Around Michigan & State Government

Coverage from across Michigan and  the state Capitol with the Michigan Public Radio Network and Interlochen Public Radio.

Grand Traverse County is doing a better job of funding retirement plans for its employees, according to a new report from the Municipal Employees Retirement System, or MERS.

MERS is an independent organization that invests retirement funds for Michigan municipalities.

Grand Traverse County

Nate Alger is the new Grand Traverse County administrator. On Wednesday, the county board of commissioners unanimously approved Alger’s contract. Alger is expected to sign the contract with a starting salary of $124,000 and a start date of July 1.

 

Alger takes over a county that is dealing with instability as it tackles pension debt, suicides in the jail and employee dissatisfaction. Alger says stagnant pay and reduced benefits have caused some animosity with employees in the past, but he plans to work on that.

David Cassleman

Republican Carolyn Cater spent a dozen years working on ships in the Great Lakes. Cater was once a coal-passer on the S.S. Badger, spending her time shoveling coal into the ship’s boilers.

Cater is now running for Michigan’s 101st state House District seat, which runs from Ludington to Northport.


Whitewater Township

The Whitewater Township board has rejected a plan to allow short-term rentals. The proposal would have allowed residents to build new structures on their lots and rent them out on websites like AirBnb.

The idea came from the township planning commission but it was met with resistance from the community. Residents circulated a petition against the plan and presented it to the board at a meeting Tuesday night.

Google Maps

The argument over short-term rentals has come to Whitewater township. The township’s planning commission wants to relax zoning rules so new rentals can be built on existing residential lots.

Under a new proposal, residents who own at least 30,000 square feet of land could build a second structure on their property. The new structure could be up to 1,200 square feet in size.

The proposal would allow homeowners to rent their new structures on websites like AirBnB.

But township supervisor Ron Popp says it’s a bad idea.

Grand Traverse County

Grand Traverse County commissioners have picked a local law enforcement official to lead the county. This morning they voted four to three to offer Nate Alger the county administrator job.

Michigan’s top prosecutor is on board with proposed changes to how the state parole board determines if an inmate can be released from prison.

 

Michigan is offering $50 million as start-up money for upgrading the Soo locks in the Upper Penisula. 

 

It’s part of a budget deal between Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders. They announced the earmark at a conference on Mackinac Island this week.  

 

Snyder says there’s only one lock that can handle the largest freighters traveling on the Great Lakes. 

Grand Traverse County

The search for Grand Traverse County’s next leader is down to two candidates. County commissioners will choose between a local law enforcement officer and a former state representative from Bay City.

The commission has been searching for a new administrator since the surprise resignation of Vicki Uppal in January. With the help of a consulting firm, the commission has named two finalists for the job – Nate Alger and Thomas Hickner.

Branislav Ondrasik

Michigan State University has reached a half-billion dollar settlement with victims of Larry Nassar. Nassar is the former MSU sports medicine doctor who sexually assaulted hundreds of women over decades – and called it treatment.  

 


Grand Traverse County

Leaders in Grand Traverse County will wait until a new administrator is hired before they decide how to spend a budget surplus.

The county’s finance director says there’s about an extra $8 million in the budget. The money comes from increased property tax revenue and unforeseen savings in employee health care and the removal of the Boardman River dam.

Lawmakers says there’s no doubt that Michigan State University failed to protect its students from Larry Nassar. He’s the former MSU sports doctor who sexually assaulted patients for years under the guise of treatment.

A state House inquiry into the school released its findings Thursday.

Lawmakers say Nassar was able to exploit multiple loopholes in MSU’s policies. The House inquiry also found that the school botched an internal investigation into Nassar arising from a complaint about his “treatment” in 2014.

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether police officers illegally searched the backpack of a passenger in a stopped vehicle. The passenger says officers should have first asked his permission.

Larry Mead was riding in a vehicle stopped for an expired plate. The driver gave permission for police to search the vehicle, where Mead left his backpack. The officers found methamphetamine in the backpack.

Inmates sent to prison as children can sue the state over sexual abuse and other alleged misconduct, under a ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The lawsuit claims minors aged 13 to 17 who were sent to prison were beaten and sexually abused by adult inmates and prison staff. The state tried to get the lawsuit dismissed under a 1999 amendment to Michigan’s civil rights act that barred legal actions filed by inmates under that law.

The court struck that down.

More local governments are getting money to create better systems to make sure every criminal defendant has a properly trained lawyer through every step of the legal process.

Local courts resubmitted their proposals after the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission rejected most of the funding requests back in January.  This time, most of the re-worked plans won board approval.

Judge Thomas Boyd is a commission member. He said the need to ensure adequate representation is so great, the board must make sure none of the money is wasted.

The state House has approved a bill to require vehicles to keep a distance of at least three feet when passing bicyclists.

 

The legislation is largely a response to a fatal accident two years ago near Kalamazoo.

 

The state Legislature began discussions Wednesday on the newest plan to make people work for Medicaid.

 

The bill would require able-bodied adults to perform an average of 30-hours of work, job training, or education every week. Pregnant adults, people with medical disabilities, and others would not be included.

 

Chuck Grimmett

Michigan State University’s interim President John Engler criticized state lawmakers last week for a package of bills that would give sexual assault victims more time to file lawsuits, among other changes. 

The Legislature has sent a bill to Governor Rick Snyder that forbids local governments from adopting ordinances dealing with questions employers may ask in job interviews. It’s an effort to preempt local rules that bar asking about salary histories and criminal backgrounds.

There are no such local regulations in Michigan, but they have been adopted in other states.

Morgan Springer

The state House has adopted bills that would allow prisoners in advanced stages of illness including cancer and dementia to be paroled for medical reasons.

 

The House split on the bills with Republicans and Democrats voting on both sides of the issue.

WTCM

A longtime radio personality is running for the state House in northern Michigan. WTCM-FM morning host Jack O’Malley announced Tuesday he’s running as a Republican for the 101st District.

The seat, which spans from Ludington to Northport, is open this fall. Current Rep. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) announced last month he’s running for the state Senate instead of re-election.

Abdul El-Sayed for Michigan

In the race for Michigan’s next governor, a Democrat crossed a significant hurdle today. Abdul El-Sayed was the first Democrat to file his signatures to get on the ballot.

But there have been questions about whether El-Sayed is even eligible to run. Bridge Magazine first reported that his voting history could derail his campaign. 

State Rep. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) made a tough choice last month. He decided not to run for re-election in the Michigan House of Representatives. Instead, he’s running for the state Senate. 

It’s a decision that has disrupted two competitive political races in northern Michigan. 

 


Aaron Selbig

State Rep. Curt VanderWall has announced he won’t run for re-election and will instead run for the state Senate. That means the race for the 101st District seat is wide open. 

Kate Teegardin, Flickr

Over the last three years, many of the Grand Traverse County’s top officials have resigned or been fired, and the county is now looking for its fourth administrator since 2015.

Much of the turmoil stems from the county’s pension debt – the amount of money the county has promised to retired employees. Right now, Grand Traverse County doesn’t have enough money to cover the pension debt.


Pages