Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Vacant lot in Detroit.
University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Gov. Rick Snyder’s Asia trip, the financial status of Michigan’s schools, and a new plan to sell Detroit land.


user Marlith / Flickr

Supporters of adding LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law say they have enough votes in the Legislature to pass a bill before the end of the year. But they say that’s only if Republican leaders take up a version of the bill that includes protections for gender identity.

Activists say a bill that leaves out protections for transgender people would cause more harm than good.

Michigan had the lowest turnout in a Governor’s race this year since the John Engler-Geoffrey Fieger face-off of 1998. And, while a lot of Republicans sat out this year, it was mostly Democrats who stayed home in droves on Election Day.

So, despite the low turnout, conservatives can rejoice because Republicans will remain in control in Lansing for at least the next two years. But progressives can, perhaps, find some solace in the fact that getting initiatives and challenges on the ballot will be easier than it has been in 16 years.

(Shout-out to the Lansing political consulting firm Sterling Corporation and its attorney Bob LaBrandt for being the first to point this out.)

Proposals are by and large put on the ballot by petition drives. (The Legislature can also put questions on the ballot.)

The number of signatures required to get a petition on the ballot is based on the number of people who voted in the previous election for governor. So, fewer voters in 2014 means fewer signatures needed to get on the ballot in 2016.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Many in Detroit's immigrant community are welcoming President Obama’s change of course on immigration.

The crowd at Detroit’s El Nacimiento restaurant listened quietly as the president outlined his executive order Thursday night, but broke into cheers and shouts of “bravo!” as he wrapped up.

The order makes a number of changes to immigration policy, affecting up to five million currently undocumented people.

Nativity Scene
Flickr user Stereogab / Flickr

Someone has asked to set up a Christmas Nativity scene on government property, but where does this lie in the separation of church and state vs. free speech?

MLive’s Capitol reporter Jonathon Oosting joins us to discuss the request. According to Oosting, the recently formed Michigan State Capitol Commission is reviewing the request and they are currently seeking legal advice on the issue.

 Listen to our conversation with Oosting below.


  Today on Stateside:

  • MLive Capitol reporter Jonathon Oosting talks about a request that has been submitted for a Christmas Nativity scene on government property.
     
  • Cadillac is moving its headquarters, along with its 140 employees, to New York City. Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes tells us what’s behind the move.
     
  • Ken Estelle, CEO of Feed American West Michigan, joins us to talk about the challenges of getting fresh food to food banks during the winter months and what you can do to help.
     
  • Finalist on the second season of NBC’s “The Voice” and former Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club, Tony Lucca discusses his experiences as a performer and how his Michigan identity has influenced his music.
     
  • Sheryl Gay Stone, author of a recent piece for the New York Times, talks to us about the challenges new Congressional members face in transitioning to D.C.
     
  • Jack Lessenbery and Todd Splangler examine what we can expect from Michigan’s five new members of Congress.
     
  • The Henry Ford Hospital recently designed a new hospital gown that preserves patient modesty, incorporates new fabric and uses color coding to help staff identify patient conditions. We talk to designer Michael Forbes about what inspired the changes.

*Listen to the full program above 

Official photo / House Democrats

A state Representative from Kalamazoo says he wants the votes from November’s election recounted.

Democrat Sean McCann ran against Republican State Rep. Margaret O’Brien for the state Senate. He lost by 59 votes. That’s less than one-tenth-of-one-percent of the total votes cast.

“We really want to make sure that everyone’s vote counted. We heard of some people with problems at precincts – some tabulators jamming,” McCann said.

“When I ran for student body president at Western Michigan University the race was pretty close, too, but not by this close of a margin,” he added. McCann won that race.

McCann will have to fork over at least $1,000 to pay to recount the 80,000 plus votes.

“We don’t necessarily know whether or not the outcome will change. You know it only takes one vote in the end to win,” he said.

The Capital Dome in Lansing, Michigan.
Joe Dearman / Flickr

Each week, Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, join me to talk Michigan politics.

This week, we talked about a plan in the State House that would change how Michigan distributes its Electoral College votes.

You can listen to our conversation below.


Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Bills that seek to reduce prison spending in Michigan seem to have momentum going into the last weeks of the Legislature’s 2014 session.

Michigan spends about $2 billion every year on prisons. The legislation seeks to reduce the length of some prison stays and provide more supervision for people after they are released from prison.

The most widely supported proposal would create a commission to oversee sentencing guidelines and discuss other corrections policies.

“It creates a forum for exploring all this. And it’s something Michigan badly needs,” said Barbara Levine with the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.

Freshman year in Congress isn't that different from freshman year in college.

Michigan has five new "rookie representatives-elect" that now have to worry about making new friends, finding a place to live, and even taking part in a freshman orientation before they can begin their work.

We talked to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, author of the New York Times piece After Victory Laps, Settling In As Rookies, about what new Congressional members go through during the transition to Washington.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More Detroiters living next to vacant lots will get a chance to buy them.

The city is ramping up a program to sell “side lots” to neighboring homeowners for just $100. The Detroit City Council recently transferred thousands of properties to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which is running the program.

The land bank currently has a little more than 7000 properties in its inventory, says spokesman Craig Fahle.

Rick Snyder / Flickr

Governor Snyder leaves for China today on his fourth trade mission to Asia. Tom Watkins has spent many years, in many different roles, campaigning for stronger ties between China and Michigan.

Watkins says Governor Snyder has two goals for this trip: promote Michigan goods and services, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI). China has plans to invest $1 trillion around the world, so it is important for Governor Snyder to attract FDI in order to create new jobs and opportunities within the state, says Watkins.

Watkins says there is a chance to develop a good relationship with China, as Chinese car companies have set up several R&D plants in southeast Michigan.. There are also a number of international students from China at state universities here. But Watkins warns it's not quick or easy work. "Doing business in China is not an economic one night stand," said Watkins. "You can’t just do one trip there.” Listen to our conversation with Watkins below:


Today on Stateside:

  • Road funding is once again being discussed in Lansing, but Chris Kolb says we need to think beyond just fixing roads and bridges. Find out where he thinks the state should invest more of its money.
  • A good meal can become a great meal if the restaurant has the right ambiance. For example, good music can improve the overall experience. But what about the other way around? Interlochen Public Radio’s David Cassleman talks about a conductor and chef who are teaming up in Traverse City to find out.
  • Ypsilanti singer-songerwriter and Civil War history buff Matt Jones has a new album out called “The Deep Enders.” See what he has to say about his Civil War influences and song writing for “The Deep Enders.”
US Supreme Court

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss a Michigan couple whose case could determine constitutional same-sex marriage rights, a challenge to Michigan’s right-to-work law, and a Republican-proposed plan for changes to the Electoral College.

Today on Stateside: 

  • A new report from Public Sector Consultants projects Michigan will lose enough energy production for one million people in 2016. We look at what this means for Michigan residents. 

  • Chris Cook, chief restaurant and wine critic at Hour Detroit Magazine joins us to discuss how American eating and cooking went through a drastic change post-World War II. 

  • How much has the American family changed? Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research have been digging into this for a report called The New American Family: All Are Welcome and You Don't Even Have To Get Married. We talk with U of M professor of Sociology, Pamela Smock. 

  • Automakers are on track to sell 16.5 million cars and trucks for 2014. Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader.com joins us to talk about the future of long-term loans and leases that are being sold to buyers. 

  • More than half of all hospital deaths are caused by sepsis. Dr. Jack Iwashyna, research scientist at the Ann Arbor-VA Healthcare System, and Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, join us to explain what exactly sepsis is and the challenges it poses. 

Today on Stateside:

  • The legal team for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed their appeal today with the US Supreme Court.  They want the court to rule that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network is here. 

  • Michigan Radio's newest project is The Next Big Idea. Here with us today are Joe Linstroth and Jeff DeGraff, who discuss what innovation means to them and what they're looking for.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

Many Michigan families remain at very high risk of homelessness after the Great Recession, says an advocacy organization.

Eric Hufnagle, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, say there are things cities can do other than wait for the economy to improve – like increase the amount of affordable housing.

Hugnagle says many people who become homeless  have jobs, but the jobs don't pay enough to let them afford rent.

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

A plan to change the way Michigan awards its electoral votes for president got largely panned at a state House hearing on Monday.

The legislation would award up to seven of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes to the presidential runner-up in Michigan. The number of votes they get would depend on how close the popular vote is.

user BGilbow / Flickr

Metro Detroiters hard-hit by last summer’s flash floods have a bit more time to apply for federal aid.

The deadline to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was November 24.

But FEMA officials are now pushing it back to December 14.

They say that about 120,000 people have registered for aid so far — but they think up to 30,000 more should do so.

Total flood damage is estimated at more than $1 billion.

Governor Rick Snyder is hosting the 2014 North American International Summit.
michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder is hosting Michigan's third summit to address cyber security issues in government, business and other sectors.

The North American International Cyber Summit takes place today at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

Experts from across the country will talk about trends and best practices in cyber security.

Featured speakers include the governor, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, military leaders and private-sector experts.

Data theft and security breaches can be costly, both to businesses and the government. According to the state, the Michigan government suffers more than 500,000 computer attacks each day, including spam, web browser attacks and network intrusion.

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