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Don’t misunderstand.  Businesses in Michigan often complain about the red tape.  There are plenty of stories about Michigan government bogging down any attempts by business to expand in the state or to build new plants here.  But, it’s hard to determine whether those complaints are business people just griping about any kind of restrictions placed on them… or a real problem within the state’s bureaucracy.

So, let’s look at some of the ways you measure that.

Michigan home prices continue their downward slide and the trend shows little sign of stopping.

Home prices in Michigan declined about 9% in the third quarter, a downward trend that started in April as government buying incentives began to dry up.

Serial Stabbing Suspect in Court Today

Elias Abuelazam, the man accused of a series of stabbings in Genesee County will be in court today. He will face four hearings, all involving charges of attempted murder in and around the Flint area earlier this year. A judge must determine whether there’s probable cause to send him to trial. Abuelazam has already been ordered to face one murder trial.

D’Oh: Glitch in New Liquor Law

There’s a problem in the state’s new Sunday morning liquor sales law.  As Steve Carmody reports, when state lawmakers passed the Sunday morning alcohol sales bill in the final days of the legislative session, they made a small mistake: lawmakers allowed communities to ban liquor sales on Sundays, but they didn’t specify a time. That means communities have to choose between being open all day on Sundays or not allowing sales of alcohol ALL day on Sundays. We’ll have to wait and see how lawmakers plan to fix the problem when the new legislative session begins next year.

Commission Delays Vote on Benefit Extension for Live-in Partners

The state Civil Service Commission has delayed a vote on the extension of health benefits to live-in partners of state employees.  The delay most likely means that a decision won’t be made on the issue until next year when Governor-elect Rick Snyder is in office, Rick Pluta reports.  A spokesman for Snyder says the Governor-elect has not yet taken a position on the issue.

Reports: Aretha Franklin Has Cancer

Several media outlets in the state are reporting that singer Aretha Franklin has pancreatic cancer. Franklin underwent surgery in Detroit last Thursday but neither she nor her publicist would say what kind of surgery Franklin had or the nature of the illness, Jennifer Guerra reports. Franklin has cancelled all her concerts through May 2011 due to doctors’ orders.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be in Detroit today.  He’s scheduled to give a talk at Wayne State University.

As the Associated Press reports:

Snyder will speak to Detroit college students and business leaders about reinventing Michigan's economy - with an accounting twist. Snyder's talk … is expected to focus on how his accounting skills will be important as he works to improve the state's struggling economy.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

York Salvaton Army Headquarters
Pamela Eisenberg / flickr

A new lawsuit claims the Salvation Army and Wayne State University discriminated against a student because she was pregnant and unmarried.Tina Valresi was a graduate student in Wayne State’s social work program. She had to finish an internship with the Salvation Army to complete her degree. Lawyer Deborah Gordon says as soon as Valresi’s supervisors at the Salvation Army found out she was pregnant, her work atmosphere became “hostile.” She says the Salvation Army then gave her an “unsatisfactory” review, causing her to be dismissed from her graduate program. Gordon says the Salvation Army was “punishing” Valresi for being pregnant.

“They could have just been honest and said at the very beginning this is not acceptable. We want Wayne to put you elsewhere. Instead they kept her on and then failed her as a punishment.”

Gordon says Valresi only filed the lawsuit after trying unsuccessfully to resolve things with Wayne State. Neither the Salvation Army nor Wayne State could be reached for comment.

ARtPrize
Rich Evenhouse

Grand Rapids’ Fire Department is putting out a fire of sorts this week. They’re waiving thousands of dollars in inspection fees related to this year’s ArtPrize event.

Most everyone loved ArtPrize. But not everyone who volunteered a venue for the event loved getting a bill in the mail last week for fire inspections. The city’s fire department charged around $50 for every 5 artists a venue had.

The information was included in a handbook given to each venue. Apparently, not everyone read the fine print and now the city is admitting communication wasn’t very good on their end either. So they’re waiving all of the inspection fees - about $20,000 worth.

Helen Thomas
flickr user rachelvorhees

A prominent coalition of Michigan Arab-American groups is angry that Wayne State University has pulled an award honoring journalist Helen Thomas.

Wayne State ended the “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award” last week after she made controversial comments at an event in Dearborn.

Thomas asserted that “Zionists” control major U.S. institutions, including the White House.

Wayne State called those remarks “anti-Semitic.” But the Congress of Arab American Organizations disagrees.

Lafayette Bait and Tackle
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The owner of the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation are back in court over a disputed construction project. One Detroit business owner says that project is forcing him out. Lafayette Bait and Tackle is literally stranded here in the midst of the Gateway Project, as trucks rumble overhead. That project was a $230 million effort to better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways. It’s also the subject of a long-running legal dispute. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the Ambassador Bridge Company violated project plans when it built entrance ramps and a duty-free plaza. The Bridge Company has lost several rounds in court. But the ongoing legal drama has left Lafayette Bait and Tackle cut off from the surrounding neighborhood. Business owner Dean Aytes says his landlord hasn’t paid the taxes on the property. And a lawyer for bridge owner Mattsay Moroun says the landlord has now agreed to sell the property. Aytes says that means the shop will have to close for good. He says “that billionaire, Matty Moroun, put me out of business.”

Congressman Dave Camp with John Boehner.
user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Republican Dave Camp is the chairman-elect of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Camp released a statement saying it is a great honor to be selected as chairman:

"Our nation is at a crossroads – facing record debt and an unemployment rate stuck at nearly 10 percent. The decisions we make and the policies we put forward will determine whether or not we get this economy back on track and Americans back to work."

The committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Camp will take over the committee from another Michigander, Democrat Sander Levin.

Aretha Franklin
KtKatrina / creative commons

Several Detroit media outlets are reporting that soul legend Aretha Franklin has pancreatic cancer. Michigan Radio contacted Franklin's publicist for confirmation, but has yet to hear back.

The National Enquirer was the first to report the Queen of Soul's illness. Fox2 Detroit followed with a similar story:

"A relative of Aretha Franklin tells reporter Al Allen that the icon has cancer.  Another relative says the family is very concerned. At this time Franklin's family says she is doing "OK", but they are asking for the continued prayers and thoughts from the community."

Aretha Franklin underwent surgery in Detroit last Thursday. Neither she nor her publicist would say what kind of surgery Franklin was going in for or the nature of the illness.

(BWL)

The Lansing Board of Water & Light has gotten a key state permit clearing the way for construction of a new $182 million cogeneration power plant

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment granted the permit.   

A Lansing BW&L spokesman says the utility will now move to issuing bonds to pay for the project. The utility hopes to begin operating the new power plant in 2013.

The power plant will rely on natural gas to produce electricity. Lansing utility officials say it will eventually replace an aging coal-fired power plant.

A glitch in the new Sunday morning liquor sales law might be forcing Michigan communities to choose between opening the bars or going dry ALL DAY on Sundays.

When state lawmakers passed the Sunday morning liquor sales bill in the waning days of the legislative session, they made a small mistake. Lawmakers allowed communities to ban the sales, but the bill didn’t specify the time. 

So now,  if a community says it wants to ban liquor sales between 7am and noon on Sundays, the state Liquor Control Commission says the local government is banning all Sunday liquor sales.

Andrea Miller is with the Liquor Control Commission. She says the way the law is written  it gives the commission no choice. 

"Basically if they send in the resolution stating that they are banning the Sunday sales (of alcohol), they are banning Sunday sales completely."

Miller says the commission has heard from more than 30 communities confused about the new law and its implications.

The Liquor Control Commission plans to put a hold license applications by businesses in those communities until the legislature has time to fix the law next year.

Helen Thomas speaking at Cornell University
Matt Hintsa / creative commons

The Anti-Defamation League called Helen Thomas anti-Semitic after some comments she made last week at a speech in Dearborn.

On a radio interview last night, Thomas shot back at Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League:

I'm getting tired of his intimidation. I'm going to report him to President Obama and all the proper authorities. He better stop intimidating me.

Thomas was interviewed by Scott Spears on WMRN radio in Marion, Ohio. Here's a clip:

No comment yet from the ADL.

Every Wednesday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Michigan Radio Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get his take on recent political news from across the state. Today, the conversation begins by focusing on Governor Granholm's expression of support for President Obama's recent compromise with Republicans. On Tuesday, Obama agreed to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits.

Unmarried state workers will have to wait to see if incoming governor Rick Snyder's administration will consider extending health care benefits to their live-in partners.

Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta just filed this report:

The state Civil Service Commission has delayed a vote on extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees. The commission was poised to make a decision, but the Granholm administration proposal had too many unanswered questions -- including whether state employees would be able to claim multiple domestic partners on their benefit plans. The delay likely kicks the decision into next year, when Governor Granholm will be gone and Governor-elect Rick Snyder will have the job. Snyder's spokesman says he has not taken a position on partner benefits for state workers.

Woman crafting
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This week's Artpod episode has a little something for everyone. Today's podcast features local holiday art fairs, ideas for inexpensive gifts (homemade marshmallows anyone?), and a musical rendition of how to make eggnog.

- Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst

This is the season when Charles Dickens is again in style, or at least his Christmas Carol. We’ve all been grappling with our own versions of Mr. Scrooge all year, and we all need a happy ending.

But I’ve been thinking of a different Dickens character this week: Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, who said in response to some idiotic legal ruling: “If the law supposes that, then the law is an ass.”

What made me think of that was the Wayne County Circuit Court ruling Monday. Judge Wendy Baxter ruled that Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager of the Detroit Schools, had no right or power to make academic decisions.

George Erickcek is Senior Regional Analyst at Upjohn Institute
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Researchers at the Kalamazoo-based Upjohn Institute predict Michigan’s economy is stabilizing, but caution it will be a long road to a full recovery.

“We have to realize that what Michigan is coming out of is not a transformed economy, although all of us would like to think that’s true. We’re coming out a leaner economy, a little bit meaner and little bit more advanced but in fact just kind of a smaller version of what we were before, in my opinion.”

Senior Regional Analyst George Erickcek says full recovery will depend on the state’ ability to meet the demand for trained workers in growing industries. In a presentation to leaders in Grand Rapids Wednesday, Erickcek said 25 to 34 year-olds are not achieving the same education levels as the generation before them. That’s the case in Michigan and the nation.

rickformi flickr photostream

Rick Snyder says the way government works in Michigan doesn’t work.

“Now government.  It’s time for bureaucracy to go away.  It’s been with us a hundred-plus years.  It doesn’t work.  It is time for a new model.  It is time for customer service government.  The role of government is to treat you, the citizen, as the customer and look at life through your eyes and say ‘How can we help you succeed and how can we get out of your way.’”

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Governor Granholm says she supports President Obama’s compromise with Congressional Republicans on tax cuts.

Granholm said that the President got a ‘good deal’ by extending benefits for the long-term unemployed in exchange for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts.

Granholm said the deal will keep 180,000 people in Michigan from losing their income during the holidays:

I look at this as governor of the state with the second highest unemployment rate in the nation and I'm grateful to the President for being a pragmatic leader... the collateral damage here in Michigan from not extending the unemployment benefits would be horrific.

Granholm made the comments during a White House conference call yesterday afternoon.

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Sickened Residents

The Enbridge Energy oil spill that leaked more than 800,000 gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River in mid-Michigan sickened many, but the long term effects of exposure to the oil remain unclear, according to a new report. The Michigan Department of Community Health worked with local health departments in Calhoun and Kalamazoo Counties to compile data on people who were affected by the spill, Steve Carmody reports. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers reported 145 patients after the July spill.

Local Governments Consider Sunday Alcohol Sales

Communities across Michigan are deciding whether or not they’ll allow alcohol sales on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day.  A state law allowing the sales was signed by Governor Granholm last month.  Local governments, however, can opt out.  Zeeland’s city council has voted unanimously to ask the state Liquor Control Commission not to issue special licenses that would allow the sales, Lindsey Smith reports. Owosso, Bay City and Flint Township have, like Zeeland, decided to opt out.

MI Congressman to Chair Powerful House Committee

Republican Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph has been chosen by the GOP to lead the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee in the new legislative session. The appointment will be confirmed today.  Upton has sat on the committee since 1991.

Granholm Says President Obama Got ‘Good Deal’

Governor Granholm said she supports President Obama’s compromise with Congressional Republicans on tax cuts. Granholm said Obama got a ‘good deal’ by extending benefits for the long-term unemployed in exchange for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. The Associated Press reports Granholm said residents in Michigan would have been hurt more without the compromise.

Congressman Fred Upton
Republican Conference / Creative Commons

Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the next legislative session. The GOP won control of the House of Representatives in the November election.

The House Republican Steering Committee made the announcement yesterday.

As The Detroit Free Press explains, the committee, "oversees energy policy, automobile regulations, health care, food safety and more."

In a statement released yesterday, Upton said:

I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, Whip McCarthy and the entire Republican Conference as we repeal Obamacare, fight rampant job-killing regulations, cut spending, and help put folks back to work. 

Upton has served on the committee since 1991.

Ken 30684/Flickr

Many communities across the state are deciding this week whether or not they should allow alcohol sales on Sunday morning. The state law allowing sales on Sunday morning and Christmas was signed into law last month. But local governments can opt their community out of the new rule.

After nearly a century as dry community, voters in Zeeland decided to allow alcohol to be sold within city limits every day but Sunday. Four years later, Zeeland has one carry out store and one restaurant that sell alcohol. Rick Van Dorp sits on city council. “I mean it was a close vote – only won by a handful of votes, maybe 14, when it did pass. And it failed a couple different times previously. So it’s kind of a contentious issue,” Van Dorp said.

A court appointed monitor watching over Michigan’s child protective services warns that system is “substantially non-compliant” with a court agreement.  The state agreed to make measurable improvements to its child welfare system when it settled a lawsuit with New York-based Children’s Rights group in 2008. But two years later, a monitor says the state Department of Human Services has shown a “frustrating lack of progress” in implementing reforms. Sarah Bartosz, a senior attorney for Children’s Rights, says the state is about a year behind where it should be.

Colorful used cars
Zelda Richardson

Perhaps another sign that the 'Great Recession' is thawing. Lending to people with a so-so credit score is on the uptick - at least in the car market.

The Associated Press reports "the percentage of loans going to subprime buyers rose 8% in the third quarter, their first year-over-year increase since 2007, according to a report issued Tuesday by Experian, a credit reporting agency."

Robert Bobb
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update: 5:13 pm:

Emergency financial manager Robert Bobb and his team have already put in place several classroom reforms. Some of the reforms include two hours of math and reading instruction every day for elementary students, requiring all 7th graders to take pre-Algebra, and conducting "quarterly assessments" of students' skills.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new report finds last July’s massive oil spill in mid-Michigan sickened many people, but the long-term effects of exposure to the spill is unclear. 

The Michigan Department of Community Health worked with local health departments in Calhoun and Kalamazoo Counties to compile data on people who were affected by the Enbridge Energy oil spill.

First page of the unsealed indictment
Department of Justice

Four Detroit-area residents have been indicted by the federal government for Medicare fraud.

The Department of Justice says Medicare fraud schemes were operated out of Patient Choice Home Healthcare and All American Home Care.

George Heartwell
Steven Depolo

“There are so many exciting things happening in Grand Rapids right now when so much of the rest of Michigan is in chaos that I just quite honestly feel its fun and a great honor to represent this city as its mayor.”

Heartwell’s current term expires at the end of next year. If he’s elected and serves out a third term, Heartwell would tie his predecessor John Logie as the Grand Rapids’ longest serving mayor. Grand Rapids is the state's second largest city.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The owners of the Pontiac Silverdome are making plans for the aging football stadium’s first significant sporting event since they bought it over a year ago.   But the event is more about raising the Silverdome’s profile than making a lot of money.

 When a Toronto developer bought the 80 thousand seat stadium last year for about 600 thousand dollars…he said he had big plans.   But during the past year…the Silverdome has played host to only minor events.  

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