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What are your summer vacation plans? For many in Michigan, it's time at the cottage or beach up North.

If you're a lawmaker, either state or federal, "summer vacation" has a different meaning. It gives you time to be in your district, take the pulse of voters, hear their concerns.

Covering the Washington angle is Todd Spangler, the D.C.-based reporter for the Detroit Free Press. And looking at Lansing is Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Public Radio's political analyst.

They joined us today to talk about summer vacation for members of Congress and state Legislature.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A fledgling bicycle share company hopes to get rolling in Lansing in August.

A group of college students have founded a company that will provide bikes for temporary rentals.

The idea would be to set up bike rental stations at bus stops and other commuting locations in Lansing to give people an option for the next short leg of their journey.

Holland BPW

Michigan has a new commercial scale power plant; the first new power plant in Michigan in 25 years.

Coal is still the dominant fuel source in the state, but this plant's existence means there will be a little less coal being imported into Michigan.

At the ceremony today celebrating its opening, the Lansing Board of Water & Light sang the new "REO Town" plant's praises:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Fourth of July holiday is fast approaching. 

Many Michigan cities and towns are looking for ways to quiet home-made fireworks shows.

Last year, a new state law opened the door to sales of bigger and louder fireworks in Michigan.   That led to some sleepless nights in many parts of Michigan last summer, as the whirl and bang of newly legal fireworks often sounded into the wee hours of the morning.

Lansing Board of Water & Light

The Lansing Board of Water & Light say this new power plant will be "the first new utility power plant built in Michigan in 25 years."

Following a national trend away from coal, this power plant will burn natural gas.

According to their press release, the municipally-owned utility expects to cut is greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to the coal-fired steam and electric units the new power plant will replace. They list other benefits as well:

- Eliminate the need to burn 351,000 tons of coal compared to the steam and electric units that the new plant will replace.

- Lower mercury and SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions by over 99 percent, and NOx (oxides of nitrogen) by over 85 percent compared to the coal-fired boilers that are now retired.

The power plant called the "REO Town plant" will be fully operational Monday.

It's part $182 million project that also includes a headquarters building and a restored Grand Trunk Western Railroad depot for the BWL Board of Commissioners meetings.

The plant is expected to generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing, replacing the Moores Park Steam Plant. It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light offers water, electric, steam and chilled water service to more than 100,000 residential and business customers.

Michigan Flyer

A private bus service will get a federal grant, despite the objections of Lansing’s Capitol Region International Airport.

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission last night approved a $595,000 federal grant to the Michigan Flyer. The Flyer currently operates 8 daily round trips from Lansing to Ann Arbor to Metro Airport. The grant will allow its buses to run four more round trips each day.   

Airport officials fear the added bus service will siphon off potential air passengers from Lansing.

Everyone knows, of course, that Rick Snyder was elected governor three years ago. And by now it is safe to say that everyone has an opinion about him. Some think he is saving the state.

Others are vowing to do everything they can to prevent him from winning a second term. But stop for a minute.

Do you remember who Snyder defeated to be elected governor in the first place? Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, the Democratic nominee in what was an impossible year for his party.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Lansing bio-pharmaceutical company has opened a ten million dollar expansion at its Lansing facility.

Emergent Biosolutions produces an anthrax vaccine at its facility in Lansing.

“The government is purchasing as much as we can produce,” says Daniel Abdun Nabi, the company’s president, “So one of the reasons we have expanded here on the Lansing campus is to address the nation’s requirement for a broader stockpile of BioThrax.”

The company hopes to triple its Lansing production of the anthrax vaccine by 2015.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For a lot of uninsured families in Michigan, this is a big week.

Lawmakers in Lansing are sloooowly moving ahead with expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

That would give another 470,000 Michiganders coverage.

So who exactly are we talking about here?

The morning I meet Jen and Todd Nagle, we have no clue the day will end with Todd being rushed to the doctor for chest pains.


My kids love using Google Earth. With the push of a button they "fly" from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Newfoundland, the Panama Canal, the Great Barrier Reef, or some other place they're curious about.

Now Google has mined satellite images from the U.S. government that allow us to fly back in time.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing is joining with five of its neighbors to create something close to a regional fire department. Fire departments in Lansing, East Lansing, Delhi Township, Lansing Township, Meridian Township and Delta Township have signed "shared service" agreements. 

Under the agreements, the closest fire station will respond to local emergencies, whether the emergency is in their town or not. Under existing "mutual aid" agreements, the outside fire department has to be asked to respond.

School’s out and summer means sun tans, barbeques, beach days, and…searching for Christmas Trees?

The hunt for the state holiday tree has begun. Michigan needs a 65-foot-tall evergreen that can sparkle on the lawn of the Capitol building in November.

“Everyone laughs that the process starts in June,” said Kurt Weiss with Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget, “But that’s when the process starts.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Potential home buyers looking for a fixer-upper may want to look in Detroit or Lansing.

Realty Trac is out with a list of the 15 cities with the largest number of bank-owned homes on the market that were built before 1960 and valued at under $100 thousand.

Detroit tops the list, with nearly four thousand older homes with an average estimated value of just over $40 thousand. Lansing comes in 15th, with more than 500 pre-1960 homes with an average estimated value of $56 thousand.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

As expected, the Lansing city council last night failed to muster enough votes to override the mayor’s budget veto.

But Lansing’s budget drama is not over yet.

The Lansing city council needed six votes to reinstate the changes it made to the city budget last month.

But only five council members voted to override Mayor Virg Bernero’s veto.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council is expected to try to override the mayor’s budget vetoes tonight. But the council does not appear to have enough votes to do it.

The Lansing city council made many changes to Mayor Virg Bernero’s spending plan for next year when it passed the budget last month.    A few days later, the mayor vetoed all the council’s changes.    Now it’s the council's chance to respond.  

Six of the council's eight members would need to vote to override the vetoes.   That appears unlikely.   

Michigan Flyer facebook page

A federal grant to expand bus service between Lansing and Detroit Metro Airport is stalled.

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission split nine to nine on authorizing a $600,000 grant to help the Michigan Flyer expand its daily trips from eight to twelve.    The commissioner with the potential tie-breaking vote did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting.

State and federal transportation agencies have already approved the grant, which would essentially help offset the costs for the first few months of the added service between East Lansing and Ann Arbor.

user gracey / morgueFile

Twelve years ago, St. Vincent's Catholic Charities in Lansing started a job training program for women refugees, but organizers soon realized these women needed something other than job training. 

"If you don't speak English, if you don't have a destination to go to, you can end up being incredibly isolated," said Jillian Olsen.

Jillian shows up once a week to help lead a sewing circle, teaching refugee women how to sew.

Sewing is important for a couple of reasons. It's a skill the women learn as part of the job training program, but it's also a way for the women to socialize and share common experiences.

Austin Davis spoke with some of the volunteers in this program. This piece was produced by Austin Davis and Kyle Norris.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has a long list of items he plans to veto in the budget passed by the city council last night.   

The Lansing city council struggled for three hours trying to agree on amendments to the proposed city budget for next year.  

The numbers got so confused, the council took a forty minute break to give the city’s finance director time to figure out if the budget was still balanced, as it’s legally required to be.

Mayor Virg Bernero says the meeting was extremely disorganized.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Legislation in Michigan House could cap FOIA fees

There is new legislation up for initial hearing this week in Lansing. It is a response to local governments and state agencies charging hefty fees for people to see government records.

"One of the bills would limit most charges for requests filed under the state’s Freedom of Information Act to no more than 10 cents a page. Another would create a Michigan Open Government Commission to hear challenges to government denials of information requests," Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

Lansing City Council vs. Mayor Virg Bernero

The Lansing city council will vote tonight on a budget for next year. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that "the vote will likely put the council at odds with Mayor Virg Bernero." 

The mayor wants to add annual fees for city water and electricity customers. Conversely, the council wants to make several spending cuts including eliminating several new positions the mayor wants to add to the city's payroll. Mayor Virg Bernero will have until Thursday to veto parts of the city budget he doesn’t like. The Lansing city council has until early June to try to override the mayor’s expected vetoes.

Higher education opportunities piloted in Michigan prisons

"After years without funding for prisoners to access higher education, the Michigan Department of Corrections is immersed in several efforts to teach community college courses and vocational training in-house to a small number of inmates who are near parole. Michigan will join a pilot project that hopes to gather enough evidence to possibly resurrect publicly supported postsecondary education in prisons nationally," reports The Detroit News.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council votes tonight on a budget for next year.

The vote will likely put the council at odds with Mayor Virg Bernero.

The mayor wants to fill a five million dollar hole in the 2014 budget, with added annual fees for city water and electricity customers. The money would pay for streetlights and fire hydrants.

Last week, the city council dumped the fees from the budget.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council has rejected a plan to increase fees on city utility customers.

Today the city council approved a budget plan that axes the 46-dollar utility fee and several million dollars in spending in the mayor’s proposed budget for next year. Final council approval is expected Monday night.

“I think many of us had heard the concerns that people wanted to make sure we were making the cuts that needed to be made,” says Carol Wood, Lansing city council president.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he wants four more years in office. He formally announced his campaign today. 

“I’m telling you folks … Lansing is on the verge,” the partisan crowd groaned, and then laughed, as Virg Bernero joked at his campaign kickoff.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Time is running out for the Lansing city council to come up with changes to the mayor’s budget proposal for next year. 

The city council must approve a budget plan in two weeks.   Council members have been poring over the mayor’s 112 million dollar budget proposal for the past month.

Carol Wood is the Lansing city council president. She says there are some items that could be cut from the budget. 

Jackson National Life Insurance Company says it plans to spend $100 million on a new office complex in Lansing.

The life insurance and annuities company is headquartered in the capital city.

The expansion will add a thousand jobs of all types.

Mike Wells is Jackson National’s president. He says their growing business has outgrown the complex they built a decade ago.

“We now have twice the employees we had in Michigan,” says Wells, “we have outgrown our space.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, the Lansing city council took the unusual step of passing a resolution that the city attorney says is “unenforceable”. 

The resolution is intended to define how city council members themselves can use their city issued lap top computers.   The resolution came about in the wake of allegations that one of the city council members had misused their laptop.

A’Lynne Boles-Robinson is the council vice president.  

A state Representative says newly released documents are raising some serious flags about the state’s Education Achievement Authority. On today’s show: we talk with Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton about what she found out about the EAA through a FOIA request.

We check in withe Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes about recent Ford earnings reports. And Mayor Dave Bing has announced he'll run for reelection.

We also talk about the changes to arts education in Lansing public schools.

Later in the show, we speak with Art Prize founder Rick DeVos about another venture of his: Start Garden.
And finally, Ann Arbor is on the verge of a championship - a bowling championship. We hear more about tonight's game from WWII vet Mel Shannon.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council has approved a 12 year-four million dollar tax abatement for General Motors.

GM is planning a $38 million expansion to its Lansing Grand River assembly plant.  The expansion is expected to add 150 jobs to the plant.

GM currently makes its Cadillac ATS and CTS at the Lansing plant.   The automaker also plans to start producing its next generation Camaro at the Lansing plant.

The two thousand runners expected to take part in this Sunday’s Lansing marathon can expect to see tight security along the 26-mile course.

The added security is in response to Monday’s deadly bombing at the finish of the Boston Marathon.

Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski says people attending the Lansing marathon will be protected.

“We’ll certainly have additional patrols….we’ll have extra officers working the event. We’ll take precautionary measures…such as bomb sweeps and those types of things we do for these events,” says Szymanski.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski is retiring. 

Szymanski has been on the job since 2010.

She is the first woman to serve as the capitol city’s chief of police in the department’s 119-year history.

Szymanski has been part of the Lansing police department for 26 years.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he plans to name an interim police chief before Szymanski’s retirement becomes official April 20.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing city leaders are weighing a couple of options that could increase the bills of city utility customers.

The mayor is proposing either a flat fee or a surcharge based on a customer’s water or electricity use to pay for Lansing’s fire hydrants and streetlights.  The money raised would help the city fill a projected $5 million hole in next year’s city budget.

In the past, the city paid the utility directly from its general fund for maintaining Lansing’s streetlights and fire hydrants.