Politics & Government

Politics
5:26 pm
Thu June 23, 2011

Proposed changes to divorce rules rile judges, lawyers

stevendepolo flickr

A bill that would rewrite the rules for dividing property and assets when a married couple splits up will move ahead slowly, if at all. That’s the promise from the chair of a state House committee after judges and family lawyers crowded into a hearing room to oppose the measure. It would make it easier for one person in a couple to hang onto a business or some other asset that’s grown in value during the course of a marriage. 

Clinton County Probate Judge Lisa Sullivan testified in opposition to the bill:

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Politics
5:00 pm
Thu June 23, 2011

Governor, lawmakers spar over stem cell mandate

This microscope image (400x magnification) shows the 5-day-old embryo—also known as a blastocyst—that U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies researchers used to create Michigan's first human embryonic stem cell line, UM4-6. Image courtesy of Gary Smith.
University of Michigan

 Some legislators are squaring off with Governor Rick Snyder and public universities over embryonic stem cell research. The governor says his administration won’t enforce a budget clause that says researchers must produce detailed reports on their work, and how they go about it. The universities say the rules outlined in the budgets are meant to stifle and discourage embryonic stem research. 

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Commentary
10:42 am
Thu June 23, 2011

Mutual Assured Deterrence

Governor Rick Snyder’s Emergency Manager law was highly controversial even before it was passed - and yesterday, a coalition of twenty-eight teachers, union members and private citizens filed suit, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

In their view, it violates the state constitution because it gives the executive branch power over the legislative, violating the separation of powers, something fundamental to both the United States and Michigan constitutions. To me, the only thing surprising about this suit was that it took so long to be filed.

This is not the first of the governor’s sweeping reforms to face a constitutional challenge. Lawsuits have already claimed the taxing of pensions is unconstitutional. Such cases can often take months or even years to wend their way through the court system. But in the case of the pension tax, to his credit, the governor requested a speedy decision from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The justices have agreed to hear the case in September, which is lightning speed in high court terms.

Getting this resolved quickly makes perfect sense, partly so that the state can try to figure out budget alternatives just in case the ruling goes against them.

Deciding this early should also prevent the endless cycle of hearings, injunctions and motions to lift injunctions.

But as long as the high court has agreed to an expedited decision on the constitutionality of the pension tax, it should give us a speedy ruling on the emergency financial manager bill as well.

Everything I know about our state’s highest court, and the experts I have talked to about this, makes me think it is highly likely the justices will rule in Governor Snyder’s favor in both cases.

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Medical Marijuana
10:31 am
Thu June 23, 2011

State Supreme Court to hear medical marijuana cases

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear several cases that could clarify the rules surrounding Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.

A man with a medical cannabis card who grew marijuana in a backyard structure wants a court ruling that says he was within his legal rights. He was cited by police for not having the grow-area properly locked and enclosed. In another case, a man claims he was improperly charged with possession because he is a medical marijuana user – even though at the time of his arrest he had not yet obtained a medical marijuana card.

The court cases are working their way through the legal system as communities are drafting and re-drafting ordinances on the operation of medical marijuana clinics, and the Legislature is debating additional laws to stake out the rules for medical marijuana.

News Roundup
10:15 am
Thu June 23, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup
Brother O'Mara Flickr

EM Law Faces  Lawsuit:

A group opposed to the state’s new emergency manager law has filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse it, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The lawsuit says the emergency manager law undermines voters’ rights to choose their elected officials. That’s because the law allows state-appointed emergency managers sweeping powers - including the ability to remove elected officials who don’t cooperate…The lawsuit names Governor Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon as the defendants. The Detroit pension board has also filed a lawsuit challenging the law. Governor Snyder’s office says the law is both constitutional and necessary to help the state’s most financially troubled communities. Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and the Detroit school district are currently under the control of emergency managers.

Kalamazoo River Cleanup Continues

Cleanup crews are on the Kalamazoo River this week collecting oil that remains at the bottom of the river from last July’s oil spill. Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline that leaked the oil says more than 90 percent of the 840,000 gallons of heavy crude have already been cleaned up. About 220 people will be along the river for this week’s cleanup and an Enbridge Energy spokesperson says she expects several more hundred will be on hand in the coming weeks.

Changes to Medical Marijuana Law?

Members of the Michigan legislature are considering several bills that would amend the state’s medical marijuana law. “One bill would create a database of marijuana license holders. Another would ban marijuana dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of schools and churches. A third would bar citizens from suing cities that restrict or ban marijuana dispensaries... Michigan passed the Medical Marijuana Act in 2008,” Bridget Bodnar reports.

Politics
4:17 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Counties sue Fannie, Freddie over real estate taxes

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Oakland and Ingham counties are suing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over millions of dollars in disputed tax revenues.

Michigan has something called the real estate transfer tax, and it’s paid by the seller when a property changes hands.

Fannie and Freddie have been unloading many of the homes that revert to them in foreclosure sales.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner says the companies are trying to have it both ways – getting the benefits of private companies, and the protections of government entities.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

A new challenge to state Emergency Financial Manager law

Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

 A group opposed to the state’s new emergency manager law has filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse it.  The lawsuit says the emergency manager law undermines voters’ rights to choose their elected officials. That’s because the law allows state-appointed emergency managers sweeping powers - including the ability to remove elected officials who don’t cooperate.

 Kym Spring is one of the 28 plaintiffs challenging the law:

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Politics
3:05 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

State lawmakers consider changes to Medical Marijuana Act

Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008 but is still banned by the federal government.
Kconnors MorgueFile

Members of the Michigan legislature are considering several bills that would amend the state’s medical marijuana law. One bill would create a database of marijuana license holders.

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Latin America
2:55 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Mexico Captures Alleged Head Of Cultlike Cartel

Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, aka El Chango or "The Monkey," was paraded before members of the media Wednesday in Mexico City.
MIguel Tovar AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:43 am

Mexican federal police said Wednesday that they had dealt a lethal blow to one of the country's most notorious drug cartels following an operation that nabbed the alleged leader of the cultlike, pseudo-Christian La Familia cartel.

Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, nicknamed El Chango, or "The Monkey," was apprehended Tuesday in the central state of Aguascalientes, officials said. La Familia terrorized western Mexico from its headquarters in Michoacan province, and Mendez is accused of moving tons of cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana to the U.S.

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Politics
1:22 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

In Congress, A Bipartisan Push For Afghan Drawdown

Originally published on Wed June 22, 2011 7:30 am

Growing numbers of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are balking both at the length of the war in Afghanistan and its cost.

Late last month, a few weeks after U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the Republican-run House voted on a bipartisan amendment aimed at hastening an end to the war in Afghanistan. To the surprise of many, it fell just six votes shy of passing.

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) was one of 26 members of his party who joined nearly every Democrat in voting for the measure.

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State Politics
11:22 am
Wed June 22, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Allieosmar Flickr

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark speaks with Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's happening this week in state politics. On tap for today: Governor Snyder signs the state's budget into law, Michigan lawmakers continue debating redistricting and a look at the new education reform proposal for Detroit Public Schools.

commentary
10:50 am
Wed June 22, 2011

Reinventing Public Schools

What is perhaps most remarkable about Governor Rick Snyder’s dramatic plan to save the state’s failing schools is that it has sparked essentially no opposition. Though it is being talked about primarily in terms of Detroit, the new Educational Achievement System is eventually meant to be extended statewide.

Here’s how the governor says it will work. Those individual Detroit schools among the lowest-achieving five percent in the state will have the coming year to clean up their act. If they haven’t shown drastic improvement by next June, they will no longer be governed by the Detroit Public School system.

Instead, they will move to a new authority, the Educational Achievement System, which will be run by what sounds like a state school board. It will be chaired, at least for now, by Roy Roberts, the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Financial Manager, and consist of eleven members. Seven will be appointed by the governor, two by the Detroit schools and two by Eastern Michigan University.

Eastern, which was originally a teachers’ college, will be heavily involved in both running the new authority, and in helping these failing skills get up to speed. It is suspected that some of them struggled in part because of difficulties dealing with the notorious and often corrupt or incompetent Detroit school bureaucracy.

Supposedly, the new Educational Achievement System won’t just replace one set of officials with another; it should give individual schools and teachers and principals more freedom to figure out and solve their own educational problems, using whatever works.

Within a few years, the plan is to extend the authority’s reach to other failing public schools around the state. Now, there are a lot of questions for which we apparently don’t yet have answers.

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News Roundup
9:55 am
Wed June 22, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning news roundup, Wednesday, June 22nd.
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Budget Complete

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a new state budget into law. The budget is for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. The budget preserves funding for Medicaid health care, but cuts money for schools, universities, and local governments, Rick Pluta reports. “The governor says tough choices were necessary to retire a $1.5 billion deficit. And, he says that was done without accounting tricks and one-time fixes. The governor says the budget will help create a more inviting environment for businesses and young people,” Pluta reports.

Funding Grand Rapids

Elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012 yesterday. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund. Lindsey Smith reports:

Grand Rapids took a couple measures last year to keep their budget out the red. Grand Rapids expects to deal with operating deficits until 2015, when city officials says city government will become financially sustainable again. The long term budget plan eliminates $80 million in operating deficits over the next five years.

Stormy Weather

Authorities say severe thunderstorms yesterday evening produced high winds that damaged two hangars at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, injuring at least three people, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

WOOD-TV reports members of the Civil Air Patrol were preparing for natural disaster training when they took cover in one of the hangars on Tuesday night. Winds ripped a door away, sending some of them into the air inside the hangar… The National Weather Service also reports heavy rains. And officials say lightning started a barn fire in Ottawa County's Georgetown Township. The Jackson County sheriff's department received reports of a possible funnel cloud. No tornadoes had been confirmed by the weather service.

State Budget
9:23 am
Wed June 22, 2011

Snyder signs budget

Governor Rick Snyder (R)
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a budget for the coming fiscal year. He says the spending plan includes some tough-but-necessary choices that were necessary to retire a deficit and to set Michigan on a path to fiscal responsibility.

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Politics
5:48 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Ambassador Bridge owners vow to wrap up disputed Gateway Project

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge say a disputed construction project will get done by a court-imposed January 2012 deadline.

The Detroit International Bridge Company and the Michigan Department of Transportation have been in court for two years over the Gateway Project, a disputed construction project meant to better connect the bridge with surrounding highways

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Commentary
1:27 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

All About Jobs

Senator Debbie Stabenow came to Michigan last weekend, to visit some farms and talk with fruit and vegetable growers. She is, after all, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

For some reason, though agriculture has long been the state’s second biggest industry, those of us not involved in it tend to give it short shrift. So, mostly do our politicians.

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Politics
12:51 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Bing Campaigns to Brighten Detroit's Image

People all over the country are submitting thoughts and photos of Detroit's image and challenges.
Submitted by Howard Duffy

About 50 reporters arrived in Detroit on Monday for a three day conference Mayor Dave Bing is calling "Transform Detroit." Bing said this morning, via Twitter, that Transform Detroit "is a media briefing that connects reporters with community leaders and positive happenings throughout the city."

He also tweeted that he hoped he would get some reporters to tell "GOOD stories" after the conference.
The city is trying to put its best foot forward.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Redistricting fight begins this week

The Michigan House districts as they exist now.

The partisan battle over the state’s new maps of congressional and legislative districts kicks off Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Republicans are likely to get their plans adopted. They control the House, the Senate and the governor’s office. A legal challenge would probably be decided by the GOP controlled state Supreme Court.

Democrats charge Republicans manipulated the lines to put two Democratic incumbents together in one district – and to shore up the GOP base for some vulnerable Republicans.

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Politics
1:45 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

National: Supreme Court limits Wal-Mart discrimination case

Joe Gratz Flickr

The Supreme Court blocked a massive lawsuit charging Wal-Mart with sexual discrimination today according to the Associated Press.

From the AP:

The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a massive sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of female employees in a decision that makes it harder to mount large-scale bias claims against the biggest U.S. companies.

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Politics
12:49 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Recall language against State Senator John Proos not clear enough...for now

State Senator Mark Jansen (R-St. Joseph)
senate.michigan.gov/gop

Lyn Earwood, who submitted the petition, says she will tweak the language to make it more clear and resubmit for approval soon.

The language was nearly identical to a recall petition Kent County officials approved this morning against State Senator Mark Jansen.

Both petitions stated opposition to the republican senator's support of the new tax structure that cuts taxes for most Michigan businesses and taxes income from public pensions.

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