Politics & Government
9:11 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Detroit's 'grand bargain', minimum wage, and Conyers make political headlines

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the grand bargain for the Detroit bankruptcy, the debate over the minimum wage and whether Detroit Congressman John Conyers has a chance to continue his nearly 50 years in Congress.

Week in Michigan Politics interview for 5/14/14

Detroit bankruptcy

The state Legislature is holding hearings on the "grand bargain," the plan to help Detroit through bankruptcy. 

Right now, the most likely plan would have state taxpayers contribute $195 million as part of the settlement. That would come from the state's rainy day fund, and be replenished with tobacco settlement money.

Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr and Mayor Mike Duggan are trying to convince skeptical lawmakers that state money is needed to help Detroit get through this.

Lessenberry says the big challenge is getting Republican lawmakers on board.

Meanwhile, there’s talk that Chrysler, GM and Ford might contribute money to ensure art isn’t sold from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Lessenberry says supporters of the Detroit Institute of Arts have to come up with $100 million as part of the grand bargain, and the DIA wants the Detroit Three to help out.

“The Big Three automakers have been giving money to the Detroit Institute of Arts for decades and decades but there are no promises set in stone yet,” Lessenberry says.

Minimum-wage debate

Lawmakers can’t seem to get enough of the debate over the minimum wage.  A petition drive to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour says it has enough signatures to put the question to state lawmakers or voters. A bill in the Legislature would increase the minimum wage to a little more than $8 and raise tipped employees' hourly wages to $2.75 an hour. And now there is yet another proposed minimum-wage bill. 

Lessenberry explains that Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who originally was against any increase in the minimum wage, has introduced a bill to bump the minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $8.15 an hour. But there’s a catch.

“It’s a poison-pill bill,” Lessenberry says. “What this bill would do is repeal and replace the current statute, so that the ballot initiative would apparently be null and void. It wouldn’t matter if they got their signatures because people would have signed to repeal a law that doesn’t exist anymore.”

Richardville has said he doesn’t want to give people a chance to vote on the minimum wage. Lessenberry says that Democrats think having a proposal on the ballot to increase the minimum wage will help bring more Democratic voters to the poll in an off-year election.

John Conyers didn’t collect enough signatures to make primary ballot

The Wayne County clerk announced yesterday that Congressman John Conyers of Detroit doesn't have enough signatures to be on the August primary ballot.

It's believed that two of the petition circulators weren't registered voters and the signatures they collected didn’t count. Conyers says he is not giving up and will run again.

Lessenberry says Conyers’ first option is to go to the courts.

“Interestingly the American Civil Liberties Union is weighing in this on the side of Conyers. They say that petition circulators shouldn't have to be registered voters,” Lessenberry says.

However, Lessenberry adds that one of Conyers’ circulators was apparently a “convicted felon on the lam.”

If the courts don’t work out, Conyers’ could run a write-in campaign.

But if Conyers does not make the ballot, with his nearly 50 years in Congress, combined with the recent retirement of other congressional delegates, Lessenberry says we will lose 200 years of seniority from the state’s congressional delegation.