Politics & Government

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.

Politics
3:45 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

State employee pay targeted in budget battles

Battles over the next state budget are heating up.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The start of the new year often brings in a lot of talk of good will. For those in politics, it's talk of bipartisanship.

In Michigan, that spirit is likely to dissolve quickly as the state faces a $1.8 billion budget deficit in the next fiscal year (the state's next fiscal year will start October 1st, 2011).

Peter Luke on MLive.com highlights the discussion beginning to take shape among the leaders in the state legislature.

Republicans pretty much control everything in Lansing now, and the first item they say they plan to cut are salaries and benefits for state employees.

Jase Bolger, the new Speaker in the State House of Representatives, said state employee benefits are definitely on the table if the state is going to close the enormous budget deficit gap:

"There are significant dollars that need to be saved through our compensation models, not just salaries, but the entire compensation."

In his recent piece on the looming budget deficit, Michigan Radio's Lester Graham points out that slashing state employee salaries and benefits only gets them a small percentage of their overall $1.8 billion dollar goal.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Thu January 6, 2011

Attacking Public Employees

Every culture and civilization has a set of myths which are sometimes partly true, but which are exaggerated out of proportion.

For example, they say any child in America can grow up to be president. That was made more believable when Barack Obama won. But for too many children today, a decent education, let alone the White House, is an impossible dream.

We take other things on faith too. These days, something most people seem to believe is that we have too many public sector employees, that they are paid too much, and that the cost of their pensions and benefits are killing us.

As a result, it is widely expected that Governor Snyder will seek deep cuts in public sector benefits to help close a nearly two billion dollar hole in next year’s state budget.

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Cabinet Appointment
10:18 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head DHS

Governor Rick Snyder will name Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan as head of the state Department of Human Services today. The appointment will open a vacancy on the state Supreme Court for the new governor to fill.

The Associated Press reports:

It's not immediately clear how quickly Snyder will replace Corrigan on the court. Corrigan was part of the court's new 4-3 conservative majority... The department has been under pressure in recent years as more Michigan residents hurt by the recession seek public assistance. The department is under a 2008 consent decree to improve the state's foster care system but received poor marks in the latest report.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Corrigan reportedly is eager to lead the DHS because of her long involvement in child protection issues, such as foster care and abuse prevention, said those close to the decision.

Corrigan has served on Michigan's highest court since 1999.

Governor Snyder
9:06 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Snyder to give State of the State address on Jan. 19th

Governor Rick Snyder gives his inaugural address at the state Capitol Building
Corvair Owner Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will give his first State of the State address on Wednesday, January 19th at 7 p.m.  He'll give the speech in front of a joint session of the state legislature in the House chamber of the Capitol building in Lansing . The Detroit Free Press reports:

Snyder is expected to lay out specific goals of his promise to "reinvent Michigan" with an economic and political culture that promotes entrepreneurial spirit with lower taxes and less regulation. Those are themes he struck Saturday in his inauguration speech, in which he called for an end to partisan bickering.

And, if you're an astrology-watcher, it might be interesting to note that there will be a full moon that evening.

Michigan Radio will air live coverage of the address.

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News Roundup
7:58 am
Thu January 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

Michigan Lawmakers Take Oath of Office

All 15 members of Michigan’s U.S. House delegation were sworn in yesterday by new Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Speaker Boehner swore in lawmakers en masse at the Capitol. However, newly elected Republican Representative Justin Amash from the Grand Rapids area was sworn in individually. Also sworn-in individually was Michigan’s new Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke of Detroit.

New Chief Justice

Michigan’s seven Supreme Court Justices have elected a new Chief Justice. Republican Robert Young Junior was selected yesterday in a closed-door meeting to lead the court. The selection reflects the results of November’s election that flipped control of the court from Democrats to Republicans. Young says budget cuts and reducing the size of the judiciary will be his top priority, Rick Pluta reports. Young has served on the court since he was appointed by Governor John Engler in 1999.

Get Ready for Snow

Forecasters are predicting quite a bit of snow will fall in parts of West and Mid Michigan throughout the day and into tomorrow. Holland and Kalamazoo could see up to 12 inches of snow fall by the end of Friday. Parts of Mid Michigan are expected to get 8-10 inches by the end of the day tomorrow.  The Southeast is expected to get up to four inches by Friday evening. A lake effect snow advisory will go into effect this afternoon for parts of West and Mid Michigan.

Goodbye RichRod

After days of speculation about the future of University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez, it was announced yesterday that he was fired. U of M Athletic Director David Brandon made the announcement yesterday afternoon at a press conference in Ann Arbor. The firing came after the U of M football team struggled on the field and violated NCAA rules off the field, Steve Carmody reports. Brandon says he’ll work quickly to find a replacement.

Law
6:51 am
Thu January 6, 2011

Michigan's new Attorney General will continue to fight the federal health care law

Attorney General Bill Schuette shortly after he took the oath of office in Lansing
Corvair Owner Flickr

The state's new Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will continue Michigan's role in a legal challenge to the federal health care overhaul.  In a statement released yesterday,  Schuette said, "I will fight Obamacare tooth-and-nail to protect our citizens from this constitutional overreach."

As the Associated Press reports:

Schuette ... said Wednesday he will add his name to the lawsuit challenging the law. That continues a legal strategy from former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Both Schuette and Cox are Republicans. Attorneys for 20 states are challenging the new federal health care law in a case before a federal court in Florida. The states argue the law violates people's rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

Schuette was sworn in as the state's Attorney General on Saturday.

Michigan Supreme Court
9:10 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Chief Justice Young calls for cuts in the courts

Newly appointed Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young.
justicebobyoung.com

Newly appointed Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young is calling for budget cuts in Michigan's judiciary, reports Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Pluta reports that Chief Justice Young "says he will call for combining courts and cutting judges in areas where there are fewer people and fewer cases." Young said:

"The Legislature will either do something rational to reduce the size and cost of the judiciary, or it will do something irrational. I think it is most rational to reduce redundancy rather than to cut into the judiciary in ways that will disable it from fulfilling its constitutional duties."

Pluta says "a 2009 report by the State Court Administrator says the state could save $2 million by eliminating more than a dozen judgeships in metro Detroit and northern Michigan."

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Politics
2:34 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Did Fred Upton move right to secure committee chairmanship?

Fred Upton represents Michigan's 6th Congressional District
flickr - republican conference

The new Congress gets started today in Washington D.C. and Michigan's 6th District Representative, Fred Upton, will chair a congressional committee with broad powers.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce oversees a wide range of issues:

  • energy
  • telecommunications
  • consumer protection
  • food and drug safety
  • public health
  • air quality and environmental health
  • interstate and foreign commerce

Fred Upton is kicking off his chairmanship by targeting the EPA's goal to limit carbon emissions that have lead to global warming.

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Opinion
1:23 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Commentary: What Do We Know?

Every time I turned on any radio station yesterday -- other than this one -- almost all I heard was discussion and speculation as to whether University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired, should be fired or deserved to be fired.

Michigan television stations were just as bad. They seem to have descended on Ann Arbor en masse, leaving me to wonder what real stories they were missing across the rest of our state.

However, I tend to wonder about that every day as it is. Lacking any real information, reporters opted for the famous man-or-woman-on the street interview approach. To their credit, those I saw being interviewed said mostly well-informed and nuanced things.

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Politics
12:11 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Michigan's Dave Camp one of "10 members to watch"

Dave Camp is Michigan's 4th District Congressional Representative. He'll chair the House Ways and Means Committee.
camp.house.gov

Today is the first day of the new republican controlled House of Representatives. Officially, along with the Senate, they're known as the 112th Congress. The members will be sworn in this afternoon.

The Washington Post blog "The Fix" has a list of 10 members of Congress to watch. Republican Dave Camp, of Michigan's 4th district, is listed as one of the ten:

Camp may be the most powerful member of Congress you've never heard of. He's the chairman of the mighty Ways and Means Committee and, though low profile, will have considerable sway over health care, taxes and trade. That's a wide -- and important -- palette.

The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

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U.S. Congress
12:01 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

The 112th Congress in numbers

Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Flickr

The politicos over at NBC's First Read have put together a look at the 112th Congress by the numbers:

  • In the House: Republicans will hold a 242-193 advantage.
  • In the Senate: Democrats will hold a 53-47 majority. (Two senators are independent but caucus with the Democrats).
  • There are 96 new members of the House (87 Republicans, nine Democrats).
  • The House will include 43 Tea Party-backed members.
  • The Senate will have five Tea Party-backed members.
  • In total, in the Senate, there will be 16 new members (13 Republicans, three Democrats).
Justice
9:17 am
Wed January 5, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court to pick new Chief Justice

The Michigan Supreme Court will choose a new Supreme Court Chief Justice today
Joe Gratz Flickr

UPDATE 10:39 a.m.:

Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio's Lansing Bureau Chief just filed this breaking news report:

Justice Robert Young has been selected as the new chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Young was chosen by his fellow justices in a closed-door vote. The decision reflects the change in control of the court from Democrats to Republicans in the last election.

9:17 a.m.:

The seven justices of the Michigan Supreme Court will meet today to select a new chief justice. After this past November's election, Republicans are in the majority of the court with four members; three justices are Democrats.

Justice Robert Young Junior was re-elected to an eight year term in 2010.  He said yesterday that he has four votes to become the next Chief Justice. Young, who has been on the Michigan Supreme Court since 1999, is a Republican from the Detroit-area. The current Chief Justice is Marilyn Kelly, a Democrat. 

As the Associated Press reports:    

The court's membership will change soon. Justice Maura Corrigan is expected to resign to lead the Department of Human Services under the new governor, Rick Snyder.

No such announcement from the Snyder administration has been made yet publicly.

U.S. Congress
8:19 am
Wed January 5, 2011

Get to know your Representative in D.C.

Three of the five new Michigan Congressmen (l-r, Dan Benishek, Bill Huizenga and Justin Amash)
Photo courtesy of huizengaforcongress.com

Michigan's congressional delegation is getting a makeover. One-third of its 15 members will be new when they're sworn in later this afternoon at the Capitol.  Here's a rundown of who is in... and who is out:

1st District

Republican Dan Benishek won the race to succeed veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in Michigan’s 1st District which covers all of the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula. Stupak announced last April that he would not seek a 10th term in Washington. Benishek was a Tea-Party favorite and was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

2nd District

Republican Bill Huizenga beat Democrat Fred Johnson in Michigan’s 3rd District in western Michigan.  Huizenga takes the seat left open by Republican Pete Hoekstra who was a GOP candidate for governor in the state’s 2010 primary.

3rd District

West Michigan freshman state lawmaker Justin Amash beat his Democratic challenger Pat Miles in Michigan’s 3rd District which covers parts of west Michigan. At 30 years old, Amash will become one of the nation’s youngest U.S. Congressmen.  He had Tea-Party backing.

4th District

Republican Dave Camp won an 11th term as Representative of Michigan’s 4th District.  Camp beat his democrat challenger Jerry Campbell.  The 4th District includes parts of Saginaw County, as well as northern and central Michigan.

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U.S. Congress
8:02 am
Wed January 5, 2011

Michigan's Congressional delegation to be sworn in today

Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Flickr

Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation will take the oath of office today at the nation's Capitol. As we've reported, the state's delegation is full of new faces. The Associated Press reports:

Longtime congressmen and first-termers alike are scheduled to be sworn in en masse at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, and incoming House Speaker John Boehner is to hold individual ceremonies for some lawmakers later in the day. One of those getting an individual swearing-in ceremony is Justin Amash, a Republican from the Grand Rapids area. New Michigan Republican congressman Tim Walberg of Tipton also will be sworn in individually by Boehner around the same time.

There are 15 members of the state's Congressional delegation, five of them are new.  Although, GOP Representative Tim Walberg could be considered a 'second year freshman' as he won a seat in Congress in 2006 but lost it in 2008.  He won back the seat in this past November's election.

Governor Snyder
7:12 am
Wed January 5, 2011

In first executive order, Snyder splits up the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder issued the first executive order of his administration yesterday. The order splits up oversight of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two state departments: the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality.

The executive order takes effect March 13th. As The Associated Press reports:

Gov. John Engler separated the natural resources and environmental quality functions into different agencies in 1995, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm rejoined them in 2009 in a cost-saving move. Snyder now says the job would best be handled by two agencies.

Rodney Stokes will head the Department of Natural Resources and Dan Wyant will head the Department of Environment Quality.

In a statement released yesterday, the Governor said:

“Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and we need to be a leader and innovator in protecting these resources. Recreational fishing, hunting and boating activities alone contribute more than $3 billion annually to our economy.  Separating the DEQ and DNR means we can better address these key priorities.”

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