Politics & Government

Commentary
1:47 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Beyond the Law?

Let’s say that I seized a portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park for my own uses. I erected a fence, and put up phony signs saying “No Trespassing Due to Homeland Security.”

Later, I ignored court orders to tear it down, and said that I could do this because I was sort of an agent of the federal government, or as I put it, a “federal instrumentality.”

Then, when a federal judge ruled that I was nothing of the kind, and ordered me to stop claiming to be, quote, “any type pf arm, appendage, or agent of the federal government,“ I ignored him.

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Politics
10:42 am
Thu June 9, 2011

Snyder to sign Detroit tax and population bills

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to sign bills that will allow the city of Detroit to continue its income tax and utility user tax provisions.

Snyder is scheduled to sign the bills Thursday.

The main bill would allow Detroit to continue a 2.5 percent city income tax rate on resident individuals, higher than allowed in other Michigan cities.

Changes in state law are necessary to continue the tax rates because of Detroit's declining population.

Census statistics show that Detroit's population fell to 713,777 last year. The decline puts Detroit in danger of losing allowances in state law reserved for cities with a population above 750,000.

The bills to be signed by Snyder would lower the population threshold to 600,000 so Detroit still qualifies for the tax provisions.

Politics
7:56 am
Thu June 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit City Council corruption caught on video tape

The videos have been viewed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, but never broadcast publically. The Detroit News has posted video from 2008 of a city council aide accepting cash from a company seeking to win a sludge hauling contract.

From the Detroit News:

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Politics
5:29 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Romney gets less-than-friendly welcome from fellow Republican McCotter

U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter represents Michigan's 11th District.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter offered fellow Republican Mitt Romney a not-so-friendly welcome ahead of a pair of campaign stops Romney has scheduled in metro Detroit tomorrow.

Romney plans a campaign stop at a diner in Livonia diner – right in the heart of Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s district. That prompted McCotter to call a press conference to criticize Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout, and his one-time support for a healthcare overhaul in Massachusetts that created a system of subsidies and mandates, among other issues:

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Politics
5:22 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Legislation seeks to reduce urban car insurance rates

bettyx1138 flickr

A Detroit lawmaker thinks he has the answer to that city’s high rate of uninsured drivers.

State Senator Virgil Smith wants to create a pilot program that would allow Detroit drivers to sign up for bare-bones insurance policies with reduced rates. The idea is to cover medical costs up to $50,000 a person, or $100,000 an accident. Right now, the state’s no-fault law requires unlimited personal injury coverage. Smith says that’s hampered efforts to reduce urban insurance rates.

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Politics
5:15 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Motorcycle riders rally at the Capitol for helmet law repeal

About 100 riders rallied in Lansing today to support repealing Michigan's Motorcycle helmet law.
Mike Babcock Flickr

A few hundred opponents of Michigan’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law rallied today at the state Capitol.

They support a state Senate bill that would allow riders 21 years and older to choose to ride without a helmet. They would have to have at least two years of riding experience, or have passed a motorcycle safety course.

Governor Rick Snyder says he's open to granting the wish of riders who want the helmet requirement repealed, but he also says he needs some assurances that the public won’t be saddled with big medical bills when helmetless riders are injured.

"And I’ve had an open discussion with them and I said one of the concerns that I want to look at is the cost to all of our citizens in the state, and understanding those and making sure we are doing it in a fair way," Snyder said.

Helmet law foes believe they have the votes in the Legislature to get a helmet law repeal passed.

Laura Brand-Bauer says she typically wears a helmet, but wants the option to ride without it.

"You know, I've ridden without a helmet on occasion in Ohio and Indiana and wouldn’t mind being able to do that when I felt like it," said Brand-Bauer. "I do believe that people should have a choice."

Insurance companies and traffic safety advocates say the helmet law is working and should remain as it is. Opponents of the law say training and experience are more important than wearing a helmet to avoid deaths and injuries.

Politics
4:51 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Flint prepares to enter new fiscal year with uncertainty

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint's new city budget begins July first.  But it's still not clear if city employees will be laid off to make the numbers work.    The Flint city council approved the city's budget on Monday.   The spending plan is based partly on a 15% wage and benefit concession by Flint's city unions.   Concessions that the unions have not agreed too. 

Even though the new budget takes effect July 1st, Flint mayor Dayne Walling insists layoffs are not imminent.   He says decisions on possible staff cuts will be based on monthly reviews of Flint's budget situation.  

 “There is a reality that you can only spend a dollar one time.    And once that dollar gets spent…than its not available for services in January or next Spring.”   

Flint has already laid off dozens of city employees during the past year, as the city struggles with a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Politics
4:49 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Governor Snyder announces free legal help for start-up businesses

User Sabine01 Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has unveiled a new program with a law firm that will offer free legal services for about 60 start-up companies a year.

The MiSpringboard program with Varnum law firm will last five years.

Snyder says he would be open to creating similar programs with other law firms that are willing to offer free services for start-ups. 

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Politics
1:46 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Benton Harbor commissioners against emergency manager debate strategy

Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cook rallied against Harris last month. At a meeting Monday he said they shouldn't defy Harris' orders, 'The state says we shouldn’t pass a resolution, then I think we should be smart enough to not pass a resolution.'
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Elected officials in Benton Harbor are debating the best way to deal with their state-appointed emergency manager. Two Benton Harbor commissioners support the city’s emergency manager, Joe Harris. The remaining seven are united against Harris.

Harris was appointed more than a year ago to fix Benton Harbor’s finances. Since then he’s taken away the commission’s powers to take action or pass resolutions.

These seven commissioners all believe Harris’ power will ultimately prove unconstitutional in court. But they don’t agree on what they should do next.

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Politics
1:35 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Battle over President Obama's healthcare reform law continues

Challenges to President Obama's health care law continued today in an Atlanta courtroom
Joe Crimmings Flickr

The legal battle over the Affordable Care Act continues today in an Atlanta courtroom.

The Washington Post reports:

The multi-pronged legal battle over President Obama’s health-care law moves to an Atlanta courtroom Wednesday, where a three-judge appellate court panel will hear oral arguments in a suit brought by Florida and 25 other states challenging its constitutionality.

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Politics
1:26 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Motorcycle Helmets

Thirty years ago, I lived next door to a family with a twenty-something son, whose main pleasure in life seemed to be riding his motorcycle, at all hours and, mostly, without a helmet.

One summer night he was speeding and the police started chasing him. He panicked and fled, eventually hitting a tree at a high rate of speed. At the funeral home, his parents said he might have survived had he been wearing a helmet.

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Politics
11:47 am
Wed June 8, 2011

Michigan Humane Society's kill rate questioned

Of the 13,725 cats taken in by the Michigan Humane Society in 2010, 70% were euthanized, according to the Detroit Free Press.
user cat's_101 Flickr

Two board members of the Michigan Humane Society have resigned over questions about the number of animals the agency euthanizes.

The Detroit News reports that Cheryl Phillips of Northville and Lee Lein of Ann Arbor resigned Monday questioning whether the Michigan Humane Society is doing enough to prevent stray animals from being euthanized.

From the Detroit News:

The society's kill rate was about 70 percent in 2010... with locations in Detroit, Rochester Hills and Westland, the Michigan Humane Society is among the largest in the nation. It operates with a $12 million budget and took in more than 29,000 animals last year, Vice President Mike Robbins said, with about 51 percent of the animals coming from Detroit.

The News reports that Phillips said the society wasn't clearly revealing how many animals were being killed, and she wanted a third party to review the agency's practices, but her proposal was rejected.

At Monday's board meeting she resigned and released a statement that read, in part:

"I doubt that our funders would be happy with a '100 percent healthy adoption rate' if they knew that behind the scenes, fewer than 7,000 of the 24,000 total intakes were actually adopted, and more than 17,000 animals were 'classified' as untreatable by MHS management … and were killed,"

The Michigan Humane Society's director of operations and its chief veterinarian defended the agency's kill rate. From the Detroit Free Press:

C.J. Bentley, director of operations, said the numbers are high because the facility accepts animals regardless of origin or condition. Dr. Robert Fisher, the humane society's chief veterinarian, said animals with terminal or major medical issues are often not adoptable and that "what the public is willing to accept in their homes" helps determine an animal's fate.

The Freep reports that in 2010 the Michigan Humane Society took in 13,725 cats and kittens - 70% were euthanized. And in 2010 the agency took in 11,191 dogs and puppies - 68% were euthanized.

News Roundup
8:47 am
Wed June 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Heat and sun cook up pollution today, close schools

Temperatures across the southern part of the state are expected to be in the mid to upper 90s today.

In addition to heat related stress, the hot weather can also lead to more pollution.

The weather has led the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to post "ozone action days" for several cities in the southern part of the state including Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Ludington.

Smokestack and tailpipe emissions and vapors from gas and chemicals can be turned into ozone pollution on days like today. People are urged to drive less, refrain from using gas-powered lawn equipment, and refuel cars and equipment at a later time.

Ozone pollution can cause chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion, and it can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

The Detroit News reports that several schools in Detroit will be closed because of a lack of air conditioning in those buildings.

Grayling Wildfires contained

Wildfires burned near Grayling yesterday. Now state officials say the blaze has been contained. From the Associated Press:

A state spokeswoman says fire crews have fully contained a blaze that burned 750 to 800 acres of northern Michigan woodlands, destroyed or damaged a number of buildings and forced the evacuation of 100 homes.

Mary Dettloff is a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She tells The Associated Press Wednesday morning that the fire was 100 percent contained by midnight Tuesday and people who had been evacuated were permitted to return home.

Riders go to Lansing to support repeal of helmet law

Michigan is one of twenty states with a motorcycle helmet law.

Advocates of repealing the law have been successful in the past at getting the legislature to pass repeals of the helmet law, but they ran into vetoes from former Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Now they're hoping Governor Snyder will be on their side.

Motorcycle riders are expected to hold a rally in Lansing today supporting a helmet law repeal.

MPRN's Rick Pluta spoke with a helmet law repeal advocate who said Michigan is losing out on a lot of tourism opportunities as riders avoid Michigan: 

"Every state surrounding Michigan allows adult choice and people do not come from those states to Michigan simply because we have a mandatory helmet law," said Jim Rhoades.

Supporters of the helmet law say it cuts down on medical costs that are often passed onto others. The Detroit Free Press reports :

Many medical and insurance organizations are lobbying to keep the current law, which they say reduces serious injuries and deaths in motorcycle accidents. Medical costs for riders injured without helmets are four times costlier than for those injured while wearing helmets, says the National Transportation Safety Board.

Governor Snyder has not taken a side on this issue, but the Free Press reports Snyder "has said he would support the change if other motorists didn't pay more as a result."

Politics
6:39 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

"Eviction notices" shake Detroit community

Residents in a Southwest Detroit neighborhood found what appeared to be eviction notices on their front doors Monday.

The notices were actually flyers distributed by the group Americans for Prosperity in the city’s Delray neighborhood.

The flyers warned residents that the state will seize their homes, if legislators approve a plan for a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.

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Politics
4:59 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Local officials, emergency manager continue to struggle for power in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor City Hall
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Emergency Manager Joe Harris signed two orders this week to discourage city commissioners determined to fight his orders.

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Politics
4:38 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Riders and legislators work to repeal Michigan's motorcycle helmet law

A moped chopper. Helmet needed?
user spicybear Flickr

Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law is once again in the sights of advocates who say riders should be allowed to operate a bike without head protection.

Legislation approved today by the state Senate Transportation Committee would allow licensed operators to forgo a helmet if they are 21 years old and have had a motorcycle endorsement for two years; or they have passed a motorcycle safety course.

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Politics
3:53 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Mitt Romney to make campaign stops in Michigan, state staff named

MItt Romney
Matthew Reichibach Flickr

The Associated Press reports Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will make campaign stops in Michigan this week:

From the AP:

A campaign spokesman said Tuesday the ex-Massachusetts governor would attend a Grand Rapids fundraiser Tuesday night and another in Detroit on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Romney is to campaign at a Livonia diner and attend a business round table in Detroit. They're his first Michigan stops since formally entering the race last week.

Romney's Michigan campaign staff has been revealed. From the Detroit Free Press:

  • Lori Wortz, senior advisor - once served as Dick Posthumus' chief of staff
  • Rob Macomber, state director - previously served as director of candidate and party assistance for former state Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis
  • Lauren Rakolta, state campaign finance director - daughter of John Rakolta, head of construction firm Walbridge Aldinger who served as a national chairman for the Romney campaign in 2008
  • Bryce Sandler, state deputy finance director, once served as finance director for former U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg

In 2008, Romney won the Republican presidential primary in Michigan. He eventually pulled out of the race after John McCain won the Florida primary.

Politics
1:47 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Richardville becomes latest Michigan recall target

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.
senate.michigan.gov

  MONROE, Mich. (AP) - The highest-ranked member of the Michigan Senate has become the latest target of an attempted recall campaign.

Proposed petition language seeking to recall Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was filed this week in Monroe County. The petition cites Richardville's support for recent tax policy changes.

The changes include an overall business tax cut and the end of some tax exemptions on retiree income.

Recall supporters would have to collect thousands of signatures to make the ballot if their proposed wording is approved. A hearing is likely later this month.

Roughly a dozen Republican lawmakers have been targeted for possible recall this year but all of the efforts face long odds against success. A state lawmaker was last recalled in 1983.

Richardville says Tuesday he remains focused on his job.

Politics
12:32 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

State lawmakers: Detroit can keep taxing at current rates

State lawmakers have passed bills allowing the city to keep taxing at certain rates. The legislation awaits Governor Snyder's approval.
Bob Jagendorf Flickr

Because of the recent U.S. Census showing significant population loss in Detroit (the city went from 951,270 people in 2000, to 713,777 in 2010), Detroit was at risk for losing tax revenue.

Current state law says a city must have a population of at least 750,000 people in order to tax at certain rates.

State legislators have been working to change that number to help Detroit. A law lowering the threshold to 600,000 passed the State House last week, now it's passed the State Senate.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan lawmakers are approving measures that would allow the city of Detroit to continue its 2.5 percent city income tax on resident individuals and a separate utility users' tax.

Bills allowing continuation of the taxes were approved Tuesday by the Senate on 21-17 and 20-18 votes. The House already has approved the measures so they should soon be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

State Senator Bert Johnson (D - Detroit) told MPRN's Laura Weber that 600,000 is a safe and low-enough number, "You know, I think Detroit’s days of really hemorrhaging people are probably behind us," said Johnson. "We'll lose a few more along the way, but not in the significant numbers that we've seen over the past decade."

Politics
12:22 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Pontiac police dispatchers union contract can be voided by emergency manager

Pontiac police car
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For the first time, a state appointed emergency manager has permission to void a union contract in a Michigan city. The state Treasurer’s office gave its approval to Pontiac’s emergency manager Monday to void the city’s police dispatchers’ contract.   Pontiac’s policing duties are being taken over by the Oakland County sheriff’s department. 

Robert Sedler is a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University.  He believes the courts would find the decision to void the contract a ‘reasonable’ one. 

 “What I think makes this reasonable in the Pontiac situation is that it is part of a transfer of law enforcement from the city of Pontiac to the sheriff.”

 The Michigan legislature expanded the powers of state appointed emergency managers this year. 

There are numerous groups considering legal challenges to the law.

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