It’s rare for a politician to switch political parties, but not all that rare. Don Riegle, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, was originally elected to Congress from Flint as a Republican.

After six years in office, he switched and became a Democrat during the Watergate scandal. Naturally, he wasn’t very popular with his former Republican friends. But you have to say this for him. He did so more than a year before the next election.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Democrats were waiting outside of Mitt Romney’s speech, ready to criticize the Republican presidential contender.

Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer says Romney's policies will take Michigan in the wrong direction.

“Romney wants to go back to the days of George W. Bush,” says Whitmer, “We need progress in the state of Michigan.  Thank god we had someone like President Obama when the autos needed help.”

Democrats also claim the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s budget plans would hurt college students, like those in his audience at Lansing Community College.


Michigan Democrats hold their caucuses on Saturday May 5th. President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks with Jennifer White about past and present Democratic caucuses.

Marcin's Facebook page

Michigan's Rep. John Dingell,  the longest serving member in the U.S. Congress, is running for his 30th term---his first came during the Eisenhower administration back in 1955. But as WNYC's the Takeaway tells us, he is facing an extra hurdle that he hasn't seen for a decade: A primary challenger.

Daniel Marcin is a Ph.D. student in economics at the University of Michigan and he is currently campaigning to get on the ballot for the state's 12th District, pitting himself against Dingell in the August 7 Democratic primary.

Marcin spoke to the Takeaway, saying he's not overly concerned with taking on such a long-standing incumbent:

"This election for me is not about experience," he said. "This election is about ideas. And John Dingell has failed to deliver on environmental action. He's failed to deliver on same-sex marriage and he's failed to deliver on sound economics."

You can listen to the full interview below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has stayed a temporary restraining order that favored Democrats in a procedural spat with House Republicans.

Ingham County Circuit Judge Clinton Canady III last week issued the order aimed at ensuring Republicans follow certain procedures when granting what is called "immediate effect" to bills approved by lawmakers.

That status determines how quickly a new law kicks in once signed by the governor.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Court of Appeals may rule today in a dispute about how State House Republicans are passing bills.    

House Republicans have tacked on “immediate effect” provisions on more than 500 bills this year.  That means the bills will become law as soon as Governor Snyder signs them. But Democrats complain the “immediate effect” provisions are being added without the constitutionally required two-thirds vote.

Opponents of proposals for major changes to Medicare spent today making the rounds of retirement communities in Michigan.

They denounced the budget plan passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.  Under the Republican budget plan, future retirees would get a stipend to buy health insurance.   Its an approach Republicans say would hold down costs and begin to rein in the deficit.

Max Richtman  is the president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.   He says House Republicans want to do away with what’s left of the ‘New Deal’.

 A judge has issued a temporary injunction blocking a legislative maneuver that state House Republicans have been using this year.

The state House has passed more than 500 bills this year with a provision that the bills take effect as soon as the governor signs them.    State House Democrats sued, claiming the Republican leadership ignored their requests for votes to delay implementation of the bills.

Attorney Michael Hodge represents the House Democrats.  He says the House Republican leadership has been shutting out the minority party.

The Michigan Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow over a state law allowing Republicans to draw county commission boundaries in Oakland County.  

Just released emails seem to show Oakland County Republicans tried to circumvent the rules to maintain control of the county commission.

“Clearly there has been a collusionary attempt on the part of the Republican legislators in this body from Oakland County," says Vicki Barnett, a Democratic state lawmaker from Farmington Hills. 

Barnett says it’s a “major breach of trust in the government system”. 

A union-led effort to amend the Michigan Constitution to guarantee labor bargaining rights will go before a state elections panel today.

The Protect Our Jobs campaign will ask the Board of State Canvassers to pre-approve its petition to get on the November ballot.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People who want to put a question on the ballot could soon have to get their petitions pre-approved by a government panel before they could gather signatures. That’s under a measure that cleared the state House today on a party-line vote.

The measure could force current petition drives to get state approval and then start over. The petition drives would guarantee union organizing rights, require disclosure of businesses’ political spending, and boost renewable energy requirements on utilities.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers might soon take some initial votes on bills related to abortion law in the state.

Legislation awaiting a vote in the Republican-led House would require a doctor or an assistant to do some screening before an abortion to make sure a pregnant woman isn't being forced or coerced to have the abortion against her will. Other bills would provide penalties for coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will.

DETROIT (AP) — Democrats have chosen their favorites for this fall's Michigan Supreme Court and education board races, hoping once again to give their candidates a five-month jump in fundraising and campaigning over Republicans.

Votes at Saturday's state convention in Detroit were nonbinding, since Democrats can't nominate candidates until the party's September convention. Republicans will nominate candidates in August.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld part of a lower court's ruling involving redistricting in Oakland County.

The court ruled Wednesday that the law passed last year by the GOP-controlled Legislature was a local act affecting only one government and needed to pass with two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to meet state constitutional requirements.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Update 4:15 pm

The Michigan legislature has passed a bill to prohibit public schools from automatically collecting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees.

Republican Representative Joe Haveman says the bill’s intent is to focus schools on educating children.

 “The focus of our school administration has to be on teaching the kids.   Let’s get out of the business of collecting bills for other people," says Haveman.

Critics complain the real intent is to weaken teachers’ unions.

A judge has overturned a state law that scrapped Oakland County’s new commission map and gave Republican elected officials the power to draw a new one.

The challenge was filed by Democrats who say the law was simply a GOP power grab.

The ruling is the latest chapter in a struggle for political power in the former Republican bastion that’s now a battleground county.

Michigan House Democrats website.

So called right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. But with Indiana’s recent passage of right-to work laws, some Republican lawmakers say there is additional pressure on the state to pass its own legislation. 

Democrat and House Minority Leader, Representative Rick Hammel is against right-to-work legislation. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Senator Whitmer's office

Governor Rick Snyder said in his State of the State speech last night that he wants to make sure all kids in Michigan who graduate from high school are ready for college or advanced job training.

Democratic state lawmakers say the policies the governor has supported so far have hurt that goal.

The governor says he thinks a handful of education proposals that stalled last year would strengthen the state’s education system. He says he would like to see those measures approved this year; including more online learning, and better funding for early childhood education.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says she was not impressed. “He spent 48 minutes talking about last year. We know what happened last year; they picked corporations over kids every time. What we need is a bold vision," Whitmer says.

Whitmer says it was a mistake last year to cut school and university funding. She wishes the governor would have acknowledged a Democratic proposal to ensure all kids who graduate from high school in Michigan receive tuition grants from the state.

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.

Michigan Democrats plan to endorse their candidates for the state Supreme Court and statewide education boards on March 10.

The Michigan Democratic Party announced the move Thursday. It will allow Democrats to get a head start on campaigning in those races for the November 2012 election.

The endorsements will come several months before Democrats can officially nominate candidates to run for those offices. Nominating conventions typically are scheduled for August or later.

Democrats also used an endorsement convention to get a head start on campaigning for some races in 2010.

Democrats plan to endorse three candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court during the March event at Cobo Center in Detroit.

(courtesy of True Creek)

One analyst expects Michigan will be awash in political advertising from special interest groups in 2012.  

A 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court largely took the restrictions off special interest political advertising. 

Courtesy of the office of U.S. Senator Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin says Congress needs to pass an extension of the payroll tax break that’s set to expire at the end of the month.   

Levin says the cut in the taxes collected to pay for Social Security saved the average worker about $1,000 in taxes during the past year.

“If we do not extend this payroll tax reduction," says Levin, "we’re going to find 160 million people with a tax increase on January 1.”   

Republicans are balking at extending the tax break. They want Democrats to agree to budget cuts to make up for the loss of money for the Social Security system.  

Democrats want to pay for the tax cut with a surcharge on the very wealthy.  

A final deal is not expected until next week.

Michigan is one of only a handful of states without a specific law making school bullying a crime. The governor wants an anti-bullying law. Various other groups do too.

This is, make no mistake, a serious issue. According to the Senate Fiscal agency, bullying has accounted for at least ten suicides in the last ten years, plus more that were likely unreported.

So yesterday, the state senate passed such a law.

But nobody, absolutely nobody, is celebrating.

For a brief moment, a couple weeks ago, it looked like things might finally be moving on the governor’s plan to build a new Detroit River bridge a plan heavily supported by business.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville seemed to have  enough votes to move the bridge bills out of the economic development committee and on to the full senate.

There now seems to be an increasing likelihood that Governor Snyder may bypass the legislature and find another way to build a new bridge across the Detroit River. Late last week, a spokesman for the Ambassador Bridge Company said that would be outrageous.

He said it would be a perversion of the process to build a new bridge after the legislature said no. If that were the case, he might have a point. But that’s not at all what happened.

Officially, this is still summer, even though the first leaves are tumbling from the trees and the light looks more like fall.

Politically, however, it is clear what season it is: Silly season. Yesterday’s news included one candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, Pete Hoekstra, happily accepting the endorsement of a man, Mike Cox,  whom he openly despised and reviled barely a year ago.

Also, a state legislator announced she’d challenge one of the nation’s longest-serving incumbent congressmen. The oddest thing about this is not the David and Goliath aspect. It is that the congressman doesn’t even live in that district.

She does, but most think he will be a heavy favorite anyway. Meanwhile, in Lansing, the Republicans who control the state senate are moving closer to setting a date for a presidential primary.

Michigan has six congressmen from the Democratic Party. Their ages are 85, 82, 82, 80, 54 and 52. One of the 82-year-old guys is retiring.

But Michigan is losing a seat in Congress, and so it has to lose another of these men. Our state has no women Democrats in the house, by the way. So, logically, which one should go?

Should the 85-year-old, whose own party stripped him of his committee chairmanship last year, retire? He has already served longer in the house than any man in history. Should the other 82-year-old retire? He sometimes appears confused in public; his office is chaotic and has been the target of ethics investigations.

What about the 80-year-old, who was his party’s nominee for governor before most of today’s citizens were alive?

Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature say businesses should be required to give parents unpaid leave to attend parent-teacher conferences and other education related appointments with their kids.

State Representative Lisa Brown is a mother of three. She says business owners should understand the importance of active parental involvement in education.

"Juggling work and getting kids to a parent-teacher conference is not easy, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have that my kids have had teachers that make special time for me, because I work far from home."

The bill introduced this week would require businesses to give employees eight hours of unpaid leave per child, per school year. A spokesman for the House Republicans says he has not seen the bill, but he does not anticipate support for any mandates on businesses.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says the events in Libya this weekend vindicate President Obama’s decision to support NATO’s involvement there.  

“I think it does indicate that the president was correct…well obviously…it was a very very difficult situation…a very difficult decision for him to make…but it was the right one.”

Initially, the U.S. supervised a “No Fly Zone”  which prevented Libyan government troops from attacking disorganized rebel forces.  Eventually, NATO took control of air operations over Libya. 

Governor Rick Snyder has approved measures that redraw Michigan’s legislative and congressional districts. The new maps were approved by the Legislature’s Republican majorities in an intensely partisan battle. But this may not be the final word on the state’s new district maps. 

Michigan loses a congressional seat in the new maps to reflect the loss of population in the most recent census. The new lines throw at least two incumbent Democrats into the same district.