Politics & Government

Debt Deal Vote
7:18 am
Tue August 2, 2011

Michigan House members vote 11-4 in favor of debt deal

Michigan's Congressional delegation voted 11-4 in favor of the debt deal.

Michigan’s U.S. Representatives voted 11-4 in favor of the debt deal proposed by House and Senate Congressional leaders. The four no votes came from Democratic Representatives Hansen Clarke, John Conyers, Gary Peters, and Republican Representative Justin Amash.

Statements from Michigan’s congressional delegation in the House came out fast and furious after the vote.

In an address from the House floor, Democratic Congressman John Dingell, who voted in favor of the bill, said:

“…this is not the bill I would have written, and I do not know a single Member of Congress who believes this bill is perfect.  I agreed with President Obama’s sentiments today when he said that ‘as with any compromise, the outcome is far from satisfying.’  However, as a Member of Congress, there are times when you must hold your nose and vote for a compromise that, while imperfect, is necessary.  I believe this is one of those times.  The grave threat of default is far too near and too serious not to vote for this agreement…”

Also voting in favor of the bill was Republican Congressman Fred Upton:

“…This agreement begins to address our nation's long-term debt with firm spending cuts and caps, now and in the future.  I voted for this agreement to ensure that we will not allow the full faith and credit of the United States to be compromised. The agreement will avert a default on the national debt, which would drive up interest rates, create major financial disruptions, and harm the U.S. economy.  Meaningful spending cuts with real tools to enforce them are the reforms we need to finally stop the deficit spending and protect the next generation. Enactment of this agreement will keep our nation from default and protect Michigan families and job creators from untold economic damage.”

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Politics
6:29 am
Tue August 2, 2011

Kilpatrick leaves prison after 14 months

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick walks out the front door of a prison administration building. He climbed into a waiting SUV which quickly left the prison grounds.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been released from prison, Steve Carmody reports. "Kilpatrick walked out of the prison in Jackson and hugged his lawyer. He then got into a SUV waiting for him and the vehicle drove away," Carmody reports from Jackson.

Kilpatrick served 14 months for violating probation in a 2008 criminal case. From the Associated Press:

The 41-year-old Kilpatrick is free on parole but still faces a federal corruption trial that could send him back to prison. He plans to re-join his family in Texas.

Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and resigned from office in 2008 after he lied at a civil trial to cover up an extramarital affair with his chief of staff. That lawsuit cost Detroit $8.4 million.

He was imprisoned in May 2010 for failing to disclose assets and surrender sufficient funds that could have reduced his $1 million restitution to Detroit.

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Politics
6:22 am
Tue August 2, 2011

Effort to recall Snyder won't make Nov. ballot

Republican Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

The Committee to recall Rick Snyder says it hasn't collected enough signatures to get a recall on the November ballot. The Associated Press reports:

The group's spokesman Tom Bryant tells The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press that it has collected more than 300,000 signatures but is short of the more than 800,000 required. Bryant says collection efforts will continue into September, and they'll try to get the issue before voters in February.

The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder opposes Snyder-backed changes including a tougher emergency financial manager law.

Snyder spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher says the governor has made difficult decisions, including spending cuts and lifting tax exemptions on public and private pension income. She says the Republican doing what's needed to "get Michigan back on track."

The Detroit News reports:

The group needs about 807,000 valid signatures and hopes to collect close to 1 million to withstand challenges. Since all signatures must be collected within a 90-day period, the group can build on its July momentum and work toward a Sept. 29 deadline, even if it has to scrap some of the earliest signatures and get those people to sign again, he said...  Wording for the recall petition was approved in late April. No recall effort aimed at a Michigan governor has ever made the ballot.

Politics
7:20 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Detroit immigrant community denounces ICE investigation

Immigrant advocates in Detroit have denounced an Immigration and Customs Enforcement internal investigation.

They say the agency “whitewashed” an investigation into whether agents improperly targeted a school in southwest Detroit.

Speaking through a translator, Brisa Maldonado recounted how she and her husband were pulled over, and her husband detained, after dropping their children off at Hope of Detroit Academy on March 31st.

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Politics
6:52 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Snyder announces urban initiative

Governor Snyder says strong cities are the key to Michigan’s future.

The Governor outlined his new Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives in Detroit Monday. The program will have offices in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and the Flint-Saginaw area.

Snyder also appointed Harvey Hollins to head the office. Hollins is currently Wayne State University’s vice president for government and community affairs.

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Politics
4:16 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Time running out for recall drives against state lawmakers

Recall campaigns against the state’s elected officials have until the end of the week  to hand in petition signatures to be considered for the November ballot. There have been more than two dozen recall campaigns against Republican lawmakers, and just three against Democratic lawmakers. 

Two of those lawmakers – State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and state Representative Barb Byrum – are in the clear after an elections panel in Ingham County rejected petitions language against them. 

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Politics
3:23 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick leaves prison Tuesday

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick
Michigan Radio

At 6:30 AM Tuesday, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will once again be a free man.  A judge sentenced  Kilpatrick to prison for a probation violation in May, 2010.  

Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to pay one million dollars in restitution as part of his guilty plea to obstruction of justice charges while he was Detroit mayor.   The same judge later determined that Kilpatrick was hiding his assets to avoid paying the restitution.    He still owes more than 800 thousand dollars in restitution.  

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Politics
3:14 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

State election officials deny request to directly oversee Flint mayoral primary

Flint, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office will not step in to oversee Tuesday’s mayoral primary in Flint.  Two candidates asked the state election office to oversee the primary.   They cited problems in recent elections involving absentee ballots, computer glitches and votes being left in ballot boxes. 

Fred Woodhams is with the Secretary of State’s office.   He says the past problems did not indicate a need for state oversight.  

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Politics
2:32 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Genesee and Berrien Counties have high recall rates

voting booth
User: silatix Flickr

Genesee and Berrien Counties may each have 2 dozen recall requests on the ballots this fall. Many are at the township level.

Tom Frazier is with the Michigan Townships Association. He says there are lots of reasons for a recall.

"Many recalls happen because somebody is disgruntled from the previous election. Perhaps someone who ran did not win and might start a recall petition against the person who did win."

There are also efforts underway to recall Governor Snyder and many state legislators.  

-Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Commentary
10:47 am
Mon August 1, 2011

Carrying the Bridge North

For some time, I have been baffled by Governor Rick Snyder’s difficulty - make that, inability - to get the legislature to okay construction of a new bridge across the Detroit River.

His Republicans control both the House and the Senate, and last spring they okayed virtually everything the governor wanted, including a politically difficult proposal to tax pensions.

But he’s run into a wall with his proposal for a New International Trade Crossing over the Detroit River.

Now we know part of the reason the governor is getting so much resistance. Matty Moroun, owner of the aging Ambassador Bridge, makes a lot of money by operating what amounts to a trade monopoly. The Moroun family has donated lavishly to the campaigns and causes of many legislators, mostly Republicans. He has also launched a considerable TV advertising campaign running new anti-bridge ads that independent analysts have called misleading, or just plain lies.

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News Roundup
8:51 am
Mon August 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, August 1st
Brother O'Mara Flickr

States Wary of Debt Deal

President Obama announced last night that leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in both the House and Senate have come to a deal to avert a default on the national debt. As the Associated Press reports, the deal will likely inflict fiscal pain on states still struggling to recover from the recession:

Although the details of the spending cuts to states remain unclear, lawmakers from both parties have discussed the need to cut or impose caps on so-called discretionary spending over the next decade.

That could mean wide-ranging cuts in federal aid to states, affecting everything from the Head Start school readiness program, Meals on Wheels and worker-training initiatives to funding for transit agencies and education grants that serve disabled children.

There also is concern among governors, state lawmakers and state agency heads that Congress will make deep reductions or changes in federal aid for health services for needy people, most notably through Medicaid. That could shift more of the costs onto states already having trouble balancing their budgets.

Snyder Recall

Organizers of a recall petition against Governor Snyder have until  Friday to collect more than 800,000 signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. “The recall campaign is being led by groups that claim Snyder’s policies are hurting Michiganders. Recall critics accuse the petition drive organizers of just trying to reverse the voters’ decision last year,” Steve Carmody reports. Tom Bryant, the recall campaign spokesman, says petition circulators will be at polling places across the state tomorrow to gather more signatures for the recall petition.

Pontiac Turns Over Police

The Pontiac Police Department is about to close, making way for the Oakland County sheriff to take over law enforcement in the financially challenged southeastern Michigan community, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The sheriff's department says the official changeover happened at  11 p.m. Sunday. The city of 58,000 is under the control of state-appointed emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler. He proposed eliminating Pontiac's police force last year. Hiring the sheriff's department to do the job is expected to save about $2 million each year.

Court Rulings
6:18 am
Mon August 1, 2011

MI Supreme Court: Trails are not highways

The justices of the Michigan Supreme Court have made their final rulings of this term. That includes a decision that says Michigan cannot be sued for injuries sustained on state-owned trails for all-terrain vehicles.

A woman sued the Michigan Department of Natural Resources after she flipped her ATV while riding with family and friends on a state-owned trail. The vehicle flipped over half-buried boards sticking out of the ground. The woman hit some trees and injured her back. She argued the state is responsible for maintaining trail safety as it is for maintaining highways. She said the trail fell under the definition of a highway.

But the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a trail is a trail or a route, and the state is not responsible for safety on the trails as it is for the highways.

The court ruled four-to-three in favor of the state.

Politics
4:01 pm
Sun July 31, 2011

Deadline looming for Recall Snyder petition drive

Recall Snyder petition signature gatherer at 2011 Festival of the Arts June 04, 2011
(flickr stevendepolo)

Time is running out for the organizers of a recall petition against Governor Snyder to collect the signatures they need to put the issue on the November ballot. 

The Recall Snyder petition drive has until this Friday to collect more than 800 thousand signatures, so the voters can decide in November if they want to kick the governor out of office.    Those same voters elected Snyder less than a year ago. 

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Politics
4:00 pm
Sun July 31, 2011

Crime a major issue in Flint's mayoral primary

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Seven candidates will face off on Tuesday in Flint’s mayoral primary.   There are many issues facing the city of Flint:  The need for more economic development, the city’s budget problems.  But the biggest issue appears to be crime.  

Flint set a record last year for the number of homicides.   The violent crime rate has increased, as the number of police officers has declined.    Budget cuts have reduced Flint’s police force significantly in recent years.   

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Politics
2:01 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court rules on prison rape

Joe Gratz Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has dismissed the civil rights lawsuit filed by a woman who was raped by a sheriff’s deputy while being held in jail. 

The victim sued Wayne County and the Sheriff’s Department after she was harassed and raped by a deputy while being held in jail for not paying child support.

The deputy – Reginald Johnson – was fired, charged with a crime, and convicted of rape.

The victim said the county and the sheriff’s department should be held responsible because Johnson could not have attacked her unless he was a deputy assigned to the jail.

The county argued there was no way the sheriff could have known or should have known the deputy was a sexual predator.

The court’s Republican majority ruled that Johnson acted outside his professional responsibilities and in direct violation of department policies.

Democrats on the court dissented. They said the majority decision undermines protections for victims of discrimination and harassment, and weakens Michigan’s civil rights law.

Legal
10:57 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court rules on sexual assault case

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on a sexual assault case today.
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who was raped by a jail guard while she was being detained is not entitled to file a civil rights and sexual harassment lawsuit against the county. The court said the local government is not responsible for the behavior of a public worker who acted outside the scope of his employment. The court's Republican majority split with Democratic justices, who say the decision undermines previous rulings that protect victims of discrimination.

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Commentary
10:12 am
Fri July 29, 2011

What Are Michigan's Education Priorities?

These are tough times for teachers.

Actually, this is an even tougher time for education. Yet the  way in which all sides have been approaching this major and growing statewide crisis is, at the very least bizarre.

Take the Michigan Education Association, for example. It is by far the state’s largest teacher’s union, and has been around since before the Civil War. It proudly proclaims “the mission of the MEA is to ensure that the education of our students and the working environments of our members are of the highest quality.”

That sounds good. But if you watch what they do, rather than what they say, you might conclude their charter statement really says: “The MEA’s mission is to prevent our members’ salaries and benefits from being cut by any means necessary.”

That’s really what the union is about. I was reminded of this yesterday by the revelation that the MEA spent $25,000  dollars to try and get Paul Scott, a state representative from Grand Blanc, recalled. Why the union is doing this isn’t clear.

Except out of sheer vindictiveness. Scott, who chairs the House Education Committee, voted this year to slash elementary and high school funding by twice as much as was actually cut.

I wouldn’t expect the union to support him for reelection. But recalling him would in no way change the balance of power in Lansing. If you are a teacher in Holly, say, you might wonder,“Is that what I pay several hundred dollars in dues for?"

That doesn’t mean the education community should be pleased with government. Most members of the Republican majority in Lansing would enthusiastically agree  that this state needs a much better educated workforce. However, most are entirely capable of uttering in the next breath that we need to cut teacher salaries and, especially, benefits and pensions.

What is especially puzzling is that so few people see this as a contradiction. These days, Republicans control every branch of state government, and have been energetically cutting  spending on education, to give business large tax breaks instead.

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Debt Ceiling Debate
7:09 am
Fri July 29, 2011

State budget director cautious as debt deadline nears

Congressional Republicans and Democrats still have not come up with a way to stop a possible August 2nd national debt default

State Budget Director John Nixon says he’s unsure how Michigan will make payments to food stamp and welfare recipients and Medicaid providers if the federal government defaults, the Associated Press reports.

“Michigan draws about $400 million a week from federal funds that could suddenly dry up next week if the nation hits its debt limit and cannot pay its bills… Forty-four percent of Michigan's $45 billion budget is supported by federal funds, as are 25 percent of state workers.” the AP notes.

In an interview with the AP, Nixon says the state will do what it can to, “keep things moving.”

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder said yesterday that a possible default has him concerned:

“One of the challenges is (the federal government) haven’t told us exactly what it’ll mean. So we’re prepared for a number of scenarios.”

Lindsey Smith reports, "Snyder says Michigan could move money around to cover things like Medicaid payments until the federal government reimburses the state." Snyder said:

“I think we’re going to be in reasonably good shape, as long as it doesn’t go for an extended period of time.”

Politics
6:30 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Despite protests, MI governor won't back away from “ugly issues”

About 20 people wait for Governor Snyder to arrive in St. Joseph Thursday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says the state government is “evolving very quickly” because it needs to. Snyder highlighted his administration’s accomplishments and his remaining goals during a visit to St. Joseph today.

Protestors once again greeted Snyder in St. Joseph, this time outside the heritage museum. They pass around petitions to recall the Governor. About 20 people chant “Recall Rick!” as he enters the building.

Inside, Snyder told a friendlier crowd he’s aware he’s taking on “ugly” issues like education reform, pension and business taxes.

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Politics
6:10 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

The politics behind state employee concessions

Michigan State Capitol
commons.wikimedia.org

As the state’s largest public employee union begins new contract talks with the Snyder administration, public employees are saying they’ve sacrificed enough. But, Governor Rick Snyder's administration is looking for more concessions.

In our weekly political roundup we talk with 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.

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