A bill that would repeal Michigan's unpopular Driver Responsibility Fee is expected to be introduced in the state Senate this week, Laura Weber Reports. The annual fee goes to Michigan drivers who have seven or more points on their license. A repeal of the fee was approved by the state House last year but it stalled in the state Senate.
Democratic state Senator Bert Johnson says most lawmakers want to get rid of the fee, but don’t want to lose the money it brings in to the state, Weber reports.
Last week I talked to a woman in an accounting office about an issue involving an electronic tax payment.
“I’ll take care of that Monday,” she told me.
"I don’t think you can," I said. "Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday."
“What?“ she said. “Oh, that. I don’t celebrate that,” she said with a tone of annoyance.
It wasn’t her holiday, she wanted me to know, and she thought it was highly inappropriate for anybody to get a day off, and for government offices and banks to be closed.
You won’t be surprised to learn that she wasn’t African-American. Nor that she didn’t know much, really, about Dr. Martin Luther King. However, I’m not sure that a lot of the people who do enthusiastically celebrate it know much about him either.
The recent attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords life sparked new debate about the state of public discourse in our country. How could this have happened? What does this type of violence say about us? Have we reached a breaking point?
As the news rolled in, and it appears the violence might have been the work of a mad-man, hearts were still broken, but there seemed to be some relief that the act seemed less about our politics, and more about a lost soul.
Events like these are unsettling, and it often makes me wonder what it was like for Americans when the violence was more directly tied to our political discourse.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis in 1968. Violent riots followed in what surely must've felt like an unraveling of American society.
Governor Snyder is expected to focus his speech on Michigan’s economic future. But the governor is not expected to give specific plans for the state budget until next month. Democratic House Minority Leader Richard Hammel says he has not heard enough details yet from Snyder.
I mean, there’s been a whole lot of talk about moving Michigan forward, and not looking in the rearview mirror and reinventing Michigan, and I think that’s wonderful. We all feel that way. But we’re waiting for details before we can really react.
Snyder has said all areas of state government will be considered for further budget cuts to close a nearly $2 billion dollar estimated deficit.
This Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that may determine if police officers have an expectation of privacy when they are doing their jobs.
It all started with a video.
Detroit city police and members of former Mayor Dennis Archer’s staff wanted to prevent a sexually explicit video from being played at a Dr. Dre concert in July 2000.
A camera crew for the rapper videotaped police officers saying they would pull the plug on the concert.
Former police officer, and current Detroit City Council president pro-tem Gary Brown, is seen on the video saying "we're going to shut this show down."
Eventually, Dr Dre decided not to show the video police were concerned about.
But the video of the police officers making their threats was put onto a concert DVD.
Thanks to YouTube user "snoopfroggydogg," you can see the "Detroit Controversy" videos here (WARNING: they contain images and words not suitable for younger viewers):
Detroit city officials sued, claiming the DVD makers violated Michigan’s anti-eavesdropping law by putting the video on the DVD without their permission.
The city officials and police officers claim their privacy was invaded by being videotaped and the video being shown publicly.
Attorney Herschel Fink represents the DVD’s producers. He says police officers have no 'right to privacy when they’re doing their job:
"I think the very essence of law enforcement is transparency...and I think this case has implications for mainstream news gathering and not just private citizens who are videotaping police berating them which was the case here."
Lower courts have tended to side with the DVD producers.
Anuzis is one of five candidates running. He lost his last bid to become chairman two years ago to Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor whose tenure has been marked by questions of fiscal mismanagement. Steele is running again, though he's not expected to win.
RNC officials said there was no way of knowing how long the voting will take. Friday's general session begins at 10:30 a.m. ET and the official meeting schedule lists 8 p.m. ET as the estimated end time. Whoever wins will inherit committee hobbled by financial difficulties, including debt in the range of $15 million or more.
This is an exciting time to be a Republican and, as leaders, we have an awesome task ahead of us. The American people have given us a second chance' and that opportunity brings with it huge responsibility and challenge. Now we turn our attention to 2012. America must elect a new President. It is that hope, that necessity, that challenge, that draws me to announce my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.
On the first day that Michigan lawmakers were allowed to submit legislative proposals, legislators in the state House introduced 85 bills and a half-dozen resolutions. As the Associated Press reports:
The first bill introduced Thursday would repeal a surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax. It's likely to pass as part of a broader, still-developing plan to reshape business taxes. Other proposals would repeal Michigan's mandatory motorcycle helmet law in some circumstances and eliminate caps on the number of charter schools.
However, later today, that figure could change. That's because economists are meeting today for what's called a "revenue estimating conference" at the state Capitol. The economists will come up with an estimate of just how much money the state can expect to receive through the next fiscal year. As the state's website explains:
The Revenue Estimating Conference held each January is a major part of the budget process. During the conference, national and state economic indicators are used to formulate an accurate prediction of revenue available for appropriation in the upcoming fiscal year. This conference first convened in 1992, pursuant to Act No. 72 of the Public Acts of 1991. The principal participants in the conference are the State Budget Director and the Directors of the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies or their respective designees. Other participants may include the Governor and senior officials from the Department of Treasury.
One of them would be limiting Bridge card recipients to a maximum of four years of lifetime benefits. The bridge card provides food - which is federally funded - and some cash assistance.
Bolger says the state could save $45 million immediately with a cap on benefits:
We want to help people break the cycle of dependency... government should not create that cycle. And that's what happens. People get caught in that system, and it's not good for the human spirit. People want the opportunity to provide for themselves, and that's what we want to help them do.
Bolger says he wants the four-year benefit allowance to be enforced retroactively. He also wants to go after businesses that participate in welfare fraud.
Former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak will be heading to Harvard University this spring for a resident fellowship. As the Detroit Free Press reports:
Stupak, a Democrat from Menominee in the Upper Peninsula, retired from office this year at the end of his ninth 2-year term. As a resident fellow this spring, he and the other five people selected will meet with students, participate in activities with the Harvard community and lead weekly study groups on a range of topics.
As Politico notes, Stupak, "didn't much enjoy his intense moment at the center of the health care fight and didn't seek re-election."
The new legislature convened for the first time yesterday, nearly two weeks after their terms began. They posed for pictures and elected officers. They officially announced who would have what positions on which committees.
These are all things that had been worked out days or weeks before. What then followed was sort of the equivalent of lining up their pencils and making sure they are sharpened.
To a great extent, they are waiting for the governor. That is to say, they are waiting for Rick Snyder to set forth his program and put forward his proposals for balancing the state budget.
New and returning lawmakers were in Lansing yesterday for the first day of the 2011 Legislative session. Lawmakers took the oath of office, elected legislative leaders, and even chose desks. Lawmakers are not expected to do much work at the Capitol before Governor Rick Snyder delivers his first State of the State address Wednesday evening. The Republican governor and Republican-led Senate and House face a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.
Michiganders Continue to Leave State
United Van Lines has released its 34th annual migration study and it shows Michigan ranked second in outboard traffic in the country. Of the 7,186 moves United Van Lines logged in Michigan in 2010, 62% of them were leaving the state, Mark Brush reports. From the study:
Outbound traffic from the Great Lakes region continued to lead the nation in 2010 with four states capturing high-outbound rankings. Western states that had traditionally experienced high-inbound traffic, most notably Nevada, saw their traffic level off.
The Michigan Board of Education is considering tough new performance requirements on the state's MEAP and merit exams. The new requirements would be the last step in a plan the state has been working on for the last seven years, Joseph Martineau, with the Michigan Department of Education, told reporter Rina Miller. “It really is time for us to look at the end result of K-12 education being readiness for college and career, and not readiness to perform in what we might term the old manufacturing economy,” Martineau said.
Michigan lawmakers, both new and returning, are at the state Capitol today being sworn into the state Legislature. The 2011 session began at noon. Laura Weber is at the Capitol and filed this report:
Dave Hildenbrand is a Republican who will be sworn in as a state Senator. He served six years in the state House. He says House and Senate Republican lawmakers are focused on the same things:
The public spoke very clearly that they want things done differently here in Michigan, and so we’re ready to get to work to help strengthen our state and just make it a better place for the people who live here.
Hildenbrand says lawmakers want to deal the state’s complicated business tax quickly. He says the Legislature needs to help create a better business climate in Michigan.
Lawmakers will begin the new session with a new Republican Governor and a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.
Governor Rick Snyder visited the Detroit auto show yesterday, something governors traditionally do. They greet the CEOs, make nice comments about the new models, and disappear.
I can’t recall a single thing any politician has said at the auto show that was worth remembering. But this year is a little different. Two years ago, it was highly uncertain whether there would be either an domestic auto industry or an auto show in 2011.
What’s more, almost nobody in the industry or the state had ever heard of Rick Snyder, and nobody imagined he’d be governor.
Well, the auto industry is a good bit healthier today, and the state is getting used to a governor who doesn’t like to wear a tie, and doesn’t mind being called a nerd. Like other governors before him, Snyder didn’t say anything especially stirring at the auto show. But he did a few things worth noting. He didn’t just visit what we might now call the not-so-big three, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. He stopped by Kia and Hyundai and Toyota too.
Michigan lawmakers will be at the state Capitol today for the first day of the new 2011-2012 legislative session. Lawmakers will be sworn-in and adopt new rules. Due to term limits and a strong Republican showing in last November’s election, the majority of lawmakers in both the state House and Senate will be new to the job. The legislature is facing a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.
Snyder Visits NAIAS
Governor Rick Snyder visited the North American International Auto Show yesterday in Detroit. Snyder was joined by his Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, among others. The Governor toured the Ford and Prius pavilions and sat in a Chevy Volt. Snyder told reporters:
The role of manufacturing and the auto industry in Michigan’s future is critical. I don’t walk away from it all. Actually, I embrace it. That is part of our heritage. That is something we have world-class people in.
Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb has submitted a plan to state education officials that calls for the closing of 70 Detroit Public School buildings by 2013. The closings are part of Bobb’s proposed deficit-elimination plan for DPS. The school district currently faces a $327 million budget deficit. The Detroit News reports that in the past year alone, the district’s debt has increased by more than $100 million.
New Football Coach for UM
University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon announced yesterday afternoon that Brady Hoke will be the new University of Michigan football coach. Hoke will be the 19th coach in the football team’s 131-year history. Hoke is no stranger to Ann Arbor, Steve Carmody reports. He worked as an assistant coach for the Wolverines for 8 seasons including during the 1997 national championship season. Hoke’s 28 year career includes stops at Grand Valley State, Western Michigan, and Toledo.
Agriculture today is a high tech industry that relies on trained professionals with knowledge of the newest methods from biology and chemistry to packing and shipping. Expanding educational opportunities will give Michigan's agricultural producers a competitive edge and ensure jobs are available for recent graduates who want to stay in their home communities.
As the Associated Press reports, the majority of lawmakers in both the Senate and the House will be new to their jobs:
The turnover is caused partly by the state's term limits law and a strong showing by Republicans in last year's elections. Republicans built on their advantage in the Senate and grabbed control of House from Democrats.
Lawmakers will begin the new session with a new Republican Governor and a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.
For the first time in a decade, Michigan's State Board of Education has a new president. Yesterday, John Austin was unanimously elected to lead the board. He replaces fellow Democrat Kathleen Straus. Democrats have a 5-3 majority on the board.
Austin was first elected to the board in 2000 and re-elected in 2008.
In a release sent out yesterday, Austin said he is, "proud that during his 10 years on the State Board... the Board has functioned as a bi-partisan change agent for education reform and improvement"
As the Associated Press reports:
Democrat Casandra Ulbrich was elected vice president, Republican Nancy Danhof was elected secretary and Democrat Marianne Yared McGuire will continue as treasurer. Republican Richard Zeile will represent the state board on the National Association of State Boards of Education.
It’s sometimes easy to be cynical about what we used to call “the system” back in the days when bell-bottom jeans were common.
Too often, it appears that society at all levels still functions under the golden rule, as in, he who has the gold, makes the rules.
Ideally, things are supposed to work according to the words engraved on the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington: Equal Justice Under Law.” But in practice, it too often seems that things are more like the famous New Yorker cartoon in which a judge peers down at a defendant, and asks:
Ford Motor Company announced yesterday that it will add more than 7,000 workers in the U.S. over the next two years. As the Associated Press reports:
The company plans to hire 4,000 manufacturing workers this year. Almost half those workers will be at the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky that will make the new Ford Escape starting late this year. It expects to add at least 2,500 new manufacturing jobs in 2012. The company said it is beginning a recruiting effort this week in Detroit and other cities, including San Jose, Calif., and Raleigh and Durham, N.C.
Prosecutors have dubbed the five men accused of pocketing millions of dollars in exchange for contracts with the city of Detroit the "Kilpatrick Enterprise."
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted in federal court today, along with Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.
Clarke says the two talked about both being graduates of Cornell University.
He expressed sadness on the attempt on Giffords' life, but he says that danger is just a fact of life that all elected officials must face:
"I'm not going to change how I work. I'm going to be as open and available to the public. I think that's very important. I represent the taxpayers. I'm paid by the taxpayers. I'm hired by them to work for them. They need to know that their government is open and available to them."
Governor Rick Snyder has released a statement regarding the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday in Tucson, Arizona. Six were killed in the attack and 13 others were wounded. Governor Snyder said:
I would like to offer my support and prayers for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the other victims of the horrific shooting in Arizona and their families.
The senseless, despicable act of violence that our nation witnessed over the weekend tears at the very fabric of our democracy. But, as we all know, Americans rally together in the face of tragedy and adversity. Our spirit will not be broken. We will emerge from this horrible incident stronger and more committed than ever to move our nation forward. As the president requested, Michigan will demonstrate its respect for the victims by flying all U.S. flags at half-staff through Friday.
I will call Arizona Governor Jan Brewer later today to share these sentiments and to let her know that the people of Michigan are praying for the rapid recovery of Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims.
I know the hearts of every Michigander are with the Congresswoman, the victims, their families and the people of Arizona.”
Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, served with Giffords on the House Science and Technology Committee in the last session of Congress. He says he grieves for those killed and prays for the "speedy and full recovery" of her and the others wounded. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, says she and Giffords share an interest in border security and the space program. Miller says she's "deeply saddened by this senseless crime."
Michigan lawmakers return to Lansing this week. The new state legislature will be sworn in at the state Capitol.
Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber filed this report from Lansing:
New and returning lawmakers will be greeted in Lansing by a nearly $2 billion budget deficit, and no new federal stimulus to help them fill the holes. Many new Republican lawmakers say they were elected to cut state spending and reduce the size of government. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate say local government revenue sharing could be on the line for deep cuts. The Legislature has several months to balance the budget. This week lawmakers will be sworn in, choose their seats on the floor, and establish rules of the chamber.