Politics & Government

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.

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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."

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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.

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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
Politics
9:00 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Democratic response to Michigan Governor's State of the State address

Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Democratic Leader delivers the Democratic response to the State of the State speech
Michigan Senate Democrats

The Democratic response to Governor Snyder's State of the State address was delivered by Gretchen Whitmer, leader of the Michigan Senate Democrats. You can watch the response on the Michigan Senate Democrats website. The transcript of Whitmer's speech follows:

Good evening,

The election this past November saw Michigan government turn the page on an unproductive time of Michigan history.

Read more
State Legislature
5:03 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Lawmakers move to repeal the Michigan Business Tax

Replacing the Michigan Business Tax is high on the legislature's agenda
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Senate Bill 1 has been introduced, and you can read it, in its entirety - here you go:

The Michigan business tax act, 2007 PA 36, MCL208.1101 to 208.1601, is repealed.

The bill was introduced by Senator Dave Hildenbrand and comes in advance of Governor Rick Snyder's State of the State address tonight.

Replacing the Michigan Business Tax was one of candidate Snyder's main promises to voters.

Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network filed a report on Senate Bill 1:

Senator Dave Hildenbrand...says his bill is more aggressive than a similar bill introduced by House Republicans, which only repeals part of the business tax:

"Well we wanted to send a strong message that we want to create a better business climate in this state so our job providers can provide jobs. It’s pretty clear, I think to all of us, that the Michigan Business Tax is an obstacle for employers to good create jobs, expand, for the ability for us to attract job providers to Michigan. So we’ve declared war on the Michigan Business Tax."

Governor Rick Snyder wants to replace the Michigan Business Tax with a flat tax on large businesses. Snyder is expected to talk more about his plans for economic development during his State of the State address tonight.

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Commentary
4:14 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

And, As for the Democrats

There’s a lot of speculation today as to what Governor Snyder will say when he makes his first State of the State speech tonight.

Well, we’ll find out soon enough. However, I’m also interested in what the Democrats are going to say in response. Now, there are a lot of people who think whatever they say won’t matter much.

After all, the Dems were pounded into the ground in the last election. They lost a record twenty seats in the House, where the Republicans have a sixty-three to forty-seven seat edge.

And they are in a lot worse shape in the state senate, where they now hold only a dozen seats out of thirty-eight. That’s the weakest position they’ve been in since 1954.

Nevertheless, what goes around does tend to come around. Nobody thinks Governor Snyder‘s honeymoon with the voters will last forever. Nor is it likely that all of his fellow Republicans in the legislature are always going to support what he wants to do.

These are also not normal times. Michigan has lost nearly a million jobs in the last decade, and has the highest unemployment rate of any major state in the nation. Additionally, it’s clear that our method of funding state government is broken.

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Politics
3:31 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Detroit councilwoman: Time to lawyer up over water issue

William Warby Flickr

Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson says she wants the city to lawyer up in preparation for a fight over the city’s massive water system.

Legislation introduced at the state Capitol this week would transfer the majority of control over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the suburbs. The bill would create a regional authority that would manage rates and contracts.

Watson urged her colleagues to hire an attorney to prepare to fight the move:

"If we sit and wait and do 'Kumbaya up in Lansing while they got their hands on our water system, we’re going to be in trouble, and the citizens here are going to be blaming everybody up here for not being armed and ready. We need to be armed and ready with litigation, and go to court."

Former governor Jennifer Granholm vetoed a similar bill several years ago. But the idea has gained new traction in Lansing, with a Republican governor and Republican-controlled House and Senate.

A recent federal indictment also renewed interest in revamping how the department is governed. The indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

State of the State
1:09 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Snyder set to deliver first State of the State address tonight

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first inaugural address on January 1st, 2011
Corvair Owner Flickr

Updated at 1 pm: 

Governor Snyder says the economy will be the focus of his first State of the State speech tonight.

That should come as no surprise, considering Michigan has a massive budget deficit and one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Snyder says he’ll talk about economic development, and about a state partnership with the University of Michigan, as reported in this story on annarbor.com. He says he also plans to present a “report card” on some key issues: 

We’re going to have probably 21 different measures in five different areas. Things about the economy, about the health of our people in the state, public safety issues, a number of different areas. Education.

Snyder says the report card, or “dashboard” as he calls it, will be revisited in each of his State of the State addresses to see whether laws and policies are improving things. A spokeswoman for the governor says it will be made available on a Web site that's slated to go live later today.

8:08 a.m.:

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address tonight at 7 p.m.. He'll deliver the speech to a joint session of the Michigan legislature in the state's Capitol building in Lansing. Though details of the speech have not been released, we do know the speech is expected to last about 40 minutes and is likely to focus on ways to improve and reinvent the state's economy.

Read more
News Roundup
9:17 am
Wed January 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

SOS Tonight

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature this evening in Lansing. Though details of the speech haven’t been released we do know it’s expected to last about 40 minutes and that Snyder doesn’t plan to read from prepared text. Instead, Snyder will go by a series of notes. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response. You can hear live coverage of the address, the Democratic response, and analysis of the evening beginning at 7 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Snyder Meets with MEA

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union. The union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools, Laura Weber reports. Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure but that now is not the time to expand the state’s sales tax. Iris Salters, the Director of the MEA teachers union, said she was glad the new Governor met with her group.

Vote on Health Care Law

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a  repeal of the new health care law later today. It’s expected that the Republican-led House will vote to repeal the bill but, even if that does happen, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate is not expected to take it up in their chamber. Michigan's Attorney General has joined many other states arguing that parts of the new health care law are unconstitutional. So far, one federal court in Michigan ruled in favor of the law, while another federal court in Virginia ruled against it, Mark Brush reports.

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