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Congressman John Conyers.
Photography Courtesy of www.conyers.house.gov

Congressman John Conyers turns 85 on Friday, but a petition-gathering snafu is likely not the birthday gift Conyers would have wished for.

He’ll be filing an appeal with the state after yesterday's announcement by Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett that Conyers did not have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions to be on the August primary ballot.

Garrett says only 592 of the necessary 1,000 signatures are valid. Many signatures were disqualified because the people collecting the signatures were not registered voters. According to law, that voids the signatures they collected.

If his appeal to the state fails, Conyers is talking about mounting a write-in campaign for the primary.

All of this has those who have watched John Conyers since he was first elected to Congress in 1964 thinking about his "epic journey" through the decades, and what an ending to a career this could be.

Michigan Radio's political commentator Jack Lessenberry joined us today to talk about this.

*Listen to the interview above.

Congressmen don’t stay on the job forever, though it sometimes seems like it.

This year will be the last for Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, first elected in 1978, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, the all-time longevity champ, who has represented a Detroit-area district since 1955.

Their retirements, while momentous, weren’t very surprising. Indeed, Carl Levin announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election more than a year ago. Far more shocking was the sudden decision by two mid-Michigan Republican Congressmen to bow out.

Both Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, had safe seats, a fair amount of seniority, and are youngish men by congressional standards. Yet within the last few days, both said they wouldn’t run for re-election.

That set off something of a mad scramble.

This is an election year, and if you haven’t noticed, you'll soon be engulfed by an inescapable tidal wave of advertising that will make that clear. Last night’s State of the Union speech was, in one sense, a campaign platform.

So were all of the various Republican responses. We’ve seen precious little bipartisan cooperation in Washington or in Lansing these last few years, and unless the martians invade, you can probably count on even less this year.

But regardless of your politics, there is one area in which we need to cooperate to make changes. Not in for whom we vote, but in the mechanics of how we vote.

State and national GOP chairs have now called on Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema to resign his position.

Agema stirred controversy after making anti-gay and anti-Muslim comments.

Late Friday, Agema issued a statement acknowledging “errors in judgment,” but says he won’t resign.

This has many people asking what Agema’s comments mean for Republicans – particularly for Muslim or gay members of the Republican Party.

Joining us now is Joe Sylvester, chair of the Michigan Log Cabin Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans are people who work within the party to push for equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Dave Agema served from 2006 to 2012 as a state representative in the Michigan Legislature. He hit his term limit and moved on to other things in 2012.

Now he represents Michigan as a member of the Republican National Committee. Many Republicans wish he weren't.

Some are naming names and calling for his ouster. Others aren’t calling him out by name but are “asking for more civility,” as MPRN’s Rick Pluta reported:

Twitter

2014 is going to be a major year in Michigan politics. You can expect much of the spotlight to be fixed on the gubernatorial election with presumed candidates Rick Snyder for the Republicans and Mark Schauer for the Democrats.

But Crain's Detroit Business thinks there are other names worth watching in 2014. Writer Chris Gautz joined us to talk about the people to watch in state politics.

*Listen to the audio above.

user kulshrax / Flickr

(Editor's note: This interview was first broadcast on November 14, 2013)

Polls following last month’s partial federal shutdown make it pretty clear: Americans are tired of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents disapproved of the shutdown. Fifty-seven percent of Americans were angry with the way Democrats handled the shutdown. In total, eight in 10 Americans say they oppose the shutdown.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Legislature wasn't as busy as it was last year passing last-minute legislation, but they were busy.

Here's a rundown of the activity seen in Lansing over the last two days.

New law in Michigan

- Putting limits on abortion coverage

Michigan's Secretary of State is proposing an end to secretly funded political ads.

Republican Ruth Johnson proposed a new rule today to require sponsors of so-called "issue ads" to file reports with the state and meet current campaign finance requirements. Currently, ads only urging voters to support or oppose a specific candidate are subject to disclosure requirements. Issue ads define a candidate's suitability for office without directly urging a "yes" or a "no" vote, and they're exempt from disclosure requirements. Chris Gautz, Capitol Correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, joined us today.

Gorchow told us that we need to be more skeptical of polls.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A higher number of Detroiters voted in Tuesday’s mayoral election than their New York City counterparts, according to research from Next City.

25.4% of Detroit’s registered voters filled out a ballot on Tuesday, with Democrat Mike Duggan winning the election. In New York City, 24% of voters showed up to the polls. Democrat Bill De Blasio is now NYC’s mayor-elect.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, the turnout in Detroit was higher than anticipated. "Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey had projected that less than 25% of voters would participate."

While Detroit voters edged out New Yorkers Tuesday, Next City reports that the two cities were somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of major city election turnouts:

Howard Books

One of the most frustrating aspects of living in American in 2013 is the way we seem to have lost a sense of being on the same team. 

Instead of thinking of ourselves as Americans or Michiganders, it's all too often Democrats or Republicans, Christian, or Muslim. 

This deep sense of division leads to gridlock in Congress and in Lansing. 

Marlon Phillips / Michigan Public Radio

Today's the day.

It's the day the state's new emergency law goes into effect - the day current 'emergency financial managers' become 'emergency managers.'

Last November, Michigan voters repealed the state's much maligned Public Act 4 (emergency manager law). The majority of voters felt the law put too much power in one person's hands.

Legislators reacted to the repeal by passing a modified emergency manager law (Public Act 436).

It restores a lot of the old powers granted to emergency managers under the old law, but with some differences.

Here are some similarities and differences between the old EM law, and the new one.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It seems there’s a fair degree of attention paid to the question of trust, as in, “how much do citizens trust their elected officials?”

We’ve seen citizen trust in the federal government drop dramatically.

And surveys find that, while citizens tend to trust state government more than the federal government and their local government more than federal and state, those citizen to government trust levels tend to be low.

But has anyone ever asked how much do elected officials trust their citizens?

Trust is a two-way street.  Yet, this question gets virtually no attention.

That’s why CLOSUP, the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, decided to put that question to local government leaders in its recent Michigan Public Policy Survey.

It’s an interesting “snapshot” of the state of trust between us and the people we’ve elected to lead us.

We sat down with Tom Ivacko from CLOSUP to tell us what exactly happened when politicians were asked if they trust the people that voted for them.

Listen to the full interview above.
 

Today on Stateside, Cyndi talks "sequestration." The word is on the tip of everyone's tongue in D.C.

We’ll get a break-down of how those across-the-board cuts could directly affect Michigan's economy.

We also look at the challenges around re-inventing abandoned and distressed neighborhoods.  Cyndy gets a perspective from two urban planning experts.

Also, it was a very busy weekend for the Michigan Democratic and Republican Parties.

Both held their conventions this weekend, and for one party, it means a brand-new state leader.

So Rick Pluta, the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, stopped by to help fill in the details.

Michigan Supreme Court justice charged with fraud

Jan 19, 2013
michigan.gov

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway has been charged with bank fraud just a few days before quitting the state's highest court. The charge was filed Friday and titled as a criminal "information," which means a guilty plea is expected in federal court.

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Members of the new 113th Congress were sworn in last week, and they went about picking their leaders.

Republicans in the House of Representatives still hold a majority, so Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was elected to a second term as Speaker of the House.

But the votes didn't come without controversy as Politico reported:

In an unusually suspenseful roll-call vote of the new House of Representatives, Boehner garnered 220 votes, but 12 Republican lawmakers either opposed him, voted present or abstained.

That was a change from his unanimous election to the Speakership two years ago. A group of Republican representatives led an 'anti-Boehner' effort the day of the vote. Roll Call reported Michigan Rep. Justin Amash played a 'key role' in the effort against Boehner. 

Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho played key roles in organizing the plot. But participants describe its origin as organic and not led by any particular member, despite the suggestion by at least one House Republican that Amash was the ringleader. 

One member who participated in the effort described it as the work of small groups of Republican lawmakers who concluded independently that new leadership was needed in the speaker’s office. After learning of their agreement on the subject through discussions on the House floor during the week or two before Thursday’s vote, they decided to band together in an attempt to assemble a group of 25 members committed to opposing Boehner.

UPI reports Boehner told the group of twelve in a privatee meeting that he doesn't hold grudges and that his door will always be open to them.

user ShellyS / Flickr

Don't go calling the Republican-controlled state Legislature a lame-duck.

They were anything but, passing major legislation in the final days between the election and the end of the year.

We posted on the major legislation passed on the epic evenings of Thursday, December 6, and Tuesday December 11, but not on the entire lame duck.

Turns out, the Detroit News has that list.

Here's their wrap up of the major legislation that passed during the lame duck session.

And if you're unhappy with what they did, and are thinking of participating in a recall campaign or two, they've got that covered as well.

In their It's Just Politics segment, Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta point out:

One of the final actions of the Republican-controlled Legislature was to make it much harder to recall elected officials. Recalls are among the retributions being plotted by labor in the face of right-to-work. This could be a bit of a game changer before that’s even started. That should have state Senator Partrick Colbeck, a Republican from a swing district in western Wayne County, breathing a little easier. Colbeck was a big backer of right-to-work and is now considered a top recall target by Democrats.

Politicians learn their lines

Oct 26, 2012

Bob Kolt is using a wildly popular video clip to teach future politicians the importance of knowing their lines. It’s an excerpt from the 2007 Miss Teen USA competition. In the video, Miss South Carolina is asked why she thinks 1/5 of Americans can’t find the United States on a map.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, not everybody in your virtual circle of friends shares the same political beliefs as you.

Jennifer White talks with Cliff Lampe, Assistant Professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He gives some tips on how to survive social media, especially Facebook during this election season.

Take a vacation from social media

“If for instance, you were ever thinking about trying out Pinterest, now might be the time because there you’ll see a lot of pictures of cupcakes and dresses, and very few political campaign messages. Or if you were thinking about trying out Instagram and sharing your photos with people. So, this might be a great time to try another site and explore that for a little bit,” Lampe said.

Hide posts if you must, but try to embrace political differences

Schools across Michigan have wrapped up a week of activities designed to help students better understand America’s founding principles.

Michael Warren is an Oakland County Circuit Court Judge and co-founder of Patriot Week. He started the project in 2009 because he says people have a poor understanding of American history and government.

The Michigan House has passed legislation requiring every state public school classroom to have a U.S. flag and provide an opportunity for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The House approved two measures Wednesday. The flag legislation already passed the Senate and goes to Gov. Rick Snyder for signature.

The Senate will consider the pledge legislation.

Many students already recite the pledge but there's no required opportunity to do so. The bill specifies no student would be compelled to say it.

A state election board has officially certified the results of the August primaries. The Board of State Canvassers also authorized a handful of recounts in close state House races. The state Bureau of Elections anticipates five recounts, which should take place next week.

(They are in Genesee County, Ottawa County, the western UP, and two in Detroit.)

The board now moves on to authorizing or rejecting three petition drives looking to put questions on the November ballot.

The board will first hear a challenge to the campaign to allow eight new non-tribal casinos in Michigan. The other two proposals would require public votes on new international bridges, and to require two-thirds super-majorities before the Legislature could raise taxes.

We are now fully into the silly season in both news and politics, something that commonly happens in late summer and in this point in campaigns, especially perhaps presidential election campaigns.

Chris Killian
www.kickstarter.com/

Living in a swing state like Michigan means you're probably already tired of non-stop elections coverage, sound bites and negative ads.

Now, a Kalamazoo freelance reporter wants to offer an alternative...he just needs some help paying for it.

Chris Killian says he'll take a months-long road trip through 11 swing states, getting stories from average people about their politics and their hopes for the country's future.

This election year has seen a huge increase in the amount of money being spent on political campaigns compared to previous years. A lot of that money is being spent on negative political ads on TV.

As Michigan’s primary election gets closer, and the general election is only four months away, we’re going to see more and more political TV ads. And the bulk of those ads are going to be negative ads.

“I hear the negativity all the time. I’m tired of it. Tell me what it is you want to do not what you think the other guy is going to do," said Troy Hemphill.

“I don’t like to listen to that. I want some positive information," Kiirsten Olson insisted.

“Even when you think, ‘I’m not going to listen to negative ads, I’m not going to listen to negative ads,’ and then one creeps inside your brain. And then it sticks,” Shannon Rubago bemoaned.

Those are pretty typical responses of a couple of groups of people we talked to. We showed them a series of negative ads to see what their reactions would be.

Dohn Hoyle, the director of public policy of The Arc: "There's not been anything that we've seen ... that leads us to believe that the governor's original [mental health funding] plan makes any sense."
Matthileo/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Legislature has sent election-year tax reductions to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval.

The measures would accelerate a reduction in the state income tax rate, and increase the personal exemption. That’s after a tax rate rollback was delayed last year.
    
The House also approved a measure to continue rolling back income tax rates through 2018.
    
Democratic state Representative Vicki Barnett was one of just a handful of “no”’ votes.

She says the six-year rollback is poorly planned, and could force more cuts down the road to schools and public safety.

“The numbers don’t work. I’m a financial planner in my private life. I’ve looked at the numbers. The numbers don’t work. I would love to be able to return excess money to the taxpayer, but after we fund critical services to the level they should be funded at," said Barnett.

The Legislature begins its summer break today. The state Senate could take up the six-year rollback later this year.

Lisa Brown
Jeff Winston / YouTube

Update 4:57 p.m.

Here is the latest from Rick Pluta:

Two women serving in the state House have been barred from participating in floor debates for one day. The sanction is a punishment for things they said during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.

State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum are both Democrats. Brown made a reference to her vagina in a floor statement.

“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina,” she said, “but 'no' means 'no.'”

Byrum shouted at the presiding officer after she was not recognized to speak. 

Ari Adler is the spokesman for the House Republican leadership.

“It is the responsibility of every member who serves in the House of Representatives to maintain decorum on the House floor and when they do not do that, there can be actions because of that. And the action today is to not recognize either representative to speak on the House floor," he said.

Brown was speaking during a debate on anti-abortion bills, and has no apologies for what she said.

“I used an anatomically correct word. I said ‘vagina,'" she said.  "Can I not say ‘elbow?' I don’t see what the difference is."

This is the first time in memory that lawmakers have been formally barred from participating in floor debates.

Update 1:10 p.m.

Watch footage of the Lisa Brown speech here:

12:32 p. m.

Two Democratic lawmakers say they have been barred from speaking during House debates.

The House Republican leadership confirms that state Representative Lisa Brown will not be recognized during debates as a sanction for mentioning her vagina during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.

State Representative Barb Byrum also says she has been barred from speaking in the future because of an outburst after she was not called on during the abortion debate.

A House Republican spokesman could not confirm whether that's true.

Hundreds of school districts that now get the minimum amount of state aid would get $120 more per student this fall under a compromise reached by state lawmakers. A conference committee has voted today to raise the minimum per-pupil grant. The school aid budget now goes to the state House and Senate, which are expected to pass it later today.

Republican Conference / Flickr

A formal investigation into possible election fraud by a congressional campaign will wait until after a state board meets next week.

The Board of State Canvassers is expected to formally reject petitions filed by Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s re-election campaign. The petitions can then be turned over to the state Attorney General's office.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the delay has not stopped his office from communicating with elections officials on the case.

"So it appears there is a problem, but we’ve not received anything officially yet from the Secretary of State’s office, and when we do, we’ll review it in a thorough fashion," said Schuette.

The Secretary of State’s office says it appears hundreds of signatures on McCotter’s nominating petitions were faked.

Schuette said it's a textbook example of how not to collect signatures.

"It's kind of elementary. When you run for class president, you gotta get the signatures to have the election, and it appears there’s a huge problem here," said Schuette.

McCotter has acknowledged problems with his petitions and says he plans to run as a write-in candidate on the Republican primary ballot in August.

Former Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend in 2011.
Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

The race for the seat in the Michigan 11th Congressional District was expected to be an incumbent representative running for re-election in a safe district. Political observers were stunned to learn Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s campaign messed up. The Congressman’s name will not appear on the ballot in the primary election in August.

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