more than a little nervous. In her family, any trouble is multiplied.

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Environment
3:01 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Coyotes make themselves at home in Michigan cities

Bill Dodge is a PhD student at Wayne State University. He's leading a team of researchers looking into the behavior of urban coyotes in Oakland County.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Coyotes have been moving into a lot of American cities. Here in Michigan, you could potentially see coyotes almost anywhere. But researchers don't know a whole lot about the state’s urban coyotes.

A small research team from Wayne State University hopes to change that. They're trying to figure the animals out. They want to find out how many coyotes are living in cities. And they want to know what they’re eating, and how they survive.

A few weeks ago, one day just after dawn, I met up with the research team at the side of a road in Oakland County. We crossed the road to get to a grassy, undeveloped piece of land. The group fanned out to look for evidence of coyotes... that is: tracks, and scat.

After just a few steps, we found tracks.

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Politics
2:18 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

McCotter's U.S. House seat coveted by another politician

State Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) plans to run for Thaddeus McCotter's U.S. House seat.

With U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter (R - 11th district) running for president, his U.S. House seat is being eyed by politicians with aspirations - specifically by State Senator Mike Kowall (R - White Lake).

McCotter hasn't said yet whether he plans to give up his House seat.

From the Associated Press:

State Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake Township said Tuesday that he's running regardless of McCotter's plans.

Kowall says McCotter has made it clear he's running for president, not Congress. A request for comment from McCotter's spokeswoman was not immediately returned Tuesday...

Kowall is a former businessman and township supervisor who served in the state House from 1999-2002. He was elected senator last year. His wife is a state representative.

Environment
12:54 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Local girl scouts take aim at palm oil in cookies

Burning peat forests in Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations.
Ann Dornfeld Environment Report

To make way for palm oil plantations in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, forests are slashed and burned.

By clear-cutting these forests, foreign governments and companies can ruin the habitat for animals like Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, and orangutans.

The Detroit Free Press has a story about two local girl scouts who are hoping to get palm oil out of their Girl Scout cookies.

From the Freep:

The Girl Scouts don't have a badge for "Demanding the Organization Stop Using Palm Oil in its Iconic Cookies and Causing a National Brouhaha."

If the organization did, Rhiannon Tomtishen, 15, of Ann Arbor and Madison Vorva, 16, of Plymouth would have them sewn on their vest or sash.

A 2007 project about orangutans for a Girl Scout Bronze Award has snowballed into a nationwide campaign to remove palm oil from Thin Mints and the rest of the cookie lineup. When the girls learned that Indonesian and Malaysian plantations destroy the rain forests these great apes call home to grow the ingredient, they did what the Girl Scouts taught them to do -- take action.

The Free Press reports that teens met with national leaders in the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. to raise their concerns and they hope to have a follow call with the leaders next month.

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Science/Medicine
12:24 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Lansing limits medical marijuana dispensaries to 48

User: kynan tait Flickr

Lansing City Council put a limit of 48 medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in the city.

Carol Wood is a Lansing City Council member. She says she would like to see fewer dispensary licenses available in Lansing.

“When you look at the fact that we have 27 pharmacies that have a variety of different drugs that they’re able to access out of there and that we are looking at 48 licensed establishments for only one drug, it doesn’t seem that there’s been necessity for us to have that many to take care of the residents of the city of Lansing.”

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Offbeat
12:00 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Would you like to own a Great Lakes lighthouse?

This could be your view if you put in the winning bid on the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light on Lake Erie.
GSA.GOV

You've got 1 day 3 hours left to put your bid on the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light in Fairport Harbor, Ohio on Lake Erie.

Current bid is $39,500 (you might need to scrape a little paint).

Or if living in a red tube is your idea of fun, you might consider the Kenosha North Pierhead Light on Lake Michigan in southeast Wisconsin. The auction for this light closes tomorrow as well, July 13.

The Washington Post has a story on the federal government's efforts to auction off old, out-of-date lighthouses that no longer serve as navigational aids because of the advent of radar, unmanned light towers, and satellite navigation.

They first try to sell the lighthouses to groups or other public entities that will preserve the lighthouse for historical purposes. If that doesn't work, they go up for public auction.

Right now, the U.S. General Services Administration wants to give away 12 historic lighthouses to state or local entities, nonprofit corporations, historic preservation groups, or community development organizations.

Four of these historic lighthouses are on the Great Lakes.

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Commentary
10:12 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Can the UAW Survive?

Later this month, contact talks are set to begin between the United Auto Workers’ union and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

There’s a temptation to feel nostalgic about that. This has been a time-honored tradition in Detroit since the 1940s. Every three years, negotiations began, and the union selected a strike target.

That target could have been any one of what were then referred to as the Big Three. Negotiations followed a system called “pattern bargaining,” which meant the union and the selected company would battle things out to a settlement.

Sometimes a deal could be reached without a strike; sometimes not. Once a deal was reached, the other two automakers would settle with the union on essentially the same terms.

During the glorious fat years of postwar prosperity, the bargaining scenario also followed a predictable pattern.  When negotiations began, the company would offer the union the equivalent of a crust of bread. The union would demand the moon, plus a kitchen sink with gold-plated handles. Eventually, with or without a strike, they’d reach a deal where the union got the moon, but had to settle for a sink with plain old chromium handles.

Walter Reuther would then promise to get the gold-plated ones in the next contract, and he usually would. But everything is different now. Chrysler and GM went through a near-death experience two years ago. As part of the price for the federal government’s saving them, the UAW had to agree not to strike either company.

The only thing they can do in the case of a grievance is ask for binding arbitration. The union could theoretically strike Ford, but now that all automakers aren’t on an equal playing field that’s unlikely.

But the UAW does face two immense new challenges.

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Offbeat
9:33 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Repairs at WFUM Today

WFUM Flint will be off the air from time to time today in order to allow our engineers to safely make some repairs on our broadcast tower. This will only affect listeners in the WFUM Flint listening area. You can listen here or at 91.7 FM.

News Roundup
8:27 am
Tue July 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Feds Coming to Detroit

The Obama administration unveiled a federal program yesterday aimed at helping cities like Detroit revitalize parts of their urban centers. “The Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will target Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Chester, Pa… Officials say the program seeks to cut through federal red tape by providing communities with technical assistance to ensure federal and local dollars are spent wisely. Federal representatives will help Detroit Mayor Dave Bing tackle issues he had identified as ‘vital to their economic strategies, including efforts to build on local assets, strengthen regional economies, develop transportation infrastructure, improve job-training programs and support community revitalization,’” Mark Brush reports.

Thousands Still without Power

Utilities companies say about 90,000 homes and businesses remain without electricity a day after severe thunderstorms and strong winds moved across the lower half of the state. The Associated Press reports:

At least 191,000 customers lost power following Monday's storms. CMS Energy Corp. says Tuesday morning about 42,000 of its customers still were without power. DTE Energy Co. tells WDIV-TV and WWJ-AM about 47,000 of its customers remained blacked out… The storms hit as southern Michigan was already seeing a dangerous mix of high temperatures and high humidity.

Services for Ford

About a thousand people will attend a funeral for former First Lady Betty Ford today. The invitation-only service will take place in Palm Desert, California. Tomorrow, Mrs. Fords’ body will be flown to Michigan where a public viewing will take place in the evening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. A private service is planned for Thursday in East Grand Rapids.

State Legislature
6:50 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Lawmakers to return to Lansing occasionally in July and August

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

State lawmakers are on a summer break but, they will be meeting infrequently throughout this month and next.

“The Senate Appropriations Committee has a meeting set for Tuesday to discuss bills related to transportation funding, court of appeals fees and quality assurance assessments at some health facilities. The state Senate is expected to meet in a full session Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville also plans to introduce legislation this week that would boost the value of Michigan’s film incentives. As the Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta reported yesterday, “the state Senate leader says he is looking for ways to make Michigan more attractive to filmmakers now that the state has scaled back generous tax breaks for the industry.”

Meanwhile, the state House has a session scheduled for July 27th.

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