Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state could be headed toward a two-year budget cycle.

Governor Rick Snyder and many lawmakers say they need to start thinking farther into the future when putting together a budget.

However, creating a two-year budget cycle would require an amendment to the Michigan Constitution. The Legislature would have to put it on the ballot for voters to approve.

State Senator John Proos says that could and should happen, but it will take time. He says in the meantime lawmakers can create a two-year projection:

"That’s something that every year instead of scrambling to fix a budget hole and not really telling the whole story about what our budget will look like out into the future, this will give us the time instead to say our revenue picture and expenditure picture is going to look like X. Once we’ve made that determination, then we can say are we actually getting value for the tax dollars that we’re spending."

Proos is expected to introduce a measure that would amend the constitution to create a two-year budget cycle as well as a part-time Legislature.

Proos says for now it’s important to complete work on the budget by Governor Snyder’s May 31st deadline.

In the world of corporate business, bonuses, perks and cash incentives rule the day. They're used to drive productivity.

Governor Snyder, a former corporate president, is bringing that mentality to Lansing.

Now, he says he wants to reward local governments that find better, cheaper ways to provide services.

Rick Pluta, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, says Snyder's budget proposal will call for cash incentives that encourage cities and townships to innovate.

Rick filed this report saying the Governor's announcement was a small bit of welcome news to local officials bracing for more budget cuts from the state:

Governor Snyder outlined his idea at a drop-by with local government officials meeting in Lansing.

He says local governments provide most of the services that people use, and the state should reward the ones that find ways to consolidate, cut costs, and innovate:

"So it's really to create an environment to say, here's a positive incentive to be the very best...so people first and foremost in Michigan and then people around the country and the world will look at Michigan are going to look and say, these people have their act together, this is the place to be, this is the place to have your kids grow up and succeed."

The governor provided few details.

He says those will wait for his budget proposal next month, and a special address on government reform that he will deliver in March.

Fred Thompson / Flickr

The farm lobby has been pushing hard to increase the amount of ethanol allowed to be mixed into gasoline. And it seems like the Obama Administration is obliging.

The vast majority of today's ethanol comes from corn. The alcohol is mixed in gasoline to make it burn more cleanly.

Right now, the standard is 10% (a 10% ethanol, and 90% gasoline mix is most likely in your gas tank right now).

The EPA increased the allowed amount of ethanol to a 15% mix last fall for cars made after 2007.

Now, the Associated Press reports the EPA is poised to allow the 15% mix for more cars. From the AP:

Two people familiar with the decision said late Thursday the agency is expected to announce on Friday that 15 percent ethanol in gasoline is safe for cars manufactured between 2001 and 2006. Both officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the decision.

MI Governor Rick Snyder

Update - 1/20/11, 6:35 a.m.:

Republicans and Democrats say they're encouraged by what they heard from Governor Rick Snyder last night. The Republican delivered his first State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Lansing. Laura Weber sent this report:

Democratic lawmakers say they are eager to work with Governor Snyder on many of the issues he brought up, but their optimism is tempered with caution.

They say they’re waiting for Snyder’s budget proposal in February. "At this point the voters have given him the ball, he needs to advance it up field, and I think the next big play will be on February 17th where we’ll really get to see what their priorities are and how they’re going to balance the budget," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Republican lawmakers say they are most eager to work with Snyder to reform or eliminate Michigan’s complicated business tax.

Update - 1/19/11, 8:58 p.m.:

For those wishing to keep track of the goals laid out in the State of the State address, Governor Snyder announced a new website. The "Michigan Dashboard." The information on the website claims to tell you "how the state performs in areas that affect you and your family."

Update - 1/19/11, 8:20 p.m.:

Here's the audio of Governor Snyder's State of the State address:

Michigan Senate Democrats

The Democratic response to Governor Snyder's State of the State address was delivered by Gretchen Whitmer, leader of the Michigan Senate Democrats. You can watch the response on the Michigan Senate Democrats website. The transcript of Whitmer's speech follows:

Good evening,

The election this past November saw Michigan government turn the page on an unproductive time of Michigan history.

In what's been called a symbolic move, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a repeal of the new health care law this week (maybe tomorrow).

It's symbolic because the law isn't likely to be repealed. A vote isn't expected to come up in the Senate, and even if a repeal bill DID pass the Senate, President Obama would more than likely veto it.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, spoke with supporters of the federal health care law.

Corvair Owner / Flickr

What's the "State of the State"?

We'll all find out what the new governor thinks tomorrow night, but not before.

The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address Wednesday, but he won't be putting out a written copy of the speech. His spokesman says the new Republican governor doesn't tend to work off a prepared text, so there's no written copy to release. The governor's office also doesn't expect to provide a transcript of the 7 p.m. speech immediately after Snyder delivers it at the Capitol. The talk will focus on economic development and job creation and is expected to be about 40 minutes long. It will be broadcast live statewide. Former Govs. Jennifer Granholm and John Engler usually released embargoed copies of their remarks before their State of the State speeches. Their speeches also were posted online after they spoke.

You can hear a live-broadcast of tomorrow night's "State of the State" on Michigan Radio starting at 7 p.m.

Pay close attention!

Library of Congress

The recent attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords life sparked new debate about the state of public discourse in our country. How could this have happened? What does this type of violence say about us? Have we reached a breaking point?

As the news rolled in, and it appears the violence might have been the work of a mad-man, hearts were still broken, but there seemed to be some relief that the act seemed less about our politics, and more about a lost soul.

Events like these are unsettling, and it often makes me wonder what it was like for Americans when the violence was more directly tied to our political discourse.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis in 1968. Violent riots followed in what surely must've felt like an unraveling of American society.

Michigan House Republicans

Jase Bolger, Michigan’s new Speaker of the House, says he wants to see a four-year cap on certain welfare benefits in the state.

Bolger took the gavel for the first time on Wednesday, but the Republican speaker wasted no time outlining changes he wants to make in the state.

One of them would be limiting Bridge card recipients to a maximum of four years of lifetime benefits. The bridge card provides food - which is federally funded -  and some cash assistance.

Bolger says the state could save $45 million immediately with a cap on benefits:

We want to help people break the cycle of dependency... government should not create that cycle. And that's what happens. People get caught in that system, and it's not good for the human spirit. People want the opportunity to provide for themselves, and that's what we want to help them do.

Bolger says he wants the four-year benefit allowance to be enforced retroactively. He also wants to go after businesses that participate in welfare fraud.

Dave Hogg / Flickr

Prosecutors have dubbed the five men accused of pocketing millions of dollars in exchange for contracts with the city of Detroit the "Kilpatrick Enterprise."

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted in federal court today, along with Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody caught up with Michigan Congressman Hansen Clarke. Carmody asked Clarke about his reaction to the Giffords tragedy:

The annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit has often been a place for local members of Congress to meet and greet constituents.

But this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman is raising questions about security.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman has affected his security plans:

"We are implementing some of the procedures recommended by the U. S. Capitol Police, but I feel confident that those will be adequate."

Clarke was sworn in for his first turn in Congress just days ago.

One of the first people he met was Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Clarke says the two talked about both being graduates of Cornell University.

He expressed sadness on the attempt on Giffords' life, but he says that danger is just a fact of life that all elected officials must face:

"I'm not going to change how I work.   I'm going to be as open and available to the public.  I think that's very important.  I represent the taxpayers. I'm paid by the taxpayers.  I'm hired by them to work for them.  They need to know that their government is open and available to them."

In case you missed it, Michigan's Ted Nugent talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper about Sarah Palin's prospects for the presidency (spoiler alert - he wouldn't vote for her if she was running today). Here's the interview:

flickr - cliff1066

As a way of proving how fiscally conservative they are, some members of Congress are choosing to sleep in their offices on Capitol Hill.

Ashley Parker writes about the "Couch Caucus" in a New York Times piece today.

Michigan Democrat Hansen Clarke is featured in the article. He's a freshman Congressman from Michigan's 13th District (Detroit area).

Clarke is quoted in the article about why he's choosing to sleep in his office:

"Washington is not going to be a home for me — I’m only there to work. I need to be able to work up to 20 hours a day and still get some decent sleep, and if I sleep in my office I’ll be able to do that.

The Times reports the members choosing to sleep in their offices are spread across party lines, but mostly male members of Congress are choosing to do so. Parker writes about the critics of the practice:

They...complain that the practice can feel like a macho boys club, that it promotes a fierce anti-Washington sentiment that hurts bipartisanship and that, frankly, it just seems weird.

The offices are equipped with basic furniture, sinks, and bathrooms. But there are no sleeper sofas, and no showers. Members head to the gym in the office building to wash up.

flickr - republican conference

The new Congress gets started today in Washington D.C. and Michigan's 6th District Representative, Fred Upton, will chair a congressional committee with broad powers.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce oversees a wide range of issues:

  • energy
  • telecommunications
  • consumer protection
  • food and drug safety
  • public health
  • air quality and environmental health
  • interstate and foreign commerce

Fred Upton is kicking off his chairmanship by targeting the EPA's goal to limit carbon emissions that have lead to global warming.


Today is the first day of the new republican controlled House of Representatives. Officially, along with the Senate, they're known as the 112th Congress. The members will be sworn in this afternoon.

The Washington Post blog "The Fix" has a list of 10 members of Congress to watch. Republican Dave Camp, of Michigan's 4th district, is listed as one of the ten:

Camp may be the most powerful member of Congress you've never heard of. He's the chairman of the mighty Ways and Means Committee and, though low profile, will have considerable sway over health care, taxes and trade. That's a wide -- and important -- palette.

The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Map of U.S. House of Representative seats gained and lost in Census count
U.S. Census Bureau

Officials in the Obama White House say they're not concerned about the new Census numbers.

The Associated Press reports that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he "doesn't expect the results of the new census to have a 'huge practical impact' on national politics."

NPR quotes Gibbs as saying:

"I don't think shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places."

The results of the 2010 U.S. Census has shifted seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from traditional democratic strongholds in the East and Midwest, to some of the republican strongholds in the South and West (see map above).

Apportionment map from U.S. Census data
U.S. Census Bureau

Update 1:30 p.m.:

It's confirmed. Michigan has NEVER lost population in U.S. Census data history. I asked Vince Kountz of the U.S. Census Bureau in Detroit. He looked at the books and never saw population drop for the state of Michigan. He went back to the 1810 Census, before Michigan was a state. There were 4,762 people in the Michigan territory back then.

  • We had 9,938,444 people in the state in 2000
  • We now have 9,883,640 in the state in 2010.

12:02 p.m.:

The Census numbers are out. You can take a look at what they found with this map.

The US Capitol
Jonothan Colman / Flickr

This week the U.S. Census will release its initial population totals for the country and the states. That data will begin the scramble to redraw Michigan’s congressional districts.

Michigan will probably lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when the new census numbers come out (going from 15 to 14 seats).

The state’s incoming Republican governor and Republican controlled legislature are expected to redraw congressional boundaries so they can favor Republican candidates.

Boarded up houses in Flint, Michigan
creative commons

Update 11:30 a.m.:

Just hours after city officials in Flint called a news conference about tying the homicide record, The Flint Journal is reporting that the record appears to be broken. Police are now at the scene of a potential slaying:

Police are at the scene now at Harriet and Donald streets, where there was a report of a man in vehicle who appeeared to be shot. If the death is considered a homicide, it would be the city's 62nd. The highest number of homicides ever previously recorded in the city was 61 in 1986.

Update 11:20 a.m.:

The Flint Journal made a map showing where homicides in the city have taken place. There have been no arrests in 25 of the 60 homicides noted.

View Flint homicides in a larger map

10:12 a.m.:

The City of Flint is holding a news conference this morning about the city's homicide rate. The 61st homicide was recorded last night making this year the worst on record since 1986.

In a press release issued last night, city officials said "police responded to a call at a home in the 600 block of West Ridgeway, on the city's north side, just before 7:30 Sunday evening."

Three people were found shot inside the home. One was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mayor Walling said

"We have reached a tragic milestone in Flint, tying the homicide record established in 1986. Residents must continue to be vigilant about reporting crimes and providing police with information that will get criminals off the streets. I applaud the swift work of our hard working police officers in apprehending a suspect within hours of the city's latest homicide."

Congressman Dave Camp with John Boehner.
user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Republican Dave Camp is the chairman-elect of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Camp released a statement saying it is a great honor to be selected as chairman:

"Our nation is at a crossroads – facing record debt and an unemployment rate stuck at nearly 10 percent. The decisions we make and the policies we put forward will determine whether or not we get this economy back on track and Americans back to work."

The committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Camp will take over the committee from another Michigander, Democrat Sander Levin.

Marijuana plant

Michigan's medical marijuana law is intended "to provide protections for the medical use of marihuana."

But a) it conflicts with federal law, and b) it does not provide details on how and where registered medical marijuana users can get their pot. Confusion reigns around these issues and court battles are heating up.

Some cities accept the state law and are regulating pot dispensaries through ordinances or zoning laws.

Others are refusing to accept the law and are passing ordinances that effectively ban medical marijuana.

Here we plan to keep a running tally of how cities across Michigan are reacting to the medical marijuana law. Let us know if you have more information that should be posted here!

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

A panel that’s drafting a new governing charter for Detroit will hear recommendations from the city’s mayor and city council this weekend. 

The Charter Revision Commission is looking at everything that has to do with how Detroit operates: How many elected officials the city should have, and how much power they should wield. How to remove elected officials from office. How many departments the city should have, and what services should be mandated.

One issue on which the mayor and city council disagree is how big the city council ought to be. 

There is agreement that the city should move away from its current system of electing members at-large, and have most council members represent districts. But Mayor Dave Bing thinks the council ought to remain at nine members, while the city council is pushing to expand it to 11. 

The Charter Revision Commission is expected to have a draft document finished in March. A citywide vote on the charter is expected next November.

The Commission meets Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

Photo by Lindsey Smith

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is already shuffling things in Lansing. He’s planning to split up the Department of Natural Resources and Environment... back into two separate agencies.

Marijuana plant.

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it will sue the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia. The ACLU is suing on behalf of Linda Lott, a 61 year-old from Birmingham who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

In the ACLU's press release Lott is quoted as saying:

Eugene G. Wanger and boxes of documents from the Michigan Constitution
State of Michigan

Eugene G. Wanger was a 28 year-old attorney when he became a delegate for Michigan's Constitutional Convention in 1961. The republican was a strong opponent of the death penalty and authored the section in today's state constitution that bans the practice.

Glass floor inside the Michigan Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Censure from Michigan's Supreme Court

This week, for the first time in state history, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly rebuked a former justice for violating court confidentiality. Former Justice Elizabeth Weaver was rebuked by the court for secretly taping deliberations and later making them public. Lessenberry says Weaver had been feuding for years with her fellow justices until she resigned this past summer after making a deal with Governor Granholm.

Rick Snyder talking to people
Rick Snyder's campaign website

The confetti and balloons have be swept up, and the yard signs are slowly being removed.

At 12:01 pm on January 1st, 2011, Michigan will have a new governor.

Governor-elect Snyder is assembling the people that will move into positions of power in Lansing.

Snyder has chosen three former Engler administration officials to head up the transition team:

Photo from Jones campaign website

Michigan House Representative and current Democratic candidate for State Senate Robert Jones died this past weekend. He was 66 and being treated for esophogeal cancer, but officials at Kalamzoo's Democratic Party Headquarters say his death still came as a surprise.

Jones' death has raised several questions about the race for the State Senate seat in Michigan's 20th district (representing parts of Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties).

Bentley Historical Library

Fifty years ago today, people in Ann Arbor, Michigan were anticipating the arrival of then Senator John F. Kennedy. He was on the campaign trail in a tight race for the presidency with Richard Nixon.

John Dingell and Rahm Emanuel holding a paczki
Official photo from the United States Congress

This November Michigan voters will cast ballots in 15 races for the U.S. House of Representatives. Right now, two of those races are considered "toss-ups", according to NPR  - the race between Mark Schauer (D) and Tim Walberg (R)  in the 7th District, and the race between Dan Benishek (R) and Gary McDowell (D) in the 1st District.