Politics & Government

Politics
5:09 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

House Republicans seek to stop taxpayer funding for bridge

Ambassador Bridge (seen here) owner Manuel Moroun has fiercely battled the proposed new bridge.
user Jay8g Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Republican House lawmakers are trying to keep Governor Snyder from spending any state money to build another bridge across the Detroit River.

The House Appropriations Committee has approved a supplemental budget that would prohibit using any state money unless the Legislature authorizes construction of the bridge.

Snyder has planned a big announcement about the bridge for Friday, but won't confirm any details of the plan.

He did say he’s not impinging on the legislature’s fiscal responsibilities, because no taxpayer money will be spent on the bridge.

"The Canadians are being great partners in putting up the dollars for the Michigan part of this project that would be repaid out of tolls, and so there would be no obligation to Michigan taxpayers,” said Snyder. “How can you do better than that?"

Grandville Republican Representative Dave Agema says his goal in amending the supplemental budget is "to stop spending money" lawmakers didn't authorize.

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has fiercely battled the proposal. There’s even a petition drive to amend the state constitution in November that would require voters to approve any new bridge.

Politics
5:05 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Detroit consent agreement

Judge William Collette of Ingham County Circuit Court dismissed a lawsuit by Detroit's top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, this morning. She was challenging the city's consent agreement with the state. The judge ruled she didn't have standing to bring the case. We've been updating this post today.

Update 5:05 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder said he’s also happy the judge threw out a legal challenge to the consent agreement the state made with the City of Detroit. The agreement was made to avoid the appointment of an emergency manager and to prevent the city from running out of money.  

"We’ve been continuing to work forward on our projects from the state perceptive while all this has gone on because we want to make sure we’re fulfilling our part of this," said Snyder. "It was a Detroit internal issue. I hope they continue to work hard to resolve their issue so they can continue to work hard to resolve their issues so they can work better between the mayor city council and corporate counsel."

Detroit's top lawyer argued the consent agreement was null and void because the state owes Detroit money. The state treasury denies that.

3:04 p.m.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s happy a “distracting” court case brought by his own city attorney was dismissed Wednesday and the city can now follow through on its consent agreement with the state.

Bing said he was “not happy with” his corporation counsel’s decision to push the legal challenge—but insists that’s all in the past now.

“We need to get on with running the city," Bing said. "The city is still in a crisis. And we can’t have all of these distractions and think we’re going to bring the city back.”

The first steps: convening the city’s nine-member financial advisory board. That’s a key provision of the consent agreement. Bing says they’ll meet for the first time Friday.

11:59 a.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta spoke with Michael Hodge, the lawyer who argued the case on Mayor Bing's behalf. Hodge said if the case went forward, it could have forced the city into bankruptcy this week.

From Pluta's report:

“The judge understood that financially, the stabilization agreement between the city and the state was an essential agreement to go forward and to continue to address the financial issues involving the city,” said Hodge.

Detroit Corporate Counsel Krystal Crittendon argued the agreement is not valid because the state owes the city millions of dollars. The judge’s decision does not address the question. The state Treasury says Detroit is not owed any money.

10:40 a.m.

Judge William Collette of Ingham County Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit by Detroit's top lawyer Krystal Crittendon challenging the city's consent agreement with the state of Michigan this morning.

MPRN's Rick Pluta reports Judge William Collette said it was obvious Crittendon could not go forward with her lawsuit without the support of Mayor Bing or city council. He said Crittendon did not have the authority to file the lawsuit on her own.

Collette also said Detroit's consent agreement with the state of Michigan is in place and people will just have to live with it.

Mayor Dave Bing is holding a press conference at 11:15 a.m. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will be there.

And Gov. Risk Snyder will meet with members of the media at noon today. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith will bring us reaction from Mr. Snyder

Politics
3:04 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Bing responds to court decision validating Detroit-Lansing consent agreement

Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder at a groundbreaking in Detroit last month.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s happy a “distracting” court case brought by his own city attorney was dismissed Wednesday, and the city can now follow through on its consent agreement with the state.

Bing said he was “not happy with” his corporation counsel’s decision to push the legal challenge—but insists that’s all in the past now.

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Politics
1:34 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

AP: House panel blocks funding for new Detroit bridge

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republican House lawmakers are attempting to block state spending by the governor to build another bridge across the Detroit River.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a supplemental budget that would prohibit using state money unless the Legislature authorizes construction of the bridge. Grandville Republican Rep. Dave Agema said Wednesday his goal in amending the supplemental budget is "to stop spending money" lawmakers didn't authorize.

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Politics
12:56 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Stabenow using farm bill to woo Michigan growers

Senator Debbie Stabenow stopped at Zeeland Farm Services to announce her push for the tax break Monday. ZFS would get the incentive for their investments in bio-based manufacturing.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection this November and is looking to prove her bona fides amongst the state's agriculturally-minded constituents.

According to a story from Bloomberg News, incumbent lawmakers are struggling to find new ways to prove their worth to voters after Congress outlawed earmarks for home-state projects.

Stabenow, Bloomberg writes, is using a $969 billion national farm policy bill she wrote as head of the Senate Agriculture Committee to show Michigan voters ---especially food growers--- that she is working for them.

From Bloomberg News:

[Stabenow] persuaded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to let her bring up the legislation early so she could tout its expanded assistance to farmers -- including Michigan fruit growers, who have suffered crippling crop losses this spring.

Unseasonably-fluctuating temperatures in March and April have been wreaking havoc on Michigan's tart cherry crop, a staple product for some northern parts of the state. The Environment Report's Bob Allen reported in April that Northwest Michigan saw a tart cherry crop loss of 50 percent to 70 percent this year. Other fruits like apples, peaches and plums were also hit hard.

Bloomberg News writes that "cherries and other fruit crops damaged in Michigan would have more protections under the expanded insurance system in the farm bill," and Stabenow would like to make sure farmers know it.

According to Bloomberg, some growers are getting the message:

Ben LaCross, a northern Michigan grower of cherries, apples and plums, told reporters last week that his farm would be in “free fall” without federal assistance, adding that Stabenow’s measure would expand the tools available to help farmers cope with crop failures like the one this year.

“Crop insurance will help keep family businesses like mine in business,” LaCross said.

The farm bill is being debated in the Senate.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics & Government
11:24 am
Wed June 13, 2012

FEMA denies request for assistance to flooded Michigan communities

Rain is in the forecast for much of Michigan.
Tom Grundy Flickr

FEMA will not provide disaster assistance to Michigan communities affected by severe flooding back in May.

More than five inches of rain fell in parts of Genesee County near Flint on May 3 and 4.

Several homes and businesses suffered extensive damage. It was enough for Gov. Snyder to declare a state of emergency in the affected areas, but not enough for the federal government.

From the Flint Journal:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has told Gov. Rick Snyder that a request for major disaster assistance has been denied, according to a letter from FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate.

"Based on our review of all the information available it has been determined that the damage to dwellings from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies," Fugate's letter to Snyder says.

Genesee County officials are expected to appeal the decision.

Politics
8:46 am
Wed June 13, 2012

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news...
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Mayor hires firm to stop consent agreement challenge

The Detroit Free Press calls the case"the City of Detroit vs. the City of Detroit."

Mayor Dave Bing has been trying to convince city council to join him in stopping the city's lead attorney from going forward with a legal challenge against the city's consent agreement with the state. Now he's hired lawyers of his own:

Mayor Dave Bing, exasperated by the lead city attorney's unwillingness to drop her challenge of the financial deal meant to spare Detroit from the appointment of an emergency manager, has brought in hired legal guns to try to quash her complaint.

Bing has hired attorneys from Miller Canfield -- the same law firm the mayor contracted to broker the consent deal with the state and a bond agreement that kept the city financially afloat -- to file a motion to intervene against the city's top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, people familiar with the decision told the Free Press on condition they not be named because they're not authorized to speak on the issue.

Crittendonwill be in Ingham County Circuit  Court today where she's expected to request an expedited decision in the case.

Protests in Lansing over potential abortion legislation

Protestors opposing a set of bills aimed at putting restrictions on abortion were in Lansing yesterday. MPRN's Rick Pluta reported protestors said the bills would force some clinics that provide an array of services to women to shut down.

They were protesting a group of anti-abortion bills to be voted on this week by the House. The legislation would outlaw terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks. It would also require clinics to be inspected, and impose new restrictions on abortion providers.           

“Frankly, these bills terrify me,” said Susie Simons of East Lansing.

Announcement on new bridge to Canada expected

Since he's become Governor, Rick Snyder has been pushing for a second bridge linking Detroit to Canada. Now it appears plans for that second bridge are coming together.

From the Toronto Star:

A deal to build a second bridge linking Windsor and Detroit will be announced this week, sparking hope that the chronic congestion at Canada’s busiest border crossing will soon be relieved.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to join with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on the Windsor waterfront for the official announcement on Friday, a source told the Toronto Star Tuesday.

Politics
2:48 am
Wed June 13, 2012

Grand Rapids City not willing to narrow abortion coverage for city employees

People line up to speak at city commission's 'night out' at Rosewood Elementary School's gym. Grand Rapids resident Adrienne Urban (at the podium) spoke in favor of the proposal.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Despite some public pressure, Grand Rapids City Commissioners declined to support a proposal that would restrict abortion coverage for city workers. A group turned in more than a thousand signatures in favor of the proposal last month.

Health insurance for Grand Rapids city workers does not cover any elective surgeries. So abortions are only covered when deemed “medically necessary”. The proposal would’ve defined that to mean only in cases of rape, incest and to protect the health of the mother.

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Politics
11:45 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Lots of action, uncertainty as Detroit-Lansing standoff continues

The standoff between Lansing and some Detroit city officials over a lawsuit showed little sign of fizzling out Tuesday.

But it also appears the state might be looking for ways to give the city some leeway if the contentious situation continues much longer.

The standoff began last week when Detroit’s corporation counsel, Krystal Crittendon, went to court asking for a judge’s opinion about whether the consent agreement between the city and state should be voided.

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Politics
6:27 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Troy recall organizers submit petition signatures

Supporters of an effort to kick Troy's mayor out of office say they've submitted more than enough petition signatures to get the measure onto the November ballot.

John Kulesz is one of the recall campaign's organizers. He says he expects Mayor Janice Daniels and her supporters will put up a vigorous fight to keep her in office.

"These people are take no prisoner types,” said Kulesz. “So we know that they'll throw everything in the book at us to discredit us and accuse us of this that and the other thing. But we're going to stand up for our rights, and we're going to stand up for the people of Troy."

Kulesz Daniels is harming Troy's reputation. Daniels gained notoriety over a gay slur she used on her Facebook page before she took office. She later angered many people when she voted to turn down federal money for a transit center.

But Daniels says those are not legitimate reasons for recall.

"If the new standard for recall is that a group of people doesn't like the way an elected official voted on an issue, or they don't like an elected official's opinion on issues, then we've gone to a very dangerous point in our history,” Daniels said. “I haven't committed a crime."

The Oakland County clerk's office has 35 days to certify the petitions.

Politics
5:58 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Abortion debate heats up at state Capitol

Amanda Kennedy of Mason and Susie Simons of East Lansing were among the hundreds of protesters at a rally on the Capitol lawn. Kennedy and Simons oppose a package of anti-abortion bills to be voted on this week by the state House.
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio

Protesters in pink shirts filled the lawn of the state Capitol and packed the gallery of the state House today.

They were protesting a group of anti-abortion bills to be voted on this week by the House. The legislation would outlaw terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks. It would also require clinics to be inspected, and impose new restrictions on abortion providers.           

“Frankly, these bills terrify me,” said Susie Simons of East Lansing. I’m completely afraid to get pregnant if these bills pass because if anything happens to me past 20 weeks I either have to die or carry a dead baby. So, I’m really terrified for my safety and for so many other women.”

A group of about 20 abortion opponents also lined up on the other side of the walkway leading to the Capitol.

“I am a strong believer in life and I believe the baby’s rights should be protected and I really want these bills to go through because I think they are also helping women. They are protecting them at the same time as the baby, too,” said Jennah Sailor, a member of the University of Michigan chapter of Students for Life.

The measures would forbid terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks, and would impose new restrictions on clinics and abortion providers. Abortion rights advocates say the measures would force some clinics that provide an array of services to women to shut down.

The measures are up for House votes as soon as tomorrow.

They are expected to pass since a substantial majority of state House members are endorsed by anti-abortion groups.

Politics
5:09 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Detroit Council President: State 'irresponsible' for using threats

Charles Pugh, Detroit City Council President.
Charles Pugh

Detroit's top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, plans to argue in court that the city's consent agreement with the state is not legal.

The Detroit News reports that Crittendon contends the state owes the city "more than $220 million in past-due state revenue sharing payments and millions of other unpaid bills." She says the city can't enter into a consent agreement with the state since the state is in default.

The state has denied they owe Detroit money, and Gov. Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon have said they'll withhold $80 million in revenue sharing payments to the city if the lawsuit goes forward.

Crittendon is expected to appear in Ingham County court tomorrow for an initial hearing.

Crittendon said it is her legal obligation to go forward with her lawsuit. From the Detroit News:

"Those of you who have worked with me should know that I take my legal, moral, ethical, professional and charter-mandated responsibilities very seriously," Crittendon wrote. "They are not for sale and will not be compromised."

Yesterday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was unsuccessful in persuading city council to back his effort to stop Crittendon from moving forward with the lawsuit.

Today, we here more about council's reaction to the lawsuit and the state's threat of withholding money from the city.

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh said state officials are "scaring the hell" out of Detroit by threatening to pull funding from the city. More from MLive's Jonathan Oosting:

Council President Charles Pugh today questioned reports that Detroit is poised to run out money this week and called the state "irresponsible" for threatening to withhold expected funding because of concerns over a pending lawsuit by the city's top attorney.

"They can have those concerns," Pugh told reporters this morning. "But you don't put the city at risk of not being able to pay our police officers and firefighters and scaring the hell out of citizens by saying we're going to run out of cash. That's irresponsible, and it makes me angry because we didn't have to get to this point."

Politics
10:21 am
Tue June 12, 2012

Romney to conclude battleground bus tour in Michigan

publiceye.org wikimedia commons

A five-day, six-state bus tour by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will wind up next week in his home state of Michigan.

Romney last visited Michigan in May.

The Michigan swing with three stops will cap off a tour of half a dozen states deemed potential battlegrounds by the Romney campaign.

A survey of voters released last week suggests Michigan could be a toss-up between Romney and President Obama.

The president has made almost a dozen trips to Michigan to talk about green energy jobs, or to proclaim the success of the automotive rescue package. His campaign will spend this week calling attention to businesses that benefited from the auto recovery. Romney – who was born in Detroit -- opposed government loans to keep Chrysler and GM solvent through bankruptcy.

Commentary
10:00 am
Tue June 12, 2012

Commentary: Changing the Rules

Kerry Bentivolio is resentful of the Republican establishment, and it's not hard to see why.  Bentivolio is running for Congress in the newly redrawn 11th District, which includes a lot of prosperous suburban areas in Wayne and Oakland Counties.

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Politics
6:30 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Michigan State Police trooper training begins

Michigan is on track to get dozens of new state police troopers in October.

Michigan's Trooper Recruit School just got under way. About 90 recruits are enrolled, and another 90 are expected to start training in October.

This year's crop of recruits is larger than in recent years. But the number of new troopers still won't outpace the number expected to retire.

"It may give us a slight uptick, but it's pretty much going to keep us pretty much at the same level when we look at the number of people we have eligible for retirement, we're losing quite a lot of people over the next few years," said Michigan State Police  spokeswoman Shannon Banner.

Michigan currently has just over 900 troopers stationed at 29 posts around the state. That compares with about 1,300 a decade ago.

Politics
3:50 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Not much support in effort to get Detroit's top lawyer to drop lawsuit

Outside Detroit City Hall
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city will run out of money this week if a city lawyer doesn’t back off from a lawsuit challenging a consent agreement with the state.

Bing was hoping to unite City Council members behind his efforts to get that lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, to drop her legal action.

But at a contentious appearance before the Council this morning, Bing found little support.

And the mayor says that leaves the city vulnerable to going broke.

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Politics
12:55 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Detroit Mayor to council, back off legal challenge

Today, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing asked the city Council to pass a resolution asking the city’s top lawyer to back off a legal challenge to Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

State officials say that litigation compromises a complex bond transaction, and say until the legal challenge is dropped, they’ll withhold about $80-million promised in the consent agreement.

But most City Council members say lawyer Krystal Crittendon is only following the law, and they’d like a judge to rule on the consent agreement’s validity.

Council President Charles Pugh, who voted for the consent agreement, says he hopes Lansing “does the right thing.”

“And that’s not allowing the city to run out of money," said Pugh. "That would be so irresponsible, just because they don’t agree with the court action. Her opinion does not prevent the state from living up to its responsibilities.”

Mayor Bing says he doesn’t think the state is bluffing about letting the city go broke. He left the Council meeting to attend ongoing discussions with state officials.

News Roundup
10:46 am
Mon June 11, 2012

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news...
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit in a game of revenue-sharing chicken with the state

Detroit's top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, is challenging the legality of the city's consent agreement with the state in court. State officials are threatening to withhold millions of dollars in state revenue sharing payments if the lawsuit is not dropped.

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Politics
10:28 am
Mon June 11, 2012

Detroit officials count city money in the face of consent agreement legal challenge

Detroit City Council chamber
City of Detroit Facebook page

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council are sitting down this morning to discuss keeping the city afloat financially.

Bing and Detroit’s Chief Financial Officer have warned the city might run out of money by the end of this week.

When Detroit signed a consent agreement with the state more than two months ago, it was supposed to keep the city out of just this position.

But the city’s top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, is challenging the deal’s validity in court.

She has support from several City Council members—and at one point, got encouragement from Bing.

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Commentary
10:06 am
Mon June 11, 2012

Commentary: Common Sense

Now that I’m in my sixties, I find myself forced to confront the sad truth that I am never going to be a concert violinist or play professional sports. So instead, I have decided to devote my life to urging our leaders to exercise common sense.

True, there are days when it does seem that trying to make the Detroit Lions might hold out slightly more chance of success.  But as an idealistic baby boomer, I refuse to give up.

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