politics

The Two-Way
6:08 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Moody's puts U.S. credit rating on review for possible downgrade

Originally published on Wed July 13, 2011 5:55 pm

As the clock ticks down to the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, Moody's Investor Service became the first of the big-three rating agencies to put the United States' Aaa credit rating on review for possible downgrade.

Reuters reports:

In a statement, Moody's said it sees a "rising possibility that the statutory debt limit will not be raised on a timely basis, leading to a default on U.S. Treasury debt obligations."

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Politics
4:04 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

The U.S. debt ceiling explained

Congress is debating the debt ceiling, so what is that?
user kulshrax Flickr

As many political pundits predicted, the debate over the federal debt ceiling is reaching a new level.

President Obama said in a news conference today that if Republicans refuse to budge in budget negotiations, then a debt ceiling deal probably won't be reached.

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Politics
4:32 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Recall campaigns and how Republican politicians might react

Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics says Republican politicians aren't concerned by the number of recall campaigns, but they might become concerned if one is successful.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

There's a growing list of Republicans battling recall campaigns – Governor Rick Snyder, the leaders of the House and Senate, lawmakers who supported controversial measures, and lawmakers who approved changes to the tax structure.

In all, thirteen Republicans must stave off petition drives. But that growing number may not be what sends shock waves through the Capitol, according to the editor of Inside Michigan Politics, Bill Ballenger:

"I don't think it's even a question so much of how many recalls there are, the question is just scaring the living bejesus out of all incumbents thinking no one is safe, they're coming after us, and it only takes one recall successfully completed," said Ballenger.

Ballenger says successful recalls are rare and difficult, and the question of whether politicians should be recalled for the policy they support is open and ongoing.

"Many people have said the only basis on which there should be a recall is gross criminal neglect, misfeasance, malfeasance, whatever," said Ballenger. "Not for differences in policy. However, as long as the law is written the way it is, there can be a difference on policy decisions."

A recall campaign against Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was given the green light this week.

Other top Republican officials facing recall campaigns include Governor Rick Snyder and House Speaker Jase Bolger.

All three say they are focused on their work and not on combating recall petitioners.

Politics
2:57 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

GOP, Dem. ads target other side's record on jobs

The RNC's image of the country with President Obama at the wheel.
screen grab from YouTube video Republican National Committee

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - In a sign that the 2012 election season is under way in Michigan, the Republican National Committee is running ads criticizing Democratic President Barack Obama's record on job creation.

The 30-second ad began running on cable stations nationwide Wednesday. Starting next week, it will air for three more weeks in Michigan and a dozen other battleground states that could prove crucial to winning the White House next year.

The ad's announcer lists the nation's economic ills and says it's time to "change direction."

Michigan Democrats have taken a similar tack in criticizing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, the target of a recall drive.

They've released a web video chastising the governor for reducing film credits and forcing layoffs through cuts to school districts and local governments.

Snyder calls the cutbacks necessary.

Politics
3:43 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Communities ban texting, and e-mails during council meetings

Local governments across the country are struggling with how to handle texting and e-mailing during public meetings. Some communities in Michigan have banned the practice.
Karry Vaughan Flickr

With the number of digital devices like smart phones and tablets exploding, communicating with one another electronically is becoming a common part of our society.

And as many high school teachers know, thumbing on a keyboard can even go undetected if you're good.

Now, some communities are banning the practice of texting and e-mailing during public meetings.

The Detroit News has a piece on the restrictions some local governments have put in place. The piece looks at the restrictions in Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, and Sterling Heights.

From the Detroit News:

Supporters say the issue is about transparency and integrity, not to mention common courtesy. They argue email or even text conversations could violate the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires decisions and most deliberations to be public.

"It's about maintaining the integrity of this council and futurecouncils," said Maria Schmidt, a city councilwoman in Sterling Heights, which amended its council governing rules earlier this year to ban electronic communication during meetings.

But critics of the bans say technology helps these officials do their jobsmore effectively and efficiently. They call the bans "short-sighted."

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News Roundup
7:26 am
Tue June 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Michigan House to release its redistricting plan

The political boundaries in Michigan are being redrawn by the party in power, and Republicans in the State House plan to release their proposed redistricting maps this Friday.

Redrawing political boundaries is required every ten years after the U.S. Census numbers are released.

It's the first time the public will see how some Republicans plan to redraw Michigan's political maps.

Republicans in the State Senate will release their plans later.

Michigan is the only state in the nation to have lost population, so the state will lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. From the Detroit News:

Congressional districts represented by Democratic U.S. Reps. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Sander Levin of Royal Oak would be merged under a plan Republicans reviewed in late May that was obtained by The Detroit News.

If both wanted to keep their seat, they'd have to run against each other in a Democratic primary. The draft plan would boost GOP majorities in a number of districts, making it easier for Republicans to hold on to their seats.

After the maps are released, the House Redistricting Committee will have hearings, according to a press release by Lund.

The latest U.S. Census numbers show that populations declined in southeast Michigan and grew in the west and other parts of the state.

State Representative Pete Lund (R - Shelby Township) chairman of the House Redistricting Committee was quoted in the News article, "the maps are going to reflect where people have moved. Whatever areas lost population will lose representation, and whatever areas gained population will gain representation."

Ford shares fall after $2 billion judgment in dealer suit An Ohio judge ruled that Ford Motor Company had to pay more than $2 billion in damages to thousands of dealerships. In the class action suit, the dealers contend they were overcharged for trucks they paid for over an 11 year period. From the Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. shares sank early Monday after an Ohio judge said the automaker had to pay nearly $2 billion in damages to thousands of dealerships who participated in a 2002 class-action lawsuit. But the shares pared their losses as several analysts downplayed the news and said Ford can absorb the damages even if loses a planned appeal.

ACLU goes after Livonia's medical marijuana ban

The ACLU will challenge Livonia's medical marijuana ban in court today.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The American Civil Liberties Union will try to convince a Wayne County judge today to strike down a Livonia ordinance that bans medical marijuana in any way, shape or form.

The ACLU of Michigan, arguing on behalf of a medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis, claims that the Livonia measure violates the 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which legalized medical marijuana. ACLU Attorney Andy Nickelhoff will present oral arguments at 11 a.m. before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy M. Baxter.

The ACLU is representing Linda and Robert Lott of Birmingham.

Politics
4:46 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Report: $23 million spent anonymously on Michigan political ads last year

A new report says anonymous donors have a growing influence in Michigan election campaigns.

The study by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network says independent groups that don’t have to reveal their donors spent $23 million on political ads last year.

The report shows both Governor Rick Snyder and his Democratic opponent, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, were among the candidates for statewide office who were aided by ads paid for by unknown donors to independent political committees.

The use of independent and untraceable ads is especially prevalent in state Supreme Court races, says Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Robinson says the donors may be invisible to the public, but they still want something for the money they are spending to support or oppose politicians:

"Whether it's a workplace regulation, an environmental deregulation, a budget earmark, a public works project, a tax not levied, whatever it is, and I don’t think we’re seeing half the story on the money that’s moving public policy."

Robinson says, in some cases, ads paid for by anonymous donors made up half the spending in a race, and that $70 million was spent on untraceable and independent election ads over the past decade.

"In all of these campaigns, voters have an interest in knowing who the real supporters of the candidates are," said Robinson. "It’s a mechanism for controlling quid pro quo corruption in politics."

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is calling for a law to require independent groups that buy campaign or issue advocacy ads to identify their donors.

Commentary
12:40 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Teacher Tenure

Everybody whose life has been at all successful has had at least one really good teacher. But most people have had some really bad teachers too. In high school, I had an algebra teacher during the last hour of the day who gave out assignments and promptly left for the racetrack. As far as I know, he was never fired.

On the other hand, there are many good teachers. I was married to one whose students topped the state, year after year, in their performance on the AP history exam. I don’t think she ever worked less than 70 hours a week.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

House approves teacher tenure changes

School districts would have an easier time firing teachers under changes to tenure laws approved by the state House.

The tenure proposal would rate the effectiveness of teachers based on student test scores.

The bills have begun their march through the Legislature after many years of debating changes to tenure rules.

Democratic state Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton says tenure laws came about to protect teachers from administrators that tried to ban certain books from being taught in the classroom.

She says of course tenure rules should be updated and changed, but she says these changes go too far:

"Rather than go in with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel, identify a problem and fix it, what these bills do, really, I think, absolutely flay the tenure act with all the zeal of a butcher’s knife," said Lipton.

Republicans say the proposed changes would ensure bad teachers with failing student test scores are removed from classrooms.

The tenure bills were approved along mostly party lines, with one Democrat saying he would discourage his granddaughter from ever teaching in Michigan. The bills now head to the Republican-led state Senate.

Politics
7:56 am
Thu June 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Detroit City Council corruption caught on video tape

The videos have been viewed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, but never broadcast publically. The Detroit News has posted video from 2008 of a city council aide accepting cash from a company seeking to win a sludge hauling contract.

From the Detroit News:

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News Roundup
7:50 am
Tue June 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Emergency Manager tosses union contract

Michael Stampfler, the emergency manager of Pontiac, has flexed new muscles given to him by state legislators and Governor Snyder. Under the state's new emergency manager law, emergency managers can eliminate union contracts and strip local officials of their power.

From the Associated Press:

Pontiac has gotten approval to cancel union contract protections for 11 police dispatchers as it shuts down its police department.

The Detroit Free Press reports Monday's action will make them the first Michigan public employees to have a contract tossed under the law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in March granting expanded powers to state-appointed emergency financial managers.

It's the final move toward eliminating the Pontiac Police Department, which was proposed last year by emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler. Services will be handled by the Oakland County sheriff's department to save the cash-strapped city $2 million annually.

Detroit Mayor Bing prepares for layoffs after override of his budget veto

The Detroit City Council voted to override Mayor Bing's veto of the council's budget. Bing thought the council's cuts went too far. The mayor says steep cuts are coming to the city of Detroit.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sharply criticized the City Council's override of his budget veto Monday, saying the $50 million in cuts the council restored will close recreation centers, eliminate hundreds of police officers and firefighters and end bus service on Sundays.

"We will have to eliminate a lot of services," said a visibly frustrated Bing, who already cut the budget by $200 million. "People have been complaining for years and years about inadequate services. Another $50 million in cuts is just irresponsible."

A memorial service for Jack Kevorkian

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian died last Friday. Now friends and supporters will hold a public memorial service this Friday in Troy.

From the Associated Press:

The ceremony is being held at 9:30 a.m. at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy, said attorney Mayer Morganroth.

"We weren't going to do anything, but we started getting calls from all across the country and from foreign countries, too," Morganroth told the Detroit Free Press in a story posted Monday on the newspaper's website. "There is just so much interest from people who wanted to do something to remember Jack."

Politics
1:00 pm
Fri June 3, 2011

Mounting recall efforts for state government

A rally in Lansing on March 16, 2011. Recall efforts are underway for several Republican leaders. The last time the state saw this many recall efforts was in 1983 targeting Democrats.
Michigan Education Association

A wave of recall efforts is rolling through the state Capitol. There are about half a dozen recall campaigns under way, and all of them target Republicans.

Recall campaign organizers have a difficult, but not impossible, task ahead of them to get the recalls on the ballot.

The last time a swath of recall campaigns swept over a political party in control of the House, Senate and executive office was in 1983.

He says the last time a group of recall campaigns swept over a single political party in Michigan was in 1983.

Bill Ballenger is the editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. He says the last time a group of recall campaigns swept over a single political party in Michigan was in 1983.

"There were a whole bunch of recalls mounted that year, upwards of maybe a dozen, against Democratic legislators over the hike in the state income tax in 1983. Of all those recall efforts, two actually made it to the ballot."

Ballenger says talk of tax hikes got people motivated in 1983, but that’s not the case this time around.

“In fact it’s just the opposite,” said Ballenger.

He says most of the complaints levied against lawmakers and Governor Rick Snyder are about cuts to funding and programs, and an expansion of the control of emergency managers.

One of the more publicized recall efforts is against state Representative Al Pscholka, who sponsored the emergency manager legislation.

There are also recall efforts against Governor Snyder and state Senator Mike Nofs, Ballenger says Senator Nofs could face the biggest test among the current recall campaigns because he is in a swing district.

Mackinac 2011
3:00 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

LIVE STREAM: Mackinac Policy Conference 2011

The Mackinac Policy Conference is set to kick-off today at 3 p.m.

You can watch a live stream of the events here on our page (the live stream is provided by Detroit Public Television and MiVote.org).

Here's an agenda for the Conference.

Mackinac 2011
11:19 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Michigan Radio's coverage of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference

The site of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference
David Ball creative commons

The Mackinac Policy Conference gets started this afternoon and several Michigan Radio reporters will be there to bring you the latest news. The conference will run through Friday.

Michigan Watch's Lester Graham will be keeping an ear to the ground and he'll also moderate two panel discussions for Detroit Public Television and Mi Vote's live coverage of the conference:

  1. Environmental Panel: Reinvention vs. Redevelopment: A panel discussion looking into the current state of brownfield redevelopment in Michigan. In particular, Michigan's brownfield and historic tax credit programs - have they worked? And, what will happen if, as Governor Snyder has proposed, the tax credits are eliminated and replaced with a separate fund.
  2. Education Panel: Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids: A panel discussion looking into the current state of education in Michigan (K-12 and higher education): What needs to be done to improve it, how do we go about funding it, and what would be the implications of Governor Rick Snyder's reform ideas on school districts, teachers and students in the state, and the workforce of tomorrow.

Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's auto reporter, will cover discussions and talks from the conference related to the auto industry including Bill Ford's address.

Michigan Radio producer Zoe Clark will be blogging about the conference for michiganradio.org

And the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta will be reporting on policy from the Island.

Politics
4:11 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

Budget done early, schools and local governments can plan for cuts

The State Legislature has passed a budget, the earliest a budget has been passed in decades.
user aunt owwee Flickr

The Michigan Legislature has wrapped up its financial planning for the future.

The $46 billion state budget is done - they'll start spending the money October 1st (that's when the fiscal year starts).

The Associate Press writes:

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature has finished approving a new state budget that will cut state aid for education and many state departments...The quick resolution of next year's budget is a victory for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who wanted lawmakers to wrap up votes by May 31.

This is the earliest the state budget has been completed in 30 years, according to the Detroit News.

Early passage gives school districts, agencies, and local governments time to plan for their next fiscal years.

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Politics
10:49 am
Wed May 18, 2011

Michigan lawmakers seek compromise on next budget

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers may be closing in on a compromise plan related to education spending.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said Wednesday negotiators are working on a proposal that would lessen the projected cuts to K-12 school funding.

Gov. Rick Snyder in February proposed cutting per-student funding by an additional $300 in the next budget year. The developing revised plan would provide $100 per student to all districts to offset or restore part of that cut. The cut could be reduced by another $100 per student if districts adopt so-called "best financial practices."

The proposal would cut university funding by 15 percent and community college funding by 4 percent.

Richardville stressed negotiators are still working toward the possible agreement. Talks are continuing between Senate, House and Snyder administration leaders.

Politics
5:21 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Tax overhaul passes Michigan Senate

The Michigan Senate passed a tax overhaul plan today that rolls back taxes on Michigan businesses by about $2 billion. The Michigan House is expected to quickly concur with the Senate action and send the measure to Governor Snyder for his signature.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Update 5:21 p.m.

Republicans eked out a legislative victory today as Governor Rick Snyder's tax overhaul package cleared the state Senate.

It fell to Snyder’s lieutenant governor to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley delivered a short speech before he cast the vote to break the deadlock on the tax reform package he had a hand in designing.

Calley predicted some lawmakers will pay a price for supporting the administration's tax reforms.

"Because real change comes with real consequence," said Calley. "Real change will come with drama."

Seven Republicans joined Democrats to vote against the package, largely because the measure will end the tax exemption on pension income for anyone born after 1946.

Democrats say it will shift the burden of paying for government services to families and the elderly.

State Senator Steve Bieda was one of the Democrats who voted against the measure.

"It’s shifting the tax to those who are least able to pay in our society," said Bieda. "We are talking about the elderly, people who are living on pensions are going to see a huge increase. I think it’s unjust, unwise, and it’s certainly very unfair."

Bieda tried to delay the vote until next week when the state adopts new revenue numbers. It’s expected there will be a windfall of more revenue than was anticipated at the beginning of the year.

The package eliminates the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate profits tax.

It also eliminates a host of tax breaks, including the income tax exemption for people on pensions.

Overall, the package rolls back taxes on businesses by nearly $2 billion. Most of the businesses that would benefit are small and medium-sized corporations.

Republicans say the result will also be a tax code that is simpler and easier to follow.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says there are some hard choices in the package, but they combine to make Michigan more business-friendly.

"So we put the good, the bad, the ugly altogether in one package and said, we believe the greater good is worthy of some of the not-so-good or ugly, so to speak."

The Senate bill restores the earned income tax credit for working poor families, but at a reduced rate.

The House is expected to quickly concur with the Senate action and send the measure to Governor Snyder for his signature.

3:55 p.m.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has cast the tie-breaking vote to win Senate approval of Governor Rick Snyder's tax overhaul plan.

The package scraps the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate profits tax.

It will be a net tax cut on many small and mid-sized businesses.

It also eliminates a host of tax breaks, including the income tax exemption for pensions.

Republicans say the result will be a tax code that is simpler and easier to follow and more business-friendly.

Commentary
10:54 am
Fri May 6, 2011

Social Agenda

Former Michigan Governor John Engler is widely regarded as having been more conservative than Rick Snyder. And certainly, Snyder won the support last year of many prominent independents and even moderate Democrats who never would have voted for Engler.

Yet perceptions and reality aren't always the same thing. You might have expected what some people call the “radical right” to have had a field day imposing their social agenda on the state during the dozen years that John Engler was governor.

However, that mostly didn’t happen. Engler kept those folks pretty effectively bottled up. When they grumbled, he or his people would ask, “would you like a liberal Democrat in this office instead?”

In other words, push too hard, and you risk backlash. Now, nobody ever accused Engler of being stupid. He knew that while Michiganders can be induced to vote Republican, this is anything but a deep red state. There were three presidential elections during the Engler years; Democrats easily carried Michigan each time.

In between, John Engler was re-elected by astonishing landslides. Rick Snyder doesn’t seem to have a social agenda either, except perhaps not to wear ties when he doesn't have to.

Though he has said he is anti-abortion, he is an enthusiastic supporter of embryonic stem cell research. Otherwise, he seems totally focused on the economy. But his fellow Republicans in the legislature have other ideas. They have taken a number of actions that could possibly hurt their party and their governor in the long run.

Yesterday, for example, the House approved both the higher education and the elementary and high school education budgets.

The vote was close, in part because the cuts were too much for even six Republican members to support. But at the last minute, they slapped on another amendment punishing universities that allow benefits for unmarried partners. They can lose up to five percent of their funding.

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May 3rd Election
10:11 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Jackson voters want to keep separate police and fire departments

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Jackson voters decided not merge their city police and fire departments.  The proposal to create a single public safety department lost by a wide margin.

Jackson Mayor Karen Dunigan is disappointed with the result. She says the city can’t afford to operate two separate staffs.

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