morning news roundup

News Roundup
9:04 am
Thu June 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, June 30th
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Redistricting Maps Head to Governor

The Republican-led state Senate approved new redistricting maps yesterday. They now head to Governor Snyder’s desk for his signature. But, it appears, that’s not the end of the story. There are reports this morning that the maps will likely be challenged in court. Democrats are unhappy with the maps. As the Detroit News explains, “Democrats claimed throughout the review process that wildly irregular districts — especially in Metro Detroit — were engineered to protect Republican incumbents.” Due to a loss of population in the past ten years, Michigan will go from having 15 U.S. Representatives to 14.

Benton Harbor EM: City Budget Will Break Even this Year

Benton Harbor’s Emergency Manager Joe Harris told residents at a town hall meeting yesterday evening that the city will be able to break even this budget year. In fact, Harris says, the city could run a $400,000 surplus for this fiscal year. Lindsey Smith reports that many of the residents appeared to be relived at the news but some remained skeptical. Harris plans to release his complete budget online by the end of the week.

New Rules for Juries

Beginning this fall, people serving on Michigan juries will be allowed to play a more active role in the pursuit of justice, Steve Carmod reports. From Carmody:

The Michigan Supreme Court announced yesterday that it is revising the rules for people serving as jurors. Until now, jurors were generally expected to sit back, watch the proceedings and wait until both sides had wrapped up their arguments before being able to even discuss the case with other members of the jury. But beginning September 1st, jurors will be allowed to take notes, discuss the case and even ask questions. Many other states, including Arizona and Massachusetts, have implemented similar new rules for serving on a jury.  The Michigan Supreme Court has been studying possible changes to juror rules since 2005.

News Roundup
9:14 am
Wed June 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, June 29th
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Redistricting Maps One Step Closer to Approval

New Republican-drawn maps for Michigan's congressional and state legislative districts have moved closer to becoming final, reports the Associated Press. “The Republican majority on the Senate Redistricting Committee approved a congressional map Tuesday, sending it to the full Senate for consideration later this week. Meanwhile, the Republican-led Michigan House approved versions of maps that would redraw districts for the state House and Senate. Republicans control the redistricting process with majorities in the Legislature, and Democrats have had little luck altering them since the GOP maps were released June 17. Democrats unveiled their own congressional map Tuesday but were unable to get the Senate committee to adopt it or alter the Republican-drawn map,” the AP explains.

Bing Says No More to Negotiating Budget with City Council

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there’s no more reason to negotiate with City Council over the city's next budget. That means he’ll be implementing the Council-approved budget, even though he maintains it will mean devastating cuts. Sarah Cweik reports:

Bing and the Council have been wrestling for months over how much money to cut from next fiscal year’s budget. Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing. Bing then proposed an amendment to restore $30 million, but Council voted that down Tuesday… Council members insist their budget cuts wouldn’t cause layoffs, and say Bing is using scare tactics to get his way.

The 2012 fiscal year begins July 1st.

Student Test Results Released

Results of the Michigan Merit Exam have been released by the Michigan Department of Education. Jennifer Guerra reports:

All Michigan high school juniors take the test in the spring to see how well-prepared they are for college. The MME tests students in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. Students' math, science and writing scores inched up over last year, but scores in social studies and reading went down. Martin Ackley, a spokesperon for the Department of Education, prefers to look at trends when it comes to test results, not just year-to-year data. He says he is "encouraged" student scores have been trending upward over the past five years, but he says the results "aren't where they need to be overall. We’d like to see them obviously higher than they are now." About 109,000 students took this year’s exam, nearly half of whom tested not proficient in writing and math.

News Roundup
8:49 am
Tue June 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, June 28th
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Redistricting Continues

Michigan Democrats plan to introduce their own redistricting map at a state Senate hearing today.  Republicans have already released their maps and pretty much control the redistricting process as they hold majorities in both the state House and Senate. Michigan will go from 15 to 14 U.S. Representatives because of the state’s population loss. A copy of the Democrat's map was obtained by the Associated Press. The map, as the AP notes, would, “pit Republican incumbent Thad McCotter of Livonia against Democratic incumbent Gary Peters of Oakland County's Bloomfield Township and avoid extending a Detroit district up to Pontiac…The GOP map pits Peters against fellow Democratic incumbent Sander Levin.”

Dems to GOP: Restore School Funding

House Democrats are once again calling on Governor Snyder and state GOP lawmakers to restore money cut from public schools. Democratic lawmakers are traveling the state to bring attention to the funding issue. Lindsey Smith reports:

The state will provide K -12 schools about 2 percent less money than last fiscal year. The state public education fund had a surplus this spring. Some of the surplus money from the state’s school aide fund is being used for the first time to fund community colleges and public universities.

Coal Costing the State?

A new report from the Michigan Environmental Council says Michigan’s oldest coal-burning power plants are costing state residents $1.5 billion dollars in health care costs each year, Rebecca Williams reports. From Williams:

The report focuses on the state’s nine oldest coal-burning power plants.  It highlights particle pollution.  This type of pollution comes from power plants and factories as well as car and trucks. James Clift, policy director for the MEC, says these tiny particles are linked to a variety of heart and lung problems, including asthma. DTE Energy owns four of the power plants targeted in the report.  John Austerberry, a spokesperson with DTE, says,“all Detroit Edison power plants meet or exceed federal standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.  And it’s those constituents that can contribute to the formation of fine particles under certain atmospheric conditions.” The report calls on DTE and Consumers Energy to gradually phase out the oldest coal-burning power plants.

News Roundup
10:15 am
Thu June 23, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup
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EM Law Faces  Lawsuit:

A group opposed to the state’s new emergency manager law has filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse it, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The lawsuit says the emergency manager law undermines voters’ rights to choose their elected officials. That’s because the law allows state-appointed emergency managers sweeping powers - including the ability to remove elected officials who don’t cooperate…The lawsuit names Governor Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon as the defendants. The Detroit pension board has also filed a lawsuit challenging the law. Governor Snyder’s office says the law is both constitutional and necessary to help the state’s most financially troubled communities. Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and the Detroit school district are currently under the control of emergency managers.

Kalamazoo River Cleanup Continues

Cleanup crews are on the Kalamazoo River this week collecting oil that remains at the bottom of the river from last July’s oil spill. Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline that leaked the oil says more than 90 percent of the 840,000 gallons of heavy crude have already been cleaned up. About 220 people will be along the river for this week’s cleanup and an Enbridge Energy spokesperson says she expects several more hundred will be on hand in the coming weeks.

Changes to Medical Marijuana Law?

Members of the Michigan legislature are considering several bills that would amend the state’s medical marijuana law. “One bill would create a database of marijuana license holders. Another would ban marijuana dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of schools and churches. A third would bar citizens from suing cities that restrict or ban marijuana dispensaries... Michigan passed the Medical Marijuana Act in 2008,” Bridget Bodnar reports.

News Roundup
9:55 am
Wed June 22, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning news roundup, Wednesday, June 22nd.
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Budget Complete

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a new state budget into law. The budget is for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. The budget preserves funding for Medicaid health care, but cuts money for schools, universities, and local governments, Rick Pluta reports. “The governor says tough choices were necessary to retire a $1.5 billion deficit. And, he says that was done without accounting tricks and one-time fixes. The governor says the budget will help create a more inviting environment for businesses and young people,” Pluta reports.

Funding Grand Rapids

Elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012 yesterday. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund. Lindsey Smith reports:

Grand Rapids took a couple measures last year to keep their budget out the red. Grand Rapids expects to deal with operating deficits until 2015, when city officials says city government will become financially sustainable again. The long term budget plan eliminates $80 million in operating deficits over the next five years.

Stormy Weather

Authorities say severe thunderstorms yesterday evening produced high winds that damaged two hangars at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, injuring at least three people, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

WOOD-TV reports members of the Civil Air Patrol were preparing for natural disaster training when they took cover in one of the hangars on Tuesday night. Winds ripped a door away, sending some of them into the air inside the hangar… The National Weather Service also reports heavy rains. And officials say lightning started a barn fire in Ottawa County's Georgetown Township. The Jackson County sheriff's department received reports of a possible funnel cloud. No tornadoes had been confirmed by the weather service.

News Roundup
8:50 am
Tue May 31, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 31st
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Powerless

Utility crews continue to work to restore electricity to thousands of Michigan homes and businesses that lost power after a wave of severe thunderstorms and tornados. The Associated Press reports:

CMS Energy Corp. says it may take until late Wednesday to have all power restored. It says Sunday's storms blacked out more than 115,000 of its customers, and about 42,000 remained without service Tuesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says about 30,000 of its customers lost power, and about 4,000 remained blacked out Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service confirms that three funnel cloud touchdowns Sunday - one near Perry in Shiawassee County, one in the Three Rivers area in St. Joseph County and one in Coldwater in Branch County.No deaths or life-threatening injuries are reported.

Farm Bill

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow will hold the first field hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill later today. Stabenow is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. The hearing, titled, “Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill,” will, as Stabenow’s office explains, “focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill (which determines agriculture policies every five years), examining agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan.” The hearing will be held at Michigan State University.

Countdown to Break

Leaders in the state Legislature say there is still a lot of work they would like to get done before lawmakers take a two-month summer break, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says some of the issues she expects to see in the coming weeks include education reforms, redrawing Michigan’s political maps, and whether the state should build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada. The Republican-led Legislature sent Governor Rick Snyder the state spending plan last week. The governor is expected to veto some items within that budget and sign them into law next week.

News Roundup
8:34 am
Fri May 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, May 27th

Legislature Completes the Budget

The Michigan Legislature completed work yesterday on a $46 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. The process lacked all of the long hours and heated floor debate of recent years, Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber reports. Much of that can be attributed to a Republican majority in both the state House and Senate. In fact, not a single Democrat voted in favor of the budget. The budget includes cuts to K-12 education and public universities. It lifts the exemption on taxing some retiree pensions and reduces the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign the budget bills in the next few weeks.

Feds Eye Flint

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Energy are auditing records from Flint City Hall, according to the Flint Journal. Reporter Kristin Longley writes a "city source" says the FBI accompanied the USDOE investigators:

The investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Energy is auditing the city's use of federal energy grant funds, a federal official confirmed today, following reports that federal officials are investigating Flint City Hall.

The DOE's Office of Inspector General has investigators in the city of Flint examining how a federal grant for weatherization of low-income housing is being spent, said Rick Hass, deputy inspector general for audits and inspections.

Detroit School Closures to Increase

The Detroit Public Schools says it’s increasing the number of school closures to 20 by the fall of next year, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

That's up from the previously announced 14.  The Detroit Free Press reports district officials decided to keep open some schools that had been proposed for closure, and some proposed school mergers were changed. The district said Thursday the changes are the result of public input at more than 40 community meetings since April. DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts says the district still has too many schools for its shrinking student population, even though it has closed 130 buildings since 2005. That's half its schools.

News Roundup
9:03 am
Thu May 26, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 26th
Brother O'Mara Other

Wet Weather Continues

Rain and storms are expected to continue in many parts of the state today. Most of the region is under some type of flood advisory, watch, or warning during the morning hours. Yesterday, rain caused flooding throughout the Southeast. Yesterday, "thunderstorms... dumped more than 4 inches of rain on parts of southern Michigan, causing widespread flooding of streets, expressways and basements,” the Associated Press reports.

State Senate Completes Budget

The Michigan Senate handed a state spending plan over to the state House yesterday, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

That leaves just a couple more steps before the budget bills go to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval. The arguments on both sides of the aisle in the Legislature have been cyclical in recent weeks; Republicans have offered up departmental spending plans with deep cuts, and Democrats have said the cuts help businesses and hurt working poor families and children. Overall the complaints of Democrats have had little impact on the budget process. The party lacks enough votes to get in the way of a budget that has thus-far rolled quickly through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Foreclosures Hurting Michigan's Real Estate Market

Foreclosed homes continued to drag down home sale prices in the state in the first quarter of the year, Steve Carmody reports. “Realty Trac reported nearly 32 percent of homes sold in Michigan in the first three months of 2011 were repossessed homes. The average price for a foreclosed home was just a little more than $70,000. That price is about a third less than similar homes on the market. A Realty Trac spokesman says that is keeping home prices from appreciating. Michigan is among a dozen states where foreclosed homes accounted for at least 25 percent of the homes sold during the first quarter of the year,” Carmody notes.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Wed May 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Tax Restructuring

Governor Rick Snyder will sign his proposed tax-overhaul into law today. The measure has already been approved by both the Republican-led state Senate and House. The measure cuts taxes on some businesses by about $1 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. The bill also ends tax exemptions on some retirees’ pensions and shrinks the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. The governor says the legislation will create jobs but many Democrats who oppose the measure say it will hurt seniors and low-income families.

Lansing Lawmakers Move Forward on Budget

The state Senate has started approving parts of the state's budget for the next fiscal year, including a bill that cuts funding for public universities by 15 percent. Laura Weber reports:

Republican leaders in the Legislature expect to wrap up work on the budget quickly and easily in comparison with recent years. The budget bills will volley between the Senate and House over the next week as lawmakers try to wrap up work on the budget by next Tuesday. Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he does not anticipate any big battles between the Republican-controlled chambers. But he says there may be a few hang-ups over schools funding. Democrats are upset that additional funds for K-through-12 schools will not go directly to reduce cuts to per-pupil funding. Additional projected tax revenue will instead go toward districts that approve cost-saving measures, and make retirement payments.

Detroit Budget: Bing v. City Council

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he'll veto the Detroit City Council's budget bill that cuts spending by $50 million more than the mayor wants. Vincent Duffy reports:

Detroit City Council voted 8-1 in favor of their plan. But Mayor Bing says adoption of his $3.1 billion dollar budget is crucial if Detroit is to avoid having Governor Rick Snyder step in and appoint an emergency manager to steer the city out of a $155 million dollar deficit. But many on the council say the mayor’s budget is overly optimistic and the $200 million dollars in cuts he proposed is far short of what's needed. The city's new fiscal year starts July 1.

News Roundup
9:03 am
Tue May 24, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
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Chrysler to Repay Government Loans

Chrysler is expected to pay back its federal loans in full today. Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports:

Chrysler will wire-transfer nearly $6 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $1.5 billion to the governments of Canada and Ontario. Chrysler used some cash from Fiat for the transaction - and refinanced the rest with loans from private banks and investors.The U.S. Treasury still holds about eight and a half percent of Chrysler stock. Fiat could end up buying that stock in the future. As of today, Fiat owns forty-six percent of Chrysler

Crime in Michigan's Largest Cities

The FBI released its preliminary Uniform Crime Report yesterday. The report lists crimes reported in cities with more than 100,000 people. The report shows a decrease in violent crimes in Detroit from 18,000 in 2009 to 17,000 in 2010. Flint, however, had the highest violent crime rate in the nation last year, according to the data. Flint set a record for homicides in 2010.

Plan to Stop the Carp

A new plan has been released by federal and state officials on how to deal with the threat of Asian Carp, an invasive species that many worry could destroy the Great Lakes’ eco-system. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports:

The plan includes stepping up tracking of the invasive fish species and contracting with Illinois fishermen to catch the carp before they can reach Lake Michigan. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says the best way to prevent Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan is to close man-made canals linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. Illinois business interests and politicians are opposed to closing the canals.

Al-Qaida Bomber Leaves a Fingerprint

The FBI has a fingerprint and forensic evidence linking al-Qaida's top bomb maker in Yemen to both the 2009 Christmas Day airline attack and the nearly successful attack on cargo planes last year, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Investigators have pulled a fingerprint of Ibrahim al-Asiri off the bomb hidden in the underwear of a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day. Counterterrorism officials say the explosives in that bomb are chemically identical to those hidden inside two printers that were shipped from Yemen to the U.S. last year.

News Roundup
8:12 am
Thu May 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

State Senate: Public Employees Should Pay More Health Costs

The Republican-led state Senate approved a bill yesterday that would require most public employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health benefit costs. Laura Weber reports:

The measure was approved along a mostly party line vote. The Senate also approved a constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature control over the benefit plans of university employees and state civil service employees. That plan is unlikely to clear the state House, where Republicans don’t have the two-thirds majority needed to put the measure on the ballot.

Michigan Jobless Rate Continues to Decline

The state’s unemployment rate was down to 10.2 percent in April. That’s a drop of one-tenth of one percent from March and, is a full three percentage points down from where it was at the same time last year. Job growth in the state, however, remains weak. The state added only three thousand jobs from March to April.

Report: Michigan’s Public Defender System “Abysmal”

Michigan’s system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants is so bad it amounts to a, “constitutional crisis” according to the Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice. Sarah Cwiek reports:

The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice produced a report called “Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems."The report says Michigan has abdicated its “constitutional responsibilities” by failing to ensure its counties supply, train and supervise public defenders… Michigan’s public defender system was listed near the bottom another recent national report. The state ranks 44th in terms of per capita spending on public defense.

News Roundup
8:28 am
Wed May 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

Budget Negotiations

Lawmakers at the state Capitol will continue today to resolve the differences between their various state budgets. The Associated Press reports:

Joint panels of House and Senate members are scheduled to begin formal conferences on the budget Wednesday and Thursday.

The House and Senate have approved different versions of the next budget and compromises must be reached before a spending plan can become law.

A key factor for the overall budget plan will be determining how deep to cut state aid to K-12 schools. Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed an additional $300 per student cut for the fiscal year that starts in October, on top of a $170 per student cut that's already on the books.

Some Senate Republicans are among the many lawmakers seeking to make the school cuts less deep.

Cities want Emergency Managers?

Jackson’s Mayor has asked the state to review the city’s finances. Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports that’s the first step towards the state appointing an Emergency Manager for the city. From Samilton:

Mayor Karen Dunigan says the city needs the state’s help, even though it has a balanced budget.  She says the budget covers payroll and not much else, and meanwhile, the city has $80-million in debt, with no plan to pay anything on the debt except the interest expenses. The state has also been asked to look at Allen Park’s finances, and Flint’s Mayor says he wants a state review, too. A new state law allows an Emergency Manager to set aside union contracts, along with elected officials' powers.

Obama Job Approval

A new poll finds President Obama's favorability rose among Michigan voters after Osama bin Laden's death. But, as the Associated Press reports, the poll, “finds that most state voters are unhappy with how he's handling the economy. The EPIC-MRA poll released Tuesday showed 53 percent of 600 likely voters polled May 9-11 had a favorable opinion of the Democratic president, up 9 points since February. Forty percent had an unfavorable opinion and 7 percent were undecided. A third gave him a positive job rating on handling the economy, while 66 percent gave him a negative rating and 2 percent were undecided.”

News Roundup
8:37 am
Mon May 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 16th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Estimating the State’s Finances

A budget panel is meeting this morning in Lansing to figure out how much money the state has to spend in the fiscal year that begins on October 1st. It was announced on Friday that the state is expected to have half a billion dollars or more in revenue than was previously predicted. Some lawmakers want to use the windfall to roll back proposed budget cuts, including cuts to K-12 schools. Governor Snyder says some of the money should be put towards the state’s emergency savings.

EFM Repeal

A group looking to repeal the state’s new financial manager law is expected to detail their plans today, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Michigan Forward says it will talk about the coalition formed to launch the "Campaign to Build Michigan" this morning. The legislation signed into law in March gives state-appointed financial managers broader powers to correct the finances of communities and school districts.

The meeting will take place in Detroit.

McCotter: Not In

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia announced over the weekend that he will not run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012. Rep. McCotter is yet another Michigan Republican who has decided not to run against Stabenow. Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra and former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land both have said they will not run. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman is the only Republican to announce his candidacy for the seat.

News Roundup
8:45 am
Thu May 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

Romney in Michigan

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will deliver a speech about healthcare today at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. Steve Carmody reports:

The Republican presidential contender is expected to outline a path away from the nation’s recently enacted health care reform law… Romney has been extremely critical of the health care law enacted last year, even though it’s very similar to the law he enacted as governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s speech will address his proposal to replace the law.

Declining Profits at Toyota

Toyota announced yesterday that its fourth-quarter profit fell by 77%. Reasons for the decline include the strong yen versus the dollar that eroded Toyota’s profits overseas and the fact that the automaker’s global production plummeted after March’s earthquake and tsunami. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Toyota says, “its North American production will rise to 70 percent of normal in June as the company begins to recover from parts shortages caused by the earthquake in Japan"

Lawmakers Continue Debate on Tax Reform

It appears Republican leaders in the state Senate are facing a difficult challenge in trying to win approval for Governor Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul. Laura Weber reports:

The tax reform plan has been before a Senate committee this week, but there have been no votes on the measure. Republican Senators on the panel walked in and out of hearings, which may signal they weren’t ready for a vote.  The tax plan is controversial. It would eliminate the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a profits-tax on some corporations, reduce the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and tax some future pensioners. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he still hopes the Senate will vote on the package this week.

News Roundup
8:45 am
Wed May 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Thursday, May 11th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

GM Announces New Investments

General Motors announced yesterday it will invest a total of $2 billion in 17 of its U.S. plants. The investment means the automaker will re-hire its 1,357 laid-off workers, and possibly hire hundreds of new workers, especially if demand for GM cars continues to improve. The announcement was made at GM’s Toledo Transmission plant.

Unhappy With Snyder

A new EPIC/MRA poll is out and it shows Michigan voters are unhappy with Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder’s disapproval rating is at 60%, that’s compared with a disapproval rate of 36% percent just two months ago. And, disapproval of his job performance seems to have influenced how votes view Snyder personally. "More voters have an ‘unfavorable’ opinion of Governor Snyder today than they did back in February. In February, the poll showed 44% ‘favorable’ and 27% ‘unfavorable.’ Today, the poll shows 41% ‘favorable’ and 43% ‘unfavorable,'" Mark Brush reports.

EITC (Partially) Restored

Governor Snyder's administration has agreed to restore a reduced version of the state income tax credit for working poor families, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The reduced tax break will allow families that qualify to claim 6% of the federal earned income credit on their state taxes. In the past families could claim 20%. Snyder's original proposal called for elimination of the credit... Families eligible for the state credit in 2009 claimed an average of $432 per household. The Michigan League for Human Services says the reduced credit will still allow eligible families to take $140 off their 2011 tax bill, or add part of it to their return.

News Roundup
8:53 am
Tue May 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

Funds for High Speed Rail

Michigan has been awarded almost $200 million for high speed rail projects. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit yesterday to make the announcement. Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other Michigan lawmakers were on hand. The money will help pay for upgrades to a stretch of track between Detroit and Kalamazoo. The improvements will also help speed-up trains to 110 miles-per-hour. Michigan received the funds after Florida’s governor turned the money down.

State Senate to Take-Up Snyder Tax Measure

A Michigan Senate panel is set to hold a hearing on a broad tax proposal that's a key part of Governor Snyder’s strategy for the state, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee is scheduled to take testimony Tuesday on legislation that would cut overall business taxes and lead to taxes on certain types of retirement income.

The Republican-led House passed the main bill in the package by a 56-53 vote last month. The legislation will face a tough challenge in the GOP-led Senate because some Republicans already have come out against it…

Democrats generally oppose the plan.

Another Round of Federal Funds for Education

Michigan and other states may soon compete against one another to try to win a new round of grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Jennifer Guerra reports. From Guerra:

Congress allotted another $700 million to Race to the Top, the education reform program where states compete for federal grants. It’s not clear just yet how the money will be used, but some analysts say it’s likely the money will go toward improving early education.

John Austin is president of the Michigan Board of Education. He says "early childhood education expansion of pre-K to all interested is a fantastic investment." It would cost about $300 million to expand pre-K and kindergarten access to all children in Michigan, says Austin.

So far, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded 13 states and the District of Columbia Race to the Top funds. Michigan has yet to win any Race to the Top money.

News Roundup
8:19 am
Fri May 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Friday, May 6th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

House Passes School Funding Measure

The state House passed legislation late last night that cuts funding to public schools, community colleges, and universities for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. The measure also sanctions universities that offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. The legislation cuts per-pupil funding by between $256 and $297. The bill passed by the state House last night is different from an education-funding bill that was passed in the state Senate. The differences will have to be reconciled before a final education funding measure is sent to Governor Snyder for his signature.

Benton Harbor Officials Want EFM Void

Elected city leaders in Benton Harbor are calling on Governor Snyder to remove the city’s state-appointed emergency financial manager. Lindsey Smith reports:

Snyder approved broader powers for emergency financial managers earlier this year. Benton Harbor’s city commission adopted a resolution (full resolution available here) declaring those new powers unconstitutional.

On Thursday, Benton Harbor’s emergency financial manager Joe Harris rescinded that and any further resolutions adopted by elected city officials (full order available here), in accordance with an order he issued earlier this year.

Harris stripped power from elected city officials in March. That included the power to adopt resolutions, even non-binding ones.

Swimming to Return in the Kalamazoo River?

Michigan health officials might lift a no-contact order on areas of the Kalamazoo River in Southwest, Michigan. The order, put in place after more than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the river last July, bans swimming, boating and fishing. Michigan officials are studying the effects of the spill and, if reports are positive, the no-contact order could be lifted.

News Roundup
8:40 am
Thu May 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 5th, 2011

GM Sales

General Motors has released its first quarter-net income… and it’s good news for the automaker.  The Associated Press reports:

General Motors says its first-quarter net income more than tripled on strong car sales in the U.S. and China. The company's first-quarter net income totaled $3.2 billion… one of its best performances since the SUV boom in the early 2000s. It was GM's fifth straight quarterly profit since late 2009, the year it emerged from bankruptcy. Quarterly revenue rose 15 percent to $36.2 billion. Worldwide sales climbed 12 percent, including a 25-percent jump in the U.S.

House Votes on Budget

The state House passed a $33 billion budget bill yesterday. As the Associated Press reports, the measure covers spending for everything except education. From the AP:

Lawmakers were deeply divided Wednesday on the measure, which closes prisons, drops 12,600 families from welfare and cuts senior services.

Majority Republicans say the budget puts the state on sound financial funding without using one-time fixes.

Minority Democrats say the bill cuts important services such as job training.

It includes $7 billion in general fund spending and passed 62-48, largely along party lines.

The bill must be reconciled with spending bills already passed by the Senate.

DPS Gets a New EM

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a new Emergency Financial Manager for the Detroit Public Schools. Snyder announced the appointment of former GM Executive Roy Roberts to replace current Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb yesterday. Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports, “Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry. Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a ‘successful businessman and team builder.’ Roberts says he’s genuinely ‘excited’ to tackle the daunting task of improving Detroit schools.” Bobb’s contract expires at the end of June.

News Roundup
8:43 am
Wed April 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder to Deliver Education Address

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver an address about education reform this morning in Detroit. It’s being reported that the Governor will propose tougher education requirements for new teachers. Snyder has also said more attention should be given to children from before birth through their graduation from college. Snyder offered some hints as to what he might say today in an address earlier this week to an education conference in East Lansing. On Monday, the governor said student test scores are both “startling and scary.” He says he wants to relax school regulations to give teachers and principals more freedom and responsibility over educational decisions.

Severe Weather

Officials plan to survey parts of northern Allegan County to determine whether a tornado or high winds caused damage in the area, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The National Weather Service says the survey is planned for Wednesday in southwestern Michigan following damage from storms that moved through the state Tuesday evening. Two barns housing 40,000 turkeys at DeBoer Turkey Farm in Allegan County's Salem Township were toppled by the storms.

The Grand Rapids Press reports about a dozen other sites in the county were damaged…

The weather service says the storms also produced heavy rain that flooded some low lying areas. More rain was expected through Thursday, bringing with it the risk of more flooding.

Now Is the Time to Pay-Up

People and businesses that owe back taxes to the state of Michigan have until June 30th to pay up without paying fines and penalties, Rick Pluta reports. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of people and businesses that owe the state unpaid taxes. From Pluta:

The state hopes to net $90 million dollars from the tax amnesty program.  State Treasurer Andy Dillon says if you owe, now is a good time to pay, "It doesn’t matter why you didn't pay your taxes – the penalties can be forgiven. And the penalties can be quite stiff. It depends on the tax that you’re talking about, but it can be as much as 25% of the liability that can be forgiven, and the sooner you pay it off, the sooner you stop paying interest on that obligation."

This is the third time since the 1980s the state’s offered amnesty to people and businesses with unpaid back taxes.

News Roundup
8:26 am
Mon April 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, April 25th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder Plans Education Address

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to outline some of his ideas on school reform in an address to a conference of educators in East Lansing today. Snyder will offer even more details on his ideas for education in the state when he delivers a message to the legislature later this week. A senior advisor to the Governor says Snyder will say everything from better pre-natal care to an improved higher education system have to be part of a plan for fixing schools, Rick Pluta reports.

Big Cuts for Corrections?

Michigan Senate Republicans say the Department of Corrections could save tens of millions of dollars by making sure all prisoners are parole-eligible as soon as they have served their minimum sentences, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

Republican state Senator John Proos who chairs the Senate panel that oversees the Department of Corrections budget, says that means making sure prisoners have taken their necessary prisoner reentry programs in time for their parole hearings. Proos says additional savings can be found in the department by privatizing food services and mental health services for prisoners.

Study Programs Continue in Japan

The University of Michigan says its study programs in Japan are on track due to a revised U.S. State Department policy, the Associated Press reports. The AP explains, “The agency had previously warned Americans against traveling to Japan following last month's earthquake and the nuclear accident that followed. The school says students must make sure they follow the university's international travel rules.”

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