Politics & Government

Politics
5:26 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Gov. Snyder: Michigan should be center of N. American manufacturing

Gov. Rick Snyder
michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder says Michigan can be the leading center of manufacturing in North America – if the state makes the right moves.

The governor says his plan is based on the direction he sees the global economy taking.

“There’s going to be one spot that’s going to be the standout place on each continent that’s going to be the place that makes stuff and you’re going to have global organizations that are saying, when I go to a different continent, I’m going to go to the place that’s  the best at making something,” Snyder told attendees of a business conference on Mackinac Island.   

The governor says Michigan’s history, engineering expertise, and related activities such as agriculture can all combine to make the state attractive to global manufacturers. He says a new international bridge in Detroit is also part of the plan. He accuses the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, who would compete with another border crossing, of spreading lies about the cost of the project to taxpayers.  

Weekly Political Roundup
4:44 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Are Detroit businesses looking for a fresh face in the Mayor's office?

Laughlin Elkind Flickr

Every Thursday we look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Mayor Dave Bing yesterday announced that he and the Detroit City Council have come to an agreement on the city's 2012-2013 budget.

The Mayor is also attending the Mackinac Policy Conference but has avoided telling reporters outright whether he plans to run for reelection.

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Politics
4:37 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan lawmakers pass (most of) a budget for next year

State House members and others look on as the votes are counted on the Omnibus 2013budget (non-education) bill
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State lawmakers have passed a budget plan for most of state government for next year.

The House and Senate passed an Omnibus spending bill that covers all of state government, except education.   The state House passed the bill on a 61 to 49 vote.   The bill passed the state Senate on a 20 to 16 vote.

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Politics
3:23 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Lawyers sue Michigan Department of Corrections to restore prison visiting hours

The director of Michigan State University's Civil Rights Clinic is suing the state Department of Corrections in federal court.

Dan Manville says the DOC is violating some lawyers' Constitutional rights by limiting when they can visit prisoners.

Manville says the new visiting hours are three days a week from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

"Now under this present procedure, you're having to drive at least two or three days to do the same thing you used to be able to do in one day," Manville says.

He says some lawyers have clients at several locations around the state.

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Politics
3:06 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Advocates urge the Obama administration to change it's deportation policies

Members of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform listen as one of several speakers talks about the difficulties she has had trying to stay in the United States. The event took place in Lansing.
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Immigration advocates are calling on the Obama administration to scale back efforts to deport some undocumented immigrants in Michigan.

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Politics
2:26 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan school districts could get more money in next budget

Hundreds of school districts that now get the minimum amount of state aid would get $120 more per student this fall under a compromise reached by state lawmakers. A conference committee has voted today to raise the minimum per-pupil grant. The school aid budget now goes to the state House and Senate, which are expected to pass it later today.

Commentary
1:52 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Frustration at Mackinac

Two days ago, a beaming Gov. Rick Snyder opened the annual conference of our state?s economic and political elites on an upbeat note. He cited the official themes the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce set for their annual Mackinac Conference. "Innovation, Collaboration and the Twenty-First Century Global Marketplace." Those are things he himself is all about.

Whether you agree with his positions or not, this governor wants what he thinks are rational policies aimed at giving this state a future. But the morning after his triumphant welcome, the governor had to again admit defeat over an issue that shouldn't even be an issue: Road funding. Too many Michigan roads are in poor shape, and a whole lot more are rapidly getting worse. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Transportation estimated ninety per cent of our roads are in good or fair condition, which seemed too high to me.

But the state also calculated that unless we start investing far more heavily in our roads, only 44 percent will be in acceptable shape a mere eight years from now. That would be a disaster.

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Politics
12:50 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

"Leo's Law" nearly ready for governor's signature

Then-seven-year-old Leo Ratte was taken into state custody after his dad mistakenly gave him a Mike's Hard Lemonade at a ballgame in 2008.
wikimedia commons

It would be more difficult for the state to take children into protective custody, under a bill that's expected to go to the governor for his signature soon.

The legislation was inspired by a situation at a Detroit Tigers game four years ago.

Leo Ratte was seven years old at the time, when his dad bought him a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade at the ballpark. His dad didn't realize the drink contained alcohol. But a security guard spotted Leo drinking the lemonade, and notified authorities. 

Hours later, Leo was in state custody. He spent two nights away from his parents.

The bill's sponsor says he wants to make sure something similar never happens again.

"When I began to look into the problem I found that Michigan has some of the lowest standards in the nation for removing a child from a parent," said Sen. Rick Jones (R-Lansing).

Jones' bill would require there to be substantial or imminent risk of harm before a child could be removed from its parents without a court order.

Politics
12:27 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Hoekstra defending idea of federal office to avert "birther" controversies

Former West Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra wants to become the Republican candidate to run against U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in November.
Republican Conference Flickr

Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra said he called for a federal agency to check the qualifications of presidential candidates because he wants to avert future “birther” controversies.

MPRN's Rick Pluta reports:

Hoekstra has been slammed for re-igniting the debate among Republicans over President Obama’s citizenship at a Tea Party meeting last month.

Hoekstra said he was responding to a question he’s grown tired of answering.

“This is an absolutely ludicrous discussion to be having four years after we’ve had a presidential discussion. It’s an absolute waste of time and energy.”

Here's the video of the event where Hoekstra proposed the "three-person" federal office to oversee whether candidates are eligible for running for president of the United States:

And here's Hoekstra, under heated questioning from CNN's Brooke Baldwin, defending his proposal for this federal office:  Video

Politics
12:07 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan lawmakers hope to pass state budget today

A view of the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are working to pass the final pieces of the 2012-13 budget, but differences are still being worked out on funding for universities and public schools.

If the budget is finished today as planned, the Legislature will meet its goal of passing a budget by June 1.

A House-Senate conference committee is expected to reach a compromise on the K-12 budget soon.

The two chambers are having trouble reaching an agreement on kindergarten funding. Differences on the higher education budget include whether Michigan State University must give up its requirement that all students get health coverage and whether the University of Michigan must report more on stem cell research.

Politics
10:38 am
Thu May 31, 2012

AUDIO: No budget battle, Detroit Mayor Bing says yes to $250 million in cuts

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

At a press conference this morning, Detroit Mayor Bing said he'll approve Detroit City Council's budget.

Here's Bing making the announcement at the Mackinac Policy Conference this morning:

Bing's announcement means the typical high-stakes budget battles seen between executive and legislative branches of government won't happen in Detroit this year.

Suzette Hackney of the Detroit Free Press reports:

For the first time in recent history, Detroit's executive and legislative branches of government quashed potential squabbles over the city's budget and agreed to make $250 million in cuts in an effort to steer Detroit back toward fiscal stability.Detroit Mayor Dave Bing this morning said he intends Friday to formally adopt the budget, which contains key public lighting, transportation and public safety initiatives...

The 2012-13 fiscal year begins July 1. This budget is the first under a consent agreement that gives the state significant oversight into Detroit's finances. The $1.12-billion spending plan calls for Detroit's human services department to be eliminated, the transportation and lighting departments will be privatized, and 2,600 jobs will be cut.

The budget reduces the city's general fund by $246 million -- a $171-million spending reduction and $75 million to go toward paying down an accumulated deficit.

Detroit's budget must also be approved by a "financial advisory board" which was set up under a consent agreement with the state. The seats on the nine-member board are still being filled.

News Roundup
8:51 am
Thu May 31, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Hoekstra responds to "birther" questions at Mackinac Policy Conference

Republican Senate hopeful Pete Hoekstra responded to a question from MPRN's Rick Pluta about his publicly stated support for a "3-person" federal office that reviews whether presidential candidates meet minimum requirements to run for office. From the Detroit Free Press:

...host Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio put [Hoekstra] on the defensive over a controversy that arose Wednesday after remarks Hoekstra made about whether Obama was born in the U.S. and qualified to hold the office of president.

Hoekstra responded saying:

...it was "an absolutely ludicrous discussion to be having" after Obama has been president for four years. "They raised the issue; I didn't," he said of the tea party group. "They thought it was important. I don't."

With most state lawmakers gone, business is the focus on Mackinac Island

Lawmakers certainly discuss business as well, but Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta talked about a different vibe on Mackinac Island on their It's Just Politics episode this week.

State lawmakers typically attend the Mackinac Policy Conference, but with budget negotiations going on in Lansing, most are absent.

"State lawmakers are not here, and because state lawmakers are not here, lobbyists are not here," said Pluta. "And if lobbyists are not here that means there's not this cadre of people who are buying drinks and meals...and hosting hospitality suites, so it's a little quieter, it's a little tamer."

Clark points out that some of the people she spoke with don't miss the lawmakers. Pluta says "business people are gettting together and talking business" at this conference.

A new State Fair in Michigan?

There's no state funding involved in this fair, so some are saying it can't really be called a "State Fair." Organizers of the "Great Lakes State Fair" say they're not trying to duplicate the old Michigan State Fair, but they are attempting to bring in similar events. From the Detroit Free Press:

The new event will feature many of the elements found at typical fairs: a midway, carnival rides, livestock and produce exhibits, a beer tent and entertainment.

The event will take place from August 31 through September 3 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

It's Just Politics
8:56 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Mackinac Policy Conference: A political free-for-all

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The Grand hosts the annual Mackinac Policy Conference put on by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.
jpwbee Flickr

Day two of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual Mackinac Policy Conference is winding down but that certainly doesn't mean the politics at the event is slowing. In a special Wednesday edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I take a look at the political gossip floating across the Island.

Politics
5:55 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Michigan AG says investigation into McCotter petitions coming

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (far right) of Michigan.
Republican Conference Flickr

A formal investigation into possible election fraud by a congressional campaign will wait until after a state board meets next week.

The Board of State Canvassers is expected to formally reject petitions filed by Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s re-election campaign. The petitions can then be turned over to the state Attorney General's office.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the delay has not stopped his office from communicating with elections officials on the case.

"So it appears there is a problem, but we’ve not received anything officially yet from the Secretary of State’s office, and when we do, we’ll review it in a thorough fashion," said Schuette.

The Secretary of State’s office says it appears hundreds of signatures on McCotter’s nominating petitions were faked.

Schuette said it's a textbook example of how not to collect signatures.

"It's kind of elementary. When you run for class president, you gotta get the signatures to have the election, and it appears there’s a huge problem here," said Schuette.

McCotter has acknowledged problems with his petitions and says he plans to run as a write-in candidate on the Republican primary ballot in August.

Politics
5:02 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Cuts planned for state-run juvenile offender facilities; private centers to get increases

Michigan's state-run juvenile detention facilities could lose funding in the coming year, while privately run facilities would get raises.

The three facilities that house Michigan's worst young offenders would get $2 million less under the budget adopted by a conference committee this week -- or a total of about $26 million  annually.

They include the Maxey Boys Training School in Whitmore Lake, Shawono Center in Grayling and Bay Pines Center in Escanaba.

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Politics
1:50 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Income tax rollback clears first legislative hurdle

State Rep. Holly Hughes (R) takes questions on her bill during the state House Tax Policy committee meeting
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state House committee today approved speeding up an income tax break for Michigan taxpayers.

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Commentary
12:10 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

From Mackinac Island: A Culture Change

Almost the first words at this year's Mackinac Policy Conference were about changing Michigan?s culture. Yesterday, during an opening session featuring young entrepreneurs, Rick DeVos, founder of Grand Rapids' now- famous ArtPrize, said that culture change was the key to making this state prosperous again.

Each of the other pioneers on the panel agreed with him. Dave Zilko, who turned a five thousand dollar loan from his girlfriend into a hundred-million-dollar salsa company, said he was seeing a culture change that has to continue and our state's successful future depended on our adopting a new mind-set.

One where our prevailing attitude is that "we can do this."  Moments before their panel, an upbeat Governor Snyder opened the conference. Though he?s still not wearing ties, he has become much more confident and a much better public speaker than he was when he took office, possibly in part because his policies have met with some success. ?We are the comeback state in the United States right now,? he told an enthusiastic crowd. He said we all ought to speak up more about Michigan?s strengths, successes, and resurgence.

The day's main celebrity event was an inspiring speech by the internationally renowned CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria, who assured the audience that the American and world economies are actually in much better shape, especially long-term, than today's headlines indicated. But he too said culture change was necessary.

Especially, that is, in America. We have to be willing to cut spending on entitlement programs, he seemed to be saying, especially for the elderly. But we also need to vastly increase spending on investments in our future.

That means raising taxes to fix our roads and bridges and other parts of our aging and neglected infrastructure. But it also means investing in education. Right now, he said America's priorities seem to be too much about the present and the past.

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Politics
10:55 am
Wed May 30, 2012

This Week in Michigan Politics

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Each Wednesday I check in with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry, for a round up of state politics.

This week Jack is on Mackinac Island (he's promising not to eat any fudge) for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

The 3-day conference is billed as a time for state business and political leaders to talk about and shape the state's future.

Lessenberry said they are talking this year about the comeback Michigan has been on. He says Governor Synder talked about how Michigan has the right to be proud of that fact.

"In some years people at the conference have been almost in the fetal position talking about some of the problems we've had," said Lessenberry. "This is an acknowledgment that people want to be more upbeat about the future."

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News Roundup
8:54 am
Wed May 30, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

State AG reviewing McCotter's petition signatures for possible elections fraud

U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) announced last Friday that his campaign found irregularities in his petion signatures to get his name on the upcoming primary ballot. The state is looking into more than just irregularities. From the Detroit Free Press:

Photocopies of petitions, dates that were cut and pasted onto the petition forms and different-colored ink on identical petitions were just a few of the tactics used to try to fool state election officials into believing that U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter had enough signatures to get on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

"This wasn't anything that was an innocent mistake," Lansing political consultant Tom Shields said Tuesday. "It was purely an attempt to make up for a lack of signatures, which is politically criminal."

Snyder calls Michigan the "Comeback State," urges businesses to hire veterans

At the opening of the Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Rick Snyder said the state's economic recovery is something that should be talked about. From MLive:

"Michiganders are too humble. We don't brag well," Snyder said Tuesday as he opened the Detroit Regional Chamber's 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference. "We have to speak up more. We are the comeback state in the United States right now."

During his remarks, he also asked businesses to reach out and hire more veterans. MPRN's Rick Pluta reports:

The governor says returning veterans face an unemployment rate of about 30 percent, something he calls “unacceptable.”

“So we need to help these people,” Snyder said. “So I ask you to do everything possible to make the session and to hire ‘em. That would be great. Thank you.”

More than 12,000 to lose jobless benefits

The Detroit News reports on looming unemployment benefit cuts.

Even though Michigan's unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3 percent, 205,044 workers in the state still collect unemployment benefits. But after June 23, up to 12,212 of those long-term unemployed workers will lose their emergency federal benefits under a formula that automatically cuts them off when the state's jobless rate drops.

Politics
7:08 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

No Deposit, No Return? State House votes to exempt drink pouches from bottle deposit law

(bestinpackaging.com)

The state House voted today to exempt drink pouches from Michigan’s bottle deposit law.  The bill passed on a 91 to 19 vote.

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