Politics & Government

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.

News Roundup
9:05 am
Thu September 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

UAW and automakers fail to meet deadline

Last night was the deadline for Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers to reach agreements on new contracts. The UAW and Ford Motor Company officials agreed to extend their talks, but the Associated Press reports talks with GM and Chrysler broke off just after midnight last night.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent a letter to UAW President Bob King saying they had let down Chrysler workers - "you and I failed them today," he wrote - From the Associated Press:

Up until the deadline, the negotiations that began over the summer appeared to be proceeding without the acrimony that plagued them in the past. But just before the 11:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday deadline, the CEO of Chrysler fired off a letter to UAW President Bob King saying an agreement likely wouldn't be reached because King didn't come to the table Wednesday night to finish the deal.

"I know we are the smallest of the three automakers here in Detroit, but that does not make us less relevant," Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The AP reports that despite the talk extension, negotiations appear to be going more smoothly with General Motors.

Governor Snyder says Michigan should act on health care exchanges

In his healthcare message yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder said Michigan's health care system is a broken one.

He rolled out a list of ideas to improve the situation which included a request to set up a statewide healthcare exchange. As Lindsey Smith reported, "the new federal health care law mandates states create their own exchange, join a regional one or wait until the federal exchange is in place."

Rick Pluta reported the governor is likely to face opposition on this idea from Republicans in the state legislature:

Many Republicans oppose the law and resist enacting any of the federal mandates before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on them.

The governor says that will put Michigan behind other states if all or part of the law is upheld.

The resistance doesn't just come from legislators. Michigan's Attorney General, Bill Schuette, is actively fighting against the federal health care law in courts.

Michigan servicemen to deploy to Afghanistan

From the Associated Press:

About 90 members of the Michigan National Guard are preparing for a year of service in Afghanistan.

An event was planned for Thursday in Grand Ledge for the Lansing-based soldiers. They'll do about 14 weeks of training before going to Afghanistan to conduct intelligence work.

The soldiers are from B Company of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion with the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Politics
5:08 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Legislative leaders react to Snyder's health care speech

Governor Rick Snyder’s health care agenda is receiving a cool reception from Republicans in the Legislature.

One of Snyder’s proposals is to require doctors to report to the state the body mass indexes of children they treat. The move would track a growing problem of childhood obesity.

House Speaker Jase Bolger says he is not interested in tracking that kind of personal information.

"I have very strong concerns about that. Again, we need to encourage personal responsibility, I among many, and maybe first among many, who need to lose weight. So I’m willing to try to lead by example," said Bolger. "But the government recording that information causes me great concern and discomfort."

Bolger also says he has no plans to take up the governor's proposal to require insurance companies to offer health care coverage for treatment of children with autism.

Health
4:53 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Snyder calls health care in Michigan "a broken system"

Gov. Rick Snyder wants people to adopt healthier lifestyles  

Snyder says people need to take more responsibility for their own health if Michigan is going to reverse some dismal trends and save money on health care. That was part of a health care message he delivered at a Grand Rapids clinic.

Snyder says too many Michiganders smoke, are overweight, and don’t exercise.

Michigan ranks 10th in the country in people who are overweight or obese. Nearly two in 10 people still smoke.

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Politics
10:45 am
Wed September 14, 2011

Republicans vs. Teachers' Unions

Governor Rick Snyder has some intense opposition, but it hasn’t risen to the levels of protest against his two newly elected GOP neighbors and colleagues, Governors John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

And there’s a reason for that. Snyder has been both politically smarter and less ideological than those men. He says he is interested in results, not in settling scores. He’s been pushing through reforms that haven’t made public employee unions happy.

But he says he is not interested in taking away the unions’  collective bargaining rights. Some of the more conservative Republicans in the legislature are trying to push so-called “right to work” legislation, which would outlaw union shops in Michigan.

But Snyder says he has no interest in that. Which, even if you are against unions, is very smart. Union membership and clout have been declining for years. They now represent barely seven percent of workers in the private sector.

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