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Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

More than half a million people voted absentee in this week's primary election
Lars Plougmann

Several ballot proposals for Michigan’s 2018 election cleared a hurdle today.

The Board of State Canvassers approved the form of proposals on earned sick time, marijuana legalization and redistricting.

That doesn’t mean the board guarantees the content of the ballots will hold up against lawsuits. But it makes sure the campaign won’t succumb to a challenge in front of the board on technical issues after they gather signatures.

Stateside 8.17.2017

Aug 17, 2017

Today on Stateside, we hear how Michigan State University is tapping parking lots for renewable energy and big savings. And, while "totality" will elude Michigan during Monday's solar eclipse, we hear an expert's advice for how best to watch it.

jimmywayne / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

What can a city facing $200 million in long term debt do?

Raising taxes is one option.

That’s why the City of East Lansing has drawn up an income tax proposal for the November ballot. If approved by voters, residents would pay a 1% tax on their income. Non-residents who work in the city would pay 0.5%.

Democratic candidate for Bill Cobbs, in turquoise polo and glasses.
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan chooses a new governor next year, and a number of candidates have already stepped into the race. One of them is Democrat William Cobbs. Cobbs is the former global vice president for Xerox, and is a veteran of the United States Navy.

Cobbs says he’s “ready to lead this Michigan revival.” He says the way public policy is being crafted in Michigan isn’t benefiting the state’s residents. He also says Michigan’s struggles in areas like public education have fostered hopelessness among children. 

Kalkaska Village President Jeff Sieting.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Religious groups and the ACLU are asking Governor Rick Snyder to show "moral leadership" in the face of emboldened hate groups in Michigan. 

The eight groups say the flames of hatred are already ablaze in Michigan, and President Trump's defense of racists in Charlottesville makes it urgent for Michigan's top elected leader to do more. 

Snyder issued a statement Tuesday that hate speech and violence are not welcome in Michigan. 

Tyler Scott / Michigan Radio

We're driving around Michigan a little faster this summer. It's the result of a package of bills signed earlier this year by Governor Snyder.

Speed limits are increasing to 65 miles an hour on 900 miles of non-freeways around the state. And on 600 miles of freeways, the speed limit goes up to 75.

slab of butter frying in a pan.
George Brett / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

In the mid-20th century, there was a smuggling ring running between western Upper Peninsula and people in Wisconsin. It didn’t involve whisky, or gun-running, but rather a substitute for butter.

Rachel Clarke with the Michigan History Center says there was demand in Wisconsin for margarine, which was illegal in the badger state, but was still for sale in stores in Michigan.

Former Michigan Congressman Vernon Ehlers has died.

Melissa Morrison, funeral director at Zaagman Memorial Chapel, said Wednesday that Ehlers died late Tuesday at a Grand Rapids nursing facility. He was 83. 

Ehlers represented Michigan's Third Congressional District for 17 years from December 1993 until he retired in 2011.

The Third District covers Kent, Barry, and Ionia counties.

Ehlers was a nuclear physicist and college professor before he ran for Congress. 

He also served in the Michigan Legislature. 

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) said in a statement, “I am saddened to learn of Congressman Ehlers’ passing. Vern was a passionate public servant that loved his constituents, our state and the Great Lakes. While we did not serve together in Congress, his reputation preceded him. Vern was a leader who valued country over party and always strived for bipartisan consensus."

Dana Nessel, wearing blue, speaks into a microphone.
Cheyna Roth / MPRN

A civil rights attorney announced her run for state Attorney General today.

Dana Nessel was an attorney for a same sex couple whose case went on to be part of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.

More recently, the Democrat is part of a task force with the Wayne County prosecutor’s office to investigate hate crimes against the LGBT community.

Nessel is a former prosecuting attorney. She says she isn’t worried about only being viewed as the LGBT candidate.

Michigan Municipal League / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

After wrongly accusing tens of thousands of people in Michigan of cheating on their unemployment benefits, the state is refunding $21 million to those Michiganders.

Attorney Jennifer Lord said that number is just “a drop in the bucket” of what the state has taken from those people, while Director of the Talent Investment Agency Wanda Stokes said the agency would do better in communicating with citizens and handling unemployment claims.

Amidst all of this, Zach Gorchow of Gongwer News Service has noted a conspicuous silence from one very important voice: Governor Rick Snyder.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims.
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state has admitted it made a whopping mistake when it accused tens of thousands of Michiganders of cheating on their unemployment benefits.

The Unemployment Insurance Agency reviewed 62,784 cases where people were accused of fraud and hit with penalties.

In some 44,000 of those cases, that accusation was completely false – no fraud took place.

voting booths
user eyspahn / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A grassroots group that wants to get an anti-gerrymandering proposal on the 2018 ballot is looking to make progress this week.

Voters Not Politicians is the non-partisan group in charge of the effort. It wants to change how the state draws its district lines.

The Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to approve or reject the form of the petition. It will look at things like font size and which portions of the constitution are referenced. This is meant to prevent lawsuits for improper format down the road.

After just a few months in office, Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has found herself in conflict with nearly every other branch of county government.

So she’s suing to clarify that she’s “the boss” of her office.

But Spranger now wants the entire Macomb Circuit Court to disqualify itself from deciding that case because of conflicts of interest.

Judge Kathryn Viviano today declined to do that. She disqualified herself, citing the “high and escalating” level of dispute between the clerk’s office and other county officials.

Can a politician who breaks the law be forced to quit his job and be ordered not to run again?

That question could interrupt the Michigan Supreme Court’s summer recess.

statue of Robert E. Lee atop a horse
Public Domain

Seventy-two years ago today, for the first time ever, the Emperor of Japan spoke to his subjects on nationwide radio.  “Circumstances in the world conflict have proceeded in a manner not necessarily to our advantage,” he said. 

That was perhaps the greatest example of euphemism and circumlocution in history. What the emperor was really saying was “we have lost World War II, and we have no choice except to surrender.” I thought of this in the aftermath of the terrible events in Virginia, where a messed-up character obsessed with Nazis apparently drove his car into a group of people, killing one young woman and injuring many more people.

Donald Trump tweet
@realDonaldTrump Twitter

As violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, some of Michigan's lawmakers took to social media.  

Macomb County Circuit Court
Macomb County

A Macomb County Circuit Court judge could decide Monday whether a case against embattled county clerk Karen Spranger will move forward.

County officials have accused Spranger of lying about her address when she filed to run for office last year. If the case proceeds, a judge will decide whether there's enough evidence to legally disqualify Spranger from office.

"If the courts come back and say 'Nope, everything's fine,' then so be it -- she's the clerk, and we'll have to deal with the challenges we face or have been facing," Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said.

asbestos warning sign
ktorbeck / Wikimedia Commons

A new audit this week says Michigan needs more inspectors and more money when it comes to asbestos remediation. According to the report, there are only four inspectors in the entire state to respond to complaints, issue violations and inspect landfills. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about why the program is falling behind. 

Courtesy photo / City of Flint

Long-time Flint City Councilman Scott Kincaid plans to run against Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in her November recall election.

Kincaid is already on the November ballot for his 9th Ward seat. He says he could potentially win both the council race and the mayor's race.

"If I win the mayor's race, then I would have to just resign from the city council," says Kincaid.  "And there'd be a special election and then we'd go through that process."

Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America / Creative Commons

The legacy of discrimination against people of color and discrimination against certain religions is powerfully present in Michigan cities to this day.

A new data investigation from Bridge Magazine's Mike Wilkinson analyzed a series of housing maps produced by the Home Owners Loan Corporation and later used by the Federal Housing Administration. Wilkinson examined maps of nine cities across the state.

BYTEMARKS / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The state of Michigan says it has reversed 70% of unemployment benefit fraud cases and is refunding $20.8 million after people were wrongly accused of collecting excessive benefits.

The Unemployment Insurance Agency announced the results of a review Friday. It reviewed more than 62,000 cases for people who were assessed a fraud penalty and did not seek an appeal. About 44,000 cases were reversed.

Michigan has been under fire for a computer system that wrongly churned out cases of fraud. Last month, it dropped criminal charges against 186 people.

Shri Thanedar says Michigan should spend more resources investing in programs to benefit its residents. He's a candidate for the Democratic nomination to be Michigan's next governor.
Lester Graham

Next year, Michigan will choose a new governor. Several people have announced their candidacies, including Ann Arbor resident and entrepreneur Shri Thanedar.

Thanedar is running as a Democrat. He’s wealthy and has never held political office. He has criticized Governor Rick Snyder, by saying government shouldn’t be run with a spreadsheet mentality. If elected, Thanedar says he would improve the quality of life for average people in Michigan.

duggan with tapscott posing for cameras
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In a ceremony at Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center on Wednesday, a small handful of Detroiters regained homes lost to property tax foreclosure.

The group of 60 was the second to complete the Detroit Land Bank’s “occupied buy-back” program. About 80 people completed the program last month.

The Detroit Land Bank now has close to 100,000 properties in its inventory, making it the largest property owner in the city. Around 4,000 of them are thought to be occupied.

john conyers
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An ethics investigation of Detroit Congressman John Conyers appears set to move to the next level.

For months, the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics have been looking into claims John Conyers continued to pay his former chief of staff for time while she was on "unpaid" leave.

A mock-up of the proposed downtown development project by Gibbs Planning Group
Bob Gibbs / Gibbs Planning Group

If you live in a city or town that dates back to before World War Two, you've got a "Main Street," you've got parks, and you can walk around town to restaurants and stores.

Cities that sprouted up after the war? Not so much.

Those are largely made up of shopping strips, office buildings, plenty of subdivisions — and you definitely need a car. There's no "downtown" that's the center of the community.

sign that says "vote here"
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio Morning Edition Host Doug Tribou and Senior News Analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss the results of yesterday's primary elections in Detroit, Flint and Pontiac. 

attorney and sons talking
Tyler Scott / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor resident and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo is hoping to be released while the Board of Immigration Appeals considers whether to reopen his immigration case.

Supporters and family members of Sanchez-Ronquillo rallied outside of the ICE field office in Detroit on Tuesday as his attorney submitted a request for his release.

a veteran medal
RAY TYLER IMAGES / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the country's largest integrated health system. Nearly nine million of America’s veterans get medical care from the VA.

Ninety-six years ago today, the precursor to what we now know as the VA began with a stroke of President Warren G. Harding’s pen.

john conyers
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Congressman John Conyers may learn Wednesday if an ethics probe against him will continue or if it has reached its end.

For months, the House Ethics Committee has been looking into a complaint lodged against the Democrat. The exact nature of the complaint has not been made public. But several news outlets say it may involve compensation paid to a former staffer for months after she left her job in his office.

detroit vs everbody t shirt with i voted sticker
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A race that usually flies under the radar is shaping up as one of the more interesting contests in Tuesday’s primary elections.

The race for city clerk in Detroit has drawn more attention, and candidates, than usual this election cycle.

Six candidates are looking to unseat three-term city clerk Janice Winfrey. The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the general election this November.

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