A fitting song for these times, for all the times.
Happy Birthday George.
"The Avengers" -- a big-budget Marvel superhero film featuring Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and others that was to be partially shot here this summer -- has already decided it won't be filming in the state, several people with connections to the film told the Free Press.
The "Avengers" story echoes the buzz spreading through the local film industry that projects wanting to come here are either holding off on their plans or changing their locations to another state.
Anxiety, uncertainty and anger are building in the metro Detroit film community over Snyder's budget plan, which essentially would eliminate the current film tax incentive and instead call for $25 million in each of the next two years for future movie projects.
The Avengers” decision is an early – and high-profile – example of incentive supporters’ fears becoming reality.
The departure of the "The Avengers" project means a loss to more businesses than those involved with on-set duties.
"We were currently in negotiations to work with them at some point during their stay," said Scott Stinebaugh, director of sales and marketing for the Westin Book Cadillac.
The film industry in general represented more than $1 million to the Book Cadillac in 2010, Stinebaugh said.
If those opportunities go away, "it will be a devastating blow not just to us, but to all of the metropolitan Detroit hospitality community," he said.
• Production companies spent $532 million in the state in 2009 and 2010. Of that amount, nearly 60%, or $310.5 million, impacted Michigan's economy.
• Eighty percent of the 4,656 indirect jobs that the movie business has created in Michigan have occurred in five industries: food services, business services, rentals and repairs, personal services and retail.
• The net cost of the tax credits awarded during 2009 and 2010 totaled $137 million. Taxes and fees generated from movie activity, plus reduced unemployment benefits because the filming creates jobs, offset the state's costs, the study says. According to the Michigan Film Office, the state has awarded $304 million in film tax credits since April 2008 and has paid out $96 million so far.
• Film productions paid Michigan residents $42.8 million in wages and salaries in 2009 and $66.9 million in 2010. That equates to an average annual salary of about $53,700 per full-time equivalent employee.
• The average film production in Michigan lasted 90 days in 2009 and 89 days in 2010.
Yep, culture of life. Cut off the means for millions of to have access to affordable birth control, thereby creating more unplanned pregnancies. Deny them affordable breast and cervical cancer screenings. Make sure they don't know how to use contraceptives, and even if they do, they don't have access to them.
Make sure that women can't get abortions safely and affordably by making sure insurance won't pay for it and hospitals can refuse to perform it, even if it means the death of the patient. These combined efforts will send more and more women into the hell created by monsters like Kermit Gosnell--the hell created by denying women access to affordable care.
Senate Bill 13 (Define fetus as an “individual” in statute)
Introduced by Sen. Mark Jansen (R) on January 19, 2011, to revise the definition of “individual” where it occurs in Michigan statutes, so that it includes an unborn fetus, unless this would be inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature which created a statute.
Senate Bill 25 (Establish disposition of fetus regulations)
Introduced by Sen. Rick Jones (R) on January 19, 2011, to require a health facility to take into account the expressed wishes of the parents of a dead fetus, or just the mother if she is unmarried, and seek authorization before arranging the final disposition of the fetus.
Senate Bill 54 (Establish disposition of fetus regulations)
Introduced by Sen. Rick Jones (R) on January 20, 2011, to require a health facility to take into account the expressed wishes of the parents of a dead fetus, or just the mother if she is unmarried, and seek authorization before arranging the final disposition of the fetus. The bill would prohibit the cremation of an aborted fetus with medical waste, and authorize up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine for violations.
Senate Bill 55 (Penalites)
Introduced by Sen. Rick Jones (R) on January 20, 2011, Increase improper fetal remains disposal penalties to establish sentencing guidelines for the increased penalties proposed by House Bill 4119 for improper disposal of fetal remains.
Senate Bill 135 (Revise abortion parental authority waiver)
Introduced by Sen. David Robertson (R) on February 10, 2011, to revise the requirements for a court considering a petition from a minor for authority to get an abortion over the objection of her parents. The bill would require a court to consider the rebuttable presumption that a minor is not capable of providing informed consent for medical treatment. A waiver of parental denial could only be granted if the girl demonstrates a level of maturity based on various factors specified in the bill, or if her parents are neglectful or abusive. A girl whose petition was denied could not seek a waiver in another court division, but could appeal to a higher court.
Senate Bill 150 (Revise abortion ultrasound viewing detail)
Introduced by Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R) on February 16, 2011, to revise a detail of the that requires that, if prior to or during the performance of an abortion a patient undergoes an ultrasound examination, the physician must provide the patient with the opportunity to view a the image before performing the abortion. The bill would require the ultrasound equipment used to be the most technologically advanced equipment in the facility.
Senate Bill 160 (Ban “partial birth abortion”)
Introduced by Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R) on February 17, 2011, to prohibit “partial birth abortions” as defined in the bill, unless in a physician's reasonable medical judgment a partial-birth abortion is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury. The bill does not specify a "health of the mother" exception. Violation would be subject the abortion provider (but not the mother) to up to two years in prison and a $50,000 fine; the father could sue the physician for damages (but could not sue the mother). The bill contains a detailed list of “legislative findings” regarding this practice.
Senate Bill 161 (Ban partial birth abortion)
Introduced by Sen. Goeff Hansen (R) on February 17, 2011, to authorize sentencing guidelines for the “partial birth abortion” ban proposed by Senate Bill 160.
House Bill 4143 (Ban abortion coverage in state "Obamacare“ exchange)
Introduced by Rep. Jud Gilbert (R) on January 26, 2011, to prohibit any state “insurance exchange” created under the federalized health care law from including coverage for abortion except through the purchase of optional rider.
House Bill 4147 (Ban abortion coverage in state "Obamacare“ exchange)
Introduced by Rep. Jud Gilbert (R) on January 26, 2011, to prohibit any state “insurance exchange” created under the federalized health care law from including coverage for abortion except through the purchase of optional rider. This bill applies to Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.
1) He wants to cut taxes.
2) You're going to pay for it.
Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a historic shift in the state's tax burden, using a $1.7 billion increase on individual taxpayers to fund $1.8 billion in cuts to businesses, a shift the governor said is designed to improve the state's future by making it more attractive for job-creating companies.
A proposal in Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's budget to end the state's generous film industry incentives and cap Michigan film tax credits at $25 million a year will mean a loss of jobs, an exodus of talent and an end to big budget movies being filmed in the state, industry insiders say.
Philippe Martinez, CEO of Maxsar Studios in Livonia, Michigan, said he has been preparing himself for the last few weeks for such an announcement from the governor.
"It will definitely kill hundreds of jobs," Martinez said. His studio currently employs 50 people and he had plans to hire 50 more this year — but those plans are over.
"It's a slap in the face to those who invested money in Michigan's film industry," (film industry consultant Ken) Droz said, adding that thousands of dollars have been invested in building the state's film industry work force.
One goal of the film incentives, Droz said, was to stop the brain drain of creative people in Michigan and give them a reason — and the jobs they needed — to stay in the state. Those workers who trained for the film industry will now be asking themselves if they'll need to leave Michigan to find work. Droz is one of them. "After I left the Film Office, I decided to start a consulting business and set down roots in Southfield," he said. "Now I may have to leave."
Jeff Daniels was outspoken Thursday in his disappointment with Gov. Rick Snyder's plans for the future of the Michigan film incentives.
"The sound you hear today is of people packing and leaving the state," Daniels said by phone, describing the potential impact of Snyder's budget proposal, which would eliminate the film tax credit as we now know it.
Daniels said Snyder told him privately that he didn't want to eliminate the incentives and discussed reductions in the current rate, which is up to 42%, and asked him what effect reductions would have.
"It's really disheartening," Daniels said of Snyder's budget plan. "It's not what he told me privately, so to be honest, I guess he's a politician after all. Say one thing, do another."
"It makes no sense to eliminate a program that has actually been creating jobs," said documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, a member of the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council. "The champagne corks are coming off in (rivals) Louisiana, New Mexico and North Carolina."
Michigan has been ranking third each month for film production work, trailing only California and New York, Moore said.
The proposed cut in incentives comes as Michigan is building an infrastructure for year-round filming. The new $80-million Raleigh Michigan Studios in Pontiac is planning to open this spring, and two other smaller studios are already operating. The cutbacks in the incentives could force the studios to close.
Headline in Variety: "Michigan Gov. to film biz: Drop dead"
The weather in Wisconsin is cold this time of year -- but the budget fight is only getting hotter. Following a walkout by the state Senate Democrats, depriving Republicans of the three-fifths majority needed to pass the budget and its controversial anti-public union provisions, the NBC affiliate in Madison now reports that sources say the Dems have left the state entirely.
This comes after the state Senate majority leader said that the State Patrol could be called in to round up the Dems. However, leaving for another state would presumably place the legislators beyond the state's jurisdiction. (Fun fact: The state Senate leader and the Assembly Speaker are brothers -- and the new head of the State Patrol is their father.)
I asked the state Democratic Party for comment on this latest report, but communications director Graeme Zielinski was unable to confirm anything. "I know the whereabouts of not a single Democratic senator," said Zielinski. "I do not know what latitude they're on, or know what longitude they're on. I assume they're in this hemisphere, I'll say that."
"The MEGA board approved incentives to win the following projects for Michigan over competing states and countries".
American Broach & Machine Co. - Canada, China
Benteler Automotive Corp. - Alabama, South Carolina
Faurecia Interior Systems Inc. - Ohio, Mexico
Fluid Routing Solutions Inc. - Kentucky, Tennessee
Gemini Group Inc. - Texas, Mexico
IPC Print Services Inc. - Missouri
Kuka Robotics Corp - Georgia
MedAssurant Inc. - Maryland, Georgia, Virginia
Merit Technologies Worldwide LLC - Indiana
Metalloid Corp. - Indiana, Texas
Unistrut International Corp. - none mentioned
Wabco North America LLC - Indiana, Illinois
XG Sciences Inc. - Ohio
Patriot Solar Group LLC — The solar-energy company plans to invest $3.9 million to open a solar mounts, solar systems and antenna mounts manufacturing plant in Sheridan Township, north of Albion. The company expects the project to create up to 193 direct new jobs, resulting in a state tax credit valued at $1.2 million over five years. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Nevada and Canada. Sheridan Township is considering an abatement in support of the project.
All retirement income, including pensions, but not Social Security, would be taxed in that overhaul. Additional exemptions for seniors and children would be axed. And the income tax rate, set to decline to 3.9 percent, would be maintained at 4.25 percent following a scheduled one-year reduction in 2012. The $3,700 personal exemption would phase out for single filers with $75,000 in income and joint filers with $150,000.
On the spending side of the ledger, city officials in Michigan were bracing for what could be a 40-percent reduction in their revenue sharing payments, a straight cut of some $400 million with $200 million added back for cities that meet new standards for cooperation and cost cutting Snyder’s budget presumably will outline.
“We’re going from a program that was revenue sharing to revenue stealing,” said Summer Minnick of the Michigan Municipal League. “This was created when locals gave up local taxing authority and (state elected officials) have been slowly taking it away to fill their own budget hole. Local citizens are going to feel the impact.”
Under his plan, public schools would see a 4 percent cut, or about $470 per student. Universities would be cut 15 percent, but be given financial incentives to keep tuition increases around 7 percent or less, according to state budget director John Nixon.
— Drops the individual income tax rate from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent on Oct. 1; the tax will then remain at 4.25 percent rather than being decreased to 3.9 percent in future years as scheduled.
— Eliminates the state income tax exemption for pensions, but Social Security benefits will continue to be exempt.
— Eliminates the Michigan Business Tax and replaces it with a flat 6 percent corporate income tax on major corporations.
— Eliminates business credits awarded for films, brownfield redevelopment, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, etc., although current commitments will be honored. Sets aside $25 million for film credits from the 21st Century Jobs Fund.
— Rolls funding for universities and community colleges from the general fund to the school aid fund, the main funding source for K-12 schools.
— Cuts per pupil funds $300, in addition to the currently budged $170 per pupil reduction.
— Eliminates statutory revenue sharing payments for cities, villages and townships in FY 2012, leading to a net savings of $92.1 million. The change impacts 509 local units of government. Increases constitutional revenue sharing by 4 percent, to $659 million.
— Includes $200 million for a new incentive-based revenue sharing program for cities, villages and townships that meet specific standards to be detailed in March.
— Sets a lifetime limit of 48 months for residents to receive welfare payments, with exemptions for incapacity and hardship.
— Closes the Shawono Center in Grayling, and cuts 20 beds in capacity at the Maxey Training School in Whitmore Lake, resulting in $787,000 general fund savings.
— Eliminates 300 field worker positions in the Department of Human Services.
— Closes one prison to be named later this year.
— Reduces the number of Michigan State Police posts, saving $3.2 million.
— Reduces state aid to libraries in the Department of Education budget by $2.3 million in the general fund, with $950,000 directed to the Michigan eLibrary, resulting in net savings of $1.4 million.
— Suggests privatizing food service and prison stores operations in Michigan prisons, and suggests that resident care aide services at the Grand Rapids Veterans' Home be competitively bid.
—Turns the dairy farm inspection program over to industry field representatives certified by the Department of Agriculture.
Members of the Board of Trustees hosted a presentation Tuesday given by Michael Dergis and Wim van Acker of Van Acker Associates, a financial advisory company from Bloomfield Hills; and Binger Winchell and Bill Gagliardi of The Green Panel Inc., a solar technology and installation company from Brighton.
"The township may save up to $170,000 in energy costs over the lifetime of the program under a 20-year contract," Dergis said. "The government is requiring 10 percent of energy must be generated by renewable sources by 2015."
The township could allow investors in solar technology to finance panels, installed atop the Freeland SportsZone, 5690 Midland Road; on the grounds of the Tittabawassee Township Waste Water Treatment Plant; and at the township reservoir.
The panels would generate electricity for Consumers Energy, and the township would receive about $10,000 a year.
Dergis said discussions also have started with MBS International Airport for a similar installation.
The $4.1 million program is financed by outside investors who would own the solar installations for the duration of the contract, with an option to renew the agreement or turn ownership over to the township, Dergis said.
An agreement will have to be worked out with Consumers Energy if the township moves ahead with the project.
The proposed solar installation is an 822 kilowatt-peak, a measurement of solar peak output, split between the waste water treatment plant at 500 kWp, supplying 90 percent of its electricity; the reservoir at 90 kWp, about 75 percent of its electrical needs. The Freeland SportsZone, limited by rooftop space, would get 232 kWp, meeting about 35 percent of its electricity.
Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond wherever is necessary in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state employees.
Walker said Friday that he hasn't called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems that could result in a disruption of state services, like staffing at prisons.
Walker says he has every confidence that state employees will continue to show up for work and do their jobs and he's not anticipating any problems.
A showdown is developing between Gov. Rick Snyder and the Civil Service Commission after Snyder officials said Thursday they will not comply with an order the commission issued affecting the pay of about 14,000 nonunion employees.
"It sounds like it's going to be a turf war," commission Chairman Thomas "Mac" Wardrop said.
The commission voted 4-0 Wednesday to stop deducting 3 percent from the paychecks of the state's nonunion employees to pay for state employee retiree health care benefits.
There is hereby created a non-salaried civil service commission to consist of 4 persons, not more than 2 of whom shall be members of the same political party, appointed by the governor for 8-year, overlapping terms, the 4 original appointments to be for 2, 4, 6, and 8 years respectively. This commission shall supersede all existing state personnel agencies and succeed to their appropriations, records, supplies, equipment, and other property.
The commission shall classify all positions in the state civil service according to their respective duties and responsibilities, fix rates of compensation for all classes of positions, approve or disapprove disbursements for all personal services, determine by competitive performance exclusively on the basis of merit, efficiency and fitness the qualifications of all candidates for positions in the state civil service, make rules and regulations covering all personnel transactions, and regulate all conditions of employment in the state civil service who has not been certified as so qualified for such appointment or promotion by the commission. No removals from or demotions in the state civil service shall be made for partisan, racial, or religious considerations.
Increases in rates of compensation authorized by the commission may be effective only at the start of a fiscal year and shall require prior notice to the governor, who shall transmit such increases to the legislature as part of his budget. The legislature may, by a majority vote of the members elected to and serving in each house, waive the notice and permit increases in rates of compensation to be effective at a time other than the start of a fiscal year. Within 60 calendar days following such transmission, the legislature may, by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to and serving in each house, reject or reduce increases in rates of compensation authorized by the commission. Any reduction ordered by the legislature shall apply uniformly to all classes of employees affected by the increases and shall not adjust pay differentials already established by the civil service commission. The legislature may not reduce rates of compensation below those in effect at the time of the transmission of increases authorized by the commission.
The administration announced it would continue making the deductions hours after House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, urged it to take that position to stop what he called an irresponsible spending spree by the Civil Service Commission.
Two weeks ago, the commission angered many legislators by extending health care benefits to the same-sex partners and other unrelated housemates of state employees, again over the objections of the administration.
"(House Speaker Jase Bolger) feels they have thumbed their nose at state law, with no regard as to the impact the decision is going to have in terms of fiscal cost, in terms of the legal question the (DTMB) is in," (Ari Adler, spokesman for Bolger) said. "The department is now in the middle of this. They have a Civil Service Commission ruling, and they have a state law to follow. ... We think they should follow state law."
But commission members say the commission clearly has the constitutional authority to set compensation levels for nonunion employees, and that the Legislature acted improperly last year.
"Mr. Bolger ought to tread lightly on the ruling of the Civil Service Commission," said commission member Andrew Abood, who introduced Wednesday's measure to end the contributions. "Clearly, we are on sound footing here. The constitution provides for what we did. It didn't support what (the Legislature) did."
"An agitated House Speaker Jase BOLGER (R-Marshall) said this morning that if the two recent actions by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) can't be overturned, he would support disbanding the constitutionally required body."
"I think our message on the 17th of February is going to be dropping an atomic bomb on the City of Lansing." - Lt. Gov. Calley, to the Holland Chamber of Commerce
Calley said a plan to create a 6 percent corporate tax will be achieved by closing tax loopholes and doing away with about $2 billion in state business tax credits.
“The tax system is unfair to business and way too complicated. It picks business winners and losers,” said Calley noting the present unfair system collects taxes from all companies and gives away about $1.8 in tax credits to only certain companies and industries.
As proposed, the new tax would phase out of many existing tax credits, including the Michigan Economic Growth Authority credits and others for specific industries, such as the film tax credit.
Calley also said the governor and Legislature is working to eliminate the personal property tax that businesses pay on the cost of building new plants, expanding existing facilities or buy new equipment.
Republican Mike Bouchard, Oakland County's sheriff, said Wednesday he would eliminate the targeted tax credit program if he is elected governor in November. The cheers you hear are coming from economic development offices in other states.
Auto officials said the $2 billion in investments wouldn't have happened without the tax incentives.
"Without the tireless efforts of the state of Michigan, Chrysler could not have made this business decision," Chrysler's Brian Glowiak said.
In come cases, Michigan was competing with other states for the same investment.
"Red carpets are rolled out for manufacturing around the world," said Curt Magleby, director of state and local government relations for Ford. "Michigan understands that."
If the state didn't make it financially attractive to invest here, "there are a lot of other red carpets," he said.
State governments have already jumped in with incentives to land winners of federal funds along with their desirable manufacturing jobs. Michigan plans to provide $555 million in incentives and has already awarded credits to four projects. Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts, California, and Kentucky are also offering tax breaks and other incentives.
Like others in the industry, Martinez is waiting to see whether changes will be made to the film incentives. Rumors about the demise of the tax breaks have already caused headaches for his business, generating fear among employees and investors.
"We cannot make the investment to buy (the buildings) until we know the tax credit is stable," the Northville resident said. "If they are going to change the law, tell us now. We need some stability."
If the tax breaks are eliminated or scaled back significantly, Martinez said, at least half the studio's 50 employees would leave Michigan.
Birgit Klohs, CEO of The Right Place Inc. in Grand Rapids, says the present policy of targeting high-growth sectors, such as life sciences and alternative energy, is a proper strategy.
“There is no state, there is no business, that doesn’t decide what sector it wants to compete in, and we have to decide what sectors are growth sectors and what can add to our economy,” Klohs said during a recent roundtable discussion with her colleagues from West Michigan.
They say companies across the U.S., even when they consider states with a lower business-tax burden than Michigan, have come to expect some kind of incentives. “We cannot stop incentivizing companies that are looking to grow to protect companies that are looking to stay put,” Lakeshore Advantage President Randy Thelen said.
Holland Township Manager Don Komejan said elimination of the Property Tax would result in a 9 percent reduction in township revenue to the tune of $870,000 a year.
“It sounds attractive to lower business taxes, but they have to look at the local impact and the cut in public services it would produce,” said Komejan noting the township has not heard any plans on how that tax revenue would be replaced.
The Charging America Forward Act, first proposed last summer, would provide customers with a $7,500 rebate for plug-in electric vehicles, offer businesses tax credits for purchasing plug-in hybrid trucks, expand a tax credit for the installation of charging stations and renew a public-private partnership to boost advanced battery production.
Vice President Joe Biden last month suggested rebates could replace tax credits as part of the Obama administration's three-part plan to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, and Stabenow says her legislation will benefit Michigan.
Nonprofit groups across the eight-state region had hoped for a major influx of money to improve wildlife habitat, dredge toxic sediments left by industrial sources, fix beach pollution and upgrade crumbling sewer systems, as President Barack Obama promised during his campaign.
Obama proposed and Congress approved $475 million to kick-start the initiative last year, providing funding for hundreds of projects and creating jobs, said Jeff Skelding, director of the multistate Healing Our Waters Coalition.
But Congress has yet to approve the amount Obama requested for the 2011 fiscal year, $300 million, to continue the program and the administration has said it plans further cuts for 2012. In a column in Sunday’s New York Times, Obama’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, specifically named the Great Lakes Restoration as one of three programs the president will cut in 2012. That could stall the work now under way, directors of several environmental groups said.
Among the goals it seeks by 2014: finishing work at five toxic hot spots that have languished on cleanup lists for two decades; a 40 percent reduction in the rate at which invasive species are discovered in the lakes; measurable decreases in phosphorus runoff; and protection of nearly 100,000 wetland acres.
It also will help save species such as the lake sturgeon, a prehistoric fish that can reach 8 feet long and 200 pounds but is endangered because of overharvesting and habitat degradation. The plan promises to provide 25,000 young sturgeon for stocking programs.
Combined with enforcement of environmental rules and new ones where needed, officials said the plan would help make Great Lakes fish safe to eat, their waters suitable for drinking and swimming, and their native plants and animals thriving.
The Brookings Institution has estimated that implementing the Great Lakes restoration strategy in full will generate $50 billion in long-term benefits. A coalition of more than 30 metropolitan Chambers of Commerce in the region has highlighted Great Lakes restoration as a critical component of a larger agenda for creating jobs and revitalizing our regional economy. Areas where cleanups have been completed are planning important waterfront redevelopment projects. Cleaning up contaminated sediments, alone, is projected to increase coastal property values by $12 billion to $19 billion. Boating, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching in the Great Lakes region generate over $50 billion in economic activity annually and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. Abundant freshwater, recreational amenities and other benefits from the Great Lakes will be vital for attracting new industries and young workers in the future.
“… a magnificent tribute to the city that has been plagued by all the ills that an urban area could possibly face. And it's a message to stay strong … .
In a way, it's also more than a message about Detroit … honoring a time when America was about making things -- real, hulking tangible pieces of machinery. It stood in contrast to the rest of the ads for things we click on, things made far, far away, things created by people sitting behind a desk (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Chrysler seems to say that Detroit isn't dead, and maybe the spirit of Americans making things isn't dead either."
The hottest "green" toy in Germany isn't made of organic or recycled materials. That's so 2010. This one has a solar panel and only runs if kids remember to insert bright red "energy stones" that power the rest of the space station.
Germany, a pioneer in many renewable energy initiatives, is also at the forefront of creating environment-friendly toys aimed at making kids think about where energy comes from and how much of it they can use, raising awareness through play.
A panoply of high-tech green toys are on display at this year's Nuremberg toy fair, which runs through Sunday. Among them, hydroelectric-powered toy cars, and doll houses with wind turbines and rainwater catchers.
The bright green "Future Planet" space station features an inner atrium with a fan that is powered by a functioning solar cell. Its aim is to get kids to use their imagination about how energy will be created in the future.
1. Jacob Turner
Pos.: Right-handed pitcher
Outlook: When it already has been decided a 19-year-old right-hander will begin at Double A, you know how quickly the Tigers anticipate Turner could slide into the starting rotation. It could happen this season for a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder who, unless he gets hurt, stands to become one of the game's elite. Only 19 months out of high school, Turner has a three-pitch package of power and precision. The Tigers paid him a big-league contract in 2009 ($4.7 million). And they haven't regretted a penny of it.
The top fundraising PAC of the cycle was the RGA Michigan PAC, one of numerous state PACs created by the Republican Governors Association across the country in the 2010 cycle. The RGA Michigan PAC reported $8,429,328 in contributions, a record for a Michigan state PAC. The RGA Michigan PAC gave $5,295,000 to the Michigan Republican Party, $3,000,000 to the campaign committee of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, $130,000 to the Republican Governors Association and it has filed for dissolution.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce was the top contributor in 2010 to the top PAC’s parent organization, the Republican Governors Association. The Michigan Chamber’s corporate contributions to the RGA totaled $5,372,500. Net of the $3,000,000 contribution to the Texas governor’s campaign, the contributions ascribed to individual donors to RGA Michigan PAC were a near perfect replacement for the Michigan Chamber’s contribution to the RGA. Of the $8.4 million in individual contributions recorded by RGA Michigan PAC, 98 percent came from persons who do not reside in Michigan. The individual contributions that came to the RGA Michigan PAC first passed through the parent organization.
Corporate PACs made their Michigan debut in 2010, exploiting the opening created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In Michigan, corporate funds can be used only for independent expenditures, not contributions to candidates, so organizations that are using corporate funds, so far, are segregating their corporate money in new PACs. The most notable corporate PACs were those of the Michigan Association of Realtors, $450,100, and Business Leaders for Michigan II, at $135,500.
“Formerly, we could say there was accountability for who was giving what to whom in the world of state political action committees,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “The Byzantine transfers into and out of the Republican Governors Association, and the ‘Russian doll’ financing structure in the Realtors’ corporate PAC are clear notice that state PACs have new formulations to defeat transparency. That is not a positive development for democracy in Michigan.”
State environmental groups are cheering Gov. Rick Snyder's administration for appealing an Ottawa County judge's ruling to allow expansion of Holland's coal-fired power plant.
“We are pleased to see the Snyder Administration is continuing to defend the Granholm Administration's Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) in arguing that the permit should be denied,” said Anne Woiwode, director of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Attorney General Bill Schuette filed paperwork this week indicating he will appeal Ottawa County Circuit Judge Jon Van Allsburg's Dec. 15 ruling that the state's denial of an air quality permit for an expansion of Holland's James DeYoung plant was unconstitutional.
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality will not continue its legal fight to prevent the plans for two coal power plants.
Brad Wurfel is a spokesman with MDEQ. He says their decision to change course is partly because of two judges ruling against the state and partly because of the new administration.
“Governor Snyder is in favor of building Michigan’s economy and in the case of Wolverine Rogers City has expressed an interest in additional power to realize a long term vision for increasing its port capacity, expanding its infrastructure, and they need power to do it. Right now they’re buying that power from Ohio and Indiana.”
Saginaw could be at risk of losing a $3.1 million federal lead abatement grant after two GOP county leaders objected to the spending, County Department of Public Health officials say.
Commissioners Tim Kelly and Kirk W. Kilpatrick, both R-Saginaw Township, challenged a need for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant targeted at the Saginaw zip codes of 48601, 48602 and 48607. The initiative would eliminate lead sources in about 240 homes and test about 300, plans show.
“It’s just growing government and we can’t afford to do this,” Kelly said. “The problem is minimal, yet the dollars keep going up.”
“The problem of lead poisoned children exists in Saginaw County, and particularly in the city of Saginaw and it’s largely related to housing stock” with lead-based paint, (John D. McKellar, leader of the Health Department) said. “If the federal government is offering money to address the problem, then we should accept the money.”
The money is meant to reduce the threat of lead poisoning in children who live in older homes, usually those built before 1978, officials say.
The lead abatement program reached a critical impasse Monday when the County Board of Commissioners Human Services Committee failed to vote to accept the money and hire five employees to carry out the initiative.
“My concerns are that according to the data the lead abatement issue is going away and it looks like they are changing the grant over to a health homes initiative,” Kilpatrick said. “There’s all kinds of reasons that they’re coming up with to replace windows and doors and paint and carpet with federal funds and it’s just not where our federal funds should be going right now.”
The program would employ and train about 200 people, many low income workers, in lead abatement and education outreach through community nonprofit groups, such as the First Ward Community Center and the Ezekiel Project, plans say.
Kelly and Kilpatrick said they don’t believe their opposition will halt the program. The hope was to send a message to the board’s Democratic majority things aren’t “business as usual,” Kelly said.
“If it temporarily throws a monkey wrench into their plans, then so be it,” he said.