michigan senate

Politics & Government
2:14 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

State Senate panel sends three gun bills to full chamber

Gun rights supporters gathered at the Capitol last weekend.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A state Senate panel has sent three gun-related bills to the Senate floor.

One bill would exempt guns made, sold, and kept in Michigan from federal regulations. It’s a reaction to recent gun control proposals from the Obama Administration.

Democratic state Senator Steve Bieda voted against the bill. He said it worries him that even some supporters of the measure admit it might not be constitutional.

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Politics & Government
3:48 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Stateside: Changes in Court majority likely to follow Justice Hathaway's resignation

Michigan's Hall of Justice, where the state Supreme Court meets.
Eridony flickr

Larry Dubin discusses Justice Hathaway's resignation.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway will resign January 21.

The news came after the state’s Judicial Tenure Commission unveiled a 19-page complaint accusing her of money laundering, fraud and tax evasion.

“It is an event that has never happened and I think is of very great consequence,” said Larry Dubin of University of Detroit Mercy Law School.

“There is an adversarial relationship between the Judicial Tenure Commission and judges they eventually go after.”

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Law
1:19 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Gov. Snyder signed 19 bills today

Gov. Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder for Michigan Facebook.com

Gov. Snyder signed several bills into law today that he says will strengthen communities and protect taxpayers.

This morning, Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reported Rick Snyder signed an updated local emergency manager law to replace the one rejected last month by voters. 

Mr. Snyder also signed 18 other bills ranging from extending school loan programs to tracking pollution.

In a press release, the Governor said the new laws protect the Michigan economy.

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Politics & Government
4:00 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Stateside: The politics behind right-to-work

By law in Michigan, workers in unionized work places are required to pay union dues. There's an option to not be part of the union, but an "agency fee" still has to be paid. That covers the cost of the union's collective bargaining and grievance handling.
user "Dmitri" Beljan Flickr

Stateside with Cynthia Canty's Executive Producer Zoe Clark and MPRN’s Rick Pluta discussed the politics behind the right-to-work issue.

Governor Snyder announced today that right-to-work bills will be placed in the state’s Legislature.

This means that union membership would be voluntary in Michigan.

"Stateside with Cynthia Canty" Executive Producer Zoe Clark and MPRN’s Rick Pluta discussed the politics behind this issue.

Here is what they had to say:

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Politics & Government
5:34 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Stateside: Should term limits be overturned?

Term limits play a crucial role in lawmakers' careers.

In a recent Detroit Free Press article, Paul Egan analyzed the effect term limits have on lawmakers’ decisions.

According to Egan, lawmakers often focus more on their next career move than the pressing decisions of the moment.

Term limits were created 20 years ago in Michigan, and now they are under scrutiny.

Stateside’s Cyndy Canty spoke with Paul Egan and Jack Lessenberry about the state’s need to overturn the term limits.

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Politics & Government
5:46 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

Michigan Senate approves overhaul of Blue Cross

Blue Cross Blue Shield building on Lafayette in Detroit.
Mikerussell wikimedia commons

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate has approved a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan overhaul that supporters say levels the playing field among health insurers and critics argue doesn't adequately protect elderly and vulnerable residents.

The Senate passed the legislation Wednesday. The House is expected to consider it when the chamber returns after the November election.

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Law
4:04 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Michigan Senate panel approves anti-abortion bill

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rick Jones
Michigan Senate Republicans

The state Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would require clinics and doctor’s offices where abortions are performed to be licensed and inspected. Critics of the bill say its real purpose is to put abortion providers out of business.

Rick Jones chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

“The purpose is to make sure that clinics are licensed and safe. Certainly, a state that licenses junkyards, tattoo parlors, and used car lots would want to license abortion clinics,” he said.

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Law
4:29 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Senator: Public defenders representing children, mentally ill should be specialists

user mconnors MorgueFile.com

State lawmakers are in the process of drafting legislation to make sure people who cannot afford attorneys get adequate legal representation in criminal court. One of the complaints about Michigan’s system is it does not ensure public defenders have the skills and experience they need to properly represent their clients.

State Senator Bruce Caswell served on the governor’s commission on indigent defense. He says the system has to recognize the special needs of defendants who are children or people with mental health issues.

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Politics & Government
1:48 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Former Mich. lawmaker Van Regenmorter dies at 73

Former West Michigan lawmaker William Van Regenmorter, whose noteworthy accomplishments included his authorship of the Crime Victim's Rights Act of 1985, has died. He was 73.

Family friend Joseph Crawford says Van Regenmorter, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2003, died Monday at his home in Ottawa County's Georgetown Township.

The Republican served in the House from 1983-90 before being elected to the Senate, where he served from 1991-2002. He became a representative again from 2003-06.

Van Regenmorter served as chairman of the House and Senate judiciary committees for more than 16 years. Under the Crime Victim's Rights Act, victims are required to be notified and consulted during the various steps of the legal process, such as before a prosecutor offers a plea bargain to a defendant.

State Legislature
8:02 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan Senate votes to phase out industrial tax

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

The Michigan Senate has voted to phase out an industrial tax that’s a big revenue generator for school districts and local governments. Republicans amended their original plan to make sure much

of that money for local services and education would be replaced.

State Senate Majority Richardville says if money from the state falls below a certain level, communities could return to taxing industrial property.   

“It’s kind of a poison pill, as we call it in legislative jargon, where, if we don’t keep our promises than the whole program disappears, so it forces the state government to say we will keep you at the level we say it will,” Richardville says.

Richardville acknowledges there’s no way to guarantee schools and local governments won’t see some reductions. The money for the replacement would come from the sunset of other tax breaks.

Republicans say Michigan’s tax on business and industrial property is unique in the Midwest and drives investment elsewhere.

The Senate rejected efforts by Democrats to link the tax phase-out to job creation targets.

Education
4:15 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Michigan legislature passes school union dues bill

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Update 4:15 pm

The Michigan legislature has passed a bill to prohibit public schools from automatically collecting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees.

Republican Representative Joe Haveman says the bill’s intent is to focus schools on educating children.

 “The focus of our school administration has to be on teaching the kids.   Let’s get out of the business of collecting bills for other people," says Haveman.

Critics complain the real intent is to weaken teachers’ unions.

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State Legislature
6:53 am
Thu January 12, 2012

Richardville talks Senate priorities in 2012

Republican state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

Republican leaders in the state Legislature say they will not be quick to spend any potential surplus money left over from the last budget year. An annual conference to determine how much money the state will have to spend this year is scheduled for Friday. A few hundred million dollars in additional revenue is expected to be available for lawmakers to spend on state-funded programs.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says special interest groups and advocates won’t get far if they ask him for more funding. “It doesn’t matter to me if they ask or not. You know, we’ve all been about financial responsibility from the beginning, and I think the reason you have emergency financial managers, the reason the president of the United States is trying to figure out ways to print new money is because we haven’t been financially responsible in the past," Richardville says.

Richardville says the Legislature was smart last year by adding to the state’s rainy day fund and helping to pay off long-term debts. Some Democratic lawmakers say a priority for surplus revenue should be to fill cuts to K-12 schools and higher education.

Meanwhile, Richardville also says he does not think Michigan should be a right-to-work state. He says he does not think eliminating the requirement that some workers pay union dues would help the business climate in Michigan.

“I believe any economic benefits that are talked about with regard to bringing jobs into Michigan are overstated quite a bit because the jobs that we’re trying to attract in Michigan aren’t the lower-level jobs that right-to-work might address," Richardville says.

Governor Rick Snyder has also said he thinks a debate over right-to-work would be divisive. Supporters of right-to-work legislation say Michigan could lose business and jobs to neighboring states if they adopt similar measures.

Commentary
10:56 am
Thu November 3, 2011

The Bullying Wars: What's Up With the Anti-Bullying Bill?

Michigan is one of only a handful of states without a specific law making school bullying a crime. The governor wants an anti-bullying law. Various other groups do too.

This is, make no mistake, a serious issue. According to the Senate Fiscal agency, bullying has accounted for at least ten suicides in the last ten years, plus more that were likely unreported.

So yesterday, the state senate passed such a law.

But nobody, absolutely nobody, is celebrating.

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Politics
5:15 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Michigan Senate approves anti-bullying bill

Update 5:15 p.m.

All school districts in Michigan may soon be required to adopt anti-bullying policies to help protect students from ridicule, humiliation and physical threats.

An anti-bullying bill approved by the state Senate would not, however, protect students from bullying done by teachers, school employees or parents.

The measure also does not protect students from cyber-bullying on home computers, nor does it list the traits or characteristics that are protected from bullying— such as gender, race or sexual orientation.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

Michigan Senate looking to retool state film incentives

user reinistraidas Flickr

Michigan’s film industry will take center stage before a state Senate panel tomorrow.

The Economic Development Committee is expected to discuss a proposed new funding structure for rewarding film companies that want to shoot in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said a generous film tax-incentive program under Governor Jennifer Granholm’s administration was not sustainable, but he said it helped initially attract the movie industry.

“We got a lot of attention by bringing Hollywood here, so to speak, now we’re going to spend a lot less on famous actors and big names and more on providing credit if you’re shooting here in Michigan, [and] if you have a Michigan studio,” said Richardville.

Richardville said film companies want to work in Michigan, but he said many feel the state forced them out when it scaled back its once-generous incentive program.

“You talk to producers, you talk to directors, you talk to movie makers that have been all around the country – they really like Michigan, they’re excited to come back to Michigan. And even the film that we lost recently, I heard a lot from the companies involved that they were very disappointed because those up close wanted to stay in Michigan and film Iron Man 3,” said Richardville.

Governor Snyder approved a less aggressive, $25 million grant program for film projects, but the state Film Office stopped taking applications earlier this month, saying there were no rules for projects to qualify.

The Richardville legislation would put those rules in place.

Politics
8:31 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Michigan Senate scheduled to vote on new bridge bills this week

The state Senate is planning a vote on Wednesday on a new bridge from Detroit to Windsor, the Detroit News reports. From the News:

The Senate Economic Development Committee, which is considering legislation to create a public authority to take bids on the bridge, will hold hearings Tuesday and Wednesday and vote on the two bridge bills at the end of Wednesday's session, according to a schedule released Friday.

Governor Snyder’s administration has been pushing for a new span across the Detroit River since January, when the Governor signaled his support for the new bridge during his first State of the State address.

But, as the Detroit News notes, it’s unclear whether the Legislature will pass the bills, “in fact, it wasn't clear Friday if there were enough votes to get the bills out of committee, which has five Republicans and two Democrats… Republicans have generally opposed the public bridge, while Democrats have supported it.”

The News explains:

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun is opposed to the project, which he sees as unfair government encroachment on his private business. He has spent millions on TV ads and lobbying against the public bridge.  The Michigan Chamber of Commerce recently joined most other business and labor groups in supporting the project.

Snyder has said the bridge will be publicly owned, but privately financed, built and managed. The legislation says the bridge is to be built at no cost and no risk to taxpayers. Opponents say they are skeptical of that promise.

Canada has offered to front $550 million to pay Michigan's share of the project costs and would recover the money from bridge tolls. The bridge is estimated to cost just less than $1 billion. The total project — including plazas and connecting roadways on both sides of the river — is estimated to cost about $3.6 billion.

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry has been writing extensively over the years about the bridge controversy:

Politics
11:37 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Michigan Senate passes measure ending lifetime benefits for lawmakers

The Michigan Senate voted to end lifetime benefits for lawmakers.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

The state Senate has approved a measure that would end lifetime benefits for incoming state lawmakers.

Fewer than half of current lawmakers would be exempt from the change. But all but two sitting senators would still get their retirements. No incoming lawmakers would be offered the retirement benefits.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

The Senate voted 37-1 on the measure, with Sen. Coleman Young Jr., D-Detroit, voting against the bill.

The House passed a bill that would have ended retiree health benefits for legislators who took office after Jan. 1, 2007. But the Senate version puts that date at Jan. 1, 2013.

The difference means that while some sitting legislators would have been eligible for the benefits under the House plan, many more sitting legislators will be eligible under the Senate plan.

Members of the House and Senate need only serve six years to be 100% vested in the retiree health care benefits. But members who don't have six years in by 2013, which mean members in tbe House who were elected in 2008 and 2010, and two state Senators - Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton and Vince Gregory, D-Southfield - would be ineligible for the benefits. All the rest of the Senators and third termers in the House will get the retiree health benefits.

The measure now goes back to the House for final approval.

Education
8:19 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

Senate committee to look at lifting the state limit on the number of charter schools

Students arrive for the first day of school in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate Education Committee will launch two days of hearings Tuesday focused on school choice and ways to encourage more charter academies. A Senate Republican education package would lift the statewide cap on the number of charter schools academies that can be sponsored by public universities. 

The Senate GOP package would also allow more online charter schools and make it easier for parents or teachers to ask a school district to convert a traditional school to a charter.  

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Education Reform
6:23 am
Thu September 8, 2011

State Senate introduces more sweeping education reforms

A state Senate panel began hearings yesterday on a package of sweeping education reforms. This is the second round of major changes proposed to Michigan’s education system this year.

The package of bills include measures that would allow more charter schools in the state, allow schools to hire teachers from private companies, and require districts to open empty seats in classrooms to students who live outside of the area.

Representatives from the education community say the proposals are controversial. Senate Education Committee Chairman Phil Pavlov says, he does not think so.

“I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘controversial,’ I mean we having a conversation about choice for parents and students in the state and that shouldn’t be controversial,” Pavlov says.

Pavlov also took the lead on the debate over teacher tenure reform earlier this year. Pavlov says Governor Snyder supports some of the reforms. Pavlov says he does not have a timeline to get this round of education reforms through the Legislature.

Representatives from the education community say they are concerned these proposals are based on politics and not research of successful education reforms.

Politics
3:12 pm
Fri July 15, 2011

Public employee health benefits bills heading to conference

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

A joint legislative panel is set to negotiate how much some public employees should be required to pay into their health insurance benefits.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the payment structure for health benefits for public employees should have been overhauled several years ago.

But he says lawmakers should still work with public employee unions to find the savings.

“We want to try and be as flexible as we can and allow as much local input as we can, but the time to act is way past right now, this should have been dealt with 10 years ago or more.”

Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6,000. Holman represents state employees who won’t be affected by the proposed changes to public employee benefits.

He says that public employees have already made many concessions over the past few years.

“That’s been done at the bargaining table, and that’s been a proven place to find those savings.”

But, Holman says, if collective bargaining is compromised in the measure before the House and Senate conference committee, all public employees will be on alert and at risk of paying more for their health benefits.

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