Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

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.

University of Michigan

The recent lack of indictments in the police killings of young, unarmed black men in several states has raised strong emotions in Michigan and across the nation, and one group is turning the outrage into action.

The Rev. Jamie Hawley is a chaplain for the University of Michigan Hospital and one of the organizers of a group that will head to Washington this weekend to take part in a national march against police violence.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An angry crowd told the Shiawassee County Commission tonight not to lay off more than a dozen sheriff’s deputies.  

But the commission did any way.

Faced with the need to close a $1 million hole in the county budget before the end of the year, Shiawassee County commissioners dropped the ax on the sheriff’s road patrol. The move effectively slices the county sheriff’s staff in half. 

Joe Gratz / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether local governments can require contractors to pay union wages on public projects. The court agreed to hear a challenge to Lansing’s prevailing wage ordinance. But there are at least two dozen other Michigan counties, cities, and townships that have similar rules.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The state Senate has approved legislation that would require internet retailers such as Amazon.com to collect a six-percent tax on all sales to people in Michigan.

Supporters say it is unfair to businesses that choose to open brick-and-mortar locations in Michigan that people can avoid paying the tax by shopping online.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Coercing someone to have an abortion would carry tougher penalties under bills approved by the state Senate on Thursday.

The crime could result in criminal penalties under Senate Bills 1156 and 1157.

State Senator Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is taking steps to hammer out a road funding compromise in the final days of its 2014 session.

The House and Senate passed plans that are drastically different. The Senate approved legislation that would essentially double the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements. The House plan would divert revenues from schools and local governments and would not raise any taxes.

Michigan Legislature
Matthileo / Flickr

Each Thursday, we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week we talked about the bills heading to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk this lame-duck session and whether he'll sign them.

Large solar energy farm proposed for Ann Arbor airport

Dec 11, 2014
DTE Energy

Ann Arbor and DTE Energy are working on plans for a 10-acre solar farm at the city's airport just south of Interstate 94 in Pittsfield Township.  

DTE spokesman Scott Simons said if approved, it would be the company's largest solar energy installation. 

Rowan Renstrom-Richards

More than 200 students and faculty gathered on University of Michigan's campus yesterday for a "die-in protest". 

Those participating lay down on the Diag for 45 minutes, in protest of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. The 45 minutes was symbolic for the four-and-a-half hours that Michael Brown's body remained on the street after his death.

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