Politics & Government

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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Commentary
11:00 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Improving Train Travel

Here’s the problem with selling people on local mass transit: Everyone is in favor of it, and everyone thinks that everybody else should take it. Everybody, except for them, that is.

You understand, I really need to take my private car, because  uh, I might have an important stop to make. But when it comes to longer distances it’s different. People love trains.

Airline travel ceased being fun a long time ago, unless you like being groped by strangers before being packed in a sardine can. Driving gives you freedom, but not the freedom to read or surf the internet. Plus, it can be nerve-wracking and exhausting.

Compared to everything else, trains are relaxing and civilized. Yet for years, during the rise of the airliner and the expressway, we sort of forgot about train travel. Lines went out of service; some sections of track weren’t maintained.

Now, there’s a renewed interest in trains, so much so that the governor has made former Congressman Joe Schwarz his special advisor on rail, a job for which the emotional rewards are sometimes great and the salary is non-existent.

Michigan still has more than three thousand, five hundred miles of track. Schwarz told me that, by the way. Back when he was in the state senate, he was known for his expertise on higher education, but the insiders knew if you had a question about rail, Joe was the man.

Right now, Job One is improving the route from Detroit to Chicago.  Can you believe that six hundred thousand people may have traveled that route by rail in the last fiscal year?

If you’ve ever been hung up in a traffic jam on I-94 outside the city, you probably wished you were on a train instead.

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News Roundup
8:51 am
Fri July 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, July 15th
Brother O'Mara Other

Bid for Borders Falls Through

The Borders bookstore chain has gone from having a potential buyer to talk of liquidation in the last 24 hours, Jennifer Guerra reports. From Guerra:

The auction to sell Borders is still scheduled for Tuesday, July 19th.  But the lead bidder, known as a "stalking horse," has pulled out. That bidder was Najafi, a private equity from Arizona a firm. The New York Times reports creditors were "concerned that the agreement could allow Najafi to buy the company at a low price and then liquidate Borders later without letting creditors benefit."  So with Najafi out, the new stalking horse is a group led by Hilco Merchant Resources, and they want to liquidate Borders… About 400 Borders stores remain open.

Ford Laid to Rest

Former First Lady Betty Ford’s funeral took place yesterday afternoon at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids. It is the same church where the Ford’s were married in 1948. Michigan’s Governor, former congressmen, ambassadors, and other politicians attended the services with Ford’s family and friends. Mrs. Ford died last week at the age of 93.

Head Start Funding

Detroit is in danger of losing millions of dollars in federal Head Start money, Sarah Hulett reports. “Head Start provides early childhood education for low-income kids. The city department that runs Head Start has been in trouble with the federal government for failing to fix problems uncovered in audits – including accounting errors and misspent funds. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly looking to Wayne County to take over the program,” Sarah Hulett reports.

State Legislature
6:44 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Senate to evaluate statute of limitations

Inside the state's Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

A state Senate panel will hold hearings soon on whether Michigan should extend its 10-year statute of limitations for charging people with violent crimes such as kidnapping, assault, and murder.

Republican Senator Rick Jones says he understands that extending the statute of limitations does not mean every old crime will be solved.

“Well certainly the colder the case, the more difficult it is for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction. But if somebody comes forward, there’s evidence – whether it be scientific evidence or a confession, certainly they should be able to bring charges.”

Jones says he wanted to take up the issue after he learned the statute of limitations prevented the Ingham County prosecutor from filing charges in a manslaughter case.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings when lawmakers return to the Capitol later this summer. Jones chairs the committee.

Rememberance
6:28 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Video of former First Lady Betty Ford's funeral procession

The body of former First Lady Betty Ford is brought into Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids today.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith watched and listened outside of Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids today when the military honor guard removed Ford's body from the hearse.

Here's her video of the event:

Politics
5:47 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Michigan politics: debt ceiling talks and the federal budget

United States Capitol
whitehouse.gov

Negotiations over the debt ceiling and federal budget continue in Washington D. C. 

Here in Michigan the still fragile state economy seems to be slowly improving with a recent uptick in job growth. But if the nation defaults on its debt, how is Michigan affected? Economically and politically?

In our weekly political conversation we talk with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Detroit stands to lose millions in Head Start money

Wayne Co. Commissioner Ilona Varga

Detroit is in danger of losing millions of dollars in federal Head Start money. Head Start provides early childhood education for low-income kids.

The city department that runs Head Start has been in trouble with the federal government for failing to fix problems uncovered in audits – including accounting errors and misspent funds.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly looking to Wayne County to take over the program. Wayne County Commissioner Ilona Varga says chronic under-enrollment is another problem the feds are trying to fix:

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