Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/FLICKR

Michigan lawmakers continue their 'lame duck' session in Lansing today and they're still trying to figure out the last pieces of legislation to pass before the 2009-2010 session comes to a close.

The Associated Press reports:

It's a safe bet lawmakers will pass a bill to distribute more than $300 million in federal money to schools. But... bills dealing with teacher tenure, fireworks sales, insurance coverage for autism treatments and dozens of other items could be voted on before the Legislature adjourns at the end of the week.

Bill Ballenger, the editor and publisher of the "Inside Michigan Politics" newsletter told Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta earlier this week that, "The chances of getting all of it done are slim."

Governor-elect Rick Snyder named John Nixon as his new administration's budget director on Monday.  Nixon currently holds that position in Utah.

In an interview this morning on Michigan Radio, political analyst Jack Lessenberry said he thinks the pick shows that Snyder is willing to look outside of the box. Lessenberry said:

It shows that [Snyder] is certainly willing to... go outside the box and outside the state to find someone with a fresh approach to look at the all-important state budget problem. This is something that people had urged Governor Granholm to do when she first came in and which didn't happen.

Lessenberry went on to say that highly-regarded economist Charles Ballard often references Utah when discussing how Michigan could turn around its budget problems. Now, with the former head of Utah's Office of Planning and Budget becoming Snyder's budget director, Lessenberry said he is curious to see what lessons Michigan can learn. "Utah managed to balance its budget with a higher income tax," said Lessenberry, "It'll be interesting to see if that's part of the mix."

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it will sue the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia. The ACLU is suing on behalf of Linda Lott, a 61 year-old from Birmingham who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

In the ACLU's press release Lott is quoted as saying:

Ken30684/Creative Commons

Today is the day that a bill that allows alcohol sales on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day goes into effect. But, liquor control officials are still working on how to implement the new law. 

The Associated Press reports:

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission said Tuesday the agency will be posting applications for the $160 license needed to sell alcohol on Sunday mornings and notifying local governments about the new law this week. Local governments will have until Dec. 15 to notify state officials if they opt to ban Sunday morning sales.

Lawmakers last month approved the bill  that allows alcohol to go on sale starting at 7am on Sunday mornings and on Christmas Day.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be in Washington D.C. today. He'll meet with some of Michigan's congressional delegation and members of the Republican leadership. 

The Detroit News is also reporting that Snyder will announce Bill McBride as the head of the Michigan office in Washington D.C.  McBride is currently chief of staff to retiring Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder at the Michigan Farm Bureau in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor-elect Rick Snyder spoke to members of Michigan’s Farm Bureau Tuesday evening.

Snyder told the crowd he’s preparing to start Michigan’s era of innovation next month. “You’re on the forefront of that. People don’t understand how innovative you are and all the efforts you do. Whether it’s increasing yields or being more environmentally sound or all the great practices. ”

Eugene G. Wanger and boxes of documents from the Michigan Constitution
State of Michigan

Eugene G. Wanger was a 28 year-old attorney when he became a delegate for Michigan's Constitutional Convention in 1961. The republican was a strong opponent of the death penalty and authored the section in today's state constitution that bans the practice.

Congressman Mike Pence
Photo courtesy of www.mikepence.house.gov

Indiana Congressman and possible 2012 presidential candidate Mike Pence visited the state yesterday. The Republican was in Michigan to deliver a speech at the Detroit Economic Club. The Club is a traditional stop for politicians considering a bid for the presidency. 

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports that Pence used the speech to call for major tax reforms and said Democratic policies to stimulate the economy aren't working.

As The Detroit Free Press reports:

Pence's is one of about a dozen names that have surfaced as possible presidential candidates in 2012. He is the chairman of the Republican Conference Committee, the third ranking position among the GOP in Congress.

Photo courtesy of www.Utah.gov

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is going out of state for his choice of Michigan’s next budget director.

Snyder is naming John Nixon, Utah’s top budget officer, to become his administration’s budget director.

Nixon will take over the job from Robert Emerson.

In a release yesterday, Snyder said:

John is considered one of the best in the business and is widely respected inside and outside of state government. As I traveled the state during the campaign and met with the hardworking men and women of Michigan, I said it was time for the citizens to take back control of Michigan’s broken budget process and to deliver real value for money.  John will work with us to bring fiscal responsibility, stability, transparency and the citizens’ priorities to state government.

Michigan faces a projected $1.7 billion shortfall in the budget that begins next October.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Update - Tues. 11/30/10 8:22 AM:

It's been confirmed that the former President will, indeed, visit Grand Rapids on Thursday.  He'll visit the Gerald R. Ford Museum as part of his nation-wide tour to promote his new book, Decision Points.

______

The Grand Rapids Press is reporting that former President George W. Bush will be at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids on Thursday.

According to Krisin Mooney, a museum public affairs specialist, the former president will be at the museum at 2PM.

Mooney said other information about the former president's visit will be released later this afternoon.

Bush was last in Grand Rapids in June to speak at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra
Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra is condemning the latest Wikileaks disclosure of thousands of classified documents.

Republican Hoekstra, who represents Michigan’s 2nd District, says the leaks undermine U.S. credibility in the world.

The Associated Press reported:

Hoekstra said the disclosure of previously secret diplomatic cables, documents and e-mails secrets puts America's diplomats in "a very awkward position." He said some of the material in the roughly 250,000 released documents is "gossip," but added that there's also material on supersensitive negotiations between the United States and Pakistan on a deal aimed at controlling nuclear proliferation.

Hoekstra, who appeared this morning on CBS's "The Early Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America," is urging the Obama administration to classify Wikileaks as a terrorist organization.

Capitol Building in Lansing
Terry Johnson/Flickr

State lawmakers return to the Capitol in Lansing this week as the 2009-2010 legislative session comes to a close.

Both the state House and Senate are scheduled to be in session.

The Associated Press reports:

Lawmakers might finalize a plan to distribute more than $300 million in federal money to Michigan schools.  It's not clear if lawmakers will agree on a way to raise more money for the state's Pure Michigan tourism advertising program.

Glass floor inside the Michigan Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Censure from Michigan's Supreme Court

This week, for the first time in state history, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly rebuked a former justice for violating court confidentiality. Former Justice Elizabeth Weaver was rebuked by the court for secretly taping deliberations and later making them public. Lessenberry says Weaver had been feuding for years with her fellow justices until she resigned this past summer after making a deal with Governor Granholm.

Tight budgets are forcing local governments across the state to do more with less. That's easier said than done - even in traditionally fiscally conservative areas. Straight ticket republican voters in Ottawa County outnumbered their democratic counterparts 4 to 1 in the last election. Many self-described-fiscal-conservatives spoke out against the plan. They don't think the consolidation will save the county as much money as expected and worry services will suffer.

Senator Debbie Stabenow
Photo courtesy of www.stabenow.senate.gov

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is set to chair the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Stabenow takes over the position from Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.  Lincoln lost her Senate seat to Republican John Boozman on November 2nd.

In a statement released today, Stabenow, a Democrat, says:

I am ready to lead the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 112 th Congress. Agriculture is critical to Michigan’s economy, employing a quarter of our workforce. Not only does agriculture create jobs and feed our families across America, but it is also helping us develop new fuels and energy sources.

Stabenow has served as a Democratic Senator from Michigan since 2000.

As the Detroit News reports:

Stabenow's position will give the Great Lakes State an enormous amount of influence over the next farm bill, which is slated for 2012. The bill is the cornerstone of the federal government's agriculture, food and nutrition policy and states like Michigan with sizable farming sectors have significant interest in its outcome; work on the 2012 bill began in April.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero
Photo courtesy of www.votevirg.com

The Lansing State Journal takes a look today at what Lansing Mayor Virg Bernro has been up to since losing the Michigan gubernational election earlier this month to Republican Rick Snyder.

In an article titled, "After failed bid for governor, it's business as usual for Lansing Mayor Virg Bernro," the LSJ reports:

Bernero wants to turn his attention to economic development... and preparations for 600 new jobs at General Motors Co.'s Lansing Grand River plant.  There's also "a few other things we haven't even yet announced economic-wise," Bernero said.  Lansing's cash-strapped budget also should keep him occupied, he said.  "I am the mayor," Bernero said. "I'm excited about doing the job and I'm excited about where we are...You'll have to stay tuned."

Last year, Bernero won a 2nd four-year term as Lansing mayor.

When asked whether he would run for another political job, Bernero told the LSJ, it was, "hard to say," and that there's, "plenty of time to think about it."

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will attend the National Governor Association's school for new governors this week, according to Crain's Detroit Business.  Crain's also says the governor-elect will attend a meeting of the Republican Governors Association

According to the Republican Governors Association's website, the RGA, "was a key investor in Rick Snyder's victory spending a total of $8 million."

Governor-elect Snyder will take the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

When Governor-elect Rick Snyder assumes the role of governor in January it will mark the end of Jennifer Granholm’s final term as Governor of Michigan.  All Things Considered Host Jenn White sat down with Michigan Radio Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to discuss the roles of former governors in Michigan history.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced Dennis Muchmore as his Chief of Staff in Lansing yesterday.  Rick Pluta reports Muchmore, “owned a multi-client lobbying firm before retiring eight years ago. He is also an avid outdoorsman who served briefly as the interim president of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.” 

Snyder said he chose Muchmore because of his knowledge of how Lansing politics work.  The Detroit News reports Muchmore:

...is the most unorthodox choice.  He hasn't worked directly for an elected official since the 1970s, when he served as an aide to Macomb County Democratic state Sen. John Bowman.
 

Muchmore is 63.

State capitol building
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Around 4,800 state workers accepted early retirement incentive packages and will leave their jobs by December. It will likely be Governor elect Rick Snyder’s job to figure out how to fill those vacancies when he heads to Lansing in January.

Screen grab of New York Times web page
Screen grab from the New York Times

It's easy to criticize. Now you're in charge.

The New York Times has created a slick little interactive tool that displays different solutions to the country's projected budget deficits.

It’s Freshmen Orientation today. Congressional freshmen, that is. As Bloomberg News reports:

The 2011 U.S. House freshman class is in Washington for orientation as Congress today opens a lame-duck session to decide whether to extend billions of dollars in Bush-era income-tax cuts.

Michigan has five new U.S. Representatives: Republicans Dan Benishek (1st District), Bill Huizenga (2nd District), Justin Amash (3rd District), Tim Walberg (7th District), and Democrat Hansen Clarke (13th District). 

This will actually be Walberg’s 2nd orientation as he was first elected to represent the 7th District in 2006.  He then lost the seat in 2008 to Democrat Mark Schauer but won it back on November 2nd.

The Detroit News reports:

During the 112th Congress orientation, newly elected members learn the ropes in Washington, from legal issues and standards of conduct to understanding pay and benefits and setting up their offices. Newcomers will pose for a class photo on the Capitol lawn, attend receptions and pick their offices.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse
David Plotzki/Creative Commons

State tourism officials are hoping to get the Pure Michigan tourism campaign back on the air-waves.

The campaign was stopped earlier this year when the state ran out of money to pay for the ads.

As Rick Pluta reports, Governor Granholm has asked the legislature to tap into a projected budget windfall as a short-term solution to pay for the ads.

Governor Granholm has said the 'Pure Michigan' campaign generates $2.23 in tourism-related activity for every dollar spent on the ads.

A poll of likely Michigan voters released earlier this month showed strong support for the Pure Michigan ad campaign.

Saul Anuzis
Photo courtesy of www.thatssaulfolks.com

Saul Anuzis says he will run to become the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Anuzis is currently a member of the committee and the former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

Anuzis was in the race to become Chairman last year but ended up loosing to current RNC Chairman and former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele.

In a letter to the RNC membership, Anuzis said:

This is an exciting time to be a Republican and, as leaders, we have an awesome task ahead of us. The American people have given us a second chance' and that opportunity brings with it huge responsibility and challenge. Now we turn our attention to 2012. America must elect a new President. It is that hope, that necessity, that challenge, that draws me to announce my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

Steele has not said yet whether he will seek another term.

Here's a roundup of what other media outlets are reporting about whether or not Steele will decide to run and, if he does, whether he'll get elected:

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

It's being reported this morning that Governor-elect Rick Snyder's transition team will announce co-chairs of Snyder's inaugural planning committee today.

The Detroit News reports:

Michigan Grocers Association President and CEO Linda Gobler and Patricia Mooradian, president of The Henry Ford, will co-chair the inauguration planning committee... Snyder's inauguration will include typical features such as the swearing-in and an inaugural ball, as well as other features, spokesman Bill Nowling told The News.

 The theme of the inauguration: The Power of MI.  Snyder will be sworn in as Michigan's 48th Governor on January 1st.

Martini
Ken 30684/Creative Commons

UPDATE 1:38 PM: The Associated Press is reporting that the state Senate passed the bill 25-13.  The bill now goes to the House.

I just got a heads-up from our Lansing-based reporter Laura Weber.  She says a deal has been reached between the state House and Senate that would allow for liquor sales in Michigan on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day. 

A previous bill that would have allowed for the sales was vetoed by Governor Granholm last month.  Now, it appears lawmakers have reworked the bill for the governor's approval.

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure this afternoon.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has begun to appoint his new administration in Lansing and there are some familiar faces among the new appointees. Snyder chose current Democratic Speaker of the House, Andy Dillon, to be the state's new Treasurer. Snyder also appointed Dick Posthumus, former lieutenant governor under John Engler, to be his senior advisor.

Terry Johnson/FLICKR

Lawmakers at the state Capitol continued to choose legislative leaders yesterday. In the Senate: Republican state Senator Randy Richardville of Monroe was elected as the next Senate Majority Leader.

Terry Johnson/Creative Commons

Kathy Barks Hoffman, of the Associated Press, has a great piece in the South Bend Tribune that takes a look at what went wrong for Democrats in the state before Election Day.  She writes:

Michigan Democrats started 2010 with their main candidate for governor withdrawing from the race, donors feeling the pinch of the poor economy and the drag of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's unpopularity hanging around their necks.

On November 2nd, Republicans won the Governor's office and the races for Attorney General and Secretary of State.  The GOP also widened their majority in the state Senate and won control of the state House of Representatives from the Democrats.

Hoffman notes that Democratic voters did not turn out to the polls like they did in the 2006 gubernatorial election.  She sites data from political strategist Ed Sarpolus that shows 300,000 fewer Democrats voted compared to four years ago.

Hoffman cites other reasons for the Democrat's loses:

  • Independent voters swung toward the GOP
  • Democrats didn't know very much about their candidates
  • Democratic candidate for governor Virg Bernro couldn't match Republican candidate (and now governor-elect) Rick Snyder's fundraising
Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced this morning in Ann Arbor that he has picked Democrat Andy Dillon to be state treasurer.  Dillon is currently the Speaker in the Michigan House of Representatives.  Interestingly enough, Dillon lost the Democratic bid to be Michigan's next governor to his primary opponent Virg Bernero.  Bernero went on to lose the general election on November 2nd to Snyder.

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