Democratic Michigan Sen. Gary Peters has gotten behind legislation that would address two very different national issues: criminal justice and student debt. Monday, on a visit to Detroit, the state’s junior senator called for a “top to bottom” review of the U.S. criminal justice system by creating a National Criminal Justice Commission. And last week, Peters introduced the Federal Adjustment in Reporting (FAIR) Student Credit Act. It would help private student loan borrowers rehabilitate defaulted loans.
Earlier this week, Valerie Brader, an attorney and former senior policy adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder, assumed her role as executive director of the new Michigan Agency for Energy. Brader will be the top energy adviser to Snyder and state department leaders. Snyder created the agency by executive order in March after setting it as a priority in January’s State of the State address.
State lawmakers are again looking for ways to pay for road repairs in Michigan, and that means subsidies for the film industry are again being targeted. That has amounted to $50-million a year in recent years.
It’s a busy time under the dome in Lansing these days. Just two weeks after the historic defeat of a road funding proposal that would have altered the Michigan Constitution, House Democrats and Republicans are offering competing alternatives. The GOP plan would shift revenue to a transportation fund by various means, including siphoning funds from tribal casino revenues and eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit. Meanwhile, Democrats propose raising the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon over the next three years.
People who build schools and other public infrastructure projects in Michigan might soon see a lighter paycheck. Yesterday, the Michigan Senate voted to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. That provision mandates that wages paid in state government contracts are based on collective bargain agreements.
Eighteen months away from the 2016 presidential election, two Democrats and six Republicans have formally thrown their hat into the ring. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was the first Republican to announce his candidacy. Cruz is the son of Cuban immigrants who before his congressional career was the longest-serving Solicitor General in Texas history.
After a marathon session, the Lansing City Council last night approved Mayor Virg Bernero’s proposed 2015-16 budget, but it was not a complete victory for the mayor. The council also rejected his plan to create a new layer of oversight to regulate the Lansing Board of Water and Light. Bernero proposed establishing the position of inspector general to review the BWL’s procedures to ensure greater accountability, but after hours of debate and several failed attempts to pass amendments, the city council instead decided to fund an audit of the BWL by an independent agency.
Economist Ruth Beier became a member of the East Lansing City Council in January. She says she grew tired of attending council meetings, complaining and getting nowhere, so she decided to run for office. Beier says it’s time for East Lansing to do things differently. Mainly, she says, it needs to shift more attention and resources away from the city’s commercial downtown to its neighborhoods.
We’ve all whiled away a few idle minutes here and there lost in fascination over aerial imagery online. It’s fascinating to be able to zoom in on your own house and then drag your mouse to the other side of the world on your screen and scan some exotic country. There are many practical applications for digital aerial photos, of course. In Michigan, state officials have recently wrapped up an annual mission to photograph 12,000 square miles of the state.
Last night, months of impassioned rhetoric, TV spots and old fashioned stumping came to an abrupt end. Michigan voters soundly defeated Proposal 1, the constitutional amendment designed to fund repairs to the state’s faltering roads. The proposal would have increased the state sales tax by one percent, while also sending money to schools and local governments.
In four days, Michigan voters will decide whether or not to increase the state sales tax by one cent on the dollar. Proposal 1 would raise just over $1.2-billion which would, in a couple of years, be spent on road and bridge improvements. But the measure also earmarks about $800-million for areas including education, municipalities and help for some low income Michigan residents.
Along with Proposal 1 to increase the state sales tax to fund road repairs going before voters in Michigan next Tuesday, East Lansing is presenting a couple of proposals to voters. One would allow for the use, possession and transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana on private property by people over the age of 21. The other would amend the city charter to allow for the sale of certain city properties with the approval of a simple majority of voters rather than the current requirement of approval by three-fifths of votes cast.
Michigan legislators are in a pitched and partisan battle over proposed reforms to the state’s auto no-fault insurance system. Mainly Republican reformers are intent on lowering the state’s sky-high car insurance premiums by imposing cost controls on catastrophic accident claims. Mainly Democratic opponents say the move threatens a strong system that may be the best in the nation. Many allege it’s a money grab by the insurance industry and their allies in the legislature.
The day millions of Americans have been waiting for is finally here. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a series of cases focusing on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. Thirty-six states currently allow the practice. Michigan is not one of them. Michigan joins three other states in defending their bans.
The months-long discussion about whether to raise Michigan's sales tax by a penny is nearing an end. Voters will decide the issue next Tuesday. According to Michigan’s ‘Citizens Research Council,” the measure would eventually generate about an additional $1.3-billion to be spent on the state’s roads and bridges. It creates a new formula for assessing the state’s gas tax, which would be tied to the wholesale price of gasoline. At current prices, it would go up about 10 cents per gallon. Whatever the increase, it would be lessened somewhat by the removal of sales tax from gasoline.