politics

Politics
4:56 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Autism coverage bills clear Michigan Senate committee

Flickr
cedarbenddrive Flickr

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.

Politics
1:30 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Michigan group wants corporate donors to be revealed

Former Michigan secretary of state candidate Jocelyn Benson announces launch of a ballot campaign to require corporations to disclose their political spending. The rollout took place 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."

Investigative
7:00 am
Mon March 5, 2012

Money Talks: Out-of-state influence on Michigan voters

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.

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Commentary
10:47 am
Fri March 2, 2012

The Romneys and Religion

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.

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Politics
3:57 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Bill aimed at keeping Michigan grad students from unionizing passes House

UM graduate student research assistants James Henderson and Elaine Landy testify in front of a committee in the Michigan House of Representatives against SB 971 which would prohibit the GSRA's from forming a union.
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.

Politics
3:59 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Lawsuit over pay cuts to Detroit school employees settled

Flickr

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.

Politics
3:28 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Michigan lawmakers proposing changes to medical marijuana law

Proposed changes to the medical marijuana law in Michigan could add regulations to how users can grow and store the plant.
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.

Politics
1:49 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

State Rep. Howze plans run for Detroit mayor

State Rep. Lisa L. Howze.
Facebook

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.

TV & Politics
4:47 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

The War Room with Jennifer Granholm: "A show for political junkies"

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.”

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Politics
9:27 am
Fri January 27, 2012

WATCH LIVE: President Obama's Speech in Ann Arbor

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

JOIN THE LIVE CHATVISIT WHITEHOUSE.GOV

Politics
2:25 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Michigan drivers could soon pay more for gas and vehicle registration fees

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.

Politics
10:44 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Governor Snyder gives State of the State, business edition

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
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.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Thousands of questions submitted for Michigan Governor Snyder's online town hall

A likeness of the Michigan Governor posted on his Facebook page.
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.

Politics
4:37 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

President Obama to visit 5 states following State of the Union, Michigan included

President Obama will visit 5 states after his State of the Union address next week.
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.

Politics
3:22 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

Michigan Governor Snyder previews his State of the State speech on YouTube

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder previewing tonight's State of the State speech on YouTube.
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."

Politics
5:05 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer says sexism is rampant at the State Capitol

State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D) East Lansing
http://whitmer.senatedems.com/

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.

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Politics
12:30 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Michigan child-care workers lose union lawsuit

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.

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Environment
8:03 am
Thu December 29, 2011

How green is your governor?

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.

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Politics
12:35 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

The new Michigan health claims tax faces a court challenge

A trade group is challenging Michigan's new health claims tax.
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.

Politics
2:47 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

2011 is a wrap for Michigan lawmakers, opinions differ on year's results

Michigan lawmakers wrapped up their work for the year today.
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.

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