All Things Considered

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With the roads funding plan behind them, the Michigan Legislature is on break until December. When they return, fixing Detroit Public Schools will be at the top of the legislative agenda.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a controversial plan for DPS that would start a new district responsible for educational instruction and general operations while leaving the roughly $500 million in legacy debt with the old district.

Michigan roads
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The legislature this week passed a package of bills to fund Michigan roads. The legislation would bump up the state’s gas tax by seven cents per gallon, and boost vehicle registration fees by 20% beginning in 2017. It will increase taxes by $600 million also starting in 2017. The plan will also move $600 million from other areas in the state budget.

Gov. Snyder at a press conference this month announcing his plan to overhaul the Detroit Public School District.
screenshot / Livestream

Gov. Rick Snyder this week announced his plan for overhauling Detroit Public Schools. It includes splitting the district and leaving the debt with the old DPS, while a new district would move forward with school operations and education. 

Steve Carmody

The Michigan Legislature has approved $9 million to deal with the fallout from the Flint water crisis. That price tag has turned attention to how the state’s rainy-day fund is used.

Gov. Rick Snyder has made replenishing that fund a budget priority since he entered office.

Jennifer White spoke to Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants about the state of the rainy-day fund.

Demas says as of the last budget cycle there's about $386 million in the fund. 

Laura MacIntyre, Amber Hasan (holding D.J.), and She'a Cobb
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Govenor Snyder last week announced the city of Flint will be switching back to Detroit water.

This comes after months of complaints by Flint residents; tests showing the water was unsafe; and most recently, reports of elevated lead levels in some Flint children. Jennifer White sat down with three women raising kids in Flint to hear their experiences.

There has been a recent influx of undocumented children who are crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. Many of these children hail from Central American nations where violence is prevalent. Recent news that some of these children could be housed here at a facility in Vassar, Michigan while awaiting immigration hearings has received mixed reactions.

Wolverine Human Services is an organization that owns and operates a facility in Vassar and might house some of the Central American children. Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, is joined by Derrick McCree, senior VP of Wolverine Human Services.

McCree says as it stands right now, the contract is still under consideration by the Office of Refugee Settlement. The contracting company, Heartland Alliance of Chicago, Illinois, has been providing services for children in similar circumstances for the past 19 years. Due to the humanitarian crisis at the national level, Heartland Alliance reached out to other providers, particularly in Michigan, to inquire about providing assistance.

The services provided are essential, basic shelter services, medical care, education in the format of ESL, recreational activities, and trauma counseling. Heartland Alliance would cover the reunification fees to help seek relatives or family members within the U.S. where the child could stay while the court proceedings play out. If no family member or relative is located, the option of a foster family exists.

According to McCree, funding for the program comes from the federal government. And while there has been vocal opposition to the idea of housing children in Vassar, McCree says the Vassar community has been largely supportive, and he's heard from people who are interested in helping the Central American children. McCree says the children making their way to the southern U.S. border are escaping what are often very dangerous situaations, and they are in need of help.

Omar Saadeh - Michigan Radio Newsroom 

This year’s Great Michigan Read selection is Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret, by Steve Luxenberg.

The autobiographical memoir tells the story of one man’s surprising discovery of his aunt, Annie, who he only learns of after his mother’s death. This is a fascinating read: its part mystery story, part family history and part exploration, as the author relearns who his mother and aunt really were.

This week, host Jennifer White talks with the author, Steve Luxenberg about why it was important for him to write such an intimate story about his family.

“My mother had a secret, which she kept her entire life. She didn’t tell her children that she had a sister who was institutionalized for 31 years at a Michigan Hospital called Eloise. When we found out about this, I needed to re-imagine my mother and my entire family story because when my mom was growing up she told elaborate stories about how she was an only child. Those stories turned out not to be true," Luxenberg said.

Governor Rick Snyder has called on the Legislature to pass a Medicaid expansion in Michigan in accordance with the Affordable Care Act. Although the House passed the expansion, the Michigan Senate went on summer recess without voting on the bill. However, now a Senate Work Group will begin meeting over the summer months to consider the legislation.

Medicaid expansion has had the support of both the medical and business communities. Now former GOP House Speaker Rick Johnson is lending his voice in support of the call for Medicaid expansion. He discusses his reasons for supporting the proposed expansion, and the Senate’s hesitation on coming to a vote.

Former Speaker Johnson says that despite resistance to the Affordable Care Act from the Republican Caucus, the bill has been discussed for far too long to not be considered for a vote in the Senate.

“It’s been out here now six months, it’s been reviewed, it’s been kicked back and forth. We’re at a point where it’s time to make a choice. Let’s at least take the vote. Up or down, let’s take the vote,” Johnson explained.