Politics & Government

News Roundup
8:31 am
Fri March 30, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, March 30th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Negotiations Continue in Detroit

The Detroit City Council vetted a proposed state deal to fend off insolvency yesterday. "The deal is formally called a “financial stability agreement.” The city and state have been trying to negotiate a deal for two weeks now. But after yesterday’s meeting, it’s clear the two sides are still a long way apart. The Council is expected to take up the issue again on Monday. The city and the state have until April 5th to reach some kind of deal, or Governor Snyder could choose to appoint an emergency manager," Sarah Cwiek reports. Detroit is facing a $200 million budget deficit and could run out of money by the end of May.

Autism Treatments

The state Legislature has sent Governor Snyder a package of bills that would require health insurance plans to offer coverage for childhood autism treatments. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder called for the autism mandate in his State of the State address. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has a daughter with autism. He says the case can be made for extending the mandate to other mental health disorders, but autism was a good place to start. Calley says the requirement will save taxpayers money because more children with autism will grow to live independently instead of requiring government assistance. But on the same day, the Legislature sent him the bills, a state Senate committee eliminated funding in his Medicaid budget for treating autism.

MI Economic Recovery

Things looked bleak in Michigan in January 2009, when the state’s economic activity index fell to 60 points. But, as Rina Miller reports, in January of this year it was up to 98 points. “The index looks at payrolls, exports, sales tax revenues, unemployment claims and other factors. ‘We're starting to see some sustainable progress in coming out of the depths of the recession,’ Robert Dye, chief economist with Comerica Bank, explains. ‘And in January, we really see evidence of this resurgence of the auto industry permeating into other parts of the economy,’” Miller reports.

Politics
12:09 am
Fri March 30, 2012

New state offer gets skeptical reception from Detroit City Council

The Detroit City Council vetted a proposed state deal to fend off insolvency on Thursday.

The deal is formally called a “financial stability agreement.”

But it's clearly a legally enforceable consent agreement under Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 4.

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Politics
5:43 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

Motorcycle helmet repeal puts spotlight on Gov. Snyder

Advocates of the helmet law repeal say it's about individual freedom, but it comes with costs.
Varin Tsai Flickr

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is facing a big decision.

It's one of the more sharply political decisions he's faced since he became Governor.

Does he follow his own party, the Republican-led legislature, and sign off on their motorcycle helmet repeal bill?

Or does he go against them with a veto?

For a Governor that fancies himself a "numbers guy," he's got to know the numbers are stacked against him.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

Political Roundup: Republican agenda moving forward?

User: mattileo / flickr

Every Thursday we speak with political analysts Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas to get a better understanding of what's happening in state politics.

Last week we focused on Detroit's financial situation. This week it's all about what's going on in Lansing.

The repeal of the helmet law is on Gov. Snyder’s desk. Republican lawmakers recently created a measure that allowed Oakland County to redraw district lines, it was challenged in court, but the Republican Majority Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Republican lawmakers.

So, it this politics as usual? Susan says "It's certainly has had a political tinge to it that I think perhaps we might have expected from a Republican-led legislature." Demas adds, "There hasn't been a lot of day light between Gov. Snyder and the legislature. One exception is on domestic partner benefits for universities, but that's one of the rare few."

Sikkema agrees, "The governor has pretty much stuck with his Republican colleagues and hasn't had much controversy."

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Politics
3:38 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

With a financial crisis approaching, Detroit City Council debates new plan

Bob Jagendorf Flickr

Detroit City Council is expected to debate a draft financial stability agreement with the state today starting at 4 p.m.

Ahead of the debate, Detroit Mayor Bing released a statement saying "this draft landmark agreement...was jointly developed by the Mayor’s office, the City Council and the State of Michigan."

“Today’s special session of the Detroit City Council to consider a resolution to approve a financial stability agreement represents a significant milestone in addressing the City’s financial crisis, decades in the making,” said Mayor Dave Bing. “It won’t get fixed overnight, but our partnership with the State will drive us as we remedy our financial crisis.”

An earlier proposal by the state brought charges of an attempted "state takeover" of the city.

Council members rejected it, saying the plan stripped them of their power and was the equivalent of appointing an emergency manager to run things.

Bing said in his statement the new agreement "preserves Charter and Executive and Legislative powers, including allowing the Mayor to hire his own executive staff, and outlines specific support from the State."

The Detroit News reports it's obtained a copy of the new agreement:

[The agreement] calls for union contracts to be rewritten under new terms after they expire June 30. They would be built off a single template for all unions, including police and fire. The contracts would call for:

  • Creating a financial advisory board, advising the Mayor’s office and collaborating with the City to set yearly revenue targets; 
  • Requiring the City to adopt three-year budget; 
  • Creating a Project Implementation Office that reports to the Mayor and introduces a Project Manager to monitor and facilitate immediate project performance improvement; and
  • Providing a collaborative, performance-based process, ensuring the commitment of legislative support to improve City services such as the Public Lighting Department, the Department of Transportation and income tax collection.

The new agreement comes shortly after a coalition of about 30 city unions gave concessions in their contracts, including pay cuts, health care reorganization, and switching from traditional pensions to defined-contribution retirement plans.

Ed McNeil, with AFSCME, told the Detroit News this new draft agreement "is going to make all employees of the city of Detroit at-will. It would devastate the people in having representation. Basically what (Gov. Rick) Snyder is saying is, 'It's time to bust unions.'"

The News reports the Bing administration will push for a vote today from city council, but "council members, however, have said they expect a vote as early as tomorrow or Monday."

Politics
1:13 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

Michigan legislature poised to pass autism treatment bill

user blwphotography Flickr

The state House has approved a measure that will require insurance companies to cover autism treatments for children. The state Senate is expected to concur with the House action later today and send the bill to Governor Rick Snyder's desk.

Senate bills 414, 415, and 981 would require the following, according to the House Fiscal Agency:

  • Require group and individual health plans to cover services for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in a manner similar to physical illnesses.
  • Allow health plans to limit coverage for ASD treatment to a yearly maximum based on age, and limit coverage to children 17 years of age and younger.
  • Allow insurers to request, among other things, a review of ASD treatment.
  • Provide a limited exemption for qualified health plans offered under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • Create the Autism Coverage Incentive Act and the Autism Coverage Fund.
  • Establish the Autism Coverage Incentive Program, under which insurance carriers could seek reimbursement from the Fund for expenses incurred in providing coverage for ASD.

The House Fiscal Agency writes:

The Governor's FY 2012-13 Executive Budget Recommendation for the Department of Community Health includes an increase of $34.1 million Gross ($10.1 million GF/GP) to fund autism spectrum disorder treatment for the Medicaid and MIChild eligible children under the age of six.

The report indicates that approximately 2,000 kids under the age of six would meet the criteria that would be established with the new policy. 2,000 kids with an "average expenditure of $17,000 per child."

The Autism Coverage Incentive Program is expected to cost the state between $500,000 to $1 million to administer.

Commentary
10:45 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Commentary: Michigan helmet law repeal, bad idea?

Like everybody else, I am a great believer in freedom. I want the freedom to read, write, and say whatever I want.

I want to freedom to marry or live with or hang out with whomever I choose, and I want everyone else to have these freedoms too. However, there are some things we shouldn’t be free to do. I don’t have the right to cut down a tree in a state park.

Nor do I have the right to build a factory on my street . Years ago, the famous Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that “the right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.“

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News Roundup
8:58 am
Thu March 29, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder to Sign Helmet Law?

The state Senate approved a measure yesterday to end the requirement that motorcycle drivers over the age of 21 must wear a helmet. Now, it’s up to Governor Snyder to decide whether the measure will become law. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder has not said whether or not he’ll sign the legislation. The Senate bill would allow people 21 and over to ride without head protection – if they carry extra insurance coverage. But that did not persuade state Senator Roger Kahn, who is also a doctor. He says helmets save lives and protect against injuries that would otherwise be more severe. Advocates for repealing the law say safety training is more important than head protection. People in Michigan’s hospitality industry also support the repeal. They say there will be more Michigan motorcycle tourism without the helmet requirement.

Jobless Rate Continues Decline

The state’s unemployment rate continues to decline. Michigan's jobless rate fell in February to 8.8 percent, and the state's total workforce grew by 14,000, according to the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. The last time the state’s unemployment rate was below 9 percent was in September of 2008. Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush took a deeper look behind the numbers – you can find his report here.

Gas Prices Worry Retailers

Michigan retailers are becoming more concerned about the impact rising gasoline prices will have on sales. “Michigan’s average gas price leaped over four dollars a gallon this week. The Michigan Retailers Association released a survey Wednesday showing lower sales projections over the next three months. Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association. He says rising gas prices will force retailers to spend more to ship their products and discourage customers from coming into their stores,” Steve Carmody reports.

Politics
6:55 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Review of emergency manager petitions continues

Opponents of the campaign aimed at overturning Michigan's revised emergency manager law have until April 9 to challenge voter signatures turned in on petitions supporting the repeal effort.

The deadline for challenging signatures that may be invalid was set this week by state election officials.

Election officials are reviewing signatures turned in by a group called Stand Up for Democracy. The group wants to give voters a chance to overturn Michigan's 2011 emergency manager law during the November election.

The group turned in petitions containing 225,885 signatures. The coalition must have at least 161,305 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.

State election officials are expected to determine by late April whether enough valid signatures were filed.

Politics
5:22 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Michigan's motorcycle helmet repeal sent to Gov. Snyder

Mike Babcock Flickr

It’s now Governor Rick Snyder’s decision on whether to repeal Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law.

The state Senate has approved a measure to end the requirement, and it will soon be on the governor’s desk.

Governor Snyder has not said one way or the other what he intends to do. The Senate bill would allow people 21 and over to ride without head protection – if they carry extra insurance coverage.

But that did not persuade state Senator Roger Kahn, who is also a doctor. He says helmets save lives and protect against injuries that would otherwise be more severe.

“You take ‘em away, the accidents increase, the deaths increase, the costs increase – to `what end? To have your hair blow in the wind?”

Advocates for repealing the law say safety training is more important than head protection. People in Michigan’s hospitality industry also support the repeal. They say there will be more Michigan motorcycle tourism without the helmet requirement.

Politics
1:06 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Michigan legislators vote to repeal motorcycle helmet law

The Michigan Senate has sent a measure to repeal the state's motorcycle helmet law to Governor Rick Snyder's desk. The measure would allow riders 21 years old and older to take off their helmets. They would also have to carry an additional $20,000 in personal injury coverage.

Politics
12:55 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Michigan Governor Snyder holds Q & A session in Detroit; City Council set to consider deal Thursday

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder answering questions at a town hall meeting held at the Wayne County Community College in Detroit.
LiveStream

The Detroit City Council is expected to debate a "financial stability agreement" with the state on Thursday.

That news came just a few hours after  Gov. Rick Snyder took to a stage at Wayne County Community College to answer questions.

Snyder said the event was an effort to end the "miscommunication" about his plans for Detroit.

"I'm not here to run the city," Snyder said. "I'm here to be a supporting resource."

The questions were pointed, but the mood was calm, especially when compared to the wild public meeting held by the state's financial review team earlier this week in which one protester, Malik Shabazz,  threatened to burn the city down before allowing a "state takeover" (Charlie LeDuff of Fox News in Detroit later got Shabazz to take back that statement).

Gov. Snyder showed emotion during the town hall meeting as he tried to explain his reasons for wanting to enter into some kind of deal with city leaders rather than appointing an emergency manager.

He said the financial crisis the city is facing is casting a shadow over positive trends in Detroit, and if more citizens are thinking of leaving the city "we are in trouble!"

In one of his more animated moments, Snyder said when he talks to young people in Detroit he asks them, "do you want to be a yuppie living in Chicago, or come make a difference in Detroit?"

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Politics
11:00 am
Wed March 28, 2012

LIVESTREAM: Gov. Rick Snyder's Detroit town hall meeting

Gov. Snyder answering questions from the audience at a town hall meeting at Wayne County Community College in Detroit.
screenshot from LiveStream

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is holding a town hall meeting this morning on Detroit's financial crisis at 11 a.m.

You can watch a livestream of the event below: The Governor's Q and A session has ended.

Watch live streaming video from SnyderLive at livestream.com

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Politics
10:45 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Court to take up hearing on GOP votes

A political fight between Republicans and Democrats at the state Capitol has landed in court. Democrats in the state House say Republicans in the majority are violating the Michigan Constitution. The lawsuit says the House GOP majority refuses to hold recorded votes on a procedure that requires super-majorities to pass. It allows bills to become effective upon being signed by the governor.

Otherwise, bills cannot become law until 90 days after the end of a legislative session. The minority party often uses that to slow down controversial measures.

“We feel the constitution’s been violated over the past year plus and we have not been allowed to have immediate effect votes," says House Democratic Leader Rick Hammell.

A judge has ordered Republicans to show up in court on Monday to explain why they won’t hold recorded votes on the procedure. Democrats will ask the judge to order record roll call votes.

Republican leaders say they have complied with the constitution.

Commentary
10:35 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Commentary: Republican Arrogance of Power

For the last fifteen months, Republicans have controlled everything in sight in Lansing -- the House, the Senate, the governor’s office and the Supreme Court.

They have the majorities to pass essentially anything they want, and even if something is constitutionally controversial, they are secure in the knowledge that it’s almost certain that the disgracefully partisan Michigan Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

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Politics
10:15 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Court says some welfare recipients in Michigan wrongly cut off

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A judge says some Michigan welfare recipients protected from losing benefits under state law can't be cut off because they exceed federal limits.

Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut ruled Tuesday that state Department of Human Services director Maura Corrigan "exceeded her authority" by ending benefits for most welfare recipients once they reached the five-year federal limit.

Michigan lawmakers in 2007 adopted a four-year limit that had several exceptions, then approved stricter enforcement last year.

The four-year limit doesn't include months where a parent is needed at home to care for a disabled child or other family member, but those months count under the federal limit.

Neithercut says the state can't deny benefits to those who haven't reached the four-year state cap.

The department says it's reviewing the decision.

News Roundup
8:34 am
Wed March 28, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder to Hold Town hall Meeting

Governor Snyder will be part of a town hall meeting today in Detroit to talk about the city’s finances. “The meeting comes as state and city leaders are trying to finalize a deal to resolve major cash flow problems. A state review team has determined Detroit is in “severe financial stress”. The city’s deficit is nearly $200 million. Snyder says he’s trying to be transparent about the financial situation. He’s expected to go over the facts at the town hall meeting. He’ll also field questions and probably some criticism from the audience,” Lindsey Smith reports.

State Senate to Take Up Helmet Law

The Michigan Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a measure to repeal the state’s motorcycle helmet law – and send it to Governor Snyder’s desk, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The measure was stalled because Governor Snyder wants the helmet law to be part of a larger discussion on finding savings in Michigan’s no-fault insurance system. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said he wants to get the law on the books in time for the new motorcycle riding season. Governor Snyder has not said what he would do if a helmet law repeal reaches his desk. Supporters of the helmet law say it saves lives and prevents expensive-to-treat head injuries.

Case Against Militia Group Dismissed

A judge dismissed key charges yesterday against members of a Michigan militia who were accused of plotting war against the government, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The decision is an embarrassment for the government, which secretly planted an informant and an FBI agent inside the Hutaree militia and claimed members were armed for war in rural southern Michigan. Detroit federal Judge Victoria Roberts made her decision five days after prosecutors rested their case. Her decision affects all seven militia members who've been on trial since Feb. 13. Only weapons charges remain against two of the defendants.

Politics
7:48 am
Wed March 28, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

Ifmuth Flickr

Every Wednesday, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry takes a look at the week in state politics. On tap for this morning: the latest in Detroit's financial situation and what the arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act could mean for Michigan.

Lansing
7:48 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

Trayvon Martin protest reaches the steps of Michigan's state capitol

 A few hundred people, many wearing hoodie sweatshirts, gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Lansing  Tuesday to demand justice for a teenager shot and killed in Florida last month.

A month ago, 17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.   The Florida teen’s death has spurred a national debate over what constitutes self-defense and concerns for the safety of young black men.      

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Newsmaker
4:42 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

A conversation with Detroit Council member Saunteel Jenkins

Detroit City Council member Saunteel Jenkins.

At an open meeting of the financial review team in charge of evaluating the city of Detroit’s finances, protesters on Monday afternoon interrupted the meeting chanting, “No take over.”

The financial review team reaffirmed that a financial emergency does exist in the city and that a consent agreement was their preferred approach to fixing the city’s finances.

The city of Detroit and Michigan have yet to come to an agreement on how to stabilize the city’s finances.

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