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Weekly Political Roundup
4:44 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Are Detroit businesses looking for a fresh face in the Mayor's office?

Laughlin Elkind Flickr

Every Thursday we look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Mayor Dave Bing yesterday announced that he and the Detroit City Council have come to an agreement on the city's 2012-2013 budget.

The Mayor is also attending the Mackinac Policy Conference but has avoided telling reporters outright whether he plans to run for reelection.

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Politics
4:37 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan lawmakers pass (most of) a budget for next year

State House members and others look on as the votes are counted on the Omnibus 2013budget (non-education) bill
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State lawmakers have passed a budget plan for most of state government for next year.

The House and Senate passed an Omnibus spending bill that covers all of state government, except education.   The state House passed the bill on a 61 to 49 vote.   The bill passed the state Senate on a 20 to 16 vote.

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Politics
3:23 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Lawyers sue Michigan Department of Corrections to restore prison visiting hours

The director of Michigan State University's Civil Rights Clinic is suing the state Department of Corrections in federal court.

Dan Manville says the DOC is violating some lawyers' Constitutional rights by limiting when they can visit prisoners.

Manville says the new visiting hours are three days a week from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

"Now under this present procedure, you're having to drive at least two or three days to do the same thing you used to be able to do in one day," Manville says.

He says some lawyers have clients at several locations around the state.

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Politics
3:06 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Advocates urge the Obama administration to change it's deportation policies

Members of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform listen as one of several speakers talks about the difficulties she has had trying to stay in the United States. The event took place in Lansing.
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Immigration advocates are calling on the Obama administration to scale back efforts to deport some undocumented immigrants in Michigan.

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Politics
2:26 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan school districts could get more money in next budget

Hundreds of school districts that now get the minimum amount of state aid would get $120 more per student this fall under a compromise reached by state lawmakers. A conference committee has voted today to raise the minimum per-pupil grant. The school aid budget now goes to the state House and Senate, which are expected to pass it later today.

Arts & Culture
2:02 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

A recap of the 2012 Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival

A hot Memorial Day weekend in Detroit.
Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival Facebook

Some people went north, or headed to the pools for the Memorial Weekend, others danced the weekend away at the Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit.

NPR's All Songs Considered put up a recap of the Festival:

Now in its thirteenth year, Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival has featured an enormously diverse group of electronic producers and DJs from around the world. Detroit is the birthplace of Techno and after all these years of being more popular nearly everywhere but Detroit, there was a feeling at this year's festival that it's all coming back home.

Here's host Bob Boilen talking with NPR's Sami Yenigun and U Street Music Hall promotions director Morgan Tepper about their experiences at the festival:

And here's a sampling of music heard at the festival (included is a song title using a phrase I often heard in grade school - *chuckle*).

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Commentary
1:52 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Frustration at Mackinac

Two days ago, a beaming Gov. Rick Snyder opened the annual conference of our state?s economic and political elites on an upbeat note. He cited the official themes the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce set for their annual Mackinac Conference. "Innovation, Collaboration and the Twenty-First Century Global Marketplace." Those are things he himself is all about.

Whether you agree with his positions or not, this governor wants what he thinks are rational policies aimed at giving this state a future. But the morning after his triumphant welcome, the governor had to again admit defeat over an issue that shouldn't even be an issue: Road funding. Too many Michigan roads are in poor shape, and a whole lot more are rapidly getting worse. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Transportation estimated ninety per cent of our roads are in good or fair condition, which seemed too high to me.

But the state also calculated that unless we start investing far more heavily in our roads, only 44 percent will be in acceptable shape a mere eight years from now. That would be a disaster.

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Health
1:31 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Cooling can help full-term infants with low flow of oxygen and blood to the brain

A new study suggests a medical therapy known as "cooling" can help full-term infants born with low flow of oxygen and blood to the brain.  This condition is thought to occur in about 1 out of every one-thousand babies born in the United States.  Cooling is thought to be one way to protect the brain. 

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Politics
12:50 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

"Leo's Law" nearly ready for governor's signature

Then-seven-year-old Leo Ratte was taken into state custody after his dad mistakenly gave him a Mike's Hard Lemonade at a ballgame in 2008.
wikimedia commons

It would be more difficult for the state to take children into protective custody, under a bill that's expected to go to the governor for his signature soon.

The legislation was inspired by a situation at a Detroit Tigers game four years ago.

Leo Ratte was seven years old at the time, when his dad bought him a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade at the ballpark. His dad didn't realize the drink contained alcohol. But a security guard spotted Leo drinking the lemonade, and notified authorities. 

Hours later, Leo was in state custody. He spent two nights away from his parents.

The bill's sponsor says he wants to make sure something similar never happens again.

"When I began to look into the problem I found that Michigan has some of the lowest standards in the nation for removing a child from a parent," said Sen. Rick Jones (R-Lansing).

Jones' bill would require there to be substantial or imminent risk of harm before a child could be removed from its parents without a court order.

Politics
12:27 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Hoekstra defending idea of federal office to avert "birther" controversies

Former West Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra wants to become the Republican candidate to run against U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in November.
Republican Conference Flickr

Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra said he called for a federal agency to check the qualifications of presidential candidates because he wants to avert future “birther” controversies.

MPRN's Rick Pluta reports:

Hoekstra has been slammed for re-igniting the debate among Republicans over President Obama’s citizenship at a Tea Party meeting last month.

Hoekstra said he was responding to a question he’s grown tired of answering.

“This is an absolutely ludicrous discussion to be having four years after we’ve had a presidential discussion. It’s an absolute waste of time and energy.”

Here's the video of the event where Hoekstra proposed the "three-person" federal office to oversee whether candidates are eligible for running for president of the United States:

And here's Hoekstra, under heated questioning from CNN's Brooke Baldwin, defending his proposal for this federal office:  Video

Politics
12:07 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan lawmakers hope to pass state budget today

A view of the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are working to pass the final pieces of the 2012-13 budget, but differences are still being worked out on funding for universities and public schools.

If the budget is finished today as planned, the Legislature will meet its goal of passing a budget by June 1.

A House-Senate conference committee is expected to reach a compromise on the K-12 budget soon.

The two chambers are having trouble reaching an agreement on kindergarten funding. Differences on the higher education budget include whether Michigan State University must give up its requirement that all students get health coverage and whether the University of Michigan must report more on stem cell research.

Environment & Science
10:40 am
Thu May 31, 2012

Flame retardant chemical detected in food

Flame retardant chemicals are in many of the products we use in our homes and offices. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies suggest the chemicals could be linked to a variety of health problems. Reiner Kraft

A flame retardant chemical that’s used in insulation and electrical equipment is showing up in food. It's called hexabromocyclododecane or HBCD. 

Here's what the Environmental Protection Agency says about the chemical:

HBCD is found world-wide in the environment and wildlife. It is also found in human breast milk, adipose tissue, and blood. It bioaccumulates in living organisms and biomagnifies in the food chain. It is persistent in the environment and is transported long distances.

HBCD is highly toxic to aquatic organisms. It also presents human health concerns based on animal test results indicating potential reproductive, developmental and neurological effects.

Flame retardant chemicals are used in hundreds of consumer products. Certain kinds of these chemicals leach out of our couches, our TVs, our carpet padding and many other things in our homes. They've been found in household dust and in food, and they're getting into our bodies.

Linda Birnbaum is the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Toxicology Program.

She’s a senior author of a study out today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and I spoke with her for today's Environment Report.  For the study, the team purchased 36 samples of foods common in American diets from Dallas, Texas supermarkets, including peanut butter, poultry, fish and beef.  HBCD was detected in 15 of the samples.

"We primarily found it in fatty foods of animal origin, so fatty animal products. This is a chemical that loves to be in the fat, and that’s where we’re finding it."

Williams: "Now, were the levels you found high enough to be of concern?"

Birnbaum: "The levels are very, very low. I would call this micro-contamination. In our 2010 study where we looked at the total presence of this chemical, at that point we estimated that the daily intake was about 1,000 fold lower than what is believed to be a safe dose."

HBCD is showing up in people's bodies. The study states that food "may be a substantial contributor to the elevated α-HBCD levels observed in humans."

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Politics
10:38 am
Thu May 31, 2012

AUDIO: No budget battle, Detroit Mayor Bing says yes to $250 million in cuts

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

At a press conference this morning, Detroit Mayor Bing said he'll approve Detroit City Council's budget.

Here's Bing making the announcement at the Mackinac Policy Conference this morning:

Bing's announcement means the typical high-stakes budget battles seen between executive and legislative branches of government won't happen in Detroit this year.

Suzette Hackney of the Detroit Free Press reports:

For the first time in recent history, Detroit's executive and legislative branches of government quashed potential squabbles over the city's budget and agreed to make $250 million in cuts in an effort to steer Detroit back toward fiscal stability.Detroit Mayor Dave Bing this morning said he intends Friday to formally adopt the budget, which contains key public lighting, transportation and public safety initiatives...

The 2012-13 fiscal year begins July 1. This budget is the first under a consent agreement that gives the state significant oversight into Detroit's finances. The $1.12-billion spending plan calls for Detroit's human services department to be eliminated, the transportation and lighting departments will be privatized, and 2,600 jobs will be cut.

The budget reduces the city's general fund by $246 million -- a $171-million spending reduction and $75 million to go toward paying down an accumulated deficit.

Detroit's budget must also be approved by a "financial advisory board" which was set up under a consent agreement with the state. The seats on the nine-member board are still being filled.

News Roundup
8:51 am
Thu May 31, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Hoekstra responds to "birther" questions at Mackinac Policy Conference

Republican Senate hopeful Pete Hoekstra responded to a question from MPRN's Rick Pluta about his publicly stated support for a "3-person" federal office that reviews whether presidential candidates meet minimum requirements to run for office. From the Detroit Free Press:

...host Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio put [Hoekstra] on the defensive over a controversy that arose Wednesday after remarks Hoekstra made about whether Obama was born in the U.S. and qualified to hold the office of president.

Hoekstra responded saying:

...it was "an absolutely ludicrous discussion to be having" after Obama has been president for four years. "They raised the issue; I didn't," he said of the tea party group. "They thought it was important. I don't."

With most state lawmakers gone, business is the focus on Mackinac Island

Lawmakers certainly discuss business as well, but Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta talked about a different vibe on Mackinac Island on their It's Just Politics episode this week.

State lawmakers typically attend the Mackinac Policy Conference, but with budget negotiations going on in Lansing, most are absent.

"State lawmakers are not here, and because state lawmakers are not here, lobbyists are not here," said Pluta. "And if lobbyists are not here that means there's not this cadre of people who are buying drinks and meals...and hosting hospitality suites, so it's a little quieter, it's a little tamer."

Clark points out that some of the people she spoke with don't miss the lawmakers. Pluta says "business people are gettting together and talking business" at this conference.

A new State Fair in Michigan?

There's no state funding involved in this fair, so some are saying it can't really be called a "State Fair." Organizers of the "Great Lakes State Fair" say they're not trying to duplicate the old Michigan State Fair, but they are attempting to bring in similar events. From the Detroit Free Press:

The new event will feature many of the elements found at typical fairs: a midway, carnival rides, livestock and produce exhibits, a beer tent and entertainment.

The event will take place from August 31 through September 3 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

Health
8:47 am
Thu May 31, 2012

Healthcare providers can better meet the needs of American Muslim patients

Hamed Saber Flickr

A new study sheds some light on how health care providers can better meet the cultural needs of American Muslim patients.

Michigan is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the U.S.  Some Muslim patients report that they experience discrimination in health care settings.

Researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan interviewed groups of Muslim men and women from different backgrounds attending mosques in Metro Detroit.  

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It's Just Politics
8:56 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Mackinac Policy Conference: A political free-for-all

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The Grand hosts the annual Mackinac Policy Conference put on by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.
jpwbee Flickr

Day two of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual Mackinac Policy Conference is winding down but that certainly doesn't mean the politics at the event is slowing. In a special Wednesday edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I take a look at the political gossip floating across the Island.

Politics
5:55 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Michigan AG says investigation into McCotter petitions coming

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (far right) of Michigan.
Republican Conference Flickr

A formal investigation into possible election fraud by a congressional campaign will wait until after a state board meets next week.

The Board of State Canvassers is expected to formally reject petitions filed by Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s re-election campaign. The petitions can then be turned over to the state Attorney General's office.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the delay has not stopped his office from communicating with elections officials on the case.

"So it appears there is a problem, but we’ve not received anything officially yet from the Secretary of State’s office, and when we do, we’ll review it in a thorough fashion," said Schuette.

The Secretary of State’s office says it appears hundreds of signatures on McCotter’s nominating petitions were faked.

Schuette said it's a textbook example of how not to collect signatures.

"It's kind of elementary. When you run for class president, you gotta get the signatures to have the election, and it appears there’s a huge problem here," said Schuette.

McCotter has acknowledged problems with his petitions and says he plans to run as a write-in candidate on the Republican primary ballot in August.

Arts & Culture
5:22 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Keeping memory alive: Grand Rapids residents use art to spark interest in decades-old disappearance

Artist John O'Hearn created the Deanie Peters exhibit.
Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

A group of former classmates is using art to try to solve one of Michigan’s most high profile missing person cases.

February 5th 1981 14-year-old Deanie Peters and her mom were watching a wrestling match. It was at a middle school in a suburb outside of Grand Rapids.

Peters told her mom she had to use the restroom before they headed home. 'I’ll be right back,' she said.

But Peters never returned.

Thirty-one years later police still haven’t made an arrest or found her body. Deanie’s little brother Will Peters was six-years-old when she disappeared.

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Wildfire
5:09 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

DNR says wildfire in Michigan's UP 55% contained

Michigan DNR Facebook

This morning the Michigan Department of Natural Resources released an update on the Duck Lake Fire, still burning in the Upper Peninsula.

According to the DNR, the fire, located in Luce County, was roughly 21,450 acres is size and about 55 percent contained, as of this morning.

From the DNR press release:

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Politics
5:02 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Cuts planned for state-run juvenile offender facilities; private centers to get increases

Michigan's state-run juvenile detention facilities could lose funding in the coming year, while privately run facilities would get raises.

The three facilities that house Michigan's worst young offenders would get $2 million less under the budget adopted by a conference committee this week -- or a total of about $26 million  annually.

They include the Maxey Boys Training School in Whitmore Lake, Shawono Center in Grayling and Bay Pines Center in Escanaba.

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