Politics & Government

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Politics
7:49 am
Wed June 20, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

Matthileo Flickr

Every Wednesday, we speak with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. On tap for this week: Mitt Romney campaigns in Michigan, the debate over the word "vagina" continues at the state Capitol and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he'd like to rid the city of its top lawyer.

Politics & Government
1:49 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney finishes small town tour in Holland

Mitt Romney at Holland State Park Tuesday evening.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

“This is a defining time for this country. That’s a place where the president and I agree,” the Republican Presidential candidate said in Holland Tuesday night. Thousands of Romney supporters in shorts and sandals rallied on the shore of Lake Michigan at Holland State Park.

Romney’s 20-minute long speech focused on how important a strong American economy and military are to the rest of the world.

“American strength is the best ally peace has ever known. We must strike for a strong America,” Romney said.

Romney says the president’s health care overhaul is hurting small businesses. He says the economy is being dragged down by uncertainty about the federal debt. He says he worries that the United States is headed on the same path as Greece.

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Politics & Government
6:35 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Top Detroit lawyer refuses request to resign; Bing will take case to City Council

Krystal Crittendon
City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has asked the city’s top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, to resign—and she’s refused.

Now, Bing says he’ll make a case for removing her to the Detroit City Council.

Crittendon recently went against Bing’s wishes by pressing a legal challenge to the city’s consent agreement with the state.

Crittendon said she was obligated to do that because she believed the consent agreement violated the city charter. And she insisted the charter allowed her to act independently of Bing.

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Politics & Government
3:16 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Romney attacks Obama in Michigan appearances

Rick Pluta Michigan Radio

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wraps up a day-long campaign swing through Michigan tonight with a rally at the Holland State Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Romney began the day in Frankenmuth, where he went on the attack against President Obama on the state of the economy, the new health care law, and energy policy.

“He may want to make things better. He just doesn’t know how to do to it," said Romney of Obama. "I think in order to create jobs in the private sector, it helps to have had a job in the private sector and I have.”

Romney acknowledged Michigan’s economic recovery and said he would do the same for the rest of the country if he wins the election. He opposed federal aid for the Detroit auto companies that are still the dominant force in the state’s economy.

Romney says he can be the first Republican nominee in 24 years to win Michigan.

“It is essential for America to grab that torch and hold it high," he said. "We’re that shining city on a hill. We’re going to do it with your help. I’m going to win Michigan with your help. We’re going to take back the White House. We’re going to get America on track and keep it the hope of the Earth.”

Romney was born in Detroit and is the son of former Governor George Romney.

Protesters also showed up at the Romney campaign stops but were kept at a distance. Democrats sponsored their own bus tour of the state yesterday.

"If you listen to a Mitt Romney speech, you’ll hear almost nothing about his plans, almost nothing about his time as governor of Massachusetts, and almost all about distorting the President’s record," said Brad Woodhouse of the Democratic National Committee. 

From Frankenmuth, Romney went to DeWitt, Mich.

Election 2012
1:52 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Mitt Romney campaigning in DeWitt, Mich.

Ann and Mitt Romney
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio Network

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney began speaking a short time ago to a crowd in DeWitt, Mich. Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta sent along these photos. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith will be in Holland this evening covering Romney's campaign stop in West Michigan.

Politics & Government
1:48 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Former Mich. lawmaker Van Regenmorter dies at 73

Former West Michigan lawmaker William Van Regenmorter, whose noteworthy accomplishments included his authorship of the Crime Victim's Rights Act of 1985, has died. He was 73.

Family friend Joseph Crawford says Van Regenmorter, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2003, died Monday at his home in Ottawa County's Georgetown Township.

The Republican served in the House from 1983-90 before being elected to the Senate, where he served from 1991-2002. He became a representative again from 2003-06.

Van Regenmorter served as chairman of the House and Senate judiciary committees for more than 16 years. Under the Crime Victim's Rights Act, victims are required to be notified and consulted during the various steps of the legal process, such as before a prosecutor offers a plea bargain to a defendant.

Politics
7:05 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Democrats, protesters prep for Romney visit

Mitt Romney plans to visit Michigan today
Gage Skidmore Flickr

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in Michigan today to wind up a tour of battleground states. The states were all won by President Obama four years ago, and Republicans need to flip one or more of them to win the White House.

Republicans like their chances in Michigan. Romney and his wife were both born here. His father served as governor. Some recent polls suggest the state’s a toss-up.

But no Republican presidential nominee has won the state since 1988, and Romney opposed much of the auto bailout that’s credited with leading the state’s economic recovery.

So Democrats sponsored their own bus tour with stops not far from where Romney will appear.

“One of the things we wanted to do is greet Mitt Romney with some headlines about what we think his policies will do to Michigan, and so we wanted to get out ahead of him," says Brad Woodhouse of the Democratic National Committee.

The liberal group MoveOn.org plans have protesters waiting for Romney at each stop in his tour, which will wind up with a rally near Holland on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Politics
6:34 am
Tue June 19, 2012

“Vagina Monologues” attracts thousands at state Capitol (Slideshow)

Thousands of people gathered last night at the state Capitol to protest with a staging of the "Vagina Monologues."
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio Network

A few thousand people crowded onto the lawn of the state Capitol last night to protest last week's silencing  of two female state lawmakers, and to watch a performance of “The Vagina Monologues.”

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta was there and reports that, "the word 'vagina' was everywhere – emblazoned on signs and t-shirts. 'Vagina,' and virtually every slang variation, was part of the theatrical performance. People shouted it out and waved their fingers in Vs. 'Gimme the three Vs! Vagina! Voice! Vote!'

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Politics & Government
8:21 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Minister fighting for gay rights in Holland appears in court

In August 2011 Reverend Bill Freeman (right) is one of at least a hundred people who march to protest Holland City's Council's vote not to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

An Ottawa County judge is considering whether to dismiss a case against a minister who has stood up for gay rights in the City of Holland.

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Politics & Government
8:01 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Conservationists worry about plan to cap amount of publicly owned land in Michigan

Pure Michigan

Governor Snyder will soon have to decide if he will sign a bill that would cap the amount of public land the state can own. Some conservationists are suggesting the governor should veto the bill.

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Politics & Government
6:32 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Detroit will pay for extra cops at fireworks, asks for 'regional' support in the future

Detroit fireworks
The Parade Company via theparade.org

Suburban law enforcement officers will help Detroit Police keep the peace at this year’s riverfront fireworks.

But city officials warn it’s the last time the city will pick up the security tab for a major “regional” event.

“We can’t continue this way, with the financial condition that the city’s in," Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis said Monday. "Nor does it really make sense, in particular, for regional events…to not have the region help support those.”

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Politics & Government
3:29 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Protest performance of Vagina Monologues planned at Capitol

Eve Ensler, writer of "The Vagina Monologues" will attend the protest performance tonight in Lansing
Justin Hoch Wikimedia Commons

There will be a protest performance tonight of “The Vagina Monologues” at the state Capitol. Female legislators and author Eve Ensler will read from the play that was first performed in 1996.

The event is a response to state House Republican leaders’ decision to bar two female lawmakers from speaking on the floor last week. It was a punishment for comments made by state Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum during a debate.

Brown says she has heard from people in virtually every state of the union. 

“You know what? I think it has triggered an outrage amongst the American people," she said. "Not just women, but men as well and to see this kind of disregard, the disrespect and it really is a war on women. It’s not just a sound bite.  There really is a war on women.” 

Brown will be one of the performers tonight.

More than 3,500 people have posted on Facebook that they plan to attend the event.

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