Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Rick Snyder wants the U.S., not Canada, to pay for the Ambassador Bridge's customs plaza.
Michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder told a business conference in Grand Rapids today that he expects the new international border crossing between Detroit and Ontario will provide a boost to the entire Michigan economy.

The bridge will be largely financed by the Canadian government, which agreed to pay for both sides of the bridge after the Michigan Legislature balked at funding the project. However, Snyder believes it to be the United States' responsibility to to pick up the costs of the U.S. customs plaza. 

Lame ducks?
Simone Walsh / Flickr

This is the last week the state Legislature is scheduled to meet before the November election. Lawmakers probably won’t take up any controversial bills until their “lame duck” session in December.

Supporters of legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law are still optimistic lawmakers will pass it before the end of the year.

“I’m pretty heartened by the openness that [state House Speaker Jase Bolger] has shown to us in having those discussions,” said Shelli Weisberg with the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union .

“But it’s going to be tough.”

Weisberg admits it would be a setback if the bill has to wait until 2015.

“I think it does make it harder to go into a new legislative session because we’ve got new members and we have to really put forth a whole new, kind of fresh education effort,” she said.

Gov. Rick Snyder says his top legislative priority before the end of the year is boosting funding for roads and infrastructure.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to relax term limits on state lawmakers.

Lawmakers could also approve bills to relax restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan during their lame duck session.

The persuadable voter. Political independents. There are not as many of them as there used to be. And they don’t seem to be the center of this campaign season as they have been in previous years (remember the ‘Soccer Mom’ or ‘Security Mom’?).

This year’s campaigns seem much more focused on getting out base voters. And, that is why we present a bold prediction: President Barack Obama will come visit Michigan before Election Day.

Democrats have pinned their hopes this year on Democratic-voter turnout. Michigan is a decidedly blue state. Democrats have a five or six-point behavioral - that is how people vote, not what they call themselves - advantage in Michigan. That advantage is why Democrats have won the last six presidential elections in Michigan.

But, Michigan is not a decisively blue state because so many Democrats sit out during the mid-term elections. And, that gives Michigan Republicans their best changes in statewide races. It’s largely why we have a Republican governor, attorney general and secretary of state (many Democrats stayed home on Election Day four years ago).

But, there’s another part of the equation: Republicans can’s win on their own. Yes, Michigan Republicans typically have a turnout advantage in mid-term elections, but it doesn’t get them all the way to victory. To win, Republicans have to win at least a slim majority of the independents who turn out to vote.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT –  The federal government has launched the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative in Flint to improve the city.

In January, Flint was chosen to be a part of the program, also called SC2. The program uses experts to work alongside city leadership, community organizations, local business and philanthropic foundations to support the cities' visions for economic growth and development.

Michigan State Police

DETROIT – The U.S. Small Business Administration says it's making low-interest disaster loans available to home and business owners in Detroit-area counties that suffered massive flooding last month.

The Friday announcement followed President Barack Obama issuing a federal disaster declaration the day before. That action makes available funding to those affected in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

user memories_by_mike / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack 
Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss the latest polls for Michigan’s governor and U.S.Senate races, Detroit’s decision to keep emergency manager Kevyn Orr on board for now, and the latest scandal with Aramark, the state’s food services provider.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a lot of money being spent to elect Michigan’s Supreme Court justices.

The eight candidates running for three open slots on the Michigan Supreme Court have spent nearly $700,000 on TV ad buys as of this week.  

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

A state loan board has approved $1 billion in loans to help with Detroit bankruptcy recovery. Of that sum, $325 million is allocated to bankruptcy exit financing that will also aid Detroit in restoring its credit rating. 

Terry Stanton from the Michigan Treasury Department approves of the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board's decision, calling it a “big step" towards having the bankruptcy "continue and come to fruition".  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s still more than a month before the November general election, but many Michigan voters are already getting their hands on the ballot.

Today, the Lansing City Clerk’s office mailed out 5,000 absentee ballots. The office sent electronic ballots to U.S. servicemen and women, and other overseas voters last week.

Clerk Chris Swope says demand for absentee ballots is bigger than normal, which he partially credits with the close race for governor.

Michigan Radio is teaming up with The Center for Michigan and MLive Media Group to bring voters a series of unique events this election season.

Today on Stateside: 

  • Investigative reporter Lester Graham is ready to blow the whistle on this season's political ads.
  • How about new businesses in Detroit? And we're not talking Cars or Shinola, but a vegan Coney Island.
  • Morning in America to criminal three-strikes laws, we use analogies every day. But we hardly pay much attention to them.
  • It's been sad trumpet sounds for University of Michigan football lately.
  • Emergency managers are allowed to stay in power for 18 months under Michigan's emergency management law.

*Listen to the full show above.

 

A recent report says you will see one political ad every two minutes on television in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham has been working with Bridge Magazine's Truth Squad, looking at how truthful political ads are this election cycle. Graham says one of the misconceptions of political ads is to believe that those ads don't lie.

In fact, FCC has rules in place that forbid broadcasters from challenging or changing a political candidate's ad. That gives the candidates freedom to say things that could have little resemblance to the truth. 

Kevyn Orr
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 

Eighteen months is how long emergency managers are allowed to stay in power under Michigan's emergency management law. It has now been 18 months that Kevyn Orr has been in charge of Detroit's finances.

There have been closed-door meetings between Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit City Council this week, talking about Orr's future.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek says the meeting has been working on the transition process but specific details are still unknown. 

Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer says Orr has been walking a fine line, and his current situation is a strange place to be.

*Listen to our conversation with Sarah Cwiek and Nancy Kaffer above.

"Rick Snyder for Michigan" / Facebook Page

Gov. Rick Snyder is staying silent on the latest scandal related to the state’s prison food service contract. That’s while the matter is under investigation.

Last year, Michigan privatized its prison food services and hired Philadelphia-based Aramark to handle them.

The Detroit Free Press reports Michigan State Police suspects an Aramark food service worker of trying to conspire with an inmate to have another inmate killed.

State of Michigan

As of Friday morning Detroit’s elected officials are back in charge of city operations—but Kevyn Orr is still technically the city’s emergency manager.

That’s because Detroit officials have approved a deal stripping Orr of most of his powers.

In the deal approved by the City Council and Mayor Mike Duggan Thursday, Orr will stay on as emergency manager until Detroit exits bankruptcy.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder says the city of Allen Park’s financial emergency has been resolved and its emergency manager is leaving.

The Detroit suburb has been overseen by a state-appointed emergency manager since October of 2012. Snyder says it is another example that shows state takeovers of cash-strapped cities work.

“I think that’s a good illustration of the system working right,” Snyder told reporters Thursday in Detroit.

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr speaking at the University of Michigan.
U of M

After voters rejected the state's old emergency manager law in November 2012, Michigan lawmakers quickly came up with a replacement.

State-appointed emergency managers could still take control over local governments and school boards, but under the new law, they could do so for a limited amount of time. 

The new law, Public Act 436, allows for local governments to end a state-appointed emergency manager's term after 18 months. From the law:

If the emergency manager has served for at least 18 months after his or her appointment under this act, the emergency manager may, by resolution, be removed by a 2/3 vote of the governing body of the local government. If the local government has a strong mayor, the resolution requires strong mayor approval before the emergency manager may be removed. 

Orr started work as Detroit's emergency manager on March 28, 2013, so his 18 months is up in the next few days.

Almost everyone thought Detroit City Council and Mayor Duggan would vote to end Orr's appointment, but with Detroit's bankruptcy process wrapping up in court, the talk has changed.

Today on Stateside:

  • Term limits were passed by Michigan voters more than 20 years ago. Now, Republican Senate Leader Randy Richardville is ready to change that.
  • There are food decathlons and celebrity chefs today, but when did food become entertainment?!
  • A bad movie gets a bad review. But a bad bottle of wine? Not so much.
  • Six weeks from today will mean the beginning of the state's lame-duck legislative session. What are we going to see this year?
  • The 4th Annual Detroit Design Festival is taking place this week in the city with over 60 events.
  • In 80 to 90 years, Detroit could see a huge trend of people moving in because of climate change, according to an environment expert.

* Listen to the full show above.

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League

Six weeks from today, we'll be going through November's election results. Michigan will have a new U.S. Senator and voters will have either given Gov. Rick Snyder another term or elected Democrat Mark Schauer to take over the job.

Six weeks from today will also mean the beginning of the state's lame duck legislative session. Lame duck – the period of time time after the November election but before a new year, begins with many new lawmakers. 

The last lame duck session of the Michigan Legislature brought the passage of Right to Work. What are we going to see this year?

Rick Pluta is bureau chief of the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of Michigan Radio's "It's Just Politics." He says there are suspicions that something will come out of the blue. 

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League

Democrats in the state Legislature want to require insurance companies to offer coverage for abortions.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a petition-initiated law last year banning abortion coverage in standard health insurance plans. Under that law, people can only buy coverage for abortions as a separate insurance plan, known as a “rider.”

Democrats say just seven of Michigan’s 42 health insurers offer those riders and none of them offers the plans to individuals buying insurance on their own.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has joined private, ongoing talks between Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit City Council about his future.

Under Michigan’s emergency manager law, the City Council could vote to remove Orr this week – but only if Duggan and Gov. Rick Snyder agree.

The parties have been meeting in closed session since Tuesday to discuss a transition plan. No one has been willing to speak publicly about those discussions.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

There's been talk in Lansing about whether term limits should be extended, and that talk is heating up. 

Michigan voters approved term limits for state lawmakers back in 1992, but Republican Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville thinks maybe it's time they are extended.

Richardville says Michigan has the most restrictive term limits in the country. Other states have either rescinded or eased term limits and, he believes Michigan should review the legislation as well.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst, and he says term limits have been an unmitigated disaster. 

Water faucet.
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry sat down to discuss what's going on this week in Michigan politics. They covered the high price of water in Flint and Detroit, GM’s decision to move its Cadillac headquarters to New York, and the debates for Michigan governor and the U.S. Senate race.


On this first full-day of Fall, we are in for some perfect autumn-weather.

It might be the one time where saying "Michigan weather" actually means a good thing.

We also go hunting for enormous mushrooms;  we learn about new research that finds truth in the saying “happy wife, happy life”;  we talk about cultures assimilating in Detroit; and we hear how the Cass Community United Methodist Church has been helping the poor since the 1930s.

But first on the show, we talked about campaign ads.

With the November election now six weeks away, the campaign ads are ever present.

If you wonder just who's picking up the tab for the ads, particularly the issue-oriented ads, that answer is pretty hard to find in Michigan. Political spending rules allow quite a lack of transparency.

Some say this leads to corruption. Others disagree. Chris Gautz of Crain's Detroit Business has been talking with both sides.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Former President Jimmy Carter told a Grand Rapids audience Monday that he supports U.S. military air strikes against Islamic extremists in Iraq, though he’s less supportive of similar air strikes in Syria.

The U.S. launched air strikes against ISIS in Syria last night.   This follows a series of air strikes against military targets in northern Iraq.  

Michigan governor, legislators exempt from FOIA requests

Sep 22, 2014
Thetoad / Flickr

Michigan's Freedom of Information Act regulates the disclosure of public records by all public bodies in the state.

But the governor, the lieutenant governor, state legislators and their employees are all exempt from the FOIA law.

The only other state to exempt the governor's office from FOIA requests is Massachusetts. 

Paul Egan is with the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau. He looked at Michigan's public records laws in Sunday's Free Press.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says the state needs to do more to help people with disabilities get good jobs.

A new report released on Monday shows many Michiganders with disabilities are all but forced into menial jobs, some of which pay less than the minimum wage. That is legal if an employer gets a waiver from the federal government, and advocates say only Washington can change that practice.

More than $50 billion. That's how much Lansing will spend this year. But how to get everyone to agree on where to spend that money. That's where things get interesting.

Today on Stateside, we talked about the fight over taxing and spending.

Also today - Michigan's Freedom of Information Act regulates the disclosure of public records by all public bodies in the state - or so says the State Attorney General's Office in a pamphlet explaining the law.

But, just a few lines down is something that many citizens may not be aware of: the "public body" does not include the governor's office - or the lieutenant governor - or their employees.

Reporter Paul Egan took a look at Michigan's public records law in yesterday's Detroit Free Press.

We also talked about how one band worked Spotify to pay for their tour, the history of the classic rock format, and who owns the Great Lakes.

A Detroit water shutoff notice for Haylard Management.
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Witness testimony began in federal bankruptcy court this morning, in hearings to determine the fate of Detroit’s water shutoff policy.

A coalition of Detroit residents and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s controversial shutoff policy on constitutional and civil rights grounds.

The Detroit water department has shut off around 19,000 customers this year – the vast majority of them residential accounts – in an effort to collect up to $120 million in delinquent bill payments.

Water department officials say the system simply can’t continue to function when thousands of people aren’t paying their bills.

Critics say the shutoff campaign has been inhumane, and the department is trying to correct decades of mismanagement, corruption, and incompetence on the backs of the poor in just a few months as Detroit speeds through bankruptcy court.

The first witnesses were Detroiters Tracy Peasant and Maurikia Lyda, who experienced the shutoff process.

Peasant became visibly emotional on the stand, as she testified about having to buy bottled water for her family when her water was shut off for 8 months.

From Sandra Svoboda at Next Chapter Detroit, Michigan Radio’s partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative:

[Peasant] said a large portion of her outstanding bill was due to a faulty sprinkler system at a home she had rented prior to living at her current place. Her water was turned off a year ago and restored in June.

“Someone came out to my home driving a DWSD truck. I thought that she was coming to turn the water back on. … She said I’m here to make sure your water is still cut off,” Peasant testified.

But when the worker saw Peasant’s family members, “She said I can’t do this with these kids and when she left she said you have water now,” Peasant said.

Peasant said she was denied access to assistance funds because her bill was too high, and the city never told her she could ask for a hearing to contest the bill.

Lyda testified that she tried to talk to someone at the water department about getting on a payment plan for her overdue bill, but was never able to get through. Again from Next Chapter Detroit:

“I called them several times. I could never get through. I was calling and no one would ever pick up the phone. There were days I would call and stay on the phone two and three hours at a time,” Lyda said. “When I finally got to talk to someone about my bill they was telling me there was so much I had to put down. …  I didn’t want to put it in my name because I was a renter. … they was telling me I had to put it in my name.”

Lyda, who lives on the east side, said a DWSD representative told her it would cost $100 to transfer the water service to her name and $500 to have service restored.

But the day the lawsuit was filed, her water was restored.

Plaintiffs want Judge Steven Rhodes to issue a moratorium on the water shutoffs.

The water department stepped up shutoffs in March of accounts 60 days behind or owing more than $150. About 15,000 customers had service shut off in April through June.

The city has faced international criticism for the shutoffs, and several groups appealed to the United Nations for support.

The shutoffs were suspended about a month this summer to give water officials time to inform customers about service stoppages and payment plans.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Carl Levin has introduced a resolution urging the Obama administration to oppose a Canadian proposal to bury radioactive waste less than a mile from Lake Huron.

A federal panel in Canada is taking testimony on the plan to store low- and intermediate-level waste from nuclear power plants in rock chambers more than 2,000 feet below the earth's surface.

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