Politics & Government

Politics
11:20 am
Wed March 23, 2011

Republicans set to redraw political boundaries

The 15 Congressional Districts will drop to 14. Republicans will redraw political maps with the new 2010 Census numbers.
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With the detailed U.S. Census numbers in, Republicans in the state legislature can begin the process of redrawing the state's political boundaries for Congress and for the State Senate and the State House of Representatives.

Some ground rules first.

  • Because the state lost population, Michigan will now have 14 Congressional districts (down from 15). When these districts are drawn, they must hold an equal number of people in them. That's why you see districts that cover large areas in the state's northern districts (places where there's less population) and smaller districts in the southeast (places where population is more concentrated).
  • For Michigan's state legislature, districts must hold close to an equal number of people (they can deviate within 95% to 105% of each other), and "existing municipal and county boundaries should be respected as much as possible."
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News Roundup
9:17 am
Wed March 23, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Detailed Census Data released

The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed population numbers for the state yesterday. The numbers spurred a number of stories across the state as cities and counties reflected on what the numbers mean:

Census: Detroit Shrank while the suburbs changed

Census: Lansing population falls 4 percent

New 2010 Census data shows Flint population at 102,434

Ottawa County shines as West Michigan shows relative strength in latest U.S. Census figures

Census 2010: Bay County's population decrease could have been worse

U.S. Census data shows slight growth in Muskegon County during decade of Great Recession

2010 Census data shows Michigan shifting rural

Granholm enjoying post-Governor life

In one of the first interviews since leaving the Governor's office in Michigan, Jennifer Granholm says she's enjoying life as a private citizen.

From the Detroit News:

Granholm — after getting to avoid the airport security line as governor — now faces the same indignities as all frequent travelers do.

"I got the whole pat-down today, but it is what it is," she said with a laugh.

Granholm relishes her new quieter life. "I kind of like being low-key. I kind of like being able to wear sunglasses again," she said.

She ate lunch on Cosi and was glued to her BlackBerry — and no one bothered her. "It's a beautiful thing," she said. "I am enjoying life."

Granholm and her husband, Daniel Mulhern, are moving to California, temporarily they say, before moving back to Michigan. Both will be teaching at U.C. Berkeley  and they're working on a book together.

Granholm says she won't engage in criticizing her successor, Governor Rick Snyder.

Republicans will start to redraw political districts in Michigan

The U.S. Census numbers are in hand, now its time for politicians to re-draw some fancy lines for new political districts. MLive's Peter Luke says Republicans are wasting no time in redrawing political boundaries for Congressional and State legislative seats.

From M-Live:

Republicans, who have a 9-6 edge in congressional seats, likely will seek to put two or more Democratic incumbents — say U.S. Reps. Dale Kildee, Sander Levin and Gary Peters — in the same district.

The process could give some Republicans heartburn as well. The 1st Congressional District currently represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, extends from Ironwood to Bay City and will require about 55,000 more residents in the northern Lower Peninsula from districts held by fellow Republicans.

Giving Benishek Grand Traverse County, for example, shifts the 4th Congressional District of U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, somewhere else.

Politics
8:33 am
Wed March 23, 2011

Detailed Census data is bad news for Detroit

The U.S. Census Bureau has to deliver detailed data to all states by April 1st.
U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed data on the state's population. Earlier this year, we heard that Michigan was the only state in the country to lose population. Now we can take a more detailed look.

You can explore the data below, or by going to the Census Bureau page.

The big news to come out of the data was the number 713,777.

That's the population in Detroit. According to the Detroit Free Press, Detroit's population hasn't been this low since 1910:

four years before Henry Ford offered $5 a day to autoworkers, sparking a boom that quadrupled Detroit’s size in the first half of the 20th Century.

Detroiters reacted to the news in this video, saying crime, a lack of employment, and poor schools are reasons people have left the city:

MPRN's Rick Pluta had reaction from Governor Snyder:

Governor Rick Snyder says the U.S. Census Bureau information shows Michigan cannot continue down the path it has been on for many years:

"It’s time to step up. It’s time for bold action, and thoughtful action, and that’s the message we’re on, and the path we’re on, and I just hope people join us in that effort," said Snyder.

"I think this decline in population for the state really just reemphasizes the issue we’ve been facing; we are in a crisis in the state, and we need to take an approach and an attitude to say we need to reinvent Michigan."

Detroit’s population presents a problem as the Legislature deals with the state budget, which operates on the assumption that Detroit is the only city with more than 750,000 people.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has said the city will challenge the Census numbers. Bing was quoted in the Detroit Free Press:

"We are in a fiscal crisis, and we have to fight for every dollar," Bing said in announcing that the city will seek a recount. "We can't afford to let these results stand."

The city stands to lose investment from the state and federal government if they can't get the numbers to add up to 750,000.

Politics
7:22 am
Wed March 23, 2011

Audit uncovers costly mistakes and fraud at unemployment office

The Michigan Office of the Auditor General reports says mistakes and fraud at the unemployment office cost the state $260 million.
Daniel Johnson creative commons

A legislative watchdog says Michigan’s unemployment office failed to catch overpayments and cases of fraud as the agency was hammered with jobless claims during the Great Recession.

The Michigan Auditor General says the mistakes cost taxpayers an estimated $260 million.

Like many states, Michigan’s been forced to borrow money from the federal government – almost $4 billion - to cover its jobless claims as unemployment reached peaks not seen in three decades (higher than 14%).

The Auditor General report found the agency ran into trouble handling all those claims.

The auditor’s sample found thousands of cases where the state accidentally overpaid benefits that were never recovered.

The audit also found instances where the state failed to detect cases of fraud that would have also been punished with big fines.

The unemployment agency is disputing some of the findings where the auditor determined there was fraud. The agency says in the other cases, it’s taking steps to fix the problems uncovered by the Auditor General.

Politics
6:58 am
Wed March 23, 2011

State House fails to reject domestic partner benefits

Domestic partner benefits include benefits to gay and non-gay couples.
user dbking Flickr

The State House failed to reject the Michigan Civil Service Commission's decision to allow state employees to enjoy domestic partner benefits.

The benefits, originally negotiated between the Granholm administration and about 70% of the public employee unions, are scheduled to go into effect October 1st. The benefits are extended to unmarried partners (gay or heterosexual) and their dependents who have lived together for more than one year.

Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber reported on yesterday's vote in the State House:

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Politics
7:52 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Bing plans to challenge Detroit census numbers

Hanneorla Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he wants a recount of Detroit’s 2010 census numbers. That data shows the city with its smallest population since 1910.

Bing says he thinks census numbers that fix Detroit’s population at just under 714,000 are wrong.

 Bing says a recount could turn up as many as 40,000 more residents. That would put the city above a key 750,000 person threshold.

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Politics
3:56 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Ambassador Bridge owners settle lawsuit with lonely bait shop

Lafayette Bait and Tackle
Sarah Cwiek/Michigan Radio

The Detroit International Bridge Company, owners of the Ambassador Bridge, has settled a lawsuit with the owners of a bait shop.

Lafayette Bait and Tackle sits near where the Detroit International Bridge Company hopes to build a second span. The company purchased the land to remove what it saw as a final obstacle to their plans.

Both sides in the case agree fault lay primarily with the bait shop’s former landlord, a group called Commodities Export.

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Commentary
3:03 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Mergers and Acquisitions

There’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth statewide over the new proposals the governor outlined in Grand Rapids yesterday, the ones especially that will affect local governments.

He proposes to hold back one-third of the revenue sharing money communities get from the state, and release it only if cities, villages and townships adopt certain reforms. Those would include putting all new hires on a pension plan based on what they and their employer put in, a so-called “defined contribution plan.”

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Politics
1:03 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Forcing government workers to pay more for health care

The State Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing committee tomorrow will discuss a bill forcing government workers to pay between 20% to 25% of their health care costs.

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Politics
10:42 am
Tue March 22, 2011

State House might vote on domestic partner benefits today

Your state reps may vote on domestic partner benefits today.
Danny Hammontree Flickr

Last January, the Michigan Civil Service Commission approved domestic partner benefits for state employees. The benefits were scheduled to go into effect on October 1st.

The ruling went against the Snyder administration's wishes, and the state legislature has been working to overturn the ruling. The State Senate passed a resolution against the domestic partner benefit ruling earlier this month.

Today, the State House is expected to vote on a resolution which would overrule the MCSC's January decision.

Todd Heywood wrote about the resolution in today's Michigan Messenger:

If the House approves the measure, it will be the first time in the history of the MCSC that a decision by the body was overturned by the legislature. Republicans are also seeking a ballot initiative to remove the MCSC from the state constitution, and in the meantime has been working to strip the body of much of its power.

Heywood reports "the House currently has a 63 member GOP majority. But approving this resolution requires a two-thirds super majority, which means 74 votes, so 11 Democrats need to cross party lines in order for the bill to pass."

As MPRN's Rick Pluta reported, the Snyder administration said it objected to MCSC's decision because of the cost - estimated at around $6 million.

The rules were expected to cover 70% of all state employees. Their unmarried partners and dependents who have lived with them for a year or more would be eligible for the benefits. The eligibility is the equal for gay and heterosexual couples.

The benefits had to be equally available to gay and heterosexual couples because 59% of Michigan voters passed a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. The "defense of marriage amendment" is now part of the Michigan Constitution.

Afghanistan
9:47 am
Tue March 22, 2011

Marine from Midland survives sniper's shot in Afghanistan

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit of the 6th Marines in Afghanistan in 2004.
USMC Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks U.S. Navy

We're coming up on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. led war in Afghanistan.

So far, there have been 1,429 U.S. deaths from Operation Enduring Freedom, according to icasualties.org.

Marine Sgt. Paul Boothroyd III of Midland is lucky not to be one of those.

Andrew Dodson of Booth Mid-Michigan has a piece on Boothroyd's remarkable story.

A sniper's bullet hit Boothroyd's Kevlar helmet while on patrol in southern Afghanistan.

Boothroyd thought the helmet stopped the bullet, but the bullet was later found lodged behind his right ear - millimeters away from a main artery and his spinal cord.

From the article:

Boothroyd III travels back to Midland this week with his wife Ashley Boothroyd from Maryland. Their 2-year-old son, Paul Boothroyd IV, is with his grandparents waiting for his parent’s return to Michigan.

He enlisted in the Marines following high school. After acing a linguistics test, the Marines sent him to school, where he learned to speak modern and traditional dialects of Arabic, including Iraqi.

After his time off in Midland, Boothroyd III plans to return to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina awaiting his next tour of duty. He says he appreciates his time off, but wants to return to the Middle East.

Boothroyd says he looks forward to "get back to the fight."

Politics
8:16 am
Tue March 22, 2011

Bing to discuss progress on Detroit's downtown

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

The Downtown Detroit Partnership is holding its annual meeting and luncheon today from noon to 1:30 p.m..

Mayor Dave Bing and others are expected to highlight progress made in developing Detroit's downtown.

From the Associated Press:

Mayor Dave Bing and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano are scheduled to discuss the progress made over the past year in improving Detroit's downtown.

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Politics
5:03 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Detroit officials talk Project 14

Detroit officials say a plan to lure police officers back to the city is being implemented and will likely expand.

The city rolled out what it calls Project 14last month, and briefed the Detroit City Council about it Monday.

The goal is to lure Detroit cops living in the suburbs back to the city with housing incentives in two neighborhoods.

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Politics
4:48 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Michigan will get detailed census data tomorrow

Census data is in the mail
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state of Michigan will formally recieve its 2010 U.S. Census data tomorrow .   We already know that the data will show Michigan was the only state in the union to lose population between the 2000 and 2010 census.  We should also learn where that population loss will be felt the most. 

The Associated Press reports that the census data will get very specific.  Among the data will be population summaries by race, Hispanic origin and voting age for jurisdictions such as counties, cities and school districts.

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Politics
3:19 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Update: Gadhafi's momentum halted following strikes

Johan Jonsson Flickr

The progress made by forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi has been halted, according to a U.S. official. CNN reports:

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's momentum has been stopped and rebels have been able to hold onto areas that Gadhafi's forces had been poised to take over, a U.S. official said Monday.

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Commentary
2:26 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Shortchanging the Future

Macomb County Commissioner Phil DiMaria is angry about Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to tax pension income, and he’s doing something about it. He’s launched a statewide petition drive to oppose the tax, which is key to the governor’s proposed budget.

DiMaria, who has been on the county commission for twenty years, thinks the governor is badly out of touch. “He’s rich. He’s never going to be an old person who has to pinch pennies to try and get by, try and buy milk and bread,” he told me yesterday.

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Politics
11:37 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Governor Snyder rolls out plan to reform local government

Governor Rick Snyder has outlined a plan to withhold some state aid to local governments unless they make plans to consolidate services and make their finances more open. The governor says he wants to create new incentives for communities to save money and become more efficient.

He would revamp how the state shares tax revenues with cities and townships to reward those that come up with cost-savings. 

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Politics
9:54 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Anti-abortion agenda moves in Michigan

Bills in the legislature would prohibit insurance companies from covering abortions unless the coverage is added seperately.
Steve Rhodes Flickr

Earlier this month, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills that ban the practice of partial-birth abortions, a practice that is already banned by federal law. The federal law was also upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.

Supporters of SB 160 and SB 161 say a state law is necessary so local officials can assist federal authorities when enforcing the law.

These are some examples of anti-abortion bills moving in the Michigan legislature.

Louise Knott Ahern wrote about other bills being considered in today's Lansing State Journal.

Ahern writes about bills aimed at preventing insurance companies from covering abortions unless the coverage is added as a separate rider on a policy. From the LSJ:

Within two months of being sworn in, GOP legislators introduced 11 bills backed by Right to Life.

The most sweeping change would come from two bills awaiting action in the House committee on health policy.

Introduced by Rep. Jud Gilbert of Algonac, they would prohibit insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman adds the coverage as a rider on her policy and pays for it separately from her monthly premium...

The bills don't apply to emergency abortions in which the mother's life is at risk, nor do they ban insurance coverage outright. But abortion rights advocates fear they would essentially have that effect.

Sarah Scranton of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan says "we have looked in states that already have this and we have not been able to find one insurance provider that offered a rider for abortion coverage. Women don't plan for unplanned pregnancies. These riders don't exist."

If passed, the law could also apply to insurance plans that will be created under the federal health care law.

In 2014, health care exchanges are expected to be set up under the federal health care law. These group plans will be available to people who can't afford individual private plans. Ahern writes in a "last-minute" compromise, President Obama accepted a "clause that allows states to require the separate abortion riders for insurance plans purchased through the exchanges."

Politics
8:24 am
Mon March 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

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UAW leaders say battle could lie ahead in contract negotiations

After giving into concessions during the auto industry's restructuring, union leaders are saying they want some things restored. From the Detroit Free Press:

As the UAW prepares to head into labor talks this summer with the newly profitable Detroit automakers, several top union leaders say a showdown is brewing over this year's contract -- especially at Ford, which has made $9.3 billion over the past two years.

"If they don't restore everything (we) gave up, the membership is going to knock it down," said Bill Johnson, plant chairman for UAW Local 900, which represents workers at the Focus plant in Wayne. "The bonuses that were just announced are just ridiculous."

Snyder to go over local government revenue sharing plan this morning

Governor Rick Snyder will go over his plan for revenue sharing with local governments at a 9:30 a.m. press conference in Grand Rapids.

His budget calls for a $100 million cut in revenue sharing with local governments, and, according to the Detroit News "would make local governments compete for the remaining $200 million, based on their adoption of "best practices" Snyder sets out today."

The Governor is expected to go over plans for local school districts as well today. From the Detroit News:

For school districts, Snyder's budget proposed a cut of about $300 per-pupil on top of an already announced $170 per-pupil cut.

Snyder told school districts in his budget message that for fiscal year 2013 he would set aside $300 million and make it "available to eligible school districts whose employees' share of health insurance costs is comparable to that of state employees."

Details on how that works are also to be announced today.

 

Michigan men's teams out of the tournament, women play on

The University of Michigan men's basketball team lost a close one to defending national champion Duke yesterday. Tim Hardaway Jr. pulled the team close when he hit three baskets down the stretch. Michigan was 2 points away from overtime when Darius Morris' floating jump shot in the lane missed, hitting the back of the rim. Morris said he thought the shot was going in - from the Detroit Free Press:

"I thought it was down," Morris said in the locker room, breathing heavy, trying to compose himself after postgame tears. "I thought we were going to overtime."

The University of Michigan was the last Michigan men's basketball team standing in NCAA tournament, Oakland University and Michigan State University lost close games in the opening rounds.

In the women's NCAA tournament, Michigan State University advanced by beating Northern Iowa yesterday, they'll play Green Bay tomorrow night.

Politics
7:31 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Governor Snyder to unveil plan for local government reforms

Local government leaders will be listening to Gov. Snyder's press conference this morning.
Snyder campaing website

Governor Rick Snyder is scheduled to hold a press conference at 9:30 this morning in Grand Rapids where he will go over his plan for local government reforms.

Local government budgets have been squeezed ever since the housing bubble burst and revenues from local taxes have been dwindling. On top of that, revenue sharing from the state has been trimmed and Governor Snyder is proposing more potential cuts.

Crain's Detroit Business reports the Governor will go over his proposed cuts along with a $200 million incentive-based revenue sharing program:

Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday morning is slated to present his outline for local government reforms...The message has been highly anticipated. Snyder has said his goals include encouraging service sharing and best management practices in municipalities, through incentives in state revenue-sharing.

His proposed fiscal 2012 budget calls for eliminating about $300 million in statutory revenue-sharing payments for cities, villages and townships and replacing it with a $200 million incentive-based revenue-sharing program.

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