People in public life are in the spotlight, and are often the target of people's vitriol when they make unpopular decisions.

It's no different in Detroit.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins told WWJ she's received death threats after her vote to approve a consent agreement with the state earlier this month.

From WWJ:

“I’ve received some threats, yes,” said Jenkins. ”It’s especially unnerving when in addition to threats, people are picketing at your private home.”

Jenkins said it’s all over her “yes” vote supporting the consent agreement. While things haven’t escalated to violence, Jenkins has had to ask for police protection at least once...

Jenkins said when she ran for a seat on City Council, she had no idea how difficult it would be.

“I had no idea, but I keep saying, you can’t complain when you get what you asked for. I asked for this, but I had no idea. I knew it would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be this rough,” she said.

Jenkins told WWJ that other council members have also received threats - she didn't identify their names.

The debate over abortion is expected to resume tomorrow at the state Capitol.

The state House is expected vote on measures to make it a crime to intimidate or coerce a woman into aborting a pregnancy.

The legislation would create a new crime of coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will. It would cover anything from the threat of violence to refusing to pay child support or getting a woman fired from a job.

No one is arguing in favor of allowing people to intimidate a woman into having an abortion. But opponents of the package say it should not single out as victims only women who are coerced into having an abortion. They say women who are threatened because they want to end a pregnancy should have the same protections.

There is also a fight over the use of the phrase “unborn child” in the legislation to define the fetus. Abortion rights supporters say that’s a loaded term and it should be not be used as a legal definition in a state law.

Two Iraq War vets are now serving in the State Legislature
flickr user cedarbenddrive / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate soon could vote on bills aimed at requiring insurance companies to cover some types of treatment for autism.

The Senate's Health Policy Committee on Thursday approved a bipartisan package of bills related to autism coverage, sending the bills to the Senate floor. They go to the House if the Senate passes them.

One bill sets up a fund to help reimburse insurers for paid claims related to diagnosis and treatment of autism. That provision is included in hopes of lessening opposition from business and insurance groups.

Previous efforts to mandate autism coverage have stalled in Michigan.

More than half the states require insurers to provide autism coverage. Gov. Rick Snyder says it's time or Michigan to join them.

Jocelyn Benson announcing the launch of a ballot campaign to require corporations to disclose their political spending on the steps of the state Capitol in Lansing.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

Corporations would have to report their spending on political advertising and lobbying under a proposed amendment to the state constitution. Organizers announced the drive today, although they won’t start gathering signatures until later this month.

All amendments to the state constitution must be approved by voters.

A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on their own political ads. The court says it’s up to states to decide whether to require disclosure.

Jocelyn Benson was the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2010 for Michigan Secretary of State, and is leading the effort to adopt the amendment.

“It’s really important when you think about our role not just as voters, but as consumers – when we buy products, we deserve and we have a right to know if the money we spend on companies or on products are being spent to influence political campaigns or lobby elected officials. This amendment would create that right,” said Benson.

The amendment would require companies to immediately disclose any spending for a political purpose, and where the money came from. Benson’s campaign is aiming for the November ballot.

The Associated Press reports that "backers have until July 9 to collect the 322,609 signatures needed to get the measure on the November ballot."

Michigan’s Republican presidential primary elections are over.  But, primary elections for federal and state legislators are in August.

Already out-of-state groups are spending tons of money to influence Michigan voters.

Big money often buys votes. Usually, that includes a lot of big money from out-of-state groups.

I was a teenager back when Mitt Romney’s father, George, was governor of Michigan, and made his own run for the Republican Presidential nomination. I was already fascinated by politics, and followed that race closely. And here’s something you may find interesting. Back in nineteen-sixty-eight, nobody seemed to care that George Romney was a Mormon. Now, his formal campaign didn’t last very long. He dropped out of the race at the end of February.

GEO / YouTube

The Republican-led Michigan House has approved a bill aimed at blocking unionization efforts by graduate student research assistants at public universities.

The measure was approved Thursday by a 62-45, mostly party line vote. The House hasn't yet taken a procedural "immediate effect" vote or returned the bill to the Senate, which approved the bill last month. But the measure soon could be headed to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

The legislation specifies that graduate student research assistants would not be considered public employees as related to collective bargaining rights.

The measure comes as University of Michigan graduate student research assistants attempt to unionize.

That case is pending before an administrative judge after the Michigan Employment Relations Commission last year reaffirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together.

A spokeswoman says Governor Snyder is ‘inclined’ to sign the bill into law. If he signs it, the case before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission would be moot.

University of Michigan Graduate Employees Union president Sam Montgomery had a request for Governor Snyder.

“We ask that when the bill reaches the governor’s desk that he leaves this decision in the hands of the commission which is designed to make those decisions," said Montgomery.

A majority of the U of M Regents support letting the graduate research assistants form a union.   But University president Mary Sue Coleman and many U of M professors oppose it.

University professors who support the bill say allowing their research assistants to form a union would undermine their mentor-relationship.


DETROIT (AP) - Unions representing about 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees and the district's state-appointed emergency manager have reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit over pay
cuts and health insurance contributions.

The school district says the settlement was approved Wednesday.

The unions filed the suit last year after Roy Roberts used new powers given emergency managers by state law to impose a 10 percent pay cut and 20 percent contribution to their health insurance.

State Treasury Andy Dillon approved the cuts and also was named in the suit.

Settlement terms include partial payment of accumulated sick days for employees who submit an irrevocable notice of retirement by March 19, a one-time lump sum payment of 2.5 percent of the
employee's 2011/2012 earnings and limited reinstatement of step increases.

user elioja / Flickr

Michigan’s medical marijuana law is the focus of ongoing discussions at the state Capitol this week.

Lawmakers are considering proposals that would add regulations to how users can grow and store medical marijuana, and could change how police officers gather information about medical marijuana ID holders.

State Representative John Walsh (R- Livonia) chairs the House committee discussing the medical marijuana proposals.

He said he knows not everyone will be happy with the measures, but he says it’s not his intention to dramatically alter the medical marijuana law as it was approved by voters.

“We’ve worked hard to be as open as possible, and to prove to the skeptics that we’re open minded,” said Walsh.

Supporters of medical marijuana say lawmakers are “nipping away at the edges” of the medical marijuana law by considering the changes. And they say they are particularly concerned with a proposal in the state Senate that would eliminate glaucoma as a medical condition that is treatable with marijuana.

Walsh says medical marijuana users don’t need to be concerned about the proposed changes.

"We’re not interested...in doing away with the law, or undoing what voters asked for when they passed it, and I think we made that very very clear, to the point that when I left the room a number of medical marijuana came up and said, ‘Wow, we thought you were out to crush the whole movement, and now we understand you’re open to different things,’” said Walsh.


DETROIT (AP) - State Rep. Lisa L. Howze plans to run for Detroit mayor in 2013.

The Democrat announced Friday that she wouldn't seek reelection to her House seat this year and instead would run for mayor of Michigan's largest city.

Howze says her experience as a certified public accountant and finance professional would be key for the financially struggling city. She says her legislative experience in Lansing would be pivotal in gaining support that the city needs from the state.

The office of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing had no comment Friday on the announcement.

Current TV

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm starts a new role as television host tonight. Her program, The War Room with Jennifer Granholm premieres tonight at 9/8c on Current TV.

Granholm says because she was an elected official, "I can present some inside information I think that adds value to those who care about politics and policy in 2012.”

Here's the live feed of President Obama's speech today in Ann Arbor.


Drivers in Michigan may soon pay nine cents more per gallon at the gas pump.

A package of bills that would change funding for the state’s aging bridges and roads has been rolled out at the state Capitol.

It would get rid of the fuel-tax at the pump in favor of a tax at the wholesale level. That would result in drivers paying a few cents more per gallon. 

Drivers might also have pay more to register their vehicles. The package of bills also includes a plan to increase vehicle registration fees by 67 percent.

That should generate about $500 million dollars for transportation.

State Representative Rick Olson (R-Saline) said generating money to maintain roads is similar to a driver changing the oil in a car.

"Why do you do that? Because you want to save your engine," said Olson. "Same thing with roads; unless we do some of this capital preventative maintenance on a timely basis, we’re going to have more and more roads fall into the ‘poor’ category when then it costs 6 to 8 times as much to repair."

There are no plans to turn any of the state’s major highways into toll roads. But Olson said the conversation could come up in the future.

"Oh, it’s a possibility, but I don’t hear anyone pushing that at this point. Toll roads, tolls are a relatively inefficient way to collect funds for roads," said Olson. "Does create jobs, but those are government jobs, so why not then create the net revenue the most efficient way we can."

The package of bills also includes a plan to create a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan. 

Governor Rick Snyder called on lawmakers to find about $1.5 billion in additional revenue to adequately fund transportation needs.

Rick Snyder for Michigan / Facebook

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is offering a business-focused version of his State of the State address to a commerce-friendly crowd.

The Republican told business leaders Friday at a Detroit Regional Chamber-hosted event that the state made great progress last year. He says more must be done to fix transportation and more should be invested in fixing roads and bridges.

His remarks come two days after his State of the State speech.

The former businessman has praised business for helping improve Michigan's economy last year by adding 80,000 jobs. That helped push the unemployment rate to about 2 percentage points lower than when he took office last year.

He says the cost of doing business has been lowered, encouraging businesses. Democratic lawmakers say businesses have been helped at the workers' expense.

Rick Snyder for Michigan / Facebook Page

Governor Rick Snyder is in for a long night if he plans on answering ALL of the questions submitted for his "online town hall" tonight.

More than 3,500 have been submitted, according to Snyder's staff.

He's a sampling of some of the questions that have been posted recently:

  • Hamtramck is charging Officer $900 a month for healthcare permitted under Act 152. Was this your intent?
  • Will you please make high-speed commuter rail between Ann Arbor and Detroit a priority?
  • You say Michigan has a surplus so why are so many people still losing their jobs? And why is Detroit in debt?
  • Why did college students lose food assistance, including the disabled taking online classes? Inhuman to me.
  • How do you feel about the potential legalization of marijuana? This could create potential jobs.

More on the 6 p.m. online town hall from the Associated Press:

Thousands of Michigan residents have sent in questions for Gov. Rick Snyder as he prepares for his first online town hall.

The Republican governor has scheduled an online discussion on his Facebook page beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel says more than 3,500 questions have been posted on Facebook and Twitter and on the state website. Questions also can be called in during the town hall.

The governor says he wants to discuss the initiatives he talked about in Tuesday's State of the State address. Besides the 45-minute online town hall, he's also participating in a televised town hall Friday afternoon at Detroit Public Television studios in Wixom.

Snyder has held more than 100 town hall meetings since he began running for governor in 2009.

user marcn / Flickr

Tonight, we will hear about the "State of the State" from Governor Snyder, next week it's the "State of the Union" from President Obama.

After he delivers the State of the Union address next Tuesday night (January 24), Mr. Obama will travel  around the country with his message.

One of those stops will include Detroit, Michigan.

From the Associated Press:

The White House says President Barack Obama plans to travel to five states critical to his re-election campaign following next week's State of the Union address.

The president will discuss proposals from Tuesday's address in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Phoenix on Wednesday, and in Las Vegas and Denver on Thursday. On Friday, Obama will make remarks in Detroit.

The five states are expected to be heavily contested by both Obama and his Republican challenger this year.

Obama won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, sending him on a path to the White House. Colorado, Nevada and Arizona are three Western states the president's campaign covets while Michigan is expected to get ample attention from Republicans after the economic recession hurt the state's manufacturing base.

screen grab from YouTube video

Get those "RPA" numbers up!

The Michigan Governor who loves to tout "relentless positive action" as a descriptor for his form of governing has turned to YouTube to give us a preview of his second State of the State address tonight.

In an upbeat tone, Governor Snyder says his speech will be an "honest assessment about how Michigan is doing. And the good part is we're doing well. We are reinventing our state. We're making a major comeback."

In 2012, Snyder says his focus will be about implementing good government, "what you deserve is to have a good government that's implemented well... I'm truly excited and we're going to keep moving forward with relentless positive action."


Michigan State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in today's Detroit Free Press. She writes that Senator Rick Jones' (R-Grand Ledge) comparison of a prominent female public relations professional to a "hooker" is one of many incidents of sexism that she's witnessed in Lansing.

DETROIT (AP) - A lawsuit aimed at recouping millions in union dues paid by Michigan child-care providers has fizzled.

A federal judge in Grand Rapids has issued two key rulings, including a recent decision that said there simply are too many conflicts to make it a class-action case. Judge Robert Jonker says there may be child-care providers who had no objection to paying dues. An appeal is planned.

The case centered on the representation of 40,000 home-based workers. The union was created in 2006, although only 15 percent of providers cast ballots. During the Granholm administration, officials deducted dues from subsidies paid to people who watched low-income kids.

Critics said the workers are not public employees and got no benefit from the union. Gov. Rick Snyder's administration stopped the dues last year.

Rick Snyder was the first Republican running for governor to be endorsed by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV), a lobbying group that advocates for conservational and environmental laws and protection.

The MLCV has been tracking Governor Snyder’s position on environmental issues through the “How Green is your Governor” scorecard, an online evaluation that rates the administration’s environmental policy decision - green is good, red is bad, and yellow is neutral.

Adrian Clark / Flickr

Under a new law in Michigan, everyone who files a claim for a treatment or a checkup will pay a one percent tax to help fund Medicaid. The tax does not apply to co-pays or deductibles.

The new law got rid of a 6 percent use tax on Medicaid managed care organizations.

Governor Rick Snyder pushed for the one percent tax on health insurance claims to maintain medical coverage for low-income patients.

The tax was unpopular with fellow Republicans, but as the Michigan Public Radio Network Rick Pluta reported, Snyder said "he was committed to not rolling back health coverage for the poor during tough economic times."

He signed the tax into law last September.

Now the law is being challenged in court. From the Associated Press:

The Self-Insurance Institute of America Inc. filed a suit challenging the law Thursday in federal court. The suit says the Michigan assessment is pre-empted by federal law.

The suit seeks to block the assessment related to self-insured group health plans.

The Michigan assessment is scheduled to begin Jan. 1 to help fund Medicaid programs. It would be paid to the state by insurers or HMOs.

It's expected to raise about $400 million a year, helping the state draw roughly $800 million in federal funds for Medicaid.

The AP left a message seeking comment from Governor Snyder's office.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Legislature has wrapped up work for the year.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have different opinions about how successful 2011 was.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) told lawmakers this week that they should be proud of the accomplishments of the Republican-led House and Senate chambers this year.

“Unquestionably, this has been one of the most productive in recent history for the Michigan Legislature,” said Richardville.

He said a quick budget process, changes to the state’s tax structure, and big changes to the education system are among his proudest achievements.

Republicans feel the changes made Michigan more attractive to businesses and set the state’s economy on the right track.

But the work Republicans are proud of is what Democrats say made 2011 a horrible year for Michigan’s middle-class families and vulnerable people.

Democratic lawmakers say cuts to schools and a new tax plan on seniors put the priorities of big business over the wellbeing of people.

State Representative Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) says she thinks a lot of the new policies actually hurt Michigan’s business climate.

“I’ve always said I don’t know what business would want to come here if we don’t have highly educated workers, and if they can’t put their kids in a quality school, said Brown. “So you’re talking about creating jobs; I think the legislation that has been put forth this past year is discouraging people from coming to Michigan.”

State lawmakers will return to the Capitol in the middle of January, right before Governor Rick Snyder gives his State of the State address for 2012.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers have approved a bill that will allow for reducing the number of judgeships in the state. An estimated 45 judgeships on district and circuit courts would be
eliminated through the legislation passed yesterday. The measure now heads to Governor Rick Snyder's desk.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed two bills that will affect some state workers' retiree health care benefits and reduce the future amount the state needs to fund by $5.6 billion.

Workers hired after Jan. 1 won't get state health care coverage when they retire, although they'll get an extra 2 percent match in their 401(k) or 457 retirement plans while working to help them save for future health care costs.

The legislation signed Thursday also refunds the 3 percent contribution toward retiree health care that state workers have been paying for more than a year.

The refunds go out Jan. 19. Workers can choose to receive the money in their paychecks or as a deposit into their retirement accounts. A worker making $50,000 a year should get about $1,500 back.

The debate over establishing and paying for a state-operated health insurance exchange has been pushed into next year.

Action on the exchange stalled as House and Senate Republicans continue to disagree on whether it would amount to an endorsement of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

House Republicans would prefer to wait until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the federal law. Governor Rick Snyder says delay could force Michigan into a federal bureaucracy.

A fierce partisan battle among Oakland County politicians played out in front of a state House panel at the state Capitol today.

Democrats tried and failed to block a Republican effort to let the GOP-led Oakland County Commission redraw its own district lines.

The district map was already adopted earlier this year by a bipartisan apportionment commission, and it was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Democrats called the action to redraw the map a brazen effort by Republicans to undo a county commission map they don’t like.

Oakland County Commissioner David Woodward is a Democrat opposed to the bill.

“That this is being brought up, introduced after the rendered decisions, speaks of partisan overreach, specifically, Republican Party overreach - an attempt in this body to undo a process that has already run its course,” said Woodward.

The Oakland apportionment commission has a Democratic majority, while the Oakland County Commission is led by Republicans.

The bill would also reduce the number of county commissioners.

Republicans say the bill is designed to save taxpayers money.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

When a city or a school district in Michigan runs out of money, the state can appoint an emergency manager to take over the responsibilities of locally elected officials. An emergency manger’s powers are broad—made even more so this year – and are designed to help EMs balance the books and return governance to locally elected officials as quickly as possible.

Today, there are four cities and one school district under the control of an emergency manager:

  • Benton Harbor
  • Ecorse
  • Flint
  • Pontiac
  • Detroit Public Schools

This is the second time around for Flint, which had an “emergency financial manager” from 2002-2006. The cities of Detroit and Inkster and Benton Harbor Public Schools could soon be added to this list.

Update 4:20 p.m.

The Governor's Office sent this press release after Governor Snyder signed the anti-bullying bill:

Michigan will become the 48th state to require schools to develop and enforce policies to protect students from harassment, intimidation and physical violence under anti-bullying legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder today.

The governor called on lawmakers to pass the legislation as part of the education reform plan he proposed in April, saying students need to feel safe in the classroom so they can focus on learning.

“This legislation sends a clear message that bullying is wrong in all its forms and will not be tolerated,” Snyder said. “No child should feel intimidated or afraid to come to school.”

The governor said having a clear policy in place will give teachers and administrators the tools they need to deal with bullies, but he added that parents can help by ensuring their own children do not engage in or encourage others to bully.

House Bill 4163, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Potvin, is known as “Matt’s Safe School Law” in honor of Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who ended his life in 2002 after enduring severe bullying.  The legislation gives schools six months to develop clear anti-bullying policies so they will be in place by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.  The bill is now Public Act 241 of 2011.

A detailed description of the bill’s requirements may be found online at www.legislature.mi.gov.

3:50 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed the law that requires schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. Family members of children who committed suicide looked on as the governor signed the measure. Until today, Michigan was one of three states that did not have an anti-bullying law.

This was the week in which Flint finally got an emergency manager, and the week when it began to seem inevitable that Detroit would get one. It was a week when it seemed apparent that the legislature is about to open the state up to unlimited charter schools.

The auto industry seems to be doing better, even as the weather turns worse, and the governor unveiled a major message on talent that was aimed at preparing us for the jobs of the future.

Some years ago, a former computer executive wrote a business plan for Ann Arbor Spark, which calls itself a business accelerator. Most of those involved felt what he came up with was decent, with one big exception.

"We actually created a vice president of talent, and boy, did I get a lot of criticism,” the executive told me last summer. “People said how dumb I was for putting it in there.”