Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Environmentalists raised their voices in song on Friday to express their disappointment in the Michigan legislature this year.

The group that gathered to sing carols at the foot of the holiday tree outside the state capitol on Friday were not the best singers. But with songs like “Smoggy the Coalman”, the quality of their singing was obviously not the point. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak is not seeking another two-year term, which means someone else, will lead the party through the 2016 election cycle.

user Tqycolumbia / Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a long-awaited plan to fix Michigan’s roads, job cuts to one of the state’s largest agencies, and some holiday cheer from Rep. John Dingell.

Roads deal

After weeks of hemming and hawing over how to fix the state’s roads, Michigan lawmakers have OK'd plans for a sales tax hike.

There’s just one catch.

The state Legislature decided to give Michigan voters the final call on the 1% increase in a special election this May.

Lessenberry said he can see why the state’s politicians like the plan, but he’s got one question.

Governor Rick Snyder ended the lame duck session closer to his goal of more money for roads. But, we’re not ready to put this one in the ‘win’ column for the governor. Not yet, at least.

 That’s because the state won’t see a dime of this money unless voters approve the package in May. If voters reject the ballot question, the deal falls apart and the governor is back to square one.

Campaigner-in-chief

If the governor wrapped up his November reelection assuming he was done campaigning, he was sorely mistaken. We know voters say they want the roads fixed, but they don’t necessarily want to pay for it.

In order to get voters to actually go to the polls in May and vote themselves a tax increase, it will take a strong message and serious finesse. It will also take money.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A proposed tax hike aimed at improving Michigan's transportation infrastructure and schools is heading to voters.

  The Michigan Legislature has put a sales tax increase on the May statewide ballot as part of a road funding plan.

Today on Stateside:

  • Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders have struck a deal on road funding.
  • A visit to Flatsnoots Christmas Trees in Ann Arbor. Spending time with owner Duke Wagatha is all part of the experience of finding that perfect evergreen.
  • Michigan historians Priscilla and Larry B. Massie of Allegan joined us.
  • Don Julin and Billy Strings. The bluegrass duo sits down with Stateside's Emily Fox.
  • Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes talks about where Gov. Snyder will find his “second-term mojo."
  • Is businessman Dan Gilbert poaching Oakland County companies to fill his downtown buildings?
Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans Founder and CEO
Quicken Loans

There was some recent sand-throwing between Oakland County's feisty executive, L. Brooks Patterson, and Dan Gilbert, who is arguably Detroit's No. 1 booster, both in terms of buying, building, and enticing companies to move to Detroit. 

Michigan lawmakers want you to decide on roads.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Human Services said it is eliminating jobs because of a $7.5 million dollar budget cut.

According to spokesman Bob Wheaton, the department has notified employee unions.

Wheaton said it is too soon to know the net reduction in jobs or the total number of layoffs.

"There certainly will end up being some people who are laid off," he said. "But we're hoping it will be as close to zero as possible."

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit retirees face some big cuts in 2015—and hundreds of them packed two area churches to hear more about it Wednesday.

Detroit’s non-uniform retirees will take 4.5% direct pension cuts as a result of the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan, which took effect Dec. 10.

Governor Rick Snyder plans to sign an executive order this morning to create a new state department with a focus on improving the state's workforce. It will be called the Department of Talent and Economic Development.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be moved into it. So will the state's unemployment agency. Governor Snyder says developing talent will give Michigan an edge over other states and countries in attracting employers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint firefighters’ next contract will be decided by a state board.

Last night, the Flint city council approved an alternative contract to the one the city’s emergency manager wants to impose on Flint firefighters.

Satori World Medical / Flickr

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is in its second year. Many of the benchmark plans that were available for 2014 are changing for 2015.

How has enrollment been going and what do we need to know as we enroll? Marianne Udow-Phillips is the Director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan.

*Listen to Udow-Phillips above.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

In Michigan, you can be fired or denied housing for being gay. That's because there are no LGBT protections in the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The story of  teacher Gerry Crane illustrates that. Crane, a gay high school music teacher, was outed by his students, forced to resign, and several months later died of a stress-related heart attack. 

Christine Yared, an attorney from Grand Rapids, is writing a book about Crane's life. The book will be called "Gay Teacher: A Story About Love, Hate, and Lessons Yet To Be Learned."

Today on Stateside:

  • Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act enters its second year. Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan, was on the show to discuss it.
  • Federal law guarantees that children with disabilities have equal access to education, but is that really the case in practice? Sarah Alvarez with State of Opportunity and Bridge Magazine writer Ron French discuss what's actually the case for Michigan kids.

Released by the family

Update 4:30 pm: 

Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint's disrict,  says news of Hekmati's hunger strike is worrying, but:

"I understand that he’s sitting there in the lonely and quiet of his own cell feeling like he’s isolated, where he can't see all the ongoing efforts on his case, where he would feel like he could do something to call attention to his case. He’s doing what I think he thinks he can do.

"We literally work on this case every single day. Our main goal, and hopefully Amir hears this, our main goal is to keep his case in frontal lobe of everyone who is paying attention to Iran, so that if a moment occurs when Iran see it’s in their interested to make a gesture towards the international community, they will see that the release of Amir Hekmati would be a tangible gesture that demonstrates that they are truly serious about becoming a member of the international community. "

Michigan Radio has learned that Amir Hekmati, the US citizen and former Marine who has been imprisoned in Iran for 3 years on charges of spying, which he denies, has sent a letter to President Obama describing his fading hopes for release and begging that his own fate not be tied to nuclear negotiations. 

His sister Sarah Hekmati has confirmed to Michigan Radio that he has also launched a hunger strike. 

The full letter is below: 

user Kcdtsg / wikimedia commons

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the final days of lame duck, including the hold up on a plan to fix the roads, a pair of Senate-approved abortion coercion bills, and a bill that would impact online purchases made in Michigan.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is handing out $75 million to help a dozen cities deal with blighted homes.    $50 million is going to Detroit.

Mary Townley is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.    She says the federal grant dollars are intended to remove dilapidated homes and help neighborhoods.

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

A couple hundred people showed up outside the state Capitol to protest House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Five-nine-five-eight is a license to discriminate!” the group chanted on a march around the Capitol and through downtown Lansing.

Bob Pratt of East Lansing was one of the protesters. He says it’s aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.

“There’s no reason for a bill like this. And to then call it the religious freedom bill when it really is a license to discriminate,” he said. “It’s the freedom to discriminate against people that you don’t like and then hide behind religion for it.”

Jake Neher / MPRN

A group of semi-truck drivers made some noise Tuesday outside the state Capitol.

Several 18-wheelers circled the building with horns blaring to protest legislation that would increase fines and fees for overweight vehicles. It’s likely to be part of a compromise plan to increase funding to fix Michigan’s roads.

State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says too many lawmakers are blaming truckers for poor road conditions.

“What are some of the folks here doing? They’re pointing fingers at them as if they’re the problem – and, ‘Go get ‘em!’ I think they’re frustrated with that and I think they’ve had enough,” said Casperson.

Gov. Rick Snyder.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Michigan has faced and tackled many issues in 2014. Zoe Clark talked to Gov. Rick Snyder about the past year, and what he'd like to achieve in the future.

A bill allowing suspicion-based drug testing for people on welfare has passed the Michigan House and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s decision.

Snyder says he still needs more time to review the bill in detail. A number of states have already passed similar policies, and Snyder says he is paying close attention to their effects.

Michigan State Police

Detroit-area residents are getting a reported $246 million in federal recovery money after the August floods.

FEMA has approved $141 million in grants, while businesses will get another $104 million in low-interest loans.

But others are still waiting.

Thetoad / Flickr

Supporters of a religious freedom bill in the state Legislature are pushing back against recent criticism. The legislation is meant to protect religious practices against state and local government interference.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

It appears there hasn’t been much progress toward finding a way to boost state road funding in the Legislature’s “lame duck” session.

Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders met early on Monday to try to get the discussions rolling in the Legislature’s final week in 2014.

pinehurst19475 / Flickr

To anyone who's taking a first-time drive, the border between Detroit and the city of Grosse Pointe Park provides a stunning contrast. Grosse Pointe Park is the western-most of the five Grosse Pointes. And driving east or west on streets like Jefferson, Charlevoix, and Kercheval will give you a real eye-opening lesson in racial and economic disparity.

But you cannot drive the main thoroughfare of Kercheval. That's because Grosse Pointe Park erected farmer's market sheds right in the middle of the street at the Detroit border. 

Today on Stateside:

  • The EAA announces Veronica Conforme as its new chancellor after she spent six months as the district's interim chancellor. Conforme discusses what the EAA has done so far and what progress she hopes to make.
  • Legendary TV anchor Bill Bonds died this past Saturday at the age of 82. Dick Kernen of the Specs Howard School of Media Arts who had previously worked with Bonds briefly discusses his life and impact on broadcasting.
  • Is Michigan doing enough for its young entrepreneurs? Jeff DeGraff is here to talk about his thoughts on what Michigan can and should do to encourage economic growth and development through nurturing young entrepreneurs.
  • The border between Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park offers an eye-opening lesson in racial and economic disparity. Reporter Bill McGraw has written about the farmer’s market sheds in the middle of Kercheval at the Detroit border and what their construction says about the relationship between the two cities.
  • A new bar has opened up in Ann Arbor. The Brillig Dry Bar doesn’t serve alcohol. Its creator, Nic Sims, discusses why she decided to open a dry bar and the response she has received so far. You can visit the website here.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In Detroit, city leaders are debating the best way to make sure the city’s neighborhoods see real gains from new development.

One proposal: a city ordinance that would require some big new projects include so-called “community benefits agreements.”

But the idea has some people worried, and has generated pushback in Detroit and beyond.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Kalamazoo City Commission will consider selling bonds to help cover part of its retiree health care costs tonight. 

City officials are considering a proposal to sell nearly $91 million in bonds to cover part the city’s legacy health care costs.    

WASHINGTON (AP) - Retiring Rep. John Dingell has a fractured hip and it will take time for the 88-year-old Michigan Democrat - Congress' longest serving member - to recover. 

An update was posted Saturday on Facebook by his wife, Debbie Dingell, who was elected to the seat last month.

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Republican-led Michigan Senate has voted to make it a crime to coerce a woman to have an abortion against her will.

The legislation would prohibit stalking or assaulting a pregnant woman or anyone else with the intent to force an abortion against her wishes. After learning that a woman does not want an abortion, a person also could not threaten to cut off legally required financial support or withdraw from a contract with her.

The buzz has begun. Detroit is barely, officially, out of bankruptcy and suddenly the “Snyder for President” coverage begins.

 The national media is talking up the Nerd as a 2016 contender, “Rick Snyder, the Governor of Michigan, has not gotten the same attention as some of the other GOP governors who are looking at the White House,” New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin told CNN this week. “He is someone who, at the very least, wants to be in the mix for 2016,” Martin explained.

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