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State of Michigan

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The state's defense of Michigan's same-sex marriage ban got off to a rocky start Monday.

Federal Judge Bernard Friedman tossed out the state's first witness in the case. He said Yale law student Sherif Girgis did not qualify as an expert witness. The plaintiffs' attorneys pointed to the fact that Girgis is still a student, and said he would only be expressing his opinion on gay marriage - not actual evidence. 

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Bills would make sure local government budgets don't get slashed with tax repeal
By Jake Neher
 

Michigan lawmakers want to make sure local governments do not take a hit if voters decide to repeal an unpopular tax on business equipment.

State officials are urging voters to repeal the tax. They say it is outdated and kills jobs. But local governments depend on that tax to provide basic services to residents.

Gay Marriage Opposition Speaks Out in Detroit

Feb 24, 2014
Michigan Public Radio Network

Pastors rally in opposition to gay marriage ahead of federal court case in Detroit
By Jake Neher

A federal judge will hear arguments this week over whether Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.  The trial begins Tuesday in Detroit.

Ahead of the arguments, dozens of Michigan pastors rallied in support of the ban Monday in Detroit.

"We're not standing here against anybody. We're standing here for the biblical principle and foundation of marriage," said Ellis L. Smith, founder of Jubilee City Church in Detroit.

Lansing Seeks Long-Term Medicaid Funding Fix

Feb 21, 2014

State lawmakers look to patch Medicaid shortfall, say long-term solution criticalBy Jake Neher Michigan's Medicaid program faces a budget shortfall this year of more than $100 million dollars. That's because a new tax on health insurance claims is not producing as much revenue as state officials expected. This week, the state Senate passed a mid-year budget bill that would patch that hole in the Medicaid budget.

GOP lawmakers try to revive no-fault overhaul

Feb 20, 2014
Michigan Public Radio Network

At the state Capitol, House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says he still hopes to get an overhaul of Michigan's no-fault auto insurance law through the Legislature this year.  He rolled out a new plan to end Michigan's unlimited lifetime medical benefits coupled with the promise of a rate reduction. 


Milliken joins effort to win parole hearings for juvenile lifersBy Rick Pluta Former Michigan Governor William Milliken says more than 350 prison inmates sentenced to life without parole as juveniles deserve a chance at freedom. Milliken - along with more than 100 law school deans and retired judges and prosecutors -- filed a brief today with the state Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme Court holds oral arguments in the case next month. The court will decide whether a US Supreme Court decision that struck down automatic life without parole for juveniles applies retroactively - or only to current and future cases. The Milliken brief says justice demands that the decision should apply regardless of when a juvenile was sentenced.  It says juveniles sentenced before the decision have the same protections against cruel and unusual punishment as teens sentenced today. It also says Michigan's indigent defense system is particularly unfair to juveniles.   Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says families of murder victims deserve to know the rules will not be changed in their cases.  Michigan's adult-time-for-adult-crimes law was signed 18 years ago by Governor John Engler. William Milliken served as governor from 1969 to 1983.  

Michigan Senate

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate has voted to spend more for winter road maintenance and to adjust the budget to account for a delay in the expansion of Medicaid. The legislation includes $100 million to fix potholes and help governments with higher-than-usual salting and snow plowing bills. Expanding Medicaid to more low-income adults was supposed to occur in January before senators delayed  it until April.  

EAA no longer Only Option for Struggling Schools

Feb 19, 2014

State ends contract with the Education Achievement AuthorityBy Jake Neher This time next year, the Education Achievement Authority will no longer be the only entity that can take over failing schools in Michigan.  State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has notified the EAA that the state is ending its exclusive contract with the authority.

Lawmakers Consider Emergency Road Funding

Feb 18, 2014

Emergency road funding could be coming after nasty winterBy Jake Neher  A monster pothole season is upon us - and state lawmakers say they want to help.  A state Senate panel on Tuesday added $100 million for road repairs and maintenance to a mid-year budget bill to help communities fix potholes and plow roads. Lawmakers say local governments need the help to offset the costs of constant snow removal and efforts to fix potholes caused by the nasty winter weather. "That warming and freezing will add to the problems that our counties, our villages, and townships, and state ha

Lawmakers encourage Year-Round School

Feb 18, 2014

State lawmakers look to encourage year-round schoolsBy Jake Neher Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round. A state House panel heard testimony on the idea Tuesday. In his budget address this month, Governor Rick Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling.

Lawmakers encourage Year-Round School

Feb 18, 2014

State lawmakers look to encourage year-round schoolsBy Jake Neher Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round. A state House panel heard testimony on the idea Tuesday. In his budget address this month, Governor Rick Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling.

Landlords could ban tenants from smoking or growing medical marijuana under billBy Jake Neher  Some Michigan medical marijuana patients and caregivers could soon be banned from smoking or growing cannabis where they live.  A state Senate panel approved a bill on Tuesday that would let landlords decide whether to allow tenants to grow or smoke medical marijuana. "We've had a lot of apartment owners that have people smoking marijuana or growing marijuana, doing damage to the apartments, creating danger for other residents," said state Sen.

Campaign Sets Sights on Higher Minimum Wage

Feb 17, 2014

Minimum wage campaign sets its sights at $10.10
By Rick Pluta

The campaign to increase Michigan's minimum wage has upped its goal to $10.10 an hour in four years.

The petition drive had initially set its sights on raising the state minimum wage from its current $7.40 an hour to $9.50 by 2016, and then indexing the wage to inflation. The new wage target is part of an amended filing with the state.

Lawmakers to probe Army Corps of Engineers report on invasive species Tuesday
By Jake Neher

State lawmakers want to know whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inflating the cost and time it would take to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Army Corp officials will face questions from legislators Tuesday about a report it released last month. It says separating the lakes from the Mississippi River would take more than two decades and up to $18 billion to complete.

Michigan's college students could soon have a new way to pay for school. Democrats in the state legislature are proposing a pilot program that would completely pay for a student's college tuition. State Representative Jeff Irwin says students who use the program would pay back a percentage of the their yearly income for the next 20 years, rather than a fixed amount of money like with a typical student loan. If approved, the 53rd District Democrat says the pilot program would assist 200 students, divided evenly between 2-year community colleges and 4-year universities.

As the state debates how best to have school district make up snow days, there's no question how the superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District would prefer to address the issue.  

Michigan Public Radio Network

MI corrections director: Ionia prison escape "had nothing to do with" budget cuts
By Jake Neher

The head of the state's prison system blames a murderer's recent escape from an Ionia prison largely on human error. That prisoner escaped earlier this month, and was caught in Indiana the next day.

Report says parole systems costs taxpayers millions
By Rick Pluta

A new report says Michigan's parole system is too stingy when it comes to releasing prisoners with sentences of up to life in prison.

The report by the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending says there are 850 lifers in Michigan prison for second-degree murder and other violent crimes who could be paroled. In many cases, they're older and the report says very unlikely to re-offend.

Backyard Farmers Upset with State Proposal

Feb 12, 2014

Backyard farmers blast proposal to exclude them from "Right to Farm" law
By Jake Neher

A state board is expected to decide next month whether to strip protections from Michiganders who raise chickens and other livestock in residential areas.

Dozens of "backyard farmers" and their supporters blasted the proposed rule change Wednesday at an agriculture commission meeting in Lansing. It would exclude them from Michigan's Right to Farm Act, which protects farmers from nuisance complaints and lawsuits.

The Michigan State Board of Education hopes public school funding will be a top priority for voters when they head to the polls in November.

MI agriculture commission closer to decision on backyard livestockBy Rick Pluta The Michigan Commission on Agriculture and Rural Development is about to hold its final hearing on a controversial new rule. It would end Right to Farm protections for people who raise chickens and other livestock in residential areas.  The 1981 Right to Farm Act is the state's effort to preempt nuisance lawsuits filed against farmers as more people moved from cities and suburbs to rural areas.

The Superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District says he's glad to see an increase in funding for K-12 education in Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal. Scott Menzel says the proposal would bring an increase of $83 to $111 in per-pupil funding to school districts in the county. Menzel says with several county districts working with small fund balances, and one district operating at a deficit, it's difficult to determine the actual impact the additional state money will have on students. 

Menzel believes the most important part of the Governor's education funding plan is a $65,000,000 investment in the Great Start Readiness Program for low-income Pre-school students.

State Representative Jeff Irwin
Courtesy Photo / housedems.com

State Representative Jeff Irwin sees some things to be excited about in the Governor's budget proposal, but funding for K-12 education is not one of them. 

The Democrat from Ann Arbor says restoring about $100 in per-pulpil state funding doesn't go far enough to replace cuts made in 2011.

Irwin says he was glad to see higher education getting a 6.1 %  increase in state funding, and he likes that the Governor is moving forward to make dental care more accessible for low-income kids.

Legislation to raise Michigan's minimum wage all but ruled out, ballot drive likely
By Jake Neher

Legislation to raise Michigan's minimum wage is not likely to go anywhere in 2014.

Republican leaders in the state House and Senate are not eager to take up bills to raise it above $7.40 an hour.

"It's a firm 'no' for me," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. "I think that individual CEOs of companies in Michigan should make those decisions based on the marketplace, not some arbitrary law."

Income tax reduction clears committee, goes to full state Senate
By Jake Neher

Plans to reduce Michigan's income tax rate are moving forward in the state Legislature. A state Senate panel approved a bill Wednesday that would phase in the tax cut over three years.

The income tax rate would go from 4.25% to 3.9% by 2017.

"This is a tax on work," said Scott Hagerstrom with the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity of Michigan. "You want more of something? Tax it less. We want more work and more productivity."

Bill would require felons to declare their past if they go into politics

By Rick Pluta and Jake Neher  

The state House could vote soon on a measure to require political candidates to reveal felony convictions that occurred within the prior 10 years. A state House committee approved the legislation today (Tue.) that would require political candidates to declare felony convictions within the past 10 years.   

Push for Part-Time State Legislature Begins

Jan 24, 2014

Campaign launches effort to make the state Legislature part-time

By Jake Neher

Michigan voters could see a question on the November ballot this year asking them to make the state Legislature part-time.

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature has turned in petition language to the state Bureau of Elections.

Snyder breathes new life into balanced budget amendment efforts

By Rick Pluta

It took a push from Governor Rick Snyder, but efforts to put Michigan on record as supporting a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution are moving again at the state Capitol. Governor Snyder supported the idea last week in his State of the State address. Today (Thu.), a state House committee held its first hearing on two resolutions calling on Congress to convene a convention of the states to draft a balanced budget amendment. 

“Right-to-work for lawyers” bill introduced in Lansing

By Jake Neher

Attorneys would no longer be required to pay membership dues to the State Bar of Michigan under a new bill in Lansing.

In 2012, the state made it illegal to require workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

Statewide Teacher Evaluations Debated in Lansing

Jan 22, 2014

Bipartisan legislation in Lansing would create a statewide system to evaluate teachers and school administrators. The evaluations would be based partly on student growth and standardized tests.

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