michigan politics

Voting Booths
Flickr

We are counting down the weeks to the November elections, but we are not counting down the weeks to debates between candidates.

So far, the chances of a debate between Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer, or between candidates for the U.S. Senate seat, Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters, are looking increasingly slim.

Imagine that you are a CEO and you are looking to hire somebody for a temporary, two-year position that pays $174,000 a year, and may include access to highly sensitive information.

Somebody steps up and announces he will pay more than $3 million, most of it out of his own pocket, to be considered for this job.  Would you be suspicious?

Let’s say you also needed to hire someone for a lower-ranking position, one which will have little power, and which will pay less than $72,000. A woman who could easily make more than that elsewhere borrows money, hits up friends, and spends more than $200,000 in an attempt to be a finalist for the position.

Would you say something is wrong here?

Here’s something that has changed in politics in this country, and I think it is a very disturbing trend. Back in ancient times, like say the 1980s, campaigning was largely about persuading voters.

We took it for granted that modern voters made their minds up, as the saying went, “based on the man, not the party.”

Everybody knew that there were diehard Democrats and rock-ribbed Republicans who would support their party’s candidates, no matter what, but they were seen as old-fashioned dinosaurs.

Well, things have changed. Dinosaurs are back.

The parties are more sharply divided than they’ve been in my lifetime. Swing voters are an endangered species.

The last three years haven’t been great ones to be in the legislature – if you are a Democrat. Republicans are in control, and they’ve rammed through bills whose passage would have been unimaginable five years ago. Right to work, for example.

Two years ago, Democrats hoped to win control of the state House of Representatives, to gain some leverage. They did gain five seats, thanks in part to a large turnout and President Obama winning Michigan by nearly half a million votes. But they still fell short, thanks in part to redistricting. More than 400,000 more votes were cast for Democrats, but gerrymandering meant when the dust had settled, Republicans had 59, Democrats, 51.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss Mike Duggan's write-in campaign, the Detroit City Council, and the Pontiac school district.

Romney's older brother interested in Levin seat

Mar 9, 2013

The older brother of presidential candidate Mitt Romney is interested in running for the Michigan Senate seat being vacated by Carl Levin in 2014.

A state GOP official said Friday that Scott Romney, 71, is exploring his options with potential supporters. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about specific candidates.

An attorney, Scott Romney lost the 1998 nomination for attorney general at the Michigan Republican Party's convention. One of his ex-wives, Ronna, ran for the Senate in 1996 but lost to Levin.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

What does 2013 have in store for Michigan politics?

Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, and Debbie Dingell, President of D2 Strategies, spoke today with Zoe Clark.

They addressed the importance of Democrats and Republicans collaborating on key issues for the state.

Dingell predicted an ardent strategy from Democrats.

“The air is not cleared and will be an issue for the next two years. The challenge for Democrats is to develop a strategy that gets at the core of the issue but doesn’t hurt Michigan in the process,” said Dingell.

“The biggest challenge for all of us is, how do we do what’s right and what’s best for Michigan? How do we move forward on good public policy where we actually have common ground?” said Anuzis.

Stateside: Lame duck concludes, 2013 comes into focus

Dec 18, 2012
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lansing’s lame duck session has ended, allowing politicians to focus on their 2013 agendas.

To better understand what both parties will discuss, we heard from Saul Anuzis and Debbie Dingell.

Anuzis is the former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and Dingell is a Democratic National Committeewoman.

Dingell expressed concern over the speed with which right-to-work legislation passed.

“People in Michigan were stunned by many of the bills that passed so quickly without discussion,” said Dingell.

“The lame duck session every two years is something where a lot of bills move very quickly. I don’t think anybody was surprised…” said Anuzis.

Stateside: Addressing Michigan's lame-duck session

Nov 19, 2012
Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are currently in a "lame-duck" session.

With some politicians nearing the ends of their terms, a mixed sense of delay and progress pervades Lansing.

David Eggert, political contributor for MLive and Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry talked about the typical work ethic of a lame-duck period.

“Some of these folks won’t be coming back, so I think they feel somewhat liberated and also under pressure to get things done,” said Lessenberry.

Consider this. We’ve still got more than a week left of March, and it looks like April and feels like August. Yesterday it was eighty-six in Ann Arbor, and two people think they saw a cougar -- a mountain lion, not the other kind -- on north campus.

We’ve got presidential candidates waving Etch-a-sketch toys instead of talking about Iran and inflation.

In other words, it’s not a normal year, and I want to make a suggestion to further radically change our world.

Yesterday, I was listening to Rick Santorum attack Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney for supposedly being willing to take more moderate positions in the general election campaign.

Well, there’s something to be said against being a flip-flopper, changing with every new opinion poll. But there is also something more to be said for recognizing reality.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton probably won’t vote in the primary today, though he spends his life doing work that’s greatly affected by the political world. Nor does he seem impressed that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are fellow Roman Catholics.

Actually, he seems pretty appalled by them.

Many voters suspect politicians are corrupted by money. Campaign contributions and cozy relationships with lobbyists make voters wonder if their elected officials have their best interests at heart. That’s led to attempts to fix the problem in Michigan, but observers say sometimes the ‘fix’ makes the problem worse.

Politicians need money to run campaigns to win elections. And often that money comes from the rich and powerful. But what do those politicians get in return?

With the passage of so called right-to-work laws in Indiana, some Michigan lawmakers are now calling for those laws in Michigan.

Lawmakers in support of right-to-work laws say they’ll make Michigan a more business friendly environment.

Opponents call it union busting and an effort to weaken unions’ political power.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst, Jack Lessenberry gives us a historical perspective.

Last week I had occasion to mention the famous author Upton Sinclair, and his now-forgotten campaign for governor of California in 1934. Afterwards, a friend told me, “I’ll bet that’s the last time you bring that up for about ten years.“

More likely, 20, I thought. Well, guess what. Here we go again. The reason I mentioned Sinclair was that his campaign was one of the first examples of moneyed interests spending lavishly to destroy a candidacy with outrageously false advertising, something we‘ve seen happen many times since.

We’ve got a few serious problems in this state, from the fact that we lost almost a million jobs in the past decade to the inconvenient truth that higher education has become both essential for all and highly unaffordable for a large percentage of us.

Throw in that our largest city is quivering on the brink of state takeover and the Asian carp threat, and you might conclude that our lawmakers had more than enough to keep them busy without veering off into divisive distractions.

gophouse.org

CORRECTION - An earlier version of this story stated that Right To Work legislation had already been introduced in the Michigan House. It has not. Representative Shirkey plans to introduce the legislation soon.

 

Right-to-work laws would prohibit workers from being required to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Republican Rep. Mike Shirkey plans to introduce right-to-work legislation in the House.

Fixing the roads

Jan 23, 2012

To say that Governor Rick Snyder isn’t popular these days with Democrats,  liberals and even some independent voters would probably be an understatement. Many were upset by his decisions to cut education spending in order to drastically lower business taxes. Others weren’t happy that the state is now taxing pensions.

And there was widespread unhappiness when Snyder signed a bill that prevents state and local governments from offering domestic partnership benefits to their employees. Polls indicate that some who voted for him fourteen months ago wouldn’t do so today.

The Michigan Senate today passed the House version of an anti-bullying bill.

It’s headed to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

The bill as passed did not include the controversial exception in an earlier Senate bill that protected statements that came from moral or religious convictions.

The Michigan Senate received national attention for that bill - some calling it a template for how to get away with bullying. 

Senator Whitmer spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White earlier today about her opposition for the bill approved by the Senate, and about the reaction to the YouTube video of her reacting to the bill.

Here she is telling her colleagues in the Michigan Senate "you may be able to pat yourself on the backs today and say that you did something today, but in actuality you're explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying... This is worse that doing nothing. It's a Republican license to bully."

State Senator Glenn Anderson of Westland likes to think of himself as a workhorse, not a show horse. In other words, as a guy more interested in getting it done than getting press attention.

That’s a little difficult to do these days in the Michigan Senate, where Democrats have less than a third of the seats and can’t accomplish anything, at least not on their own.

If you think about it, class is a tricky word. What does it even mean? How do you define it?

Michigan Radio reporters and producers take a look at how social class impacts our lives - from the way we plan our cities and neighborhoods, to the way we’re treated in a courtroom.

We also hear from folks around the state as they share their thoughts on class.

Part 1

This idea of class – class warfare, class resentment. It’s everywhere. And yet, how are we defining class?

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing made his long-anticipated speech this week addressing the city’s financial crisis. Even before that people were speculating as to whether the city would end up needing an emergency manager.

That speculation has increased ever since the mayor spoke, but the fact is this. There really isn’t any doubt. The city is not going to be able to succeed in righting its own finances, not under the Bing plan, anyway.

The other day I was on a panel with Nolan Finley, the editorial page editor of the Detroit News, talking about Michigan’s future.

We’ve done this a couple of times recently. I think some of the people who show up are looking for some sort of liberal-conservative food fight, and go away surprised that we are in as much agreement as we are over a lot of issues. Oh, there is a lot we disagree on.

In Lansing last week, the legislature put the finishing touches on a bill to prevent the various departments of our state government from issuing regulations stronger than federal ones.

That may sound a little odd, so let me explain. Let’s say we wanted to have clean water standards higher than those Washington requires. That ought to make sense. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes, which account for most of the fresh water in the entire Western Hemisphere. Preserving them is essential to our survival.

Michigan Municipal League

The Occupy movement has expanded beyond Wall Street. A number of cities in Michigan have Occupy demonstrations, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing.

Lansing Mayor, Virg Bernero says he's been "..protesting Wall Street since before it was fashionable." He welcomes the demonstrators.

"It costs money to arrest people and to cordon off areas. And so our goal was to not arrest anybody, and we made that clear when they got here."

Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan’s top judicial official said the state has too many judges, and some of their positions should be eliminated. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young has presented a plan to do that to the state House Judiciary Committee.

Chief Justice Young said a Supreme Court study found there are courts with workloads that no longer justify the number of judges they have. The report recommends eliminating 45 positions over several years.

“Some judges don’t agree with the proposed cuts. But, most have accepted the reality that courts are too expensive and have too many judges. It may not be something all members of the judiciary relish, but I think most of us recognize it’s necessary," said Young.

 Young said Michigan taxpayers are paying more than they should be. He said he wants to make cuts in ways that won’t compromise the integrity of the judicial system and assurances that people are getting fair trials.

State Representative John Walsh (R-Livonia) chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He said the Legislature appears ready to act on the recommendations, even though eliminating local elected positions can be politically difficult.

 "I would say in general this is an unprecedented accomplishment to have this degree of support. We have all seven justices of the Supreme Court who have unanimously endorsed this, all of the judicial associations and the state bar," said Walsh.

Walsh said the committee expects to hold four more hearings on the topic. He expects a vote by the committee around Thanksgiving.

- Chelsea Hagger - Michigan Public Radio Network

Once upon a time, I was in a social studies class in eighth grade, and we were studying how our system of government works. We were told that in America, we had free elections.

Candidates ran for various offices, and in each case the people decided which had the best ideas and seemed to be the best qualified. We then voted, and the candidate who convinced the most people they were the best man or, occasionally, woman, won.

Matt Katzenberger / Flickr

The legislature recently approved a bill that would impose a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare cash assistance. The new limits could affect 12,000 families in Michigan. Governor Snyder has yet to sign the bill into law.

In this week's political roundup we talk about the bill with Debbie Dingell, a Democratic Political Analyst and member of the Democratic National Committee and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Dingell says:

Mercedes Mejia

Since taking office Governor Snyder has proposed many new education reform proposals, including mandatory Schools of Choice, which would allow students throughout the state to attend schools outside of their district.

In this weeks political roundup we take a look at Schools of Choice with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

housedems.com

The Michigan legislature returns from break next week. While they will be faced with a new set of issues when they return, at least one legislator is critical of the work that’s been done so far.

Every week we interview lawmakers about what's happening in our state and the nation. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White today talks with Freshman Democratic State Representative Jeff Irwin about the state budget, working with the legislature and what we can expect in the coming months.

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