Politics & Government

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
Politics
4:32 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Lawmakers seek a 2-year budget cycle for Michigan

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The state could be headed toward a two-year budget cycle.

Governor Rick Snyder and many lawmakers say they need to start thinking farther into the future when putting together a budget.

However, creating a two-year budget cycle would require an amendment to the Michigan Constitution. The Legislature would have to put it on the ballot for voters to approve.

State Senator John Proos says that could and should happen, but it will take time. He says in the meantime lawmakers can create a two-year projection:

"That’s something that every year instead of scrambling to fix a budget hole and not really telling the whole story about what our budget will look like out into the future, this will give us the time instead to say our revenue picture and expenditure picture is going to look like X. Once we’ve made that determination, then we can say are we actually getting value for the tax dollars that we’re spending."

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.

Proos says for now it’s important to complete work on the budget by Governor Snyder’s May 31st deadline.

Crime
12:39 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Detroit Police Chief: We've ID'ed precinct gunman

Detroit Police Chief, Ralph Godbee.
City of Detroit

Detroit Police have identified 38-year-old Lamar Moore as the man who wounded four officers with a shotgun at a northwest Detroit precinct Sunday.

Officers returned fire, killing Moore. The four wounded officers survived and are doing well.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says police know one of Moore’s relatives is set to be sentenced for a double homicide, and was also a suspect in another crime.

But Godbee says it’s still too early to speculate about a motive.

“To get into this individual’s mind…I wouldn’t venture to do that. Suffice it to say we still have a lot of investigative work to do.”

Godbee says the department will immediately put metal detectors and other “interim security measures” in precincts.

He says the department will also mount a comprehensive investigation into new security protocols in the wake of the shooting.

News Roundup
8:39 am
Mon January 24, 2011

In this morning's news...

Four Shot at Detroit Police Station

Four Detroit police officers were shot by a gunman yesterday inside of a Detroit police station. The gunman walked into the city’s 6th Precinct just before 4:30 p.m. yesterday and wounded four officers. Officers returned gunfire and the gunman was shot and killed. The four wounded officers were taken to a hospital and are expected to recover.

Granholm to Teach in California

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is set to teach at the University of California-Berkeley. Granholm told Politico.com that she and her husband, Dan Mulhern, will teach at the university. Granholm says the two will also write a book together about her time as Michigan’s 47th Governor. Though she plans to teach in California, Granholm will continue to live in Michigan with her family. Politico also reports that Granholm will be a paid contributor to NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press.

2011 NAIAS Ends

Yesterday was the last day of the North American International Auto Show and, according to The Detroit Free Press, 735,370 people attended the public days at this year’s show. That turnout is an increase from last year's attendance of 714,137. As Detroit Free Press reports:

The number of people attending the show has been climbing since 2009 when 650,517 people were there for public days.

State Legislature
7:07 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Snyder: Michigan's finances should be easier to understand

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to make government finances easier for taxpayers to understand. Snyder says having the public understand the state’s budget troubles is a critical part of solving the problem. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder recently told local officials his administration is developing a model for explaining the state budget that could be adopted by cities, townships, and villages.

Snyder is a retired computer company CEO and investor with a degree in accounting. He says the idea came to him while he was examining the document that explains how state government spends its money. 

"If you’ve tried to look at it, and I don’t know if you have… I’m an old CPA and there should be a warning label – not made for human consumption," Snyder said.

Snyder says he’d like state aid to local governments to be tied, in part, to how well they explain their finances to their citizens. Cuts to revenue sharing payments are expected to be part of addressing a budget deficit, but Snyder says he’d like to reward local governments that find ways to save money and innovate.

Jennifer Granholm
6:37 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Former Governor to teach in California

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov/gov

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is set to teach at the University of California – Berkeley. In an interview with Politico.com, Granholm says she and her husband, Dan Mulhern, will also write a book together about her experience as governor.

Though she plans to teach in California, Granholm will continue to live in Michigan.

Politico also reports that Granholm will be a paid contributor to NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press.

Politico reports:

The common theme of the courses and book will be the lessons Michigan holds for the rest of the country as “the canary in the coal mine — the state hardest hit by the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs,” she said. “We want to be able to have the nation draw lessons, good and bad, about what can happen if the United States doesn’t take a more active role” in job creation.

As the Detroit Free Press reports, "The online article was her first announcement since leaving the governor’s office Jan. 1, as Republican Rick Snyder assumed the reins of state government."

Politics
9:56 am
Sat January 22, 2011

Snyder: communities that innovate will be rewarded

In the world of corporate business, bonuses, perks and cash incentives rule the day. They're used to drive productivity.

Governor Snyder, a former corporate president, is bringing that mentality to Lansing.

Now, he says he wants to reward local governments that find better, cheaper ways to provide services.

Rick Pluta, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, says Snyder's budget proposal will call for cash incentives that encourage cities and townships to innovate.

Rick filed this report saying the Governor's announcement was a small bit of welcome news to local officials bracing for more budget cuts from the state:

Governor Snyder outlined his idea at a drop-by with local government officials meeting in Lansing.

He says local governments provide most of the services that people use, and the state should reward the ones that find ways to consolidate, cut costs, and innovate:

"So it's really to create an environment to say, here's a positive incentive to be the very best...so people first and foremost in Michigan and then people around the country and the world will look at Michigan are going to look and say, these people have their act together, this is the place to be, this is the place to have your kids grow up and succeed."

The governor provided few details.

He says those will wait for his budget proposal next month, and a special address on government reform that he will deliver in March.

Politics
4:49 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

Autism insurance coverage campaign begins again

Michigan lawmakers will again consider requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatment.
parenting-skill-info.com

A new effort is under way to require Michigan insurance companies to cover some treatments for autism. Statistics  show 1 in 150 children is born with the disorder.

State Senator Tupac Hunter says it costs Michigan families an average of $30,000 out of pocket each year to treat an autistic child – an expense most can’t afford.

Hunter says parents and advocacy groups were disappointed when last year’s autism insurance legislation stalled in the Senate.

Read more
Politics
4:29 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

Court says resident can challenge tribe's casino plans

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Wayland Township resident has the legal standing to sue to stop the development of a casino.

The Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians recently announced their plans to open the casino in Wayland Township south of Grand Rapids:

The Associated Press reports that the federal appeals court will allow David Patchak to "challenge how the federal government placed the land in trust for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians."

Read more
Commentary
11:35 am
Fri January 21, 2011

John Dingell, Running Again

He was a young man when he first came to Congress, tall, gangly, and with questionable taste in haircuts and ties.

Owlish old Sam Rayburn swore him in on a chill December day, saying something, no doubt, about his father, who had held the seat before him, and who had died just months before.

That was more than fifty-five years ago. General Motors, the world’s richest corporation was putting ever bigger tail fins on their cars, and consumers were just starting to wonder if they’d ever be able to afford one of those sensational new color TVs.

That was the world when John Dingell Jr. arrived in Washington at the end of 1955, the country‘s newest and youngest congressman. He was twenty-nine then. This summer he will be eighty-five. Everybody else who was in Congress when he arrived is gone.

Most are dead.

When he arrived, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin were years away from being born. He’s stayed in the House longer than anyone in history. Two men have stayed in Congress longer, when you combine time in both chambers.

John Dingell will pass one of them soon. But to beat the other, West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, Dingell has get reelected one more time, next year.

This week, the man they used to call the truck announced that he intended to try to do just that. He’s running again.

Read more
News Roundup
8:58 am
Fri January 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

Legislation Planned for New Detroit-Windsor Bridge

State Senator Hoon Yung Hopgood says he will sponsor a bill that would be connected to the effort to build a new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The Democratic lawmaker's statement follows Governor Rick Snyder's announcement that he supports the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). Snyder announced his support on Wednesday evening during his first State of the State address. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the project is “absolutely critical” to trade with Canada.

Could Price Tags Become ‘A Thing of the Past’?

Also, during Wednesday night’s State of the State address, Governor Snyder said Michigan lawmakers should get rid of or modify, “antiquated laws.” As Mark Brush reports, one such law is the state’s "Item Pricing Law." Snyder said:

Requiring 'stickers' over other forms of price-marking costs Michigan’s economy over $2 billion dollars a year. Let’s use the technology we have to protect customers.

Not everyone, however, agrees that getting rid of price tags is such a good idea. Chris Michalakis, the Legislative and Political Director with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said the law is necessary so shoppers can compare prices or catch errors at the checkout:

You know, in these hard economic times we need stronger consumer protection laws. There are more people than ever in Michigan on fixed incomes, and we also need to think about the amount of jobs this would cost if passed.

There's also the worry that changing the law could cut the number of stock workers required at stores around the state.

Dingell Will Run Again in 2012

Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell said yesterday that he will run for re-election in 2012. Dingell, who won his 28th full term in Congress last November, is The U.S. House of Representative’s longest serving member. The 84-yeard old, who represents Michigan’s 15th District, told the Detroit News, it is. “the greatest job in the world.” Dingell has been in Congress since 1955.

State Legislature
6:44 am
Fri January 21, 2011

Legislation on new Detroit-Windsor bridge to be introduced in state Senate

Runners underneath the Ambassador Bridget, Detroit, MI
J.Stephen Conn Flickr

State Senator Hoon Yung Hopgood said yesterday that he is sponsoring a bill that would be connected to the effort to build a new international bridge from Michigan to Windsor, Ontario. The Democratic lawmaker's statement follows Governor Rick Snyder's announcement that he supports the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). Snyder announced his support on Wednesday evening during his first State of the State address.

As the Associated Press reports:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday the project is "absolutely critical" to trade with Canada. Some Republicans and the owners of the private Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor have opposed the proposal.

A statement released after the State of the State address on Senator Hopgood's website noted:

State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) is backing Governor Rick Snyder's measure to support the Detroit River International Crossing, which could create thousands of jobs and boost Michigan's economy. According to state officials, the project could create 10,000 jobs directly and 30,000 additional jobs through related economic activity...

The Canadian government has offered to pay up to $550 million to cover Michigan's cost to build the new bridge between the U.S. and Canada. This agreement mirrors the agreement to build the Blue Water Bridge. The U.S. paid for that bridge and Canada's offer to cover this investment is in the same spirit of cooperation. Canada will be repaid – as Michigan was – through tolls collected from bridge users.

Politics
5:46 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Clarifying what an Emergency Financial Manager can do

Governor Rick Snyder wants the Legislature to clarify the Emergency Financial Manager's Act.

There was a dispute over how much power state-appointed emergency financial managers have when the Detroit School Board sued the state's Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb.

They said he was exercising too much power, and the court agreed.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, filed this report:

Snyder wants the Legislature to rework the Emergency Financial Manager’s Act to provide more clarity on the powers of an emergency manager.

Robert Bobb is the emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools. He says many other school districts and municipal governments are in serious financial trouble.

"There could be more in the future that an emergency financial manager should have complete authority over the operations of a school district and/or a municipality, working with their elected leadership."

Bobb says the emergency financial manager of a school district should be allowed to take over the curriculum as well as finances because, he says, money is involved in all facets of school systems.  A judge denied Bobb that authority.

Bobb says he is encouraged by the governor acknowledging the issue in his State of the State speech, but Bobb says he is not clear what is being proposed, and he is anxious to hear details.

Politics
3:34 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Dingell plans to run again

John Dingell (D), the dean of Michigan's congressional delegation
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The dean of Michigan's congressional delegation plans to stay in Washington. John Dingell says he plans to run again for the seat he's held since the mid-50's.

Here's the Associated Press story:

Two months after winning a 28th full term in the U.S. House, Michigan's John Dingell says he's going for 29. The 84-year-old Dearborn Democrat tells The Detroit News he'll be a candidate for re-election in 2012. Dingell has been in Congress since 1955. He calls it "the greatest job in the world."

The man known as "Big John" currently represents the 15th District, which could be in jeopardy as redistricting looms. The number of House seats in Michigan will drop one to 14 next year, and majority Republicans could change up Dingell's district.

It now encompasses the far southeastern portion of the state, including Monroe and Ann Arbor. Dingell says he's "had three bad redistrictings" and has "survived every one of them.

Politics
1:43 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court to consider who should prosecute violations of the state's election laws

The seal of the Michigan Supreme Court
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow involving Meijer officials who may have violated state campaign finance law.

The company financed a public relations campaign to kick out village trustees who opposed Meijer’s plans to build a new store in their community.   The move may have violated Michigan’s campaign finance law, which bars corporations and their agents from making campaign contributions. The Grand Traverse Eagle has done a great job covering the case. 

 Alan Schneider is Grand Traverse County Prosecutor.  He’s wanted to pursue an investigation against the Meijer officials.  But attorneys for the Meijer officials involved say only the Secretary of State’s office has the authority to prosecute campaign finance cases.   Alan Schneider says the Michigan Supreme Court must decide who’s right.

“If there’s a crime, that’s a state crime, we are obligated to prosecute.”    

The whole issue could be moot.   Last year, the US Supreme Court struck down federal laws barring corporations from making political contributions. 

Meanwhile, Meijer has paid millions of dollars in settlements to the state and the targeted village trustees.

Legal
12:38 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Is a firefighter's discovery of pot plants an illegal search?

The defendant was charged with possessing marijuana plants after a firefighter discovered them.
USFWS

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case regarding a possible illegal search today.

In the case "The People of the State of Michigan vs. Mark Slaughter" - the defendant, Mark Slaughter, was charged with possessing marijuana plants in his basement after a firefighter found the plants during an emergency call. From the court filing:

On May 6, 2007, firefighters were called to the residence of Kathleen Tunner at 3206 Coolidge, Royal Oak, Michigan. Ms. Tunner testified that she suspected that water was running down the wall of her basement in her unit over her electrical box. Ms. Tunner contacted 911 and the fire department arrived...even though the unit in which called for assistance was Ms. Tunner's unit, Lieutenant Schunck never entered or inspected Ms. Tunner's unit...[Schunck] testified that they entered Defendant's unit, absent any signs of leaking water or hearing water running from outside Defendant's unit...Upon entering Defendants unit, the firefighters observed suspected marijuana plants...and subsequently contacted the police."

The Associated Press reports that lower courts have ruled in Slaughter's favor:

Slaughter's defense lawyer successfully argued that it was an illegal search. Prosecutors say there's an exception when authorities find evidence of a crime during an emergency.

So let's play armchair Supreme Court justice. Do you think this amounted to an illegal search? You can read the complaint to gather more information before you issue your ruling.

Governor Snyder
9:24 am
Thu January 20, 2011

State of the State: What the pundits are saying

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first State of the State address Wednesday night
Photo courtesy of www.gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder delivered his first State of the State address last night to a joint session of the Michigan legislature. Though the speech was highly optimistic, some said they hoped for more details in the address, particularly regarding how the governor plans to balance the state's projected $1.8 billion deficit for the fiscal year that beings October 1st. Snyder said he'll outline his budget plans in February. And, he said, he'll detail plans for government reform and education in March and April respectively. Although some hoped for more specifics, overall, pundits from across the state were pretty upbeat about the address. Here's a look at what they had to say:

Commentary
9:22 am
Thu January 20, 2011

The Statesman and the State

When it comes to speeches, Rick Snyder cannot begin to touch Jennifer Granholm in terms of style.

At no time during his State of the State speech last night did he come close to matching her perfectly modulated tones. He’s getting better, but the governor still sounds much of the time like a college student making a speech in a class he’s required to take.

But when it comes to substance and leadership, he blew her out of the park. He took one of the most divisive issues in the state, made it his own, worked out an astonishing deal with the federal government, and happily co-opted both his friends and enemies.

Read more
Politics
6:45 am
Thu January 20, 2011

The State of the State

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his State of the State address Wednesday night.
gophouse.com

Update - 1/20/11, 6:35 a.m.:

Republicans and Democrats say they're encouraged by what they heard from Governor Rick Snyder last night. The Republican delivered his first State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Lansing. Laura Weber sent this report:

Democratic lawmakers say they are eager to work with Governor Snyder on many of the issues he brought up, but their optimism is tempered with caution.

They say they’re waiting for Snyder’s budget proposal in February. "At this point the voters have given him the ball, he needs to advance it up field, and I think the next big play will be on February 17th where we’ll really get to see what their priorities are and how they’re going to balance the budget," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Republican lawmakers say they are most eager to work with Snyder to reform or eliminate Michigan’s complicated business tax.

Update - 1/19/11, 8:58 p.m.:

For those wishing to keep track of the goals laid out in the State of the State address, Governor Snyder announced a new website. The "Michigan Dashboard." The information on the website claims to tell you "how the state performs in areas that affect you and your family."

Update - 1/19/11, 8:20 p.m.:

Here's the audio of Governor Snyder's State of the State address:

Read more

Pages