Politics & Government

News Roundup
9:14 am
Wed June 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, June 29th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Redistricting Maps One Step Closer to Approval

New Republican-drawn maps for Michigan's congressional and state legislative districts have moved closer to becoming final, reports the Associated Press. “The Republican majority on the Senate Redistricting Committee approved a congressional map Tuesday, sending it to the full Senate for consideration later this week. Meanwhile, the Republican-led Michigan House approved versions of maps that would redraw districts for the state House and Senate. Republicans control the redistricting process with majorities in the Legislature, and Democrats have had little luck altering them since the GOP maps were released June 17. Democrats unveiled their own congressional map Tuesday but were unable to get the Senate committee to adopt it or alter the Republican-drawn map,” the AP explains.

Bing Says No More to Negotiating Budget with City Council

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there’s no more reason to negotiate with City Council over the city's next budget. That means he’ll be implementing the Council-approved budget, even though he maintains it will mean devastating cuts. Sarah Cweik reports:

Bing and the Council have been wrestling for months over how much money to cut from next fiscal year’s budget. Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing. Bing then proposed an amendment to restore $30 million, but Council voted that down Tuesday… Council members insist their budget cuts wouldn’t cause layoffs, and say Bing is using scare tactics to get his way.

The 2012 fiscal year begins July 1st.

Student Test Results Released

Results of the Michigan Merit Exam have been released by the Michigan Department of Education. Jennifer Guerra reports:

All Michigan high school juniors take the test in the spring to see how well-prepared they are for college. The MME tests students in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. Students' math, science and writing scores inched up over last year, but scores in social studies and reading went down. Martin Ackley, a spokesperon for the Department of Education, prefers to look at trends when it comes to test results, not just year-to-year data. He says he is "encouraged" student scores have been trending upward over the past five years, but he says the results "aren't where they need to be overall. We’d like to see them obviously higher than they are now." About 109,000 students took this year’s exam, nearly half of whom tested not proficient in writing and math.

Politics
7:47 am
Wed June 29, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Ifmuth Flickr

It’s Wednesday… the morning we speak with Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what’s going on this week in state politics. Today, we talk Congressional redistricting, the possibility of a bid for the GOP presidential nomination by Representative Thaddeus McCotter, and the latest in Detroit budget negotiations.

State Law
6:31 am
Wed June 29, 2011

Governor says helmetless riders should carry extra coverage

The state Senate has approved a measure that would repeal Michigan’s helmet requirement for motorcycle riders who agree to carry extra insurance coverage. But, the Senate bill was a compromise that pleased almost no one.

The Senate bill would require riders who doff their helmets to carry an extra $100 thousand in personal injury coverage. That was not enough to win the support of insurance companies and highway safety advocates. Opponents of the helmet law - such as Jim Rhodes - say the coverage would too expensive for most people and is almost the same as not repealing the requirement at all.

“It pretty much stops it in its tracks.”

Governor Snyder sent word that he’s not interested in a helmet law repeal that does not require helmetless riders to carry more coverage, but he’s willing to negotiate over the Legislature’s summer break.

But he appears to agree with estimates that suggest without the additional coverage for helmetless riders, the public could be saddled with more than $100 million in medical costs.

Politics
6:55 pm
Tue June 28, 2011

Bing: "Time for talk is over" on Detroit budget

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there’s no more reason to negotiate with City Council over the budget. That means he’ll implement the Council-approved budget, even though he maintains it will mean devastating cuts.

Bing and the Council have been wrestling for months over how much money to cut from next fiscal year’s budget. Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing.

Read more
Politics
5:34 pm
Tue June 28, 2011

Congressman Levin testifies against proposed political maps

The 15 Michigan U.S. House districts as they exist today.

Congressman Sander Levin doesn’t like the proposed redrawn political maps that are based on new census data.

Levin says the maps drawn by Republican state lawmakers are grossly skewed in favor of Republican candidates.

“That so arrogantly places partisan interests ahead of voter interests. And whether the governor, who came to office pledging to put the interests of Michigan citizens ahead of partisan interests, will send a clear message right here and now, that his message is a real one.”

“I don’t think anyone can show a map that has come forth in this state, at least one in recent memory, that so distorts the ability of citizens to have the right to choose, and for the parties to compete with ideas.”

He wants the Michigan Senate to reject the maps approved by the state House last week.

Republican lawmakers say the G-O-P redistricting plan is fair and takes population shifts into consideration.

Read more
Politics
5:13 pm
Tue June 28, 2011

Republicans say tougher medical marijuana regulations needed

K Connors Morguefile

Republicans in Michigan say there need to be more regulations surrounding the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

They say dispensaries, growers and many doctors are taking the law too far.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stood next to a map of the greater Lansing area, with 84 pushpins marking locations of medical marijuana dispensaries. He says new proposed regulations would shut down most if not all of those locations.

“No more marijuana farms. No more collective grow ops. It violates that law – making that very clear.”

 Schuette says most caregivers and dispensaries undermine the needs of terminally ill patients who need marijuana treatment by pushing the limits of the law. Legislation proposed by lawmakers in the House and Senate would further regulate who could grow medicinal pot, where it could be grown, and how it could be distributed.  

They say they have not worked with the medical marijuana community to help craft the proposals yet, but they hope to get that input over the summer.

Politics
4:32 pm
Tue June 28, 2011

Budget Workshop (audio)

http://peters.house.gov/

Michigan Democratic Congressman Gary Peters is partnering with the non-partisan Concord Coalition to present a town hall forum tonight.

Peters and the Coalition will lay out some facts and details of the federal government’s revenue and expenses, and then people will break into groups to talk about how to balance the budget. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White sat down with Peters to get more on the forum.

Democratic and Republican leaders are locked in an ongoing struggle over the federal budget.

Congressman Peters says:

"We’ve got a standoff in Washington. People aren’t working together. There are a lot of special interests involved pulling and tugging there."

The goal of the forum is to introduce some non-partisan, common-sense problem solving in to the mix, according to Peters.

Read more
Redistricting
11:49 am
Tue June 28, 2011

Democrats have a redistricting map of their own

Michigan Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Thetoad Flickr

Update 11:41 a.m.:

Democratic Congressman Sander Levin will testify at a state Senate hearing in Lansing this afternoon about the proposed redistricting maps. The Congressman is set to testify at 2:30 p.m..

Original post 6:59 a.m.:

Michigan Democrats have drawn a new congressional map that would pit Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia against Democratic Congressman Gary Peters of Oakland County's Bloomfield Township, according to the Associated Press. A copy of the map was obtained by the AP from the Michigan Democratic Party.

Michigan is losing one of its 15 congressional seats due to a loss of population in the past 10 years. From the AP:

Republicans control the redistricting process with majorities in the state House and Senate. State Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer says the map shows how Detroit's two black-majority districts can be extended into Detroit's northern suburbs while remaining compact. Democrats say they'll introduce their map as a substitute to the Republican plan during a Senate hearing Tuesday. The GOP map pits Peters against fellow Democratic incumbent Sander Levin.

Representatives Peters and Levin issued a joint-statement after the GOP map was released:

“Voters in Michigan have never before faced such a shamelessly partisan redrawing of congressional boundaries. Instead of drawing fair lines that follow community and county borders in a logical way, the Republican legislature has drafted a map so skewed that it exploits every trick in the book to gerrymander districts in ways that benefit Republican incumbents. The Legislature and Gov. Snyder should reject this gerrymandered map and draw congressional boundaries in a way that puts Michigan voters’ interests squarely ahead of flagrant partisan advantage."

Commentary
10:46 am
Tue June 28, 2011

China Daze

In many ways, the Toledo area just south of the border is more like Michigan than Ohio. It features an aging industrial city based on the automotive economy and suffering from its decline.

Beyond that are leafy suburbs, and then smaller towns, farms, and a significant agricultural sector. Yet there is one way in which Toledo is very different from us. The mayor and the chamber of commerce have been actively and aggressively courting China.

And their efforts are paying off. Earlier this year, the Chinese investment firm Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. bought a restaurant complex for more than $2 million dollars. Then this month, they paid the cash-strapped city even more to buy sixty-nine acres of land in what is known as the Marina District, along the Maumee River.

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Politics
10:30 am
Tue June 28, 2011

Michigan Attorney General releases opinion on medical marijuana

Eggrole Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has issued a formal opinion that says medical marijuana growers cannot have more than 12 plants. The opinion could put out of business growing cooperatives that raise pot for multiple patients. The opinion carries the force of law unless overturned by a court. State lawmakers have also rolled out bills that would put more regulations around the voter-approved law to allow marijuana for patients with terminal or chronic conditions.

Elections
10:21 am
Tue June 28, 2011

Next Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in August primary

Next Tuesday, July 5th, is the last day to register to vote in the August 2nd primary.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says July 5 is the deadline to register to vote in Michigan primary elections Aug. 2.

Cities, townships and school districts are holding votes in August.

Voter registration can be done by mail, at county, city or township clerk's offices or by visiting any secretary of state branch office. The mail-in form is available on the Department of State's website at www.Michigan.gov/sos.

Residents can check their registration status on the Michigan Voter Information Center website at www.Michigan.gov/vote. That site also has information on voting by absentee ballot and the state's voter identification requirement, along with maps to polling place and sample ballots.

Those who wish to receive their absentee ballot by mail must submit their application by 2 p.m. July 30.

News Roundup
8:49 am
Tue June 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, June 28th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Redistricting Continues

Michigan Democrats plan to introduce their own redistricting map at a state Senate hearing today.  Republicans have already released their maps and pretty much control the redistricting process as they hold majorities in both the state House and Senate. Michigan will go from 15 to 14 U.S. Representatives because of the state’s population loss. A copy of the Democrat's map was obtained by the Associated Press. The map, as the AP notes, would, “pit Republican incumbent Thad McCotter of Livonia against Democratic incumbent Gary Peters of Oakland County's Bloomfield Township and avoid extending a Detroit district up to Pontiac…The GOP map pits Peters against fellow Democratic incumbent Sander Levin.”

Dems to GOP: Restore School Funding

House Democrats are once again calling on Governor Snyder and state GOP lawmakers to restore money cut from public schools. Democratic lawmakers are traveling the state to bring attention to the funding issue. Lindsey Smith reports:

The state will provide K -12 schools about 2 percent less money than last fiscal year. The state public education fund had a surplus this spring. Some of the surplus money from the state’s school aide fund is being used for the first time to fund community colleges and public universities.

Coal Costing the State?

A new report from the Michigan Environmental Council says Michigan’s oldest coal-burning power plants are costing state residents $1.5 billion dollars in health care costs each year, Rebecca Williams reports. From Williams:

The report focuses on the state’s nine oldest coal-burning power plants.  It highlights particle pollution.  This type of pollution comes from power plants and factories as well as car and trucks. James Clift, policy director for the MEC, says these tiny particles are linked to a variety of heart and lung problems, including asthma. DTE Energy owns four of the power plants targeted in the report.  John Austerberry, a spokesperson with DTE, says,“all Detroit Edison power plants meet or exceed federal standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.  And it’s those constituents that can contribute to the formation of fine particles under certain atmospheric conditions.” The report calls on DTE and Consumers Energy to gradually phase out the oldest coal-burning power plants.

Politics
4:48 pm
Mon June 27, 2011

Some laws shielded from voter referendums

Sabine01 Flickr

The Michigan Constitution gives people the right to challenge laws they don’t like by calling a voter referendum. The only laws immune to a referendum are measures that appropriate money.

The framers of the constitution did not want to put the state’s ability to pay its bills at risk.  

But some critics complain the Legislature is misusing that power to make some controversial measures referendum-proof.

Read more
Politics
4:34 pm
Mon June 27, 2011

Legislature continues discussion on changes to medical marijuana

Chuck Caveman Coker Creative Commons

Republican state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said a few months ago that he did not want to deal with any major social issues – including medical marijuana regulations – until the budget was complete.

With the budget debate behind them, lawmakers are once again looking at the Medical Marijuana Act.

The Michigan Supreme Court is preparing to decide where and how marijuana plants can be grown, and the state Senate is looking at a bill that would regulate where patients could smoke marijuana.

Bills have come up for debate that would affect everything from where a person could smoke medical marijuana, to where it could be distributed and who could distribute it.

One would prevent convicted felons from becoming medical marijuana caregivers, or distributors, and the other would make it a crime to distribute medical marijuana near a church or school.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana supporters have shown up at every legislative hearing on bills that would add regulations to the law since it was approved by voters a few years ago.

They say any additional regulations would make it harder for people who need treatment to get access to medical marijuana.

Politics
3:32 pm
Mon June 27, 2011

Breaking: Blagojevich guilty on multiple counts

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been found guilty of 17 of 20 corruption-related charges, including trying to sell President Obama's Illinois Senate seat.

ABC News reports:

A federal jury in Chicago this afternoon convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich of selling the U.S. Senate seat vacated when President Obama was elected in 2008.

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News Roundup
10:35 am
Mon June 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Unions in Detroit fight call for concessions

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has said an emergency manager takeover of Detroit is inevitable if unions in the city don't agree to concessions in their contracts. Union leaders say they won't agree to deep concessions.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Labor unions are resolved to call Mayor Dave Bing's bluff of an imminent state takeover of Detroit's finances if employees don't agree to deep concessions, setting the stage for a risky and potentially decisive showdown.

Despite Bing's warning that an emergency manager could wipe out employee contracts unilaterally and cut wages and benefits severely without worker approval, leaders of the city's largest unions told the Free Press they won't open their contracts to save the city $121 million annually in health care and pension costs.

Jesse Jackson calling for repeal of emergency manager law

Calling Michigan's emergency manager law "fundamentally unconstitutional" the Rev. Jesse Jackson is advocating for its repeal.

Jackson spoke at Pontiac City Hall yesterday, a city under the control of an emergency  manager, Michael Stampfler.

From the Oakland Press.

“Pontiac is just a piece of a bigger puzzle,” he told a crowd of more than 100 people at City Hall during a press conference held Sunday.

“My friend, this is not just black and white. This is about wrong and right.”

The Press reports that the group Michigan Forward is attempting to get enough signatures to put a referendum against the emergency manager law on November's ballot.

Bumper apple crop expected in Michigan

Despite the wild spring weather, apple growers are expected to have a good crop this year.

From the Holland Sentinel

The Michigan Apple Committee is estimating the state’s apple crop this year will be about 28 percent more than average.

“We have a 25 million bushel estimate,” Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee Denise Donohue said.

And West Michigan growers are echoing the same estimate.

Politics
1:19 pm
Sat June 25, 2011

New law clears the way for gay marriage in NY

Flickr/Marlith

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed New York's gay marriage bill, starting what is expected to be a crush of gay weddings beginning in 30 days.
    

Health Care
3:54 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Governor Snyder to talk health care reform in September

Governor Snyder says health care reform should focus on underlying costs, not insurance
Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Snyder has stayed pretty quiet on the subject of federal health care reforms. He is the nation’s only Republican governor who has not specifically called for repealing the law.

But he said this week that the new rules don’t pay enough attention to wellness and prevention. The governor told a group of small business owners that he will propose a health care reform plan for Michigan later this year that will focus on containing costs by encouraging people to get healthier.

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Politics
3:34 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Kwame Kilpatrick is paroled

The Michigan Parole Board has voted to release former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from prison.

Kilpatrick went to prison early last year for violating the terms of his probation. A judge found that the ex-mayor hid some of his assets that should have been used to pay a million-dollar restitution order.

The restitution was part of Kilpatrick’s 2008 guilty plea to obstructing justice. He admitted to lying about an affair with one of his aides during a civil trial after text messages revealed explicit details about the relationship.

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Politics
3:19 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Federal officials and insurance groups against helmet law repeal

The state Senate could vote on the helmet law repeal next week.
cha400 MorgueFile

Federal officials are trying to talk Michigan political leaders out of repealing the state's motorcycle helmet law. Members of the National Transportation Safety Board are in Lansing today to meet with Governor Snyder's administration.

Insurance groups are also getting involved. Laurie Conarton is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan. She says more people will be injured or die if the law is repealed:

"After Florida repealed their helmet law, there were 81% more fatalities and 80% more closed head injuries."

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