Politics & Government

Politics
4:17 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Clinic offers pot to customers who register to vote

A medical marijuana clinic owner offered pot to customers who also registered to vote
User Eljoja Flickr

Authorities are looking into whether a Lansing medical marijuana clinic broke the law by offering free pot to customers who stop by and register to vote.

The owner of the clinic opposes Lansing’s new restrictive medical marijuana ordinance and has called for the ouster of city council members who supported the ordinance.

The Your Healthy Choices Clinic advertised on its web site that customers who stop in and register would get a half-gram of pot or a marijuana-laced snack item. 

It also encouraged people to vote against city council members who supported Lansing’s medical marijuana ordinance. Authorities say that may have put the clinic afoul of state election laws.

John Sellek is the spokesman for Attorney General Bill Schuette. He says clinics have mushroomed far beyond what Michigan voters intended when they approved the medical marijuana law in 2008.

“And they certainly didn’t plan for those pot shops to be handing out marijuana as party favors essentially for their own political, personal agenda.”

“Certainly in Michigan, it is illegal to pass out some kind of gift or a party favor to encourage someone to vote a certain way or to vote at all, and that is concerning to the attorney general.”

Schuette is looking into filing criminal charges. The clinic owner told a Lansing TV station there was no attempt to buy votes – only to get people to register.

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Politics
4:09 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

MI Attorney General seeks to overturn affirmative action ruling

A 2006 BAMN rally in Lansing against Proposal 2. The proposal was passed by Michigan voters that November.
BAMN

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has requested a panel of 16 judges review and overturn a U-S Court of Appeals decision that said a ban on affirmative action is unconstitutional.

The decision came earlier this month and focused on the use of affirmative action in public university admissions.

Schuette says universities should accept students based on achievement, and the state must work harder to make sure all kids are getting a good education.

“And that’s where we need to tear down and rebuild our K-12 system so that kids in urban areas have opportunity and a chance to get up the latter. Right now that’s not occurring. The status quo is not acceptable.”

“America is about a single premise, and that is it’s about opportunity for anybody and everyone. And we need to make sure when you’re on the educational doorstep, entering one of our marvelous universities, that decision of admission needs to be done by merit, talent and ability.”

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union say they hope the panel denies Schuette’s request. Schuette says he expects to have a ruling in the fall.

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Debt ceiling Debate
12:22 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Snyder says he's trying to get information on possible national debt default

Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress remain at an impasse as the August 2nd deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling gets closer

Governor Snyder says the federal government hasn't yet explained to his administration how they will handle a possible national debt default. Snyder spoke Wednesday to WLNS-TV at the Ionia Free Fair.

"So we're on deck trying to get information from Washington as to what the order of cutbacks might be or payment-stream changes might be," Snyder said.

Mlive.com reports:

Snyder did not point fingers at either Democrats or Republicans in Washington, instead calling for compromise. "There's a lot of people that are in that process and they all need to come together," he said. "This clearly does not help matters".

Earlier today, on Morning Edition, NPR's Brian Naylor took a look at what the debt-ceiling debate would mean for communities across the U.S.:

Although almost every state must balance their budgets, they also rely on borrowing — selling bonds to investors for everything from meeting day-to-day cash-flow needs to funding major capital improvements.

"They borrow to finance long-term projects like infrastructure, road and bridge construction, as well as an upgrade of the telecommunications systems," said Kil Huh, who is with the Pew Center on the States. "These are activities that create jobs — in the long run have multiplier effects. And, essentially, If states need to postpone these in order to get more favorable terms, that's going to have an impact on those communities as well in terms of jobs and recovery."

News Roundup
9:03 am
Thu July 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Health care lawsuit to SupCo

The Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its constitutional challenge to the nation’s healthcare overhaul law. As the Associated Press reports, “the appeal filed Wednesday… said Congress overstepped its authority in requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay financial penalties.” The appeal is challenging the first federal appeals court ruling that upheld the legislation.

Ford Investing in India

Bloomberg is reporting that Ford will spend more than $906 million on a second car factory in India. In an email statement today, the company says it will build the plant with an initial capacity to make 240,000 cars and 270,000 engines annually. Ford says the new plant will employee 5000 people. It’s being reported that the factory will start production in 2014.

House Cuts

State House Speaker Jase Bolger is requiring lawmakers and state members of the Michigan House to pay more for their health insurance benefits come October 1st. Laura Weber reports:

Bolger made the decision to require all state House employees to pay as much as 20 percent of their health insurance benefits alongside an 18 percent reduction to the money lawmakers have allotted for their office expenses. The changes ordered by Bolger’s office comes amidst a debate between the House and Senate over how much teachers and local government employees should be required to pay for their health benefits.

State Legislature
6:37 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Speaker Bolger cuts House employees' benefits

State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R)
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Lawmakers and staff members of the Michigan House will be required to pay more for their health insurance benefits come October 1st. The change was ordered by House Speaker Jase Bolger.

Bolger made the decision to require all state House employees to pay as much as 20 percent of their health insurance benefits alongside an 18 percent reduction to the money lawmakers have allotted for their office expenses. “And that’s not pleasant for anyone, and we empathize with them,” says Ari Adler, Speaker Bolger’s spokesman. Adler continues, “but we also empathize with the taxpayers who are facing many similar situations in their own households, and we all have to share in the sacrifice.”

The changes ordered by Bolger’s office comes amidst a debate between the House and Senate over how much teachers and local government employees should be required to pay for their health benefits.

Adler says House lawmakers need to lead by example if they plan to cut benefits for other public workers. The House Democratic caucus supports the new policy, but many Democrats oppose passing a law to force public employees to pay more for their benefits.

Politics
3:42 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Bing: "Detroit can truly be a city that works"

Dave Bing
detroitworksproject.com

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has unveiled a big part of his “Detroit Works” Project to strengthen city neighborhoods.

The strategy involves dividing neighborhoods into three categories: Steady, transitional, and distressed.

The city will focus on code enforcement and infrastructure improvement in the more viable areas, and on demolishing dangerous structures in more blighted ones.

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Politics
11:54 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Michiganders remain split on debt ceiling debate

The debt ceiling debate is still getting attention in Michigan. Many are voicing their opinions to government officials. One congressman says calls to his office are running about 50-50. Many support raising the debt ceiling and others want to reduce future debt by making cuts.

Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga is a Republican from Zeeland. He says his concern is that the debt ceiling could double in the next ten years.

"All we need to do is have a slight hiccup in our interest rates – something that just even brings us back to historical averages of the last ten years and our spending on interest is going to explode. We’ve got to get this under control," Huizenga said.

The deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling from the current 14-trillion-dollars must be found by next week, or the nation could default on its debt.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Election 2012
10:26 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Schauer of Michigan says he won't run in '12

Mark Schauer announced he will not run for Congress. U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg will face a new opponent after running against Schauer for several years.
U.S. Congress

DETROIT (AP) - Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer of Battle Creek says he won't run for Congress next year.

The Democrat made the announcement in an email sent to supporters on Wednesday.

The decision means Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg will get a new Democratic opponent after facing Schauer for the past two elections.

Last year, Walberg beat the then-incumbent Schauer in a contentious rematch of their 2008 race that saw Schauer unseat Walberg, who was then a freshman in Congress.

In the email, Schauer writes that, despite his decision, he still sees south-central Michigan's 7th District as "winnable for a Democratic candidate in 2012."

Schauer currently serves as national co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance Jobs 21! Campaign.

Political Roundup
8:51 am
Wed July 27, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Matthileo Flickr

It’s Wednesday… the morning we speak with Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry, about what’s going on in state politics.

This week, several contract negotiations are going on. The Snyder administration is opening talks with state employees. They're trying to get state employees to agree to benefit concessions to save the state some $265 million. And, the United Auto Workers has begun contract negotiations with the Detroit automakers.

State Legislature
8:08 am
Wed July 27, 2011

State House lawmakers meet today

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

The state House will be in session today but, as the Associated Press reports, no roll call votes are expected and lawmakers' attendance won't be recorded. The AP notes, "the relatively inactive summer continues for the Michigan Legislature." There are no formal meetings planned, but, a House appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing. The AP reports:

The next scheduled House session is set for Aug. 24. Sessions of the House and Senate will be relatively infrequent in July and August. Lawmakers already have approved the state budget plan for the fiscal year starting in October. Lawmakers spend some of the summer working in their home districts.

The session comes as lawmakers are in the middle of a two-month legislative break.

Politics
11:53 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Detroit Police Chief says killings are up

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says overall crime is down in the city. But he acknowledges that’s overshadowed by a recent spike in homicides, almost all of them shootings.

Detroit recorded 172 homicides in the first half of this year. That’s up 15% over last year.

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Politics
11:49 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Snyder tours Detroit neighborhood, promotes new bridge crossing

Governor Snyder addresses the media after touring the Delray neighborhood in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor will benefit Michigan’s economy, but should also benefit the community that hosts it.

Snyder toured Detroit’s Delray neighborhood with community leaders today Tuesday. Delray is the proposed site of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

Snyder says the trade crossing would boost international trade and benefit the whole state—but it should also benefit Delray.

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Newsmaker Interviews
6:11 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Republican Congressman Huizenga and debt ceiling crisis

Congressman Bill Huizenga represents Michigan's 2nd District.
US Congress

President Obama and Congress have yet to find a solution to the nation’s debt crisis. Last night, President Obama and Speaker Boehner separately addressed the nation. They gave their explanations of why a deal hasn’t yet been reached. 

Republican Congressman of Michigan, Bill Huizenga talks with us about debt ceiling debates in Washington and what his concerns are moving forward.

Politics
6:09 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

State opens contract negotiations with employees

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration and state employee unions have begun a new round of contract negotiations.

The Snyder administration has set a big savings target -- $265 million - or an average of about $6,000 per state worker.

Jan Winter is the governor’s lead negotiator. She says saving $265 million in employee costs will be tough.

“Go the table, work as hard as you can. A lot of things can happen and we’re counting on working out good deals here.”

Winter says one idea is to ask state employees to pay more for their benefits.

“One of the things that we have looked at, clearly, moving to something like an 80/20 split on a health plan would mean well over $100 million in gross savings. We have a lot of ideas, and we’re hopeful the unions have lots of ideas, too.”

Cindy Estrada is the lead negotiator for UAW Local Six Thousand, the biggest state employee union.

She says workers are also looking to fix the state’s budget troubles.

“We want to create a Michigan, a state that in 10 years to come is more efficient, has better quality for the citizens that receive those services, and I think we can do that – if workers and management get together and we look for new solutions and we be really creative and stick to the commitment that we’re going to make structural changes, we can get there, definitely.

But Estrada says the savings should not come out of state employees’ benefits or paychecks since they’ve given up nearly $4 billion in concessions over the past decade.

The unions say state government could find big savings if it reduced the number of managers and outside contracts.

Civil Rights
5:13 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Justice Department agrees to help Michigan Muslim group

user: modenadude flicker.com

The Justice Department has expressed an interest in helping a Muslim civil rights advocacy group in Michigan. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is concerned the Pittsfield Township community may influence the approval of a neighborhood Muslim school. The Michigan Islamic Academy in Ann Arbor wants to move to a new building in Pittsfield to accommodate its growing student population. In a meeting last month, some people spoke against the Muslim school. C-A-I-R asked the Justice Department to monitor the next meeting on August 4.

Lena Masri is the staff attorney representing the Michigan Islamic Academy. She says some comments were blatantly racist.

"Comments against Muslims, Islam and the operation of a Muslim school in their backyard, but also concerns such as traffic and noise and light – concerns regarding issues that are non-issues," Masri said.

The Pittsfield Township Planning Commission did not return calls for comment.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Election 2012
3:03 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

McCulloch drops bid for the U.S. Senate

John McCulloch ended his bid for the U.S. Senate 11 days after he started it.
John McCulloch

Now that a candidate with a lot of name recognition has entered the race to unseat Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election, a candidate with little name recognition has dropped out.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch announced he is withdrawing from the race (he entered the race just 11 days ago) and endorsing Republican Pete Hoekstra's bid.

From the Associated Press:

Hoekstra initially said he wouldn't run, but jumped in five days after McCulloch said he was entering the race to unseat Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow.

Hoekstra accepted McCulloch's endorsement Tuesday at Oakland County GOP Headquarters in Bloomfield Township. County Clerk Bill Bullard and Sheriff Mike Bouchard also endorsed Hoekstra.

Last week, The Associated Press reported Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson switched his endorsement from McCulloch to Hoekstra since McCulloch wasn't running.

Other Republicans still in the race include former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman and Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy.

Politics
10:06 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Feds suspend Flint's energy grants

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The federal government will suspend two energy grants in the city of Flint because of the potential misuse of funds.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Energy are investigating stimulus funded grants dating back to 2009, according to the Flint Journal.

Flint Mayor Dane Walling said his office is cooperating with the probe and has launched investigations of their own into the energy grant programs:

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Politics
9:04 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Courts say same-sex partners do not have custody rights

The state Supreme Court has refused to take the case of a lesbian woman who wants the right to visit the children she helped raise with her ex-partner.

The court’s decision lets stand a lower court ruling that same-sex partners do not have custody rights in Michigan.

Renee Harmon and Tammy Davis were together for 19 years, and during that time started a family together. Davis served as the biological mother via artificial insemination to their three children. After the relationship broke up, Harmon was denied visitation and sued for parenting time.

Michigan does not recognize same-sex relationships - nor does it allow unmarried couples to adopt.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Harmon lacked the legal standing to sue.

The state Supreme Court allowed that decision to stand by refusing to take the case.

The court divided on party lines in its decision. Republican majority voted not to take the case. Democrats said the court should.

In her dissent to the order, Justice Marilyn Kelly wrote the case raises so many questions regarding the state constitution and parents’ rights that it “cries out for a ruling from the state’s highest court.”

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Election 2012
6:56 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Kildee considering run for Congress

Dan Kildee says he is considering a run for his Uncle Dale Kildee's Congressional seat.
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

With U.S. Representative Dale Kildee announcing his plans to retire after next year, his nephew, Dan Kildee, says he is seriously considering a run for Congress. Dan Kildee is the President and CEO of the Center for Community Progress, and a former Genesee County treasurer. He also ran for Governor early last year before dropping out of the Democratic race.

The Associated Press reports that Kildee told the AP yesterday that, “running for Congress ‘has been on my mind for some time.’ He says he plans to announce his decision soon.”

Congressman Dale Kildee announced his retirement earlier this month. He has spent 18 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, a total of 47 years, as a Democratic Congressman representing the area around Flint.

State Law
6:32 am
Tue July 26, 2011

State attorney general files charges under state’s new human trafficking law

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in Lansing on Inauguration Day. (Jan. 1st, 2011)
Covair Owner Flickr

The state attorney general’s office has filed the first charges under the Michigan’s updated law against human trafficking. A man is accused of forcing two teen-aged girls in Detroit to become prostitutes.

The man is charged with two counts of inviting teen-aged girls to parties and then forcing them to work as prostitutes, collecting all of the money, beating them for not earning enough, and sexually assaulting them himself. The attorney general’s new Human Trafficking Unit is trying to extradite him from California.

A study done last year for the Michigan Women’s Foundation found as many as 160 cases a month of girls being sold online or through escort services in Michigan. The study did not track how often teen-aged girls and boys are offered on the streets or in hotel rooms. But human trafficking is becoming more common across the country.

The Michigan Women’s Foundation says the new charges and penalties are useful – but the state should also have a “safe harbor” law that ensures people forced to become prostitutes are treated as victims and not as criminals.

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