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Michigan Legislature

LANSING – Coercing a woman to have an abortion would be a misdemeanor in Michigan, under a bill sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Senate approved the legislation, 26-11, Wednesday with all Democrats and one Republican voting against it. The bill would make coercion a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000; $10,000 if the accused is the father of the embryo or fetus.

Governor Rick Snyder
Flickr user Michigan Municipal League / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There is only one state in the entire country where, under the law, the governor is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

You guessed it: it's Michigan.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

An article in The Free Press reported 2016 is "shaping up as a raucous and competitive election season with incumbent politicians facing strong challenges up and down the ballot, and a presidential race that could influence the control of every race."

Rick Pluta and Zach Gorchow join us to talk about upcoming State Representative races, voter turnout, and how the Michigan legislature might change after this election year.

Dearborn Mayor John B. “Jack” O’Reilly, Jr.
(courtesy City of Dearborn)

When Republicans pushed through a campaign finance bill at the end of last year’s Michigan Legislative session, it was met with little resistance. In fact, many would be hard-pressed to remember what exactly the bill was attempting to fix. 

The provision, which was added just hours before the last session of the year closed, banned any public body or most public officials from using public money to spread factual information about local ballot measures in the 60-day run-up to an election. 

A Senate committee approved a bill that would end pensions for incoming new teachers in Michigan. They would be put into market-based 401 (k)-style plans.
Matthileo / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

A couple of state senators stopped by Stateside to give their reaction to the State of the State address given by Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday evening.

The governor dedicated a large portion of the speech to the Flint water crisis. 

Flint's Democratic State Senator, Jim Ananich, says he's relieved the water crisis is finally getting the attention it deserves.

However, Ananich tells Stateside host Cynthia Canty that he had hoped Snyder would have had more details in his speech.

John Kivela's office website

ST. JOHNS, Mich. (AP) - A northern Michigan lawmaker has pleaded guilty to drunken driving stemming from an incident in which authorities say he was speeding, swerving and driving with an open bottle of whiskey.

Democratic Rep. John Kivela made the plea to a first-offense charge Friday in a Clinton County court. Prosecutors dropped a more serious charge of operating while intoxicated with a high-blood-alcohol content.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Legislation that would eliminate the straight-ticket voting option on Michigan ballots is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

Rick Pluta, co-host of It’s Just Politics and the Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, tells us that if signed, this legislation would have three effects:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state House committee will consider legislation to help foster kids navigate the system.

Among other things, the bills would require a “children’s assurance of quality foster care policy is developed” and that current and former foster children participate in developing the policy.

The bills would also require foster kids be able to meet with judges overseeing their cases and know how to file complaints.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Tomorrow, a state House committee will consider changes to the juvenile justice system in Michigan.

The House Criminal Justice committee is scheduled to discuss the 20-bill package starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Among other things, the package of bills would bar housing youth offenders with adult convicts and raise the age of mandatory adult sentences.   

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Tomorrow, a state Senate committee takes up legislation that would require state agencies to pay the court costs of people who sue the state and win. 

State Sen.Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says state agencies have an unfair advantage over people in disputes over taxes and permits.

“The weight of the government against the small guy, there seems to be an imbalance there,” says Casperson. “We’re trying to find a way to at least balance that out.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports companies spent $21 million in the first seven months of the year.  That’s about 1.3% more than during the same period in 2014.

Multi-client lobbying firms dominated the filings, which presents a problem.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A national group representing the left and right of the political spectrum is concentrating on Michigan as ripe for criminal justice changes that include releasing parolees earlier and taming law enforcement's seizure of people's assets regardless of whether charges are filed.

  The U.S. Justice Action Network comprises groups such as the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and conservative FreedomWorks. The organization's executive director, Holly Harris, has been lobbying lawmakers and hopes legislation is enacted by year's end.

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites

State Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, resigned early this morning as the House was about to vote on expelling him. That capped a 15-hour session with three earlier efforts that were thwarted. Courser says he called it quits because he could see how it would wind up.

Former state representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
images from Courser/Gamrat offices

Update 2:15 p.m.

Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, says she's "shocked" a panel is recommending expulsion for her involvement in a bizarre cover-up attempt of her extramarital affair with another lawmaker.

Gamrat tells The Associated Press she won't resign before the House votes, possibly later Thursday. She says while no promises were made, she "was coerced" to admit to various allegations of wrongdoing with an understanding that the committee would support a censure.

Courtesy Courser & Gamrat websites

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Two freshmen tea party lawmakers who set out to shake up Michigan's Capitol succeeded in a way no one could have imagined.

  On Tuesday, the state House will hold a rare disciplinary hearing that could lead to the expulsion of Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat over their extramarital affair and an attempt to cover it up.

Sikkema told us it's "premature to start talking about opposition. I think you need to give the president-elect a chance and time to lead.”
flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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.

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
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.

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