Politics & Government

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.

Politics
9:32 am
Tue June 7, 2011

In the face of safety concerns, more cuts to police in Royal Oak

Local governments are coming to terms with the effects of the Great Recession as shrinking revenues are leading to police and fire layoffs in many parts of the state.

The Royal Oak Police Department is making cuts to its department. Going from 70 to 65 sworn officers.

This despite the concern over safety in Royal Oak.

From the Daily Tribune:

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News Roundup
7:50 am
Tue June 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Emergency Manager tosses union contract

Michael Stampfler, the emergency manager of Pontiac, has flexed new muscles given to him by state legislators and Governor Snyder. Under the state's new emergency manager law, emergency managers can eliminate union contracts and strip local officials of their power.

From the Associated Press:

Pontiac has gotten approval to cancel union contract protections for 11 police dispatchers as it shuts down its police department.

The Detroit Free Press reports Monday's action will make them the first Michigan public employees to have a contract tossed under the law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in March granting expanded powers to state-appointed emergency financial managers.

It's the final move toward eliminating the Pontiac Police Department, which was proposed last year by emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler. Services will be handled by the Oakland County sheriff's department to save the cash-strapped city $2 million annually.

Detroit Mayor Bing prepares for layoffs after override of his budget veto

The Detroit City Council voted to override Mayor Bing's veto of the council's budget. Bing thought the council's cuts went too far. The mayor says steep cuts are coming to the city of Detroit.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sharply criticized the City Council's override of his budget veto Monday, saying the $50 million in cuts the council restored will close recreation centers, eliminate hundreds of police officers and firefighters and end bus service on Sundays.

"We will have to eliminate a lot of services," said a visibly frustrated Bing, who already cut the budget by $200 million. "People have been complaining for years and years about inadequate services. Another $50 million in cuts is just irresponsible."

A memorial service for Jack Kevorkian

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian died last Friday. Now friends and supporters will hold a public memorial service this Friday in Troy.

From the Associated Press:

The ceremony is being held at 9:30 a.m. at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy, said attorney Mayer Morganroth.

"We weren't going to do anything, but we started getting calls from all across the country and from foreign countries, too," Morganroth told the Detroit Free Press in a story posted Monday on the newspaper's website. "There is just so much interest from people who wanted to do something to remember Jack."

Politics
5:44 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Detroit Council overrides Mayoral budget veto; Bing threatens layoffs

The Detroit City Council has voted to override Mayor Dave Bing’s budget.

The City Council added $50 million in additional cuts to Bing’s budget. By overriding his veto, they put those cuts into effect.

Bing blasted the Council afterward, saying the cuts will lead to public safety layoffs. He also says their action could move the city toward a takeover by an Emergency Manager.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Bridge issue to begin, Republicans still unsure

J. Stephen Conn Flickr

The state Senate will get its first look this week at legislation proposing a new bridge between Detroit and Canada.

Republicans have rejected the idea of a new bridge for years. Many of them received campaign contributions from the owner of the Ambassador Bridge – the only current span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

But Republican lawmakers say they are against a new bridge because there has never been clear information about how the bridge would be paid for.

Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger agrees.

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Politics
3:55 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Supreme Court says stories can be used as evidence

User sabine01 Flickr

A work of fiction written by a person charged with a crime can be used against the defendant in court according to a new decision from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The question before the state’s highest court was whether a story a defendant had written depicting graphic scenes of incest between siblings and their father could be used against him as evidence of his intent.

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Politics
3:14 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Contract talks continue in Lansing

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero talks to reporters along the Grand River
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Time is running out for the city of Lansing to win new contract concessions from its labor unions.  Meanwhile, another round of layoff notices will soon go to some city employees.  

Lansing’s mayor’s office continues to negotiate with union leaders seeking 3 million dollars in concessions before the city’s new budget takes effect July 1st.   Mayor Virg Bernero says the city and the unions are talking in good faith to avoid possible layoffs.  

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Mackinac 2011
2:58 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Reinvention vs. Redevelopment: A panel discussion at the Mackinac Policy Conference

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is the site of the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham moderated a panel discussion looking into the current state of brownfield redevelopment in Michigan at the Mackinac Policy Conference last week.

He spoke with Michael Finney, the President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and James Clift, the Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council.

They talked about Governor Snyder's plan to replace the current system of brownfield tax credits with up-front grant money for redevelopment.

You can watch the discussion below.

Environmental Panel: Reinvention vs. Redevelopment

Politics
2:40 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Detroit City Council votes to override mayoral veto

User sagitariuss Flickr

The Detroit City Council voted today to override Mayor Dave Bing's budget and restore $50 million in cuts.

From The Detroit News:

The Detroit City Council voted this afternoon to override Mayor Dave Bing's budget for the second straight year.

The mayor, who worked in closed-door meetings during last week's Mackinac Policy Conference to reach a last-minute deal, was unable to deliver one. The council voted 8-1 to override Bing's veto, with only Councilman James Tate in opposition.

The council's spending plan included $50 million more in cuts to the proposal Bing delivered in April.

Mayor Bing has scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. today to address the council's vote.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

News Roundup
9:23 am
Mon June 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Changing the state's motorcycle helmet law

Michigan is one of twenty state requiring motorcyclists to where a helmet, but that might change. The Saginaw News reports on two pieces of legislation aimed at allowing riders to go without a helmet:

Two bills repealing the state’s helmet law have been introduced in the state Legislature.

House Bill 4608, sponsored originally by Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, and co-sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth, would allow riders 21 or older to go without helmets if they carry at least $20,000 in personal liability insurance.

Senate Bill 291, sponsored by Sen. Phillip Pavlov, R-St. Clair, would not require helmets on riders 20 or older if they have passed a safety course or carried a motorcycle endorsement the previous two years.

The Saginaw News reports Governor Granholm vetoed two bills similar to these, and Governor Rick Snyder hasn't taken a stance on them.

Gas prices up again

AAA Michigan says the cheapest gas in Michigan can be found in Lansing, and the most expensive can be found in Ann Arbor. From the Associated Press:

AAA Michigan says gasoline prices are up 17 cents per gallon over the past week to a statewide average of $4.12.

The auto club says Monday the statewide average is about $1.37 per gallon higher than last year at this time.

Of the cities it surveys, AAA Michigan says the cheapest price for self-serve unleaded fuel is in the Lansing area, where it's $4.07 a gallon. The highest average can be found in the Ann Arbor area at $4.15.

Dearborn-based AAA Michigan surveys 2,800 Michigan gas stations daily.

Flags lowered today

Governor Rick Snyder has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff today for Staff Sgt. Ergin V. Osman - a member of the Army's 101st Airborne Ranger Pathfinders. Osman was killed by an improvised explosive device on May 26.  From the Associated Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered U.S. flags throughout Michigan to be lowered to half-staff in honor of a military serviceman who died in Afghanistan.

The order was in effect for today.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ergin V. Osman, who grew up in Macomb County's Harrison Township and Sterling Heights, was killed along with five other soldiers by an improvised explosive device on May 26. He was a member of the Army's 101st Airborne Ranger Pathfinders based at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

Osman was 35.

Politics
10:56 am
Sat June 4, 2011

Recalls...not so easy to do

Recalls are not an easy thing to pull off
LucasTheExperience Flickr

The Associated Press reports roughly a dozen state-level Michigan Republicans already face recall threats this year, less than six months into their current terms. Governor Snyder leads the list of recall targets. Some members of the House and Senate also face recall efforts.
    

Recall attempts are fairly easy to start but it's far tougher to make the ballot and win an election. A successful recall of a Michigan state lawmaker has not been accomplished since 1983.
    

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Mackinac 2011
2:55 pm
Fri June 3, 2011

A conversation with Lester Graham about the Mackinac Policy Conference (audio)

The Mackinac Policy Conference wraps up today.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

It's the final day of the Mackinac Policy Conference.

Michigan Radio's Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley spoke with Lester Graham of Michigan Watch, Michigan Radio's investigative unit.

Graham is at the conference following the conversations and presentations of Michigan's political and business leaders.

Here are Graham's impressions of the conference:

 

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Politics
1:00 pm
Fri June 3, 2011

Mounting recall efforts for state government

A rally in Lansing on March 16, 2011. Recall efforts are underway for several Republican leaders. The last time the state saw this many recall efforts was in 1983 targeting Democrats.
Michigan Education Association

A wave of recall efforts is rolling through the state Capitol. There are about half a dozen recall campaigns under way, and all of them target Republicans.

Recall campaign organizers have a difficult, but not impossible, task ahead of them to get the recalls on the ballot.

The last time a swath of recall campaigns swept over a political party in control of the House, Senate and executive office was in 1983.

He says the last time a group of recall campaigns swept over a single political party in Michigan was in 1983.

Bill Ballenger is the editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. He says the last time a group of recall campaigns swept over a single political party in Michigan was in 1983.

"There were a whole bunch of recalls mounted that year, upwards of maybe a dozen, against Democratic legislators over the hike in the state income tax in 1983. Of all those recall efforts, two actually made it to the ballot."

Ballenger says talk of tax hikes got people motivated in 1983, but that’s not the case this time around.

“In fact it’s just the opposite,” said Ballenger.

He says most of the complaints levied against lawmakers and Governor Rick Snyder are about cuts to funding and programs, and an expansion of the control of emergency managers.

One of the more publicized recall efforts is against state Representative Al Pscholka, who sponsored the emergency manager legislation.

There are also recall efforts against Governor Snyder and state Senator Mike Nofs, Ballenger says Senator Nofs could face the biggest test among the current recall campaigns because he is in a swing district.

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