Politics & Government

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The governor says seniority is an outdated system for deciding which teachers are laid off first, and where they should work.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

Politics
4:27 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

New agreement gives Michigan a fresh start to fix foster care

A federal judge in Detroit gave a go-ahead to a new agreement regarding the state foster care system.
User Sagitariuss Flickr

Children’s advocates and a federal judge have given Michigan another shot at fixing its foster care system. The plan was given the go-ahead today by a federal judge in Detroit.

The new agreement gives the state more time to hire and train caseworkers and  to get more children in foster care placed with permanent families.

The state also promised to pay more attention to older children in the system – especially those about to “age out” as they reach adulthood.

The state was out of compliance with an earlier agreement and this new decree represents a fresh start in an effort to resolve the five-year-old lawsuit. 

The consent agreement with the New York-based organization Children’s Rights was signed by Governor Rick Snyder and Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan – putting their credibility with the court on the line if the state fails to comply.

The first real test will come at the end of the year, when a court-appointed monitor files a report on the state’s progress in fixing its system for children in foster care.

Election 2012
4:20 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Hoekstra reconsidering U.S. Senate bid

Former GOP Congressman Pete Hoekstra
Republican Conference Flickr

Former Congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra said last April he would not try to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. But Hoekstra is reconsidering a bid for the Senate.

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.

Hoekstra could face anti-gay activist Gary Glenn, former juvenile judge Randy Hekman, and John McCulloch, the Oakland County water resources commissioner in a Republican primary.

Court
12:20 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

New agreement reached to improve Michigan's foster care system

Michigan will have to focus more of its efforts on finding homes for older children, and services for 18-year-olds who are about to age out of the child foster care system as part of a new court judgment. The new agreement is part of a five-year-old lawsuit against the state for its failures to place children in foster care with permanent families.

The Associated Press reports:

The state of Michigan and lawyers representing needy children have reached a new agreement on how to improve foster care and protective services.

A federal judge in Detroit approved the deal Monday. The state says it now gets more flexibility in complying with a 2008 consent decree. At that time, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm pledged to spend millions to help children in foster care and protective services, but her administration repeatedly got poor marks.

The new agreement extends certain deadlines to reduce the number of caseloads per worker. About 1,300 child-welfare workers retired last year, forcing the state to go on a hiring and training blitz.

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Commentary
9:51 am
Mon July 18, 2011

Looking Back at Rep. Dale Kildee's Time in Office

The voters of Flint first sent Dale Kildee to Congress in the year our nation celebrated its bicentennial. He was in his mid-forties then.

Next year, he’ll turn eighty-three, and as last weekend started, he announced next year would be his last in Congress. He’s had a long and honorable career, in politics and beforehand.

Kildee started adult life as a high school teacher who had almost become a priest as a boy, and who, after ten years in the classroom, had gotten himself elected to the state legislature.

He spent a dozen years there, running shoe-leather campaigns during which someone calculated he had to have knocked on every door in Flint. When the seat in Congress opened up in 1976, he jumped into the primary, and won it and the general election easily.

Years ago, I heard Kildee say that he was embarrassed that he wound up spending more on that first campaign than he wanted to.

How much was that?  $48,000. In case you need reminding about how much things have changed, a Democratic candidate in another Michigan district spent $8 million trying to get elected last year, and by the way, he lost.

Kildee never lost an election. After that first election, the voters sent him back to Congress seventeen more times.

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News Roundup
9:14 am
Mon July 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, July 18th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Immigration Discussion

Governor Rick Snyder will speak at a conference today on immigration at Wayne State University. Topics at the “Immigration and Michigan’s Economic Future,” conference will include how immigration can help Michigan’s economy and boost the state’s population. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be on a panel titled, “Can Immigrants Save Detroit?” via teleconference. Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg said he thought immigrants could help reverse Detroit’s population loss.

Kildee’s Open Seat

Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee announced on Friday that he is retiring from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of his current term and political watchers are already beginning to ask: who will replace him? From the Detroit Free Press:

"Our assumption is that Jim will get in. He never wanted to leave in the first place," said Bay County Executive Thomas Hickner, referring to Jim Barcia, the former Democratic congressman and state senator from Bay City who left his U.S. House seat in 2002 after redistricting forced him and Kildee, a Flint Democrat, into the same district.

Barcia said he never would consider running if Kildee was staying in office, "but now, I'll certainly consider it."

Kildee's 5th District seat stretches from Bay County through Genesee County and into the Thumb. The newly redrawn district loses most of the Thumb territory and gains Arenac and Iosco counties. It's expected to remain solidly Democratic. Kildee's closest race came in 2010, when he won with 54% of the vote…

Other names that surfaced as possible successors were state Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing; Kildee's nephew Dan Kildee, the former treasurer for Genesee County, and current county Treasurer Deb Cherry.

It’s Hot… (As If You Hadn’t Noticed)

Summer in Michigan has certainly arrived. Temperatures pushing the mid-90’s were reported as far north as the western Upper Peninsula, the Associated Press reports. “The National Weather Service says Sunday's heat is a preview of what's ahead this week. The temperatures climbed to 95 degrees at Iron Mountain in western upper Michigan. Alpena in northern lower Michigan was the state's hot spot Sunday at 97 degrees, while Ypsilanti's high hit 96,” the AP reports. Temperatures throughout the southern Lower Peninsula are expected to be in the 90’s throughout the week.

State Legislature
6:25 am
Mon July 18, 2011

Senators seek to toughen dog-fighting laws

Inside the Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

The state Senate is expected to approve legislation in a few weeks that would strengthen penalties against dog fighting. Dog fighting has been illegal in Michigan since the late 1800's.

But state Senator Rick Jones says the state needs to get tougher on dog fighting to get rid of it once and for all.

“And so we want to toughen the law to make it easier to charge the people that are running these dog fights and take their property away and sell it off, because it’s just inappropriate for this behavior.”

The Senate proposals would consider dog fighting to be racketeering, and would allow law enforcement officers to seize property from people who profit from dog fighting.

Politics
4:01 pm
Sat July 16, 2011

Levin: It's time to close the overseas tax haven loophole

The sun setting along a beach in the Cayman Islands
(Flickr ebatty)

Michigan Senator Carl Levin says one way to reduce the nation’s federal budget deficit is to close loopholes in overseas tax havens.  Levin says offshore tax loopholes cost the federal treasury 100 billion dollars every year.   He says the complexity of the tax havens make them difficult to trace. 

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Politics
5:32 pm
Fri July 15, 2011

Longtime Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee retiring

Rep. Dale Kildee, (D) MI
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

UPDATE:

A number of Michigan politicians are responding to the news of Rep. Dale Kildee's retirement.

Here's the response from Mayor Dayne Walling of Flint:

"Congressman Kildee is an exemplary public servant with a distinguished record of accomplishments that is unmatched in Flint's history."

"Congressman Kildee has been a leader in education, human rights, and social justice. Our community has benefitted time and time again from his wisdom, dedication and hard work."

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Politics
4:42 pm
Fri July 15, 2011

Poll: Voters would reject emergency manager law

A survey of Michigan voters finds the majority would not approve the emergency manager legislation the state recently implemented.
mensastic MorgueFile

If Michigan voters were asked today whether they approve of the state’s new emergency manager law  the majority would say “no.”

That’s according to a poll released this week by Gongwer News Service.

Bernie Porn is with EPIC/MRA,  the Lansing-based firm that conducted the poll.

“A 53-34 percent majority would reject the law, except for Republicans who would support that. Democrats overwhelmingly said they would reject it," Porn says. " And even independent voters, by a 58-29 percent vote – a fairly solid majority – said they would reject it as well.”

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Politics
3:12 pm
Fri July 15, 2011

Public employee health benefits bills heading to conference

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

A joint legislative panel is set to negotiate how much some public employees should be required to pay into their health insurance benefits.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says the payment structure for health benefits for public employees should have been overhauled several years ago.

But he says lawmakers should still work with public employee unions to find the savings.

“We want to try and be as flexible as we can and allow as much local input as we can, but the time to act is way past right now, this should have been dealt with 10 years ago or more.”

Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6,000. Holman represents state employees who won’t be affected by the proposed changes to public employee benefits.

He says that public employees have already made many concessions over the past few years.

“That’s been done at the bargaining table, and that’s been a proven place to find those savings.”

But, Holman says, if collective bargaining is compromised in the measure before the House and Senate conference committee, all public employees will be on alert and at risk of paying more for their health benefits.

Politics
11:43 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Poll says Michiganders oppose changes to motorcycle helmet law

A poll indicates most Michiganders oppose changes to the helmet law.
user ivandub Flickr

Some legislators in Lansing are working on changing Michigan's motorcycle helmet law, but a recent poll of likely Michigan voters indicates a majority of people oppose the changes.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The poll from EPIC-MRA released today says 68% of those surveyed oppose proposed legislative changes that would allow some to ride without helmets. Thirty-one percent favored the legislation and 1% was undecided.

The telephone poll of 600 respondents was conducted July 9-11 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Motorcycle advocates who are working to repeal Michigan's helmet law have held rallies in Lansing.

A similar protest against New York's helmet law had a ironic tragedy. A helmet-less rider died in Onondaga, NY when he lost control of his motorcycle during the rally.

From ABC News:

Police said Philip A. Contos, 55, hit his brakes and his motorcycle fishtailed. Contos was sent over the handlebars of his 1983 Harley Davidson and hit his head on the pavement.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"The medical expert we discussed the case with who pronounced him deceased stated that he would've no doubt survived the accident had he been wearing a helmet," state Trooper Jack Keller told ABC News 9 in Syracuse.

Some riders in the rally told ABC that it was a tragedy, but it wouldn't change their minds about riding without a helmet.

Politics
11:03 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Another challenger to Debbie Stabenow's Senate seat

John McCulloch, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, says he'll run for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
John McCulloch

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, John McCulloch, announced that he plans to run for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan).

Stabenow is up for re-election in 2012.

From the Detroit Free Press:

McCulloch, 55, is a former Oakland County board chairman and CPA, said he decided to get into the race because Stabenow, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats were “mortgage(ing) America’s future on the backs of our children and their children’s children with a national debt so large it is difficult to comprehend.”

So now there are several Republican candidates running for the nomination, none of which have strong name recognition at this point (that's bound to change as the election for the nomination ramps up):

  • John McColloch
  • former West Michigan judge Randy Hekman
  • northern Michigan businessman Peter Konetchy
  • And the Detroit News also lists two other candidates - "Rick Wilson, a retired autoworker who's run unsuccessfully against Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint; [and] self-described constitutional conservative Chad Dewey."
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