Zoe Clark

Reporter/Producer

Zoe Clark is a producer as well as the co-host of the Friday afternoon segment It's Just Politics on Michigan Radio. She produces Morning Edition, Jack Lessenberry’s daily essays, and Michigan Radio’s local interviews, including those by All Things Considered host Jennifer White and Morning Edition host Christina Shockley. She is also a substitute on-air host. She has been at Michigan Radio since 2006.

Zoe began her collegiate studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She holds degrees in Communication Studies and Political Science from the University of Michigan and lives in Ann Arbor, where she was born and raised.

Email: zoeclark@umich.edu

Twitter: @ZoeMelina

Pages

News Roundup
7:35 am
Mon August 13, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, August 13th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Nuclear Power Plant Shut Down

A new water leak is forcing operators of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Southwest Michigan to shut it down. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports:

This is the second time this summer the plant has had to shut down for repairs.  The plant shut down to refuel in April, which is normal. But then a water leak caused the plant to shut back down just a few weeks later. Those repairs took a month and in mid-July the plant returned to service. But that’s when a Palisades spokesman says they discovered a different water leak – this time in the building that holds the nuclear reactor. The leak got as bad at 18 gallons an hour before operators shut it back down again this weekend.  The spokesman says there has been “no release of radioactivity in the environment.” The plant is under more scrutiny because it has one of the worst safety ratings in the country.

Voting Citizens

Michigan’s Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says she’s asked the federal government to help her purge the state’s voter rolls of non-citizens. “She says there could be a lot of non-citizens registered to vote in the state.That's because for about 3 decades, the federal government required secretaries of state to register people without asking if they were citizens. Johnson says the federal government is helping Colorado and Florida boot non-citizens off its rolls, and she hopes Michigan will be next in line,” Tracy Samilton reports.

EM for Allen Park?

The team responsible for reviewing Allen Park's finances says Gov. Snyder should appoint an emergency manager to run the city southwest of Detroit, the Associated Press reports. “The review team cited the city's deficit, $1 million in delinquent vendor payments, delayed pension payments and significant cash flow shortages. The city also had not filed an approved deficit-elimination plan for the 2011 fiscal year. The review team also determined City Council is "manifestly dysfunctional." Spokeswoman Sara Wurfel says Snyder has 30 days to make a decision,” the AP  reports.

Politics
2:53 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Can Democrats win back the state House in November?

We are now three days out from Tuesday’s Primary where there was a lot of attention paid to the state’s Republican Senate primary and various U.S. Congressional races. So, we thought it was time to give state lawmakers and their races a little love.

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta, August 10th, 2012

Primarily Speaking

In just about two thirds of these local races the primary pretty much determined who the winner will be in November. Because of the way the lines are drawn, most districts are decidedly Republican or Democratic. So, the primary settles the question three months before the general election.

That leaves just about a third of the races left; races that are really fought between a Republican and a Democrat… where incumbency, the strength of the national and statewide tickets and fights over issues and policy matter.

Can Democrats Win Back the State House?

Control of the state House is in play this year. In 2010, largely on the strength of a surge nationwide for Republicans, the GOP took a commanding majority – 64 to 46 – in the state House.  Out of 110 seats, Democrats need to turn at least 10 of them to win back control. That’s a lot. But we’ve seen dramatic swings in recent House elections. So, Democrats see it as tough, but do-able.

In the Thumb, Democrats lost the Republican primary. That’s because incumbent Republican Kurt Damrow ran into some problems and he had become such a liability that his local Republican Party kicked him out. Former Democratic Representative Terry Brown won’t have as easy a time against Dan Grimshaw.

In Grand Rapids, Democrats won the Republican primary when the badly damaged Roy Schmidt barely won re-nomination over a write-in opponent, but only on the strength of absentee ballots cast before the scandal over how he switched parties and tried to rig his own re-election by recruiting a fake Democrat broke into the news. Political-newcomer Winnie Brinks is the Democrat on the ballot. And, Schmidt’s name is toxic. Candidates typically love high name identification, but not this kind.

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It's Just Politics
3:53 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Write-ins, shenanigans and predictions (Oh my!): Primary Day in Michigan

Primary Day is Tuesday, August 7th in Michigan
Lower Community College Flickr

Tuesday is Primary Day in Michigan and it’s probably fair to say that this could be called the summer of the write-in candidate. There’s an unusually high number of people trying to win various primary races across the state as write-in candidates.

These are the candidates that for one reason or another didn’t file for the primary ballot but are hoping to still win by having voters write in their names on the August 7th ballot.

Write-ins Galore

In West Michigan, a Democrat on the Muskegon City Commission wants to make sure Republican U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga doesn’t go unchallenged in November. In the 76th state House District in Grand Rapids, Winnie Brinks is running to be the Democrat to fill an empty spot on the November ballot to face the winner of that district’s Republican primary. State Representative Roy Schmidt is the only Republican on the primary ballot after jumping parties and trying –with the help of state House Speaker Jase Bolger – to engineer a shady arrangement to avoid a serious November election challenge. But that scandal has compelled another Republican – Bing Goei to launch a write-in challenge.

A write-in candidate like Bing Goei has the challenge of getting voters to do something they’re not used to doing: Marking a box with a blank next to it and then filling in the name. And Goei has to get more Republicans to check that box and write his name than people who simply mark the ballot by Roy Schmidt’s name.

Democrat Winnie Brinks does not have that problem. She just has to get enough people to write her in to qualify for the November election – five percent of whatever the top of the ticket gets.

But that is a problem for Nancy Cassis, the former state Senator who is trying to notch a write-in victory in the 11th Congressional District Republican primary over tea party opponent Kerry Bentovolio, who is on the ballot.

This is the district – of course – from which Thaddeus McCotter resigned. Cassis has talked about handing out wristbands with her name on them for people to wear into the polls. Ostensibly so that they know HOW to actually spell her name.  But, there’s some question as to whether that would violate election laws on bringing campaign materials into a polling place.

Political Shenanigans

And, it seems, it wouldn’t be a primary without those good ole pre-Election Day shenanigans. You know how you get those annoying campaign calls – usually it seems right when you’re in the middle of dinner – Well, a call was sent out endorsing Republican Senate candidate Clark Durant. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything too wrong with that; robo-calls are pretty normal in the current political environment. The problem however, with these calls was that they were made at midnight.

It’s probably safe to assume that if you’re a voter and you’re getting a political call at midnight you’re probably not too happy. In fact, it might just leave you with a negative impression of the candidate. Durant’s campaign says these calls endorsing Durant’s campaign were not from their super PAC, so the thought is that maybe a different campaign or, possibly, Democrats were up to no good.

In Ingham County there have been reports of anonymous push polls in a state House Democratic primary. Push-polls are phone calls where a voter is asked a question that isn’t really a question. Something like, “if you knew that candidate X kicked puppies, would that make you more likely or less likely to support him?” In this case, Democrat Walt Sorg says the push poll makes it sound like he wants to raise taxes to build electric car charging stations.

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It's Just Politics
2:57 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Roy Schmidt goes from political prize to the GOP’s white elephant

Every Friday Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta take an inside look at state politics

There was a continued drip, drip, drip of new details to emerge in the state Representative Roy Schmidt ballot scandal. The latest: a new set of text messages obtained by The Detroit Free Press and MLive.com from the Kent County prosecutor’s office.

"Dirty as hell"

One text is from Schmidt’s nephew to Matt Mozjak , the patsy who Schmidt recruited to appear on the ballot as a sham Democrat to ensure that he wouldn't have a real Democratic opponent once he made his jump to the Republican Party as a part of a scheme hatched with state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

In one of the texts, Schmidt’s nephew writes to Mozcak, “obviously my uncle is dirty as hell” and, “he’s got a lot of powerful [people] behind him.”

And it just keeps piling up on Schmidt.  The first state House Republican – Representative Ken Yonker, also from the Grand Rapids area – has endorsed a write-in opponent in the Republican primary. Schmidt has gone from a trophy for the House Republicans to a white elephant.

None of which, of course, is good news for House Speaker Jase Bolger, who continues to resist calls to step down as the top dog in the House. The pressure, however, has not reached anything close to critical mass.

Save me... from myself

So, what does a politician do when he's been caught in a political scandal? Well, how about introducing some legislation? House Republicans have drafted new election  reform bills. But Democrats are calling it hypocritical. “I find it fascinating that the speaker of the House is issuing press releases about election reforms because he’s the one who got caught," said Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum.

Election reform: The issue du jour

Now, Democrats have their own elections package and they say they’re coming up with more.  It appears the stage is set for a whole lot of election reform one-upsmanship in the state House. Bolger says only serious election reforms will be considered - he wants nothing that’s about scoring political points. But, Democrats say Republicans don’t have credibility on this issue.

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Newsmaker Interviews
4:58 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Michigan House Democrats call for action on health care exchange

Kate Segal is State Representative for the 62nd House District.
Michigan House Democrats

Since most of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Michigan has been facing the ongoing of issue of implementing a Michigan health care exchange.

While Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has long called for the state to move ahead with the exchanges, many Republicans in the legislature are pushing back.

There is also a call from Republican members of the legislature and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, to wait until after the election in November to move forward.

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It's Just Politics
4:11 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

Damning report, text messages lead to political embarrassment for GOP lawmakers

Republican Representative Roy Schmidt and Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger found themselves in hot water this week after text messages between the two were revealed.

State Representative Roy Schmidt was back in the headlines this week; tagged in a prosecutor’s report as a liar and a cheat – but not a lawbreaker – for his last-minute party switch from Democrat to Republican and scheme to pay a patsy to be the fake Democrat on the ballot against him. It was just two short months ago that Schmidt was welcomed to the House Republican caucus with cheers and applause when he announced his party-switch. State House Speaker Jase Bolger was credited with engineering the political coup of the year. In fact, it was the first party switch by a sitting Michigan lawmaker in two decades. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t such a well-planned operation.

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta, July 20, 2012

A Damning Report

This week, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth issued an eight-page report outlining the plot between Bolger and Schmidt. The report shows not only a plot for Schmidt to switch parties so late in the game that Democrats would not have time to put one of their own on the ballot, but also to pay one Matt Mojzak, a 22-year-old Schmidt-family friend, to be his fake Democratic opponent. Mojzak’s fee was to be $450. It was then upped to a thousand dollars as he started to get cold feet. Checks were cut from Schmidt’s campaign fund, but never handed over as Mojzak said he wanted nothing more to do with Schmidt or the scheme.

The Republican prosecutor said Schmidt and Bolger tried to undermine the integrity of the election and that it was shameful but, not illegal. Apparently, paying someone to be on a ballot – to basically fix a political race – is not a crime in Michigan.

Embarrassing Texts (What Else is New?)

The scathing report was made possible because Forsyth was able to trace back the scheme to text messages that were sent between Bolger and Schmidt. Yes, folks, another text-message scandal. Political-observers from around the state have been making light of the texts between Bolger and Schmidt. Though they're certainly not as steamy as the infamous Kwame Kilpatrick-texts, they do seem to show a budding "bromance" between Schmidt and Bolger. You can hear a couple of the texts (yes, for your enjoyment, we did a reenactment) at the audio link above.

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Politics
7:59 am
Fri July 20, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, July 20th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

GM Buyouts

Today's the deadline for more than 40,000 GM retirees to accept their former employer's offer of a lump sum buyout of their pensions. Otherwise, their pensions will be taken over by Prudential Insurance. “GM's Randy Arrix says the change is part of the company's efforts to create what it calls a ‘fortress balance sheet’ because getting underfunded pensions off the books strengthens the balance sheet. Some GM retirees are angry about the change, which they see as a broken promise by GM,” Tracy Samilton reports.

Lake Huron Fuel Spill

The U.S. Coast Guard says diesel fuel from a barge that sank in Lake Huron yesterday has reached Michigan’s shore. The Associated Press reports:

A 110-foot dredging barge sank early Thursday, and the tug pushing it overturned, spilling an unknown amount of diesel fuel. No injuries have been reported. The Coast Guard released photos Thursday evening showing a sheen from the spill on the shore near Lakeport State Beach, about 65 miles northeast of Detroit. The agency says waves and wind are delaying cleanup efforts. The barge's owner says it can carry 8,000 gallons of fuel and had 1,500 gallons when it sank. It's unknown how much fuel has escaped.

Health Insurance Exchanges

Governor Snyder says he hopes Republican lawmakers will act before the end of the summer to create an online place for people to comparison shop for health coverage. “The governor and Republicans in the state House have been at odds over the health care exchanges called for in the federal Affordable Care Act. GOP leaders say they wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule before acting. Now that the court has upheld the law, Republicans say they still have a lot of questions. House Republicans will begin hearings next week. The governor says waiting too long puts federal grants to implement the law at risk, and could force Michigan into a national exchange run by a federal agency instead of the state,” Rick Pluta reports.

Election 2012
6:46 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Glenn out of GOP Senate race, throws support to Durant

Michigan incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow
Credit USDA.gov

Tea Party favorite Gary Glenn announced yesterday that he is bowing out of the Republican race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by two-term Democrat Debbie Stabenow and that he'll throw his support behind Clark Durant. The Associated Press reports:

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News Roundup
8:50 am
Thu July 19, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 19th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Workers

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has imposed new contract terms on most Detroit city workers. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Detroit’s consent agreement with the state allows for city officials to impose contract terms under certain conditions. Bing says it was a tough but necessary move. The new terms include a 10 percent wage cut and the possibility of even deeper cuts if the city deems that necessary. Furious city union leaders say they're still contemplating their next move. They’ve talked about going to court—and some have even brought up the possibility of a strike.

Capitol Protests

The Legislature’s only session day in July was a magnet that drew protesters to Lansing. “There were demonstrations to support the right of women to breast feed infants in public, and to commemorate the second anniversary of the Enbridge Energy oil spill into the Kalamazoo River. The biggest protest was about 150 people who showed up to oppose new limits on abortion providers that cleared the state House last month and are now before the state Senate.  Singing and dancing broke out in the state House gallery by demonstrators who want to keep alive the controversy over the one-day silencing of two Democrats for comments made during a floor debate,” Rick Pluta reports.

Jobless Numbers

Michigan’s unemployment rate ticked up in June. “It’s the second month in a row that more people had trouble finding work in Michigan. The state’s unemployment rate stood at 8.6 percent in June, a tenth of a percentage point higher than it was in May. Michigan’s unemployment rate remains above the national average. But the state’s jobless rate is still lower now than it was a year ago when unemployment in Michigan stood at 10.6 percent. Michigan’s unemployment rate had fallen for nine straight months until May,” Steve Carmod reports.

News Roundup
8:26 am
Wed July 18, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MI Education Funding

Public discussions began yesterday on overhauling how Michigan pays for schools. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder has asked a workgroup to come up with a plan that focuses less on per-student funding and more on proficiency. The workgroup’s first hearing included suggestions from the audience on what Michigan’s education system should look like. The workgroup will revamp the state’s 30-year-old school aid act. It will also revisit key aspects of the Proposal A school funding reforms. Governor Snyder has asked for the recommendations to be done in time to include in his budget proposal next year.

Voting Rolls

Michigan’s Secretary of State will soon ask again for access to immigration records. “The intent is to find non-American citizens who may have ‘inadvertently’ registered to vote in Michigan. For years, a person applying for a driver’s license in Michigan would also be encouraged to register to vote without a check first to see if the person was actually a U.S. citizen. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has asked for the immigration records before….but was denied. However…last week…the Department of Homeland Security granted a similar request from Florida officials. A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State says its unclear if the review process can be completed before November’s general election,” Steve Carmody reports.

A2 Art Fairs

Visitors from all over the state – and the county – are preparing to converge on Ann Arbor for the city’s annual art fairs. “The four-day celebration kicks off Wednesday, featuring four different fairs: The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, the State Street Area Art Fair and the South University Art Fair. The original Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is more than 50 years old. The fairs in downtown Ann Arbor and on the University of Michigan campus typically attract hundreds of thousands of visitors,” the Associated Press reports.

Politics
10:18 am
Mon July 16, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines

Morning News Roundup, Monday, July 16th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Muskegon Heights Budget

The school board for the new charter school system in Muskegon Heights will adopt a preliminary budget later this afternoon. Lindsey Smith reports:

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager hired a for-profit charter school company to run the public school system for the next five years. Mosaica Education Incorporated drafted the budget the school board will consider approving Monday.  The budget includes a couple of optimistic assumptions. Budget documents show Mosaica expects student enrollment to increase – from 1,300 students last year to more than 1,400 hundred this year. It also expects per pupil funding from the state to increase each of the next five years despite an overall decline during the last decade.The emergency manager has so far declined to say how much money the district is paying Mosaica.

Untaxed Online Sales

The state will lose about $242 million in tax revenue from Amazon and other online retailers, according to the Michigan Treasury Department. The Associated Press reports:

States have trouble collecting sales taxes from sellers that don't have a physical presence within their borders. Amazon owns Grand-Haven-based audio book publisher Brilliance Audio, but Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says Michigan considers it a separate entity. The Detroit Free Press reports that job listings suggest Amazon is planning a software development center in Detroit. That physical presence would give Michigan greater ability to collect sales taxes on Amazon sales to Michigan residents. Laws requiring the collection of online sales taxes will take effect in California, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey.

Juvenile Justice

Two hearings this week at the state Capitol will address problems in Michigan’s criminal justice system. “The U.S. Supreme Court last month struck down juvenile sentencing laws in Michigan and 28 other states. The laws automatically send juveniles convicted of serious crimes to prison for life with no chance of parole. A state House panel begins hearings tomorrow on what changes need to be made to the state’s sentencing law in light of the ruling. Also this week, the House Judiciary Committee opens hearings on legal representation for low-income criminal defendants,” Rick Pluta reports.

Politics
6:02 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Get your tickets: Ballotpalooza coming to Michigan Nov. 6

Join Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta every Friday for a spin around Michigan politics.

Ballotopia. Ballotmania. Ballotpalooza: These are all nicknames given to the situation that we’re seeing right now as various groups and organizations try to get Michigan voters, come November, to amend the state's constitution. On Election Day, we could see up to six ballot proposals and a referendum on the state’s  controversial Emergency Manager law. If all of these ballot proposals are, indeed, approved this would be the most statewide ballot questions on a single election day since 1982.

Grassroots campaigns? Not so much

It's nice to think that, in our democracy, these ballot campaigns are being led by grassroots groups - regular folks - trying to change their state's law. But, that's  not the case in this election cycle. Each  of these ballot initiatives have backers - some business groups, some union groups - with deep pockets. It costs a lot of money to organize these campaignsand to get people into the field to gather signatures. In fact, that’s why we saw some ballot campaigns fizzle this summer like the group trying to get a question about marijuana legalization on the ballot.

Just Say "No"

The deadline for these ballot campaigns to submit to the state enough valid signatures - more than 320,000 -  was Monday.  And, in the midst of the petition filings,  we saw some push back against "ballotmania. A "just-say-no" to every ballot question campaign has popped up. It's a coalition of businesses that thinks the easiest way to kill everything they don’t like, especially the ballot questions dealing with unionization – these have to deal with constitutionally protecting collective bargaining rights - and a mandate that the state increase the amount of energy it gets from alternative sources to 25 percent by 2025, is blanket opposition.

Be Careful What You Wish for...

At first glance, it seems like business groups would be in favor of some of these ballot questions, like the amendment that would require super-majorities in both the state House and Senate to raise taxes. Seems simple, right? Businesses tend to not like taxes, but there is some concern in the business community that a super-majority requirement for new taxes could actually make it harder to cut taxes. That's because, typically, when the Legislature cuts or eliminates a tax, it has to come up with some replacement for that lost revenue. Even something that’s considered a net tax cut – like last year's elimination of the Michigan Business Tax or this year's tax on industrial equipment  – required the state Legislature and Governor Snyder to replace some of that revenue. If lawmakers had had to meet a higher bar for other revenue – like last year’s  controversial tax on pension income – they couldn’t have touched the business or industrial equipment tax.

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Newsmaker Interviews
10:35 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette urges delay in creating health care exchanges

billschuette.com

On the heels of the Supreme Court decision upholding the majority of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, U.S. House Republicans are poised to vote to repeal it. But the effort is largely symbolic.

According to the Associated Press, the White House says the repeal would cost millions of American families the security of affordable health coverage and that President Obama would veto a repeal.

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Politics
8:41 am
Wed July 11, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

McCotter Resignation Will Cost State Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

A special primary to fill the seat left vacant by the sudden resignation last week of Republican Congressman Thad McCotter will take place the Wednesday after Labor Day. That’s a month following the regular primary date, and it’s expected to cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars. Rick Pluta reports:

Lt. Gov. Calley says state law and the U.S. Constitution require the state to fill the seat for the final few weeks of the year and Congress’s “lame duck” session. Calley says the special primary could have been coordinated with the August 8th vote if McCotter had made his decision a few weeks sooner.     The special election will coincide with the regular November election. The winner of the special election will serve until the end of the year and will represent the current 11th Congressional District. The winner of the regular election will represent the newly redrawn 11th to serve the term that begins in January.

Emergency Manager for Allen Park?

The city of Allen Park is one step closer to having an emergency manager. “Allen Park city officials actually requested the state do a preliminary financial review. That review found ‘probable fiscal stress.’ So, now, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley – because Governor Snyder is on vacation - has appointed a review team to take a deeper dive into the city’s finances. After that wraps up, the city will almost certainly face some type of state intervention under the emergency manager law. Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, and Ecorse already have emergency managers.  Other cities, including Detroit, are under state-mandated consent agreements,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Federal Report Released on Kalamazoo River Oil Spill

A scathing federal report on the 2010 Enbridge oil spill has just been released but it will probably not affect the company’s plans to build a new oil pipeline in Michigan. “The new pipeline would replace the one that broke in 2010 dumping more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.  Federal regulators say poor decisions by Enbridge are to blame for the spill. The Michigan Public Service Commission must approve a new pipeline. State regulators are expected to decide by early next year whether to approve the project.  Enbridge expects the new pipeline could be complete by the end of 2013,” Steve Carmody reports.

Politics
8:24 am
Tue July 10, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Ballots, Ballots Everywhere

Yesterday was the deadline for campaigns to file to get on the November ballot. “A measure that would require two-thirds super-majorities in the Legislature to raise taxes could be one of half a dozen ballot questions decided by voters in the November election. A campaign to stop a proposed new international bridge in Detroit also filed in the final hours before the deadline – as did one to protect union rights for home health workers who are paid by Medicaid. In total, if all of them are given the OK by elections officials, there would be six proposed amendments on the ballot in November. A referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law could also be on the ballot if it survives a court challenge,” Rick Pluta reports.

Charter Schools Coming to Muskegon Heights

A private-for-profit-charter company will run the Muskegon Heights Public School district for the next five years. Lindsey Smith reports:

The state appointed emergency manager of the Muskegon Heights Public School district announced the deal yesterday afternoon. Mosaica Education runs more than 50 charter schools around the globe. Six of those schools are in Michigan.  The contract is signed but officials would not release it until the state signs off on the deal. So there’s a lot about the deal that we still don’t know – like how much Mosaica will make running the district.  Mosaica officials began interviewing candidates for teachers and staff right after yesterday’s announcement.

Kalamazoo Oil Spill Update

Federal regulators will release a report this morning that includes the reasons why an oil pipeline broke near Marshall, MI in July 2010. “Environmentalists want to see if problems with federal oversight of the pipeline industry will be cited in the report. The National Transportation Safety Board has spent the 23 months since the pipeline break analyzing everything from the pipeline company’s records to a section of the pipeline itself trying to determine why Line 6B ruptured. Enbridge has spent $765 million dollars cleaning up more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil from the spill,” Steve Carmody reports.

Politics
7:53 am
Mon July 9, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, July 9th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Ballot-Mania

Ballot campaigns have until this afternoon to turn in their petitions to get questions in front of voters in November. Rick Pluta reports:

There could be half a dozen ballot questions on this November's ballot – or more. They would outlaw a gas drilling process called “fracking,” guarantee collective bargaining rights for health care workers, ban using state resources on a new Detroit international bridge, and require two-thirds super-majorities in the Legislature for tax increases. Ballot questions to boost renewable energy targets, to ban a right-to-work law in Michigan, and to allow eight new privately owned non-tribal casinos have already turned in petitions. The petition signatures still need to be checked and approved by state elections officials before they can go on the November ballot. Meanwhile, a referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law is being challenged in court.

Auto Supplier Profits Falling

A new study finds that profits for U.S. auto suppliers are falling because suppliers’ fixed costs have risen so swiftly. “Auto suppliers now have as many employees, machinery and other fixed costs as they had before the recession. John Hoffecker, with consulting firm AlixPartners, says suppliers need to be cautious about expanding, because demand for cars may not rise in the near term as much as some forecasts predict. Some forecasts say annual car sales will reach 17 million in just a few years. Hoffecker thinks that number is overly optimistic, and car sales will stay under 16 million at least through 2015,” Tracy Samilton reports.

More Crops Threatened

Michigan's hot and dry spring and summer are threatening the state's corn crops. “Michigan State University Professor Jeff Andresen says it would take a dramatic reversal in weather over the next two weeks to avoid permanent damage to this year's production. He says low corn production will drive up the cost of products that contain corn sweetener. Ethanol prices could also rise. Andresen says the state's sweet corn crop -- which is almost ready for market -- could be affected by the lack of rain as well,” Rina Miller reports.

It's Just Politics
1:25 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

Snyder and GOP go from 'In a relationship' to 'It's complicated'

Governor Snyder surprised many political watchers this week by vetoing three Republican-sponsored elections reforms bills.
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

This week on It's Just Politics: It's all about relationships. Specifically, the relationship between Gov. Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. And, the status on this one just went from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated.”

A Gubernatorial Veto

The Governor vetoed three bills this week – they were part of a Republican elections package, most of which he signed. The three vetoed bills would have required people applying to vote for the first time or for absentee ballots to check a box affirming they are U.S. citizens. Another would have required photo ID for an absentee ballot. And, the third would have required state training for people who want to register voters. The Governor said the bills that he vetoed were too confusing and might discourage people from voting when the should should be making it easy to vote.

Lansing Democrats, Republicans Shocked

By vetoing these bills, Snyder not only broke with legislative Republicans, but also with established Republican Party opinion on how elections should be conducted. It's a classic divide between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, and it reflects how each side thinks the other party games the system to pirate elections. Republicans are concerned with ballot security - making sure only people who are supposed to vote actually cast a ballot. Democrats are more concerned about ballot access - that as many people as possible are allowed to vote.

Breaking Up is Hard To Do

These recent vetoes have many political-watchers wondering: What does this mean for the relationship between Gov. Snyder and Republicans? Is the Governor standing on principle, or showing there is a price to be paid for blocking his plans for an international bridge, road funding, opposing him on immigration and health care. The joke around town used to be that when Governor Snyder said something was, "not on my agenda” that really meant: "I’ll sign it if you send it to me.” Not so much any more.

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It's Just Politics
5:20 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Stuck between a rock and a hard place: Moderate state Republicans post-healthcare ruling

Photo courtesy of the Snyder Administration

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is officially the law of the land.  The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. The health and welfare of millions of people right here in Michigan is at stake. And, it has broad policy implications. But, of course, this is It's Just Politics... which means Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio's resident political junkie, are not talking policy but, instead, the politics of the Court's decision.

Rick Pluta: A couple of weeks ago we had the Left galvanizing around what’s become known as “Vagina-gate.” A couple of female lawmakers sanctioned, silenced for a day, by state House Republican leaders for things said during a heated abortion debate. It gave the Left a memorable moment to create what appears to be a stark choice to get their people out in November. Now, the Right has this health care decision. Attorney General Bill Schuette – one of the state’s top Republicans and Mitt Romney’s Michigan campaign chair - says this decision is also a political tool.

Bill Schuette: "This decision, I believe, is going to raise the stakes in November. I think it will energize, it will cause a firestorm of protest to be exhibited in the ballot box in November and I think, in the end, it is going to be one of the things that is going to cause Mitt Romney to be the next President."

Zoe Clark: And, so, the Right is incensed. They’re going to use this issue to get out the vote in November, to protest this decision. And Schuette also says, in effect, don’t let this issue whither on the vine.

RP: Right. There are things the state has to start doing to comply with the health care law. The most immediate one is to create these so-called healthcare exchanges where people and businesses can shop online for coverage. And the attorney general is counseling the legislature: Don’t do it. And, of course, Governor Snyder has called for these exchanges. Snyder is not a fan of the law but he is a fan of the exchanges and says it would be a mistake to wait to implement them.

ZC: So, Rick, this seems to be just one more issue where we're seeing division between the very conservative Attorney General, Bill Schuette, and a more-moderate Governor, Rick Snyder.

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Politics & Government
5:21 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Analyst says economy may trump health care in November

mattileo / flickr

Every Thursday we look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

In what some are calling a surprising decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. Michigan lawmakers were reacting to the decision throughout the day. Governor Snyder said he doesn’t like the law but he is going to try to follow it.

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Politics
1:30 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Congressman Dingell: “I know my father who started this fight is smiling from up above"

Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Flickr

It’s no doubt a historic day for Michigan Congressman – and the U.S. State of Representative’s longest serving member – John Dingell with today's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the federal Affordable Care Act.

As NPR’s Julie Rover noted in a story on Dingell in 2009:

“Dingell's quest for universal health care began in 1932, when his father, John Dingell Sr., was first elected to the House from Michigan. The elder Dingell quickly became one of the architects of the New Deal… In 1943, the elder Dingell, along with Senators Jim Murray of Montana and Robert Wagner of New York, introduced the first national health insurance bill. The so-called Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill was fought over for years, though it never became law. And when the elder Dingell died in 1955, John Dingell Jr. took over not only his father's seat, but also his quest for national health insurance.”

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