Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

The ballot campaign to add LGBT and women’s rights to the state constitution is kaput, at least for this year.

Suspending the campaign

The Fair Michigan campaign succumbed to the reality this past week that it was not going to get the establishment support and financial backing it needed to put the question of adding gender equality and LGBT rights to the state constitution’s equal protection clause.

  • There have been some new developments in a fairly complicated story we aired recently. Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reported on parents how lost custody of their child because of felony drug charges. But those charges might have been due to some political pressure on a state crime lab. 
  • Now that Stateside is on Fridays, we thought we’d offer a toast to the weekend.
Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

Detroit's city council will consider a plan to lower the cost of water for the city's poorest residents. The plan is part of a report prepared by the council's Blue Ribbon Panel on Affordability. The panel will present its report Monday. Among the solutions it offers is a tiered rate system that would charge customers lower rates for lower consumption, and higher rates for higher amounts of consumption.

Flickr user Pictures of Money / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A non-profit watchdog group says the person who signed a new law doubling campaign contributions was the one who ended up benefiting the most.

In December, 2013, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that doubles the amount an individual can donate to a statewide election from $3,400 to $6,800.  The law also doubles the amount a political action committee can donate from $34,000 to $68,000.

Dr. Nicole Lurie makes an announcement about lead testing results in Flint. She is leading the federal response in Flint for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State and federal officials say water tests at some homes in Flint are coming in at 150 parts per billion or more for lead. That’s ten times the federal action level of 15 parts per billion.

They say they're still testing homes, and of the 4,000 samples collected since December, 26 had levels at 150 parts per billion or higher. In at least one case, the home’s drinking water tested at 4,000 parts per billion. 

Dr. Nicole Lurie is leading the federal response to the water crisis for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Former Flint mayor Dayne Walling joined us in-studio to discuss the Flint water crisis
Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

The Flint water crisis is complicated, and more details are being revealed nearly every day.

Dayne Walling has lived it from the beginning. Walling was the mayor of Flint from 2009 to 2015, the period of time when crucial decisions were made regarding Flint’s water supply.

UAW sign.
UAW

Michigan union membership and representation rebounded significantly in 2015 after a sharp decline in 2014, according to federal statistics released this week.

The percentage of all employees with union memberships rose from 14.5 to 15.2 percent.

Ron Bieber is the president of the Michigan chapter of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest federation of unions.

Fred Korematsu, seated center, at a 1983 press conference announcing the reopening of his Supreme Court case
flickr user keithpr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

We’ve all been hearing a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric recently. Everything from banning all Muslims from the country to halting the flow of Syrian refugees.

This week, Karen Korematsu has been in Michigan sharing her father’s story from a similar time of fear and confusion.

Senator Debbie Stabenow
USDAgov / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters say they’ll try to make up to $400 million in federal money available to help replace damaged pipes in Flint. The two announced today they’d offer an amendment to a bill the Senate is set to consider next week.

  • Dr. Marc Edwards will be on the new Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Council. He gives us an update on the water situation in the city.
Office of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor

More than 1,800 untested sexual assault kits from before Oct. 1, 2014,  have been found at law enforcement agencies outside Wayne County, according to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

That number comes from a survey sent by Schuette in September to prosecutors in all Michigan counties except Wayne. 

"Experience shows that testing every kit helps law enforcement solve crimes and stop serial rapists," Schuette said in a prepared statement.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Many people in Flint are not paying their water bills these days.

Now there’s a push to make sure they don’t have to.

Lynna Kaucheck with Food & Water Watch handed a stack of petitions to Flint city administrator Natasha Henderson this morning in the hallway outside the mayor’s office.

“Calling on you to issue a moratorium on drinking water bills,” said Kaucheck.

The online petition asking the city to stop charging for water drew 21,000 signatures in a day. 

Kaucheck says the city should stop charging for water people can’t afford or drink. 

City of Holland

Bills in the state legislature would change the process for designating local historic districts in Michigan.

A State House committee heard testimony on one of the bills Wednesday.

It would amend the 1970 Local Historic Districts Act, which provides for local district commissions with the power to review and potentially nix architectural and other design changes within the area.

Kent County to start testing for lead in water

Jan 28, 2016
Karen Blaha / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Kent County Health Department will conduct its own tests of water for lead, copper and arsenic, starting in February. New equipment will be installed next week.

Right now, Kent County tests water samples for E.coli and some chemicals like fluoride and chloride. But lead testing is handled by the state.

According to Allyson Chirio, lab manager for the Kent County Health Department, the new testing capacity is not in response to the Flint water crisis. 

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Senate could vote as soon as Thursday on emergency funding to help address Flint’s water crisis.

A state Senate panel unanimously approved the $28 million on Wednesday, as well as a provision meant to guarantee all Flint kids age zero to three have access to free developmental screenings paid for by the state.

“We’re actually investing directly in those kids in Flint that are most likely to have been ill-affected by lead poisoning,” said state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-Meridian Twp.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new bill would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to let the public know if their water contains dangerous levels of lead.

Right now, that responsibility lies with state and local officials.

The new bill would give the EPA authority to notify residents of high lead levels if the state fails to act.

Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Dan Kildee announced the new legislation Wednesday.

Peters said the bill would help ensure situations like the Flint water crisis don't happen again. 

Human Trafficking
Ira Gelb / Creative Commons

Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry.

Between 2013 and 2014, there were 100 state and 94 federal cases of human trafficking in Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties, according to the Michigan State Police.

The law enforcement agency is partnering with the Salvation Army and other agencies to help victims of these crimes rebuild their lives.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Marc Edwards is coming back to Flint.

Edwards’ team was the first to discover high levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water last summer. Earlier this month, Edwards announced his team was ending its probe of Flint's lead-tainted water.

Mayor Karen Weaver announced today that Edwards will oversee all water testing by the state and federal governments.

“He is fully independent. He will be reporting to me,” says Weaver.

Weaver adds that Edwards’ work will be paid for with “private donations.”

Governor Snyder speaking at a Flint water press conference on January 27, 2016.
SnyderLive

There are a lot of questions coming up daily about the water crisis in Flint.

Today, Gov. Snyder, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, Michigan State Police Capt. Chris Kelenske, Department of Environmental Quality Interim Director Keith Creagh, and Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon worked to address some of these questions at an 11 a.m. press conference.

Watch it below.

Twitter user @khakibluesocks

Earlier this week we asked you to send us selfies that show how you're feeling about this year's elections.

Jack Lessenberry.
Michigan Radio

In this Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about why Flint residents are being charged a lot of money for water they can't drink. Flint residents aren't paying those bills, and the city's water utility says it might run out of money by the end of the year. Lessenberry also talks about the problems plaguing Detroit Public Schools. 


Civil rights hearings planned on Flint water crisis

Jan 27, 2016
Flint water treatment plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will investigate whether the Flint drinking water crisis has violated the civil rights of Flint residents. 

The bipartisan commission unanimously passed a resolution yesterday to hold at least three public hearings, the first of which is expected to take place within 30 days.

"The Commission decided that under the state constitution, as well as the Elliott-Larsen Act, to conduct hearings to try to learn more if discrimination may have occurred," said commission co-chair Arthur Horwitz. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder met behind closed doors with the national president of the NAACP in Flint Tuesday night. 

NAACP president Cornell William Brooks said he, Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver had a “frank” discussions about Flint’s drinking water crisis. 

He called his closed-door meeting with the governor and the mayor a “robust conversation about specific reforms.”

michigan.gov

Some Democrats are upset that Gov. Snyder hired this new PR firm. They say Flint’s water problems are a public health crisis not a PR one.

  • In a 6-to-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all prisoners sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as minors should be given a chance to seek parole.
  • A former Wayne County assistant prosecutor has been picked to investigate Flint's drinking water crisis and determine if civil or even criminal charges should be filed. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports.

This week on Stateside, we're talking election feelings.

NPR's National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson gave us this look into why voters have such strong emotions this year, on everything from terrorism, to jobs, to elitism.  

Now we want to hear from you:

How are you feeling about this year's election? 

The Snyder administration is now in over-drive to create both the perception and the reality that the state is engaged in making rapid progress in dealing with the Flint water crisis.

Gov. Rick Snyder's office

Gov. Rick Snyder is hiring public relations specialists to help him deal with the Flint water crisis.

Snyder chief of staff Jarrod Agen says public money won't be used. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press say the governor has hired the Mercury firm, where Agen's wife is a senior vice president in the firm's Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, office.

Bill Nowling is also on board. He was the spokesman for the emergency manager who guided Detroit through bankruptcy.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees have been suspended for their roles in the Flint water crisis.

In a statement issued late Friday, Gov. Snyder’s office only identified the employees as “DEQ officials involved in Flint water testing.”

“Michiganders need to be able to depend on state government to do what’s best for them, and in the case of the DEQ that means ensuring their drinking water is safe,” Snyder said. “Some DEQ actions lacked common sense and that resulted in this terrible tragedy in Flint.”

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