Bill Schuette

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Kevyn Orr leaves salaries for Mayor Bing and City Council intact

The state's new emergency manager law, which goes into effect Thursday, eliminates salaries and benefits for elected municipal officials when an emergency manager is installed.

But as Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett reports, an order signed by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr will leave the salaries of Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council members intact.

"Salaries range from more than $70,000 for council members to close to $160,000 for Mayor Dave Bing."

State Attorney General Bill Schuette calls for a grand jury investigation into meningitis outbreak

Michigan's attorney general is seeking a criminal investigation into the deaths of 17 residents from contaminated steroids supplied by a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company.

As Rick Pluta explains,

"The grand jury would have the power to compel witnesses to appear and testify, including people from the four Michigan clinics that administered the injections. And it could ask a Massachusetts court to order employees of the pharmacy that made the drug to cooperate."

Wolf hunt in Michigan may be put on hold

A group opposing the hunting of gray wolves is expected to deliver tens of thousands of petition signatures to the Secretary of State's office.

If enough of the signatures are certified, a statewide vote on the proposed wolf hunt will be placed on the ballot in 2014.

Matthileo / Flickr

In this week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss Michigan’s affirmative action case being taken up in the U.S. Supreme Court, how Attorney General Bill Schuette wants an in-depth investigation into the meningitis outbreak, and what Kevyn Orr has done in his first week as emergency manager for Detroit.

Courtesy of Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has called for a grand jury investigation into an outbreak of meningitis and other illnesses caused by tainted steroids.

The contaminated medicine has been linked to 259 cases of illness and 14 deaths in the state.

The attorney general filed his request with the Michigan Court of Appeals. If the court says yes, a judge and up to 17 grand jurors would conduct the inquiry into whether any crimes were committed. The proceedings would be secret.

It’s an unusual step, but Schuette says the grand jury would have sweeping authority to do its job.

“Now, this grand jury can be empowered to fully investigate this human tragedy, these 14 deaths and painful illnesses, with the greatest power extended under Michigan law. "

The grand jury would meet in secret. It would have the power to compel people to appear and testify. And it could ask a Massachusetts court to order employees of the pharmacy that made the drug to cooperate.

The judge to lead the investigation and the grand jurors would be drawn from Macomb, Genesee, Livingston, and Grand Traverse counties.

Those counties are where the clinics that administered the contaminated steroid injections are located.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Plans for a casino in downtown Lansing are in jeopardy this evening.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.  However, before the tribe could build the casino, the U.S. Department of the Interior would have to agree to take the land for the casino into trust.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit trying to block the tribe's trust request.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

There’s a difference of opinion between Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the American Civil Liberties Union on how prosecutors should handle a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down sentences of mandatory life without parole for juveniles.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that lifers sent to prison as juveniles are entitled to parole hearings.

Attorney General Schuette then sent a letter to prosecutors that says a federal judge’s opinion is not binding on them.

Schuette’s office did not return phone calls, but ACLU attorney Deborah LaBelle says the letter is out of bounds. She says the attorney general can appeal the decision, but he should not tell prosecutors to ignore it.

“They may disagree with that ruling. That’s fine. I understand, but it’s the law right now,” said LaBelle.

“Once a statute is unconstitutional, it can’t be enforced, and I would think the attorney general would know that, and so the parole board cannot deny jurisdiction to these youth,” she said.

LaBelle says legal arguments are due March 1 on how the state should handle requests for parole hearings by juvenile lifers.

Schuette has opposed extending the reach of the decision to the more than 350 Michigan prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.

He has said it’s not fair to force the families of murder victims to relive their tragedies.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been arguing that seven of the eleven school board members on the Detroit school board are holding office illegally and he wants them removed.

He lost a challenge in court early this week.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey reports for the Detroit Free Press that "Wayne Circuit Court Judge John Gillis Jr. denied State Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion for summary disposition and granted the school board’s motion, effectively allowing the school board to continue to hold office."

In a statement released today, the attorney for the school board, George Washington, called the lawsuit bogus:

George B. Washington, attorney for the Detroit School Board, said “We are glad that this lawsuit has been exposed as the bogus claim that it always was. Attorney General Schuette and Governor Snider [sic] filed this lawsuit to prevent the largely black and Latino citizens of Detroit from having any say over their own schools. The Attorney General should not appeal this decision and he and the Governor should stop trying to destroy elected government in the City of Detroit."

Schuette has argued that the Detroit school board members cannot be elected by district, because state law requires that a school district have 100,000 students or more to elect board members that way.

It's the difference between a "first class" school district, and a "general powers" school district.

He's argued that Detroit hasn’t met that threshold since 2008.

In his decision, Judge Gillis Jr. wrote that the state code does not address what should happen in a district where student enrollment has declined.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

When you hear the term "human trafficking" and let yourself think about what that entails, you might think of it as something that happens overseas, perhaps in exotic places.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that may determine if Lansing will get a downtown casino.

A year ago, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans to build a casino that would wrap around Lansing’s downtown convention center.   The plan included the construction of a temporary casino along Michigan Ave.  

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette continues his effort to remove some Detroit school board members.

A Wayne County judge heard oral arguments Thursday about Schuette’s lawsuit to throw out seven board members elected by district.

Schuette says state law only allows so-called “first class” school districts to elect board members that way. He says Detroit hasn’t met that threshold since 2008.

School board attorney George Washington insists his clients followed the law "as the legislature wrote it."

Washington also noted the lawsuit was only filed in 2012, after Michigan’s emergency manager law was suspended.

“They were happy with the way the school board was elected, until they thought they might not have a financial manager," Washington said. "And then they said, ‘Well, we gotta get rid of the board. No matter what the law says, or what we’ve allowed to happen.'"

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell / Wikimedia Commons

A divided Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette challenged the state Civil Service Commission agreement with public employee unions.

Among other things, the attorney general says the policy violates Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

But the court’s majority said the policy makes no distinction between people in same-sex relationships and heterosexual live-in partners.        

Livingston County Sheriff's Department

The man suspected of firing shots at more than 20 vehicles along I-96 and nearby roads faces a charge of terrorism and other felonies.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette filed the charges Thursday.

43-year-old Raulie Casteel could face life in prison if convicted. He also faces 60 counts in Oakland County related to the shooting spree.

Joy Yearout is a spokesperson for the attorney general. She said the charges are meant to send a message.

“Certainly terrorism is an unusual charge, but the facts of this case warrant it,” Yearout said.

The attorney general is consolidating cases related to shootings in Ingham, Livingston, and Shiawassee counties.

One person was injured in the shootings.

Michigan grants available for first-time homebuyers, refinancing too

Dec 14, 2012
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

First time homebuyers may be eligible for up to $5,000 in state grants.  The grants are part of a settlement against the five largest mortgage servicers.

Michigan Municipal League / flickr

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says he expects Michigan’s new right-to-work law will be challenged in court, and he expects it will survive those lawsuits.

One possible challenge would focus on different treatment for different types of unions.         

The law will allow workers for unionized employers to opt out of paying dues or fees. But the law won’t apply to police and firefighter unions.

Schuette said that could create too much disharmony in public safety units that require order and discipline.

“Firefighters, first-responders, law enforcement – they’re on the front lines of public safety. They have a very important, unique responsibility, making sure our streets and our neighborhoods are safe and secure, so this is a very appropriate carve-out. It was a correct carve-out,” he said.

Schuette said the law does apply to the state’s 35,000 civil service employees.

Some interpretations of the state constitution say the law can’t touch civil service workers. That’s because they are governed by the Michigan Civil Service Commission.

US Supreme Court

State Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Michigan’s ban on affirmative action.

Schuette filed to submit the case to the land’s highest court Thursday.

Last month, a lower court threw out a voter-approved state ban on affirmative action.

Joy Yearout is a spokesperson for the attorney general.

Neeta Lind / Flickr

A Michigan judge has ruled against the state Attorney General’s office in a series of criminal cases brought against four employees of Lansing-based medical marijuana dispensaries.

Lansing District Court Judge Hugh Clark Jr. dismissed the felony drug-dealing charges last week, saying the state’s medical marijuana law "screams for legislative clarification in numerous areas."

The Lansing State Journal has more:

The case surrounded multiple purchases of marijuana last year by four undercover police officers at HydroWorld locations on South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and West Barnes Street.

They bought about 1/8-ounce of marijuana each time.

The Attorney General’s office filed charges against the employees, saying that the undercover officers were able to purchase marijuana even though they didn’t have state-issued medical marijuana cards.

The officers, according to testimony, filled out applications for the ID cards and a doctor — without ever seeing the officers — approved them.

Clark based his ruling on a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision that said a doctor’s diagnosis serves as a defense against possession charges for someone without a medical marijuana card.

The Attorney General’s office may seek an appeal, while civil lawsuits seeking to shut down the HydroWorld locations are still pending, the Lansing State Journal reports.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Bill Schuette for Michigan Attorney General

Michigan’s attorney general says state lawmakers must add more safeguards for seniors to legislation that would overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Bill Schuette testified Monday before the House Insurance Committee.

Schuette said bills passed last month by the Senate did not do enough to make sure Blue Cross continues to offer Medigap plans to seniors.

The program covers costs that Medicare doesn’t.

The attorney general said the proposal would drastically cut funding for Medigap, and only requires Blue Cross to offer it through 2016.

“I think the last thing we want is to have skyrocketing Medigap rates, or Medigap disappear altogether,” Schuette said.

Blue Cross officials say the measure gives seniors plenty of time to switch to more comprehensive and affordable plans.

The legislation would end Blue Cross’ tax exempt status. In return, the state would have less oversight of the Michigan’s largest health insurer.

user elioja / Flickr

Michigan voters passed a medical marijuana law in 2008, but state prosecutors say its being abused.

The Times Herald of Port Huron reports on charges being leveled against a marijuana dispensary group:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed charges Wednesday against six people connected to an investigation of the Blue Water Compassion Centers in St. Clair, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.

Authorities raided the centers, which distributed information about medical marijuana and other products, on Dec. 9, 2011 in Kimball Township in St. Clair County, Denmark Township in Tuscola County, and Worth Township and Lexington in Sanilac County.

Authorities also raided a greenhouse in Worth Township as well as the home of Debra Amsdill.

Six people face multiple felony charges, according to information and warrant documents from the attorney general’s office.

Debra Amsdill, an owner of the Blue Water Compassion Centers, said she would issue a statement on the charges tomorrow.

A group of state lawmakers say it is time for Michigan to change the way it sentences juveniles convicted of murder.

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it is unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to mandatory life sentences without the chance of parole.

Bills in the state House would strike that type of sentence from state law.

An important question is whether the ruling applies to people already serving mandatory life sentences. Democratic state Representative Mark Meadows said it does.

“If it’s a violation of the Constitution to sentence individuals in this manner, then it was unconstitutional prior to that time too,” said Meadows.

Sponsors of the legislation say they will push to apply the ruling retroactively. But they say they are willing to pass bills that only apply it to new cases.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says re-sentencing convicted offenders would be too painful for victims’ families.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Upper Peninsula Native American Tribe says a lawsuit trying to prevent it from building a casino in Lansing is “utterly without merit”.

Michigan’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit in September challenging the right of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to build a casino in downtown Lansing.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the casino project would violate federal law, as well as a gaming compact with the state.

But in its response to the state’s lawsuit this week, the tribe describes the state’s case as “meritless”.

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell / Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals began hearing arguments Tuesday on a case that could determine the fate of Michigan’s “juvenile lifers.”

The case comes in the wake of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June determining  that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

MLive’s Jonathan Oosting has more:

Violent felons convicted of four offenses now face at least 25 years in prison, under a law signed by Governor Rick Snyder.

In a written statement, Governor Snyder says the new law holds chronic offenders accountable, while giving some peace of mind to victims and their families. 

cncphotos / flickr

Every Wednesday Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about what's been going on in the news when it comes to Michigan politics. This week they talked about a Michigan family's request to release a Marine Veteran imprisoned in Iran in order to see his ailing father in Flint, where the state's incarceration system stands when it comes to inmates releases in Genesse County and Attorney General Bill Schuette's stance on juvenile lifers, and the Kwame Kilpatrick trial.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan Attorney General fights to keep juvenile lifers behind bars

"State Attorney General Bill Schuette has not given up on trying to keep so-called juvenile lifers behind bars. Next week, he plans to file to join a case before the state Court of Appeals involving a 21-year-old man convicted in 2006 of assisting a murder. The US Supreme Court in June struck down mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles as unconstitutional. Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says the attorney general believes the ruling should not apply to people who are already serving sentences. The ACLU of Michigan says the state cannot continue to keep people in jail without a new hearing if the US Supreme Court says the sentence is cruel and unusual. Michigan has more than 360 people serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18," Jake Neher reports.

Flint family pleas for Marine's release

"The family of a Marine veteran  imprisoned in Iran for more than a year, says time is running out for the family to reunite. The Marine's father, a professor at Mott Community College, has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. Amir Hekmati is still being held in Iran on charges of spying for the United States. Both his family and the US government say he is not a spy. But their pleas for his release haven't worked - although his death sentence was overturned by an Iranian court. The family is pleading for their son's release while Amir's father is still alive. The Hekmatis are holding a candlelight vigil in Flint today. They hope their case will be discussed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he's in New York this week for a meeting at the UN," Kate Wells reports.

Research buoy shows wind in Lake Michigan averages 22 mph

"Wind speed in the middle of Lake Michigan appears to be some of the best in the state for developing wind energy. That’s according to preliminary data from a high-tech research buoy that’s been anchored there all summer. Early data show the average offshore wind speed is at least 22 miles an hour. Wind farms have been built on land in Michigan where wind speeds average around 17 miles an hour. The research buoy will continue collecting data through December. Ultimately it could determine whether an offshore wind farm is viable in Lake Michigan," Lindsey Smith reports.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has not given up on trying to keep juvenile lifers behind bars.

Next week, he plans to file to join a case before the state Court of Appeals involving a 21-year-old man convicted in 2006 of assisting a murder.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles as unconstitutional.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says the attorney general believes the ruling should not apply to people who are already serving sentences.

"For many of these cases it's been years, decades even, since the crime occurred. And these victims’ families thought they had a sense of closure. This could result in them having to be hauled back into court, relive the crime, be re-victimized again. And it would really be a mess for our justice system here in Michigan," says Yearout.
    
The ACLU of Michigan says the state cannot continue to keep people in jail without a new hearing if the U.S. Supreme Court says the sentence is cruel and unusual.

Michigan has more than 360 people serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would undergo major changes under proposed legislation.
Wikipedia

State Senate hearings began today on a proposed overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The plan calls for Blue Cross to become a customer-owned not-for-profit corporation that’s regulated just like other insurance companies.

Right now, Blue Cross has to accept all applicants, regardless of their health. Starting in 2014, the Blues’ role as “insurer of last resort” will become unnecessary. Due to the federal healthcare law, insurance companies will no longer be able to reject people because of their health conditions.

Brian Turner / Flickr

The state Attorney General has stalled a plan to overhaul Michigan’s public defense system.

Almost everyone agrees Michigan needs to improve its system for providing defense attorneys to those who can’t afford one.

The state is consistently ranked as one of the worst in the country.

But Bill Schuette’s legislative relations director Alan Cropsey came to the hearing with a long list of concerns about the bill.

He said it would open the state to lawsuits, and doesn’t provide enough oversight.

Cropsey’s testimony ate up a big chunk of the hearing, which was forced to adjourn without a vote.

Republican Representative John Walsh chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He scolded Cropsey and the Attorney General for not bringing their criticisms forward sooner.

“Your card indicates neutrality. There was nothing in your presentation that would indicate neutrality," said Walsh.

Supporters of the bill hope to have another hearing this month.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Michigan’s Attorney General has filed a lawsuit to block plans for a casino in Lansing.

The Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans in January to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.

Attorney General Bill Schuette claims the casino project violates federal law and a gaming compact with the state.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

A lesbian couple from the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park is using an ongoing lawsuit to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are jointly raising three special-needs children, who initially came to them through the foster care system, since birth. They’ve already filed suit in federal court, challenging the state code that forbids unmarried couples from adopting.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

The Michigan Court of Appeals said a proposed ballot question to put collective bargaining rights in the state’s constitution should be put before voters in November.

The court ruled today that the petition campaign collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Opponents are expected to file an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Attorney General Bill Schuette is among those opposed to the ‘Protect Our Jobs’ amendment.

He said the proposal’s potential effect is too complex for the simple wording of a constitutional amendment.

Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

Not guilty pleas were entered today on behalf of three former staff members accused of forging or falsifying signatures on nominating petitions for former Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.

McCotter's former deputy district director Don Yowchuang and district director Paul Seewald appeared in court in Livonia for arraignment. Both are free on $50,000 personal bond.

Mary Turnbull was a district representative for McCotter in Howell. She appeared this morning in Troy district court and was released on $5,000 bond.

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