Politics & Government

Commentary
11:47 am
Wed May 25, 2011

McCotter for President?

There was a fair amount of attention paid yesterday to the news that Thaddeus McCotter, a 45-year-old Congressman from Livonia, is seriously considering running for president. There are certain problems with this. First, outside his district, almost nobody has ever heard of him, even in Michigan.

He hasn’t been a very effective fundraiser, for himself or others, and he has a quirky sense of humor.

He does play a mean guitar - President George W. Bush, who had trouble remembering his name, used to call him, “the rock n’roll dude.” McCotter’s played before the troops in Iraq with a pickup Congressional band called the Second Amendments.

All of which is very nice. But… President? The last House member to be elected President was James Garfield, back in 1880, an era when party bosses picked the nominee.

Several congressmen and women have tried in recent years, and pretty much either sunk without a trace, or hastily pulled out in time to get renominated for Congress.

Just a few days ago, McCotter declined to take on U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow next year, something that would be a much more logical step for a congressman. So - where did this presidential boomlet come from? When I first asked this, people told me there was this great column by S.E. Cupp, touting McCotter for president.

That was even more puzzling, because I had never heard of Cupp. Turns out she is a conservative columnist for the New York Daily News, who saw McCotter in Iowa last month autographing copies of his book, “Seize Freedom! American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age.” Cupp was impressed by a sign McCotter had put up, saying: “Unsigned, twenty dollars. Signed ,fifteen dollars.  No haggling.“  Now you’ve got to admit, that’s cute.

But Presidential?

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News Roundup
8:29 am
Wed May 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Tax Restructuring

Governor Rick Snyder will sign his proposed tax-overhaul into law today. The measure has already been approved by both the Republican-led state Senate and House. The measure cuts taxes on some businesses by about $1 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. The bill also ends tax exemptions on some retirees’ pensions and shrinks the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. The governor says the legislation will create jobs but many Democrats who oppose the measure say it will hurt seniors and low-income families.

Lansing Lawmakers Move Forward on Budget

The state Senate has started approving parts of the state's budget for the next fiscal year, including a bill that cuts funding for public universities by 15 percent. Laura Weber reports:

Republican leaders in the Legislature expect to wrap up work on the budget quickly and easily in comparison with recent years. The budget bills will volley between the Senate and House over the next week as lawmakers try to wrap up work on the budget by next Tuesday. Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he does not anticipate any big battles between the Republican-controlled chambers. But he says there may be a few hang-ups over schools funding. Democrats are upset that additional funds for K-through-12 schools will not go directly to reduce cuts to per-pupil funding. Additional projected tax revenue will instead go toward districts that approve cost-saving measures, and make retirement payments.

Detroit Budget: Bing v. City Council

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he'll veto the Detroit City Council's budget bill that cuts spending by $50 million more than the mayor wants. Vincent Duffy reports:

Detroit City Council voted 8-1 in favor of their plan. But Mayor Bing says adoption of his $3.1 billion dollar budget is crucial if Detroit is to avoid having Governor Rick Snyder step in and appoint an emergency manager to steer the city out of a $155 million dollar deficit. But many on the council say the mayor’s budget is overly optimistic and the $200 million dollars in cuts he proposed is far short of what's needed. The city's new fiscal year starts July 1.

Politics
5:12 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Bing vows to veto city council budget

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he'll veto the city council's budget bill. The council budget cuts spending by $50 million dollars more than the mayor wants.

 Detroit City Council voted 8-1 in favor of their plan. But Mayor Bing says adoption of his $3.1 billion dollar budget is crucial if Detroit is to avoid having Governor Rick Snyder step in and appoint an emergency manager to steer the city out of a $155 million dollar deficit.

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Politics
5:06 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Michigan Legislature on target to meet Governor Snyder's May 31st deadline

There’s one week left for the legislature to meet the governor’s deadline for passing a state budget before the end of May.

Governor Rick Snyder says negotiations are still on pace to wrap up by May 31st.

“There are still lots of things, because it’s a very large document, that we need to get through," Snyder said. "But that's all part of the process and it's coming along in a positive way."

Snyder says it would be acceptable if the final deal isn’t ready until a few days the May 31st deadline:

“Passing it anytime in May or June is a big success over our history," said Snyder. "So I view it all as positive. I just like to hit deadlines that we talked about. So a practical matter it would be good to get it wrapped up because there’s a lot more work to be done. So the sooner the better. And we’re on a path to get that done."  

Snyder and Republican legislative leaders announced a deal last week that settled many of the larger budget issues including the size of funding cuts for education.

Democrats complain that they were left out of budget negotiations.

Politics
4:55 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

House votes to lift age restriction on hunting

The state House has approved a measure that would eliminate the age restriction on children who hunt with an adult.

Currently, the state does not allow children under the age of 10 to hunt.

Republican state Representative Peter Petallia sponsored the bill. The measure would allow a child of any age to hunt, fish, or trap with an adult 21 years or older who has a license and has taken a hunter safety course.

"We spend too much time today behind TVs and computer screens and not enough time monitoring what youth are doing," said Petallia. "This gives us some an opportunity to get them out, spend some time with them and introduce them to our sport."

A handful of lawmakers voted against the bill. Some said children under 10 should not handle firearms. A few said hunting seasons with youth spook deer and other game before the regular season begins.

The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Politics
4:50 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Budget bills start rolling through Senate

The Republican-led state Senate has started approving parts of the budget.

That includes a bill that cuts funding for public universities by 15 percent.

Universities could face bigger cuts if they don’t hold tuition increases at or below 7.1 percent.

Democratic state Senator Morris Hood says tuitions are already too high.

"Our profound disinvestment has led to tuition increase after tuition increase, making a degree even harder to attain," said Hood. "We’re passing this problem onto our already struggling constituents. Budgets are about priorities, and I think we are sending a clear message; the wrong message."

Republican leaders in the Legislature expect to wrap up work on the budget quickly and easily in comparison with recent years.

The budget bills will volley between the Senate and House over the next week as lawmakers try to wrap up work on the budget by next Tuesday.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he does not anticipate any big battles between the Republican-controlled chambers. But he says there may be a few hang-ups over schools funding.

"The K-12 budget is one of the more complicated budgets and made some adjustments during targets," said Richardville. "That one being also being one of the biggest budgets has the highest propensity to have some problems with it. But I think those problems will be mostly technical. I don’t anticipate any problems with getting the budgets passed."

Democrats are upset that additional funds for K-through-12 schools will not go directly to reduce cuts to per-pupil funding. Additional projected tax revenue will instead go toward districts that approve cost-saving measures, and make retirement payments.

Politics
1:32 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Gov. Snyder confident budget deadline will be met

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s one week left for the legislature to meet the governor’s deadline for passing a state budget before the end of May.  Governor Rick Snyder says negotiations are still on pace to wrap up by May 31st .   

“There are still lots of things…because it’s a very large document…that we need to get through.  But that’s all part of the process….and its coming along in a positive way.”     

But if the final deal isn’t ready until a few days later, Snyder says that would be OK.  

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Politics
12:54 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Report: Thaddeus McCotter considers presidential run

Michigan U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-11th District) told Politico he's mulling over a run for the White House.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter U.S. House of Representatives

The man President George W. Bush once dubbed "that rock and roll dude" is considering a run for the White House.

In a interview with POLITICO, McCotter said he thinks the Republican electorate is not happy with the choices they have "and want to take a look at new people."

McCotter said his party must address four big issues:

  • "the challenge of globalization
  • the war for freedom against terrorists
  • the rise of Communist China
  • and whether moral relativism erodes a nation built on self-evident truth"

When asked how he thinks he can become a viable candidate for the Republican nomination, McCotter said it's easier for candidates to get their word out these days. From POLITICO: 

McCotter said the revolution in communication and media has made it easier for aspiring politicians who don’t have the sort of name identification or personal wealth that traditionally determined who could mount a national campaign.

“It’s easier to get your message out today, and people will take a look at it — and if they like it, maybe they vote for you,” he said.

Pressed further, the Michigander quipped: “I’m from Detroit — we live to prove the doubters wrong.”

McCotter plays lead guitar in the Second Amendments, a rock and country band made up of members of Congress. He was in the national spotlight recently when he had a little "Led in the Head" during the government shutdown debate: 

 

McCotter says he'll decide within the next two weeks whether he'll make a run for the White House.

Commentary
11:55 am
Tue May 24, 2011

Chrysler Resurgent

What goes around comes around, and if you live long enough, you get to see it come around more than once.  I’ve now been through two Chrysler near-death experiences in my adult life.

That includes two controversial loan or loan guarantee cycles, two cases of triumphant resurgence, and as of today, two triumphant moments in which the loans were paid back early.

Wasn’t it just the other day that Lee Iacocca was standing on a stage, grinning from ear to ear, and presenting a huge signed check to pay off the last of his generation’s loan guarantees?

Actually, that was 1983. We were still worried about the Soviet Union and there wasn’t any World Wide Web, but it wasn’t all that long ago. Today, it will be Sergio Marchionne pushing buttons to execute wire transfers to pay off loans.

But it feels pretty much the same. In between, we had interludes in which Chrysler sold itself first to the Germans, then the Italians. I hope somebody realizes that they are running out of former Axis nations to partner with. The only one left has its hands more than full with Toyota and the aftermath of the tsunami.

Seriously, what will happen today is good news. It is also a stinging rebuke to those who argued in 2009 that the government should just let General Motors and Chrysler die. That would have plunged us into deep depression.

Now the company is back on its feet - or almost. One thing that is important to remember is that Chrysler is not really an independent company any more. There is no more Chrysler Corporation. It is now the Chrysler Group, LLC. And to all intents and purposes, it is a division of the Italian automaker Fiat.

Fiat, which already has a controlling interest in Chrysler, will be majority owner by the end of the year. The Italian automaker’s stake in Chrysler may eventually rise to about three-quarters, with the remaining share sold as stock to the general public.

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News Roundup
9:03 am
Tue May 24, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Chrysler to Repay Government Loans

Chrysler is expected to pay back its federal loans in full today. Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports:

Chrysler will wire-transfer nearly $6 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $1.5 billion to the governments of Canada and Ontario. Chrysler used some cash from Fiat for the transaction - and refinanced the rest with loans from private banks and investors.The U.S. Treasury still holds about eight and a half percent of Chrysler stock. Fiat could end up buying that stock in the future. As of today, Fiat owns forty-six percent of Chrysler

Crime in Michigan's Largest Cities

The FBI released its preliminary Uniform Crime Report yesterday. The report lists crimes reported in cities with more than 100,000 people. The report shows a decrease in violent crimes in Detroit from 18,000 in 2009 to 17,000 in 2010. Flint, however, had the highest violent crime rate in the nation last year, according to the data. Flint set a record for homicides in 2010.

Plan to Stop the Carp

A new plan has been released by federal and state officials on how to deal with the threat of Asian Carp, an invasive species that many worry could destroy the Great Lakes’ eco-system. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports:

The plan includes stepping up tracking of the invasive fish species and contracting with Illinois fishermen to catch the carp before they can reach Lake Michigan. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says the best way to prevent Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan is to close man-made canals linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. Illinois business interests and politicians are opposed to closing the canals.

Al-Qaida Bomber Leaves a Fingerprint

The FBI has a fingerprint and forensic evidence linking al-Qaida's top bomb maker in Yemen to both the 2009 Christmas Day airline attack and the nearly successful attack on cargo planes last year, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Investigators have pulled a fingerprint of Ibrahim al-Asiri off the bomb hidden in the underwear of a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day. Counterterrorism officials say the explosives in that bomb are chemically identical to those hidden inside two printers that were shipped from Yemen to the U.S. last year.

Politics
5:46 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

Democrats say budget deal kicks off next phase of fight about Michigan's future

The budget should be wrapped up soon. Democrats say the fight will continue.
user aunt owwee Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and legislative Republicans are expected to wrap up work this week on the budget. If they succeed, they will meet the governor’s target of finishing the budget four months ahead of the constitutional deadline.

Democrats, who are in the minority in the House and the Senate, have some objections, but expect to lose this week’s budget battle.

That won’t stop them from calling for using a revenue windfall to make sure schools don’t lose any money in the new budget.

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Politics
5:33 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

State unions call for cost-saving measures in budget

State employee unions are calling on lawmakers to approve government reforms that the unions say would save the state tens of millions of dollars.

A labor organization report says Michigan government has too many managers compared to workers who directly deliver services to the public. It also says the state spends more on outside contracts than it does on its civil service workforce.

Phil Thompson, with union SEIU 517M, says he knows time is running short to influence lawmakers on the current budget.

"Realistically we understand that the elements in this report aren’t going to be able to be handled in the next week or so. What we want to do is set the foundation for an intelligent, in-depth discussion that will generate savings in fiscal 2012, but more importantly to generate millions of dollars in savings in future years."

The state employee unions say efficiencies could save the state about $185 million dollars in the coming year, if lawmakers approved the changes before October.

Commentary
11:29 am
Mon May 23, 2011

Not Guilty As Charged

How many of the forty-four thousand prisoners sitting in our state’s prisons do you think are actually innocent of the charges which put them there? None? A handful? Maybe … one percent?

I talked recently with a man who is an expert on this, and what he told me was absolutely shocking. Jim Petro was Ohio’s Attorney General for four years, until he left office to make an unsuccessful run for governor in 2006.

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Politics
9:42 am
Mon May 23, 2011

Recall petition moves forward against State Rep. Al Pscholka

Calls to "recall Pscholka" have been made for several weeks. This protestor carries a sign during a protest against Benton Harbor's emergency manager on April 27th, 2011. Pscholka introduced the bill that grants emergency managers broader powers.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

One of the four petitions Benton Harbor City Commissioner Dennis Knowles filed to recall State Rep. Al Pscholka (R-St. Joseph) was approved by Berrien County election officials this morning.

Knowles needs to collect 6,718 valid signatures in Pscholka's district before the November 18th deadline. But the signatures are only valid for 90 days, so he has until that deadline to collect that many signatures before they expire.

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Politics
3:02 pm
Sat May 21, 2011

Congressmen from opposite sides of MI, political aisle, make friends

Congressmen Justin Amash (right) and Hansen Clarke (left) host a town hall meeting at the Gerald R. Ford Mueseum in Grand Rapids Saturday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A republican congressman from West Michigan and a democrat from Detroit held a joint town hall meeting today Saturday in Grand Rapids. The two freshmen lawmakers have bonded in the nation’s capitol and want to show people some politicians do get along.

Congressman Justin Amash is a tea party favorite from West Michigan. Congressman Hansen Clarke is a democrat from Detroit.  

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Politics
5:33 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Budget deal reduces dollars for redevelopment

The new budget deal struck this week between Governor Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders cuts the amount of money for redeveloping abandoned factories and preserving historic buildings.

The governor says the state won’t need to rely so much on targeted incentives in the future.

The new budget will zero out brownfield and historic preservation tax credits, and replace them with a new fund to offer economic development grants.

$50 million will be set aside for brownfields and historic preservation.

That’s $15 to $20 million dollars less than the state targets now.

But Governor Snyder says the state can do a better job of choosing projects "and hopefully make those dollars go farther than they are today."

Mark Morante, with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, says the state will target only projects most likely to be completed.

In the past, many tax credits that were awarded went unclaimed. He also says the state won’t need to rely on incentives as much because tax changes will bring down the cost of doing business.

"With this six percent corporate income tax and roughly an 80 percent cut in corporate taxes in general, our job will be a little easier on that side of the table, so we will probably need less incentives," said Morante. 

Those tax reforms have been criticized as a tax shift onto individuals. But the governor and his Republican allies in the Legislature say that will be worth it if it creates new jobs.

Politics
1:01 am
Fri May 20, 2011

Recall battle

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Michigan
(Official state portrait)

Thousands of people are expected to descend on the state capitol on Saturday to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s policies.    Organizers plan to kick off a petition campaign to have the governor recalled from office.  

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Politics
3:48 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Detroit pension board agrees to debt payment changes

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Trustees of Detroit’s general retirement system have agreed to let the city spread out its debt payments over a longer period. It's just one of the changes the city’s mayor is seeking to balance the budget.

The change will save the city about $13 million, and if Detroit’s police and fire pension board trustees agree to a similar move, it bring the total savings to $65 million.

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Politics
3:37 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Democrats feel slighted on budget deal

A budget deal was reached between Governor Snyder and the State Legislature, but democrats say they feel slighted by the deal.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature have reached a budget deal for the coming fiscal year.

The plan will use hundreds of millions of dollars from a tax revenue windfall to lessen proposed cuts to K-12 schools.

Democratic leaders say the plan violates a deal they agreed to last week, because the money doesn’t go directly to replace the cuts. Instead it will be used to urge schools to cut costs, and help make retirement payments.

"I think that we should motivate people to do the right thing and to find efficiencies where they can," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer. "And if you want to incentivize them with extra dollars, I’m comfortable with that idea. But this violates the agreement that we had, and the agreement was that we would mitigate the per-pupil foundation allowance so that the dollars would get right into the classroom with the kids."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says negotiations could have gone more smoothly with Democrats.

"There was no malice, there was no intent to mislead or anything like that, we don’t have that kind of a relationship. But this is the first time that this group of people is actually getting together and negotiating a deal, so there may have been some improvements laid out, we could probably do things better than we did, and we’ll continue to work toward that."

There is about a week and a half left before Governor Snyder’s self-imposed, May 31 budget deadline.

Richardville says he expects the Legislature to meet that goal.

Politics
2:52 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Computer outage at Secretary of State offices will not be fixed today

The Michigan Department of Management, Budget and Technology says the computer outage affecting Secretary of State branch offices will not be fixed before the close of business today.

A spokesman says technicians will work through the night, if necessary, to fix the problems.

The shutdown of a mainframe computer also prevents State Police troopers from conducting license and vehicle checks, but not from issuing tickets.

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