This is a curated page of the Michigan News that I care about. If you like the news, you could LOVE the Blog too!

Non-Partisan Redistricting: Let's Make Michigan Politics Work Again

1/30/2017 - Every 10 years, after the Census, the Michigan Constitution allows whichever party happens to be in power redraw Michigan's districts to favor themselves and make a mockery of the concept of one person one vote.

In practice, this means that it is Michigan's politicians who decide the partisan outcome of elections (before they even take place) while voters decide only which partisan faces get to head to Lansing.

The next redistricting is in 2020 and the 2018 election will decide who gets to do the redistricting.  

When redistricting is done to favor one party over the other it is called Gerrymandering.

Here is how Gerrymandering works:

* All districts have to be made so that they have almost the exact same number of total people. 

* The party in control packs the maximum number of people who support the opposition party into the last number of districts possible. These districts are entirely non-competitive whenever elections happen.

* The party in control packs the maximum number of people who support their party into friendly districts at a ratio that allows them to have the maximum number of possible districts. These districts are slightly more competitive but still non-competitive whenever elections happen.

There is no incentive for parties to be responsive to citizens (beyond glad-handing) when party control is never at risk. .In addition, when districts are gerrymandered, the votes of supporters of the majority party count more than the votes of members of the minority party (undermining the core Democratic principle of one-person one vote).

The answer lies in a Constitutional Amendment, like the one passed in Arizona (upheld by the SCOTUS), to create non-partisan redistricting committees to take charge of the redistricting process.

The only way anything will change in Michigan is if politicians have no choice but to be responsive to voters and to voters across the political spectrum. 

Yup, Eliminating Personal Income Tax is a Terrible Idea

1/13/2017 - The very first proposal in the new Michigan Congress is a proposal to eliminate Michigan's personal income tax. As with all tax cuts, they sound great (who doesn't want lower taxes) but such cuts are anything but deficit neutral and are extremely regressive (which is the real point). 

A Smart New Ann Arbor Solar Plan

1/13/2017 - I am no climate denier (in fact, I won a national debate championship in 1990 arguing in favor of nation-wide carbon reductions implemented through legislation), so I am pleased to see that Ann Arbor has come up with a new and innovative incentive plan to help people "go solar." 

As I understand it, they have set up a system that you can use to evaluate the likely cost for installation of new solar panels, a way to calculate the difference in cost between the installation and solar energy vs. your current energy bill, and have also partnered with companies so that easy-financing and installation is available. In other words, they are making it incredibly easy and cost-effective to make the switch to solar power for your home energy needs.

Partisanship Be Damned - I Have Hope That Tom Leonard Actually Cares About Jail/Prison Mental Health Reform

1/8/2017 - New Michigan Speaker of the House Tom Leonard has said that one of his main priorities is mental health reform in Michigan prisons and jails. As many who read my blog know, I spent some time in Michigan's prisons and jails, I was not under mental health care, but I have written often about the shame I felt seeing how the mentally ill were treated in our prisons and jails (it is incomprehensibly cruel).

If Mr. Leonard is serious, and creates real and meaningful reform, he has won a supporter in this hard-core Democrat. Some are even suggesting that Speaker Leonard might be able to act beyond partisanship on this issue.

A Major Improvement to Michigan Civil Forfeiture Laws (Repeal Would Be Better).

1/6/2017 - Before today, if the police decided to property through civil forfeiture laws Michigan citizens would have to pay a bond (often as high as 10% of the value of the seized property) to even get the ability to challenge the seizure. Luckily, today, Governor Snyder signed a reform into law that removes the bond requirement and also builds on the reforms he signed in 2015. 

Obviously, repeal of laws allowing the State and local governments to seize citizens assets even when they have not been arrested or charged with any crimes would be better, but this is a step in the right direction.

The Never Ending GOP Assault on Public Education Continues in Lansing

1/6/2017 - We get it, the teachers union tends to vote for Democrats, but could we please stop the all-out war on K-12 public education in Michigan. In the newest iteration, Michigan Republican Senator Jack Brandenburg is calling for the total elimination of Michigan's personal income tax the proceeds of which fund 73% of public education in our state. Let's not forget that tax-cuts are also viral for growing deficits and are usually born regressively (through cutting the social safety net for the poor). Oh, and as the Brookings Institute explained this "new idea" is also a really bad idea.

New Study: Michigan Medicaid Expansion Produced 2.3 Billion in Economic Benefits to the State Last Year

1/5/2017 - The University of Michigan's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation released a new study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that the expansion of Medicaid (as part of the Obamacare roll-out) created 2.3 billion in economic benefit to the state. The institute released this summary today and Crain's Detroit also commented on the study.

In a time when multiple politicians are simply asserting in front of microphones that Obamacare has been a disaster (and I know that the medicaid expansion was called "Healthy Michigan" to differentiate it from the roll out for exactly this reason) it might be smart to take a deep breath and consider the entire roster of costs and benefits before making drastic changes here or anywhere else.

I have given Governor Snyder much grief on this page, but this is one that he got right.

Will Senator Arlan Meekhof Allow Michigan's FOIA Amendments To Move Forward? 

1/4/2016 - The Michigan House passed legislation closing the loopholes that would make it possible to demand accountability from the Governor's office and the legislature via FOIA requests but that legislation was tabled in the Senate under the leadership of Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof. Given that Michigan ranked dead last in the United States in transparency, one can only hope this legislation will be taken off the table and passed quickly in the new session of the Senate.

AG Bill Schuette Starting To Reference 2018 Run For Governor

1/4/2016 - Bill Schuette mentioned today that he wants to be "part of the [leadership] conversation" as he starts to angle towards throwing his hat into the 2018 Michigan Gubernatorial race.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer Files For Michigan Gubernatorial Run in 2018

1/3/2017 - The Michigan gubernatorial race has started in earnest as the Detroit News reported, Lansing Democrat Gretchen Whitmer has become the first candidate to officially file papers to begin a run for Governor in 2018. Michigan AG Bill Schuette is expected to be the main GOP candidate.

A Michigan Preview of the GOP View of Regulatory Reform - Plastic Bag Protections Signed Into Law

12/29/2016 - Two long held tenets of conservative orthodoxy (local governance & regulatory certainty) butted heads this week in Michigan and Regulatory Certainty won. It is now illegal for cities, counties, and other localities to regulate or fine the use of plastic bags and cups, as Emily Lawler at MLive reported today. Of course, the larger problem of environmental protection is likely to often become a casualty of GOP attempts to roll back the regulatory state, the original intent of many of the local ordinances was to reduce trash across the state. In particular, plastic bags are confounding attempts at recycling costing local recycling facilities over $200 k last year.

Mark Maynard also wrote a great piece on this subject as well.

The First Outdoor NHL Game Was Played in Michigan in 1954. But, You Will Never Guess Where?

12/29/2016 - Marquette Prison. No, seriously, the Detroit Red Wings (including the great Gordie Howe R.I.P.) took on a team of prisoners at Marquette prison, as explained in a recent article. The official score was listed as Red Wings 5 and Marquette Pirates 2 but the actual score was 18-0 after one period (they stopped counting eventually).

Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Law Signed Into Law by Gov. Snyder

12/28/2016 - I am still pretty convinced the main impetus for this bill is to induce the wrongfully imprisoned to voluntarily agree to cap State of Michigan liability, and 50k a year wrongfully imprisoned (reduced from the original 60k) plus reentry assistance seems pretty light. But, as MLive reported today, the Gov. has signed Michigan's Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation bill into law.

Crippling Inmates with Debt is Counterproductive to Safety

12/22/2016 - I get it, it sounds smart, why should taxpayers foot the bill for crimes they didn't commit? Why not make prisoners pay, as much as possible, for their own incarceration? Simple answer, as The Detroit News reported today, it is short-sighted and counterproductive. When someone is released from, in this case jail, their economic potential is massively reduced, piling debt and collection agency pressure on top of reduced earning potential is a recipe for recidivism. If the end goal is public safety, the worst possible way to deal with inmates emerging from prison or jail is to put them in even more economic distress.

Michigan GOP's War On Teachers Has Devastated Education


You probably heard that Betsy DeVos, a person who is opposed to Public Education, has been tapped to be our next Secretary of Education. 

You might not know that DeVos is from Michigan (we apologize) as Mark Maynard, another great blogger from my little town of Ypsilanti, wrote recently:

"DeVos, by almost any objective criteria, is a terrible choice for Secretary of Education. Not only has every initiative that she’s backed in Michigan hurt kids, but she’s never worked in education, which, one would think, would be a prerequisite for Secretary of Education. Not only has she never taught, or run a school, she’s never even had a child in public school. [Her children attended Grand Rapids Christian.]."

Anyway, the whole destroy Public Education thing started with this GOP group called ALEC many years ago. They decided many years ago to try to dismantle public education for ideological reasons and also to weaken the Teacher's Unions who generally vote Democratic in elections.

Here is a story about how that has turned out for everyone. Anyway, We apologize for DeVos.