Politics & Government

Politics
4:08 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Film industry calls for "action" on tax credits

Filmgoers line up at the State Theatre in Traverse City during that city's film festival.
Andres McFarlane Creative Commons

Movie industry supporters are pulling together a campaign to persuade Governor Rick Snyder to reconsider his plan to slash the state’s film tax incentives. For the past three years Michigan has had the most generous credit in the nation, at 42 percent.

Actor Jeff Daniels and columnist Mitch Albom will headline a meeting tonight in Livonia to talk strategy.

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Commentary
1:06 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Emergency Financial Managers

If you had any doubts about how difficult the situation is for local governments these days, consider this. Even before they tackle the budget, our lawmakers in Lansing have been working hard on new emergency financial manager legislation.

Yesterday, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a package of bills designed to make it easier to appoint emergency financial managers to run troubled cities and school districts.  The legislation also gives those managers broad new powers. The Senate is expected to easily approve this as well.

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Politics
5:58 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Report: 35 "Hate Groups" in Michigan

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 35 "hate groups" in Michigan.
Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report today on hate groups in the U.S.

They say there are now more than 1,000 such groups around the country, the first time the SPLC has seen the number of "hate groups" top 1,000 since it started counting them in the 1980s.

From the SPLC press release:

Several factors fueled the growth: resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the lagging economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities and the government.

A hate group is defined by the SPLC as a group that has "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

The SPLC lists 35 "hate groups" in Michigan on their map.

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Politics
4:40 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Detroit leaders brace for new Emergency Financial Manager rules

Carlos Lowry Flickr

Detroit city leaders are bracing for what most see as the inevitable passage of a state law giving more powers to Emergency Financial Managers.

Detroit’s Lansing lobbyist, Ken Cole, briefed the City Council about the package of bills Wednesday, as the State House voted to approve them.

Ken Cole told the Council he thinks the legislation is meant to work in tandem with Governor Snyder’s proposed budget.

Cole described that budget’s impact on Detroit as “bludgeoning.” Among other cuts, it would lose $178 million in state revenue sharing.

But Cole says the Council shouldn't focus on not stopping the EMF legislation.  He says there’s little hope of that in the Republican-dominated state legislature. 

“Because in the words of the former late state senator David Holmes of Detroit, ain’t no substitute for votes. You either got ‘em or you don’t. Make no mistake, wedon't.”

Detroit City Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. agrees that some political gamesmanship is in play when it comes to emergency financial managers.

“I think part of what is going on here, part of the approach of the Snyder administration is to try to leverage cities to do what they need to do to fix themselves financially. Or face the risk of somebody coming in and doing it for you.”

Cockrel and Cole say Detroit officials should focus on amending aspects of the legislation they really don’t like.

That includes a provision that would let firms, as well as individuals, act as emergency financial managers. Cockrel says that would be “crazy.”

Politics
4:24 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Protesters march again at state capitol

Corvair Owner Flickr

Protesters were in Lansing again today to speak out against several proposals in the Republican-controlled state Legislature that they say will strip unions of the rights. That includes a measure approved by the state House that would give more control to emergency financial managers appointed to run cities and townships, or school districts. The state Senate is considering a similar measure.

Nick Ciaramintaro is with the union AFL-CIO of Michigan. He told lawmakers that more power for emergency financial managers means less democracy for local governments. 

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Politics
3:33 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Governor Snyder talks cuts on public radio call-in program

Then candidate Rick Snyder at the Michigan Republican State Convention in 2010.
Bill Rice Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder was interviewed this afternoon by NPR's Talk of the Nation.

He was asked questions by the hosts and by listeners. You can listen to the entire interview here:

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Politics
3:10 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Gaddafi forces maintain their hold on Tripoli

Protesters in the Netherlands show support for anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya.
Roel Wijnants Flickr

NPR is reporting that pro-Gaddafi forces are maintaining control of Tripoli as protests and violence continues:

"Thousands of people were fleeing Libya on Wednesday as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi reportedly continued a crackdown on protesters in the capital. Rogue elements of the police and army aligned with the anti-government opposition appeared to be in firm control of parts of the east."

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Politics
1:48 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

"Kill the Bill!" A second day of labor protests at the state capitol

under the state capitol dome
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

"Kill the Bill....Kill the Bill" shouted hundreds of municipal labor union members as protests continued for a second day at the state Capitol in Lansing. Hundreds of unionized firefighters and police officers marched on the Capitol.

They are calling on the Legislature to reject a bill that would repeal the requirement that puts local government labor disputes into binding arbitration.

Local government officials say binding arbitration leads to expensive settlements.  Unionized workers say binding arbitration is a fair way to settle disputes, and its a concession unions made in return for giving up the right to strike.   Jason Sneft is a firefighter from the city of Jackson. 

“This is probably step in a long couple years of many steps of trying to eliminate union actions.”

Drivers honked their horns in support as uniformed firefighters and police officers lined both sides of the street in front of the Capitol. The binding arbitration measure is not scheduled for a vote yet.

The House is expected to vote on another bill that would give state-appointed local emergency financial managers the power to discard union contracts.

Politics
8:47 am
Wed February 23, 2011

Analysis: Protests in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana

Pro-union protesters in Madison, WI.
Mark Danielson Flickr

Protesters headed to Lansing yesterday to voice their displeasure with the budget cuts in Governor Snyder's budget proposal.  People were also there yesterday in support of the cuts.

Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry discussed the protests on Michigan Radio this morning.

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Politics
11:24 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Detroit Mayor's State of the City: "We are a work in progress"

Mayor Bing speaks at the Michigan gubernatorial inauguration ceremony in January.
Joe Ross Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s moved the city in the right direction.

But in his State of the City speech, Bing also warned that Governor Snyder’s proposed budget would jeopardize that progress. Snyder attended Tuesday night’s speech at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

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Politics
4:28 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Protests in Lansing

The Capitol in Lansing
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Update 4:28 p.m.

Rick Pluta, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, filed a report on the protests in Lansing saying they were organized by "public employee unions, and attracted state and local government workers as well as teachers who had a snow day." From Pluta's report:

They’re fighting against anti-union bills sponsored in the Michigan Legislature, and to show support for union rallies in Madison-Wisconsin and Colombus-Ohio.

Sally McNamara is a teacher in the Adrian Public Schools:

"I’m here supporting the children of our state and our nation. Are we in debt? Are we in trouble? You bet we’re in trouble. Is it really hard-working people who are driving us down in the gutters? No. It’s not."

Pluta says dozens of Tea Party protestors also gathered to rally in favor of the proposed budget cuts.

1:41 p.m.

Protestors came to Lansing today to voice their opinion on the proposed cuts by the Snyder administration and to protest bills in the Michigan legislature they see as anti-union.

The Detroit News reports that "unofficial estimates put attendance at close 1,000" people:

After a brief rally and march to the Capitol, members streamed across to the House office building to call on legislators, and about 200 construction workers poured into a hearing room where testimony was to be taken at noon on a bill to repeal prevailing wage requirements.

Members plan to cram the gallery of the House chambers this afternoon where lawmakers are slated to discuss bills that would grant authority to emergency financial managers to toss out collective bargaining contracts.

The Detroit Free Press says the protestors in Lansing were inspired by the protests taking place in Wisconsin:

Many protesters...said they thought Snyder's proposal was an attack on unions similar to a bill being pushed by Wisconsin's new Republican governor. They said they were inspired to turn out by eight straight days of protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people to the Wisconsin Capitol.

The Detroit News reported on Tea Party protestors who turned out in smaller numbers in Lansing today. They're supporting Governor Snyder's proposed cuts and some hope Snyder will take a similar stand on unions that the legislature is taking. From the Detroit News:

Tea party supporters Annamaria Evans of Clarkston, Pat Miller of South Haven and Jack Stone of Lake Orion said they want Michigan to end collective bargaining rights for public employees, just as Walker has proposed in Wisconsin.

Miller, a member of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots, said he wants to see Snyder get as tough on unions as the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature is.

Some of the signs spotted in Lansing:

  • "Recall Snyder"
  • "Don't Tax Grandma"
  • "Get Back to Work"
  • "I'm Not Getting Paid to Be Here"

And some of the chants:

Politics
3:22 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Union members protest changes to Prevailing Wage law

The Michigan House of Representatives. Union members protested today in a State House committee room.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Hundreds of outraged union members filled a State House committee room and the surrounding hallways to protest a proposal to eliminate Michigan’s Prevailing Wage law. Many union members people began chanting and banging on the walls of the committee room.

Unions say the law makes sure workers are paid fairly and that union members get work.

Some Republicans want to get rid of the Prevailing Wage law, saying developers and contractors could save money on construction costs by making wages more competitive.

Jeff Mowry, a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 333, says the proposal to get rid of the wage law is not a direct attack on the collective bargaining rights of unions, but it still tries to hurt unions. 

 "You know, that’s the scary part – everything gets very complicated and very confused but it sure seems like it’s all tied together. And it seems like this is just one piece of a great big puzzle that’s looking to take away our collective bargaining rights, yeah."

Some Republican lawmakers say eliminating the prevailing wage law would save about 10% on construction costs and could create more jobs in the state.

Chris Fischer with the Association of Builders and Contractors gave a presentation to lawmakers on how the state could save money by eliminating the wage law.

Fischer says the chanting was distracting, but he was not deterred.

"It is difficult to make a factual presentation when there’s a lot of white noise in the background. It is disconcerting, but the bottom line is prevailing wage does come at the expense of two things Michigan does not have right now – and that’s jobs and taxpayer dollars."

Union members were told they will be able to testify on the wage law when legislation is before the committee for a vote.

Detroit
6:56 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Mayor Bing to deliver State of the City address tonight

Mayor Dave Bing earlier this year in Lansing as he attends Governor Rick Snyder's inauguration
Corvair Owner Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will deliver his State of the City address this evening at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit. It will be the mayor's second address since he won a special mayoral runoff election in May 2009. The Associated Press reports, "Bing has said the speech will elaborate on the city's achievements during his short time in office."

Government Shutdown
8:29 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Upton expects federal government shutdown can be avoided

Congressman Fred Upton
Photo courtesy of the Republican Conference

One Michigan congressman is downplaying warnings of a federal government shutdown next week.

Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate haven’t agreed on a continuing budget resolution to keep the federal government going beyond March 4th.

Representative Fred Upton expects the US House will offer the US Senate a way to avoid a shutdown. 

“My sense is that will we also in the House pass a short-term continuing resolution and send that to the Senate early in the week.  Which will allow them to say…here’s a two week extension so we don’t have a shutdown by the end of the week…as well as the long-term…and then we’ll wait and see what the Senate does.”  

Upton expects Congress will approve a short-term budget resolution before any federal government services are effected. 

State Budget
7:43 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder seeks allies in budget fight

Governor Rick Snyder is looking for allies in his fight for deep state spending cuts. The governor received a warm reception at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon today in Kalamazoo. 

Governor Snyder spoke to an audience that largely backed his candidacy last year  and is very receptive to his budget plans that call for revising d Text - 16 lines]the state's business tax and deep cuts in spending. But many are also concerned some the governor's plans might hit close to home.

Snyder urged the business leaders to accept part of the sacrifice.

"The only way we are going to do this is talk together and help those people who think they didn't get a fair shake or that they're being disadvantaged when they probably were not." 

Labor unions and social service groups worry that the poor, children  and others might pay a bigger price under the governor's budget plan. Snyder says the state must address its billion and a half budget  deficit now and now just kick it down the road.

War in afghanistan
7:23 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Senator Carl Levin cautiously optimistic about success in Afghanistan

Senator Levin speaks at Grand Rapids Community College Monday about prospects for success in Afghanistan.
Derek Devries Grand Rapids Community College

U.S. Senator Carl Levin says success depends on two factors. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says the Obama administration should stick to the July deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and make sure the country can continue to build up its own security forces.

The committee’s ranking republican Senator John McCain opposes the deadline.

Levin told a gathering in West Michigan Monday the deadline has helped the Afghanistan police and army exceed recruitment goals. He called a large, effective home-grown security force in Afghanistan “the Taliban’s worst nightmare.”

“Because it would demonstrate that contrary to their propaganda the war against the Taliban is not a war of foreign occupiers seeking control, that it is instead a war that the Afgan people believe in.”

Levin told a crowd in Grand Rapids that President Obama's deadline in July to begin transferring power to the government of Afghanistan has put pressure on the situation in a good way.

Politics
12:04 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Unions to fight proposed state laws

As protests in Wisconsin continue, leaders of Michigan labor unions fight proposals in the Michigan Legislature
Mark Danielson Flickr

Leaders of Michigan labor unions are fighting proposals in the Michigan Legislature that they say would hurt collective bargaining rights. The Associated Press reports:

The Michigan AFL-CIO said Monday it opposes more than 30 bills pending in the Legislature including those that would give emergency financial managers of cities and schools the power to terminate labor union contracts. Unions representing public employees also are opposing bills that would change how binding arbitration works for police and fire departments.

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said some of the measures are an "assault" on the collective bargaining process that calls for unions and employers to negotiate contracts.

Union leaders also said they are concerned about some budget proposals from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, including measures they say hurt schools, the middle class and low-income residents.

Commentary
10:35 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Budget Alternatives

Well, it’s been four days since Gov. Rick Snyder presented his so-called “atomic bomb” budget, and opposition has started to harden. There are those who are concerned about the poor, largely because of the repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

For example, Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson said yesterday that this amounts to a “government-sponsored shift of capital away from the most needy citizens to those who are already more comfortable.”

Senior citizens’ groups are upset because the governor wants their constituents to have to begin paying Michigan income tax on their income, just like everybody else does on theirs.

The film industry is screaming about the potential loss of the film credits. The education community isn’t happy with the cuts they’d have to take, though they seem to be bearing them with more grace.

But the interesting thing to me is that none of these groups seems to be offering any kind of alternative plan. They want what they want, but don’t have any kind of broader vision.

Yet something radical does have to be done. The state is running an enormous deficit that has to be gotten rid of, and our old automotive-based economy doesn’t work anymore, not the way it did.

So the question for the critics is, if you don’t like the governor’s plan, what are you going to offer instead?

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Governor Snyder
8:56 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today where he will speak to the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo. He's set to speak at 12:30 p.m. and a question-and-answer session is also scheduled. As the Associated Press reports, it's expected the Governor will spend his time defending the budget proposal he released last Thursday:

Last week, Snyder proposed a $45.9 billion budget that includes spending cuts for schools and getting rid of many personal tax breaks. His plan includes a corporate tax change that would save businesses $1.8 billion a year.

Snyder has been working to defend the plan. Critics say it means that the poor and the elderly, public education and local governments would be the ones picking up the tab for businesses.

State Budget
6:39 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Lt. Gov: Sndyer administration does not expect Wisconsin-like budget protests

Lt. Governor Brian Calley
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Senior aides to Governor Rick Snyder say they don’t expect the massive budget protests in Wisconsin will spread to Michigan. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Snyder’s style is less combative than that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Calley also says he expects most critics of the Snyder budget will be persuaded to change their minds. He says that’s because tough choices this year will avert the need for more cuts in the future.

“Number one, we’re not going to kick the can down the road. Number two, we’re not going to employ one-time gimmicks and quick fixes and those sorts of things. We’re actually going to fix it so that, take a look at Year Two – this actually does solve the problem so going forth, we can actually spend more time on, where do we go from here? How do we work and grow together?"

Nevertheless, some public employee and retiree groups are trying to organize a protest march on Lansing this week. They oppose a demand for public employees to pay more of their health care costs, and a proposed end to the tax exemption on pension income. Governor Snyder presented his budget proposal to state lawmakers last Thursday.

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