politics

Politics
1:11 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Flint, Michigan gets ready for a state takevoer

Elected leaders in Flint will lose their power once a state-appointed emergency manager takes over.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is getting ready for a state takeover. The city's re-elected mayor, Dayne Walling and Flint City Council may have no power once a state-appointed emergency manager is in place.

From the Flint Journal:

Today is the deadline for Flint Mayor Dayne Walling to request a hearing on the state's recommendation that an emergency manager take over the city's finances.

And all signs point to an impending state takeover.

Walling said today that he will not request a hearing, and city council members say they're bracing for a takeover.

The Journal reports that the Flint City Council voted against appealing an impending appointment of an emergency manager takeover to the Ingham County Circuit Court.

Mayor Walling told reporters after he was sworn in that he plans on sticking around.

From Steve Carmody's report:

Walling insists Flint city government can move forward with his agenda, despite the looming reality that the governor will soon choose an emergency manager to take over running city government. 

“If this emergency manager is here for a few months…if they are here for a year or two…I look forward to serving my full four year term that I was sworn into today," Walling told reporters after the ceremony.

Walling will be interviewed by Michigan Radio's Jennifer White today. We'll post that interview later.

Politics
5:03 pm
Thu November 10, 2011

Michigan State Senate adopts health care exchanges

The state Senate has adopted a bill to create a statewide health coverage exchange where people and businesses could comparison shop for insurance.

Republicans were divided on the question, and whether a vote for it was an endorsement of the federal health reforms. 

Some Republicans argued they should take a principled stand against the federal law by refusing to enact any portion of it.

Others, such as Senator Bruce Caswell, argued the state should not risk being forced into a federal bureaucracy.

Without action, the state would be forced into a federal exchange system.

“I do not support putting this state in the position of having the federal government come in and basically take over regulation of health care,” said Caswell.

Caswell says Michigan can always shut down the exchange if the federal law is repealed or struck down.

Democrats, such as Senator Rebekah Warren, used the debate to defend the federal law.

“The solution that we have in front of us today guarantees that constituents in every one of our districts will have access to more affordable healthcare, so I urge my colleagues to please support this bipartisan compromise that’s in front of us now,” said Warren.

The measure now goes to the state House.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder says the statewide coverage exchange is a good idea with or without the federal mandate. He has asked the Legislature to send the bill to his desk before the end of the year.

Election 2011
11:54 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Dayne Walling wins Flint mayoral race in shadow of EM announcement

The person elected as mayor of Flint might not have any power if an emergency manager is appointed.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 11:54 p.m.

Flint mayor Dayne Walling claims victory.

Walling easily won re-election over challenger Darryl Buchanan.

But Walling's victory is tempered by the Governor deciding that the city of Flint is facing a financial emergency.

Governor Snyder will likely name an emergency manager to run the city.   Mayor Walling says he looks forward to working with whoever is appointed.

Read more
Politics
11:51 am
Mon November 7, 2011

Michigan's charitible giving tax credit expires at the end of the year

The Michigan charitable giving tax credit expires at the end of this year.
John Morgan Flickr

(*Editor's note - Michigan Radio, as a licensee of the University of Michigan, benefits from this tax credit)

The Michigan charitable giving tax credit expires at the end of the year, and charities are expecting the amount people donate to charities to drop as a result.

The charitable giving credit was ended as part of Governor Snyder's effort to pay for a business tax cut of more than $1.5 billion.

The credit allows Michigan taxpayers to essentially double their contribution when they give to community foundations, homeless shelters, food banks and public institutions (such as Michigan universities, museums, public libraries, and public broadcasting stations).

For a single filer, half their contribution can come off their Michigan tax bill up to a $200 contribution. Joint filers can take half of a $400 contribution.

Brian Conner of the Detroit News wrote a piece on the expected effects of the credit's expiration.

Conner writes that charities in Michigan don't quite know how much of their donations are tied to the credit, but the expect to take some kind of a hit.

Read more
Politics
5:11 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

House approves state worker retirement contribution

Michigan state workers may soon be required to contribute four percent of their salaries into their retirement benefit plans, or choose to convert their retirement benefits to a 401-K plan.

That’s according to a bill approved by the state House.

Democratic state Representative Brandon Dillon said the proposal puts the health and wellness of future retirees at risk.

"We should be looking at ways to expand access to health care, whether in the public or private sector, and the reality is this bill is going to make people’s health care and the ability to get treatment essentially based on the stock market, which we know in the past 10 years has been pretty tough, and I just don’t think that’s the right direction to go," said Dillon.

State employees currently contribute three percent of their salaries to their retirement benefits plans.

Republicans say the current retirement plan is not financially sustainable with too many retirement obligations going into the future.

Politics
5:30 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Michigan Senate committee approves film incentive measure

A new film-incentives program would give money to film and video game companies under a proposal approved by the state Senate.

Republicans have been looking for a new way to attract film companies to Michigan.

A tax-credit program created by Governor Jennifer Granholm was largely unpopular with the GOP.

Republican state Senator Mike Kowall says he a grant-based system for funding the film industry could still attract big-name productions to Michigan.  

He says the amount of money the state appropriates for the film industry may become a contentious issue down the road. But he says it’s important to get a system in place now that will keep the film industry interested in Michigan.

 “When you go down into these studios and you see not only how many people are there but the caliber and they’re from Michigan – they’re Michigan kids, they’re people that maybe moved to California and had the opportunity to move back and they grabbed it, said Kowall.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has said he would like to see as much as $100 million budgeted for the film incentives program.

If the Legislature approves the new incentive program, lawmakers will still have to decide how much money to budget for the film industry. The state Senate is expected to vote on the film-incentive program proposal tomorrow.

Politics
5:06 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Michigan House approves workers compensation overhaul

The Michigan House of Representatives passed changes to the state's worker-compensation system.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The state House has approved an overhaul of Michigan’s worker-compensation system. That system is supposed to pay benefits to people injured on the job.

Business groups and Republicans say an overhaul of the system is needed to reduce insurance rates paid by employers, and get people back to work more quickly – even if it’s a job that pays less.

They say a leaner and less-expensive system is still needed to make the state more employer-friendly.

Representative Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford) sponsored the bill.

“We’re not talking about someone driving 50 miles looking for a lawn-mowing job. But we do ask, if you’re on work comp that if you’re able to go back even in a marginal job to get back on some earning capacity to go ahead and do it,” said Jacobsen.

State Representative Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) opposed the overhaul.

She says it will reduce benefits for injured workers and force some of them to take lower-paying jobs before they are fully healed:

“What we do here matters to people and to families every day. This particular bill will be hurting families, workers, and the very people we came here to protect,” said Barnett.

Democrats also say the changes are not needed because Michigan’s unemployment coverage rates have gone down in 12 of the past 16 years.

They say the changes could become harder for employees to file claims or receive benefits they deserve.

Politics
11:59 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Michigan lawmaker wants to increase amount of time legislators can serve

Lawmakers are limited in the number of terms they can serve in Lansing by the state Constitution. Some say these limits lead to ineffective governing.
user aunt owwee Flickr

In 1992, Michigan voters amended the state Constitution and put limits on the number of terms legislators in Lansing can serve.

State representatives in Michigan are limited to three terms.

State senators are limited to two terms.

Last year, the state had a massive influx of new legislators in Lansing because of term limits. More than half of them were replaced.

Now, one representative in Lansing wants to extend how much time a legislator can serve.

More from the Associated Press:

Rep. Rick Olson plans to offer a resolution next month allowing lawmakers to serve a total of 14 years in either the House or Senate while letting each year's session run only from January through June.

The Saline Republican told reporters Friday after taping public television's "Off the Record" program that he doesn't think the current term limits allowing just three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate are giving lawmakers enough time to learn the job.

The former Adrian Public Schools business manager wants lawmakers to serve up to 14 years in just one chamber if they choose. His proposal would take effect after 2014 so most current lawmakers couldn't extend their stays.

It also would let the governor call special sessions if needed.

Education
3:57 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

More online public schools coming to Michigan?

More K-12 schools may be opening virtual doors in Michigan.

The state Senate has approved a measure that would eliminate the cap that allows only two cyber schools to operate in the state.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck says kids are learning more online than ever before.

“There’s kids who can fix computers in third and fourth grade [sic]. They’re the instructors for their parents and their grandparents already, so a lot of them are already learning that stuff online and they’re more in tune with it than [we are]… It’ll help channel kids into more productive pursuits, frankly,” says Colbeck.

Colbeck says thousands of kids are on waiting lists to get into the two cyber schools already in Michigan.

Those who oppose the cyber schools say online teaching should be blended with traditional classroom teaching in brick-and-mortar schools.

State Senator Phil Pavlov says it’s time to allow more cyber schools.

“I think that this idea of trying to limit the cyber opportunities is the wrong direction. I think we open it up, we let the parents and students decide, and the track record that we do have on cybers in terms of course catch-up work is phenomenal, in terms of addressing kids that may have dropped out already or are on a path to drop out,” says Pavlov.

The proposal now heads to the state House.

Politics
2:07 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Increased spending in state high court races, Michigan tops the list

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Justice at State Campaign says the outside money being spent in state high court races amounts to a "hostile takeover of judicial elections."

The authors of the report, the New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-2010, wrote that $16.8 million was spent on television advertising for state high court elections in the 2009-10 election cycle — "making 2009-10 the costliest non-presidential election cycle for TV spending in judicial elections."

According to the report, more television campaign ads for state high court elections ran in Michigan than in any other state during the 2010 election cycle.

10,781 ads ran in Michigan. That total accounts for 29 percent of the total state high court campaign ads to run across the country.

And for total money spent on these campaigns, Michigan is at the top.

From the report:

Michigan, ranked sixth in candidate fundraising, surges to No. 1 when all sources of money, including independent TV ads, are considered.

The Top Ten states by total spending on state high court elections, 2009-2010:

Read more
Politics
1:15 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Wayne County's ex-economic development director repays severance

 DETROIT (AP) - Wayne County's former economic development director has returned money she received as part of a controversial severance deal that has led to an FBI probe.

County Executive Robert Ficano announced Thursday that the repayment has been made by Turkia Mullin.

The severance deal was for $200,000. Mullin received $135,900 after taxes last month after she left her old job to run Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus.

Ficano has fired a part-time employee and placed the county's corporation counsel and a deputy executive on 30-day suspension after an internal investigation into the severance deal. He earlier
defended Mullin's severance deal, but later said protocol was not followed.

Federal agents have since gotten involved, serving subpoenas this month seeking records.

County commissioners are meeting Thursday and looking into the payout to Mullin.

Politics
5:39 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Proposal would allow motorcyclists to ride without a helmet in Michigan

user ivandub Flickr

A state House committee has approved a measure that would allow motorcyclists 21 years and older with at least two years of experience to ride without a helmet.

This is the newest compromise that opponents of the helmet law hope will win the support of Governor Rick Snyder.

The measure to repeal the four-decade-old helmet law now goes to the floor of the state House for a vote.

Republican state Representative Peter Petallia (R-Presque Isle)is the sponsor.

He says Michigan is the only state in the Midwest that does not allow motorcycle riders to remove their helmets.

“If Michigan did not have a helmet law, so you think we would enact a helmet law? My answer would be ‘no'," said Petallia.

Governor Snyder has said he will not support a helmet law repeal without assurances the costs of medical care for injured riders won’t be passed along to taxpayers or insurance rate payers.

The Petallia bill requires riders who want to doff their helmets to carry an additional $20,000 in medical coverage.

Opponents of the repeal say that would not cover a week of intensive care.

Politics
8:08 am
Sat October 22, 2011

Medical marijuana advocate warns of over-regulation

An advocate for medical marijuana in Michigan is urging state lawmakers against over-regulation.

Tim Beck of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers says the law was designed to give local governments a lot of latitude when it comes to regulating dispensaries.

“Ann Arbor has come up with some very excellent regulations on dispensaries. Security requirements - the City of Lansing has done that. The individuals that have had problems are the individuals that have been careless,” said Beck.

Beck acknowledges there are gaps in the law.

“We couldn’t put everything in a ballot initiative,” he said. “And I will admit, okay, we deliberately did not put anything about dispensaries in the law.”

Beck believes Michigan will legalize marijuana by 2016.

The state House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings later this year on legislation that could settle confusion over the medical marijuana act.

- Chelsea Hagger - Michigan Public Radio Network

Politics
11:41 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Bridge proposal dies in Michigan legislature, Snyder considers other options

Owners of the Ambassador Bridge have been spending millions of dollars fighting a proposal to build a second international bridge downriver.
Thomas Hawk Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is looking how it might move forward construction of a new international bridge connecting Detroit and Canada without the approval of the Legislature.

A measure necessary to project died today (Thursday) in a state Senate committee, and Republican leaders say it appears the bridge project cannot win legislative approval.

But the new Detroit bridge remains central to Snyder’s long-term plans to make Michigan a Chicago-to-Montreal transportation corridor. Geralyn Lasher is the governor’s spokeswoman. She said the administration is considering its options.

"We have to look at it all, and we will look at it all very closely now because –very disappointed about today. It’s too important to jobs, it’s too important for Michigan. It’s too important to really say goodbye to this kind of money that we can leverage to all parts of our state to fix roads, to fix bridges, and to move forward," said Lasher.

The bridge was also going to be used to leverage millions of dollars in federal road and bridge money for projects across the state.

Lasher says there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the project.

An independent watchdog group called ads being aired statewide by bridge opponents “flagrantly” false.

Breaking
12:41 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court: Recall effort against state representative Paul Scott can go forward

Update 12:41 p.m.

Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook issed a statement in response to the Michigan Supreme Court's decision to allow the recall of Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) to go forward.

In the statement, Cook said voters are "fed up with the decisions" made in Lansing this year. He cited cuts to public education, taxes on pensions, and tax breaks for businesses as reasons for the recall.

From Cook's statement:

"Today’s decision allows those constituents to hold their representative accountable for his actions.  That’s what the law allows for and that’s what the courts have upheld today. We need lawmakers to stand up for our kids, not CEOs.  It is our sincere hope that this recall sends that message loud and clear to politicians in Lansing."

11:37 a.m.

More from the Associated Press:

The Genesee County clerk says a recall election targeting Republican Rep. Paul Scott of Grand Blanc is back on the Nov. 8 ballot.

County Clerk Michael Carr says Thursday his office received an order from the Michigan Supreme Court that puts the recall question back on the ballot.

The order reverses an earlier decision from a lower court that would have allowed Scott to avoid a recall election in November.

The effort to recall Scott is financed and backed by the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union. The MEA is unhappy with Scott, the chairman of the House Education Committee, for his leadership role in new laws that weaken the role of teacher tenure in the state.

A Michigan lawmaker has not faced a recall election since 2008.

11:06 a.m.

This just came in from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta:

Michigan Supreme Court has reversed a lower court and says the recall question targeting state Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) may go forward. If the question is certified, the recall question will go on the November ballot.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on the recall campaign yesterday.

Paul Scott is among about a dozen Republican lawmakers targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. The Scott recall campaign is the only one that collected enough signatures to get the recall on the November ballot.

Politics
7:36 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Governor Snyder says it's too early to think about spending Michigan's potential surplus

The state of Michigan has a projected budget surplus of around $430 million. Governor Snyder wants to wait before deciding what to do with the extra money.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

Governor Rick Snyder says he would prefer to wait and see what direction the economy takes before making decisions on how to use a projected budget surplus.

Snyder says he is no rush to restore funding to schools or other programs.

Budget watchdogs predict the state is in line for a windfall of around $430 million once the books are closed on the fiscal year that ended last month.

Tax revenues appear to have picked up despite the lackluster recovery in jobs and spending.

Democrats have called for restoring cuts to K-12 education, but Governor Snyder said it’s too soon to make that call.

“It’s good to see positive results coming in in terms of revenues, but one of the things is the economy in the macro sense at the national and international level is pretty tenuous,” said Snyder.

Other Republican leaders have said any surplus should be put into the state’s “rainy day” savings or toward paying down long-term debt.

The governor says those options might be prudent if the state winds up with excess cash.

Education
8:19 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Vice President Biden says students would gain from “Jobs Act"

Vice President Joe Biden visited the more than 100-year-old Central High School in Grand Rapids Wednesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden says he’ll work to get President Obama’s American Jobs Act through Congress piece by piece if lawmakers won’t take up the entire stimulus bill.

Biden says the bill would invest $25 billion to fix 35,000 schools across the country, including buildings like the one visited in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

Junior and seniors at Grand Rapids’ Central High School showed Biden around their science classroom, listened, and asked questions. He also saw a classroom they can’t use because of health concerns over chipping and peeling paint.

“They’re in a laboratory where they can’t turn on a burner because there’s no ventilation system,” Biden said. “They have microscopes that use mirrors – I mean it’s just totally out of date.” The science classroom is part of Grand Rapids Public Schools district’s School of Health Science and Technology; a “hub” school students can opt into. “Come on man,” Biden told reporters after the visits, “these are talented kids - they chose to come here to learn more.”

Biden says some GOP leaders would rather “do nothing” than pass parts of the bill he says they agree with.

Politics
4:41 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Michigan Secretary of State outlines new election proposals

Michigan Secretary of State outlined new election proposals today.
Flickr

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Michigan should allow anyone to vote by absentee ballot without having to give a reason why they cannot make it to a polling place on Election Day.

It’s one of several election proposals she outlined today.

They also include cleaning voter rolls of dead people, those who have moved, and non-citizens. 

Johnson said people should be allowed to cast absentee ballots without giving a reason why they cannot show up at a polling place on Election Day.

She said people who vote absentee would face the same identity requirements as people who cast ballots on Election Day.

"We need the same level of security in our elections whether it's absentee or it's people who come to vote at the polls. Michigan is a state where you must show an ID, a photo ID, or sign an affidavit of identity. We would require the same standard for the no-reason absentee," said Johnson.

Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party Mark Brewer says the Republican’s election plans provide less ballot access than what’s being done in other states.

 "Many other states, including those run by Republicans, on a bipartisan basis are adopting reforms like early voting. They’re letting people register to vote on Election Day. All these are designed to make and have made it much easier for people to vote," said Brewer.

Brewer also said voting by non-citizens is not a big problem because they would risk deportation.

He said the effort to stop non-citizens from voting plays to racial fears.

Johnson does not favor early voting or Election Day voter registration as methods to spur more voter participation.

She has called for a federal law to give her office access to immigration and Social Security records that would help clear non-citizens off the state’s voter list.

She said going forward the state will also require people to promise they are U.S. citizens before they can vote.

Politics
2:49 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Republicans seek Michigan campaign finance changes

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says she is calling for tougher campaign finance laws.

The Republican says Wednesday her plan would create felony charges for the worst violators of Michigan's campaign finance regulations. Felony penalties and harsher fines could be charged in
some circumstances for failing to file regular reports of fundraising and spending activity.

Johnson said her proposals also seek filing requirements to try and prevent clandestine efforts such as a "Tea Party" that unsuccessfully sought to put candidates on the 2010 ballot in Michigan. The effort was widely considered to be a fake and didn't have support from tea party activists.

Republican state lawmakers say they are introducing bills aimed at achieving some of Johnson's goals.

The Michigan Democratic Party said Johnson's proposals would be ineffective.

Politics
9:15 am
Fri October 7, 2011

Why Michigan voters might be cut out of the auto no-fault debate

Flickr

Hundreds of people showed up at the Capitol this week to speak for or against a proposal that would dramatically alter Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law.

The overwhelming majority of the people were in favor of keeping the state’s lifetime medical coverage for injured people.

If the law is passed, and people don’t like it, the Michigan Constitution allows voters to challenge it with a referendum, but the Republican sponsors have found a way around that.

At the end of the 42-page bill that would require drivers to choose the level of auto insurance coverage they want, and end guaranteed lifetime medical coverage, there is an appropriation of $50,000.

The stated purpose of the $50,000 appropriation is to help implement the change in law.

Republican state Representative Pete Lund said the money is needed for a report and study on the effects of the law.

The framers of the Michigan Constitution wrote that any law that appropriates money is referendum proof, and they did that to ensure that the full faith and credit of the state is not jeopardized.

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