Michigan Legislature

Donald Trump speaks at the 2015 CPAC in Maryland
flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

It's no secret that voters here in Michigan and across the country are angry and cynical about the notorious gridlock in Washington that has brought the country to its knees with budget showdowns.

It doesn't help that Michigan lawmakers have returned to their summer vacations without a deal to repair our decaying roads.

But as Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes points out, the state House found time to devote to a sex scandal.

Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

State representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat engaged in misconduct and misused taxpayer resources. State House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, says those are preliminary findings of a House Business Office investigation into a sex-and-cover-up scandal involving the lawmakers.

 

Cotter’s office says the full report will be made public after outside legal counsel has a chance to review it.

 

But Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon says the public shouldn’t have to wait.

User CedarBendDrive/Flickr

The Next Idea

As public frustration with government mounts in response to the road funding impasse, some members of the state legislature are now joining in on the calls for reform. 

Courser website

Update 3:11 p.m.

The Speaker of the House in the Michigan Legislature said state officials seized evidence from the offices of Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, and Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, as part of their investigation into whether the two lawmakers used state resources to hide their relationship.

More from Chad Livengood and Leonard Fleming of the Detroit News:

Courser web site

The state House leader has ordered an investigation into whether two Republican lawmakers used their publicly funded offices to try and cover up an extra-marital affair.

State Representatives Todd Courser (R-Lapeer) and Cindy Gamrat (R-Plainwell) have been Tea Party favorites and alliance of two often at odds with their own party’s leaders.

The Detroit News obtained audio recordings made by a staffer where Courser can be heard outlining his plan to create a fake scandal in an effort to paper over the real one.

Michigan Democrats pick Brandon Dillon as new leader

Jul 11, 2015

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Democratic Party has elected state Rep. Brandon Dillon as its new party chairman to succeed Lon Johnson, who is resigning to run for Congress. 

The State Central Committee met Saturday in Port Huron, where delegates chose the Grand Rapids lawmaker to lead the party.

Johnson last month announced his candidacy for the 1st Congressional District that includes all of the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula. He was party chairman for more than two years.

The Michigan State House of Representatives in Lansing, Michigan
user CedarBendDrive / flickr

It’s hard to argue against the fact that informed citizens are the cornerstone of democracy.

That’s the idea behind the Open Meetings Act: keeping the business of public entities open, transparent, and accessible to the public.

Mr.TinDC / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The Michigan Senate passed a pair of bills (SB 209 and SB 211) this week that promote teaching of civics principles from the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Michigan Constitution for all public school students.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, is intended to fill holes in civics education that Colbeck says leave many Americans unable to demonstrate basic knowledge about how government works.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are some 37,000 names listed in the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Michigan has the fourth-highest per-capita number of people on its list.

But there are questions about Michigan's registry – whether it's really keeping us as safe as we like to think.

People with misdemeanor offenses are listed alongside rapists, pedophiles, and hard-core offenders.

A federal judge recently declared parts of Michigan's registry law to be too vague, even unconstitutional.

J.J. Prescott is a law professor at the University of Michigan. And he's a widely recognized authority on sex offender laws.

Prescott says the state's attempt to monitor these sex offenders may actually contribute to recidivism, as those on the public list are ostracized from society. 

"It's public shaming to the point where somebody might actually say, what's the difference? I'm living as a pariah, miserably, outside of prison," says Prescott.

State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Legislature is entering another round of negotiations to raise money for Michigan’s roads, following a decisive defeat of Proposal 1.

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 politics of getting a viable roads funding plan passed. 

Here's their conversation:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There have been times when we all wished there was a law on the books against something.

In the past, Michigan lawmakers have written many of those wishes into the state criminal code. 

For example, in 1931, Michigan lawmakers decreed how the national anthem (aka the Star-Spangled Banner) should be performed:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A trio of bills in the Michigan legislature would create a statewide database of second hand shop sales. 

State Representative Mike Callton says a single data base will help police officers track stolen goods that thieves may try to sell to pawn shops, gold dealers and other second hand stores.

“If it turned up in any pawn shop, buy-n-sell or precious metal buyer, it would show up in that registry,” says Callton, “(Police) wouldn’t have to be looking all over the state.”

The chambers inside Michigan's Capitol.
user CedarBendDrive, ae1106, and Lester Graham / Flickr/Michigan Radio

Jeff Salisbury asked us this question as part of our M I Curious news experiment. It's where you ask a question, questions are put to a vote, and we investigate the question with the most votes. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan may soon get out of the venture capital business.

The state House Commerce and Trade committee takes up legislation tomorrow that would sunset a state program that has made hundreds of millions of dollars in tax vouchers available for investment.  

slemboskilaw.com/

In the future, Michiganders behind in their rent payments may get an email eviction notice.

Currently, initial eviction notices are sent by first class mail. But a bill before the state House Judiciary committee would allow landlords use electronic mail instead.

COSENSMMA.COM

State lawmakers are scheduled to discuss a new effort to regulate amateur mixed martial arts fighting.

Michigan law currently regulates professional MMA bouts, but not amateur matches.

State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, fights in Michigan.

He says state lawmakers didn’t anticipate the growth in amateur MMA fighting when they passed the original regulations several years ago.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Winter's icy grip on Michigan has some in the Legislature arguing once again that the state should allow schools more days for weather-related closures before they must add extra days to the end of the school year.

Schools can be closed for up to six days before they must make up time to receive full funding from the state. But Michigan's 852 school districts missed an average of 9.5 school days in the 2013-2014 school year. And this winter is shaping up to be harsh as well.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan businesses that hire unemployed veterans would be eligible for up to $4,000 in tax credits under recently proposed legislation.

The Hire MI Heroes Act is expected to be introduced as legislation in Michigan's House and Senate soon with bipartisan support.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers are making third-graders' reading proficiency a significant focus this year.

  They have unspecified plans to improve kids' literacy long before they're 8 or 9 years old. But it remains unclear how far policymakers will go to deal with students who still aren't reading well enough by the end of third grade.

Michigan Legislature
Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Zoe Clark discuss calls for bi-partisanship in Lansing now that a new legislative session is underway. Do politicians really mean it though? Or are these calls for compromise just politics as usual?


Rick Snyder wants the U.S., not Canada, to pay for the Ambassador Bridge's customs plaza.
Michigan.gov

Each week I discuss what's happening in Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former state Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week we talk about the agenda Governor Rick Snyder laid out in his State of the State address, and the likely response from the Legislature.

Michigan's Capitol.
Graham Davis / flickr

The Michigan legislature has begun its new session and that means new leadership in the House and Senate. Republicans have strong majorities in both after the last election.

Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics joined us to talk about the new leadership.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Our environment laws in Michigan have become sharply more partisan in the past 14 years.

That statement comes from an analysis by MIRS News in Lansing. Reporter Craig Mauger examined about 200 new laws that the Michigan Legislature enacted from 2000 to 2014. 

He noted several changes.

Michigan Legislature
Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss how 2015 is shaping up for Michigan. The Legislature is new, but many of the state’s problems are the same.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is reviewing hundreds of bills approved by the Legislature in the waning days of the lame-duck session.

Lawmakers sent the governor 224 bills since the November election.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A proposed tax hike aimed at improving Michigan's transportation infrastructure and schools is heading to voters.

  The Michigan Legislature has put a sales tax increase on the May statewide ballot as part of a road funding plan.

Michigan Legislature
Matthileo / Flickr

Each Thursday, we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week we talked about the bills heading to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk this lame-duck session and whether he'll sign them.

Wood burning stove.
Rich Misner / Flickr

Michigan may soon pick a fight with the Environmental Protection Agency over wood burning stoves.

Nationwide, there are an estimated 12 million wood and pellet stoves. The EPA estimates wood stoves contribute about 13% of the nation’s soot pollution. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A bill that would legalize ride sharing companies is making its way through the legislature.

Ride sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, use an app to connect drivers with people looking for a ride and willing to pay. The bill would set up regulations for ride sharing companies that would be different from those taxi and limousine operators currently follow. 

Wikimedia Commons

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss a plan to help Michigan roads by cutting truck weight limits, whether any road fix plans will survive the lame duck session, and a possible end to federal oversight of the state’s foster care system.


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