Monday, December 31, 2007

NFL Week 17 Results

Another season with the Lions comes to a close... and the real football begins next week!

New England 38, N.Y. Giants 35

Atlanta 44, Seattle 41

Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 23

Chicago 33, New Orleans 25

Cleveland 20, San Francisco 7

Green Bay 34, Detroit 13

Houston 42, Jacksonville 28

Philadelphia 17, Buffalo 9

Cincinnati 38, Miami 25

Washington 27, Dallas 6

Baltimore 27, Pittsburgh 21

N.Y. Jets 13, Kansas City 10 (OT)

Arizona 48, St. Louis 17

Denver 22, Minnesota 19 (OT)

San Diego 30, Oakland 17

Tennessee 16, Indianapolis 10


166-90 for the regular season.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mike Bishop's Priority for 2008: Right to Work (for Less!)

Andy Dillon, at the House Dems end-of-year press conference, uttered a quote worth repeating here.

"It's the difference between the two parties," Dillon said. "I look at the Republican Party in the state of Michigan and I don't know what they want to do to fix our state's economy. I know they want to lower taxes and cut funding of services, but where's the vision? Where's the plan to turn this state around? I don't see it."

We have wondered about that too. After hearing the words "not a priority" over and over again concerning legislation that would make Michigan a better place to live, work and play, it sure looked like the Republican "vision" was to simply obstruct progress while endlessly complaining about the state of our state.

Fortunately the fine folks at MIRS sat down with Mike this past week and got him to tell us just what he sees as the number one issue facing Michigan's economy- turns out it's you, pesky Michigan worker.

MIRS asked Bishop what one piece of legislation he'd like to get through the Senate and signed into law in 2008?

At the top of his wish list: Right to Work.

Of course this would never make it through the House, Bishop knows that, but chasing futile, hot- button legislation sure would be a great time killer so areas of potential bipartisan cooperation on other issues can be ignored. See how that works? But, hey, Mike will tell you that he is just looking out for you.

Still, Bishop sees RTW as essential to Michigan's economic future and he intends to push legislation even if there's pushback. To not embrace reforms is to continue the "state of denial," he said.

"I happen to think that the Right to Work issue is an important one for the state," he said. "I think it's a key element for our state's recovery … because I don't think any worker should have to be required to pay union dues. I just don't think that's a fair exchange. I think it sends a bad message to all of our workers in the state and it sends a bad message to employers who want to come into our state that the employment environment here isn't healthy."

So, to sum it up, Bishop intends to continue to be a bad-news ambassador for Michigan while pursuing legislation that would lower the quality of life for Michigan workers that has no chance of passing anyway. But he isn't starting a war; he's just keeping those union folks busy so they will be distracted during an election year.

"We have a number of displaced workers in our state and highly skilled displaced workers and we'd like to bring jobs back to the state for them. And I don't necessarily want to start a war — I don't want to start a war, period — with those workers and I'd like to figure out a way we can open up that dialogue."

In the end, he contends RTW will send a powerful message that Michigan has changed and is a good place to do business.

"I think the key for me and my caucus is we want to come up with public policy that sends a message to the rest of the world that Michigan is a great place to come and raise a family and work and play," Bishop said.

Kind of hard to do that without decent wages and benefits, but Bishop doesn't let a little thing like facts about conditions in right to work states get in the way of his agenda.

At least we have finally discovered what Mike's priority is- but maybe we knew it all along.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

NFL Week 17

New England at N.Y. Giants

Seattle at Atlanta

Carolina at Tampa Bay

New Orleans at Chicago

San Francisco at Cleveland

Detroit at Green Bay

Jacksonville at Houston

Buffalo at Philadelphia

Cincinnati at Miami

Dallas at Washington

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Kansas City at N.Y. Jets

St. Louis at Arizona

Minnesota at Denver

San Diego at Oakland

Tennessee at Indianapolis

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Message from Mark Schauer

Always good to hear from the Senator-

NFL Week 16 Results

Pittsburgh 41, St. Louis 24

Dallas 20, Carolina 13

Cincinnati 19, Cleveland 14

Chicago 35, Green Bay 7

Indianapolis 38, Houston 15

Detroit 25, Kansas City 20

N.Y. Giants 38, Buffalo 21

Jacksonville 49, Oakland 11

Philadelphia 38, New Orleans 23

Arizona 30, Atlanta 27 (OT)

San Francisco 21, Tampa Bay 19

New England 28, Miami 7

Seattle 27, Baltimore 6

Tennessee 10, N.Y. Jets 6

Washington 32, Minnesota 21

San Diego 23, Denver 3



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Art Museum Tree Xmas Eve

From last year. Sorry no new ones, but, well, you know.

I did get a new lens for Xmas and I can't wait to try it out, just as soon as I am able...

Merry Christmas everyone, have a great day today!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

NFL Week 16

My respect for guys that play with broken bones has now gone right through the roof. I don't know how they do it.

NY Giants at Buffalo

Green Bay at Chicago

Cleveland at Cincinnati

Kansas City at Detroit

Houston at Indianapolis

Oakland at Jacksonville

Philadelphia at New Orleans

Atlanta at Arizona

Tampa Bay at San Francisco

Miami at New England

NY Jets at Tennessee

Baltimore at Seattle

Washington at Minnesota

Denver at San Diego

Saturday, December 22, 2007

When you were down they were never there

When you're all alone you really get to learn

If you get back up they gonna come around

All the sycophants they love to make romance

To the ugly sound of 'em tellin' you what you

Wanna hear an' you pretend

Cuz they all agree you're supposed to have a better life

But you're feelin' worse

An' they build you up till you fool yourself that you're

Something else an' it's like a curse cause

You can't live up to what they made of you

An' they tell you that you're losin' friends

Losin' friends, losin' friends

Ya got nothin to lose

Ya don't lose when you lose fake friends

Ya go an tell 'em you were king of the hill

When ya need a hand - that was yesterday

Ya see 'em laugh while you're on your knees

An' it breaks your heart cuz ya gave so much

An' ya can't believe that ya hit the gound an'

Ya notice ya been losin' friends

Losin' friends, losin' friends

Ya got nothin to lose

Ya don't lose when you lose fake friends

Friday, December 21, 2007

Granholm's List of Accomplishments 2007

Granholm Inauguration Speech 3
January 1st, 2007

I love pictures because they freeze time. That woman, standing at that podium on Inauguration Day of this past year, didn't know what was coming. Or, maybe she had an inclination, but chose to move forward with hope and optimism instead. Who knows. If I had to make one complaint about the governor, it's that she is too damn classy to write a tell-all book.

She probably didn't figure on saying this-

"This year was the year from hell. It was really a horrible year. But now that this terrible fiscal crisis has been to a large extent resolved - although we still have more to do - I am eager and excited about transforming this economy, or at least setting the right policies in motion to make that happen." - AP interview, Dec. 12th, 2007

Still optimistic. After all that. That's what I like. That's what we need.

Accomplishments? If I could, I would reprint Gongwer's account of the night of the shutdown. Then I would drag out Bishop's list of cuts. I have no doubt that she probably saved some lives this year by standing strong in the face of a bunch of terrified legislators. Like your fire department? Thank the woman in the picture. And stop taking so much for granted.

I'm sorry that I can't physically or mentally do this justice right now, but then again I was never big on end-of-the-year stuff anyway.

Over the flip is the release from the Governor's office- check out the list. It's huge.

And then stop and think about what a list of "accomplishments" from Dick DeVos might look like...


Governor Jennifer M. Granholm continued her efforts this year to implement her detailed economic plan despite the fiscal challenges she was forced to overcome. The governor remained disciplined and unwavering in her push for a comprehensive solution to the state’s budget crisis and for investment in the things that make Michigan competitive.

By working the economic plan, the Granholm administration continued to diversify the economy, create jobs, make college and health care affordable and accessible, and to protect our families and our quality of life.

I. Working the Plan

The governor’s plan to create a diverse, robust economy continued to set the state’s agenda in 2007. The governor’s plan focuses on creating jobs today and providing displaced workers with the training they need while targeting high-growth sectors, including life sciences and alternative energy, to diversify the economy. The pieces of this comprehensive plan are already at work for Michigan’s economy:

• The $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund and other economic development tools helped 163 job creating high-tech and alternative energy companies start and expand. This year, the 21st Century Jobs Fund also made $50 million in capital available to more than 500 businesses across the state through the newly-revived Capital Access Program.

• The Single Business Tax was replaced with Granholm’s Michigan Business Tax, which makes the state’s business tax more competitive, provides significant personal property tax relief, creates incentives for companies to locate and create jobs here, and gives tax breaks to 6 of out 10 Michigan companies.

• The governor continued her “go anywhere and do anything” approach to bring jobs to Michigan, making two more international investment missions in 2007. Her trips to Austria, Germany, and Sweden have resulted in six companies announcing additional investments in Michigan, so far, creating and retaining more than 1,000 jobs.

• In addition to traveling internationally, the governor made eight trips throughout the country, recruiting companies to come to Michigan. One of these trips, to Boston in July, resulted in Mascoma’s announcement that they will locate the country’s first cellulosic ethanol plant in northern Michigan.

• The governor’s investment mission to Sweden also resulted in a historic partnership between Swedish-based Chemrec AB and NewPage Corporation to study the feasibility of producing biofuels at NewPage’s Escanaba paper mill.

• The governor continued her efforts to make Michigan a leader in alternative energy this year. In addition to the NewPage and Mascoma announcements, Alleghany Technologies, Dowding Industries, Hemlock Semiconductor, Adaptive Technologies, and many other companies received state assistance to locate, expand, and create alternative energy jobs in Michigan.

• The Granholm administration made $12 million in funding available to keep talented Pfizer workers, technologies, and assets here in Michigan following the company’s latest downsizing announcement this year. Already, loans have been made to 17 companies committed to hiring 235 people. In 2003, Granholm took similar action, and that $12 million investment resulted in 18 new companies who have hired 220 new employees, spurred more than $100 million in investment and created 400 indirect jobs in the Kalamazoo area.

• In August, the governor launched her No Worker Left Behind initiative which provides up to two years of free tuition at any Michigan community college, university, or approved training program. Just three months into the program, nearly 7,800 citizens are enrolled in training, and community colleges are moving quickly to expand their programs for in-demand occupations.

• Granholm’s MI Opportunity Partnership also continued to help unemployed workers connect with available jobs. In the second year of operation, more than 48,500 people were placed in jobs – exceeding the program’s goal.

• The governor’s successful Jobs, Education and Training Program (JET), which helps citizens get off public assistance and become self-sufficient, was expanded statewide in 2007. The program’s pilot sites have been successful in reducing assistance caseloads and more than doubling the number of people in education and training programs.

• The governor’s Local Jobs Today program provided $282 million in funding for 267 local economic development projects, creating more than 5,000 jobs.

• Sixteen companies chose to locate or expand their headquarters in Michigan in 2007, including Spanish-based Aernnova and Kalexsyn, a company that grew out of the 2003 Pfizer retention fund.

II. Preparing All Students for Success

Governor Granholm knows that the key to long-term economic strength is a well educated, well-trained workforce. Over the last two years, the Granholm administration has taken huge steps toward the goal of having the nation’s best-educated workforce, including mandating rigorous new high school standards, increasing funding for public schools, and creating a new $4,000 scholarship for every child in Michigan who goes on to college or technical training. In 2007, the administration continued its push to implement these groundbreaking initiatives.

This spring, high school juniors took the first Michigan Merit Exam, an ACT-based test that will help every child understand that they are college material. And in September, the first class of high school freshmen started school knowing they will fully benefit from the new rigorous graduation requirements.

Despite severe budget challenges this year, Granholm was able to push education funding to an all-time high. In addition, for the first time, higher education funding is directly linked to the institutions’ participation and graduation rates.

This fall, more than 33,000 students received the first Michigan Promise scholarships, and another 86,000 can complete two years of college or postsecondary training, knowing that $4,000 is waiting for them when they are done.

Also this fall, five new revolutionary high schools opened. Working in partnership with local hospitals and health care providers, these “early college high schools” will keep at-risk kids in school and prepare them for a career in health care. In just five years, students can graduate with a high school diploma and an associates degree or equivalent certification.

III. Making Health Care Affordable and Accessible

Governor Granholm continued her fight to make health care affordable and accessible for every person in Michigan. As a result of the administration’s on-going efforts to make health care accessible, Michigan now has the lowest rate of uninsured children in the country. (We’re tied with Hawaii for #1).

In addition, the administration’s efforts this year resulted in additional funding for the MI Choice waiver program which helps seniors receive the care they need to remain in their own homes; expanded screenings for newborns; and three additional federally qualified health centers expected to serve more than 30,000 patients.

Governor Granholm also proposed, and secured partial funding for, the Michigan Nursing Corps program to train more nurses. In addition, she signed legislation to allow nurses trained in Canada to practice in Michigan to help relieve the nursing shortage across our state.

In her 2007 State of the State Address, Governor Granholm recognized the critical role that technology plays in both improving the quality of health care and reducing its cost. This year, the Granholm administration announced nearly $5 million in grants to create a statewide infrastructure for health information exchange, making Michigan the national leader in this effort.

IV. Protecting Our Families and Our Quality of Life

The Granholm administration also continued its efforts to protect Michigan’s families and our outstanding quality of life. In 2007:

• The governor fought for and won funding for more than 300 additional workers to provide services to vulnerable families and help keep our children safe. Funding was also increased for foster parent recruitment and training to ensure that the state has enough safe, stable homes for children.

• The Department of Agriculture increased gas pump inspections by 25% to the highest level in more than a decade to ensure that citizens get the quantity and quality they pay for.

• The Department of Environmental Quality began issuing ballast water permits to ensure that our Great Lakes water is safe from invasive species often brought in by ocean-going vessels.

• The Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan State Police combined forces to battle the Sleeper Lake fire, the worst forest fire in Michigan in more than a decade. Thanks to their efforts no injuries resulted and no one lost their home in the two-month fire.

• The Michigan State Police (MSP) arrested more than 700 additional fugitives and 400 sex offenders during Project SAFE Streets and Operation Verify sweeps throughout the year. In addition, MSP teamed with local law enforcement in Flint to target drug and gang activity in the area. Together, their efforts resulted in the largest increase in overall arrests and seizures in the last decade.

• The Department of Transportation met its ten-year goal of having 90 percent of the state’s major roadways in good condition. In 2007, 92 percent of roadways meet that standard.

• The Department of Corrections continued implementation of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative designed to reduce recidivism in our prisons. The program has worked with more than 7,000 prisoners at pilot sites across the state and has reduced return-toprison rates by 22 percent.

• Michigan’s Safe Routes to School program, which was nationally recognized for excellence this year, has more than 250 elementary schools participating to help ensure that children are safe as they travel to and from school.

V. Reforming Government

In her 2007 State of the State address, Governor Granholm said, “As we diversify and transform our economy, we must continually transform government, as well. Government must be lean but not mean.” This year, the Granholm administration took significant steps to achieve that goal, including:

• As part of the 2008 budget agreement, Governor Granholm convinced the Legislature to enact a series of difficult reforms, including ending state employee “double dipping,” requiring school districts to shop for competitive health care coverage, and encouraging healthy behaviors for Medicaid recipients.

• In 2007, the Granholm administration closed two prisons and two, prison camps, bringing the total number of closed facilities to 11 since 2002.

• The Department of Human Services continued on-going efforts to reform child protection programs, completely overhauling the state’s computer tracking system. The new system takes a “One Family, One File” approach, combining multiple previous systems into one integrated, statewide program which will help workers quickly and effectively evaluate a family’s situation, including the likelihood of violence or harm to the children. In addition, the new system provides additional tools to ensure that workers are complying with all requirements.

• Agencies and departments throughout state government are putting new technology to use to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The Department of Transportation has developed a new computer system to manage and track construction projects, saving more than $28 million this year. The Department of Agriculture is using a new webbased system to manage lab analysis data. The new program is expected to save approximately 3,000 staff hours for lab analyses while speeding turnaround times.

• Governor Granholm issued a series of executive directives limiting hiring, purchasing, travel, subscriptions, and more in an effort to reduce state spending. The limitation on purchasing, alone, saved nearly $38 million in 2007.

• The governor also eliminated the Department of Civil Service and issued executive orders consolidating the human resources, accounting, and internal audit units, each which were previously operated by separate departments of state government. In addition, the governor eliminated 37 additional boards and commissions this year. To date, the governor has eliminated 154 boards and commissions.

• The Department of Information Technology is working to consolidate hardware and application systems. In 2007, this effort allowed the state to close 21 separate facilities, saving the state more than $9.5 million.

Me- I'm proud to fight for this one.

Thank you, Governor, for everything. This citizen is very grateful that you were there this year. It was tough, but it was worth it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

House Democrats Wrap Up 2007

From the House Democrats release:

"While there is no doubt that 2007 was a tough year, the policies driven by House Democrats have made Michigan a great place to live, work and raise our families," Dillon said. "One of our greatest accomplishments was making great strides toward resolving Michigan's structural deficit that has kept our state locked in a cycle of deficit for years. This will be critical to getting Michigan back on track and headed in the right direction."

Some of House Democrats top accomplishments in 2007 include:

· Cutting more than $430 million from the state budget.

· Passing legislative reforms that included cutting salaries for lawmakers; ending lifetime healthcare benefits; and sweeping ethics reforms, including requiring financial disclosure for elected officials.

· Creating the new Michigan Business Tax, which rewards investment, promotes job creation and slashes the Personal Property Tax.

· Fighting the foreclosure epidemic that is hurting our communities.

· Voting to allow Michigan residents to hold drug companies liable if their products cause harm.

· Passing a tough anti-trash plan that will stop the flood of garbage from Canada and other states into Michigan's landfills.

· Creating Promise Zones which will ensure access to college for thousands of Michigan residents.

"We're heading into 2008 primed and ready to fight for the people of Michigan to create brighter future here in Michigan," Dillon said. "House Democrats will work to restore our residents' trust in state government. We will fight to grow our economy and boost our residents' confidence. And, most importantly, we will work to create more good-paying jobs for our workers. House Democrats are focused on moving Michigan forward to become a powerhouse in the 21st century."

First of all- thanks for the picture!

Second - time to revisit that list of Senate Republican obstruction.

Pretty obvious to see who is working for the people of Michigan when you compare...
NFL Week 15 Results

Houston 31, Denver 13

San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 13

New Orleans 31, Arizona 24

Tampa Bay 37, Atlanta 3

Miami 22, Baltimore 16 (OT)

Cleveland 8, Buffalo 0

Green Bay 33, St. Louis 14

Jacksonville 29, Pittsburgh 22

New England 20, N.Y. Jets 10

Carolina 13, Seattle 10

Tennessee 26, Kansas City 17

Indianapolis 21, Oakland 14

San Diego 51, Detroit 14

Philadelphia 10, Dallas 6

Washington 22, N.Y. Giants 10

Minnesota 20 Chicago 13



Pitt tonight, Dallas Saturday. I get a cast tomorrow (I hope) and this should get easier to do.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bad roads? Thank a Republican prop

No money for roads. No money for anything else, either, unless we can figure out a way to manipulate the existing money that is already there. Governor Granholm held a year-end press conference yesterday and reiterated that we won't be raising taxes again, and anyone who was paying any kind of attention this past year knows the reason why- there is very little support out there for doing the right thing. Chances are you will be crucified for it.

This time she spoke specifically of the gas tax. Raising the gas tax is impossible because of the following: election year politics and anti-tax extremism from the Republicans. Couple that with continued silence and cowering fear from the Democrats, and you are going to be paying big bills to repair your car.

The governor acknowledged the state needs more resources to repair roads and highways but said a gas tax increase is out of the question. She stated earlier she's not interested in raising taxes again after pushing $1.3 billion in tax hikes through the Legislature this year.

"Raising the gas tax now is just impossible because everybody is hurting," she said. "That's a tax everybody pays."

Pretty sure that was a shot right at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce- after all, they spent all year cheering on Republican obstruction when it came to raising taxes for the general budget, using phrases just like that one, but suddenly they have this miraculous change of heart when taxes will benefit them. They support a gas tax increase- but now they find themselves trapped in their own anti-tax rhetoric.

So, take that, Tricia. No soup for you.

No way the Democrats can support tax increases when their jobs are threatened over it. From Peter Luke, "">last Sunday-

There shouldn't be a political price for doing the right thing, but Dillon's caucus members may well pay it. About a dozen, including Dillon, are facing recall efforts for raising the income tax by $4.33 a week on a household with $50,000 in annual taxable income.

But there is a price, and you can thank Saul, Leon and the media that feeds them attention when they pull out their bag of cheap tricks designed only to rouse the rabble. The "jobs clock" has mutated into a "tax check", and soon your town might want to pass sign restrictions before the hideous pig and the blinking check start to bring down property values.

GOP Chair Saul Anuzis said he intended to haul it around to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's public appearances and into the districts of House Democrats facing recall efforts from anti-tax forces or close general election contests next year.

Tacky. But class was never high on Saul's list of attributes. Neither is honesty.

Apparently, the sign won't make an appearance outside the chambers of the Republican-controlled Senate, through which the income and business tax increases passed on their way to Granholm's desk.

Of course not. But the benefits of those increases might make an appearance- if the damn thing happens to catch on fire, there will be a fire department to put it out, for example.

Thanks to the check and the sentiment behind it, there won't be any road repairs though. And if there is any justice in this world, it will fall into a huge pothole.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Twp., laughed at the notion of a gas tax increase. A day later, he axed the idea of a higher phone fee to fund police.

Who can blame him? In a year when House Democrats had the audacity to insist that essential public services be funded without one-time fiscal gimmicks or still more borrowing, they could be in political trouble because Republicans intend to hammer them for it.

Somehow Democrats need to make fiscal responsibility fashionable again, and they still haven't figured out how to do that yet. It will take a lot of public support - perhaps the media can help us out with that. Already we have those pro-tax folks at the Detroit News telling us we need to pull out a buck to support our state. Imagine that.

And yet the needs of the infrastructure can't wait. Michigan is famous for putting off tough choices. Leaving the costly work of rebuilding roads and water lines to the next generation of taxpayers isn't an acceptable option.

State residents must accept the fact that they'll have to dig deeper into their pockets to keep their infrastructure up-to-date.

Keep up the reverse psychology, Governor. Perhaps giving the Republicans the world they claim they want is the only way we can get them to stop playing these partisan games and start looking at the reality of supporting the world we all want to live in.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Coming to a baseball card near you...

Mattingly at 2nd

Preston Mattingly of the Great Lakes Loons.

Got the check today- I guess this makes me a "professional sports photographer". :-) Look for this picture in the Donruss Elite Extra Edition, release date tomorrow.

How cool is that?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

nfl week 15

hey ogie- i broke my wrist yesterday, so typing/cutting/pasting is a bit difficult. here are the rest of my picks-

sea, cle, kc, balt, ne, no, jack, gb, tb, ind, dal, sd, nyg, minn

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Marsden defends Legislature from DeVos

Why Dick sending out yet another whiny e-mail is news I'll never know, but I love that hot Republican-on-Republican action. Especially when they bash their own.

The "entire sad debate," DeVos wrote in an e-mail to supporters on the Legislature's last work day Thursday, resulted in "a fat tax hike, including a personal income tax increase and now a major increase in business taxes, too."

All courtesy of Mike Bishop and the Senate Republicans. Never forget that. DeVos may call them "misguided", but given all the other obstruction this year, it's curious they didn't put their foot down on Dick and Saul's pet issue, isn't it?

Matt Marsden to the rescue.

Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said he understands frustration with this year's legislative process, "but a lot of the problems we had to deal with hadn't been dealt with by the Legislature for eight years and the bill came due this year.

"(DeVos) certainly is free to criticize, but at the end of the day, the Legislature did the best job it could given the challenges that were placed in front of it."

You tell him, Matt. It's hard work spending all the money that other people had to put their careers on the line to procure. Why, certain Republicans wore the "yes" button right off the desk when in came to doling out the goodies to their districts.

Geez, Dick. Don't be so rough on your own people.

Friday, December 14, 2007

DEQ approves Kennecott Eagle Project Mine

The DEQ tells us that this proposal now meets Michigan's strict environmental standards.

"This has been one of the most thorough reviews of an application ever done by this agency," said DEQ Director Steven E. Chester. "In the end, Kennecott's proposal met the high standard set by Michigan's environmental laws."

This project is the first to be subject to Michigan's new Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining rules that were enacted in response to concerns over potential environmental impacts from mining of metallic sulfide ores. The rules, among the most stringent in the nation, were drafted and agreed to by a multi-stakeholder work group that included representatives from environmental, business, and mining organizations.

Changes were made to permits to "ensure Michigan's resources were protected."

"We have made every effort to address the public's concerns within the limits of what the law allows," said Director Chester. "We must now remain vigilant in ensuring that Kennecott complies with its permits and lives up to its end of the bargain in keeping Michigan's environment safe."

And that is where the problem comes in. You can set up all the protective measures you want, but what if there is no one there to enforce them? The same Steve Chester shows up in Lessenberry's column today, and he doesn't sound as enthusiastic.

Steven Chester, the DEQ director, told the Kalamazoo Gazette that the department was looking at a potential $80 million shortfall, which meant that the staff could be reduced by up to 100 positions.

"Whatever remediation systems we are paying for now, and whatever drinking water supplies we're paying for now, the money won't be there. It will end," he said, sounding weary.

"The public won't be able to look to the DEQ for assistance. We won't be there. That's the bottom line." Over the last five years, state funding for the DEQ, once more than $100 million a year, has declined by more than two-thirds.

Uh oh. Given the cowardice displayed by our legislature on finding funding for the DEQ (and the DNR, for that matter), somehow the words above assuring us that the Kennecott mine will be monitored ring a little hollow.

Kennecott still has to go through the DNR to get a surface use lease, but it looks like this project is a go. Pray that the state can afford to keep an eye on it- or the price will be a lot steeper than raising a few bucks through the legislature ever would be.

Michigan Messenger tells us that environmental groups will try to take this to court- check out their story here.

Mackinac Center. Wrong again. This time it's alternative energy.

I know, I know, the Mac Center being wrong is not really news, but in the hopes that the press will stop citing them one of these days, we need to point out when they are being stupid, especially when that stupidity threatens to hurt our state in such a monumental way.

Today's colossal error concerns global warming and alternative energy policy. The Michigan version of the Flat Earth Society wants us to believe that all these studies on global warming and climate change are wrong! every single one!, and, setting policy that would bring thousands of jobs and billions in investment to Michigan is a bad idea if they might have to pull a few bucks out of their pocket right now. Better to destroy the planet and pass up economic growth at the same time, I guess.

"The climate change forecasts are extremely ambiguous at best and basing expensive energy mandates on them is highly speculative and bad public policy," said Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst with conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland.

"For a state that's in the fifth year of a recession, imposing higher energy costs is not good public policy. What the bills are really about are current legislators pretending to do something that probably won't happen and, if it does, will impose higher energy costs on Michigan residents and businesses, making the state less competitive."

I'm sure if I dig far enough into their web site, they will tell me that the moon landings were fake, too. Seriously, why does anyone listen to these people anymore?

Not going to get into the global warming studies here. Just too much evidence that this is happening, and if the Mackinac Center wants to ignore that- well, not much we can do. But, I do want to address the economic portion of their statement because it goes against the grain of everything I have read recently. They are flat-out wrong about this, and, if any legislators are persuaded by their argument, it will prove once again that some lawmakers certainly don't have the best interests of our state in mind.

Every. single. time. I turn on this computer lately I am met with study after study that tells me that if we don't impose a renewable portfolio standard, we will be less competitive. Already did a diary here showing the thousands of jobs that will be created. I even had to turn to George Bush to make a point. Do you know how painful that was? C’mon.

Apparently that isn't enough, so I'll keep going. Today, two more studies to put on the record. The Land Policy Institute at MSU tells us that wind energy alone will bring us thousands of new jobs and billions in investment. And those radicals in Grand Rapids are going to release a study next week that shows that the alternative energy industry would bring almost 5000 jobs and $1.2 billion in investment to the West Michigan area within the next few years.

Now that this issue is getting notice in the press, the editorials are starting to roll in. Just today, a couple more- seems those wacky liberals on the editorial boards in Midland and Traverse City agree that a RPS is a good idea.

First up, Midland.

While most of these technologies are now being developed, the time is now for Michigan to position itself to take the lead in the areas that it can. To that end, Granholm would like to see the renewable fuels portfolio standard -- a blueprint for the state's use of alternative energy -- passed and signed into law immediately.

We agree with her. Already, 25 states have the standard. If Michigan is to be among alternative energy leaders in the nation, this is an urgent first step.

She also said incentives for companies and consumers to develop alternative, energy producing or saving ideas must be in place so that they know what to expect.

This experimentation in the short run will cost companies and taxpayers, but in the long run will lead to new, exciting industries and technologies. This is the way to go, particularly in an economy that is as sluggish as Michigan's.

And Traverse City-

A simple but effective first step would be for lawmakers to adopt legislation that would require electric utilities to obtain 10 percent of the power they sell from renewable sources, like solar or wind power or biomass energy generation.

To the skeptics out there -- you're right. You've heard all this before. But unlike even five years ago, the technology behind both wind and solar power have improved to the point where now thousands of jobs are being created every year to build the equipment to generate that power.

State Rep. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, has proposed that utilities obtain 7 percent of the power they sell from renewable sources; other bills call for 10 percent.

Whichever it is, it is a start. And we must start somewhere.

I'll even throw in the Freep for good measure here-

There can't be any argument against launching a strong efficiency program. That bill should move ahead separately and as quickly as possible. On renewables, Accavitti hopes to guarantee a minimum of 10% in alternative sources by 2015. The details may take more negotiating, but the goal is surely achievable.

Quick success in these two areas should encourage lawmakers to continue on to the complexities of utility oversight. Michigan cannot afford to have its energy future left in limbo for another year.

All of this follows other editorials that came earlier as the governor held these meetings around the state- you can read more here.

So, what have we learned today? If you want a clean and prosperous Michigan, don’t listen to the Mackinac Center. Their greed certainly outweighs common sense and conventional wisdom, and they will steer us down the wrong path time and time again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

NFL Week 14 Results

Washington 24, Chicago 16

Jacksonville 37, Panthers 6

Dallas 28, Detroit 27

Buffalo 38, Miami 17

N.Y. Giants 16, Philadelphia 13

Green Bay 38, Oakland 7

San Diego 23, Tennessee 17 (OT)

Cincinnati 19, St. Louis 10

Houston 28, Tampa Bay 14

Seattle 42, Arizona 21

Minnesota 27, San Francisco 7

New England 34, Pittsburgh 13

Cleveland 24, N.Y. Jets 18

Denver 41, Kansas City 7

Indianapolis 44, Baltimore 20

New Orleans 34 Atlanta 14



Tonight I'm going with Houston, Saturday, Cincinnati, the rest I'll look at later.

House passes Michigan Promise Zone Act

Fresh from the inbox- this is great news.

LANSING – House Democrats today passed legislation that will ensure access to higher education for thousands of Michigan students who wants to go to college. The Michigan Promise Zone Act will give communities funding mechanisms that would increase college education opportunities for graduates of Michigan's K-12 school system by providing free college tuition to in-state schools.

"Increasing access to higher education will benefit Michigan businesses and families and make our state a leader in the 21st Century," said State Representative Tim Melton (D-Pontiac), Chair of the House Education Committee. "Unfortunately, too many of our students lack the resources to afford college and we must give our children the best education possible and then provide them access to a world-class college education. In doing so, we will continue to make Michigan a great place to live, work and raise a family."

Modeled after the privately initiated Kalamazoo Promise, which guarantees graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools free college tuition at any university or community college in Michigan, the Michigan Promise Zone Act would authorize the creation of promise zones throughout the state in areas that have a high rate of poverty and unemployment.

During the first two years of the program, the promise zones have to raise funds through private donations.

Michigan Promise Zones can be created in cities, townships, counties, local school districts or intermediate school districts that have a high level of poverty. Participating communities would need to show a significant local financial commitment to qualify for the designation of the Promise Zone. Students must live within a designated Promise Zone to take advantage of this initiative.

The biggest obstacle I can see offhand is that some of these communities targeted might not be able to raise the funds to do this, but if it works, I'm sure they will find a way.

The second biggest obstacle is, of course, the Republican Senate. Will they make education a "priority"? Or do I have to dig out all those studies again that show we need more college graduates for our economy to thrive?

Time will tell...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Senate Republican Obstruction Update

Couple of things to mention. First of all, fresh from the AP, Republicans most likely have killed the smoking ban legislation.

Efforts to ban smoking in Michigan bars, restaurants and other workplaces have hit a road block in the state Senate.

Republicans sent the smoking ban measure to a committee where many bills go to die. Democrats tried to steer it to the health policy committee instead because the committee's Republican chairman supports the ban.

Democrats on Tuesday accused the GOP majority of ignoring a U.S. surgeon general report that says breathing any amount of secondhand smoke harms nonsmokers.

Take note of the words "many bills" and stop and think about the meaning of the word "obstruction". Everyone get the picture?

And, about the drug company immunity legislation? According to Wayne Kuipers in last night's Gongwer, you can forget about that, too.

As opponents to Michigan's 1996 law granting broad-based immunity to drug manufacturers continue efforts to win passage of HB 4044, HB 4045 and HB 4046 in the Senate, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Monday he did not see "any conditions right now" under which he would hold hearings on the bills.

Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland) said that state residents claiming damages from the use of Merck's now removed drug Vioxx have been able to get access to claims through class-action cases in New Jersey, Merck's home state.

Just go out of state, say the Republicans. Sorry if that is inconvenient for you, but, hey, we just don't give a damn.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Michigan third in number of certified green homes

File this under "things that surprise me". Michigan trails only California and Oregon when it comes to the number of certified green homes.

The state has 57 of them, compared with 86 in Oregon and 78 in California, according to statistics from the U.S. Green Building Council. Not included in the data is aslew of other local projects overseen by other green building organizations.

And thanks to a mass training effort of at least 1,000 builders and increasing awareness of the structures' reasonable costs and energy-saving features, southeastern Michigan is gearing up to go even greener, according to environmental groups and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

That doesn't seem like a whole lot at this point, but more are on the way as buyers discover that you will save money in the long run for a little more upfront, and builders discover that going green is a selling point in a tough housing market.

Additionally, there are about 150 individual houses certified by the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit Green Built Michigan, which is endorsed by the Michigan Association of Home Builders.

"The builders are all looking for something that will set them apart. The general public now gets it, now understands that green-built homes are better for the environment, better for the world, better for themselves," said Jeannine Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability of Grand Rapids.

Besides new housing, many other green projects are in the works.

There are more than 200 Michigan development projects that are certified by or are seeking certification by Washington, D.C.-based Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a national benchmark for the design, construction and operation of green buildings.

Among ones in the area that made the list: the Detroit Lions headquarters and training facility in Allen Park; Cass Technical High School in Detroit, and Macomb County's Lenox Township Hall, which is expected to be the first green municipal building in the state once construction is completed in a couple of months.

The new Grand Rapids Art Museum is a certified LEED building; the first and only art museum in the world to carry such a distinction.

Welcome to the future of construction, with Michigan leading the way. A bit of good news for your Monday morning.

Tattoo You

Once upon a time, 20 years ago this year as a matter of fact, I was hanging out with some friends, drinking some beer, and the conversation went like this-

"Hey, want to go get a tattoo?"


And off we went to get tattoos, from a friend of a friend of a friend. No thought. No care. We were drunk, and we were young. Quick, make a decision of what you want, and make it good, because it's like, forever, you know. I came up with a small music note with a peace sign in the middle, and put it right on my shoulder because I thought it would look cool when I was playing the drums and had a sleeveless t-shirt on.

The dude who did it was a professional with a shop, and it seemed sanitary, but who knows. We certainly didn't care. But no one told me how much these things bleed. Mine is very small- I can't imagine what it's like to get one of the big, full-sleeve tatts, probably need a transfusion or something.

A few years later, a friend of mine got a certain sensitve body part pierced- and it got infected. Ouch. She got very, very sick, and heavy duty anti-biotics were required. Not cool. The guy who did it was not a professional.

So, with the number of piercings and tatto parties suddenly becoming very popular, it's a good thing that we finally got this passed-

Hepatitis and skin infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, have been linked to tattoos and piercings. But other than requirements that minors have parental consent and that adults be drug- and alcohol-free when getting body art, there's no state law punishing artists for the unsanitary use of needles and gloves.

That could soon change. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to sign legislation passed last week requiring body art shops to get a $500 state license and meet safety standards.

Congrats to Senator John Gleason (D-Flushing) for getting this legislation through. Not only will it help ward off infections, it will increase the amount given at blood donations, currently restricted for a year for people with fresh piercings or body art. The American Red Cross estimates that another 30,000 units will be available from college and high school blood drives when this law is passed.

Up until now, individual counties could regulate the industry, but the state did not.

Starting in 2009, all county health departments would have to conduct annual inspections under the proposed law. The state also couldn't issue licenses until seeing inspection results.

The fines are pretty light, only a 90-day misdemeanor/$100 fine, but just having the health inspections should help do the trick.

Twenty years later, my tattoo is still there, of course, a little bit faded now from the years. It didn't heal quite right and there is a missing spot of color. I never bothered to have it touched up. I'm just glad it didn't get infected.

But let this be a lesson- stay away from that demon rock-n-roll and the firewater, or you, too, will be stuck on the internet paying attention to the Michigan legislature. Consider yourself warned.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

NFL Week 14

Sorry, got behind this week and totally forgot the Thursday game, so I'll just take the bullet on that.

Washington 24, Chicago 16

Miami at Buffalo

St. Louis at Cincinnati

Dallas at Detroit

Oakland at Green Bay

Tampa Bay at Houston

Carolina at Jacksonville

NY Giants at Philadelphia

San Diego at Tennessee

Minnesota at San Francisco

Arizona at Seattle

Kansas City at Denver

Cleveland at NY Jets

Pittsburgh at New England

Indianapolis at Baltimore

New Orleans at Atlanta

NFL Week 13 Results

Dallas 37, Green Bay 27

St. Louis 28, Atlanta 16

Buffalo 17, Washington 16

Minnesota 42, Detroit 10

Tennessee 28, Houston 20

Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 25

N.Y. Jets 40, Miami 13

San Diego 24, Kansas City 10

Seattle 28, Philadelphia 24

Carolina 31, San Francisco 14

Arizona 27, Cleveland 21

Oakland 34, Broncos 20

Tampa Bay 27, New Orleans 23

N.Y. Giants 21, Chicago 16

Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 10

New England 27, Baltimore 24



Friday, December 07, 2007

Senate Dems on the need to repeal drug immunity

First of all, very nice production quality on this YouTube! And Whitmer too! :-) OK, on to the issue...

Senate Democrats pointed out the other day that the letter from Merck saying the Michigan residents could participate in the Vioxx settlement was a "misleading corporate cover-up" of the real facts behind Michigan's drug company immunity laws. Here is Senator John Gleason-

“Merck has been dishonest, deceptive and downright unethical throughout the scrutiny of Vioxx and its review process, and it took a court ruling for them to acknowledge their error in endangering millions of people,” said Gleason. “Now they’re using smoke and mirrors again to diffuse the call to end Michigan’s drug immunity laws by pointing at a handful of Vioxx victims who thought to pursue legal action out of state and continuing to ignore those who didn’t.”

In a letter issued yesterday, Merck asserts that victims with claims will be able to collect. Last month, Merck announced a $5 billion nation-wide settlement with patients who suffered strokes or heart attacks as a result of taking Vioxx. According to yesterday’s letter, Michigan victims who “had suits pending at the date of the agreement are eligible to participate on the same basis…” However, only victims who had filed a claim by the time of the settlement can collect, and Michigan residents were prevented from filing suit because our drug industry immunity law prohibited their claims. As a result, Michigan victims are locked out of the settlement.

And the response from the Senate Republicans? Somewhere along the equivalent of "just die already". Here is Chatty Matty in MIRS-

"This is just another gimmick by the Democrats to push their pet project of the week," Marsden said. "It's grown tiresome."

Yes, don't bother the Senate Republicans with your sick or dead relatives. They have Big Pharma to protect, you know. Much more important than getting rid of some ridiculous one-of-a-kind law that punishes you just for living in Michigan. What were you thinking, anyway?

House Republican supports RPS, Granholm

It's true. No, really, a House Republican is calling for a renewable portfolio standard, and he actually praised the governor. Wow.

It gives me hope that maybe this can get done in a bipartisan manner. Rep. Howard Walker (R-Traverse City), in the TC Record Eagle-

Some bills call for a significant RPS (20 percent of power coming from renewables by 2020), while others call for more modest mandates of between 7 percent and 10 percent; in fact, I have introduced a bill that would require 7 percent by 2015.

Although I have never been a big proponent of government mandates, this is one area where I think a mandate might be necessary. In fact, studies show that when states implement an RPS, thousands of jobs are created because people are needed to manufacture, construct and maintain the renewable facilities.

Seven percent seems too low- most states have set their mandates higher. But, whatever, they will hammer something out.

This next part blew me away - all puns intended.

As I close, I must applaud Gov. Granholm for her recent focus on this issue. Developing clean and affordable energy should not be a partisan issue. I will do whatever I can to support the use of renewable energy in Michigan and I want her to know that she can count on my support in many of her initiatives.

Anything we can do together to create jobs and improve the environment for Michigan residents must be explored.

It's a Festivus miracle.

Applause for the sentiment, Rep. Walker, and thank you for your help on this issue.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cue the Republican Noise Machine

The price of honesty. One wonders if Liz Boyd physically cringed in the background when she heard the governor say this...

"The most important thing I learned (this year) is I'm not ever going to raise taxes again. It's too hard. It's too impossible," Granholm told The Associated Press.

All true. It was a brutal year. You were there. So were we. All in all, it was probably harder than the election last year.

Now ask yourself, why was it hard? Why was it impossible? Why was protecting our quality of life in this state so difficult?

First of all, the endless Republican obstruction and foot-dragging managed to waste a lot of our time, but the reason it is so hard is because the second that anyone is ever honest about these things, the Republican noise machine dial gets turned up to 10, and the press is ready to oblige. Cue Chatty Matty Marsden-

"The governor's position indicates she now sees what Republicans have been fighting to convey for the last 11 months that Michigan cannot and will not tax its way to financial revival," said Matt Marsden, Bishop's spokesman.

Michigan couldn't cut its way out, either, but Matt won't mention that. Even the Detroit News called for a tax increase. You remember. It had to be done, period, and everyone knows it.

So, they turn up the volume in an attempt to divert you from the truth behind the noise. What the Republicans want you to forget is that they readily SPENT that money they were "fighting". Let's return to Peter Luke, Nov. 4th-

When the Democratic-controlled House voted to adopt a new use tax on consumer and business services on Sept. 30, the vote was a near party-line 56-53.

When the chamber last Tuesday voted on a new school aid budget that spends more than $200 million of that new use tax, the vote was 104-5.

Now you would think all those lawmakers who voted against the use tax, all but two of them Republicans, would, on principle, reject the school budget as well since it relies on a tax hike. Nope.

And let's not forget this fun fact from MIRS, with a great quote from Switalski, back in this diary written during the time this all went down.

The 13 budgets that had cleared the Senate by 6 p.m. today were passed, on average, with 35-3 support. The 14 budgets that had cleared the House by 6 p.m. today were passed, on average, with 88-21 support.

"It does get you mad that they're ready to spend, but they weren't ready to do the hard work," said Sen. Mickey SWITALSKI (D-Roseville), the Senate Democrats' lead on the Appropriations Committee. "I don't know how they justify it to themselves. I find it difficult to understand."

And now they are going to yell when the governor has the guts to be honest about what a major pain in the ass this has all been.


Sure would be nice if someone besides Peter Luke would call them out on the hypocrisy of their actions, but then again they probably get tired of all the noise, too.

Hey Michigan. Want jobs?

UPDATE: The AP also did a story on this today.

Three words. Renewable portfolio standard. Pass one. Now. The House is starting work on setting a renewable energy policy, holding hearings today - let's hope they get this done soon because we have very little time to waste. Almost half the country has already passed legislation for renewable portfolio standards. Michigan shouldn't be left behind.

When you wander into the world of renewable/alternative energy, you are hit with endless acronyms from endless coalitions that talk about endless percentages and it all gets very confusing very fast. Try to ignore all of that. Just know this- the one thing that comes up over and over if you have been paying attention to the governor's travels is the fact that having a RPS in Michigan will create jobs. Period.

This editorial from MI Energy Future has been published in both the Traverse City Record-Eagle and the Grand Rapids Press, and it's a good one. Go read it. They are pushing for 10% by 2015.

A 10 percent RES will attract good-paying jobs and new investments in the emerging energy field, strengthening Michigan's economy while reducing energy costs for consumers and businesses. A recent study by the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers shows that a renewable energy standard in Michigan can generate up to 35,000 good-paying jobs. Renewable energy can help put our manufacturing sector back to work and move Michigan's economy forward.

Another study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy comes to the same conclusion- lots of new jobs, savings and investment.

If the appropriate legislation is adopted, Michigan will see a net employment increase of between 3,900 and 10,000 jobs by 2023 because higher levels of energy efficiency investment by utilities produce greater job growth. That would be the equivalent of adding 25 to 75 small manufacturing plants to the state, according to the report. Furthermore, businesses and households would save more than $2.6 billion on energy bills because a number of expensive new power plants would be avoided.

And don't forget the American Solar Energy Society and their study that predicts that 1 out of 4 jobs will be connected with renewable energy by 2030, with 40 million jobs being produced altogether when you add in manufacturing, accounting, management and construction.

By the year 2030, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries could generate up to $4.5 trillion in revenue in the U.S., but only with the appropriate public policy, including a renewable portfolio standard, renewable energy incentives, public education, and R&D.

Many of the businesses and investors mentioned in all the stories on alternative energy have said that a renewable portfolio standard is crucial to the industry's growth in a state. Governor Granholm talked with some big name investors out in California...

Granholm said that while VC fund managers in her first few meetings were surprised and impressed by what they heard about Michigan’s efforts, they also made it clear that they will look favorably on states with aggressive public policy initiatives favoring the growth of renewable energy sources.

... and the businesses already here in Michigan working on making the switch to manufacturing components for the alternative energy field, wind turbines in particular. Jeff Metts, president of Dowding Machining-

Metts said the opportunities currently before the state legislature in the form of an RPS (renewable portfolio standards) agreement could be "huge" for Michigan's economy — if legislators don't miss the boat.

Jobs. We hear it all the time. Michigan needs jobs. Well, here you go.

Get to it, legiscritters. Would love to see this get done by the end of this year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cool Cities, Revisited

From the "Where Have I Heard This Before?" Department comes this next story out of the halls of the Capitol Building…

Senator Jason Allen (R-Traverse City) introduced 15 bills yesterday that will "provide Michigan's cities with planning and development tools to help develop downtown neighborhoods and businesses."

"Both large and small downtowns must reinvent themselves to attract business that will be the backbone of the 21st century economy," Allen said. "The state's economy will be greatly enhanced by vibrant downtowns where our citizens can work, raise families, shop and find an enjoyable quality of life."

Sounds like a great idea! Gosh, I wonder where that came from...

“Building vibrant, energetic cities is essential to attracting jobs, people, and opportunity to our state,” said Granholm. “If Michigan is to be competitive in the 21st century economy, we have to attract new businesses and retain the highly-educated, talented young people who are crucial to building and sustaining businesses in today’s global marketplace. I’m thrilled about the potential of these projects and the positive impact they will have on their communities and the economic vitality of our state.”

Granholm talked more of grants and leveraging existing money as opposed to what sounds like a bunch of tax abatements from the Republicans- but tax credits, so forth and so on, were a part of the Cool Cities plan, too.

Still, it's good to know that Republicans have finally seen the light, even if it is almost four years later.

Headline of the future - 2017. "With the expiration of the surcharge on the MBT looming on the horizon, today Republicans introduced a plan to put a 2% across the board tax on all services..."

House bans smoking in "virtually all indoor public places"

The House is on a roll-

In an effort to protect Michigan residents and workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke, the Michigan House today passed a plan proposed by State Representative Brenda Clack (D-Flint) that prohibits smoking in virtually all indoor public places – including restaurants and bars.

With some exceptions.

Clack's plan prohibits smoking in places of employment and most public places, including bars and restaurants. Those who violate the law would be fined up to $100 for the first violation and up to $500 for any subsequent violations. The plan exempts certain cigar bars and tobacco specialty retail stores, casino game room floors, bingo halls and horse racing tracks. Some form of smoke-free law has been passed in 32 states.

This heads to the Senate where the prospects of passage are difficult- Bishop has said this wasn't a "priority" before, but perhaps public pressure will outweigh lobbyist pressure.

If the city of New York and Chicago can do it, we certainly can too. People will quit. From the Chicago Tribune, where the bar ban takes effect on January 1st, comes this-

In New York City, for example, the smoking rate has declined 20 percent since a comprehensive campaign began in 2002, according to the city's health department.

California, which passed a ban in two stages, in 1995 and 1998, saw its smoking rate drop from 17.5 percent in 1998 to 13.3 percent in 2006, according to the state's health department.

So, it is going to happen eventually, might as well get it over with. Save some lives. What say you, Senate?

AP story here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

And just like that...

The pain of following minor league baseball- the parent club trades away all your favorite players. First, Gorkys Hernandez went to the Braves. Tonight-

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tigers have acquired third baseman Miguel Cabrera and left-hander Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins in exchange for a package of six prospects including outfielder Cameron Maybin and left-hander Andrew Miller.

The package of prospects includes catcher Mike Rabelo, RHP Burke Badenhop, RHP Eulogio de la Cruz and RHP Dallas Trahern from the organization.

Rabelo spent two years in West Michigan and was always one of my favorites. Maybin, well, you know about him. Trahern never really impressed me, but I guess he got better as he moved up, and Badenhop was another that I was keen on.

Are these two worth all this talent? Perhaps. Willis can be flakey, but if he puts it together, it will be a great instant pickup for the Tigers next year.

Good luck guys. Guess I'll have to ask Uncle Tim for Marlins-Cubs tickets and catch Cameron at Wrigley.

Schauer Fights Back. Again.

Don't mess with Mark Schauer. He fights back. He's a standup guy. That is why I like him so, and that is why the Senate Republican leadership works so hard to discredit him. He won't let them get away with their nefarious schemes.

Senator Schauer's removal from the Campaign & Elections Oversight Committee garned a three-sentence story in the Battle Creek Enquirer with no explanation of what happened. Well, we can't have that, can we?

Mark took the time to sit down, explain the situation, and let everyone know that he will fight this sort of behavior for the sake of the people he represents.

It also seems likely that the hasty decision had more to do with the fact that just the day before it took place I publicly called upon the committee chair to take up important elections reform legislation. My refusal to let misinformation stand or to back off from championing important election reforms may have led to this effort to punish me for my outspokenness.

I am still hopeful that this issue will be resolved, but on behalf of my constituents I remain opposed to this type of intimidation. More important, my colleagues and I will not stop fighting for practical reforms that help fix our broken election system. We will not stay silent while voters who have to work multiple jobs and struggle to make it to the polls still have a hard time casting an absentee ballot. We will not stay on the sidelines as college students and others face barriers to make sure their votes count.

And that is the real issue here. McManus and the Republicans are dodging these questions with political games, hoping that you (and the media) won't notice that the committee won't address the problems that need attention.

Kudos to Senator Schauer for keeping the eye on the ball and the conversation directed at the issues that matter.

House Democrats pass foreclosure plan, Granholm calls on Senate to act

The House is getting down to business, moving legislation that will help Michigan citizens who are facing foreclosure. Today, they passed a plan that address ARMs and provides help for those who have missed payments.

The plan allows at-risk low- and moderate-income borrowers – homeowners facing a spike in housing expenses due to their adjustable-rate mortgage, or residents who have already missed payments due to financial constraints – to secure a fixed-rated loan through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The agency provides loans financed through the sale of tax-exempt and taxable bonds and notes to private investors – not from state tax revenues.

Makes sense. The mortgage crisis is really putting the hurt on the state economy, and you know what it is doing nationally. The word "recession" keeps coming up. We can do something to help stop the bleeding in Michigan.

"Federal policies have utterly failed to prevent the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market," said State Representative Marc Corriveau (D-Northville). "This refinancing legislation puts Michigan at the forefront of states' efforts to protect hard-working men and women from losing their piece of the American Dream."

Governor Granholm applauds the House move and called on the Senate to act. From the MI News Wire-

“We have developed a great program and some great mortgage tools to help protect hard-working homeowners who are facing mortgage foreclosures,” Granholm said. “I applaud the House for passing bills that would put this program in place to protect Michigan families; now the Senate needs to take swift action as well.”

The Senate can act, or we can add it to the list of things they haven't done this year. Don't think they want that list to keep growing, do you? Especially on something like this.

Perhaps this time we will be a "priority" for the Senate.

If you need mortgage help now, check out MSHDA's "Save the Dream" link for a hotline number that will connect you to a housing counselor, along with other helpful links that deal with foreclosure.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Will Michigan be a "priority" for Senate Republicans now?

Well, the budget is done. What next? A quick check of the schedules show that the House will hold session through the 20th of this month. The Senate... maybe not so much. They are still on a tentative schedule as of Dec. 1st, although I imagine after all the complaining that Bishop did last week, they will be forced to stay as long as the House stays, unless they want to look like hypocrites.

Yes, I wrote that last sentence with a straight face.

Perhaps it is time to remind everyone about all that legislation they put off all year long. As much as I liked to jump on the House for bad strategy, they have passed some good legislation, most of which has stalled in the Senate. When you wonder why things aren't moving forward in Michigan, all you need to do is take a look at where the logs are jammed up in the river.

Here is one example. The House passed a package of bills repealing drug company immunity back in February of this year. Fast forward to now- turns out that the people of Michigan might not be able to share in the recent Vioxx decision because Senate Republicans have ignored this issue, and, like most everything else, they used the budget to do it. From Nov. 20th-

Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said the drug immunity bill isn't a priority at this time because the Senate is focused on repealing an expanded tax on services before it takes effect Dec. 1.

So, it will be a priority now, right? The Senate can focus now, right? Well... when this issue first came up in February, on the 15th of that month the Free Press told us-

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Wednesday the legislation is not a priority.

Hadn't even seen the legislation yet, but already he says it isn't a priority. Fast forward to a week later- the Detroit News, Feb 23-

A spokesman said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, was wrapped up in budget talks with Gov. Granholm on Thursday afternoon and hadn't had time to review the House legislation.

The budget excuse makes an appearance. According to MIRS, they talked for 1/2 hour that day, and it was the first time they had talked since the State of the State address given on Feb. 6th. By the 25th, the reason was he hadn't talked to anyone else...

The GR Press-

The bills now go to the Republican-controlled Senate where it's unclear what will happen. Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Bishop hasn't had time to talk to his members about it.

Plausible, but notice how the excuse changes all the time. More likely, this was the reason- from MIRS Feb 22, after the floor debate in the House-

"For two years, maybe four, those across the aisle have used every trick in the book to block this debate from taking place," said House Judiciary Committee Chair Paul CONDINO (D-Southfield), who spearheaded the drive on the House floor to get the legislation passed.

They have continued to do so, and now Michigan residents might lose out because of it. Will they find the time to address it now? And if not, what possible reason will they give?

The word "priority" in connection with House legislation has come up quite a bit this year, used as a frequent excuse for Senate inaction. I caught onto this gambit back in early April and dubbed it the "Norquist No". Back then, Grover was urging Republicans in Congress to resist Democratic legislation, proclaiming, "Nothing good happens in the next two years out of this Congress. Nothing good."

In other words, obstruct. Given our budget issues, Senate Republicans had a ready-made excuse. From that April post (because now all the press links are dead), a couple of "non-priority" issues. We have the auto accident damages bill-

Under the measure passed Wednesday, an injured person could sue for lost wages and noneconomic damages under broader terms than now defined in state law and through court decisions, making it easier for people injured in auto accidents to sue.


A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said the House-passed bill would require extensive review and added that Bishop's top priority is resolving the current budget deficit, making it unlikely the bill will come up for consideration in the Senate any time soon.

Tax breaks for home purchases-

Allowing purchasers over the next 18 months to inherit the lower, constitutionally capped property tax bills paid by the sellers could be approved by the Democrat-controlled House as early as today. The House Commerce Committee approved it Tuesday.

Republicans are wary, and some local government groups are opposed. Leaders in the Republican-run Senate say the bill is not high on their list of priorities.

The anti-bullying bills, HB 4091, 4162.

While the Democratic-led state House passed anti-bullying legislation the day Cheatham and 200 supporters visited the Capitol, it was opposed by Republicans and may die in the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP.

The smoking ban in public places, Detroit Free Press, June 13th-

"That is not a priority at the top of the Senate's lists," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. "We're occupying our time strictly on budget matters."

See the pattern? Although the House hadn't passed the smoking bill, Bishop already had it down as "not a priority".

Here's a list of other House legislation that wasn't a "priority", and is currently sitting in committee in the Senate.

Campaign and Election Oversight-

HB 4313 - One-year moratorium on lobbying for former members
HB 4239 - Robocalls
HB 4285 - Candidate's financial disclosure
HB 4315 - Prohibit voting on issues where conflict of interest exists
HB 4472 - Prohibit legislators from applying for State grants
HB 4001 - Require reporting of legal defense fund contributions
HB 4628 - Various campaign finance and election oversight reforms
HB 4553 - Allow sending of absentee ballots to all registered electors over 60 years old
HB 4447, 4448 - Permit voter to have a different resident address on driver license from that recorded in the qualified voter file

Judicary -

HB 4167, 4168 - Increase penalties for dive-by shootings
HB 4475 - Allow commutation process for terminally ill patients
HB 4794, 4795 - Change blood alcohol content for watercraft and snowmobiles
HB 4550, 4551, 4552 - Animal cruelty
HB 5054-5057 -Create Sexual Assault Victims' Medical Forensic Intervention and Treatment Act
HB 4920, 4921, 4289 - Super drunk driving


HB 4821 - Provide health care for dependants of public safety officers killed in line of duty
HB 4854 - Sudan Divestment
HB 4903 - Terrorism and State Sponsors of Terror Divestment

Commerce and Tourism-

HB 4745 - Allow bereavement leave for relatives of servicepersons killed on active duty
HB 5046 - Require retail establishments to allow access to restrooms to customers with certain medical conditions

Development and Regulatory Reform-

HB 4328 - Increase penalties for deceptive or unfair insurance practices
HB 4869, 4870 - Allow Ultimate Fighting


HB 4507 - Require school board elections to be held on general election date
HB 4796 - Cap school superintendent salaries

Government Operations and Reform-

HB 4100 - Reporting of State goods purchased by expatriot businesses
HB 4580 - Eliminate lifetime health benefits for lawmakers
HCR 26 - Recommend 5% legislator salary reduction to SOCC

Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs -

HB 4047 - Prevent approval of new landfill construction permits
HB 4485, 4486 - Landfills/tipping fees

And there are others. One thing we have to give the Senate credit for- they did finally pass some bills that ban lead content in toys.

The House did that back in late May.

This is the pattern. This is what Republicans have been doing in an attempt to reclaim power in Michigan. Block all progress, make the Democratic leadership look bad- and they have been doing it ever since Granholm came into office. Simply run out the clock.

Mike Bishop admitted as much on To The Point, and so it was confusing to hear him say this- "We want to be part of the solution and not just an obstruction."

This came after Mike spent a good ten minutes on berating his colleagues and the governor, and espousing his "drown government" theory. This list above should tell you that they have no intention on moving Michigan forward; most of those items deal with protection for you, the consumer, the voter, the citizen. The priority for Republicans is to protect their special interests only. Nothing good comes out of this Senate because they have three years to go on the Granholm administration, and they want to get the House back next year. Things have to be bad for them to do that.

So, I have to go back to these words-

And when you elect people who believe that government won't work, you shouldn't be surprised when government stops working.

They have three weeks to get something done for the year. We will see what becomes a "priority" for the Senate now.

Bet it's not you.

Michigan Promise Zones

Tomorrow, the House will hold hearings on legislation that will create college education "Promise Zones" throughout Michigan. Now, school funding is one of those Contentious and Complicated Issues I Don't Want to Get Involved In, but this one looks... uh... promising. Here is how it would work-

The state's portion of the funding would come from tax dollars now set aside for education. In communities that create Promise Zones, half of the annual increase in the six mills homeowners pay for education would go toward the college scholarships.

But the Promise Zones could trigger economic development and boost property values, supporters said, resulting in more education tax dollars flowing into Lansing. That's what has happened in Kalamazoo.

Enrollment increased 10 percent in Kalamazoo, and property values have surged. More students are taking advanced placement classes, and more students are graduating and attending college. All around good thing. Will it work elsewhere? Most of the money still has to come from the communities themselves.

The legislation says the governing body of an eligible city, county or school district -- one that has a higher percentage of poor students than the state average of 11 percent -- may create a Promise Zone after securing funding that would cover at least two graduating classes. The state would capture taxes during those first two years and begin distributing the money in the third year as a supplement to local funds.

The amount needed for scholarships would depend upon how the Promise Zone is structured by each community. Scholarships could be restricted based on maintaining a minimum college grade point average, number of years in a school district, and type or location of the college or technical school, for example.

"The state's portion will be considerable, but a majority of the funding will come from local, private sources," said Jeff Cobb, aide to Gerald VanWoerkom, R-Norton Shores, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Tim Melton (D-Auburn Hills) sponsored the bill in the House. The fact that it is sponsored by a Republican in the Senate shows there might be some bipartisan co-operation on this one.

If they can work it out, it sounds like this might be an excellent idea. We need more college graduates in this state, and it is certain to attract more investment in the areas that could really use it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

One ominous sentence of warning

As you know, or don't know, or don't even care at this point, the House passed the replacement for the services tax yesterday. The usual suspects then made the usual statements, and they all went home for a long winter's nap, but not before Gongwer told us this-

And both Democrats and Republicans promised to get right back to fixing what they see wrong with the new tax provisions.

Uh oh. That can't be good. Especially when you consider that the Senate Republicans got some of what they wanted, and Mike Bishop still found a way to be a complete and total jerk about it. First he takes a shot at the House-

"After the Michigan House ducked out of work early this week, the Senate rolled up its sleeves and worked until the job got done.

Senate Repulicans have been ducking out of work all year, but Bishop hopes you have sudden amnesia on that point. Also, rumor has it that Granholm is the one who brokered this compromise, so Mike decided to take a shot at her, too. What a swell guy.

"Signing this repeal will represent the first real, positive step for our state that the governor has made this year and will hopefully start Michigan down a path towards the prosperity we once knew."

And people wonder why there is so much rancor and distrust in Lansing. You bargain with the Republicans, and they still are nasty to you.

Dillon has had enough. From the House Democrats, Andy points out the House was ready long before the deadline.

Working with Michigan's business community, on Nov. 8th, House Democrats voted to repeal the service tax and replace the lost revenues through a surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax (MBT). It is unfortunate that Senate Republicans waited until Nov. 29th to meet with the Dept. of Treasury to develop their alternative plan. House Democrats also regret that in the Senate's zeal to lower the rate of the surcharge to the MBT, which they paid for by lowering the value of the credits that reward Michigan businesses for hiring and investment in the state, they actually increased the tax burden for in-state businesses.

You can catch these two on To The Point today, available on the web at around 10:30 or so. Should be interesting.

Ten House Republicans stepped up to the plate this time around, but as usual the House Republicans as a whole never put their money where their mouth is. Find out how DeRoche tries to play both sides of the fence, over the flip...

Again from Gongwer-

House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche (R-Novi) said Republicans would still pursue repeal of the surcharge, to get the state's priorities back on track with reforms to government.

"Thank God we have a Senate in the state of Michigan," he said, adding while several House Republicans didn't vote for the bill, they are unified with the improvements the Senate made to the legislation. He argued it's not fair to say the bill has support from the business community because those people really think that given the state's economy, businesses shouldn't be paying more in taxes.

Remember kids, it's all about what business wants, not your needs, and once again the House Republicans were absent from the whole process - but they sure will be there to take credit for what the Senate does if they feel they can somehow benefit from it. No wonder Andy gets irritated.

But Rep. Paul Condino (D-Southfield), one of the lead Democratic negotiators on the bill, said Republicans can make that type of claim, but when it came down to crafting a solution, they weren't there from the get-go.

So, this all means we can expect more of the tax cut mantra from the Republicans. It's all they have. Quick, name one other idea, besides these nebulous "reforms", that Republicans have for moving our economy forward.

You can't, and here is why. Peter Luke summed it up best last week-

The Michigan Republican ''brand,'' however, is now built on tax cuts. The ''why'' is sketchy, though. It's not about economics. Despite $7 billion in cumulative tax cuts from 2001 through 2006, Michigan lost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Could it involve a basic dislike for government? Like what, specifically? Local schools that receive most of their funding from Lansing? Medicaid, in which 70 percent of the cost funds care for the elderly and disabled? Prisons and public safety? The Ferris State University Bulldogs? That's not it, either.

The Republican position on taxes appears driven by the fear that accepting even the partial repeal of a tax cut -- which the 2008 budget does -- means they aren't Republicans anymore. Barred from consideration is a better solution to replacing the use tax, a higher personal income tax rate.

And some would argue that since our economy is moving towards more service sector growth, that is still the way we should go.

Doesn't matter. As long as Republicans in Michigan are beholden to this anti-tax extremism, they will not be available to find solutions to our problems. Instead, they will simply obstruct progress and continue to widen the partisan divide.

The statements from Bishop and DeRoche on what seems to be a pretty fair compromise are all the warning you need on that front.