Politics & Government

Politics
4:54 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Domestic partner benefit claims in Michigan less than some estimates

Fewer than 100 unmarried state employees are expected to sign-up for health care benefits for their domestic partners by the end of this month.

That would mean less than $600,000 would be spent on live-in partner benefits paid for by the state.

The preliminary estimates are well below what some Republican lawmakers said taxpayers would end up paying for the benefits.

Republican state Representative Dave Agema (R-Ottawa Co.) sponsored a measure to end domestic partner benefits for public employees in the future.

"Numbers aside, it really doesn’t make any difference because what we have now, if it doesn’t stop, it will only grow in the future," said Agema. "We haven’t included the colleges and the local governments and so-forth, so it would only be increased to millions and millions of dollars in the future."

Agema’s proposal could not reverse the decision by the state Civil Service Commission to allow for public employee domestic partner benefits.

Election 2012
4:44 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Clark Durant to formally launch Senate bid

Clark Durant will officially announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate tomorrow.
Clark Durant Facebook page

Former Michigan State Board of Education President Clark Durant says he will formally launch his bid for the U.S. Senate tomorrow in Detroit.

Durant is seeking the Republican nomination to face Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) on the November 2012 ballot.

Durant is a former president of the state Board of Education. He made a failed attempt to win his party’s U.S. Senate nomination 20 years ago.

He also ran unsuccessfully for the state Supreme Court. 

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Law
4:26 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court agrees to hear no-fault insurance cases

The Michigan Hall of Justice.
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on whether people who use a family vehicle without permission are covered by no-fault benefits if they are injured in a crash.

In one case, Ryan DeYoung was excluded from his wife’s insurance policy.

In September of 2008, he got drunk, took his wife’s car without permission and crashed the vehicle.

The hospital and recovery center billed the insurance company, which denied the claim.

The insurance company is challenging an appeals court ruling that says DeYoung was covered under “joyriding” clause that typically covers teen-aged drivers who take their parents’ vehicles without permission.

In a separate case, an insurer is challenging a ruling that Craig Smith Junior was covered for injuries he sustained when he crashed his father’s SUV into a tree while driving drunk.

Smith did not have a valid license, and had been told not to drive the vehicle. The insurance company tried to deny coverage because Smith broke the law when he took the wheel of his parent’s car.

Election 2012
4:05 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Michigan's Thaddeus McCotter drops his bid for president

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend.
Vincent Duffy Michigan Radio

U.S. Reprsentative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) has dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nominiation.

From the Detroit News:

Livonia Rep. Thaddeus McCotter told The Detroit News this afternoon that he is leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination after he failed to win access to the Republican presidential debates.

"If they keep you out of the debates, you are out of the conversation and you can't run," McCotter said. "It was sort of death by media."

McCotter says he will give his support to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Michigan native, and will likely run again for the 11th District congressional seat he's held since 2003.

Politics
3:03 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Tax evasion charges filed against former Kilpatrick fund-raiser

A fund-raiser for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been charged with income tax evasion.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Another person with close ties to ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is facing federal criminal charges.

Emma Bell, Kilpatrick’s longtime fund-raiser, was charged today in federal court with two counts of income tax evasion for allegedly failing to report more than half a million dollars she received from Kilpatrick’s inaugural and mayoral campaign committees, and the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

Bell is expected to plead guilty and is cooperating. A plea date has not yet been set.

The Detroit Free Press reports that it is unknown whether Bell will testify against Kilpatrick in the federal corruption case against the former Detroit Mayor.

Earlier this month, Derrick Miller, a former aide to Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is expected to testify against his former boss.

Kwame Kilpatrick and Derrick Miller were indicted on corruption charges last December along with three other people:

  • Bernard Kilpatrick (the former Mayor's father),
  • Bobby Ferguson (city contractor and friend),
  • and Victor Mercado (former head of the Detroit Water and Sewarage Department).
Commentary
1:52 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Banning Abortion

Yesterday, after a long series of what were described as impassioned floor speeches, the Michigan Legislature banned a medical procedure called “partial-birth abortion.”

Thinking about this is not for the faint of heart. The procedure, known medically as “dilation and extraction”  involves a technique where a fetus is killed after it partly emerges from the vagina.

A very small percentage of abortions have ever been performed this way -- less than a fifth of one percent. Some doctors have said this procedure sometimes makes sense for the safety of the mother.

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Politics
5:43 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Lawmakers pass ban on controversial abortion procedure

At the state Capitol, the House and the Senate have approved separate measures that would ban a controversial abortion procedure that’s already illegal under federal law. Both bills were approved by commanding majorities.

Democratic state Representative Jimmy Womack is also a minister and a doctor. He was a “no” vote.

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Politics
5:37 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Politics of Language (Part 1)

user: Christopher Woo/flickr

Political rhetoric can be confusing and combative. We hear lots of political phrases that we quickly find absorbed into our everyday conversations. But what influence do these powerful words and phrases have on us? Over the next few days we’ll be taking a look at the politics of language. In part one of our series Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Dr. Sarah Thomason, Chair of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Michigan.

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Politics
5:34 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Snyder: Anti-obesity effort not government overreach

snowpea&bokchoi flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says it is critical to Michigan’s economy and its quality of life that the state reduce the number of people who are obese or overweight.

Almost a third of Michigan’s children and adults are considered obese. Two thirds are either obese or overweight.

The governor says obesity is a factor in diabetes and other chronic conditions that add $3 billion to the total costs of medical care in Michigan.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Richardville talks about fall agenda in Michigan Senate

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

State Senate Republicans say they want to focus on proposals this fall that will help businesses create jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says eliminating the Michigan Business Tax on small businesses was a good start. He says now it’s time to get rid of the Personal Property Tax that businesses pay.

“The government itself does not create jobs, all we can do is better the environment. And that’s what we’re attempting to do with the legislation we’ve put on the table so far, and what we’ll continue this fall.”

Richardville says the Senate will also take up measures this fall to reform education and regulate the medical marijuana law.

The law was approved by a wide margin of voters in 2008.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the law is too vague.

“I have a real concern about those that would abuse this law and that somehow more would illegal marijuana would end up on the street, and eventually find its way into our school yards. That’s my big concern here.”

Senate Republicans also plans to take up legislation to eliminate the tax on businesses and factory equipment. Education reforms, and a ban on a controversial abortion procedure are also at the top of the party’s fall agenda.

Politics
4:35 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Bill would reduce jail cell size requirement

Inmates in Michigan's county jails could be housed in smaller cells under a bill passed by the Michigan house this week.
rollingroscoe Morguefile

Michigan’s county sheriffs would be given more leeway in how they run their jails under a bill passed by the state House this week.

The bill targets jail overcrowding by subdividing cells. The required 52-square-feet per inmate would be cut nearly in half.

It also allows for an inmate with no prior criminal convictions to be double-bunked with a convicted felon.

State Representative Matt Lori co-sponsored the bill.

"It’ll make things a lot easier for the sheriffs to keep inmates behind bars as opposed to releasing them when their population gets to the point they have to declare an overcrowding emergency," Lori says.

John Walsh is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Grand Valley State University. He says smaller jail cells could increase safety risks for inmates and staff and lead to lawsuits.

Politics
3:50 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Latinos, Muslims protest Detroit border patrol

Some people in southwest Detroit say the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol continues to practice racial profiling in their community. Detroit is home to the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada.

Residents say Customs and Border Protection agents regularly question and detain people who look Hispanic.

At a press conference Wednesday,residents produced pictures they say show a young Latino man being handcuffed without cause by Border Patrol agents in July. It happened outside a Catholic church during Mass.

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Politics
2:29 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Expert to examine Michigan Humane Society practices

The Michigan Humane Society will have an outside expert review its practices.
user ak_rus Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Humane Society's board is bringing in an outside expert to evaluate how the organization decides which dogs go for adoption and which dogs are killed.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press report the board voted Monday. Kelley Bollen, director of behavior programs for the Maddie's Fund Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, will evaluate "canine evaluation protocols."

A broader examination could be considered later.

Four of 18 board members at the Michigan Humane Society have  resigned since June amid questions about the rate of euthanizing dogs and cats. The organization's overall euthanasia rate has been 70 percent for the past four years, including 17,000 in 2010.

The organization defends its practices, noting it takes in all types of animals, including abused ones.

Politics
1:00 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

Bill would ban use of government property for political purposes

Michigan teachers and other government worker would not be allowed to use public property -- including computers, phones or copiers -- to conduct political activities.
ronnieb MorgueFile

A bill in the state House would ban public employees from using most government property or services for political or union purposes. 

 Under the bill, anything that belongs to the government would be off-limits for public employees to use for fund-raising, lobbying  or campaigning -- including e-mail, phones and copiers.

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Politics
10:49 am
Wed September 21, 2011

The Bridge: Beyond Any Doubt

Pretend you are a judge, let me give you some undisputed facts, and then tell me how you would make up your mind.

The top business leaders of this state strongly support a new bridge over the Detroit River. So do the major leaders of both political parties. The bridge wouldn’t cost the taxpayers of Michigan a cent.

What’s more, the bridge would instantly mean billions of dollars and thousands of desperately needed jobs for our poor battered state.  Not when it was completed, but right away, right now.

That’s because the federal government has agreed to count money Canada is giving us to  cover our costs as state matching money for federal highway funds. That would mean two point two billion dollars to fix our roads and bridges.

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Politics
6:31 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Snyder signs Medicaid claims tax

Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Snyder has approved a one percent tax on health insurance claims to ensure that medical coverage for low-income families is not slashed by almost a billion dollars.

Everyone who files a claim for a treatment or a checkup will now pay the one percent tax. It will not apply to co-pays or deductibles.

It replaces a six percent tax on Medicaid HMOs. Michigan’s system for financing the Medicaid program for covering low-income families was on the cusp of being thrown out by federal authorities because it did not spread the burden wide enough.

Governor Snyder had a difficult time winning the votes for the health claims tax in the Republican-led Legislature. But he said he was committed to not rolling back health coverage for the poor during tough economic times. The Snyder administration has come under fire by human services advocates for rollbacks in other types of aid for low-income people, including new limits on cash assistance and food stamps.

Politics
5:35 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Deficit reduction: A conversation with Senator Carl Levin

U.S. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan.

Michigan Democratic Senator, Carl Levin, has proposed a 7-point plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least one trillion dollars over 10 years. His proposal comes amidst discussions within the special bi-partisan subcommittee charged with balancing the federal budget. Several of the points in the plan deal with closing tax loopholes that benefit corporations and wealthy Americans. Is it possible to move those points of the plan forward in the current political climate?

Politics
4:45 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Michigan legislature set to vote on dilation and extraction abortion ban

The state Legislature is expected to vote tomorrow to ban a controversial abortion procedure performed after 21 weeks of pregnancy.

“Dilation and extraction,” or “partial birth abortion,” as it’s called by opponents has been illegal in the U.S. since 2003.

Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen says the proposals in the Legislature would help ensure the procedure remains illegal in Michigan, no matter what.

“We want to make sure that our attorney general has every tool that he needs to make sure that we don’t have this practice happening in Michigan,” said Hansen.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says passing the same ban at the state level will cement Michigan’s stand on the procedure.

"It’s kind of an insurance policy, if you will, but also strengthens our resolve that this is something wrong that needs to be addressed wherever it’s found in the state of Michigan," said Richardville. "It’s a responsible bill that tells the citizens of Michigan that we’re concerned about partial-birth abortion, and we’ll do everything we can to stop it from happening in this state."

The proposed ban is set for votes this week in the state House and Senate.

The votes will likely come just before the anti-abortion group "Right to Life of Michigan" has a conference in Lansing this weekend. The group is expecting an update on the status of the proposed ban from one of the Senate sponsors.

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.

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