May 30, 2008

Another report proves a smoking ban is good for business

The evidence keeps piling up that a workplace ban, including bars and restaurants, will be a good thing for public health and will help business and not hurt it.

Grand Valley State University marketing professors Frederic Kraft and Suzeanne Benet have just concluded a study that shows non-smokers are more likely to go to a place that bans smoking and it’s less likely that a smoker will not go to a place simply because it bans smoking. It also voiced what most people already know or suspect: the interests of non-smokers should take the lead. If less than a quarter of the population smokes, why do we believe so few people carry so much clout, and why do we allow a small minority to endanger so many people’s health?

According to the Business Review Western Michigan, Kraft said non-smokers are "…more likely to take their business elsewhere if smoking is not effectively regulated, if not banned altogether.” This is in sharp contrast to the small, vocal minority who threaten to no longer go to a bar of they cannot light up inside.

It is also clear that groups who oppose it, like the Michigan Restaurant Association, are getting money from tobacco companies. Benet hinted at that in subscription only MIRS. "It appears that the voiced displeasure of a relatively small number of smokers has been unduly amplified by representatives of the tobacco industry,” she said. “This study indicates that smoking restrictions make a much greater difference to non-smokers than to smokers, and the impact of smoking on non-smokers should be the primary concern of hospitality industry decision-makers."

Earlier this week, the House approved a substitute to House Bill 5074 that banned smoking in workplaces, with the exception of non-Native American casinos, bingo-halls and so-called “cigar bars.” Earlier this month the Senate approved HB 4163 that was much more stringent and had no exceptions or so-called carve outs.

The GVSU report is the second report this month to be released that bolsters the fight to make Michigan smoke free. Earlier this month the leading Lansing research firm Public Sector Consultants Inc. released a report called “Smokefree workplaces: The Impact of House Bill 4163 on the Restaurant and Bar Industry in Michigan” that summarized 43 other studies and six public health reports across North America that have examined the economic and health aspects of banning workplace smoking in some form. The report concluded that "the vast majority" concluded there is no net economic impact on bars and restaurants. It also included polls showing increasing public support for bans, with support even stronger after bans have been enacted.

It’s unclear when the ban will be taken up by the Senate. Majority Leader Mike Bishop is a fierce opponent of the ban, and he kept the original bill bottled up in committee for months until overwhelming public support for the ban forced him to allow a vote. He may let it die in committee again and say he only promised one vote on the bill not two. However, the crowd at the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference on Thursday let him know in no uncertain terms they support the ban.

According to subscription only Gongwer, “Bishop drew a pretty harsh reaction from the crowd for arguing freedom of choice in smoking.

When he proclaimed that people have the choice whether to patronize places that allow smoking, members of the audience asked about the choices of those who work in those places. "It's a small number of people,” he said. These people have the opportunity to choose where they want to work," he said to boos from many in the crowd.”

May 28, 2008

Watered down smoking ban passes the House

LANSING - The Michigan House approved the smoking ban today that bans smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, but the real test will again come in the Senate.

By a vote of 65-39, the House approved a substitute to House Bill 5074 that banned smoking in workplaces, with the exception of non-Native American casinos, bingo-halls and so-called “cigar bars.” The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval.

The House originally approved House Bill 4163 back in December that included the same exceptions or “carve outs” by just 10 votes. However, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop bottled the bill up in committee and vowed not to take it up. However, intense pressure from residents compelled him to allow a vote on the bill, and earlier this month the Senate approved it by a vote of 25-12. However, that version had no exceptions or carve outs.

Intense lobbying by the Detroit casinos that feared they would lose business to a casino more than a 100 miles away prompted the substitute bill with the exceptions.

It’s unclear if Bishop will allow a second vote on the bill, or even if it will pass with the carve outs.

May 26, 2008

Will the real John McCain please stand up

If you actually needed more reasons to not vote for Grampy McSame – AKA John McCain – the good folks at Brave New Films have put them all in one place.

At the web site The Real John McCain you can see all his flip-flops in Grampy McBush’s own words.

The hard part is not finding an issue McCain has flip-flopped on, but finding one he hasn’t flip-flopped on. The site also has some You Tube videos of McCain’s two pastors, complete with their anti-Catholic, Anti-Semitic and anti-gay rants.

May 23, 2008

Dillon recall attempt bites the dust

LANSING – Apparently the charges of voter fraud and forged signatures are true after the Michigan Secretary of State issued a press release today saying the recall against House Speaker Andy Dillon is short of signatures.

Republican Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet and his group filed 15,739 signatures with the Bureau of Elections on May 1 with 8,724 signatures needed to put the recall question on the Aug. 5 primary ballot. However, a preliminary review found only 8,224 were valid and those of registered voters.

"Verifying the registration of every signer is a meticulous and time-consuming process," Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said in the press release. "However, it's a necessary step to ensure the integrity of our elections. I appreciate the hard work of our Bureau of Elections team and the support of local election officials during this review."

Dillon has also filed challenges claiming fraud, and that has not been determined. A final determination on whether the recall petition is sufficient must be made by June 5, but it appears the recall threat against Democratic lawmakers who voted to increase the state income tax and place a sales tax on some services that helped balance the state budget and erase a $1.8 billon budget deficit last fall is over.

Special interest group threatens to hold its breath if it doesn’t get its way

Right to Life of Michigan’s ban on so-called “partial birth abortions” failed to be taken up in the Michigan House Thursday, prompting a threat from RTF to throw themselves on the ground and throw a fit on the next session day on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 776 has been in the House since January when the Senate approved it by a vote of 24-12. RTF has been pushing it extremely hard, despite the fact here is already a federal ban on the rare procedure, and the unnecessary bill will not prevent one single abortion in the state of Michigan. It is also not a legislative issue or even a state issue. This is just one more “gottcha” issue that RTF plans to use to attack politicians in November who don’t vote their way, and RTF’s chief lobbyist said as much at a legislative lobby day in Lansing last month when he said they will use it to roast legislators.

Apparently, behind the scene negotiations to bring the vote to the floor are tied to moving a package of House bills – according to subscription only Gongwer - that would make more information about emergency contraceptives available to the public, and allow victims of sexual assault to receive the contraceptive if they request it as well as penalize pharmacists who refuse to do their job and fill a person's legitimate prescription. House Bills 6048-6050 were reported favorably out of the Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

I would have no problem supporting this bill in order to get some useful and commons sense family planning measures in place because SB 776 means nothing and will not stop one single abortion. However, the Democrats who vote their conscience and vote no will be targeted.

Subscription only MIRS reported RTF “will work to effectively shut down the House on Tuesday by telling members that casting votes (yes or no) on any legislation that's brought up that isn't the partial-birth abortion ban will be considered a vote against it.” Talk about selfish, one-issue voters.

Another far right group, Lansing-based so-called Citizens for Traditional Values, has joined the fray, and they are urging their members to blast lawmakers with phone calls and emails. When I hear the words “traditional values” I am wary. What so-called traditional values do they mean? Do they mean the traditional values of slave-holding, racial and religious discrimination, Jim Crow and when only male landowners could vote?

The obvious question is why one, single-issue special interest group has so much power? This, again, is not a legislative or a state issue, but they still wield so much power.

This fiasco comes on the heels of news that the Department of Community Health announced that the number of abortions declined again last year, a trend that has held true since 1987. DCH announced that there were 24,683 abortions in the state last year, down from 25,636 in 2006. We can thank groups like Planned Parenthood that provide family planning and birth control and contraceptives to all woman, including low income women, as well as providing preventive health care and gynecological medical services.

The simple fact is family planning prevents unintended pregnancies and reduces the number of abortions, as well as the rate of infant mortality, low birth weight babies and sexually transmitted infections. I am pro-choice, but anti-abortion and I would love to see that number of 24,683 abortions fall to zero. We are not, however, going to reach that number by outlawing abortions. Outlawing abortions will never happen because the Republicans would lose the political clout it has with RTL, and how would they whip up the troops. If we reach the goal of zero abortions we will see the demise of a powerful political group, and that’s even more good news.

They would have to fall back on the old reliable rallying causes of gays and guns.

May 20, 2008

Rightwing blogger displays ignorance in attack

I don’t make a habit of blogging about right wing blogs, but I made an exception this time for two reasons. First, it involved people I know personally where I live, and this blogger is so afraid of opposing voices I have been banned from commenting there and setting him straight.

The paid party hack at wrongMichigan took some cheap shots at Matt Evans, the chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party. Apparently, Evans and Republican Green Oak Township Planning Commissioner John Mogelnicki filed to replace GOP Supervisor Mark St. Charles. But the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported Township Clerk Michael Sedlak, a Republican, paid extra attention to the nominating petitions and eliminated some signatures as duplicates. Election law says you must have 20 signatures. Evans submitted 23 signatures, but only 18 were ruled valid. Mogelnicki submitted 21 signatures, but only 19 were deemed valid. The result was for the want of two signatures for Evans and one for Mogelnicki voters will not have any choice and St. Charles runs unopposed.

The candidates can challenge that decision, and Evans said he plans to consult with the attorney for the state Democratic Party. This is where the idiot at wrongMichigan tries to paint Evans as whacked out and a conspiracy theorist, but he really only displays his ignorance of government.

“Me? I thank you for your wild conspiracy theories and rampant paranoia, too, he wrote on the blog.”
“The all-Republican Board of Trustees, for those of you wondering, had zero, zilch and nada to do with Mr. Evans disqualification. I mean, nothing. The local clerk identified the invalid signatures during his review of the documents (all two petition forms, assuming he filled the first one).”

Hey genius, in township government the clerk is a partisan elected office and a voting member of the “board of trustees.” He is also a full-time township employee along with the township supervisor. It makes you wonder if the clerk gave the petitions extras scrutiny. It also makes you wonder if the blogger is just an idiot or lying. Perhaps some of both. It would have taken a minute or two to get on their web site and check.

You would also think the clerk would give the candidates a call to tell them they needed one more and two more signatures. It’s not like he didn’t know how to reach them. After all, Mogelnicki is a township official. The paper claims they filed the petitions so close to the filing deadline he could not get hold of them. In a decade of covering local government I have never heard of a situation like this.

The end result is we have an unchallenged race, and a supervisor who is reelected for another four years without once having to answer to the voters for anything. So much for democracy. We know politicians are more responsive to people when the threat of an election is in the works. Now, I have known Mark St. Charles since 1998 when I covered the township for the South Lyon Herald and have nothing but respect for him. I have known Sedlak for almost as long, meeting him through his duties as a lieutenant on the township fire department. He has always been above board here, and I am not accusing him of doing anything unethical or illegal.

Since I was banned from his blog, I emailed the guy, and he did a half-assed correction. But the simple fact is that correction negates his entire reason for posting.

Then he goes on to attack Mogelnicki for daring to run for local office. He claims Mogelnicki can’t be a Republican because he claims none of the Republicans in the county knew him well enough, so he could not possibly be a Republican.
“The first was Planning Commissioner John Mogelnicki, apparently a Republican, though my inquiries with local County Party officials couldn't find a single person with more than a passing familiarity with his name.”

Let me get this straight. In a county with 170,000 people he is claiming he can’t be a Republican because party officials aren’t familiar with him. Unbelievable. The planning commissioners are appointed by the township board. Every single board member is a Republican. Mogelnicki’s real crime is he apparently signed Evans’ petition and Evans signed his, so he can’t possibly be a Republican. I would sign a local Republicans nominating petition to see a race. Democracy works better with contest elections.

Livingston County is a predominantly Republican county with all nine county commissioners Republicans, and all but about five local seats are in Republican hands. I am relatively active in the Livingston Democratic Party, and I don’t know every Democrat in the county.

I also wonder where he got the photo he used. That photo is from the Livingston County Democratic Party’s annual Edwin B. Winans Dinner at the Hamburg VFW Post, and it had to be taken in the last two years. The person behind Evans is also a good friend of mine, the chair of the 8th Congressional District, Kathy Carney. I wonder if it was from last month when another rightwing blogger made the ridiculous claim that the party was violating campaign finance laws with a 50/50 raffle. I certainly hope he was there to spy on us; as long as he paid his $60.

May 14, 2008

Dog eats Majority Leader’s homework or I forgot it

LANSING – The rumors were running rampant in the Capitol on Tuesday on why the House did not take up the smoking ban bill, House Bill 4163, and subscription only Gongwer confirmed them.

On Thursday the Senate approved a tougher substitute of the bill that was previously passed in the House in December, and it was expected the bill would move to the House for concurrence on that very Thursday. That didn’t happen because of the late hour, but it was sure to happen on Tuesday when the House and Senate reconvened.

Tuesday was also the day hundreds of people from the American Cancer Society descended on the Capitol for their annual mini-Relay for Life that raises money for cancer research and victims. The rumors were that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, who blocked the House version since January and the Senate version since January 2007, failed to send the bill to the House. That was at least partially true in that it never made it the 100 or so feet, and the only thing that is in dispute is the reason.

To quote a famous Saturday Night Live character, “How convenient.”

The official alibi given was, “Senate Secretary Carol Viventi said it was the result of being unable to proofread the bill until Tuesday,” according to Gongwer. It also went on to say, “Viventi had previously planned a four-day weekend, so she was not available to review the bill on Friday or Monday. Then Tuesday she had car troubles trying to get into the Capitol.” Right. By the way, the Secretary of the Senate is appointed by the Majority Leader and is a member of the controlling party. The assistant is a member of the minority party, but Bishop is blocking that a replacement to that position, too.

Bishop, obviously, is opposed to the bill, but mounting public pressure forced him to allow a discharge vote Thursday, and his caucus apparently caught him by surprise when nine Republicans voted for the bill. He had planned to offer a sop substitute that would have allowed a bar or restaurant to opt out of the ban by just putting up a smoking allowed sign.

Passage in the House is no longer a slam dunk because the Senate version does not include exceptions for non-Native American casinos.

The fear is that lobbyists for the Detroit casinos, as well as the Michigan Restaurant Association, will be lobbying hard for a no vote. HB 4163 only passed by 10 votes in the House, and Detroit-area Representatives – under the mistaken belief Detroit casinos will lose business to places like Soaring Eagle – may vote no, either killing the bill or adding so-called “carve outs.” The bill would then have to go back to the Senate for either concurrence or a conference committee, but Bishop has said he committed to allowing one vote on the bill, not two. That would clear the way for him to introduce his watered down version.

If the House concurs with the substitute, it will be sent back to the Senate for enrollment and signature of the governor, and she has said she will sign the bill. The bill will take effect 90 days after the end of the current legislative session on December 31, so the effective date would be April 1, 2009. Traditionally, bills are given immediate effect after they are approved, meaning it would go into effect 90 days after the governor signed it. However, that takes a two-thirds vote or 26 votes in the Senate, and only 25 Senators voted for the bill.

May 12, 2008

Industry lobbyists take aim at smoking ban

The workplace smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, is expected to be taken up in the House this week, and the usual suspects are pulling out all the stops to try and kill it.

The lobbyist for the Michigan Restaurant Association is quoted in subscription only MIRS as saying “he was aware there was some talk in the Senate but he had no idea they would go so far as to pass a total ban.” He must not be a very good lobbyist because it was pretty clear a vote was coming a few days before the vote was going to take place. The Michigan Distributors and Vendors Association also denounced the bill, with their lobbyist using the age old argument that the Senate is “imposing big government on the free marketplace.” That statement is ignoring, of course, that the government regulates other public health issues in bars and restaurants.

Anyone who has ever read a restaurant inspection report from their local health department knows that is true, and establishments have been cited for things like improper hair restraints, food containers improperly labeled and improper lighting. There are 44 possible violations that are considered critical, and it seems ridiculous that something as deadly as second hand smoke should not be regulated. There is no amount of safe secondhand smoke.

Last week the Senate approved House Bill 4163 with a bipartisan vote of 25-12 with nine Republicans voting for the bill, including some of the more conservative Senators, including Senators Cameron Brown, Nancy Cassis, John Pappageorge and Bruce Patterson. The Senate substitute was a tougher version because it banned smoking in casinos where the House version did not.

Last December, the Democratic-controlled House approved the bill by a close vote of 56-46. The bill was referred to the Republican-controlled Senate where Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop bottled it up and vowed he would not even allow it a committee hearing. But public pressure and a report by a leading Lansing public policy and lobbying firm that said there is no economic loss when bars goes smoke free and it is a public health hazard changed his mind and he allowed a vote.

The House has to concur with the Senate version, but it remains to be seen if the new evidence in the new report will increase the 10-vote margin, or if the intense lobbying effort of the MRA backed up with tobacco money will cut into the vote margin or even defeat it. They will be joined by the Detroit casinos in that lobbying effort under the mistaken belief that they will lose business to the Native American run casinos where the state does not have jurisdiction. That ignores the report that says a smoking ban does not have an effect on business. It also ignores the fact that just 21 percent of the state’s population smokes.

Why we are so worried about such a small majority I have no idea. It’s been 12 years since I bought a pack of cigarettes, but they were like $5 a pack then. If they are spending that much on smokes what makes people think they have more money to spend on other things than the non-smokers?

The Detroit News is currently running a pole on the ban, and so far 80 percent support the smoking ban. What more proof do lawmakers need to vote for the ban? I suggest you contact your representative and tell them to vote for the ban.

May 11, 2008

Policy summit brings together diverse progressive groups

LANSING -- Only the Second Annual Michigan Policy Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Prospect, could bring so many diverse progressive groups together under one roof.

More than 600 people gathered at the Lansing Center for an all-day summit to work toward some common goals. The day featured breakout sessions, skills workshops and speakers, like author and journalist Amy Goodman and author and humorist Jim Hightower. The summit centered on three policy areas: health care, the environment and education. The summit brought together diverse groups representing labor unions, the environment, civil rights, LBGT, health care and peace groups.

“The good news is we are here,” said Lynn Jondahl, Executive Director of the Michigan Prospect. “The bad news is we are facing a battle of every front.”
The mission of the Michigan Prospect is to connect citizens and government in order to advance a just and humane democratic society.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin was also on hand, and he fired up the attendees. He said one of the goals in turning the nation's and state’s economy around is to address the $100 billon the U.S. is losing to companies who move offshore just to avid paying taxes.
“The Republicans are going to say you are raising taxes,” he said. “We are not raising taxes; we are enforcing the tax laws for people who are avoiding their fair share of taxes.”

The Iraq occupation is sucking billons of dollars that is increasing the budget deficit and could be used to address problems the country is facing.
“$600 billon is has gone to a war we never should have been in,” Levin said. “The only way to end that war is to elect a Democrat in November.”
Goodman is an author and the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, an independent national, daily, award-winning news program that airs on more than 700 radio and television stations in North America.

Goodman took the mainstream media to task for their failure to do its job in the lead up to the Iraq war and to look closer at the manufactured evidence the Bush Administration used to plunge the country into war. She said the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) did a study of the three network news programs in the three months leading up to the invasion, and it found 393 interviews were held about the war, but only three were with people who questioned or were against the war.

“That is no longer the mainstream media,” she said. “This is the corporate media that was beating the drum for war. We need the full diversity of opinion.”
Goodman said outlets like Democracy Now and blogs are the independent media voices. She said the so-called mainstream media is still not doing its job after it was reveled the media did not do its job looking at the manufactured evidence in the lead up to the invasion. She said one-third of the Iraq and Afghanistan vets who are not killed or wounded are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The media has also not reported on the 120 suicides a week.

She cited the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of Winter Solider, recently held in Maryland over four-days sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War. It was modeled after the historic Winter Solider held in Detroit in 1971. It featured testimony from Iraq and Afghan vets, but the only media attention it got was a small mention in the Washington Post.

“We rushed down there to get our cameras in place because we knew this was not the know-nothing political pundits, this was the men and women who fought the war,” Goodman said. “We needn’t have worried; there was no other media there.”
Goodman also said the media has not done its job reporting on the Bush Administration’s torture policy. Goodman congratulated U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on its vote to subpoena Vice President Cheney's chief of staff David Addington to testify about his role in the torture scandal.

“We are supposed to be a model of behavior to the world,” she said. “America is better than that.”

May 9, 2008

Republican lawmaker introduces resolution supporting Andy Dillon

Sane people of all political stripes continue to line up behind House Speaker Andy Dillon to denounce the ridiculous and illegal recall against him for his vote for the increase of the income tax - and the since repealed sales tax on some services - that avoided a government shutdown and helped balanced the state budget on Oct. 1.

Both the subscription only MIRS and Gongwer reported that Rep. Dick Ball, R-Bennington Twp, introduced House Resolution 358 Thursday that would "express the sense of the House that recalls should be based on specific misconduct, criminal activity, or abuse of office and should not be based on a single vote and to denounce the effort to recall Speaker Andy Dillon." That’s also what the majority of voters think, and most state newspapers have editorialized that position. Both nonpartisan groups, like the Michigan Townships Association, and more partisan groups, like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, have also taken the same position.

Some of the political posturing by some other Republicans was laughable. Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire - who is running to be the minority leader or for the Michigan Court of Appeals, depending on what day it is – said, according to Gongwer, that the supporters of the resolution were “…engaging the chamber in a political issue.” What, the House of Representatives is a political organization that engages in politics? Why, I never.

Even more funny was the reaction of Republican Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet, who launched the illegal and unethical recall that used faked signatures, paid petition collectors who lied to get signatures and used out-of-district petition gathers to collect signatures. He said in MIRS that “he felt he could get some public relations traction just on the basis that the House was considering taking the resolution up.” With Drolet, that’s exactly what this witch-hunt is all about.

He also, of course, brought up Dillon’s long planned week of vacation with his family. Ironically, the bill that Republicans used to embarrass Dillon and illustrate the fact that he was gone, passed by a vote of 60-44 on Thursday. You will recall that on Wednesday, the Capital Outlay Budget – Senate Bill 511 – failed by just one vote. Drolet and company used that to try and say that if Dillon had been in the chamber it would have passed. They ignored, of course, that eight members were not at session yesterday and three Republicans did not even cast a vote in order to embarrass him.

Somebody better tell Elsenheimer about this politics thing in the chamber. I fail to see how introducing a bill or a resolution is political, but refusing to do what you were sent to Lansing to do is not political. To me, the actions by the three Republicans in refusing to vote might be more of a reason to recall a politician; for not doing what they were elected to do, instead of for doing what we sent them to do.

Gongwer also reported that the Department of State said on Thursday that it has conducted its initial review of the recall petition signatures found they have the required 8,724 signatures. Now if the SOS does its job properly, the fraud will begin to surface even more. The department will now proceed in matching the signatures to the qualified voter file to determine if there are enough to put the measure on the ballot.

May 8, 2008

Smoking ban passes Senate

LANSING – After more than a decade of debate, a smoking ban in Michigan workplaces, including bars and restaurants, was finally approved in the Senate Thursday by a vote of 25-12.

“I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for thinking of the health of patrons, workers and customers,” said Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, who has championed the issue for the past decade.

Basham moved to discharged House Bill 4163 from further consideration of the Committee on Government Operations and Reform, chaired by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. That passed with 27 votes.

Bishop had blocked a vote on the bill since it was introduced in January 2007, but a leading Lansing lobbying group, Public Sector Consultants, released a study last month that summarized 43 other studies and six public health reports across North America that have examined the economic and health aspects of banning workplace smoking in some form, with "the vast majority" concluding there is no net economic impact on bars and restaurants. It also included polls showing increasing public support for bans, with support even stronger after bans have been enacted. But more importantly was the position taken by PSC Senior Policy Fellow Ken Sikkema. He said the studies found food and liquor sales even increased slightly when smoking bans were instituted, and sales tended to grow more in subsequent years. Other studies found the value of restaurant properties increased after a ban was imposed.

Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, introduced an amendment to Basham’s substitute that included casinos in the smoking ban. Jansen’s amendment would make the smoking ban invalid if the Indian gamming casinos were not included. However, it violates the sovereign status of the Indian tribes, and it was defeated 25-9.

Detroit-area Senators introduced amendments to the Basham substitute to allow smoking in Detroit casinos, in fear those casinos would lose business. Those all failed. The substitute passed 24-9.

Last December, the Democratic-controlled House approved House Bill 4163 -- introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint -- by a vote of 56-46. The bill was referred to the Republican-controlled Senate where it was bottled up in committee.

The House now has to concur in the substitute before it goes to the governor, but that should be no problem. That is expected to happen as early as today.

May 7, 2008

Action on smoking ban bill could come soon

After more than a decade of stalling and obstruction, Michigan may soon join the 33 other states that have banned smoking in workplaces.

A vote on House Bill 4163 that bans smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, could occur in the Senate as early as Thursday. The issue really picked up steam after a study released last month by Public Sector Consultants proves that smokefree laws have no negative impact on the bar and restaurant industry. The American Cancer Society has issued a mass e-mail urging supporters to contact their state Senator to ask them to pass the bill that ensures every worker and customer is able to breathe clean air.

The ACS has established a toll free number to help supporters reach their Senator. You can call 1-888-NOW-I-CAN and ask to be transferred to your senator's office to urge their support of a comprehensive smokefree workplace law that includes bars and restaurants. It’s also a good idea to contact Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to urge him to allow the bill to move forward and to vote for the bill. He can be reached toll-free at (877) 924-7467. Bishop, at the urging of the Michigan Restaurant Association, has kept the bill bottled up in committee. It’s unclear if the bill will be discharged from Bishop’s Policy on Government Operations and Reform directly to the floor, or if it will be voted in the committee. The committee has not met this session.

Subscription only MIRS reported the Senate Republican caucus met Tuesday to talk about the bill, but no word on the outcome has leaked out.

By calling the toll-free number, an ACS representative can tell you who your state senator is and can transfer you directly to the senator's office where you can leave a message with the staff member who answers the phone. Your message can be as simple as "I am a constituent of the senator and I am asking for their support of a comprehensive smokefree law that includes bars and restaurants." Please leave a message even if you reach voicemail.

May 6, 2008

Michigan Chamber latest group to come out against Dillon recall

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce became the latest group to come out against the misguided and illegal recall against House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford.

The chamber, which never endorses a Democrat, joins the Michigan Township Association in speaking out against the recall, calling it "counterproductive," according to subscription only MIRS.

A hearing over whether Republican Macomb County Commission Leon Drolet and company violated a court order by using out-of-district residents to collect petition signatures was postponed from Monday to May 12 before Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Giovan. Drolet, who asked for the postponement, wants to keep their illegal actions out of the public for as long as possible.

In more recall news, Drolet, a former state Representative, said he will not run for reelection to the Macomb County Board to devote more time as the executive director of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. It might be because he hasn’t spent much time in Macomb County recently. He also might be concerned about being recalled for his illegal actions, which most people believe recalls should be reserved for. We also know why he pushed so hard for this recall; so much so that he stopped to illegal activities, job security. Drolet has never held a job in the public sector.
That’s good news for Macomb County, but bad news for the rest of the state.

May 5, 2008

MTA calls recall against Dillon ‘Recall Abuse’

The Michigan Townships Association (MTA) called the attempted recall of Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, recall abuse.

In its weekly Legislative Report, the bipartisan MTA headlined the brief that goes to elected officials across the state “recall abuse spreads to state level.” “As so many township officials have experienced in the past, the recall is not based upon improper actions, but instead they are accused of making a tough decision on a critical issue.” As a reporter who coved local government, I saw lots of failed recall attempts launched because someone did not like a vote, but during election time when you should recall an elected official for a vote you do not agree with, you get less than 50 percent voter turnout.

Republican Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet and company launched a recall against 10 state Legislators who voted for the increase of the income tax - and the since repealed sales tax on some services - that avoided a government shutdown and helped balanced the state budget on Oct. 1. After the other nine recall attempts fell by the wayside, Drolet concentrated on just the recall attempt against Dillon by using illegal tactics and lying to get signatures.

According to the MTA, “Speaker Dillon is facing a recall for his vote to raise taxes. The Speaker is also charging recall organizers with lying to the citizens in order to procure signatures, a common complaint amongst township officials facing recall from office. “

The Michigan Townships Association promotes the interests of 1,242 townships and their elected officials.

May 4, 2008

Rogers is shocked, shocked that people are not happy with the direction of the country

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton is shocked, shocked I said, that people are not happy with the direction of the country.

Obviously, the Congressman needs to get out of Washington, D.C. once in a while and actually visit regular people in the 8th Congressional District.

According to a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Rogers told one of his pat stories to a receptive audience at the Livingston County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner that students at Okemos High School “seemed dejected with the state of the country.”

"They honestly believed the world was going to combust in 26 minutes," Rogers said, according to the paper. "I was shocked — shocked, and said, oh, wow, what work do we have to do.' "

The reason for this disillusion? Democrats, taxes and regulations. Well of course. It has nothing to do with the fact that we are in an endless war that did not need to be fought that's costing us millions of dollars a day, the greatest country in the world has stooped to torturing people and gas is almost $4 a gallon because oil companies drafted the energy policy.

If that were the case, the simple solution would be cutting taxes, but that has never worked. Maybe if we cut taxes and wages low enough we can be equal to a third world country where the jobs are going. If those students are really felling that way then I guess Barack Obama was right when he said voters are bitter over the direction of the country.

If Rogers' quote wasn’t ridiculous enough we get one from Michigan Republican chair Saul Anuzis, who said Obama was “unqualified and looking at the world through "rose-colored glasses.” He has more experience than the last Illinois resident to be president and the best Republican president on civil rights. I guess Obama was wearing his rose-colored glasses when he was raised in a struggling single-parent home or worked as a community organizer in the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago.

I actually agree with Allan Filip, chairman of the county GOP, who has proven to be the most insulting chair the local party has had in recent memory. He said “It's important those kids in Okemos realize we live in the best country in the world." I agree, and that’s why I will speak out when we stoop to torturing people, invades sovereign countries for no reason and when our government commits crimes.

May 2, 2008

Petition fraud is nothing new to Drolet and company

To quote a sage hall of fame former New York Yankee catcher, the recall farce against Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon is "It's deja vu all over again.”

Despite mounting evidence of fraud and deceit to collect signatures, out of state money, illegal petition gathers, cash for signatures and illegal campaign contributions by Republican Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet and company, they are assuring the mainstream press that the recall will get on the ballot. Michigan Liberal and Eric Baerren have done an excellent job of documenting and presenting some of this fraud.

As evidence of the expected success of the Dillon recall, they point to the success of the racist Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) that went on the November 2006 ballot that did away with affirmative action. Despite proof of the same deceptive tactics used on both petition drives – even by some of the same players involved in this recall, including Drolet – the petitions were certified and it went on the ballot and was approved by voters.

You may recall that the California group headed by Ward Connerly came to Michigan to push the initiative, and the group illegally lied to people and misrepresented themselves to get signatures. In fact, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission adopted a resolution against the racist initiative. Following a six-month investigation that concluded on June 12, 2006, it released the results that found “…that efforts to place the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) on the ballot appeared to be based upon a massive campaign of fraud and deceit.”

“The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is a shameful attempt to confuse and manipulate unsuspecting Michigan voters, was what one member of the Civil Rights Commission said about the effort.

Sounds very familiar doesn’t it? Kind of like deja vu all over again.

Drolet and company submitted the signatures just before the deadline, but we have not heard much about their failures. It started recalls against Reps. Robert Dean, D-Grand Rapids, Marie Donigan, D-Royal Oak; Sen. Jerry Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores; Rep. Mary Valentine, D-Muskegon; Rep. Marc Corriveau, D-Northville; Rep. Ed Gaffney, R-Grosse Pointe Farms; Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, and Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, but all have failed. It seems sad that they are crowing about 1 out of 9. That’s a pretty crappy success rate, especially when you consider it’s the Michigan voters who are the losers.

Recalls should be reserved for officeholders who commit a crime, commit fraud or deceit or are dishonest. The kind of things that Drolet has done in this witch-hunt. It is not for a politician for simply doing their job, for casting one vote and keeping the state open. If you disagree, you vote for his opponent in the election, and you can do that in August or November, just three and six months.

May 1, 2008

Michigan continues to lag in protecting resident’s health

LANSING – Iowa became the latest state to go smokefree, including bars and restaurants, according to a press release by the Campaign for Smokefree Air.

The grrassroots coalition, dedicated to making Michigan smokefree, said it applauded the Iowa Legislature and Governor Chet Culver for their leadership in ensuring smokefree workplaces with the Smokefree Air Act, signed on April 15. Iowa joins more than 30 other states that have gone smokefree, but Michigan has not done the same. House Bill 4163, that bans smoking in all Michigan workplaces, including bars and restaurants, remains bottled up in the Senate because of Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.

“Michigan senators need to stop ignoring the growing support for smokefree air and pass comprehensive legislation here in Michigan,” said Katherine Knoll, spokesperson for CSA. “We would like our lawmakers to protect the health of their constituents by passing a strong version of HB 4163 without any exemptions. Every Michigan worker should be protected from secondhand smoke.”

The news from Iowa comes on the heels of a report by the leading Lansing research firm Public Sector Consultants Inc. called “Smokefree workplaces: The Impact of House Bill 4163 on the Restaurant and Bar Industry in Michigan” that summarized 43 other studies and six public health reports across North America that have examined the economic and health aspects of banning workplace smoking in some form. The report concluded that "the vast majority" concluded there is no net economic impact on bars and restaurants. It also included polls showing increasing public support for bans, with support even stronger after bans have been enacted.

Perhaps more significantly was one of the authors of the study, former Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, a senior policy fellow at PSC. It was Sikkema who refused to give the smoking ban bill, pushed by Sen. Ray Basham, a hearing when he led the Senate before Bishop.

Last December, the Democratic-controlled House approved House Bill 4163 -- introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint -- by a vote of 56-46. When the bill was referred to the Republican-controlled Senate, a brief fight ensued as to what committee it would be sent to. Proponents of the bill wanted it to go to what many saw as the most logical place for it: the Health Policy Committee. The chairman of that committee, Sen. Tom George, is receptive to the ban. George is a medical doctor. Instead, it was sent to the Government Operations and Reform Committee, chaired by Bishop. Although the ban has lots of support from people from both parties, Bishop has said he will not only not allow the bill to be voted on; it will not get even get a hearing.

However, Bishop told an audience at a town hall meeting in February in Oakland Country, sponsored by the League of Women Voters featuring Bishop and Speaker of the House Andy Dillion, that he would give the bill a hearing before his committee. However, Bishop did not give a date for the hearing.