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Economy
12:53 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

West Michigan economy in the middle of “significant turnaround”

GVSU economist Hari Singh tells business leaders "last year there was a glimmer of hope, today the sun is rising"
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The annual West Michigan Economic forecast was held today in Grand Rapids. Hari Singh is an economist at Grand Valley State University. He expects employment will increase 2% in the region this year .

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News Roundup
9:17 am
Wed January 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

SOS Tonight

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature this evening in Lansing. Though details of the speech haven’t been released we do know it’s expected to last about 40 minutes and that Snyder doesn’t plan to read from prepared text. Instead, Snyder will go by a series of notes. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response. You can hear live coverage of the address, the Democratic response, and analysis of the evening beginning at 7 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Snyder Meets with MEA

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union. The union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools, Laura Weber reports. Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure but that now is not the time to expand the state’s sales tax. Iris Salters, the Director of the MEA teachers union, said she was glad the new Governor met with her group.

Vote on Health Care Law

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a  repeal of the new health care law later today. It’s expected that the Republican-led House will vote to repeal the bill but, even if that does happen, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate is not expected to take it up in their chamber. Michigan's Attorney General has joined many other states arguing that parts of the new health care law are unconstitutional. So far, one federal court in Michigan ruled in favor of the law, while another federal court in Virginia ruled against it, Mark Brush reports.

Investigative
8:25 am
Wed January 19, 2011

Medicaid-welfare cuts could cost Michigan

A snapshot of Michigan's Assistance Application.
MDHS

There are close to 10-million people in Michigan.  And almost three-million are now receiving some kind of state assistance.  Half of them are children.

“A lot of them are my next-door neighbors.  It’s bad in Michigan right now.  And people are in a position where they’ve never been," says Becky Clark, who works with the Michigan Department of Human Services in Lenawee County.

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Governor Snyder
7:31 am
Wed January 19, 2011

New poll shows favorable opinion of Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

A new poll shows 59 percent of likely Michigan voters hold a favorable opinion of Governor Rick Snyder. The poll was released on the eve of Snyder's first State of the State address.

Nine percent of likely voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of the new governor. 

When asked, 41 percent of respondents said they think Michigan is not headed in the right direction, 39 percent said it is.

The results of the poll have a margin of sampling area of four percentage points.

Education
1:00 am
Wed January 19, 2011

Grand Rapids Public Schools discuss public comment policy

Board member Maureen Slade (middle) gestures at security guards at the meeting, "I don't think we have anything to fear from our public."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is revising how it lets people comment at school board meetings. The district has a unique policy (see page 51-54). A Grand Rapids school board member says he couldn’t find any other district in Michigan with a similar provision.

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Education
6:06 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Wayne State appoints Allan Gilmour as 11th President

Allan Gilmour
Wayne State University

The Wayne State University Board of Governors has named Allan Gilmour its 11th President.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Activists speak out in favor of health care law

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the "Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Act" this week.

In what's been called a symbolic move, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a repeal of the new health care law this week (maybe tomorrow).

It's symbolic because the law isn't likely to be repealed. A vote isn't expected to come up in the Senate, and even if a repeal bill DID pass the Senate, President Obama would more than likely veto it.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, spoke with supporters of the federal health care law.

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Education
5:09 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Teachers union present a plan to Governor Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder met with the state’s largest teachers union today to talk about funding and standards for the state's public school system.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, reports the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools.

Weber reports that Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure, but says now is not the time to expand the sales tax.

Even so, Iris Salters, the director of the MEA teachers union, said she's glad the new Governor was willing to meet with them:

"We’re encouraged by the governor’s willingness to garner a lot of input from people who not only work within the education system, but those who are consumers of the education system. And that’s got to be good."

Another reform being considered by the Michigan legislature is to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state, something the MEA opposes. Doug Pratt, with the MEA, told MPRN's Laura Weber that he is concerned about the push to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state:

"It is a false premise that has proven not to work in other places, it is wrong for this state. And we are heartened by the governor’s comments as well as comments from others in the business community that now is not the time to take such an action."

Science/Medicine
3:57 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

U of M opens new business incubator in old Pfizer facility

U of M's new venture accelerator will connect startups with talent and funding
Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

A new type of incubator is open for business at the University of Michigan. It’s called a “venture accelerator,” and it’s located in the  sprawling research complex Pfizer built before it left Michigan a few years ago.

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Politics
3:41 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Suburbs seek more control over Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept.

An interceptor sewer line north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves more than just the City of Detroit.

It's water and sewer lines stretch beyond the city's boundaries and into the surrounding suburbs and communities.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Rep. Kurt Heise will introduce a bill that will give the suburbs more say in how the department is managed. From the article:

Under the proposal, the city would retain ownership of the 1,075-square-mile system, but the 126 communities and 4 million people who use its water and sewage services would be represented by a regional authority that manages contracts, water rates and future projects.

Members of Detroit City Council are reportedly in Lansing today lobbying against the bill. Council President, Charles Pugh, is quoted as saying:

"We are willing to have a regional discussion, but when the discussion is over, Detroit will still own and control the system. We built out the system, and we have a right to maintain control of it. Anything less than that is illegal."

You can see how far Detroit's sewer and water lines stretch into outlying communities on the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's page.

Economy
2:42 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Michigan manufacturers call for tax cuts

You don't see these being built anymore. A model of an assembly line in the Detroit History Museum.
flickr - user harry_nl

The Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) says Michigan is getting it's "butt kicked" when it comes to taxes.

In the Detroit Free Press, the MMA's vice president for government affairs, Mike Johnston, was quoted when talking about personal property taxes on equipment.

From the article:

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Environment
1:54 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Energy efficiency makeovers for Michigan neighborhoods

A house set up with a blower door test. Energy auditors use this device to find out where the leaks are in your home.
Photo by Flickr user Brandon Stafford

Many homeowners just can’t afford the upfront investment to make their homes more energy efficient. And many programs meant to defray some of that cost haven’t gotten much traction with consumers.

But Sarah Cwiek reports the federal government’s “BetterBuildings” program is trying to change that. It’s just now getting off the ground in Michigan with money from the 2009 stimulus package.

Sarah visited Chris Matus at his Ferndale home on the day he was getting an energy audit from Well Home's Kent Trobaugh.

The guys set up something called a blower door test to find out where the leaks were in Matus' home.  Then they roamed the house with an infrared camera.  The screen shows a landscape of blurred colors: gold is heat, purple is cold. Matus says the whole exercise reminds him of a certain movie from the 1980s.

“It feels like we’re Ghostbusting.”

Matus is getting about a thousand dollars worth of work done on his house today. But it only costs him 50. That’s because he’s taking advantage of the U.S. Department of Energy’s stimulus-funded BetterBuildings program. Michigan got 30-million dollars—the second-biggest chunk of any state.

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Commentary
1:17 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

State of the State: A History

Tomorrow Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first state of the state speech to a joint session of the legislature and a statewide television audience. I’ve seen a lot of these speeches, and believe this may be the most eagerly anticipated one ever.

Michigan is stuck in twin enormous economic crises, one affecting state government, which has a perennial massive deficit, and the other affecting hundreds of thousands without jobs.

Governor Snyder is brand new, and we are still getting to know him. We want to have a better sense of who he is, and, especially,  how he plans to get us out of the mess we’re in.

But all this got me wondering: Who was the first governor ever to give a state-of-the state speech?  The first I remember was Governor Milliken, but how far back did the tradition go before him?

I knew that in the old days, governors just sent an annual written message to the legislature. U.S. Presidents used to do the same, until Woodrow Wilson started the tradition of showing up at the capitol and delivering a speech in person.

Since then, almost every president has done so. But who was the first governor to do so? I asked Bill Ballenger, the publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. “Wow,” he said. “I don’t know.”

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State of the State
12:23 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

AP: No text copy of Gov. Snyder's State of the State speech

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first inaugural address in Lansing, MI
Corvair Owner Flickr

What's the "State of the State"?

We'll all find out what the new governor thinks tomorrow night, but not before.

The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address Wednesday, but he won't be putting out a written copy of the speech. His spokesman says the new Republican governor doesn't tend to work off a prepared text, so there's no written copy to release. The governor's office also doesn't expect to provide a transcript of the 7 p.m. speech immediately after Snyder delivers it at the Capitol. The talk will focus on economic development and job creation and is expected to be about 40 minutes long. It will be broadcast live statewide. Former Govs. Jennifer Granholm and John Engler usually released embargoed copies of their remarks before their State of the State speeches. Their speeches also were posted online after they spoke.

You can hear a live-broadcast of tomorrow night's "State of the State" on Michigan Radio starting at 7 p.m.

Pay close attention!

Science/Medicine
11:36 am
Tue January 18, 2011

MSU's new accelerator attracting talent and jobs

A group touring the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at MSU.
MSU - NSCL

We hear a lot of talk about people and talent leaving the state.

Today, a story about people and talent coming to the state.

Lorri Higgins writes in today's Detroit Free Press about Michigan State University's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

Today, the lab has two superconducting cyclotron accelerators that attract a lot of nuclear physicists to the program. And construction on a new accelerator will begin in a couple of years.

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News Roundup
8:49 am
Tue January 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

A Trashy Story

Senator Debbie Stabenow announced yesterday that Michigan is no longer receiving Ontario’s municipal trash. The Democratic senator credited an agreement that she and Senator Carl Levin made with Ontario officials in 2006. However, Canadian garbage could still be shipped into the state as the agreement doesn’t apply to non-municipal trash. As Sarah Cwiek reports, commercial and industrial waste accounts for about 60-percent of the trash that's shipped from Canada to Michigan.

NAIAS Sees Increase in Visitors

Attendance is up at the North American International Auto Show so far this year, the Detroit Free Press reports. The Freep says:

Attendance Monday was 64,520, up from 61,112 from the same day last year, said NAIAS spokesman Sam Locricchio. On opening day Saturday, 86,622 attended the show, compared with 83,715 on the opening Saturday last year, he said. Sunday's attendance was 99,111 -- up from 96,623 for the opening Sunday in 2010, he said.

DSO, Management Back to Bargaining Table

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians and the DSO’s management are headed back into negotiations. The players have been on strike since Oct. 4th. Both sides have submitted new proposals that revolve around a $36 million compensation package, Jennifer Guerra reports. Neither side has publicly commented on the new proposals. The DSO reported an $8.8 million budget deficit for the 2010 fiscal year.

Ice, Sleet, and Snow (Oh, My)

Drivers should prepare for an icy commute this morning across the state. Forecasters are predicting rain, freezing rain and snowfall in many parts of west, mid, and southeast Michigan.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. today for much of west and mid-Michigan and until noon for parts of the southeast. Temps are expected to be in the low to mid 30s.

Winter Weather
7:26 am
Tue January 18, 2011

Prepare for an icy commute around the state today

Prepare for slick roads around the state this morning
LisaW123 Flickr

If you're commuting this morning, expect slick roads across the state. This morning we'll see a mix of rain, freezing rain and sleet.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. today for much of west and mid-Michigan and until noon for parts of the southeast.

Today: Snow in west Michigan. Snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain in mid and southeast Michigan. Highs in the low to mid 30s.

Tonight: Cloudy, a slight chance of snow in Holland and southeast Michigan. Lows between zero and 10 degrees.

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy with a bit of sun in southeast Michigan. Scattered light snow in west and mid-michigan. Highs around 20.

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Detroit Auto Show
6:59 am
Tue January 18, 2011

Attendance up at the Detroit Auto Show

Attendence is up at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this year
Jdpowers65 Flickr

Attendance is up at the North American International Auto Show so far this year, the Detroit Free Press reports. The Freep says:

Attendance Monday was 64,520, up from 61,112 from the same day last year, said NAIAS spokesman Sam Locricchio. On opening day Saturday, 86,622 attended the show, compared with 83,715 on the opening Saturday last year, he said. Sunday's attendance was 99,111 -- up from 96,623 for the opening Sunday in 2010, he said.

The show, at Detroit's Cobo Center, is open until Sunday.

State Legislature
6:46 am
Tue January 18, 2011

Bill to repeal Driver Responsibility Fee is expected this week

Michigan's Captiol Building, Lansing, MI
Terry Johnston Flickr

A bill that would repeal Michigan's unpopular Driver Responsibility Fee is expected to be introduced in the state Senate this week, Laura Weber Reports. The annual fee goes to Michigan drivers who have seven or more points on their license. A repeal of the fee was approved by the state House last year but it stalled in the state Senate.

Democratic state Senator Bert Johnson says most lawmakers want to get rid of the fee, but don’t want to lose the money it brings in to the state, Weber reports.

Environment
6:36 am
Tue January 18, 2011

Ontario cities no longer sending garbage to Michigan

Ontario cities are no longer sending their municipal waste to Michigan
Nio_nl Flickr

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow hailed what she called a "major milestone" in the fight to stop Canadian trash shipments to Michigan. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek was at a press conference that the Senator held yesterday in Detroit. Cwiek sent this report:

Michigan charges only 21 cents a ton to dump trash in landfills. That's far less than other Great Lakes states.

As a result, Ontario, as well as some U.S. states, export some of their trash to Michigan. But, Stabenow says as of January first, Ontario cities are no longer shipping their municipal waste. She credits a voluntary agreement she and Senator Carl Levin reached with Ontario officials in 2006.

But, Stabenow says that's not the end of the story because the agreement doesn't apply to non-municipal trash.

Commercial and industrial waste accounts for about 60-percent of the trash that's shipped from Canada to Michigan.

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