politics

Politics
6:02 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

New welfare limits in Michigan take effect Saturday, lawsuit seeks to stop them

A group of families on welfare has filed a class-action lawsuit in an effort to block a new limit on benefits that takes effect tomorrow. The rule sets a 48-month cap on cash assistance payments.

Thousands of families will lose cash assistance payments because they have hit the four-year maximum on collecting benefits.

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Politics
4:18 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Michigan Film Office suspends incentive applications

The Michigan Film Office is suspending applications for film incentives in the state until the guidelines for new incentives are more clear.
user reinistraidas Flickr

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.

Politics
7:17 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Travelogue: Governor Snyder's Trip to China (with photos)

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.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Legislature expected to send abortion bills to Governor this week

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.

Politics
5:12 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

No-fault insurance coverage could not cover medical marijuna under Michigan bill

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.

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Politics
3:48 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Bill would require residency for medical marijuana

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.

Politics
5:00 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Jennifer Granholm looks back at her years as Michigan's Governor

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm recounts her time in Lansing.

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.”

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Politics
5:05 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Opponents of Michigan's emergency manager law hope to collect enough signatures for challenge

The city of Benton Harbor is under the control of an emergency manager.
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.

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Election 2012
4:48 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Michigan Republicans on Mackinac Island, visits from Perry and Romney expected

Republican leaders are on Mackinac Island talking shop this weekend.
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.

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Politics
4:54 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Domestic partner benefit claims in Michigan less than some estimates

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.

Election 2012
4:05 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Michigan's Thaddeus McCotter drops his bid for president

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend.
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.

Politics
5:17 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Richardville talks about fall agenda in Michigan Senate

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.

Commentary
12:07 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

No political ads for me

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.

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Politics
1:06 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Special election planned for Michigan House seat

Tim Melton (D-Auburn Hills) is leaving the Michigan legislature. Gov. Snyder is calling for a special election to fill his seat.
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.

News Roundup
9:05 am
Thu September 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

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.

Education
5:25 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Jalen Rose testifies in support of school choice and charters

Jalen Rose testifies in Lansing today.
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.

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Politics
5:08 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Legislative leaders react to Snyder's health care speech

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.

Health
4:53 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Snyder calls health care in Michigan "a broken system"

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.

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News Roundup
9:12 am
Wed September 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

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.

Election 2012
4:42 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

Hoekstra: Time to repeal "No Child Left Behind," other mandates

Pete Hoekstra officially launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate today.
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.

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