Four months ago, the city of Detroit turned the page on a difficult chapter of its long and storied history. Last December, Detroit emerged from the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy. The so-called “grand bargain” that sealed the deal cut $7-billion of the city’s debt and injected millions of dollars to reduce pension cuts for city retirees.
Former U.S. Sen. Robert Griffin of Michigan was laid to rest yesterday in Traverse City. Griffin died late last week at the age of 91. After serving in World War II, the Detroit native began practicing law in Traverse City. The Republican eventually served in the U.S. House and Senate for a total of 22 years until he was narrowly defeated for re-election to the Senate by Democrat Carl Levin in 1978.
Two weeks from today, Michigan voters will decide whether to increase investment in the state’s crumbling roads and bridges with a one cent increase in the state sales tax. The discussion over whether to invest more in infrastructure has raised the issue of the warranties that sometimes cover that work.
From 2003 to 2013, Michigan prosecuted over 20,000 juvenile offenders as adults. Advocates for juvenile justice reform say youth housed in adult prisons are at a much greater risk for sexual abuse and suicide than the adult prison population. And while there is now a sight and sound barrier between juvenile offenders and the adult prison population, that wasn’t always the case. The state is now facing allegations from seven former juvenile offenders that they were sexually abused by both other prisoners and prison staff while housed in those facilities.
Yesterday, Republicans in the U.S. Congress marked their 100th day of being the majority legislative party in Washington. Mike Bishop represents that majority in his capacity as the recently sworn in congressman from Michigan’s 8th District, which covers Lansing and East Lansing along with Ingham and Livingston counties and part of Oakland county.
For years now, Michigan has struggled with how to implement its medical marijuana law. Voters approved legalized pot in 2008, but applying the law has been fraught with complications. Patients, caregivers, physicians, law enforcement, local and state governments and the courts all have had different concerns. The challenge boils down to how to regulate the drug and how to get it safely and responsibly to the people who are entitled to it. In recent years, Republican State Rep. Mike Callton has been in the middle of the state legislature’s effort to move forward.
March is almost behind us. In and around the state Capitol, the month included more questions about the fate of Proposal 1, some tension inside both major parties regarding priorities including education, and improving employment numbers.
There’s been a lot of attention this year on the road funding proposal that will go before Michigan voters in a special election on May 5, but later this year, many political jurisdictions including the city of Lansing will hold primary elections in August and a general election in November. The Lansing Regional Chamber Political Action Committee is teaching techniques for candidates preparing to campaign. It’s a non-partisan group that endorses candidates with a pro-business, pro-economic development platform.
State Representative Jeremy Moss was elected last fall to the district 35 seat in the Michigan House, based in Southfield. It's a mild surprise that he replaces the member he worked for, Rudy Hobbs. Maybe the even bigger surprise is that Moss graduated from Michigan State University's School of Journalism not quite seven years ago.
Many Republicans in Lansing are calling for an end to film industry subsidies. They say the program hasn’t been effective in creating jobs in Michigan, and the money would be better spent elsewhere. For instance, eliminating the subsidies is one idea being considered as an alternative to the plan going before voters in May that would increase the state sales tax to raise money for road repairs. Yesterday, the state House approved a bill eliminating the video industry tax incentives in October.
What happens in Michigan 730,000 times a day? According to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, that's the number of times daily that someone tries to hack into a state government computer. Officials are quick to point out that virtually all are detected and quickly stopped. Still, it requires a comprehensive and expensive cyber security effort to stay ahead of the threat. Officials say the number of attempts will rise.
In January, a Lansing woman, accompanied by her two children, made a grisly discovery at the Rose Lake Wildlife Research Area, not far from East Lansing. According to the Lansing City Pulse, the three, who were on a mid-winter walk, came across the frozen body of a dog, which appeared to have been abandoned inside a small kennel in dangerously cold temperatures. According to the story, Bath Township Police are investigating the incident. They say it appears to be a case of animal cruelty, a felony in Michigan punishable by up to four years in prison.
At the end of the month, Current State takes one last look back at the top news stories in Michigan politics and government. This time around, we revisit a proposed, new state budget, new leadership for Michigan’s Republican Party, and the discussion over May’s sales tax proposal.
We all know Michiganians we feel are extraordinary for their memorable life experiences or their sacrifices. Maybe for their success, or their service, and for the insights that result from those experiences. Getting better acquainted with extraordinary people is the focus of Current State’s occasional series, “Voices of Experience.”
Developers are about to become the owners of 30 acres of city land straddling Lansing and East Lansing. Monday evening, the Lansing City Council approved the sale of the former Red Cedar Golf Course property to Ferguson/Continental Lansing LLC. Developer Joel Ferguson and his partner Frank Kass want to build a $276-million complex at the site that could include a ten-story hotel, restaurant and housing. Part of the site would remain green space.
East Lansing Democratic state Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. is seven weeks into his legislative career at the state Capitol. He represents the 23rd district, which covers almost all of Ingham County. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee began discussing a bill sponsored by the former Ingham County official. Hertel wants to offer recent Michigan college graduates tax credits in exchange for a pledge to stay in Michigan.
Stakeholders across Michigan are responding to Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2016 budget proposal. The $54-billion spending plan includes increases in education, job training and the state police. It also includes spending reductions in about a dozen state agencies. As always, there’s something for almost everyone to like and to dislike.
Not long after Michigan voters decided Congressional contests around the state, a 7th District Democrat has declared her candidacy in next year’s election. On Monday, at appearances throughout the district including Delta Township and Jackson, State Rep. Gretchen Driskell announced that she’s a candidate. The Democrat from Saline says the 7th “isn’t getting the representation it deserves.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder updated his near term goals in the annual State of the State speech last night. The centerpiece was the creation of what the Governor called a “River of Opportunity” that would improve state services, especially those coming Michigan’s Departments of Community Health and Human Services. Snyder plans to combine the two into one. He says their work represents a “failed model” that is too focused on programs than on people.
Lansing’s Andy Schor has begun his second term in the Michigan House of Representatives after being sworn in on Wednesday. In a statement on his web page, the former Ingham County Commissioner says the start of a new session “presents new opportunities.”
Governor Rick Snyder is still making his way through the stack of bills on his desk after lame duck. Among the bills that have already gotten his stamp of approval is one that authorizes suspicion-based drug tests for some welfare recipients. It requires the state to establish pilot programs for screening and testing people on public assistance in three Michigan counties.
Four months from today, Michigan voters will make the next move regarding our state’s crumbling roads and bridges. They’ll decide whether to hike the state sales tax by one cent on the dollar. Approval would create over a billion dollars annually to help repair the roads, but it would also restore the state’s earned income tax credit and send more state revenue to schools. Rejection means Governor Rick Snyder and the legislature are back at square one in the road funding debate. So, what can we expect to see and hear over the next four months?
Early this morning, Michigan’s 2014 legislative session concluded dramatically. The state legislature will be sending a proposal to Governor Rick Snyder for a one-cent increase in the Michigan sales tax. The additional revenue would generate about $1.2-billion a year for road and bridge repair. Michigan voters will decide whether to implement the measure, possibly next May.
One of the hot button issues of this year’s lame duck session was the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill. The bill would exempt people from state and local laws if they can prove those laws violate deeply held religious beliefs. Opponents of the legislation say it amounts to a “license to discriminate”, and they are worried about its implications after a companion bill that would have expanded LGBT protections died in committee.
The Michigan legislature is in the middle of an eventful lame duck session. Efforts are in high gear to hammer out a road and bridge funding measure before the session wraps next Thursday, but many other important issues are also being debated.
How many times have you heard the words “lame duck” in the last few weeks? You have a little while longer to be tired of the term. The Michigan Legislature’s lame duck session lasts for just over two more weeks.
The 2014 election is in the rear view mirror, but its effects will certainly echo for years to come. After the last ballot was cast, some 600 Michigan voters were asked for their opinion on a number of statewide issues.