Politics & Government

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
Politics
2:23 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Filing deadline nears for Michigan's U.S. Senate candidates

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Clark Durant is followed down the street by his suporters, as he pushes boxes containing thousands of petition signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State's Office
Steve Carmody

Tomorrow is the deadline for U-S Senate candidates in Michigan to file their petition signatures with the Secretary of State to get on the August primary ballot.

 

Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow is seeking reelection. A large crowd of Republican candidates is expected to be on the primary ballot.

Former west Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra filed his petition signatures last month.

Republican candidate Clark Durant filed his petitions today. The charter schools advocate says Michigan voters are ready to reject career politicians.

“People are tired of career politicians whether they be Republicans or Democrats,” says Durant

Durant has been actively involved with Republican politics for three decades, including previous unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate and the Michigan Supreme Court.

News Roundup
8:35 am
Mon May 14, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 14th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Individual Tax Cut?

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says a tax rollback for individual filers could be part of an overall plan to cut taxes for manufacturers. “The state Senate has approved a proposed phase-out of the tax on most manufacturing equipment. The package now goes to the state House. House Speaker Jase Bolger says he wants to roll into it a reduction in the state income tax or some other tax on individuals. Calley says he and Gov. Snyder are open to the idea. Democrats have complained that the tax reductions enacted by Republicans in Lansing over the past year and a half have all been directed at businesses,” Rick Pluta reports.

Pure Michigan

The Obama Administration wants to step up efforts to promote the U.S. as an international tourism destination and that’s welcome news to the folks who run the “Pure Michigan” campaign. Steve Carmody reports:

Michigan tourism officials know people from foreign countries come here to vacation, but they don’t know how many. And that’s important to know when they’re planning how to spend the “Pure Michigan” campaign’s $25 million advertising budget. This year, only about one percent, or about $250,000, is being spent to promote Michigan as a tourism destination in Europe, mainly in England and Germany. Nothing is being spent in Asia. Right now, the “Pure Michigan” campaign is focusing on regional promotions with some national ads, .and “a modest effort” in Canada.

Northern MI Wildfire

Officials say two wildfires in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula burned nearly 400 acres before being brought under control by fire crews, the Associated Press reports. “WWTV/WWUP reports the first fire started in Ogemaw County's Foster Township and burned about 125 acres on Sunday. The second fire was about four miles away and burned about 250 acres. No injuries were reported. People along a mile-long section of roadway near the first fire were evacuated Sunday but since have returned home. There's no word of structure damage.The cause of the fires is under investigation,” the AP explains.

State Legislature
6:39 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Lt. Gov Calley: Individual tax cut could be part of business tax rollback

Matthileo Flickr

An election year tax cut could be in the offing for individual filers in Michigan.

State House Republican leaders want to bring that into the discussions on phasing out a tax on industrial equipment.

Democrats in Lansing have hammered Republicans with the complaint that tax reforms enacted over the past year and a half have all been directed at helping businesses, while many of the exemptions and deductions enjoyed by individual filers have been scrapped.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says a tax rollback for individuals and families has not yet been put on the table, but he and Governor Rick Snyder are open to the idea if that’s what the Legislature’s GOP leadership wants.

Calley says he hopes a debate over reducing the income tax or some other tax cut for individuals does not slow down a tax rollback that would encourage more investment in manufacturing in Michigan.

Politics
1:23 pm
Sun May 13, 2012

Union rally Monday for Rep. John Conyers

Union supporters of veteran Congressman John Conyers are holding a re-election rally Monday for the Detroit Democrat. The 82-year-old is seeking a 24th term in the House and faces several challengers in the Aug. 7 party primary.

The group Working Families for Southeast Michigan says its rally is set for 5-8 p.m. at the Michigan Conference-Teamsters hall in Detroit.

Others in the Democratic race in the 13th District include state Sens. Glenn Anderson of Westland and Bert Johnson of Highland Park, and state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit.

Conyers is the second-most senior member of the House, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

President Barack Obama endorsed Conyers in February.

It's Just Politics: Extended Edition
6:01 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Senate passes PPT; a MI Supreme Court justice's real estate woes; and a state Rep. calls it quits

Every Friday Rick Pluta and I take a look at state politics in It's Just Politics (you can check out this week's edition here.) But, it can be pretty darn hard to fit all of the week's political stories into just five minutes.

So, if you're as much of a political junkie as we both are, take a listen to an extended version of It's Just Politics.

On tap for this afternoon: the politics behind the state Senate's vote to rollback Michigan's personal property tax, the controversy surrounding Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway's sketchy-looking real estate deals, and allegations that state Representative Lisa Brown fired an employee for being pregnant.

Government
5:38 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan Gov. declares "state of emergency" after storms and flooding

user tanakawho Flickr

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder declared a "state of emergency" in Genesee County following the severe flooding near Flint, Michigan on May 3 and 4.

The declaration makes state resources available to help with damage resulting from the storms and flooding.

Federal resources could follow.

More from the Governor's office:

The declaration, outlined in a proclamation, was requested by local officials and will ensure that all possible resources, in accordance with the Michigan Emergency Management Plan, are provided to assist local response efforts.

Read more
Politics
4:40 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Snyder wants e-retailers to collect Michigan sales tax

user Kcdtsg wikimedia commons

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is appealing to lawmakers in Washington to make online retailers collect state sales tax.

Melissa Anders from MLive.com reports that Gov. Snyder sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders this week expressing his support for the Marketplace Fairness Act. The law would require companies doing business online to calculate sales tax based on customer location and collect the taxes on behalf of states.

Governor Snyder reportedly sees the law as "a way to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar shops and online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com," Anders writes.

In the letter, Snyder also sights fiscal concerns:

"The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates that total revenue lost to e-commerce and mail-order purchases will amount to $872 million during fiscal years 2012 and 2013...it is crucial that the state has the tools to fairly collect the revenue that it is owed. The Marketplace Fairness act would provide states with the authority to do just that."

Michigan residents are already required to pay a "use tax" of 6 percent on their income tax returns for purchases made online. But it's difficult to enforce and few taxpayers heed the rule.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

It's Just Politics
4:02 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Governor Snyder thinks Michigan's economy is improving; Mitt Romney: Not so much

It's Just Politics, May 11th, 2012
Gage Skidmore Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta and I take a look at the politics of taking credit for a good economy. Governor Snyder says Michigan's economy is improving but that's not the story that Mitt Romney wants to tell.

Zoe Clark: Rick, I have a great idea for this week's show!

Rick Pluta: Actually, Zoe, I think maybe it was someone else’s idea first.

Mitt Romney: “So, I’ll take a lot of credit...”

RP: That’s our cheap setup for the fact that Mitt Romney paid a visit to Michigan this week.

ZC: Indeed, he campaigned this week at Lansing Community College.

RP: Prior to hitting the ground here in Lansing, Romney gave an interview with an Ohio TV station, where he said President Obama really followed his plan - the Romney plan - for the bailout of the auto industry.

ZC: And, so, there’s this disconnect. Was the bailout bad? Or, wasn’t it? Governor Rick Snyder – a Romney supporter -- says it’s time to just stop talking about it.

Rick Snyder: “I think too much time is spent on the whole bailout question. It worked, it's done, it's over with. There's  other ways it probably could have been done. But, the point is it was successful."

RP: So, move on, folks. There’s nothing more to see here. Let’s change the subject. And this speaks to the sometimes awkward dance between governors and presidential candidates -- when they are from the same political party.  Rick Snyder is telling people things are looking up.

Snyder: “Now, if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”

RP: The “comeback state,” outpacing the nation in job creation, manufacturing on the rise. And Mitt Romney?

Romney: “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing and frankly they've been hard on the people of America. “

ZC: Not hearing that relentless positivity there.

RP: This guy’s harshin’ my mellow. 

ZC: Rick Snyder does say there’s more work to be done. That Washington needs a healthy dose of what’s working in Michigan. But that’s not Romney’s message.

RP: Right. Where Rick Snyder says life is good and getting better, Mitt Romney says you’re worse off than you might have been. It’s not good, and whatever might be good is going to head south without some change.  

ZC: This dichotomy is not new. In the 1990s, the economy was booming John Engler was the Republican governor of Michigan, Bill Clinton, the Democratic president. When it came to that success…

RP: Credit for a good economy wasn’t a problem for Governor Jennifer Granholm. With George W.Bush in the White House, the economy was bad and it was a battle of blame. And it became mutually assured political destruction - we saw that by the time the time both of them office - Bush in 2009, Granholm on January first of 2011 - they were both pretty unpopular.  

ZC: That speaks to a few things, but one of them is people seeking office will cast a lot of blame for the bad, lay claim to the good, but there are really a lot of things outside their control that will decide the state of the economy and the state of their popularity.

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News Roundup
8:23 am
Fri May 11, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, May 11th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Senate Passes Industrial Tax Phase Out

The state Senate voted yesterday to phase out a tax on most industrial and business property in Michigan. "The tax is a big revenue generator for school districts and local governments. Senate Republicans amended their original plan so it now provides some assurances it won’t force big cuts to education and other services. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the tax on industrial equipment, in particular, is so unique it drives investment elsewhere. Democrats say the rollback is part of a pattern in Lansing of shifting the tax burden from businesses to individuals," Rick Pluta reports.

Bing Appoints a Detroit CFO

Jack Martin has been appointed chief financial officer in Detroit. Sarah Hulett reports:

The CFO is one of two key positions in the effort to turnaround the city's troubled finances. Martin served as CFO of the U.S. Department of Education several years ago, and in January he was picked to be the state-appointed emergency manager of Highland Park schools. The Detroit native says he also helped turn around Washington D.C.'s municipal finances. Martin will work alongside a still-unnamed program management director, and a financial advisory board. He starts the job on Monday with a yearly salary of $220,000.

Snyder Talks Bridge in Canada

Governor Snyder visited Windsor, Ontario yesterday to discuss plans with Canadian officials for another bridge across the Detroit River. Ken Silfven, a spokesman for the Governor says the administration, “remains committed to a Canadian-U.S. collaboration to build a span to supplement the privately owned Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The Windsor Star reports that U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson also attended the meeting. Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been fiercely battling the proposal with ads and lobbying. He seeks to add a span to his own bridge instead,” the Associated Press reports.

Politics
8:07 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Ralliers in Lansing call for measure to ban use of "foreign" laws by courts

About 150 people met in Lansing yesterday to support a bill banning foreign or religious laws in Michigan. The measure would forbid courts from using such laws in their deliberations. A lot of the commentary at the meeting was directed against Sharia laws that are used in some Islamic traditions. 

Tom Craig of Spring Lake attended the rally. “The thing I’m concerned about is foreign influences in our court system. I think the United States was founded on its constitution, not the constitution or the will of some foreign country,” Craig says.

Republican state Representative David Agema sponsored the measure. “It’s just simply protecting your constitutional rights, whether state or federal, from any foreign law that allows you to lose it in a court of law and progressive judges are allowing this to occur, so the purpose is to clarify public policy. That’s what this bill does,” Rep. Agema says.

The rally and the legislation was condemned by the Michigan Catholic Conference. The conference says the law could lead to courts meddling in religious affairs.

State Legislature
8:02 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Michigan Senate votes to phase out industrial tax

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

The Michigan Senate has voted to phase out an industrial tax that’s a big revenue generator for school districts and local governments. Republicans amended their original plan to make sure much

of that money for local services and education would be replaced.

State Senate Majority Richardville says if money from the state falls below a certain level, communities could return to taxing industrial property.   

“It’s kind of a poison pill, as we call it in legislative jargon, where, if we don’t keep our promises than the whole program disappears, so it forces the state government to say we will keep you at the level we say it will,” Richardville says.

Richardville acknowledges there’s no way to guarantee schools and local governments won’t see some reductions. The money for the replacement would come from the sunset of other tax breaks.

Republicans say Michigan’s tax on business and industrial property is unique in the Midwest and drives investment elsewhere.

The Senate rejected efforts by Democrats to link the tax phase-out to job creation targets.

Politics
6:17 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Jack Martin named Detroit CFO

Jack Martin has has been appointed chief financial officer in Detroit. That's one of two key positions in the effort to turnaround the city's troubled finances.

Martin served as CFO of the U.S. Department of Education several years ago, and in January he was picked to be the state-appointed emergency manager of Highland Park schools.

The Detroit native says he also helped turn around Washington D.C.'s municipal finances. 

"That effort was successful," Martin says." I'm confident that this initiative will be successful. But I know it won't be easy. It will be a very, very tough struggle."

Martin will work alongside a still-unnamed program management director, and a financial advisory board. He starts the job on Monday with a yearly salary of $220,000.

Politics
4:26 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Visualization of gay rights and restrictions in U.S.

The Guardian's data visualization of gay rights in the U.S. Go to the link below to see the interactive version.
The Guardian

The rights of gay and lesbian Americans leaped into the national spotlight again after President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage. He made the announcement a day after North Carolinians voted to become the 30th state in the U.S. to place a ban on same-sex marriage.

Michigan voters banned same-sex marriages in 2004.

Some states have done the opposite. They've passed laws expressly allowing same sex marriages.

And then there are laws on adoption. Some states allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly. Other states have banned the practice.

Laws restricting and protecting gay Americans vary widely from state to state. There are laws regarding hospital visitation, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, hate crimes, and harassment in schools.

The national picture on gay and lesbian legal rights and restrictions is jumbled and difficult to explain.

But a unique form of journalism - data visualization journalism - can help bring light to the overall picture.

That's just what The Guardian has done with U.S. state laws that address gay and lesbian issues.

In one look, you can see which states have adopted laws protecting the rights of gays and lesbians, and which states have passed laws restricting their rights.

The Guardian's color wheel shows that in the Midwest, Iowa stands out legislatively as a "gay friendly" state, while states like Michigan would decidedly not be seen that way.

Michigan, Mississippi, and Utah are the only states that expressly ban same-sex marriages and joint adoption by same-sex couples.

Take a look at their color wheel and let us know what you think of it.

HT to GG

Politics
3:27 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

New CFO in Detroit leads to new emergency manager for Highland Park Schools

There's some job switching going on today in Michigan as Highland Park Schools emergency manager Jack Martin got the nod to become the new chief financial officer for the City of Detroit.

The CFO position was created as part of the city's consent agreement with the state. Jack Martin has been the EM at Highland Park Schools since last February.

Martin is a certified public accountant and was the CFO for the U.S. Department of Education from January 2002 through December 2005.

Martin's move to Detroit left the EM position at Highland Park Schools open which will now be filled by Joyce Parker. She's the current emergency manager for the city of Ecorse. She'll continue on in that role part-time, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Read more
government
12:52 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Public hearing on effort to merge Saugatuck, Douglas set for June

Tom Dailey Creative Commons

The state has rescheduled a public hearing on the proposed consolidation of the cities of Douglas and Saugatuck. The hearing was set for later this month. But the state pushed it back to next month because notice of the hearing wasn’t mailed out at least 30 days prior.

Local leaders were upset the original public meeting was scheduled at a smaller venue in the middle of a workday anyway. It's now been rescheduled for 4p.m. June 20thinside the Saugatuck High School gymnasium.

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Commentary
11:42 am
Thu May 10, 2012

Commentary: Where's the outrage?

To badly paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, history will little note nor long remember Bob Dole’s presidential campaign sixteen years ago. Dole was the Republican nominee against President Bill Clinton that year.

This was before the sex scandals came to light, and Clinton breezed to reelection. Bob Dole, an authentic war hero with a hilariously caustic sense of humor, ran a bumbling race that didn’t reflect that he was actually a quite capable man. 

Read more
News Roundup
8:38 am
Thu May 10, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Tuition Breaks for Veterans

Veterans who come to Michigan after retiring from military duty could soon get a tuition break at community colleges and universities. “A state House committee approved legislation yesterday that would waive the residency requirement for veterans to qualify for in-state or local tuition rates. State Representative Holly Hughes is one of the sponsors. Hughes says the tuition break would also encourage veterans to settle in Michigan once their service is complete. Universities and community colleges say the legislation does not make up for their lost revenue from the tuition breaks,” Rick Pluta reports.

Mandatory Sentences?

A bill in the Michigan Senate would impose tougher penalties on habitual criminals. Rina Miller reports:

A three-time felon who commits a fourth serious offense in Michigan would get a mandatory 25-year sentence under the proposal. The bill has the backing of State Attorney General Bill Schuette as well as law enforcement groups. The Attorney General's office says the mandatory sentence for fourth offenses would include assault with intent to murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping and manslaughter. State Senator Steve Bieda says he'd like to refine the bill to give judges more sentencing discretion depending on the severity of the crime.

DNR Auction

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources auctioned off state-owned oil and natural gas drilling rights yesterday. More than $4 million dollars was made by leasing some 91,225 acres of land. “The money raised from these biannual auctions has been steadily increasing since 2000, hitting peaks in 2008 and 2010. In the first auction of 2008, the state leased all of the 149,000 available acres for more than $13 million. The last time the state had a 100 percent lease rate was in 1981. The first auction in 2010 had a 99.6 percent lease rate and raised an unprecedented amount: more than $178 million,” Suzanne Jacobs reports.

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