Politics & Government

News Roundup
7:52 am
Thu March 15, 2012

In this morning's news headlines...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit leaders not consenting to Snyder's consent decree plan

On Tuesday, Gov. Snyder and state treasurer Andy Dillon put forward a plan to rescue Detroit's finances. Almost immediately the plan was rejected by city leaders. They said the proposed plan would strip them of their power. "Why the hell would I sign it?" Bing said when appearing before a group of students yesterday.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Bing, Snyder, council members and Detroit ministers took to the airwaves and podiums Wednesday, keeping Tuesday's dust from settling.

Bing, in an uncharacteristically combative tone, said the state's proposed consent agreement to fix the city's deficit is unconstitutional and will undermine progress being made by his administration.

Snyder described the criticism as "unfortunate."

Both men defended their positions Wednesday, and at times, both seemed disappointed, frustrated and irritated.

The Free Press reports Bing and city council leaders are working on a counter-proposal.

Gov. Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley plan to hold a press event at 10 a.m. this morning "to discuss Detroit’s critical financial situation."

Gov. Snyder's higher education plan criticized by university presidents

Four university presidents testified in front of members of the State House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education yesterday. They were critical of Gov. Snyder's plan for higher education funding. Snyder's budget proposal calls for increases in state support if universities meet certain goals.

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said Snyder's proposal is not a fair measurement of success. From MLive.com:

“By all accounts, the University of Michigan is a world-class institution of higher education,” she said. “Yet, in the budget proposal that has been recommended, you could erroneously come to conclude that based on the performance measures that were evaluated; the university is a failing institution.”

Part of Gov. Snyder's proposal rewards universities for keeping tuition rates down. Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas said tuition rates are highly dependent on state aid. From the Detroit Free Press:

"It is a fact that the single greatest impact on tuition and debt is the presence or absence of state appropriation," Haas said. "If the state had been able to avoid cuts in the past decade, our tuition could be $6,000 a year instead of $9,000. If the state had been able to maintain the 75/25 ratio of long ago, our tuition could be just $3,000 a year, a number well within reach of nearly every qualified student."

Michigan's home foreclosure rate declining

It's good news for a state that has been battered by the economic downturn. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports today "one in every 433 Michigan homes had a foreclosure notice filed against it in February." That's down 25 percent when compared to February a year ago.

The better statewide numbers are mirrored in the Detroit market (down 17 percent from January-down 27 percent from February, 2011), which has long been the epicenter of Michigan’s foreclosure problems.

The nationwide home foreclosure rate declined by 8 percent when comparing February 2012 to February 2011.

Politics
6:51 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

A conversation with David Hecker, Pres. of AFT in Michigan

The Republican-led legislature approved a measure that would prohibit schools from automatically deducting union dues from the paychecks of school employees last week.

Those in support of the measure say it puts more money in the pockets of employees who can then choose to write a check to their union. Opponents say it’s another attempt at union busting.

David Hecker, President of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Politics
6:47 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Michigan legislature may tighten rules for ballot question petitions

What's on the ballot?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People who want to put a question on the ballot could soon have to get their petitions pre-approved by a government panel before they could gather signatures. That’s under a measure that cleared the state House today on a party-line vote.

The measure could force current petition drives to get state approval and then start over. The petition drives would guarantee union organizing rights, require disclosure of businesses’ political spending, and boost renewable energy requirements on utilities.

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Politics
3:45 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Rep. Cotter says UofM is "thumbing its nose at the legislature"

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

In a meeting with members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education some tough words were levied at University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman.

Coleman was at the meeting to testify on Gov. Snyder's funding proposal for higher education.

During the hearing, State Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) said the University of Michigan did not adequately give the legislature answers to questions about human embryonic stem cells.

More from Dave Murray of MLive.com:

Cotter said the school was supposed to provide answers to five questions about the use of human embryonic stem cells – numbers he said could be provided on one sheet – and the university instead sent a cover letter with 50 pages of copied newspaper articles.

“The university is thumbing its nose at the Legislature,” he said.

Genetski, R-Saugatuck, said the university’s funding “might be in jeopardy” if it is not more cooperative.

Coleman said she doesn’t think there is a problem with the way the university responded, and she and the lawmakers “would have to disagree” on the issue.

Politics
2:58 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Mayor Bing: I won't be Detroit's emergency manager

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Dave Hogg Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he won't accept the position of emergency manager for the city even if it's offered by the state.

The mayor's remarks came Wednesday during a forum at Wayne County Community College District, one day after state officials delivered a proposed consent agreement for the city. The proposal was an ultimatum that would shift political power, consolidate public utilities and shrink city staff and salaries.

Bing says he disagrees with the proposed consent deal and had no input in the consent agreement proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Treasurer Andy Dillon.

Detroit is facing cash flow problems and a $197 million budget deficit. A state review team has already been digging into its troubled finances, and the governor could appoint an emergency manager.

Politics
1:28 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Governor Snyder urges Detroit leaders to accept consent deal

Detroit City Council chamber
City of Detroit Facebook page

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is urging Detroit leaders to accept a consent agreement that would make them accountable to a financial advisory board, even though Mayor Dave Bing and some council members are unhappy with the deal.

Speaking Wednesday in Lansing, the Republican governor says the initial reaction from officials has been "go away."

He says it's a "cultural challenge" to get leaders to accept that the city can't fix its financial woes on its own.

Snyder could appoint an emergency manager, but prefers to reach a consent agreement he says would leave the mayor and council members in charge of policy. City leaders got details of the agreement Tuesday and found lots to criticize.

Bing called Snyder "disingenuous." Snyder says it's unfortunate "to make a personal attack out of this."

Commentary
11:50 am
Wed March 14, 2012

Where Detroit Stands

Sadly, it appears that the state of Michigan will be taking over the city of Detroit, one way or another. There are a lot of reasons that this is a tragedy, and also a few reasons to be happy about this.

However the next few weeks play out, the city, one way or another, seems likely to get the help it needs to straighten out decades of terribly mismanaged finances. Yesterday, Governor Snyder announced details of a proposed “consent agreement” which would bring radical change and fiscal responsibility to Detroit.

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News Roundup
10:27 am
Wed March 14, 2012

In this morning's news headlines...

A little late coffee this morning...
user brother o'mara Flickr

Michigan-based bank among those to fail stress test

Ally Financial, headquartered in Detroit, made the Federal Reserve's list of major banks that failed to show they have enough capital to survive another serious downturn.

From the Associated Press:

The Federal Reserve says 15 of the 19 major banks stress-tested passed. The Fed noted that all 19 banks are in a much stronger position than immediately after the 2008 financial crisis. Still, SunTrust, Ally Financial and MetLife joined Citi in failing to meet the test's minimum capital requirements.

Ally Financial released a statement saying the Fed's analysis "dramatically overstates potential contingent mortgage risk, especially with respect to newer vintages of loans."

The Fed reviewed the bank balance sheets to determine whether they could withstand a crisis that sends unemployment to 13 percent, causes stock prices to be cut in half and lowers home prices 21 percent from today's levels.

Mixed reactions to Gov. Snyder's consent agreement plan for Detroit rescue

Yesterday, Detroit City Council saw a proposed consent agreement put forward by Gov. Rick Snyder and state treasurer Andy Dillon. The agreement proposes a financial advisory board, among other things, to help right Detroit's financial problems.

The initial reaction from many on city council and Mayor Dave Bing was negative - with several saying the plan takes too much power away from the city's elected leaders.

The Detroit Free Press gathered reaction from Detroit residents, which they say, was mixed. Here's one example:

Sherina Sharpe, 31, a lifelong Detroit resident who teaches writing, said she doesn't know what the best course of action is, but she wants to see the city flourish and isn't ready to shoot down proposed solutions.

"I'm open to solutions as long as they actually benefit the people who live here," she said.

You can read the agreement and weigh-in with your thoughts here.

Broadband deal reaches across Big Mac and into the Upper Peninsula

The Mackinac Bridge won't just transport people and goods, it will also transport large packets of information under a new deal announced yesterday. From the Associated Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday announced a deal between the nonprofit Merit Network Inc. and the Mackinac Bridge Authority. It allows Merit Network to purchase strands of cable crossing the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge for use in a fiber-optic broadband project called REACH-3MC.

The project is part of an effort to expand broadband access in Michigan. Snyder says it will help "serve job creators and the Upper Peninsula."

Politics
5:19 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Muskegon considers laws protecting gay or transgender people

Protestors gathered in Lansing January 18th 2012 to speak against a new state law banning most public entities from offering benefits to same sex partners.
Nancy Gallardo Until Love Is Equal

The City of Muskegon seems likely to pass local laws protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing and employment.

The state and federal government do not offer this protection, but almost 20 Michigan cities do.

Roberta King lives in Muskegon. She was "pleasantly surprised" no one opposed the local law when she asked city commission to consider it this week.

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Politics
5:15 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

The politics behind a Detroit consent agreement

user: Patricia Drury / flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder presented a proposed consent agreement to City of Detroit officials. Snyder wants to use a consent agreement rather than appoint an emergency manager to fix Detroit’s finances.

Stephen Henderson is the Free Press’ editorial page editor and of “American Black Journal.” He spoke with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White.

“The whole idea of the consent agreement is about control and power, and this agreement would ask the Mayor and City Council to give up a lot of that,” Henderson says.

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Politics
5:05 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Michigan House passes ban on threats to coerce abortions

The state House has approved measures that would make it a crime to threaten or coerce a woman to have an abortion.

The measures would cover threats of physical violence, but also withdrawing housing or financial support if a woman does not end a pregnancy. 

Republican state Rep. Bruce Rendon spoke in favor of the measures.

“When a woman or a young girl is threatened of losing a lifeline, whether it’s shelter, financial support, or even a brief period of calm between incidents of emotional or physical abuse, let’s be clear, that is extortion,” Rendon said.

Critics of the measure say it should offer similar protections to women who are threatened or assaulted if they want to end a pregnancy.

The package now goes to the state Senate.

Politics
4:25 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Snyder signs bill that prohibits U of M graduate research assistant union

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008. Many University administrators and deans maintain these research assistants are not "employees."
U of M GEO

The issue of whether University of Michigan graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) can unionize has been put to rest. Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill today saying U of M research assistants are not employees and therefore do not have the right to unionize.

The bill was introduced to the legislature by Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

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Politics
3:02 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

State's consent agreement plan delivered to Detroit leaders

Update 3:02 p.m.

The state's consent agreement plan was delivered to Detroit city council today. Among other things, it calls for the establishment of a financial advisory board that would oversee actions by city council and the Mayor.

Detroit Mayor Bing does not like the plan, according to Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley.

And here's some reaction from Detroit city council members:

The Detroit News reports:

Earlier Monday, City Council member James Tate voiced this concern: "By no means am I pleased with what I saw." He and others declined to discuss specifics of what they had read.

Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, a staunch supporter of the need for a consent agreement, said he had some reservations about the executive summary he read.

From a statement from Detroit City council member Virgil Smith:

“It is clear that the Snyder administration is trying to circumvent the legislative process by any and all means.  The Governor’s Emergency Manager Law is undemocratic and this agreement is also undemocratic.”

“The governor knows that there is a good chance the Emergency Manager Law might be overturned, therefore, on line 18 of the executive summary, they specifically state that they are attempting to ‘survive the potential suspension of Act 4.’  Therefore, this agreement is really not a better solution than an emergency manager; it is actually worse.  I urge my colleagues on the Detroit City Council to vote against this plan.”

And the Detroit Free Press reports that some council members have asked their attorneys to review the proposal, "saying a consent agreement is unconstitutional and anti-democratic."

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson went further, saying a consent agreement is like a death sentence to the city because elected officials lose power in the process. "In a consent agreement, you are consenting to your own demise. It's outrageous," Watson said. "Who puts a noose on their own neck?"

11:33 a.m.

Governor Snyder appeared on Detroit's WCHB Radio this morning and talked with Angelo Henderson about the consent agreement the state delivered to city leaders this morning.

Snyder said the agreement calls for the creation of a financial advisory board that would advise and sign off on proposals put forward by the mayor and city council.

"We would create a financial advisory board. Appointments would be made jointly by me, the city council, and the Mayor."

Snyder said those nominated to the board would have the required "turnaround" expertise. The board would be vetted by the Michigan Association of CPAs.

"It's not to run the city, it's to support the city. The mayor and council would still run the city," said Snyder. "There would be this additional review and sign off to make sure it's being done right."

Snyder said Mayor Bing has been working hard to solve the city's problems, but he hasn't had all the resources he's needed.

Snyder highlighted three things that he hopes will come as a result of the consent agreement:

  1. financial stability
  2. better basic services - public safety, bus service, lighting
  3. creating a positive vision for the city of Detroit - "let's build a better city," he said.

When he was asked about privatizing certain departments like the city's lighting department or the transportation department, or the city airport, Snyder said the city should explore ways to "partner with others" to improve city services.

Gov. Snyder said the state has increased revenue sharing with cities in the next fiscal year budget, but said more money is not the answer. "It can be in a situation where we're putting more money in a hole. We need to fix the basics in the city," he said.

The deadline for the city to sign on to the consent agreement is March 28, "I'm concerned about hitting that deadline, that's why I'm happy to talk with you," he told Henderson.

If the agreement isn't reached, the state could appoint an emergency manager to run the city.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported earlier:

Detroit will go broke in the next couple of months, with a $45-50 million shortfall expected by early summer.

One Detroit City Council member who saw an earlier draft of the consent agreement said he's concerned that too much power will be stripped from council.

From the Detroit News:

"I'm interested to see how it changes," Tate said. "I certainly don't believe there's going to be a vote on it (today). I felt under the gun when I came into office. I felt under the gun in November. I feel under the gun now. But we absolutely do have to get our finances together."

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown expects to the agreement to have a mix of things:

"I'm sure there will be things in the document that I get to see (Tuesday) that I absolutely cannot live with," Brown said. "There will be things that I certainly will be willing to negotiate. And there will probably be quite a bit of it that I certainly agree with 100 percent."

10:46 a.m.

The Associated Press reports the state's consent agreement plan aimed at correcting Detroit's troubled finances has been delivered to city officials this morning. The plan includes privatizing some services.

More from the Associated Press:

Councilman James Tate says the deal includes an advisory committee that would remove some power from elected officials. Tate says the consent agreement reads more like a "one-way edict."

If approved, the deal could keep the state from appointing an emergency financial manager in Detroit, which faces a $197 million budget deficit.

The Detroit City Council, Mayor Dave Bing and a 10-member financial review team were expected to assess the proposal. Council wasn't expected to vote on it Tuesday.

Snyder has said he prefers a consent agreement, which would allow Detroit to fix its own finances.

Politics
12:22 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Bing unhappy, what do you think? Should Detroit take the consent agreement deal?

Part of the draft consent agreement obtained by the Detroit News.

Gov. Snyder and state treasurer Andy Dillon delivered their plan to Detroit city council this morning to turn around Detroit's finances.

The consent agreement calls for a financial advisory board with members appointed by the Governor, Mayor Bing, and city council to oversee decisions made by city leaders

The Detroit News reports that after negotiating with Gov. Snyder, Mayor Bing did not like the proposal, so Snyder decided to go straight to city council with the plan:

The governor and Bing neared a deal after a productive meeting Friday afternoon, and Snyder hoped an announcement could be made Monday morning, when the pair were scheduled to appear jointly at the Pancakes and Politics breakfast. But the mayor wobbled Sunday night, apparently concerned about giving away too much of his power, and Snyder decided to shoot the puck. He called Bing before the breakfast, told him he was taking the deal to council, and the mayor decided to skip the breakfast program.

Gov. Snyder said this morning that the city has until March 28 to decide on the consent agreement, after that, the Governor could decide to appoint an emergency manager to run things.

"We have offered every opportunity for the city to control its own fate," he said. "There's no point in this being adversarial. … But we don't have forever as an option."

So what do you think? You can read what others are saying about the consent agreement, or you can read a draft of the plan yourself and tell us what you think.

Should the city take this deal?

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News Roundup
8:59 am
Tue March 13, 2012

In this morning's news headlines...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder to Outline Detroit Consent Agreement

Governor Snyder will outline a proposed consent agreement for the city of Detroit today. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who leads the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances, have suggested a consent agreement for weeks. That measure could give the city’s elected officials broad powers similar to those of an emergency manager. City officials acknowledge that without some major action, Detroit will go broke in the next couple of months, with a $45-50 million shortfall expected by early summer. And it’s likely the only way to avoid emergency manager. Both Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council would have to sign off on a consent agreement.

Flint Finances

Michael Brown, Flint’s emergency manager, says he wants to borrow between $15 and $20 million to help pay for past city deficits. “Brown discussed the plans Monday at a meeting where Flint Mayor Dayne Walling also delivered a State of the City address. Brown says the city will pursue fiscal stabilization bonds while working to plug a projected $20 million gap between revenues and expenses in the 2013 budget. He says the city is meeting with municipal unions to discuss cost-cutting, but he expects the city's work force will shrink as it deals with the projected deficit,” the Associated Press reports.

Abortion Debate Continues in Lansing

The debate over abortion is expected to resume today at the state Capitol. Rick Pluta reports:

The state House is expected vote on measures to make it a crime to intimidate or coerce a woman into aborting a pregnancy. The legislation would create a new crime of coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will. It would cover anything from the threat of violence to refusing to pay child support or getting a woman fired from a job. No one is arguing in favor of allowing people to intimidate a woman into having an abortion. But opponents of the package say it should not single out as victims only women who are coerced into having an abortion. They say women who are threatened because they want to end a pregnancy should have the same protections.

Detroit
8:46 am
Tue March 13, 2012

What a consent agreement could mean for Detroit's financial crisis

We’ve known for awhile that Detroit’s finances are reaching a crisis point. It’s believed the city could run out of money within the next few months. News broke yesterday evening that the Snyder Administration will try to remedy the situation. Governor Snyder will lay out details of a proposed consent agreement to members of the Detroit City Council today. A consent agreement would give the city’s elected officials broad powers… similar to those of an emergency manager.

Politics
6:01 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Governor Snyder to propose consent agreement for Detroit

steveburt1947 / Flickr

Governor Snyder will lay out details of a proposed consent agreement to members of the Detroit City Council on Tuesday.

Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who leads the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances, have suggested a consent agreement for weeks.

That measure could give the city’s elected officials broad powers similar to those of an emergency manager.

Read more
Politics
5:41 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Senator Levin has “tough questions” on proposed air guard cuts

Senator Carl Levin speaks with guests at the Holland-Zeeland Chamber luncheon Monday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan’s 15 members of congress are questioning proposed cuts that affect the state’s air national guard bases. They sent letters to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees Monday. The congressional delegation joined Governor Rick Snyder, who questioned Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta about the cuts (along with other governors) in a letter last week.

The cuts would eliminate more than 600 positions; although most are part-time jobs with the Michigan Air National Guard. The two bases affected are in Battle Creek and near Mt. Clemens.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Abortion debate to resume in Michigan with vote on coercion bill

The debate over abortion is expected to resume tomorrow at the state Capitol.

The state House is expected vote on measures to make it a crime to intimidate or coerce a woman into aborting a pregnancy.

The legislation would create a new crime of coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will. It would cover anything from the threat of violence to refusing to pay child support or getting a woman fired from a job.

No one is arguing in favor of allowing people to intimidate a woman into having an abortion. But opponents of the package say it should not single out as victims only women who are coerced into having an abortion. They say women who are threatened because they want to end a pregnancy should have the same protections.

There is also a fight over the use of the phrase “unborn child” in the legislation to define the fetus. Abortion rights supporters say that’s a loaded term and it should be not be used as a legal definition in a state law.

News Roundup
8:53 am
Mon March 12, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, March 12th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

State Senate Takes up Autism Mandate

Measures on the state Senate calendar this week would require health plans to pay for autism treatments for children. “One bill would set up a fund to reimburse insurance companies for the costs of the treatments. Supporters say early treatment of autism helps children transition to healthy lives. But some supporters of the mandate say it does not go far enough. The autism insurance mandate has the support of Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley – who has a daughter with autism,” Rick Pluta reports.

Detroit Financial Review

The state team that is reviewing Detroit’s finances has avoided a scheduled court date—and possible contempt of court--by disbanding a controversial sub-committee. Sarah Cwiek reports:

An Ingham County Circuit Court Judge had ordered the team to appear in court today. That same judge had earlier ruled the team must meet in public to comply with the state's Open Meetings Act. They did, but quickly formed a sub-committee that had planned to meet in private to “advise the committee of the possible statutory options for its recommendation" to Governor Snyder. But State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who leads the review team, says they decided not to push the issue. The team has already declared that “severe fiscal stress” exists in the city. Barring drastic changes or an unexpected influx of money, officials expect the city to run out cash before the end of the fiscal year. 

State of the City: Flint

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling is scheduled to deliver a State of the City address this evening. “The Flint Journal reports that Monday's remarks will be about 20 minutes shorter to accommodate the City Council meeting. Walling said his speech will be part of the meeting at City Hall. Council meetings were cut to once each month by emergency manager Michael Brown. Brown is to talk about Flint's finances during the meeting. He is a former acting mayor of the city and was appointed in November by Gov. Rick Snyder,” the Associated Press reports.

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