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Economy
11:18 am
Mon January 30, 2012

FTC settles consumer deception case with Michigan-based debt buyer Asset Acceptance

WASHINGTON (AP) - One of the nation's largest consumer debt buyers will pay a $2.5 million civil fine to settle deception allegations.

The Federal Trade Commission says Michigan-based Asset Acceptance agreed to the penalty and to changes in the way it collects debt.

The company buys unpaid debts from credit card companies, health clubs and others. The FTC alleged that Asset tried to collect debt in some cases that wasn't even owed. In other cases, the FTC says the company told consumers they owed a debt that may have been too old to collect because it was past the statute of limitations.

As part of the proposed settlement, Asset Acceptance will have to tell consumers that their debt may be too old to be legally enforceable and that it won't sue to collect.

Auto/Economy
10:00 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Government steps up Jeep Liberty air bag probe

DETROIT (AP) - Federal safety regulators have stepped up their investigation into Jeep Liberty air bags after 50 people reported they were hurt when the air bags inflated without a crash happening.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started investigating Liberty SUVs from the 2002 and 2003 model years in September. It was upgraded to a full engineering analysis last week.

Documents on the agency website say Chrysler and regulators have gotten 87 complaints of air bags going off by surprise. Nearly 387,000 vehicles are under investigation.

Drivers reported burns, cuts and bruises.

Safety regulators say the air bag computer may fail due to an electrical voltage spike.

The company says no incidents have happened in vehicles made after March 19, 2003. But regulators say Chrysler can't explain that.

Politics
6:28 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Poll: Michigan voters split on emergency managers

A poll says voters are about evenly divided over whether Michigan should keep or repeal its new law extending the use of state-appointed emergency managers for communities and school districts facing financial problems.

The poll released Sunday shows 45 percent of the Michigan voters questioned say they would vote to repeal the new law, while 42 percent would vote to keep it.

The state is considering whether to name an emergency financial manager for Detroit. Fifty percent of those questioned say Michigan should negotiate with Detroit officials, while 31 percent say it should appoint a manager.

Lansing-based EPIC-MRA polled 600 likely voters by phone Jan. 21-25 for the Detroit Free Press  and WXYZ-TV. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Economy
2:57 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Veterans business conference set for Detroit

DETROIT (AP) - A Veterans Affairs conference this summer in Detroit is expected to bring $3 million of spending to the area.

The National Veterans Small Business Conference will be held June 25-29 at Cobo Center. Organizers say more than 6,000 veterans, business owners and federal employees are expected to attend.

Nearly 5,000 people attended the conference last year in New Orleans.

Mayor Dave Bing and Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff John Gingrich announced the conference  Wednesday. Gingrich says the conference and a hiring fair "will provide veterans with on-the-spot job opportunities and interviews" in the public and private sectors.

A partnership of federal agencies and private industry attracted more than 4,100 veterans and resulted in over 2,600 on-the-spot interviews and more than 500 tentative job offers earlier this month in Washington D.C.

Politics
11:05 am
Wed January 25, 2012

Michigan's Attorney General: Use state surplus to hire 1,000 officers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Attorney General Bill Schuette wants Michigan to use part of its expected state government budget surplus to hire at least 1,000 law enforcement officers.

The Republican says that communities across the state need more police staffing. He was holding an event Wednesday in Lansing to promote the idea.

The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards says the state has lost more than 3,000 law enforcement positions since 2001.

State budget officials say there's an unanticipated surplus of $457 million left over from the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

There will be competition for the money. Democrats want the cash to offset some recent cuts to public education funding, while Republicans say much of it should be put in savings or used to pay off long-term financial obligations.

Detroit Finances
7:53 am
Wed January 25, 2012

Report: Detroit could lose $8.5M in income tax

Ifmuth Flickr

A published report says state law requires the cash-strapped city of Detroit to cut its income tax rates starting July 1 unless the Legislature steps in.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday the requirement is from a 1998 law that was part of a deal to preserve a state revenue-sharing payment and would total about $8.5 million.

The newspaper cited an analysis from the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Detroit sought a waiver from a state administrative board in December but was denied. Mayor Dave Bing says he will seek legislative help again because the city needs to keep "every
dollar" it can get.

A state-appointed review team is working to determine whether a financial emergency exists in Detroit, a step that could lead to an emergency manager.

Lansing
6:45 am
Mon January 23, 2012

Big money and jobs tied to proposed Lansing casino

Plans call for a $245 million American Indian casino in downtown Lansing that backers say could create about 2,200 jobs.

The Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report that the Kewadin casino would be built near the Lansing Center and owned by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Mayor Virg Bernero says it would improve the viability of the convention center and fund scholarships for Lansing public school students. The 125,000-square-foot facility would offer up to 3,000 slot machines and 48 gambling tables.

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Politics
4:17 pm
Sat January 21, 2012

Roads and motorists' money at stake in Michigan

Flickr user fellowship of the rich

A package of bills soon to be introduced in the Michigan Legislature is expected to propose higher vehicle registration fees and tax changes to raise more money for road repairs. The bipartisan bills will have support from Republican Governor Rick Snyder. He says Michigan is under-investing in its roads to the tune of $1.4 billion a year.
    

Snyder says it would make more financial sense to start addressing the problem now. The repair bill will be even worse the longer Michigan waits to address the problem.
    

Auto/Economy
6:51 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Federal investigation into Chevy Volt fire danger ends

The Chevy Volt
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The government ended its safety investigation into the Chevrolet Volt on Friday after concluding that the Volt and other electric cars don't pose a greater fire risk than gasoline-powered cars.

The agency began studying the Volt last June after a fire broke out in one of the cars three weeks after it was crashed as part of safety testing. Two other fires occurred later related to separate safety tests, and NHTSA opened an official investigation into the vehicle on Nov. 25.

The agency and General Motors Co. know of no fires in real-world crashes.

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Politics
10:44 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Governor Snyder gives State of the State, business edition

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Rick Snyder for Michigan Facebook

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is offering a business-focused version of his State of the State address to a commerce-friendly crowd.

The Republican told business leaders Friday at a Detroit Regional Chamber-hosted event that the state made great progress last year. He says more must be done to fix transportation and more should be invested in fixing roads and bridges.

His remarks come two days after his State of the State speech.

The former businessman has praised business for helping improve Michigan's economy last year by adding 80,000 jobs. That helped push the unemployment rate to about 2 percentage points lower than when he took office last year.

He says the cost of doing business has been lowered, encouraging businesses. Democratic lawmakers say businesses have been helped at the workers' expense.

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Politics
12:27 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Michigan state workers getting 3 percent health fee returned

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Nearly 50,000 state workers are getting refunds on the 3 percent they've been paying for a year toward retiree health care costs.

State budget director John Nixon estimates a worker making $50,000 a year will get back about $1,500.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed bills last month agreeing to refund the money after courts ruled the fee unconstitutional. The money was being returned Thursday.

Workers can choose to receive the refunds in their paychecks or as a deposit into their 401(k) or 457 retirement accounts.

A similar 3 percent contribution being paid by teachers toward their retiree health care costs is not being refunded.

State employee unions had contested the fee, saying only the Civil Service Commission could impose it. Unionized and nonunionized workers will receive the refund.

Auto/Economy
11:59 am
Thu January 19, 2012

Ford salaried workers to get raises, bonuses

Marcus Wong creative commons

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Ford is giving pay raises and bonuses to about 20,000 white-collar workers, mainly in the U.S. and Canada.

Letters sent to workers last week say they'll get 2.7 percent raises on April 1. They'll also get bonuses based on performance.

The raises are a sign that Ford is confident in its turnaround and in the U.S. economy. Ford Motor Co. made $6.6 billion in the first three quarters of last year. It reports fourth-quarter earnings this month. The company's U.S. sales rose 11 percent last year.

Spokeswoman Marcey Evans says the raises are needed to keep pay competitive with other Fortune 100 companies.

Salaried workers last got raises in 2010. Only performance bonuses were given in 2011.

Ford has made a huge turnaround since 2006, when it lost $12.6 billion.

Politics
8:39 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

LISTEN: 2012 State of State address

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

 

From the Associated Press:

An upbeat Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan now is adding jobs and living within its means and is poised for an even better year ahead if lawmakers approve new projects boosting the economy such as a bridge linking Detroit and Canada.

Snyder made the comments during his second State of the State address Wednesday at the Capitol.

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Politics
4:40 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

UM grad student claims lost job over union effort

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008. Many University administrators and deans maintain these research assistants are not "employees."
UM GEO

Update 4:26 p.m.

Jennifer Dibbern, the former University of Michigan graduate student, spoke at a press conference this afternoon on U of M's north campus.

Dibbern worked as a graduate student research assistant while pursuing her doctoral degree in Materials Science and Engineering at the U of M.  She was also involved in the effort to form a union for research assistants.

Dibbern claims her advisor pulled Dibbern’s funding and kicked her out of the program because of her union activities:

"I think my story is one clear reason why we as research assistants need a union," says Dibbern. "I would really hope that me being able to come forward and talk with you all prevents this from happening to any other person, any other research assistant at this university."

There is an ongoing dispute over whether graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) have the right to organize. The U of M Board of Regents last May recognized RAs as public employees who have the right to vote to decide for themselves whether they want to form a union. That's in contrast to a 1981 decision by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC). GEO, the graduate employees union, is seeking to get that MERC ruling overturned. Trial hearing dates are set for Feb. 1-3, 2012.

Dibbern says she came to U of M because of its reputation as an excellent research institution, and she had hopes she'd get her doctorate degree. But she says because of the decision of her advisor, professor Rachel Goldman, she's no longer able to do that.

"My career path in the field that I’ve chosen and all the work that I’ve put into it has been lost; my career’s been ruined."

Rick Fitzgerald, a public relations official with the University of Michigan, was also at the press conference. He says Dibbern's case is "an academic matter" and by law can’t be discussed publicly. He says Dibbern’s claim that she was terminated is not true.

Dibbern claims she received positive feedback on her academic performance up until a few weeks before she was terminated.

Professor Rachel Goldman could not be reached for comment.

9:56 a.m.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - A University of Michigan graduate student claims she lost her job after supporting efforts to unionize graduate student research assistants.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that Jennifer Dibbern lost her research funding and was kicked out of her academic program. She tells the newspaper she wants to highlight a need to protect research assistants.

School spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement that "we believe certain of the union's factual claims are unfounded." He said the issue is an academic matter that the school is prohibited from discussing publicly.

Dibbern's work was in the College of Engineering.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission in August affirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together. There's an ongoing dispute about whether that should be
overturned.

Politics
3:22 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Michigan Governor Snyder to hold "online town hall" Thursday

A day after Governor Snyder delivers his "State of the State" address, he plans to go live on the web with an "online town hall." The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday. Details can be found on the Governor's Facebook page.
"Rick Snyder for Michigan" Facebook Page

Governor Rick Snyder plans to hold an "online town hall" with Michigan residents a day after giving his second State of the State address.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday.

It will be streamed live on Facebook on the governor’s Rick for Michigan page.

Residents can submit questions in advance at the state website.

They can also post questions on the governor’s Facebook wall or send a message on Twitter to the governor at @onetoughnerd using the hash tag, #AskGovSnyder.

Questions also can be submitted through Facebook and Twitter once the town hall meeting has started.

Snyder will deliver his State of the State address to lawmakers, top administration officials and others at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Capitol.

Environment
12:49 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Feds delay report on Kalamazoo oil spill

USEPA

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - The release of a federal report detailing the cause of a 2010 pipeline rupture that spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil in southern Michigan has been delayed.

The Kalamazoo Gazette says  the report is expected to be released this fall, about six months later than expected. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the delay to other investigations into separate pipeline incidents.

The report also is expected to offer future safety recommendations for the pipeline industry.

The July 2010 spill from Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.'s pipeline sent oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge says it will be able to finish its internal investigation after the report is released.

Cleanup efforts continue this year. The pipeline runs from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

Politics
1:28 pm
Sun January 15, 2012

Sharpton will protest takeover law at Snyder's house

The Reverend Al Sharpton in Washington D.C.
Flickr/theqspeaks

The Reverend Al Sharpton and others say they plan a demonstration Monday outside the home of Governor Rick
Snyder to protest a law that makes it easier for Michigan to take over financially struggling communities and school districts.

Organizers say the protest will happen on Martin Luther King Day at Snyder's home in Washtenaw County's Superior Township, near Ann Arbor.

Sharpton and other ministers and civil rights activists will participate. Organizers say the law seems to target black communities. Snyder has said the law isn't racially motivated.

Emergency managers are in place in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint and Detroit schools. Detroit's finances are under a review that could bring the city under state financial control as well.

Politics
1:19 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Michigan Tea partiers try to unite behind 1 Senate entrant

Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra
Republican Conference / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Many of Michigan's tea party activists are trying to coalesce behind one of the eight Republicans running for the chance to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

But former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra fears the setup favors one of his rivals and plans to skip a Saturday Senate debate with tea partiers at Central Michigan University. Five of the GOP hopefuls are participating in the event.

The internal politics could hurt the GOP's chances of denying Stabenow a third term.

Hoekstra has come in for criticism from some tea party groups who say he's not paying enough attention to them. Hoekstra's campaign says he's meeting with many tea party groups.

It's unclear if the tea partiers will be able to unite behind one candidate. Some groups aren't attending Saturday's debate.

Winter Weather
6:26 am
Fri January 13, 2012

Storm warnings in effect in Mich. as snow falls

LisaW123 Flickr

A winter storm brought at least 7 inches of snow to parts of Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula and could bring more than a foot to parts of the Upper Peninsula.

The National Weather Service says winter storm warnings were in effect Friday for much of the western Lower Peninsula along Lake Michigan and the northwestern Upper Peninsula along Lake Superior.

The storm moved in Thursday. Forecasters say 1 to 3 inches could fall Friday in areas including Detroit.

The weather service says areas around Grayling and Houghton Lake reported 7 inches by Friday morning, while snow totals in other parts of the northern Lower Peninsula ranged from 3 to 6 inches.

In West Michigan, 2 to 6 inches fell. Ironwood in the northwestern Upper Peninsula got at least 8 inches.

State Legislature
6:44 am
Thu January 12, 2012

Michigan Democrats developing college grant plan

Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer
Photo courtesy of Senator Whitmer's office

A developing proposal from Senate Democrats would allow Michigan high school graduates to get grants of up to roughly $9,500 a year for attending college by ending some tax credits and other revenue changes.

The grants could be used to pay tuition or associated costs for attending public universities and community colleges in the state.

The plan would be paid for by closing what Democrats call "tax loopholes" and ending some tax credits, collecting sales tax from out-of-state Internet retailers and saving money on state contracts.

Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it's a bold step needed to make Michigan more prosperous and attractive to businesses.

The proposal likely would face stiff opposition in the Republican-dominated Legislature, particularly at a time of tight state budgets.

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