Around Michigan & State Government

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

Evolution is relentless process that seems to keep going and going, even when creatures live in a stable, unchanging world.

That's the latest surprise from a unique experiment that's been underway for more than a quarter-century.

Governor Rick Snyder has moved lawsuits challenging some of his administration’s most-controversial policies to a new panel of judges on the state Court of Appeals. The governor has signed a bill that shakes up the court that hears big lawsuits against the state.

Some of the lawsuits that will be moved challenge the emergency manager and right-to-work laws. Governor Snyder says he signed the bill because one county’s voters – mostly Democrats in Ingham – should not be choosing the judges that decide so many big cases against the state. 

Republicans in Lansing are split over whether people who bankroll so-called “issue ads” should be allowed to remain anonymous. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed a rule to require disclosure just hours before Michigan Senate Republicans voted to block her effort.

Lawmakers Review Alleged Right-To-Work Violations

Nov 13, 2013

Republican state lawmakers say they want to get to the bottom of alleged violations of Michigan’s new right to work law.

A newly-formed state Senate committee Wednesday heard testimony from three teachers who are part of a lawsuit against the Michigan Education Association (MEA). They say the union bullied and threatened them when they tried to leave.

Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) chairs the Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee. He says the MEA also failed to alert teachers about how and when they could leave the union.

More than 16 million American's fought in World War II. There's only about a million of them who are still alive and they're all older than 80. Hundreds are dying each day. A non-profit group has made it their mission to honor these remaining veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II memorial. The trip isn't something many veterans at this age can do — or afford — on their own. Since the first "Honor Flight" in 2005, groups in almost every state have followed suit and more than 100,000 vets have taken the journey.

Marijuana advocates in Michigan hope successes in recent local elections will put pressure on state lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize cannabis.

Last week, voters in Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing all approved ballot initiatives that allow small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property.

Tim Beck helped organize those local campaigns. He says their success sends a clear message to the state Legislature -- that it needs to consider easing penalties statewide.

On this Veterans Day, a video showing a homeless veteran's transformation as a stylist cuts his hair, trims his beard and puts him in a new suit, is going viral. It's already drawn more than 10 million views in just 5 days.

Detroit is a place where I worked for many years as a journalist, where I absorbed the town's rich automotive, labor and civil rights history, where I sat in blues clubs and watched baseball from the upper deck of old Tiger Stadium.

It's a place that I really think of as home.

Detroit elected a new mayor this week.

He is 55-year-old Mike Duggan, a longtime county official, and later a successful CEO of the region's leading medical center.

But one might reasonably ask why someone — anyone — would want the job of mayor of Detroit.

Larry McGahey / USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

Michigan wildlife officials are dismissing claims that bad information led to the state’s upcoming wolf hunt.

Opponents of the hunt are asking Governor Rick Snyder to suspend it based on a recent MLive report. It raised questions about a number of alleged wolf encounters with humans, pets, and livestock in the U.P.

Lawmakers Look To Ban Bridge Cards At Some ATMs

Nov 8, 2013
Michigan Department of Human Services

Michigan is one step closer to banning bridge card holders from using ATMs inside liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs.

The state House passed the legislation Thursday with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“The use of the bridge card should be used as it is for the intent originally, making sure that families and children can have food on their table and providing for the necessities of life,” said bill sponsor Rep. Dale Zorn (R-Ida).

Prison fence.
WFIU Public Radio/Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether more than 300 inmates sentenced to life without parole for murders committed while they were juveniles are entitled to parole hearings.

U.P. Senator Apologizes For Fictionalized Wolf Threat Story

Nov 8, 2013

The state senator who led the campaign for a wolf hunt has now apologized for using a fictional story to highlight the need to remove the Gray Wolf from the endangered species list.

Tom Casperson, a state senator from Escanaba, sponsored a resolution in 2011 urging the federal government to de-list the wolf. Casperson included a story about children at an Upper Peninsula day care who were threatened by three wolves.

He admitted Thursday on the Senate floor that story wasn’t exactly true.

Doctors Slow To Embrace Recommended HPV Testing

Nov 7, 2013

For decades the annual Pap test was women's chief protection against cervical cancer. That all changed when a test for human papillomavirus, the cause of most cervical cancer, was approved in 2003.

With the HPV test, women don't need to get Pap tests as often. But that message hasn't gotten through to many doctors.

There's a nationwide search underway to find former students who don't know they've already done all or most of the work needed to earn a credential that might help them land a better-paying job.

In Michigan, several hundred community college dropouts were recently surprised to learn they had enough credits to qualify for an associate degree. There are also ex-students who apparently didn't know they're just a few credits shy of a two-year degree.

No Merger For West Michigan Shoreline Towns

Nov 6, 2013

Two cities are better than one. At least, that’s what voters in both Saugatuck and Douglas decided in Tuesday’s election.

Just an hour after the polls closed, former Douglas Mayor Matt Balmer held his phone out so the crowd could hear the results. 226 yes. 385 no.  

Cheers from this group which opposed the effort, a group made up of people from both towns. They shared several bottles of champagne after the results were announced.

Saugatuck Mayor Bill Hess says the results are pretty easy to interpret.

Three Michigan Cities Lessen Marijuana Restrictions

Nov 6, 2013

Voters in three more Michigan cities approved ballot questions Tuesday decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. Ballot proposals in Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale each passed with more than 60 percent of the vote.

“This is an historic night….a landslide by all considerations,” says Jeff Hank, who headed Lansing’s pro-marijuana campaign. “It sends a message not only to our local politicians, but politicians at the state level that it’s time to do something.”

Detroit Elects New Mayor

Nov 6, 2013
Mike Duggan

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan is the new mayor-elect of Detroit. Duggan defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon with about 55 percent of the vote.

Duggan coasted to victory despite being a Detroit resident for just over a year, and getting tossed off the primary ballot. He is stepping to the forefront after decades spent behind the scenes in Detroit politics.

Duggan says he’ll spend these next transition weeks building relationships with key players: emergency manager Kevyn Orr and the Detroit City Council.

A teacher from Petoskey has joined a lawsuit against the state's largest teachers union. It's been filed by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on behalf of eight Michigan public school teachers.

Ray Arthur wants to stop paying union dues. He says he was never given any information about how to opt out of the Michigan Education Association and in September he was told he missed the August window to do so.

A federal judge in Detroit is going to take more time to decide whether to uphold or strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Bernard Friedman set a February trial date to get expert testimony.

The further delay was a disappointment to gay marriage supporters, who’d hoped for a decision Wednesday. There were same-sex couples lined up at some county clerks’ offices anticipating a decision in their favor.

Mixed Reviews For New Northern Michigan Roundabout

Oct 15, 2013

Driving through the intersection of M-115 and M-37 east of Mesick recently got easier.

Or harder, depending on whom you ask.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has replaced a blinking red and yellow light at this busy corner between Traverse City and Cadillac with a roundabout.

Rich Howes, who co-owns a trucking company north of the intersection, says it’s mostly a good thing.

A measure to restrict abortion coverage might run into a hurdle in the state Senate. The Republican leader there says he's not yet committed to taking up the measure.

The group Right to Life of Michigan turned in more than 315,000 signatures last week to send the measure to the Legislature. It would ban insurance companies from offering standard health plans that include abortion coverage. Women would have to purchase the coverage as a separate rider.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) says he doesn't consider the proposal a top priority.

The prison in Baldwin will remain closed for now. Michigan will not allow the privately run, for-profit prison in northern Michigan to house about a thousand inmates because there would be no savings to taxpayers.

The state turned down two bids. In both cases, the contracts would have cost more than what the state pays right now.

The Florida-based GEO Group was hoping to re-open an empty prison it owns in the town of Baldwin. Utah-based Management and Training Corporation also submitted a bid.

A record number of Michigan schools are struggling to stay in the black and a law put in place this summer allows state officials to dissolve and consolidate small schools with big problems. So far the headlines have been from some of Michigan's more populated counties, but some schools in the north that are paying close attention to changes from Lansing.

A Success Story

2-1-1 Goes Silent In Five Counties

Sep 30, 2013

After a multi-year push to establish a telephone hotline for people in poverty there's no money to sustain the effort. Starting Monday, United Way of Northwest Michigan is letting its contract lapse for the 2-1-1 helpline serving the five-county Grand Traverse Region.

The phone service is in place in many parts of the U.S., designed to help people find services such as food and housing assistance.

United Way Executive Director Renae McCauley says the service cost her organization nearly $50,000 dollars a year, plus and $3.20 charge for every call that came in.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is siding with city employees and pension funds that say those benefits should not be part of Detroit bankruptcy proceedings. Schuette plans to be in court Monday to file a request to join the case.

The Attorney General says the Michigan Constitution specifically protects public employee pension benefits from being impaired or diminished.

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