Politics & Government

Politics
6:38 am
Fri December 17, 2010

U.S. House passes tax deal, bill now goes to President Obama for his signature

The U.S. House passed President Obama's tax deal last night, the bill now goes to the President for his signature

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend Bush-era tax breaks and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed yesterday.  The tax-deal was brokered between President Obama and leaders in the House and Senate.  The President is expected to sign the bill soon.  As The Associated Press reports:

In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to. The vote was 277-148.

Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan told USA Today:

Congress made the right decision ... to prevent a job-killing tax hike on Americans and small businesses.

The U.S. Senate had already passed the bill with a 81-19 vote.

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Detroit Politics
12:28 pm
Thu December 16, 2010

Detroit Mayor Bing's office responds to the new Kilpatrick indictments

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
Dave Hogg Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office released this statement regarding the RICO indictments of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Victor Mercado, former director of the city Water and Sewerage Department, and 3 others:

We are disappointed by continued revelations of the mistakes of the past. Yet, we will not be deterred from our agenda. We will continue to work hard to restructure city government to a level of accountability, transparency and performance for our citizens. We have the utmost confidence in U.S Attorney Barbara McQuade and her team, and will cooperate and not interfere with their investigation.

While these indictments will make it more difficult as we seek a new director for the water department, and continue to make the tough but necessary decisions throughout the city, we will maintain our commitment to the highest ethical standards and those who uphold them for the benefit of our city and region.

State Law
9:10 am
Thu December 16, 2010

Sunday morning alcohol sales won't happen everywhere

Ken30684/Flickr

Michigan's new liquor law that allows alcohol sales on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day starts this weekend for establishments that have bought the proper permits. But, some communities in the state say they plan to continue to ban alcohol sales during certain hours on Sunday.

As The Associated Press reports:

Flint, Muskegon Heights, Garden City, Sturgis, Charlotte and all of Oceana, Ogemaw and Mecosta counties are among the places opting to continue banning Sunday morning sales.

Local governments had until yesterday to let officials know if they wanted to continue to ban or limit the sales on Sunday mornings.

Crime
4:28 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

Feds unveil corruption charges against Kwame Kilpatrick, his father, and 3 others

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

Update 6:54 p.m.:


Here's some video of the release of the indictments from the Detroit News:



Update 4:28 p.m.:


Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, had this to say of the new indictment:


“The indictment charges all of them with working together to abuse Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices. Both his position as state representative, as well as his position of mayor of Detroit, to unjustly enrich themselves, through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud.”


Update 4:18 p.m.:


Here's an excerpt of the indictment (info in parens added):


"(Former Detroit Mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick, (Kilpatrick’s long-time friend) Bobby Ferguson, (Kilpatrick’s father) Bernard Kilpatrick, (former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) Victor Mercado and (Chief Administrative Officer then Chief Information Officer to Kilpatrick) Derrick Miller… extorted municipal contractors by coercing them to include Ferguson in public contracts, and/or by rigging the award of contracts to ensure Ferguson got a portion of the revenue from those contracts…. Ferguson got tens of millions of dollars in work and revenues from municipal contractors."


Update 3:39 p.m.:


Federal Prosecutors in Detroit are announcing more corruption charges against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.


The indictments also include Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.


Representatives from the FBI, IRS,  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development are also on hand for the announcement.


The new charges are a sign the years-long investigation into Detroit municipal corruption is approaching an apex.


Peter Henning is a Wayne State University law professor. He says this investigation has been typical of public corruption probes that slowly “work from the outside in.”



“The government’s committed a lot of resources. When that happens then it’s much more likely to see charges brought, simply because the government wants to see some return on its investment.”


Kwame Kilpatrick already faces federal tax evasion and other charges for allegedly using a non-profit civic fund as a personal slush fund.


Ferguson also already faces federal charges in an alleged city bid-rigging scheme.


3:27 p.m.:


The other shoe is finally dropping on former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.   The US Attorney in Detroit is holding a news conference at 4pm to announce indictments against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and others allegedly involved in city hall corruption in Detroit.


The Detroit News is reporting:



The U.S. Attorney's Office is considering prosecuting the mayor under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, among other federal criminal laws, according to a source. The Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section reviews and approves each proposed federal prosecution under the RICO statute. 


So far, 14 people have pleaded guilty to felonies and one person has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the Detroit investigation and a spinoff probe in the city of Southfield. Those convicted include former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.


Politics
2:03 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

MI Congressman Mike Rogers gets major committee chairmanship

Congressman Mike Rogers will takeover as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The Associated Press reports:

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner says Michigan Republican Mike Rogers will serve as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the next Congress. Rogers said in a statement Wednesday he's humbled by the appointment and calls it an "incredible responsibility."  The 47-year-old Howell resident easily won a sixth term in November to represent Michigan's 8th Congressional District. Rogers is a former Army officer and FBI special agent who investigated organized crime and public corruption in Chicago in the early 1990s.

Politics
12:43 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

The Week in State Politics with Jack Lessenberry

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry in Studio East

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time to get a roundup of the state's political news with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry.  He spoke this morning with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley.

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State Legislature
7:54 am
Wed December 15, 2010

After already calling it quits for the year... state lawmakers return to Lansing

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Leaders in the state legislature have called lawmakers back to the Capitol today for a final meeting of this year's legislative session. The news comes after lawmakers had called it quits earlier this month. As Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network reports, lawmakers have to go back to Lansing to correct a few procedural mistakes from the earlier lame-duck session:

The state Senate has a few bills sent back from the House for final approval, including a measure that would lower the minimum age for blood donation from 17 to 16. The House also needs to meet Wednesday to approve a resolution to adjourn for the year. But it's unclear if enough lawmakers can be wrangled on short notice to return to the state Capitol to vote.

And, as The Associated Press reports:

Lawmakers might enroll and send to Gov. Jennifer Granholm legislation allowing sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf site in Flint to a developer who wants to redevelop the property and keep the school open. Bills that would regulate billboards for sexually oriented businesses are among the others that need final approval or procedural votes before they can be sent to Granholm.

It doesn't appear that either chamber will take up controversial measures including teacher-tenure reform or insurance for autism treatments.

Politics
5:29 pm
Tue December 14, 2010

Michael Moore posts bail money for Julian Assange

Michael Moore says he's putting up money to bail out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Nicholas Genin Flickr

Michael Moore has announced that he is contributing $20,000 to help bail out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (that WikiLeaks link is liable to change).

On his blog post, Moore says he's offering Assange more than just money:

I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

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Governor-elect
7:20 am
Tue December 14, 2010

Snyder names key members of jobs team

Governor-elect Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Republican Governor-elect Rick Snyder continues to name new members of his incoming administration. 

Yesterday, Snyder announced that Doug Rothwell would lead the Michigan Economic Development Coporation.  As Rick Pluta reports, it will be Rothwell’s second turn at the job. He was the MEDC’s first director after Governor John Engler created the agency in the 1990s. Rothwell is currently the President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, a group of the state's top 75 CEO's.

In a show of bipartisanship, outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm stood next to Snyder as he made the announcement.

State Legislature
7:00 am
Tue December 14, 2010

They're back... Lawmakers to make a (quick) trip back to Lansing

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Terry Johnston/Flickr

Well, it appears that state lawmakers aren't quite done with this year's lame duck legislative session.

It's been announced that both the Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate will convene at the state Capitol tomorrow.  The news comes after lawmakers declared their two-year session was done on December 3rd.

However, the Associated Press reports, that neither chamber is expected to take up any controversial issues:

The House is expected to deal with legislation cracking down on human trafficking and a few other issues. The Senate will deal with bills that can't be sent to GovernorJennifer Granholm because they didn't get an immediate effect vote or because they were changed by the House. Lawmakers aren't expected to take up insurance coverage for autism, teacher tenure rules or other sensitive subjects that were left unaddressed before adjourning earlier this month.

Politics
1:14 pm
Fri December 10, 2010

Granholm highlights changes in culture, economy

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

In less than a month, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will step down from office.    She met with reporters today to reflect on her 8 years in Office.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm says her biggest accomplishment during the past eight years was changing a culture attuned more to factory jobs rather than college degrees and diversifying the state's economy.

The Democratic governor told reporters in a year-end interview Friday that her effort to restructure the economy to rely less on building automobiles "is the thing I'm most proud of."

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Politics
11:37 am
Fri December 10, 2010

Editorial pays homage to Pete Hoekstra

Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra
hoekstra.house.gov

Representative Pete Hoekstra came into office in the 103rd Congress in 1993. He's going out in the 111th Congress at the end of this year.

Hoekstra announced his retirement in December 2008 when he decided to run for Governor of Michigan.

He lost that bid to Rick Snyder and will soon be out of a political office after 17 years.

Today, the Grand Rapids Press ran an editorial praising Hoekstra's tenure, saying,

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Governor-elect
6:57 am
Fri December 10, 2010

Plans continue for Snyder's inauguration

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will take the oath of office on January 1st, 2011 at 12PM.
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder's inaugural day activities have been confirmed.  The governor-elect will be sworn in as Michigan's 48th governor on January 1st, 2011.  According to The Detroit Free Press, here's what we know:

  • The inaugural will last just one day.  Previous Michigan Governors' inaugurations have continued over more than one day and in multiple cities.
  • Governor-elect Snyder will take the oath of office at noon outside of the Capitol building in Lansing.  That will be followed by a receiving line that will take place inside.
  • An inaugural celebration will take place at 8 PM in East Lansing at Michigan State University.  Tickets are required for the event at a cost of $125.

Swearing in ceremonies will also take place on January 1st for Lt. Gov.-elect Brian Calley, Secretary of State-elect Ruth Johnson and Attorney General-elect Bill Schuette.

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Governor-elect
5:46 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

Governor-elect touts nerd cred to accountants

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder
wikimedia commons

Governor-elect Rick Snyder told a crowd in Detroit today that Michigan will beat analysts’ economic growth expectations in the coming years.

Snyder spoke to a group of accounting students at Wayne State University. He recounted an experience at a recent National Governors Association meeting.

Snyder says the investment firm Moody’s ranked each state for projected job growth. He described what he saw when he opened the folder for Michigan.

"The first number from 2009 to 2011 was 47," Snyder said. "The number from 2009 to 2014 was 50."

But the governor-elect called those projections "a piece of fiction."

"We’re going to beat the living daylights out of that number."

Snyder added that he plans to use his background as a CPA to put Michigan’s finances in order.

Politics
3:17 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

Granholm calls for a jobs "Moon Shot"

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm
flickr user auberon

3 million jobs in 3 years. That's what soon-to-be-former-Governor Jennifer Granholm called for in her article in the Huffington Post.

Granholm calls for a "Jobs Race to the Top" modelled on the education "Race to the Top" program.

Dangle large sums of money in front of cash strapped states and see if you can get them to change their policies.

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Opinion
12:40 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

Commentary: Michigan Power

Who are Michigan’s most powerful people in Washington? For decades, the same names have come to mind. First, Dearborn’s John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in history.

For many years, Dingell was either the chair, or ranking Democrat, of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Then come the Levins. Younger brother Carl is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Older brother Sandy this year became the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Then there is John Conyers, who has chaired the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years. These men are icons. 

But they are aging icons, and when the Republicans take over  the House next month, Conyers, Dingell and Sandy Levin will lose power and status, because they will be in the minority.

But Michigan will have two newly powerful representatives in key positions, men who are far less well known statewide -- but whom we ought to get to know better.

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Detroit Politics
12:17 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

"So much more work to do," says Mayor Bing

Detroit Skyline
JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

It appears that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will run for office again. As The Associated Press reports:

The former NBA great tells the Detroit Free Press... that he "can't fix the problems that the city has in one term." He says progress is being made in improving the city but there is "so much more work to do."

The next mayoral election in the city is 2013.  Bing became the Mayor of Detroit in May of 2009 and was re-elected to a full term in November 2009.

Governor-elect
6:55 am
Thu December 9, 2010

Snyder to address university students today in Detroit

Governor-elect Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be in Detroit today.  He’s scheduled to give a talk at Wayne State University.

As the Associated Press reports:

Snyder will speak to Detroit college students and business leaders about reinventing Michigan's economy - with an accounting twist. Snyder's talk … is expected to focus on how his accounting skills will be important as he works to improve the state's struggling economy.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Politics
6:03 pm
Wed December 8, 2010

Arab American group asks Wayne State to reconsider Helen Thomas award

Helen Thomas
flickr user rachelvorhees

A prominent coalition of Michigan Arab-American groups is angry that Wayne State University has pulled an award honoring journalist Helen Thomas.

Wayne State ended the “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award” last week after she made controversial comments at an event in Dearborn.

Thomas asserted that “Zionists” control major U.S. institutions, including the White House.

Wayne State called those remarks “anti-Semitic.” But the Congress of Arab American Organizations disagrees.

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Politics
5:58 pm
Wed December 8, 2010

Bridge dispute claims a Detroit business

Lafayette Bait and Tackle
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

The owner of the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation are back in court over a disputed construction project.

One Detroit business owner says that project is forcing him out. Lafayette Bait and Tackle is literally stranded here in the midst of the Gateway Project, as trucks rumble overhead.

That project was a $230 million effort to better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways.

It’s also the subject of a long-running legal dispute. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the Ambassador Bridge Company violated project plans when it built entrance ramps and a duty-free plaza.

The Bridge Company has lost several rounds in court. But the ongoing legal drama has left Lafayette Bait and Tackle cut off from the surrounding neighborhood.

Business owner Dean Aytes says his landlord hasn’t paid the taxes on the property. And a lawyer for bridge owner Mattsay Moroun says the landlord has now agreed to sell the property.

Aytes says that means the shop will have to close for good. He says “that billionaire, Matty Moroun, put me out of business.”

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