Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Ken 30684/Flickr

Many communities across the state are deciding this week whether or not they should allow alcohol sales on Sunday morning. The state law allowing sales on Sunday morning and Christmas was signed into law last month. But local governments can opt their community out of the new rule.

After nearly a century as dry community, voters in Zeeland decided to allow alcohol to be sold within city limits every day but Sunday. Four years later, Zeeland has one carry out store and one restaurant that sell alcohol. Rick Van Dorp sits on city council. “I mean it was a close vote – only won by a handful of votes, maybe 14, when it did pass. And it failed a couple different times previously. So it’s kind of a contentious issue,” Van Dorp said.

A court appointed monitor watching over Michigan’s child protective services warns that system is “substantially non-compliant” with a court agreement.  The state agreed to make measurable improvements to its child welfare system when it settled a lawsuit with New York-based Children’s Rights group in 2008. But two years later, a monitor says the state Department of Human Services has shown a “frustrating lack of progress” in implementing reforms. Sarah Bartosz, a senior attorney for Children’s Rights, says the state is about a year behind where it should be.

George Heartwell
Steven Depolo

“There are so many exciting things happening in Grand Rapids right now when so much of the rest of Michigan is in chaos that I just quite honestly feel its fun and a great honor to represent this city as its mayor.”

Heartwell’s current term expires at the end of next year. If he’s elected and serves out a third term, Heartwell would tie his predecessor John Logie as the Grand Rapids’ longest serving mayor. Grand Rapids is the state's second largest city.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder takes the oath of office in Lansing on January 1st, 2011 and The Detroit Free Press is reporting it will be a low-key affair.

Geralyn Lasher will be Snyder's Communications Director.  She told The Detroit Free Press that the Snyder inauguration will not be lavish:

We want people to have the opportunity to participate in a celebration. But there's going to be work to do the day before and the day after ... and the day after that.

Last month The Associated Press reported that Snyder will take the oath of office outdoors and give his inaugural speech on the Capitol steps.

Helen Thomas sits at the front of the White House press briefing room in 2007
user kellerbn / creative commons

Detroit native and a longtime journalist Helen Thomas is outspoken when it comes to defending her controversial comments.

Last week, Thomas defended the comments that got her fired over the summer. In that defense Thomas said that many American institutions are controlled by Zionists.

Here are her comments posted by Politico

"Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is. ... We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way."

The Anti-Defamation League said Thomas has "revealed herself as a vulgar anti-Semite."

After her remarks last Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports that Wayne State University ended the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award. When the paper called for a comment, Thomas had this to say:

"The leaders of Wayne State University have made a mockery of the First Amendment and disgraced their understanding of its inherent freedom of speech and the press."

 

- By Jack Lessenberry

Tim Walberg, who lost his seat in Congress two years ago, is going back to Washington next month. Once he gets there, he will be paid an annual salary of $174,000 dollars a year.

That sounds pretty good, though it is a little less sweet once you realize that he has to live in two places, including one of the highest-priced real estate markets in the country.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will talk about economic issues at Wayne State University later this week, according to The Detroit Free Press.

Snyder will deliver the annual George R. Husband Distinguished Lecture Series keynote address on Thursday from 1-2PM.

The Series' website says the lecture is open to the public but reservations are required.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/Flickr

It's expected that the debate over whether insurance companies should be required to cover autism treatments for children will continue at the state Capitol next year.

Legislation that would have required insurance companies to cover autism treatments stalled in the GOP-led state Senate in the final hours of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

Republican Lieutenant Governor-elect Brian Calley has an autistic daughter.  He's been one of the most vocal proponents of the reforms.  Calley said:

Eventually the facts will catch up with the decision-makers and this will happen. I plan to advocate for this starting immediately next year and help education the incoming members, the new members, on this issue, and find a solution for the 15,000 families in Michigan that are struggling through this right now.

Calley said he hopes leaders in next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate will approve the reforms.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

A panel that’s drafting a new governing charter for Detroit will hear recommendations from the city’s mayor and city council this weekend. 

The Charter Revision Commission is looking at everything that has to do with how Detroit operates: How many elected officials the city should have, and how much power they should wield. How to remove elected officials from office. How many departments the city should have, and what services should be mandated.

One issue on which the mayor and city council disagree is how big the city council ought to be. 

There is agreement that the city should move away from its current system of electing members at-large, and have most council members represent districts. But Mayor Dave Bing thinks the council ought to remain at nine members, while the city council is pushing to expand it to 11. 

The Charter Revision Commission is expected to have a draft document finished in March. A citywide vote on the charter is expected next November.

The Commission meets Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

Money
Steve Carmody

A new study finds 3 Michigan congressional campaigns were swamped with outside money during the recent election.  And most of that money paid for negative ads.

National political parties, unions and special interest groups spent $19 million on issue ads leading up to the November election.   The money was focused on the 1st, 7th and 9th congressional districts, where Democrats were trying to fend off strong Republican challenges.

By Jack Lessenberry

Jim McTevia never had a credit card growing up. That’s largely because there weren’t any in the small town of Marine City, Michigan where he was born. Today, he thinks that just might have saved him. He's done all right for himself; he became a well-regarded business turnaround expert without a college education.

Helen Thomas with President Gerald Ford
Marion Trikosko / creative commons

Helen Thomas had worked for United Press International for 57 years. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010. She spent much of her career covering the White House.

She was let go earlier this year after she was briefly interviewed by Rabbi David Nesenoff of RabbiLive.com. After asking Thomas whether she had any comments on Israel, Thomas said, "tell them to get the hell out of Palestine."

The Detroit News reports that Helen Thomas, who grew up in Detroit, gave a speech saying:

"I stand by it. I told the truth," the 90-year-old Thomas told reporters shortly before a speech at a diversity conference Thursday. "I paid a price but it's worth it to speak the truth." During a speech that drew quick condemnation from Jews, Thomas took her remarks further. "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists," Thomas said. "No question."

Thomas spoke at the eighth-annual "Images and Perceptions of Arab American" conference in Dearborn.

Today is the last day that stores in Michigan can sell alcoholic energy drinks.  Last month, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission announced it would ban sales of the controversial drinks because of health risks.

The Associated Press reports:

The Food and Drug Administration is requiring major brands of caffeinated alcoholic drinks to be taken off store shelves nationally by mid-December because of similar concerns. The agency says the combination of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks can lead to a "wide-awake drunk" and alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults.

At least four states have banned the drinks. You can find a list of the banned-drinks here.

Photo by Tracy O/Flickr

As we've been reporting, yesterday was the last day for candidates who ran in Michigan’s 2010 election to report how much money they raised during the campaign season.

According to Republican Governor-elect Rick Snyder’s campaign finance reports, he spent almost $11 million during the campaign; $6 million of which was his own.

The Associated Press reports that Snyder’s largest donors were, “Pistons owner Karen Davidson and former Bechtel Group co-owner Stephen Bechtel and his wife, Elizabeth, of San Francisco.”

Snyder’s opponent in the race for governor, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, raised a little under $2 million and qualified for a little more than $1 million in public funds.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Terry Johnson/Flickr

Lawmakers worked throughout Thursday night and into early the early morning hours on Friday to complete their 2009-2010 legislative session.

Lawmakers approved $10 million dollars for the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.  Governor Granholm had wanted $25 million for the campaign. Democratic state Representative Dan Scripps said the deal could have been better:

You know, we’ve put two options on the Senate’s desk, and the governor’s put a third one, and essentially they punted and raided from another pot and I just don’t think that’s the way to go. We can do better than this.

Efforts to enact teacher-tenure reforms that would make it easier to fire teachers failed as did a law that would require insurance companies to cover autism treatments for children.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Update 12/3/2010 6:18 AM

After working into the early morning hours, the state legislature finished their 2009-2010 legislative session this Friday morning.

Lawmakers approved $10 million dollars for the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.  Governor Granholm had wanted $25 million for the campaign. Democratic state Representative Dan Scripps said the deal could have been better:

You know, we’ve put two options on the Senate’s desk, and the governor’s put a third one, and essentially they punted and raided from another pot and I just don’t think that’s the way to go. We can do better than this.

___

Update 12/2/2010 1:30 PM

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta just let us know that Governor Granholm's office says she is trying to reach a deal to use economic development funds to get the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign back on the air. 

As the Detroit Free Press reports:

The Pure Michigan tourism ad campaign would be saved with a $25 million infusion from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund, based on discussions today between lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The tourism industry has also been pushing hard in the final days of the 2009-2010 legislative session to get state lawmakers to agree to fund the ad campaign.

Former president Georgy W. Bush in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Update 4:23pm

Lindsey Smith just sent in this quote from former president George Bush's talk today in Grand Rapids:

"Like in '44 if somebody in Grand Rapids, Michigan said 'I predict someday America and Japan will stand shoulder to shoulder to enhance mutual security' they would have said 'what a hopeless, idealistic nut-job you are'. But democracy transformed an enemy to an ally. I know it sounds far-fetched for some that people want to be free in the Middle East and that freedom will take hold - I think it will."

Update 3:53 pm

The event with George W. Bush in Grand Rapids just wrapped up and reporter Lindsey Smith called in with some of her highlights from the talk:

  • Bush's opening line - "Most people didn't think I couldn't read a book, much less write one."
  • Bush said after his presidency it was like going from 100 mph to 10 mph and he had to figure out what to do with all his extra time
  • About the firing of Donald Rumsfeld Bush said that his relationship with him had gone from one of "creative tension" to one of "destructive tension."
  • About 9/11 and the decision to go into Iraq Bush said that it was a bold move that had to be made. He was disappointed that no WMDs were found. He also says that 9/11 changed his mind about preemptive strikes. If he hadn't done it, he believes there would have been a dangerous nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq.
  • Bush says he's still in touch with Condoleezza Rice, but doesn't talk much with Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.
  • He said he doesn't judge Barack Obama, and won't be pulled into criticizing or commenting on him and his presidency.

Update 12:42 pm:

Our reporter at the event, Lindsey Smith, says Secret Service told the media that laptops are not allowed. So, it might be that we have to wait for updates until after the former President speaks.

___

6:44 am

Former President George W. Bush will be in Grand Rapids this afternoon.  He'll be promoting his new book "Decision Points" at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

This is the former President's second visit to Grand Rapids this year.  He attended the Economic Club of Grand Rapids in June.

Candidates who ran in Michigan's 2010 election have until today to report just how much money they raised and spent during the 2010 campaign.

The Detroit News reports that as of today:

...only one of the major statewide candidates had filed a post-election report. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican who defeated Democrat Jocelyn Benson, filed her report a day early on Wednesday.

The Detroit News expects reports will be filed today by Governor-elect Rick Snyder.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has chosen Bill McBride to be director of the State of Michigan Washington, D.C. office.  McBride was a deputy chief of staff for former-Governor of Michigan John Engler.  McBride currently is chief of staff to Michigan Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids.

In a statement released yesterday, Snyder said:

Michigan’s Congressional delegation will have significant influence in the upcoming Congress since our U.S. Senators and Representatives will chair key committees. Bill McBride’s experience and impressive working relationships on both sides of the aisle make him an outstanding choice to head up our Washington D.C. office.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is imposing a 20 percent pay cut on union employees.

The move comes after two years of negotiating failed to yield an agreement. Earlier this year, Ficano instituted unpaid furlough days after the union rejected a proposed 10 percent pay cut.

Joyce Ivory represents about a thousand workers with AFSCME Local 165. She says a state labor board ruled against that move, but Ficano pressed forward anyway.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

A bill approved today in the state House would allow the Detroit Institute of Arts to ask taxpayers for more money. The Associated Press reports the bill would:

...allow counties to form authorities that could ask voters for property taxes to fund arts institutes... The property taxes would have to be approved by voters in the region to take effect. Art institute authorities could ask for up to 0.2 mills.

The bill now heads to Governor Granholm for her signature. The state Senate already approved the measure.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/FLICKR

Michigan lawmakers continue their 'lame duck' session in Lansing today and they're still trying to figure out the last pieces of legislation to pass before the 2009-2010 session comes to a close.

The Associated Press reports:

It's a safe bet lawmakers will pass a bill to distribute more than $300 million in federal money to schools. But... bills dealing with teacher tenure, fireworks sales, insurance coverage for autism treatments and dozens of other items could be voted on before the Legislature adjourns at the end of the week.

Bill Ballenger, the editor and publisher of the "Inside Michigan Politics" newsletter told Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta earlier this week that, "The chances of getting all of it done are slim."

Governor-elect Rick Snyder named John Nixon as his new administration's budget director on Monday.  Nixon currently holds that position in Utah.

In an interview this morning on Michigan Radio, political analyst Jack Lessenberry said he thinks the pick shows that Snyder is willing to look outside of the box. Lessenberry said:

It shows that [Snyder] is certainly willing to... go outside the box and outside the state to find someone with a fresh approach to look at the all-important state budget problem. This is something that people had urged Governor Granholm to do when she first came in and which didn't happen.

Lessenberry went on to say that highly-regarded economist Charles Ballard often references Utah when discussing how Michigan could turn around its budget problems. Now, with the former head of Utah's Office of Planning and Budget becoming Snyder's budget director, Lessenberry said he is curious to see what lessons Michigan can learn. "Utah managed to balance its budget with a higher income tax," said Lessenberry, "It'll be interesting to see if that's part of the mix."

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it will sue the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia. The ACLU is suing on behalf of Linda Lott, a 61 year-old from Birmingham who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

In the ACLU's press release Lott is quoted as saying:

Ken30684/Creative Commons

Today is the day that a bill that allows alcohol sales on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day goes into effect. But, liquor control officials are still working on how to implement the new law. 

The Associated Press reports:

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission said Tuesday the agency will be posting applications for the $160 license needed to sell alcohol on Sunday mornings and notifying local governments about the new law this week. Local governments will have until Dec. 15 to notify state officials if they opt to ban Sunday morning sales.

Lawmakers last month approved the bill  that allows alcohol to go on sale starting at 7am on Sunday mornings and on Christmas Day.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be in Washington D.C. today. He'll meet with some of Michigan's congressional delegation and members of the Republican leadership. 

The Detroit News is also reporting that Snyder will announce Bill McBride as the head of the Michigan office in Washington D.C.  McBride is currently chief of staff to retiring Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder at the Michigan Farm Bureau in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor-elect Rick Snyder spoke to members of Michigan’s Farm Bureau Tuesday evening.

Snyder told the crowd he’s preparing to start Michigan’s era of innovation next month. “You’re on the forefront of that. People don’t understand how innovative you are and all the efforts you do. Whether it’s increasing yields or being more environmentally sound or all the great practices. ”

Eugene G. Wanger and boxes of documents from the Michigan Constitution
State of Michigan

Eugene G. Wanger was a 28 year-old attorney when he became a delegate for Michigan's Constitutional Convention in 1961. The republican was a strong opponent of the death penalty and authored the section in today's state constitution that bans the practice.

Congressman Mike Pence
Photo courtesy of www.mikepence.house.gov

Indiana Congressman and possible 2012 presidential candidate Mike Pence visited the state yesterday. The Republican was in Michigan to deliver a speech at the Detroit Economic Club. The Club is a traditional stop for politicians considering a bid for the presidency. 

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports that Pence used the speech to call for major tax reforms and said Democratic policies to stimulate the economy aren't working.

As The Detroit Free Press reports:

Pence's is one of about a dozen names that have surfaced as possible presidential candidates in 2012. He is the chairman of the Republican Conference Committee, the third ranking position among the GOP in Congress.

Photo courtesy of www.Utah.gov

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is going out of state for his choice of Michigan’s next budget director.

Snyder is naming John Nixon, Utah’s top budget officer, to become his administration’s budget director.

Nixon will take over the job from Robert Emerson.

In a release yesterday, Snyder said:

John is considered one of the best in the business and is widely respected inside and outside of state government. As I traveled the state during the campaign and met with the hardworking men and women of Michigan, I said it was time for the citizens to take back control of Michigan’s broken budget process and to deliver real value for money.  John will work with us to bring fiscal responsibility, stability, transparency and the citizens’ priorities to state government.

Michigan faces a projected $1.7 billion shortfall in the budget that begins next October.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

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