Politics & Government

It's Just Politics
8:45 am
Sun June 24, 2012

Romney changes his economic message, The Vagina Monologues comes to MI, and ballot-mania continues

Every week in It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta and I sit down and take a look at what's been making news in state politics. On tap for this week's extended edition: the Romney campaign shifts its economic message as state economies see improvement, Vagina-gate continues at the state Capitol, Democrats in the state's 76th District find a candidate to run against former-Democratic Rep. Roy Schmidt, we update the latest news on the state's many ballot proposals, and remember two state lawmakers who recently passed away.

Politics
8:28 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers resigns

Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers Jeff Timmer resigned this week without giving a reason. The Board of State Canvassers decides whether petition drives qualify for the state ballot.

Timmer is a partner in Sterling Corporation, a Republican political consulting firm, that represents ballot campaigns that are expected to appear before the board. Timmer also voted to keep the emergency manager challenge off the November ballot - even though his firm represents the campaign against the emergency manager referendum.

Read more
Politics & Government
7:15 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Bing decries Council "sideshow," says he 'll no longer deal with city lawyers

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing went to the Detroit City Council Friday to formally tell them he wants to get rid of the city’s top lawyer.

Instead, he walked out of an abruptly-recessed meeting he later called a “sideshow.”

Bing has been at odds with Detroit’s corporation counsel, Krystal Crittendon, for weeks now.

Read more
Politics & Government
1:46 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

U.S. Senate passes farm bill to trim billions from agriculture budget

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

The U.S. Senate has passed the 2012 farm bill with bipartisan support. The bill would cut more than $23 billion  from the Department of Agriculture's budget over the next 10 years.

The Senate bill consolidates some conservation programs. It includes a Great Lakes initiative to work with farmers on a voluntary basis to protect land, water and wildlife habitat.

The bill also increases help for farmers if they suffer a disaster or a loss – like Michigan’s fruit farmers who lost most of their crops after an early freeze this year.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan chairs the Agriculture Committee. She says the bill includes other changes:

"We’re not going to do these big farm subsidies on acres where you don’t even grow crops anymore," Stabenow says. "Taxpayers shouldn’t just be giving a government check every year."

Stabenow says the bill eliminates about 100 programs that were redundant or  ineffective. It now heads to the House where it faces a Sept. 30 deadline.

It's Just Politics
1:33 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Romney shifts campaign message as state economies improve

Mitt Romney in DeWitt, Mich. on last week's bus tour
Rick Pluta Michigan Radio

Today on It's Just Politics, co-hosts Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta discussed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Michigan campaign tour this week.  Romney also made campaign stops in Michigan last month, during which, Pluta says Romney's grim assessment of the Michigan economy created some friction with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's more positive message of economic recovery in the "comeback state."

"We've talked about this before," said Pluta, "this tension between the messaging of a Republican governor, like Rick Snyder, who's saying, 'Look, we're making changes; things are improving; what we're doing is working,' and Mitt Romney coming into the state and saying, 'You're not doing that well.' It's basically a message of pessimism, and making the case for change."

On his tour this week, Pluta says, Romney has changed tones. The presidential hopeful lauded Snyder, saying he would do for the country what Snyder has done for the state.

Read more
Politics & Government
12:38 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Grand Rapids Democrats rally around new face to take on party-switcher Roy Schmidt

Winnie Brinks announced she'll run as a write-in candidate in the 76th district after filing her paperwork Friday morning.
Courtesy photo Michigan Democratic Party

A Michigan house representative, who made a controversial switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party last month, will face a political novice in the fall.

Winnie Brinks filed paperwork today to run as a Democrat. She’s a case worker at a non-profit organization, and she’s never run for political office before.

“I think it’s time for some new eyes. It seems that the direction we’re heading in Lansing is not what our middle class needs; it’s not what our schools need. And not being part of that negative history, sure, I think that’s a good thing,” Brinks said.

Brinks has lived in Grand Rapids for 22 years. The 44-year-old has three daughters, aged 11, 14, and 16. She’s active in her public schools’ legislative committee and once worked for Godfrey Lee Public Schools. She says restoring education funding would be one of her top priorities.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time, but I am confident we can do it. We’ve got a lot of good energy. We’ve got a lot of support behind me,” Brinks said.

Several hundred people will need to write in Brinks name on the August primary ballot in order for her name to appear on the ballot in the general election in November.

Read more
Politics & Government
12:15 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Bill protecting Michigan worship services from disruption nears approval

State Rep. Deb Shaughnessy is sponsoring a bill outlawing disruption of worship services.
gophouse.com

Those who disrupt religious services in Michigan could soon face much harsher penalties.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte, intended to prevent disruptions during worship events, cleared the state Senate last week.

From the Associated Press:

The fine for disorderly conduct at a religious service could go as high as $1,000, which is more than the maximum fine for many misdemeanors. A second offense could cost as much as $5,000. A judge could also order at least 100 days of community service.

According to a press release from Shaughnessy's office, the legislation was inspired by a 2008 protest at the Mount Hope Church in Delta Township. As part of the protest, members of a gay-rights anarchist group interrupted a service at the megachurch by throwing flyers, pulling fire alarms and shouting slogans.

The press release quotes Rep. Shaughnessy:

"The right of Michigan residents to gather and worship is not only guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, it is a right that must be respected by those with other beliefs...Nobody should fear disruption of their worship services by political opponents, and this legislation should shield them from such chaos."

The bill is now on Gov. Rick Snyder's desk awaiting approval.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
9:58 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Changing Michigan's indigent defense system

User: holder MorgueFile.com

A state commission is expected to adopt recommendations this morning to help ensure fair trials for people who can't afford to pay for an attorney. Michigan's county-by-county indigent defense system is considered one of the worst in the country. The report calls for an independent agency to be a watchdog on counties' public defender systems - and step in when they fall short. It also calls for better training for public defenders, and limiting caseloads.

Politics & Government
8:41 am
Fri June 22, 2012

State officials close tent city in Ann Arbor

Mercedes Mejia /Michigan Radio

About 70 homeless people stayed at the tent city known as Camp Take Notice. But they were told to pack up and move out.

“You know, right now, this whole situation is very surreal. It feels like we are just going through the motions...I’m really going to miss it, you know, I’m just gonna miss the people," said Mary Contrucci.

Scott Ellinger and his girlfriend lived at the camp for a few months. He said, "It was a tight-knit community here, we were like family. Everybody looked out for each other."

"We really haven’t had any major problems out here. Except for a few minor incidences. We had one fire, which was accidental," said Ellinger.

It’s accidents like the fire that broke out a few months ago that state officials want to avoid. Sally Harrison is director of Rental Assistance and Homeless Solutions for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Read more
Politics
6:21 am
Fri June 22, 2012

One week later, debate over the use of the word "vagina" on the state House floor continues

Allieosmar Flickr

Every Thursday Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former state Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

It's been a week, now, since Democratic State Representative Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the state House floor for using the word "vagina" during a debate on anti-abortion legislation. State Representative Barbara Byrum, a Democrat, was also banned from speaking on the floor because she spoke out of turn.

White, Demas and Sikkema explore why this story just won't seem to go away.

Politics & Government
7:13 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Bridge foes say referendum on New International Trade Crossing will be on the November ballot

Jim Wallace flickr.com

A group that opposes efforts to build a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor says it’s well on its way to putting that question on the November ballot.

“The People Should Decide Ballot committee” says it’s collected more than 420,000 petition signatures in favor of a voter referendum.

If passed, the measure would implement a constitutional amendment requiring Michigan voters to approve any new international crossings.

Governor Snyder and Canadian officials signed an agreement to build a new crossing just last week. That's after Snyder's efforts to get the project through the state legislature failed last year.

Read more
Politics
11:01 am
Thu June 21, 2012

As states see improving economies, Romney campaign tries to change the message

Mitt Romney
Gage Skidmore Flickr

In a Bloomberg piece this morning, Michael C. Bender is reporting that, “Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter.”

But Romney doesn’t just have a Florida messaging “problem.” Last month, Rick Pluta, co-host of It’s Just Politics, and I took a look at the same problem that the Romney campaign is having with Republican Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan’s improving economy.

During a visit to Michigan in May, Romney said, “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing, and frankly, they've been hard on the people of America.” This message didn’t quite mesh with Governor Snyder’s statement that, “if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”

Read more
Commentary
10:00 am
Thu June 21, 2012

Commentary: Absentees for All

The other day, I told my significant other she should plan to be out of town on election day. “Was it something I said?" she asked. Well, no. It’s the way election law works in Michigan. We may all face a ballot that is as long as the proverbial bed sheet.

Not only are there a vast number of candidates and races, we could be asked to decide on four, eight, possibly 11 different complicated ballot proposals. Do you know what would happen if every voter stayed in the booth till she or he managed to figure all this out? We’d all still be in line in four years.

Naturally, nobody does that. So people either skip the proposals or take uninformed guesses. In the case of judicial candidates, too many of us go for familiar or judicial-sounding names, which is why there are a lot of judges named Kelly.

We also, oddly enough, elect trustees of our three biggest universities, and what’s even more bizarre, elect them on a partisan basis. Since almost nobody has ever heard of any of these folks, the winners tend to be of the party that wins the top of the ticket.

Read more
Politics
8:56 am
Thu June 21, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

EM Repeal

Supporters of a referendum to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law are continuing to try to make sure that a question whether to repeal the law is on the November ballot. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Supports of the repeal filed an emergency motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals Wednesday to speed the process along.

After a complicated legal process, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the question should go on the ballot last week, but without specifying it could take “immediate effect.” So the order could sit for as long as 42 days.

Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, a lawyer with the pro-referendum group Stand Up for Democracy, says this asks the court to act within seven days to ensure the ballot question doesn’t get bogged down in the legal system.

But Bob LaBrant, a spokesman for the group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility—which initially managed to keep the measure off the ballot because of a dispute over petition font size, calls the move “meritless.”

LaBrant says the group will file an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, possibly as soon as next week.

Casino Expansion?

A drive to allow eight new privately owned casinos in Michigan says it’s gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Rick Pluta reports:

Michigan already has two dozen tribal casinos and three privately owned casinos in Detroit.

Emily Gerkin Palsrok is with Citizens for Michigan Jobs. She says there’s room for more casinos, which would bring more jobs and tax revenue.

"Our signature collection has gone very well. We’ve had a very positive response. We’re going to have well more than the 322,000 – which is the minimum we need, and we’re going to be wrapping up our process in the next couple of weeks," Palsrok says.

The amendment is opposed by the existing casino operators. A spokesman for the “Vote No” campaign says people should not be allowed to buy a business opportunity by amending the state constitution.

Auto Quality

U.S. automakers have not caught up to their Asian competitors when it comes to quality  -- but American vehicles are still highly rated. 

“A company that measures consumer satisfaction says Lexus drivers reported the fewest problems during the first three months of ownership. Dave Sargent is a vice president at J.D. Power and Associates. He says Jaguar and Porsche tied for second and General Motors' Cadillac came in third in the quality survey. Sargent says Chrysler as a whole improved significantly compared with last year. Ford, however, was flat in the quality rankings. Sargent says Ford wrestled with its My Ford Touch technology, although the company has made improvements,” Rina Miller reports.

Politics & Government
11:25 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Proposal to merge cities of Saugatuck and Douglas inching forward

People in the audience who are against the proposed merger raise their hands at the request of the State Boundary Commission chair.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people showed up for a public hearing in Saugatuck Wednesday night. Most spoke against the proposed plan to merge the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

Travis Randolph is with the group that’s behind the idea. He hopes a state commission will decide the proposal is reasonable enough to put before voters.

"The ultimate poll is an election and that’s all we’re trying to get to. So that everybody can have a say. And in the process of getting to the election, you have to go through dealing with those people who have emotional connection to the present, not to the future,” Randolph said.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:10 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Emergency manager law opponents move to put referendum question on the ballot

Supporters of a referendum to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law want to make sure that question is on the November ballot.

They filed an emergency motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals Wednesday to speed that process along.

After a complicated legal process, the Court of Appeals ruled the question should go on the ballot last week, but without specifying it could take “immediate effect.” So the order could sit for as long as 42 days.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:16 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Marijuana legalization initiative lagging in signature collection

jconnors MorgueFile

A campaign to let Michigan voters decide whether to legalize marijuana is not going as well as organizers expected.

It would take more 322,000 petition signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

So far, the campaign has gathered only about 40,000 signatures, and the deadline is July 9.

Matt Abel is director of the Committee for a Safer Michigan. He says volunteers are still active.
 
"We're still hard at it," Abel says. "It hasn't taken off the way we'd hoped, partly because there are so many ballot proposals going."

Abel says prosecuting marijuana cases is a waste of the state's money.

The ballot initiative would repeal marijuana prohibition for people 21 and older. It would still be against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana.

Politics & Government
12:25 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

State wants to see Wayne Co. books before okaying deficit plan

State Treasurer Andy Dillon
Associated Press

Before giving Wayne County the go-ahead on an unorthodox deficit reduction plan, the state wants peruse the county's books.

According to John Wisely at the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon is taking bids from accounting firms to perform the audit. Auditors would look at discrepancies in spending and budgeting along with the timing of certain transactions.

Officials in Lansing are on the lookout for anything fishy because the plan would involve state money.

More from the Freep:

Last month, the county proposed eliminating its deficit by sending unused state grant money, for things like roads and mental health programs, back to the state. It wants the state to return a similar amount to the county unrestricted, meaning it could be used to eliminate the deficit instead of funding the programs spelled out in the legislation.

Wayne County has a cumulative deficit of $155 million and faces declining revenues in its latest budget cycle.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Commentary
10:00 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Commentary: Changing the Law

There was a lot of news last week, from Detroit escaping near-bankruptcy to the now infamous “vagina dialogues” in the Michigan Legislature. Not to mention the passage of a controversial abortion bill, and the announcement of the new Detroit River Bridge. During weeks like that, some things get overlooked.

One of them was that while all this was going on, the legislature quietly and unanimously passed a bill to prevent any other crooked politician from doing one thing Kwame Kilpatrick did.

Read more
News Roundup
9:10 am
Wed June 20, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Romney Stumps in Mich.

Mitt Romney wrapped up a tour of small towns in Michigan last night. “Thousands of Romney supporters in shorts and sandals rallied on a beach near Holland, Michigan. With Lake Michigan as a backdrop, Romney used his speech to focus on how important a strong American economy and military are to the rest of the world. Romney hopes to win over his native state. Michigan hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate in more than 20 years,” Lindsey Smith reports.

"K2" Crackdown

On July 1, the state will launch a crackdown to clear store shelves of a type of synthetic marijuana called K2. Governor Rick Snyder signed a law yesterday that outlaws K2 and other designer drugs. “K2 is made of plants sprayed with a chemical to create a high that’s similar to marijuana – but with more dangerous side effects such as seizures and speeding heart rates. Because it’s still legal and not controlled, it can be purchased by children. The new law signed by Governor Snyder not only outlaws K2, but it also outlaws any derivative drugs that might be created by tweaking the recipe. One of those tools is to give the state Department of Community Health director and the Board of Pharmacy emergency powers to outlaw new designer drugs as they emerge.

Asian Carp DNA

Illinois officials are downplaying the recent discovery of Asian Carp DNA in a waterway a short distance from Lake Michigan. Steve Carmody reports:

Asian Carp are an invasive species that experts fear could devastate fish native to the Great Lakes. The Army Corps of Engineers routinely tests Illinois waterways for signs of the carp. One carp was caught a few years ago, just a few miles from Lake Michigan. Chris McCloud is a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He says a rapid response team spent two days searching the waterways for any signs of carp. McCloud says a second round of DNA testing is underway. He notes that past positive DNA tests have not led to the discovery of live Asian Carp in the Chicago area. Three electric barriers separate Chicago area waterways from carp-infested rivers and streams to the south.

Pages