Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Congressman Fred Upton
Republican Conference / Flickr

Republican Congressman Fred Upton, who represents Michigan's 6th District, says his fellow GOP lawmakers will go after the new health care law piece by piece.  Upton made the comments yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

As The Associated Press reports:

That effort, says Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, will follow a vote to repeal the health care law outright. Such a vote could come early in the new year after the GOP takes control of the House. Upton is the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and he says that repealing the health care law is his top priority.

Upton says he hopes for a vote before President Obama gives this year's State of the Union address.

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder begins his first full week of work at the state Capitol today, Laura Weber reports. Snyder was sworn in as the state's 48th governor on Saturday. He told a crowd in front of the Capitol building that the state needs to move into the future with a positive attitude.

It is also time to be bold. I’ve been cautioned by many that expectations are already too high. We shouldn’t walk away from high expectations, it’s time to deliver on high expectations.

It's expected that Snyder will start signing his first executive orders to reorganize state government as soon as this week.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has managed to fulfill one major promise: the city has submitted its comprehensive annual financial report to the state on time.


Detroit had submitted its audit late for the past five years. That caused the state to withhold millions in much-needed revenue-sharing funds.


Detroit may see its most sweeping political reforms in decades in 2011.

 The city’s Charter Commission will really get down to work next year.

 Detroiters voted to open the city charter up for change in mid-2009.

 Now, the charter’s fate lies in the hands of the nine elected Charter Commission members. Their work will come under intense scrutiny.

Both Mayor Dave Bing’s office and the Detroit City Council have offered their suggestions for revisions.

I don’t know Jim Stamas personally. He is a state representative from Midland who will be the majority floor leader when the new legislature takes office next month.

He’s a fairly conservative Republican, and I’d guess that on some policy issues we might disagree. But he did something this week I thought totally appropriate. He is bringing back a dress code for the legislature. He thinks members ought to wear business attire when they are doing the people’s business.

Ambassador Bridge
J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced yesterday that he'll keep Kirk Steudle as Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation in his new administration. That could mean continued debate over whether to build a new bridge to connect Detroit to Canada, Laura Weber reports. As Weber explains:

Steudle has drawn heat from Republican lawmakers over the past few years for his support of a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. The legislators were unhappy with a detailed traffic report from the department, but Steudle says that information will be rolled into continued analysis of the bridge. Governor-elect Snyder says just because he tapped Steudle to continue as director doesn’t mean the bridge will be built. But the discussion will continue.

The proposed Detroit River International Crossing would compete with the Ambassador Bridge.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says he wants to meet with his Detroit counterpart to discuss how the region’s water and sewer system is managed.

The request comes in a letter sent today, days after a federal indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

Well, we finally have the official census figures, and for the first time in history, Michigan lost people in the course of a decade. Worse, we’ll have fewer members of Congress.

Over the last thirty years, we’ve lost five seats in the House of Representatives. That’s equivalent to losing the voting power of the entire state of Connecticut. Put another way, we’re now back to having only one more representative than a century ago.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Governor Jennifer Granholm has less than 10 days left in office.  The term-limited Democrat spoke with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley this morning about her 8 years in office and what she hopes for the future of the state.

It's Wednesday, the day we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. On tap for today: Michigan gets hit hard by bad news from the census and Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he wants a 2-year budget plan for the state.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is expected to name directors for the state's Department of Transportation and the Michigan State Police later today.

It's believed that Snyder will keep Kirk Steudle on as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  Steudle has been the director of the department since 2006.

Snyder is also expected to appoint Kriste Etue as director of the Michigan State Police.  She's currently the deputy director of the state police.

As The Detroit News reports, Etue will be the first woman to head the Michigan State Police:

She will be the second woman named to head a department in the Snyder administration. On Friday, Olga Dazzo was named director of the Department of Community Health.

Snyder is expected to make the announcement of both posts at a news conference today in Lansing.

Map of U.S. House of Representative seats gained and lost in Census count
U.S. Census Bureau

Officials in the Obama White House say they're not concerned about the new Census numbers.

The Associated Press reports that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he "doesn't expect the results of the new census to have a 'huge practical impact' on national politics."

NPR quotes Gibbs as saying:

"I don't think shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places."

The results of the 2010 U.S. Census has shifted seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from traditional democratic strongholds in the East and Midwest, to some of the republican strongholds in the South and West (see map above).

Apportionment map from U.S. Census data
U.S. Census Bureau

Update 1:30 p.m.:

It's confirmed. Michigan has NEVER lost population in U.S. Census data history. I asked Vince Kountz of the U.S. Census Bureau in Detroit. He looked at the books and never saw population drop for the state of Michigan. He went back to the 1810 Census, before Michigan was a state. There were 4,762 people in the Michigan territory back then.

  • We had 9,938,444 people in the state in 2000
  • We now have 9,883,640 in the state in 2010.

12:02 p.m.:

The Census numbers are out. You can take a look at what they found with this map.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor-elect Rick Snyder tells the Associated Press that he plans to give state lawmakers a two-year budget proposal, that he wants them to pass by July 1st.    That would be a big change in two ways: 1) most state budget plans have been year to year, not two year plans, and 2) the legislature rarely passes a state budget until near the end of the fiscal year in September.  Snyder tells the Associated Press he's accelerating the normal budget drafting pace and will be delivering his plan to the legislature earlier than the mid-March deadline.  Snyder says he's making business tax reform a major part of his budget plan, according to the Associated Press:

 As Michigan begins to emerge from its decade-long economic slump, Snyder says his first priority is to eliminate any hurdles to that recovery. He plans to cut business taxes in the budget that takes effect next fall.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder and Governor Jennifer Granholm
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Granholm and her family had dinner last night with Governor-elect Rick Snyder and his family. Both the current and incoming Governors have three children each and, according to Governor Granholm, the families talked about what it is like to be part of a family that's in the spotlight.  Granholm said:

We had a very pleasant dinner... their [Snyder's] kids are similar ages to our kids... it was really a very personal conversation about what it's like living in the Governor's family... and how you react to people approaching you as a result of that... what it's like to have security detail... what it's like to have a place on Mackinac Island... that kind of stuff,  it was very nice.

Governor-elect Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.  Granholm says she won't talk about what she will do once her term is up until early next year.

One thing is for sure. If Michigan is going to get out of the hole it is in and lay the foundation for future prosperity, lots of us are going to have to move out of our economic and political comfort zones.

Unions are going to have to realize that employers and governments can’t afford the same kind of health care and defined-benefit pension plans as when we had full employment at high wages and the Big Three dominated the global automotive economy.

Chambers of Commerce are going to have to realize that there is more to attracting new jobs and business than low taxes.

And everybody is going to have to realize that without a modern, well-functioning infrastructure, we haven’t got a chance.

The US Capitol
Jonothan Colman / Flickr

This week the U.S. Census will release its initial population totals for the country and the states. That data will begin the scramble to redraw Michigan’s congressional districts.

Michigan will probably lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when the new census numbers come out (going from 15 to 14 seats).

The state’s incoming Republican governor and Republican controlled legislature are expected to redraw congressional boundaries so they can favor Republican candidates.

Senator Levin speaks with military member
Carl Levin

Associated Press reports the senate has cleared the way for a vote on Saturday afternoon on a bill that would overturn the military's ban on openly gay troops. Senators voted 63-33 to advance the legislation. It's already passed the House and  now looks likely to reach the president's desk before the new year.

Earlier in the day Senator Levin gave a senate floor statement.

Ruben Diaz Alonso / Flickr

This week’s indictment against Detroit’s former mayor and others is likely to renew interest in changing the way the region’s massive water system is run. The federal government identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were steered to a friend of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has appointed Olga Dazzo to head the state's Department of Community Health. The Associated Press reports that Dazzo is:

...a veteran of the health insurance industry, most recently working as president of a company called Health Reform Innovations LLC in the Miami area. Dazzo previously worked in Michigan and is a past president of Physicians Health Plan.

In a written statement released today, Snyder said:

“There is an attitude that the only way to lower costs is to reduce the level of care.  I reject that premise. Olga understands that the decisions she makes will directly impact the wellbeing of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens, and she will always have an eye toward delivering services more efficiently so those who need treatment are able to get it.”

Dazzo's bio says she received a bachelors degree in accounting and a masters degree in finance from Michigan State University.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has named Greg Andrews as his representative to northern Michigan. Andrews will help the incoming Republican governor stay connected with that part of the state. Snyder announced the appointment yesterday.

A press release posted on the Governor-elect's website says:

Andrews previously served as Snyder’s northern Michigan field representative during the campaign.  In that role, he built relationships with local leaders in 37 counties – relationships Snyder will rely on to stay in touch with the concerns of residents across northern Michigan. “Greg’s number one priority is to end the disconnect between Lansing and northern Michigan,” Snyder said.  “He will have a direct line to the governor’s office.”

Andrews' office will be based in Marquette.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend Bush-era tax breaks and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed yesterday.  The tax-deal was brokered between President Obama and leaders in the House and Senate.  The President is expected to sign the bill soon.  As The Associated Press reports:

In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to. The vote was 277-148.

Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan told USA Today:

Congress made the right decision ... to prevent a job-killing tax hike on Americans and small businesses.

The U.S. Senate had already passed the bill with a 81-19 vote.

Dave Hogg / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office released this statement regarding the RICO indictments of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Victor Mercado, former director of the city Water and Sewerage Department, and 3 others:

We are disappointed by continued revelations of the mistakes of the past. Yet, we will not be deterred from our agenda. We will continue to work hard to restructure city government to a level of accountability, transparency and performance for our citizens. We have the utmost confidence in U.S Attorney Barbara McQuade and her team, and will cooperate and not interfere with their investigation.

While these indictments will make it more difficult as we seek a new director for the water department, and continue to make the tough but necessary decisions throughout the city, we will maintain our commitment to the highest ethical standards and those who uphold them for the benefit of our city and region.


Michigan's new liquor law that allows alcohol sales on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day starts this weekend for establishments that have bought the proper permits. But, some communities in the state say they plan to continue to ban alcohol sales during certain hours on Sunday.

As The Associated Press reports:

Flint, Muskegon Heights, Garden City, Sturgis, Charlotte and all of Oceana, Ogemaw and Mecosta counties are among the places opting to continue banning Sunday morning sales.

Local governments had until yesterday to let officials know if they wanted to continue to ban or limit the sales on Sunday mornings.

Update 6:54 p.m.:

Here's some video of the release of the indictments from the Detroit News:

Update 4:28 p.m.:

Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, had this to say of the new indictment:

“The indictment charges all of them with working together to abuse Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices. Both his position as state representative, as well as his position of mayor of Detroit, to unjustly enrich themselves, through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud.”

Update 4:18 p.m.:

Here's an excerpt of the indictment (info in parens added):

"(Former Detroit Mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick, (Kilpatrick’s long-time friend) Bobby Ferguson, (Kilpatrick’s father) Bernard Kilpatrick, (former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) Victor Mercado and (Chief Administrative Officer then Chief Information Officer to Kilpatrick) Derrick Miller… extorted municipal contractors by coercing them to include Ferguson in public contracts, and/or by rigging the award of contracts to ensure Ferguson got a portion of the revenue from those contracts…. Ferguson got tens of millions of dollars in work and revenues from municipal contractors."

Update 3:39 p.m.:

Federal Prosecutors in Detroit are announcing more corruption charges against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The indictments also include Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.

Representatives from the FBI, IRS,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development are also on hand for the announcement.

The new charges are a sign the years-long investigation into Detroit municipal corruption is approaching an apex.

Peter Henning is a Wayne State University law professor. He says this investigation has been typical of public corruption probes that slowly “work from the outside in.”

“The government’s committed a lot of resources. When that happens then it’s much more likely to see charges brought, simply because the government wants to see some return on its investment.”

Kwame Kilpatrick already faces federal tax evasion and other charges for allegedly using a non-profit civic fund as a personal slush fund.

Ferguson also already faces federal charges in an alleged city bid-rigging scheme.

3:27 p.m.:

The other shoe is finally dropping on former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.   The US Attorney in Detroit is holding a news conference at 4pm to announce indictments against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and others allegedly involved in city hall corruption in Detroit.

The Detroit News is reporting:

The U.S. Attorney's Office is considering prosecuting the mayor under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, among other federal criminal laws, according to a source. The Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section reviews and approves each proposed federal prosecution under the RICO statute. 

So far, 14 people have pleaded guilty to felonies and one person has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the Detroit investigation and a spinoff probe in the city of Southfield. Those convicted include former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.

Congressman Mike Rogers will takeover as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The Associated Press reports:

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner says Michigan Republican Mike Rogers will serve as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the next Congress. Rogers said in a statement Wednesday he's humbled by the appointment and calls it an "incredible responsibility."  The 47-year-old Howell resident easily won a sixth term in November to represent Michigan's 8th Congressional District. Rogers is a former Army officer and FBI special agent who investigated organized crime and public corruption in Chicago in the early 1990s.

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time to get a roundup of the state's political news with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry.  He spoke this morning with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

Leaders in the state legislature have called lawmakers back to the Capitol today for a final meeting of this year's legislative session. The news comes after lawmakers had called it quits earlier this month. As Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network reports, lawmakers have to go back to Lansing to correct a few procedural mistakes from the earlier lame-duck session:

The state Senate has a few bills sent back from the House for final approval, including a measure that would lower the minimum age for blood donation from 17 to 16. The House also needs to meet Wednesday to approve a resolution to adjourn for the year. But it's unclear if enough lawmakers can be wrangled on short notice to return to the state Capitol to vote.

And, as The Associated Press reports:

Lawmakers might enroll and send to Gov. Jennifer Granholm legislation allowing sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf site in Flint to a developer who wants to redevelop the property and keep the school open. Bills that would regulate billboards for sexually oriented businesses are among the others that need final approval or procedural votes before they can be sent to Granholm.

It doesn't appear that either chamber will take up controversial measures including teacher-tenure reform or insurance for autism treatments.

Michael Moore at a film festival in Venice
Nicholas Genin / Flickr

Michael Moore has announced that he is contributing $20,000 to help bail out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (that WikiLeaks link is liable to change).

On his blog post, Moore says he's offering Assange more than just money:

I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Republican Governor-elect Rick Snyder continues to name new members of his incoming administration. 

Yesterday, Snyder announced that Doug Rothwell would lead the Michigan Economic Development Coporation.  As Rick Pluta reports, it will be Rothwell’s second turn at the job. He was the MEDC’s first director after Governor John Engler created the agency in the 1990s. Rothwell is currently the President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, a group of the state's top 75 CEO's.

In a show of bipartisanship, outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm stood next to Snyder as he made the announcement.