Around Michigan & State Government

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

Emmet County board fires administrator

May 19, 2017
Petsokey News Review

The Emmet County administrator was fired by county commissioners last night. After a closed-door discussion at a commission meeting that lasted almost two hours, commissioners unanimously decided to fire Marty Krupa effective immediately.

"It was kind of unexpected," Matt Mikus, a reporter for the Petoskey News-Review, told IPR.

Controversial legislation on state regulatory rules is making its way through the legislature.

The House approved a bill Thursday to prevent the state from being tougher on things like environmental and workplace safety than the federal government.

There were tears and hugs on the floor of the state House today as colleagues got word that state Representative John Kivela (D-Marquette) took his life – one day after his second arrest on a charge of drunk driving.
 
House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) announced that Tuesday and Wednesday sessions would be cancelled to mourn Kivela’s passing.

“I’m sure today is the toughest day we will experience this term together,” said Leonard. “And I truly have no words about the loss of our dear friend, John Kivela.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen has been chosen by President Trump to serve on the Sixth Circuit US Court of Appeals. Trump once put Larsen on his list of judges and lawyers he would consider naming to the US Supreme Court.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

Lawmakers are moving fast to ramp up prison time for female genital mutilation.

Removing or altering the genitalia of a minor female for non-medical purposes is already a federal crime with a five-year penalty. But a state Senate committee just passed bills to make it a state crime as well – with up to 15 years in prison as a penalty.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University is asking a court to decide whether it has to release police and arrest records related to a highly publicized investigation. The records are related to the criminal investigation into an alleged sexual assault that may involve members of the Spartan football team.

The sports network ESPN filed a request for the records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. But the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office says releasing the records could interfere with the criminal investigation.

Unequal park funding smacks of favoritism, critics say

May 3, 2017
Grand Traverse Ski Club

Three years ago, voters in Traverse City were asked if they wanted to spend more money on parks. They said “yes,” and a special fund was set up for that purpose. The parks funding comes from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund – a savings account of oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Quiet Area south of Traverse City.

Grand Traverse County

Three volunteer members of Grand Traverse County's Pension Advisory Board submitted their resignations Monday.

The county has a pension debt of more than $50 million. The advisory board is working to identify ways to reduce it and present those findings to county commissioners.

In their letter of resignation the citizen members – Christopher Radu, Robert Zimmerman and Michael Gillman – say, "our recommendations have been solicited, but appear to be ignored."  

Abdul El-Sayed for Michigan

A Democrat running for governor in Michigan is touting his experience leading the city of Detroit’s health department in the aftermath of the city’s bankruptcy. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is campaigning in northern Michigan this week.

“We rebuilt a department,” El-Sayed said in an interview with IPR News Radio. “It is now a department that has five different campuses doing great work for the people of Detroit.”

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

State lawmakers return to Lansing this week and to a budget standoff. The House and Senate left Lansing at the end of March without an agreement on how to help an area in metro Detroit where a giant sinkhole opened up last December.

Some Republicans in Michigan are pushing for restrictions to the state’s power to write regulations. State agencies, like the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, write many rules and regulations that don't need legislative approval. 

In the last few years, some Michigan lawmakers have criticized this process. They say that state departments are writing rules that are too strict.

Legislation introduced by one of northern Michigan’s state representatives, Rep. Triston Cole (R-Mancelona), would add a new hurdle for state agencies to clear.    

“This would restrict them from enacting administrative rules that would be stricter than federal rules,” Cole says, “without clear and convincing evidence, and or going through the legislative process.”

Cole spoke with IPR News Radio about the legislation:

 


Max Pixel

Some police officers in northern Michigan wear body cameras; others do not. Two recent incidents in northern Michigan show why cameras can be useful. One incident was in Antrim County. The other in the City of Manistee.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

A campaign committee controlled by Republican leaders is facing fines and questions over how it lost track of many thousands of dollars during the last election.

How much do you trust state government and its ability to do its job?

Last week was dramatic at the state Capitol. In a late night vote, a dozen GOP House members broke from their Republican colleagues and voted with Democrats against a bill that would have lowered the state income tax to 3.9 percent. 

The legislation failed and never made it to the state Senate. 

Sen. Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City had questions about the income tax bill. 

“It was easy to say, ‘let’s lower taxes,’ Schmidt told IPR News Radio in an interview. “But was it the right amount? Is it what working families wanted?” 

“I’m all about giving tax relief but you’ve got to make sure it’s especially targeted for working families,” Schmidt said. 

 

Schmidt spoke with IPR News Radio about the tax legislation, and about two bills that he has introduced. 

Lawmakers in Lansing might not try to do away with the state income tax after all; but, they are still looking to reduce it.

A new version of the bill would gradually cut the tax from 4 point 25 percent to 3 point 9 percent.

Bill sponsor Representative Lee Chatfield says he is happy with the changes.

Federal Communications Commission

Many people in northern Michigan live without access to broadband internet. Others have high-speed fiber connections. In this special call-in hour, IPR tackles the future of broadband in northern Michigan.

 

In Kalkaksa County, 60 percent of residents lack access to high-speed internet. That’s according to data from the Federal Communications Commission, which increased its standards for speed in 2015. 

More than a third of rural residents in the United States do not have access to broadband service, according to the FCC. 

House Republicans in Lansing have a plan to give you an income tax break — and eventually to end the tax. 

State Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) introduced a measure last week that would cut the rate from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent in 2018. The legislation would then reduce the income tax yearly by .1 percent until it was eliminated. 

“I think this is a very fair tax reform that impacts every family,” Chatfield told IPR News Radio. “It provides yet another opportunity for our families to move back here to Michigan, begin working [and] keep more of their hard-earned dollars.”

Chatfield spoke with IPR News Radio about his tax plan:

 

Revenue from the income tax made up about one-third of the state’s total revenue in 2015 – around $9 billion, according to the State Budget Office.

It’s a new year, and the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners has a couple of new members – and possibly a new direction. The change comes at a time when the county is facing financial problems – including a pension debt of more than $50-million dollars.

In its first meeting last week, the board elected Commissioner Carol Crawford to lead them into the new year.

Aaron Selbig

Donald Trump’s surprise run to the presidency captured most of the attention around last year’s election, but in Emmet County, there was another quiet revolution. Residents there voted out four sitting members of the county Board of Commissioners, and two more incumbents stepped down.

It is now a new year. With the State House and Senate adjourned until Jan. 11, it's time to get our bearings on what’s likely to be bubbling away on Lansing’s front burner this year.

Michigan Radio’s It’s Just Politics team of Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta joined Stateside to discuss.

Sam Corden

Political candidates raised millions of dollars - and spent millions of dollars - in Michigan this election season, but they weren’t the only ones. 

There was also plenty of political spending by independent groups. Those are the groups not connected to any candidate, which can accept unlimited amounts of cash from donors. The top 20 groups in Michigan spent $9.9 million between January 2015 and Election Day, according to a report by the watchdog Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

About half of the money raised by those groups came from a dozen sources, the report says.

“Those 12 sources are driving the independent spending in Michigan, and the main force behind it is the DeVos family,” says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

 


This is the final day of lame duck in Lansing.

The proverbial midnight oil was burned as lawmakers worked all through the night, took a quick break, and then headed back to their chambers for more work.

Michigan Radio's Lansing Bureau Chief Rick Pluta joined Stateside today live from the Capitol.

This week marks the final few days of the 2015-2016 session of the state Legislature. Soon it will be “curtains down” on lame duck.

As Zach Gorchow of Gongwer News Service puts it, it’s time to see which bills are dead, which are “extremely sleepy” and which are alive in these final days of lame duck.

DTE Energy

The future of energy regulation in Michigan is uncertain.

For months, state lawmakers have debated the state’s energy rules, but for months they’ve failed to pass legislation. Republican leaders want to do the first major overhaul to energy law since 2008. 

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