Blogs > Skoop's Blog

In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Private Letter Intercepted

    There's an old adage suggesting if you don't want folks to know what you are doing, don't put it in writing.
    Rep. Rick Jones could care less.
    Jones is on a crusade to stop the leasing of a new state police headquarters in downtown Lansing because, as he outlined in a private letter to his GOP colleagues, "Corruption is exactly what the inside stinky deal is all about."
    Jones has no proof, however, that the Granholm administration did anything unethical or illegal by awarding the MSP headquarters' project to noted democrat Joel Ferguson and republican Gary Granger.
    But that does not stop the Eaton County Republican from blasting the deal and urging his colleagues to vote no on the lease if and when the house democrats bring it up for a vote.
   "You may be held accountable later for making a "bridge to nowhere" type vote," he warns his fellow members.
    In the three-page letter laced with some profanity, Jones claims it is "bullsh—" that the lease cannot be broken even though he concedes the Huntington Bank has "leaned" on some lawmakers saying that is the case.
   He also alludes to a lobbyist who "came to my office and made threats about having his client stop donations and blaming me."  To which the feisty Jones retorts, "I'm NOT for sale.  No one gets away with threatening me."
    Jones was also not happy with the House GOP leaders who said they did not have the time to allow two GOP senators into a closed-door meeting to discuss the project.
    Barring an 11th hour flip here, it looks like the lawmaker's crusade will continue to produce stories but the headquarters will open early this fall.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is Pop A Food?

    Where's Black Bart when ya need him?
    Who can forget the Faygo soft drink commercial, "Which way did he go?  Which way did he go?"
    Well Faygo and its competitors may need Black Bart to win a legislative shoot-out which has begun to unfold.
     Under current Michigan law the state's 6% sales tax does not apply to soda pop because it is consider a food.  But alas, some lawmakers are looking at a plan that would reclassify pop as a non-food and then they would slap the sales tax on that.
     Michigan Soft Drink Association lobbyist Bill Lobenherz contends pop is a food and if you were on a dessert island with nothing to eat but had an endless supply of pop, you would live he argues.
     He says the product has two or three of the "essential nutrients" of life i.e. water, phosphorus, and sugar.
     Tell that to Andy Dillon, the House Speaker who has endorsed the proposal which means Lobenherz has his work cut out for him.  In these tough economic times lawmakers are scratching to find more scratch wherever they can and pop is on the radar screen.
     As for the argument pop is a food, Dillon tells reporters, "We can legislate what it is, I think."
     Translated if lawmakers wanted to call a T-bone steak non-food they could which is why Lobenherz counters, if they try to do that to pop, "We'd have to take it to court."  And he reports courts in other states have sided with the industry.
     So pull up a Red Pop.  This could get ugly.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oilman Andy

     He's at it again.
     Having poked around in the political hornets nest of insurance for public employees, now he's drilling for oil and hoping to net the state some badly needed bucks in the process.
      House Speaker Andy Dillon seeks to reinvent the way the state does business with the oil and gas exploration folks and those folks don't like it one iota.
     For years, speculators obtained a lease from the state, got a shovel and drill and went to work.  Dillon supports a "joint venture" whereby the oil and gas guys would partner with the state to search for black gold and gas.
     And if Dillon is right, the state could increase its profits from the current 18% for selling the lease to 58% of the take from whatever is found underground.
     That's what reportedly happened in Oklahoma, Texas and Kentucky, ya'all.
     Dillon thinks the current system has been "poorly managed." Too often those who get the lease sit on it and never poke a hole in the ground.  Supposedly with the state involved, there would be more poking and maybe more largess for the state's woefully empty coffers.
     But the lobbyist for the industry says, ""There's nothing good for the state in this," and on top of that Frank Mortl thinks it is illegal and would require a constitutional change to implement.
     Bottom line, the speaker has another political war on another front.  That's two and counting.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bye-Bye Hollywood Credit

     When they roll the closing credits on a movie, the audience usually makes a mad dash for the exit.  After all who really cares who the second assistant to the main gaffer was on a flick?
     But for the movie Gran Turino, the audience stayed glued in their seats.  In fact there was an air of anticipation according to Mitch Albom who was there.
     Near the end of the credits was a simple sentence,  "Filmed in Michigan" and with that the Mitch-ster reports, everyone jumped up and applauded.
     In these tough economic times, apparently we are desperate to cheer about anything.
      Clint Eastwood and company filmed in Michigan because he got a nifty 42% tax break from the state and now senate republicans want to do to the credit, what that gang did to Eastwood's character at the end of the film…shoot it dead.
     Turns out they have the governor over the barrel on this one and she will have to give in at some point if she wants GOP votes to raise $500 million by closing other tax loopholes.
      The senate R's also have on their "to cut" list the so-called Earned Income Tax Credit which is near and dear to the heart of state budget director Bob Emerson.  For years he toiled to enact the tax break for the truly needy, but republicans want to slice and dice that saying the state can't afford that tax break either.
     Doing away with or dramatically reducing the film credit and the EITC appear to be non-negotiable for the GOP.  Either they get what they want, or the governor will get a goose egg on raising new money to balance the budget. Look for her to reluctantly give-in.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Brewer: Miss Congeniality II

      John McCain, surely your remember the maverick, often got a good chuckle on the stump when he noted that he would never win the "Miss Congeniality" title in the U.S. Senate.
      Mr. McCain meet Mark Brewer.
      Brewer, now the longest serving state Democratic Party chair in the country, is the proverbial pain in the you know what for state republicans.
      Ask Dick DeVos the China job-creating loser for governor.
      Ask Cliff Taylor the "sleeping judge."
      Ask Rich Studley who runs the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
      Last week Brewer called in the capitol scribes and boldly announced that he would survey his party to see what issues should be placed on the November 2010 ballot.
      He listed a hike in the minimum wage, more jobless benefits, better health care, and a one-year hold on home foreclosures among others.
      Well Studley came unglued and beat up Brewer for being so "anti-business."
       Brewer claims he's not anti-business, he's just pro-people and anti-anybody with an elephant for a mascot.
      However Brewer got a bad case of lockjaw the other day when the shoe was on the other foot.
      Democratic Speaker Andy Dillon has stirred up a real hornets nest with his universal public employee health insurance scheme that has divided organized labor, which Brewer seeks to please.
      Despite coming at him every which way, Brewer refused to take sides in the Dillon vs. labor battle.
      "I haven't seen his plan," was Brewer's lame excuse.  Come on Marky.  He didn't need to see the plan to comment on the politics of the intra-party feud which is getting worse by the moment.  
       Republicans must have had a chuckle to see Brewer on the hot seat as he was on the defensive for a change and did not looking very credible being there.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's The Rush?

         This is beginning to sound like the proverbial broken record…those are round discs that pre-date CD's, but it bears repeating.  Maybe you don't give a hoot, but here goes anyway.
         During the entire month of July, you can count on one finger, the number of times the Michigan House and Senate have been in session.
         While most working slugs got one day off for the 4th of July, state lawmakers took two weeks off.  That must have been one heck of a loooong parade!
          Before they left, legislative leaders explained that they would stay behind and work with the governor to resolve the budget mess.  You may have heard about the $1.7 billion hole in the budget.  It's been in all the papers.
=0 A
         Well come to find out, best we can tell, they met once.  The budget director complains he was available but everyone else was not.
         Lawmakers did return after the hiatus for one day.  They adjourned claiming they would return the next week for one day, but they didn't.
        And now the word is, the house won't meet next week but leaders will try to keep that secret so nobody writes a blog about their heavy work schedule.
        The governor was asked to chime in on all this the other day.
        Do you get any sense of urgency?" she was asked as the clock ticks toward an October one deadline.
        She declined to wade into the issue but did defend the lawmakers saying, "Negotiations are going on all the time."
        Not sure what her definition of "all the time" really is.
        Nonetheless she correctly states, lawmakers "don't have to be in their seats all the time" while these budget talks continue behind closed doors.  And don't forget we are told that when lawmakers aren't in our town, they are "back in the district working."
        Just remember all this next September when she and lawmakers are running out of time to avoid another shutdown of government.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rick Who Remains Rick Who

     The latest entrant into the GOP race for governor has two objectives as he bounces around the state to announce his candidacy. The obvious one is to stir up enough support to become governor, but first things first. Rick Snyder has to address a more immediate challenge: Rick who?
    As a complete and utter unknown quantity in the political game, Snyder starts with zero name ID and frankly his first attempt at building on that goose egg was an object failure.
    Despite some very high priced handlers who provided the applause track for his speech, they somehow forgot to provide him some sound advice on how to get his name out to the public.
    Snyder's advance team showed up on the steps of the state capitol and erected a podium with a mike and a bumper sticker attached to the podium. It read, "Rick for Michigan."
    The sign was arranged so that you couldn't see the word "for" and so to the unwashed who didn't know this guy from Adam, it looked as though his name was Rick Michigan.
    In fact after the Lansing event, a female tourist who happened to watch the event asked somebody, "What is his name?"
    One of the "savvy" handlers responded, Rick Snyder.
    The woman said,  "Oh.  I was pretty sure his name was not Rick Michigan."
    It was bad enough that the tiny bumper sticker did not reveal his last name, but the huge bus he is using doesn't either.  It's Rick for Michigan only in bigger letters.
    If businessman Snyder is the hotshot business guy that he says he is, somebody's fat paycheck should take a hit for this sophomoric blunder. Unfortunately "Rick who?" can't fire the inept hire because he has pledged to reduce the state's jobless rate not increase it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Granholm Caught In The Middle

       Some described it as a cold shoulder.  You could have said she was luke warm, but whatever descriptive phrase you select, it was clear that the governor is not ready to embrace a wholesale rewrite of health care for public employees just yet, if at all.
     "I have a million questions," she began the discussion in the wake of House Speaker Andy Dillon's status quo upsetting plan.  He seeks to create a state government run health care system for almost half a million public workers and retirees.
      Gov. Jennifer Granholm is well aware that segments of the labor community are mad as wet hens even though three or four of those unions are poised to jump on the Dillon bandwagon.
      Not so fast, the governor intones.  With the Obama administration jawboning for a redo of the national system, the governor figures, let's see what happens in D.C. before we tackle it here.
     While democrat Dillon forecasts $900 in savings "over time", the governor politely counters, "Show me the money." She's not sure the savings are there.
     And she says the "timing is challenging" which is another diplomatic way of saying, doing this now won't solve the immediate budget deficit problem.   The only phrase missing from her analysis was, so why bother.
     The governor is good at traversing that tight rope between hacking off labor by siding with Dillon and hacking off Dillon by siding with labor.
     "I appreciate the effort to save health care money," she patted Dillon on the head, but "we are not going to willy nilly cut employee benefits" as she bowed to unions.
      Granholm: Once again ensconced in the middle where perhaps she makes no one happy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

MEA Memo Blasts Dillon

     More bad blood between organized labor and the democratic Speaker of the Michigan House.
     In a confidential memo, the executive director of the Michigan Education Association, Lu Battaglieri, blasts Speaker Andy Dillon for his proposal to create a state operated health insurance system for the state's nearly half a million public employees and retirees.
    After twelve years of battling anti-labor Gov. John Engler, Battaglieri calls the Dillon plan the most "anti-labor, anti-uinon and anti-collective bargaining" proposal yet.
    Dillon told the union in a meeting last week that he was offering the plan to make sure the democrats did not lose the house, senate and governor's seat next year.  The union offic ial countered, "That's exactly what will happen.  He is seemingly clueless as to the damage he is causing the Democratic Party."
    The memo goes on to describe Dillon as:  "Nice house-nobody home. And that is not meant to be pejorative.  I believe it is true."
    Recall that the MEA and its insurance arm, MESSA, took a hit in the 2007 budget crisis and the memo warns, this will not happened again.
    The MEA "is not going to be scarified on the alter of the budget yet again," the memo warns.
    In conclusion the union adds, "It is not hyperbole to say we are at war on this issue."
    Warm letter to follow.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fwd: Uncle Walter

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sat, Jul 18, 2009 9:34 am
Subject: Uncle Walter

        What would Walter do or now, more appropriately, what would Walter have done?
        During the media gluttony of the Michael Jackson story, the thought kept swirling around:  If Walter Cronkite was still anchoring the evening news, how would he have covered this overblown, over done, over the top coverage of the King of Pop?
        Rest assured he would not have led the CBS Evening News with the story and he would not have devoted the first 13 minutes of the broadcast as Brian Williams did over at NBC.
        "Uncle Walter" would have covered the event but would have buried it lower in the ru ndown where it belonged.
         He would have protested to the news division when it decided this story deserved a one-hour special in prime time.  He would have reminded the "suits" that they no longer wanted to air more serious fare on CBS Reports or other documentary outlets that long ago had been killed by the same "suits" for lack of ratings.
         Cronkite, of course, would have lost the battle but he would have gone public with his condemnation of same.
         Good thing for CBS Mr. Cronkite was not around because he would have reminded everyone that the role of the journalist is to present the news "that people need to know and not what they want to know."
         Implicit in that standard is the notion that covering the news is not about profits; it's about sharing with citizens what they should know about the world.  My oh my, those days died long before Mr. Cronkite left this earth.
         And how ironic it was to watch all the cable talking heads bemoan the loss of this great broadcast journalist when most were living examples of how far the TV news biz has degenerated and strayed from the ideals Mr. Cronkite espoused.
        And how ironic that you won't see the gluttony of coverage over his death even though, compared to Mr. Jackson, Mr. Cronkite impacted many more lives and in a more substantive manner.
        And unfortunately that's the way it is and was.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

       Secrecy is a wonderful thing.  Minus any hard and fast evidence as to what is going on, the mind is allowed to wander aimlessly in search of the truth.
       Exhibit A is the Don Quixote-like mission for tax reform involving the Michigan legislature, Detroit Renaissance and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.
       Last February or so, House Speaker Andy Dillon hooked up with the two business groups and Senate GOP Leader Mike Bishop as they joined hands and embarked on a perilous journey to find someway to make Michigan's business tax more attractive.
       "This will be driven by the data," opined the optimistic and self-assured Doug Rothwell from Motown Renaissance.  And from that point on all the focus groups and survey results went under lock and key.
        Who the heck knows what they are up to?
        Looks like nothing.  Maybe they discovered that finding a consensus within the business community on how it should be taxed is really a hopeless exercise in self-flagellation.
        Minus any proof to the contrary, let's go with that conclusion because last week out of the blue, the legislature suddenly woke up from its long winter's nap and reasserted its authority in trying to resolve the tax reform dilemma.
       Rep. Kate Ebli (D-Monroe) proudly announces the formation of a 17-person work group to tackle the issue and find a solution, if it can, within the next four to six weeks.
       Asked why she has waited until the middle of the summer when lawmakers have supposedly been on the job since last January, Ebli glibly replied her committee has been working all along on=2 0this assignment.
       Balderdash.  She and everyone else were waiting for Rothwell and company to produce something, and now that they've produced nothing, lawmakers will finally get down to doing what they should have been doing six months ago.
       If lawmakers farmed out every issue to the special interest groups to resolve, why would we need a legislature?
       That's not a rhetorical question either.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Parallel Lines Never Meet

     When is the last time you used Algebra II in your daily life?
      Can't remember can you and good thing because you don't remember a darn thing about the silly course, right?
      Well in the middle of all the hubbub in this town about the budget deficit, cutting programs and raising taxes, remerges a continuing saga on whether ordinary high school kids need Algebra II to graduate.
     The law on the books say they do.
     Rep. Joel Sheltrown (D-West Branch) says they don't.
     This issue has deeply fractured the education community as Sheltrown contends there is a "disconnect" between what is said in Lansing in favor of the requirement and "the reality in the field."
     One school superintendent tells Sheltrown 55% of his students will have trouble getting a sheep skin next year because of the mandate.
     Baloney retorts the governor and the state school superintendent who argue the rigors of taking this higher math course is just what the doctor ordered for kids to land a job of the future.
      Instead Sheltrown says teach the kids about "financial literacy" i.e. what's an ARP, what's a sub-prime mortgage, and how can you save for retirement.  "This is far more practical," he contends "than higher math."
      Of course all the "stupid" folks who have trouble with math are going, "Go get'em Mr. Sheltrown."
       Others counter that students still n eed the "logic" that higher math imbeds in their heads.
       If that's the case then, how come nobody can remember why two parallel lines never meet?  And if they have trouble meeting, let'em hire a dating service.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Obama Bush

      So, are you fixin' to visit the president when he speaks in Warren today? Well unless you have a note from your mommy, stop fixin'.
      A funny thing happened on the way to the White House.  President Barack Obama caught the same disease that other presidents have had i.e. let's keep unsavory citizens critical of our policies from infiltrating our public events.
      Recall that candidate Obama routinely gave speeches and staged town hall meetings by opening the doors to whomever wanted to attend.  Frankly it was a refreshing break from the way President George Bush did it and the Obama folks were fond of pointing out the difference between the two.
      Three cheers for transparency.
      So when it was announced last week th at the new president was coming to Macomb County for a town hall meeting, it was assumed it would be 'first come, first served."
       If you have an invite, you can come in.  If you don't you can watch it on the tube. 
       So much for change.
      Actually this shift in strategy has been bubbling in the White House since earlier this month when veteran correspondents Helen Thomas and NBC's Chip Reid got into it with Press Secretary Gibbs.
      The essence of the exchange was, if you guys are so transparent why are you controlling audiences who ask the questions?
       Gibbs put on his tap shoes and danced around the sticky wicket.
      Now the Obama handlers have nixed the townhall format and are calling it a speech.
      Speech. Smeech.
      If you are for openness in government, why is it invite only?
      You can hear the "security" argument and while that is a factor, you can install metal detectors to address that.
      Unfortunately President Obama  has not invented a machine to detect those who would shout him down during his remarks.
      How un-American is that?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Teens Die. Lawmakers Watch.

     Ya gotta wonder how high  the teen-driver death count will skyrocket before lawmakers act?
      Since December of 2003, a bill has been in the hopper to limit the number of passengers in a car with a teenage driver.
      Had the law been on the books last week, the body count in the tragic car-train crash in Canton would have been two, not five. That's assuming the young driver followed the law and given his driving record that may have been a stretch.
       Nonetheless the statistics are mind numbing: (1) 6,000 teen drivers die each year nationwide at a staggering cost of $39 billion. (2) When you add passengers, the risk of an accident goes up 39%. (3) 57% in Michigan favor a ban on passengers as do AAA and the state police.
       So in 6 years, why has the legislature sat idly by while the20death count goes up?
       In many respects it's the same reason lawmakers initially opposed seat belt laws.  It was an intrusion on personal liberty.  Yeah and so are red lights, stop signs and yellow lines.
       It turns out seat belts are saving lives and so far nobody has renounced his or her citizenship because their liberties were violated.
       Surprisingly Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, whose job it is to promote traffic safety, opposes this legislation saying it should be up to the parents to regulate riders in their teen's automobile. That, of course, assumes that parents care and take the trouble to find out.
        Look it.  The state has made great strides in reducing teen accidents with a trend setting graduated driver's license program, but many believe adding a restriction on passengers would all ow young drivers to concentrate on the road and not on the antics of their peers inside the car.
       But to date lawmakers have seen fit to sit on their hands rather than lend a hand to save more young lives.  Shame on them. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stealing Our Democracy

    When a column begins with, "In the good ole days", it's a good idea to dash for the sports section to see if a new Cold War has broken out over the defection of Red Wing Jiri Hudler to Moscow.
  Good ole day stories usually degenerate into a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Hopefully this one is different.
   In the good ole days lawmakers solved issues by debating them in front of God and the press corps.
   There is still a democracy in the Michigan House but you'd be hard pressed to watch it because most of the deliberations are behind closed locked doors in a caucus which in the good ole days was a rare event.
     Not anymore. Currently both parties go into caucus like you breath air…a lot. Caucuses are now used as a handholding exercise to clue everyone in on issues since the vast majority of members have no clue what8 0s going on. 
    Any robust debate goes on inside and then everyone moves lock step back to the floor to ratify what was debated out of public view.
    It's a lousy way to run a democracy but it underscores the inexperience of term-limited lawmakers who don't want to demonstrate their "stupidity" in public.
    Likewise, in the good ole days most of the legislative work was done in a committee where the members were experts.  Nowadays a lot of that is shifted to so-called "work groups." These are ad hoc and often bi-partisan committees, not subject to the Open Meetings law, that try to resolve this issue or that.
    The caucus and the work groups are insidious viruses that eat away at an open democracy designed to cover the political behinds of those who are too afraid or too incompetent to debate out in the open.
     It needs to change.  Maybe a work group or caucus could study the notion.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kalkaska: Here We Go Again?

    With the domestic auto industry in turmoil, the State of Michigan has received more than its fair share or negative national headlines recently.
    But back in the early 1990's when the autos were humming along, it was a tiny and out of the way school district up North that captured the nation's attention and none of it was good.
    "Kalkaska Shuts School Doors—Runs Out of Money."
    The closing of a school system was big news and turns out the flap over Kalkaska broke the twenty-year-old logjam in the legislature and led to a "reform" of the way we pay for schools.
     Fast forward to the here and now…more Kalkaska's may be unfolding.
     "We are having that conversation," reports Ray Tellman, the lobbyist for thirty-three of the state's poorest inner city and rural districts with 20% of all the students in the state.
      Faced with the double whammy of losing students and losing state government funding, some of these schools may spend all their money until it runs out and then board up the classrooms.
      Tellman observes with all the past and future loss of state aid, some boards are fed-up with all the cutting will "look at this other option that they will go with what we've got and see what happens down the road and if they can't go any further, than they stop rather than decimate their programs."
      No one is there just yet, but don't be shocked when and if you read the headline:  Kalkaska Re-do: Schools Close For Good.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mr.Outsider Trying To Get In

    First there were three and shortly there will be four GOP candidates for governor. Welcome self-described non-politician Rick Snyder to the fray.
   "I've never run for office," the Ann Arbor entrepreneur explains on one his Youtube videos posted this week in which he also takes a swipe, albeit gentle, at the other three in the hunt.
    "Everyone is a politician" claiming their experience is what the state needs, and "it's that experience that created this mess," the outsider concludes.
     His reference, without naming names, was to Attorney General Mike Cox, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra.
     Since the first of the year, Snyder has traversed the state on a so-called "listening tour" which ends during the week of July 20th when he stops lis tening and starts campaigning.
      Synder faces some challenges. 
     (1) He is a virtual unknown but apparently has the largess to correct that as he attempts to buy name identification.  It can be done.
     (2) He knows very little about the inner workings of Lansing but he considers that a huge asset.
     (3) He is untested on the issues and has steadfastly refused to answer direct questions from the working media on abortion, stem cells, gay marriage and all those other dicey wedge issues that often infiltrate a GOP primary. He promised that when he became a candidate, he would tackle reporter's nosey questions. 
     (4)  He has no base from which to run. In fact some believe just being from "arrogant" Ann Arbor is a minus.  Cox has won two statewide races. Bouchard is strong in Oakland County and Hoekstra brings support from West Michigan where he's served in congress for close to twenty years.
     (5)  Do voters want another GOP/business guy running for governor? The last one four years ago, didn't do so hot.  What was his name?  Dick somebody or other?
     Synder seems undaunted by all this as he launches an outsider's effort to get inside state government.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gov. vs. Unions

    To the untrained eye, you would assume that Michigan's democratic governor and organized labor have a peachy relationship.
    Nope.  Sometimes it's more like prunes.
    All this goes back to her days with mentor Ed McNamara who ran Wayne County government with a decidedly anti-labor tinge.  Eddie and the union guys didn't always see eye to eye. And since Ms. Granholm learned at the knee of Mr. Ed before she ran for governor, the unions were not exactly head over heels in love with McNamara-lite.
    Once she became governor, she immediately knocked heads with labor over the Democratic Party Chair.  The UAW wanted Mark Brewer to stay.  The governor wanted long time pal Butch Hollowell to takeover.  She would not budge.  Labor would not budge.  So they hatched a hybrid:  The two guys would be co-chairs.  It was an unqualified disaster.
    Recently she tried to convince the state troopers union to take time off without pay, and failed and two years ago she pimped the Michigan Education Association over its insurance coverage.
    It's not that she is anti-labor.  She's just not as pro-labor as the unions would like.
    And now she and labor disagree on the need for a new state constitution. 
    The governor favors a so-called Con-Con while labor is headed toward a rejection.  Union bosses figure if conservative R's get a chance to rewrite state law, labor will get a right to work state, it will loose the minimum wage and gain a prevailing wage which unions loath, and union benefits and retirement stuff could be lost.
   Either the governor never thought of that, or she doesn't care.  Whatever the reason, it's just another example of how she and the union movement are out of step. 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Extended Break

     In a game were perception is reality, lawmakers in this town still don't get it and to prove it, they're taking two weeks away from the capitol while most of the unwashed got one day off for the 4th of July.
     Let's recap where we are:  Michigan's economy remains down with third world nations; the jobless rate is, however, at the top of the heap; there's a whopping $1.5 billion budget deficit that has not been resolved and most lawmakers are taking two weeks off. Go figure.
     No matter how thin you slice it, the perception of that reality has an smell.
     Where in the heck is the sense of urgency???
     Now to be fair, a handful of legislative leaders and key appropriation lawmakers will be in town this week as they were for part of last=2 0week. And until they reach an accord on how much to cut from state services and how much new money is needed to balance the budget, there is nothing for the rest of the lawmakers to decide regarding that.
     However, while those backroom talks go on their merry way, lawmakers could be voting on a ban on smoking, finding some way to rehire 104 laid off state troopers, they could review the governor's plan to release 3,400 inmates, or work on education reform and a host of other issues too numerous to mention.
    But instead they are "back in the district working" as the House Speaker Andy Dillon reported the other day when asked about this perception problem.
    Who knows what they are doing? Work back in the district could be working on a lawmaker's "honey-do" list for all we know.  Dillon and others would have us "trust" that your work is being done during this hiatus.
     Here's anoth er reality: "Trust me" is a tough pill to swallow when it comes to politicians sometimes. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Crossover the Bridge

    File this under, no good deed goes unpunished.
    The kind-hearted folks who run the Big Mac were sympathetic to motorists who live on one side of the Mackinac bridge and work on the other.  It was costing them 6 bucks a day to make the back and forth trek or just over $1,400 a year.
    A new commuter rate was installed reducing the daily crossing to $1.70 each way and while that worked for motorists, the state loss a quarter of a million dollars on the deal because other drivers abused the system:  They bought the commuter cards but did not make daily trips.
    4,900 from Oakland County purchased the cheaper passes, but only 30% used it everyday.  Put more unkindly, 3,400 "crooks" from the country ripped off the state.
    < /span>But they had plenty of company.
    Bridge officials found the same thing going on in Elkhart, Indiana, St. Louis, Mo, Sarasota, Florida, and Humboldt, California, wherever that's at.  Drivers used the daily pass to make 700 trips across the bridge but it's a safe bet they did not turnaround and head home on the same day.
    Well $250,000 is $250,000 and the authority is now considering one way to stop the drain.
     When the crossing fee goes from $3.00 to $3.50 next January, you can purchase a card for that amount and if you return the same day, the fee is ten-cents.  If you use it days later, you get socked the $3.50.
      Here's another option:  If the outlaws in other states try to scam the system, when they use the pass to go into the Upper Peninsula, the state should block them from using the bridge to get home.  A week or two wandering around in the desolate U.P. where the deer and the buffalo roam should cure them of their criminal behavior. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Give It Up Guys

          46% of those serving In the Michigan senate apparently don't give a hoot when it comes to spreading the pain of reducing the state budget deficit.  It looks like a classic case of do as I say, not as I do.
          While the bulk of state government workers prepare for an elongated holiday break without pay, seventeen of the state senators are taking their 4th of July break with pay.
          What's wrong with that picture?
          Next time you bump into one of the senators on the list that follows, you might ask them that question.
          Here are the area senators who have not coughed up a single penny as part of the state's six-day furlough program:
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          From Oakland County you have Nancy Cassis and John Pappageorge.
          From Macomb County Senator Alan Sanborn who never misses a chance to gripe about the cost of government with the exception of his paycheck of course.
          From Wayne County there's Bruce Patterson, Ray Basham, Buzz Thomas and Martha Scott.
         Randy Richardville brings up the rear from Monroe County.
         Conversely, 54% of the senators have kicked in some savings by reducing their pay including Jud Gilbert from Algonac and Glenn Anderson of Westland.  They have taken a $1300 hit on their yearly salary, which is the equivalent of six days off without any pay.
    0    Four area senators have taken two days off and they include Mike Bishop, Gilda Jacobs, both from Oakland County and two Macomb County Senators, Dennis Olshove and Mickey Switalski are on board with a $436 pay cut.
         In a game where perception is reality and symbolism means a lot, having 46% of the state senate turning a deaf ear to self-sacrifice does not look or feel very fair.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

ACLU Flunks Granholm

        Everyone assumed when she took office that Jennifer Granholm would be the classical neo-liberal democrat.
        Asked the Michigan ACLU about that and you may be shocked at the response.
        On civil liberty issues, "She's not been a leader in anyway."
        Oh my.
        That rather harsh analysis of the Granholm legacy comes from Kary Moss who runs the American Civil Liberties Union around these parts.
        She has watched this governor for seven years and concludes she has not led on emotional civil liberty issues such as gay marriage, affirmative action, bullying in schools and privacy rights because beneath that Gran holm smile is a woman who "is afraid of controversy."
        Moss is not the only person in town to utter that observation.  It is shared by many  players in both parties. But they won't say it in public as Moss did the other day on Public TV's Off the Record broadcast.
       Given a chance to lead on the affirmative action ballot proposal, the governor said she did not support a ban on the hiring practice, but Moss says the governor then "stayed in the background." And when she had the opportunity to "step forward in a bigger way" she stepped back instead.
       The governor would of course disagree.
       Moss is not surprised at any of this. Jennifer Granholm signaled even before she became state attorney general that he alliance with and allegiance to the ACLU was a thing of the past.
       Before she ran for office, Granholm was an intern in the Detroit ACLU office and eventually gained a seat on the board of directors.
       Then she turned in her card.  Some figure she was afraid of being tagged as a "card carrying member of the ACLU."
       With no card, republicans could not make the charge.
       Maybe she turned it in because she was afraid of the controversy that might have cost her an election or two or three?