Politics & Government

Politics
5:12 pm
Sun May 27, 2012

Detroit's Financial Advisory Board, still missing some members, might start meeting anyway

A financial advisory board that will help guide Detroit’s budget process is expected to start meeting “soon”—but it will apparently be missing some of its members.

That Board is a key part of Detroit’s consent agreement with the state, and is supposed to have a prominent role in the city’s ongoing budget process.

Its nine members were to be appointed by state officials, Mayor Dave Bing—and the Detroit City Council.

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Politics
10:24 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

Thaddeus McCotter might not appear on August ballot

U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter

Five-term U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) says he might not have turned in enough valid signatures to qualify for re-election.

“I have been apprised my campaign may have submitted insufficient petition signatures to appear on the August primary ballot as a candidate for the 11th Congressional District's Republican nomination," McCotter said in a statement released late this evening.

"Fully respecting the accuracy and integrity of the Secretary of State's office, we will thoroughly review our petition signatures for their sufficiency or insufficiency," he said. "Out of respect for Memorial Day, an announcement of our findings will be made public on Tuesday.”

Candidates must turn in 1,000 valid signatures in order to appear on the ballot. 

McCotter has been a popular guest on cable TV. Here are some highlights of those appearances:

It's Just Politics
5:46 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

State Republicans say they want income tax relief... can Democrats afford to vote 'no'?

Republicans in Lansing say they want income-tax relief... can Democrats afford, politically, to say "No?"
Matthileo Flickr

Taxes, as we all know too well, are a powerful political issue. And the issue has come up yet again at the state Capitol. A cut in the state income tax has become part of the negotiations as Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature's top Republican leaders wrap up their budget negotiations. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I sit down to talk politics every Friday and today, in It's Just Politics, it is all the politics of taxes.

Rick Pluta: The governor and the Legislature have set this deadline of June 1 for wrapping up the next state budget.

Zoe Clark: And that's important, because - even though the state's fiscal year begins October 1 - schools, community colleges, cities, townships, and counties all have budget years that begin July 1. They all have budgets that are tied into state spending.

RP: Right. Now, in the final days of discussions, Republicans have put an income tax cut on the table. State House Republicans will roll out the legislation next week.

ZC: So, that begs the question: why are they doing it now?

RP: Well, for a year and a half, Democrats in Lansing have hammered Republicans because all the tax and budget reforms have focused on reducing costs for businesses: eliminating the Michigan Business Tax on 95,000 businesses and the proposal to eliminate the tax on industrial equipment.

ZC: At the same time, a dozen tax credits and exemptions claimed by homeowners, parents, seniors on pensions, and  poor families earning incomes were ended.

RP: And Democrats have been pounding Republicans with that incessantly and with an eye toward the November elections - when, we should note, all 110 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for election.

ZC: So now, courtesy of Republicans, a proposal for income tax relief.

RP: The main bills in the tax rollback package will be sponsored by state Representatives Holly Hughes and Ed McBroom, Republicans representing districts that are considered marginally - 51, 52 percent - Democratic.

ZC: And Democrats most certainly want those seats back.

RP: Exactly, and this shows Republicans intend to put a fight in these seats by giving their incumbents these bills. One accelerates a reduction in the income tax rate; the other increases the personal exemption. But the bottom line is Republicans want the message to be: Republicans equal tax cuts. Democrats, however, have already revealed their counterattack.

ZC: And the counterattack is really what their message has been all along. Since last year, GOP hegemony in Lansing has meant tax cuts to businesses while seniors, homeowners, and working poor families all lost tax breaks that they've counted on, as well as reductions for schools, universities, and local governments.

RP:  Right, so Democrats say this so-called "tax relief:" 50 cents a week, nine dollars a person per year  is pretty meager compared to the costs that everyone has had to pick up in the name of improving the business climate.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

UAW commemorates 75 years since "The Battle of the Overpass"

UAW leaders after the Battle of the Overpass, 1937.
via Walter P. Reuther Library Wayne State University

The UAW remembered the 75th anniversary of the “Battle of the Overpass” Friday.

Many union members see the event as a pivotal point in Detroit--and national--labor history.

On May 26th, 1937, UAW President Walter Reuther and other union leaders were trying to organize workers at the massive Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn.

A confrontation ensued, and some union leaders were badly beaten by members of Henry Ford’s security team.

Bernie Ricke is President of UAW Local 600, which represents Ford Rouge workers today.

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Politics
11:33 am
Fri May 25, 2012

Doctors ask for protection if they report patients who shouldn't be driving

mconnors MorgueFile

Michigan doctors who report patients with a medical condition that could impair their driving ability would not be held liable under proposed legislation. 

It's a dilemma for doctors:  Tell the Secretary of State about a patient who should not be behind the wheel -- and they breach confidentiality. Or, don't report them, and face liability if someone is injured in a crash involving that patient.

Dr. Marianna Spanaki  is a neurologist at Henry Ford Medical Group. She says confidentiality is a cornerstone of a patient-doctor relationship.

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Politics
10:28 am
Fri May 25, 2012

Republicans propose a tax cut for individuals, but is it enough?

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

The Snyder Administration and the legislature are working to complete work on the state budget, and it sounds like they’ve made some progress towards a final deal.

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News Roundup
8:26 am
Fri May 25, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, May 25th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Budget

The Detroit City Council has approved a new budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1st but, the Council spent a lot more time talking about Detroit’s consent agreement with the state—and whether to challenge it in court—than about the budget. “The budget that Council approved by a six-three vote is pretty similar to the one Mayor Dave Bing’s office proposed in April. The Council restored some money to the budget. But it mostly preserved the nearly $250 million in cuts the mayor proposed. They didn’t have much choice, because the city’s consent agreement requires Detroit to spend within its means. A decision on whether to take the consent agreement to court is expected early next week,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

State Prison Shakeup

The state Department of Corrections plans a shakeup of its network of prisons and holding facilities to add space for alleged parole violators. Rick Pluta reports:

The last remaining prison within Detroit’s city limits will close, and be converted to a holding facility for people accused of parole violators. A prisoner re-entry facility in the Thumb will also close, while a shuttered prison in Muskegon will re-open. Russ Marlan is with the state Department of Corrections. He says the department has few alternatives right now when dealing with parole absconders – either ship them to the state prison complex in Jackson or let them go free. Some Detroit lawmakers complain the move will make it harder for some families to visit inmates and weaken the support system for prisoners once they’re released.

Camp Take Notice

People who live at a large homeless encampment near Ann Arbor are worried they might be evicted. “About 65 people live at Camp Take Notice. Residents and their supporters held a rally last night to pressure the state to let them stay. The tent city sits on Michigan Department of Transportation property. A spokesman for the Department of Transportation says the state has been working with the camp's organizers for a couple of years.  He says there are no immediate eviction plans, but that the tent city is not safe and residents will need to relocate,” Mercedes Mejia reports.

Politics
7:07 am
Fri May 25, 2012

To trim budget, Inkster might cut police by half

A Detroit suburb may cut as much as half of its police force amid cost-cutting efforts. The Detroit News reports a budget passed Thursday by the Inkster City Council calls for trimming $2 million from the police department as part of an effort to avoid a state-appointed emergency financial manager. Councilman Dennard Shaw calls it a "painful decision."

The number of police layoffs hasn't been determined. The newspaper says one estimate says as many as 21 officers could be cut, nearly half the force.

In March, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Inkster was in severe financial stress. A consent agreement, however, staved off an emergency manager appointment. Under the deal, officials must provide the state with detailed plans for reduced spending or increased revenue to improve its budget.

Politics
9:17 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Detroit City Council approves new budget, continues to argue over consent agreement

The Detroit City Council approved a new budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday.

But the Council spent a lot more time talking about Detroit’s consent agreement with the state—and whether to challenge it in court—than about the budget.

The budget that Council approved by a 6-3 vote is pretty similar to the $1.1 billion plan Mayor Dave Bing’s office proposed in April.

The Council restored some money to the budget. But they mostly preserved the roughly $250 million in cuts the mayor proposed.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

State to convert Detroit prison to holding facility for parole violators

The state Department of Corrections plans to close two prisons and convert one of them to a holding facility for alleged parole violators.         

Prison officials say there’s a shortage of housing for felons suspected of violating parole.

“Every day, there are situations with those parolees where we have to put them into custody while we investigate circumstances surrounding alleged parole violations," said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan. "So, right now, we either put them in a van and drive them back to our reception center, or we let them walk out of the parole office.”

 The Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit and an inmate re-entry facility in Caro will be closed. The department will also re-open a shuttered prison in Muskegon as part of the shakeup.

 The shakeup will close the last remaining prison in Detroit, and it will force inmates in the facility to be moved out of the city. Detroit lawmakers say that's a bad idea.

 “Just because people go to prison doesn’t mean that they should be disconnected from their families and support systems that will help them become rehabilitated and better citizens," said Rep. Fred Durhal (D-Deiroit). "Because that’s what this thing is about – is punish them for the crimes that they’ve done, but not cut them off from family and other relatives.”

Durhal says the two prisons that are closing are two of the state’s newest correctional facilities. Corrections officials say the shakeup will cost another $10 million a year. But they say it’s less expensive than other options for dealing with parole violators.

Politics
1:55 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Wayne County's Ficano censured in "watered down" measure

Wayne County Chief Executive, Robert Ficano.
Wayne County YouTube

Wayne County Commissioners voted today to censure County Executive Robert Ficano, but the vote also exposed divisions within the Commission.

The resolution to “censure the Wayne County Chief Executive Officer” has no real teeth, and it doesn’t mention Ficano by name.

That last fact angered County Commissioner Laura Cox, who sponsored the initial censure resolution. She ended up voting against what she called the “watered down” measure.

Cox called that “pathetic.”

“The Commission has no power to censure, by state law. But I guess we also have no power to ask for somebody to resign, which is exactly what my resolution did. So they feel that that was too strong, obviously,” said Cox.

Cox wants the Commission to put a county charter revision on the ballot. It would ask voters to give Commissioners or other elected officials the authority to remove county officials under certain circumstances.

Commissioner Joseph Palamara said the resolution was appropriate, given the Commission’s limited powers.

“To say that, "you should leave right now," that would have no more authority than Donald Trump walking in here under public comment and saying, ‘Bob Ficano, you’re fired,’” said Palamara.

Ficano’s administration has been under an FBI investigation for months. Several former top aides have been indicted on corruption charges, but Ficano has always denied any personal wrongdoing, and waved off suggestions that he resign.

Politics
6:51 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Governor Rick Snyder and GOP legislative leaders reach budget deal that could lower income taxes

www.michigan.gov

 It appears a budget deal between Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature’s Republican leaders could include an election year tax cut. An early version of the proposal would accelerate a drop in the state income tax rate and increase the personal exemption.

The governor and G-O-P leaders want to wrap up the budget by the end of next week.

 Governor Snyder says he was skeptical at first, but he says revenue projections look promising enough to at least start talking about a tax cut for individuals and families.

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Politics
6:32 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Detroit Works online game offers residents a chance to help shape the city

Detroit 24/7 is an online game that gives people the chance to answer questions and give input about their community's future.
Community PlanIt screen shot.

Community meetings about the future of Detroit neighborhoods wrap up this week.

The Detroit Works Project focuses on how to make neighborhoods more viable, and how to keep current residents while attracting new people to the city.

Dan Pitera is co-leader of Civic Engagement for Detroit Works long-term planning. He is also also a professor of architecture at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

Some main concerns from Detroit residents, Pitera said “are safety for everybody, education and health for everybody in the city.”

Detroit Works has used several methods to engage the Detroit community. One of the newest is an online video game called Detroit 24/7. “Some people love to go to meetings, other people don’t,” Pitera said.

So far more than 900 people are playing the game, which lets players describe what they encounter everyday as they move around the city of Detroit, point out the pros and cons, and then suggest strategies that can improve the city. The idea is to engage a younger population, those ages 18 to 35.

“It actually deals with many of the same issues we are dealing with in the community conversations but done online, and we are attracting those people that are not going to meetings.”

According to Pitera, the intention of the project has been to first collect data from city residents, and then create city wide strategies that are informed by what is happening in different neighborhoods.

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Politics
5:10 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Juvenile court competency standards would include mental health treatment

Anita Patterson MorgueFile

Michigan lawmakers are expected to vote next week on two bills that would create a system to determine the mental competency of juveniles who break the law.

Some troubled children in Michigan don't have access to mental health services until they wind up in court.

The state Senate  bills would let a prosecutor or a juvenile's defense lawyer ask for a competency evaluation. A judge would also be able to order an evaluation.

Michelle Weemhoff is with the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Bills would tighten tort reform in Michigan

There's a bipartisan fight growing in the state legislature over Michigan's medical malpractice laws. 

In 1995, tort reform in Michigan made it more difficult to file a medical malpractice suit and get a jury trial. The law also put limits on monetary settlements.

Now a package of Republican-led Senate bills would further limit medical malpractice cases. Among other things, they would require proof that a physician's mistake was intentional.

The medical and insurance industries support the measures.

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Politics
4:58 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Legislators move to exempt drink pouches from Michigan's bottle deposit law

A state House committee has voted to exempt drink pouches from the state’s 10-cent bottle deposit law. The pouches are made of plastic, aluminum, and paper. They are not biodegradable or recyclable. Harold McGovern is the president of a beverage wholesale company. He said there are environmental benefits to pouches.

"It's a fraction of the up-front emissions from the standpoint of a carbon footprint. More importantly, the emissions on the transportation cycle - whether it’s delivery to our warehouse, whether it’s delivery to stores - also has dramatic incremental savings because of the weight difference between aluminum, glass, and this pouch technology," said McGovern.

If the House bill becomes law, it would preempt a state Treasury determination that the deposit could apply to alcoholic drink pouches. Environmental groups say the state should not encourage packaging that’s not recyclable.

Politics
3:17 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Granholm on voter ID laws: "un-American" and "treasonous" (Video)

screengrab from the War Room on Current TV

Yesterday, a meeting of the Michigan House Redistricting and Elections Committee was disrupted by protesters angry about proposed changes to the state's election laws.

Chief among protesters' concerns was a measure, now headed to the state House floor, that would strengthen ID requirements for voter registration in Michigan.

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commentary
11:06 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Commentary: Elephants at War

For many years, there was a big difference between the two major parties when it came to their internal affairs. Democrats often didn’t get along behind closed doors and on convention floors.  And they often didn’t mind letting their disagreements show. Nor did their intra-party brawls usually seem to hurt them. That’s because the Democrats were a collection of different interest groups who didn’t necessarily like each other very much.

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Politics
10:39 am
Wed May 23, 2012

New law encourages better Internet access in rural Michigan

Gov. Snyder signed legislation aimed at improving Internet access in Michigan's rural areas.

According to Snyder's office, the new law will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install Internet infrastructure.

More from Gov. Snyder's office:

Senate Bill 499, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install facilities along state-controlled rail-trails – former railway lines converted to walking and bicycling paths. Companies will pay not more than $500 in application fees to the Department of Natural Resources, plus a one-time fee of 5 cents per linear foot used. Revenues will go into the Michigan Trailways Fund or the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

“Keeping costs low will encourage more companies to expand wireless Internet access to Michigan’s rural areas, essential to continuing our economic reinvention,” Snyder said.

The bill now is Public Act 138 of 2012.

Politics
8:44 am
Wed May 23, 2012

The Week in Michigan Politics

The Week in State Politics
Contemplative Imaging Flickr

Every Wednesday morning we check in with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry to talk about the week's political news in the state. On tap for this morning: The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that review teams that are deciding whether or not a city or school district is in financial crisis can meet behind closed doors, some Detroit officials say the consent agreement the city has with the state is illegal, and we take a look at a big shake-up in the state Republican party leadership.

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