Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Today on Stateside:

  • Road funding is once again being discussed in Lansing, but Chris Kolb says we need to think beyond just fixing roads and bridges. Find out where he thinks the state should invest more of its money.
  • A good meal can become a great meal if the restaurant has the right ambiance. For example, good music can improve the overall experience. But what about the other way around? Interlochen Public Radio’s David Cassleman talks about a conductor and chef who are teaming up in Traverse City to find out.
  • Ypsilanti singer-songerwriter and Civil War history buff Matt Jones has a new album out called “The Deep Enders.” See what he has to say about his Civil War influences and song writing for “The Deep Enders.”
US Supreme Court

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss a Michigan couple whose case could determine constitutional same-sex marriage rights, a challenge to Michigan’s right-to-work law, and a Republican-proposed plan for changes to the Electoral College.

Today on Stateside: 

  • A new report from Public Sector Consultants projects Michigan will lose enough energy production for one million people in 2016. We look at what this means for Michigan residents. 

  • Chris Cook, chief restaurant and wine critic at Hour Detroit Magazine joins us to discuss how American eating and cooking went through a drastic change post-World War II. 

  • How much has the American family changed? Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research have been digging into this for a report called The New American Family: All Are Welcome and You Don't Even Have To Get Married. We talk with U of M professor of Sociology, Pamela Smock. 

  • Automakers are on track to sell 16.5 million cars and trucks for 2014. Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader.com joins us to talk about the future of long-term loans and leases that are being sold to buyers. 

  • More than half of all hospital deaths are caused by sepsis. Dr. Jack Iwashyna, research scientist at the Ann Arbor-VA Healthcare System, and Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, join us to explain what exactly sepsis is and the challenges it poses. 

Today on Stateside:

  • The legal team for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse filed their appeal today with the US Supreme Court.  They want the court to rule that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network is here. 

  • Michigan Radio's newest project is The Next Big Idea. Here with us today are Joe Linstroth and Jeff DeGraff, who discuss what innovation means to them and what they're looking for.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

Many Michigan families remain at very high risk of homelessness after the Great Recession, says an advocacy organization.

Eric Hufnagle, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, say there are things cities can do other than wait for the economy to improve – like increase the amount of affordable housing.

Hugnagle says many people who become homeless  have jobs, but the jobs don't pay enough to let them afford rent.

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

A plan to change the way Michigan awards its electoral votes for president got largely panned at a state House hearing on Monday.

The legislation would award up to seven of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes to the presidential runner-up in Michigan. The number of votes they get would depend on how close the popular vote is.

user BGilbow / Flickr

Metro Detroiters hard-hit by last summer’s flash floods have a bit more time to apply for federal aid.

The deadline to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was November 24.

But FEMA officials are now pushing it back to December 14.

They say that about 120,000 people have registered for aid so far — but they think up to 30,000 more should do so.

Total flood damage is estimated at more than $1 billion.

Governor Rick Snyder is hosting the 2014 North American International Summit.
michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder is hosting Michigan's third summit to address cyber security issues in government, business and other sectors.

The North American International Cyber Summit takes place today at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

Experts from across the country will talk about trends and best practices in cyber security.

Featured speakers include the governor, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, military leaders and private-sector experts.

Data theft and security breaches can be costly, both to businesses and the government. According to the state, the Michigan government suffers more than 500,000 computer attacks each day, including spam, web browser attacks and network intrusion.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state House panel is scheduled to meet Monday to consider changing the way Michigan awards its Electoral College votes for president.

Right now, the state assigns all of its 16 electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. A new Republican proposal would allow the runner-up to get up to seven of those votes – depending on how close the vote is.

“What this does is it says, if you want to do well in Michigan, you got to actually come here and talk about our issues,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Twp.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Cold weather will slow water shutoffs in Detroit, but not halt a nearly yearlong push to collect on past due accounts.

  Detroit Water Department spokeswoman Curtrise Garner tells The Associated Press that crews will stop disconnections only during long bouts of below freezing temperatures when the ground is too hard to reach water connections.

  Service has been disconnected to 31,300 customers since Jan. 1. A several-week moratorium allowed some customers to enter into payment plans.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder's upcoming trip to China to coax companies to expand in Michigan won't be cheap, but economic development officials say the money is well spent and producing results.

The governor's last investment mission to Asia cost $251,000 and a concurrent trade trip totaled $173,000. Expenses included flights, lodging, other travel, meals, gifts and receptions.

  Nearly $219,000 of the bill for Snyder's trip was covered with money Michigan receives from American Indian casinos' gambling profits.

Get ready for more potholes this upcoming spring season.
User _chrisUK / flickr.com

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a move to fix the state’s roads, the most recent ruling involving same-sex laws, and a new standardized test for Michigan’s public schools.


Lex Dodson

The deadline for people affected by last summer’s flooding in Metro Detroit to apply for most federal assistance is quickly approaching.

The Small Business Administration has approved at least $63 million in long-term, low-interest loans so far.

“As more and more loans are approved, that number will continue to grow,” says SBA spokesman Michael Peacock.

The “disaster loans” are available to homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profits.

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are considering multiple plans that would significantly increase state road funding. The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would raise the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements.

But state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says they could still try to pass a plan that would raise the state’s sales tax.

“We may look to change the sales tax. And that may be a better way to fix the structural problem that we know exists at the pump already,” Richardville told reporters on Thursday.

 There’s a split in Lansing about how far and how aggressively to push for gay rights in Michigan -- specifically to update the state’s civil rights law.

Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act

This is as much a cultural split between Lansing lobbyists and the LGBT community and how they view their mission as it is a difference of opinion about tactics and priorities. However, it has now jeopardized, if not already doomed, the effort to update Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA).

The ELCRA already has protections against housing and employment discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and weight, among other things.  It’s long been a goal of Michigan’s LGBT advocates to add LGBT protections to the law.

History repeating itself

Thirty years ago, that effort cost state Representative Jim Dressel (R-Holland) his job. He lost his Republican primary in 1984 after he introduced a bill to add the phrase “sexual orientation” to the law.

This past summer, state Representative Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) suffered a similar fate for being the millennial Republican leading the effort on the GOP side of the aisle. His hope was to leave the introduction of the law a part of his political legacy.

Gender identity

But, efforts to accomplish that goal in this year’s “lame duck” session are now hung up on the words “gender identity.” That phrase would ensure that transgender people are also covered under the law.

A business coalition, put together and led by AT&T of Michigan President Jim Murray, was pushing the issue saying it’s not just a question of fairness, but talent - convincing people that Michigan is open, inclusive, and a good place to look for a job. Not only was it a persuasive group on its own but pretty much every multi-client lobbying firm in Lansing was also engaged in the effort.

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

Legislation that is expected to raise up to $1.5 billion a year to fix Michigan’s roads has cleared the state Senate.

Depending on how the price of gas fluctuates, the legislation would effectively double the amount of tax people pay at the pump. Instead of paying cents on the gallon, drivers would pay a percentage of the wholesale price of fuel. That percentage would gradually rise to 15.5 percent between next year and 2018. Drivers currently pay 19 cents per gallon for gasoline.

House bill 5477 passed on a 23-14 vote.

Local government meeting room in Lansing.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s latest Public Policy Survey, CLOSUP, takes a look the trend that has taken place toward local governments in Michigan privatizing services. 65% of Michigan’s local government are now contracting out work. Tom Ivacko from the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy tells us whether more privatization will occur in the future and if local leaders are satisfied with the work done through outsourcing.

Listen to our conversation with Tom Ivacko below: 

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

Detroit's historic and unprecedented bankruptcy came together last Friday for approval from Judge Steven Rhodes.

The Detroit News recently provided in-depth coverage from business columnist Daniel Howes and reporters Chad Livengood and David Shepardson.

We talked to Howes about how the case was completed in 15 months, about the key players, and about what must be done to avoid repeating mistakes.

You can listen to our conversation with Daniel Howes below:  

Freedom Michigan campaign aims to update the Elliot-Larsen civil rights act to include the LGBT community.
user Marlith / flickr.com

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that Michigan’s law preventing public schools and municipalities from providing benefits to unmarried partners of employees was unconstitutional.

Critics of the law said it impacted same-sex couples almost exclusively.

The same day we also saw a bill introduced in the state House that would add protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to Michigan’s civil rights law.

Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, joined me to talk about what it could mean for the Legislature and the state.

Here's our conversation:


Today on Stateside:

  • A discussion about Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case.
  • What happens when business executives come to work for City Hall?
  • Michigan Radio’s sports commentator John U Bacon stops by to talk Lions, Spartans, and Wolverines.
  • We meet the eight-year old Mayor of Amphibiville.
  • Detroit before cars was all about the horse. We take a look back.
  • And more on the surprising find that Atlantic salmon are reproducing naturally in the upper Great Lakes.

*Listen to our show above.

The group tasked with making sure post-bankruptcy Detroit stays solvent met for the first time Wednesday.

The nine-member Detroit financial review commission will serve as the last word on the city’s financial decisions for at least three years.

The panel will review and approve all city budgets, major contracts and collective bargaining agreements during that “control period.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Legislation that would make changes to Michigan’s regulations on non-profit organizations is stirring controversy at the state Capitol.

Bills cleared a state House panel Wednesday that Democrats say they would make it easier for political organizations to hide information about their donors.

Today on Stateside

Michigan State University

Researchers at Michigan State University have developed software to help nab criminals when there is no photo of a suspect or when the photo or video is of very poor quality.

The new FaceSketchID System matches police sketches with large photo databases of mug shots and drivers licenses.

Anil Jain, an MSU professor of computer science and engineering, led the research team.  He said this is another tool for identifying a possible suspect when the police only have visual descriptions from witnesses. "The face-recognition systems which we have match two photos," he said. "But they don't do very well in matching a composite with a photo. So that's the gap which we have filled through our research."

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss whether the legislature will be able to come up with a plan to fix Michigan's roads before the end of the year, a challenge to a Grand Rapids law decriminalizing marijuana, and what’s next on Detroit’s road to recovery.


Detroit's riverfront.
Ian Freimuth / Flickr

Matt Helms at the Detroit Free Press reports that Mayor Mike Duggan has some sticker shock over the cost of Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Helms reports that Duggan “is alarmed” that the city will have to pay lawyers and consultants close to $200 million. Duggan worries the payout could put the city at risk of not meeting the terms of the city’s plan of adjustment – a plan the federal bankruptcy judge approved last week.

More from Helms and the Detroit Free Press:

Three people familiar with Duggan's views on the fees told the Free Press that the mayor believes the total fees could climb close to $200 million, an amount he worries could jeopardize the city's ability to meet the bankruptcy's financial terms. That compares to the roughly $100 million that many bankruptcy experts predicted would be the cost when Detroit filed for the nation's largest-ever municipal bankruptcy in July 2013.

A spokesperson for former emergency manager Kevyn Orr disputes that the bill could reach $200 million, saying the fees charged to the city reached $144.3 million as of October 31.

Today on Stateside: 

  • Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta from It's Just Politics talk about what might be on the agenda for the lame duck legislative session. 
  • A Michigan State senior is heading a group to get protections for unpaid interns.
  • Frontier Ruckus has made its mark nationally and internationally in the re-emergent folk rock world. The Michigan band has a new album out today.
  • When you think of good improv comedy, your first thought might be Chicago's Second City. But there's a thriving improv comedy scene in the Detroit area, too. 
  • Shopping for a new car, truck or SUV? Then you've seen that sticker on the window telling you the car's MPG rating. Many consumers give great consideration to a vehicle's fuel efficiency when making a choice. But did you know the EPA does its MPG testing in a lab in Ann Arbor?
  • Tom Walsh from the Detroit Free Press explores the fall of the auto industry in Michigan since the 1960's. 
It's Just Politics Logo
It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

State lawmakers will be back in Lansing tomorrow, beginning their lame-duck legislative session.

Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta from It's Just Politics join us on Stateside to discuss their list of lame-duck issues.

Here are five issues they believe might come up:

1. Roads: Governor Snyder wants more money to fix the roads, but the Legislature has not been able to agree. 

2. Adding protections for gay or lesbian individuals to the state's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act: Debates over inclusion of transgendered individuals or religious faith opt-outs may complicate the decision making process. 

3. Education: Education issues like teacher evaluations, third grade reading standards, and changes to how Detroit school board members are designated are all on the docket for the lame-duck legislative session.

4. No-fault auto insurance: Republicans have been trying to end unlimited medical coverage for accident victims, according to Rick Pluta.

5. Allocation of electoral college votes: Michigan is a winner-take-all system, meaning that whichever candidate for president gets the most votes, they win all of the state's 16 electoral college votes. There is a push by some Republicans to have the votes be allocated by congressional districts instead.

*You can listen to the full segment above. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Having secured court approval for its bankruptcy restructuring last week, Detroit is now ready to emerge from bankruptcy.

But some Detroit residents and activists say that plan sacrificed both democracy and the public interest.

The group Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management says the bankruptcy process was about imposing financial solutions on social and political problems.

And they believe the newly-approved “plan of adjustment” won’t benefit the vast majority of Detroiters.

Today on Stateside:

  •         Emails from an order for 500,000 ignition switches by General Motors from December 18th have been released. Jeff Bennett broke the story for the Wall Street Journal and talks to us about the importance of these emails in a pending legal case.
  •           In Ann Arbor, kids caught spray-painting serve their community service time by cleaning up graffiti under the Juvenile Graffiti Removal Project. Listen to Sgt. Thomas Hickey of the Ann Arbor Police Department discuss his creative idea.
  •          Called “the greatest American player of all time” by Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, Chris Chelios has certainly left his mark on the city of Detroit and the Red Wings franchise. Listen to him discuss his new memoir, Made in America.
  •          While high-profile chemical spills and bacterial blooms have raised concerns about the safety of drinking water in the United States, it’s not the only pollutant reaching the water supply. Listen to chemist Andrea Sella report for the BBC on how the medicines we take are ending up in our environment.
  •          Rebecca Klaper, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences has been studying the presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) within the Great Lakes. Listen to Dr. Klaper discuss the presence of PPCPs in the Great Lakes.
  •           East Jordan Iron Works has a 131-year history in the state of Michigan. You can’t walk across a street in Michigan without stepping on a manhole cover branded with their name. Listen to VP Thomas Teske discuss the history of the company.
  •          In the fight against blight in Flint, Gordon Young had a goal of raising $10,000 to tear down a single decaying home on Parkbelt Drive in Flint. After contributions from over 150 donors, Young has exceeded his goal by more than $1,000.

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