Politics & Government

News Roundup
9:06 am
Thu July 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 21st

Heat, Humidity Continues

It’s official, the Detroit News reports: Michigan is in the middle of a heat wave. From the News:

The National Weather Service declares a heat wave when there are five or more consecutive days of 90-degree weather or three or more consecutive days of 95-degree temperatures. Today is expected to top out at a sweltering 100 degrees with high humidity. It is the fifth straight day of at least 90-degree temperatures. The heat and humidity will combine to make it feel like 110 degrees outside…  The 100 degree high would set a record.

Changes to Binding Arbitration

A local government's ability to pay will be the top factor for an arbitrator to consider when settling labor disputes involving police and fire departments under terms of legislation signed yesterday by Governor Snyder, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The legislation… will speed up arbitration in some cases by requiring the process to be completed within 180 days. The expenses of arbitration would be split between the local government and the union involved. Snyder says making a community's ability to pay the top priority could help prevent "drastic cuts" that could lead to layoffs of public safety personnel. Michigan has relied on binding arbitration to help resolve public safety personnel labor disputes for decades.

Jobless Rate Rises Slightly

Michigan’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 10.5 percent in June. There were 8,000 more unemployed people in Michigan last month – a total of 496,000 people looking for work. When part-timers, people who would like to work full-time, and those who got discouraged and stopped looking for work are counted, the rate of unemployment and under-employment was 19.6 percent.

Election 2012
7:58 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Romney outraises Obama in 2nd quarter in MI

Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney outraised President Obama in Michigan in this year's second quarter.
Gage Skidmore Flickr

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney outraised his GOP competitors and President Obama in Michigan during the second quarter of this year, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Romney raised $884,124 in the quarter that ended June 30th, while President Obama raised $393,428. Romney is a Michigan native whose father, George W. Romney, was Michigan’s 43rd Governor.

Republicans trailing behind Romney were Texas Congressman Ron Paul with $46,106; former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty with $22,450; businessman Hermain Cain with $16,100; Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann with $10,185; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with $9,775; former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with $1,650; and former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson with $1,500.

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Teachers
5:45 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

New law dramatically alters teacher tenure (audio)

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a package of bills that reshapes teacher tenure in Michigan. The bills remove seniority protections and make it easier to fire teachers who have been identified as “ineffective”.

Michigan Public Radio Networks’ Lansing bureau chief, Rick Pluta talks about what this means for teachers and how state leaders plan to implement the new law.

 

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Politics
3:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Plan to close water park has Detroiters burning up

chandlerparkonline.com

With temperatures stuck in the 90s, patrons of Detroit’s only water park say they’re livid about plans to shut it down.

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano says closing the Family Aquatic Center at Chandler Park would save a million dollars the county needs to balance the budget.

Nanga Chungag is 12 years old. She takes swimming lessons at the park and says closing it would be terrible for her, and her city:

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Transportation
2:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Airport shuttle service to double number of trips with new route

Jerry Wong Flickr

A new airport shuttle between East Lansing and Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Interstate 96 will make twice the number of trips this fall. The new Michigan Flyer route will stop in East Lansing, Brighton/Howell, Ann Arbor and both airport terminals. If the federal government awards Michigan Flyer with the 1-point-5 million dollars it asked for, the route will be self-sustaining after the first year.

Ody Norkin is vice president of Michigan Flyer. He says the goal is for airport shuttles to run hourly.

"People come home to Detroit Metro Airport they don’t want to wait two hours especially if they’re in Washtenaw or Livingston only a half-hour or 45 minutes away from the airport," he said. "They’re not going to wait for the shuttle if we are operating only two to two-and-a-half hours."

Norkin says the new route will be successful based on current usage.

"We have a very high end product with brand new motor coaches that are attracting not only those who can’t drive or can’t afford to drive but also those who own vehicles and choose to set them aside either for environmental reasons or just because we’re so convenient.," Norkin said.

Prices on the new route will likely be the same as their southern route along I-94.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Election 2012
2:17 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

A conversation with Pete Hoekstra on "their" decision to run

Pete Hoekstra and his wife Diane at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival when he ran for governor in 2010. He lost the Republican nomination to Governor Rick Snyder.
facebook.com/petehoekstra

Former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra says he and his family are prepared to challenge Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012.

“We get a new majority in place in the US Senate we can start changing and reversing those policies. And that’s what I want to be a part of.”

After 18 years in Congress, Hoekstra retired from his rather secure seat representing a conservative district along the Lake Michigan shore. He had hopes of become Michigan’s new Governor. But he placed second in the Republican primary behind current Governor Rick Snyder.

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Election 2012
1:28 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Hoekstra's decision to run based on two words

Pete Hoekstra appearing on Fox News Sunday.

Debt ceiling.

That's according to a piece on MLive.com by Susan Demas. Demas is a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS).

From MLive:

So why did Hoekstra decide to run against Stabenow after all?

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Commentary
10:51 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Election 2012: Hoekstra is in

Pete Hoekstra has decided to run for the U.S. Senate after all, and that’s good news for Michigan. That doesn’t mean I am endorsing Hoekstra, either in the Republican primary next August, or in the general election against Debbie Stabenow in November, 2012.

What I am saying is that he is a legitimate contender with the qualifications to be a member of the United States Senate.

In America, there’s always been a school of thought that says it is better to elect to high office men and women who have no experience whatsoever. The notion is that they will come in with fresh views, and are less likely to be co-opted by a corrupt system.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a fresh outlook. However, I really don’t want my house rewired by an amateur electrician who has never done it before, but may have some fresh ideas on how to connect things. And if I ever need a heart bypass operation, I’d rather not have a surgeon who has never operated before.

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News Roundup
8:39 am
Wed July 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, July 20th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Hoekstra In

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra announced this morning that he is launching a campaign for Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow’s seat in 2012. Earlier this year, Hoekstra announced that he wouldn’t run but, in a statement released this morning, he says, “After a good deal of reflection, I've decided that I cannot sit on the sidelines while the President and U.S. Senate mortgage our children and grandchildren's future.  For these reasons, I have made the decision to file the appropriate paperwork to build an organization and begin a campaign for the U.S. Senate.”

Snyder Signs Teacher Tenure Law

Governor Rick Snyder signed a measure yesterday that will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling. Rick Pluta reports:

It also eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions. The governor says seniority is an outdated system for deciding which teachers are laid off first, and where they should work. School employee unions say the new law will remove critical job protections and lead to districts getting rid of veteran teachers for financial rather than academic reasons. A commission will make specific recommendations to the Legislature next year on how to measure teacher performance. The new rules will take effect at the beginning of the school year that begins in the fall of 2012.

Median Income Drops

The median income for Michigan households has dropped by more than $9,000 over the past decade, Jennifer Guerra reports. “Michigan’s median household income in 2009 was $45,255, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. When adjusted for inflation, the median income in 2000 was $54,651, according to the Bureau's Supplemental Survey,” Guerra explains. Only one other state, Hawaii, has seen a bigger loss in income.

Political Roundup
7:54 am
Wed July 20, 2011

The week in state politics

State Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Ifmuth Flickr

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry joins us to take a look at the week in state politics. On tap for this morning: Governor Snyder pushes for a more immigrant-friendly Michigan, the Governor signs new teacher tenure legislation into law, and former West Michigan Congrssman Pete Hoekstra changes his mind and decides he will run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election.

Election 2012
7:41 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Hoekstra decides to run for Senate

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra
Republican Conference Flickr

Update 7/20/11 7:32 a.m.:

A press release has been sent out this morning announcing that former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra will file paperwork to establish a campaign for the U.S. Senate. After announcing earlier this year that he wouldn't run, Hoekstra has decided to make a bid for Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow's seat in the 2012 election. An election website has already been set up for Hoekstra's campaign.

Hoekstra released the following statement:

"Over the last couple of years, the spending in Washington has spun out of control.  Michigan needs a U.S. Senator who will cut spending without raising taxes and help create jobs.  Replacing Debbie Stabenow means we'll be one step closer to the economic recovery our state's working families deserve.

After a good deal of reflection, I've decided that I cannot sit on the sidelines while the President and U.S. Senate mortgage our children and grandchildren's future.  For these reasons, I have made the decision to file the appropriate paperwork to build an organization and begin a campaign for the U.S. Senate.  An official campaign announcement will be forthcoming in the months ahead."

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Politics
6:09 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Macomb County to Kilpatrick: We want our money back

Kwame Kilpatrick

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces federal charges that he ran the city’s water department like an organized crime syndicate.

Now, one county served by the water department wants some of that money back. From the Detroit Free Press:

Macomb County wants $25.5 million from former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his former aide, his former contractor friend and former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department saying they schemed to overcharge the county for a work on a collapsed sewer line in Sterling Heights.

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Politics
6:06 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Congressman Hansen Clark talks federal budget and debt ceiling (audio)

A CBS poll on Monday shows 66% of Americans want an approach to balancing the federal budget that includes both spending cuts and tax increases.

Michigan Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke talks about his concerns regarding the battle in Washington DC over the debt ceiling and budget negotiations. He says consumer debt is the real problem.

In the interview Clarke says:

"It's the personal debt that's crushing Americans and preventing our economy from rebounding."

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Politics
5:10 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Snyder signs tenure changes into law

Changes to teacher tenure rules in Michigan are coming after Governor Snyder signs a new bill.
user frank juarez Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling. It also eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions. 

The governor says seniority is an outdated system for deciding which teachers are laid off first, and where they should work.

"We need a performance-based system that recognizes the very best that teachers can deliver and gives them good recognition and reward for those opportunities and that's what this is all about," said Snyder. "It's about moving forward and stop looking at a broken world of the past."

School employee unions say the new law will remove critical job protections and lead to districts getting rid of veteran teachers for financial rather than academic reasons.

Louise Somalski, with the American Federation of Teachers, says the new law takes away teachers’ rights to bargain for job protections as school districts face growing financial pressures.

"I’m afraid that when it comes right down to it, there so tight on money at the local school district level because funding has been cut, that the most-experienced teachers are going to be let go – and we want the most-experienced teachers with the kids and it's going to hurt the students in the long run."

A commission will make specific recommendations to the Legislature next year on how to measure teacher performance.

The new rules will take effect at the beginning of the school year that begins in the fall of 2012.

Politics
5:04 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

State officials want Feds to pass Balanced Budget Amendment

Matthileo Flickr

State officials want Feds to pass Balanced Budget Amendment

Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger wants Congress to approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government to pass a balanced budget every year. 

Bolger sent a letter encouraging approval of the Balanced Budget Amendment so states could work to ratify the amendment as well.

Three-quarters of states would have to approve the amendment to get it into the constitution.

Bolger says lawmakers in the federal government need to be fiscally responsible.  

“I hope they understand what the citizens of our state want, and that is that responsibility.”

Bolger says Michigan approves a balanced budget every year.

“As we’ve shown, it’s possible to balance a budget by facing fiscal reality, and our own government needs to face reality. I’m very concerned about the future of our kids, grandkids, and with the way our federal government is going, even our great-grandkids, and the debt that’s being passed onto them that they’ll be saddled with.”

Bolger says he thinks he could persuade Democrats in the state to ratify the amendment, which would require supermajorities. But Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says Bolger is using a partisan issue to flirt with a run to unseat U-S Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Bolger denies any interest in leaving Lansing for Washington D.C.

Politics
2:07 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Polls say voters optimistic about economy, negative about some politicians

The Lansing-based polling firm, EPIC-MRA, released a couple of polls today. 600 "likely Michigan voters" responded for each one (margin of error is +/- 4%)

One poll indicates that more voters are optimistic about the economy. From the Associated Press:

40%...  say the state economy has bottomed out and is starting to improve, while a third say it has
bottomed out but isn't getting any better...

In May 2010, when Michigan's jobless rate was 2.5 percentage points higher than now, only 35% said the economy was starting to improve.

The other polls show Senator Debbie Stabenow's (D-MI) and Governor Rick Snyder's (R-MI) negative job ratings.

57% gave Governor Snyder a negative job rating.

51% gave Senator Stabenow a negative job rating.

From the Associated Press:

The poll released Tuesday says 38 percent gave the Democrat a positive job rating and 11 percent were undecided...

Stabenow's favorability rating was at 47 percent. Her unfavorable rating was 35 percent and 17 percent were undecided.

Senator Stabenow faces re-election in 2012. So far, the candidates who have lined up for the Republican nomination to challenge her are:

  • John McCulloch - Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner
  • Randy Hekman - Former West Michigan judge Randy Hekman
  • Peter Konetchy - northern Michigan businessman
  • Chad Dewey - a businessman who is a "self-described constitutional conservative."

Former Former Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate, Pete Hoekstra, is reconsidering his decision not to run against Senator Stabenow.

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News Roundup
7:59 am
Tue July 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 19th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Borders to Close

Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. announced yesterday that it plans to close down after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business. It’s being reported that the 40-year old company could start liquidating its remaining 399 nationwide stores as early as Friday. Borders employs 10,700 people, 400 of which are located in Ann Arbor.

Snyder Talks Immigration

Governor Snyder and other leaders talked about immigration and Michigan’s economic future at a conference yesterday in Detroit . Sarah Cwiek reports:

Organizers say they want to change the conversation about immigrants and the economy. They maintain immigration is a key driver of economic growth… Governor Snyder says the state needs to do more to attract immigrants, and get them to stay once they’re here. Snyder says Michigan needs to get over what he calls its “shrinking pie” mindset about immigrants, the economy and jobs… Snyder gave a broad outline of what he’s calling the state’s “Global Michigan Initiative” to do just that.

Hoekstra Changes His Mind?

Former West Michigan Congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012… but, reports say Hoekstra may be reconsidering a bid. “The spokesman for Hoekstra’s previous campaigns says the former congressman is not rushed to make a decision on whether he will run for the Republican nomination to face Senator Stabenow. But he says Hoekstra was persuaded by political insiders and influential Republicans not to give up on the idea. The spokesman says Hoekstra most likely will not decide until late in the summer,” Laura Weber reports.

Education
6:44 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Snyder to sign teacher tenure bill

Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) is set to sign new teacher tenure rules into law this afternoon
Woodley Wonder Works Flickr

Governor Snyder is set to sign new teacher tenure rules into law today. Changing the state’s tenure laws has been a priority of Governor Snyder and the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to sign into law changes to the state's teacher tenure system that supporters say will make it easier to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Supporters say the legislation… makes teacher performance rather than seniority the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs within a district.

Democrats say the proposals are part of a continued legislative attack on teachers and union rights and won't improve the state's schools.

Teachers already are reeling from state budget cuts to education that could force layoffs in many districts headed into the next academic year.

GOP lawmakers also are working on legislation that would require many teachers and other public employees to pay a larger share of their own health insurance costs.

Politics
5:24 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Snyder, other leaders want a more immigrant-friendly Michigan

Staff Michigan Municipal League

Governor Snyder and other leaders talked immigration and Michigan’s economic future at a conference in Detroit.

Organizers say they want to change the conversation about immigrants and the economy. They maintain immigration is a key driver of economic growth.

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Politics
4:53 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

ACLU sues Genesee County Parks

Steven Depolo Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Genesee County Parks over petitioning restrictions. A woman was kicked out of Linden County Park last month while gathering signatures for the Committee to Recall Governor Snyder. When she asked why, the parks said their new policy does not allow petitioning in the park without a permit. Petitioners with permits were given an isolated 9-square-foot spot in the 135-acre park.

Michael Steinberg is with the ACLU in Michigan. He says barring petitioning except for a tiny spot in a park is especially shocking under the First Amendment.

"This problem of restricting petitioners is not isolated to Genesee County. We’ve been getting calls from people all across the state," Steinberg said.

Steinberg says he hopes the lawsuit will be an example for all Michigan officials.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

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