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Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

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The new year will be filled with uncertainty for thousands of young immigrants whose lives are in limbo, and their advocates say their loss would be felt by all.

Nearly 600,000 young people -- including 5,400 in Michigan who were brought to this country as children by their undocumented parents -- have been living with fear since President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides them protections to live and work here.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
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Between President Trump's first year in office and several major policy battles in Congress, national politics garnered many, many headlines this year.

And while Lansing may have had a slow legislative year, that doesn't mean Michigan wasn't affected by the goings-on in D.C.

Here are the political stories followed throughout 2017:

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims.
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Gov. Snyder signed end-of-year bills to “modernize” the state’s unemployment system, but some say they don’t do enough to repair the damage caused when the state switched to an automated claims processing system.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) wrongly accused more than 40,000 people of fraud, sometimes going back as far as six years, and collected over $46 million in penalties. State assessments of the program during that time found false fraud error rates of at least 70%.

FOIA
Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

Government bodies should be under a firm deadline to turn over documents that citizens have requested under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act, according to Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland.  

Glenn said he plans to introduce legislation in January that would make that happen.

On December 12, Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an opinion that the current FOIA law does not set a timetable for the government to release requested documents.

Glenn said this means the government can take as long as it wants to fill a FOIA request.

Michigan State Police patrol vehicle shield
Michigan State Police

Wayne County Prosector Kym Worthy has charged a former Michigan State Police trooper with 2nd degree murder. Last summer, Mark Bessner fired his Taser from a patrol car during a chase in Detroit. The Taser struck a teenager who was fleeing police on an all-terrain vehicle. The 15-year-old crashed the ATV and died. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss the case.


Michigan's oddly-shaped 14th congressional district, currently represented by Brenda Lawrence, is one example of political gerrymandering.
Public Domain

The Michigan League of Women voters is taking on the state. It says Michigan's legislative districts as currently drawn are unfair. It accuses the state and Republican controlled Legislature of drawing the district lines in secret back in 2011, then rushing the electoral map through the legislative process.

The lawsuit asks a court to declare the current electoral map unconstitutional. It also asks the court to require the state to redraw the lines fairly.

A Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II.
Wikipedia

Macomb County’s Selfridge Air National Guard base has lost its bid to house a fleet of next-generation warplanes.

Selfridge was one of five U.S. bases competing to host the new F-35 fighter jets.

But the Air Force announced Thursday it chose bases in Wisconsin and Alabama as winners in this round.

A bipartisan group of Michigan political leaders lobbied hard in Washington to land the F-35 and boost Selfridge’s long-term prospects.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Lansing has put Michigan’s biggest mental health agency on notice that its state certification may be in jeopardy.

That agency is the Detroit-Wayne Mental Health Authority. This year, it doled out over $700 million to community mental health service providers serving about 80,000 people.

The warning came in a December 18th letter from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to DWMHA leaders, after Michigan Radio reported on concerns about how the Authority conducts business.

Today on Stateside, former Congressman and longtime tax reformer Dave Camp says the tax bill is a "positive move forward." And, did the federal government spend $21 trillion that wasn't authorized by Congress? And finally, we hear from the head of the "Harvard of Santa Schools."

money
MIkolay Frolochkin / pixabay

The owner of multiple Southeast Michigan towing companies pleaded guilty Wednesday to paying bribes to a Macomb County official to in order to get a municipal towing contract.

Gasper Fiore pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He admitted to paying $7,000 to Dean Reynolds, a trustee in Macomb County's Clinton Township.

health insurance claim form
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As he prepares to sign the newly-passed GOP tax bill, President Trump saluted the measure  by claiming it fulfills his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 

The bill does away with the individual mandate that was a central component of the ACA.

dictionary entry for the word tax
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President Trump and Congressional Republicans are celebrating today after the House and Senate delivered an epic overhaul of our tax laws.

 

The GOP is hailing the package as a gift to the middle class, although the biggest tax cuts go to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

 

Dave Camp is a former Michigan Congressman. He served in the House from 1991 to 2015.

 

Tax reform was one of his main priorities. In fact, he served four years as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the House's tax writing body. He is now a Senior Policy Advisor for PwC.

 

$100 bill
Vladimir Solomyani / Unsplash

Now that the GOP has gotten its tax reform plan passed, leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan are saying the next item on the agenda is reining in government spending.

Perhaps the work of Michigan State University economist Mark Skidmore, his team of graduate students, and a former government official, will give them a place to start.

Skidmore and his team dug into government websites and reports, and they may have found unauthorized spending in the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the tune of $21 trillion from 1998-2015.

Senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry joins Morning Edition host Doug Tribou to reflect on the major stories of 2017: 

Wikimedia Commons

The state Office of the Inspector General is recommending new language be included in the next contract between the state and its 46 mental health authorities and community mental health agencies.

That's after a botched CEO search brought attention to the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority board's pattern of not recouping millions of dollars in over billing and waste from its subcontractors.

The Michigan state capitol building
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A petition campaign to overhaul the process for drawing the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts took a critical step today. Campaign volunteers turned in 188 boxes with more than 400,000 signatures. They are trying to get a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the ballot.

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The U.S. House and Senate have cobbled together their $1.46 trillion tax overhaul. 

Now they're trying to convince the public this plan is going to help them. Polls have found that fewer than 35% of Americans approve of the overhaul.

Charley Ballard, a Michigan State University economics professor, joined Stateside today to share an economist's take on the tax bill.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement office was the target of a Christmas-themed protest on Sunday.

The protesters want hundreds of Iraqi nationals released immediately. Nearly 300 Iraqis with criminal records have been in federal detention for months, after most were swept up in mass arrests this spring.

We could see the most dramatic change to Michigan politics since term limits. This afternoon, an all-volunteer group is one step closer to overhauling how redistricting is done in Michigan.

Nassar in court.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The dean of Michigan State University's school of osteopathy, who supervised former sports Dr. Larry Nassar, is stepping down. Lawsuits filed against the university by alleged victims and their families say William Strampel and other MSU officials ignored warnings that Nassar was a predator. MSU says Strampel is resigning as dean for "medical reasons" and will remain on the faculty.

This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether we'll see more stories like this from MSU in the coming weeks and months.


fence
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Research at the University of Michigan indicates a key driver of the high incarceration rates is someone on parole being returned to prison — not for an additional crime, but for a technical violation of parole.

Jeffrey Morenoff, a research professor and director of the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, joined Stateside to talk about his new research.

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The state accepts the first applications for people who want to get into the medical marijuana business starting tomorrow. The licenses will allow businesses to legally grow, process, transport, or sell marijuana to patients who have medical marijuana cards. 

David Harnz works for the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board.  He says it will take three or four months to process the applications.

A lot could happen in the coming days. Congress is poised to deal with several major issues, including the Republicans' tax overhaul and funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow joined Stateside today to discuss those issues, and more. Also on the show today, EMU officials defend the university's contract to boost online degrees, saying professors' concerns are unwarranted.

Senator Debbie Stabenow
USDAgov / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The clock is ticking down to when the U.S. Congress is scheduled to leave for its holiday break.

But a lot could happen within this next week, especially with Congress poised to deal with several major issues, including the Republicans’ tax overhaul and funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow sat down with Stateside to discuss those issues and more.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Racial divisions are a major contributor to the decline of Detroit. White flight started after World War II and continued. There was a late spike in flight from the city after 2000. That’s when City of Detroit employees no longer had to live in the city. That’s led to lost wealth, lost tax revenue, and blighted neighborhoods.

Even when Detroit was majority white, racial lines were strictly drawn.

“You can’t underestimate the intensity of that segregation in housing and the role that it played in dividing metropolitan Detroit by race,” said Thomas Sugrue.

Voters Not Politicians

A grassroots group of citizen activists opposed to partisan gerrymandering is making rapid progress toward its goal of getting a redistricting proposal on the ballot in Michigan in 2018.

An all-volunteer force, about 4,ooo strong and spread over 83 Michigan counties, has collected about 450,000 voter signatures in four months. That's according to Katie Fahey, president of the ballot committee called Voters Not Politicians.

"We have blown our goal out of the water," said Fahey.

Michigan State University sign
Wikimedia Commons / public domain

As the cases against former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar continue to unfold, there have been calls for MSU President Lou Anna Simon to resign. The latest came from State House Speaker Tom Leonard who says MSU hasn't been forthcoming about who knew what, and when, about Nassar's crimes.

Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss whether removing President Simon is the right response. 

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
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The Legislature has sent Governor Rick Snyder a set of local retirement bills that passed by wide margins once they were stripped of controversial provisions.

The bills stalled last week as local governments and public employee unions protested measures that would give the state sweeping authority over local budgets. 

Those were taken out, and now local governments will have their retirement plans assessed by the state Treasury, says state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Democratic lawmakers are trying once again to repeal the state’s “Right to Work” law.

Five years ago, a Republican-led Legislature made Right to Work the law of the state. It prohibits contracts that make union membership a condition of employment.

Democrats say letting people opt out of unions gives them a free ride to the benefits of the union.

Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, is a bill sponsor. He said strong unions are important to Michigan, but Right to Work diminishes the power of unions and reduces the number of members.

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Trade unions plan to launch a petition drive tomorrow to shield Michigan’s prevailing wage law from another petition drive.

The effort is a response to another proposed initiative. It would ban a requirement that contractors pay union-level wages on state-funded construction projects. That’s led by non-union contractors. They say prevailing wage drives up their costs.         

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