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political roundup

Michigan capitol building
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It appears legalizing marijuana for recreational use will be on the ballot in November. If the polls are correct, more than 60 percent of voters are okay with recreational use of pot.

Meanwhile, standards for an election recount may be changing after Green Party candidate Jill Stein successfully requested a recount in the state after the 2016 election. Legislation would require a candidate to prove they have a reasonable chance at winning before getting a recount.

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Governor Snyder has decided the water in Flint is safe enough to end bottled water distribution, although the state will continue to distribute water filters to residents.

The Democrats are also holding an endorsement convention this weekend in Detroit. The most hotly contested race is for attorney general. Three Democrats – Pat Miles, Dana Nessel, and William Noakes – are running for the party nomination.

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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit for Nestlé to increase pumping out water from 250 gallons a minute to 400 gallons at a facility in Osceola County. That approval came after overwhelming disapproval from citizens. The DEQ says it must follow the law when making permit decisions, which would seem to get rid of necessity of taking public comment.

Vicki Barnett, former Mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, and Ken Sikkema, Senior Policy Fellow with Public Sector Consultants and the former Republican majority leader in state senate, joined Stateside to discuss how effective and desirable the DEQ and public comments are, how the legislature should treat water resources, and how the decision will affect the state’s farmers.

Hastings Lake, MI
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The League of Conservation Voters recently issued a blog post about what the group calls “Five bad ideas for Michigan.” Those ideas touch on a range of bills that would affect environmental rulemaking and permitting, water withdrawal by private companies and farms, state ballast water regulations that protect from invasive species, control of Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund, and the state’s ability to have stronger regulations than federal standards.

Michigan State Capitol Building
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week in Michigan politics, some Republican legislators led by Senator Mike Shirkey pushed to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Republicans also campaigned hard against a ballot initiative that would fight political gerrymandering and seeks to establish an independent commission to draw district lines.

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The Michigan legislature is considering retroactively extending the statute of limitations of sexual assault of minors. It's part of a package of bills designed to make it easier for sexual assault victims to bring complaints forward.

This comes as a response to the Larry Nassar case. He's the former doctor who sexually assaulted young athletes at Michigan State University and other places.

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is calling it a “Marshall Plan for Talent.” He wants the legislature to approve $100 million for programs, equipment and scholarships to train the hundreds of thousands of workers that will be needed in the next several years.

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The Michigan Farm Bureau is backing new rules for withdrawing water and House Republicans are obliging them so far.

Vicki Barnett, the former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, and Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, joined Stateside to discuss this week’s political news.

They discussed whether the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) uses the most current science and methods to evaluate the quality of water withdrawal for irrigation, how to balance interests between farmers and environmentalists, and the risks of overusing our water resources.

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It’s been a busy week in Lansing, between Governor Rick Snyder calling for a variety of policies in the Detroit Free Press, and Democrats and Republicans working together on a controversial tax bill.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and former Republican Majority Leader in the Michigan Senate, and Vikki Barnett, former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to discuss the week’s political news.

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The big news out of Lansing this week was Governor Rick Snyder’s eighth and final budget. His proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2019 is $56.8 billion, a slight increase from 2018’s budget.

Vicki Barnett, former mayor of Farmington Hills and Democratic legislator, and Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and former Republican legislative leader, joined Stateside to talk about the budget proposal. 

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The Michigan State University Board of Trustees has appointed former Governor John Engler as interim president of the university. That’s after Lou Anna Simon resigned in the wake of the scandal over MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulting girls and women for decades.

Bridge Magazine published an article reporting that Engler was dismissive of sexual assault claims by women in Michigan prisons while he was governor.

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It’s been an interesting week in Michigan.

On Wednesday, Michigan’s House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon to resign in the wake of 156 victim impact statements made at Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing. (Simon resigned on Wednesday night.) Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, additionally called for members of the Board of Trustees to resign.

governor snyder
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Since 1950, the Michigan Legislature has only overridden a governor’s veto four times. This week was one of those times.

In July of 2017, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill that would speed up the implementation of a tax cut for people who trade in their car for a new one, known as the “sales tax on the difference” bill. This week, the state Legislature voted overwhelmingly to override that veto.

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More than 40,000 Michigan residents were wrongly accused of fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits. The Legislature is considering laws to try to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.

The Governor and the Legislature are also trying to figure out how to do something beyond just restitution. Some of the people accused of fraud went bankrupt, lost homes, and suffered other consequences. The question is how far can, or should, the state go to make those people whole?

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Another example of Michigan’s lack of government transparency was pointed out this week.

The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity looked into and found examples around the country of state lawmakers voting on bills that ended up benefiting their own business interests.

The AP reported in 47  states, those conflicts of interest were easily found. That's because, almost everywhere, lawmakers had to disclose their occupation, income, or business associations. That’s real transparency.

Michigan does not require those disclosures. 

michigan state capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The legislature is considering a package of bills that would give the state power to step in and manage a municipality’s budget if the local government doesn’t have a way to fully fund pension plans. That’s a little more heavy-handed than a five-step plan a governor’s task force recommended.

Vicki Barnett, a former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, and Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow with Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican majority leader in state senate, joined Stateside to discuss the package of bills.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

More than 185 species of foreign fish, algae, plants, insects, and viruses have been brought into the Great Lakes. Many of them are invasive species that are damaging the lakes, such as zebra mussels, quagga mussels, round gobies, and Phragmites.

About a third of those invasive species were brought here in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. As they picked up their ballast water in foreign ports, they sucked up aquatic life along with it.

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​Some members of the Legislature want to eliminate the elected Michigan Board of Education. They say the Board of Education has become little more than a debating society. But, if it’s so irrelevant, one has to wonder why those legislators get so worked up about the education board’s actions.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and the former Republican majority leader in the state Senate, along with Vicki Barnett, the former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to discuss the Board of Education.

michigan state capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate has approved a plan to give local tax dollars to charter schools. It would require any millage for intermediate school districts to be distributed to both public schools and privately-owned charter schools. Four Republican Senators voted against this, as did all of the Democrats.

As part of its weekly political roundup, Stateside broke down the issue with Ken Sikkema, a senior policy fellow with Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican majority leader, and Vicki Barnett, a former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator.

factory
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Wisconsin recently offered up to $3 billion in tax incentives to FoxConn of Taiwan. In Detroit, there have been hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives for a new arena for the Red Wings and Pistons and for developments by businessman Dan Gilbert, as well as huge tax credits for auto manufacturers.

Now, states and cities are trying to put together incentives to get Amazon’s new massive Headquarters 2. But the question remains: will citizens actually benefit from their tax dollars being spent to attract or retain business?

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This week, Representative Jason Sheppard, from southeast Michigan, and Senator Joe Hune, from Livingston County, both Republicans, introduced identical bills that propose barring local governments from restricting short-term rentals of private dwellings, such as Airbnb accommodations.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the state legislature and the mayor of Detroit agree on a position: the need to eliminate Michigan’s system of driver responsibility fees, and amnesty for drivers who still owe them.

michigan state capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the Michigan Civil Service Commission unilaterally restricted state labor union workers' rights.

Emily Lawler for MLive reports:

“The rule changes prohibit some issues as subjects of collective bargaining and take away specific provisions unions have negotiated for around bumping, overtime scheduling, and transfers. They also restrict the paid union leave time state employees are able to use to work on union issues.”

picture of Michigan legislative chambers
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 


The Michigan Senate yesterday passed legislation that could vastly increase corporate and special interest spending on campaigns.

Vicki Barnett, a former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, and Joe Haveman, a former chair of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee and a current candidate for state Senate joined Stateside on Friday to discuss.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 


As the aftermath of the Flint water crisis drags on, attention has now largely turned toward the repercussions for those involved. Fifteen state and local government officials now stand accused of a combined 51 criminal charges. 

And this has led to a rather strange situation where the government is paying both the legal fees to prosecute the officials, as well as the legal fees to defend them. So far that has cost Michigan taxpayers $15.2 million.

Orange construction barrels
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 


Gov. Rick Snyder signed a $1.2 billion road funding package in 2015 that called for increased vehicle registration fees and gas taxes, many of which went into effect this year.

In an interview with Stateside this week, Michigan Department of Transportation director Kirk Steudle said the state was “still trying to manage the deterioration,” but the overall quality of roads was yet to rise, despite the fresh tax revenue. But he noted the general fund component of the 2015 funding package has yet to kick in.

A photograph of the Michigan Capitol building
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Not much is happening with Michigan’s legislature. They’re out of session for much of August. But a state budget of more than $56 billion dollars was passed on time this year.

A recent report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan indicates that the $10 billion general fund — the only part of the budget the Legislature can influence — will be hit hard in the next few years general fund obligations grow.

a computer that says foxconn
Christopher Bulle / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a tax incentive package designed to attract large companies to the state and boost job growth.

Snyder supported the legislation with an eye toward attracting one specific company: Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant looking to open a new plant in the Midwest. But that same day, the White House announced Foxconn had chosen Wisconsin, instead.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 


This week, the state of Michigan dropped charges and arrest warrants against 186 people — almost all of them Detroit residents — after accusing them of illegally collecting unemployment benefits. This group is among about 28,000 people the state wrongly accused of unemployment benefit fraud due to serious flaws in its automated fraud detection system.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, and Vicki Barnett, a former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to discuss this week's political news.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Rick Snyder wanted a tax incentive package to lure big employers. A majority of Republicans and Democrats like the idea. But then, Speaker of the House Tom Leonard yanked the legislation because of a rumor the governor had cut a deal with Democrats for their support.

pile of one  dollar bills
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state legislature is sending Governor Snyder a package of bills that will change retirement benefits for teachers.

Vicki Barnett, the former Mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, says the switch to a defined contribution retirement model for new public school employees increases costs for local school districts.

“I have no problem with the concept of what they’re trying to do. It’s the underlying reason they’re doing it which will again lead to failure of the system,” Barnett said.

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