Politics & Government

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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Politics
6:25 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Officials break ground for new Detroit public safety headquarters

An artist's rendering of the future Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.
City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing joined other city and law enforcement officials to break ground on the city’s future public safety headquarters Tuesday.

The former MGM Grand Casino and another building will get a $60 million makeover before it’s slated to open next year.

The renovated complex will house Detroit’s Police, Fire, EMS, and Homeland Security departments. There are also plans to put a Michigan State Police crime lab there.

Bing says the new set-up will help the city’s crime-fighting efforts.

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Newsmaker Interviews
4:18 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Rep. John Dingell: Stronger Michigan means better dialogue, reaching out

John Dingell.

This week, legislators, policy makers, and business leaders are gathering for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and this year organizers say they hope the conference will "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market."

John Dingell is a Democrat representing Michigan's 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

He wrote an op-ed about the conference. It appeared in the Detroit News today.

In the op-ed, Dingell wrote about his desire for lawmakers to come together in a more bi-partisan way. He told Michigan Radio's Jenn White that there are a number of barriers to the bi-partisanship.

"Excessive partisanship is something which is both a reality and an end in itself to a lot of people who participate," Dingell said. "It's encouraged by media and 10-15 second soundbite and it is encouraged by the fact that politics has become a blood sport. Cheap shots are the way of the day and that we have somewhat forgotten the original intention of the founding fathers that we are to work together in the broader public interest."

He says the people have to understand that this is "our" country.

Dingell quotes his father who used to to say "we cannot look at the other fellow in the boat and say 'pardon me sir, but you're end of the boat is sinking.' We are all in this thing together."

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Politics
2:36 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

McCotter to run as write in candidate

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.
U.S. Congress

U.S. Rep Thaddeus McCotter (R- Livonia) will run in the August primary as a write-in candidate after the state found he did not have enough signature to be on the ballot. McCotter is seeking a sixth term in Congress. His campaign delivered 2,000 signatures, but more than half of them were found to be invalid. The Michigan Attorney General's office is investigating for potential election fraud.

Update 2:36 p.m.

The Detroit News reports all but 244 of the 2,000 signatures turned in by the McCotter campaign were invalid:

A review by The Detroit News of the petition signatures found full copies of a sheet of signatures that were photocopied once and in some cases two times and mixed in with the 136-page stack of signatures. In some cases, a different petition circulator's name was signed to the duplicate copy.

The overt copying is "frankly unheard of," said Chris Thomas, Michigan's director of elections, as he thumbed through the stack of petitions. "It's amazing when you sit and look, and it starts to dwell on you what they've done."

The Michigan Information & Research Service tweeted that prospective write-in candidate, David Trott, will not run against McCotter:

David Trott says he backs Thad #McCotter, won't run b/c the "timing is not right for me or my family."

Earlier today, the Detroit News wrote about the lone Republican left on the August primary ballot for Michigan's 11th Congressional District.

60-year-old Kerry Bentivolio a veteran and a "public school teacher who raises reindeer." He said he's running because he's angry about the federal government's excessive debt.

Since he became the only clear GOP candidate on the ballot, his head has been "spinning a little bit" with all the newfound attention. "I'm just an average guy that wanted to stand up and say this is not fair and this isn't right," said Bentivolio, who calls himself a strict conservative inspired by the tea party and liberty movements. With McCotter off the ballot, "the average guy gets a voice and gets a lucky break," he said. "I'm going to take advantage."

12:32 p.m.

According to the Detroit News, U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter says he thinks faulty petition signatures that will make him ineligible to qualify for an upcoming primary ballot were the result of deception by a trusted member of his staff.

From the News:

"At some point, for something like this to happen, I do feel like someone … lied to me," [McCotter] said on [WJR-AM's "The Frank Beckmann Show"]

McCotter told Beckmann it's possible someone was plotting against him, but more likely it was someone making an error while trying to help the campaign. He filed the petitions under the belief all signatures were valid.

10:30 a.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta reports the Michigan Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s office are investigating possible election fraud related to the McCotter petitions. The Secretary of State’s office says many of the petitions submitted by the McCotter campaign appear to be photocopies.

7:52 a.m.

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter says in a column in today's Detroit News that he will run as a write-in candidate in the August primary.

McCotter says his campaign's review of the signatures gathered to put him on the primary ballot for re-election confirms the state's finding that he did not have enough.

McCotter's campaign delivered 2,000 signatures so he could run again in the 11th district, but more than half of them were found to be invalid.

He says he will ask the Board of State Canvassers to refer the invalid signatures to the Attorney General's office for investigation.

In a press release this morning, McCotter said:

“I feel like George Bailey after Uncle Billy admitted he lost the money.  Like George Bailey, knowing my misplaced trust has negatively impacted so many people is heartrending.  Unlike George Bailey, I am not tempted to jump off a bridge.

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Politics
10:20 am
Tue May 29, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today

The annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway today on Mackinac Island. The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has been taking place since 1981. It's a place where policy makers, politicians, and business and thought leaders get together to discuss ideas and policies that could shape Michigan's future.

Conference organizers hope to "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market" at this year's conference.

If you feel compelled to tweet about the event this week, the hashtag for the conference is #mpc12.

Michigan Governor Snyder will deliver welcoming comments today at 3:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta will bring us updates from the conference. You can also watch online coverage of the event sponsored by Detroit Public Television.

Update on wildfires in the Upper Peninsula

The AP reports that the 3,400-acre Pine Creek North wildfire in Schoolcraft County is mostly contained:

Officials say some crews are leaving the area as mop-up operations continue. Firefighters on Tuesday planned to patrol the perimeter of the fire looking for hot spots.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on May 21.

However, the Duck Lake Fire continues to burn. More from CNN wire services:

The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.The state agency estimated Monday the blaze is about 51% contained, thanks to progress made by firefighters in maintaining a firm perimeter.

Moving up income tax cut called a "gimmick"

The Michigan House of Representatives will begin taking up plans today to move a planned income tax cut up by a few months.

The tax rate will drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent next January. The Associated Press reports Michigan House Republicans want to start the tax cut in October 2012.

House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger wants to return $90 million from a budget surplus to taxpayers. The tax rate would drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent.

The Michigan League for Human Services says the move is an election-year gimmick. It says the money would be better spent offering preschool or dental care to low-income children.

Democrats say tax changes passed last year by GOP lawmakers will require that individuals pay $1.4 billion more in taxes next year. They say the $90 million cut is insufficient.

Commentary
10:09 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Commentary: Mackinac Conference

If you were going to stage a revolution and wanted to arrest the entire political and business leadership of our state, you might want to start by seizing Mackinac Island this week.

That’s because the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It will feature speeches by national headliners, such as public intellectuals Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

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Politics
6:30 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Debate on moving up a state income tax cut begins today

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House plans to begin consideration of measures moving up an income tax cut from January to October and increasing how much income someone can earn before taxes kick in.

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Politics
6:26 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Annual Mackinac Island conference starts today

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is scheduled to make opening remarks as the Detroit Regional Chamber begins its annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The conference regularly draws more than 1,000 business and government leaders for three days of discussions about the Michigan economy, education and other issues. It starts Tuesday.

This year's program will focus on how Michigan can improve its global competitiveness through innovation and collaboration.

Politics
3:45 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

On Memorial Day in Detroit, a "funeral for democracy"

A coffin representing democracy at the Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Some voting rights advocates say Michigan’s emergency manager law represents “the death of democracy” in the state.

So they symbolically laid democracy to rest at mock a funeral service in Detroit Monday.

The “funeral” included music and eulogies of sorts--all delivered from behind an American flag-draped coffin. A real hearse waited outside to take the coffin away.

Some might see this kind of display as a bit much. But organizers insist it’s totally appropriate, given what they see as a relentless assault on voting rights in Michigan.

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Politics
12:57 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

Benton Township alleges Benton Harbor emergency manager defaulted on debt

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris at a town hall meeting last summer.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris took over the City of Benton Harbor two years ago, the city owed money to a bunch of different agencies; the library, the public schools, and the IRS, for example. Harris has made huge progress in paying off that old debt.

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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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