Around Michigan & State Government

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

The state will not award a $5 million grant to a firm run by the brother of Michigan’s top budget official. 

It was revealed this week that the company iSchool Campus had lobbied lawmakers to add the school technology grant to the state budget. Michigan Budget Director John Nixon’s brother is the company’s CEO.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced Friday the grant will instead go to the Genesee Intermediate School District.

The department says the decision had nothing to do with concerns over a possible conflict of interest.

In the weeks after the Detroit’s mayoral election, a top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder recently quipped that “adults” are now running Detroit’s city hall.

Does that point to a better working relationship between the governor, Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and the city’s Mayor-elect Mike Duggan?

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes is taking a look at the relations between Detroit’s leadership and the governor’s office.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Ever since Detroit’s became the biggest in American history to seek bankruptcy protection, the term “death spiral” has been in the spotlight.

The spiral often begins with promises made to municipal workers. Pensions and health coverage are becoming too much for many cities and states to bear. But the law tells mayors and governors that those pension plans need to remain intact.

As pension costs mount, they try raising taxes, or turning to the municipal bond market. And when those doors are slammed shut, what happens? Essential services get cut, pink slips start flying, and businesses and homeowners get out of town, leaving behind a smaller and poorer population even less able to cover a city’s soaring costs.

State of Michigan

  A firm led by the brother of Michigan’s budget director proposed a five million dollar project as part of the state budget. The money was approved, and now the company, i-School Campus, is bidding on the contract.

  The plan is to run pilot projects to test privately managing technology in the public schools. Budget Director John Nixon says, because of his brother’s involvement, he told the governor’s office, the Legislature, and his staff that he would not and could not play a role in deciding which company gets the contract.

New Oversight For Pharmacies After Meningitis Outbreak

Nov 19, 2013

More than a year after the fungal meningitis outbreak first hit, 22 Michiganders are dead and lawmakers in Washington have now passed a bill that's supposed to prevent a similar outbreak from happening again. 

The bill gives the FDA a way to oversee pharmacies that are making and shipping huge amounts of drugs. The Massachusetts clinic that started this meningitis outbreak was making lots of drugs, with little oversight.

Michigan Lawyer Alyson Oliver recalled her visit to the pharmacy early this year:

It was 40 years ago today that the Supreme Court accepted what became a landmark case about school desegregation. The case was controversial because it involved busing student between a largely African-American city — Detroit — and its white suburban areas. The ruling helped cement differences between urban schools and suburban neighborhoods.

State Democratic Chair Charges "Court Rigging"

Nov 18, 2013

The chair of the Michigan Democratic Party maintains a recent overhaul of the state’s Court of Claims amounts to “court rigging” by the GOP. That’s despite the fact that an equal number of Republican and Democratic judicial appointments were recently made to the court.

MDP Chair Lon Johnson appeared this weekend on the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record.

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. Two Deaths In Michigan:

The number of people killed by powerful storms that pummeled parts of the upper Midwest on Sunday has risen to at least eight.

Prosecutors in Michigan are charging a man with second-degree murder for a Nov. 2 incident in which Renisha McBride, 19, was shot in the face after knocking on Theodore Wafer's door at night in Dearborn Heights, a suburb west of Detroit.

McBride's family has said they believe she was seeking help after being in a car wreck hours earlier. We've updated this post with the latest information we have.

Update at 6:40 p.m. ET: Comments And Questions From Detroit

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.

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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.

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.”

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