Politics & Government

Election 2012
6:51 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Stabenow has $4M on hand for re-election race

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI-D)
Studio08Denver Flickr

A campaign finance document U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is filing with the Federal Elections Commission shows the Michigan Democrat has $4 million in the bank for next year's re-election race. The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained a copy of Stabenow's July quarterly report. It's due to the FEC by Friday.

The report says Stabenow raised $1.46 million in the period that ran from April 1 to June 30 and has $4.08 million on hand in the run for her third term in the Senate.

Former Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman and Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy are in the race on the GOP side. A number of high-profile Republicans have decided against challenging Stabenow. They include ex-U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

Politics
6:36 am
Wed July 13, 2011

MI Dept. of Education reverses confidentiality rule

The state Department of Education will no longer require people who serve on advisory panels to sign confidentiality agreements. The agreements required committee members to support all of a panel’s policy recommendations – even ones they don’t agree with.

The panels are made up of experts and stakeholders who help develop policy recommendations that go to the department and, sometimes, to the Legislature. People in the education community complained the signed statements seemed designed to stifle views that don’t go along with the group or the department. The department says it will no longer ask advisory panel members to sign the agreements.

Martin Ackley is with the state Department of Education. He says the goal is still to get the vast array of interests in education policy to reach consensus on complex questions.

“But if they don’t agree with the final consensus recommendation of the entire group, they can provide for a minority report that is in dissent.”

A government watchdog says it was a good idea to reverse the policy because it undermined public confidence that government is open to all opinions.

Politics
5:35 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Tea Party Caucus and budget negotiations (audio)

Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan's 7th district.
US House of Representative

The divide over budget and debt ceiling talks continues between Congressional Republicans and Democrats. Within the Republican Party, the Tea Party Caucus is a prominent voice against any deal that contains tax increases.

Republican Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan’s 7th district and is a member of the Tea Party Caucus. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about what he thinks it might take for both Republicans and Democrats to agree on a budget.

Politics
5:01 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Could Social Security checks be threatened by federal budget talks?

Officials with AARP Michigan are expecting to get a lot of telephone calls from concerned senior citizens, now with the president saying that their August Social Security checks might be delayed by federal budget talks. President Obama says without a budget deal the government may not send out social security, veterans and disability checks early next month.

Mark Hornbeck is the associate state director of AARP Michigan.    He says that could affect nearly 2 million Michiganders.

Read more
Politics
4:56 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Bing says Detroit land use overhaul moving along

Mayor Dave Bing at a recent Detroit Works-related project announcement.
Via detroitworksproject.com

The federal government is throwing its support behind Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project.

That’s a controversial effort to focus resources on Detroit’s more vibrant neighborhoods. It appeared to have stalled in recent months.

Read more
Politics
2:18 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

McCotter's U.S. House seat coveted by another politician

State Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) plans to run for Thaddeus McCotter's U.S. House seat.

With U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter (R - 11th district) running for president, his U.S. House seat is being eyed by politicians with aspirations - specifically by State Senator Mike Kowall (R - White Lake).

McCotter hasn't said yet whether he plans to give up his House seat.

From the Associated Press:

State Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake Township said Tuesday that he's running regardless of McCotter's plans.

Kowall says McCotter has made it clear he's running for president, not Congress. A request for comment from McCotter's spokeswoman was not immediately returned Tuesday...

Kowall is a former businessman and township supervisor who served in the state House from 1999-2002. He was elected senator last year. His wife is a state representative.

Commentary
10:12 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Can the UAW Survive?

Later this month, contact talks are set to begin between the United Auto Workers’ union and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

There’s a temptation to feel nostalgic about that. This has been a time-honored tradition in Detroit since the 1940s. Every three years, negotiations began, and the union selected a strike target.

That target could have been any one of what were then referred to as the Big Three. Negotiations followed a system called “pattern bargaining,” which meant the union and the selected company would battle things out to a settlement.

Sometimes a deal could be reached without a strike; sometimes not. Once a deal was reached, the other two automakers would settle with the union on essentially the same terms.

During the glorious fat years of postwar prosperity, the bargaining scenario also followed a predictable pattern.  When negotiations began, the company would offer the union the equivalent of a crust of bread. The union would demand the moon, plus a kitchen sink with gold-plated handles. Eventually, with or without a strike, they’d reach a deal where the union got the moon, but had to settle for a sink with plain old chromium handles.

Walter Reuther would then promise to get the gold-plated ones in the next contract, and he usually would. But everything is different now. Chrysler and GM went through a near-death experience two years ago. As part of the price for the federal government’s saving them, the UAW had to agree not to strike either company.

The only thing they can do in the case of a grievance is ask for binding arbitration. The union could theoretically strike Ford, but now that all automakers aren’t on an equal playing field that’s unlikely.

But the UAW does face two immense new challenges.

Read more
News Roundup
8:27 am
Tue July 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Feds Coming to Detroit

The Obama administration unveiled a federal program yesterday aimed at helping cities like Detroit revitalize parts of their urban centers. “The Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will target Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Chester, Pa… Officials say the program seeks to cut through federal red tape by providing communities with technical assistance to ensure federal and local dollars are spent wisely. Federal representatives will help Detroit Mayor Dave Bing tackle issues he had identified as ‘vital to their economic strategies, including efforts to build on local assets, strengthen regional economies, develop transportation infrastructure, improve job-training programs and support community revitalization,’” Mark Brush reports.

Thousands Still without Power

Utilities companies say about 90,000 homes and businesses remain without electricity a day after severe thunderstorms and strong winds moved across the lower half of the state. The Associated Press reports:

At least 191,000 customers lost power following Monday's storms. CMS Energy Corp. says Tuesday morning about 42,000 of its customers still were without power. DTE Energy Co. tells WDIV-TV and WWJ-AM about 47,000 of its customers remained blacked out… The storms hit as southern Michigan was already seeing a dangerous mix of high temperatures and high humidity.

Services for Ford

About a thousand people will attend a funeral for former First Lady Betty Ford today. The invitation-only service will take place in Palm Desert, California. Tomorrow, Mrs. Fords’ body will be flown to Michigan where a public viewing will take place in the evening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. A private service is planned for Thursday in East Grand Rapids.

State Legislature
6:50 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Lawmakers to return to Lansing occasionally in July and August

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

State lawmakers are on a summer break but, they will be meeting infrequently throughout this month and next.

“The Senate Appropriations Committee has a meeting set for Tuesday to discuss bills related to transportation funding, court of appeals fees and quality assurance assessments at some health facilities. The state Senate is expected to meet in a full session Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville also plans to introduce legislation this week that would boost the value of Michigan’s film incentives. As the Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta reported yesterday, “the state Senate leader says he is looking for ways to make Michigan more attractive to filmmakers now that the state has scaled back generous tax breaks for the industry.”

Meanwhile, the state House has a session scheduled for July 27th.

Politics
1:01 am
Tue July 12, 2011

Ford funeral service today in California

First Lady Betty Ford
Felix de Cossio White House

Betty Ford and her husband, the late President Gerald Ford, spent much of the past thirty years in Rancho Mirage, California. About a thousand people will attend an invitation-only funeral service today in nearby Palm Desert.

Wednesday, Mrs. Ford’s body will be flown to Michigan. A public viewing will take place tomorrow evening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. 

A private funeral at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids is planned for Thursday. Afterward, she will be buried next to her husband on the grounds of the presidential museum.  

Betty Ford died last week.  She was 93.

Politics
5:14 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Film advocates hope state restores scaled-back incentives

Film crews filming the movie "Five Year Engagement" in Ann Arbor. Governor Snyder scaled back Michigan's film incentives to $25 million. Advocates are hoping for more.
Corey Seeman Flickr

People who work in Michigan’s film industry hope efforts to boost the incentives for TV, movie, and video productions are successful.

They say the recent $25 million cap on the incentives makes them too small to attract big productions.

Chris Baum helps market the state to Hollywood with Michigan Film First and Film Detroit.

Baum says the state does not have to be as generous as it has been in the past to movie-makers, but it still has to put more money into incentives if it’s going to build a movie industry here:

"It’s not brain surgery. We've invited an industry here. We've promised them that we wanted them here," said Baum. "We need to continue to giving them conditions that allow themselves to establish themselves here and then down the road, they'll be so comfortable coming to Michigan that we'll be able to pull back on the the incentives further."

Baum says Michigan needs to have at least $100 million available for incentives if it’s going to attract the big budget movies that generate the most economic activity.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is expected to unveil a plan this week to boost the state’s film incentives.

Governor Rick Snyder dramatically scaled back the incentives saying they offered a poor return to taxpayers.

Politics
4:17 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Detroit light rail in question

John Smaltak modernstreetcar.org

Federal officials and Detroit civic leaders want to reassure people that a light rail project is still going forward.

Those reassurances come after a week of press reports and swirling rumors that some of the project’s private backers may be pulling out.

A group of private investors had pledged $100 million to finance the Woodward Avenue rail line. That money is crucial for the city to get federal matching grants.

Read more
Politics
4:04 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

The U.S. debt ceiling explained

Congress is debating the debt ceiling, so what is that?
user kulshrax Flickr

As many political pundits predicted, the debate over the federal debt ceiling is reaching a new level.

President Obama said in a news conference today that if Republicans refuse to budge in budget negotiations, then a debt ceiling deal probably won't be reached.

Read more
Politics
1:17 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Marijuana stays on DEA's list of "really bad" drugs

The DEA announced that marijuana will continue to classified as a Class I drug stating the drug has "has no accepted medical use in the United States."
user eljoja Flickr

Last Friday, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a petition that sought to reclassify marijuana. The petition came from the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis and had been in front of the DEA for nine years.

From Occupational Health and Safety Magazine:

The Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a nine-year-old petition seeking to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, holding that it meets the three criteria for placing a substance in Schedule I under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1):

  • Marijuana has a high potential for abuse,
  • Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision.There are five categories for drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.
Read more
Politics
12:07 pm
Mon July 11, 2011

Federal government announces plan to assist Detroit and other urban centers

The federal government has unveiled a new program aimed at revitalizing Detroit and other cities.
Bob Jagendorf Flickr

The Obama administration today unveiled a federal program aimed at helping cities like Detroit revitalize parts of their urban core.

The Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will target Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Chester, Pa.

And in keeping with federal government style, officials have given the program an acronym, SC2.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled the program with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing this morning.

From a HUD press release:

"On behalf of the Obama Administration, it is an honor to announce the SC2 initiative in Detroit, one of America's most unique and vibrant cities," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "This will be a new type of federal partnership for Detroit - one that will allow the city to build on its progress and further strengthen its foundation for economic growth and resiliency in a global economy."

Officials say the program seeks to cut through federal red tape by providing communities with technical assistance to ensure federal and local dollars are spent wisely.

Read more
Politics
11:58 am
Mon July 11, 2011

Live blog: President Obama's news conference on the debt ceiling

President Barack Obama talks with members of his staff in the Oval Office following a meeting with the Congressional Leadership, July 7, 2011.
Photo by Pete Souza Official White House

LISTEN: NPR coverage of the president's news conference

Update at 11:58 a.m. ET. The president's news conference is over

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. At The End, More On Jobs:

Continuing to speak about current conditions, the president says that "what we can do is solve this underlying debt and deficit problem" so that then, there can be debates about "strategies that we could pursue to focus on targeted job growth."

Update at 11:51 a.m. ET. On The Economy:

The economic stimulus package passed shortly after he became president, Obama says, prevented a depression — but also "stabilized [the economy] at a level where unemployment is still too high and ... can't make up for al the jobs that were lost before I took office" and in the first months after he took office.

Update at 11:49 a.m. ET. Everybody In The Boat:

Paraphrasing former Sen. Bob Dole (the 1996 GOP presidential nominee), the president says that if Republicans and Democrats both compromise, it's as if "everybody gets in the boat at the same time — it doesn't tip over."

Update at 11:46 a.m. ET. "We Are Going To Get This Done":

Asked if the administration is working on any contingency plans in case a deal on raising the federal debt ceiling is not reached by the Aug. 2 deadline, the president flatly states that "we are going to get this done by Aug. 2."

Read more
Commentary
11:08 am
Mon July 11, 2011

The Importance of Betty Ford

They’re bringing Betty Ford back home this week, to be buried next to her husband, President Gerald Ford, at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids.

You knew by now that the former first lady died last Friday in California. But what you may not have known unless you are in your fifties, or older, is just how important she was.

They both were, really. President Ford’s story is better known, and best expressed by Jimmy Carter, who said when he took office: “I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”

Elizabeth Bloomer Ford had a big role in that too, but she also did something else. She showed the nation that a first lady could also be a human being.

The Fords took office after the final convulsion of the Watergate scandal, and eleven of the worst years the United States has ever known. The public had learned that Richard Nixon had lied about virtually everything.

His predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, had dragged us into a war in Vietnam for reasons nobody understood, a war that went on for years and tore our nation apart. Before that, we’d been traumatized when the young president before him had his head blown off in broad daylight. The presidency and America had taken a beating.

Nor were any of the first ladies of the period women to whom most people could relate. We’d always been fascinated by the presidents’ wives. But they were sort of like royalty, fascinating, forbidden and distant. Betty Ford was a regular person. Just months before she moved in to the White House, she was the unknown wife of the house minority leader, looking forward to her husband’s retirement from Congress. Then, suddenly, she was first lady.

But she was still Betty Ford, the irrepressible mother of four kids, a woman who most of all, was real.

Read more
News Roundup
8:42 am
Mon July 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Increasing rates of prescription drug deaths in Michigan

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise across the nation, and Michigan is no exception.

Detroit Free Press medical writer Patricia Anstett has a piece highlighting the problems in the state. From the article:

In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined, a federal registry shows. In 2009, the latest year data are available, 457 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from 409 deaths the year before.

"We're seeing an alarming trend that continues to increase," said Larry Scott, manager of the prevention section of Michigan's Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction.

One in four people seeking emergency care for prescription drug abuse were younger than 25.

Michigan legislature working on proposal to cap welfare benefits

Under a proposal being considered in the Michigan legislature, there would be a four-year life limit on welfare benefits in Michigan.

From the Saginaw News:

The state Senate this week is expected to consider its version of bill sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth B. Horn that could end some poor Michigan families’ welfare benefits as soon as October.

Horn, R-Frankenmuth, wrote the proposed legislation that creates a 48-month, retroactive limit on direct cash assistance. People who have been receiving assistance since 2007 would be the first affected.

House bills 4409 and 4410 are expected to go before the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. The bill's sponsor expects them to pass.

HUD secretary to make announcement this morning on reviving urban centers

Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is expected to unveil an economic plan in Detroit this morning.

From the Associated Press:

Donovan is scheduled to announce the initiative Monday morning in Detroit alongside Mayor Dave Bing and other government leaders at a loft development near downtown. He also is to speak at noon to the Detroit Economic Club at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

The department says Donovan is to discuss a new Obama administration approach to strengthening cities that involves working with them. He also plans to outline challenges facing those cities as well steps the administration already is taking at the local and national levels.

Politics
4:01 pm
Sat July 9, 2011

Stabenow hopes Sunday's 'Debt Ceiling' talks will remember 'Middle Class Families'

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D) Michigan (file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she hopes President Obama and Congressional leaders can strike a ‘balance’ in Sunday’s planned talks on extending the debt ceiling.  Stabenow says the President and Republicans should prioritize the needs of middle class Americans. 

“Its very concerning to me that we not see the budget be balanced on the backs of middle class families and senior citizens.”

Pages