Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A poll indicates Michigan voters remain disenchanted with the job being done by Gov. Rick Snyder.

In the survey released Monday by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, 33 percent gave the GOP governor a positive job rating while 62 percent gave him a negative rating and 5 percent were undecided.

The results were virtually unchanged from EPIC-MRA's July poll.

Forty-two percent of those polled last week said they have a favorable opinion of the governor, while the same percentage have an unfavorable opinion.

Thirty-one percent say the state is headed in the right direction, while 54 percent say it's on the wrong track and 15 percent are undecided, similar to July's findings.

The Aug. 13-16 poll of 600 likely voters had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In this morning's news...

Aug 22, 2011
Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

CMU Work Stoppage

The Faculty Association at Central Michigan University has authorized union leaders to call a job action that could include a strike as CMU and its professors still have not reached a labor contract. Despite the work stoppage, the school sent a release yesterday saying students should show up at their classes as scheduled and that it would seek a court injunction to get faculty members back to work. Professors have been without a contract since June 30th.

'Pure Michigan' To Go International

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign targeted a new audience over the weekend: NASCAR fans. Steve Carmody reports:

The state tourism marketing campaign sponsored the nationally televised “Pure Michigan 400” race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. It's part of the state’s $25 million tourism promotion budget… Governor Rick Snyder says he plans to take the state’s “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign international. Snyder says he’ll take the “Pure Michigan” message with him on a trade Mission to China, Japan and South Korea this fall. 

Corrections Boss Sees 'Mission Creep'

About a quarter of Michigan's 43,000 state prisoners are mentally ill, and new Michigan Corrections Director Dan Heyns says he wants to shift responsibility for their treatment from his department to other agencies, the Associated Press reports. “Heyns says in an interview with The Detroit News… that his department ‘has had a kind of mission creep over the years.’ He says the department needs to return to its original mission. Heyns is an ex-Jackson County sheriff and took over the state's prison system in June,” the Associated Press reports.

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

The state Legislature will meet this week after two months of summer recess and a couple controversial issues await lawmakers at the state Capitol.

Republican leaders in the Legislature say they worked through the summer to prepare to vote on a proposal to require teachers and some public employees to pay more for their health care benefits.

“A lot of important work is happening, and a lot of the most important work happens outside of the session schedule," says House Speaker Jase Bolger.

The state Senate also has a final procedural vote waiting on a plan to set a four year lifetime cap on cash assistance for unemployed people. Democratic leaders say Republican proposals have made it harder for people to live and find jobs in Michigan.

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says the events in Libya this weekend vindicate President Obama’s decision to support NATO’s involvement there.  

“I think it does indicate that the president was correct…well obviously…it was a very very difficult situation…a very difficult decision for him to make…but it was the right one.”

Initially, the U.S. supervised a “No Fly Zone”  which prevented Libyan government troops from attacking disorganized rebel forces.  Eventually, NATO took control of air operations over Libya. 

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

As many as 17 post office branches in Detroit and other parts of southeast Michigan could be closed by the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service.
    

The Detroit Free Press reports Saturday that the Postal Service released a list of branches that might close before the end of the year.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is reviewing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's plans for a joint venture involving a Medicaid coverage company.

The Detroit-based Blue Cross and Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross are purchasing AmeriHealth Mercy, which has Medicaid managed-care contracts in states including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and South Carolina.

Schuette said Friday he wants the Michigan-based Blue Cross to provide his office with documentation related to the transaction.

Blue Cross officials said they welcome the inquiry and will work with him to clarify questions about the transaction.

The joint venture could provide an opportunity for Blues insurers nationwide to expand into Medicaid coverage just as states are seeking ways to save money in the program and the ranks of Medicaid enrollees is poised to grow.

The latest Republican candidate to challenge U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says it’s time for regular citizens – like him -- to get into politics.  Clark Durant says he’s running for office because he’s tired of government getting in the way of citizens trying to build their dreams.

"I tremble for my country," Durant says. "Our government is overspending, has grown too fast and taxes too much. Ordinary people are having a hard time putting bread on the table and making ends meet, and our government is extravagant.”

Durant says there’s a danger of inflation unless the U.S. stops expanding its money supply.

The Grosse Pointe charter school executive has the endorsement of several influential Michigan Republican party officials. However, Gov. Snyder has thrown his support to former Cong. Pete Hoekstra.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

U.S. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter from Michigan is in New Hampshire this weekend.

He’s one of several Republican presidential candidates campaigning in the state that traditionally holds one of the nation’s first primaries.

McCotter finished at the bottom of last weekend’s Iowa straw poll, getting just 35 votes out of more than 16,000.

But he says Iowa was just an introduction, and he’s not discouraged.

“We’ve had many people that have been running much longer, some on their second time, and they’ve spent millions of dollars, and they’re actually declining in the polls," McCotter says. "In fact, we’ve already seen one drop out. So after a month of not spending a million dollars, I think there’s room to grow.”

McCotter says he’ll focus on how to restructure the economy, and on China, which he calls a strategic threat to U.S. prosperity.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Congressman Hansen Clarke says Detroit needs a “SWAT team”-style barrage of emergency aid for the city.

Clarke is a first-term Congressman from Detroit. He says he plans to introduce legislation that will take existing federal taxes Detroiters pay, and make sure they stay in the city.

Clarke says that money should be directed toward keeping schools open longer, encouraging immigrant entrepreneurship, stabilizing the housing market and creating jobs.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The New York Times Magazine published a Q & A with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick online today.

Adam Goldman asked Kilpatrick about his time in jail, his relationship with Christine Beatty, lying under oath, and more.

Kilpatrick told Goldman that lying under other was "the only illegal thing I've ever done in my life" and that the federal government's bribery and racketeering charges are false:

All of it is absolutely untrue. I’ve never accepted a bribe. I’ve never got a kickback. I’ve never steered a contract. It’s all ridiculous. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Goldman asked Kilpatrick about suggestions that he was brought down by a conspiracy. Kilpatrick said he never called it a conspiracy, but that investigations are "always ongoing" in politics to undermine others:

As the leader of the Democrats in the Statehouse, I ran campaigns all over the state, and we did opposition research. We looked into people’s finances. There’s constantly investigations, private eyes. Right now there are people conspiring to make sure that Barack Obama doesn’t win next time.

Kilpatrick told Goldman that he thought he would win if he ran for Mayor again, but said "it wouldn’t be the best thing for the people there."

Goldman said he was "amazed" that Kilpatrick was brought down by text messages from 2002 and 2003 - a time when people weren't texting all that much. Kilpatrick suggested he texted so the FBI couldn't record his phone calls:

The F.B.I. investigated Mayor Coleman Young, and they had all of these tapes of his phone calls. So, my thing was: “Hey, I’m doing this new texting thing. They can’t listen to this.” But now they can print it out and read it for all eternity.

Kilpatrick also appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show saying he lost 50 pounds in prison from working out and avoiding the bad food.

On the show, Kilpatrick said that the pending federal corruption case against him grew out of the political climate surrounding him after he lied under oath about the text messaging scandal. After that case, Kilpatrick said "all kinds of rumors" started with many people labeling him as Detroit's "Hip Hop Mayor."

In this morning's news...

Aug 19, 2011
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

EM Ruling

Governor Snyder has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the new Emergency Manager law. “That would mean bypassing lower court proceedings, against the wishes of the law firm that filed the lawsuit opposing the EM law,” Laura Weber reports. “The revised law lets emergency managers strip power from locally elected leaders and scrap union contracts. A lawsuit filed in Ingham County claims the law is unconstitutional in part because it takes away citizens' rights to petition local government on certain matters,” the Associated Press explains. The Detroit News reports there was no immediate word from the Michigan Supreme Court on Snyder's request.

Pontiac Cuts

Pontiac residents could soon pay more for fewer services as the city tries to tackle a projected $12 million deficit.  “Emergency manager Michael Stampfler's plan would add more than $6 million to Pontiac’s tax rolls. Stampfler is also calling for $9 million dollars in budget cuts – which could mean the layoffs of 10 deputy sheriffs and a reduction in fire services,” Rina Miller reports.

Durant In

Republican Clark Durant, a charter school executive in Detroit, has officially entered the race to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election. A formal announcement is expected to come after Labor Day. Just last week, three state Republican leaders endorsed Durant even though, at that point, he had not entered the race. As of now, Durant faces other Republican candidates in the primary including former West Michigan U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra. As I reported last week, Governor Snyder plans to endorse Hoekstra in the GOP primary.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The White House has honored two Detroit-based entrepreneurs as Champions of Change.

Josh Linkner and Torya Blanchard were two of 11 young entrepreneurs who shared their stories about starting businesses in Washington, DC Thursday.

Andrian Clark / Flickr

Detroit is expanding Project 14, a housing incentive program that initially targeted police officers, to all city employees.

It’s part of an effort to entice people to live where they work, and re-build Detroit’s population.

All Detroit city employees had to live in the city until state law overturned a residency requirement in 1999. That dealt a crushing blow to Detroit’s already-diminished tax base.

Image courtesy of Rob Gorski

The Michigan legislature starts its new session soon.  So, what can we expect from Governor Snyder and state legislators in the coming months?

We talk about state politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas Political Analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

 

 

Another candidate has entered the race to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) - Clark Durant, a charter school executive in Detroit.

This from Saul Anuzis' blog site (Anuzis is the chairman of the Michigan Republic Party):

Today, Clark Durant filed the necessary paperwork to begin organizing a campaign for Michigan’s United States Senate seat.

Durant filed Articles of Incorporation and a Statement of Candidacy for “The American Way—Durant 2012.” The formal announcement is expected after Labor Day.

Durant's candidacy is backed by some prominent Republicans in the state.

Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, Betsy Devos, former chairwoman of the MRP, and former Republican Senator Spence Abraham all have thrown their support behind Durant.

The Associate Press reports that Durant's candidacy will increase the chances for a hard fought Republican primary against presumptive front runner former Congressman Pete Hoekstra.

Here's a little more background on Durant from the AP:

The Grosse Pointe resident is president of the New Common School Foundation in Detroit and helped found Cornerstone Schools. He last ran for U.S. Senate in 1990, narrowly losing the GOP primary.

The field of Republican Senate candidates also includes former Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman, Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy and Midland resident Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

How to get by with less is an issue all levels of government are facing.

The emergency manager in Pontiac, Michael Stampfler, is proposing a combination of tax hikes and service cuts to cure the city's budgetary ills as reported in the Oakland Press:

Stampfler took to the microphone this morning for an informational meeting about the updated financial plan that could mean property taxes being raised between 6 and 8 mills.

He requested the public and elected officials submit ideas in writing if they have alternatives to what is proposed.

Stampfler released an update of his financial plan, adding $15.05 million to the budget with a combination of cuts and possible tax hikes.

An 8 mill property tax increase would mean that a property owner whose house is assessed at $50,000 would pay $400 more a year in taxes.

This past spring, the assessed value of homes in Pontiac dropped by an average of 21.4 percent, resulting in $2.6 million in lost annual revenues for the city.

Update 12:41 p.m.

The request from Governor Snyder came last Friday.

The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, the group filing the lawsuit against the state's emergency manager law, posted the request from the Governor today.

In the request, Governor Snyder says without bypassing the other courts "this lawsuit may take years to reach finality.":

I recognize the significance of seeking a bypass to this court as provided by MCR 7.305, and only request this court's involvement after careful consideration of the urgency and importance of the issues presented here.

Snyder says the severe financial difficulties facing local governments and school districts require that the questions of constitutionality be resolved quickly.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Former University of Michigan basketball player, NBA player, and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose was released from Oakland County Jail today after spending 16 days behind bars for drunken driving.

Rose apologized for the DUI and his lawyer said he shouldn't have been jailed.

When he pleaded guilty in May to driving while intoxicated, Rose told District Court Judge Kimberly Small he drank six martinis before crashing his SUV in March along a snowy road in West Bloomfield Township.

Small, who is known for coming down hard on drunken drivers, lectured Rose for 15 minutes before delivering her sentence. She told him that jail time was the "right punishment" in his case.

Small routinely sends first-time drunken drivers to jail, and has said she believes that sends a message that it is a serious crime. Under Michigan law, first-time drunken driving is a maximum 93-day misdemeanor, but there is no minimum mandatory jail time.

Update 4:43 p.m.:

The MDCH posted the submerged oil study on their website this afternoon (it was also presented at a public meeting last night in Marshall). You can read more about the report here.

10:35 a.m.

Report: No long term health effects from submerged oil

Results of a Michigan Department of Community Health toxicology study reaches this conclusion. The results of the study were released last night.

From the Associated Press:

A study says there are no long-term health effects of submerged oil from last year's spill in southern Michigan's Kalamazoo River.

The Battle Creek Enquirer and the Kalamazoo Gazette report results of the Michigan Department of Community Health toxicology study were released Wednesday evening at a community meeting in Marshall to discuss the progress of a cleanup related to the spill.

The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Officials say closed portions of the river could be reopened later this year or in 2012.

Big drug bust in Pontiac

The DEA and the Oakland County sheriff's department released details of one of the bigger drug busts in Michigan.

From the Associated Press:

Authorities in southeast Michigan say they've seized an estimated $150 million worth of heroin and
cocaine during a bust earlier this month.

The Oakland County sheriff's department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday announced details of last Friday's bust in Pontiac. Authorities say a search of a home found 69 kilograms of heroin and 10.5 kilograms of cocaine.

The agencies say it's the largest quantity of heroin ever discovered in Michigan. Sheriff Mike Bouchard says the sheer quantity of drugs is "startling."

Authorities say a traffic stop earlier in the day turned up 2 kilograms of suspected cocaine and led investigators to get a search warrant for the home. During the search of the home they found more than $560,000 in cash along with the heroin and cocaine.

Police called during protest a Huizenga's office

Police were called after some protesters entered the building where U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga's (R-Zeeland) office is located downtown Muskegon.

Google Maps and the U.S. Department of Energy

Does Michigan need fewer judges? The chief justice of the state supreme court thinks so, and so does the governor.

Yesterday, a new study by the state court administrative office recommended eliminating forty-five of the almost six hundred trial judges in Michigan, and also getting rid of four appeals court judges.

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