news

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Lawmakers to Dig into Budget Proposal

Michigan lawmakers will be in Lansing today pouring over Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal. Legislative committees are scheduled to hear details about Snyder's tax restructuring plan and proposed cuts to higher education, the Associated Press reports. The state faces a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. Meanwhile, the Governor spent yesterday defending some of the more controversial proposals in his budget including the taxing of public and private pensions.

Auto Sales Increase

Auto sales rose by 27 percent last month. General Motors and Toyota had the strongest sales. GM saw gains for several reasons, Tracy Samilton reports:

  • Last February GM’s sales were weak, so this February looks much better in comparison
  • The company increased incentives in February
  • It’s easier for GM customers to get financing now that GM has its own finance arm, GM Financial

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians, who’ve been on strike since last Fall, say they are willing to return to work without a contract. The musicians say they’ll go back on stage “immediately and unconditionally” if Orchestra management agrees to binding arbitration, Sarah Cwiek reports. DSO officials did not immediately respond to the offer. But they issued a statement saying they “welcome receiving the union’s proposal.”

In this morning's news...

Feb 10, 2011

Presidential Visit

President Obama will visit Northern Michigan University in Marquette today. He’ll be in the Upper Peninsula to promote his administration’s National Wireless Initiative. The program, first announced during last month’s State of the Union Address, would bring high speed wireless internet access to 98 percent of the nation’s population within five years. The initiative is part of the White House’s new focus on innovation and competitiveness as a way to, “win the future.”

Snyder to Outline Budget Next Week

Governor Rick Snyder will unveil his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins October 1st, next Thursday, February 17th. The state faces a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the next fiscal year. “Snyder says he plans to ask lawmakers to wipe out billions in business tax exemptions… Lt. Gov. Brian Calley told the Holland Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that the administration is counting on $2 billion from such cuts,” The Associated Press reports.

Profit-Sharing Check Going Out to GM Workers

Some 45,000 General Motors’ workers are expected to receive profit-sharing checks from the automaker. The company will release the amount of the checks soon, Mark Brush reports. It’s being reported the checks will be at least $3000 each. Other automakers are also sharing the wealth: Ford announced profit-sharing checks of more than $5000 and Chrysler is giving its workers $750.

School Bus
Nicolae Gerasim / Flickr

Government Releases Report on Toyota

A government investigation into safety problems with Toyota vehicles found there were no electronic flaws that would account for sudden, unintentional acceleration. As the Associated Press reports:

Transportation officials and engineers with NASA say two mechanical safety defects previously identified by the government - sticking accelerator pedals and gas pedals that can become trapped in floor mats - are the only known causes for the reports of runaway Toyotas. Toyota has recalled more than 12 million vehicles globally since fall 2009 for a series of safety issues.

Bill to Eliminate EITC Introduced

A bill that would eliminate a tax credit for low-income workers in Michigan has been introduced in the state Senate. Republican state Senator Roger Kahn introduced the measure yesterday that would end the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. Many Republicans in the state House support eliminating the tax credit. Opponents say an elimination of the credit would be the same as a tax increase on the state’s working poor.

Bobb to Testify at Capitol

Robert Bobb, the Detroit Public Schools financial manager, will in Lansing today. Bobb will testify before a joint session of the state House and Senate education committees. It’s expected he’ll talk about the districts educational and financial turnaround plans. Bobb has been the financial manager of the district since 2009.

Count Day

Today is ‘Count Day’ for public school districts across the state. Count days are important to every school district’s bottom line because the total number of students on the days helps determine how much state money the district gets year-round, Lindsay Smith reports.

Kids Count

A new report published by the Michigan League for Human Services shows there has been an increase in child abuse and neglect cases in the state. The annual Kids Count report also shows an increase in the number of children living in poverty. There are, however, some bright spots in the report that show a continued decline in teen births and high school dropout rates.

Mayor Bing Announces Residential Incentives

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced a new incentive program yesterday to get more Detroit police officers to live within the city. The project’s pilot phase will give officers the chance to buy a tax-foreclosed home and to be eligible to receive federal funds to restore them, Sarah Cwiek reports. Currently, fewer than half of the city’s police force live in Detroit.

Flint Looks to State for Help

The city of Flint, currently facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit, has applied for state permission to get a $20 million fiscal stabilization bondFlint mayor Dayne Walling says the city needs the money to help keep the city afloat. If the city doesn’t get the funds, the state may eventually takeover Flint’s finances, Steve Carmody reports.

Presidential Visit

President Obama will visit Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Thursday to talk about the national wireless initiative. In a press release, the White House says:

In his State of the Union Address, the President called for a National Wireless Initiative to help businesses extend the next generation of wireless coverage to 98 percent of the population.  The next generation wireless network in Marquette is an effective demonstration of how the President’s proposal to open up airwaves will spark new innovation, put people back to work, grow the economy and help America win the future.

NMU Classes Resume

Northern Michigan University is open today, following yesterday’s closure of the university due to what was being called a, “serious threat.” The threat came from a blog post, but in a statement released last night, school officials said an investigation, “revealed no evidence that the anonymous blog post originated on campus. It was discovered tonight that similarly worded messages have been directed at several other U.S. universities, recently and in a previous year.”

Weather Continues to Keep Schools (and State Legislature) Closed

The massive winter storm that hit much of Michigan this week might be long-gone, but the remnants of the storm remain. Snow, ice, and cold-temperatures have led many school districts to remain closed for a second day in a row, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools. Meanwhile, state lawmakers aren’t ones to be left out: sessions in both the state House and Senate have been canceled today due to the weather.

Michigan Students Return from Egypt

Students from universities across the state are returning to the U.S. from Egypt as unrest in that country continues. Michigan universities have canceled their study abroad programs in Egypt and have been coordinating with the State department to bring students back to the U.S., Bridget Bodnar reports.

In case you missed it...

Jan 28, 2011
C.P. Storm / Flickr

Michigan Radio broadcasts hundreds of stories, interviews, and commentaries every week (anyone care to tally them up? - my guess is around 600 pieces in one week).

Whether these pieces come from our local reporters, NPR's reporters, NPR shows, shows from American Public Media, Public Radio International, or the BBC, it's impossible to keep up with ALL the stories coming over the airwaves.

In this morning's news...

Jan 26, 2011

Debate Over the Earned Income Tax Credit

Republican lawmakers in Lansing are working to get rid of a tax credit for the working poor in Michigan, Laura Weber reports. But, Gilda Jacobs, Director of the Michigan League for Human Services, says the Earned Income Tax Credit is needed, “While we recognize the desire for everybody in the state to share in the sacrifice, poor people are being asked to be the sacrificial lambs. The Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low- and moderate-income working households, should not be the first credit considered among Michigan’s $34 billion list of tax expenditures, including tax breaks for big corporations… ". Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says the state can’t afford the EITC.

Time to Allow Guns in Gun-Free Zones?

Michigan State Senator Mike Green wants to allow Michiganders with concealed carry permits to take their weapons into churches, bars and other ‘gun-free zones’. Senator Green introduced the legislation yesterday in the state Senate. A decade ago state lawmakers banned gun owners from taking their weapons into certain public places, Steve Carmody reports. An identical bill was introduced in the state House last week.

Trial Date Set for ‘Underwear’ Bomber

A federal judge has set October 4th as the date for the trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an airplane headed for Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. As the Detroit News reports:

Abdulmutallab was arraigned last month on a superseding indictment. The indictment added a charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism to his other charges that include attempted murder inside an aircraft, taking a bomb on a plane and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.  Prosecutors say he tried to kill nearly 300 people aboard the flight. Prosecutors say he tried setting off a chemical explosive hidden in his underwear as the aircraft descended toward Metro Airport on Dec. 25, 2009. The explosion never happened, but Abdulmutallab suffered burns before passengers and crew dragged him from his seat and extinguished the blaze.

In this morning's news...

Jan 25, 2011

GM to Add Jobs in Flint

General Motors announced yesterday that it plans to add 750 jobs to its Flint Assembly Plant. But, no new hires will be made. Instead, as Steve Carmody reports, the pool of workers will come from two places:

  1. People being reactivated from various layoff pools
  2. Workers who would like to return to Flint after they were transferred to another plant

The GM Flint Assembly plant currently employs about 2,000 workers. Governor Rick Snyder attended the announcement as did Mark Reuss, GM’s North America President.

A Move to a Two-Year Budget?

There’s been talk around Lansing recently about whether or not it would be a good idea for state lawmakers to adopt a two year budget plan for the state rather than the constitutionally-mandated one year budget plan. Governor Snyder and many lawmakers say they need to start thinking farther in advance when putting together the state’s budget. State Senator John Proos told reporter Laura Weber that a two year budget should happen, but that it will take time. Proos is expected to introduce a measure that would amend the constitution to create a two-year budget cycle as well as a part-time Legislature.

State of the City

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his sixth State of the City address last night. Bernero spoke quite a bit about recent business investment in the capitol city but didn’t talk directly about Lansing’s projected $15 million budget deficit. Bernero was the Democratic nominee in Michigan's 2010 Gubernatorial race. He lost the race to his Republican opponent Rick Snyder. Snyder delivered his first State of the State address as Governor last Wednesday evening.

In this morning's news...

Jan 24, 2011

Four Shot at Detroit Police Station

Four Detroit police officers were shot by a gunman yesterday inside of a Detroit police station. The gunman walked into the city’s 6th Precinct just before 4:30 p.m. yesterday and wounded four officers. Officers returned gunfire and the gunman was shot and killed. The four wounded officers were taken to a hospital and are expected to recover.

Granholm to Teach in California

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is set to teach at the University of California-Berkeley. Granholm told Politico.com that she and her husband, Dan Mulhern, will teach at the university. Granholm says the two will also write a book together about her time as Michigan’s 47th Governor. Though she plans to teach in California, Granholm will continue to live in Michigan with her family. Politico also reports that Granholm will be a paid contributor to NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press.

2011 NAIAS Ends

Yesterday was the last day of the North American International Auto Show and, according to The Detroit Free Press, 735,370 people attended the public days at this year’s show. That turnout is an increase from last year's attendance of 714,137. As Detroit Free Press reports:

The number of people attending the show has been climbing since 2009 when 650,517 people were there for public days.

In this morning's news...

Jan 21, 2011

Legislation Planned for New Detroit-Windsor Bridge

State Senator Hoon Yung Hopgood says he will sponsor a bill that would be connected to the effort to build a new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The Democratic lawmaker's statement follows Governor Rick Snyder's announcement that he supports the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). Snyder announced his support on Wednesday evening during his first State of the State address. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the project is “absolutely critical” to trade with Canada.

Could Price Tags Become ‘A Thing of the Past’?

Also, during Wednesday night’s State of the State address, Governor Snyder said Michigan lawmakers should get rid of or modify, “antiquated laws.” As Mark Brush reports, one such law is the state’s "Item Pricing Law." Snyder said:

Requiring 'stickers' over other forms of price-marking costs Michigan’s economy over $2 billion dollars a year. Let’s use the technology we have to protect customers.

Not everyone, however, agrees that getting rid of price tags is such a good idea. Chris Michalakis, the Legislative and Political Director with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said the law is necessary so shoppers can compare prices or catch errors at the checkout:

You know, in these hard economic times we need stronger consumer protection laws. There are more people than ever in Michigan on fixed incomes, and we also need to think about the amount of jobs this would cost if passed.

There's also the worry that changing the law could cut the number of stock workers required at stores around the state.

Dingell Will Run Again in 2012

Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell said yesterday that he will run for re-election in 2012. Dingell, who won his 28th full term in Congress last November, is The U.S. House of Representative’s longest serving member. The 84-yeard old, who represents Michigan’s 15th District, told the Detroit News, it is. “the greatest job in the world.” Dingell has been in Congress since 1955.

In this morning's news...

Jan 19, 2011

SOS Tonight

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature this evening in Lansing. Though details of the speech haven’t been released we do know it’s expected to last about 40 minutes and that Snyder doesn’t plan to read from prepared text. Instead, Snyder will go by a series of notes. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response. You can hear live coverage of the address, the Democratic response, and analysis of the evening beginning at 7 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Snyder Meets with MEA

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union. The union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools, Laura Weber reports. Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure but that now is not the time to expand the state’s sales tax. Iris Salters, the Director of the MEA teachers union, said she was glad the new Governor met with her group.

Vote on Health Care Law

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a  repeal of the new health care law later today. It’s expected that the Republican-led House will vote to repeal the bill but, even if that does happen, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate is not expected to take it up in their chamber. Michigan's Attorney General has joined many other states arguing that parts of the new health care law are unconstitutional. So far, one federal court in Michigan ruled in favor of the law, while another federal court in Virginia ruled against it, Mark Brush reports.

In this morning's news...

Jan 18, 2011

A Trashy Story

Senator Debbie Stabenow announced yesterday that Michigan is no longer receiving Ontario’s municipal trash. The Democratic senator credited an agreement that she and Senator Carl Levin made with Ontario officials in 2006. However, Canadian garbage could still be shipped into the state as the agreement doesn’t apply to non-municipal trash. As Sarah Cwiek reports, commercial and industrial waste accounts for about 60-percent of the trash that's shipped from Canada to Michigan.

NAIAS Sees Increase in Visitors

Attendance is up at the North American International Auto Show so far this year, the Detroit Free Press reports. The Freep says:

Attendance Monday was 64,520, up from 61,112 from the same day last year, said NAIAS spokesman Sam Locricchio. On opening day Saturday, 86,622 attended the show, compared with 83,715 on the opening Saturday last year, he said. Sunday's attendance was 99,111 -- up from 96,623 for the opening Sunday in 2010, he said.

DSO, Management Back to Bargaining Table

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians and the DSO’s management are headed back into negotiations. The players have been on strike since Oct. 4th. Both sides have submitted new proposals that revolve around a $36 million compensation package, Jennifer Guerra reports. Neither side has publicly commented on the new proposals. The DSO reported an $8.8 million budget deficit for the 2010 fiscal year.

Ice, Sleet, and Snow (Oh, My)

Drivers should prepare for an icy commute this morning across the state. Forecasters are predicting rain, freezing rain and snowfall in many parts of west, mid, and southeast Michigan.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. today for much of west and mid-Michigan and until noon for parts of the southeast. Temps are expected to be in the low to mid 30s.

In this morning's news...

Jan 17, 2011

Awaiting the SOS

Governor Rick Snyder delivers his first State of the State address on Wednesday night to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature. There’s a lot of anticipation for details about how the governor plans to revive the state’s economy but, Snyder is not expected to give specific plans for the state budget until next month, Laura Weber reports. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response after Governor Snyder’s address.

UAW Members to D.C.

Some 1,000 members of the United Auto Workers union will be in Washington, D.C. today for the beginning of a four-day conference.  The UAW says attendees will discuss the union’s legislative and political priorities for the coming year and prepare for the 2012 electoral campaign. The meeting will open with a speech from UAW President Bob King and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-D) is also expected to speak.

Remembering MLK, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  The day, which falls on the third Monday of each January, is a federal holiday that marks the January 15th birthday of Dr. King. Mark Brush has a nice piece this morning that explores the legacy of Dr. King, particularly in the light of the Arizona shooting that killed 6 and injured U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords among others. Brush is asking for your thoughts about the day and it what means to you.

In this morning's news...

Jan 13, 2011

The 96th State Legislature Convenes

New and returning lawmakers were in Lansing yesterday for the first day of the 2011 Legislative session. Lawmakers took the oath of office, elected legislative leaders, and even chose desks. Lawmakers are not expected to do much work at the Capitol before Governor Rick Snyder delivers his first State of the State address Wednesday evening. The Republican governor and Republican-led Senate and House face a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Michiganders Continue to Leave State

United Van Lines has released its 34th annual migration study and it shows Michigan ranked second in outboard traffic in the country. Of the 7,186 moves United Van Lines logged in Michigan in 2010, 62% of them were leaving the state, Mark Brush reports. From the study:

Outbound traffic from the Great Lakes region continued to lead the nation in 2010 with four states capturing high-outbound rankings. Western states that had traditionally experienced high-inbound traffic, most notably Nevada, saw their traffic level off.

Tougher Tests?

The Michigan Board of Education is considering tough new performance requirements on the state's MEAP and merit exams. The new requirements would be the last step in a plan the state has been working on for the last seven years, Joseph Martineau, with the Michigan Department of Education, told reporter Rina Miller. “It really is time for us to look at the end result of K-12 education being readiness for college and career, and not readiness to perform in what we might term the old manufacturing economy,” Martineau said.

In this morning's news...

Jan 11, 2011

New State Supreme Court Justice

Governor Rick Snyder announced yesterday his appointment of state Appeals Court Judge Brian Zahra to the Michigan Supreme Court. Snyder named Zahra to the state’s highest court to replace Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan.  Corrigan will begin a new job on Friday as the Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. Like Corrigan, Zahra is a Republican.  That means the state Supreme Court will keep its 4-3 GOP majority.

Politicians Flock to NAIAS

Politicians from across the country are visiting the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The show opened for media previews yesterday and opens to the public on Saturday.  Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow attended the show on Monday where she told reporters she was excited that the Chevy Volt won the Car of the Year award at the show. Also yesterday, U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer toured the show with four Michigan Democratic Congressmen: Reps. John Dingell, Sander Levin, Gary Peters, and Hansen Clarke.  Governor Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will tour the show today.

Ford Announces New Hiring

Ford Motor Company announced yesterday that it will add more than 7,000 workers in the U.S. over the next two years.  As the Associated Press reports:

The company plans to hire 4,000 manufacturing workers this year. Almost half those workers will be at the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky that will make the new Ford Escape starting late this year. It expects to add at least 2,500 new manufacturing jobs in 2012. The company said it is beginning a recruiting effort this week in Detroit and other cities, including San Jose, Calif., and Raleigh and Durham, N.C.

In this morning's news...

Jan 10, 2011

American Automakers Win Big

Two U.S. automakers have won prestigious awards at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this morning. The Chevrolet Volt won the 2011 North American Car of the Year award. The Ford Explorer won the Truck of the Year award.  Forty-nine auto journalists from around North America made the picks. The show opened this morning to the media. It opens to the public on Saturday and runs through January 23rd.

Michigan Lawmakers Show Support for Rep. Giffords

Members of Michigan's congressional delegation have been sending out their thoughts on Saturday's shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-D) where 6 died and 13 others were wounded. The Associated Press reports:

Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, served with Giffords on the House Science and Technology Committee in the last session of Congress. He says he grieves for those killed and prays for the "speedy and full recovery" of her and the others wounded. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, says she and Giffords share an interest in border security and the space program. Miller says she's "deeply saddened by this senseless crime."

State Lawmakers Back to Lansing

Michigan legislators return to the Capitol this week to be sworn-in.  And, much like the first day of school, they’ll choose their seats and establish rules, such as dress codes. Unlike most schools though, lawmakers will come to Lansing facing a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit. It’s also expected that legislative leaders will begin to establish plans and agendas for the coming months of session.

Snyder to Name Supreme Court Justice

Governor Rick Snyder will hold a morning news conference today to name his appointee to the state Supreme Court. Last week, Snyder named Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head the state Department of Human Services, thus leaving an empty seat on the court. Corrigan will step down from the state’s highest court on Friday to begin her new job.

Snyder Names Corrigan to DHS, Will Appoint New Justice by Next Week

As expected, Governor Rick Snyder yesterday named state Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head the state Department of Human Services.  The appointment means there will be a vacancy left on the state’s highest court.  Snyder said he plans to appoint a new justice by January 14th, the day that Corrigan will resign to begin her new job. Corrigan is one of four Republican justices on the seven-member state Supreme Court.

Republican Leaders Target State Employee Pay

The state’s four new legislative leaders sat down yesterday for an interview.  The four, also known as ‘The Quadrant,’ talked about the upcoming legislative session and what they hope to get done.  During the conversation, Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger said public employees and local governments will have to share in the pain of budget cuts to help address Michigan’s fiscal problems. The two Democratic leaders, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and House Minority Leader Rich Hammel, said they want to work with their Republican counterparts but that they would fight efforts to cut state employee pay and benefits. The state currently faces an estimated $1.8 billion dollar budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.

Cut in Defense Department Spending Could Mean Michigan Job Losses

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he wants to cancel a defense contract for an amphibious vehicle for the U.S. Marine Corps. That could mean a loss of potential jobs here in the state, Steve Carmody reports.  That’s because a Sterling Heights based division of General Dynamics is the contractor that has been developing the 40 ton vehicle. The marine vehicle has been plagued with budget costs and other problems since the Reagan administration.

Forecast: Snow to Continue

Forecasters are predicting the snow will continue through much of the state through early tomorrow morning. A Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect for West Michigan and a Lake Effect Snow Advisory is in effect for Mid Michigan.  Both the warning and advisory will remain until Saturday morning. For today: West Michigan could see 2-4 inches; Mid Michigan 1-3 inches and just an inch or two is expected in the Southeast.  Temperatures are expected to reach the low 20s.

Michigan Lawmakers Take Oath of Office

All 15 members of Michigan’s U.S. House delegation were sworn in yesterday by new Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Speaker Boehner swore in lawmakers en masse at the Capitol. However, newly elected Republican Representative Justin Amash from the Grand Rapids area was sworn in individually. Also sworn-in individually was Michigan’s new Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke of Detroit.

New Chief Justice

Michigan’s seven Supreme Court Justices have elected a new Chief Justice. Republican Robert Young Junior was selected yesterday in a closed-door meeting to lead the court. The selection reflects the results of November’s election that flipped control of the court from Democrats to Republicans. Young says budget cuts and reducing the size of the judiciary will be his top priority, Rick Pluta reports. Young has served on the court since he was appointed by Governor John Engler in 1999.

Get Ready for Snow

Forecasters are predicting quite a bit of snow will fall in parts of West and Mid Michigan throughout the day and into tomorrow. Holland and Kalamazoo could see up to 12 inches of snow fall by the end of Friday. Parts of Mid Michigan are expected to get 8-10 inches by the end of the day tomorrow.  The Southeast is expected to get up to four inches by Friday evening. A lake effect snow advisory will go into effect this afternoon for parts of West and Mid Michigan.

Goodbye RichRod

After days of speculation about the future of University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez, it was announced yesterday that he was fired. U of M Athletic Director David Brandon made the announcement yesterday afternoon at a press conference in Ann Arbor. The firing came after the U of M football team struggled on the field and violated NCAA rules off the field, Steve Carmody reports. Brandon says he’ll work quickly to find a replacement.

New Faces in D.C.

All of Michigan's 15 U.S. Congressional Representatives will take the oath of office today in Washington, D.C. Five of the members are new to Congress: Republicans Dan Benishek, Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash, and Tim Walberg, and Democrat Hansen Clarke. Representative Tim Walberg, though, could be considered a 'second year freshman' as he won a seat in Congress in 2006 but lost it in 2008.  He won back the seat in this past November's election.

Splitsville for the DNRE

Governor Rick Snyder issued the first executive order of his administration yesterday.  The order splits up the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two departments: the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality.  The split will take effect on March 13th. In a statement released yesterday, Snyder said:

Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and we need to be a leader and innovator in protecting these resources. Recreational fishing, hunting and boating activities alone contribute more than $3 billion annually to our economy.  Separating the DEQ and DNR means we can better address these key priorities.

RichRod Rumors

Whether or not you care about the story, it's no doubt that you, at the very least, heard rumblings about the possible firing of the University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez... that is, unless, you were ONLY listening to Michigan Radio.  The station decided not to report yesterday's swirling rumors about Rodriguez's job.  You can read more about the station's decision to wait to cover the story here.

Governor Snyder Gets to Work

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with his budget chief, John Nixon, and other members of his senior staff. Snyder is working on a six month plan for the state and wants to re-organize government, reform business taxes, and have a two-year budget completed by July 1st, Rick Pluta reports. Snyder is also expected to name more members of his cabinet this week, including state Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan as head of the state Department of Human Services.

Auto Sales Numbers Released Today

December auto sales numbers are due out later today and it’s expected to be another good month for Detroit’s automakers, Steve Carmody reports. It’s predicted that December will be the third straight month of strong domestic auto sales. Carmody spoke with one analyst who expects the new numbers will show vehicle sales topped 12 million last year and predicts an improving economy could push sales to 13 million vehicles this year.

Report: Homicides Dropped in Detroit in 2010

Detroit police are reporting that homicides and non-fatal shootings decreased in Detroit in 2010. Unofficial numbers show there were 308 homicides last year. That’s a 15.4 percent drop from 2009, the Associated Press reports. Non-fatal shootings dropped 10.5 percent. Reuters reports that Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee said:

…a focus on deploying officers to higher crime areas based on daily trends contributed to the murder decline. To build on those gains, Detroit must "continue to address systemic issues that contribute to violent criminal acts," Godbee said in a statement.

Snyder Begins New Job

Governor Rick Snyder begins his first full week on the job. Snyder became Michigan’s 48th Governor on Saturday after a swearing-in ceremony in Lansing. Snyder is expected to begin signing his first executive orders to reorganize state government as soon as this week, Laura Weber reports.

Changes to Food Stamp Distribution Begin Tomorrow

Beginning tomorrow, Michigan will spread its food stamp distributions throughout the month. Currently, the state’s 1.9 million food stamp recipients get their benefits in a lump sum at the beginning of the month. Most food stamp purchases are made at that time, which can lead to long lines at the checkout counter and a shortage of fresh produce at some stores, Jennifer Guerra reports. The hope is that those problems will decline with the new distribution system.

Powerful Republican Wants to Repeal Health Care Law

Republican Congressman Fred Upton, who represents Michigan's 6th District, says his fellow GOP lawmakers will go after President Obama’s health care law piece by piece. Upton made the comments yesterday on "Fox News Sunday." The Associated Press reports that such a vote could come early in the new year after Republicans take control of the House. Upton will be Chairman of the  powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee in the new legislative session.

In this morning's news...

Dec 23, 2010

Retailers Optimistic About Holiday Sales

New data show Michigan retailers are optimistic that they’ll see increased sales during the holiday season. The Michigan Retail Index showed November had the best monthly year-over-year sales increases since 1999.  The Index is put together by the Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will improve by 3.3% this year, Steve Carmody reports.

Snyder Announces Directors for State Police, Transportation

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced yesterday that he’ll keep Kirk Steudle, current Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, on the job in his new administration. Steudle has been director of the department since 2006. Snyder also announced that he will appoint State Police Lt. Col. Kriste Etue to be the Director of the Michigan State Police. Etue is currently the department’s deputy director and, when she begins the new job in January, will be the first woman to hold the post.  As The Detroit Free Press reports, Snyder:

…still needs to make several key cabinet additions. Still unfilled are director positions for the departments of human services, corrections and labor and economic growth.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Number of Homeless Kids Rise

The state has released its latest count of homeless children (grades K-12) in Michigan.  The state counted 23,000 in 2009-2010, up from 7,500 kids two years ago, Kyle Norris reports. Shereen Tabrizi, with the Michigan Department of Education’s office of field services, says the state’s high unemployment rate and foreclosures are some of the reasons for the increase.

In this morning's news...

Dec 22, 2010

Census Numbers Released

The 2010 U.S. Census numbers were released yesterday and the news wasn’t great for the state. Michigan was the only state in the country that lost population in the past decade.  That means Michigan will lose a U.S. Representative in the House and lose some federal funding.  We can be sure that we’ll be hearing a lot about redistricting (that’s the re-drawing of legislative and Congressional districts that is done every 10 years after a census) in the coming years as Michigan will go from 15 U.S. House seats to 14. Michigan is one of 10 states that will lose at least one House seat.

Detroit Crime Drops

There are new FBI crime figures out and they show that violent crime in Detroit dropped by almost 8% in the first half of the year. The biggest reduction was in homicides (28%), which fell from 202 to 146. Robberies were also down by about 9%, Sarah Cwiek reports. However, the city did see a jump in the number of rapes and arsons.  Nationwide, violent crime was done about 6%.

Snyder Wants 2-Year Budget

Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he will propose a 2-year state budget once he becomes Governor.  Snyder also says he wants the legislature to pass the budget by July of next year.  The state is constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced state budget every year.  In past years, the legislature has gone down to the wire to pass a state budget on time. As The Associated Press reports:

Although Snyder has until March 14 to present a proposal for the budget year that starts Oct. 1, he plans to do it earlier. He also plans to deliver his first State of the State address in mid-January rather than at the more traditional end of the month. The Republican governor-elect already has told lawmakers and his staff that he wants to get a lot done in the 182 days between Jan. 1 and July 1, including passing a two-year budget, one year longer than normal for the state Michigan faces a shortfall of up to $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year, something Snyder will have to address in his budget proposal.

In this morning's news...

Dec 21, 2010

Michigan’s Congressional Delegation to Shrink?

The U.S. Census Bureau releases new population data from its 2010 census today. The numbers will determine how many U.S. House seats Michigan is apportioned in the next decade. Brookings Institution demographer William Frey told the Associated Press that Michigan will likely lose at least one seat, reducing its delegation from 15 Representatives to 14. As the Associated Press reports, “The 2000 census put Michigan's population at nearly 9.94 million. It was estimated last year at nearly 9.97 million, an increase of less than 1 percent. Frey says that if the trend holds up, Michigan would have the lowest growth rate of any state since the previous census.”

Report: Smoking Ban Has Little Financial Impact

A new report says Michigan’s workplace smoking ban that was enacted this year has had little financial impact on bars and restaurants. Laura Weber reports:

Bars that sell liquor do seem to have been more negatively affected by the smoking ban than taverns that sell only beer and wine. But, the report from the state Department of Treasury, says tax collections from bars were neither bleak nor significant since the ban took effect… and that any financial hardships on taverns or restaurants could be just as much a result of a down economy. 

Lansing's Budget Troubles

Lansing is facing a possible $15 million budget deficit. City Finance Director Jerry Ambrose says the city is expected to spend $118 million next year on city services but Lansing’s revenue is only expected to reach $103 million. The new fiscal year begins June 30th, 2011. The news comes as other cities across the state face budget deficits. The Huffington Post reports that Michigan currently has, “68 cities on its ‘fiscal watch’ or ‘fiscal stress’ lists, meaning these communities are at risk of running through their money.”

Did You See It?

While many of us were sound-asleep in bed, Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush was up… AND, outside.  He was awaiting last night’s (well, really, it was early this morning) lunar eclipse. He filed this report at 2 a.m.: "Well, I woke up... the Earth's shadow is passing over the moon right now. NASA says it'll be in full eclipse starting at 2:41 a.m. and then the shadow will start slipping off the moon at 3:53 a.m.” If you missed the eclipse, you can check out some pictures here.

In this morning's news...

Dec 17, 2010

U.S. House Passes Tax-Deal

Late last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed President Obama’s tax-deal that would extend Bush-era tax cuts and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.  President Obama negotiated the deal with both Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.  The Senate passed the bill earlier this week.  The measure now goes to the President for his signature.

More Charges for ‘Underwear Bomber’

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian man accused of trying to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas, was arraigned on new charges yesterday in federal court.  The charges include conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.  As Sarah Hulett reports, Abdulmutallab’s initial indictment, filed almost a year ago, did not contain the word “terrorism.”  It’s alleged that Abdulmutallab tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by igniting explosives that were hidden in his underwear.

Electric Cars Getting Noticed

The North American International Auto Show doesn’t happen until next month in Detroit, but the semi-finalists in the North American Car of the Year competition are already being announced.  As Tracy Samilton reports, two of the three semi-finalists are electric cars:

The Nissan Leaf is an all-electric car and the Chevy Volt is a part-electric, part-hybrid car. Aaron Bragman is an analyst with IHS Automotive. He says, even though most people won't be buying electric cars for a long time, the selections make sense this year. It is a trend that is coming," says Bragman. "The technology is going to improve, the costs are going to come down. But it has to start somewhere and it's really starting here, and the reason these vehicles are being chosen is they are SO different."

The winner of the award will be announced during the North American International Auto Show in early January.

More Money to Fight Asian Carp

The Obama Administration announced that it will spend almost $50 million dollars more next year to try to keep the invasive Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. Yesterday, a group of state and federal agencies released the 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework.  The money is expected to come from funds that were originally allocated from Great Lakes clean-up projects. If the Asian Carp make their way to the Great Lakes it could greatly hurt the Lakes’ ecosystems.

In this morning's news...

Dec 16, 2010

Kwame Kilpatrick in Trouble… Again

New corruption charges have been filed against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.  Federal prosecutors announced the indictments of Kilpatrick and others including Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, yesterday.  At the announcement, Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit said:

The indictment charges all of them with working together to abuse Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices. Both his position as state representative, as well as his position of mayor of Detroit, to unjustly enrich themselves, through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud.

As the Detroit Free Press reports,

The charges -- racketeering, extortion, bribery, obstruction of justice, mail and wire fraud, signing false tax returns and income tax evasion -- carry penalties of three to 30 years in prison.

Lawmakers Finish Session

After previously announcing that their work for the year was done, state lawmakers ended their 2009-2010 legislative session yesterday in Lansing. Lawmakers completed a bill that would allow the sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf to a private developer and approved a measure that OKs a moose hunting season in the Upper Peninsula. Legislators did not, however, take up several controversial bills that would have dealt with teacher-tenure reform or insurance coverage for autism treatments.

State Unemployment Rate Dips Slightly

Michigan’s jobless rate dropped slightly to 12.4% in November.  That means the state has now gone 11 months without an uptick in the unemployment rate.  But, as Rick Pluta reports, it’s not all good news:

… most of the drop in the jobless number was because 19,000 unemployed people stopped looking for work. They are no longer counted as part of the state’s jobless rate. When people who stopped looking are counted, along with part-timers who would like to work full-time, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 21.2%.

The nation’s November jobless rate was 9.8%.

Granholm Signs ‘Pure Michigan’ Funding Bill

Governor Granholm signed a measure yesterday that allows $10 million to go to the ‘Pure Michigan’ advertising campaign.  The money will go toward winter and spring ads. The campaign would most likely have been canceled if the extra funds had not been approved. Granholm had previously wanted $25 million for the campaign.

In this morning's news...

Dec 15, 2010

Lame-Duck: The Sequel

After already calling it quits for the year, it turns out state lawmakers will be back in Lansing today.  As Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network reports, legislative leaders called back lawmakers to correct a few procedural mistakes from the earlier lame-duck session. It doesn't appear however, that either chamber will take up any controversial measures including teacher-tenure reform or insurance for autism treatments.

Law Bans Bringing Bighead Carp to U.S.

President Obama signed a bill into law yesterday that bans the importation of the bighead carp into the U.S. The bighead is one of the Asian Carp species that could damage the ecosystem of the Great Lakes.  The Associated Press reports that the measure:

...adds bighead carp to a list of wildlife that cannot be imported or taken across state lines. The only exceptions would be for scientific, medical or educational purposes and would require a permit. Bighead and silver carp have infested waterways in the Chicago area. Authorities are trying to prevent them from getting into the Great Lakes, where they would compete with native fish for food.

Successful Heart Transplant in West Michigan

Doctors in west Michigan are celebrating the first successful heart transplant to take place on the west side of the state.  As Lindsey Smith reports, “In February Spectrum Health was approved to perform heart transplants. Three other hospitals in Michigan are allowed to do the complicated procedure, but they’re all located in southeast Michigan.” A 50-year old man was the first patient, he left the Grand Rapids hospital yesterday, two weeks after his successful surgery.

Tugboat Spills Diesel into Saginaw River

The U.S Coast Guard is estimating that about 800 gallons of fuel spilled into the Saginaw River on Monday.  The spill came from a tugboat that sank near Bay City.  The Bay City Times reports that some 350 gallons have been recovered so far.  It’s still unclear what caused the boat to sink.

In this morning's news...

Dec 14, 2010

Lawmakers to Make Unexpected Trip Back to Lansing

It appears that this year’s lame duck legislative session isn’t done after all.  Though lawmakers declared an end to session on December 3rd, it turns out both the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate will return to the Capitol tomorrow.  But, as the Associated Press reports, neither chamber are expected to take up any controversial measures including teacher-tenure reform and insurance coverage for autism treatments.

Flint Crime Hits Horrible Statistic

The city of Flint recorded its 62nd murder of the year on Monday, that broke Flint’s previous record of 61 murders in one year set back in 1986, Steve Carmody reports. To make matters worse, the city has issued layoff notices to about a hundred employees, including 20 police officers. The layoffs are intended to help reduce the city’s projected $5 million budget deficit.  

Snyder Appoints Familiar Name to Head MEDC

Govenror-elect Rick Snyder announced Doug Rothwell will lead the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in his new administration.  It’ll be a familiar job for Rothwell as he headed the MEDC in the 1990’s when then Governor John Engler created the agency.  Rothwell is currently President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, a group of 75 CEOs in the state.  In a show of bipartisanship support, outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm stood by Snyder’s side when he made the announcement.

It’s COLD Out There

Parts of Lower Michigan will get hit with single-digit temperatures today.  National Weather Service officials say the wind chill could make it feel like 10 degrees below zero in parts of the state.  The cold temps come after Sunday and Monday’s severe winter storm that left more than 150,000 people without power.  At least eight deaths in the state are being blamed on the storm.

In this morning's news...

Dec 13, 2010

Severe Winter Weather Hits Michigan

In case you haven’t peered out your window yet this morning… we are waking up to severe winter weather.  There are hundreds of closed schools across the state including Ann Arbor Public, Kalamazoo Public, Jackson Public and Lansing Public Schools.  As The Associated Press reports, “...at least two fatal crashes are blamed on the wintry storm that has pummeled Michigan with heavy wind-blown snow. Winds will continue to gust today as power crews restore electricity to thousands of blacked-out customers.”

Snow = Free Football Tickets?

Free general admission tickets to a football game tonight at Ford Field in downtown Detroit will be given out beginning this morning at 9 a.m.  That’s because the Minnesota Vikings’ home game against the New York Giants was moved to Ford Field after the inflated roof of the Vikings’ Metrodome collapsed yesterday under the weight of heavy snow.  As the Detroit Free Press reports, it’s the “snow’s silver lining.”

Deer Hunting Declines

There has been a steady decline in the number of hunters participating in firearm deer season in Michigan, reports the Kalamazoo Gazette.  According to the Gazette, “The final numbers won’t be out until the middle of 2011, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment says preliminary data show about a 4 percent decrease in both the number of hunters who came out for firearm season, which ended on Nov. 30, and the number of kill tags sold.”

In this morning's news

Dec 10, 2010

Governor-Elect Snyder Talks Up Economic Goals

Governor-elect Rick Snyder spoke to university students yesterday in Detroit about reinventing Michigan’s economy. Snyder told the crowd of accounting students at Wayne State University that Michigan will beat analysts’ negative economic growth expectations for the state in the coming years, Sarah Hulett reports. Snyder is the state’s first certified public accountant to be elected Governor of the state. But, as The Detroit News reports, Snyder urged the students to have a career plan that focuses on more than just money.

A Switch in Congressional Roles

Two Michigan Congressmen are switching roles on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.  Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Midland will become Chairman of the Committee in the new legislative session because Republicans took control of the House in the November election. Democratic Congressman  Sander Levin of Royal Oak currently is the Committee's chair. Levin will take over as the Committee’s ranking member, the job Rep. Camp currently holds, in the next Congress.

Oakland County Won’t Take Over Pontiac Police Patrols

The Oakland County Commission voted down a plan yesterday that would have had that county’s sheriff’s department take over police patrolling in Pontiac. Pontiac’s state-appointed financial manager had pushed for Oakland County to take over the patrols to save Pontiac money. The city faces a projected $9 million budget deficit. The city is expected to bring the issue back to the Oakland County Commission next month, Steve Carmody reports.

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