Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Granholm Hospitalized, Investment Trip Postponed

Governor Granholm underwent emergency surgery last night - from the inbox-

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm’s office today announced that her investment mission to Israel and Kuwait – where she was scheduled to meet with representatives from 50 companies interested in doing business in Michigan – has been postponed.

The mission was postponed due to a medical situation that arose in the past two days that the governor’s physician recommended be treated immediately.

The governor underwent successful, emergency surgery last evening to treat a bowel obstruction that is believed to be a complication from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 1993. Physicians indicate that her prognosis is good, and she is resting comfortably. Information on the governor’s condition will be released as it becomes available.

We will have more as info becomes available- for now our thoughts and prayers are with Governor Granholm and her family...

Detroit News/AP story here.

Update: More from the AP-

Doctors said Granholm's prognosis was good, and she was resting comfortably.

Granholm wasn't feeling well on Sunday, said spokeswoman Liz Boyd. She reported having flu-like symptoms Monday, but kept her schedule.

Granholm had emergency surgery at Lansing's Sparrow Health System at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The surgery lasted two hours, Boyd said.

The announcement came this morning, soon before Granholm was expected to leave on the investment trip.

The investment mission had been expected to last through May 8. Granholm planned to recruit high tech, alternative energy and homeland security businesses during the trip.

The trip will be rescheduled for a later date, Granholm's office said.

If you wish to send a card, the state address is: Governor Granholm, P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, MI, 48909.

The governor is expected to be in the hospital up to a week, according to the AP.

Update 2: Here's Liz Boyd with an update on the governor's condition; there will also be a press conference at 2PM with further details.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cover the Uninsured Week Kicks Off

Last winter, a slip and fall on the ice landed me in the emergency room with a simple distal radius fracture, commonly known as a broken wrist. Straight across the bone, no muss no fuss, they shoved it back together right in the emergency room, set without surgery. (here's a tip - ask to be knocked out before they do that. Trust me.) Put in a big splint for a week, followed by a cast for three weeks, followed by a brace and physical therapy to regain full movement once it started healing.

Grand total for this very common and uncomplicated procedure? Closing in on $3000; the notices are still rolling in over four months later. All I can say is, thank God I had insurance. I consider myself very, very fortunate - it wasn't so long ago that I did not, and a bill like this would have devastated me.

April 27th - May 3rd is Cover the Uninsured Week. Events are being held across the state, beginning today with a big one at Cobo.

Businesses, hospitals, labor and government will participate in the sixth-annual Cover the Uninsured Week that starts Monday at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Starting at 8:30 a.m., a free breakfast along with free or low-cost health screenings for diabetes, heart disease and other medical problems will be offered. In addition, onsite enrollment into government health programs will be provided.

At 10 a.m. speakers will address problems associated with the uninsured, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Nancy Schlichting, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

Crain's points out a scary fact that hospitals that care for the uninsured are seeing an explosion of emergency room visits, and the cost has forced one to lay off personnel.

Already feeling the effect are hospitals experiencing increasing numbers of uninsured in their emergency rooms.

For example, Henry Ford’s uncompensated care, which includes charity care and bad debt, has increased 30 percent in the last six months. Earlier this month, St. John Health in Warren announced it would lay off 300 employees, primarily because of a 25 percent increase in uncompensated care.

According to the Detroit News, over 70 vendors will be at Cobo to offer screenings and assistance with health care issues. The News also covers the effort by churches in the Detroit area that are helping with the ballot drive to amend our constitution for guaranteed coverage - and they claim that it is almost one third of the way there for signatures required.

The Warren-based church was among 200 Protestant and Catholic churches across the state that worked to collect 20,000 signatures for the Health Care for Michigan campaign, which began in January and needs 375,000 signatures by July 7 to appear on the November ballot. The effort has garnered 110,000 signatures.

Here is a complete list of Michigan events courtesy of the Cover the Uninsured Week web site.

47 million Americans are without health insurance - a fiscal and moral crisis that must be addressed soon, as you know. Until then, take advantage of the screenings and information that is out there.

Think Twice About Cabela's

Cabela's in Dundee is said to be Michigan's biggest tourist attraction. After an attack by the US Sportsmen's Alliance, a group headed up by Richard Cabela, on Meijer and the Humane Society for running a promotion designed to help the pets that are victims of foreclosure, I doubt I will ever set foot in there again.

Meijer Inc. ducked Monday after finding itself in the cross hairs of a national hunting group over donations to help families and pets going through foreclosure.

The Foreclosure Pets Fund is run by the Humane Society of the United States -- an organization the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance charges is anti-hunting.

After the Alliance condemned Meijer Friday, the company Monday ended the program to donate $1, up to $5,000, for every entry in an online pet photo contest.

The Alliance justifies this action by saying that the Humane Society will use all their free money to attack hunting interests, so, they need to prevent that food and shelter from going to homeless pets.

"The money donated to the HSUS through this promotion, while not going directly to its anti-hunting campaign, will free up money from the organization's general fund that can be used to attack the right of sportsmen," the Alliance said Friday. In the release, the company posted contact information for Meijer chairman Hank Meijer.

"We were concerned about any company that aligns themselves with the Humane Society of the United States simply because of their views of hunting," spokesman Cory Johnson said. The Columbus, Ohio-based advocacy group has 35,000 members. Richard N. Cabela, founder of the outdoor retailing giant Cabela's Inc., is the CEO.

Wonder if they are attacking every company that supports the Humane Society, or just those that are competitors in the sporting goods market. The Humane Society has over 10 million members, so the Alliance better get on the ball if they intend to take them out.

Shame on them for doing this, and shame on Meijer for caving in.

Waiting To Be Stimulated

Hey, dude, where's my stimulus? I'm one of the low-digit SS numbers that should be receiving my bribe "tax rebate" any... second... now. (I've called the automated line twice, so far nothing).

Decisions, decisions.

The Responsible Adult in me says "Pay down those credit cards!" or, "Put it in the savings account for that rainy day!". I tend to ignore that voice as much as I can. The Wild-Eyed Idealist is in love with the thought of dividing it up and donating it to Democratic candidates, with a note saying, "Courtesy of George Bush" attached to each.

But the voice that is winning out at this point is the I Really Need This Tool In My Arsenal and I've Figured Out How To Justify It. That is telling me I have to have a laptop computer and I simply cannot go on without one any longer, my gosh, how did I ever get by? What if I need to live blog something? I have to be able to download/upload pictures at the drop of a hat! And besides, I help the Michigan economy! Yeah, that's it!

Trained American consumer that I am.

Finally, a schedule has been posted-

The Internal Revenue Service started making the deposits at 8:30 a.m. EDT Monday with the goal of completing 800,000 direct deposits each day over the first three days of this week. No deposits will be made Thursday while the IRS prepares a big batch of 5 million direct deposits scheduled on Friday.

Maybe waiting this week will calm my itchy trigger finger and I'll do the "responsible" thing.

Yeah, right.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ohio Passes RPS

Ohio's situation seems to be as sticky as ours when it comes to regulating or re-regulating or deregulating their utilities (they have some weird hybrid going on there too), and since I can barely wrap my head around ours, I'll be damned if I try it with them. ;-) This was originally posted at BFM - I brought it over here because I believe that this was the most over-looked story of last week

Ohio has passed their RPS, and the bills go to Gov. Strickland next week for signature. When those wind turbine companies chose Ohio to manufacture, remember this - we had the opportunity to get in the game at the same time.

The 12.5 percent requirement translates into an investment of at least $12 billion in wind energy installations, according to the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. Most of the wind farms would be in Ohio, a key to Mr. Strickland's desire for homegrown power sources, the association said.

A study last year by the advocacy group Environment Ohio found that if the state's utilities' use of wind power jumped to 20 percent by 2020, it would create the equivalent of 3,100 jobs and would put about $8.2 billion into Ohio's economy. Property owners also would profit by leasing their land for wind farms, the group said.

Renewable energy delivery systems could be made in abandoned factories, closed because of the slide in Ohio's manufacturing economy, Environment Ohio Director Erin Bowser said.

Not only will they be getting into wind, they are looking at solar as well.

But solar power also is likely to take off, Ms. Bowser said. It is another fledgling industry in the U.S. but is flowering in such countries as Germany, she said.

"We may have more wind turbines going up, but the whole northwestern part of the state is in position to manufacture solar panels," she said.

As I pointed out before, Ohio Republicans are the main movers behind this. They can see the value of adding jobs and investment to their state.

Michigan Senate Republicans, care to respond? Or are you going to continue to obstruct us from creating jobs?

Another state moves forward, more are likely to follow, and Michigan will fall behind, thanks to our Republicans. Get this done, people.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April Flowers

April Flowers

I'm getting seriously spoiled by this weather...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Redundant Republicans Have Nothing to Offer

* Yawn *

Man, I'm bored with these guys.

No new tricks in the bag, no solutions to Michigan's problems, taking the easy way out once again with rush job legislation that will go nowhere, missing important meetings, and hitting on their favorite punching bags and calling them "issues" - I give you the Michigan Republican Party and its dancing puppets in the Legislature.

First, Senate Republicans cut business taxes. Again. Did they say what they would do to make up the revenue? No. Did they say what they would cut instead? No. Leave the heavy lifting for other people. They just do the convenient, lazy thing - cut taxes and spend money.

But Sen. Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, accused majority Republicans of rushing the bill before a group of senators has hearings around the state to determine what changes, if any, should be made to business taxes.

"I'm very hesitant to do a $250 million bite out of tax revenues to help people making a quarter of a million dollars," he said.

Gongwer tells us the rest of the story - while the Republicans were busy cutting revenue but not offering any solutions to the consequences of that act, they also were busy denying unemployed workers an extension on benefits.

Sen. Michael Prusi (D-Ishpeming) characterized advocates of the tax breaks as "trying to have it both ways" by voting for tax cuts at the same time most have backed spending bills based on revenue estimates of an intact MBT. He was unsuccessful with a proposed amendment to tie the bill to another bill extending unemployment benefits by 13 weeks.

"The least we can do with a state that is leading the nation in unemployment is provided extended benefits to workers who are struggling to find jobs," he said.

Republicans opposed the amendment, which was defeated on a 19-19 vote, because of its $600 million cost to businesses.

Protect business? Of course. Protect workers? Of course not. So, they send this on to the House, where it probably will die without an answer to revenue problem. You would think that if Republicans were really serious about tax cuts to business, they would find a way to pay for it, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they?

Guess they aren't serious about "business tax relief" after all.

Senate Republicans also skipped out on a budget meeting with the House - another reoccurring problem with this bunch; they tend to split when there is work to do.

Democratic members of the Joint Capital Outlay Committee were not pleased late Tuesday afternoon when none of the six Senate Republican members showed up for a hearing on a budget that would give airports in Michigan access to federal dollars, as well as provide planning authorizations for public university and community college projects.

Chair Rep. Morris Hood III (D-Detroit) told the audience, "This is one of the sad days of this Legislature," and that he didn't understand "why we can't get this done.

McManus said it was "too late in the day" and they had other commitments. Seems we have heard that excuse before, too, but I don't feel like looking it up.

Annnnnnd finally we turn to the House, which passed the budget for DHS, but not before Republicans tried to take a swipe at... can you guess?... illegal immigrants and welfare recipients.

House Democrats procedurally rejected Republican amendments that would put a four-year limit on cash assistance, ban public assistance to illegal aliens and require the department to report its expenditures in a more specific and real-time basis.

Today will be the big abortion battle... and I'm told the carnival attraction people are in town as well, set up on the Capitol lawn with their food booths. Sounds like fun.

Let's add up recent events. House Democrats pass sweeping energy legislation. Governor wrangles up over 9000 new jobs. Major accomplishments that move Michigan forward.

Republicans just spin their wheels in the mud as they do the same thing over and over and over...

Terri Lynn Land Hearts the Mackinac Center

Smoooooch! Watch Terri kiss up to the far right with this gem of a state release.

Land is going to put all the SOS spending info online. It's already available through other avenues, but as you may or may not know, this project is the darling of House Republicans and the Mac people who are looking to "find that government waste" in the form of... whatever helps the citizens of Michigan, probably.

Land credited the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland for encouraging government to go beyond the basic requirements of right-to-know laws through its Show Michigan the Money initiative.

The Mackinac Center approached the Department of State to gauge its willingness to launch such a project.

"The Mackinac Center is performing a valuable service by working to empower taxpayers with useful knowledge about their government," Land said. "I'm proud of the Department of State's ongoing commitment to stretch every dollar while offering high-quality, efficient customer service. We hope this initiative can serve as a model of government openness."

The Mackinac Center is looking to destroy the government. While "government openness" in itself is not a bad thing, the reasons behind this initiative are sinister. And you know it.

Is Terri making friends for a later play date in 2010?

Michigan House doesn't vote on ban of abortion procedure

Looks like Andy did good, at least for today. Don't have the details yet, this comes fresh off the AP.

The Democratic-controlled Michigan House is putting off a potential vote on banning a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion.


Abortion rights supporters say the legislation is a waste of time since the procedure already is outlawed by federal law. They had urged Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon to not allow a vote and not "pander" to groups seeking to limit women's reproductive rights.

Never give them a stick to beat you with, and that is exactly what this legislation was designed to do. Good call Democrats.

It's A Beautiful Day...

Granderson Catch Tuesday

One last shot of Curtis Granderson before he heads back to Detroit - leaping catch made in the outfield Tuesday night.

What a great day. Over 9000 jobs announced. Beautiful weather. Spring is springing up everywhere. All the baseball teams won. Got to see a major-leaguer in the comfort of less than three thousand at the park. (Yes, kids, you should have gone last night. Plenty of breathing room.)

And one laugh out-loud line (MIRS) from Bill Nowling- the MI GOP is in debt, and rumor has it that the Yob contingent is spreading the story of dissent in Republican ranks.

On the Yob rumor, Nowling said, "I couldn't possibly comment," but added, "if the Democrats fought us as hard and as intently as some people within the party fight us, we'd never win an election. They would rather spend their time infighting than defeating Democrats."

Bill, I feel your pain, but today I don't care. :-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

League of Conservation Voters Endorses Mark Schauer

The endorsements keep rolling in. From the mailbox-

The League of Conservation Voters, the independent voice for the environment, today announced the endorsement of Mark Schauer in the election for Michigan's Seventh District.

"State Sen. Mark Schauer believes in a science-based, not lobbyist-swayed, approach to global warming,” LCV representative and Michigan native Kerry Duggan said. “He knows that clean energy technologies and higher efficiency standards will be an economic boon to the state, which has excellent potential for wind-power development."

“Here in Michigan there is a growing recognition about the potential ripple effect of the benefits of pursuing innovative energy ideas," Schauer explained. "We know that increasing renewable energy generation will generate good jobs, provide another source of income for our farmers, help keep energy affordable, and fight global warming."

"Schauer has shown impressive leadership protecting Michigan's natural resources," Duggan added. "As Senate Minority Leader, he sponsored Bill 724 to protect the Great Lakes, which sustain Michigan's livelihood and contain over twenty percent of the world's fresh water. In Congress, Sen. Schauer will oppose drilling in the Lakes, large water withdrawals, and bottled water companies siphoning our water without regulation."

Schauer's dedication to sound environmental policies is evident in his high Michigan League of Conservation scores; in his past two terms he has earned 100%.

In stark contrast, first-term incumbent Rep. Walberg (R) opposed every major clean energy reform in Congress last year, earning a 5% score for 2007. Rep. Walberg voted against repealing tax breaks to Big Oil, protecting Michigan's coastlines from unnecessary drilling, and conserving the state's water and air quality. Walberg's 5% score in 2007 was a sharp drop from that of his predecessor, Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz, who earned a 58% in 2006.

Just in time for Earth Day, congratulations Senator Schauer!

MPI Research Jobs Announcement Live

WOOD is offering streaming video of the announcement of 3,300 jobs at MPI Research- one of the largest life sciences jobs announcements in Michigan history.

If you want to watch the announcement live, click here.

Here are the details from the state release-

KALAMAZOO – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced a $330-million expansion in Mattawan and Kalamazoo by MPI Research Inc., a leading provider of comprehensive preclinical research and development services. The project is expected to create 3,300 new jobs at the company and an additional 3,300 indirect Michigan jobs over the next 15 years.

Pfizer plans to donate buildings to the city of Kalamazoo to facilitate the expansion which is contingent upon final agreements between Pfizer, the city of Kalamazoo, and MPI Research. Assistance provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) helped convince the company to choose Michigan for the expansion over a competing site in China.

The announcement was celebrated at an event in Kalamazoo today, with the governor joining MPI Research Chairman and CEO Bill Parfet and state and local officials.

“We worked hard to win MPI’s investment, and we will continue to go anywhere and do anything to get more companies like this to locate in Michigan,” Granholm said. “This expansion – one of the largest life sciences expansions in Michigan’s history – demonstrates that we have the kind of outstanding workforce and competitive business climate that can win a project like this.”

MPI Research will invest approximately $330 million to expand its operations, including $30 million to launch new operations in Kalamazoo at the two buildings donated by Pfizer on East Lovell and Portage streets.

Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority board today approved a state tax credit valued at $86 million over 15 years to secure the company’s investment. The MEDC supports a Renaissance Zone designation, as well as a $2-million, 21st Century Jobs Fund grant to Western Michigan for redevelopment activities at the Kalamazoo site. Through the transportation economic development fund, the Michigan Department of Transportation will provide funding for improvements at or near the I-94 interchange that are necessary to accommodate the traffic generated by MPI’s expansion.

Excellent news for the Kalamazoo area - and for Michigan as well!

MPI is already taking applications according to the Kalamazoo Gazette-

According to officials at MPI Research, the 3,300 jobs expected to be created during the next five years will involve a wide range of duties and will average about $50,000 a year in compensation. Officials say the preclinical testing operation has been recruiting scientific talent from each of the state's large universities in recent years but has job postings for all sorts of work, from custodial associate and summer employment opportunities to analytical study director and surgical study director.

To apply - go to the MPI Research Careers page.

UPDATE: Here is video of Granholm's speech-

Harvesting the Wind

Last year, while I was busy yelling at the legiscritters over the budget battle business tax replacement, the state announced a joint project with John Deere Wind Energy, Wolverine Power, and the Harvest Wind Farm, to build the state's first commercial wind farm in Huron County. Alternative energy wasn't really on my radar, turns out the governor already had this in her sights and the beginning of the energy proposals that you see today were already underway. I guess we could file this under, "Things We Should Have Paid Attention To Instead of Mike".

Fast forward to January of this year. 32 wind turbines were up and running and producing power to Wolverine, who in turn was selling it to people like DTE and others. Yesterday, the governor toured the farm for the first time, taking along the media and other dignitaries like my old buddy Ken Sikkema. Watch the video- they are rather hypnotic in motion.

Someday I'll get over there and take some pictures; the people in Huron County would like that - some would like to see it become a tourist attraction. The income would go well with the royalties the farmers now receive from leasing their land.

Harvest Wind Farm's 32 wind turbines near this small Thumb town have proven popular so far, adding $22 million in taxable value to Oliver Township's tax base and bringing thousands of dollars in annual lease payments and royalties to family farms. Locals hope the wind farm, which could power a community of 14,000 homes, might become a tourist attraction.

The emphasis on this trip was, of course, jobs, taking precedence over benefits to the environment, but we will take both. These turbines were shipped all the way from Denmark (which gets 20% of their power from wind) - no reason why we can't make them here. The AP explains-

Michigan is the 14th-windiest state in the country. It also has a manufacturing base with more than 2,000 companies capable of making parts for wind turbines and other renewable-energy components, according to the Granholm administration.

Michigan ranks second overall in combined wind generation and manufacturing potential, Granholm said. It can cost $300,000 to transport a wind turbine, one reason she wants to require that 10 percent of Michigan's electricity come from wind and other renewable sources by the end of 2015.

"They want to sell where they manufacture," Granholm said of wind-component companies.

And manufacture we can do - some machining shops are converting as quick as they can to produce the parts for these things. But only some at this point, for other companies to start thinking about coming to Michigan, the need for the RPS was stressed once again. Here's Ken, finally free of having to tow the hard-right Republican line-

A lot of corporations have come to Michigan, have said that if Michigan has a renewable portfolio standard, you’ll likely see manufacturing follow.

But alas, some on the right will continue to disavow the need for an RPS, and I guess we need to keep throwing the numbers back in their face. Yesterday, the MSU Land Policy Institute took Mike Cox to task for his bad attitude-

Cox said the proposal would cause electricity prices to rise, and provide few new jobs.

However, a Land Policy Institute study shows that with a Michigan RPS, wind power alone in Michigan would produce 1,100 construction jobs per year for the next two decades, 218 permanent jobs related to the management and maintenance of wind installations by 2010, and 3,010 permanent, continuing jobs related to the management and maintenance of wind installations by 2029.

The study also says the RPS would cause $1.25 billion per year in construction-related new investments and spending in Michigan over the next two decades, $464 million in continuous annual spending in maintenance and management by 2010 and $4.4 billion by 2029, $21 million per year in new construction wages for the next two decades, $7.6 million in permanent annual wages by 2010 and $96 million by 2029 and $4.8 million in lease payments to landowners per year by 2010 and $47 million per year by 2029.

Money, jobs and saving the environment too. Proving the nay-sayers like Cox and Bishop wrong once again is just an added bonus.

It would be a shame if the Senate obstructed this proposal and we lost this opportunity - let's hope they get it done, and get it done soon. To leave it until after the fall election, or even worse, a future legislature, would be a travesty.

Happy Earth Day

Dragonfly Reflection

Monday, April 21, 2008

More on the Ada billboard controversy...

Remember when a certain House Republican cleaned up on a DeVos land deal when Ada township officials bought the land to stop him from erecting a billboard? In a new twist, it turns out the minutes from the original township meeting were altered...

On November 7, 2007, those minutes were altered and eight words were added about reviewing the township's billboard ordinance.

That ordinance became big news last fall when the township purchased a piece of land on the bank of the Grand River to avoid a billboard from being erected there. It cost the township more than $300,000 to buy that land. Members of the community raised some of the money to pay for it.

During an investigation, Ada Township Supervisor George Haga said there was proof where the tampering occurred - inside township offices on a township clerk's computer.

Someone went into the computer and altered the information; they also went into the vault and replaced the original document.

"The passwords were kept inside the vault, which there was unlimited access to by other people," said Millhuff.

An original copy of the 2003 minutes was also kept in the vault. The one page in question about those minutes is missing and an altered one was put in its place.

Why would they do that?

"If this was done, and it was done to look as if I did this, it was done politically," said Millhuff.

Political motivation in Ada Township... could be many different people, right? I'll let you draw your own conclusions, logical or inferred. Ada is moving to increase security on their computer systems, and this is going to the Kent County prosecutor for investigation of the crime of altering official government documents.

Energy Efficiency - "You'll see your bill go down"

Notice the word "conservation" is rarely used anymore when it comes to energy policy? It was a big buzzword back in 'da day - now it has been replaced by the word "efficiency", and it turns out this is a major component of the energy package passed by the House last week.

Want to stop more coal plants from being built? Besides installing a renewable portfolio standard, we must increase energy efficiency. Michigan is going to need at least one base load power plant by 2015, and given that building a nuclear plant generally can take longer than that, chances are it is going to be coal. Not many ways around it. At this point, renewables cannot fill that demand. We would be stuck buying energy from out-of-state, probably from their coal plants anyway.

If we don't install efficiency programs and the renewable standard and meet the goals of both, there is a chance that Michigan will need up to four base power plants by 2015 - and that will cost a fortune, as well as the cost of the damage to the environment.

The AP has a great story on the efficiency portion of this energy package - this doesn't get a lot of attention, but it is integral to keeping prices down and putting us on the path to clean energy as opposed to coal.

Did you buy your CFL bulbs yet?

As state lawmakers wrestle with how much more electricity Michigan will need in the future, many energy experts are saying: use less.

The potential savings from using less energy are enormous. For every $1 invested in more efficient lighting and appliances, $2 to $3 is saved down the road by avoiding or at least delaying the need to build new multibillion-dollar power plants.

Not to mention the savings that will come from investing in construction of power-efficient homes and buildings. Besides home consumer initiatives, this will cover business and construction as well.

This plan creates an independent body called the Michigan Energy Efficiency Program (MEEP) that will work with the Michigan Public Service Commission to evaluate and target the funds towards energy efficiency. It is expected to cost .50 to $1 a month per residential customer, as opposed to $3 - $4 a month that building a new power plant can require. Its goal will be education and help to the consumer, as well as rebates for becoming more energy efficient. How it will all work is still being discussed.

These are the things that can save us from building those coal plants - and the savings can be tremendous.

Stores could give customers instant rebates _ paid for by the utilities _ if they buy high-efficiency clothes washers, furnaces and compact fluorescent light bulbs. Utilities could help homeowners and businesses with insulation and weatherizing techniques.

Utilities would give customers information on how to reduce their electricity usage, because persuading people to use different light bulbs is as much about changing old habits as it's about overcoming price concerns, says Terry Mierzwa, manager of marketing and customer research for Jackson-based Consumers Energy, the state's second-largest utility.

"Awareness and education is first and foremost," Mierzwa says. "Some of these energy issues just aren't at the top of mind for people as they go about their day-to-day lives."

According to the federal government, if every home in the United States replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, it would save enough power to light more than 3 million homes a year and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equaling the output of 800,000 cars.

Along with the renewable portfolio standard, this is expected to create thousands of jobs in the field as people will be looking towards purchasing energy efficient products for their homes or business, and that will create more demand in this rapidly growing market.

Republican Mike Nofs actually predicted that our bills will go down if this is enacted.

Rep. Mike Nofs, a Battle Creek Republican who worked on the House energy plan, says conserving energy would offset parts of the legislation that may raise rates.

"You'll see your bill go down," he says.

There's also a potential economic development benefit.

Angerer estimates the efficiency measure would create 8,000 jobs over five years because more money would go to stores, energy-saving auditors would be hired and businesses saving energy costs could invest in other things.

We can reduce the need for coal-fired plants if we follow this plan; it seems to be the only way we can do that at this point. Demand for electricity is going to increase, but we can do things in the meantime to curb that increase - and perhaps renewables will get to the point where they can handle the base load generation we need to keep running, and we won’t need to worry about coal ever again.

Eventually we can get away from fossil fuel use, but we need to start now with programs like this. If you want to read the whole House Energy Report, the .pdf is here. There is quite a bit here to wrap your mind around, but it seems that this is yet another case of how spending a little now will save us a lot in the long run. Not only do we get jobs and investment, we save the planet as well.

This should be a no-brainer. Let's hope the Senate Republicans see it the same way.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Granderson Rehabs With West Michigan

Granderson Heads To Third
When I menioned in my Michigan baseball post that sometimes major leaguers rehab with their affiliates, little did I realize that my second game out this year I would be treated such an event. Most of the time I avoid weekend night games because they can get too crowded, especially when the weather is this nice, but a chance to see Curtis Granderson play for the Whitecaps was enough to get me out there Friday night.

Howie Beardsley of the GR Press compares this visit with one from pitcher Kenny Rogers last year.

Granderson 1464Some of the crowd of 10,056 who came to Fifth Third Ballpark to see Granderson go 2-for-4 at the plate with an infield single, a triple and two long and loud flyouts to center field think thought Rogers pitching here before a season-high crowd of 10,537 was a bigger deal.

I emphatically beg to differ.

Rogers was a main attraction in our minor-league ballpark because he's a wily ol' veteran whose days in the big leagues are numbered after 20 years of service.

Granderson is the future of Detroit Tigers baseball. If his early numbers after just two full major league seasons are any indication, then he is destined to become a consistent All-Star because of his golden glove, potent bat and blazing speed.

He looks ready to go now. Granderson said that he "felt really slow out there". Well, if that is what he is like when he is "slow", he must be blazing fast when he is 100%. The infield single that he hit bounced off the ground in front of the plate and rolled toward the 2nd baseman...

Granderson said he felt more comfortable as the game progressed. "As I got through my at-bats, I pretty much got back to normal," he said. It was more than his timing that was off, Granderson said. Beating out an infield single and again on the triple, he said his legs and wind didn't feel anywhere near 100 percent.

He beat the throw by two steps, and then beat the throw into 2nd when the next batter put the ball in play...

Granderson Into 2nd

Nearly 8,000 tickets were sold in the 24 hours after it was announced Thursday night that Granderson would be here - nothing like having a Tiger show up to get those fans out to the park. Curtis signed autographs for the line of people who came early to catch batting practice - in this photo you can see how they have taped up his hand. They wrapped and re-wrapped it throughout the warm-ups, trying to find something that would be comfortable.

Granderson Autographs

His speed and power were apparent on the triple that he hit - no play was made at the base. He was just there...

Granderson Triple

... although he was tagged out at home when the next batter couldn't get the ball out of the infield and Burlington made a great throw to the plate.

Last night in Toledo he had another double and single in four appearances; today will be the final test to see if he is ready to return to the Tigers. The decision has been left up to him - if he says he is ready to go, they bring him back.

If he doesn't have any swelling in his right hand in the next 24 hours, and if his timing returns in the two games at Toledo, he said he will begin to think about his major league return. But even if all goes according to plan, Granderson said he wouldn't be surprised to be back in Grand Rapids for Monday's game against Beloit.

The Whitecaps would love to see him return- those that couldn't make it Friday would get another chance Monday if that turns out to be the case. I'm sure they will pack the place again.

Granderson Anthem

More pictures of Granderson can be found here, or hit the slideshow version to see them full size.

And get out to your local park soon!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Michigan GOP Not Living Within Their Means

Further proof that Republicans can't manage money. Seems they are spending more than they take in. Hmmm, why does that sound familiar...

The combination of a $240,000 debt and a harsh fundraising environment for Republicans is expected to be the topic of debate this weekend, when the state GOP's budget and central committees meet in Lansing.

"Basically, we're close to a quarter of a million dollars in debt, and this should be a time we're raising money and not spending it," said Bill Beddoes of Allen Park, the party's 14th Congressional District chairman. "It's very disturbing."

They claim they have it covered, putting the blame on the "bad economy".

State GOP officials defend their financial decisions, saying the loans taken during 2007 for the party's main fund will be covered by money from a separate federal account with more liberal rules.

"I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary to have a cash flow issue in a bad economy and to resort to the contingency plans put in place to handle that," said party spokesman Bill Nowling.

But when the state has a "cash flow issue", we are obviously "living beyond our means". Do as we say, don't do as we do.

Apparently the party sugar daddies are slow coming up to the window this time around.

Republicans may be suffering from reliance on a handful of wealthy donors, said Rich Robinson, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

"If there is disharmony in the party, that may affect things," Robinson said. "So much of their financial base is wrapped up in a very few people giving a very large amount of money."

In the 2006 cycle, he said, the state GOP raised $3.5 million from just 38 donors.

Decisions by just a few donors not to give, Robinson said, can badly dent the party finances. But it also means they can quickly bail the GOP out: Since 2003, seven individuals have written a check to the state GOP for $250,000 or more -- enough to cover the current debt -- according to Secretary of State records.

According to the GR Press (June 28, 2005) the DeVos and VanAndel families were responsible for half of the GOP's state money during the 2004 election cycle.

The report showed the DeVos family kicked in $2.2 million, which, combined with the Van Andel family's contribution of $1.1 million, makes up more than half the $6.3 million in receipts of the state party. Of the DeVos cash, $1 million came from Richard and Helen DeVos and a $950,000 loan that was repaid to Betsy and Dick DeVos.

That loan was made to bail the MI GOP out when they found themselves in debt before. Seems to be a reoccurring problem with Michigan Republicans, but not to worry, the wealthy few who bought the party will be along shortly to bail them out once again.


Anyone feel it? I was up, but didn't notice anything.

Phone calls and e-mails continue to flow into the 24 Hour News 8 newsroom as people across West Michigan report feeling an earthquake in the area.

A 5.4 earthquake in Illinois has rocked people awake as far away as Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky, surprising residents unaccustomed to such a large temblor in the Midwest.

The quake just before 5:37 a.m. EDT was centered 6 miles from West Salem, Ill., and 66 miles from Evansville, Ind.

The quake shook tall buildings in Chicago's Loop, 240 miles north of the epicenter, and in downtown Indianapolis, about 160 miles northeast of the epicenter.

I can remember one in the early 90s here - I was living in a third floor apartment and felt the building move. Missed this one.

TV is going nuts over here with this.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

House Starts To Pass Energy Legislation

By the end of the day, we may be halfway to that RPS. The AP reports the House is moving energy bills as I type.

The bills, which may face opposition in the Senate, would require that power companies sell more green energy, limit the amount of competition facing the state's major electric utilities and set up programs helping residential and business customers save energy. Customers also would have to pay the actual cost of the electricity they use.

We probably aren't going to like that part, but no matter what we do here, rates are going to go up. We also are going to give DTE and Consumers what they want... whether that is a good idea or not, only history will tell.

Utilities would get a guaranteed customer base they say they need to secure financing for new power plants capable of running continuously. Gov. Jennifer Granholm and environmentalists like requiring that 10 percent of Michigan's electricity come from wind and other renewable sources by the end of 2015. Others support re-establishing energy-efficiency programs that disappeared in the 1990s when Michigan partially deregulated the electric market.

And one thing that the AP neglected to mention, these guys made a little promise to us if we did this...

Tonight, I'm announcing that our state's largest utilities are poised to make one of the world's largest investments in alternative energy and energy efficiency, creating upwards of 17,000 jobs in Michigan.

As soon as this Legislature acts on a comprehensive energy package, Consumers Energy and DTE will begin to jointly invest up to $6 billion in Michigan - much of it to build wind turbines and wind farms to produce electricity and to help businesses and homeowners install energy saving technologies. $6 billion. 17,000 jobs.

It's not often the Legislature gets to cast a vote that will create that many jobs. But you have that opportunity right now. For the sake of our people, I urge you to get it done.

Get it done, and then hold their feet to the fire to make sure they come through on this investment promise.

On to the Senate... reports have them clearing this by the "end of June", why so long, I don't know. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce signed off on the bills (which should probably scare us all) and that might be motivation enough to get moving a little quicker.

Small Postman Monkey

Small Postman Monkey

More butterfly and Meijer Gardens pictures here - will keep adding as I slowly go through these...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Drolet quits on Dean recall

My legiscritter is safe from the PigMan.

A group that hoped to recall state Rep. Robert Dean for his support of a state tax increase is calling it quits.

Jeff Steinport, spokesman for Taxpayers to Recall Robert Dean, said today the group is no longer collecting the 8,714 signatures needed to force a recall election.

"Unfortunately, we've had to suspend the campaign," Steinport said. "It was too difficult in the winter. We didn't have enough time to collect the signatures we needed."

Or, perhaps, no one who actually elected Dean agrees with you, and you had to call in the out-of-state crazies who follow tax issues like people used to follow the Dead just to say you had "support".

Steinport's group was stymied by a state law that bars non-residents of a legislator's district from collecting signatures. Despite strong support from out-of-state and out-of-district groups, the residency requirement limited the number of persons who could ask for signatures.

Must be all the "help wanted" flyers they hung in the local stores went unanswered. So much for all those outraged taxpayers. In a time when it's tough to find a job - Drolet couldn't even pay people to do his bidding here.

Senate Republican Tax Day Stunt : "Don't Let Us Do That Again!"

In an attempt to save themselves from themselves with legislation rushed to the floor just in time to try to catch those Tax Day headlines, the Senate Republicans tried and failed yesterday to amend our Constitution to make it harder for future legislators to extend taxes to services.

You have to ask - if Senate Republicans have such wonderful and popular ideas, why do they have to try to pass their legislation in 30 minutes or less? Senator Prusi nails 'em.

The Constitution is our guiding document, and continually in my service in the Legislature, there have been references to the Constitution. Now you want to take and amend in a significant way our guiding documents, and you want to do it with less than 20 minutes or a half-hour heads-up on this issue. I think that is monumentally unfair, I believe that this is a politically-motivated ploy to get a headline on this April 15 tax day.

One year ago, the Senate Republicans had as part of their plan an expansion to the sales tax on the services performed in this state. You spent the last entire year running away from that plan, but that was part of what your thinking was a year ago as we wrestled with significant budget problems here in the state of Michigan. That service tax which was passed and given immediate effect last year was done so with Senate Republican votes. Now all of a sudden, you want to handcuff the Legislature into the supermajority scheme on a significant portion of what we were going to use to balance the state budget at some point in the future.

I find it ironic that you want to insert into our guiding document this paragraph that is big, nebulous, and really has had no opportunity to be studied or analyzed by our fiscal agencies, by Treasury, our attorneys, or anyone just so you can garner a headline here on Tax Day. I find that disturbing, and for that reason, among others, one of which being should not it be printed or reproduced in five days. We barely got five minutes with this, folks.

I think that is a sad commentary on how we are running this process, and I would ask my colleagues to join me in voting “no” on this.

So did Switalski.

Why would a joint resolution as important as this, just introduced 10 minutes ago, be left off the agenda, discharged to the floor with no committee hearings, and run all the way through General Orders and onto Third Reading in a total of 15 minutes? Are we that cavalier about our Constitution?

The establishment of a two-thirds supermajority should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. It is a limit on the will of the majority. This two-thirds amendment to the Constitution would mean that majority rules on tax policy. I am appalled that my colleagues would take such drastic action in 15 minutes on a resolution whose ink isn’t even dry.

Simple - it was a stunt, just like the House Republican stunt on Monday. Republicans don't have any valid ideas that can stand the scrutiny of the light of day, so they have to pull tricks like this to get media attention and please the people who control their party.

As Prusi pointed out, this one had quite the touch of irony, seeing as how the Senate Republicans were the ones responsible for the now-repealed tax on services in the first place. Dillon had warned them for weeks before the shutdown that the lower the income rate, the more services would be taxed...

But, one of my frustrations is, I went to the chamber that first weekend we came in, about three weeks before the deadline, and I asked them, I said, "Help me with 4.6, because you're not going to like what you see if it's less than 4.6".

So... they claimed that they were helping, but they didn't deliver any votes for me. So when the Senate pushed it down from 4.6 to 4.3, then the tax on services list grew and expanded and now people are unhappy, but, you know, I saw this coming three weeks ago.

... and the Senate stalled until it was too late...

Nine o'clock Sunday night, a group came down the hallway of the Capitol, to me, saying, let's go to 4.7 or 4.75, I said, give me a half hour. I brought in House Fiscal, I brought in the Senate, and I concluded that we would face shutdown then, because 4.7, 4.75, you had to look at exemptions, you had to re-do the rollback, the sunset, and I just thought that we wouldn't be able to get there in time.

... and that's what happens when you try to make tax law in 30 minutes or less. You would think they would have learned that lesson the first time around.

Republican obstruction made the services taxes necessary. Now they put on a big show to distract you from the fact that it was their idea in the first place.

Anyone surprised by that?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"The Fifth Mafia" to be filmed in Grand Rapids

How very cool.

A gangster drama starring Joe Mantegna dubbed "The Fifth Mafia" is to begin shooting in Grand Rapids this summer, the first to take advantage of a new state bill, signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm this month, offering a 42 percent refundable business tax credit for movie production costs incurred in Michigan.

"We'll be shooting there in mid-to-late June," said Norita May, associate producer of "The Fifth Mafia," calling from the film's production office in Valencia, Calif.

How very lucrative.

State Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, revealed details about "The Fifth Mafia" at the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Conference at the Amway Grand Plaza on Monday. He spoke at a question-and-answer session about how government can boost tourism in the state.

"Just in lodging, you've got $600,000 worth of heads on pillows," Sak said about hotel bookings for cast and production crew of the film. "The Fifth Mafia" has a budget between $5 million and $10 million, Sak said.

That's one. 84 more projects are sitting in the Michigan Film Office waiting for review.

Rally for Andy Dillon Tonight

If you are anywhere close to the Redford Township area, get out there tonight and join a rally to support Andy Dillon in his fight against the PigMan and his merry band of out-of-state extremists who wish to meddle in our affairs. The weather will be perfect, and apparently there is food, too.

The same time that Wayne County Taxpayers Association members are collecting signatures to recall the Redford Township Democrat, his supporters will roast a symbolic pig about a quarter-mile away, according to Township Supervisor R. Miles Handy II.

Rumor has it the other recall efforts have died out, and Dillon is the main focus in Leon's desperate attempt to keep a paycheck coming in. Local officials are gathering to support Dillon-

Redford Township for months has been ground zero in the campaign, with both sides swapping accusations of deception and intimidation. Handy said residents have "had it" with "outside infiltrators."

"The community supports the speaker," he said this morning. "We're tired of outside people trying to tell us who we want in office."

The Police Officers Association of Michigan and local firefighters have voiced their support for Andy - now it's your turn.

The rally opposing Dillon is 5-7 p.m. at the Redford Township Post Office, 12245 Beech Daly. The pig roast in support of the speaker is 5 p.m. at Capital Park, 12121 Hemingway.

Be there if you can, and bring the barbeque sauce!

Schauer Whomps Walberg in Fundraising


Democrat Mark Schauer increased his fundraising lead against Republican Rep. Tim Walberg during the past three months, despite an event in the south-central Michigan district headlined by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Walberg, of Tipton, reported Tuesday that he raised more than $265,000 for his re-election campaign in the 7th Congressional District. Walberg, a freshman congressman, ended the period with more than $600,000 in his campaign account.

Schauer, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, reported raising $326,000 in the quarter and entered April with about $750,000 in his campaign bank account. It was the third straight quarter in which Schauer, of Battle Creek, has outpaced Walberg in fundraising.

Cheney's visit raised over $100,000. Take that out of Walberg's total for the quarter and then do the math - it all adds up to big trouble for Timmeh.

Republican Arlan Meekhof's Plan for Children: Tasers, Yes. Clothing, No.

As Kathy told us back in January - Arlan Meekhof (R-Toontown) was standing in a line of shoppers the day after Thanksgiving and the brilliant idea came upon him that everyone should be allowed to carry tasers. He says it is for self-protection in darkly lit areas, but one wonders if perhaps Arlan was just a tad cranky to be standing out in the cold with a bunch of people who were in line before him and he just knew they were going to buy those prized sale items first... well, who wouldn't want a taser at the point? You can almost see him grinning at the thought.

Fast forward to now, the vote is coming up in the House soon. In his glee at the idea of citizens carrying what he calls "non-lethal" (never mind all those deaths) tasers, Meekhof explained this week on To The Point that people are just giddy for this, apparently it's the Wild Wild West over in HD-89 and everyone should be armed.

His first example of the customer base was intriguing, though.

As we introduced this, we've got overwhelming support from people... parents that wished their children maybe to have one...

Well, Arlan, since you brought it up as your first example, do you agree that it's a good idea that children carry tasers? We'll let you stop and think about that for awhile... but Arlan probably can't see past the fact that some children might receive a bit more assistance this year, and that is what really gets him fired up.

Meekhof went on to complain about the budget. New proposals are costing more, dropping that key Republican buzztalk like "governor was successful in raising $1.4 billion in new taxes", and the now-repeatedly uttered "living beyond our means", but, while he somehow justified helping spend all that money last year, and talked of the new budget targets that he gladly will help hit this year too - he has a big problem with spending it on actual human beings. Namely, children.

When pressed for examples of where he would cut Michigan's budget, Meekhof pulled out the now (very) old Republican canard of going after the welfare recipients first.

Just one example where the governor has actually vetoed, a piece of legislation that we thought was very important, the cap on welfare limits for able-bodied citizens to be capped at four years. The governor vetoed that. That's just an example of where we could save $51 million dollars a year.

Meekhof called that a "logical, rational approach to making sure we live within our means", but if you want to call it by its proper name, it's "Git those poor parents". What Republicans don't tell you when they drag out the "able-bodied" for punishment first is this next bit of information; in 2005, the Michigan Catholic Conference was arguing against cutting the limits from 60 to 48 months, and they had this to say-

The only persons who might currently be considered able-bodied adults who receive cash assistance payments are the parents of children, primarily single mothers, who themselves face staggering obstacles as they strive to support their children and become economically self-sufficient.

And what do those able-bodied single mothers receive at this point? Arlan is taken aback by increasing the monthly average for a family of three by $9 whole dollars.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) may get its first grant increase for the Family Assistance Program in 18 years, pending the passage of a bill currently on the House floor.

The increase, part of the fiscal year 2009 budget process, would boost the monthly payment for a typical low-income family of three from $489 to $498, just under 2 percent.

$500 bucks. Family of three. First raise in eighteen years. And that wacky House went and added some money for clothes as well.

A divided House Appropriations Committee went beyond the governor's recommendation of providing $75 per child in the program and pushed the amount to $100 year for clothes, Putnam said.

The increase in benefits was largely at the urging of Rep. Dudley Spade, D-Tipton, the primary sponsor of the bill. The $100 would go to 154,000 children who receive cash assistance from the department.

How much will this cost? Meekhof wants you to think it's a budget buster. The truth is a little different.

The number of families in the cash assistance program the fourth quarter of 2007 was 82,036, according to the MLHS. The increase will cost the state $7.48 million per year.

"It's not a large expenditure but it makes an enormous difference," said Ann Marston, president of the League.

The value of cash assistance benefits have lost more than a third of their purchasing power over the last 18 years due to inflation and the lack of increases, Marston said.

"These aren't cuts, this is restructuring government, and living within our means", Arlan claims, because the first people he wants you to think of as being extravagant are those struggling single parents who are trying to live on $500 a month.

What would help, instead of feeding and clothing children? Tax cuts for business, of course!

"If we can make sure that industry can remain competitive, a lower tax burden, and lower regulation, they create the jobs for people to be employed and therefore they won't need the human services".

Straight out of the DeVos playbook - if we let business just do as they please and not have to pay taxes, those kids would be just fine.

And someday down the road, maybe we will see about getting them tasers, too.

DeVos Denies RPS Would Create Jobs and Investment

Can't figure out if this guy is evil or just plain stupid. Maybe both.

DeVos was practicing for his 2010 Fun Run for Governor at the Michigan Energy Conference held at Ferris State University yesterday by showing us that he still doesn't have a plan or a clue. From MIRS, here is part of his speech-

What really makes me worry is the widely peddled notion that the Renewable Portfolio Standard is an economic development tool. The logic here is that just having an RPS will encourage firms that build wind turbines and other equipment related to renewable energy to locate in Michigan.

But let's remember, we know that such investment decisions are made based on economic fundamentals regarding the skill level of the labor force, the regulatory climate, the tax burden, cost of electricity, transportation infrastructure, and other factors. If an RPS is on this list, I've never heard of it, nor does it make any sense to put it on the list. In fact, it is more likely that an RPS would be listed on the CON side of the ledger than on the PRO side.

You're joking, right? Because this can't be serious.

Let's drag out that investment statistic once again, just for Dick.

In testimony last week before state Sen. Bruce Patterson's energy policy committee, Seth Dunn, general manager of strategic marketing for Atlanta-based GE Energy, said more than $9 billion was invested last year in wind-energy facilities in the United States. Of that total, 96% went to states with renewable standards.

Well, Dick, you've heard of it now.

Does DeVos think that is just a coincidence? For someone who is supposedly so in touch with "business", you would think that a $9 billion dollar figure would be on the radar - but sadly, no. Dick says it would make "no sense" to put that on the list. Ooo - kay then. Moving on.

To show you just how far Dick has his you-know-what up his you-know-where on this issue...

The people who operate power plants at Dow Chemical factories fret that a mandate on use of energy from renewable sources might require Dow itself to buy costly renewable power. And the people who buy natural gas as a factory raw material worry that the mandate might actually raise gas prices.

So an RPS mandate is bad news for Dow and might actually cause job losses, not gains. It's certainly possible, because nobody is guaranteeing anything - not one job. Let me repeat that. There is no guarantee the RPS will generate even one job - not one.

Does Dick honestly think that the nearly $9 billion invested in states with a RPS didn't create a single job? Really?

And as far as rate increases go, let's turn once again to the RPS study commissioned by the US Dept. of Energy.

With a few exceptions, the long-term rate impacts of state RPS policies are projected to be relatively modest. Only two of the 28 state RPS cost studies in our sample predict rate increases of greater than 5%, and 19 of the studies project rate increases of no greater than 1% (and six of these studies predict rate decreases). The median residential electric bill impact is +$0.38 per month. When combined with possible natural gas price reductions and corresponding gas bill savings, the overall cost impacts are even more modest, resulting in net consumer savings in at least one additional case.

Yes, the study predicts decreases in natural gas costs - they just aren't certain how much.

And as far as Dow goes, apparently Dick has forgotten that Dow partners with Hemlock Semiconductor, the world's biggest manufacturer of polycrystalline silicon, which is the main ingredient in solar panels and electronics. DeVos is trying to convince us that creating demand for Dow's product will reduce jobs for Dow. Well, it may work that way in the closet-organizing industry (and just how many jobs have you created, Mr. "Jobs Maker"?), but out here in the real world, high demand for your product usually requires people to manufacture and sell it. Could be the reason Hemlock is undergoing a $1.5 billion dollar expansion, don't ya think?

So, what does Dick propose instead? Michigan shouldn't chase the "latest trendy idea" (because those never sell, right?), we should increase "economic growth", and that's how we will increase the demand for power. What economic growth in what industry? Dick didn't say. He's still using those sweeping generalities such as "jobs" and "economic growth" without specifying exactly what in the world he means by that. From Gongwer-

Mr. DeVos said promoting economic growth - through tax cuts and revamped regulations - will inevitably lead to more energy use.

Yes, if we just give more money to Dick and let him do as he pleases, everything will be just fine. That's "growth". For Dick's wallet, anyway.

Nice to know the DeVos platform hasn't changed a bit.

Monday, April 14, 2008

House Republicans Demonstrate Their Worthlessness

Got the cameras to come and record it and everything! Instead of working on viable solutions to Michigan's problems, House Republicans decided to put on a big show for the TeeVee today about introducing legislation to repeal the income tax increase.

Did they say what they would cut instead? No. Do they have any specific ideas? No. Do they think it can pass? No.

They are just wasting our time.

House Republicans are pitching a long-shot proposal to repeal the state income tax increase that took effect last year.

The plan is unlikely to pass the Legislature. It's not tied to any specific proposal to replace the roughly $750 million the repeal would cost the state in revenue.

Critics call the idea fiscally irresponsible and say it would gut state and local services.

Guess we need to remind everyone that House Republicans wouldn't vote for the cuts that would have been required without the increase...

DeRoche called the vote on deep budget cuts "a cheap parlor trick" that would not resolve the crisis.

But they would vote to spend that money they now want to repeal...

Literally minutes after much of the House Republican caucus put up scores of "yes" votes in support of spending plans that were based on the $1.4 billion in tax hikes that nearly all of them voted against, House Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) was asked to opine. Here the GOP members were ready to support the budgets that spent money, but weren't willing to raise the revenue needed to pay for the spending.

"That was one of the funny comments from someone in my office who said, 'It's amazing we're sitting here negotiating about how we're going to spend money when they didn't vote for any of it," Dillon said.

All the House Republicans can do is stand around and mouth words like "cuts" and "reform", never showing what they would do instead or taking any responsibility for their actions. Something to keep in mind every time they pull a worthless stunt like this during election season this year.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Schauer Defends the Constitution

Mark Schauer is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore. From the inbox-

"For years, the public has been subject to a barrage of fearmongering and twisted logic on national security that frankly makes me sick. I'm fed up with the Bush Administration and it's loyal supporters like Congressman Tim Walberg saying and doing whatever it takes to hold on to their power - even if it means throwing the facts and our right to privacy out the window. That's why I had this to say about the ongoing FISA debate...

Yeah, what he said. Walberg Watch has more on FISA - great post, go read.

Senator Schauer also sat down with the Tecumseh Herald for an interview this week, check that out here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

House Republicans Vote Against Hiring Michigan Workers First

"Hire Michigan First" was introduced last year to give companies receiving tax breaks and other economic goodies an incentive to hire Michigan workers first - if they can prove 100 percent compliance, they will be given priority on development tools offered by the state. This was written as a way to provide those jobs for Michigan citizens - and crack down on companies that use illegal immigrant labor. Rep. Fred Miller-

"When companies take advantage of tax breaks or state economic development programs, Michigan workers deserve the first crack at those jobs," Miller said. "Michigan tax dollars should not fund grants or tax incentives for businesses that hire people from other states and countries when Michigan residents have the training and expertise and need those jobs. Michigan families have been hit hard by outsourcing and downsizing, and every scarce state dollar should be used to create jobs here in Michigan."

This package of 12 bills cleared the House Labor and Commerce Committees yesterday but Republicans chose not to get on board - even after language was inserted that you could drive a tank through. From Gongwer-

Republicans, who dissented or abstained from voting on the package, continued to argue it would place more of a burden on businesses at a time when Michigan needs jobs and needs less hoops for businesses to jump through.

Nearly all of the bills were amended to include exemptions to the 'Hire Michigan first' premise in cases where hiring other workers is required by federal law or "to the extent that key management personnel or individuals with special skills, who are not residents of this state, are needed."

Fair enough - the film incentives are a good example of this. We might not have the people (yet) who can fill those job requirements; film company gets a break on compliance when they have to bring in trained workers.

Other businesses can take advantage of that provision as well - and remember, these are companies that are asking for money and contracts from the state. Republicans think they shouldn't have to be bothered with proving that they can bring some return for our investment...

House Minority Floor Leader Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) argued that while everyone can support the concept of hiring Michigan workers, the state needs to have a better climate for companies to do business.

"This is an assault on free enterprise," said Rep. John Stakoe (R-Highland), adding that the legislation also makes it look like businesses don't have the credibility to hire the right people for the job.

... and the Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure that companies have an "out" if they hire illegals. Illegal immigrants are this year's big buzzword for Republicans, to be added to every bill that comes down the pike - but the people who hire them shouldn't be held accountable, of course. Would love to see a lawyer try to prove the word "knowingly" in court.

The legislation was also amended by the committees to require that a business entering into incentive deals with the state or local unit of government would have to agree to a contract that states it will not "knowingly" hire illegal immigrants.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce supported adding the "knowingly" wording into the bill, said Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources, but the chamber would still be opposed to the legislation until there are further amendments dealing with the citizenship verification portion.

So, we have all kinds of wiggle room here already, but yet Republicans still won't sign on to hiring Michigan workers first. More amendments will be added - they also want to make sure wages for workers are suppressed as well.

Republicans also are readying some amendments on the floor dealing with prevailing wage provisions in the bills.

There are other technical details that need to be worked out, such as workers who live in border communities and federal laws pertaining to the paperwork on citizenship requirements, but you get the impression that if the Republicans had their way, business will be able to hire cheap, out-of-state, and maybe even illegal labor, and still receive tax breaks.

Republicans put Michigan workers last, once again.

The Rich Get Richer

Wonder when that trickle down theory will kick in. Any second now... right?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, both based in Washington, D.C., released a national report, "Pulling Apart: A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends."

Michigan's gap between richest and poorest incomes is right in middle, coming in at 23rd largest in the country.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit think tanks, which receive funding from individuals and groups including the pro-labor Democracy Alliance, found that the rich-poor gap grew in most states over the past two decades. The trend that has accelerated since the late 1990s. Low- and middle-income families have gained little since then, despite recent years of economic prosperity.

Average incomes fell 2.5 percent for those in the bottom fifth of the income scale and rose by 1.3 percent for those in the middle fifth. Incomes climbed 9 percent for those in the top fifth.

Thanks Ron. You too, Bill. And George... what can we say. You are the King of Inequality. From the summary of the report-

The benefits of economic growth were broadly shared for a few years in the late 1990s — the only period in the past two decades for which this was true — but this broad-based growth ended with the 2001 downturn. Once the effects of the recession were left behind, the trend toward greater inequality quickened, as the incomes of the richest families climbed while those of low- and moderate-income families stagnated or declined.

And for Michigan's wealthy, a staggering figure...

The incomes of the poorest fifth of Michigan households have increased 8.9 percent since the late 1980s. In comparison, Michigan households at the highest reaches of the income scale -- the top 5 percent -- enjoyed a 48 percent increase.

Then again, Dick would probably complain about inflation. Probably needs a few more tax cuts to make up for it.

The picture changes for a single decade, measured from the mid-1990s. Michigan wages sagged across all income groups when adjusted for inflation. However, households earning the lowest 20 percent of incomes lost 11 percent on average during the decade, while the top 5 percent of families stayed the same.

And why the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots?

According to the report, reasons for the change in wage inequality include long periods of higher-than-average unemployment, globalization, the shift from manufacturing jobs to low-wage service jobs, immigration, the weakening of unions and the declining value of the minimum wage.

Sounds like the Michigan Republican Party platform.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

House Dems Call Out the Do-Nothing Senate... Again

Time to point out every piece of legislation that the Senate has ignored - today it is the bill that will increase penalties for drive-by shootings. The House passed this with overwhelming bipartisan support over a year ago.

As yet another Michigan family prepares to bury a victim of a drive-by shooting, State Representative Brenda Clack (D-Flint) today blasted state Senate leaders for failing to act on her bipartisan plan to crack down on the individuals who so recklessly endanger our communities by committing these crimes.


Clack's plan would more than double the penalty for any person who intentionally fires a weapon from a vehicle. The House passed Clack's plan on a vote of 109-1 on March 15, 2007, and it has been languishing in the Senate since then. Currently, such an offense is punishable by no more than four years in prison and a $2,000 fine, regardless of the consequences of the act. Clack's plan increases the penalty to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the crime results in serious bodily harm to another person, the penalty increases to 15 years and $15,000.

Seems we have a pattern developing. Maybe every Tuesday the House can feature legislation that it has passed that ended up sitting in some Senate committee. Last week, it was the trash bills.

"Nearly one year ago, the House passed its plan to crack down on Canadian and out-of-state trash," Simpson said. "As we fight to bring jobs to our state now, we must also protect our communities. It's time for the Senate to take action on our tough anti-trash plan that bans new landfills and increases the dumping charge. By turning bargain-hunting trash trucks around, we will protect our water, air, roads and quality of life."

The House Democrats continue to aggressively push to pass anti-trash measures in light of a February accident in which trash trucks on their way to Michigan landfills overturned in Ontario. The legislation passed in May 2007 by the House bans new landfills and strictly limits the expansion of existing landfills until 2012.

In March, it was a tax cut on home sales.

House Democrats today called on the Republican-led Senate to pass a plan that will cut taxes for homebuyers and help spur Michigan's languishing home sales market. The plan passed the Michigan House of Representatives on March 14, 2007, with bipartisan support and has been stalled in the Senate for nearly a full year.

The end of February - drug company immunity.

After a year of inaction by the Republican-led Senate, House Democrats today called on the Senate Majority Leader to pass a package of bills that will end the absolute immunity enjoyed by the pharmaceutical industry in Michigan and allow consumers to hold big drug companies accountable when dangerous drugs such as Vioxx harm or kill. The House passed the package on Feb. 22, 2007. The public is urged to sign an online petition demanding Senate action at

So forth and so on - important to point out exactly what they have tried to do for the citizens of this state that has met up with Republican obstruction.

Wish they would make a page with the list of bills passed, date passed, and where they currently languish in the Senate.

Monday, April 07, 2008



Spent Saturday painting my office. It's like cleaning out my brain - and what a rat's nest it was, layers of stuff stacked from the past few years and then some. Spent Sunday OUTSIDE with a walk to the store, followed by a marathon yard-cleaning session. All set for spring now, and the green is popping up even as we speak.

Tonight - home opener for the Whitecaps, spotting a 4-0 record to start the season. Cubs are at 3-3 and (Woody) looking a little better; don't ask me what is up with the Tigers. After last night, I just don't know what to think.

Maybe it will be one of those miraculous comeback stories...

Act Naturally

The working title? "Legislature Does Good: Part II". The film legislation will be signed today, and already there is massive interest around the country and the world in bringing movie production to Michigan. From the LA Times-

Michigan, home of the automotive industry, is raising the stakes in the nationwide competition for Hollywood's lucrative film jobs.

In what it bills as the most generous film incentives program in the country, the Great Lake State is announcing today that it will begin offering a 40% rebate on production spending to filmmakers, as well as tax credits for companies that invest in new studios.

According to a story in the Detroit News, the Michigan Film Office is reviewing 78 scripts as of last week.

By Thursday, the state's film office was reviewing 78 scripts for potential films to be shot in Michigan. There are 15 films with $10 million-plus production budgets considering shooting in Detroit once the new legislation is in place, said Al Fields, the city's deputy chief operating officer and head of the Detroit Film Office.

Instant jobs. Instant money into the Michigan economy. Already there are stories coming out of films scouting locations; one is looking at filming at the now-closed Jackson prison, another is coming to Ann Arbor- the movie "Youth in Revolt" is now hiring.

The average motion picture requires spending of about $175,000 a day, Lockwood said. For the movie "Semi Pro," parts of which were filmed in Flint and Detroit, producers hired more than 100 crew members and more than 300 extras.

Producers are "accepting resumes for all crew positions," according to the Film Office Web site, and resumes can be sent to

So, they are coming, they are coming with hordes of cash and jobs. Sounds like a plan, right? Well…

Evey good story needs conflict and drama and villians - and who better to play that part than... (cue scary music)... Nancy Cassis, the only legislator to vote against this package, and the Mackinac Center, who argues that all business should get generous tax breaks and we need to downsize government. As usual. Yawn. And for a touch of comedy, and Janet Lockwood of the Film Office provides this laugh out-loud line...

“Cassis (Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi) opposed the legislation on a personal stand. She doesn’t support corporate welfare. She thinks we shouldn’t single out any one industry. She feels it’s inappropriate, and I respect her opinion,” Lockwood said. “We’ve had a great response from LA, Toronto, and even London. I’m grateful to the Legislature and the governor for getting it together.”

Did Nancy or the Mac Center have any ideas for what industry they could lure here and provide instant jobs and an infusion of big cash into the Michigan economy? No? Not surprising. They never do.

For an example of how much money this can pump into the state, look back to 2001 when a week’s worth of filming of a major motion picture had a great impact along the lakeshore....

The movie "Road to Perdition" was shooting in Chicago. They looked in Illinois for a suitable lakefront location for the climatic scene that takes place in a beach house, and when they couldn't find one there, they came to Saugatuck - and brought money and jobs with them. When all was said and done, one week generated nearly $1 million dollars for the West Michigan economy.

"They are hiring Michigan people, staying in Michigan hotels, eating Michigan food and hiring Michigan police," said Janet Lockwood, director of the Michigan Film Office in Lansing, who greased the skids for filmmakers to get local and state permits.

"All those salaries are Michigan people who pay taxes."

Quite a bit went into making a grand total of 10 minutes of film time for Michigan. Police were hired for security...

For instance, Ottawa County sheriff's deputies have worked overtime to police the dunes area on foot, horseback and boat. The Sheriff's Department will charge DreamWorks about $18,000.

They paid to close a few roads...

The Road Commission got paid, too: $1,500 to close two gravel roads for filming -- 136th Avenue south of M-45, and Winans Street from 136th to 144th avenues.(GR Press, June 13, 2001)

And along that road, they paid a farmer to leave his hay standing...

Partly for that reason, farmer Roger Feikema is in no hurry to view the movie -- which includes plenty of violent gunplay and some coarse language -- even though he was paid $3,000 by the movie company to delay harvesting his hay field on 108th Avenue in Olive Township.

Mendes used the hay field as a backdrop for a scene in which Hanks and Hoechlin are driving down a gravel road to Perdition, a fictional lakeshore community.

Although crews began setting up for the shoot one day and spent more than four hours the next filming it, the scene lasts less than 15 seconds in the final version of "Road to Perdition."

They built the beach house, recreating the feel of the 1930s with weeks of detail work, and then they tore it down...

Weaver is far more interested in seeing another star on the big screen: his paint job.

Movie-goers paying close attention during the film's dramatic climax will have exactly 4 minutes and 15 seconds to scrutinize the job completed by Weaver and three other painters from the local crew that helped adorn the Depression-era beach house in "Road to Perdition."

That's how long the interior scene featuring Hanks lasts, though it required more than six weeks of painstaking, detail-oriented work to create.

"It's gonna be neat. I'll probably have to stuff a sock in my mouth to keep from saying, 'There's the house I did,' " said Weaver, whose paint crew joined a group of more than 10 West Michigan carpenters from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 26 in assembling the temporary house that was razed soon after filming wrapped up last June.

And all those people had to eat and stay somewhere; lots of dollars for local business serving the film crew- and serving all the tourists who came to catch a glimpse of Tom Hanks on the beach. Crowds lined up for miles on local roads, and the local media ran stories every day on the progress of the filming.

The movie was good for business last summer at Spectators Bar & Grill in Saugatuck, too, with crew members who worked on the nearby set of an old motel regularly eating lunch at the watering hole and stopping in for drinks. And owner Sherry White got plenty of media attention, with radio stations and reporters calling in for movie tidbits. (GR Press, July 11, 2002)

So, one week of filming added up to $1 million to the local economy, not to mention the jobs created, the media buzz and interest that lasted for well over a year.

This is going to be huge. With money/credit tightening in this country, there will be even more incentive to find savings for film makers, and Michigan is going to be in the right place at the right time. The hand-wringing over the tax credits will subside when we see how much this generates for the economy - money, jobs, publicity for tourism, larger than life media coverage throughout.

There might even be a part for Nancy someday…