senate

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Republican-led Michigan Senate has voted to make it a crime to coerce a woman to have an abortion against her will.

The legislation would prohibit stalking or assaulting a pregnant woman or anyone else with the intent to force an abortion against her wishes. After learning that a woman does not want an abortion, a person also could not threaten to cut off legally required financial support or withdraw from a contract with her.

user: Jimmie / Flickr

A new bill in the state Legislature aims to make school supplies more affordable.

The legislation would give taxpayers a credit of up to $1,000 for qualified purchases of school supplies.

Materials that qualify for the credit would be things like books, computer programs, and science equipment.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, introduced the bill.

He says it's worth the investment.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

State lawmakers are waist-deep in the big budget process. The mission is to iron out the differences in what the governor wants and what the House and Senate are willing to give.

It's looking like many differing views add up to lots of haggling, lots of need for compromise, and it has one State Senator talking like Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky 3. 

Kathy Gray of the Detroit Free Press joined us to explain why Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Kahn is predicting "pain". 

Listen to the story above.

whitehouse.gov

Keeping an eye on the money in politics, Michigan’s U.S. Representatives have filed their first quarter contributions to the Federal Election Commission this week.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Michigan’s 14 Reps have raised a total of $2,170,989 dollars.

First, just looking over some of these numbers, with two particular Representatives in mind. Representative Gary Peters, Democrat from Southeast Michigan and Representative Mike Rogers,  Republican from mid-Michigan.

USFS

Should the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have the power to set aside an area of land specifically to maintain biological diversity?

It means protecting the variety of plants and animals living in that area.

The question has fueled passage of Senate Bill 78 in the State Senate. It awaits action in the State House.

The bill would prohibit  the Michigan DNR from setting aside land specifically for maintaining biodiversity.

The MDNR would have to ask permission each time it wanted to set aside land.

Senate Bill 78 is sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba).

He thinks the MDNR should have to request approval from the Legislature each time it wants to set aside land.

Two weeks ago, Stateside spoke with Senator Casperson about the bill.

"Biodiverity can mean different things to different parts of the land. We think there should be oversight. It seems like it's dependent on who's in charge that gets to do that. And we have a concern with that, especially when you look at what they already have. A lot of the argument against this was designed to sound like, if they don't have this specific ability that they're done. They can't do anything to protect biodiversity. I don't believe that to be true. Not with 22 tools in the toolbox to do that."

The MDNR had been planning to create "Biodiversity Stewardship Areas" on both state and private land.

These areas would assist in encouraging biodiversity.

It seemed that most everyone was on board - environmentalists, hunting groups - and then things got derailed with the new bill.

Today, we got a chance to speak with  Marv Roberson, a forest ecologist with the Sierra Club.

He gives us insight on what Biodiversity Stewardship Areas could do for Michigan and how Senate Bill 78 will have an impact on our state.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lindey Smith / Michigan Radio

Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra thanked his supporters in West Michigan before conceding defeat in the U.S. Senate race Tuesday night. The race between incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow and Hoekstra was called early; before the presidential race.

Fans of the GOP at the Grand Rapids party were disappointed about Hoekstra's defeat, but still hopeful about Romney when he took the stage.

“As you have seen on the TV screens, we came up short tonight,” Hoekstra explained to the crowd of at least 300 people.

John Beutlet

Historically, Republicans haven’t fared particularly well in Michigan Senate races. They’ve lost 10 out of 11 races in the last 40 years.

To give us a historical perspective we turn to Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry. He tells us why Michigan Republicans have had a tough time winning Senate races.

Nathan Laurell / Flickr

Subsidies for ethanol are being put to the test again in the Senate as budget cutters try to demonstrate a growing appetite in Congress to end special interest tax breaks to help reduce government borrowing.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on two measures that would end subsidies for producing ethanol, a renewable, liquid fuel additive that comes mainly from corn in the U.S.

One measure would repeal a tax credit that provides 45 cents a gallon to oil refiners who mix ethanol with gasoline. The Senate rejected an identical measure Tuesday, 40-59. The other would eliminate federal funding for building ethanol blender pumps or storage facilities.

Critics say the subsidies are no longer needed. Supporters say ethanol helps reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Terri Lynn Land, Michigan's former Secretary of State, has decided she will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection next year. The Associated Press reports:

Land said Thursday in a statement on her Facebook page that she has decided against joining the Republican field to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Stabenow is running for her third six-year term. She reported last month that she has $3 million on hand so far for her 2012 campaign.

Only one Republican candidate has entered the race so far. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman announced he would run for the seat earlier this year.

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who some speculated would run, announced last month that he would not run against Stabenow.

Stabenow has held the seat since 2000.

USDAgov / Flickr

Michigan's Democratic Senator Debbie Stabeow has $3 million on hand for her 2012 re-election bid, according to the Associated Press. From the AP:

The Associated Press on Wednesday obtained a copy of the Stabenow for U.S. Senate committee's April quarterly report, which is due to the FEC by Friday.

In it, the committee says Stabenow raised nearly $1.2 million in the period that ran from Jan. 1 to March 31 and has $3 million on hand in the run for her third term in the Senate.

Stabenow was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. The only Republican to declare candidacy for the seat so far is Randy Hekman, a former Kent County judge. He announced his candidacy last month.

Other possible GOP candidates for the Senate seat include former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra,  former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party Saul Anuzis.

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, will co-chair the U.S. Senate’s Great Lakes Task Force for the next two years, the Associated Press reports.

Levin has been on the task force since 1999. Kirk is taking over the position for fellow Republican Senator George Voinovich who retired earlier this year. The AP explains:

The bipartisan group deals with Great Lakes issues that involve the federal government. It has supported an interstate compact to protect water supplies and funding for programs such as invasive species control and cleanup of contaminated sediments.

Kirk said Tuesday he hoped the panel also would develop legislation to crack down on dumping raw sewage into the lakes.

In a statement released on Senator Levin's website yesterday, Levin said:

“I am pleased that Senator Kirk will serve as co-chair of the task force, and I’m excited about our prospects to protect and enhance our Great Lakes. The task force has led the way to passage for legislation to clean up contaminated sediments, fight invasive species and prevent the diversion of precious fresh water from the Great Lakes basin. I look forward to working with Senator Kirk and I am confident that he will help add to that important legacy.”

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

Michigan Senator Carl Levin (D), along with Arizona Senator John McCain (R), made opening statements this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Posture of U.S. European Command and U.S. Strategic Command. In his statement, Levin, the Chairman of the Committee, said President Obama was right to use U.S. military force in Libya.

The Senate hearing comes a day after Obama addressed the nation about the role the U.S. was playing in Libya. As the Associated Press reports:

Levin said Obama has taken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to avert a bloodbath in Libya. McCain, Obama's 2008 rival for president, said Obama's decision to intervene was right and necessary.

You can read Senator Levin's full remarks here.

A lot of people are uneasy about Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to cut aid to education at all levels in order to balance the budget and give business a huge tax break. Even some of those in favor of cutting business taxes have problems with this.

They reason that no matter what happens, there aren’t going to be any jobs in the future for unskilled, undereducated workers -- and certainly not any good-paying ones. Our young adults are undereducated as it is, and cutting education won’t help.

So yesterday, we were alerted that the Michigan Senate Democrats were going to offer an alternate proposal. I was very interested to see what it would be. And frankly, I was hoping it would be an alternative I could support.

That’s because I am convinced that better education and training, more than anything else, is the key to Michigan’s future.

Well, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in the Democrats -- or in Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, a charismatic and intelligent figure who may be their best hope for the future.

The minority leader called for a state constitutional amendment that would prevent the governor from taking money out of the school aid fund in the future.  In practical terms, this is the equivalent of my calling for an amendment requiring it to be seventy degrees so I don’t freeze when I walk the dog in the morning. 

First of all, this does nothing to address this year’s problems. Even if the legislature thought this was a good idea, they’d have to agree to put it on a statewide ballot so people could vote on it.

That wouldn’t happen until long after this budget has been passed. But the legislature isn’t going to do any such thing. Republicans control both chambers. Democrats are especially weak in the Senate, where Gretchen Whitmer’s party has less than a third of the seats, and by themselves are powerless to do anything.

That’s not the worst part of her proposal, however. When she presented it to the media yesterday, she was asked this sensible question: If her proposal became law, how would Democrats then propose to fill the resulting deficit hole in the general fund?

The Senate minority leader refused to offer an answer -- other than to say the tax code should be “re-examined.”

This is precisely what has been wrong with Michigan government for the past decade, and what got the Democrats tossed out of office last fall. This is also why Governor Snyder’s plan is likely to be enacted. The governor has made a comprehensive proposal for changing the way things are done.

His numbers add up.

Republican Conference / Flickr

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra says he will decide within the next two weeks whether to launch a 2012 Senate run, the Grand Rapids Press reports. The U.S. Senate seat is currently held by Democrat Debbie Stabenow. Stabenow has held the seat since 2000. From the Grand Rapid Press:

Hoekstra, who lost a bruising Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010 and left Congress after nine terms, has consistently performed well in polls in hypothetical head-to-head matchups with Stabenow.

The only Republican to declare candidacy for the seat so far is Randy Hekman, a former Kent County judge. He announced his candidacy earlier this month. Heckman is pastor of Crossroads Bible Church in Grand Rapids, CEO of  research consulting firm Hekman Industries. He directed and helped start the Michigan Family Forum; a conservative non-profit group that tries to influence state policy. He served in the Navy, is an attorney and sat on the bench in Kent County probate court for 15 years.

Other possible GOP candidates for the Senate seat include former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party Saul Anuzis.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Michigan's law requiring individual price tags for most retail items appears headed for extinction, the Associated Press reports. The state House has already approved the bill, so the measure could soon be headed to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. Snyder called for the repeal of the 35-year-old law during his State of the State address in January. From the Associated Press:

The Republican-led state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill by a 24-13 vote that would repeal the item pricing requirement... Retail trade groups support the change, saying the current law results in higher prices. The revised regulations would require retailers to post an item's price where it can be clearly seen but would not require price tags on individual items.

Unions say grocery store jobs would be lost if item pricing is repealed. Some Democrats oppose repeal, saying it would do away with consumer protections.

Photo courtesy of www.thatssaulfolks.com

Former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis says he is considering a run against Michigan's Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012.

Senator Stabenow was elected to a second term by Michigan voters in 2006. Anuzis said it could take weeks or a couple of months to decide whether or not to run.

Earlier this month, Anuzis lost a bid to chair the National Republican Party to Reince Priebus.

As the Hill.com reports, Anuzis:

...may face former Gov. John Engler, the former head of the National Association of Manufacturers, or former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) or Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) in a primary contest.

Matthileo / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers return to the state Capitol today for the first day of the 2011-2012 legislative session. Lawmakers will be sworn-in and adopt rules, including a dress code.

As the Associated Press reports, the majority of lawmakers in both the Senate and the House will be new to their jobs:

The turnover is caused partly by the state's term limits law and a strong showing by Republicans in last year's elections. Republicans built on their advantage in the Senate and grabbed control of House from Democrats.

Lawmakers will begin the new session with a new Republican Governor and a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Both the Senate and House will also see new legislative leaders. Republican Randy Richardville will be Senate Majority Leader and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will be the Senate Minority Leader.  In the House, Republican Jase Bolger will be Speaker and Democrat Richard Hammel will be the House Minority Leader.

Senator Debbie Stabenow
Photo courtesy of www.stabenow.senate.gov

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is set to chair the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Stabenow takes over the position from Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.  Lincoln lost her Senate seat to Republican John Boozman on November 2nd.

In a statement released today, Stabenow, a Democrat, says:

I am ready to lead the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 112 th Congress. Agriculture is critical to Michigan’s economy, employing a quarter of our workforce. Not only does agriculture create jobs and feed our families across America, but it is also helping us develop new fuels and energy sources.

Stabenow has served as a Democratic Senator from Michigan since 2000.

As the Detroit News reports:

Stabenow's position will give the Great Lakes State an enormous amount of influence over the next farm bill, which is slated for 2012. The bill is the cornerstone of the federal government's agriculture, food and nutrition policy and states like Michigan with sizable farming sectors have significant interest in its outcome; work on the 2012 bill began in April.

Terry Johnson/FLICKR

Lawmakers at the state Capitol continued to choose legislative leaders yesterday. In the Senate: Republican state Senator Randy Richardville of Monroe was elected as the next Senate Majority Leader.

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

It appears that Republican state Senator Randy Richardville, who represents Michigan's 17th Senate District, will be the state's next Senate Majority Leader.  On it's Facebook page, the Gongwer News Service says, "Richardville is assured election... as incoming Senator John Pross will drop out of the race."  

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Since Robert Jones  passed away this past weekend, election officials have been working to come up with a plan of action. Jones was a candidate for the Michigan Senate and the election is just fourteen days away.