Politics & Government

Politics
10:05 am
Mon March 26, 2012

Decision day looms for the city of Detroit

State and city leaders have been working to avoid an emergency manager appointment in Detroit, but so far, no deal has been reached.
user jodelli Flickr

Today is deadline day, according to Gov. Rick Snyder. He wants the state financial review team to tell him whether they recommend an emergency manager for the city of Detroit.

After the financial review team makes its recommendation, Snyder has ten days to make his decision on whether or not to appoint an emergency manager, something he's repeatedly said he does not want to do.

He'd rather reach a consent agreement with the city, but so far, city leaders and state officials have not reached a deal.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon and city leaders have been working over the weekend to come up with an agreement. They've been meeting despite Detroit Mayor Bing's hospitalization for a perforated intestine.

The Detroit Free Press reports Kirk Lewis, Bing's chief of staff, "has been made deputy mayor and will act as mayor until Bing is able to resume his normal activities."

The mayor is in regular contact with Lewis, who is talking with Dillon and his officials, so Bing's hospital stay is not expected to prohibit an agreement from being reached, she said.

The Free Press reports Gov. Snyder will be in Detroit today to meet with council members and other officials.

Snyder is expected to talk to the media at 1:30 p.m. today about Detroit's financial crisis. We'll have an update for you then.

Much has happened on this story in the last few weeks. For a look back, you can check out all the stories we've produced here. And you can check out a quick list of recent events published this morning by MLive's Jonathan Oosting.

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News Roundup
8:44 am
Mon March 26, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, March 26th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Healthcare Overhaul

Michigan is one of 26 states challenging the federal Affordable Care Act in arguments that begin today before the U-S Supreme Court. Meanwhile, “there is a fight in the Michigan Legislature over moving ahead with the internet exchanges required by the law to help people find affordable insurance. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, says the state should wait for a ruling. Governor Rick Snyder says exactly the opposite. He says the state can’t afford to wait – that a delay could cost federal dollars and doom Michigan’s ability to adopt its own system if the federal healthcare law is upheld,” Rick Pluta reports.

Lansing Budget

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero will tell the city council tonight how he plans to cut nearly $5 million to balance his city’s budget. Steve Carmody reports:

Last fall, the mayor’s office was predicting the city might be facing up to a $15 million shortfall. Mayor Bernero says voter approval of a special public safety millage, lower health care costs and more state revenue sharing money than expected has improved Lansing’s revenue picture. However, Bernero says painful cuts are still needed to balance the city’s budget. Bernero says without additional concessions from the city’s unions Lansing will have to institute employee furlough days and possibly layoffs of some non-public safety employees.

MI SUPCO

The Michigan Supreme Court says a lawsuit challenging health insurance for the domestic partners of state employees won't be placed on a fast track, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The court on Friday declined to take the case away from the Michigan appeals court. The lone dissenter was Justice Stephen Markman, who says it's an important matter that deserves "expedited consideration" from the Supreme Court. Attorney General Bill Schuette is challenging the Civil Service Commission's decision to extend benefits to domestic partners or other unrelated adults living with some state employees. Lawmakers tried to overturn it but didn't have enough votes last year.

Politics
6:43 am
Mon March 26, 2012

Michigan Attorney General counsels wait and see approach on federal healthcare law

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
Corvair Owner Flickr

Michigan is one of 26 states challenging federal health care reforms in a case that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court today. But there is also a stalemate in state government over moving ahead with an online healthcare exchange that is part of the law that would help consumers shop for coverage.

Deadlines set up in the health care law are drawing near.

The state Senate has adopted a measure to create the exchange. The House has put the question on hold until after the case is decided.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state should wait.

“I would caution people, there’s no rush. I think the healthcare exchange should not go forward and I think a lot of people in the Legislature agree with me.”

But Governor Rick Snyder, also a Republican, does not. He says the healthcare exchange is a good idea that would save consumers money regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. He says - if Schuette’s challenge fails - the delay could also cost Michigan millions and force the state into a federal bureaucracy instead of a system of its own design.

Politics
7:07 pm
Sat March 24, 2012

Detroit mayor undergoes surgery, will remain in hospital for 5 to 7 more days

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

DETROIT (AP) — Mayor Dave Bing has had surgery Saturday to repair a perforation of his intestines and is expected to remain in a Detroit hospital for five to seven days.

Dr. Scott Dulchavsky, chair of surgery at Henry Ford Hospital, says in a release the procedure was successful and the 68-year-old Bing "is resting comfortably."

Dulchavsky says he expects a "faster than normal recovery."

Politics
4:13 pm
Sat March 24, 2012

Supreme Court refuses domestic partner benefits challenge

FB user sarawestermark

The Michigan Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to benefits that cover the live-in partners of state employees. That ruling means the challenge will have to go first to the state Court of Appeals. This is the newest wrinkle in the legal and political drama playing out over allowing benefits that cover public employees’ unmarried partners, including people in same-sex relationships.

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Politics
10:42 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Wayne State University panel talks emergency managers, privatization

Some of the main players and experts on Michigan’s emergency manager law weighed in at a Wayne State University law school event Friday.

The symposium looked at what it calls the “restructuring of government through privatization and corporatization” throughout the state, particularly in Detroit.

The topic was chosen as financial troubles continue to plague many municipalities—and the state is frequently intervening through Public Act 4, a more powerful emergency manager law.

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Politics
10:37 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Court of Appeals allows Detroit and review team to continue negotiations

wikimedia commons

Detroit officials and a state financial review team are free once again to try and reach a consent agreement. The Michigan Court of Appeals tonight unanimously overturned an Ingham County Court judge’s order that prohibited the two sides from working out an agreement before Monday’s deadline.

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Politics
9:57 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Detroit unions ratify new contracts

AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett, at a recent rally to overturn Public Act 4

A big coalition of about 30 unions representing Detroit city workers has ratified a new contract.

The workers gave up a lot, including a 10% pay cut, a major health care reorganization, and switching from traditional pensions to defined-contribution retirement plans.

But for a variety of reasons, it’s unclear whether it’s enough to help the city avoid state intervention.

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Politics
4:42 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Judges dismiss challenge to Michigan House redistricting

New congressional district maps close up of southeast Michigan.
Michigan House of Representatives

DETROIT (AP) - A coalition of labor and civil rights groups appears to have lost a lawsuit challenging new boundaries for Detroit seats in the Michigan House.

A three-judge panel said a majority was in favor of ending the case, and a written opinion will follow. The judges heard arguments Friday on the state of Michigan's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the new map is illegal because it dilutes the political representation of minorities and forces some black incumbents to run against each other in Detroit this year. The boundaries were approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, also a Republican.

John Bursch of the attorney general's office defended the map, noting the 10 House seats in Detroit have a majority black population.

Politics
4:27 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Crowd rallies in Ann Arbor against contraception mandate

Catholic clergy and school children were part of the crowd outside the federal building

More than two hundred people gathered today in front of Ann Arbor's Federal Building. They were protesting a recent federal mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services that requires all employer healthcare plans to provide contraceptive services.

Seven similar rallies were also held in Michigan, along with more than 100 others across the country organized by Catholic pro-life groups.

Christen Houck is a student at the University of Michigan.

"This mandate is unconstitutional based on the fact that it goes against people's religious consciences," she says. "That's something that we really need to protect. I do not think this is an issue about contraception, but it's really about religious freedom."

Twenty-eight states, including Michigan, already require coverage of contraceptives in employer healthcare plans. Michigan’s law includes a broad religious exemption.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
1:47 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Detroit unions agree to pay cuts amid city's financial crisis

Downtown Detroit at night.
user pablocosta wikimedia commons

In a deal announced today, a coalition of unions representing thousands of Detroit city workers said their members approved 10 percent pay cuts and other changes.

The Associated Press reports "the deal announced Friday affects at least 4,500 workers and still needs approval from the city council."

It does not cover the unions representing Detroit police officers or Detroit firefighters. Those unions are in separate talks.

Absent cuts or added revenue, the city is expected to run out of cash sometime in April.

The cuts are intended to hold off a state takeover of Detroit through the appointment of an emergency manager, or though a consent agreement.

The Detroit Free Press reports the question of whether these cuts are enough remains to be seen:

Under the current agreement, the city would save about $54 million a year in concessions — less than half what Mayor Dave Bing originally wanted.

Other savings include $14 million in layoffs and about $100 million in new revenue by aggressively collecting past due taxes and parking tickets, but those were plans already underway before the negotiations.

An attorney who assisted in the negotiations for the coalition of unions, Richard Mack, said "we are going to make sure the city gets back in the black within a year."

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder wants to hear recommendations on Monday from the state's financial review team about whether the state should step in with either an emergency manager or a consent agreement.

But the legality of the review team is getting tangled up in the courts. An Ingham County judge found that the state's review team violated the Open Meetings Act. The state appealed the ruling, which is now being reviewed by the appeals court.

Politics
12:35 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Michigan appeals court considers Detroit finances timeline

Downtown Detroit
user andrea44 Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Court of Appeals is considering a case that would influence how quickly the state may decide what to do about the city of Detroit's troubled finances.

The appeals court has set a deadline of Friday afternoon for certain briefs to be filed in the case.

The state is trying to overturn Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette's ruling that Michigan officials can't enter into a consent agreement with Detroit until he gives further orders. Collette has ruled a state review team analyzing Detroit's finances must comply with the Open Meetings Act.

Collette set a March 29 hearing in the case. But Gov. Rick Snyder wants the review team to report to him by Monday with the recommendation of a consent agreement or an emergency manager for Detroit.

Politics
11:06 am
Fri March 23, 2012

In Michigan, State House Republicans block efforts to set up health exchange

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is making little progress toward creating a statewide health exchange required by federal law, held up by House Republicans who want to wait until the U.S. Supreme
Court decides if the law is constitutional.

The high court will hear arguments over the Affordable Care Act starting Monday.

Justices could uphold the law, strike it down completely or get rid of some provisions. House Republicans say the state shouldn't spend $9.8 million in federal funds on planning the exchange until
the court rules this summer.

But state and federal officials say Michigan could run out of time to put a state-run health exchange in place by Jan. 1.

They warn the federal government then would install its own exchange where consumers could compare private health insurance plans online.

Commentary
11:01 am
Fri March 23, 2012

Commentary: Too much sex, not enough policy

Consider this. We’ve still got more than a week left of March, and it looks like April and feels like August. Yesterday it was eighty-six in Ann Arbor, and two people think they saw a cougar -- a mountain lion, not the other kind -- on north campus.

We’ve got presidential candidates waving Etch-a-sketch toys instead of talking about Iran and inflation.

In other words, it’s not a normal year, and I want to make a suggestion to further radically change our world.

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Politics
10:57 am
Fri March 23, 2012

Freedom of Information Act exemption for elected officials is called into question

Michigan’s governor and legislative members are not subject to state open-records law, but Democrats in the State Senate are trying to change that.

Gretchen Whitmer is the Democratic Senate leader. She thinks requiring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is an important step towards promoting honesty from elected officials.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring ethical conduct by people in the legislature and setting a standard that’s very clear, and a system that is transparent," says Whitmer.

Her request comes a few days after emails were released by the Oakland County Democratic Party, which suggest the county’s redistricting process was motivated by partisan goals.

Legislation attempting to lift this thirty-six year old exemption is not new. It has been introduced several times before, most recently in the 2009 term. At that time, it was sponsored primarily by Republican representatives, who were in the minority.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Legal Issues
10:17 am
Fri March 23, 2012

University of Michigan hosts panel on life sentences for juveniles

The State Prison in Jackson, Michigan
Andrew Jameson wikimedia commons

The University of Michigan Law School hosted a panel on life sentences for juveniles on Monday.  

In Michigan, a first-degree murder conviction results in an automatic life sentence for anyone 14 or older. There are currently 359 people in the state serving life without parole for crimes committed as minors. Michigan is one of 11 states with this type of law.

Austin Land works at a law firm that focuses on these kind of cases. He says these convictions are a human rights violation, because children are not able to fully participate in the adult criminal system. 

"Children have adolescent brains, they are risk-prone, and they lack adult faculties of judgment," Land said . "This all affects their ability to participate in their own defense, their ability to plea bargain."

On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments for a pair of cases involving men who were fourteen when they were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Defendants claim this violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment. ’ 

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
10:11 am
Fri March 23, 2012

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing admitted to hospital

Detroit mayor Dave Bing (file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Update 10:11 a.m.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's chief of staff Kirk Lewis sent this update to the media this morning:

I spoke with the Mayor this morning. Doctors have diagnosed him with an inflammation of the intestine; a commonly diagnosed, non-life-threatening condition.

He continues to rest comfortably, and a decision will be made later today regarding his release.

The Mayor is alert, upbeat and tells me he’s ready to return to the office.

9:28 a.m.

Mayor Bing commented on his visit to the Henry Ford Hospital on WJR 760 AM this morning.

From the Detroit Free Press:

...host Paul W. Smith said he spoke to Mayor Dave Bing by telephone Thursday night and Bing told him: “They think I might have a bit of colitis.”

Colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine, or colon.

Bing also said he was doing well and expected to be released today, Smith said...

The mayor said in January that he weighs only 10 pounds more than he did during his pro basketball days, and that he plays tennis and never eats junk food.

Thursday, March 22, 7:09 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been hospitalized for observation after discomfort following dental treatment.

Bing press secretary Naomi Patton says Bing had a dental appointment Thursday morning and "continued to experience some discomfort."

Patton says in an email that Bing went to Henry Ford Hospital on Thursday afternoon "and was subsequently admitted for observation and as a precautionary measure."

The 68-year-old Bing is a former businessman and retired NBA player who spent most of his career with the Detroit Pistons.

He was elected to a four-year term as mayor in 2009.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Fri March 23, 2012

This morning's news headlines in Michigan

Morning News Roundup, Friday, March 23rd, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Concealed Weapons Changes?

Under a new proposal in the state Senate, people with concealed weapon permits could carry handguns in more places if they get additional training. “A bill that would overhaul parts of the state's concealed weapons law was approved Thursday by the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.The bill wouldn't eliminate "no carry" zones such as schools, stadiums and churches. But licensed carriers who get training beyond what's already required in state law could get exemptions that would allow them to carry guns in those zones,” the Associated Press reports.

LGBT Protections

Democratic state Senator Rebecca Warren is calling for an expansion of Michigan’s civil rights law to protect people who are gay, lesbian or transgender from discrimination. Rick Pluta reports:

Warren says expanding the civil rights law would send a message that Michigan is trying to attract creative workers and entrepreneurs. Warren says the legislation would have no effect on the amendment that outlaws same-sex marriage and civil unions in Michigan. She doubts her bill will clear the Legislature in this session, but she wants to make sure the issue doesn’t go dormant. She also wants the bill to serve as a counterpoint to another bill that would outlaw local gay rights ordinances like the ones on the books in 18 Michigan communities.

Spartans Are Out

Michigan State University is out. The Spartan’s men’s basketball team lost 57-44 last night in their NCAA Sweet 16 tournament game against Louisville. “Tough defense by Louisville led to the defeat,” NPR’s Mike Pesca explains. “Some couch and garbage fires were reported near Michigan State University,” after the game, the Associated Press notes. But, no injuries have been reported.

Politics
5:01 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Appeal coming as Michigan governor's office pursues consent agreement for Detroit

Spirit of Detroit
(Michigan Radio)

Aides to Governor Rick Snyder say the state will ask the Michigan Court of Appeals to lift a judge’s order that prohibits a deal between Michigan and Detroit to resolve the city’s budget crisis.

An Ingham County judge says the state cannot make any deals with Detroit until he decides late next week whether a state team reviewing Detroit’s finances broke Michigan’s open meetings law.    Monday is the deadline for the review team to give Governor Snyder its recommendations.

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Politics
4:55 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Michigan lawmaker proposes expanding LGBT protections

antiochla.edu Antioch University

At the state Capitol, a Democratic lawmaker has called for expending Michigan’s civil rights law to protect people who are gay, lesbian or transgender from many types of discrimination.

State Senator Rebekah Warren says expanding the civil rights law would send a message that Michigan is trying to attract creative workers and entrepreneurs.

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