Around Michigan & State Government

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

The human remains of 126 Native Americans are going home this week.

Over the course of the week, representatives of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe are retrieving the remains and associated funerary objects from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and a Mount Pleasant State Police Post.

Shannon Martin is a member of the delegation and director of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. 

State Set To Expand "Turnaround" District

Dec 11, 2013

It appears a controversial state-run authority that oversees struggling schools in Michigan will be expanded.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced Tuesday that he plans to add up to nine schools to the Education Achievement Authority.

Meanwhile, the state Senate could vote as early as today on legislation that would increase the EAA’s ability to expand statewide. Republicans in the Senate have been working through some concerns they have about expanding the district.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

The state Legislature is in its final week of voting before it adjourns for the year. One of the big questions is whether lawmakers will cast votes on a controversial anti-abortion issue this year. A petition drive gathered 300,000 thousand signatures to put the measure before lawmakers. It’s designed to restrict abortion insurance coverage.

A Rare Defiance

This is shaping up as a rare act of defiance by the Legislature, or at least its Republican leaders, when it comes to the anti-abortion lobby.  

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Some of the most controversial investments ever made by the federal government are winding down. The Treasury Department sold its last shares of General Motors yesterday. That gets the U.S. out of the auto business.

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Tim Ellis/Flickr

Law enforcement groups have joined the effort calling on the Legislature to slow down approval of a bill that would make it easier for phone companies to end traditional landline service, and switch customers to internet phones.

Robert Stevenson of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police says there are still too many problems with voice-over-internet ensuring reliable 911 service -- especially in rural areas.

What happens when a child is struggling to read at his or her grade level?

In too many cases, the student moves up a grade anyway and the struggle continues, resulting in high school graduates who are poor, ineffective readers. And that can impact that student's chances of going to college and then getting a job that provides a good level of pay over a lifetime.

There's a package of bills sponsored by Holland Republican Representative Amanda Price now working through the State that tries to tackle this problem. It's called the "read-or-flunk law."

In a nutshell, if third-grade kids aren't reading, hold them back.

Ron French reported on the pros and cons of these bills for Bridge Magazine, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

These days, more and more people are so attached to their cell phones that they've decided they don't need a landline at home.

The FCC tells us the number of landline customers in Michigan was around 7 million in 2000. By 2012, that number had dropped to about 3 million.

And, during that same 12-year stretch, the number of wireless phones more than doubled from nearly 4 million to more than 9 million.

A bill sponsored by Battle Creek Republican Senator Mike Nofs is working its way through the State Senate. It would allow phone companies to phase out traditional landline service beginning in 2017, letting phone companies discontinue the service to homes so long as some type of newer phone service is offered, such as voice-over Internet Protocol.

Many in Michigan might just shrug that off: They've already dropped their landlines. But others are deeply concerned.

Matt Resch, public affairs director for Michigan AT&T, and Melissa Seifert, the Associate State Director of the Michigan AARP, joined us today to talk about Senate Bill 636.

Listen to the full interview above.

A state board awarded $31 million dollars Wednesday to buy or improve properties for public recreation in Michigan. Several of the grants are slated for the Grand Traverse area.The state would spend up to $2.5 million dollars to buy just over eight acres at the northeast tip of the Old Mission Peninsula. The former private campground and marina would be developed into a boat launch that Peninsula Township has agreed to maintain.“The recreational resources that we have in northern Michigan help drive our economy.

All eyes are on Detroit this week, following Tuesday’s historic ruling on Detroit’s eligibility for bankruptcy. For those living outside the city, it's easy to separate themselves from Detroit's problems. 

But many experts say Detroit is not alone.

Detroit is not Michigan's only city that faces enormous budget challenges. Unfunded liabilities and retiree debt are adding up all across our state.

Ted Roelofs, a contributing writer to Bridge Magazine, recently wrote a piece that argues that other cities in Michigan will not be immune to rising legacy costs that, in part, did Detroit in.

Roelofs and John Pottow, a bankruptcy expert at the University of Michigan, talk with us about the future of other Michigan cities in the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Listen to the full interview above.

Ford unveiled its new Mustang on Thursday, in a splashy event that was undermined a bit by leaked photos that showed the new model's design. And the Mustang will be sold around the globe for the first time since the car was introduced nearly 50 years ago.

From Michigan Radio, Tracy Samilton filed this report for our Newscast unit:

Governor Rick Snyder won’t say whether he thinks Michigan taxpayers should shoulder some of the burden of helping Detroit public employees and retirees, should they lose pension benefits in Detroit’s bankruptcy.

  Pension cuts are a distinct possibility. The governor says he won’t talk about while the case is litigated.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate given that it’s an ongoing legal matter, and the consequences of any statements, and the references and the inferrels (sic) that would come out of that. That wouldn’t be right to comment about at this time,” Snyder says.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy will defend its wind farm before a Mason County appeals board Wednesday night. The utility is resisting an order by the county to tone down the noise from several of its turbines.

Last summer, a consultant found that noise from four of the eight turbines it tested exceeded what’s allowed by Mason County’s wind ordinance. In September, the planning commission ordered Consumers Energy to submit a plan to reduce the noise.

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Group Petitions In Favor Of Wolf Hunting

Dec 3, 2013

Petitions will start circulating Wednesday that would again give state officials the legal right to hold wolf hunts in Michigan. Monday the Board of State Canvassers approved wording for the petition, which is backed by Michigan hunting groups.

Drew YoungeDyke, with Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, says they want to collect enough signatures to put proposal in the hands of state lawmakers by late Spring.

This week could bring a vote in the State Legislature that will be closely watched by those on either side of the abortion debate.

The vote would be on a citizen-initiated bill that could end abortion coverage as a standard feature in health insurance policies.

Right-To-Life of Michigan turned in more than 315,000 signatures to get this bill before the Legislature. 

And today, the Board of State Canvassers certified this voter-initiated petition, which sends it on to the state Legislature.

MLive reporter Jonathan Oosting joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

A proposal that would put new restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions is headed to the state Legislature.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Monday moved forward a proposal that would ban abortion coverage in standard health insurance plans. Women would only be able to purchase abortion coverage as a separate rider.

The largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history took a major step forward Tuesday when a federal judge ruled that the city of Detroit is eligible for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.

Matthew Fletcher / Indigenous Law & Policy Center at MSU College of Law

A faceoff between the state of Michigan and an Upper Peninsula Indian tribe over a proposed casino reached the U.S. Supreme Court Monday. The arguments were about whether tribes are immune from lawsuits for enterprises that take place off of reservation land. 

"Crazy-generous" tips, as Gawker says, have been showing up on checks across the nation as some anonymous good Samaritans known only as "TipsForJesus" add hundreds or thousands of dollars to their restaurant and bar bills.

The American Civil Liberties Union has decided to go directly to the source of its unhappiness with the way women are treated in Catholic hospitals. It's suing the nation's Catholic bishops.

Tomorrow will be one for the history books, not just here in Michigan but across the nation.

Tuesday morning is when Federal Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will rule whether or not Detroit is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood has covered the bankruptcy trial, and he joined us today to talk about what might happen tomorrow morning.

Listen to the full interview above.

Many small towns across the country are using special events to attract visitors and commerce. The strategy has been a big hit in places like Aspen, Colo., and Park City, Utah, whose names have become synonymous with major festivals.

But it can take a toll. Some residents in the northern Michigan town of Traverse City complain that they're suffering from festival fatigue and would like a little less excitement.

Congress has passed new legislation to try to prevent another deadly fungal meningitis outbreak... But, will it be enough?

*Listen to the audio above.

A federal judge in Detroit says the state must give more than 350 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole a chance at freedom. US District Court  Judge John O’Meara says a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down Michigan’s juvenile lifer law and others like it applies retroactively, as well as in the future.

The order also says the state has to offer a “real and meaningful” chance at parole.

Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

Warren Buffett was in Michigan Tuesday to help launch a program that will invest $20 million in small businesses in and around Detroit.

Buffett is an advisor to Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, which is committing $15 million of capital to support small businesses in and around the city. Another $5 million will go to business training for Detroit entrepreneurs.

Despite Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing, Buffett says the city has a “huge potential” for economic growth.

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