Politics & Government

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

Governor Snyder
7:31 am
Wed January 19, 2011

New poll shows favorable opinion of Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

A new poll shows 59 percent of likely Michigan voters hold a favorable opinion of Governor Rick Snyder. The poll was released on the eve of Snyder's first State of the State address.

Nine percent of likely voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of the new governor. 

When asked, 41 percent of respondents said they think Michigan is not headed in the right direction, 39 percent said it is.

The results of the poll have a margin of sampling area of four percentage points.

Politics
5:39 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Activists speak out in favor of health care law

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the "Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Act" this week.

In what's been called a symbolic move, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a repeal of the new health care law this week (maybe tomorrow).

It's symbolic because the law isn't likely to be repealed. A vote isn't expected to come up in the Senate, and even if a repeal bill DID pass the Senate, President Obama would more than likely veto it.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, spoke with supporters of the federal health care law.

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Politics
3:41 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Suburbs seek more control over Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept.

An interceptor sewer line north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves more than just the City of Detroit.

It's water and sewer lines stretch beyond the city's boundaries and into the surrounding suburbs and communities.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Rep. Kurt Heise will introduce a bill that will give the suburbs more say in how the department is managed. From the article:

Under the proposal, the city would retain ownership of the 1,075-square-mile system, but the 126 communities and 4 million people who use its water and sewage services would be represented by a regional authority that manages contracts, water rates and future projects.

Members of Detroit City Council are reportedly in Lansing today lobbying against the bill. Council President, Charles Pugh, is quoted as saying:

"We are willing to have a regional discussion, but when the discussion is over, Detroit will still own and control the system. We built out the system, and we have a right to maintain control of it. Anything less than that is illegal."

You can see how far Detroit's sewer and water lines stretch into outlying communities on the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's page.

Commentary
1:17 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

State of the State: A History

Tomorrow Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first state of the state speech to a joint session of the legislature and a statewide television audience. I’ve seen a lot of these speeches, and believe this may be the most eagerly anticipated one ever.

Michigan is stuck in twin enormous economic crises, one affecting state government, which has a perennial massive deficit, and the other affecting hundreds of thousands without jobs.

Governor Snyder is brand new, and we are still getting to know him. We want to have a better sense of who he is, and, especially,  how he plans to get us out of the mess we’re in.

But all this got me wondering: Who was the first governor ever to give a state-of-the state speech?  The first I remember was Governor Milliken, but how far back did the tradition go before him?

I knew that in the old days, governors just sent an annual written message to the legislature. U.S. Presidents used to do the same, until Woodrow Wilson started the tradition of showing up at the capitol and delivering a speech in person.

Since then, almost every president has done so. But who was the first governor to do so? I asked Bill Ballenger, the publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. “Wow,” he said. “I don’t know.”

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State of the State
12:23 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

AP: No text copy of Gov. Snyder's State of the State speech

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first inaugural address in Lansing, MI
Corvair Owner Flickr

What's the "State of the State"?

We'll all find out what the new governor thinks tomorrow night, but not before.

The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address Wednesday, but he won't be putting out a written copy of the speech. His spokesman says the new Republican governor doesn't tend to work off a prepared text, so there's no written copy to release. The governor's office also doesn't expect to provide a transcript of the 7 p.m. speech immediately after Snyder delivers it at the Capitol. The talk will focus on economic development and job creation and is expected to be about 40 minutes long. It will be broadcast live statewide. Former Govs. Jennifer Granholm and John Engler usually released embargoed copies of their remarks before their State of the State speeches. Their speeches also were posted online after they spoke.

You can hear a live-broadcast of tomorrow night's "State of the State" on Michigan Radio starting at 7 p.m.

Pay close attention!

News Roundup
8:49 am
Tue January 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

A Trashy Story

Senator Debbie Stabenow announced yesterday that Michigan is no longer receiving Ontario’s municipal trash. The Democratic senator credited an agreement that she and Senator Carl Levin made with Ontario officials in 2006. However, Canadian garbage could still be shipped into the state as the agreement doesn’t apply to non-municipal trash. As Sarah Cwiek reports, commercial and industrial waste accounts for about 60-percent of the trash that's shipped from Canada to Michigan.

NAIAS Sees Increase in Visitors

Attendance is up at the North American International Auto Show so far this year, the Detroit Free Press reports. The Freep says:

Attendance Monday was 64,520, up from 61,112 from the same day last year, said NAIAS spokesman Sam Locricchio. On opening day Saturday, 86,622 attended the show, compared with 83,715 on the opening Saturday last year, he said. Sunday's attendance was 99,111 -- up from 96,623 for the opening Sunday in 2010, he said.

DSO, Management Back to Bargaining Table

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians and the DSO’s management are headed back into negotiations. The players have been on strike since Oct. 4th. Both sides have submitted new proposals that revolve around a $36 million compensation package, Jennifer Guerra reports. Neither side has publicly commented on the new proposals. The DSO reported an $8.8 million budget deficit for the 2010 fiscal year.

Ice, Sleet, and Snow (Oh, My)

Drivers should prepare for an icy commute this morning across the state. Forecasters are predicting rain, freezing rain and snowfall in many parts of west, mid, and southeast Michigan.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. today for much of west and mid-Michigan and until noon for parts of the southeast. Temps are expected to be in the low to mid 30s.

State Legislature
6:46 am
Tue January 18, 2011

Bill to repeal Driver Responsibility Fee is expected this week

Michigan's Captiol Building, Lansing, MI
Terry Johnston Flickr

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.

Commentary
10:18 am
Mon January 17, 2011

Living the Dream

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.

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News Roundup
8:49 am
Mon January 17, 2011

In this morning's news...

Awaiting the SOS

Governor Rick Snyder delivers his first State of the State address on Wednesday night to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature. There’s a lot of anticipation for details about how the governor plans to revive the state’s economy but, Snyder is not expected to give specific plans for the state budget until next month, Laura Weber reports. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response after Governor Snyder’s address.

UAW Members to D.C.

Some 1,000 members of the United Auto Workers union will be in Washington, D.C. today for the beginning of a four-day conference.  The UAW says attendees will discuss the union’s legislative and political priorities for the coming year and prepare for the 2012 electoral campaign. The meeting will open with a speech from UAW President Bob King and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-D) is also expected to speak.

Remembering MLK, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  The day, which falls on the third Monday of each January, is a federal holiday that marks the January 15th birthday of Dr. King. Mark Brush has a nice piece this morning that explores the legacy of Dr. King, particularly in the light of the Arizona shooting that killed 6 and injured U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords among others. Brush is asking for your thoughts about the day and it what means to you.

Politics
8:00 am
Mon January 17, 2011

The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. online

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King in 1964.
Library of Congress

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.

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