Politics & Government

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.

Election 2012
7:48 am
Mon March 5, 2012

One week after the MI primary, Santorum continues to dispute results

Gage Skidmore Flickr

Though the state's primary was almost a week ago, the Rick Santorum campaign is continuing to dispute the primary's results. The campaign has taken their fight over the way the Michigan Republican Party apportioned two of the state's at-large delegates to the Republican National Committee.

The campaign is also organizing a rally to be held later today in front of the Michigan Republican headquarters in Lansing. Santorum supporters will call on Michigan GOP leaders to reconsider their decision to award both the party’s statewide delegates to Mitt Romney.

They say party leaders changed the rules to avoid awarding one apiece to Romney and Santorum, who ran a close second in last week’s Michigan primary and won half of the state’s congressional districts.

Last week, after the committee voted in favor of giving the two at-large delegates to Romney, Mike Cox, the state's former Attorney General - and Romney supporter - called the decision, "kind of like third world voting."

A state Republican spokesman says that decision is now in the hands of the national GOP and calls the rally a needless distraction from the focus on helping Republicans win in November.

We took a closer look at the controversy over so-called "dele-gate" on Friday. You can take a listen at the link above.

Election 2012
2:01 pm
Sat March 3, 2012

The primary's over, but the campaign TV ads continue

Michigan’s presidential primary may be over, but the political TV ads keep on coming.

President Obama and a pro-Obama Super Pac together spent about a three-quarters of million dollars to promote the president’s re-election during the recent primary campaign.  A primary in which the president wasn’t running.

Rich Robinson is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.    He says the pro-Obama ads were intended to counter, not just his Republican opponents, but non-profit groups attacking the president.

Robinson says two groups have spent more than $1 million attacking the president’s ties to Wall Street and a failed solar energy business.   

“These are not…electioneering communication," says Robinson,  "There will be no reporting of these particular ads to the federal election commission…because they fall outside the window of an election.”

Robinson expects third-party groups will outspend the candidates, by a wide margin, in this year’s TV ad war.

Breaking
4:25 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

Santorum campaign requests investigation of Michigan GOP

Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign has formally asked the Republican National Committee to investigate the actions of Michigan GOP leaders following Tuesday’s presidential primary.

The Santorum campaign delivered a letter to the Republican National Committee requesting the inquiry.

Santorum says it appears supporters of Mitt Romney engineered a rule-change after Tuesday’s vote to ensure Romney got more delegates than he deserved following a very-thin victory in the overall Republican primary vote.

The letter offers a list of six questions that were raised concerning how the Michigan Republicans decided to award 16 delegates to Romney and 14 to Santorum.

The letter says the issue is not who should get a delegate, but the openness and transparency of the process.

Michigan Republican leaders say the rules were not changed after the fact, but the party did a poor job of explaining its plan on how delegates would be allocated.

Politics
2:44 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

Troy Mayor recall campaign moves forward

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels
Janice Daniels

A petition seeking to recall Troy Mayor Janice Daniels has been approved.

More from MLive's, Jeff Wattrick:

A group seeking to recall Troy Mayor Janice Daniels won a split-decision victory yesterday as the Oakland County Election Commission approved recall language for a petition drive. That means organizers have 180 days to collect 7,985 signatures within a 90-day period to place the recall question on the ballot.

Daniels has angered some in her community for an anti-gay slur she made on her Facebook page prior to being mayor. Opponents of Daniels were also angered when Mayor Daniels rejected federal funding for a new transit center in Troy.

Wattrick writes that Daniels became a controversial figure the moment she took office:

At her inauguration, she refused to recite the traditional oath of office because she wouldn’t pledge to uphold Troy’s City Charter. Daniels dismissed Troy’s governing document as “whimsical.”

Politics
11:20 am
Fri March 2, 2012

Gov. Snyder reappoints Highland Park Schools emergency manager

Jack Martin when he was the CFO for the U.S. Department of Education.
U.S Department of Education

After several weeks of legal arguments, Governor Snyder has reappointed an emergency manager for Highland Park schools.

A Highland Park Schools board member challenged the actions of the state’s financial review team, claiming it violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.  Robert Davis said the review team’s decisions were made illegally behind closed doors.

A judge agreed and suspended the appointment of Jack Martin as the Highland Park Schools emergency manager.

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Commentary
10:47 am
Fri March 2, 2012

The Romneys and Religion

I was a teenager back when Mitt Romney’s father, George, was governor of Michigan, and made his own run for the Republican Presidential nomination. I was already fascinated by politics, and followed that race closely. And here’s something you may find interesting. Back in nineteen-sixty-eight, nobody seemed to care that George Romney was a Mormon. Now, his formal campaign didn’t last very long. He dropped out of the race at the end of February.

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News Roundup
9:12 am
Fri March 2, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

It’s a Delegate-Situation

The Michigan Republican Party has awarded both of Michigan’s statewide at-large delegates to the Republican national convention this summer to Mitt Romney. “The decision by the Michigan Republican Party’s credentials committee was based on Romney’s slim majority of the popular vote in Tuesday’s primary. But some people are crying foul. They say Rick Santorum’s close runner-up finish entitles him to one of the at-large delegates... A spokesman for the Rick Santorum campaign says the decision calls into question the “legitimacy” of the state’s Republican Party leadership,” Rick Pluta reports. The decision means Romney will be awarded 16 of the state’s delegates; Santorum will receive 14.

Money, Money, Money… Money

Meanwhile, a new report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network shows Super PACS outspent the candidates in the state's presidential primary. Steve Carmody reports:

Winner Mitt Romney’s campaign spent one and a half million dollars on TV ads during the primary campaign. A pro-Romney Super Pac spent nearly two million dollars during the campaign. Runner-up Rick Santorum spent just under a million dollars, while a pro-Santorum Super Pac spent over a million dollars. Breaking down the numbers, Romney and his Super Pac spent about $8.45 for each vote the former Massachusetts governor received in the primary. Santorum and his Super Pac spent about $5.81 per primary vote in Michigan. Third place finisher Ron Paul spent a relatively frugal 48 cents per vote.

EM for Muskegon Heights Public Schools?

A review team will hold a meeting in Lansing this morning to take a look into the finances of the Muskegon Public Schools. “The district in western Michigan has a budget deficit of $8.5 million for the current year. The state says this morning's meeting is being held in accordance with Michigan's Open Meetings Act,” the Associated Press reports. The findings of the review team could lead to an emergency manager being appointed to the district. The district has run a deficit for at least six years in a row.

Politics
6:45 am
Fri March 2, 2012

UAW chief: Unions seek Mich. 'right-to-work' ban

United Auto Workers President Bob King says a coalition of unions will push for an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that bars so-called "right-to-work" legislation outlawing contracts that require employees to join unions.

Republicans who control the state Legislature have been pushing for a law that would ban labor agreements with mandatory union dues. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said the issue is not a priority for his administration.

King told about 1,000 people at the UAW's national convention in Washington on Thursday that a union coalition will push for a November ballot issue protecting the right to have union shops.

The Detroit News reports King says unions agreed on the drive at a meeting Wednesday. He says they'll seek 500,000 signatures, about twice what's needed.

Politics
6:36 am
Fri March 2, 2012

From Michigan's U.P. to Detroit, political allies from the unlikeliest of places

Detroit skyline
JSFauxtaugraphy Flickr

A lawmaker from the Upper Peninsula says every region in the state could benefit from a strong and vibrant Detroit.

Republican state Senator Tom Casperson has become an unlikely advocate for a regional transit system in southeast Michigan that would connect Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw counties.

Casperson’s district in the U.P. would not benefit directly from the transit system. But the U.P. could benefit long term from newfound political ties to Detroit.

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Politics
6:22 am
Fri March 2, 2012

MSU edits public copy of lawmaker’s traffic stop

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski
Photo courtesy of Rep. Genetski's office

Michigan State University has cut portions of a videotape and police report on the arrest of a state lawmaker who is a key decision-maker on higher education spending. State Representative Bob Genetski was stopped last month on the MSU campus and arrested for drunk driving.

The news service M-Live requested the police report and video after the full versions were used in a public hearing. MSU at first refused, but later provided versions that redacted Genetski’s responses to field sobriety tests such as reciting the alphabet, counting, and standing on one leg.

Michael MacLaren is the executive director of the Michigan Press Association. He says MSU’s action undermines the public’s trust in open government.

“It’s very troubling. And I worry about the pattern of behavior that would ensue from this. It just doesn’t smell right.”

An MSU spokesman says the redacted portions would have needlessly invaded Genetski’s privacy and that every freedom of information request to MSU is reviewed by a lawyer. Genetski chairs the House higher education budget subcommittee.

You can find the incident report (with portions cut out) here.

Politics
5:35 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

FBI launches anti-public corruption task force in Detroit

The FBI is pulling together a multi-agency task force fight public corruption in the Detroit area.

The task force will include several federal agencies, federal prosecutors, the Michigan Attorney General, the Michigan State Police, and Detroit Police. 

It’s no secret that public corruption is a major problem in our community," said Detroit US Attorney Barbara McQuade.

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Political Roundup
5:30 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Enough signatures to suspend emergency manager law?

A group seeking repeal of Michigan’s emergency manager law has submitted 226,000 petition signatures to place a referendum on the issue in November.

If 161,305 signatures are verified by a state elections panel the emergency manager law will be suspended until the vote comes up in November.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke to Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service about the implications.

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Politics
4:31 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Super Pacs spent big in Michigan's Republican presidential primary

The SuperPACs supporting Romney and Santorum spent around $3 million leading up to the February 28 primary.
Mark Brush Flickr user gageskidmore/Facebook

A new report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network shows Super Pacs outspent the candidates in Michigan’s Republican president primary.

It should be no surprise that a lot of money was spent in the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary. It’s probably also not a surprise that much of the money was spent by third party groups.

Winner Mitt Romney’s campaign spent one and a half million dollars on TV ads during the primary campaign. A pro-Romney Super Pac spent nearly two million dollars during the campaign.

Runner-up Rick Santorum spent just under a million dollars, while a pro-Santorum Super Pac spent over a million dollars.

Third place finisher Ron Paul spent less than 60 thousand dollars for TV ads in Michigan.   Paul had no support from Super Pacs.

"Money prevailed in the end as it usually does," says Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Breaking down the numbers, Mitt Romney and his Super Pac spent about $8.45 for each vote the former Massachusetts governor received in the primary.

Rick Santorum and his Super Pac spent about $5.81 per primary vote in Michigan.

Third place finisher Ron Paul spent a relatively frugal 48 cents per vote.

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