Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A joint state House committee could begin hearings as soon as this week on a scathing audit of a state-run veterans’ home.

Among other things, the report found the Grand Rapids facility was understaffed, and that workers mishandled abuse and neglect complaints and failed to conduct required safety checks.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Meijer arranged a donation of 1,500 water filters in Flint last summer but insisted on anonymity and even offered to give gift cards so the state could purchase them.

  • Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's office released another 2,528 pages of emails regarding the Flint water crisis.
Rep. Lisa Lyons speaking in National Harbor, Maryland in 2013
flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Last December, in the final hours the Legislature was in session for 2015, a bill passed both Houses and was later signed by Governor Snyder.

That bill had originally been 12 pages, but was replaced by the 53-page Senate Bill 571. Several legislators say they didn't know the contents and the changes, but it still passed. Some legislators say they later regretted voting for it.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law today giving Flint $30 million to cover the city’s water bills. The governor says people shouldn’t have to pay for water they can’t drink. 

The money will cover 65% of the water bills from the past two years. Flint residents are still responsible for paying city water and sewer fees.   

Pastor Jeffery Hawkins watched as the governor signed the legislation.

“Being a Flint resident myself and having to use the water… it is so great to know that this relief has been done,” says Hawkins.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“We could have done better.”

That’s how Governor Rick Snyder reacted today to questions about revelations his top aides were talking about the need to switch Flint back to Detroit water.  A year before it was done.

After switching to the Flint River in April of 2014, the city’s tap water became contaminated with lead because the river water wasn’t properly treated.  

Emails show top Snyder aides wanted to switch the city away from the Flint River in October of 2014. But that didn’t happen until the fall of 2015.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s new police and fire chiefs are now on the job.

The city’s state oversight board today approved hiring Tim Johnson as Flint’s new top cop and Raymond Barton as Flint’s new fire chief.

Barton is promising changes to the way the city’s undermanned fire department is deployed. He says his predecessor, David Cox, asked too much of Flint’s firefighters.

“Sometimes he put a lot of stress on the firefighters having them work with less,” says Barton.

City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city’s budget is balanced for a third straight year.

Duggan laid that budget out for the Detroit City Council Thursday.

Right now, Detroit must stick within strict limits laid out in its post-bankruptcy financial plan when it comes to the just-over-$1 billion general fund budget.

But Duggan says if it can stay true to this next budget, state oversight should ease up.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders brought his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president to Flint today.

An enthusiastic crowd packed church pews for the town hall meeting. Sanders said the Flint water crisis is a tragedy, but said the city’s not alone. He says cities across the country face a “collapse” of their infrastructure and if a city and the state can’t handle it, then the federal government needs to step in.

“It is my hope the American people will look at Flint and say never again can we allow a community to undergo this,” Sanders told the crowd. 

(L to R) Dr. Nicole Lurie of the U.S. DHHS, Michigan Gov. Snyder, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The drinking water crisis in Flint unearthed major problems with how the government in Michigan serves the public.

We're coming up on the two-year anniversary of the water source switch in Flint. That's two years since the people in Flint first started complaining about the condition of their drinking water.

And today, the people in Flint still don't have a clear answer on when they can expect their water supply to be safe.

  • The Detroit Medical Center has developed a Zika virus hotline in Michigan for pregnant women.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire
Gage Skidmore / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Just a little over nine months from today, Americans will choose their next leader. This election year has already seen its fair share of presidential candidates rushing to comment on every major news story, but when does a politician cross the line from commenting on news to politicizing events such as the Flint water crisis?

Ronna Romney McDaniel is the chair of the Michigan Republican Party. Regarding the drinking water situation in Flint, McDaniel says, “It’s very clear that there were failures at the local, state and federal level.”

Paul Hitzelberger / UPW

Detroit is already facing an unexpectedly large shortfall in its pension fund.

That raises some red flags about assumptions baked into the city’s post-bankruptcy financial plan. The city exited bankruptcy in late 2014.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan revealed the shortfall in his annual state of the city address Tuesday.

He said the fund will be short around $490 million by 2024.

The size of the gap and its quick appearance surprised many.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Democrats in the state Legislature say it’s time to restore citizen oversight panels to supervise air and water programs in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The independent, appointed panels were eliminated 25 years ago by Republican Governor John Engler and were never brought back under his Democratic successor, Governor Jennifer Granholm, nor by Governor Rick Snyder.

But some lawmakers say now the Flint water crisis and air pollution surrounding an oil refinery in Detroit show it was mistake to scrap the boards.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s top treasury official is warning lawmakers to not let the state’s largest district go bankrupt.

A state House panel on Wednesday held its first hearing on legislation to keep Detroit Public Schools from going broke in April.

State Treasurer Nick Khouri told lawmakers bankruptcy would likely cost taxpayers more than twice as much as a state bailout.

“The total cost to the state and others is about $700 million with this package. It’s probably about $1.8 billion or so if the district actually files and we work through bankruptcy,” said Khouri.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s mayor believes a U.S. Senate deal could free up federal money to pay to remove the city’s lead service lines.

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.,  Gary Peters, D-Mich and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., hammered out the deal.  

The proposal would authorize $100 million in emergency aid to fix and replace the city's lead-contaminated pipes, as well as $70 million in loans to improve its water infrastructure.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Believe it or not, Michigan’s 2018 race for governor is underway.

Jim Hines has been an obstetrician-gynecologist for 30 years. Now, he’s also a Republican candidate for governor. He announced his candidacy at his Saginaw medical office today.

“In this area, where I have delivered thousands of babies, I’m very well known,” says Hines. “But I’m not very well known in the rest of the state. I have a lot of work to do.”

Jos Campau Historic District in Hamtramck, Michigan.
Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia Commons

Depending on your viewpoint, a pair of bills being proposed by the Michigan House and Senate are either a threat to historic districts in Michigan, or a property rights issue for individuals and developers.

House Bill 5232 and Senate Bill 720 would end any historic districts already in Michigan after ten years. Residents and the preservation community would have to apply all over again to win the designation of historic district. And the bills would set a much higher bar for preservationists to jump over.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry said the recent shooting in Kalamazoo won't prompt legislation on gun control any time soon, he explained the controversial "gag order" law and gave an update on Flint and Detroit


Rubio says he's the candidate who can unify GOP

Feb 24, 2016
Gregory Vadon / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Marco Rubio broke away from the Nevada caucuses Tuesday evening, flying to Grand Rapids to address supporters gathered at auto parts manufacturer Lacks Enterprises.

“Two weeks from tonight Michigan’s voice will be heard in this country,” Rubio said. “Two weeks from tonight we will take another step towards replacing Barack Obama as president of the United States.”

The Florida senator told the audience of more than 1,500 that as president he’d follow the Constitution, repeal all of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, and protect the 2nd Amendment.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gave his annual state of the city address Tuesday night, and it was a mixed bag.

Duggan ticked off some notable successes of his administration: more working streetlights, a much-improved bus system, and a record-setting demolition effort that took down about 5,000 blighted homes as of last year.

But there’s also an unexpected, $491 million shortfall in the city’s pension system.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state House has approved a bill meant to clarify a controversial new law limiting what local officials can say publicly about ballot questions.

Civic and local school officials say the law imposes a “gag order” – making it illegal for them to give factual information on ballot proposals.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, says her bill makes it clear that local officials can give information as long as it’s factual and neutral.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State lawmakers will hold hearings on the Flint water crisis and the state’s response.

Legislative leaders on Tuesday announced a joint state House and Senate committee to review reports on what happened in Flint and make policy recommendations to avoid a similar crisis in the future.

Republicans were quick to say that it’s not an investigation and that the panel will not have subpoena power.

“I don’t think that we need to have subpoena power,” said Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, who will chair the panel.

Gov. Snyder's proposed budget would set aside over $100 million for the Healthy Michigan plan
Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder’s new budget contains over $100 million for Healthy Michigan.

That’s a reminder that it’s time for the state of Michigan to pony up some of the Medicaid expansion program’s operation cost. That Healthy Michigan program means health insurance for some 600,000 lower-income Michiganders.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says his office will release all Flint-related emails dating back to the beginning of his administration in 2011, including the governor’s emails and staff emails.

Gov. Snyder says they’ll come soon – but has not given a specific date and time.

Snyder says attorneys need to look over the emails and remove any documents that would normally be exempt from public information requests. The governor is releasing the documents voluntarily, as his office is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A divided Flint city council approved Mayor Karen Weaver’s picks for the city’s new police and fire chiefs during a raucous meeting tonight. 

Earlier this month, Weaver fired the city’s police and fire chiefs, who were both hired by the city’s former emergency managers.    

An overflow crowd jammed Monday night’s city council meeting. The audience cheered council members who talked of voting for Tim Johnson for police chief and Raymond Barton for fire chief. The crowd booed the council members who spoke out against the picks or the process.

  • Jason Dalton was arraigned today on a long litany of charges in connection with the Saturday night shooting rampage in Kalamazoo – including six counts of murder.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state elections board has approved language for another petition seeking to recall Gov. Rick Snyder.

This is the first petition approved for circulation that cites the governor’s handling of the Flint water crisis as a reason to remove him from office. The board OK’d another petition earlier this month that references Snyder’s decision to move Michigan’s School Reform Office out of the Michigan Department of Education and place it under his direct control.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder is expected to soon appear before a congressional committee investigating the Flint Water crisis. 

However, a top Democrat on the panel says he’s not getting the documents he needs from the governor’s office.

Congressman Elijah Cummings was in Flint today to get a first-hand look at the city’s drinking water crisis. He was part of a congressional delegation that met with local business owners and federal agency officials. 

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