In This Week's Edition
- The Year's Top 10 Stories
- What's Happening in Washington?
- Legislature Update
- Around the State
- Opinion Roundup
- Sound Bites of the Week
- Bills vetoed by Governor Granholm this year: 12 out of 346.
- Length of the St. Lawrence Seaway: 2,342 miles.
- Tonight's closing time for bars: 4 am.
- Indian tribal casinos in the state: 17.
- Official state symbols adopted by the legislature: 11.
- Year of the first recorded shipwreck in Michigan waters: 1679.
- Days this year when the high temperature in Detroit was 80 degrees or higher: 74.
The Detroit News has come out with its list of the state's top 10 news stories for 2005. Heading the list was the mounting problems of the state's auto industry. Also on the list: Rosa Parks' death; Michigan's continuing economic stagnation; Northwest Airlines' bankruptcy; soaring gas prices after Hurricane Katrina; Mayor Kilpatrick's upset win; Attorney General Mike Cox's admission that he'd had an affair; the firing of the Red Wings, Pistons, Tigers, and Lions head coaches in the same year; the return of NHL hockey; and the capsizing of the Ethan Allen on Lake George.
What's Happening in Washington?
Tribal Gaming Comes Under Scrutiny. The recent scandal involving Jack Abramoff's lobbying on behalf of Indian tribes has fueled a movement to put the brakes on tribal gaming. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) is sponsoring legislation that would bar tribes from operating casinos away from their reservations--local tribes have their eye on Port Huron and Romulus--and would like to see tighter regulation of Indian gaming in general.
The legislature adjourned on December 29, and won't be back in session until January 24. The governor's State of the State address is scheduled for the 25th.
Granholm Takes Out the Veto Pen. Governor Granholm vetoed three pieces of legislation passed by the Republican-controlled legislature. Her highest-profile veto involved welfare-reform legislation, which she found unacceptable because of its four-year lifetime limit on benefits. While the governor said she supported time limits in principle, she said that the lifetime ban went too far because it would affect recipients who complied with work and training rules but still couldn't earn enough to get out of poverty.
The governor also vetoed a bill that would allow Grand Rapids to levy a mass-transit tax but wouldn't allow such levies elsewhere in the state, as well as a bill that would make it harder to designate land an environmental cleanup zone.
George Weeks of the News accused Republican lawmakers of going overboard in reacting to Granholm's vetoes. One example he cited was Representative Jerry Kooiman (R-Grand Rapids), who accused the governor of "attempting to cripple Kent County in the same way she has Michigan's economy."
However, the governor did sign less controversial bills that would ban "A.W.O.L." alcohol vaporizing machines, protect the custody rights of parents deployed overseas by the military, and return power to the Mackinac Bridge Commission that had been temporarily shifted to the state.
Highlights of 2005. The legislature passed more bills this year than any year since 1993, but observers disagree as to whether state lawmakers actually accomplished much. Highlights included a $1 billion economic stimulus package--which was quite different than what the governor proposed in her State of the State address, and a $600 million tax cut for businesses. But GOP proposals for business tax cuts and welfare reform didn't make it past the governor's desk.
Other major legislation signed by the governor will permit direct shipment of wine, make it a crime to sell violent videogames to minors, tighten the regulation of "payday lenders," deregulate most phone rates, restrict sales of cold medications, and require the school year to start after Labor Day.
GOP Unveils Wish List for 2006. According to Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, tax and spending cuts top the GOP agenda for the new year. Also on the agenda: cutting red tape for businesses, tougher requirements for high school graduation, reforming school employees' health care and pensions, and measures to protect Great Lakes water.
This Controversy's For the Birds. Lawmakers might spend part of next year's busy schedule debating whether to end the robin's reign as Michigan's state bird. Some lawmakers want to replace the robin with either the Kirtland's warbler or the black-capped chickadee.
How Meaningful are "Liberal" vs. "Conservative" Ratings? Earlier this month, Inside Michigan Politics ranked state senators from "most conservative" to "most liberal." George Weeks of the News argues that these ratings miss an important point: how effective lawmakers are. He argues that the most effective are those who can make deals with colleagues on the other side.
In Brief. Lawmakers passed stopgap legislation to extend parts of the welfare code for one year and the governor signed it on Thursday....Representative Steve Tobocman (D-Detroit) plans to introduce legislation that would repeal the state's 167-year-old ban on cohabitation along with a number of other antiquated statutes.
Around the State
Freman Hendrix Throws in the Towel. After the hand recount of Detroit's ballots passed the halfway mark with little change to the vote count, challenger Freman Hendrix decided to forego the rest of the recount. Hendrix said that while the recount revealed problems and discrepancies, they weren't enough to affect the outcome of the election.
Although the recount didn't change the outcome, the aftershocks will reverberate all the way to Lansing. As the recount wound down, the News called for election law reform including tighter controls on absentee ballots, a purge of voting rolls, and a requirement that voters show identification.
New Year's Brings New Mayors. Some Michigan cities will see new mayors sworn in tomorrow. They include Hamtramck (Karen Majewski), Lansing (Virg Bernero), and Pontiac (Clarence Phillips).
Off Topic, But...Did you know there's a wolverine roaming the Thumb area? It was first seen in 2004 and has been photographed a number of times since. To learn more about our unofficial state symbol, check out The Wolverine Guy's website.
In Brief. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which would ban affirmative action in state universities and government hiring, appears headed for the ballot, but the Michigan Civil Rights Commission will look into allegations that circulators misled voters into signing petitions....An appeals court affirmed a lower court ruling ordering the return of tax records seized from Geoffrey Fieger as part of the ongoing investigation of alleged campaign finance violations....Mayor Kilpatrick has ordered all his top aides to live in Detroit....New laws aimed at keeping felons away from schools and day-care centers take effect tomorrow.
The News argued that playing "tax break roulette" is a poor way to attract industries that should be coming to Michigan naturally....Citing a case where pollution charges weren't filed against a company owned by a friend of Mike Cox, the Traverse City Record-Eagle called on the Attorney General to conduct an independent probe of his own office....The Lansing State Journal was unimpressed with the Attorney General's defense of his hiring the wives of two Supreme Court justices....The Free Press praised Ford Motor Company for standing up to the American Family Association and deciding to continue placing ads in gay-oriented publications....The News endorsed a time limit on welfare benefits, noting that Michigan is only a handful of states that doesn't have such a limit.
Sound Bites of the Week
"The power that the Legislature lost by term limits was absorbed by the bureaucracy"--Judge Tingstad, quoted by George Weeks.
"Before the scandal, it would not have been a stretch to call him an early favorite for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010. It would be now--unless his only rival is Fieger."--Dawson Bell of the Free Press, commenting on Attorney General Cox's chances.