Law enforcement groups have joined the effort calling on the Legislature to slow down approval of a bill that would make it easier for phone companies to end traditional landline service, and switch customers to internet phones.
The petition-initiated bill would require consumers who want abortion coverage to buy an additional insurance policy.
“Our folks will be out there and letting legislators know that this is a vote that they will not forget, that this is something that we will remember in the next election,” said Meghan Hodge Groen is with Planned Parenthood.
The Legislature can either adopt the measure, or allow it to go to the ballot. The House and Senate would have to vote before the winter break begins at the end of next week, or shortly after lawmakers return to the state Capitol in January.
A majority of state lawmakers fall into the “pro-life” column. A majority have also signed the petitions that put the question to the Legislature, effectively making them co-sponsors.
“I know the votes are there because we have a very strong right-to-life caucus,” said state Representative Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). “I’m not concerned about whether the votes are there or not.”
Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill last year because it did not allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest. But voter-initiated laws are not subject to a governor’s veto.
The federal judge who allowed Detroit to proceed into bankruptcy also upheld Michigan’s emergency manager law as part of the decision. US Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes said the law is constitutional, and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was legally named to run the city.
If Rhodes had ruled otherwise, the bankruptcy could have been derailed. The legal challenge said the state has no right to override the authority of local elected officials.
“The governor wouldn’t have signed it if he hadn’t thought it was constitutional, and he sees the benefit there in terms of helping the cities get back on their feet, turn around their finances, and get back on their feet,” says Dave Murray, a spokesman for Governor Rick Snyder.
In a written statement, the governor said the decision to allow the bankruptcy to go forward – and to put public employee pension benefits on the table – was the right one:
“Today, the federal court allowed Detroit to stay on the path toward a brighter future. A future where streetlights work and ambulances respond quickly. A future where crime and blight shrink, and where jobs and investments surge.
“Authorizing the emergency manager to seek federal bankruptcy protection was a difficult decision, but it was the last viable option to restore the city and provide Detroit’s 700,000 residents with the public services they need and deserve.
There are currently 15 cities and school districts in Michigan that are under emergency management or are being evaluated for possible takeovers. Three others are operating under consent agreements reached under the emergency manager law.
Union activist Robert Davis filed the challenge to the emergency manager law.
“I have the upmost respect for Judge Rhodes, but I respectfully disagree with his reasoning in regards to the constitiutionality of the emergency manager law,” said Davis. “I am very thankful that I belong to a fighting union that has already filed the necessary paperwork for an appeal in the Sixth Circuit (US) Court of Appeals.”
Michigan Council 25 of AFSCME, which is Detroit’s largest public employee union, filed the appeal.
State Attorney General Bill Schuette says he is pleased the bankruptcy was approved, but was disappointed public employee pensions will be part of the discussions:
“I will continue to aggressively defend pensions and Article 9, Section 24 of the Michigan Constitution as this case proceeds to the confirmation stage of the bankruptcy process, at which time we can thoroughly review any plans for potential legal action involving pensions.
Schuette says he will not use legal action to slow the bankruptcy process, but could file a lawsuit to challenge part of a re-organization plan to reduces already-promised pension benefits.
A faceoff between the state of Michigan and an Upper Peninsula Indian tribe over a proposed casino reached the US Supreme Court. The court is being asked to decide the limits of tribal sovereignty when a tribe attempts to set up a casino or some other business outside a reservation.
Specifically, the issue is whether Michigan and other states can ask a federal court to block a casino that violates their regulations. The Bay Mills tribe says they can’t because Congress never passed a federal law to allow it. It says the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act only covers casinos on tribal land.
Justice Antonin Scalia had some sharp questions on that point.
“You really think Congress would want to regulate gaming on Indian land, but not off Indian land? “ he asked. “Why would anyone do that?”
Bay Mills’ attorney Neal Katyal said the court should not second-guess why Congress does or does not act on an issue.
“There’s lots of different ways to deal with this question,” he said. “The last thing this court should do is change the rules of the game in respect to tribal immunity.”
And some justices were interested in why Michigan didn’t use arbitration allowed by a gaming treaty, or its police authority instead of challenging tribes’ sovereign immunity power in federal court.
“I’m not sure why you’re here,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to Michigan Solicitor General Sonia Sotomayer.
Everyone agreed that the now-shuttered casino in Vanderbilt – 100 miles from the official home of the Bay Mills Indian Community – violates Michigan’s gaming laws, and the state could go in and arrest tribal officials, employees, even customers. Bursch says that’s the sort of confrontation Michigan wants to avoid by using the federal court’s civil authority.
“If we absolutely had to, the state would probably have to send in the armed State Police and start arresting people, but we want to avoid that at all costs because we want to be respectful as possible to the tribe.”
Bursch says if the state loses, tribes from anywhere could set up enterprises that violate state laws. He used under-aged drinking, prostitution, and polluting industries as potential examples.
Bursch says that’s why states like Michigan rely on federal courts to resolve these sorts of conflicts.
“It’s really like a zero-sum game,” he said. “Anytime that you give another sovereign the ability to operate illegally on lands that are under the state’s exclusive jurisdiction and not allow the state to have its full array of remedies, you’ve taken away some of that state’s sovereignty, and that’s a very serious thing.”
The case is being widely watched. Seventeen states have joined together to file supporting briefs in the case. So have 65 tribes concerned that immunity for all kinds of off-reservation enterprises is at stake depending on how the Supreme Court rules.
The decision could also affect plans for proposed tribal casinos in Lansing, Flint, and Port Huron.
The court’s decision should come down next year.
A federal judge in Detroit says the state must give more than 350 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole a chance at freedom. US District Court Judge John O’Meara says a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down Michigan’s juvenile lifer law and others like it applies retroactively, as well as in the future.
The order also says the state has to offer a “real and meaningful” chance at parole.
Deborah LaBelle is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the juvenile lifer law. She says the state has been too slow to comply with the ruling.
“We can all read what the US Supreme Court said: To put youth in prison for life without looking at them again is cruel and unusual punishment,” she says. “Michigan has to stop imposing that punishment.”
LaBelle says the state’s foot-dragging includes denying juvenile lifers entry into programs that prepare inmates for life outside prison. She says those programs are part of what a parole board considers, so denying an inmate a spot in a re-entry initiative is practically the same as denying parole.
“They can’t even get into rehabilitative programming because the state keeps telling them: ‘You’re going to die in prison,’” said LaBelle.
State Attorney General Bill Schuette has argued in court and the Legislature that the Supreme Court ruling should be narrowly applied to future cases and just a handful of inmates currently serving.
“In every case where a juvenile is sentenced to life in prison, a victim was already sentenced to death – forever. The victim’s family then grapples with the aftermath of post-traumatic stress, depression, unyielding grief, and visits to a grave,” says Schuette’s spokeswoman, Joy Yearout. “Attorney General Schuette opposes re-victimizing these families through unnecessary hearings not required by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Schuette could try to appeal the order.
There is also an effort underway in the Legislature to re-draft the juvenile lifer law to comply with the US Supreme Court decision.
The court did not rule out life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. The opinion says the sentence cannot be mandatory, and a judge must hold a hearing to decide whether a life-without-parole sentence is appropriate. O’Meara’s order also says the state’s process cannot allow a trial judge or anyone else to veto a parole board’s decision to grant a release.
O’Meara’s order says he could name a special magistrate to supervise the state’s compliance with his order. He set a deadline of January 31 for the state to submit a plan to the court.
A federal judge in Detroit has ordered parole hearings for more than 350 juvenile lifers serving time in Michigan prisons.
The state recently completed an audit of how its agencies are complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Gov. Rick Snyder discussed the project at a recent conference on employment and people with disabilities.
Michigan is adding jobs, but the state’s unemployment rate remains stuck at 9 percent as more people compete for available positions. That’s according to the latest jobless numbers from the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.
The first gray wolf was bagged just after dawn Friday in Baraga County – one of the three designated hunting zones in the Upper Peninsula. Read more