Politics & Government

Commentary
11:41 am
Fri May 18, 2012

Commentary: New wrinkle in the Detroit Consent Agreement process

When I was growing up back in the nineteen-sixties, there was a famous saying about the economic health of Michigan’s largest city:   When the nation catches cold, Detroit gets pneumonia.

That meant the effects of even the slightest economic downturn were magnified in the Motor City. Why? Well, the easiest big expense to put off is usually a new car.

You have to buy food and make your house payment, but if you lose your job, or the plant cuts back on overtime, you can generally put off replacing your current Tin Lizzie for another year.

Read more
News Roundup
8:59 am
Fri May 18, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, May 18th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Court of Appeals Takes Up EM Repeal

It’s now up to the Michigan Court of Appeals to determine whether voters will have a chance to approve or reject the state’s emergency manager law. Rick Pluta reports:

The court held an hour-long hearing on the question yesterday. The referendum drive wants the court to order the question onto the November ballot. That’s after a state elections panel deadlocked along party lines, effectively blocking the referendum. The board’s two Republicans said the print size on the petition was too small. Attorney Herb Sanders says if the court lets that decision stand, it would send a grim message to more than 200,000 people who signed the petitions. Opponents of the referendum say if the rules were not followed to the letter, the question should not be allowed on the ballot.

Detroit Consent Agreement Legal?

Detroit’s top lawyer says the city’s consent agreement with the state is not legally binding. “Corporation counsel Krystal Crittendon sent a letter to Governor Snyder’s office calling the agreement “void and unenforceable.” The letter cites money the state owes the city—and says Detroit’s charter forbids it from entering into agreements with debtors. State officials called Crittendon’s letter “confusing.” They say city officials must have known these things before entering into the consent agreement,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

MI “Stand Your Ground” Law

More than a dozen Democratic Michigan House members have introduced legislation to repeal the state's "stand your ground" self-defense law after the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the Associated Press reports. "The lawmakers on Thursday announced the measure to repeal 2006 laws passed by bipartisan majorities in the Legislature and signed by then-Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Backers say such laws protect innocent lives. Detractors say they can become a license to kill and are prone to misuse. Michigan is among several states with laws similar to Florida's targeted by civil rights and anti-gun violence groups," the AP reports.

State Legislature
6:56 am
Fri May 18, 2012

Mich. Dems seek repeal of 'stand your ground' laws

More than a dozen Democratic Michigan House members have introduced legislation to repeal the state's "stand your ground" self-defense law after the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

The lawmakers on Thursday announced the measure to repeal 2006 laws passed by bipartisan majorities in the Legislature and signed by then-Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Backers say such laws protect innocent lives. Detractors say they can become a license to kill and are prone to misuse.

Michigan is among several states with laws similar to Florida's targeted by civil rights and anti-gun violence groups.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shot Martin Feb. 28 in Sanford, Fla., but wasn't arrested for weeks. Zimmerman has invoked the law that doesn't require a person to retreat in the face of a serious threat.

Politics
6:10 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Governor Snyder, Mayor Bing dismiss letter calling Detroit consent agreement "null and void"

Detroit’s top lawyer says the city’s consent agreement with the state isn’t legally binding.

Corporation counsel Krystal Crittenden sent a letter to Governor Snyder’s office calling the agreement “void and unenforceable.”

The letter cites money the state owes the city—and says Detroit’s charter forbids it from entering into agreements with debtors.

Read more
Politics
5:35 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

What does Roy Schmidt's switch say about politics in Lansing?

Michigan State Capitol building, in Lansing.

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

The big political story in Michigan this week was the decision from Representative Roy Schmidt to switch his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican, about 10 minutes before the filing deadline for this fall’s election.

This November, Schmidt will try to hold onto his House seat in Michigan’s 76th district, which includes Grand Rapids.

Read more
Politics
3:26 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Michigan Court of Appeals hears arguments on EM ballot question

District I offices of the Michigan Court if Appeals in Detroit
Mike Russell wikimedia commons

The question of whether voters should get to weigh in on the state’s emergency manager law now rests with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

A panel of the court heard arguments today both for and against putting the referendum on the November ballot.

A coalition of labor and other activist groups collected more than 220,000 petition signatures to do just that.

But the state Board of Canvassers blocked the question based on a complaint that some of the type on the referendum petitions was in the wrong size.

Read more
Commentary
11:03 am
Thu May 17, 2012

Commentary: Falling unemployement rates

There are people who lose their jobs during the best of times, and those who are wildly successful even during a depression.

But what really matters is the overall trend. When you look at that, and at a flurry of new numbers that came out yesterday, it seems clear that Michigan is in fact doing better than a year ago.

Read more
News Roundup
8:52 am
Thu May 17, 2012

In this morning's Michigan headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MI Economic Outlook

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped by two-tenths of a percentage point in April to 8.3 percent. Rick Pluta reports:

That news came amid predictions that Michigan’s economic recovery will continue, but at a slower pace than it has. George Fulton is a University of Michigan economist.  He says Michigan’s jobless rate remains high, but the state has been outpacing the nation in creating new jobs. “The largest job gains have been the higher wage sector and we see job growth continuing for the next few years, but not quite at the pace we saw last year,” Fulton says. Fulton says that’s largely because of an expected slowdown in car and truck sales, plus overall slow growth in the national economy. Still the mostly good economic news was enough to convince state budget officials to up their revenue projections based on expected income improvements and more consumer spending.

Balancing the State’s Checkbook

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January. “That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services. The news came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing. State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs. Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1,” reporters in the Michigan Radio Newsroom explain.

MI More Optimistic

Michiganders are becoming more optimistic about the economy, according to new results out today from Michigan State University's State of the State Survey.Michigan Radio's John Wilson reports:

The survey says state residents haven't been this positive about the economy since 2005, with 54 percent of survey participants characterizing their financial situation as "good" or "excellent" and 61 percent expecting things to get even better in the year to come. MSU notes, “In the fall 2011 survey, conducted from mid-September through early November, only 46.2 percent of those answering the survey called their financial situation "excellent" or “good.”

Politics
8:46 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Detroit budget process churns on with Law, Health Department talks

Another Detroit city department says it simply can’t function if proposed budget cuts go through.

The law department says “there is no way” the unit can run on what’s allotted in Mayor Dave Bing’s budget proposal.

Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittenden told the Detroit City Council the city’s new charter gives the law department new responsibilities.

Bing proposes slashing their budget by more than half. But the Council moved to restore most of that funding.

Read more
Politics
4:07 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

More revenue than expected for Michigan's next fiscal year

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January.

That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services.

That came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing.

State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs.

“What we’ll do is with the one-time money, we’ll look for one-time expenditures," said Nixon. Budget Stabilization Fund is obviously a piece, a good place to put one-time money, as well some of the other spending pressures we have in the budget.”

Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

Nixon says he doesn't think that will mean radical shifts in the budget bills lawmakers hope to finish by month's end.

The budget news accompanies forecasts that Michigan’s economy will continue to grow at a slow pace – with many of the new jobs coming from higher-paying fields. Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped again in April, hitting 8.3 percent.

When people who have quit looking for work are counted, as well as ­part-time workers who’d like to be full-time, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 17.8  percent.

Politics
11:59 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Will Gov. Snyder turn back his salary this year too?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder turned back all but $1 of his pay last year, but he's not sure what he'll do this year.

Since there's no mechanism for the state to withhold his paychecks, the governor still receives his $159,300 salary.

He told reporters Wednesday that he's "going to do something different this year" but doesn't yet have a figure in mind.

Snyder quipped that he plans to "check with my wife" before settling on one.

The Republican governor announced in his 2011 budget address that he'd work for $1 during his first year in office as part of the "shared sacrifice" needed to balance the books.

State workers are scheduled to get a 1 percent raise in October, but also will start paying 20 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Commentary
10:24 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Commentary: Defector’s Ethics

It’s rare for a politician to switch political parties, but not all that rare. Don Riegle, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, was originally elected to Congress from Flint as a Republican.

After six years in office, he switched and became a Democrat during the Watergate scandal. Naturally, he wasn’t very popular with his former Republican friends. But you have to say this for him. He did so more than a year before the next election.

Read more
News Roundup
8:23 am
Wed May 16, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Michigan’s Budget

A conference today at the state Capitol will determine how much money the Legislature will have to work with for the current and upcoming fiscal years. “Preliminary estimates suggest the state is in for a windfall adding up to tens of millions of dollars. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he’s not interested in committing that money to new spending. He says the surplus is not all that big compared to the total budget… The Legislature has set a target of having the budget wrapped up by June 1st,” Rick Pluta reports.

GOP Senate Candidates

Yesterday was the deadline for candidates seeking state or federal offices to file to run in Michigan. And, it looks like the state’s Republican U.S. Senate primary will be crowded as five candidates have filed nominating petitions. They are former judge Randy Hekman, businessman Peter Konetchy, co-author of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions Gary Glenn, former-congressman Pete Hoekstra and charter school CEO Clark Durant. The winner of the August 8th primary will face Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in November.

Anti-Fracking Ballot

People who oppose a form of oil and gas drilling known as "fracking" are officially launching a petition drive to ban the practice in the state. Tracy Samilton reports:

"Horizontal hydraulic fracturing" uses slant drilling to inject chemicals or water into rocks to fracture them, in order to extract oil or natural gas. LuAnne Kozma is the campaign's director. She says fracking uses toxic chemicals that can contaminate water. A spokesman for a company with exploratory wells in Michigan says the state has some of the most rigorous safety regulations in the nation for fracking. Petition organizers must get more than 322,000 signatures by July 9th, to get the issue on the November ballot.

Politics
7:59 am
Wed May 16, 2012

The Week in Michigan Politics

allieosmar Flickr

Every week we check in with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get an update on what's happening in state politics. On tap for this week:

The state holds a revenue estimating conference today... we'll get a better idea of how much money the state will take in and the political consequences of a possible budget surplus. Yesterday was the filing deadline for candidates who want to run for many local and statewide elections. We ask: who's in, who's out, and what were the big surprises. And, a petition drive is underway to ban"fracking" in the state constitution.

Election 2012
7:51 am
Wed May 16, 2012

MI GOP Senate primary could be crowded

Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra is one of five candidates running in the GOP's August 8th Senate primary
Republican Conference Flickr

Five candidates have filed to run in Michigan’s Republican U.S. Senate primary. Yesterday was the deadline for candidates for most state and federal offices to submit their petitions to appear on the August primary ballot.

The campaign is already underway as the five GOP hopefuls appeal to prospective Republican primary voters. They’re arguing over who is the most conservative and who presents the best chance for the GOP to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Retired judge Randy Hekman says he’ll put his conservative credentials up against anyone else in the field.

“We’ve got 90 days to show who we are, how we differ from others, how we’re going to fix our country, move ahead and win this thing," Hekman says.

Former congressman Pete Hoekstra, charter school CEO Clark Durant, businessman Pete Kontechy, and Gary Glenn – co-author of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions — have also filed.

“Jobs is going to be the Number One issue that I’m going to be talking about, but then you’ve also got some cultural issues. President Obama did me a favor last week when he came out and endorsed so-called homosexual marriage," Glenn says.

Their petition signatures still need to be officially counted and certified. Candidates also have until Friday to change their minds about putting their names on the ballot.

Politics
2:06 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Projections: Less money for Michigan in next fiscal year

Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The House and Senate fiscal agencies have come out with their revenue estimates ahead of Wednesday's revenue estimating conference, and the news isn't all good.

Both say they expect the state general fund to take in less revenue in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 than it will this year as companies pay less money because of the business tax cut that took effect early this year.

They expect the drop to be bigger than they forecast in January.

Next fiscal year's school aid revenues may be slightly higher than forecast.

The directors of the House and Senate fiscal agencies will meet Wednesday with state Treasurer Andy Dillon to set revenue estimates lawmakers will use as they finish work on the budget for the upcoming year.

Commentary
10:22 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Commentary: Robbing the poor

A year ago, in their zeal to give businesses an enormous tax cut, the governor and the legislature considered virtually eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. In the end, they didn’t quite kill it. Instead, they merely took most of it away.

When they did, there was hardly a whimper of protest from the Democrats. About the only group which seemed upset was the non-profit and non-partisan Michigan League for Human Services.

Read more
News Roundup
9:07 am
Tue May 15, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

The Impact of EITC Cuts

A new report says Michigan's low-income working families will pay an estimated $244 million more in state income taxes next year due to reductions in the state's earned income tax credit, the Associated Press reports. “The Michigan League for Human Services released a report yesterday that shows the state earned income tax credit in 2009 reduced taxes for low-income families by $349 million. That savings will drop to $104 million for 2012,” the AP explains. A spokeswoman with the League says the tax credits boost the economy because poor families spend the money right away.

Political Ad Buys

Five politically conservative groups appear to be pooling their money to buy political ads on Michigan TV stations. Lester Graham reports:

The public files of Michigan’s TV stations reveal four different political non-profits and a super PAC are taking turns buying ads critical of President Obama.  Rich Robinson, with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, keeps track of this kind of political spending. Often this political money is reported nowhere else. “Millions of dollars have been spent in Michigan, characterizing the Obama administration and its policies, and there will be no accountability for who's behind that,” Robinson says. Most of the groups do not have to reveal who their donors are. Record-breaking amounts of money are expected to be spent in an attempt to influence voters this election year.

MI Budget Boost

A new report says Michigan is collecting more in tax revenues than previous guessed. Steve Carmody reports:

The state House Fiscal Agency reports that revenues in the General Fund and School Aid Fund are running nearly $200 million higher than previously estimated for this fiscal year. The agency predicts revenues will also be slightly higher in the next fiscal year. “General Fund revenues are fluctuating more than school aid. It does appear at this time that there may be more money in school aid,” says Ari Adler, the spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger. Adler says legislative leaders hope to pass a budget for next year by the end of the month. The next fiscal year begins October 1st.

Politics
4:44 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Report: State of Michigan collecting more tax revenues than predicted

Michigan state capitol building
Steve Carmody

A new report says Michigan is collecting more in tax revenues than previous guessed.

The state House Fiscal Agency reports that revenues in the General Fund and School Aid Fund are running nearly 200 million dollars higher than previously estimated for this fiscal year.

The agency predicts revenues will also be slightly higher in the next fiscal year.

“General Fund revenues are fluctuating more than school aid. It does appear at this time that there may be more money in school aid,” says Ari Adler, the spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger.   “But again, these are revenue estimates. We’ll know more on Wednesday when they have the final Revenue Estimating conference for this year. And we can get a better handle on how much money we’re expected to have.”

Adler says legislative leaders hope to pass a budget for next year by the end of the month. The next fiscal year begins October 1st.

Politics
3:28 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Report breaks down impact of earned income tax credit by legislative district

The Michigan League for Human Services is pressuring lawmakers in Michigan who voted last year cut tax credits for working poor families.

The earned income tax credit - or EITC - gives people who would qualify for welfare an incentive to go to work instead. There's a federal credit, and one offered at the state level too. But the state credit was reduced last year in a budget-cutting move.

The reduced tax credit allows families who qualify to claim 6-percent of the federal earned income credit on their 2012 state taxes. In the past, families could claim 20-percent.

Judy Putnam is with the Michigan League for Human Services; a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group. She says the tax credits boost the economy because poor families spend the money right away.

 "Whereas a business or an upper-income tax payer you know getting tax breaks they don’t automatically go and spend that money,” Putnam said.

The organization has published a report it hopes will convince Republicans to restore the earned income tax credit. The report outlines the legislative districts with the most residents affected by the change. 

Here's the breakdown by state senator's district; while another set here break the data down by state representatives. 

Read more

Pages