Susan Demas

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Every week, we take a look at what’s happening in Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Aramark, the company that provides food services for Michigan prisons, which has come under a lot of criticism.

Prisons have complained of food shortages and maggots have been found in prison kitchens. There have also been a number of issues with Aramark employees smuggling contraband into prisons and just this week, four Aramark staffers were fired for having inappropriate contact with prisoners.

According to Demas, when the state of Michigan decided to privatize the food services in prisons, the objective of the governor and the Legislature was to save money and increase efficiency, but so far it has been marred with problems.

Meanwhile, Sikkema explains that when the initial discussions were taking place about the most effective ways to save money, privatization was more of a priority for certain legislators, and not necessarily that of the Department of Corrections. Sikkema elaborates that the operational costs have gone up significantly over the past several decades, and as a result, legislators have called for some form of privatization to scale back the spending.

After issues began to surface with Aramark following the contract, Demas asserts that the response of the state has been keeping tabs and trying to correct the mistakes, but so far, there has been no push to try and eliminate the contract.

“I do think it clearly raises a question, whether the savings, which are estimated to between $12 to $16 million a year in a $2 billion budget, are worth the problems that they’ve encountered: food issues, sanitation issues, high turnover of staff, sexual misconduct, smuggling of contraband like marijuana into the prisons; I don’t see the contract surviving if these problems continue” says Sikkema.

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This week on All Things Considered, host Jennifer White talks about the status of state support for the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings and the risk of political fallout for lawmakers who support such measures.We have that conversation with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, 

Recently, Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by billionaires David and Charles Koch, announced they would run ads against a grand bargain for Detroit and against any Republican lawmaker who votes to support such a plan.

According to Ken Sikkema, while there may be some political risk involved for Republican lawmakers, it is imperative that the Legislature moves on this issue to get Detroit out of bankruptcy promptly.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Michigan State Capitol.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, the state legislature has been steadily moving on a number of items that had trouble gaining traction in the legislature. Progress has been made on funding for roads, teacher evaluation legislation, and state support for the Detroit bankruptcy. With both the August primary and the November election approaching, state lawmakers moved on these issues in order to complete the budget by early June.

Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, spoke with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, about the recent developments in the state legislature.

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It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week, Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, examines the latest developments surrounding the Detroit bankruptcy case. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr spent two days in Lansing this week, trying to galvanize lawmakers to support a grand bargain to reinforce Detroit pensions while protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state is being asked to contribute $350 million, but House Speaker Jase Bolger has balked at the proposal.

Ken Sikkema emphasizes that because it is an election year, Speaker Bolger will have a difficult time getting full Republican support to contribute state money to help with Detroit’s financial woes, and that in order for a deal to proceed where the state will contribute financially, it will rely on bipartisan support.

“The speaker is walking a fine line here, between driving a hard bargain to show that Republicans actually got something in the way of more accountability so that this doesn’t happen again,” Sikkema explains. “Down in Detroit, the pieces are starting to fall into place to make this happen and the last big piece is state participation. But he’s never going to get full Republican support for this, particularly in an election year, it’s going to have to be a bipartisan vote.”

Graham Davis / flickr

Each week we take a look at what’s happening in Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. 

The state legislature is back to work, and as Sikkema predicted last year, talks are swirling around what to do with the state’s projected budget surplus. Estimates are putting it at about $500 million. What should be done with the money?

Graham Davis / flickr

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

The legislature has wrapped up session for the year. And, after the holidays we’re entering an election year. Let's find out, besides the gubernatorial election, what other major elections should we be watching next year, and what might the legislature accomplish in 2014?

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Each Thursday we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. 

This morning, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed new rules that would require more disclosure of who pays for issue ads. The Senate added language to block the Secretary of State’s proposal, and approved a bill that would double the amount an individual could contribute to a candidate or a candidate committee.

“What the Secretary of State is trying to do is level a very unequal playing field when it comes to financing campaigns,” Sikkema explains. “Right now, a candidate committee has to disclose everybody who gave any amount of money, and there are severe limits on how much an individual can give. But independent committees do not have to disclose and there are no limits as to contributions.”

After moving quickly through the Senate, this proposal now faces the House.

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After a partial government shutdown that lasted 16 days, an agreement was reached Wednesday night to reopen the government. While both Democratic senators from Michigan voted "yes" on the bill to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, Republicans in the House were split. In today's Weekly Political Roundup, we check in with our political analysts Susan Demas and Ken Sikkema.

No winners on this one

"Polls indicate that this is not a popular move. Everybody took a hit, especially Republicans. They certainly came out the worst in all of this," said Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. "So, that might be some incentive to not go down this road again, but unfortunately this has become the way that we do business in this country, whenever we have a debt limit or we have to fund the government this becomes a time a great brinksmanship where people want to try and get more of their agenda passed then we have in the past." 

Republicans' "fundamental mistake"

"I think Republicans made a fundamental mistake here in trying to negotiate either an end or major changes to the Affordable Care Act, which they call Obamacare," said Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants. "And, when you are in a negotiating position ... you don't ask the other side to give up on their most fundamentally held position.

"Republicans would have been better off if they had made their position something to do with entitlement reform, or debt reduction or maybe changes in the tax code because Democrats believe that all of those areas need change too. As long as they insist on tying this to de-funding Obamacare or ended Obamacare we are going to see the same result time after time, after time," said Sikkema.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for MLIVE.com and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Governor Snyder's "One Tough Nerd" commercials return signaling the start of a very long Election 2014 campaign season. And, we ask: Is the Tea Party losing steam? 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s Thursday. The day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com

This week, a bill that would require welfare recipients to do some kind of community service in order to get cash assistance or a welfare check passed in the Senate.  And another bill related to drug testing and welfare benefits cleared the state House Commerce Committee.

Then, the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference kicks off this weekend with nationally recognized guests including three potential presidential candidates set to speak there. They are Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. 

Listen to the full interview above.

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It's our weekly review of Michigan politics with Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com and Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

We start with Medicaid, and while the expansion finally passed in the Senate the vote didn’t happen without a bit of drama and struggle.

"There was still an awful lot of controversy. There was some horse-trading involved with an issue Senator Tom Casperson, who represents the Upper Peninsula wanted, and that finally changed his vote. And, it was just a typical messy process which is what happens in the legislature," said Demas.

However, this isn’t the end of the story. The law passed without immediate effect. As it stands now, the law won’t go into effect until April. The Snyder administration says this will cost the state about $630 million in lost federal funds. Demas said there are still a lot of hurdles before Medicaid expansion goes into effect

Let's turn now to Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.  Tea Party activist, Wes Nakagiri says he plans to challenge the renomination of Calley at the Republican convention next summer. Nakagiri says Governor Snyder needs a more conservative lieutenant governor to help the administration stay the conservative course.  

"If this Tea Party challenge to Brian Calley is successful at the convention, it gives the Democrats a huge issue during the fall general election campaign. They will use the argument that the Lieutenant Governor is far too conservative or radical for the Michigan electorate," Sikkema said.

Click on the link above to hear the full interview.

Pothole in a road. / Wikimedia Commons

Each week we take a look at Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com.

Governor Snyder has been calling for increased funding for Michigan roads to the tune of $1.2 billion a year. This is one of the items he has not gotten a lot of traction on so far from lawmakers on either side of the political aisle.

According to Sikkema, the last time Michigan increased fees and a tax for transportation funding was back in 1997.

"The reason we keep going back to this sales tax issue is because Michigan is relatively unique. It has a sales tax on top of its state and federal gas tax and that sales tax doesn't go to roads it goes to schools and revenue sharing. There are only about three or four states in the country where all the taxes at the pump don't go to roads. Michigan is one of them," he said.

Are better roads, better for business?

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each week we take a look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Today, what's next with Medicaid expansion? And, why Governor Snyder is keeping an eye on who will become Detroit's next mayor. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Flickr/Patricia Drury

The eyes of the nation are on Detroit, as the city navigates through the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.  And a group of Republican U.S. senators has wasted no time responding to the prospect of federal aid for the Motor City. They've crafted amendments to two separate appropriation bills to block federal intervention in municipal bankruptcy. That's despite the fact that neither Governor Rick Snyder nor Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr have put federal assistance on the table as a solution. So, moving forward, what does all this mean for Detroit, and for the state? For this, we talk with Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, columnist with Mlive.com

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The state budget is on its way to Governor Snyder for his signature, while there is an investment of $65 million in early education, the Governor did not get three of his major priorities met. Medicaid expansion, transportation funding, and Common Core for K-12 education.

"He [Snyder] can't afford to sort of roll over all the time on the conservative agenda items, where he signs everything they want without getting them [conservatives] to agree to pass some of his high priority items," says Sikkema. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each week host Jennifer White discusses Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Two new bills have been recently introduced in the state legislature, which would dramatically impact the amount of care received by those injured in a catastrophic car accident. Under current law, severely injured Michiganders can receive unlimited benefits for their care; however, unlimited care may turn into a thing of the past.

“What it would seek to do is put a million dollar cap on the benefits offered to people who suffered devastating injuries during a car accident,” explains Susan Demas. “We’re the only true no-fault state in the country, and the insurance industry has long since been very concerned about this.”

Claims of finances in disarray, and the burden of unlimited benefits on the economy have been core reasons given for reform of the current system. But political sub-plots behind the scenes may slow down the governor’s momentum with these bills.

“This is really one of the best opportunities in the last generation for significant reform,” suggests Ken Sikkema. “But it’s not without political implications for the next election.”

-Austin Davis, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Graham Davis / flickr

Each week we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Governor Snyder has chosen his replacement for the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge David Viviano fills the seat left open after the resignation of Diane Hathaway after a bank fraud scandal involving the short sale of property in Grosse Pointe.

And, the Michigan Republican and Democratic parties elected their leadership. The Democratic party saw its longtime chair, Mark Brewer, concede victory to Lon Johnson. What could Johnson's leadership mean for the Democratic party in Michigan?

The new legislative session kicked off yesterday in Lansing.

Republican lawmakers were greeted by protesters angry about right to work legislation and other controversial moves made during the lame duck session. 

House Speaker Jase Bolger was reelected as leader of the house though there were two dissenting votes from Democrats in what would historically have been a unanimous vote.  

Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants talk the new session.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Two days post-election and there was a mixed bag of results here in Michigan. President Obama won, the State House held onto a Republican majority, all of the proposed constitutional amendments were voted down, and the emergency manager law was overturned. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks election results and what they mean for Michigan. She was joined by Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

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Michigan House Representatives are up for election next Tuesday. All 110 seats. Both Houses of the legislature hold Republican majorities, but this election could mark a shift of power in Lansing if Democrats gain more votes. Jennifer White talks with Susan Demas, political analyst with Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

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