Politics & Government

Politics
4:28 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

House republicans aim to reduce fraud in food assistance program

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The state provides food-assistance to low-income residents who qualify through the Bridge Card Program. The card operates sort of like a debit card instead of more traditional food stamps. They were adopted to make it easier for the state to run the program and reduce the stigma associated with using food stamps.

State Representative Tom Hooker is one of the bill’s sponsors.

“We’re aren’t trying to take food away from little kids and old people and people who are suffering. That’s not the goal of any of these bills.”

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Politics
11:13 am
Fri June 10, 2011

Pit Bull ban going nowhere

Pit bulls are made up of several breeds - this is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Determining whether a dog is a pit bull or not is just one of the problems inherent in breed-specific legislation, according to the CDC.
User Sannse wikimedia commons

Representative Timothy Bledsoe (D - Grosse Pointe) proposed a statewide ban on pit bulls after hearing from a constituent in his district, according to MPRN's Rick Pluta:

He says he was approached about the measure by a woman from his district whose niece was mauled by a pit bull. 

"And this constituent persuaded me to take a careful look at this breed, which we did. We began to gather evidence and, ultimately, I became convinced that through selective breeding, these pit bulls have become a threat to public safety."

Now it appears Bledsoe's proposal will go nowhere.

The chairman of a state House committee where the bill would be introduced said he won't take any action on it.

Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi is quoted in the Detroit Free Press:

"I don't think it's a dog problem, I think it's a people problem," Crawford said. "And I don't think the state needs to be in the business of being canine police."

He said he spoke to some pit bull owners in recent days who told him they can be "the greatest, loving dog they ever had."

Bledsoe said he was disappointed by the news saying he felt his proposal at least deserved a hearing.

The proposal called for phasing in the ban on the breed - first putting restrictions on breeding and selling pit bulls in the state, then requiring all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered - and an outright ban would take place after ten years.

A Centers for Disease Control report on breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks concluded:

Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty,enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and,therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and hold promise for prevention of dog bites.

News Roundup
8:49 am
Fri June 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Power outages in Detroit, casinos in Lansing, and efforts to ban the bit bull.
user brother o'mara Flickr

Parts of Detroit without power this morning

Power outages are affecting many of Detroit's main buildings today. Workers at Detroit's city hall were told not to report to work this morning. From the Detroit News:

Numerous municipal buildings throughout the city's downtown area remained without power this morning after the city's antiquated public power system failed because of high demand for air-conditioning following a stretch of 90-degree weather earlier this week.

One of the city's five power lines at the Misterky Power Plant failed Wednesday and two others went down on Thursday, leaving the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building, the Detroit Public Library, Wayne State University, the Detroit Institute of Arts, several federal buildings and Detroit Public Schools without electrical service, officials said.

The city hoped to have the problem fixed this afternoon.

Group wants American Indian casino in Lansing  After failing to get enough signatures to put the issue on the August ballot, the Associated Press reports that a group is still moving ahead with a plan to bring an American Indian casino to Lansing: 

 Ted O'Dell, chairman of Lansing Jobs Coalition, tells the Lansing State Journal for a story Friday that he'll ask City Council members to approve his request before trying a ballot issue. He wants to gather enough signatures to get it on the city's November ballot. O'Dell's group did not submit the number of signatures needed to put the issue on the August ballot. In April, a group aiming to build casinos in Lansing and six other Michigan cities launched a process that could put the measure before state voters this fall. "Michigan is Yours" needs more than 300,000 signatures from registered voters across the state. The effort failed to make the 2010 state ballot.

 Pit Bull ban tabled

A bill to ban pit bulls in the state won't see any action in the state legislature. From the Detroit Free Press:

A legislative attempt to eventually ban pit bull ownership in Michigan has been leashed.

State Rep. Tim Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe, introduced the legislation to make it illegal to own a pit bull after a 10-year phaseout.

But the chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee in the state House, Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi, said he's not planning to move on the bill, effectively shelving it.

Politics
6:22 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac should be replaced, says Michigan Congressman

Congressman Gary Peters says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must go.  But he says they have to be replaced with something else.

The two quasi-private groups provide a federal guarantee for home mortgages.

Taxpayers had to bail out Fannie and Freddie after the housing sector meltdown.

Some people in Congress don’t want to replace Fannie and Freddie with anything, and just let the free market take over.

But Peters says without a federal guarantee, banks would stop offering 30-year mortgages.

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Politics
4:22 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Should Michigan ban pit bulls?

Bad Dog? One Michigan state lawmaker wants to ban pit bulls by 2021.
Flickr audreyjm529

A metro-Detroit lawmaker has proposed a statewide ban on pit bulls.

The measure sponsored by Representative Timothy Bledsoe would make it illegal to own a pit bull in Michigan by 2021. He says he was approached about the measure by a woman from his district whose niece was mauled by a pit bull. 

Politics
4:00 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

House approves teacher tenure changes

School districts would have an easier time firing teachers under changes to tenure laws approved by the state House.

The tenure proposal would rate the effectiveness of teachers based on student test scores.

The bills have begun their march through the Legislature after many years of debating changes to tenure rules.

Democratic state Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton says tenure laws came about to protect teachers from administrators that tried to ban certain books from being taught in the classroom.

She says of course tenure rules should be updated and changed, but she says these changes go too far:

"Rather than go in with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel, identify a problem and fix it, what these bills do, really, I think, absolutely flay the tenure act with all the zeal of a butcher’s knife," said Lipton.

Republicans say the proposed changes would ensure bad teachers with failing student test scores are removed from classrooms.

The tenure bills were approved along mostly party lines, with one Democrat saying he would discourage his granddaughter from ever teaching in Michigan. The bills now head to the Republican-led state Senate.

Politics
2:35 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

State wants fines levied against bridge owners

Andrea_44 flickr

A judge in Detroit has adjourned a hearing without ruling on the state’s request to levy sanctions against the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.

It’s part of an ongoing court fight over the bridge company’s failure to build on-ramps to the bridge, and remove fueling stations and part of a duty-free store that were built without the state’s permission.

Deb Sumner is a community activist and long-time critic of the bridge company. She says without the on-ramps, thousands of trucks are forced to rumble through her neighborhood every day:

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Politics
2:17 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Auto bailout the issues as Romney campaign hits Michigan

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney chats with entrepreneurs at Bizdom U during a campaign stop in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made a pair of campaign stops in metro Detroit on his first trip to the state as a declared candidate.

The former Massachusetts governor was greeted with protests at a Livonia diner in the morning. Romney then headed to the business incubator Bizdom U in Detroit, where he offered advice to a handful of entrepreneurs.

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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.

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