Politics & Government

News Roundup
9:07 am
Tue September 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, September 20th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Dems Want School Fund Constitutionally Protected

A group of Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol is continuing a push to constitutionally protect money in the state’s school aid fund. Laura Weber reports:

Democrats in the state House say voters should be allowed to decide how the state spends its education dollars. They’re calling for a constitutional amendment that would specify that School Aid Fund money be spent only on K-12 schools, and not on universities and community colleges. Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum says Republicans have proposed diverting $900 million from K-12 schools for the fiscal year that starts in October. Byrum says she thinks parents would be eager to organize a campaign to get a ballot question before voters. Republican lawmakers say schools have taken a less drastic cut in the budget than most areas of government, which demonstrates the state’s commitment to education.

Detroit Could Cut 40 Percent of Teachers

A deficit-elimination plan for the Detroit Public Schools district includes cutting nearly 40 percent of its teachers in the next four years, according the to the Detroit News. “The Detroit News reports… that under the plan, the state's largest district would cut more than 1,500 teachers by fall 2015, including nearly 1,100 next fall. The cuts next fall would come as the district moves its weakest schools into a new state system to run Michigan's lowest performing schools. Some Detroit teachers could be employed by the new school system. Detroit's school district has a $327 million budget deficit and its finances are overseen by Roy Roberts, an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder,” the Associated Press reports.

FBI Ranks Flint Crimes

The FBI is calling Flint the most dangerous city in the United States. The FBI released a report yesterday that shows Flint had the highest violent crime rate in the nation last year among cities with 100,000 people or more. According to the report, the city recorded a record number of murders in 2010.  "Other violent crimes also increased, as budget cuts forced the city to reduce its police force. Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac also posted crime rates last year that are among the worst in the nation", Steve Carmody reports.

Politics
7:33 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Flint getting more in-depth review of finances

Sean Marshell Flickr

Flint's finances are getting a more in-depth review by the state after what's described as probable financial stress was found in its finances.

The Flint Journal reports that the state treasury office told Mayor Dayne Walling last week about the finding. A panel is expected to report to Gov. Rick Snyder within about two months whether there's a financial emergency in Flint.

In August, Michigan officials ordered a preliminary review of Flint's finances, the first involving a Michigan city since the state revised its emergency manager law early this year. The process could lead to the state appointing an emergency manager.

Walling says he believes the appointment of an emergency manager can be avoided.

Michigan has emergency managers in place in the Detroit public school system and three cities.

Commentary
6:23 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Playing Ball

If you could magically transport a Detroiter from a century ago to the present, he or she would recognize virtually nothing about their city or their state. They’d be staggered by the size of things and appalled by the vast stretches of blight.

While cars were becoming the mainstay of our economy back then, today’s vehicles are so different that they would be essentially unrecognizable to someone from nineteen eleven.

Most people back then had never seen an airplane, there were no bridges over the Detroit River and no federal income tax.

But they would understand they were in the same place once you told them: “The Detroit Tigers are in an exciting race for the American League pennant.”

Baseball, of course, is more than a sport; it is a cultural touchstone.  The Tigers of a century ago had a season that was a mirror image of this one. This year, the team played only slightly better than mediocre baseball until the last month or so.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Snyder hails Detroit-based partnership as job training model

Governor Snyder says the partnership between a Detroit non-profit and an automotive supplier can serve as a “groundbreaking model” for job placement and workforce development.

Android Industries began leasing space at Detroit’s Focus: HOPE about two months ago. There, employees trained by the Detroit non-profit churn out parts for the Chevy Volt, which is manufactured at the nearby Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.

Android CEO Jerry Elson says his company was only interested if the partnership made business sense. He’s now convinced it does.

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Health
5:32 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Focusing on Healthy Habits

user: Ed Yourdon / flicker

Gov. Rick Snyder outlined his plan for making Michigan a healthier state. The plan includes the utilization of technology to help track health statistics and to guide people into making healthier choices.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Victor Strecher, Professor at the University of Michigan’s Center for Communications Health Research. Strecher has been working with Gov. Snyder on developing the new health initiative and talks about health issues in Michigan and changes residents can make to improve their health and well-being.

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Politics
5:21 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Justice's recusal sought in emergency manager case

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman
Michigan Supreme Court

A group that’s filed a legal challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law wants one of the state Supreme Court justices to recuse himself from the case.

Attorneys for the Sugar Law Center say Justice Stephen Markman has a conflict of interest that should keep him from deciding the emergency manager case.

At issue is Markman’s wife. She’s a lawyer for the state Attorney General’s office. And she’s helping to defend the same law against a legal challenge in a separate, federal case.

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Politics
2:20 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Sentence in illegal immigrant case splits Michigan Supreme Court

DETROIT (AP) - A robbery of illegal immigrants has exposed sharp differences at the Michigan Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. broke with the court's conservative bloc and joined three liberal justices in letting a minimum five-year prison sentence stand last week.

Jorge Ivan Torres-David pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 2009. A Wayne County judge added points to the sentencing formula after determining that Torres-David targeted illegal immigrants because he believed they would be reluctant to complain to police.

Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly agreed with the trial judge. She says illegal immigrants are "vulnerable victims" when criminals view them as "easy targets."

Justice Stephen Markman calls the decision "remarkable." He and two other Republicans on the court say illegal immigrants now have greater protections as crime victims than law-abiding residents.

Commentary
12:07 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

No political ads for me

The election season is about to bring something that most everyone likes to complain about: political ads on television.

For me, the problem isn’t the barrage of political ads, it’s the lack of them.

Chances are, if you live in Michigan, you’re different from me.

You’re in.

I’m out.

You will get tons of what you might think are thoroughly obnoxious TV ads about Michigan political races.

Ads that say, "Debbie Stabenow is a big spender," or "Pete Hoekstra is an extremist."

Stuff like that.

And I won’t.

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Politics
11:52 am
Mon September 19, 2011

Granholm's New Book, A Governor's Story

When I first heard that former Governor Jennifer Granholm was writing a book focused on her time in office, I was puzzled.

John Engler, a political powerhouse who substantially remade Michigan, wrote no such book. Neither did Jim Blanchard or Soapy Williams or Bill Milliken. They all had governorships far more successful than Granholm’s, in large part for economic reasons beyond her control. Nor, according to the polls, are Michiganders still enraptured with their first female governor’s every word.

So why would she write this book? I was set straight by a longtime titan of the state Democratic Party. “Jacky boy, this book isn’t going to sell in Michigan. It isn’t written for us. This book was written to solidify her reputation with the New York and Washington media, so she can keep her MSNBC commenting job.” And, he added, to present her version of history to the world.

Well, I always was a trifle naïve. So I decided to read the book, called “A Governor’s Story,” and subtitled “The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future.” Somewhat bizarrely, it lists her husband, the erstwhile “first gentleman” as co-author, though it is written entirely in the first person. Early on, it becomes clear that a more accurate title might have been “Alone,” or more simply, “Me.”

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Politics
10:42 am
Mon September 19, 2011

Michigan roads need billions more to remain "useable"

A bipartisan legislative workgroup has determined that keeping Michigan's roads useable will require an additional $1.4 billion a year.

In 10 years, that number grows to an estimated $2.6 billion.

Business and infrastructure groups have been pressuring the Michigan Legislature for years without success to come up with a way to raise more money for fixing and maintaining roads and bridges.

Representative Rick Olson says Michigan needs to more than double what it spends to maintain streets and highways:

“Well I think the bottom line of this study is, unless we spend this kind of money we’re either going to need to reconcile ourselves to poorer roads, or we’re going to need to be willing to pay even more in the future.”

 Olson says raising the gas tax would not go far enough in raising revenue to pay for roads. He says a larger and more permanent solution will need to be found to generate revenue. Olson and his Democratic counterpart have submitted their report to state House leadership.

 

News Roundup
8:48 am
Mon September 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, September 19th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Health Care Reform Coming to Lansing

Draft versions of Governor Snyder’s health care reform plan will be presented to state lawmakers this week. Rick Pluta reports:

Snyder has asked lawmakers to adopt major portions of his health reform plans before their Thanksgiving break. Republicans are wary of requiring insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments, a government database of children’s health statistics, and adopting mandates in the federal Affordable Care Act, such as health coverage exchanges. The governor says an exchange that would allow people and businesses to comparison shop for health coverage is a good idea no matter the fate of the federal health reforms.

Update: CMU Contract Negotiations

Central Michigan University and its faculty are waiting for a report from a fact-finder appointed by a state agency that could help settle their contract dispute, the Associated Press reports. “A report is likely sometime in late October or early November. Members of the Central Michigan University Faculty Association went on strike on Aug. 22, which was the first day of classes for the fall semester. A judge ordered faculty members back to work but they are still allowed to demonstrate on campus. The faculty group says its previous contract expired June 30 with disputes continuing over wages and other issues,” the AP explains.

Granholm Says 'No' to More Time in Office

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm says she will not run again for office. From the Detroit Free Press:

"No, no and no." That was the response from former Gov. Jennifer Granholm when asked whether she might run for office again in 2012, 2014 or beyond. "I served for 12 years in public office, and I'm thoroughly enjoying post-government life," Granholm told the Free Press.

Granholm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, are the co-authors of the new book “A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future."

State Legislature
6:27 am
Mon September 19, 2011

Snyder health reform bills to go to Legislature this week

Draft versions of Governor Rick Snyder’s health care reform plan are to be presented this week to state lawmakers. Governor Snyder has asked lawmakers to adopt major portions of  his health reform plans before their Thanksgiving break.

The governor faces a lot of skepticism from GOP leaders because there are so many mandates in the plan. House Speaker Jase Bolger says he’s going to carefully examine the details.

“But I think the time to enact something is still quite a ways off.”

Bolger and other Republicans are wary of requiring insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments, a government database of children’s health statistics, as well as adopting mandates in the federal Affordable Care Act, such as health coverage exchanges.

“The reason I would look at exchanges is with what the federal government has done and it would be reluctantly and it would only be if we have to.”

The fact that many Republicans are skeptical of the mandates in the Snyder health agenda could force the Republican governor to turn to Democrats for support. Representative Rick Hammel is the state House Democratic leader.

“In general, I think the message was very good, you know, pro-action, positive stuff, intervention, I like all those things – and investment in seniors and veterans programs, I like all those things, but let’s look at the legislation to see where it is.”

House Speaker Bolger says he wants to wait for courts to rule on the challenges to the federal law. The governor says an exchange that would allow people and businesses to comparison shop for health coverage is a good idea no matter the fate of the federal health reforms.

Politics
6:50 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Detroit Mayor, transit unions trade blame for bus crisis

Officials from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office say a union work slowdown is to blame for the city’s worsening bus service.

Dozens of people lined up to speak at a Detroit City Council hearing on that subject Friday. Riders complained about severely overcrowded buses that arrive up to three hours late.

Union leaders deny taking part in a work slowdown. They say they’ve been struggling for more than a year with a shortage of mechanics, which got even worse about a month ago when the Mayor cut overtime.

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Politics
6:19 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

The politics behind Gov. Snyder's Healthier Michigan plan

user: vitualis / flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder presented a health address on Wednesday that outlines his plan to improve the health of Michigan residents. Here to take a look at the politics behind the plan are Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants. How are Democrats and Republicans reacting to the governor's plan?

 

Politics
4:56 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Michigan House says no auto-deduction allowed for teacher union dues

The Michigan House of Representatives voted 55-53 to stop schools from automatically deducting union dues from employees' paychecks.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Today, the Michigan House of Representatives passed legislation that would keep public schools from automatically deducting union dues from an employee's paycheck. The vote passed 55-53 and goes onto the Republican-led Senate.

From the Associated Press:

Supporters of the bill say it will put more money in teachers' paychecks, at least up front. Teachers could write checks to unions later to cover their dues.

Opponents say the proposal is another attempt to weaken teachers' unions and inconvenience teachers in the state.

A separate proposal that could soon come up in the Michigan Legislature would make Michigan a so-called "right to teach" state.

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger released a statement about the bill, saying that the legislation "empowers school employees.":

We are hearing from teachers, in particular, who are not happy with how union leaders are using their dues. Because that has led to disagreement, we need to make sure our public schools stay out of the middle of collecting union dues.

The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, says the legislation does nothing to improve education or put money back in members pockets:

"This kind of legislation is a blatant example of political payback for our involvement in recall elections."

Politics
4:55 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

11 more face criminal charges related to Detroit Public Schools

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged 11 people with crimes against Detroit Public Schools.

Only three of the people charged are former district employees. They include two cafeteria workers accused of pocketing lunch money, and an ex-teacher who failed to report drunk driving offenses.

The other cases involve laptops stolen from Detroit schools.

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Politics
4:32 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Michigan House votes to ban domestic partner benefits

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have started another attempt to block the offering of taxpayer-paid health insurance to domestic partners living with
public employees.

The House passed legislation by a 64-44, mostly party line vote Thursday aimed at prohibiting public employers from offering the benefits. The legislation advances to the Senate.

Minority Democrats say the bills are unconstitutional and would be challenged in court.

Republicans supporting the bills say they reflect the will of Michigan voters who decided in 2004 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The Michigan Civil Service Commission has voted to allow domestic partner benefits for some state employees starting in October. Republicans tried to overturn the decision but couldn't get the two-thirds majority vote needed in the House.

Politics
4:00 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

How would you fix the federal budget deficit?

Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) reviews federal spending at a public meeting last month. The 'super comittee's' webpage was not up and running at that time. Now he's looking for ideas.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Congressman Fred Upton is looking for your ideas on how to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Upton is one of twelve lawmakers selected to serve on a special Congressional committee that will try to come up with a compromise on long-term spending.

Seven of the twelve lawmakers on the special committee will have to agree on a proposal in order to get it to the full Congress for approval. Last month, Upton called it “an enormous task.”

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Commentary
1:15 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

The Governor’s Health Care Message

When I read the governor’s health care message, I had the oddly uneasy feeling I had seen this all before. Then I realized that I had. Half a century ago, when I was a little boy. Make that, a fat little boy. President-elect John F. Kennedy declared that physical fitness was the business of the government.

He wrote an essay in Sports Illustrated called “The Soft American,”  established a White House Committee on Health and Fitness, and challenged his staff to take a fifty-mile hike. Some did, although his famously rotund press secretary, Pierre Salinger, declined, saying “I may be plucky, but I’m not stupid.”

The President was especially concerned about child obesity. A song was written, called Chicken Fat, and we little baby-boomers had to exercise to it. Most of the nation enthusiastically greeted the physical fitness program. But the President didn’t seek to change any laws, And then he was killed and lifestyles changed.

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Politics
1:06 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Special election planned for Michigan House seat

Tim Melton (D-Auburn Hills) is leaving the Michigan legislature. Gov. Snyder is calling for a special election to fill his seat.
screen grab from YouTube video

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is calling for a special election to fill a vacancy in the Michigan House left by the departure of Democratic Rep. Tim Melton of Auburn Hills.

Snyder set primary elections for Nov. 8, if they are needed. The general election will be Feb. 28 to fill the seat for the House's 29th District. Both dates already are scheduled election days in Michigan.

Melton resigned effective earlier this month to take a job with StudentsFirst, a national education group. The special election would fill his seat for the remainder of a two-year term that expires at the end of 2012.

Melton was term-limited and would not have been eligible to seek re-election to the House in 2012.

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