Politics & Government

News Roundup
8:24 am
Mon May 21, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 21st, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Teacher Benefits

A state House committee will go to work this morning on legislation that would make some big changes to teachers’ retirement benefits. Rick Pluta reports:

The state manages the school employees’ pension fund. Governor Rick Snyder says the system is under-funded. He wants the Legislature to enact a plan to make sure it doesn't require a taxpayer bailout years down the road. Teachers’ unions say the governor is overstating the liabilities on the system. They say Republicans are using the numbers to force more costs onto school employees. One of the proposed changes would end retiree health care insurance for new hires.

Double Taxation?

Republican State Senator David Robertson wants to end what he calls a form of double taxation on new car sales. Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports:

Currently in Michigan, when you apply the trade-in value of your old car to the purchase price of a new car, you pay sales tax on the entire price of the new car.  Sen. David Robertson says that's not fair. He says most states only tax people on the difference between the value of the trade-in and the new car. Changing the tax means the state would lose $250 million in tax revenue a year, so he's proposing to phase in the tax change over six years.

Mayors Say ‘No’ to Occupy Groups

Two Michigan mayors who supported Occupy Wall Street protestors in their cities last year say they won't allow encampments on city property this year. “Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says Michigan's capital city won't let protestors stay in a downtown park past closing time.  Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje agrees. ‘We wouldn't tolerate tents in our parks or people sleeping overnight.  It was a special circumstance, it was a one-time thing,’ Hieftje explains. With warm weather in full swing, Wall Street protestors are expected to make a return,” the Michigan Radio Newsroom reports.

Politics
6:13 am
Mon May 21, 2012

Governor Snyder pushes for teacher pension reforms

A state House committee goes to work this morning on a plan that would force teachers and other school employees to pay more for their retirement benefits.

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders say the plan is necessary to ensure the long-term solvency of the retirement system.

There are a lot of details to work out, but the bottom line for public school employees is, one way or the other, they will pay more for retirement benefits and retirement health care. Governor Snyder says, overall, he supports the plan. “Cause it’s striking the right balance about taxpayer long-term liabilities and employees who have benefits," Snyder says.

Retired teacher Thom Housman asks, "What’s going to happen next year? What more can they take from teachers next year?" Housman says Republican leaders at the state Capitol have targeted teachers time and time again to address budget troubles regardless of promises that have been made to school employees.

Politics
5:18 pm
Sat May 19, 2012

Anuzis, Hughes out: Shakeup at GOP state convention

There was a shakeup in the leadership of the state Republican Party at a convention today in Detroit. GOP delegates voted to replace the state’s two representatives on the Republican National Committee. Both new committee members promised to push for a more conservative direction.

“I think the convention wants to move to the right, they want constitutional conservatives, moral conservatives, and fiscal conservatives in office,” said State Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville), one of the winners. 

Agema is ranked as the state House’s most-conservative lawmaker. He unseated veteran Republican activist and former state party chairman Saul Anuzis.

Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn beat state Representative Holly Hughes for the other Republican National Committee spot. Land says the convention was looking for new faces.

 “You know, I’m a term limits fan, and eight years is good and that’s what a lot of others have served in the past and I think people just wanted to see a change,” Land said.

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Politics
12:30 pm
Sat May 19, 2012

Ron Paul supporters unhappy with results of Michigan Republican Party Convention

Republican presidential canidate Ron Paul

The Michigan Republican Party holds its convention in Detroit today.

The state GOP is choosing delegates to the party’s national convention in Tampa-Florida this summer.

Supporters of Ron Paul say they were denied delegates they deserved.

Paul failed to win a single committed delegate in Michigan’s February 28th presidential primary. But Paul supporters hoped to lay claim to a large share of the state’s officially uncommitted delegates. They got six out of 30 voting delegates headed to Tampa. But Paul supporter John Ettinger of Linden in Genesee County says they deserved more.

"It was a completely rigged numbers game no matter what," says Ettinger.

Matt Frendeway is the Michigan Republican Party spokesman. He says Paul supporters simply failed to win enough delegates to the state convention to get what they want.

“That’s what campaigns are about," says Frendeway.

Frendeway says the party followed long-established rules for allocating national convention delegates. Most of Michigan’s delegates went to Mitt Romney, who won the state’s GOP primary.

It's Just Politics
8:00 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Who's in and who's out in Michigan's August primary

Immortal Poet Flickr

Every week, Rick Pluta and I take an inside look at state politics in It's Just Politics. This week we focused on the defection of Representative Roy Schmidt. But, there's SO much more going on in politics this week: Wednesday was the filing deadline for local and state races across the state and, so, Pluta and I thought it was only right to do a little round-up of who's in and who's out...

Politics
4:50 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Child abusers could face longer prison terms

The Michigan House has unanimously passed two bills that require tougher penalties for child abusers.

The bills are named after Dominick Calhoun. In 2010, the four-year-old boy was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend. Brandon Hayes was convicted of first-degree murder and got a life sentence.

The boy's mother says her son was tortured for four days before he died. She claims she was beaten while trying to defend him, but she was convicted of second-degree murder.

Dominick's older brother witnessed the beatings.

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It's Just Politics
3:10 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Machination in Michigan: Rep. Roy Schmidt and the offer he couldn't refuse

Politics can be messy. Politics can be confusing. But, that certainly doesn't mean politics can't be a total thrilling joy-ride. Every Friday afternoon Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta  sit down for a fast-paced spin around Michigan politics.

ZC: It’s Just Politics. I’m Zoe Clark.

RP:And, I’m Rick Pluta.

ZC: We start this week with a tale of intrigue, deception,  and – dare I say it? Betrayal.

RP: Yes, Zoe. A defection. This has not happened in Lansing since the 1990s. Democrats thought they had a reasonably safe seat in the 76th state House District in Grand Rapids... Competitive but marginally Democratic with a strong incumbent in Representative Roy Schmidt.

ZC: But then….A tergiversation,  a flip.

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Politics
12:32 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Roy Schmidt party switch prompts Dems to call for perjury investigation

Rep. Schmidt at a rally against Governor Rick Snyder's budget cuts to education funding in June of 2011. He's now switched to the GOP.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Democrats in Kent County are asking for an investigation after a state representative switched political parties this week.

Longtime Democrat Roy Schmidt from Grand Rapids switched parties to run as a Republican Tuesday.

22-year old Matt Mojzak filed to run in the district which includes Grand Rapids. The Secretary of State’s office says Mojzak changed his address from one in neighboring Ottawa County to one within the district just this week. But the affidavit says Mojzak had lived at the Kent County address for 22 years.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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