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Politics
5:34 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Snyder: Anti-obesity effort not government overreach

snowpea&bokchoi flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says it is critical to Michigan’s economy and its quality of life that the state reduce the number of people who are obese or overweight.

Almost a third of Michigan’s children and adults are considered obese. Two thirds are either obese or overweight.

The governor says obesity is a factor in diabetes and other chronic conditions that add $3 billion to the total costs of medical care in Michigan.

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Arts/Culture
5:26 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

ArtPrize 2011 kicks off in Grand Rapids

More than 2,400 people have already started checking out ArtPrize. The art contest began in Grand Rapids Wednesday afternoon. 1,582 artists are competing to win a $250,000 top prize.

Even before ArtPrize opened, thousands of people had already preregistered to vote in the contest. Those who vote determine the winner.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Richardville talks about fall agenda in Michigan Senate

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

State Senate Republicans say they want to focus on proposals this fall that will help businesses create jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says eliminating the Michigan Business Tax on small businesses was a good start. He says now it’s time to get rid of the Personal Property Tax that businesses pay.

“The government itself does not create jobs, all we can do is better the environment. And that’s what we’re attempting to do with the legislation we’ve put on the table so far, and what we’ll continue this fall.”

Richardville says the Senate will also take up measures this fall to reform education and regulate the medical marijuana law.

The law was approved by a wide margin of voters in 2008.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the law is too vague.

“I have a real concern about those that would abuse this law and that somehow more would illegal marijuana would end up on the street, and eventually find its way into our school yards. That’s my big concern here.”

Senate Republicans also plans to take up legislation to eliminate the tax on businesses and factory equipment. Education reforms, and a ban on a controversial abortion procedure are also at the top of the party’s fall agenda.

Politics
4:35 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Bill would reduce jail cell size requirement

Inmates in Michigan's county jails could be housed in smaller cells under a bill passed by the Michigan house this week.
rollingroscoe Morguefile

Michigan’s county sheriffs would be given more leeway in how they run their jails under a bill passed by the state House this week.

The bill targets jail overcrowding by subdividing cells. The required 52-square-feet per inmate would be cut nearly in half.

It also allows for an inmate with no prior criminal convictions to be double-bunked with a convicted felon.

State Representative Matt Lori co-sponsored the bill.

"It’ll make things a lot easier for the sheriffs to keep inmates behind bars as opposed to releasing them when their population gets to the point they have to declare an overcrowding emergency," Lori says.

John Walsh is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Grand Valley State University. He says smaller jail cells could increase safety risks for inmates and staff and lead to lawsuits.

Education
4:28 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

EMU and part-time faculty approve contract

Eastern Michigan University
user krossbow Flickr

Eastern Michigan University's Board of Regents has approved a contract that will bring more job security and better wages to part-time faculty at Eastern Michigan University.

The regents unanimously approved the agreement on Tuesday. The contract takes effect immediately.

Politics
3:50 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Latinos, Muslims protest Detroit border patrol

Some people in southwest Detroit say the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol continues to practice racial profiling in their community. Detroit is home to the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada.

Residents say Customs and Border Protection agents regularly question and detain people who look Hispanic.

At a press conference Wednesday,residents produced pictures they say show a young Latino man being handcuffed without cause by Border Patrol agents in July. It happened outside a Catholic church during Mass.

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Politics
2:29 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Expert to examine Michigan Humane Society practices

The Michigan Humane Society will have an outside expert review its practices.
user ak_rus Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Humane Society's board is bringing in an outside expert to evaluate how the organization decides which dogs go for adoption and which dogs are killed.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press report the board voted Monday. Kelley Bollen, director of behavior programs for the Maddie's Fund Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, will evaluate "canine evaluation protocols."

A broader examination could be considered later.

Four of 18 board members at the Michigan Humane Society have  resigned since June amid questions about the rate of euthanizing dogs and cats. The organization's overall euthanasia rate has been 70 percent for the past four years, including 17,000 in 2010.

The organization defends its practices, noting it takes in all types of animals, including abused ones.

Politics
1:00 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Bill would ban use of government property for political purposes

Michigan teachers and other government worker would not be allowed to use public property -- including computers, phones or copiers -- to conduct political activities.
ronnieb MorgueFile

A bill in the state House would ban public employees from using most government property or services for political or union purposes. 

 Under the bill, anything that belongs to the government would be off-limits for public employees to use for fund-raising, lobbying  or campaigning -- including e-mail, phones and copiers.

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Changing Gears
11:03 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Midwestern union workers have hope for their jobs

Navistar Springfield, Ohio plant manager Jim Rumpf with one of the four models of trucks now produced at the plant.
Niala Boodhoo

Navistar builds trucks across North America, at non-union factories in the South and Mexico, as well as union shops in the Midwest. The UAW members at the Navistar plant in Springfield, Ohio say a year of changes has made them competitive with those non-union plants – and they’re optimistic about the future.

In the final assembly department at Navistar’s Springfield, Ohio, plant, Veronica Smith is helping her team put the finishing touches on a truck. The cab is being mounted to its frame.

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Politics
10:49 am
Wed September 21, 2011

The Bridge: Beyond Any Doubt

Pretend you are a judge, let me give you some undisputed facts, and then tell me how you would make up your mind.

The top business leaders of this state strongly support a new bridge over the Detroit River. So do the major leaders of both political parties. The bridge wouldn’t cost the taxpayers of Michigan a cent.

What’s more, the bridge would instantly mean billions of dollars and thousands of desperately needed jobs for our poor battered state.  Not when it was completed, but right away, right now.

That’s because the federal government has agreed to count money Canada is giving us to  cover our costs as state matching money for federal highway funds. That would mean two point two billion dollars to fix our roads and bridges.

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Auto/Economy
10:24 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Moody's downgrades Fiat's credit rating

Fiat's credit was downgraded by Moody's.
Fiat USA

MILAN (AP) - The ratings agency Moody's has downgraded the credit rating Fiat SpA citing financial risks tied to the integration with Chrysler Group LLC.

Moody's on Wednesday downgraded the Italian automaker to Ba2 from Ba1.

The ratings agency said it expects integration of the two automakers will mean they will have "to support each other in the event of financial difficulty."

Fiat took an initial 20 percent stake in Chrysler in exchange for engine technology and management prowess. It currently holds a 53.5 percent share.

Moody's said it made the downgrade even though Fiat does not guarantee Chrysler's debt, and that the two companies' finances remain separate.

Auto
7:30 am
Wed September 21, 2011

The latest on UAW contract negotiations

Union leaders at General Motors' factories across the U.S. are endorsing a tentative contract with the automaker. 

In an unprecedented press conference yesterday, UAW President Bob King discussed details of the 4-year-contract. The rank-and-file will vote in the coming days. General Motors is the first automaker to reach a deal with the UAW. And,  these negotiations are the first since the federal government stepped in to help GM and Chrysler through bankruptcy in 2009.

We caught up with Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's auto reporter, to talk about the tentative contract and what it means for GM, the UAW, and the state's economy.

Politics
6:31 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Snyder signs Medicaid claims tax

Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Snyder has approved a one percent tax on health insurance claims to ensure that medical coverage for low-income families is not slashed by almost a billion dollars.

Everyone who files a claim for a treatment or a checkup will now pay the one percent tax. It will not apply to co-pays or deductibles.

It replaces a six percent tax on Medicaid HMOs. Michigan’s system for financing the Medicaid program for covering low-income families was on the cusp of being thrown out by federal authorities because it did not spread the burden wide enough.

Governor Snyder had a difficult time winning the votes for the health claims tax in the Republican-led Legislature. But he said he was committed to not rolling back health coverage for the poor during tough economic times. The Snyder administration has come under fire by human services advocates for rollbacks in other types of aid for low-income people, including new limits on cash assistance and food stamps.

Arts/Culture
8:57 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

A Michigan play receives national publicity

A Michigan play about bullied teenagers who commit suicide has received national publicity. The Bullycide Project is a play written by Fenton High School teacher Lori Thompson. It was featured on the CBS news program 48 Hours last Friday. 

Thompson says as a theater teacher, the stage is the most effective vehicle for creating social awareness.

When we hear about Tyler Clementi, the young man from Rutgers, or Phoebe Prince, the young lady from Ireland that came here and lived in Boston; I mean these are all national stories, and then there are all the stories that happen locally. 

The Bullycide Project will be performed at the Flint Youth Theatre on  September 24th.

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Politics
5:35 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Deficit reduction: A conversation with Senator Carl Levin

U.S. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan.

Michigan Democratic Senator, Carl Levin, has proposed a 7-point plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least one trillion dollars over 10 years. His proposal comes amidst discussions within the special bi-partisan subcommittee charged with balancing the federal budget. Several of the points in the plan deal with closing tax loopholes that benefit corporations and wealthy Americans. Is it possible to move those points of the plan forward in the current political climate?

Auto/Economy
5:25 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Report: Michigan lost 79,800 jobs to China from 2001 to 2010

Map showing the percentage of jobs displaced by trade imbalance with China as a share of state employment.
Economic Policy Institute

A report by the Economic Policy Institute looked at the growing trade deficit between the U.S. and China and its effect on jobs.

The group found the trade deficit with China has been a "prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment."

From the report:

Between 2001 and 2010, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced 2.8 million jobs, 1.9 million (69.2 percent) of which were in manufacturing. The 1.9 million manufacturing jobs eliminated or displaced due to trade with China represents nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced between China’s entry into WTO and 2010.

The report finds that the number of Michigan jobs displaced by the trade deficit with China totaled 79,800. That accounts for 1.75 percent of total employment in the state in that time period.

Despite being a heavy manufacturing state, Michigan was not the hardest hit state by the trade imbalance.

From the report:

Jobs displaced due to growing deficits with China exceeded 2.2% of total employment in the 10 hardest-hit states (i.e., jobs lost or displaced as a share of total state employment): New Hampshire (19,700, 2.84%), California (454,600, 2.74%), Massachusetts (88,600, 2.73%), Oregon (47,900, 2.71%), North Carolina (107,800, 2.61%) Minnesota (70,700, 2.61%), Idaho (17,400, 2.54%), Vermont (7,800, 2.37%), Colorado (55,800, 2.30%), and Rhode Island (11,800, 2.24%).

The report concludes, "the U.S.-China trade relationship needs a fundamental change. Addressing the exchange rate policies and labor standards issues in the Chinese economy are important first steps."

ArtPrize 2011
5:04 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

This year try listening to ArtPrize

The Total Blam Blams play at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids Saturday night. Jason and Nora Heystek front the band which is entering ArtPrize for the first time this year.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

ArtPrize 2011 begins Wednesday afternoon in Grand Rapids. Sound and performing arts will play a bigger role in this year’s contest. Music, ballet, and other performances are, after all, art. But there haven’t been a lot of entries in the past.

The winner of the art competition gets $250,000 in prize money. Organizers claim it’s the world’s largest art prize.

This is the third annual ArtPrize. The third time I’ve seen giant sculptures, breath-taking murals, funny and eye-opening drawings take over a three-mile zone in downtown.

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Politics
4:45 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Michigan legislature set to vote on dilation and extraction abortion ban

The state Legislature is expected to vote tomorrow to ban a controversial abortion procedure performed after 21 weeks of pregnancy.

“Dilation and extraction,” or “partial birth abortion,” as it’s called by opponents has been illegal in the U.S. since 2003.

Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen says the proposals in the Legislature would help ensure the procedure remains illegal in Michigan, no matter what.

“We want to make sure that our attorney general has every tool that he needs to make sure that we don’t have this practice happening in Michigan,” said Hansen.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says passing the same ban at the state level will cement Michigan’s stand on the procedure.

"It’s kind of an insurance policy, if you will, but also strengthens our resolve that this is something wrong that needs to be addressed wherever it’s found in the state of Michigan," said Richardville. "It’s a responsible bill that tells the citizens of Michigan that we’re concerned about partial-birth abortion, and we’ll do everything we can to stop it from happening in this state."

The proposed ban is set for votes this week in the state House and Senate.

The votes will likely come just before the anti-abortion group "Right to Life of Michigan" has a conference in Lansing this weekend. The group is expecting an update on the status of the proposed ban from one of the Senate sponsors.

Auto/Economy
4:02 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

A little clarity in the muddy international bridge debate

Bridge traffic estimates from the Anderson Economic Group's report. The report states that "public road projects in the U.S. that included a toll component tended to overestimate traffic by an average of 42%."
Anderson Economic Group

A report from the Anderson Economic Group has offered some clarity to the debate over a new international bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

A little background in case you have sat this story out thus far:

Governor Rick Snyder has been pushing the idea of a new bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, known as the New International  Trade Crossing (NITC).

It would connect up I-75 and Highway 401 in Canada.

The Ambassador Bridge owners, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), don't want competition from another bridge. Owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been fighting against the proposed bridge with a $4.7 million television ad blitz.

The ads say Michigan taxpayers could be on the hook for the costs of the New International  Trade Crossing if plans don't pan out.

Moroun is proposing to build a second span next to the Ambassador Bridge to ease congestion.

The report from the Anderson Economic Group analyzes both proposals (NITC vs. DIBC).

The bottom line of the report from several media reports out today is that the new bridge (NITC) would ease congestion currently felt at the Detroit-Windsor crossing, and a second span of the Ambassador Bridge would not (DIBC).

It's finding no. 2 in the report.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit International Bridge Co.'s proposed second bridge between Detroit and Canada would not eliminate the current congestion on both sides of the border but the New International Trade Crossing bridge would do so, according to an independent study released today by the Anderson Economic Group.

From Crain's Detroit Business:

A proposed government-owned bridge over the Detroit River, with additional U.S. Customs booths, would do a better job reducing border traffic congestion and handling future traffic than a second Ambassador Bridge span, says a new independent report released today.

From the Detroit News:

A proposed bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge would alleviate border congestion, but a new span beside the Ambassador would not, according to a study released Tuesday.

Finding no. 3 in the report states that the obligation to repay borrowed funds for the construction costs of either bridge does not rest with Michigan taxpayers. That finding assumes that protections for Michigan taxpayers are in place for "statute and bond covenants."

Jeff Watrick over at MLive has a nice summary of the 7 findings of the report.

Or you can read the report yourself.

Let us know what stands out to you.

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Education
3:46 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

3 more high schools planned for Detroit

Lou Glazer
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Three more high schools will open in Detroit for the 2012 school year as part of the Michigan Future Schools program.

That’s an ongoing effort by the think tank Michigan Future, Inc. to open 35 new high Detroit high schools in eight years. Its goal is to “revitalize Detroit’s failing education system” by adding 35 quality high schools in eight years.

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