Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

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Today is the first day of the new republican controlled House of Representatives. Officially, along with the Senate, they're known as the 112th Congress. The members will be sworn in this afternoon.

The Washington Post blog "The Fix" has a list of 10 members of Congress to watch. Republican Dave Camp, of Michigan's 4th district, is listed as one of the ten:

Camp may be the most powerful member of Congress you've never heard of. He's the chairman of the mighty Ways and Means Committee and, though low profile, will have considerable sway over health care, taxes and trade. That's a wide -- and important -- palette.

The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Flickr

The politicos over at NBC's First Read have put together a look at the 112th Congress by the numbers:

  • In the House: Republicans will hold a 242-193 advantage.
  • In the Senate: Democrats will hold a 53-47 majority. (Two senators are independent but caucus with the Democrats).
  • There are 96 new members of the House (87 Republicans, nine Democrats).
  • The House will include 43 Tea Party-backed members.
  • The Senate will have five Tea Party-backed members.
  • In total, in the Senate, there will be 16 new members (13 Republicans, three Democrats).
flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

UPDATE 10:39 a.m.:

Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio's Lansing Bureau Chief just filed this breaking news report:

Justice Robert Young has been selected as the new chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Young was chosen by his fellow justices in a closed-door vote. The decision reflects the change in control of the court from Democrats to Republicans in the last election.

9:17 a.m.:

The seven justices of the Michigan Supreme Court will meet today to select a new chief justice. After this past November's election, Republicans are in the majority of the court with four members; three justices are Democrats.

Justice Robert Young Junior was re-elected to an eight year term in 2010.  He said yesterday that he has four votes to become the next Chief Justice. Young, who has been on the Michigan Supreme Court since 1999, is a Republican from the Detroit-area. The current Chief Justice is Marilyn Kelly, a Democrat. 

As the Associated Press reports:    

The court's membership will change soon. Justice Maura Corrigan is expected to resign to lead the Department of Human Services under the new governor, Rick Snyder.

No such announcement from the Snyder administration has been made yet publicly.

Three New Michigan Congressmen
Photo courtesy of huizengaforcongress.com

Michigan's congressional delegation is getting a makeover. One-third of its 15 members will be new when they're sworn in later this afternoon at the Capitol.  Here's a rundown of who is in... and who is out:

1st District

Republican Dan Benishek won the race to succeed veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in Michigan’s 1st District which covers all of the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula. Stupak announced last April that he would not seek a 10th term in Washington. Benishek was a Tea-Party favorite and was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

2nd District

Republican Bill Huizenga beat Democrat Fred Johnson in Michigan’s 3rd District in western Michigan.  Huizenga takes the seat left open by Republican Pete Hoekstra who was a GOP candidate for governor in the state’s 2010 primary.

3rd District

West Michigan freshman state lawmaker Justin Amash beat his Democratic challenger Pat Miles in Michigan’s 3rd District which covers parts of west Michigan. At 30 years old, Amash will become one of the nation’s youngest U.S. Congressmen.  He had Tea-Party backing.

4th District

Republican Dave Camp won an 11th term as Representative of Michigan’s 4th District.  Camp beat his democrat challenger Jerry Campbell.  The 4th District includes parts of Saginaw County, as well as northern and central Michigan.

Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Flickr

Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation will take the oath of office today at the nation's Capitol. As we've reported, the state's delegation is full of new faces. The Associated Press reports:

Longtime congressmen and first-termers alike are scheduled to be sworn in en masse at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, and incoming House Speaker John Boehner is to hold individual ceremonies for some lawmakers later in the day. One of those getting an individual swearing-in ceremony is Justin Amash, a Republican from the Grand Rapids area. New Michigan Republican congressman Tim Walberg of Tipton also will be sworn in individually by Boehner around the same time.

There are 15 members of the state's Congressional delegation, five of them are new.  Although, GOP Representative Tim Walberg could be considered a 'second year freshman' as he won a seat in Congress in 2006 but lost it in 2008.  He won back the seat in this past November's election.

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder issued the first executive order of his administration yesterday. The order splits up oversight of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two state departments: the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality.

The executive order takes effect March 13th. As The Associated Press reports:

Gov. John Engler separated the natural resources and environmental quality functions into different agencies in 1995, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm rejoined them in 2009 in a cost-saving move. Snyder now says the job would best be handled by two agencies.

Rodney Stokes will head the Department of Natural Resources and Dan Wyant will head the Department of Environment Quality.

In a statement released yesterday, the Governor said:

“Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and we need to be a leader and innovator in protecting these resources. Recreational fishing, hunting and boating activities alone contribute more than $3 billion annually to our economy.  Separating the DEQ and DNR means we can better address these key priorities.”

The state’s new economic development chief says the “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign should also be used as a tool to grow and attract businesses. Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing Bureau Chief sent us this report from the Capitol:

Michael Finney was confirmed as the new CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation by its board of directors. Finney was Governor Rick Snyder’s choice to lead the agency.

Finney says the “Pure Michigan” campaign is already a success story in selling the state as a tourist destination:

So we want to find ways to use that as a brand that will represent both tourism and business in our state. We think it’s a great brand and we intend on exploring that further as we go about our business of effectively marketing Michigan as a desired place to grow a business.

Finney says that can be done using free media and without increasing the Pure Michigan ad budget. He also says there will be a shift in the focus of the state’s economic development efforts toward helping entrepreneurs who are already in Michigan grow their businesses and hire more workers.

Kalamazoo City Commission
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo has a new balanced budget in place…with no layoffs, tax increases or cuts to city services. City commissioners unanimously approved the 2011 budget plan Monday night.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder started his first week on the job by meeting with his senior staff, and plotting out the first six months of his administration. Rick Pluta sent this report from Lansing:

Governor Snyder wants to re-organize government, reform business taxes, and have a two-year budget completed by July first.

Geralyn Lasher is the governor’s communications director. She says Snyder also plans to adopt a new economic development and jobs-creation strategy that focuses on businesses that are already in Michigan.

He talks about economic gardening and keeping Michigan businesses here, helping them grow and helping them be more successful and, then, also attracting people from other states.

Lasher also says the governor has decided he will draw a public salary, but it will be less than the $159,300  he’s allowed to collect. Snyder is a retired venture capitalist who spent $6 million of his own money on his campaign for governor.

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

There aren't too many jobs out there where you go to work on your first day unsure of how much money you'll make. But, apparently, that's the case with one pretty important job in the state: Governor of Michigan.

The Associated Press reports that Governor Rick Snyder still hasn't decided how much money he'll take as the state's Chief Executive.

Kate Ebli
kateebli.com

Former State Representative Kate Ebli died yesterday after a recurrence with breast cancer.

The Democrat served 56th District of Michigan (Monroe County) for two terms. She lost her bid for a third term in the November elections to Republican Dale Zorn.

The Monroe Democratic Party released a statement:

"We are extremely saddened with the news that State Representative Kate Ebli has lost her courageously fought battle with cancer. It is a sad day for Kate's family and also for everyone that knew her."

Congressman Fred Upton
Republican Conference / Flickr

Republican Congressman Fred Upton, who represents Michigan's 6th District, says his fellow GOP lawmakers will go after the new health care law piece by piece.  Upton made the comments yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

As The Associated Press reports:

That effort, says Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, will follow a vote to repeal the health care law outright. Such a vote could come early in the new year after the GOP takes control of the House. Upton is the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and he says that repealing the health care law is his top priority.

Upton says he hopes for a vote before President Obama gives this year's State of the Union address.

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder begins his first full week of work at the state Capitol today, Laura Weber reports. Snyder was sworn in as the state's 48th governor on Saturday. He told a crowd in front of the Capitol building that the state needs to move into the future with a positive attitude.

It is also time to be bold. I’ve been cautioned by many that expectations are already too high. We shouldn’t walk away from high expectations, it’s time to deliver on high expectations.

It's expected that Snyder will start signing his first executive orders to reorganize state government as soon as this week.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has managed to fulfill one major promise: the city has submitted its comprehensive annual financial report to the state on time.

 

Detroit had submitted its audit late for the past five years. That caused the state to withhold millions in much-needed revenue-sharing funds.

 

Detroit may see its most sweeping political reforms in decades in 2011.

 The city’s Charter Commission will really get down to work next year.

 Detroiters voted to open the city charter up for change in mid-2009.

 Now, the charter’s fate lies in the hands of the nine elected Charter Commission members. Their work will come under intense scrutiny.

Both Mayor Dave Bing’s office and the Detroit City Council have offered their suggestions for revisions.

I don’t know Jim Stamas personally. He is a state representative from Midland who will be the majority floor leader when the new legislature takes office next month.

He’s a fairly conservative Republican, and I’d guess that on some policy issues we might disagree. But he did something this week I thought totally appropriate. He is bringing back a dress code for the legislature. He thinks members ought to wear business attire when they are doing the people’s business.

Ambassador Bridge
J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced yesterday that he'll keep Kirk Steudle as Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation in his new administration. That could mean continued debate over whether to build a new bridge to connect Detroit to Canada, Laura Weber reports. As Weber explains:

Steudle has drawn heat from Republican lawmakers over the past few years for his support of a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. The legislators were unhappy with a detailed traffic report from the department, but Steudle says that information will be rolled into continued analysis of the bridge. Governor-elect Snyder says just because he tapped Steudle to continue as director doesn’t mean the bridge will be built. But the discussion will continue.

The proposed Detroit River International Crossing would compete with the Ambassador Bridge.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says he wants to meet with his Detroit counterpart to discuss how the region’s water and sewer system is managed.

The request comes in a letter sent today, days after a federal indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

Well, we finally have the official census figures, and for the first time in history, Michigan lost people in the course of a decade. Worse, we’ll have fewer members of Congress.

Over the last thirty years, we’ve lost five seats in the House of Representatives. That’s equivalent to losing the voting power of the entire state of Connecticut. Put another way, we’re now back to having only one more representative than a century ago.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Governor Jennifer Granholm has less than 10 days left in office.  The term-limited Democrat spoke with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley this morning about her 8 years in office and what she hopes for the future of the state.

It's Wednesday, the day we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. On tap for today: Michigan gets hit hard by bad news from the census and Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he wants a 2-year budget plan for the state.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is expected to name directors for the state's Department of Transportation and the Michigan State Police later today.

It's believed that Snyder will keep Kirk Steudle on as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  Steudle has been the director of the department since 2006.

Snyder is also expected to appoint Kriste Etue as director of the Michigan State Police.  She's currently the deputy director of the state police.

As The Detroit News reports, Etue will be the first woman to head the Michigan State Police:

She will be the second woman named to head a department in the Snyder administration. On Friday, Olga Dazzo was named director of the Department of Community Health.

Snyder is expected to make the announcement of both posts at a news conference today in Lansing.

Map of U.S. House of Representative seats gained and lost in Census count
U.S. Census Bureau

Officials in the Obama White House say they're not concerned about the new Census numbers.

The Associated Press reports that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he "doesn't expect the results of the new census to have a 'huge practical impact' on national politics."

NPR quotes Gibbs as saying:

"I don't think shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places."

The results of the 2010 U.S. Census has shifted seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from traditional democratic strongholds in the East and Midwest, to some of the republican strongholds in the South and West (see map above).

Apportionment map from U.S. Census data
U.S. Census Bureau

Update 1:30 p.m.:

It's confirmed. Michigan has NEVER lost population in U.S. Census data history. I asked Vince Kountz of the U.S. Census Bureau in Detroit. He looked at the books and never saw population drop for the state of Michigan. He went back to the 1810 Census, before Michigan was a state. There were 4,762 people in the Michigan territory back then.

  • We had 9,938,444 people in the state in 2000
  • We now have 9,883,640 in the state in 2010.

12:02 p.m.:

The Census numbers are out. You can take a look at what they found with this map.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor-elect Rick Snyder tells the Associated Press that he plans to give state lawmakers a two-year budget proposal, that he wants them to pass by July 1st.    That would be a big change in two ways: 1) most state budget plans have been year to year, not two year plans, and 2) the legislature rarely passes a state budget until near the end of the fiscal year in September.  Snyder tells the Associated Press he's accelerating the normal budget drafting pace and will be delivering his plan to the legislature earlier than the mid-March deadline.  Snyder says he's making business tax reform a major part of his budget plan, according to the Associated Press:

 As Michigan begins to emerge from its decade-long economic slump, Snyder says his first priority is to eliminate any hurdles to that recovery. He plans to cut business taxes in the budget that takes effect next fall.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder and Governor Jennifer Granholm
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Granholm and her family had dinner last night with Governor-elect Rick Snyder and his family. Both the current and incoming Governors have three children each and, according to Governor Granholm, the families talked about what it is like to be part of a family that's in the spotlight.  Granholm said:

We had a very pleasant dinner... their [Snyder's] kids are similar ages to our kids... it was really a very personal conversation about what it's like living in the Governor's family... and how you react to people approaching you as a result of that... what it's like to have security detail... what it's like to have a place on Mackinac Island... that kind of stuff,  it was very nice.

Governor-elect Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.  Granholm says she won't talk about what she will do once her term is up until early next year.

One thing is for sure. If Michigan is going to get out of the hole it is in and lay the foundation for future prosperity, lots of us are going to have to move out of our economic and political comfort zones.

Unions are going to have to realize that employers and governments can’t afford the same kind of health care and defined-benefit pension plans as when we had full employment at high wages and the Big Three dominated the global automotive economy.

Chambers of Commerce are going to have to realize that there is more to attracting new jobs and business than low taxes.

And everybody is going to have to realize that without a modern, well-functioning infrastructure, we haven’t got a chance.

The US Capitol
Jonothan Colman / Flickr

This week the U.S. Census will release its initial population totals for the country and the states. That data will begin the scramble to redraw Michigan’s congressional districts.

Michigan will probably lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when the new census numbers come out (going from 15 to 14 seats).

The state’s incoming Republican governor and Republican controlled legislature are expected to redraw congressional boundaries so they can favor Republican candidates.

Senator Levin speaks with military member
Carl Levin

Associated Press reports the senate has cleared the way for a vote on Saturday afternoon on a bill that would overturn the military's ban on openly gay troops. Senators voted 63-33 to advance the legislation. It's already passed the House and  now looks likely to reach the president's desk before the new year.

Earlier in the day Senator Levin gave a senate floor statement.

Ruben Diaz Alonso / Flickr

This week’s indictment against Detroit’s former mayor and others is likely to renew interest in changing the way the region’s massive water system is run. The federal government identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were steered to a friend of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

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