Rick Snyder

pontiac.k12.mi.us / Pontiac School District

A state review team has determined the Pontiac school district is saddled with so much debt it’s in a financial crisis.

Now it’s up to Governor Rick Snyder to decide whether he agrees with that determination.

The state-appointed board found the school district’s debt has continued to grow over the past five years and it’s now almost $38 million dollars in the red with no credible plan to dig out. The district has missed paying some critical bills, including employee health insurance premiums.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

LG Chem Plant begins production

The LG Chem plant in West Michigan has finally started production of lithium-ion batteries.  Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports that “the plant cost roughly $300 million to build,” and that “federal stimulus money paid for almost half that cost.”  The plant has been accused of wasting some of that money by paying employees despite them not working.

Elections Commission rejects recall request

The Washtenaw County Elections Commission has rejected a recall of Ann Arbor school board members.  Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reports the election board “ruled the petition was not sufficiently clear on why six members of the Ann Arbor Board of Education should be removed by voters.”  

Medicaid committee praised

Governor Rick Snyder has applauded a state Senate committee for advancing work on Medicaid. The committee produced three plans, one of which would expand Medicaid in Michigan.  Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports "Snyder says he’s not worried that the competing bills will peel votes away from the legislation he supports."

Governor Rick Snyder is applauding a state Senate panel for advancing a bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan. For weeks, Snyder has been trying to put pressure on lawmakers to vote to extend Medicaid benefits to hundreds of thousands of residents.

But the committee also approved two alternative proposals that also seek to extend coverage to low-income Michiganders. Those plans would not expand Medicaid.

Snyder says he’s not worried that the competing bills will peel votes away from the legislation he supports.

“That’s yet to be seen. In many respects, I’m not sure you have to say you can only vote for one bill. If you actually see value in more than one bill, why does that mean you can only vote for one?”

All three proposals now go to the full Senate. A vote on the issue is expected at the end of this month.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state Senate panel has approved legislation to expand Medicaid in Michigan. The bill would extend coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents through the Affordable Care Act.

The panel also advanced two alternative Medicaid proposals. Neither would expand Medicaid. But proponents say they would expand health care coverage – either through other state programs or the free market.

Senator Bruce Caswell  is sponsoring legislation that would create a state-run health care program for low-income residents who are not currently eligible for Medicaid.

Last week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette did something many found startling, especially those politically liberal. Schuette announced that in Detroit's bankruptcy filing he intended to intervene on behalf of those who have pensions coming.

AG's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state constitution protects Detroit pension benefits from being reduced or eliminated by the city’s bankruptcy.

Schuette says he will be in court Monday asking to join the case on behalf of pensioners.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes took control of lawsuits challenging the bankruptcy filing because it puts city pension benefits in jeopardy. But he has not ruled on the substance of the question, which is whether the benefits are shielded by protections in the Michigan Constitution.

Office of Governor Rick Snyder / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan State Police officials say it’s time to crack down on schools that ignore emergency safety drill rules.

A state police task force says schools should be forced to report when and how safety drills are conducted. Those reports would have to be posted on the schools’ web sites.

Republican state Representative Joe Graves is sponsoring legislation he says will incorporate that and other recommendations.

“So Johnny’s mom and dad and grandparents can go on there and say, ‘Yep, he’s getting trained,’ and it goes throughout the year, distributed evenly.”

The task force is part of Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to address school safety issues after recent tragedies, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

Recent investigations by MLive Media Group suggest many Michigan schools have been breaking laws related to school safety drills.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s bankruptcy will make it tricky to brand Michigan as the comeback state.

True to his “relentless-positive-action” style, Governor Rick Snyder didn’t let a weekend of bad news about Detroit’s dismal finances get him down.

On Wednesday morning, as a hearing on the bankruptcy was beginning in federal court in Detroit, Snyder attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for an auto supplier that’s expanding in Muskegon. He urged factory workers to spread the good news about Michigan to everyone they meet.

“I’m not talking just ‘Pure Michigan” tourism messages, Snyder told the crowd. He asked they spread the news about Michigan’s educated workforce and its culture “of making the world’s best products.”

He admitted to reporters the bankruptcy has sidelined conversations about the state’s economy.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Detroit bankruptcy is topic of national conversation

Snyder, Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing appeared on Sunday morning talk shows yesterday to talk about filing bankruptcy for Detroit. Snyder said he will push to protect the retired city workers whose pensions are on the table. He said the bankruptcy filing included protections for retirees and urged them to remain calm. Orr said on "Fox News Sunday" that there are going to have to be "concessions." Bing on ABC's "This Week" said now that bankruptcy has been filed, leaders have to take a step back before making a decision on a federal bailout.

Flint school district faces more budget cuts

The Flint School Board will take up a Deficit Elimination Plan tomorrow night. The district is wrestling with a nearly 16 million dollar deficit. The Flint school district has made deep budget cuts but more cuts are likely if the district follows the plan to eliminate its deficit by June 2016. The Flint School Board has until July 31st to send its deficit elimination plan to the state.  

Lansing may end its relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia

The Lansing city council will be meeting tonight to discuss its sister city relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia. St. Petersburg recently passed an anti-gay ordinance and police there arrested people at an LGBT rally. Members say they want to send a message to St. Petersburg officials by canceling Lansing’s two decade sister cities relationship with the city.

The Detroit bankruptcy filing is Michigan’s biggest news story of the year, with effects that will ripple out in all kinds of ways; many that are unpredictable.  It would be naïve to suggest that politics will not be a big part of how this plays out – if it hasn’t already.

So let’s run the bases on this, starting with Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder approved the bankruptcy filing, the largest in U.S. history, and it is now part of his legacy and his resume (whether he likes it or not) as he prepares to seek reelection next year. Every painful and controversial decision by a federal bankruptcy judge will be laid upon Rick Snyder by Democrats. Snyder may not own Detroit, but he sure owns its problems.

This is an awkward place for any leader to be, although not an unusual one. This is a governor being controlled by events, not controlling them. A couple years ago Snyder relentlessly, positively insisted that bankruptcy for Detroit was not an option; almost unthinkable. Now, he says there was really no other choice.   “This is a difficult situation – but the answer is, by not doing this path, where would we be? And, so, this is an opportunity to say ‘let’s get that fresh start’ and show the rest of the country why Detroit can be an exciting place that can grow into the future,” Snyder said yesterday evening, about two hours after the Chapter 9 filing.

State of Michigan / Michigan.gov

Two Detroit pension funds have sued the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, and Governor Rick Snyder in an attempt to block the Motor City from filing for bankruptcy.

The General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit filed the lawsuit yesterday, Bloomberg’s Margaret Cronin Fisk reported. The state’s constitution offers protection of public retirees’ rights, and the petitioners of the lawsuit are claiming that a Detroit bankruptcy would violate those rights.

Orr’s office refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Orr hasn’t commented on which pension funds would be cut, and to what degree, but he has vowed to make “significant cuts” to pension payments.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Medicaid bill expected next week

The Medicaid expansion could reach a vote in the Michigan State Senate in late August.  A first draft of the bill may be ready by next week.  Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reports that Governor Rick Snyder “has said waiting until late August could jeopardize the state’s ability to get federal approval.”

Palisades Nuclear Plant at risk of closing

A new study puts the Palisades Nuclear Plant on a list of 12 plants at risk of closing before their licenses expire.  The study was produced by Mark Cooper at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.  The list weighs factors such as repairs and safety improvement, and also includes the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo.  Michigan Radio’s Lindsay Smith reports “Cooper says nuclear plants are simply more expensive to run safely as they age. Plus the falling price of renewable energy and natural gas make nuclear power less competitive.”

Michigan’s unemployment rate jumps

Michigan’s monthly unemployment rate increased to 8.7%.  Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reports, “There are actually about 9 thousand more people working in Michigan.  But there are also more people who told the government’s monthly employment survey that they are looking for work.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There could be a vote in the state Senate in late August on a bill to extend Medicaid health coverage to thousands of un-insured working poor people.

That’s despite Governor Rick Snyder’s call for a vote earlier than that.

The governor has said waiting until late August could jeopardize the state’s ability to get federal approval, and then sign up people in time for coverage to begin when the new federal healthcare law takes effect in January.

The state House has already passed its version of a Medicaid bill.

Michigan.gov

Debate is underway in Lansing about whether to implement a set of state school standards.

A state House panel held its first meeting on Common Core State Standards Tuesday.

Republican Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) grilled state Department of Education officials about Common Core. He says the standards take away local control and were developed and adopted without public input.

Meanwhile, state Superintendent State Superintendent Mike Flanagan is urging lawmakers to go forward with a set of nationwide school standards. Flanagan argues that districts would have final say over standards and curriculum.

“Technically, [districts] don’t even have to follow the Common Core,” Flanagan said. “Now, I think they will. It’s a smart...well thought out set of standards.”

Gov. Rick Snyder also supports adopting the Common Core standards.

Detroit Free Press video / Detroit Free Press

Those were Kevyn Orr's words in his latest quarterly report.

The Detroit Free Press' John Gallagher drew "8 key points" from the report, one of them being:

U.S Department of Education

After two years as emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools, Roy Roberts has officially left the position. Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder named current Detroit Chief Financial Officer Jack Martin to replace him.

Martin has also served as emergency manager of Highland Park Schools, and as CFO of the U.S. Department of Education.

Governor Snyder says he expects the transition between Roberts and Martin to be seamless.

Gov. Snyder / Facebook

The debate over expanding Medicaid in Michigan continues.

Governor Snyder is still pushing for the state Senate to vote on the legislation. It would expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults in Michigan. The state House has already approved it.

Over the weekend, Mark Schauer waded into the debate. Schauer, a Democrat, is running for Governor in 2014.

He said on Saturday that he does not understand why Governor Snyder is not calling the Legislature into a special session.

Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio’s “It’s Just Politics” team, joined us today to answer Mark Schauer’s question.

Listen to the full interview above.

user frank juarez / Flickr

Michigan schools got about a 3% boost in funding under the state budget passed last month in Lansing, but a new report says that might not be sustainable.

The non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan says the extra money could be wiped out after next year. 

Bob Schneider is the group's state affairs director.

"Unless we find new revenue growth that isn't anticipated yet, or the state draws upon additional general fund resources, or other resources to bring them into the School Aid Budget, the K-12 schools are looking to potentially have to give back a good chunk of the gains that they've made."

The report projects a budget shortfall of about $240 million for the School Aid Budget in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Schneider says that's partly because of additional state spending commitments to things like teacher retirement and early childhood education.

Last weekend I went to a dinner party on Mackinac Island at the home of a longtime state office holder, who is a Democrat.  Nearly all guests were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, and they began discussing next year’s race for governor.

They agreed that Governor Rick Snyder, whose policies they all loathed, was almost certain to be defeated next year.

I didn’t say anything, till someone asked. “The election is a long way away” I said, “but if I had to bet, I would say there is a seventy percent chance Snyder will be reelected.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder are considering changes to prison sentencing guidelines that were last updated about 15 years ago.

The Detroit News reports the idea is driven in part by a desire to reduce the state Department of Corrections budget, which exceeds $2 billion.

A state sentencing guidelines study was launched last month by the bipartisan Michigan Law Review Commission.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has unanimously decided not to step in early to decide the legality of the state's right-to-work law.

The court on Friday said it wasn't persuaded that ruling now would be an "appropriate exercise" of its discretion.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in January asked for an advisory opinion on the law that lets workers stop paying union dues or fees.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law changes in Michigan's home foreclosure rules but is calling on lawmakers to swiftly enact more legislation to clarify some issues.

Bills signed Wednesday keep intact the redemption period when homeowners can challenge a foreclosure's legality. An earlier version of the legislation would have reduced the period from 6 months to 60 days.

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss Governor Snyder and Randy Richardville's final efforts to expand Medicaid, a bill recently signed to dissolve financially struggling school districts in Michigan, and another ballot initiative to ban wolf hunting.

MDNR

The political ping-pong match between those who want to hunt wolves, and those who want to stop a hunt continues. 

As of today, there is a new challenge to Michigan's most-recent wolf hunting law (Public Act 21 of 2013). Governor Snyder signed it into law this past May after enforcement of a previous law was suspended by a petition drive.

Jake Neher

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation Monday that will make sweeping changes to the state’s public defense system.

Snyder says the new law is a big step toward making sure fewer indigent criminal defendants are wrongfully convicted. It will create a commission to set statewide standards for public defense. The group will also monitor counties to make sure each one is meeting those standards.

The governor says there’s still a lot of work to do before the state can expect to see improvements. He said, “It will take some time to implement this. But this is something we will be very diligent about the follow-through to make sure it happens right.”

The bills passed the state House and Senate last month with bi-partisan support.

Governor Rick Snyder has launched a common-sense offensive aimed at getting the state senate to pass a Medicaid expansion bill that would give health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Michigan citizens who aren’t now covered.

His strategy is to get people to put pressure on their vacationing state senators to return to Lansing and vote. 

Gov. Snyder / Facebook

Governor Rick Snyder is continuing his travels around the state today in southeast Michigan to push for an expansion of Medicaid. Gov. Snyder wants to expand the program – using federal funds – to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults.

Snyder has criticized fellow Republicans in the Senate for leaving Lansing for their summer recess without voting on the measure. The state House had already approved the legislation.

Governor Snyder joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Huffington Post

Michigan Right to Life is circulating a petition to prohibit health insurance companies from covering abortions. Individuals who want abortion coverage would have to buy an optional rider in addition to their insurance policy.

If the petition receives enough signatures and the Legislature approves the measure, it would become law without the governor's approval. If the Legislature doesn't act on the measure, it would be voted on by the public.

Pam Sherstad with Michigan Right to Life says only those who want abortion coverage should pay for it.

Michigan is leading the nation in small business loans. It seems like good news on the surface, but are there economic consequences for so many new start-ups?

And author Keith Taylor stopped by to give us his picks for summer-time reads. His choices might just surprise you.

Also we began a week-long series of stories here on Stateside where we'll hear from immigrants about what America means to them. Today's story came from a young woman who lives at the Salvation Army's Teen Parent Center in Grand Rapids. 

And, we found out how one couple is trying to bring goodness to communities by baking pies.

Also, we welcomed Interlochen Public Radio listeners to Stateside! Listeners from Traverse City to Manistee; Harbor Springs to Ludington, joining in on the conversations and issues that matter to all of us as Michiganders. Together, we'll explore breaking news and better understand policy issues, and we'll discover stories and meet people from every corner of our state.

First on the show, Governor Snyder continues his travels around the state today in southeast Michigan to push for an expansion of Medicaid. Governor Snyder wants to expand the program – using federal funds – to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults.

Snyder has criticized fellow Republicans in the Senate for leaving Lansing for their summer recess without voting on the measure. The state House had already approved the legislation.

Governor Snyder joined us today to discuss the issue.

State Senator Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

A state Senate panel is expected to start discussing a bill next week to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) expects a vote in the full Senate before September.

The Majority Leader has been taking some heat from Governor Rick Snyder since last week.

That’s when Richardville allowed the Senate to leave on its summer recess before taking a vote on Medicaid expansion. But Richardville defended the decision today on the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record.

“I don’t think this legislation is complete. I don’t think we had the votes to get things done that day, and it would have been forcing a less-than-adequate package to his desk,” said Richardville.

The governor says the state stands to lose millions of federal dollars if the legislation isn’t approved soon.

That’s because the plan needs to be approved by Washington – a process that will likely take months. But Richardville said he doesn’t want to rush the legislation if it’s not ready.

"I understand that he has to talk to the federal government, and these waivers are going to be difficult to negotiate," said Richardville. "But I think we’ll have a product for him to look at before July is over."

Richardville says he generally supports the idea of overhauling and expanding Medicaid.

“But we have some other reforms, some other things that we think should be done to make this legislation better. And we need a little time to look at it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a legislative workgroup is also trying to get the bill ready for a vote. The workgroup originally consisted of six Republican senators.

But Richardville now says he plans to add some Democrats to the group as well.

Richardville says he expects to have a proposal in place before August, and a vote of the full Senate before September.

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