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Sports
3:18 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

MSU player receives probation sentence for Aspen brawl

A Spartans footballer has been sentenced to a year on probation and a fine for his role in a bar fight last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Michigan State tight end Brian Linthicum was sentenced Tuesday to one year of probation in connection with a March 10 arrest in Aspen, Colo., according to Pitkin County Court records.

Linthicum, who will be a senior and possible starter in the fall, accepted a plea deal without appearing in court, knocking misdemeanor third-degree assault and eluding-police charges down to misdemeanor harassment.

He must take an anger-management class (at least eight hours), perform 40 hours of community service and pay $100, plus court costs. According to a court clerk, other conditions are that he cannot be arrested nor drink excessive amounts of alcohol. A review hearing for which Linthicum must be present is set for Oct. 11.

 Max Bullough, a Michigan State linebacker, was also charged in the incident. His hearing is set for Tuesday.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
2:27 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Michigan's jobless rate held steady in March

Khalilshah Flickr

One in 10 people in Michigan are out of work and looking for a job. The state's March unemployment rate was 10.3 percent. That's almost unchanged from the February rate of 10.4 percent. But it's a full three points below the March 2010 rate of 13.3 percent.

Michigan added 79,000 jobs over the past year, mostly in temporary help, IT, and the auto in industry.

Improvements in the unemployment rate have been modest so far this year, but reflect real job gains and not people leaving the workforce.

Business
1:40 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Sites chosen for new wind farms in Thumb area

Three new wind farms are expected to generate enough power for 100,000 homes in the Thumb region.

Michigan’s thumb region will soon be dotted with new wind farms.  DTE Energy says the project will cost about $225 million.

The 50 wind turbines to be built in Huron and Sanilac counties should generate enough energy to power about 100,000 homes.

DTE's Scott Simons says while two West Michigan lawmakers recently opposed building  wind farms in the Great Lakes, the Thumb plan has Lansing’s stamp of approval.

"I would think the legislature is behind these kinds of projects, and we're going full steam ahead toward meeting the renewable energy goals that have been set by the Legislature," Simons says.

 DTE customers will pay for the wind farms with a small surcharge on their monthly bills.

labor protest
1:37 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Driver sick-out idles dozens of Detroit busses

femaletrumpet02 flickr

Bus service has been disrupted in Detroit today, with dozens of drivers calling in sick to attend a labor rally in Lansing.

Lovevett Williams is with the city of Detroit’s Department of Transportation. She said the sick-out cut bus service by about 20 percent.

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State Legislature
1:03 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

House panel approves cut to Michigan universities

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

A state House panel has voted to cut aid to the state's 15 public universities by about 15 percent. The Associated Press reports:

The Republican-led state House appropriations subcommittee dealing with higher education funding approved the plan by a party-line vote Wednesday. The measure next goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

The funding plan started by the House is similar to one proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder but it has a few differences.

The House plan calls for an across-the-board funding cut of 14 percent to each of the state's 15 public universities in the budget year starting Oct. 1. Another 1 percent would be weighted depending on how much state aid each university gets on a per-student basis.

Funding cuts could be higher if universities don't agree to certain tuition restraints.

It's been a busy couple days at the state Capitol as Governor Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders announced yesterday that they had agreed on a tentative tax deal. And, earlier today, a GOP-led Senate committee approved measures to require public employees in Michigan to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance costs.

Governor Snyder has said he wants a completed state budget for the new fiscal year by May 31st. The state is currently facing a projected $1.5 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

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Corrections
12:55 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Michigan sees decline in prisoner return rate

Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation
Kevin Rosseel morguefile

Michigan is one of the nation’s leaders in prisoner rehabilitation according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. The number of Michigan parolees who return to prison has declined 18 percent since 2000. The Pew Center credits the drop to Michigan’s Prisoner Re-Entry Program (MPRP).

John Cordell is with the Michigan Department of Corrections. He says the MPRP reduces crime rates, "which results in less spending on corrections here in Michigan."

Not all parolees are part of the MPRP. Cordell said the programs are based on need:

“The Michigan’s Prisoner Re-Entry Program, we target parolees that are more likely to fail, in the community, with re-entry services.”

Before the program began in 2005, half of Michigan’s parolees returned to prison. Now, only one in three return.

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Election 2012
12:25 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Sen. Stabenow has $3 million for re-election bid

Senator Debbe Stabenow (MI-D)
USDAgov Flickr

Michigan's Democratic Senator Debbie Stabeow has $3 million on hand for her 2012 re-election bid, according to the Associated Press. From the AP:

The Associated Press on Wednesday obtained a copy of the Stabenow for U.S. Senate committee's April quarterly report, which is due to the FEC by Friday.

In it, the committee says Stabenow raised nearly $1.2 million in the period that ran from Jan. 1 to March 31 and has $3 million on hand in the run for her third term in the Senate.

Stabenow was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. The only Republican to declare candidacy for the seat so far is Randy Hekman, a former Kent County judge. He announced his candidacy last month.

Other possible GOP candidates for the Senate seat include former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra,  former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party Saul Anuzis.

Energy
12:04 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Three wind farms to go up in Michigan's Thumb area

DTE expects to build around 50 wind turines in Sanilac and Huron counties. The company is reviewing bids from turbine makers now.
Tim Wang Flickr

DTE Energy has announced it will build three wind farms in Michigan's Sanilac and Huron counties.

The company expects to build around 50 wind turbines in total.

Legislators in Michigan set a renewable energy standard in 2008 that requires energy companies get 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015.

Right now, DTE energy says it gets "nearly four percent" of its energy from renewable sources.

These three new wind farms are part of DTE's plan to achieve the 10% goal.

DTE officials say they have acquired easements on 80,000 acres in Huron County and have completed wind and wildlife studies where the three wind farms will be sited.

From DTE's press release:

The Minden, Sigel and McKinley wind farms – which together will generate approximately 110 megawatts (MW) of electricity – will be sited on nearly 15,000 acres in Bloomfield, Sigel and McKinley townships in Huron County, and Minden and Delaware townships in Sanilac County.

The total cost of the wind farms is expected to be around $225 million. DTE is seeking contractors to start building the farms next year.

Michigan currently has wind projects in Cheboygan, Grand Traverse, Huron, and Missaukee counties.

Combined, these wind farms provide enough energy to power around 40,000 homes in Michigan, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

AWEA says Michigan's wind potential ranks 17th in the country - much of that wind potential is in the state's thumb area.

State Legislature
10:26 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Lawmakers move to shift health care costs

Inside the state Capitol, Lansing, Michigan
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Proposals to require public employees in Michigan to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance costs have advanced in the state Legislature, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

A Republican-led Senate committee approved the measures Wednesday on party-line votes. Republican Sen. Mark Jansen of Kent County's Gaines Township says the measures could come up for votes on the Senate floor later this month.

The legislation would affect employees with the state, local governments, public school districts, public universities and other public employers.

Republicans say the measures are needed to help public employers control costs. Democrats say health care costs should be bargained in contracts.

Local units of government could exempt themselves from the act by a two-thirds vote of its governing body.

 The legislation is Senate Bill 7 and Senate Joint Resolution C.

Commentary
8:54 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Governor Snyder: Not a Politician?

There’s one thing everyone has agreed on ever since Rick Snyder burst on the scene less than a year and a half ago.

The man is not a politician.

Before he announced he was running for governor, Snyder’s name was barely known to anybody in political circles. He had never  been involved in politics at any level. When he began running his famous “nerd” commercial during last year’s Super Bowl, the verdict from the experts was clear: Clever commercial. Catchy concept.

Calling yourself a “tough nerd” might work in some sophisticated high-tech west coast place. But not in lunch-bucket, brawling, blue-collar Michigan.

And we all knew that Snyder’s lack of political sophistication will eventually do him in. That seemed to be confirmed when he began ducking most of the primary campaign debates. Not ready for prime time. Yet the non-politician won the Republican primary easily last August, leaving a prominent congressman and the state attorney general in the dust. The general election wasn’t even a contest.

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Flint
8:38 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Flint Mayor: The killings and criminals must be stopped

Flint Public Safety Director Alvern Lock (left) addresses the news media while Mayor Dayne Walling looks on
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint police believe there may be some link between the city’s more than 20 recent homicides.  And now, city officials are asking for the public’s help. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling set the tone at a news conference Tuesday about the recent surge of murders in his city by saying, "the killings and criminals must be stopped."

Flint’s murder rate is on pace to set a record. Last year, Flint recorded 66 murders, which was a record. The city already has more than 20 homicides this year. 

Flint Public Safety Director Alvern Lock expresses some frustration at the rising violence. 

“You know the only way we could stop a lot of these from happening is if we were standing on the corner when they occur.”

Lock says they have suspects or people charged in 14 of the 21 murders in Flint this year. He says police suspect a connection in some of the cases, but they can’t prove that connection right now. 

Lock denies that cuts to Flint’s police department have played a role in the increase in the city’s increase homicide rate. The city has eliminated more than 100 positions in the police department since 2008.

News Roundup
8:24 am
Wed April 13, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 13th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder, GOP Leaders Come to Tax Agreement

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate outlined a tentative tax agreement yesterday afternoon in Lansing.  The plan includes a compromise on taxing retiree pensions. From Rick Pluta:

Michigan is one of just a handful of states that does not tax pensions. The deal between Governor Snyder and GOP leaders would shield people 67 years old and older from a pension tax. The governor originally wanted to tax all pensions, but he says compromises were necessary.

The plan also calls for scrapping the complicated and unpopular Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate income tax. That’s part of an overall tax cut for most businesses to spur job creation.

The plan would eliminate the tax break for working poor families, but offer some new tax relief for low-income homeowners and renters.

The plan must still be approved by the House and the Senate.

Bing Outlines Budget

Mayor Dave Bing proposed his budget for Detroit yesterday. The mayor warned that the city’s unions will have to make contract concessions in order to keep Detroit out of the hands of a state appointed Emergency Financial Manager. The city is facing a $155 million budget deficit. Bing said the deficit could grow to over a billion dollars in the next five years unless cuts are made now. Bing proposed $200 million in cuts and revenue in his budget proposal.

New Auto Jobs

The Detroit Three are poised to create new auto jobs for the first time in years, Tracy Samilton reports.  But, Sean McAlinden, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research, says auto manufacturing jobs will never recover to their former levels. McAlinden says the Detroit Three will likely hire 35,000 people in the next five years. That’s only about a third of the people who lost jobs with the auto companies in the past few years.

Budget Protests
7:50 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Protest expected today at state Capitol

Thousands of teachers, public employees and their supporters are expected to protest at the state Capitol today.

Organizers say a rally scheduled for Wednesday could be the biggest yet for the state's current budget cycle, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney says Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers are moving ahead too quickly with budget plans.

Unions are upset about proposals they say would undermine collective bargaining rights. Other groups are upset about proposed cuts to education funding and other programs.

Snyder has said the protests are part of the democratic process.

State Legislature
7:44 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Snyder, Republican leaders come to a tax deal

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate have come to a tentative tax deal
Ifmuth Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature have struck a tentative bargain on tax reform and the state budget. The plan delays an October 1st income tax rollback and includes a compromise on taxing pensions.

Michigan is one of just a handful of states that does not tax pensions. The deal between Governor Snyder and GOP leaders would shield people 67 years old and older from a pension tax. The governor originally wanted to tax all pensions, but he says compromises were necessary. Governor Snyder:

“So it’s a transitional plan that I think addresses the shorter-term requirements while being structurally sound for the long term.”

The plan also calls for scrapping the complicated and unpopular Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate income tax. That’s part of an overall tax cut for most businesses to spur job creation.

The plan would eliminate the tax break for working poor families, but offer some new tax relief for low-income homeowners and renters.

The plan must still be approved by the House and the Senate.

State Legislature
6:53 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Redistricting hearings begin

West Michigan had the most population growth in the last ten years, while the east side of the state saw the biggest regional population declines in the state. That’s according to state demographer Ken Darga. He testified before a state House panel on redrawing Michigan’s legislative and congressional districts.

Detroit is expected to lose a few seats in the Legislature after Michigan’s political maps are redrawn. The city saw a 25 percent decline in population since 2000. State demographer Ken Darga says it’s unclear right now how political clout will shift around the state:

“We’ll have to see how the numbers—how the districts are drawn. It certainly does though, it does increase the political clout of areas that are growing, and decrease the political clout of areas that are declining in population.”

The state’s political maps need to be redrawn before this fall. But some Democrats fear Republicans will force the redistricting process through this spring. They say they hope the process is open and fair, and they say the only way to do that is to take time to draw the new lines.

Auto/Economy
6:06 pm
Tue April 12, 2011

Detroit 3 ready to hire - but not at previous level

The Detroit Three are poised to create new auto jobs for the first time in years.  But an expert at the Center for Automotive Research warns that auto manufacturing jobs will never recover to their former levels. 

Ford, GM, and Chrysler closed a lot of plants over the past ten years, so many of the remaining plants are working at full capacity as new car sales improve. 

Sean McAlinden is an economist with the Center for Automotive Research .

"Almost the last layoff at GM and Ford have been recalled," says McAlinden, "so any additional production through the summer requires new hiring."

McAlinden says the Detroit Three will likely hire 35,000 people in the next five years.  

But that’s only about a third of the people who lost jobs with the companies in the past few years.   

McAlinden says auto jobs will plateau after 2015, which is why Michigan still needs to diversify its economy.

Read more
Politics
3:42 pm
Tue April 12, 2011

Govenor Snyder and Republican leadership getting closer on budget deal

Republican leaders in the state legislature are getting closer to a deal on the budget.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leadership in the State House and Senate appear to be close to a deal on the budget.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican state lawmakers are reporting "significant progress" on proposals related to business and pension taxes for the fiscal year starting in October...

Two people with knowledge of the talks tell The Associated Press that the proposals include many elements of Snyder's original business tax plan. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been finalized.

The Republican governor wants to replace the state's main business tax with a 6 percent corporate tax applied to corporations with shareholders.

The plan would include taxes on pensions and other retiree income but it would be modified from Snyder's original proposal. The new proposal calls for phasing in or scaling back the tax.

Some lawmakers have been loathe to accept any taxes on pensions, but it appears a plan to phase in a pension tax may be more palatable.

Peter Luke of Booth Newspapers reports on some of the details of the agreement:

Under the phased-in alternative, the status quo would apply to those 67 and up, whose pensions would continue to be tax exempt.

A middle group of retirees 60 to 66 would be subject to a pension tax, but the first $20,000 of pension income for single filers -  $40,000 for joint filers - would be tax exempt.

Those younger than 60 would pay tax on all their pension income.

An AARP spokesman said they remain opposed to a tax on pensions, whether its phased in or not.

A public announcement of the agreement is expected to come this afternoon.

Detroit
2:48 pm
Tue April 12, 2011

Locked out of Mayor Bing's budget presentation

Some people got locked out of today's Detroit City Council meeting, where Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was laying out a 5-year budget plan that called for cutting employee pension and health care costs.

Council security told citizens and several reporters that they couldn't come in because the hearing room was "filled to capacity."

That escalated into a dispute between security guards and the people who demanded their right to enter under the state's Open Meetings Act.

Detroit resident and volunteer organizer Felicia Sanders wanted to hear Bing's presentation.

"If you get up and you're willing to attend a meeting to fight and speak out for your city, you should be allowed to participate in the meeting."

Sanders and others questioned why the City Council didn't hold the hearing in a much larger public auditorium just across the hall.

Election 2012
1:40 pm
Tue April 12, 2011

Mitt Romney took interest in state elections

Mitt Romney announced the formation of a 2012 presidential exploratory committee on Monday
Gage Skidmore Flickr

Republican Mitt Romney announced yesterday that he has formed an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential election. Romney has close ties to Michigan as his father, George Romney, was Governor of the state in the 1960's.

Romney lost his first presidential bid in the 2008 GOP primary to Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Since '08, Romney has largely stayed in the national political realm with the release of his book,"No Apology: The Case for American Greatness," and speaking tour.

But, it hasn't just been national politics that Romney has been interested in since his loss in '08. The Detroit News reports that Romney's political action committee took quite an interest in statewide politics in the November 2010 election. From the Detroit News:

Though Romney is mostly known in Michigan through his father's enduring business and political legacy, his Free and Strong America political action committee took a keen interest in state races in 2010, contributing to Republicans Gov. Rick Snyder, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

His committee also poured money into the successful U.S. House campaigns of freshman Republican Reps. Tim Walberg, Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash and Dan Benishek, as well as the tea party-backed bid of Rob Steele, the Ann Arbor cardiologist who lost to Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn.

In a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, Romney led other possible GOP presidential contenders among Michigan Republican primary voters. From the PP Poll:

  • 26% Romney
  • 20% Huckabee
  • 15% Gingrich
  • 12% Palin
  • 7% Paul
  • 5% Daniels
  • 3% Pawlenty
  • 3% Walker

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