Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING (AP) - Democratic lawmakers are proposing increased state oversight of Michigan's oil and gas pipelines.

  The four-bill package announced this week would require the state Department of Environmental Quality to regularly inspect pipelines under the Great Lakes and mandate that pipeline operators submit emergency response plans to state regulators.

  Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor says he's thankful aging lines beneath the Straits of Mackinac haven't leaked. But he says more oversight is needed to "ensure Michigan's economy and natural resources are protected."

Today on Stateside:

  • A look at how Michigan has recovered from the Great Recession.
  • Cultural map-making from the New York Times and the German potato salad that "evokes" Michigan.
  • Music from Lac La Belle.
  • Taking back Thanksgiving.
  • And a history of the Ohio-Michigan rivalry.
Toledo, Ohio
OZinOH / Flickr

This weekend's Michigan-Ohio State game not only focuses attention on one of the longest, deepest rivalries in college sports, it also reminds us that Michigan and Ohio have been at loggerheads for the better part of 200 years.

Dennis Allain Renderings

The Detroit City Council has postponed a key vote for the city’s new hockey arena.

Developer Olympia Entertainment asked Council to delay re-zoning for the new Detroit Red Wings arena, slated to open in 2017. Olympia is the development arm of businesses run by the Ilitch family, owners of the Red Wings.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss what to expect from the Legislature’s lame duck session, repercussions from Ferguson, and a fund to help Detroit pensioners.


User:peoplesworld / flickr

On Tuesday evening, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in cities across the state, including Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor and Detroit where crowds blocked traffic, to protest the Grand Jury decision in the Ferguson case regarding Michael Brown and officer Darren Wilson. At Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, the crowd observed a moment of silence for Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18 year old who was fatally shot by Wilson, a white police officer. 

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

READERS - PLEASE NOTE: This story was written in the afternoon of 11/25 - and is about the protests that happened during the day. This story was published before the larger protests occurred in the evening.

Small protests continue around Michigan today after news broke last night that a St. Louis County grand jury won’t indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri.  

Reinis Traidas / Flickr

The state House is expected to take up legislation next month that could decide the future of Michigan’s film credit program.

The credits will go away in 2017 if lawmakers do not act to extend them. The state Senate passed a bill last month that would keep them alive. Senate Bill 1103 got wide bipartisan support.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan wants online shoppers to save their sales receipts.  

They may need them at tax time.

The growth of online sales has meant a bigger loss of sales tax revenue in Michigan.  

The state expects to lose $440 million in unpaid sales tax on remote sales, mainly online.

“Oftentimes people think that this is a new tax.  It certainly isn’t,” says Treasury Department spokesman Terry Stanton. “It’s been on the state’s books since 1930s.”

Wayne County plans to foreclose on a record number of properties next year.

The county has begun issuing notices to almost 75,000 properties for delinquent taxes. Of those, more than 80%--about 62,000—are located in Detroit.

The county is required, by state law, to auction off all properties at least three years behind on property taxes.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council last night approved an ordinance that will require home and business owners to shovel snow from sidewalks faster. 

The capitol city’s old ordinance, which involved mailing citations to property owners, sometimes took so long the snow would melt before the property owner received the notice.    

The new ordinance speeds up the process to 48 hours. 

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says one death last year can be blamed on city residents not shoveling their sidewalks after a snowstorm.

“Life and limb is what’s at stake," says Bernero. 

Today on Stateside

Polling place.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan election results became official today, with the Board of State Canvassers certifying the results. And one thing is certain: Voter turnout was low in 2014. It was the lowest, in fact, for a governor's race since 1998. With that comes some interesting consequences. Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta of our It's Just Politics team are here to explain.

Listen to Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta below:

Vacant lot in Detroit.
University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Gov. Rick Snyder’s Asia trip, the financial status of Michigan’s schools, and a new plan to sell Detroit land.


user Marlith / Flickr

Supporters of adding LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law say they have enough votes in the Legislature to pass a bill before the end of the year. But they say that’s only if Republican leaders take up a version of the bill that includes protections for gender identity.

Activists say a bill that leaves out protections for transgender people would cause more harm than good.

Michigan had the lowest turnout in a Governor’s race this year since the John Engler-Geoffrey Fieger face-off of 1998. And, while a lot of Republicans sat out this year, it was mostly Democrats who stayed home in droves on Election Day.

So, despite the low turnout, conservatives can rejoice because Republicans will remain in control in Lansing for at least the next two years. But progressives can, perhaps, find some solace in the fact that getting initiatives and challenges on the ballot will be easier than it has been in 16 years.

(Shout-out to the Lansing political consulting firm Sterling Corporation and its attorney Bob LaBrandt for being the first to point this out.)

Proposals are by and large put on the ballot by petition drives. (The Legislature can also put questions on the ballot.)

The number of signatures required to get a petition on the ballot is based on the number of people who voted in the previous election for governor. So, fewer voters in 2014 means fewer signatures needed to get on the ballot in 2016.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Many in Detroit's immigrant community are welcoming President Obama’s change of course on immigration.

The crowd at Detroit’s El Nacimiento restaurant listened quietly as the president outlined his executive order Thursday night, but broke into cheers and shouts of “bravo!” as he wrapped up.

The order makes a number of changes to immigration policy, affecting up to five million currently undocumented people.

Nativity Scene
Flickr user Stereogab / Flickr

Someone has asked to set up a Christmas Nativity scene on government property, but where does this lie in the separation of church and state vs. free speech?

MLive’s Capitol reporter Jonathon Oosting joins us to discuss the request. According to Oosting, the recently formed Michigan State Capitol Commission is reviewing the request and they are currently seeking legal advice on the issue.

 Listen to our conversation with Oosting below.


  Today on Stateside:

  • MLive Capitol reporter Jonathon Oosting talks about a request that has been submitted for a Christmas Nativity scene on government property.
     
  • Cadillac is moving its headquarters, along with its 140 employees, to New York City. Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes tells us what’s behind the move.
     
  • Ken Estelle, CEO of Feed American West Michigan, joins us to talk about the challenges of getting fresh food to food banks during the winter months and what you can do to help.
     
  • Finalist on the second season of NBC’s “The Voice” and former Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club, Tony Lucca discusses his experiences as a performer and how his Michigan identity has influenced his music.
     
  • Sheryl Gay Stone, author of a recent piece for the New York Times, talks to us about the challenges new Congressional members face in transitioning to D.C.
     
  • Jack Lessenberry and Todd Spangler examine what we can expect from Michigan’s five new members of Congress.
     
  • The Henry Ford Hospital recently designed a new hospital gown that preserves patient modesty, incorporates new fabric and uses color coding to help staff identify patient conditions. We talk to designer Michael Forbes about what inspired the changes.

*Listen to the full program above 

Official photo / House Democrats

A state Representative from Kalamazoo says he wants the votes from November’s election recounted.

Democrat Sean McCann ran against Republican State Rep. Margaret O’Brien for the state Senate. He lost by 59 votes. That’s less than one-tenth-of-one-percent of the total votes cast.

“We really want to make sure that everyone’s vote counted. We heard of some people with problems at precincts – some tabulators jamming,” McCann said.

“When I ran for student body president at Western Michigan University the race was pretty close, too, but not by this close of a margin,” he added. McCann won that race.

McCann will have to fork over at least $1,000 to pay to recount the 80,000 plus votes.

“We don’t necessarily know whether or not the outcome will change. You know it only takes one vote in the end to win,” he said.

The Capital Dome in Lansing, Michigan.
Joe Dearman / Flickr

Each week, Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, join me to talk Michigan politics.

This week, we talked about a plan in the State House that would change how Michigan distributes its Electoral College votes.

You can listen to our conversation below.


Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Bills that seek to reduce prison spending in Michigan seem to have momentum going into the last weeks of the Legislature’s 2014 session.

Michigan spends about $2 billion every year on prisons. The legislation seeks to reduce the length of some prison stays and provide more supervision for people after they are released from prison.

The most widely supported proposal would create a commission to oversee sentencing guidelines and discuss other corrections policies.

“It creates a forum for exploring all this. And it’s something Michigan badly needs,” said Barbara Levine with the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.

Freshman year in Congress isn't that different from freshman year in college.

Michigan has five new "rookie representatives-elect" that now have to worry about making new friends, finding a place to live, and even taking part in a freshman orientation before they can begin their work.

We talked to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, author of the New York Times piece After Victory Laps, Settling In As Rookies, about what new Congressional members go through during the transition to Washington.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More Detroiters living next to vacant lots will get a chance to buy them.

The city is ramping up a program to sell “side lots” to neighboring homeowners for just $100. The Detroit City Council recently transferred thousands of properties to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which is running the program.

The land bank currently has a little more than 7000 properties in its inventory, says spokesman Craig Fahle.

Rick Snyder / Flickr

Governor Snyder leaves for China today on his fourth trade mission to Asia. Tom Watkins has spent many years, in many different roles, campaigning for stronger ties between China and Michigan.

Watkins says Governor Snyder has two goals for this trip: promote Michigan goods and services, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI). China has plans to invest $1 trillion around the world, so it is important for Governor Snyder to attract FDI in order to create new jobs and opportunities within the state, says Watkins.

Watkins says there is a chance to develop a good relationship with China, as Chinese car companies have set up several R&D plants in southeast Michigan.. There are also a number of international students from China at state universities here. But Watkins warns it's not quick or easy work. "Doing business in China is not an economic one night stand," said Watkins. "You can’t just do one trip there.” Listen to our conversation with Watkins below:


Today on Stateside:

  • Road funding is once again being discussed in Lansing, but Chris Kolb says we need to think beyond just fixing roads and bridges. Find out where he thinks the state should invest more of its money.
  • A good meal can become a great meal if the restaurant has the right ambiance. For example, good music can improve the overall experience. But what about the other way around? Interlochen Public Radio’s David Cassleman talks about a conductor and chef who are teaming up in Traverse City to find out.
  • Ypsilanti singer-songerwriter and Civil War history buff Matt Jones has a new album out called “The Deep Enders.” See what he has to say about his Civil War influences and song writing for “The Deep Enders.”
US Supreme Court

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss a Michigan couple whose case could determine constitutional same-sex marriage rights, a challenge to Michigan’s right-to-work law, and a Republican-proposed plan for changes to the Electoral College.

Today on Stateside: 

  • A new report from Public Sector Consultants projects Michigan will lose enough energy production for one million people in 2016. We look at what this means for Michigan residents. 

  • Chris Cook, chief restaurant and wine critic at Hour Detroit Magazine joins us to discuss how American eating and cooking went through a drastic change post-World War II. 

  • How much has the American family changed? Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research have been digging into this for a report called The New American Family: All Are Welcome and You Don't Even Have To Get Married. We talk with U of M professor of Sociology, Pamela Smock. 

  • Automakers are on track to sell 16.5 million cars and trucks for 2014. Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader.com joins us to talk about the future of long-term loans and leases that are being sold to buyers. 

  • More than half of all hospital deaths are caused by sepsis. Dr. Jack Iwashyna, research scientist at the Ann Arbor-VA Healthcare System, and Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, join us to explain what exactly sepsis is and the challenges it poses. 

Today on Stateside:

  • The legal team for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed their appeal today with the US Supreme Court.  They want the court to rule that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network is here. 

  • Michigan Radio's newest project is The Next Big Idea. Here with us today are Joe Linstroth and Jeff DeGraff, who discuss what innovation means to them and what they're looking for.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

Many Michigan families remain at very high risk of homelessness after the Great Recession, says an advocacy organization.

Eric Hufnagle, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, say there are things cities can do other than wait for the economy to improve – like increase the amount of affordable housing.

Hugnagle says many people who become homeless  have jobs, but the jobs don't pay enough to let them afford rent.

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