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News Roundup
8:19 am
Fri May 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Friday, May 6th, 2011
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House Passes School Funding Measure

The state House passed legislation late last night that cuts funding to public schools, community colleges, and universities for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. The measure also sanctions universities that offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. The legislation cuts per-pupil funding by between $256 and $297. The bill passed by the state House last night is different from an education-funding bill that was passed in the state Senate. The differences will have to be reconciled before a final education funding measure is sent to Governor Snyder for his signature.

Benton Harbor Officials Want EFM Void

Elected city leaders in Benton Harbor are calling on Governor Snyder to remove the city’s state-appointed emergency financial manager. Lindsey Smith reports:

Snyder approved broader powers for emergency financial managers earlier this year. Benton Harbor’s city commission adopted a resolution (full resolution available here) declaring those new powers unconstitutional.

On Thursday, Benton Harbor’s emergency financial manager Joe Harris rescinded that and any further resolutions adopted by elected city officials (full order available here), in accordance with an order he issued earlier this year.

Harris stripped power from elected city officials in March. That included the power to adopt resolutions, even non-binding ones.

Swimming to Return in the Kalamazoo River?

Michigan health officials might lift a no-contact order on areas of the Kalamazoo River in Southwest, Michigan. The order, put in place after more than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the river last July, bans swimming, boating and fishing. Michigan officials are studying the effects of the spill and, if reports are positive, the no-contact order could be lifted.

News Roundup
8:06 am
Wed May 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
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Election Results

Voters went to the polls across Michigan yesterday to decide a variety of issues, from school millages, to funding for public safety, transportation, and libraries.

  • In Flint, voters renewed a millage that pays for more than a dozen police officers. Flint has struggled with a rising violent crime rate for the past few years. City police have investigated about ninety homicides in the last sixteen months, Steve Carmody reports. But, as Carmody notes, “Flint voters narrowly rejected a millage request that would have reopened the city jail. Budget problems have meant the jail has only been used sporadically since the late 1980’s.”
  • Lansing city residents voted no on a millage that would have kept public safety services from facing deep cuts. The millage would have increased city residents’ property taxes about four percent to raise about $8.5 million over five years, Sarah Alvarez reports. Lansing faces a $20 million dollar budget shortfall next year.
  • Supporters of a millage to fund and expand bus services in the Grand Rapids metro area celebrated a narrow victory last night, Lindsey Smith reports. More than 34,000 people cast ballots and the millage passed by just 136 votes. The bus system, known as The Rapid, will now be able to serve riders later at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday.
News Roundup
8:43 am
Wed April 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
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Snyder to Deliver Education Address

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver an address about education reform this morning in Detroit. It’s being reported that the Governor will propose tougher education requirements for new teachers. Snyder has also said more attention should be given to children from before birth through their graduation from college. Snyder offered some hints as to what he might say today in an address earlier this week to an education conference in East Lansing. On Monday, the governor said student test scores are both “startling and scary.” He says he wants to relax school regulations to give teachers and principals more freedom and responsibility over educational decisions.

Severe Weather

Officials plan to survey parts of northern Allegan County to determine whether a tornado or high winds caused damage in the area, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The National Weather Service says the survey is planned for Wednesday in southwestern Michigan following damage from storms that moved through the state Tuesday evening. Two barns housing 40,000 turkeys at DeBoer Turkey Farm in Allegan County's Salem Township were toppled by the storms.

The Grand Rapids Press reports about a dozen other sites in the county were damaged…

The weather service says the storms also produced heavy rain that flooded some low lying areas. More rain was expected through Thursday, bringing with it the risk of more flooding.

Now Is the Time to Pay-Up

People and businesses that owe back taxes to the state of Michigan have until June 30th to pay up without paying fines and penalties, Rick Pluta reports. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of people and businesses that owe the state unpaid taxes. From Pluta:

The state hopes to net $90 million dollars from the tax amnesty program.  State Treasurer Andy Dillon says if you owe, now is a good time to pay, "It doesn’t matter why you didn't pay your taxes – the penalties can be forgiven. And the penalties can be quite stiff. It depends on the tax that you’re talking about, but it can be as much as 25% of the liability that can be forgiven, and the sooner you pay it off, the sooner you stop paying interest on that obligation."

This is the third time since the 1980s the state’s offered amnesty to people and businesses with unpaid back taxes.

News Roundup
8:26 am
Mon April 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, April 25th
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Snyder Plans Education Address

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to outline some of his ideas on school reform in an address to a conference of educators in East Lansing today. Snyder will offer even more details on his ideas for education in the state when he delivers a message to the legislature later this week. A senior advisor to the Governor says Snyder will say everything from better pre-natal care to an improved higher education system have to be part of a plan for fixing schools, Rick Pluta reports.

Big Cuts for Corrections?

Michigan Senate Republicans say the Department of Corrections could save tens of millions of dollars by making sure all prisoners are parole-eligible as soon as they have served their minimum sentences, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

Republican state Senator John Proos who chairs the Senate panel that oversees the Department of Corrections budget, says that means making sure prisoners have taken their necessary prisoner reentry programs in time for their parole hearings. Proos says additional savings can be found in the department by privatizing food services and mental health services for prisoners.

Study Programs Continue in Japan

The University of Michigan says its study programs in Japan are on track due to a revised U.S. State Department policy, the Associated Press reports. The AP explains, “The agency had previously warned Americans against traveling to Japan following last month's earthquake and the nuclear accident that followed. The school says students must make sure they follow the university's international travel rules.”

News Roundup
8:24 am
Wed April 13, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 13th
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Snyder, GOP Leaders Come to Tax Agreement

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate outlined a tentative tax agreement yesterday afternoon in Lansing.  The plan includes a compromise on taxing retiree pensions. From Rick Pluta:

Michigan is one of just a handful of states that does not tax pensions. The deal between Governor Snyder and GOP leaders would shield people 67 years old and older from a pension tax. The governor originally wanted to tax all pensions, but he says compromises were necessary.

The plan also calls for scrapping the complicated and unpopular Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate income tax. That’s part of an overall tax cut for most businesses to spur job creation.

The plan would eliminate the tax break for working poor families, but offer some new tax relief for low-income homeowners and renters.

The plan must still be approved by the House and the Senate.

Bing Outlines Budget

Mayor Dave Bing proposed his budget for Detroit yesterday. The mayor warned that the city’s unions will have to make contract concessions in order to keep Detroit out of the hands of a state appointed Emergency Financial Manager. The city is facing a $155 million budget deficit. Bing said the deficit could grow to over a billion dollars in the next five years unless cuts are made now. Bing proposed $200 million in cuts and revenue in his budget proposal.

New Auto Jobs

The Detroit Three are poised to create new auto jobs for the first time in years, Tracy Samilton reports.  But, Sean McAlinden, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research, says auto manufacturing jobs will never recover to their former levels. McAlinden says the Detroit Three will likely hire 35,000 people in the next five years. That’s only about a third of the people who lost jobs with the auto companies in the past few years.

News Roundup
8:53 am
Tue April 12, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, April 12th
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They’re back… Lawmakers Return to Lansing

State lawmakers will be back in Lansing today after a two-week Spring break and it looks like they have quite a bit on their agenda. Budget-related subcommittees in both the House and Senate are scheduled to meet today. Governor Rick Snyder says he wants lawmakers to finish the budget by May 31st. Many lawmakers, however, say they don’t think the budget process will be finished before this summer.

And, a state House panel will begin the process of redrawing the state’s political maps. The latest census numbers show Michigan will lose a Representative in Congress. As Laura Weber reports, the redistricting process will work like any other law that is approved by the Legislature and then moves on to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

Bing to Present Budget

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will present his budget for the city later this morning. The Associated Press reports the budget will propose a five-year plan to wipe out the city's $150 million budget deficit. From the AP:

Tuesday morning's presentation is the first step in the city's budget approval process heading into the new fiscal year that starts July 1…

Bing has fought often with city unions over concessions designed to cut into the deficit.

A union protest of Bing's proposed 2011-12 budget is planned Tuesday's afternoon outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

Fiat Wants More of Chrysler

Fiat could increase its ownership stake in Chrysler this week, Tracy Samilton reports. Eventually, Fiat hopes to own a majority of Chrysler. Samilton explains:

In 2009, the federal government agreed to give Fiat 20% of Chrysler in return for taking over management of the Detroit automaker.  The deal also set up incremental steps by which Fiat could reach 51%. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says he expects Fiat’s stake to grow to 30% this week, after meeting a requirement to increase sales of Chrysler vehicles outside North America. 

Gas Prices Continue to Rise

An average gallon of gas in Michigan is now $3.86, nearly $1.00 more than it was at the same time last year.  A spokesperson for AAA Michigan says this is the 8th weekly increase in gas prices this year. Ann Arbor had the state's highest per-gallon gasoline at $3.89. The Lansing area had the lowest price at around $3.76 a gallon. It could be worse, however: gasbuddy.com reports that some areas of California are seeing gasoline go for over $4.10 a gallon.

News Roundup
8:22 am
Fri April 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, April 8th
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Still No Deal to Avert Government Shutdown

Less than 24 hours remain for President Obama and Congressional leaders to avert a government shutdown. A deal to fund the federal government through September must be reached by midnight tonight to keep the government fully operating. President Obama and legislative leaders met again last night to narrow their differences over how much to cut the federal budget but no agreement was made. Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush takes a look at what a government shutdown will mean for Michigan.

Redistricting Hearings to Being Next Week

A state House panel will begin the process of redrawing Michigan’s political maps with hearings next week focused on results from the 2010 U.S. Census, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

With Republicans controlling all branches of state government, Democrats are worried that new district lines will target a vulnerable Democratic seat like that of US Congressman Gary Peters. The state House Redistricting and Elections Committee is chaired by Republican Representative Pete Lund. Lund said in a statement that he looks forward to the hearings and, "a fair, effective redistricting process for our state."

ACLU Wants to Know More About EFM Bill

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wants to know more about the creation of Michigan’s new Emergency Financial Manager law, Steve Carmody reports. “The legislation gives broad new powers to managers appointed by the state to run financially troubled cities and school districts. Kary Moss is with the ACLU of Michigan. She says the ACLU is filing Freedom of Information requests to learn more about who wrote the law,” Carmody explains.

Twenty-Three Campgrounds To Close

Michigan plans to close twenty-three state forest campgrounds beginning in May. The campgrounds are not state parks but, instead, are camping sites along rivers, lakes and trails. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the campgrounds are being closed because they’re not heavily used and the state doesn’t have the funds to maintain them. The majority of the closings will take place in the Upper Peninsula.

News Roundup
9:08 am
Thu April 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Thursday, April 7th
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MI Keeping Close Eye on Federal Budget

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is keeping a close eye on the showdown over the federal budget in Washington, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Snyder's administration says it expects most state services will continue with minimal or no disruption if a brief federal government shutdown happens…

Key factors influencing the possible effects of a shutdown would be how the federal government defines essential services and how long a shutdown might last…

Michigan's unemployment insurance agency says it expects benefits would continue to be paid to jobless workers, including the roughly 150,000 who now receive benefits under federal programs.

Michigan has about 52,000 federal government employees, including about 22,000 postal employees.

Gas Prices Continue to Rise

Gasoline prices in Michigan continue to edge closer to $4 a gallon and the raising prices are affecting retailers and customers, Steve Carmody reports. The increasing fuel costs are expected to not only increase the cost of filling up gas tanks, but food prices are expected to rise by 3 to 4 percent this year. Carmody reports the biggest increases will be seen in meat, dairy and coffee products. The price of fuel is expected to continue to rise through Memorial Day.

Music from DSO to Be Heard Again

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to begin rehearsals later this morning. The DSO musicians had been on strike for six-months prior to agreeing to a new, tentative agreement with DSO management earlier this week. The first concert by DSO musicians since the strike began last October is scheduled for Saturday night.

News Roundup
7:55 am
Tue April 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, April 5th
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Rallies Across the State

Hundreds of union members and their supporters rallied in various cities across the state yesterday. The rallies were organized to both protest what unions call attacks on the middle class and to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The Associated Press reports:

Roughly 200 people gathered at the Capitol on Monday evening…

Several hundred people each turned out at rallies in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Rallies also took place in Escanaba, Saginaw and elsewhere around Michigan.

Michigan unions say they're upset about a new Republican-backed law that lets emergency managers appointed to assist financially struggling communities and schools rescind labor contracts.

The rallies were held Monday to link the fight for collective bargaining to the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn.

Economic Outlook in MI Improving

Michigan’s jobs picture is looking a little better, according to a new report out of the University of Michigan. University of Michigan economists say the state is starting 2011 with “robust job growth,” Steve Carmody reports. The Detroit Free Press quotes University of Michigan economist George Fulton as saying, “There appears to be pretty good evidence now that we are back to creating more jobs than we are losing. But, the Free Press notes Fulton also, "cautioned that the state's 10.4% unemployment rate is still high, so many residents won't feel as if a recovery is under way. Fulton expects Michigan's unemployment rate to drop to 9.9% by the last quarter of this year and to reach 9.5% by the end of 2012.”

DSO Musicians to Return to Work

Musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say they will return to work on Thursday. A tentative agreement between the striking musicians and the Orchestra’s management was announced this week. An official ratification vote will come later this week. Musicians had been on strike since October.

News Roundup
8:53 am
Thu March 31, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, March 31st
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Snyder to Deliver Progress Report

Governor Snyder plans to deliver a progress report on his first 90 days in office later this morning in Lansing. Lt. Governor Brian Calley, state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and state House Speaker Jase Bolger will join him. It’s expected the Republican leaders will address their plans for the state’s budget. The Governor has previously asked the legislature to balance the state’s budget for the next fiscal year by May 31st.

Dems to Propose Reinstating Jobless Benefits

Two Democratic state lawmakers are preparing legislation that would restore cuts to unemployment benefits. On Monday, Governor Snyder signed legislation to extend federal jobless benefits this year by 20 weeks, but the bill also contained a provision reducing state unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks for new filers beginning in 2012.

Michigan Court Rules Against CAFO Operators

Large factory farms have lost a major court case in the Michigan Court of Appeals, Steve Carmody reports. The case involves farming operations, called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (or CAFOs), with hundreds, sometimes thousands of animals. Carmody reports:

The appellate court upheld a lower court ruling that the state could require large confined animal feeding operations to get pollution discharge permits before opening. Farm groups challenged the state rule insisting they should only need a permit after releasing manure causing water pollution.  But today, the three judge panel disagreed:

“We conclude that the DEQ was fully authorized to require CAFOs to either (1) seek and obtain an (federal) permit (irrespective of whether they actually discharge pollutants), or (2) satisfactorily demonstrate that they have no potential to discharge.  The circuit court  properly denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary disposition and granted summary disposition in favor of the DEQ.”

Reorganization in the Detroit Public School System

Thousands of kids in the Detroit Public Schools system could see their school close or become a charter school next fall, Sarah Hulett reports. Yesterday, DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb laid out his reorganization plan. As Hulett explains, the plan calls for:

… closing seven schools this summer and one next summer. Another 18 schools will close by the fall unless a charter school operator can be identified to run them. And 27 more schools will be offered for conversion to charter schools, but will remain open otherwise…The list of 32 schools is fewer than half the troubled school district will have to close or convert to charters to erase a $327 million dollar deficit.

News Roundup
9:00 am
Wed March 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, March 30th
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So-Long Price Tags

Retailers will no longer have to put price tags on almost every individual item they sale. Governor Snyder signed a bill yesterday that repeals the requirement. Michigan was the only state in the country to have such sweeping price tag laws, Rick Pluta reports. Item-pricing was popular with much of the public. The law just signed by the Governor has a provision that makes sure the new law cannot be reversed by a citizen referendum, Pluta reports.

Shared Sacrifice Among Lawmakers

Republican state Senator Rick Jones has introduced a bill that would require state legislators to pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums. With the state facing a $1.4 billion budget deficit in the coming fiscal year, Governor Snyder wants state employees to  pay 20 percent of their health care insurance and, so, Senator Rogers thinks state lawmakers should have to do the same. Senator Jones has also introduced a bill to alter the lifetime health insurance that legislators receive after serving only six years, calling it “obscene,” Tracy Samilton reports.

Price of Homes Continues to Fall

Homes values in Metro Detroit declined to a new low in January. From the Detroit News:

Among the 20 major cities surveyed for the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Detroit ranked last with an index of 66.02. The region's previous low was 66.47 in December. Case-Shiller uses home values from January 2000 as a starting point of 100 — anything higher shows a gain, and anything lower is a loss. Compared with other major cities, Detroit is much lower.

According to Home Price Index, home values in Metro Detroit are the lowest since 1993.

News Roundup
9:14 am
Tue March 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, March 29th
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Laws-a-Plenty

Governor Snyder signed a bill yesterday that extends unemployment benefits by 20 weeks to some 35,000 Michiganders. However, the bill also cuts six-weeks of state unemployment benefits for new filers beginning next year. The measure reduces jobless benefits in the state from 26 weeks to 20 weeks as of 2012. Meanwhile, Governor Snyder is scheduled to sign a bill this afternoon that would repeal Michigan’s item pricing law. Snyder first spoke about repealing the state’s law that requires retailers to put price tags on most individual items in his January State of the State address.

Bernero Lays Out Lansing Budget

Lansing Mayor, and former 2010 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Virg Bernero presented his 2012 fiscal year budget last night. Lansing faces a $20 million budget hole next year and Bernero said such a deficit requires a tough and painful response. The Mayor’s budget plan would cut more than 50 Lansing police officers and close three fire stations, Steve Carmody reports.

April 1st Deadline for DSO

Musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say they have been given a Friday deadline to settle a strike with the DSO management, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The players say in a release Monday the orchestra's board has told them that if no contract agreement is reached by Friday the summer performance season "will be lost" and the fall season "would be in serious jeopardy." An orchestra spokeswoman would not comment on whether a deadline has been imposed. Board chair Stanley Frankel says in a statement that the board is "convinced that a settlement is within reach" and that negotiators have been meeting by phone and e-mail.

DSO musicians have been on strike since October of last year.

News Roundup
8:04 am
Fri March 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, March 25th
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Students Protest Budget Cuts

A few hundred college students protested against Governor Snyder’s budget proposal at the state Capitol yesterday. Snyder has called for a 15 percent cut to Michigan’s public colleges and universities. Laura Weber was reporting from Lansing and said although the rally was not the largest that the Capitol has seen in the past couple of weeks it was one of the loudest. Weber reports Governor Snyder would have been able to hear the students across the street in his office.

Michigan State Police Announces Closures

The Michigan State Police announced yesterday that it plans to close 21 posts across the state in order to save money. Closings include posts in Battle Creek, Detroit, and Traverse City. The Associated Press reports:

The changes would take effect with the start of Michigan's next budget year in October. Troopers would be deployed throughout the state mostly from remaining posts and other buildings the state police would call detachments. Some troopers assigned to rural areas would be based from their homes. The state police say it's part of a regional policing plan.

Muslim Group Claims Harassment at Border

An Islamic advocacy group says border agents are harassing and violating the civil rights of scores of American Muslims re-entering the country from Canada, Sarah Hulett reports. The group CAIR is filing complaints with the Department of Homeland Security. As Hulett reports:

Abdulrahman Cherri is a student at the University of Michigan. His fiancé lives in Canada, and he says when he returns to the U.S. from visiting her, his car has been taken apart, and he’s been subjected to invasive full-body searches. He says he’s also been questioned about his religion, even after telling border agents that he’s too busy with school to worship. The Council on American-Islamic Relations says parents have been ordered out of cars at gunpoint and handcuffed while their children watched.

CAIR is also asking the Justice Department to investigate the harassment.

News Roundup
8:47 am
Thu March 24, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, March 24th
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Debate at State Capitol Over Unemployment Benefit Extension

People who file for jobless benefits next year would be eligible for fewer weeks of payments under a measure approved by the state Legislature. Laura Weber reports:

Lawmakers had to approve a jobless benefits package this week in order for the state to receive federal assistance for the program.

The debate was so contentious in the Senate that leaders ordered the doors locked to keep lawmakers in the chamber.

Democratic Senators are upset that Republicans reduced the total number of weeks that people who become unemployed in the future could receive the benefits.

The measure was approved by the Senate and House and now moves to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

State Jobless Rate Continues Decline

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.4 percent in February. That’s down three-tenths of a point from what it was in January of this year. The number shows about 11,000 more people working in the state in February. Officially, there are 495,000 people in Michigan out of work and looking for a job. There’s another 430,000 people who are either part-timers wishing they had full-time work, or unemployed people who’ve simply quit looking for jobs.

Why the ‘Underwear Bomber’ Targeted Detroit

More details are being learned about why Detroit was chosen as a target in an attempt by an al-Qaida operative to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day in 2009. It appears Detroit was picked because, quite simply, it was a cheap destination. The Associated Press has learned that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had considered attacking an airplane over Houston or Chicago but the plane tickets were too expensive so, instead, he chose Detroit. The AP explains, “the decision shows that al-Qaida's Yemen branch does not share Osama bin Laden's desire to attack symbolic targets.”

News Roundup
8:12 am
Tue March 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

News Roundup, March 15th, 2011
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Protests to Continue in Lansing

More demonstrations are expected at the state Capitol today, this time from members of AARP Michigan. The group will protest Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal that would get rid of the income tax exemption for pensions.  The Detroit Free Press reports that AARP Michigan has arranged to transport 400 seniors to the rally. AARP Michigan spokesman Mark Hornbeck told the Free Press he wouldn’t be surprised if over 1,000 attend the protest

Japanese crisis raises questions about nuclear power in  U.S.

The nuclear accidents in Japan, following Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, are raising questions about the future of around 20 planned new nuclear power plants in the U.S, including one in Michigan. Steve Carmody reports:

DTE’s proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant has the potential of helping Michigan meet its future energy needs, as well as its construction generating billions of dollars for the state’s economy. But like 19 other proposed nuclear projects, its future appears murky in the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis. 

A DTE spokesman says it’s “way too early” to speculate on how the events in Japan may affect the utility’s application for Fermi 3. 

Plans for new nuclear power plants all but dried up after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and it was only recently that interest in developing alternative energy sources renewed interest in nuclear power.

Holder, Sebelius in Detroit

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be at Wayne State University in Detroit today. They’re attending a regional summit that will discuss Medicare fraud prevention. The AP reports:

Waste and fraud cost the federal Medicare program and Medicaid, its state counterpart, an estimated $54 billion in 2009. Holder said at a December summit in Boston that the Obama administration's crackdown on health care fraud has recovered $4 billion in Massachusetts alone over two years.

News Roundup
8:11 am
Mon March 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, March 14th, 2011

Protests Scheduled Over Snyder Budget

Groups across the state are planning protests today over Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal. Demonstrations are planned for cities including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Ann Arbor. Protestors will include state workers, small business owners, and retirees, the Associated Press reports:

A press release issued by the liberal group Progress Michigan says Snyder's proposal is "an attack on Michigan families and their future." Snyder says his budget represents "shared sacrifice" and puts Michigan on the path to a better future because it solves the state's budget ills. His $45.9 billion proposal includes spending cuts for schools and would eliminate many personal tax breaks while slashing business taxes. The state is facing an estimated $1.4 billion shortfall.

Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami Threaten Car Exports

Some car plants in Japan remain closed as a result of last week’s massive earthquake and tsunami.  Japanese carmakers say it’s too early to know if the disaster will hurt their exports to the U.S., Tracy Samilton reports. Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Honda suspended most of their operations in Japan after the disaster.

March Madness

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament bracket was released yesterday. Seven Big Ten teams made the cut. No. 8 seed the University of Michigan will play No. 9 seed Tennessee on Friday. Michigan State University earned a No. 10 seed and will play No. 7 seed UCLA on Thursday. Oakland University also made the tournament. Oakland will play the Texas Longhorns on Friday.

News Roundup
8:46 am
Tue March 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, March 8th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Protests, Vote Planned on Emergency Financial Manager Bill

The state Senate is planning a vote today on a measure that would give more power to state-appointed emergency financial managers. Opponents of the bill including teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees plan to protest today at the Capitol. Unions are particularly opposed to a part of the legislation that would allow emergency managers to vacate bargained contracts, Rick Pluta reports. Union leaders say they hope for a big enough turnout at the Capitol to persuade Senate leaders to delay a vote on the legislation.

‘Asian Carp Czar’ Returns to MI

John Goss, the Obama Administration’s so-called “Asian carp Czar, will be in Michigan today to talk about long-term strategy for keeping the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Federal officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also attend the meeting. The Corps wants to spend the next five years developing a plan to keep the carp of the Lakes. But, many say that’s not fast enough. Last week, Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp announced legislation to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through Chicago-area waterways.

Embridge to Step Up Clean-up Efforts

It’s been 8 months since a broken Enbridge Energy pipeline leaked more than 800,000 gallons of oil near Marshall, Michigan. Winter weather has reduced the size of the cleanup response but now, Steve Carmody reports, the next phase of the cleanup is about to begin. Enbridge says it will focus this Spring on removing oil that is still resting on the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

News Roundup
9:18 am
Fri March 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

News Roundup: Friday, March 4th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Slow and Slippery Commute

Freezing rain across parts of mid and southeast Michigan has led to a slow and sometimes dangerous commute this morning. There were numerous closures of lanes on freeways from Brighton to the metro-Detroit area. The National Weather Service in White Lake Township says the freezing rain is expected to change to rain by noon, the AP reports. A Winter Weather advisory is in effect for parts of the state. Temperatures are expected to reach the 40s today.

UAW President Blasts Snyder

Bob King, President of the UAW, says Governor Snyder’s budget proposal is an attack on workers, seniors and the poor in Michigan. “This governor has talked nicely, but these actions suggest he’s same agenda with every other Republican across this country" King said at a press conference yesterday. King says Snyder’s proposal to eliminate an income tax credit for the working poor, to cut the child care subsidy for low-income families, and to tax pensions are key examples, Sarah Hulett reports.

Asian Carp Legislation

Members of Congress from the Great Lakes region say it’s taking too long to come up with an action plan to stop the spread of Asian Carp. They are now calling for work on that plan to speed things up, Steve Carmody reports:

The US Army Corps of Engineers wants to spend the next five years developing a plan to keep the carp out of the Great Lake but that’s not fast enough for Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow

 “We have to have a sense of urgency about it.  The Army Corps is studying this issue now, but it’s going to take them several years… we don’t have several years.  We need to get this done as quickly as possible,” Stabenow said.

Recently, Illinois politicians have fought efforts to close canals linking Lake Michigan to carp infested waters near Chicago. But Illinois Senator Dick Durbin supports expediting a carp action plan, making its passage more probable.

News Roundup
9:02 am
Thu March 3, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news...
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Supreme Court Puts Michigan Law in Jeopardy

Michigan’s law barring protesters from funerals might be vulnerable after yesterday's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Steve Carmody reports:

The nation’s highest court ruled in favor of an anti-gay group that pickets at military funerals. Michigan, like dozens of other states, passed a law in 2006 to prevent the protests from disrupting funerals here. At the time, the states were trying to prevent a fundamentalist Christian Church from Kansas from picketing military funerals.

New Poll: Snyder Popularity Decreasing

A new poll shows Governor Rick Snyder’s popularity among likely Michigan voters is down from January. The poll, released by ERIC-MRA, shows 44 percent of likely Michigan voters had a favorable view of the governor. Twenty-seven percent had an unfavorable opinion. That’s compared to January of this year when EPIC-MRA found 59 percent of likely Michigan voters viewed Snyder favorably and 8 percent unfavorably.

Same-Sex Health Benefits

Republicans in the state Senate have begun the process of reversing the policy of extending benefits to the unmarried live-in partners of state workers – including those in same-sex relationships, Rick Pluta reports. A resolution was approved yesterday by a Senate subcommittee that would reject the domestic partner benefits awarded in a decision earlier this year by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, the Associated Press explains. A vote on the Senate floor is expected next week.

Facelift for Cobo Center

Detroit’s Cobo Center will undergo a $221 million renovation. Cobo Center’s general manager says the three year project will allow Cobo to better accommodate the needs of the annual North American International Auto Show. The project will be ready by 2014. It’s the first major overhaul of the convention center since 1989.

News Roundup
8:40 am
Wed March 2, 2011

In this morning's news...

Michigan lawmakers will take an in-depth look today at Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Lawmakers to Dig into Budget Proposal

Michigan lawmakers will be in Lansing today pouring over Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal. Legislative committees are scheduled to hear details about Snyder's tax restructuring plan and proposed cuts to higher education, the Associated Press reports. The state faces a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. Meanwhile, the Governor spent yesterday defending some of the more controversial proposals in his budget including the taxing of public and private pensions.

Auto Sales Increase

Auto sales rose by 27 percent last month. General Motors and Toyota had the strongest sales. GM saw gains for several reasons, Tracy Samilton reports:

  • Last February GM’s sales were weak, so this February looks much better in comparison
  • The company increased incentives in February
  • It’s easier for GM customers to get financing now that GM has its own finance arm, GM Financial

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians, who’ve been on strike since last Fall, say they are willing to return to work without a contract. The musicians say they’ll go back on stage “immediately and unconditionally” if Orchestra management agrees to binding arbitration, Sarah Cwiek reports. DSO officials did not immediately respond to the offer. But they issued a statement saying they “welcome receiving the union’s proposal.”

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