Politics & Government

News Roundup
9:01 am
Wed March 7, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Bing to Address Detroit

Mayor Dave Bing is set to deliver his State of the City address this evening at the Erma Henderson Auditorium at the Detroit City Hall. “Bing will deliver his third State of the City address as he, the City Council and union leaders seek fiscal answers to keep the state from appointing an emergency manager… A preliminary review from the state showed a nearly $200 million general fund deficit for 2011. A review team is looking over the city's books to determine if a financial emergency exists, a step that could lead to Gov. Rick Snyder appointing an emergency manager,” the Associated Press reports.

Anti “Right to Work” Ballot Drive Underway

Unions and progressive groups have launched a ballot drive as a push back against what they say is a wave of anti-labor measures from Republicans in Lansing. Rick Pluta reports:

The campaign wants to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. It would prohibit Michigan from becoming a "right-to-work" state that allows employees to opt out of paying union dues. It would also pre-empt a host of other laws that would restrict union organizing and fundraising. Opponents of the ballot drive said it’s motivated more by a desire of union leaders to drive voter turnout in November than to guarantee workers’ rights. Union and progressive groups launched the ballot drive today. They have until July 9 to collect enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

Prop 2 Arguments Begin Today

The U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati will hear arguments today over Michigan’s constitutional amendment that bars state universities from considering race in college admissions."Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved ‘Proposition 2’ in 2006. Mark Rosenbaum is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says Prop 2 violates the U.S. Constitution by forbidding the consideration of race, while other factors like whether a college applicant’s parent is an alumnus, are still permitted. Last year, a federal appellate court ruled against Prop 2,” Steve Carmody reports. The case could eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Politics
7:44 am
Wed March 7, 2012

The Week in State Politics

Allieosmar Flickr

Governor Snyder is set to deliver an address on public safety in Flint today. Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw are among the country's top 10 most violent cities. Christina Shockley spoke with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about what we're likely to hear from the Governor later this morning.

Detroit
6:36 am
Wed March 7, 2012

Mayor Bing set to deliver 3rd State of City address

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
Corvair Owner Flickr

Mayor Dave Bing will deliver his third State of the City address as he, the City Council and union leaders seek fiscal answers to keep the state from appointing an emergency manager.

He's giving the speech at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Erma Henderson Auditorium at City Hall.

In prior years, the event was held at the Max Fisher Music Center. The move to City Hall is designed to save money. A preliminary review from the state showed a nearly $200 million general fund deficit for 2011.

Municipal unions have yet to ratify concessions aimed at cutting into the deficit.

A review team is looking over the city's books to determine if a financial emergency exists, a step that could lead to Gov. Rick Snyder appointing an emergency manager.

Politics
7:36 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Fight brewing over Detroit's troubled Human Services Department

A fight is brewing between the Detroit City Council, Mayor Dave Bing, and the state.

State officials say the Detroit Department of Human Services is so corrupt and incompetent it should no longer handle federal funds.

They want the Detroit City Council to agree to that. But the Council wants to hear more specifics—and a request from Mayor Dave Bing—before they act.

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Politics
6:48 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Ballot drive launched to push back against "anti-labor measures"

Unions and progressive groups have launched a ballot drive as a push back against what they say is a wave of anti-labor measures from Republicans in Lansing.

The campaign wants to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot.

It would prohibit Michigan from becoming a "right-to-work" state that allows employees to opt out of paying union dues. It would also pre-empt a host of other laws that would restrict union organizing and fundraising.

Jeff Bean, a teacher’s union member from Flint, said union rights helped build the middle class.

"A strong middle class is the backbone, especially here in Michigan, but I would say nationwide – of our economy, of our process, of our culture, so I think it’s something that deserves a constitutional amendment for that reason," said Bean.

Opponents of the ballot drive said it’s motivated more by a desire of union leaders to drive voter turnout in November than to guarantee workers’ rights.

Governor Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman says a fierce debate over "right-to-work" and other labor issues won’t help Michigan rebuild its economy.

The governor has said he hopes the Legislature will put off a measure that would outlaw compulsory union membership or dues to hold a job.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Geralyn Lasher, said Gov. Snyder is equally skeptical of a ballot drive to guarantee union organizing rights in the state constitution.

"The 'right-to-work' issue, everything about that is so divisive, it’s not something Michigan needs to be focused on right now. We have so many other things that we can work on cooperatively. We’ve seen a lot of success with collective bargaining. We want to continue to move forward. We don’t really see a lot of positives from this battle on either side of the issue," said Wurfel.

Union and progressive groups launched the ballot drive today.

They have until July 9 to collect enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

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Newsmaker Interviews
5:38 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Michigan State Police seek to combat rising crime

Colonel Kriste Etue, Director of the Michigan State Police

The FBI ranks Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw among the ten American cities with the highest violent crime rates.

Kriste Etue is the Director of the Michigan State Police.  She says the lack of good jobs and the decline of police officers in the state has an impact on crime.

"The state of Michigan has lost nearly 3,400 police officers, so I’m sure that has some impact on the crime in our various cities."

The Michigan State Police is reaching out to returning veterans to join the state police force.

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Commentary
11:08 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Casino Lottery

Yesterday I talked to a student who has a right to be proud of herself. Now in her early 30s, she was born in poverty to Mexican migrant workers in Arizona, and had two babies before she was out of her teens. Yet she got it together through sheer determination and hard work, and is now finishing her second college degree and working in public relations. She clearly has a bright future.

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Politics
9:32 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Reopening Flint city lockup among Snyder's plans

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder plans to call for $4.5 million to reopen the Flint city lockup to free space in the Genesee County Jail.

The Flint Journal reports Tuesday the proposal is among those the Republican governor is expected to unveil Wednesday morning during his public safety plan at the Flint City Hall Annex.

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has said opening the lockup is important because criminals are "laughing at the system."

Snyder says it's unacceptable that Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people.

His plan's expected to include $15 million for what he has called law enforcement "enhancements." He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms.

News Roundup
8:48 am
Tue March 6, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Union Bargaining Rights

Unions and progressive groups plan to unveil a ballot campaign later today to preempt efforts to pass a right-to-work law in Michigan. “The so-called Protect Our Jobs campaign would block efforts to enact a right-to-work law that would forbid compulsory union dues as a condition of employment. It would also preempt about 80 measures pending before the Legislature that would enact restrictions on unions and union organizing. The campaign would do that by having voters approve an amendment to the state constitution. To get on the ballot, the campaign will have to collect more 323,000 signatures of registered voters in a six month window," Rick Pluta reports.

Snyder to Deliver Public Safety Address

Governor Snyder will deliver an address on public safety in Flint tomorrow. The Associated Press reports:

Snyder plans to call for $4.5 million to reopen the Flint city lockup to free space in the Genesee County Jail. Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has said opening the lockup is important because criminals are "laughing at the system." Snyder says it's unacceptable that Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people. His plan's expected to include $15 million for what he has called law enforcement "enhancements." He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms.

Home Prices Tick Up

After years of rollercoaster prices, Michigan home prices may finally be stabilizing. Steve Carmody reports:

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capitol. He says an improving job picture, stronger consumer confidence and more investors buying cheap homes are all contributing to a more stable real estate market. But as with all things real estate, 'Location…location…location' is what matters. Villacorta says Grand Rapids’ home sale prices are up about six percent compared with a year ago, while home prices in Lansing and Flint continue to decline.

Election 2012
6:35 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Santorum rally in front of GOP headquarters fizzles

A rally was scheduled for last night to protest the Michigan Republican Party’s decision to award both of the state’s at-large national convention delegates to Mitt Romney. Supporters of Rick Santorum say he was denied his fair share of the delegates because he won almost half the statewide vote.

But only a handful of people showed up at the state Republican headquarters in Lansing, and they were quickly invited inside for a closed-door meeting with party officials. One of them was Spencer Austin, who said he was with Students for Santorum.

“I’m here to, uh, I’m not going to say protest -- because I think that’s a flaky term – I’m here just to prove a point: I feel that Santorum was cheated out of delegates," Austin said.

Matt Frendeway is a spokesman for the state Republican party.

“Republicans, from time to time we have disputes, we have disagreements, but we settle it within the family. We’re focused on November. We’re focused on defeating President Obama. And we’re going to sit down and talk about any differences we have and we’re going to settle them because, most importantly, we’re going to focus on November," said Frendeway.

A Facebook posting by a rally organizer says the effort is focused instead on recruiting people to run as delegates to the Michigan Republicans’ statewide convention in May that will decide who goes to the Republican  national convention.

State Republican Chairman Bobby Schostak has sent a letter to party activists apologizing for the confusion over how the delegates were allocated.

Politics
6:00 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Green Party presidential hopeful visits Michigan, touts "Green New Deal"

Presidential hopeful Jill Stein of the U.S. Green Party
JillStein.org

Michigan’s republican  primary was last week, but that doesn’t mean presidential candidates are done courting voters.

A U.S. Green Party presidential hopeful, Jill Stein met with supporters in Michigan to tout her party’s platform.

Stein talked with a small group yesterday at a Amer's deli in Ann Arbor about what she calls her “Green New Deal.”

She says the Deal focuses on living wages and green technology.

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Politics
9:22 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Petitions now in state hands,Public Act 4 opponents call for "supervised process"

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 4, say they’re concerned about the integrity of petitions they just handed over to the Secretary of State.

If enough petition signatures are certified (approximately 161,000--organizers say they've collected more than 220,000), the law would be suspended until a voter referendum in November.

Because it’s a politically-charged matter of numbers, organizers say they want to make sure those petitions are supervised and handled properly.

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Politics
6:50 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Detroit Fire Department, already struggling, will have to "do more with less"

Detroit's Fire Commissioner says his department is at the end of its resources due to budget cuts.

Donald Austin spoke to a Detroit City Council committee meeting on Monday.

Even with the cuts, Detroit’s Police and Fire Departments take up well over half of the city's budget. And both departments regularly go over-budget, mostly because of overtime.

Austin says it’s proven almost impossible to cut overtime, when he has to fight so many fires in vacant buildings--which total 30-60% of all department runs, depending on the shift.

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Politics
5:56 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

DHS rolls out new hotline number to report child, elder abuse

user mconnors morgueFile

Michigan’s Department of Human Services has introduced a more streamlined process for reporting child and elder abuse in the state.

It’s one of a series of child welfare improvements the state agreed to make when it settled a lawsuit with New York-based Children’s Rights group in 2008.

The agreement required DHS to create a statewide, 24-hour hotline that anyone in Michigan can call to report possible child or elder abuse.

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Politics
4:12 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Ballot campaign seeks to stop Michigan lawmakers from enacting "Right-to-Work" law

A campaign to keep Michigan legislators from enacting a "right-to-work" law is holding a rally tomorrow in Lansing. The "Protect Our Jobs campaign" is hoping to put a constitutional amendment proposal on the November ballot that would "protect collective bargaining rights."

If passed, a "Right to Work" law would allow workers individually to opt out of paying union dues.

Workers in union represented workplaces in Michigan today are required by law to pay dues.

They can opt out of the union, but they still have to pay "an agency fee." As Michigan Radio's Lester Graham reported, "that fee covers the cost of the union’s collective bargaining and grievance handling processes."

From the Protect Our Jobs campaign's press release:

Working men and women from across Michigan will gather at the state Capitol in Lansing tomorrow to formally launch the “Protect Our Jobs” campaign. Grassroots volunteers will begin gathering signatures tomorrow to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to protect collective bargaining rights, and strengthen the middle class.

Here's more from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

A ballot drive will launch tomorrow to try to guarantee collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.

The so-called Protect Our Jobs campaign will be run by a coalition of unions and progressive political groups. The campaign wants to put a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution.

The amendment would preempt about 80 measures pending before the Legislature that would restrict union organizing, dues collections, and how political donations are collected. It would also block efforts to enact a right-to-work law in Michigan.

The campaign would have until July 9th to collect more 323,000 signatures of registered voters to make its goal of qualifying for the November ballot.

Organizers also hope the question would help boost turnout by Democratic voters in the election.

Politics
3:40 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Emergency managers in Michigan might lose powers

 LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State-appointed emergency managers soon could at least temporarily lose the enhanced powers granted to them through a 2011 Michigan law.

Those powers include the ability to strip local leaders of authority and toss out union contracts in an effort to fix an entity's finances.

State election officials could take up to two months reviewing petitions submitted by a coalition that wants to give voters a chance to overturn the law in November. Public Act 4 would be suspended while awaiting the election if officials determine enough valid voter signatures were collected.

Supporters of the emergency manager law say that could lead to confusion in places that have emergency managers such as Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac and the Detroit public school system.

Opponents of the emergency law say it undermines democracy.

Politics
2:26 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Michigan governor to deliver public safety speech in Flint

Governor Rick Snyder will give an address about public safety on Wednesday.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder plans to lay out how he hopes to reduce crime during an upcoming special address.

His office said Monday that the Republican governor will unveil his public safety plan at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Flint City Hall Annex.

Snyder said earlier this year that it's unacceptable that Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people.

His plan's expected to include an additional $15 million for what he has called "enhancement" of law enforcement. He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms to help former criminals gain skills and jobs.

Shrinking state and local budgets have left the state with 3,400 fewer law enforcement officers since September 2001.

Politics
1:22 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Businessman, former Kent County official hopes to unseat Congressman Justin Amash

Steve Pestka was accompanied by (left to right) State Rep. Brandon Dillon, Former Congressman Mark Schauer, Pestka's wife Alicia, and State Rep. Roy Schmidt.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

There are now two democrats hoping to unseat first-term Congressman Justin Amash. The conservative republican faces a newly redrawn district in his reelection bid this year. 

Michigan lost a congressional district after the recent census. Newly redrawn maps cut the generally republican suburbs of Grand Rapids out of the third congressional district and added Battle Creek.

That could be a challenge for Amash. The freshman is a strong advocate of limited government and free markets. He’s one of only a few sitting federal officials supporting Congressman Ron Paul in the presidential election.

Democrat Steve Pestka thinks the new congressional map (and that it’s a presidential election) will help him defeat Amash in November. Pestka announced today in Grand Rapids he’s running for Congress. He’ll make another stop this afternoon in Battle Creek.

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Commentary
11:32 am
Mon March 5, 2012

Last Word On Our Primary

We now know just about everything there is to know about the presidential primary we held last week. The votes are in, the robocalls have stopped, and the candidates are gone, most, probably, for good. The nominees will be back after the national conventions.

And as I look over what this campaign cost and what we got out of it, I am forced to the reluctant conclusion that the Michigan presidential primary was an overwhelmingly expensive failure.

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News Roundup
8:49 am
Mon March 5, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, March 5th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Santorum Rally

It's been almost a week since Michigan's presidential primary but Rick Santorum’s campaign is organizing a rally today in front of the state Republican Party headquarters in Lansing. Rick Pluta reports:

The rally is to protest how state GOP leaders awarded both of Michigan’s at-large delegates to Mitt Romney for winning a majority of the statewide vote. Santorum says the vote was so close that he and Romney each would have gotten a delegate – until GOP leaders friendly to Romney changed the rules after the election last Tuesday. The Santorum campaign has also asked the Republican National Committee to investigate the Michigan GOP.

MSU Nuclear Science

Scientists from across the country are in Washington D.C. today to ask Congress to support Michigan State University’s $600 million nuclear science facility. Rina Miller reports:

The scientists want lawmakers to declare MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams a national priority, and to keep funding intact. Brad Sherrill is chief scientist of what’s called F-RIB. He believes the facility will bring $1 billion into Michigan – including hundreds of new jobs and thousands of scientific visitors. The primary research at F-RIB will be to understand the basic forces that hold atoms together. MSU was expecting $55 million from the federal government for the project, but the Obama administration budgeted only $22 million.

Stormy Weather

Tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses are without power after a winter storm brought up to 15 inches of snow and blacked out more than a quarter-million electricity customers, the Associated Press reports. “The storm that hit Friday also triggered deadly tornadoes across the Midwest. CMS Energy Corporation says about 51,000 customers remained without service at 4 p.m. Sunday, down from 147,000. DTE Energy Company says about 5,000 of 120,000 customers remained powerless at 4 p.m. Sunday,” the AP notes.

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