Politics & Government

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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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

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