morning news roundup

News Roundup
7:55 am
Tue November 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
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Pontiac’s EM Fires Department Heads

The state-appointed emergency manager of Pontiac has fired the city’s clerk, attorney and director of public works, according to The Associated Press. “The Oakland Press of Pontiac reports Lou Schimmel fired the department heads effective Friday. The changes are part of what Schimmel, who was appointed to the post in September by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, says is an effort to put together his own team,” the AP reports.

Snyder: Rail Part of Michigan’s Economic Future

Governor Snyder says developing faster and more-reliable rail service is critical to Michigan’s economic future. Rick Pluta reports:

The governor delivered the opening address to a conference on improving train service in the state yesterday. Snyder is trying to build support for an infrastructure strategy that includes spending a lot more money on higher-speed passenger rail service and a faster, bigger network to transport agricultural and manufactured goods.  He says the current system of rails and roads will not be able to keep up with growing demand. The governor envisions Michigan as the center of a Midwest-to-Canada business corridor that accounts for a third of North America’s economic activity.

Some Cuts to Welfare Delayed

The state’s plan to end welfare benefits for thousands of families has been at least temporarily blocked by a court order, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut issued a preliminary injunction Monday that would prevent the Michigan Department of Human Services from using a five-year lifetime limit based on federal regulations to end benefits for welfare recipients. Some families were expected to begin losing benefits under that policy in November. Roughly 11,000 cases would be affected by the five-year limit.

News Roundup
8:08 am
Mon October 31, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, October 31st
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Rail Summit

Following his speech on transportation and infrastructure last week, Governor Rick Snyder will address a summit today that will focus on improving the state’s rail service. “Michigan has 540 miles of publicly owned rail. The governor has called for improving and expanding that system to move people and cargo more quickly and efficiently.  The governor says he will seek more federal dollars and wants part of vehicle registration fees to be used for improving mass transit… The governor’s plans for the state include making Michigan a central point in a regional business corridor that runs from Chicago to Toronto,” Rick Pluta reports.

Flint Financial Review

Today is the deadline Governor Snyder set to complete a review of the city of Flint’s finances. Steve Carmody reports:

When he appointed the financial review panel in September, Governor Snyder said he wanted to hear back from them by the end of October. However, what the governor will hear is unclear. As of Friday, a governor’s office spokeswoman said the review team was still analyzing its data. The financial review panel could recommend a variety of options to the governor. They include giving Flint’s elected leaders more power to deal with budget decisions or handing over power to a state appointed emergency manager. Flint city officials have said they hope to avoid a state takeover similar to the one in 2002.

MI Helps the Northeast

CMS Energy, a Michigan-based power company, will send some 70 employees to assist crews in New Jersey who are trying to restore power to customers who lost electricity after this weekend’s snowstorm. “At least 3 million people from Maine to Maryland have lost power in the unseasonably early storm that dumped heavy, wet snow… Authorities blame a least three deaths on the weather, and states of emergency are in effect in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York,” the AP reports.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Wed October 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Chrysler/UAW Tentative Agreement

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers have reached a tentative deal on a new four-year contract. The Associated Press reports:

The union says in a statement Wednesday that Chrysler will invest $4.5 billion in its plants under terms of the deal. The union gave few other details. But the agreement is expected to be similar to deals reached earlier with General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. Workers at those companies gave up pay raises for most union members in exchange for profit-sharing payments. The Chrysler deal covers 26,000 workers.

State Budget Surplus

A legislative agency says Michigan is taking in a lot more money than it expects to spend as the books are about to close on the last fiscal year, Rick Pluta reports. “The revenue estimates from the state House Fiscal Agency say the state appears to be in line to reap $285 million more than expected. That includes a $145 million windfall for the School Aid Fund. Some Democrats say a portion of that money should be used to restore cuts to K-12 schools. But Republican leaders say the economy remains shaky, and the state should not be too quick to spend the money,” Pluta explains.

Great Lakes’ Health

Mercury levels in the Great Lakes have dropped over the past 40 years but, those levels are still high enough to pose risks to humans and wildlife, especially in many inland lakes, according to a new summary of the latest research on Great Lakes mercury levels. “Researchers summarized 35 new scientific papers to get a clearer picture of mercury in the Great Lakes. The good news: due to pollution controls, those levels continue to go down. But researchers are finding mercury has more wide-ranging effect than they initially thought. And in some species of fish and wildlife in particular areas, it appears mercury concentrations may be on the rise,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

News Roundup
8:42 am
Tue October 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

‘Underwear Bomber’ Trial Begins

Opening statements are set today for the trial involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of trying to detonate a bomb in his underwear on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009. Abdulmutallab is, “acting as his own lawyer but is relying on attorney Anthony Chambers to handle the courtroom work. Chambers will grill witnesses and give an opening statement after Abdulmutallab dropped plans to give his own statement. Chambers is promising to ‘challenge everything’ at trial,” the Associated Press reports. Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett will be in the courtroom today and report on the proceedings during All Things Considered.

Obama to MI

President Barack Obama travels to Michigan on Friday. Mr. Obama and the President of South Korea will tour the General Motors Orion Assembly plant. They’ll speak about the South Korean trade agreement that the White House says, “will open up economic opportunities and support jobs on both sides of the Pacific.” Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will be in downtown Flint tomorrow to talk about the President’s jobs plan.

Snyder Wants Immigrants Ready to Start Businesses

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to attract more foreign entrepreneurs to the state, Lindsey Smith reports. From Smith:

Snyder told a gathering of “The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan” he’d like to leverage a federal immigration program to attract new jobs and investments. Under the program, immigrants who’ve invested at least $500,000 in a business that creates at least 10 full-time jobs can apply for green cards. That allows them to live and work in the United States permanently. Snyder says he realizes there are a lot of people who are against inviting more immigrants into the U.S. Snyder says Dow Chemical and the Meijer retail chain are examples – both were founded by immigrants.

News Roundup
8:51 am
Mon October 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, October 10th, 2011
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Chrysler/UAW Talks Continue

Talks continue between negotiators for the UAW and Chrysler but no deal on a new contract has been announced. From the Associated Press:

Union leaders from all of Chrysler's factories are headed to the Detroit suburb of Warren for a meeting on the talks. Normally they don't meet until an agreement is ready. Both sides talked into the night Sunday. The union says in Internet postings that bargaining resumed around 4:30 a.m. Work has continued at Chrysler under a contract extension that expires Oct. 19. Chrysler's 23,000 workers cannot strike over wages under terms of the company's government bailout. Disagreements can be taken to binding arbitration.

Michigan Radio reporters are in Detroit monitoring the situation.

Bridge Vote

The state Senate is scheduled to vote on bills having to do with a new bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor this week. A state Senate committee will hold hearings tomorrow and Wednesday and vote on the legislation after  the hearings conclude, the Detroit News reports. Governor Snyder’s administration has been pushing for a new span across the Detroit River since January, when the Governor signaled his support for the new bridge during his first State of the State address.

Challenge to Redistricting Maps

A coalition of African-American and civil rights groups is expected to challenge Michigan’s new congressional and legislative district maps approved earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

State Representative Fred Durhal chairs the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. He says the new maps violate voting rights laws. He says that’s because they diminish the voting power of urban minority voters – and the evidence of that is how many Democratic incumbents from minority districts will be forced next year to run against each other. Republican leaders say a court challenge to any redistricting plan is normal, and was entirely expected. GOP leaders say the maps reflect population shifts, and that they were very careful to comply with the law.

News Roundup
8:52 am
Fri October 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, October 7th, 2011
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Snyder Planning on a Second Term

Governor Rick Snyder has laid to rest speculation that he might not seek a second term, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The governor told a collection of local government officials his plan is to serve eight years, if voters let him."I'm not announcing my candidacy yet, but as a practical matter I do intend to be around for eight years, assuming the voters go along with that and the family is supportive, which they have been consistently," said Snyder. There was speculation the governor would choose to serve only one term based on remarks he made last month on Mackinac Island.

Michigan Gets ‘Occupied’

The “Occupy Wall Street” campaign is starting to pop up in towns and cities across Michigan. Steve Carmody was in Ann Arbor last night and reports:

A crowd of about a hundred gathered on the University of Michigan campus to talk and listen. Many in the crowd have been inspired by the anti-corporate protest that’s been taking place on Wall Street for the past several weeks. Others were just curious.The‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement is planning on large scale protests in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids later this month, meanwhile social media websites are popping up calling for grassroots groups to sprout up around Michigan.  

ArtPrize Winner

The winner of the 3rd annual ArtPrize was announced last night. Mia Tavonatti, an artist originally from Iron Mountain in the U.P., took home the $250,000 top prize. Her piece, titled, “Crucifixion,” is a large-scale mosaic depicting Jesus Christ dying on the cross. “More than 1,500 artists from across the United States and 39 other countries competed in ArtPrize this year. More than 382,000 votes were cast by those who visited the event in Grand Rapids. Organizers estimate around 500,000 people came to the event, which runs through Sunday,” Lindsey Smith reports.

News Roundup
8:43 am
Wed October 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
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Judge Stops Cut to Cash Assistance

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman issued a restraining order yesterday that stops a round of cuts in cash benefits for Michigan welfare recipients. Rick Pluta explains:

Cash assistance welfare payments will go out today to thousands of families that were about to lose them as the state prepared to enforce state and federal time limits on the program. A federal judge ruled the state Department of Human Services failed to properly notify the families why their benefits were about to be cut off. DHS says new notices will be sent this week that comply with the ruling. And they say the state’s four-year time limit on cash assistance will officially begin in mid-October instead of at the beginning of the month.   

Count Day

Today is ‘Count Day’ at all of Michigan’s public schools. “The tally of students who show up at each school district is a major factor in how much money a district gets from the state. There are two count days each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates changing the count day formula will save the state $15 million this year. That also means districts with declining student enrollment will get less money,” Lindsey Smith reports.

Money Talks (and Wins Elections)

U.S. Senate candidate and former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra says he raised $1 million in the third quarter in his campaign to become the Republican nominee to challenge Democrat Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election. The Associated Press reports:

Hoekstra's campaign said in a statement Wednesday that the former congressman's contributions came from more than 3,500 donors. The campaign for the Holland Republican has said he didn't loan it any money. On Tuesday, Clark Durant said he's raised more than $750,000. Durant's campaign says the charter schools executive didn't loan it any money. Also running are former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman, Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy, former Libertarian Scotty Boman of Detroit and Gary Glenn of Midland, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

News Roundup
9:07 am
Tue September 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, September 20th
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Dems Want School Fund Constitutionally Protected

A group of Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol is continuing a push to constitutionally protect money in the state’s school aid fund. Laura Weber reports:

Democrats in the state House say voters should be allowed to decide how the state spends its education dollars. They’re calling for a constitutional amendment that would specify that School Aid Fund money be spent only on K-12 schools, and not on universities and community colleges. Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum says Republicans have proposed diverting $900 million from K-12 schools for the fiscal year that starts in October. Byrum says she thinks parents would be eager to organize a campaign to get a ballot question before voters. Republican lawmakers say schools have taken a less drastic cut in the budget than most areas of government, which demonstrates the state’s commitment to education.

Detroit Could Cut 40 Percent of Teachers

A deficit-elimination plan for the Detroit Public Schools district includes cutting nearly 40 percent of its teachers in the next four years, according the to the Detroit News. “The Detroit News reports… that under the plan, the state's largest district would cut more than 1,500 teachers by fall 2015, including nearly 1,100 next fall. The cuts next fall would come as the district moves its weakest schools into a new state system to run Michigan's lowest performing schools. Some Detroit teachers could be employed by the new school system. Detroit's school district has a $327 million budget deficit and its finances are overseen by Roy Roberts, an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder,” the Associated Press reports.

FBI Ranks Flint Crimes

The FBI is calling Flint the most dangerous city in the United States. The FBI released a report yesterday that shows Flint had the highest violent crime rate in the nation last year among cities with 100,000 people or more. According to the report, the city recorded a record number of murders in 2010.  "Other violent crimes also increased, as budget cuts forced the city to reduce its police force. Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac also posted crime rates last year that are among the worst in the nation", Steve Carmody reports.

News Roundup
8:48 am
Mon September 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, September 19th, 2011
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Health Care Reform Coming to Lansing

Draft versions of Governor Snyder’s health care reform plan will be presented to state lawmakers this week. Rick Pluta reports:

Snyder has asked lawmakers to adopt major portions of his health reform plans before their Thanksgiving break. Republicans are wary of requiring insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments, a government database of children’s health statistics, and adopting mandates in the federal Affordable Care Act, such as health coverage exchanges. The governor says an exchange that would allow people and businesses to comparison shop for health coverage is a good idea no matter the fate of the federal health reforms.

Update: CMU Contract Negotiations

Central Michigan University and its faculty are waiting for a report from a fact-finder appointed by a state agency that could help settle their contract dispute, the Associated Press reports. “A report is likely sometime in late October or early November. Members of the Central Michigan University Faculty Association went on strike on Aug. 22, which was the first day of classes for the fall semester. A judge ordered faculty members back to work but they are still allowed to demonstrate on campus. The faculty group says its previous contract expired June 30 with disputes continuing over wages and other issues,” the AP explains.

Granholm Says 'No' to More Time in Office

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm says she will not run again for office. From the Detroit Free Press:

"No, no and no." That was the response from former Gov. Jennifer Granholm when asked whether she might run for office again in 2012, 2014 or beyond. "I served for 12 years in public office, and I'm thoroughly enjoying post-government life," Granholm told the Free Press.

Granholm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, are the co-authors of the new book “A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future."

Politics
9:25 am
Mon September 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Negotiations between UAW and automakers might go down to the wire

Contracts between the UAW and Detroit automakers expire this week. The sides have been negotiating for the past month and will likely continue to negotiate through the middle of this week. The Detroit Free Press reported that "GM's agreement... is likely to add thousands of jobs at U.S. plants, offer buyouts for skilled trades workers and enhance the profit-sharing formula.":

Chrysler has been in lockstep with talks at GM and out-of-state union leaders were told that they might need to travel to Detroit soon to review a tentative deal.

Talks were continuing at Chrysler over the weekend. CEO Sergio Marchionne said in Canada that he would be involved in the talks, even though he was traveling from Calgary, Alberta, to Detroit and then to Frankfurt, Germany, over the course of the weekend.

Meanwhile, talks lag at Ford, where economic issues have barely begun being discussed.

State to decide whether to increase testing standards this week

The state Board of Education might decide to raise school testing standards at a meeting tomorrow, according to the Detroit News. If the scores are raised, fewer schools in Michigan will be found to be proficient in key subjects:

Education officials say the changes are necessary because existing standards reward students for average work and have disguised dismal ability levels. For instance, just 10 percent of third-graders are not proficient in reading, according to last year's Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said the newer scores will show that more than 60 percent are not proficient.

F-16s scrambled to follow a passenger plane on 9/11

Two passengers behaving suspiciously raised concerns of terrorism on a Frontier flight from Denver to Detroit yesterday. More from WXYZ.com:

People on the plane tell Action News the two men in question spent long periods of time in the plane’s lavatories. It's not clear how the woman was involved.

“They were going back and forth through the aisle,” passenger David Mungia said, describing the behavior of the two men who were taken away by police.

“One of the guys was in the bathroom for at least ten minutes,” Mungi said.

Authorities are not saying what was going on inside the lavatories but ABC News is reporting the unidentified passengers were making out.

 

Update 11:47 a.m.

The Detroit Free Press reports that reports of amorous activity on the flight are false:

Three passengers detained at Detroit Metro Airport Sunday after the crew reported suspicious activity were actually just using the rest room, according to an FBI spokeswoman in Detroit.

FBI Detroit spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said reports about sexual encounters taking place in the rest room are false, describing them as "stories spinning out of control."

News Roundup
9:02 am
Fri September 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Shakeup in the state's labor movement

The head of the Michigan AFL-CIO announced that he will step down. Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney announced yesterday that he will not seek another term. Gaffney said new leadership is needed. MPRN's Rick Pluta reported that "Gaffney’s pending departure had been widely rumored as labor leaders fret about how to deal with the growing pile of anti-union measures under consideration at the state Capitol – including right to work bills." Pluta reports that Gaffney's replacement will likely be Karla Swift, who could be formally chosen at a labor convention next month.

Grand Rapids airport seeks permission to discharge de-icing fluid into river

Officials at the Gerald R. Ford International airport want to build a pipeline that will allow them to dump de-icing fluid into a nearby river. The Grand Rapids Press reports the pipeline will cost around $15 million:

The nearly mile-long pipeline to the Thornapple River would be used to dispose of an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 gallons a year of de-icing fluid. A proposal was submitted Sept. 1 to the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Most Detroit Schools are opening after power outages

Some schools in the Detroit district missed opening week because of power outages around the city. Detroit Public Schools now says most schools will reopen.

More from the Associated Press:

The Detroit Public Schools plans to hold classes as scheduled at most schools following power outages that caused early dismissals across the district.

The district said Friday morning that all but four schools had power. One of the schools will relocate classes for the day and three will be closed.

Recent storms and weather-related issues were blamed for outages that forced the early school closures Thursday and left other public buildings without lights for several hours. Problems with Detroit's aging electrical grid also contributed to the outages.

Most power was restored by Thursday evening.

News Roundup
7:57 am
Thu September 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, September 8th
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Medical Marijuana Rally

More than a thousand supporters of Michigan’s medical marijuana law rallied at the state Capitol yesterday. They protested against Republican proposals to limit the law. In 2008, Michigan voters approved medical marijuana use by a wide margin but, just last month, a Michigan Appeals Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries could not sell the drug. The Michigan Supreme Court will likely have the last word on the legality of the law.

Another Round of Education Reforms

A state Senate panel has begun hearings on a new package of sweeping education reforms. “The package of bills include measures that would allow more charter schools in the state, allow schools to hire teachers from private companies, and require districts to open empty seats in classrooms to students who live outside of the area”, Laura Weber reports. Earlier this year, the state legislature and Governor Snyder approved measures that reformed Michigan’s teacher tenure laws.

MI SupCo Takes Up Pension Tax

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday for and against Michigan’s new tax on pensions. Governor Snyder proposed the pension tax to increase revenue for the state. Rick Pluta reports:

Public employees argued the pension tax violates the state’s constitution because it effectively reduces compensation that was agreed to by the state. Lieutenant Governor Brain Calley was in the audience to watch the arguments. He says the new state budget will come up short if the tax on pensions in not upheld… Calley says the court should rule quickly to ensure budget stability.

If the pension tax is ruled unconstitutional, the state budget will be short $340 million dollars for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

News Roundup
8:56 am
Tue September 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
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Obama Speaks in Detroit

President Obama spoke to union members and supporters at a Labor Day rally in Detroit yesterday. As Sarah Cwiek reports, the President says his biggest concern is to “fully restore” the country’s middle class:

The President will outline a jobs agenda to Congress on Thursday. He drew a disbelieving groan from the crowd when he said he still believes “both parties can work together.” But Mr. Obama also said he “won’t wait around for” Republicans in Congress.  “We’re going to see if Congressional Republicans will put country before party. We’ll give ‘em a plan, and then we’ll say: do you want to create jobs? Then put our construction workers back to work re-building America.” The President says he’ll urge spending on infrastructure, growing export markets, and renewing a payroll tax cut for workers.

Snyder to Sign Welfare Cap

Governor Snyder is expected to sign the state’s new 48-month cap on welfare benefits into law this week. The state legislature approved the measure last month. “The new limits are expected to immediately reduce the cash assistance caseloads by 15 percent. About 12,600 people have been on cash assistance for 48 months or more, and payments to those families will end when the state’s new fiscal year begins October 1st,” Rick Pluta reports. It’s estimated the new limits will save the state $65 million dollars in the new budget year.

Some Schools Remain Closed on First Day

Some schools have had to postpone their first day of classes due to power outages and storm damage from this weekend’s powerful thunderstorms. The Associated Press reports:

The public school district in Ferndale cancelled classes Tuesday to give cleanup crews more time to deal with the remnants of Saturday's storms that downed trees and power lines and knocked out electrical service to several of the district's buildings. Detroit Public Schools says Macdowell, Carstens at Remus Robinson, Emerson and Vernor elementary schools were closed Tuesday due to power outages caused by the storms… In all, utilities say about 176,000 Michigan homes and businesses lost power.

News Roundup
9:09 am
Thu September 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, September 1st, 2011
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Deadline Comes and Goes for Enbridge

Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline that leaked some 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River last summer, has failed to meet a deadline to clean up some of the submerged oil that remains from the spill. From the Associated Press:

The Kalamazoo Gazette and WWMT-TV say Enbridge Energy notified federal regulators that it would not meet the Wednesday deadline. Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum tells the Gazette there are many reasons. He says the scope of the cleanup grew over the summer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is investigating.

Report: MI Setting (Bad) Unemployment Record

An annual report by the Michigan League for Human Services says more than half of unemployed workers between the ages of 26 and 54 looked for work for six months or longer last year. “Even in the 1980's recession when unemployment overall was higher, the long-term unemployment rate was much lower than it is now,” says Karen Holcomb-Merrill who works for the league.

So Long, Price Tags

The state requirement that almost everything sold in Michigan have a price-tag ends today, as a result, the Detroit Free Press explains, “of legislation passed early this year at the urging of Gov. Rick Snyder.” The Free reports:

Snyder and other advocates for repeal said Michigan's item-pricing law, the strictest in the nation, was a relic of an era that was slowing innovation and adding more than $2 billion a year in costs to consumers. Defenders of the old law said repeal would sow frustration and anger among shoppers, result in layoffs for store clerks, and doubted that consumer savings would follow… In the absence of individual stickers, the new law requires that prices be displayed conspicuously and in close proximity to the item on sale.

Read more
News Roundup
8:50 am
Tue August 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
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Welfare Assistance

Letters have started going out to the 11,000 families in Michigan who are expected to have their welfare benefits cut off on October 1st, Sarah Hulett reports. Sheryl Thompson, deputy director of field operations for the state Department of Human Services, told Hulett that state caseworkers are scheduling one-on-one appointments with people affected by the new law. Thompson says people need to know they will still be eligible for food stamps, childcare assistance, and Medicaid. Governor Snyder has not yet signed the bill which calls for a strict enforcement of a 48-month lifetime limit on case assistance benefits.

McCotter Talks Election 2012

Southeast Michigan Congressman, and Republican presidential hopeful, Thaddeus McCotter will discuss his campaign today in Lansing. “Earlier this month, the Livonia Republican opened his national campaign headquarters in Plymouth. McCotter continues to forge ahead despite finishing last in the Iowa straw poll earlier this month… He spent Saturday campaigning at the Polk County GOP picnic in Iowa and recently spoke to Republicans in New Hampshire and Illinois,” the Associated Press reports.

Lansing Property Tax Increase?

For a second time this year, Lansing voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase their property taxes, Steve Carmody reports. From Carmody:

There are fears of deep cuts in police and fire protection if the millage is rejected again. In May, Lansing voters rejected a millage increase. After that, the city laid off 47 police officers and firefighters to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. Now the city’s finance director is predicting another $12 to $15 million gap next year. Last night, the Lansing City Council voted to put a millage increase on the November ballot, with most of the money earmarked for police and fire.

News Roundup
8:59 am
Mon August 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, August 29th, 2011
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Gov Supports Hoekstra

Governor Rick Snyder will formally endorse former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. The seat is currently held by Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. “The endorsement will put the governor at odds with other Michigan Republican power players. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, and ex-Senator Spencer Abraham – all former GOP party chairs – are backing school choice advocate Clark Durant,” Rick Pluta reports. Former Judge Randy Hekman, anti-gay rights activist Gary Glenn, and Roscomman businessman Peter Konetchy are also vying for the GOP nomination.

Local Leaders Say Unions Have Negative Effect

A new survey by The Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan shows 56 percent of local leaders think unionized workers have had a negative effect on their community’s fiscal health. The Associated Press reports:

The April 18 to June 10 survey got responses from 360 of the estimated 520 local governments in Michigan with unionized workers. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 says money lost to plunging property values and state aid reductions is responsible for local governments' financial problems, not union contracts.

Tea Party Express to Michigan

The Tea Party Express will visit Michigan later this week. “The conservative political activists hold rallies featuring fiery speeches and patriotic music… the focus will be on Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. Levi Russell, a Tea Party spokesman, says the Tea Party group is hoping to rally local conservatives to work to defeat Stabenow’s re-election bid next year…The Tea Party Express bus tour will stop in Hillsdale and suburban Detroit next Friday and Saturday,” Steve Carmody reports.

News Roundup
8:27 am
Fri August 26, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, August 26th
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Michigan’s Low-Achieving Schools

The Michigan Department of Education will release a list of the state’s lowest-achieving schools later this morning. “It will be the second time Michigan officials have released an annual list that notes the poorest-performing academic schools in the state. The rankings are based on a federally-prescribed and federally-approved formula. Schools on the list will have 90 days to submit a detailed school improvement or redesign plan. Michigan officials also will release a 'top-to-bottom' ranking of all public schools based on proficiency, student achievement, improvement, graduation rates and other factors,” the Associated Press reports. You can find last year’s list of the state’s lowest-achieving schools here.

Mandating Time-Off for Parents?

Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature say businesses should be required to give parents unpaid leave to attend parent-teacher conferences and other education related appointments with their kids. “The bill introduced this week would require businesses to give employees eight hours of unpaid leave per child, per school year. A spokesman for the House Republicans says he has not seen the bill, but he does not anticipate support for any mandates on businesses,” Laura Weber reports.

‘Underwear Bomber’ Claims Excessive Force

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane in 2009 claims he was the victim of excessive force after he allegedly assaulted several officers in prison. The Associated Press reports:

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab filed a handwritten request with a judge yesterday asking that no excessive force be used against him after he says he was assaulted in his cell on Wednesday. Abdulmutallab is being held at a Milan, Michigan federal prison while awaiting trial in Detroit.

Jury selection is set to begin September 14. A trial date is set for October 4.

News Roundup
9:11 am
Thu August 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, August 25th
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Lawmakers Busy in Lansing

The state Legislature has approved a measure that would mean higher health care costs for some teachers and local government employees. “The bill would require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to $15,000 a year per family.  The measure now heads to Governor Snyder for his signature,” Laura Weber reports.  State lawmakers also gave final approval to legislation that would create stricter welfare limits. The Associated Press reports:

Residents involved in roughly 12,500 welfare cases in Michigan could lose benefits under a stricter, four-year lifetime limit… The welfare limit already has been approved as part of the state budget that kicks in Oct. 1. Lawmakers plan to put the cap in a separate state statute to help implement the budget plan. The state's current four-year limit on welfare benefits would expire Sept. 30 unless the Legislature revises or extends the limitations. The revised welfare limits have fewer exemptions than the four-year limit now in state law.

Medical Marijuana No Longer Legal?

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he'll inform the state's 83 county prosecutors about a court decision that bans the commercial sale of medical marijuana, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Schuette says the appeals court ruling empowers local authorities to shut down marijuana dispensaries. The businesses typically allow people with medical marijuana cards to sell pot to others who also have cards. The appeals court said Wednesday that such shops are illegal. Schuette says it's a victory for people who don't want pot dispensaries in their communities.

Home Prices Continue Slide

Michigan home prices are still sliding, thanks to banks selling foreclosed homes and short-selling others. “Realty Trac reports 40 percent of all home sales in Michigan between April and June involved banks either selling foreclosed homes or short-selling other homes that were on the verge of being repossessed. That percentage is up slightly from the beginning of the year and the same time last year,” Steve Carmody reports.

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News Roundup
8:44 am
Wed August 24, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Changes Coming to State Employee Benefits

A state legislative committee has approved a measure that would require thousands of teachers and local government employees to pick up a bigger share of their health benefits. Rick Pluta reports:

The measure is expected to be voted on today by the state House and the Senate. It will require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to $15,000 a year per family. Supporters of the plan say it will save school districts and local governments millions of dollars. Democrats and many local officials oppose the play. They say it robs districts and local governments of flexibility. The plan will apply to legislators, but not to state civil service workers or to university employees, which would require amending the state constitution.

Update: Affirmative Action Ban

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is fighting state Attorney General Bill Schuette in court. That’s because, “Schuette wants to restore the voter-approved ban on affirmative action in university admissions… A panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban on affirmative action in admissions policies last month. The Michigan attorney general is now asking the entire court to reconsider and reverse that decision. He says the court should give deference to the wishes of Michigan voters who approved the ban in 2006,” Laura Weber reports. There's no word on when the court may decide to reconsider the decision.

Romney Leading Among MI GOP Voters

The latest state poll of likely voters has mixed news for one Republican presidential contender with Michigan roots and downright bad news for another, Steve Carmody reports. From Carmody:

Epic-MRA polled likely Republican Michigan voters and found a third said they would vote for Mitt Romney in next year’s GOP presidential primary.  That’s more than any other Republican candidate, but pollster Bernie Porn says the bad news for Romney is that he should be getting more support and that could be a problem in the primary… Porn says Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter has a much bigger problem. Only one percent of Michigan Republicans say they would vote for him in the presidential primary, even in his congressional district in southeast Michigan… Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann finished second and third in the poll.

News Roundup
8:54 am
Tue August 23, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, August 23rd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Judge Orders Professors Back to Work

An Isabella County Circuit Court Judge has ordered Central Michigan University professors back into their classrooms. The order comes just a day after the CMU Faculty Association began a work stoppage. CMU and the professors’ union have been unable to negotiate a new contract. CMU Administration officials say the work stoppage is illegal because public employees are not allowed to strike under state law. A court hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Voters Unhappy with Snyder

A new poll shows Michigan voters remain disenchanted with Governor Snyder. From the Associated Press:

In the survey released Monday by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, 33 percent gave the GOP governor a positive job rating while 62 percent gave him a negative rating and 5 percent were undecided. The results were virtually unchanged from EPIC-MRA's July poll. Forty-two percent of those polled last week said they have a favorable opinion of the governor, while the same percentage have an unfavorable opinion. Thirty-one percent say the state is headed in the right direction, while 54 percent say it's on the wrong track and 15 percent are undecided, similar to July's findings.

MI Congressman: Secure Weapons in Libya

Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers says as the Muammar Gadhafi regime loses power in Libya, the United States needs to make sure Libya’s weapons stockpiles don’t fall into the wrong hands. “Rogers chairs the House Select Intelligence Committee and was among a group of Republicans who supported stronger military support of the rebels in Libya, including a U.S. enforced “no-fly zone.” He says as Gadhafi loses power, the U.S. must move quickly to safeguard Libya’s advanced and chemical weapons,” Vincent Duffy reports.

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