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Update 4:18 p.m.

Carrie Jones, director of the Michigan Film Office posted a letter on their website explaining their decision to suspend film incentive applications.

The letter explains that they are waiting for direction from Michigan legislators. She says Senate Bill 569 lays out the parameters of the new $25 million incentive program, but it has not been acted on. From her letter:

Recognizing there are many projects currently planning to submit applications on October 1, we feel this is the best course of action for several reasons – the primary of which are ensuring certainty and consistency within the Michigan film incentive program. With everything in SB 569 subject to change at this stage in the process, we simply do not yet have answers to many of the most basic questions projects have when applying for the film incentives. We also want to ensure all projects approved under the new funding are approved using the same set of criteria regardless of when in the fiscal year they apply.

Jones writes that she knows the legislature plans to take up SB 569, but she does not know when. SB 569 was referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development last July.

3:56 p.m.

The Michigan Film Office says it is not taking any more applications for movie incentives because there are no guidelines for the program.

The director of the film office released a statement today saying all applications are on hold, and will likely have to be re-submitted after the Legislature passes a new law outlining new incentive guidelines.

Governor Rick Snyder's administration is backing away from Michigan's old program of generous tax breaks for filmmakers. The state has set aside $25 million to support filmmaking in the fiscal year that begins tomorrow (Saturday, October 1), but film office director Carrie Jones says she needs guidance on how that money is to be spent.

I'm on assignment in China following Governor Snyder's trade mission, and I'm sharing my thoughts as I travel. Feel free to write me back in the comments below.

Nearing the end - Friday, September 30

The Governor's trade mission is coming to an end, and so is my trip to China.

I won't miss the smog and pollution, either in Shanghai (bad) or Beijing (worse).

But it has truly been too short a trip to get more than a glimpse of everything that is happening with China's economy, its auto industry, and its cultural and population shifts.

Frank Langfitt in Shanghai and Louisa Lim in Beijing surely have two of the biggest, most exciting beats in public radio.  This fly-in reporter leaves the country in their incredibly capable hands.

Adventure travel

My adventures with taxis continued.

I am starting to take this a little personally.

Arriving back in Shanghai from Beijing, I got in the long queue to get a taxi to my downtown Pudong hotel.

I decided I'd be a discerning and demanding customer this time around.  I rejected several taxis that had no seat belt in the back.  But when I found a taxi that was suitably equipped, and showed the driver the address to which I wanted to be taken, he shook his head, and drove up to grab the fellow who was behind me in the line.

The next taxi cab driver whose cab had seat belts did the same thing.  I asked  the airport employee who was in charge of the queue to help, but he spoke no English.  Nor did the first ten or so people in line.

Paying it forward

Finally, however, an angel arrived at the queue.  Deserine Lim, fluent English-speaker and rescuer of helpless American travelers.  She looked at my hotel address and explained that the taxi drivers didn't want me because it was too close, and they wanted a bigger fare.  Ouch.

Then, without my even thinking to ask, she suggested I split a cab with her.  She'd drop me off at my hotel, and continue on to her destination.

I'm not a Tennessee Williams fan for nothing.  I, too, have always relied on the kindness of strangers.  I got in the cab gratefully.

My rescuer is a native of Singapore, she told me, visiting Shanghai just for a day on business.  But she knows the town well, and told me what shops to go to near my hotel, what restaurants to haunt.  We discussed American politics.

When we arrived at my hotel, I paid the fare, and since it was clear her favor to me was going to cost her, both in terms of time and money, I tried to give her some money to cover the extra distance.

She adamantly refused to take it.

So, I shall have to content myself with paying it forward some day.

Ms. Lim is Assistant General Manager of OSIM, a global provider of personal, health and convenience products headquartered in Singapore.  OSIM is a co-owner of Brookstone, a company that provides such products in the U.S.

Thanks, Deserine.  You're a peach.

Next stops before home

Next stop for me:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I'll visit the Joint Institute between SJTU and the University of Michigan.

I also plan to go to a shopping mall with my SJTU interpreter, Paul (Kang Yiping) to ask people about transportation issues.

Then, another interview with a Ford China official, to learn more about the company's strategy to ride the next wave of demand for vehicles in the country.

And tomorrow morning, I'll be on a non-stop flight from Shanghai to Detroit.

They say the jet lag is a lot worse coming back.

Michigan Radio, don't call me.  I'll call you.

Arrived in Beijing - Wednesday, September 28:

I am in Beijing.

I arrived on the fourth consecutive day of a smog health advisory in the city.  Children are not supposed to play outdoors, and people with chronic health conditions are being urged to stay inside. Even if you are healthy, the smog is very irritating to your eyes and throat.

Michigan has never seemed cleaner. Even the worst Ozone Action Day in Michigan in August can't hold a candle to this.

Shanghai was windy while I was there earlier in the week. We need a good strong breeze to get this stuff out of the city, so people can breathe.

The Chinese government knows it has a potential crisis on its hands, as more people move into the cities, and more of them purchase cars.  That's why the government adopted a five year plan to vastly increase the number of electric cars in China.

The big problem with that is infrastructure.

A state Senate panel has approved a measure designed to make it more difficult for a pregnant minor to have an abortion. The proposal would prevent young women from so-called “judge-shopping” if one court denies her request to have an abortion without parental consent.

Mary Pollock is with the National Organization for Women. She says the proposal works against pregnant teens who don’t want to have a baby.

"Some teens fear that if their parents are told of their pregnancy, they will take actions to prevent the procedure and force them to complete the pregnancy," says Pollock.

Pollock says some teens will hurt themselves as they try to end pregnancies on their own.

The Legislature is also expected to send a ban on a controversial later-term abortion procedure to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval.

People injured in auto crashes would not be allowed to use their no-fault coverage to pay for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain under a bill approved by a legislative committee.

The measure is one of several proposed new restrictions to Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The law was enacted by voters in 2008.

Peter Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which supports the measure. He says insurance coverage was not supposed to be part of the medical marijuana law.

"So I think it’s pretty clear, yes, they want to utilize this is as a medical procedure, but at the same hand, not force any carrier to cover it as a covered service."

Kuhnmuench  says the bill would not prohibit someone from buying additional coverage that might pay for medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana patients say the law should not specifically ban one treatment for people facing chronic pain from an injury.

USFWS

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Two Republican state senators say they're planning legislation that would require people to live in Michigan for one year before getting state permission to use marijuana for
medical purposes.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Rick Jones say Tuesday it's an effort to stop out-of-state marijuana growers from setting up shop in homes rented in Michigan. The proposal would join at least a dozen other bills aimed at changing the state's medical marijuana law approved by voters in 2008.

Michigan State Police say they have had instances where out-of-state residents rent homes in Michigan, then get a driver's license and a state-issued medical marijuana card.

The out-of-state residents grow pot in the rental homes and return occasionally to check on the crop, selling the drug in their home states.

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm’s book, “A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future,” is on bookstore shelves. It offers her perspective on eight years in the job she described as the toughest facing any governor in the U.S.

She battled budget shortfalls, Republicans in the Legislature, and skeptics of federal efforts to bail out the Detroit auto industry.

Granholm and her co-author, former First Gentleman Dan Mulhern, spoke with me about the book and her legacy.

Jennifer Granholm says she wrote “A Governor’s Story” to offer her  prescription for the nation’s economy to lower taxes and smaller government. She says it’s based on her experience, and an often trial-and-error road to an economic strategy that can work for the entire nation.

“We’ve got a story to tell. So for everybody who cares about how to crack the code to create advanced manufacturing jobs in the American economy, we’ve got the story to tell.”

Flickr

The legislative sponsor of the state’s six-month-old emergency manager law says it has cleared the way for the decisive actions needed to help severely stressed cities.

State Representative Al Psholka’s district includes the city of Benton Harbor.

He says Benton Harbor’s emergency manager did not have the authority he needed to fix the city’s finances before the new law took effect in March.

 “We’ve seen some rapid progress in Benton Harbor. There's challenges there, but if you look at the budget, the budget is balanced. There is a projected surplus next year of $400,000. Yes, they had to make some tough choices, but Benton Harbor is in a much better position: a position to go back to local control with a balanced budget," said Psholka.

Psholka was on the Michigan Public TV show “Off the Record.”

Opponents of the law say it robs citizens in takeover communities of their right to choose their local officials.

Organizers of a petition drive say they are close to collecting enough signatures to put a challenge to the emergency manager law the ballot.

A referendum on the law requires opponents to gather more than 161,000 signatures.

Amy Kerr Hardin is with the “Stand Up for Democracy,” the coalition trying to repeal the law. She says the state-appointed emergency managers are given too much power.

 "It takes away our elected officials. It’s crazy the stuff an emergency manager can do just by fiat," said Hardin. "They don’t have to ask any public opinion, and they don’t have to tell the public until after the fact – when they’ve done whatever it is they’ve done."

 Hardin says the campaign expects to turn in sufficient signatures by the end of October. That would put the question on the February 2012 ballot.

It would also suspend the law until the election.

The cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac and the Detroit school district are being run by emergency managers.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry will be on Mackinac Island this weekend for a Republican conference held by the state party every two years. The two prominent presidential candidates will speak with party faithful tomorrow at the Grand Hotel.

Also on the island are many campaign signs, buttons and t-shirts advertising names of Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls. Among them is Gary Glenn, the president of the anti-gay-rights group American Families Association of Michigan. He says coming to Mackinac Island this weekend is important for his campaign.

Fewer than 100 unmarried state employees are expected to sign-up for health care benefits for their domestic partners by the end of this month.

That would mean less than $600,000 would be spent on live-in partner benefits paid for by the state.

The preliminary estimates are well below what some Republican lawmakers said taxpayers would end up paying for the benefits.

Republican state Representative Dave Agema (R-Ottawa Co.) sponsored a measure to end domestic partner benefits for public employees in the future.

"Numbers aside, it really doesn’t make any difference because what we have now, if it doesn’t stop, it will only grow in the future," said Agema. "We haven’t included the colleges and the local governments and so-forth, so it would only be increased to millions and millions of dollars in the future."

Agema’s proposal could not reverse the decision by the state Civil Service Commission to allow for public employee domestic partner benefits.

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

U.S. Reprsentative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) has dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nominiation.

From the Detroit News:

Livonia Rep. Thaddeus McCotter told The Detroit News this afternoon that he is leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination after he failed to win access to the Republican presidential debates.

"If they keep you out of the debates, you are out of the conversation and you can't run," McCotter said. "It was sort of death by media."

McCotter says he will give his support to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Michigan native, and will likely run again for the 11th District congressional seat he's held since 2003.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State Senate Republicans say they want to focus on proposals this fall that will help businesses create jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says eliminating the Michigan Business Tax on small businesses was a good start. He says now it’s time to get rid of the Personal Property Tax that businesses pay.

“The government itself does not create jobs, all we can do is better the environment. And that’s what we’re attempting to do with the legislation we’ve put on the table so far, and what we’ll continue this fall.”

Richardville says the Senate will also take up measures this fall to reform education and regulate the medical marijuana law.

The law was approved by a wide margin of voters in 2008.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the law is too vague.

“I have a real concern about those that would abuse this law and that somehow more would illegal marijuana would end up on the street, and eventually find its way into our school yards. That’s my big concern here.”

Senate Republicans also plans to take up legislation to eliminate the tax on businesses and factory equipment. Education reforms, and a ban on a controversial abortion procedure are also at the top of the party’s fall agenda.

No political ads for me

Sep 19, 2011

The election season is about to bring something that most everyone likes to complain about: political ads on television.

For me, the problem isn’t the barrage of political ads, it’s the lack of them.

Chances are, if you live in Michigan, you’re different from me.

You’re in.

I’m out.

You will get tons of what you might think are thoroughly obnoxious TV ads about Michigan political races.

Ads that say, "Debbie Stabenow is a big spender," or "Pete Hoekstra is an extremist."

Stuff like that.

And I won’t.

screen grab from YouTube video

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is calling for a special election to fill a vacancy in the Michigan House left by the departure of Democratic Rep. Tim Melton of Auburn Hills.

Snyder set primary elections for Nov. 8, if they are needed. The general election will be Feb. 28 to fill the seat for the House's 29th District. Both dates already are scheduled election days in Michigan.

Melton resigned effective earlier this month to take a job with StudentsFirst, a national education group. The special election would fill his seat for the remainder of a two-year term that expires at the end of 2012.

Melton was term-limited and would not have been eligible to seek re-election to the House in 2012.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

UAW and automakers fail to meet deadline

Last night was the deadline for Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers to reach agreements on new contracts. The UAW and Ford Motor Company officials agreed to extend their talks, but the Associated Press reports talks with GM and Chrysler broke off just after midnight last night.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent a letter to UAW President Bob King saying they had let down Chrysler workers - "you and I failed them today," he wrote - From the Associated Press:

Up until the deadline, the negotiations that began over the summer appeared to be proceeding without the acrimony that plagued them in the past. But just before the 11:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday deadline, the CEO of Chrysler fired off a letter to UAW President Bob King saying an agreement likely wouldn't be reached because King didn't come to the table Wednesday night to finish the deal.

"I know we are the smallest of the three automakers here in Detroit, but that does not make us less relevant," Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The AP reports that despite the talk extension, negotiations appear to be going more smoothly with General Motors.

Governor Snyder says Michigan should act on health care exchanges

In his healthcare message yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder said Michigan's health care system is a broken one.

He rolled out a list of ideas to improve the situation which included a request to set up a statewide healthcare exchange. As Lindsey Smith reported, "the new federal health care law mandates states create their own exchange, join a regional one or wait until the federal exchange is in place."

Rick Pluta reported the governor is likely to face opposition on this idea from Republicans in the state legislature:

Many Republicans oppose the law and resist enacting any of the federal mandates before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on them.

The governor says that will put Michigan behind other states if all or part of the law is upheld.

The resistance doesn't just come from legislators. Michigan's Attorney General, Bill Schuette, is actively fighting against the federal health care law in courts.

Michigan servicemen to deploy to Afghanistan

From the Associated Press:

About 90 members of the Michigan National Guard are preparing for a year of service in Afghanistan.

An event was planned for Thursday in Grand Ledge for the Lansing-based soldiers. They'll do about 14 weeks of training before going to Afghanistan to conduct intelligence work.

The soldiers are from B Company of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion with the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Dan Wuan / Michigan Senate

Former NBA player and one of the “Fab Five” at the University of Michigan, Jalen Rose, told lawmakers at the state Capitol today parents need more school options for their kids.

Rose testified before a state panel in support of allowing more charter schools and schools of choice in Michigan.

He sponsored a charter academy that opened in his hometown of Detroit.

Rose says the school selects students based on a lottery, rather than test scores, so every kid would have a shot at getting in.

Governor Rick Snyder’s health care agenda is receiving a cool reception from Republicans in the Legislature.

One of Snyder’s proposals is to require doctors to report to the state the body mass indexes of children they treat. The move would track a growing problem of childhood obesity.

House Speaker Jase Bolger says he is not interested in tracking that kind of personal information.

"I have very strong concerns about that. Again, we need to encourage personal responsibility, I among many, and maybe first among many, who need to lose weight. So I’m willing to try to lead by example," said Bolger. "But the government recording that information causes me great concern and discomfort."

Bolger also says he has no plans to take up the governor's proposal to require insurance companies to offer health care coverage for treatment of children with autism.

Gov. Rick Snyder wants people to adopt healthier lifestyles  

Snyder says people need to take more responsibility for their own health if Michigan is going to reverse some dismal trends and save money on health care. That was part of a health care message he delivered at a Grand Rapids clinic.

Snyder says too many Michiganders smoke, are overweight, and don’t exercise.

Michigan ranks 10th in the country in people who are overweight or obese. Nearly two in 10 people still smoke.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

State board of education sets tougher testing standards for Michigan schools

Yesterday, at their meeting in Lansing, officials from the State board of education raised testing standards for K-12 students in Michigan.

The higher standards, also known as "cut scores," will determine which students are deemed "proficient" on the MEAP test (for K-8 students) and the Michigan Merit Exam (for high school students). More from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber:

Students will be expected to answer about two-thirds of test questions correctly. That’s double the previous test-score cut-off for proficiency.

The tougher standards could result in more schools failing to benchmarks for student achievement. But board members say the test score standards will help better prepare students for college.

Brandon Howell at MLive posted charts on how the new standards will effect the percentage of students categorized as "proficient."

Republican Senate candidates try to stand out in the crowd

The six Republican candidates vying for the nomination to take on Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election held a debate last night. It was hosted by the Gerald R. Ford Republican Women’s Club. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith covered the debate and reported "all six candidates held many of the same views including lower taxes, cuts in federal spending, and repealing President Obama’s healthcare law. The difference was in the degree of conservatism."

The six candidates for the Republican nomination are school-choice advocate Clark Durant, anti-gay activist Gary Glenn, former judge Randy Hekman, former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy, and Brighton businessman Chuck Marino.

Reports of another attack in Ann Arbor

The attack happened early this morning. The Detroit News reports:

Just after midnight, a 20-year-old woman walking near 400 S. First St. was approached from behind by an unknown male. He grabbed her arm and waist, and began fondling her chest and groin area, police said. The woman, who police describe as a non-student, was able to break free from the assailant. The man fled on foot heading north, police said.

Investigators are not saying whether they believe this attack is linked to six others in Ann Arbor, according to the Detroit Free Press

Police have received reports of six attacks from July 15 to July 26 that they believe may have been related. The attacks occurred mostly in the downtown area just off campus. All of the assaults occurred between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. In two cases, both July 18, women were raped. In the other four cases, women were grabbed or fondled, but managed to break free.

Chelsea Hagger / Michigan Public Radio Network

Former congressman Pete Hoekstra has been accepting endorsements and campaign donations to run for the U.S. Senate for weeks, but today Hoekstra formally launched his statewide campaign for the Republican nomination.

Hoekstra says he is glad to have the endorsements of some of his former rivals. They include former state Attorney General Mike Cox, who ran against Hoekstra in the Republican primary for governor.

Hoekstra says he and Cox may not have gotten along during that race, but they have buried the so-called hatchet.

 "Whatever hatchet there was, we’ve agreed to work together to make sure Michigan has a new senator. He and I have talked a number of times over the last few weeks, we’ve had great conversations. If there was a hatchet, it’s gone."

Hoekstra has also been endorsed by Governor Rick Snyder, another former rival.

Hoekstra says if he were elected to the U.S. Senate he would work to repeal "No Child Left Behind" school mandates and the new national health care regulations.

Hoekstra says he has met with many small business leaders who would rather see the federal government focus on deregulation than on tax breaks. 

"We need to get the economic engine going again, which is taking a look at the regulatory reform in Washington, it’s taking a look at repealing Obama-care and putting in place smart reforms for health care, and it is allowing for energy exploration in the United States," said Hoekstra.

Hoekstra is running in the Republican Senate primary against anti-gay activist Gary Glenn, businessman Peter Konetchy, former judge Randy Hekman, and school-choice advocate Clark Durant.

The winner of that primary will run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

The Republican leader of the state Senate says he has no interest in making Michigan a right-to-work state.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says union workers have already made many concessions to help Michigan’s economic outlook.

Chalkboard
user alkruse24 / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan Republican legislators introduced legislation this week that they say will reform education in Michigan. The legislators call the seven bills they introduced the "Parent Empowerment Education Reform" package.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Eartha Jane Melzer of the Michigan Messenger summed up the effort this way: 

The seven bill package would remove limits on the number of charter and cyber schools, allow parents and teachers to force schools to convert into charters, and let districts hire teachers through private companies.

It also imposes new requirements on schools, specifying that students be allowed to simultaneously enroll in high school and college courses beginning in the 9th grade, that schools accept students from out of district, and that services be provided for homeschoolers and private school students.

In a statement on his website, State Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), and the chair of the Senate Education Committee said he and his colleagues are following through on Governor Snyder's request to "expand the schools of choice program, empower parents and ensure that every student has access to a quality education."

From Pavlov's statement:

"Every parent in the state wants the very best for their children," said Pavlov.  "Unfortunately, when it comes to educating our kids, adult issues too often get in the way.  The Parent Empowerment Education Reform package is about freeing parents to pursue the opportunities that work best for their children and giving schools the freedom they need to innovate and excel."

The Michigan Education Association published a statement calling the reforms an "attack on public education" and an attempt to privatize the system:

Many of the concepts introduced in these bills were first mentioned by Gov. Snyder in his education message this spring. But it's apparent that the attacks on public education continue. None of these bills are meant to improve education. This is more of the same push to destroy public education: schools run by private entities, back-door vouchers, policies based on rhetoric rather than research, and more state mandates -- despite the Republican cut of $1 billion from public schools earlier this year.

A state lawmaker has called for licensing of in-home health care workers to help combat fraud. He says recent fraudulent billings from some agencies cost the Medicare program $28 million.

State Senator Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids) says some fraudulent in-home agencies came to Michigan because other states require the groups to be licensed, and Michigan does not.

"Some of those folks have been chased out of their states because they've been caught or they know people are paying attention, and they're coming to states that don't have licensure."

Jansen says fraudulent in-home care agencies prey on the most vulnerable people in Michigan.

Congressman Gary Peters

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. Rep. Gary Peters says he's seeking election in the newly drawn 14th District.

The Democrat from Oakland County's Bloomfield Township serves the 9th District. He made the announcement on Thursday. Peters says the new district "bridges diverse communities," and he remains "committed to ... bringing our communities together."

The districts were redrawn by the state Legislature and signed into law in August by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

The 14th District is held by veteran Democratic Rep. John Conyers. It stretches from Detroit to Pontiac and dips below Eight Mile Road. The thoroughfare has come to symbolize the boundary between Detroit and its suburbs, black from white.

The redrawing puts Peters and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin in the same district. Levin has said he will run in the 9th District.

A fight is brewing at the state Capitol over whether Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law should be changed.

Backers of the legislation want drivers to be able to opt out of coverage that provides unlimited lifetime benefits for the most severely injured accident victims.

Pete Kuhnmuench, with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, says the option would save people money:

"We think putting more money back in the pockets of the consumers we think now is the right time to do that, given our economics," says Kuhnmuench.

A study commissioned by the measure’s opponents says most drivers would choose to underinsure themselves to save money.

The study says that would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A rally is scheduled Wednesday on the steps of the state Capitol protesting proposed changes to the state's medical marijuana law.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association president and other speakers during the rally in Lansing are expected to discuss the law and treatment patients and caregivers have received from law enforcement. The event starts at noon.

Michigan voters in 2008 approved use of marijuana to relieve pain and other chronic ailments. About 100,000 people have state-issued cards letting them have 2.5 ounces of "usable" pot and up to 12 plants. Registered caregivers also can grow marijuana for five people.

Michigan's Appeals Court has ruled some sales at dispensaries illegal.

Changes proposed by some Michigan legislators requiring stricter doctor-patient relationships before a patient could get authorization to use the drug.

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

We received a lot of reaction from people about our story on the potential consequences of eliminating the mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) part of Michigan's no-fault auto insurance.

This seemingly bureaucratic story about potential changes to Michigan's insurance laws has a lot of devastating human stories behind it.

Democrat leaves Lansing to lobby for school reforms

Aug 30, 2011
screenshot from HTV

The former state House Education Committee chairman is resigning his office to become a national school reform lobbyist.

Democratic state Representative Tim Melton (D-Pontiac) will work for the Students First organization in California starting in early September.

Students First is an organization headed up by a nationally polarizing figure in education reform, Michelle Rhee.

"I’ll be helping other state’s throughout the country pass reforms similar to the ones we did in Michigan," said Melton. "The Students First organization is a national grassroots advocacy for school reform. We’re going to really try to move the United States and this country forward as far as what the rest of the world’s doing on education reform."

Melton says the job will allow him to build on the work he did with the controversial "Race To The Top" legislation he spearheaded in Michigan.  

He is the third state lawmaker in the past couple years to leave office early for a different job. Melton says term limits could make leaving early a trend for politicians.

"I’ve got two young kids and I guess not knowing what’s going to happen after your term is up, and if an opportunity arises that allows you to do the thing that you’re really passionate about—you know, school reform to me is something that is a major issue," said Melton.

Melton’s departure will leave the House with 46 Democrats, to the majority of 63 Republicans. He was known for frequently working with and voting with Republicans.

He had contemplated a run at a House seat in Congress, but says he has reached the end of his career as an elected official.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says the Legislature violated the state constitution by illegally taking money from state employee paychecks to cover retirement health care costs.

State employees are in line to get back $60 million dollars that was withheld from their paychecks if this decision stands.

The court of appeals says then-Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Legislature could not take three percent of state employee salaries for retirement costs after lawmakers failed to block three percent pay raises.

The pay raises were approved by the independent state Civil Service Commission, and could only be reversed by super-majorities in the House and Senate.

The appeals court said that was just another way to take away the pay raise, and violated the process set up by the state constitution.

Governor Rick Snyder says the money is needed to help cover a shortfall in the state employee retirement fund. He could ask the state attorney general to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the current Michigan legislature and Governor Snyder "adopted the plan earlier this year that requires state employees contribute 3 percent of their paychecks toward their retirement health care costs."

The plan was adopted under a previous legislature and then-Governor Granholm.

The headline has been changed as well. (previous headline "Court rules Michigan legislature and Gov. illegally quashed pay raise").

We regret the error.

 

 

Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature say businesses should be required to give parents unpaid leave to attend parent-teacher conferences and other education related appointments with their kids.

State Representative Lisa Brown is a mother of three. She says business owners should understand the importance of active parental involvement in education.

"Juggling work and getting kids to a parent-teacher conference is not easy, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have that my kids have had teachers that make special time for me, because I work far from home."

The bill introduced this week would require businesses to give employees eight hours of unpaid leave per child, per school year. A spokesman for the House Republicans says he has not seen the bill, but he does not anticipate support for any mandates on businesses.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Thousands of teachers and local government employees will have to pay more for their health care benefits under a plan to be voted on tomorrow at the state Capitol.

The plan limits what school districts and local governments can pay for health benefits.

A legislative committee approved the measure today. It's expected to be voted on tomorrow by the House and the Senate.

It will require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to $15,000 a year per family.    

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