Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

NRC

A Judge has dismissed all criminal charges against a Detroit mother accused of firing at police when they came to remove her 13-year-old daughter.

District Court Judge Ronald Giles ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude Godboldo fired at police…during a ten-hour standoff in March.

Giles also ruled the order to remove the child was invalid.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Democrats in the Michigan Legislature say they want to revive tax incentives specifically set aside for advanced battery manufacturers.

The industry-specific tax credits are among those scheduled to be phased out under tax policy changes approved by the Republican-led Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder.

Democrats say Monday they'll support bills that would continue the industry-specific credits for battery production, facility construction and related activities.

The Democratic plan also would include tax credits for buying electric vehicles and charging stations.

Michigan's tax credit program and federal assistance have helped several battery manufacturers get started in the state. Credits that already have been granted will be honored. But Snyder and Republicans say they don't want to pick winners and losers with industry-specific tax credit programs.

There are taxes, and then there are taxes. Some are straightforward. If I spend ten dollars at the hardware store this afternoon, I know I’ll pay sixty cents in sales taxes.

But other taxes are hidden, and may be higher than we suspect. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is an independent, non-partisan think tank with a strong fiscally libertarian bias.

Last week, it released a statistical analysis of liquor prices. The center found they are higher in states like Michigan where the state government acts as the statewide wholesale distributor.

How much higher? A little over six percent. They took as their example a fifth of a particular common brand of Scotch. They found that it costs, on average, a dollar fifty-nine more a bottle in the seventeen states like Michigan where government is the wholesaler. The Mackinac Center said this amounted to, “a substantial hidden tax on a commodity already subject to large state and federal taxes.” The implication is that this is bad.

However, I’m not so sure. I suppose it would bother me more if it were a tax on baby formula, or if the tax left liquor costing twenty percent more than in Illinois, for example. But nobody forces anybody to buy a bottle of Scotch.

In this morning's news...

Aug 29, 2011
Republican Conference / Flickr

Gov Supports Hoekstra

Governor Rick Snyder will formally endorse former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. The seat is currently held by Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. “The endorsement will put the governor at odds with other Michigan Republican power players. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, and ex-Senator Spencer Abraham – all former GOP party chairs – are backing school choice advocate Clark Durant,” Rick Pluta reports. Former Judge Randy Hekman, anti-gay rights activist Gary Glenn, and Roscomman businessman Peter Konetchy are also vying for the GOP nomination.

Local Leaders Say Unions Have Negative Effect

A new survey by The Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan shows 56 percent of local leaders think unionized workers have had a negative effect on their community’s fiscal health. The Associated Press reports:

The April 18 to June 10 survey got responses from 360 of the estimated 520 local governments in Michigan with unionized workers. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 says money lost to plunging property values and state aid reductions is responsible for local governments' financial problems, not union contracts.

Tea Party Express to Michigan

The Tea Party Express will visit Michigan later this week. “The conservative political activists hold rallies featuring fiery speeches and patriotic music… the focus will be on Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. Levi Russell, a Tea Party spokesman, says the Tea Party group is hoping to rally local conservatives to work to defeat Stabenow’s re-election bid next year…The Tea Party Express bus tour will stop in Hillsdale and suburban Detroit next Friday and Saturday,” Steve Carmody reports.

Matthileo / Flickr

Update 3:23

Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber covered today's announcement. She reports Hoekstra says he and Snyder became friends after running against each other in a “hard-fought” primary for Governor last year:

“Isn’t it great that two people can go through a campaign, they can go through a primary, and at the end of that process they actually like each other, they actually have respect for each other, because they went through it in a way that the people of Michigan respected.”

Hoekstra said he does not think Snyder’s sinking approval rating will have a negative impact on his campaign for Senate. In his remarks, the governor reciprocated Hoekstra's admiration. Snyder said the experience of gave him respect for Hoekstra:

"Being one of our senators is critically important to our state, so I felt it was appropriate to speak up on this. And it was so easy to speak up. This is a case where we have a compelling candidate.”

6:22 am

Governor Rick Snyder has scheduled a press conference today to endorse former Congressman Pete Hoekstra in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Michigan Radio was first to report the endorsement earlier this month.

Snyder and Hoekstra first got to know each other last year as rivals for the Republican nomination for governor. Snyder won, but people close to the governor say he walked away from the campaign with respect for Hoekstra. They say Snyder praised Hoekstra as a results-oriented congressman with a history of rising above partisan interests to get things done.

The endorsement will put the governor at odds with other Michigan Republican power players. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, and ex-Senator Spencer Abraham – all former GOP party chairs – are backing school choice advocate Clark Durant.

Former Judge Randy Hekman, anti-gay rights activist Gary Glenn, and Roscomman businessman Peter Konetchy are also vying for the nod to face incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow next year.

The Tea Party Express will roll back into Michigan next week.     The conservative political activists hold rallies featuring fiery speeches and patriotic music.  Previous visits have focused on health care reform and government spending. This time the focus will be on Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

Levi Russell is a Tea Party Express spokesman.   He says the Tea Party group is hoping to rally local conservatives to work to defeat Stabenow’s re-election bid next year. 

mainfr4me / Flickr

She was, simply put, a woman ahead of her time, now nearly forgotten, who deserves to be better remembered in Michigan history.

It was she, not Debbie Stabenow, who was the first woman in Michigan to ever win a nomination for a U.S. Senate race.

She spent her life fighting for women to get a toehold in politics, fighting to be taken seriously by the men who led her party and weren’t accustomed to sharing power. She accomplished more than she ever took credit or was ever given credit for.

And despite all that, in the end, her party turned its back on most of what she stood for. But to the end of her days, she fought back with dignity and charm, and never let bitterness eat at her soul.

The woman I’m talking about is Elly Peterson, who gave her life to better conditions for women in politics -- and did so from within the GOP. Elly - everybody called her that - was ninety-four and living in Colorado when she died three years ago.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says the Legislature violated the state constitution by illegally taking money from state employee paychecks to cover retirement health care costs.

State employees are in line to get back $60 million dollars that was withheld from their paychecks if this decision stands.

The court of appeals says then-Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Legislature could not take three percent of state employee salaries for retirement costs after lawmakers failed to block three percent pay raises.

The pay raises were approved by the independent state Civil Service Commission, and could only be reversed by super-majorities in the House and Senate.

The appeals court said that was just another way to take away the pay raise, and violated the process set up by the state constitution.

Governor Rick Snyder says the money is needed to help cover a shortfall in the state employee retirement fund. He could ask the state attorney general to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the current Michigan legislature and Governor Snyder "adopted the plan earlier this year that requires state employees contribute 3 percent of their paychecks toward their retirement health care costs."

The plan was adopted under a previous legislature and then-Governor Granholm.

The headline has been changed as well. (previous headline "Court rules Michigan legislature and Gov. illegally quashed pay raise").

We regret the error.

 

 

In this morning's news...

Aug 26, 2011
Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Michigan’s Low-Achieving Schools

The Michigan Department of Education will release a list of the state’s lowest-achieving schools later this morning. “It will be the second time Michigan officials have released an annual list that notes the poorest-performing academic schools in the state. The rankings are based on a federally-prescribed and federally-approved formula. Schools on the list will have 90 days to submit a detailed school improvement or redesign plan. Michigan officials also will release a 'top-to-bottom' ranking of all public schools based on proficiency, student achievement, improvement, graduation rates and other factors,” the Associated Press reports. You can find last year’s list of the state’s lowest-achieving schools here.

Mandating Time-Off for Parents?

Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature say businesses should be required to give parents unpaid leave to attend parent-teacher conferences and other education related appointments with their kids. “The bill introduced this week would require businesses to give employees eight hours of unpaid leave per child, per school year. A spokesman for the House Republicans says he has not seen the bill, but he does not anticipate support for any mandates on businesses,” Laura Weber reports.

‘Underwear Bomber’ Claims Excessive Force

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane in 2009 claims he was the victim of excessive force after he allegedly assaulted several officers in prison. The Associated Press reports:

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab filed a handwritten request with a judge yesterday asking that no excessive force be used against him after he says he was assaulted in his cell on Wednesday. Abdulmutallab is being held at a Milan, Michigan federal prison while awaiting trial in Detroit.

Jury selection is set to begin September 14. A trial date is set for October 4.

A state lawmaker says tax-funded sex changes for prisoners need to be outlawed. The Department of Corrections says it already has a policy to reject sex-change requests.

Republican state Representative Tom Hooker says even though there is a department policy against granting tax-funded sex change operations, it needs to be set in Michigan law.

“It’s certainly not targeting any specific lifestyle or organization. I’m trying to save the taxpayers of the state of Michigan money.”

Hooker says it could cost taxpayers between 20 and 60-thousand dollars per sex change, with ongoing hormone therapies. And Hooker says he hopes to make sure taxpayers do not foot the bill for other elective surgeries for prisoners. But he says this was a good place to start as a preventive measure.

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections says they do receive occasional requests for sex change operations, and those requests are denied. He says the prisoners argue it is not an elective surgery, but rather a matter of mental wellbeing.

Steven Depolo / Flickr

UPDATE:   9:00am

A Governor's office spokeswoman denies that the purpose of the One Tough Nerd PAC is tied to the bridge fight.

ORIGINAL Post: 1:00am

Governor Snyder is apparently adding another weapon in his fight for a new international bridge in Detroit.  The new weapon is money for political campaign donations.  

Rich Robinson is the director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Robinson says Governor Snyder probably formed his new political action committee, One Tough Nerd, at least in part to battle for a new international bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. 

The owners of Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge have spent millions of dollars to kill support for the bridge. Robinson says that includes about $600,000 in political campaign donations. Robinson says if he wants the bridge, the governor is going to have to use PAC money.

"Unfortunately, policy is kind of the semi-controlled game of bribery…that’s just the game’s that’s there.”

The governor predicts the legislature will give its approval for a new international bridge project this fall.

 

 

Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature say businesses should be required to give parents unpaid leave to attend parent-teacher conferences and other education related appointments with their kids.

State Representative Lisa Brown is a mother of three. She says business owners should understand the importance of active parental involvement in education.

"Juggling work and getting kids to a parent-teacher conference is not easy, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have that my kids have had teachers that make special time for me, because I work far from home."

The bill introduced this week would require businesses to give employees eight hours of unpaid leave per child, per school year. A spokesman for the House Republicans says he has not seen the bill, but he does not anticipate support for any mandates on businesses.

Republican Conference / Flickr

Governor Snyder has been in office for eight months… and he has had quite a bit of success getting his proposals through the state legislature. However, the Governor has not been able to get many Republican lawmakers on-board with his proposal to build a new international bridge over the Detroit River. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has been one of the Snyder administration’s most vocal proponents of a new bridge and he spoke this morning on Michigan Radio.

submitted by Andy Case

As you may know by now, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill  yesterday limiting how much local governments and schools can spend to provide health care for their employees.

The new law, which Governor Snyder is expected to sign, says local governments can contribute a maximum of fifty-five hundred dollars an employee, or fifteen thousand dollars a family.

Their only other option is to split health coverage cost with the employees, as long as the workers pay at least twenty percent.

Local governments can opt out of these requirements, but it won’t be easy. They’d have to do so by a two-thirds vote of their council or school board, and take a new vote every year.

Scott Schopieray / Flickr

A new bill introduced in the state Senate would let a three-member panel decide when to hold Michigan's Republican presidential primary in 2012. The measure would, as the Associated Press reports,"let a panel appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Speaker Jase Bolger pick between February 28 and March 6," to hold the primary.

Under current state law, the primary is scheduled for February 28 but, the Republican National Committee has said it doesn't want states to hold their primaries that early. In fact, the RNC has said that states that choose to hold early primaries could lose half of their delegates at the party's nominating convention.

So, why all the fuss about an early date? Politico explains:

Both national parties are struggling to keep the national nominating schedule from imploding as state after state tries to move earlier than the next to have more say in picking the presidential nominee. Typically, the later the primary the less influence a state has in the nomination.

Under rules set by both national parties, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are the only states allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in February and no other state can hold a nominating election prior to March 6, which is likely to be a "Super Tuesday" with multiple contests.

Earlier this month, Laura Weber reported that some Republican leaders in the state wanted to hold an early primary, despite the consequences:

The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, Robert Schostak, says he is not too concerned with being penalized for the decision, "The penalties are somewhat unclear. They haven’t been determined by the committee in finality. But if we would be penalized by losing delegates and we were trading that for relevancy, my sense is that the Legislature and the state committee that would be ultimately deciding on this are okay with it," Schostak said.

One thing is known about the 2012 GOP primary in the state: it'll be a 'closed' primary. From the AP:

The state Legislature has approved a measure that would mean higher health care costs for some teachers and local government employees.

The bill would require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to 15 thousand dollars a year per family.

Democratic state Senator Glenn Anderson called his Republican colleagues hypocrites:

“I just find it amazing that anyone that would support this bill would get up and make statements about the federal government dictating to us at the state level what we must and must not do. And yet we’re super-imposing our will on a matter that has always been a local issue.”

 The measure now heads to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Federal, state, and local officials say they’re banding together to fight rising gun violence in Detroit.

FBI Special Agent Andy Arena, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing are among those calling for a “holistic”

approach to curbing crime.

Arena says the FBI is pitching in by helping analyze Detroit’s crime data for trends and hotspots. But he says there are also deeper problems to address.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Residents involved in roughly 12,500 welfare cases in Michigan could lose benefits under a stricter, four-year lifetime limit that has received final approval in the Michigan Legislature.

The Republican-led House passed the legislation with 73-34 votes Wednesday mostly along party lines.

The measures will go to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The welfare limit already has been approved as part of the state budget that kicks in Oct. 1. Lawmakers plan to put the cap in a separate state statute to help implement the budget plan. The state's current four-year limit on welfare benefits would expire Sept. 30 unless the Legislature revises or extends the limitations.

The revised welfare limits have fewer exemptions than the four-year limit now in state law.

(Flickr ebatty)

The other day, Gov. Rick Snyder’s office announced he would be going to China next month. Actually, he will be going to both China and Japan, on a whirlwind, week-long trip that will begin with his attending a trade association meeting in Tokyo.

This will be a high-powered trip. Along with him, the governor will be taking Mike Finney, the director of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, known as MEDC; the state agriculture director, and four other economic development officials.

The reason for the trip, the governor’s communications director said, was to talk about why investment in Michigan is a good idea, and also to promote our state’s farm products.

Politicians often get criticized for taking junkets abroad -- sometimes rightly so. But not only is this trip a good idea, it is terribly necessary and way overdue.  In Toledo, just to our south, Chinese businessmen have spent millions to buy land along the Maumee riverfront, which they plan to develop for a variety of uses.

Every Wednesday morning, we get Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry's perspective on the week's political news. Today, we talk about Democratic Representative Hansen Clarke's announcement that he will run in the state's 14th District in the 2012 election, a seat that is currently held by another Democrat, Representative John Conyers. We also take a look at what the state legislature is up to this week and talk about the announcement that Governor Snyder will make his first international trade trip next month to China, Japan and South Korea.

Pages