Politics & Government

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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Governor Snyder
7:23 am
Mon January 17, 2011

Countdown to Snyder's first State of the State address

Governor Rick Snyder giving his inaugural speech on January 1st, 2011.
Corvair Owner Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address to a joint session of the state Legislature on Wednesday evening. Laura Weber is in Lansing and sent this report:

Governor Snyder is expected to focus his speech on Michigan’s economic future. But the governor is not expected to give specific plans for the state budget until next month. Democratic House Minority Leader Richard Hammel says he has not heard enough details yet from Snyder.

I mean, there’s been a whole lot of talk about moving Michigan forward, and not looking in the rearview mirror and reinventing Michigan, and I think that’s wonderful. We all feel that way. But we’re waiting for details before we can really react.

Snyder has said all areas of state government will be considered for further budget cuts to close a nearly $2 billion dollar estimated deficit.

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Law
12:00 pm
Sun January 16, 2011

Dr. Dre's "Detroit Controversy" goes to Michigan Supreme Court

A private moment for Detroit city police officers captured by videographers? The Michigan Supreme Court will decide.
screen grab of YouTube video

This Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that may determine if police officers have an expectation of privacy when they are doing their jobs.

It all started with a video.

Detroit city police and members of former Mayor Dennis Archer’s staff wanted to prevent a sexually explicit video from being played at a Dr. Dre concert in July 2000.

A camera crew for the rapper videotaped police officers saying they would pull the plug on the concert.

Former police officer, and current Detroit City Council president pro-tem Gary Brown, is seen on the video saying "we're going to shut this show down."

Eventually, Dr Dre decided not to show the video police were concerned about.

But the video of the police officers making their threats was put onto a concert DVD.

Thanks to YouTube user "snoopfroggydogg," you can see the "Detroit Controversy" videos here (WARNING: they contain images and words not suitable for younger viewers):

Detroit city officials sued, claiming the DVD makers violated Michigan’s anti-eavesdropping law by putting the video on the DVD without their permission.

The city officials and police officers claim their privacy was invaded by being videotaped and the video being shown publicly.

Attorney Herschel Fink represents the DVD’s producers. He says police officers have no 'right to privacy when they’re doing their job:

"I think the very essence of law enforcement is transparency...and I think this case has implications for mainstream news gathering and not just private citizens who are videotaping police berating them which was the case here."

Lower courts have tended to side with the DVD producers.

Detroit
2:03 pm
Fri January 14, 2011

Detroit city council rejects plan for new police headquarters

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A dispute over who controls Detroit’s cable TV public access channel may have, at least temporarily, derailed plans for the city’s new police headquarters. 

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Republican National Committee
7:12 am
Fri January 14, 2011

Elections begin this morning for RNC Chairmanship

Saul Anuzis, former Michigan Republican Party Chairman, is running to become Chairman of the Republican National Commitee
Photo courtesy of www.thatssaulfolks.com

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis is in for a busy day today. Anuzis is running to become the next Chairman of the Republican National Committee, a job currently held by Michael Steele. The committee is holding the elections this morning outside of Washington, D.C.. The Detroit News reports that:

Anuzis is one of five candidates running. He lost his last bid to become chairman two years ago to Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor whose tenure has been marked by questions of fiscal mismanagement. Steele is running again, though he's not expected to win.

ABC News reports:

RNC officials said there was no way of knowing how long the voting will take. Friday's general session begins at 10:30 a.m. ET and the official meeting schedule lists 8 p.m. ET as the estimated end time. Whoever wins will inherit committee hobbled by financial difficulties, including debt in the range of $15 million or more.

Anuzis announced his campaign last November when he sent a letter to the RNC membership. In the letter, Anuzis explained why he decided to run:

This is an exciting time to be a Republican and, as leaders, we have an awesome task ahead of us. The American people have given us a second chance' and that opportunity brings with it huge responsibility and challenge. Now we turn our attention to 2012. America must elect a new President. It is that hope, that necessity, that challenge, that draws me to announce my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

State Legislature
6:51 am
Fri January 14, 2011

House lawmakers introduce 85 proposals, half-dozen resolutions

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

On the first day that Michigan lawmakers were allowed to submit legislative proposals, legislators in the state House introduced 85 bills and a half-dozen resolutions. As the Associated Press reports:

The first bill introduced Thursday would repeal a surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax. It's likely to pass as part of a broader, still-developing plan to reshape business taxes. Other proposals would repeal Michigan's mandatory motorcycle helmet law in some circumstances and eliminate caps on the number of charter schools.

State lawmakers began the 2011 legislative session on Wednesday by taking the oath of office and officially announcing new legislative leaders.

Michigan Budget
6:39 am
Fri January 14, 2011

Estimating the state's finances

Tracy O Flickr

Lately, you've probably heard or read a Michigan Radio story that includes this number: 1,800,000,000. In case you haven't had your morning coffee yet... that's 1.8 billion. Economic forecasters predict Michigan's budget, for the fiscal year that begins October 1st, is $1.8 billion in the red.

However, later today, that figure could change. That's because economists are meeting today for what's called a "revenue estimating conference" at the state Capitol. The economists will come up with an estimate of just how much money the state can expect to receive through the next fiscal year. As the state's website explains:

The Revenue Estimating Conference held each January is a major part of the budget process. During the conference, national and state economic indicators are used to formulate an accurate prediction of revenue available for appropriation in the upcoming fiscal year. This conference first convened in 1992, pursuant to Act No. 72 of the Public Acts of 1991. The principal participants in the conference are the State Budget Director and the Directors of the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies or their respective designees. Other participants may include the Governor and senior officials from the Department of Treasury.

State Legislature
5:03 pm
Thu January 13, 2011

Michigan's new Speaker of the House calls for welfare caps

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger
Michigan House Republicans

Jase Bolger, Michigan’s new Speaker of the House, says he wants to see a four-year cap on certain welfare benefits in the state.

Bolger took the gavel for the first time on Wednesday, but the Republican speaker wasted no time outlining changes he wants to make in the state.

One of them would be limiting Bridge card recipients to a maximum of four years of lifetime benefits. The bridge card provides food - which is federally funded -  and some cash assistance.

Bolger says the state could save $45 million immediately with a cap on benefits:

We want to help people break the cycle of dependency... government should not create that cycle. And that's what happens. People get caught in that system, and it's not good for the human spirit. People want the opportunity to provide for themselves, and that's what we want to help them do.

Bolger says he wants the four-year benefit allowance to be enforced retroactively. He also wants to go after businesses that participate in welfare fraud.

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