Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Congressman Mike Rogers will takeover as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The Associated Press reports:

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner says Michigan Republican Mike Rogers will serve as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the next Congress. Rogers said in a statement Wednesday he's humbled by the appointment and calls it an "incredible responsibility."  The 47-year-old Howell resident easily won a sixth term in November to represent Michigan's 8th Congressional District. Rogers is a former Army officer and FBI special agent who investigated organized crime and public corruption in Chicago in the early 1990s.

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time to get a roundup of the state's political news with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry.  He spoke this morning with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Leaders in the state legislature have called lawmakers back to the Capitol today for a final meeting of this year's legislative session. The news comes after lawmakers had called it quits earlier this month. As Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network reports, lawmakers have to go back to Lansing to correct a few procedural mistakes from the earlier lame-duck session:

The state Senate has a few bills sent back from the House for final approval, including a measure that would lower the minimum age for blood donation from 17 to 16. The House also needs to meet Wednesday to approve a resolution to adjourn for the year. But it's unclear if enough lawmakers can be wrangled on short notice to return to the state Capitol to vote.

And, as The Associated Press reports:

Lawmakers might enroll and send to Gov. Jennifer Granholm legislation allowing sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf site in Flint to a developer who wants to redevelop the property and keep the school open. Bills that would regulate billboards for sexually oriented businesses are among the others that need final approval or procedural votes before they can be sent to Granholm.

It doesn't appear that either chamber will take up controversial measures including teacher-tenure reform or insurance for autism treatments.

Michael Moore at a film festival in Venice
Nicholas Genin / Flickr

Michael Moore has announced that he is contributing $20,000 to help bail out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (that WikiLeaks link is liable to change).

On his blog post, Moore says he's offering Assange more than just money:

I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Republican Governor-elect Rick Snyder continues to name new members of his incoming administration. 

Yesterday, Snyder announced that Doug Rothwell would lead the Michigan Economic Development Coporation.  As Rick Pluta reports, it will be Rothwell’s second turn at the job. He was the MEDC’s first director after Governor John Engler created the agency in the 1990s. Rothwell is currently the President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, a group of the state's top 75 CEO's.

In a show of bipartisanship, outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm stood next to Snyder as he made the announcement.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Terry Johnston/Flickr

Well, it appears that state lawmakers aren't quite done with this year's lame duck legislative session.

It's been announced that both the Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate will convene at the state Capitol tomorrow.  The news comes after lawmakers declared their two-year session was done on December 3rd.

However, the Associated Press reports, that neither chamber is expected to take up any controversial issues:

The House is expected to deal with legislation cracking down on human trafficking and a few other issues. The Senate will deal with bills that can't be sent to GovernorJennifer Granholm because they didn't get an immediate effect vote or because they were changed by the House. Lawmakers aren't expected to take up insurance coverage for autism, teacher tenure rules or other sensitive subjects that were left unaddressed before adjourning earlier this month.

Jennifer Granholm
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

In less than a month, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will step down from office.    She met with reporters today to reflect on her 8 years in Office.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm says her biggest accomplishment during the past eight years was changing a culture attuned more to factory jobs rather than college degrees and diversifying the state's economy.

The Democratic governor told reporters in a year-end interview Friday that her effort to restructure the economy to rely less on building automobiles "is the thing I'm most proud of."

Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra
hoekstra.house.gov

Representative Pete Hoekstra came into office in the 103rd Congress in 1993. He's going out in the 111th Congress at the end of this year.

Hoekstra announced his retirement in December 2008 when he decided to run for Governor of Michigan.

He lost that bid to Rick Snyder and will soon be out of a political office after 17 years.

Today, the Grand Rapids Press ran an editorial praising Hoekstra's tenure, saying,

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder's inaugural day activities have been confirmed.  The governor-elect will be sworn in as Michigan's 48th governor on January 1st, 2011.  According to The Detroit Free Press, here's what we know:

  • The inaugural will last just one day.  Previous Michigan Governors' inaugurations have continued over more than one day and in multiple cities.
  • Governor-elect Snyder will take the oath of office at noon outside of the Capitol building in Lansing.  That will be followed by a receiving line that will take place inside.
  • An inaugural celebration will take place at 8 PM in East Lansing at Michigan State University.  Tickets are required for the event at a cost of $125.

Swearing in ceremonies will also take place on January 1st for Lt. Gov.-elect Brian Calley, Secretary of State-elect Ruth Johnson and Attorney General-elect Bill Schuette.

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder
wikimedia commons

Governor-elect Rick Snyder told a crowd in Detroit today that Michigan will beat analysts’ economic growth expectations in the coming years.

Snyder spoke to a group of accounting students at Wayne State University. He recounted an experience at a recent National Governors Association meeting.

Snyder says the investment firm Moody’s ranked each state for projected job growth. He described what he saw when he opened the folder for Michigan.

"The first number from 2009 to 2011 was 47," Snyder said. "The number from 2009 to 2014 was 50."

But the governor-elect called those projections "a piece of fiction."

"We’re going to beat the living daylights out of that number."

Snyder added that he plans to use his background as a CPA to put Michigan’s finances in order.

Jennifer Granholm
flickr user auberon

3 million jobs in 3 years. That's what soon-to-be-former-Governor Jennifer Granholm called for in her article in the Huffington Post.

Granholm calls for a "Jobs Race to the Top" modelled on the education "Race to the Top" program.

Dangle large sums of money in front of cash strapped states and see if you can get them to change their policies.

Who are Michigan’s most powerful people in Washington? For decades, the same names have come to mind. First, Dearborn’s John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in history.

For many years, Dingell was either the chair, or ranking Democrat, of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Then come the Levins. Younger brother Carl is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Older brother Sandy this year became the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Then there is John Conyers, who has chaired the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years. These men are icons. 

But they are aging icons, and when the Republicans take over  the House next month, Conyers, Dingell and Sandy Levin will lose power and status, because they will be in the minority.

But Michigan will have two newly powerful representatives in key positions, men who are far less well known statewide -- but whom we ought to get to know better.

Detroit City Skyline
JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

It appears that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will run for office again. As The Associated Press reports:

The former NBA great tells the Detroit Free Press... that he "can't fix the problems that the city has in one term." He says progress is being made in improving the city but there is "so much more work to do."

The next mayoral election in the city is 2013.  Bing became the Mayor of Detroit in May of 2009 and was re-elected to a full term in November 2009.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be in Detroit today.  He’s scheduled to give a talk at Wayne State University.

As the Associated Press reports:

Snyder will speak to Detroit college students and business leaders about reinventing Michigan's economy - with an accounting twist. Snyder's talk … is expected to focus on how his accounting skills will be important as he works to improve the state's struggling economy.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Helen Thomas
flickr user rachelvorhees

A prominent coalition of Michigan Arab-American groups is angry that Wayne State University has pulled an award honoring journalist Helen Thomas.

Wayne State ended the “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award” last week after she made controversial comments at an event in Dearborn.

Thomas asserted that “Zionists” control major U.S. institutions, including the White House.

Wayne State called those remarks “anti-Semitic.” But the Congress of Arab American Organizations disagrees.

Lafayette Bait and Tackle
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The owner of the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation are back in court over a disputed construction project. One Detroit business owner says that project is forcing him out. Lafayette Bait and Tackle is literally stranded here in the midst of the Gateway Project, as trucks rumble overhead. That project was a $230 million effort to better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways. It’s also the subject of a long-running legal dispute. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the Ambassador Bridge Company violated project plans when it built entrance ramps and a duty-free plaza. The Bridge Company has lost several rounds in court. But the ongoing legal drama has left Lafayette Bait and Tackle cut off from the surrounding neighborhood. Business owner Dean Aytes says his landlord hasn’t paid the taxes on the property. And a lawyer for bridge owner Mattsay Moroun says the landlord has now agreed to sell the property. Aytes says that means the shop will have to close for good. He says “that billionaire, Matty Moroun, put me out of business.”

Congressman Dave Camp with John Boehner.
user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Republican Dave Camp is the chairman-elect of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Camp released a statement saying it is a great honor to be selected as chairman:

"Our nation is at a crossroads – facing record debt and an unemployment rate stuck at nearly 10 percent. The decisions we make and the policies we put forward will determine whether or not we get this economy back on track and Americans back to work."

The committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Camp will take over the committee from another Michigander, Democrat Sander Levin.

Helen Thomas speaking at Cornell University
Matt Hintsa / creative commons

The Anti-Defamation League called Helen Thomas anti-Semitic after some comments she made last week at a speech in Dearborn.

On a radio interview last night, Thomas shot back at Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League:

I'm getting tired of his intimidation. I'm going to report him to President Obama and all the proper authorities. He better stop intimidating me.

Thomas was interviewed by Scott Spears on WMRN radio in Marion, Ohio. Here's a clip:

No comment yet from the ADL.

Every Wednesday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Michigan Radio Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get his take on recent political news from across the state. Today, the conversation begins by focusing on Governor Granholm's expression of support for President Obama's recent compromise with Republicans. On Tuesday, Obama agreed to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits.

Unmarried state workers will have to wait to see if incoming governor Rick Snyder's administration will consider extending health care benefits to their live-in partners.

Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta just filed this report:

The state Civil Service Commission has delayed a vote on extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees. The commission was poised to make a decision, but the Granholm administration proposal had too many unanswered questions -- including whether state employees would be able to claim multiple domestic partners on their benefit plans. The delay likely kicks the decision into next year, when Governor Granholm will be gone and Governor-elect Rick Snyder will have the job. Snyder's spokesman says he has not taken a position on partner benefits for state workers.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Governor Granholm says she supports President Obama’s compromise with Congressional Republicans on tax cuts.

Granholm said that the President got a ‘good deal’ by extending benefits for the long-term unemployed in exchange for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts.

Granholm said the deal will keep 180,000 people in Michigan from losing their income during the holidays:

I look at this as governor of the state with the second highest unemployment rate in the nation and I'm grateful to the President for being a pragmatic leader... the collateral damage here in Michigan from not extending the unemployment benefits would be horrific.

Granholm made the comments during a White House conference call yesterday afternoon.

Congressman Fred Upton
Republican Conference / Creative Commons

Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the next legislative session. The GOP won control of the House of Representatives in the November election.

The House Republican Steering Committee made the announcement yesterday.

As The Detroit Free Press explains, the committee, "oversees energy policy, automobile regulations, health care, food safety and more."

In a statement released yesterday, Upton said:

I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, Whip McCarthy and the entire Republican Conference as we repeal Obamacare, fight rampant job-killing regulations, cut spending, and help put folks back to work. 

Upton has served on the committee since 1991.

Ken 30684/Flickr

Many communities across the state are deciding this week whether or not they should allow alcohol sales on Sunday morning. The state law allowing sales on Sunday morning and Christmas was signed into law last month. But local governments can opt their community out of the new rule.

After nearly a century as dry community, voters in Zeeland decided to allow alcohol to be sold within city limits every day but Sunday. Four years later, Zeeland has one carry out store and one restaurant that sell alcohol. Rick Van Dorp sits on city council. “I mean it was a close vote – only won by a handful of votes, maybe 14, when it did pass. And it failed a couple different times previously. So it’s kind of a contentious issue,” Van Dorp said.

A court appointed monitor watching over Michigan’s child protective services warns that system is “substantially non-compliant” with a court agreement.  The state agreed to make measurable improvements to its child welfare system when it settled a lawsuit with New York-based Children’s Rights group in 2008. But two years later, a monitor says the state Department of Human Services has shown a “frustrating lack of progress” in implementing reforms. Sarah Bartosz, a senior attorney for Children’s Rights, says the state is about a year behind where it should be.

George Heartwell
Steven Depolo

“There are so many exciting things happening in Grand Rapids right now when so much of the rest of Michigan is in chaos that I just quite honestly feel its fun and a great honor to represent this city as its mayor.”

Heartwell’s current term expires at the end of next year. If he’s elected and serves out a third term, Heartwell would tie his predecessor John Logie as the Grand Rapids’ longest serving mayor. Grand Rapids is the state's second largest city.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder takes the oath of office in Lansing on January 1st, 2011 and The Detroit Free Press is reporting it will be a low-key affair.

Geralyn Lasher will be Snyder's Communications Director.  She told The Detroit Free Press that the Snyder inauguration will not be lavish:

We want people to have the opportunity to participate in a celebration. But there's going to be work to do the day before and the day after ... and the day after that.

Last month The Associated Press reported that Snyder will take the oath of office outdoors and give his inaugural speech on the Capitol steps.

Helen Thomas sits at the front of the White House press briefing room in 2007
user kellerbn / creative commons

Detroit native and a longtime journalist Helen Thomas is outspoken when it comes to defending her controversial comments.

Last week, Thomas defended the comments that got her fired over the summer. In that defense Thomas said that many American institutions are controlled by Zionists.

Here are her comments posted by Politico

"Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. ... We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way."

The Anti-Defamation League said Thomas has "revealed herself as a vulgar anti-Semite."

After her remarks last Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports that Wayne State University ended the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award. When the paper called for a comment, Thomas had this to say:

"The leaders of Wayne State University have made a mockery of the First Amendment and disgraced their understanding of its inherent freedom of speech and the press."

 

- By Jack Lessenberry

Tim Walberg, who lost his seat in Congress two years ago, is going back to Washington next month. Once he gets there, he will be paid an annual salary of $174,000 dollars a year.

That sounds pretty good, though it is a little less sweet once you realize that he has to live in two places, including one of the highest-priced real estate markets in the country.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will talk about economic issues at Wayne State University later this week, according to The Detroit Free Press.

Snyder will deliver the annual George R. Husband Distinguished Lecture Series keynote address on Thursday from 1-2PM.

The Series' website says the lecture is open to the public but reservations are required.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/Flickr

It's expected that the debate over whether insurance companies should be required to cover autism treatments for children will continue at the state Capitol next year.

Legislation that would have required insurance companies to cover autism treatments stalled in the GOP-led state Senate in the final hours of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

Republican Lieutenant Governor-elect Brian Calley has an autistic daughter.  He's been one of the most vocal proponents of the reforms.  Calley said:

Eventually the facts will catch up with the decision-makers and this will happen. I plan to advocate for this starting immediately next year and help education the incoming members, the new members, on this issue, and find a solution for the 15,000 families in Michigan that are struggling through this right now.

Calley said he hopes leaders in next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate will approve the reforms.

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