morning news roundup

News Roundup
8:52 am
Fri January 13, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, January 13th
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Bridge Owner Spends Night in Jail

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards sentenced billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun to jail yesterday for failing to comply with the judge’s order to finish a project that would connect the Ambassador Bridge to nearby expressways. Moroun’s chief deputy, Dan Stamper, was also ordered to jail. After the order, Moroun appealed the judge’s decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Appeals Court denied the request and Mouron spent the night in jail.

Financial Crisis in Highland Park School District

Governor Snyder announced yesterday that a financial crisis exists in the Highland Park School District. The announcement came less than two weeks after a state review panel recommended the governor appoint an emergency manager to fix the school district’s "financial emergency." The review team had been pouring over the district’s books since November. Emergency managers are already running the Detroit public schools, as well as the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. Financial review teams are also looking at Detroit and Inkster's books.

Dow Chemical

The Dow Chemical Company is the second-largest producer of toxic chemical waste in the nation, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency. Rebecca Williams reports:

The report shows that Dow produced more than 600 million pounds of toxic chemical waste in the reporting year 2010. Ben Morlock, a spokesperson for Dow, says 97 percent of that toxic chemical waste was treated, recycled or reused. He says the rest of that waste – the remaining three percent – was disposed of in accordance with the company’s state and federal permits. The report says close to 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment nationwide. This is a 16 percent increase from 2009. Dow, the EPA and the state of Michigan have wrestled over the cleanup of that dioxin pollution for more than 30 years.

News Roundup
8:43 am
Thu January 12, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, January 12th, 2012
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Legislative Session Begins

The 2012 legislative session began yesterday at the state Capitol. “The House and Senate used their first day back… as a planning session for their first real week of lawmaking and votes that starts Tuesday,” the Detroit News reports. Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the legislature will not quickly spend the estimated $1.2 billion dollar budget surplus (though, really, there’s predicted to be just about a $400 million surplus because much of the money has already been committed for the budget year). Some Democratic lawmakers have called for the surplus to be put towards K-12 education funding.

MI Home Foreclosures

The number of home foreclosures in the state dropped last year to the lowest level since 2007, according to Realty Trac. Steve Carmody reports:

The actual number of foreclosure filings dropped 26% compared to 2010. The decline is partly due to a slowdown in the paperwork process. The average time between the first foreclosure filing and final repossession of a home in Michigan took 283 days last year. That’s a 46% increase over the number of days it took in 2010.  Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac. He says mortgage lenders will be speeding up the pace of home foreclosures this year. Michigan had the sixth highest home foreclosure rate in the nation last year with one in every 45 homes receiving a foreclosure notice.

Hearing for Nuclear Plant Officials

Officials from the company that operates the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Southwestern Michigan appeared before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday. “The company is hoping to avoid getting another safety violation; it was issued one already this month. The hearing was about two separate incidents at the plant last year. The more serious of the two incidents was a week-long shutdown of the power plant last September. The NRC will issue its final report within 60 days. Because of the violation from May that’s already finalized, Palisades will have more oversight beginning this year,” Lindsey Smith reports.

News Roundup
8:48 am
Wed January 11, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
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Right to Work

Governor Snyder renewed his opposition yesterday to Michigan lawmakers taking up a controversial right-to-work measure.  Rick Pluta reports:

The governor says the issue would divide the state when it should be focused on an economic recovery.  Snyder says the experience in other Midwestern states shows a fierce political fight could consume the Legislature’s attention and sideline other issues. Republican lawmakers are expected to roll out a measure soon that would outlaw mandatory union membership as a condition of employment. The governor is preparing to outline his priorities for 2012 in his second State of the State address to be delivered next week.

Detroit Financial Review

A state-appointed review team assessing the finances of Detroit met for the first time yesterday. “Most members of the panel say they are optimistic the city can avoid being taken over by an emergency manager,” Laura Weber reports. “The review team has about a month and a half to send a report of the city’s finances and a recommendation to Governor Snyder,” Weber explains. Emergency managers already run the Detroit Public schools as well as Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor.

Iran Detainee

Iran has confirmed that the country has sentenced an Iranian-American man to death. The Associated Press reports:

Iran accuses Amir Hekmati of bring a CIA spy. Hekmati was born in Arizona and grew up in the Flint, Mich., area. A U.S. official says Switzerland was informed of the sentence Tuesday - a day after it was reported in Iranian media. Switzerland acts as a go-between in such situations. It represents American interests in Iran because the U.S. and Iran have no diplomatic relations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because sensitive discussions continue between Switzerland and Iran. The Obama administration says the charges against the 28-year-old ex-military translator are a complete fabrication.

News Roundup
8:57 am
Tue January 10, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
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Global Auto Sales

General Motors is likely to regain the status of the world’s top-selling automaker, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Detroit-based GM lost the crown to Toyota in 2008 after holding it for more than seven decades. GM won't release global sales numbers until late January, but it's on pace to finish 2011 at around 9 million cars and trucks. That's at least 800,000 more than its German and Japanese rivals. Winning the global sales crown doesn't mean much to a company's bottom line, but for GM, it's an example of just how far the company has come since it nearly collapsed in 2009.   

Lansing City Council Picks President

It took a marathon session, Steve Carmody reports, but the Lansing City Council finally chose a new council president last night. “The 8 member council is evenly divided into two factions. But after four hours of closed door talks, Councilman Brian Jeffries emerged as the next Lansing city council president. Jeffries admits work on the city budget may test the Lansing city council’s strained relations. Lansing may face a $12 to $15 million budget deficit next year,” Carmody explains.

Layoffs in Wayne County

Robert Ficano, the Executive of Wayne County, is laying off 44 workers, the Detroit Free Press reports. The layoffs were announced yesterday and include 13 of his appointees. From the Freep:

Ficano - whose administration is the target of a federal grand jury probe - has been under fire for months for the number of his appointees and their compensation. He approved a $200,000 severance to former Chief Development Officer Turkia Awada Mullin, who quit in September to run Metro Airport. None of the people slated for layoffs announced Monday will get severance payments, said Brooke Blackwell, a Ficano spokeswoman.

News Roundup
8:45 am
Mon January 9, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, January 9th, 2012
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Iran Sentences Michigan Man

A man from Michigan has been sentenced to death in Iran, according to the Associated Press. From the AP:

Iran's state radio says a court has convicted a Michigan man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death. Monday's report said Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was also convicted of trying to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism... Under Iranian law, he has 20 days to appeal. Iran charges that as a former U.S. Marine, Hekmati received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission. His father, a professor at a community college in Flint, Mich., has said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.

NAIAS 2012 Preview Begins

The North American International Auto Show press preview is underway at Cobo Hall in Detroit today. It was announced earlier this morning that the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque won the “Truck of the Year award” and the 2012 Hyundai Elantra has been named the "Car of the Year.”  Michigan Raido’s Mark Brush reports, “This is the third time a European automaker has won the ‘Truck of the Year’ award in the 19-year history of the award. The award is judged by 50 automotive journalists.”

Medical Marijuana Campaign

A campaign to legalize marijuana is expected to launch an effort this week to get the question of legalization before voters this November, Laura Weber reports. “The campaign to legalize marijuana must gather more than 300,000 valid signatures by early July to get the question on the ballot. Voters in Michigan approved the state’s medical marijuana law by a wide margin in 2008.The state Supreme Court will also hear a case this week on the rules for medical marijuana clinics,” Weber reports.

News Roundup
8:55 am
Fri January 6, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, January 6th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

ACLU Files Suit

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has filed suit against Governor Snyder over the state’s new law that bans domestic partner benefits. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Snyder signed the controversial law just before Christmas. It prohibits school districts, counties and other public employers from extending health insurance coverage to employees’ unmarried domestic partners. State universities are exempt. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of four couples. The group says the ban is 'wrong, discriminatory, and unconstitutional' because it singles out gays and lesbians. A federal Appeals Court struck down a similar Arizona law recently. Snyder and other backers say the law is just another in a series of measures to address 'the spiraling costs of health care.'

Detroit Budget

With a state financial review underway for the city of Detroit, Mayor Dave Bing yesterday unveiled a new ‘financial and operational restricting plan.' “It highlights cost savings from 1,000 imminent layoffs, overdue payments from the Detroit Public Schools district and a corporate tax increase that Bing says will mitigate a cash shortfall,” the Associated Press notes. And, Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett explains, “The mayor’s plan includes $360 million in savings over the next year and a half. But some city council members  say they’re skeptical. The mayor plans to present his proposal to a state review team next week. That review team could recommend an emergency manager take over the city finances.”

NAIAS to Stay in Detroit... For Now

The North American International Auto Show will remain in Detroit for the next five years. “The deal signed today by auto show and Cobo Center officials should reverse years of suggestions that show sponsors might take their business elsewhere,” Sarah Hulett reports. “A regional authority took control of Cobo away from the city two years ago. The move paved the way a $278 million renovation of the aging facility. The auto dealers who put on the show had warned the city could lose the auto show if renovations were not made,” Hulett explains. The auto show opens to the public January 14.

News Roundup
8:40 am
Thu January 5, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, January 5th, 2012
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“Right-to-Work” in the Midwest

People who want to end compulsory union membership in Michigan are closely watching Indiana, Rick Pluta reports. That's because, "debate began in that state’s Capitol to make Indiana the first ‘right-to-work’ state in the industrial Midwest. The legislation would ban the requirement that workers pay union dues as a condition of holding a job. Michigan “right-to-work” supporters say the Indiana debate boosts their cause in a state where Republican Governor Rick Snyder has said the issue is too divisive to tackle. Opponents of 'right-to-work' laws say they drive down wages and don’t do much to help a state’s economy," Pluta reports. A “right-to-work” measure could be introduced in the Michigan Legislature as soon as this month.

EM for Highland Park Schools?

The Highland Park School District could soon be appointed an emergency manager. Steve Carmody reports:

A state review panel recommended yesterday that the governor appoint someone to fix the school district’s ‘financial emergency.’ The financial review team has been looking at the Highland Park School District’s books since November. The panel’s report to the governor finds the school district is $11 million in the red. That works out to about $10,000  for every student enrolled. The school district’s deficit has grown by $3 million in just the last year alone. Emergency managers are already running the Detroit public schools, as well as the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. Financial review teams are also looking at Detroit and Inkster. The state Education Department is also conducting a preliminary review of the financial status of the Muskegon Heights School District. 

MI Nuclear Plant Downgraded

Federal regulators say the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan has been downgraded and will undergo an extra inspection, according to The Associated Press. From the AP:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says faulty maintenance by plant employees caused a water pump shutdown last May. The plant is near Lake Michigan in Van Buren County's Covert Township. Plant spokesman Mark Savage says Palisades and the commission will determine a date for the additional inspection. The commission says it's also investigating two other incidents at the plant in 2011, including an electrical fault during maintenance. That could result in another downgrade.

News Roundup
8:05 am
Wed January 4, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, January 4th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

State Surplus Grows

The state is bringing in more money than previously predicted, according to a report by the non-partisan state Senate Fiscal Agency. Laura Weber reports:

The agency says Michigan ended the fiscal year that ended September 30th with a $1.3 billion surplus. An improving economy and lower income tax refunds are largely credited for the surplus. But much of the windfall has already been dedicated to programs in the current fiscal year. David Zin, an economist with the Senate Fiscal Agency, says the state collected more tax revenue in 2011 than projected last year.

New Superintendent for GRPS

Former Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor was granted an immediate leave of absence last night by the Grand Rapids school board. Lindsey Smith reports:

In June 2011, Taylor agreed to resign from Grand Rapids schools by June 2012. That agreement came after he was a finalist for other jobs beginning last spring. It’s unclear why Taylor asked to leave now. The request came in an official letter dated December 27th. He’ll use all of his vacation and sick days left. The district would have had to pay him for those anyway. The interim superintendent will be Assistant Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.

Sugar Bowl Win for Michigan

The  13th ranked University of Michigan football team won last night’s Sugar Bowl against 17th ranked Virginia Tech. “Brendan Gibbons drilled a 37-yard field goal down the middle in overtime to lift Michigan to a 23-20 victory… The victory capped an impressive debut season for head coach Brady Hoke, who has led the Wolverines (11-2) back to prominence with a BCS bowl victory. Denard Robinson highlighted an otherwise unspectacular night with touchdown passes of 45 and 18 yards to Junior Hemingway,” the Associated Press reports.

News Roundup
9:02 am
Tue January 3, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, January 3rd, 2011
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Budget Talks Underway in Lansing

Budget talks for the state’s next fiscal year have already begun says Republican State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville. Laura Weber reports:

Richardville says he expects the budget to be done several months ahead of the constitutional deadline of October. Last year the Legislature finalized a spending plan in June. He also expects the budget process to be smoother this year because Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature have adopted a planning budget for the coming fiscal year. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says she hopes the GOP will rethink some of the cuts they approved in the budget last year.

2012 Auto Sales

Despite problems for Toyota and Honda, 2011 was a pretty good year for auto sales in the U.S., Tracy Samilton reports. “Auto companies sold about 12.8 million cars in the U.S. in 2011 and this year they should sell about 13.6 million. The U.S. economy is expected to improve a little this year, which should help those car companies solidly in the black,” Samilton reports.

Post-Storm Dig-Out

Parts of the state are digging out after a two-day winter storm brought as much as 15 inches of snow, strong winds and hazardous driving conditions, the Associated Press reports. “Some schools in Allegan, Cass and Van Buren counties in the southwestern Lower Peninsula were closed Tuesday following the snow, which began Sunday. The National Weather Service says Allegan County received up to 15 inches of new snow from Sunday through Monday evening. The weather service says a winter storm warning was in effect Tuesday in parts of the northwestern Lower Peninsula including Gaylord, where at least 8 inches was reported, and Traverse City, where several inches fell,” the AP reports.

News Roundup
8:56 am
Wed December 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
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Cap on Charters Lifted

Governor Snyder has signed a bill that lifts the restriction on the number of university-sponsored charter schools that are allowed in the state. Laura Weber reports:

Snyder said he hopes allowing more charter schools to open their doors in Michigan will encourage all schools to improve their performance. Critics of the measure say the law does not include enough assurances that charter schools meet high standards. And they say charter schools leave out special-needs students through selective enrollment and interviewing. The law will allow an unlimited number of university-sponsored charter schools to operate in Michigan by 2015.

Financial Review

The state begins a preliminary review of the Muskegon Heights School District’s finances today. It’s the first step in a process that could lead to an emergency manager being appointed for the district. “Many school districts and municipalities make an effort to avoid state takeovers. But in Muskegon Heights, the school board is asking for one. Earlier this month the Muskegon Heights’ school board decided it didn’t have enough money to employ a superintendent… And, in a letter to the district, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan outlined six concerns he has about the financial viability of the district,” Lindsey Smith reports. The state expects to finish the preliminary review by January 10th.

Detroit Library Closures

Despite a last minute push to keep them open, four branches of the Detroit Public Library system will close this week. “Supporters of the four branches packed the Detroit Library Commission meeting yesterday. The Commission actually voted to close the libraries last month. But library advocates were hoping Commissioners would issue them a temporary reprieve, so they could try and raise money to keep the branches open. But Commissioners refused to move the issue, meaning the branches will close as scheduled on December 22,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

News Roundup
8:47 am
Tue December 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
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Snyder Signs Workers Comp Legislation

Governor Snyder signed major changes to employer paid benefits into law yesterday afternoon. “One change limits how much injured workers can be compensated (basing their pay on how much an injured worker could potentially make at another job), and another limits a person's ability to collect unemployment payments,” Mark Brush reports. And, the Associated Press reports:

The bills would further limit the ability of a person who was fired for cause or who may have left a job voluntarily from collecting jobless benefits. They would require some unemployed workers to take jobs after 10 weeks of benefits even if the jobs are outside the unemployed worker's previous experience or pay lower wages. The measures also would push injured workers to seek some type of employment once they're able.

Citizen Input on Statewide School District

Leaders of Michigan’s new statewide school district are looking to residents for their input. Sarah Cwiek reports:

The Education Achievement System (EAS) is Governor’s Snyder’s plan to improve the state’s lowest-performing schools. The EAS held input sessions in Detroit and Kalamazoo yesterday. Plans for the EAS have been sketchy so far. It’s set to launch in 2012 with an unspecified number of Detroit Public Schools. EAS Chief of Staff Tyrone Winfrey says part of the reason few details have been announced is because the district wants to hear from the community. Winfrey says the EAS will announce its “strategic plan” and other details in mid-to-late January.

Flint Crime Rate Drops

Preliminary data from the FBI shows there’s been a drop in Flint’s crime rate. In 2010, the city recorded a record number of homicides: 66. Now, the Flint Journal reports:

For the first six months of 2011, the city reported 909 instances of violent crime — a 19 percent decrease from the 1,123 instances reported by the same time last year. There were 22 homicides, compared to 27 last year; 41 forcible rapes, compared to 51 last year; and 229 robberies, compared to 274 last year, according to the data. Any decrease in crime is welcome news in a city that was recently dubbed "the Most Dangerous City in America."

News Roundup
10:12 am
Fri December 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, December 16th, 2011
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Busy Day at the Capitol

Lawmakers were busy yesterday in Lansing as the winter legislative session came to an end. “A proposal to get rid of the limit on the number of university-sponsored K- 12 charter schools in the state is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. The state Senate gave final approval to the measure yesterday at the state Capitol,” Laura Weber reports. And,  the state Senate approved a bill that would allow state officials to appoint a transition team to work with a community after an emergency manager’s term is up. Rick Pluta reports:

The bill would create a transition team for a local government that’s ending its run with an emergency manager. But lawmakers could quickly adopt an alternative version next year if the state’s emergency manager law is stalled by a referendum or reversed by a court. Lawmakers will not however, revisit the emergency manager law before January when they return from a month-long winter break.

And, of course, what would the end of a legislative session be without a fight on the House chamber floor.

W. MI Power Plant Restarts after Shutdown

The Palisades nuclear power plant in West Michigan has been restarted after it was shut-down due to a problem with its water pumps. The Associated Press reports:

Operators of the southwestern Michigan plant say it returned to service and reconnected to the electric grid late Thursday night. Both of the plant's feed water pumps automatically shut down Wednesday afternoon. Palisades is about 35 miles west of Kalamazoo and about 80 miles east-northeast from Chicago across the lake. Palisades has had several recent operating problems, with two shutdowns in September and one each in August and January.

Detroit Red Kettle Donations Down

The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign is running short of its goal in metro Detroit. “The charitable organization's Eastern District has a goal of $8.2 million. It’s raised about $3 million dollars with only a week and a half left to go in the campaign. The Salvation Army’s West Michigan group is faring better. Spokesman Roger Snider says kettle donations are up about one percent in Kent County, where the goal is $1.6 million dollars. He says overall donations in Kent County are up nearly five percent,” Rina Miller reports.

News Roundup
9:09 am
Tue December 13, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Stops Paying Some Bills

In order to fund its payroll, Detroit has delayed paying some of its vendors and contractors, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown told the Detroit Free Press… that the delays allow the city to fund its payroll…  Mayor Dave Bing's office acknowledged that it's delaying some payments but says the intention is to fully compensate everyone. Bing has said Detroit faces a $150 million budget deficit and a projected $45 million cash shortfall... Michigan Treasury officials have started a preliminary review of Detroit's finances, a possible first step to an emergency manager's appointment.

Snyder Doesn’t Want ‘Right-to-Work’

Governor Rick Snyder says he is still against right-to-work laws in Michigan. The Governor told WJR radio that, “he doesn't want to repeat the experiences of Wisconsin and Ohio, where anti-union measures have been extremely divisive.Snyder says Michigan has taken steps to encourage job growth that will be more useful than a right-to-work law, such as significantly cutting business taxes effective Jan. 1. He adds many of the new jobs being created in Michigan aren't in unionized industries anyway,” the Associated Press reports.

Lawmakers Face To-Do List as Year Wraps Up

A fight could be brewing at the state Capitol over funding an exchange that would allow people and businesses to comparison-shop for health insurance, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

The state is supposed to create the exchange as part of the new federal health care overhaul requirements. Republicans have debated whether funding the health insurance exchange would be showing support for the new federal health care law. Republican state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says it’s one of a handful of pressing questions that should be settled this week before the Legislature begins a month-long winter break. The Legislature is also still debating whether to allow more K-12 charter schools, and whether to overhaul the state’s workers compensation rules. And a lingering question remains whether the state House will vote to dramatically alter Michigan’s no-fault insurance laws.

News Roundup
8:39 am
Mon December 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, December 12th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Bus System Cuts

Beginning today, tens of thousands of people who use metro Detroit’s suburban bus system will see their options dramatically limited, Sarah Hulett reports. “The cash-strapped SMART system is cutting 15 routes on weekdays, and it’s terminating some routes at Detroit’s city limits. Megan Owens of the advocacy group Transportation Riders United says the downriver area will be hit the hardest – losing several major routes. Declining tax revenues due to drops in property values, fewer federal dollars, and the SMART system’s inability to win concessions from its unions are blamed for the cuts,” Hulett reports.

Budgeting Flint Education

The Flint School District will deliver its deficit elimination plan to the state today, Steve Carmody reports. But a long-time critic doubts the district’s administration will be able to make the plan work. Carmody explains:

State law requires local units of government that finish their fiscal year with a deficit to send a ‘deficit elimination plan’ to the Treasury Department. Friday night, a divided Flint School Board approved their district’s plan. The plan includes closing and consolidating schools, though which schools would be closed is somewhat unclear. David Davenport is a school board member who voted against the deficit elimination plan.  He says he would rather see the governor appoint an emergency manager to run the district. Flint schools superintendent Linda Thompson is confident the district can follow its own plan and eliminate its budget deficit, while improving educational opportunities. 

Lowe’s Pulls Ad from Muslim TV Show

Lowe’s says it’s pulling television advertisements from “All American Muslim,” a new reality television show based in Dearborn, Michigan. The news comes after a conservative evangelical Christian group protested the show, the Associated Press reports. “’All-American Muslim’ premiered last month on TLC and features five families from Dearborn, a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population. The Florida Family Association mounted a campaign against the show and claims victory after Lowe's announcement. In California, Democratic state Rep. Ted Lieu of Torrance says he's considering a call for a boycott against Lowe's for what he calls ‘naked religious bigotry,’” the Associated Press reports.

News Roundup
9:00 am
Tue November 22, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
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‘Occupy’ No Longer

It looks like the ‘Occupy Movement’ in Detroit is winding down.  “Most of the Occupy Detroit protesters ended their stay in a downtown park as a permit neared its deadline. The Detroit City Council gave protesters a one-week extension until last night to remain at Grand Circus Park. About 150 people were taking part in the protest that started October 14th”, the Associated Press reports.

Possible EM for Benton Harbor Schools

The state is reviewing the finances of Benton Harbor Area Schools. That’s the first step in a process to determine if the school district needs a state-appointed emergency manager. Lindsey Smith reports:

It does not mean one would be appointed for certain. But, the rumors are already flying in the community about a takeover. The school district needs to cut more than $2.6 million to avoid major problems like not meeting payroll. That would trigger the state to appoint an emergency manger to run the school district’s finances. The state’s financial review of the district is due in late December. The City of Benton Harbor has been under emergency management for a year and a half.

State Jobless Benefits

Unemployed people in Michigan have a harder time getting jobless benefits than in other states in the Midwest, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Human Services. Laura Weber reports:

The report also says Michigan pays the lowest maximum unemployment benefits in the region to people out of work. Peter Raurk wrote the report for the Michigan League for Human Services. He says making sure unemployed people have access to jobless benefits helps stimulate the economy. The report also says Michigan provides the fewest weeks of unemployment coverage in the region. Raurk says the Legislature should not approve proposals that would make it even more difficult for workers to get unemployment benefits.

News Roundup
8:47 am
Mon November 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, November 21st, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Can You Spare $60 Million?

Lawmakers return to the state Capitol next week and topping their agenda: coming up with $60 million to fill a budget gap created by the state Supreme Court’s decision last Friday on Michigan’s new pension tax. Rick Pluta explains:

The court upheld the tax on pensions, but said denying a tax break to some higher-earners effectively created a graduated income tax, which is not allowed under the state constitution. That part of the decision blew a $60 million hole in the state budget. Sixty million dollars is a small part of a general fund budget that exceeds $8 billion. But it is an amount the governor and the Legislature will need to make up to meet their obligation under the state constitution to have a balanced budget.

Bridge Opposition

A new poll shows that likely voters in the state oppose a plan to build a new international bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The Associated Press reports:

The poll for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV showed 59 percent oppose the project, 30 percent support it and 11 percent were undecided… The Republican governor supports the new bridge, saying it is crucial to expanding trade between the U.S. and Canada. But the private owners of the Ambassador Bridge already spanning the Detroit River oppose a second bridge, saying a publicly supported bridge would unfairly compete with their own.

MI: 3rd Most Reliant on Food Stamps

“Michigan households relied on food stamps last year more than all but two other states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” the Lansing State Journal reports. “The states with the highest food stamp participation rates were Oregon (17.9 percent) and Tennessee (17 percent.) States with the lowest participation rates included California (7.4 percent), New Jersey (6.8 percent) and Wyoming (6.2 percent). The national rate was 11.9 percent,” explains.

News Roundup
9:06 am
Tue November 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Finances

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will give a speech tomorrow night regarding his city’s troubled finances, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

City council member Gary Brown says Detroit is "broke." The Detroit Free Press is reporting Tuesday that the city will run out of cash by April unless immediate cuts are made.The newspaper says it obtained a report by Ernst & Young that the city won't release. The mayor plans to speak Wednesday at 6 p.m. It's possible that Detroit's poor health could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager with sweeping authority to make changes.

Dems Release Jobs Plan

Democratic lawmakers in Lansing have outlined a plan that they say would help small businesses grow and hire unemployed people. Rick Pluta explains:

The plan includes taking a portion of the money that’s in a state trust fund and investing it in local banks and credit unions to make small business loans. The Democratic package would allow small banks and credit unions to pool their finances to invest in larger projects…The plan also calls for a tax credit for small businesses that hire long-term unemployed people and veterans. Republicans shy away from job creation credits. They say the state should not single out specific businesses for tax breaks.

Deer Seasons Begins

Today is the first day of the state’s firearm deer season. “Some  675,000 hunters are expected to scour woods and rural areas across the state,” over the next 16 days, the Associated Press reports. There are more than 600,000 licensed deer hunters in the state. Rodney Stokes, Director of the state Department of Natural Resources,  says the firearm deer season generates about a half billion dollars for Michigan's economy.

News Roundup
8:31 am
Mon November 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, November 14th, 2011
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Occupy No Longer?

A permit that is allowing Occupy Detroit demonstrators to stay at a Detroit park expires tonight. The Associated Press reports:

About 150 people have holed up at the park since Oct. 14 and have held a number of marches and protests of financial institutions since then. The city's Recreation Department last month denied a request by the group's attorney for a 45-day permit to erect tents in the park but did issue a 30-day permit, retroactive to Oct. 14… Last week, spokesman Evan Rohar said the group assumes police will come to clear out the protesters once the permit expires. She says members are considering whether to stay or go.

Flint Swearing In

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling will take his oath of office later today… but, what happens next is up to Governor Rick Snyder, Steve Carmody reports:

Incumbent Dayne Walling won a four year term as Flint’s mayor last week. He’s already been serving as Flint’s mayor for the past two years, since winning a special election. The challenge then was to reduce Flint’s massive budget deficit. The challenge now will probably be to work under a state appointed emergency manager. On the same day Walling won reelection, Governor Snyder agreed with a state review team that Flint is in a ‘financial emergency’. The governor is expected to name an emergency manager to run the city.

Biden in Detroit

Vice President Joe Biden visited Detroit yesterday. He spoke at a, “fundraiser Sunday night for a Jewish Orthodox day school near Detroit. The vice president says Israel is a key element to the U.S.'s own security and its broader efforts in the Middle East. Biden said President Barack Obama feels the same way. Hundreds of people attended the dinner at a downtown hotel for the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah,” the Associated Press reports.

News Roundup
9:11 am
Fri November 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, November 11th, 2011
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State Health Care Exchange

The state Senate has adopted a bill to create a statewide health coverage exchange where people and businesses could comparison shop for insurance, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

Republicans were divided on the question, and whether a vote for it was an endorsement of the federal health reforms. Some Republicans argued they should take a principled stand against the federal law by refusing to enact any portion of it. Others argued the state should not risk being forced into a federal bureaucracy. Without action, the state would be forced into a federal exchange system. The measure now goes to the state House. Republican Governor Rick Snyder says the statewide coverage exchange is a good idea with or without the federal mandate. He has asked the Legislature to send the bill to his desk before the end of the year.

Anti-Bullying Bill

A measure that would require all school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies has cleared the state House. “The proposal says there is no reason for kids to be allowed to bully each other. That sets it apart from legislation approved by the Senate last week. That bill exempted statements based on a student's deeply held religious or moral belief. Critics called the provision a license to bully,” Laura Weber reports.

Medical Marijuana

There’s a new challenge to the rights of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients. Steve Carmody reports:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a legal opinion yesterday that said police can seize marijuana from medical marijuana patients. In the opinion, the attorney general also said it would be illegal for police to return the pot, even after they confirm that the patients possess a medical marijuana permit. Under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, a patient with a valid state issued identification card may possess up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana. That same state law prohibits police from seizing marijuana or drug paraphernalia from authorized medical marijuana patients. But Schuette says the state law conflicts with federal law on the subject of marijuana forfeiture and that federal law preempts state law.

News Roundup
8:34 am
Tue November 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, November 8th, 2011
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Election Day

Polls across the state are open today as Michiganders decide on mayoral races, various millages and one closely watched recall. There are mayoral races in Flint and Jackson. In Lansing, voters will decide if they want to increase their property taxes and in Detroit, residents are being asked if they want to change their city charter. And, constituents of Republican state Representative Paul Scott will decide whether he should be recalled. The recall is being spearheaded by the Michigan Education Association due to Scott’s support of cuts in state education funding and efforts to weaken the teachers’ union. You can find out what’s on your ballot here: Publius.

'Fracking' Moratorium

Some Michigan Democratic lawmakers are calling for a two-year moratorium on a procedure that is used to extract hard-to-reach oil and gas deposits. Rick Pluta reports:

Lawmakers are taking aim at a process called hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – where water, sand, and chemicals are sent down a well to loosen stubborn pockets of gas and oil. Critics say it has caused pollution and dried-up water wells in other states. Democratic state Representative Jeff Irwin thinks the procedure needs to be more tightly regulated as it becomes more common in Michigan… Brad Wurfel with the state Department of Environmental Quality said Michigan has some of the strictest fracking regulations in the country, and that the process has been safely used in the state's shallow rock for decades.

Nuclear Power

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there are no environmental reasons to reject DTE Energy’s application to build a new nuclear power plant, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The NRC's staff has released a report for public comment on its analysis of plans for the Fermi 3 plant. The complex is near Monroe and Lake Erie in Monroe County's Frenchtown Township, northwest of Toledo, Ohio. The Monroe Evening News says the proposed cooling tower is larger than the two serving Fermi 2. Opponents say the plant would harm wetlands and feed toxic algae in Lake Erie.