Michigan

LisaW123 / Flickr

If you're commuting this morning, expect slick roads across the state. This morning we'll see a mix of rain, freezing rain and sleet.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. today for much of west and mid-Michigan and until noon for parts of the southeast.

Today: Snow in west Michigan. Snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain in mid and southeast Michigan. Highs in the low to mid 30s.

Tonight: Cloudy, a slight chance of snow in Holland and southeast Michigan. Lows between zero and 10 degrees.

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy with a bit of sun in southeast Michigan. Scattered light snow in west and mid-michigan. Highs around 20.

Terry Johnston / Flickr

A bill that would repeal Michigan's unpopular Driver Responsibility Fee is expected to be introduced in the state Senate this week, Laura Weber Reports. The annual fee goes to Michigan drivers who have seven or more points on their license. A repeal of the fee was approved by the state House last year but it stalled in the state Senate.

Democratic state Senator Bert Johnson says most lawmakers want to get rid of the fee, but don’t want to lose the money it brings in to the state, Weber reports.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers began the state's 96th legislative session yesterday in Lansing.  We take a quick look at what the headlines across the state have to say about the Legislature's first day:

During their first day in session, lawmakers took the oath of office and elected legislative leaders.

T.Shirbert / Flickr

All throughout 2010, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley asked people for their ideas on what we can all do to help our state.  This year, she'll find out What's Working.  Every week, we'll explore a new idea that's working to improve the state's economy and our lives. The series is called, "What's Working."

To begin the series, Shockley sat down with Scott MacInnes, the City Manager of Houghton, Michigan. Houghton is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost extension of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Mr. MacInnes is also a member of the Winter Cities Institute, an international organization that seeks to make northern cities and towns more livable during the long winter months.

Corvair Owner / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has been appointing directors for various state departments over the past few weeks.  The announcement of Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to the state Department of Human Services came just yesterday.

The Associated Press has put together a look at who is in charge at various state departments:

Corvair Owner / Flickr

The state's new Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will continue Michigan's role in a legal challenge to the federal health care overhaul.  In a statement released yesterday,  Schuette said, "I will fight Obamacare tooth-and-nail to protect our citizens from this constitutional overreach."

As the Associated Press reports:

Schuette ... said Wednesday he will add his name to the lawsuit challenging the law. That continues a legal strategy from former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Both Schuette and Cox are Republicans. Attorneys for 20 states are challenging the new federal health care law in a case before a federal court in Florida. The states argue the law violates people's rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

Schuette was sworn in as the state's Attorney General on Saturday.

Flickr

The politicos over at NBC's First Read have put together a look at the 112th Congress by the numbers:

  • In the House: Republicans will hold a 242-193 advantage.
  • In the Senate: Democrats will hold a 53-47 majority. (Two senators are independent but caucus with the Democrats).
  • There are 96 new members of the House (87 Republicans, nine Democrats).
  • The House will include 43 Tea Party-backed members.
  • The Senate will have five Tea Party-backed members.
  • In total, in the Senate, there will be 16 new members (13 Republicans, three Democrats).
Joe Gratz / Flickr

UPDATE 10:39 a.m.:

Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio's Lansing Bureau Chief just filed this breaking news report:

Justice Robert Young has been selected as the new chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Young was chosen by his fellow justices in a closed-door vote. The decision reflects the change in control of the court from Democrats to Republicans in the last election.

9:17 a.m.:

The seven justices of the Michigan Supreme Court will meet today to select a new chief justice. After this past November's election, Republicans are in the majority of the court with four members; three justices are Democrats.

Justice Robert Young Junior was re-elected to an eight year term in 2010.  He said yesterday that he has four votes to become the next Chief Justice. Young, who has been on the Michigan Supreme Court since 1999, is a Republican from the Detroit-area. The current Chief Justice is Marilyn Kelly, a Democrat. 

As the Associated Press reports:    

The court's membership will change soon. Justice Maura Corrigan is expected to resign to lead the Department of Human Services under the new governor, Rick Snyder.

No such announcement from the Snyder administration has been made yet publicly.

Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Flickr

Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation will take the oath of office today at the nation's Capitol. As we've reported, the state's delegation is full of new faces. The Associated Press reports:

Longtime congressmen and first-termers alike are scheduled to be sworn in en masse at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, and incoming House Speaker John Boehner is to hold individual ceremonies for some lawmakers later in the day. One of those getting an individual swearing-in ceremony is Justin Amash, a Republican from the Grand Rapids area. New Michigan Republican congressman Tim Walberg of Tipton also will be sworn in individually by Boehner around the same time.

There are 15 members of the state's Congressional delegation, five of them are new.  Although, GOP Representative Tim Walberg could be considered a 'second year freshman' as he won a seat in Congress in 2006 but lost it in 2008.  He won back the seat in this past November's election.

Texting while driving
C. Todd Lopez / Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

The city of Troy, Michigan has taken the state’s “no texting while driving” law a bit further, making it illegal to talk on the phone while driving, among other things.

The city's distracted driving ordinance went into effect last July, but the city didn’t officially start to enforce it until the first week of January, 2011. According to the city's website, the following actions can cause "distracted driving":

"Such action can include but is not limited to: eating, reading, writing, performing personal hygiene/grooming, physical interaction with pets, passengers, or unsecured cargo, any of which is

done in a manner tat prohibits the driver from maintaining direct physical control of the motor vehicle steering mechanism with at least one hand that is free of all other objects and used entirely to form a controlled grip on the steering mechanism."

No Smoking sign
user capl@washjeff.edu / creative commons

We reported last week that some 400 Michigan bar owners planned to ignore the state's smoking ban and allow patrons to light up on New Year's Eve.

Steve Mace is with the Protect Private Property Rights Movement in Michigan, the group that organized the protest. He issued a press release today with an update on how the protest went:

"There were an estimated 700 bars that took back their property right on New Years Eve. Exceeding all expectations. While confirmations continue to come in, we are confident this number will grow significantly. Several bar owners have reported already receiving calls from county health departments. Bar owners remain hopeful that the pro-ban lobby and the minority that support them, did in fact flood the county and district health departments with complaints. This will assist to provide conclusive evidence that this ban is in fact enforced 45 separate ways statewide. "

General Motors' Headquarters, Detroit, MI
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Dan Akerson, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, is planning to meet Friday with members of Michigan's congressional delegation.  That's according to an official familiar with the meeting.  The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that, "it will give Akerson a chance to meet some Michigan lawmakers for the first time".

Akerson was named GM's CEO in September, 2010. GM has not yet commented on the meeting.

As the AP notes:

Michigan's 15 House members and two senators were key allies for GM as it underwent a government-led bankruptcy in 2009. The Detroit company had its initial public offering last November, reducing the government's ownership share to 33.3 percent.

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

There aren't too many jobs out there where you go to work on your first day unsure of how much money you'll make. But, apparently, that's the case with one pretty important job in the state: Governor of Michigan.

The Associated Press reports that Governor Rick Snyder still hasn't decided how much money he'll take as the state's Chief Executive.

Michigan begins the first work week of 2011 with a new governor in charge. He’s a man whose name most of us didn’t know a year ago, but whom we elected by a landslide in November.

We still don’t know exactly how Richard D. Snyder plans to make this state competitive again. But we do know this:

Everyone in Michigan - liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats and independents -- needs to hope his administration is an amazing success.

Lani Chisnell / Michigan Radio

The state budget amounts to $47-billion.  There’s a predicted shortfall of $1.6-billion in the upcoming fiscal year budget.  But, maybe $1.6-billion out of $47-billion isn't that bad.  Just cut everything by three-and-a-half percent and, Voila!  Everything’s fixed.

Well, we finally have the official census figures, and for the first time in history, Michigan lost people in the course of a decade. Worse, we’ll have fewer members of Congress.

Over the last thirty years, we’ve lost five seats in the House of Representatives. That’s equivalent to losing the voting power of the entire state of Connecticut. Put another way, we’re now back to having only one more representative than a century ago.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Governor Jennifer Granholm has less than 10 days left in office.  The term-limited Democrat spoke with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley this morning about her 8 years in office and what she hopes for the future of the state.

It's Wednesday, the day we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. On tap for today: Michigan gets hit hard by bad news from the census and Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he wants a 2-year budget plan for the state.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has appointed Olga Dazzo to head the state's Department of Community Health. The Associated Press reports that Dazzo is:

...a veteran of the health insurance industry, most recently working as president of a company called Health Reform Innovations LLC in the Miami area. Dazzo previously worked in Michigan and is a past president of Physicians Health Plan.

In a written statement released today, Snyder said:

“There is an attitude that the only way to lower costs is to reduce the level of care.  I reject that premise. Olga understands that the decisions she makes will directly impact the wellbeing of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens, and she will always have an eye toward delivering services more efficiently so those who need treatment are able to get it.”

Dazzo's bio says she received a bachelors degree in accounting and a masters degree in finance from Michigan State University.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has named Greg Andrews as his representative to northern Michigan. Andrews will help the incoming Republican governor stay connected with that part of the state. Snyder announced the appointment yesterday.

A press release posted on the Governor-elect's website says:

Andrews previously served as Snyder’s northern Michigan field representative during the campaign.  In that role, he built relationships with local leaders in 37 counties – relationships Snyder will rely on to stay in touch with the concerns of residents across northern Michigan. “Greg’s number one priority is to end the disconnect between Lansing and northern Michigan,” Snyder said.  “He will have a direct line to the governor’s office.”

Andrews' office will be based in Marquette.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend Bush-era tax breaks and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed yesterday.  The tax-deal was brokered between President Obama and leaders in the House and Senate.  The President is expected to sign the bill soon.  As The Associated Press reports:

In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to. The vote was 277-148.

Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan told USA Today:

Congress made the right decision ... to prevent a job-killing tax hike on Americans and small businesses.

The U.S. Senate had already passed the bill with a 81-19 vote.

Steve Chrypinski / Michigan Radio

The incoming governor and new leaders of the legislature know they have a lot of work ahead of them.  The State of Michigan’s finances are a mess.  After a decade of cuts to education, prisons, arts, tourism and everything else, it appears more cuts are coming.  Lester Graham with Michigan Watch reports it’s not clear what the new government leaders are going to do, but they say it begins with some tough decisions about the budget.

Jennifer Granholm
flickr user auberon

3 million jobs in 3 years. That's what soon-to-be-former-Governor Jennifer Granholm called for in her article in the Huffington Post.

Granholm calls for a "Jobs Race to the Top" modelled on the education "Race to the Top" program.

Dangle large sums of money in front of cash strapped states and see if you can get them to change their policies.

Who are Michigan’s most powerful people in Washington? For decades, the same names have come to mind. First, Dearborn’s John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in history.

For many years, Dingell was either the chair, or ranking Democrat, of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Then come the Levins. Younger brother Carl is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Older brother Sandy this year became the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Then there is John Conyers, who has chaired the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years. These men are icons. 

But they are aging icons, and when the Republicans take over  the House next month, Conyers, Dingell and Sandy Levin will lose power and status, because they will be in the minority.

But Michigan will have two newly powerful representatives in key positions, men who are far less well known statewide -- but whom we ought to get to know better.

rickformi flickr photostream

Rick Snyder says the way government works in Michigan doesn’t work.

“Now government.  It’s time for bureaucracy to go away.  It’s been with us a hundred-plus years.  It doesn’t work.  It is time for a new model.  It is time for customer service government.  The role of government is to treat you, the citizen, as the customer and look at life through your eyes and say ‘How can we help you succeed and how can we get out of your way.’”

All this year, Michigan Radio has been asking people from across the state for their 3 ideas for how we can improve things in Michigan. The series is called 3 Things and today, we heard from Martine MacDonald, she's an award-winning artist based in Southeastern Michigan.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Want to open up a charter school? A new report says Michigan has one of the nation’s friendliest laws when it comes to allowing charter schools to open.

The Center for Education Reform, a charter advocacy group in Washington, DC, says Michigan has the 5th best charter school law in the country.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/FLICKR

Michigan lawmakers continue their 'lame duck' session in Lansing today and they're still trying to figure out the last pieces of legislation to pass before the 2009-2010 session comes to a close.

The Associated Press reports:

It's a safe bet lawmakers will pass a bill to distribute more than $300 million in federal money to schools. But... bills dealing with teacher tenure, fireworks sales, insurance coverage for autism treatments and dozens of other items could be voted on before the Legislature adjourns at the end of the week.

Bill Ballenger, the editor and publisher of the "Inside Michigan Politics" newsletter told Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta earlier this week that, "The chances of getting all of it done are slim."

Jobless
Photo by Khalilshah/Flick

Michigan's jobless rate continued its slow, but steady, decline in October.  The state's unemployment rate in October was 12.8%.  It's the first time the jobless rate was been under 13% since March 2009, according to the Associated Press. The state's jobless rate in October of 2009 was 14.4%.

The national unemployment rate for October was 9.6%.

ACLU
Slightly North/Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Michigan for its law that allows people convicted as minors to be imprisoned for life with no chance of parole.

The ACLU says the law violates the U.S. Constitution because it is "cruel and unusual punishment."

In a press release, the ACLU says the lawsuit is:

...on behalf of nine Michigan citizens who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were minors. The lawsuit charges that a Michigan sentencing scheme that denies the now-adult plaintiffs an opportunity for parole and a fair hearing to demonstrate their growth, maturity and rehabilitation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and violates their constitutional rights.

According to the release:

The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences youth to life without parole, and Michigan incarcerates the second highest number of people serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed when they were 17 years old or younger. Currently, there are 350 individuals serving such mandatory life sentences in Michigan. This includes more than 100 individuals who were sentenced to life without parole who were present or committed a felony when a homicide was committed by someone else.

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