Politics & Government

Governor Snyder
6:35 am
Fri January 28, 2011

Snyder to 'meet the press'

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder will address the Michigan Press Association later today. As the Associated Press reports, the Republican governor will share his roadmap for reinventing the state.

The AP explains:

The MPA traditionally invites the sitting governor to speak to its annual gathering shortly after the governor gives the annual State of the State address. The meeting will take place at the Detroit Marriott in the Renaissance Center. The conference also includes a session with the GOP and Democratic legislative leaders...

Tomorrow, Governor Snyder will be in Grand Rapids as state Republicans elect a new party chairman.

Politics
4:43 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Proposal calls for revenue sharing based on population

Proposals for different ways the state delivers payments to local governments for services are bubbling up at the state Capitol.

A bill in the state Senate would distribute revenue sharing payments to cities, townships and villages based on population.

Read more
Detroit Politics
4:20 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Oakland Co. asks judge to put Detroit water dept. in hands of regional committee

William Warby Flickr

Update January 27, 4:18 p.m.:


 


Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says it’s “ludicrous” to suggest that the city give up control of its massive water system.


Legislation at the state Capitol, and a motion filed this week in federal court, would do just that.


Mayor Bing says he plans to examine the system’s problems, and he plans to fix them.



"I’m not here to defend past practices. I’m not here to defend the management, on a historical basis. My job here today is to look forward."


Bing says people think Detroit is in a weak position, and they’re trying to take advantage of that.


 


Update January 27th, 8:24 a.m.:


Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano has issued the following statement regarding the current situation with the DWSB:

"Today, we met as regional leaders to discuss Mayor Bing's plans for DWSD. It was a very productive meeting, containing very open and pointed discussion of the serious challenges within the department.  I am disappointed in the filing by the Oakland County Drain Commissioner, as this action contradicts the spirit of the discussion earlier today.


I believe in giving the Mayor an opportunity to explore the current operation, correct the mistakes and practices by the previous administration, and allow him to move forward and put in place accountable, transparent operation.


I believe now is not the time to be divisive, but to work cooperatively."


January 26th, 6:10 p.m.:


Oakland County is asking a federal judge to create a regional committee to oversee Detroit’s massive water system. It’s the latest development in a long-running dispute between the city and the suburbs over the scandal-plagued department.


John McCullough is the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner. He says some $200 million are expected to be spent upgrading the system in the coming year.



"And since 60 percent of these corrections are going to be paid for by suburban customers, it really provides an effective way of the entire region to weigh in as to the proposed solutions and how those costs will be addressed."


The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been under federal oversight since the late 1970s because of Clean Water Act violations.


Late last year,the Justice Department identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were allegedly steered to a friend of Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

Politics
4:04 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Repeal of item pricing law introduced in the legislature

Legislation to repeal the Michigan law that requires every item on store shelves to carry a price tag has been introduced in the state House.

Governor Rick Snyder called for an end to the 35-year-old item-pricing law last week in his State of the State address.

He says the law is outdated, and repealing it would send a message that Michigan is a business-friendly state.

Read more
Commentary
3:43 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Guns in Church

Newly elected State Senator Mike Green, who comes from beet-growing country in Michigan’s thumb, seems to be a good and decent man. He was a tool and die maker for General Motors for thirty years, and operated a family farm most of that time.

He’s had the same wife for forty-three years; raised five kids and has more than enough grandchildren for two baseball teams.

The senator also owns a business that would make Abraham Lincoln proud -- Green’s Log Rails and Custom Log Furniture. Like Honest Abe, he is a Republican, and lacks college education. But he is very enthusiastic about guns.

So much so, that he has introduced legislation to allow people with concealed weapons permits to take guns everywhere -- churches, synagogues, bars, Joe Louis Arena. He thinks banning guns anywhere is outrageous. “Why do you need to give your Constitutional right away when you go to some places?“ he asks.

There are a number of ways to answer that, but the easiest and simplest is that there is no Constitutional right to take a weapon anywhere. That’s not a left-wing anti-gun point of view.

Read more
State Legislature
7:12 am
Thu January 27, 2011

A part-time Michigan legislature?

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Republican state Representative Dave Agema introduced a bill yesterday that would amend the state's constitution to create a part-time legislature, rather than the full-time legislature that Michigan currently has.

The Associated Press calls it a, "long-shot" as efforts to make the legislature part-time have failed in the past. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry agrees. He says he doesn't think the bill will go anywhere.

The AP reports:

Advocates say it would save money and force lawmakers to be more efficient when conducting business at the state Capitol.

Peter Luke of Mlive.com explains:

Agema’s amendment would limit the Legislature, which convenes on the second Wednesday of every January, to 150 consecutive days of session. Budget bills would have to be completed by June 15; it’s now Sept. 30. Extra days could be scheduled, but only for extraordinary reasons that aren’t specified.

Politics
5:43 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Canadian environmental group fights new border crossing

The Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor

A Canadian environmental group says studies supporting the proposed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) are flawed.

DRIC supporters on both sides of the border say a new crossing will create jobs and bolster international trade.

The Canadian and Ontario governments strongly support the project, and Governor Snyder recently voiced his approval too.

But a Sierra Club of Ontario report says the traffic projections DRIC supporters cite are flawed. They say cross-border traffic has declined for 12 years, and shows no sign of rebounding anytime soon.
Sierra Club director Dan McDermott says the DRIC would be a costly boondoggle.

“There is simply no demand for DRIC. No cross-border traffic demand that justifies five-plus billions of dollars.”

McDermott says he hopes the report will bolster its cases against the DRIC in Canadian courts. Those lawsuits challenge the project’s environmental permits.

Read more
Politics
5:09 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Michigan Municipal League calls for region-based taxes

Michigan’s local governments say if the state cuts revenue sharing, then they should be allowed to ask voters for new taxes to replace that money.

The Michigan Municipal League met with Governor Rick Snyder last week, and has answered his call for proposals to save money and cut costs for local governments, and to make communities more viable and attractive.

Dan Gilmartin is executive director of the Municipal League. He says it starts by looking at regions:

Economies in Michigan are regional. The dirty little secret is there is no state economy. And there’s certainly no local economy. Economies are regional.

Gilmartin says local governments need the authority to ask voters for region-based taxes to support development, and maintain roads and services.

Politics
4:35 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Commission approves partner benefits over Snyder administration objections

Gregory Roberts

Most state employees will be allowed to carry their live-in partners on their health insurance benefits starting October first.

The state Civil Service Commission has approved domestic partner benefit agreements with two public employee unions and non-unionized state workers.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration objected to the Civil Service Commission’s adoption of the policy because of the added cost.

The agreements were worked out between state employee unions and Governor Jennifer Granholm’s administration before she left office. The new rules will cover 70% of all state employees, although just a small fraction are expected to file the affidavit for unmarried partner benefits.

Unmarried partners who’ve lived with a state employee for a year or more and their dependents will be eligible.

The rules apply equally to same-sex partners and male-female couples. Courts have ruled that is the only way public employers such as universities, cities or the state can offer benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees without running afoul of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Law
4:30 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

State Bar Association says Michigan needs court reform

The 58th District Court in Ottawa County. The State Bar says the courts in Michigan need reform.
Rich Evenhouse Flickr

The Michigan State Bar wants to change the way the state's courts work.

A task force of judges and lawyers are recommending changes they say will save the state money.

The Judicial Crossroads Task Force suggests:

  • consolidating trial courts
  • giving business cases higher priority
  • and letting existing judges retire without replacing them

Michigan has 246 separate courts and 586 judges.

Read more
Commentary
12:59 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Violence Porn

A few months ago I was talking to a class about the economics of commercial broadcast news.  “Why,” one student wanted to know, was so much of the content so mindlessly bad?”

She complained that TV “news” seemed to be much the same these days from city to city: We get pictures of jack-knifed tractor-trailers, of fires, the crimes of the day, the more violent and sexual the better, followed by an interview with an incoherent sobbing relative. We may get a sound bite from a ranting politician. 

And if we are watching a major-market station with more dollars to invest in “news,” we may even get an “investigation” that shows that cheap hotel bedspreads tend to have germs.

However, why is it that if you want any serious discussion about why our schools are failing, or what is happening to people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, forget it.

Okay, so how do I explain all that? Fortunately, I was assisted by a large housefly buzzing around the classroom.

Do you see that fly? I said. That fly and I don’t know each other personally, and I am not an expert on entomology. But I do know that it and I share at least two things in common.

Seriously. The fly and I eat every day, and at some point during our existence we have been or will be interested in sex. Understand that, and you’ll understand commercial broadcast programming.

Read more
Health Insurance
11:49 am
Wed January 26, 2011

Same-sex health insurance issue expected to be discussed today

Update 11:43 a.m.:

The state Civil Service Commission has approved agreements to allow state employees to put their live-in partners on their insurance plans, Rick Pluta reports.

The commission's action ratifies agreements that were worked out between Governor Jennifer Granholm's administration with two state employee unions and state workers who are not part of a union. The commission acted over the objections of Governor Rick Snyder's administration.

8:20 a.m.:

It’s expected that The Michigan Civil Service Commission will take up a measure today that would extend health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of state employees, The Detroit News reports. As the News explains:

An attempt to push through the change in the waning days of the Granholm administration failed when the commission tabled the issue in December. Now, the new administration of Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to tell the commission today the state can't afford the change — expected to cost close to $6 million a year…

The four-member commission is split on the issue, as are unions for state employees who are bracing for anticipated fights on wage and benefit issues viewed as higher priorities. Employee benefits for same-sex partners were negotiated in 2004, shortly before Michigan voters passed a ballot initiative that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

News Roundup
9:07 am
Wed January 26, 2011

In this morning's news...

Debate Over the Earned Income Tax Credit

Republican lawmakers in Lansing are working to get rid of a tax credit for the working poor in Michigan, Laura Weber reports. But, Gilda Jacobs, Director of the Michigan League for Human Services, says the Earned Income Tax Credit is needed, “While we recognize the desire for everybody in the state to share in the sacrifice, poor people are being asked to be the sacrificial lambs. The Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low- and moderate-income working households, should not be the first credit considered among Michigan’s $34 billion list of tax expenditures, including tax breaks for big corporations… ". Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says the state can’t afford the EITC.

Time to Allow Guns in Gun-Free Zones?

Michigan State Senator Mike Green wants to allow Michiganders with concealed carry permits to take their weapons into churches, bars and other ‘gun-free zones’. Senator Green introduced the legislation yesterday in the state Senate. A decade ago state lawmakers banned gun owners from taking their weapons into certain public places, Steve Carmody reports. An identical bill was introduced in the state House last week.

Trial Date Set for ‘Underwear’ Bomber

A federal judge has set October 4th as the date for the trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an airplane headed for Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. As the Detroit News reports:

Abdulmutallab was arraigned last month on a superseding indictment. The indictment added a charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism to his other charges that include attempted murder inside an aircraft, taking a bomb on a plane and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.  Prosecutors say he tried to kill nearly 300 people aboard the flight. Prosecutors say he tried setting off a chemical explosive hidden in his underwear as the aircraft descended toward Metro Airport on Dec. 25, 2009. The explosion never happened, but Abdulmutallab suffered burns before passengers and crew dragged him from his seat and extinguished the blaze.

State of the Union
7:40 am
Wed January 26, 2011

What Michigan lawmakers are saying about the State of the Union address

President Obama delivers the State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress
Photo courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama gave this year's State of the Union address last night to a joint session of the legislature. Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation were in attendance and many of them released statements quickly after the President finished his address.

Here's what a few lawmakers from Michigan thought about what the President had to say:

  • Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow: "I am pleased that the President focused on the most important issue for Michigan: helping our businesses grow and create jobs. As he said tonight, the way we do this is by out-innovating, out-building, and out-educating our competition. I am also happy he will continue to seek bipartisan action to address the budget deficit in a responsible way."
  • Republican Congressman Fred Upton: “Yes, jobs and the economy should be our number one focus.  No State has had a tougher time.  We also know that Washington has not worked well together through the past number of years and the challenge for Congress was echoed in the President’s earlier statement as to ‘whether we can work together tomorrow.’  Whether it’s fighting spending or helping our economy, we really have no choice but to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  That will be my mission."

  • Democratic Congressman John Dingell: "President Obama called on us to find common ground for the future of this great Nation— we need to manufacture in America, educate in America, and invest in America.  This country has a history of rising to immense challenges and far exceeding expectations set for us.  We are a great country and not only can we continue to compete globally, but we simply must.  This means we have to invest in the future and create an atmosphere where innovation and ingenuity flourish."

  • Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller: "I sincerely hope the President understands we cannot continue to borrow and spend money because our current debt and level of spending is completely unsustainable and is limiting the opportunities for our children and grandchildren.  It is also limiting our ability for job creation and economic growth. This past election was a historic pivot for our nation, where the voters demanded we chart a new course.  It is time for both the President and the Congress to make clear that we heard the message.”

  • Democratic Senator Carl Levin: "The president gave a compelling and upbeat call to bipartisan action. His priorities were the right priorities, focusing on the economy and job creation, and on promoting innovation, new technologies and education as the path to achieving recovery and growth. I very much approve of his commitment to finish the mission in Iraq on schedule, and to begin the reduction of American troops in Afghanistan in July because I believe only a strengthened and enlarged Afghan army and police force can ensure success of our mission in Afghanistan by taking over responsibility for the security of their country."

Read more
State Legislature
5:18 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Is it time to allow guns in Michigan churches? Bars? Stadiums?

(source Google images)

A Michigan state senator wants to allow people with concealed carry permits to take their weapons into churches, bars and other ‘gun-free zones’.

A decade ago state lawmakers banned gun owners from taking their weapons into certain public places out of fear of gunplay. But State Senator Mike Green of Mayville says experience has shown those fears were unwarranted, since he believes people have been carrying in ‘gun-free zones’ already without incident. 

It was an obstacle ten years ago because people feared, a good, honest, law-abiding citizen would use it in a way that would hurt or harm other people.  But the fact is, in 11 years there’s not been hardly anything that happened like that. 

Green’s legislation would also put the Secretary of State’s office in charge of processing concealed carry permit applications. He says local gun boards are not completing background checks on the applicants fast enough.

State Legislature
4:59 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Lawmakers moving to eliminate tax credit for the poor

Legislators in the Michigan State Capitol want to do away with the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Republicans at the state Capitol are working to get rid of a tax credit for working poor people.

But people who support the Earned Income Tax Credit say the money helps poor people keep their jobs.

Without the credit they might have to go back on welfare, an they say that would cost the state more money.

Gilda Jacobs, director of the Michigan League for Human Services, says all lawmakers have constituents who claim the credit:

"We have some districts where 18% to 20% of the people are filers of this, and they’re putting multi-millions of dollars back into small businesses. So we kind of need to ask people to see this up-close and personal and to really be open to understanding what this is all about."

Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says the state cannot afford the Earned Income Tax Credit right now:

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is very new in Michigan. It didn’t exist a couple of years ago. It was added at a time where I believe we couldn’t afford it. So as we look at how we are going to revamp Michigan and how we are going to move forward, we have to evaluate things that we can maybe no longer afford, however we do have to look at that with a broader tax structure, and we have to understand that the best social program is a good-paying job.”

Bolger says eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit will be part of a large package of reforms that are expected to be introduced soon in the House.

Supporters of the tax credit say they have a lot of work to do to convince lawmakers that getting rid of it would hurt people in their districts.

News Roundup
8:56 am
Tue January 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

GM to Add Jobs in Flint

General Motors announced yesterday that it plans to add 750 jobs to its Flint Assembly Plant. But, no new hires will be made. Instead, as Steve Carmody reports, the pool of workers will come from two places:

  1. People being reactivated from various layoff pools
  2. Workers who would like to return to Flint after they were transferred to another plant

The GM Flint Assembly plant currently employs about 2,000 workers. Governor Rick Snyder attended the announcement as did Mark Reuss, GM’s North America President.

A Move to a Two-Year Budget?

There’s been talk around Lansing recently about whether or not it would be a good idea for state lawmakers to adopt a two year budget plan for the state rather than the constitutionally-mandated one year budget plan. Governor Snyder and many lawmakers say they need to start thinking farther in advance when putting together the state’s budget. State Senator John Proos told reporter Laura Weber that a two year budget should happen, but that it will take time. Proos is expected to introduce a measure that would amend the constitution to create a two-year budget cycle as well as a part-time Legislature.

State of the City

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his sixth State of the City address last night. Bernero spoke quite a bit about recent business investment in the capitol city but didn’t talk directly about Lansing’s projected $15 million budget deficit. Bernero was the Democratic nominee in Michigan's 2010 Gubernatorial race. He lost the race to his Republican opponent Rick Snyder. Snyder delivered his first State of the State address as Governor last Wednesday evening.

Election 2012
7:05 am
Tue January 25, 2011

A Stabenow/Anuzis matchup for MI Senate?

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis
Photo courtesy of www.thatssaulfolks.com

Former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis says he is considering a run against Michigan's Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012.

Senator Stabenow was elected to a second term by Michigan voters in 2006. Anuzis said it could take weeks or a couple of months to decide whether or not to run.

Earlier this month, Anuzis lost a bid to chair the National Republican Party to Reince Priebus.

As the Hill.com reports, Anuzis:

...may face former Gov. John Engler, the former head of the National Association of Manufacturers, or former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) or Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) in a primary contest.

State of the City
6:37 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Lansing Mayor Bernero delivers State of the City address

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero
Photo courtesy of www.votevirg.com

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his sixth State of the City address last night. As Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports, he had a lot to say about past accomplishments but said next to nothing about the city's projected $15 million dollar budget deficit:

"Look around and see for yourself, it's happening in Lansing," Bernero said. That was the theme of Lansing mayor Virg Bernero's state of the city address.

To that end, Bernero spoke a lot about recent business investment in the capitol city.  He didn't speak directly to Lansing's projected $15 million budget deficit.

He did suggest part of the budget problem can be found across the street from Lansing city hall at the state capitol.

"City budgets across Michigan are on life support.   The loss of property tax values means the loss of property tax revenue.  High unemployment means the loss of income tax revenue.  And the continued failure of state government to manage its own budget problems has cost of tens of millions in state shared revenues," Bernero said.

Bernero also said Lansing needs to work with its neighbors to deal with a variety of regional problems.

Bernero was the Democratic nominee in Michigan's 2010 Gubernatorial race. He lost the race to his Republican opponent Rick Snyder. Snyder delivered his first State of the State address as Governor last Wednesday evening.

Politics
5:51 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Detroit City Council hears about EMS "management" problems

The Detroit City Council got a briefing on chronic troubles with the city’s Emergency Medical Services Monday.

EMS Chief Jerald James told the Council that only 19 of the city’s 47  EMS vehicles are in use right now. The other 27 are awaiting repair.

James also  says the understaffed department also has the money to hire 57 new employees--but  can’t find people to fill those positions.

Read more

Pages