Politics & Government

State Legislature
7:37 am
Wed January 12, 2011

Lawmakers begin new legislative session

State Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Michigan lawmakers return to the state Capitol today for the first day of the 2011-2012 legislative session. Lawmakers will be sworn-in and adopt rules, including a dress code.

As the Associated Press reports, the majority of lawmakers in both the Senate and the House will be new to their jobs:

The turnover is caused partly by the state's term limits law and a strong showing by Republicans in last year's elections. Republicans built on their advantage in the Senate and grabbed control of House from Democrats.

Lawmakers will begin the new session with a new Republican Governor and a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Both the Senate and House will also see new legislative leaders. Republican Randy Richardville will be Senate Majority Leader and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will be the Senate Minority Leader.  In the House, Republican Jase Bolger will be Speaker and Democrat Richard Hammel will be the House Minority Leader.

Education
6:39 am
Wed January 12, 2011

New president for Michigan's State Board of Education

For the first time in a decade, Michigan's State Board of Education has a new president. Yesterday, John Austin was unanimously elected to lead the board.  He replaces fellow Democrat Kathleen Straus. Democrats have a 5-3 majority on the board.

Austin was first elected to the board in 2000 and re-elected in 2008.

In a release sent out yesterday, Austin said he is, "proud that during his 10 years on the State Board... the Board has functioned as a bi-partisan change agent for education reform and improvement"

As the Associated Press reports:

Democrat Casandra Ulbrich was elected vice president, Republican Nancy Danhof was elected secretary and Democrat Marianne Yared McGuire will continue as treasurer. Republican Richard Zeile will represent the state board on the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Commentary
11:55 am
Tue January 11, 2011

Rule of Law

It’s sometimes easy to be cynical about what we used to call “the system” back in the days when bell-bottom jeans were common.

Too often, it appears that society at all levels still functions under the golden rule, as in, he who has the gold, makes the rules.

Ideally, things are supposed to work according to the words engraved on the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington: Equal Justice Under Law.” But in practice, it too often seems that things  are more like the famous New Yorker cartoon in which a judge peers down at a defendant, and asks:

“So, how much justice can you afford?“

Read more
News Roundup
8:15 am
Tue January 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

New State Supreme Court Justice

Governor Rick Snyder announced yesterday his appointment of state Appeals Court Judge Brian Zahra to the Michigan Supreme Court. Snyder named Zahra to the state’s highest court to replace Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan.  Corrigan will begin a new job on Friday as the Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. Like Corrigan, Zahra is a Republican.  That means the state Supreme Court will keep its 4-3 GOP majority.

Politicians Flock to NAIAS

Politicians from across the country are visiting the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The show opened for media previews yesterday and opens to the public on Saturday.  Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow attended the show on Monday where she told reporters she was excited that the Chevy Volt won the Car of the Year award at the show. Also yesterday, U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer toured the show with four Michigan Democratic Congressmen: Reps. John Dingell, Sander Levin, Gary Peters, and Hansen Clarke.  Governor Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will tour the show today.

Ford Announces New Hiring

Ford Motor Company announced yesterday that it will add more than 7,000 workers in the U.S. over the next two years.  As the Associated Press reports:

The company plans to hire 4,000 manufacturing workers this year. Almost half those workers will be at the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky that will make the new Ford Escape starting late this year. It expects to add at least 2,500 new manufacturing jobs in 2012. The company said it is beginning a recruiting effort this week in Detroit and other cities, including San Jose, Calif., and Raleigh and Durham, N.C.

Politics
3:36 pm
Mon January 10, 2011

"Kilpatrick Enterprise" arraigned in court today

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick
Dave Hogg Flickr

Prosecutors have dubbed the five men accused of pocketing millions of dollars in exchange for contracts with the city of Detroit the "Kilpatrick Enterprise."

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted in federal court today, along with Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.

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Politics
2:00 pm
Mon January 10, 2011

Congressman talks about security in wake of Giffords tragedy

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody caught up with Michigan Congressman Hansen Clarke. Carmody asked Clarke about his reaction to the Giffords tragedy:

The annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit has often been a place for local members of Congress to meet and greet constituents.

But this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman is raising questions about security.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman has affected his security plans:

"We are implementing some of the procedures recommended by the U. S. Capitol Police, but I feel confident that those will be adequate."

Clarke was sworn in for his first turn in Congress just days ago.

One of the first people he met was Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Clarke says the two talked about both being graduates of Cornell University.

He expressed sadness on the attempt on Giffords' life, but he says that danger is just a fact of life that all elected officials must face:

"I'm not going to change how I work.   I'm going to be as open and available to the public.  I think that's very important.  I represent the taxpayers. I'm paid by the taxpayers.  I'm hired by them to work for them.  They need to know that their government is open and available to them."

Arizona Shooting
11:07 am
Mon January 10, 2011

Snyder issues statement on Rep. Giffords' attack

The scene in Tucson, Arizon after Saturday's shooting
Search Net Media Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has released a statement regarding the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday in Tucson, Arizona.  Six were killed in the attack and 13 others were wounded.  Governor Snyder said:

I would like to offer my support and prayers for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the other victims of the horrific shooting in Arizona and their families.

The senseless, despicable act of violence that our nation witnessed over the weekend tears at the very fabric of our democracy.  But, as we all know, Americans rally together in the face of tragedy and adversity.  Our spirit will not be broken.  We will emerge from this horrible incident stronger and more committed than ever to move our nation forward.  As the president requested, Michigan will demonstrate its respect for the victims by flying all U.S. flags at half-staff through Friday.

I will call Arizona Governor Jan Brewer later today to share these sentiments and to let her know that the people of Michigan are praying for the rapid recovery of Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims.

I know the hearts of every Michigander are with the Congresswoman, the victims, their families and the people of Arizona.”

Members of Michigan's congressional delegation have released statements decrying the shooting.

Michigan Supreme Court
10:32 am
Mon January 10, 2011

5 things to know about your new state Supreme Court justice

Earlier this morning, Governor Rick Snyder announced that he was appointing Appeals Court Judge Brian Zahra to the Michigan Supreme Court. 

Judge Zahra will be taking over the place of state Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan.  Corrigan will leave the court on Friday to begin a new job as the head of the state Department of Human Services.  Governor Snyder named her the Director of DHS last week.

So, just who is Judge Brian Zahra?  Here are 5 things we know:

  1. He has a Bachelor of General Studies degree from Wayne State University. He also has a J.D. from the University of Detroit School of Law.
  2. He has served on the Michigan Court of Appeals since 1999.
  3. In 2006 he received Jurist of the Year from the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan.
  4. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan.
  5. He is married and has two children.
News Roundup
9:07 am
Mon January 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

American Automakers Win Big

Two U.S. automakers have won prestigious awards at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this morning. The Chevrolet Volt won the 2011 North American Car of the Year award. The Ford Explorer won the Truck of the Year award.  Forty-nine auto journalists from around North America made the picks. The show opened this morning to the media. It opens to the public on Saturday and runs through January 23rd.

Michigan Lawmakers Show Support for Rep. Giffords

Members of Michigan's congressional delegation have been sending out their thoughts on Saturday's shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-D) where 6 died and 13 others were wounded. The Associated Press reports:

Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, served with Giffords on the House Science and Technology Committee in the last session of Congress. He says he grieves for those killed and prays for the "speedy and full recovery" of her and the others wounded. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, says she and Giffords share an interest in border security and the space program. Miller says she's "deeply saddened by this senseless crime."

State Lawmakers Back to Lansing

Michigan legislators return to the Capitol this week to be sworn-in.  And, much like the first day of school, they’ll choose their seats and establish rules, such as dress codes. Unlike most schools though, lawmakers will come to Lansing facing a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit. It’s also expected that legislative leaders will begin to establish plans and agendas for the coming months of session.

Snyder to Name Supreme Court Justice

Governor Rick Snyder will hold a morning news conference today to name his appointee to the state Supreme Court. Last week, Snyder named Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head the state Department of Human Services, thus leaving an empty seat on the court. Corrigan will step down from the state’s highest court on Friday to begin her new job.

State Legislature
7:42 am
Mon January 10, 2011

State lawmakers (new and old) return to the Capitol

Inside the Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Michigan lawmakers return to Lansing this week. The new state legislature will be sworn in at the state Capitol. 

Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber filed this report from Lansing:

New and returning lawmakers will be greeted in Lansing by a nearly $2 billion budget deficit, and no new federal stimulus to help them fill the holes. Many new Republican lawmakers say they were elected to cut state spending and reduce the size of government. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate say local government revenue sharing could be on the line for deep cuts. The Legislature has several months to balance the budget. This week lawmakers will be sworn in, choose their seats on the floor, and establish rules of the chamber.

Arizona Shooting
6:51 am
Mon January 10, 2011

Michigan Congressional delegation shows support for Rep. Giffords

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-D)
Freedom to Marry Flickr

Members of Michigan's congressional delegation sent out releases over the weekend expressing their anger and sadness over the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon, Arizona on Saturday.  Six people were killed in the attack outside of a Safeway.

As the Associated Press reports:

Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, served with Giffords on the House Science and Technology Committee in the last session of Congress. He says he grieves for those killed and prays for the "speedy and full recovery" of her and the other wounded. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, says she and Giffords share an interest in border security and the space program. Miller says she's "deeply saddened by this senseless crime."

Meanwhile, Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old who is accused of killing six and injuring 13 others as he tried to kill Rep. Giffords, will appear in federal court today in Phoenix.

Read more
Michigan Supreme Court
6:34 am
Mon January 10, 2011

Snyder to name new state Supreme Court Justice today

Governor Rick Snyder will announce his appointment to the Michigan Supremem Court at a press conference today
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder will name a new state Supreme Court Justice today at a morning news conference.

Snyder will be appointing a replacement for current Justice Maura Corrigan.  Snyder named Corrigan to head the state Department of Human Services last week. Corrigan will step down from the court on Friday to begin her new job.

There's been no word yet on who will replace her, but the Associated Press reports:

Appeals Court Judge Jane Markey of Grand Rapids wants Snyder to name her to the court because she'd bring a west Michigan perspective. The 59-year-old sent out an unusual release late Saturday asking for the appointment and noting that the court hasn't had a justice from Grand Rapids since 1946. Appeals Court Judge Brian Zahra of Northville may be higher on Snyder's list. He turned 51 Sunday and ran unsuccessfully for the high court in 2004.

Politics
2:41 pm
Fri January 7, 2011

Ted Nugent, Anderson Cooper, and Sarah Palin

In case you missed it, Michigan's Ted Nugent talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper about Sarah Palin's prospects for the presidency (spoiler alert - he wouldn't vote for her if she was running today). Here's the interview:

Governor Snyder
12:10 pm
Fri January 7, 2011

Inside the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder
Corvair Owner Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has been appointing directors for various state departments over the past few weeks.  The announcement of Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to the state Department of Human Services came just yesterday.

The Associated Press has put together a look at who is in charge at various state departments:

Read more
Detroit
12:07 pm
Fri January 7, 2011

Bing forces Detroit fire officials out

Detroit Fire Truck. Slow response times was listed as one of the reasons for the resignations.
flickr - user cutedtownboi

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has forced the resignations of the city's fire commissioner, James Mack, and its deputy, Seth Doyle.

The Mayor did so after hearing about an alleged theft that occurred after a fire official visited a home in Detroit.

The Mayor's office said they heard about the alleged theft from media reports.

Dan Lijana, with the mayor's office, said the breakdown in communication with the fire department and the concerns over slow response times to emergencies were their reasons for forcing the resignations.

Mayor Bing is quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying:

"When things aren't working, we will make the moves necessary to protect the services and citizens of the city. We have to peel this onion back and get the problem fixed."

U.S. Congress
10:58 am
Fri January 7, 2011

New members roughing it on Capitol Hill

The Rayburn House Office Building. Insiders say Dick Armey started the trend. Now, dozens of others are choosing to sleep in their Capitol Hill offices.
flickr - cliff1066

As a way of proving how fiscally conservative they are, some members of Congress are choosing to sleep in their offices on Capitol Hill.

Ashley Parker writes about the "Couch Caucus" in a New York Times piece today.

Michigan Democrat Hansen Clarke is featured in the article. He's a freshman Congressman from Michigan's 13th District (Detroit area).

Clarke is quoted in the article about why he's choosing to sleep in his office:

"Washington is not going to be a home for me — I’m only there to work. I need to be able to work up to 20 hours a day and still get some decent sleep, and if I sleep in my office I’ll be able to do that.

The Times reports the members choosing to sleep in their offices are spread across party lines, but mostly male members of Congress are choosing to do so. Parker writes about the critics of the practice:

They...complain that the practice can feel like a macho boys club, that it promotes a fierce anti-Washington sentiment that hurts bipartisanship and that, frankly, it just seems weird.

The offices are equipped with basic furniture, sinks, and bathrooms. But there are no sleeper sofas, and no showers. Members head to the gym in the office building to wash up.

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Commentary
10:50 am
Fri January 7, 2011

The Importance of Being Kelly

On election day last year, I talked to a senior citizen who is a proud, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. I wondered how she had voted for state supreme court.

“For the Democrats, of course,” she said.

“I voted for Kelly and Davis,” she said, meaning newly appointed justice Alton Davis.

"You voted for a Republican", I said.

Alton Davis is indeed a Democrat, but Mary Beth Kelly is a Republican. “No, I didn’t,” the lady said. “I voted for Marilyn Kelly, the chief justice. You wrote about her in a magazine article I read.

“She is a Democrat. You said so."

Yes, she is, I said. But you voted for MARY BETH Kelly. She is  a Republican. Her party nominated her partly because she is named Kelly, and they were hoping a lot of people might do what you did.

Well, guess what. I don’t know how many other people were  confused, but Mary Beth Kelly won by a landslide, beating poor Alton Davis, who gave up a secure judgeship for less than six months on the state’s highest court.

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News Roundup
8:15 am
Fri January 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

Snyder Names Corrigan to DHS, Will Appoint New Justice by Next Week

As expected, Governor Rick Snyder yesterday named state Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head the state Department of Human Services.  The appointment means there will be a vacancy left on the state’s highest court.  Snyder said he plans to appoint a new justice by January 14th, the day that Corrigan will resign to begin her new job. Corrigan is one of four Republican justices on the seven-member state Supreme Court.

Republican Leaders Target State Employee Pay

The state’s four new legislative leaders sat down yesterday for an interview.  The four, also known as ‘The Quadrant,’ talked about the upcoming legislative session and what they hope to get done.  During the conversation, Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger said public employees and local governments will have to share in the pain of budget cuts to help address Michigan’s fiscal problems. The two Democratic leaders, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and House Minority Leader Rich Hammel, said they want to work with their Republican counterparts but that they would fight efforts to cut state employee pay and benefits. The state currently faces an estimated $1.8 billion dollar budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.

Cut in Defense Department Spending Could Mean Michigan Job Losses

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he wants to cancel a defense contract for an amphibious vehicle for the U.S. Marine Corps. That could mean a loss of potential jobs here in the state, Steve Carmody reports.  That’s because a Sterling Heights based division of General Dynamics is the contractor that has been developing the 40 ton vehicle. The marine vehicle has been plagued with budget costs and other problems since the Reagan administration.

Forecast: Snow to Continue

Forecasters are predicting the snow will continue through much of the state through early tomorrow morning. A Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect for West Michigan and a Lake Effect Snow Advisory is in effect for Mid Michigan.  Both the warning and advisory will remain until Saturday morning. For today: West Michigan could see 2-4 inches; Mid Michigan 1-3 inches and just an inch or two is expected in the Southeast.  Temperatures are expected to reach the low 20s.

Michigan Legislature
7:21 am
Fri January 7, 2011

Members of 'The Quadrant' sit down and talk (on TV)

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Michigan's four new legislative leaders all sat down together yesterday for an interview.  The four include Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger and Democratic House Minority Leader Rich Hammel.  The four are known as "The Quadrant."

In an interview on the public television program "Off the Record," the Legislature’s new Republican leaders said public employees and local governments will have to share in the pain of budget cuts to help address Michigan’s fiscal problems.

As Rick Pluta reports:

Richardville and Bolger said state employees will likely see reductions in their paychecks and benefits. The Democratic leaders said they want to work with Republicans, but will fight efforts to impose more cuts on public employees and local governments.

To find out more about the state's four new Legislative leaders check out Dome Magazine where columnist Susan Demas has a great profile of The Quadrant.

Michigan Supreme Court
6:43 am
Fri January 7, 2011

Snyder to name new state Supreme Court Justice by Jan. 14th

Goveror Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder says he'll name a new justice to the state Supreme Court by January 14th.  Whomever he picks will replace state Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan.  Snyder announced yesterday that he is appointing Justice Corrigan to head the state Department of Human Services.

Corrigan is one of four Republican justices on the seven-member state Supreme Court.  She has served on the court since 1999.

Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta sent this report detailing the announcement of Corrigan's new job:

Corrigan says serving on the court is a “dream job.” But she says she could not resist the chance to work on improving services for children and others in need.

We must leave no one behind. That includes the most-vulnerable among us – children who are abused and neglected, the poor, the disaffected.

One of Corrigan’s first jobs will be to bring Michigan into compliance with a court order that settles a lawsuit against the state’s foster care system.

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