Mar 31, 2011

Michigan now offers the fewest weeks of unemployment in the nation

Michigan Democrats are working on a bill to restore the six-weeks of unemployment Republicans lopped off a bill the Governor signed on Monday.

The Governor signed House Bill 4408 into law on Monday, despite every single Michigan U.S. Democratic Congressman and groups like the Michigan League for Human Services urging him to veto it. The bill was meant to reduce fraud and clear up some technical language so that unemployed Michigan workers could continue to receive federal extended benefits up to 99 weeks. But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, slipped in an amendment cutting the state benefit period from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

Gov. Rick Snyder blamed the decision to stiff workers on the Legislative Republicans, but he signed the bill anyway. Since he took office in January, Snyder has signed 15 bills into law, and he has held a press conference for each bill signing, except his one. He even held a press conference for the bill signing for the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) package of bills when more than 5,000 people were just a few hundred yards away on the Capitol lawn protesting against the EFM expansion.

But there was no press conference for this bill signing.

The only good news is that 150,000 Michigan residents will continue to receive 20-weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits that will keep the economic recovery going and will allow them to put food on the table and maybe keep their homes. The bad news is that it will permanently reduce the number of weeks of state-funded unemployment benefits. As a result, workers who file as of January 15, 2012, will only be eligible for 20 weeks of state-funded benefits, instead of the current 26, before going to federal benefits. With this reduction Michigan will now offer the fewest weeks of unemployment in the nation.

What is even worse is that because federal unemployment extensions are proportional to the number of weeks the state offers, this change in the law means a Michigan resident making a claim next year could receive 22 fewer weeks of benefits than they would have this year if the drop in unemployment from the highest it has been since the Depression does not continue. In other words, unemployed workers in Michigan will also lose 16 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.

For most laid-off workers, 20 weeks provides little leeway for a decent job search, especially during recessionary periods when any work is hard to come by. But to illustrate how out of touch the Republicans really are, they actually believe people would rather collect $362 a week – the maximum – than work. In fact, Rep. Ken Yonker, R- Caledonia, said that unemployed workers would, “rather be on their unemployment (than working). So, sometimes we’ve got to have tough love.”

Unbelievable, but this is typical of Republicans. What makes it even worse is Snyder’s attitude. His campaign was nothing but slick TV ads and bumper stickers, and one of the favorite false talking points was “Job One is jobs.”

Apparently, that’s not the case.

After a speech to the Michigan Association of Counties on Tuesday, Snyder was quoted as saying, “Next year, my main issue is, let’s start the job creation process” and questioned the results of the Republican Legislative anti-middle class agenda pushed through in the first three months of 2011, stating that GOP lawmakers had done nothing to help the state’s ailing job market while creating serious concerns for workers with legislation that would allow contracts to be broken and jobs eliminated.

“What happened to ‘Job One is Jobs,’” said Senator Bert Johnson, D-Detroit. “Those same people whose unemployment benefits you just cut can’t wait until ‘next year’ for you to focus on job creation.”

To make sure workers can hold on, Rep. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and Senate Democratic Floor Leader Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, announced that they are working on legislation that would restore the weeks of unemployment insurance cut by HB 4408. The new law would make Michigan, which has been hardest hit by joblessness in the past decade, the only state in the country to reduce unemployment insurance for their families.

“This is not the time to cut unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to circumstances beyond their control,” Hunter said. “Restoring these six weeks of benefits will ensure that workers have all the assistance they need while they are searching for employment.”

Mar 30, 2011

Nurses and public education supporters converge on Lansing today

LANSING – Things are quiet here in the Capitol city in the first week of a two week spring break where the House and Senate are not in session, but there are at least two protests and demonstrations set for today, as well as a couple of stealth-like committee meetings.

The Michigan Nurses Association is town today, Wednesday March 30, for a conference at the Lansing Center, and at 1 p.m. they will march from the Lansing Center to the Capitol for a rally on the Capitol steps in a show of support for safe patient care and against the Governor’s proposed budget cuts that balances the budget on the backs of the working poor and middle class.

A group is also holding an education rally for today at the last minute because the House K-12 Appropriations sub-committee called a last minute committee meeting for 2 p.m. today, just meeting the time requirement for the Open Meetings Act, to take testimony on the School Aid budget.

Snyder’s budget will ensure many school districts will fall into financial martial law and require an all-powerful emergency financial manger by cutting more than $700 per pupil and raids the School Aid Fund for K-12 to cover the Higher Education budget.

The meeting is being held in room 352 of the Capitol, and not only are committee meetings open to the public, but you have a right to speak. To make sure your voice is heard, arrive early because testimony is on a first come first serve basis. Make sure you fill out a committee card located right outside the committee room to let them know you would like to testify and make sure the committee clerk gets it. A written copy of your testimony is preferred, but not required, in addition to your public comments, and the standard is to bring 15 copies of your testimony so that every member of the committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, gets a copy.

The Senate so-called Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee is also meeting at 8:30 a.m. this morning to consider a couple of anti-collective bargaining measures. They will be taking up Senate Bill 7 that would create the "Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contribution Act" to require that all public employees pay at least 20 percent of the premium costs of health insurance plans, regardless of what was agreed to in collective bargaining.

The committee is also taking up Senate Concurrent Resolution C that would amend the State Constitution to require all state employees, local government employees and employees of public universities to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premium.

The committee meets in rooms 402 and 403 of the Capitol.

Mar 29, 2011

Time to end the corporate welfare gravy train

With the Republicans in the U.S. Congress proposing cuts to successful and useful programs; like Planned Parenthood, Head Start, Pell Grants, NPR, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women, the Environmental Protection Agency and many others, they continue to ignore that fact that corporations are not only reaping record profits, but many are not paying any income taxes and some are getting refunds.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., put out a list of the top 10 worst corporate income tax avoiders. As April 15 fast approaches and hardworking Americans fill out their income tax returns this tax season, General Electric and other giant profitable corporations are avoiding U.S. taxes altogether.

Sanders has called for closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies. He also introduced legislation to impose a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires that would yield up to $50 billion a year. The senator has said that spending cuts must be paired with new revenue so the federal budget is not balanced solely on the backs of working families.

“We have a deficit problem. It has to be addressed, but it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country,” Sanders said in a press release. “The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We’ve got to talk about shared sacrifice.”

Here is the list:

1) Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.
3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

Mar 28, 2011

Senate Democrats move to protect voter’s choices and the School Aid Fund

LANSING - Senate Democrats announced today at a press conference that they will be introducing a constitutional amendment to guarantee money from the state’s School Aid Fund is dedicated to K-12 education and not diverted to the general fund

The amendment comes in response to Gov. Rich Snyder’s budget proposal which would divert money from the School Aid Fund to pay for other measures of the Governor’s budget, including corporate tax giveaways.

“Governor Snyder recently said ‘It’s not about politics; It’s about doing the right thing,’ and his budget is far from it,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D – East Lansing. “He wants to cut school funding so the state can afford corporate tax handouts that have no guarantee of creating jobs. I ask what corporation would want to locate in a state with the failing school systems his budget would surely create.”

When citizens voted in 1972 to create the Michigan Lottery and again in 1994 to pass Proposal A, they did so with the understanding that the funds generated by these measures would be dedicated to supporting public education. The Governor’s proposal to divert that money to fill a deficit in the state’s General Fund budget is a clear strike against the intent of the voters.

“The citizens of Michigan have made it clear that they expect education to come first,” said Sen. Bert Johnson, D – Detroit. “This is exactly the type of accounting gimmick Governor Snyder said he wanted to avoid, and is yet another example of this administration saying one thing and doing another.”

Senate Democrats said they would be hosting a series of town hall meetings throughout the state to seek input from Michigan’s families on their concerns and priorities for the state budget, and they have invited Snyder to attend because of his love of townhall meetings.

“The people of Michigan have to live with the consequences of the budget passed by the legislature,” said Sen. John Gleason, D – Flushing. “It is only fair that we ask them for their input and ensure that their voices are heard within the Capitol chambers as these significant decisions are being made.”

Here are the townhall meetings, and most locations are TBD at this time.

Oakland County
Thursday April 7

Western Wayne
Thursday, April 14, 6:00pm-7:30pm VFW Hall, 27345 Schoolcraft, Redford.

Monday, April 18

Thursday, April 21

Monday, April 11, 6:00-8:00pm

Grand Rapids
Tuesday, April 19, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Monday, April 11

RNC may sell democracy

It appears the Republican National Committee (RNC) is taking a cue from the Livingston County Republican party and charging a fee for democracy.

CNN is reporting that the RNC is considering selling the broadcast rights for debates between its presidential sacrificial lambs to news outlets. That’s not at all surprising from the party of big money. It was something the local party did but on a much smaller scale in the 2008 primary when it charged admission to a debate for the two open Michigan House seats as a fundraiser.

The RNC is more than $22 million in debt from the 2010 midterm elections, despite millions of dollars coming in from corporations, both foreign and domestic.

Not only that, but the Republican Governors Association spent more than any of the major non-party spenders in federal campaigns through its network of state political action committees in the last election cycle. The RGA spent $113.7 million - just in calendar year 2010. It spent $131.8 million over the two year election cycle. In fact, it spent more than rightwing cash cows the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent combined in 2010.

It remains to be seen if the RNC's sale of democracy is even legal under the law, and whether any network, other than the official propaganda arm of the GOP - Faux “news,” will make a bid. However, considering almost all of the current GOP candidates are already on the Faux payroll, it may be a waste of money.

Mar 25, 2011

Save the "We the People" program

The National Republicans are using the Bush recession to go after their favorite things they love to hate, like unions, Planned Parenthood and NPR, and some other essential program may fall victim to Republicans job-killing cuts, the "We the People" program.

We the People is a nationwide program developed by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Civic Education. The group’s mission is to foster the development of informed, responsible citizen participation in civic life. The actual program is based on materials developed by the center, and the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Yesterday I, and many other past We the People panelists, received an e-mail from Howell High School teacher Mark Oglesby, a past Michigan Teacher of the Year finalist, urging us to help save this important program. Here is the letter:

If you haven't heard, the federal funding for We the People is in danger. Historically, it has been supported by Congress through the Democracy for Education act. The funding provides textbooks, teacher training, and support for civic education to each of the 435 congressional districts. However, with the current definition of an "earmark" and the mood in Washington D.C. toward earmarks, the funding for We the People - Center for Civic Education - has come under fire and is not included in the current budget(s) being discussed and debated.

Please help restore the funding for the We the People program. You know firsthand what this valuable program does. It engages students and gives them the necessary knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to become productive citizens. Thousands of students across Michigan and the 8th Congressional District have benefitted from this outstanding program. Without question, it is the best and most important program I have been a part of as an educator.

There is a letter circulating to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to urge appropriators to exclude authorized, national programs from the definition of an "earmark." Authorized, national programs such as Reading Is Fundamental, Teach For America, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Writing Project and Close Up are wholly different from congressionally-directed spending items, which only benefit a specific state, congressional district or region, and change year to year. These programs, on the other hand, have been authorized in federal legislation, are nationally-structured and have an established history of bipartisan support. Such programs benefit millions of individuals and families nationwide, in a majority of states, districts, and regions. It is evident that national, authorized programs are not what has invoked the public's demand for earmark reform and should not be classified as such. These authorized entities were considered as programmatic for decades prior to the 110th Congress I believe it was not the intent of the authorization committees to establish these programs as "earmarks."

This exclusion would apply to the We the People Programs, which are fully authorized in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and serve every state and congressional district. Your support is critical to ensure the continuation of the We the People Programs and other worthy national education programs that have been authorized in federal legislation and affect millions of students and teachers.

Please contact our Michigan's U.S. Senators and Representatives to encourage them to change the definition of "earmarks" and to restore funding for the We the People program. As our Founders believed, an enlightened citizenry is necessary for the continuation of our republic. We the People is a program that supports this vision.

Rightwing Koch brothers also bankrolling union busting crusade in Michigan

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to bust public sector unions and replace local control with centralized power in Lansing with this army of unelected and all-powerful emergency financial managers (EFM) has ties to the same union busting effort in Wisconsin.

Mother Jones magazine did a piece on the EFM bills Snyder signed into law earlier this month that gives an EFM, after just two days of training, the power to void union contracts, run a school district, fire the elected boards and councils, call for millage elections, disincorporate or dissolve the municipal government and kill collective bargaining.

Last month Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was pranked when he thought he was talking to conservative billionaire David Koch, one of the Koch brothers who has bankrolled teabaggers and is financing the current union-busting movement, on the phone when he was really talking to a liberal blogger that showed Walker’s so-called “budget repair bill” was just a ploy to bust unions. The Mother Jones article shows that the Koch brothers are also behind the effort in Michigan. Like Walker, Snyder is creating budget deficits by taking away money from school districts and local governments with a $1.8 billion gift to businesses, allowing more EFMs to be needed.

The article says that since 2005, the rightwing Michigan think tank “Mackinac Center for Public Policy has urged reforms to Michigan law giving more power and protection to emergency financial managers.” “…In January, the free-market-loving center published four recommendations, including granting emergency managers the power to override elected officials (such as a mayor or school board member) and toss out union contracts. All four ended up in Snyder's legislation.”

The think tank has a history of union-busting and support for privatization, especially going after teacher unions. The article goes on to say that “the Mackinac Center does not disclose its donors. But a review of tax records shows that the group's funders include the charitable foundations of the nation's largest corporations and a host of wealthy conservative and libertarian benefactors. Between 2002 and 2009, the Mackinac Center's donors included the Charles G. Koch Foundation ($69,151), founded by the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, who, with his brother, David, is a major backer of conservative causes,” including the union busting efforts in Wisconsin and funding teabaggers.

Mar 22, 2011

HHS students rising above intolerant history of community

Young people in Livingston County are doing what they can to overcome the county’s racist and intolerant past, and that is why students at Howell High School chose to put on the play “The Laramie Project,” a play about the aftermath of the beating death of a gay student in Wyoming in 1998.

The students will give their final performance of the play tonight at 7 p.m. in the drama room of the high school, 1200 W. Grand River Ave. in Howell. Tickets are just $5 and will only be sold at the door.

As predicted, the anti-gay hate group known as the “Westboro Baptist Church” plans to picket. It’s really just one extended family, and most likely it will be just one person showing up with a few disgusting signs to shout some of the same disgusting BS they spout at the funerals of service men and women killed in action. I hate to give them any more publicity, and I am only doing it to highlight the counter protest.

The Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton are organizing a silent vigil to support the students, and that begins at 6:30 p.m. This group has done some excellent things in the community to support both human and gay rights in the community. If you go, please refrain from engaging the hatemongers because the Phelps family, like teabaggers, crave confrontation.

Ironically, it was an anti-gay hate group that helped give Howell and the school a bad name. The now defunct anti-gay hate group known as LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) was behind a book-banning drive more than four years ago.

The hate group was founded in 2006 by former school board member turned teabagger leader Wendy Day in response to a diversity flag they mistakenly labeled a gay pride flag.

So come out and take in the play for a mere $5 bucks or show your support by joining the counter-protest; or both. You can find them because they will have a banner that says, "Standing on the side of love."

Mar 21, 2011

Celebrate the first anniversary of the historic health care insurance reform

Wednesday will mark the first anniversary of the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the largest overhaul of the health care system in decades.

Passage of the historic health care insurance reform lowers the cost of health care, increases the number of health care providers, holds health insurance companies accountable, improves the quality of health care and extends health coverage to 32 million people. It was a hard fought victory, and one of the biggest battles was to overcome the constant lies and misinformation from Republicans that continues today. In fact, the insurance lobby was spending $1.4 million a day to spread those lies and misinformation in an unsuccessful effort to kill the bill.

To celebrate the passage and one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, The Michigan Consumers for Healthcare Advancement (MCHA), a coalition working to address the opportunities that healthcare reform presents, is sponsoring a week-long series of events beginning today in Grand Rapids and continuing through March 25 in Dearborn.

The celebration kicks off at 10 a.m. today at the Waters Building, 161 Ottawa Ave. NW Suite 305-C in Grand Rapids.

On Tuesday the celebration will be in Kalamazoo at 1 p.m. at the Family Health Center, 117 W. Patterson St. On Wednesday we will celebrate in the Capitol at Lansing at 10 a.m. On Thursday the celebration will be in Saginaw at the David R. Gomez Community Health Center, 501 Lapeer at 1 p.m. The celebration will conclude in Dearborn at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), 2651 Saulino Ct.

Mar 18, 2011

Senate Democrats move to protect civil rights

LANSING – Senate Democrats heeded the voices of the more than 5,000 working people who jammed the Capitol on Wednesday, and on Thursday they introduced Senate Joint Resolution I that would amend Michigan’s Constitution to guarantee every worker the right to organize and collectively bargain.

The Resolution was sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and it was co-sponsored by the entire Senate Democratic Caucus. The simple resolution reads as follows:

“Sec. 28. Every person shall have the right to form, join, or assist labor organizations and to bargain collectively through representatives chosen by the members of the labor organizations as to wages, benefits, and conditions of employment.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature has intruded a raft of anti-worker and anti-union bills, 40 to date, such as the radical anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) package of bills that were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Ann Arbor. But, because Synder has said publicly, on the rare times he can be pinned down to a straight answer, that he does not want to bust unions, Senate Democrats hope he will support the amendment.

“Governor Snyder likes to talk about supporting the collective bargaining process, yet pushes through legislation that will strip away those rights away from Michigan’s workers one piece at a time,” said Sen. Bert Johnson, D -Detroit. “The thousands of workers that came to Lansing yesterday to voice their concerns deserve a clear answer from him on this issue.”

In fact, on Thursday a spokesperson for Snyder said that he has no intentions of getting rid of collective bargaining, and Whitmer said if that is truly the case, then Snyder should have no problem protecting that right within the state constitution.

“This amendment isn’t complex policy requiring weeks of review, it is one sentence that guarantees a fundamental right to our workers,” Whitmer said. “It’s time for the Governor to move past the carefully crafted talking points and tell us where he really stands on this.”

It’s obvious the GOP-controlled Senate has no intention of moving it because it was referred to the Committee on Government Operations, the place where bills go to die in committee. There are only two other items in that committee that never meets, and they are both sponsored by Democrats; one to creating an independent redistricting commission and the other to require a fiscal impact of every bill.

Barring the governor’s support and the Republics leadership in the House and Senate listening to the Governor to give it the required two-thirds approval, it will take a petition drive. Judging by the enthusiastic crowds in the Capitol the last couple of days, it will not be hard to get the more than 322,000 signatures to place it on the ballot.

Mar 17, 2011

A constitutional amendment to protect a civil right is proposed

LANSING –The most popular thing that came from Wednesday’s pro-working family rally at the Capitol aimed, primarily, at the anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) package of bills was the announcement that House and Senate Democrats plan to be introduce an amendment to the Michigan Constitution to guarantee the right of Michigan workers to collectively bargain.

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D - East Lansing, and House Democratic Leader Rick Hammel, D - Mt. Morris, made the announcement to more than 5,000 people who jammed the Capitol on Wednesday to voice their displeasure with the EFM bills that will give an appointed czar the power to suspend union contracts and the civil right of collective bargain and the ability to disincorporate or dissolve the municipal government.

“It’s time that politicians stop telling our working families what they want to hear, then pass bills that weaken their rights and threaten the wages and benefits of men and women who actually work for a living,” Whitmer. “This amendment would secure in Michigan’s Constitution the basic right for every individual to have a seat at the negotiating table. They say we’re not Wisconsin, well then let’s prove it.”

It was impossible to ignore the roar of the loud but peaceful crowd that spent the entire day in the Capitol on Wednesday, but Governor Rick Snyder, in his office just across the street from the Capitol, managed to do so. On Wednesday he signed the EFM bills into law.

Snyder has said he is not interested in busting unions, but his actions are saying otherwise. If he is not the Legislature sure is, and, that’s the only thing this Legislature has been doing since it convened in January.

A letter signed by the two Democratic leaders was delivered to Snyder’s office on Wednesday that thanked the Governor for his comments in support of collective bargaining in recent weeks and asked for his support on their effort. The letter stated, “Together, we can make it clear that developing a balanced budget can, and must, be done without sacrificing our state’s long held tradition of supporting our tremendous workforce.”

“They should not be using the excuse of balancing the budget to justify breaking their promise to the people who teach our kids and keep us safe,” Hammel said. “That approach will cost us jobs and worsen our economy, not save it.”

The resolution would require a two-thirds approval of both the House and Senate to be placed on the 2012 election ballot, but that appears very unlikely with the anti-worker bent of this current Legislature. It will take a petition drive, and it will require more than 322,000 signatures to place it on the ballot.

Mar 16, 2011

Republicans going after school districts that have been prudent with funds

LANSING -- With the final approval of the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) package of bills in the House on Tuesday it’s not much of a stretch to believe there is a conspiracy afloat to bust public sector unions.

Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts $100 million in state revenue sharing to local counties, townships, cities and villages already struggling to balance their budgets because of declining property values, and he proposes a $420 per-pupil cut in public education funding. These cuts will mean more communities and school districts will require an EFM. Now, the news breaks that one of the more conservative members of the Michigan Senate, Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, is floating a proposal to cap a school “ districts' fund balance at 15 percent to prevent districts from stashing away too much money from year to year,” according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

The ending fund balance is money kept in reserve to make sure the budget is balanced in case of an emergency or an unexpected cut. It is also known as a rainy day fund. I wish I had a dollar for every time I sat in a school board meeting or municipal board meeting and heard the auditor say they recommend they keep the ending fund balance at least 15 percent of the total budget.

So, for those school districts that have been good stewards of the money, Republicans want to take it back. It seems Republicans are doing what they can to promote financial insolvency to the locals.

Because the fiscal years for school districts, as well as most municipalities, differs from the state – the budget year for schools starts July 1, for the state it’s Oct. 1 – districts need that fund balance to meet payroll and other necessities because districts do not receive their first school aid checks until Oct. 20 when teachers start work in July. With the safety of the fund balance they will be forced to borrow money to meet payroll, incurring more costs in interest payments.

Brandenburg has not yet introduced the bill. In fact, despite the fact that he is a member of the majority party and session has been underway for more than three months, he has not introduced a single bill or resolution.

Mar 14, 2011

The middle class will make their voices heard in Lansing this week

It will be a busy place in Lansing for the next couple of days as people from all over the state are stepping up to voice their concerns over Republican policies that are taking the state back years, taking away their right to vote for their leaders and busts unions.

A group of community activists are organizing “A Storm the Capitol” rally beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Corner of Michigan Ave., and Capitol Ave. in Downtown Lansing. The Facebook page for the rally says it will run until 6 p.m. Wednesday, and it says many people are staying the night for an all-night vigil until the doors of the Capitol open in the morning.

The House is expected to take up the main bill in the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) package of bills on Tuesday because the Senate approved a different version of House Bill 4214 last week. Many people want to voice their displeasure with that anti-freedom bill.

But those patriots will not be alone on Tuesday. The AARP is holding a “It’s Not Fair Rally” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday on the Capitol steps and lawn to protest the Governor's plan to tax pensions. The AFL-CIO and Michigan League for Human Services will also be on hand on Tuesday to stand up for Michigan’s poor, middle class and elderly. They don’t have a lobbying firm.

One of the 40 anti-union and anti-middle class bills introduced so far in this legislative session will be considered, and the House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on HB 4287 that will do away with the prevailing wage law. The hearing will start at 10:30 a.m. in 519 House Office Building, 121 N. Capitol. The meeting is open to the public.

On Wednesday beginning at noon on the Capitol steps the Michigan AFL-CIO affiliate unions and Working Michigan are holding a rally to stand up for Michigan’s middle class.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday in Room 519 of the House Office Building, 121 N. Capitol, the House Education Committee will take up HB 4306, a bill that forces local school boards to privatize services. All committee hearings are open to the public.

As always, a small contingent of teabaggers armed with video cameras will be there to try and provoke a confrontation. At a recent three-hour rally, a teabagger Republican and Grand Traverse County Commissioner managed to get 31 seconds of a confrontation on tape where a guy gave the teabagger the finger, which he promptly posted to a rightwing blog. They are trying, and failing, to paint these peaceful and energized working people as violent union “thugs,” so I expect them to be more and more desperate as public opinion continues to swing to the side of union workers.

Be careful, and the best thing to do is just walk away.

Mar 11, 2011

Two-day wonders have more power than elected officials

Now that the smoke is slowing beginning to clear after the Senate Republican’s approval of the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) package of bills on Wednesday, people are very surprised when they discover how much power this person, appointed by the State Treasurer with no oversight and with no confirmation process after a two-day training session, really has.

As we know from the massive protests by union supports staged in Lansing over the last week that the EFM has the ability to void, modify or renegotiate contracts, including contracts negotiated in good faith with employee unions, as well as with local business and vendors.

The EFM also has the ability to run the academic side of school districts, not just the financial side. In other words, A CPA, or even a financial services firm can tell the local school district what textbooks to buy or what courses to drop or add.

The EFM has the ability to order millage elections for any amount or for any length of time, even after the two-day wonder is long gone back to Lansing or wherever they came from. It has always been assumed that an elected official would be careful about raising taxes because he has to answer to voters. The EFM answers to nobody.

The EFM has the ability to disincorporate or dissolve the municipal government with the approval of the governor or recommend consolidation with another municipal government. In other words, and will use the City of Howell because that is where I live, he can completely dissolve the city and make it part of Howell Township again, which is in worse financial because of its over-extension of water and sewer districts that also has very few services.

The EFM has the ability to recommend to the governor that school district be reorganized. In other words, Brighton and Howell Schools can be consolidated on his say so. The only good news is Lansing has the final say, but least he is elected.

The EFM has the ability to close schools and buildings. If he thinks Parker High School is not being utilized enough or properly he can close it, or any other school building in Howell.

The bill requires competitive bidding of contracts $50,000 or more. That means privatization.

The bills eliminates the salary and benefits of the chief administrative officer and governing body members during a receivership, except as restored by the emergency manager. He can do anything he wants with City Manager Shea Charles’s salary and benefits. Why work for free? Its’ kind of ironic that the majority of Senate Republicans refused to limit the pay of the EFM to that of the highest paid state elected official in the state; the Governor at $172,000, but they want to limit the pay of the city manager.

The bill removes all powers from local governing body and chief administrative officer. That basically fires Mr. Charles and the people you voted for.

Exempts a local government in receivership from collective bargaining requirements for five years or until the receivership was terminated, whichever occurred first. That is called union busting, which is the main thrust of the bills.

The bill provide that, beginning 30 days after a local government entered into a consent agreement, it would not be subject to collective bargaining requirements during the remaining term of the agreement, unless the treasurer determined otherwise. AKA union-busting.

And what could bring an all-powerful EFM to Howell, Howell Public Schools or any other community or school district suffering because the Governor’s proposed budget cuts revenue sharing to the locals and cuts $420 per-pupil in public education funding? The answer is not much after the bills made it much easier to start the process after expanding the triggers. That would not be a bad idea for identifying potential trouble if not for the power it gives to the two-day wonders.

An EFM can be set in motion with a simple resolution adopted by either the House or Senate. In the era of term limits I can see this could be easily abused.

Other triggers include a written request from the local governing body or chief administrative officer. A written request from a creditor with an undisputed claim that remains unpaid 6 months after its due date against the local government that exceeds the greater of $10,000.00 or 1 percent of the annual general fund budget.

Or, simply failing to file an annual financial report on time.

Mar 10, 2011

Senate Republicans approve anti-union and anti-Democratic EFM package of bills

LANSING – The only jobs the Michigan Republicans have created since taking office in January are those for Emergency Financial Managers (EFM) after the Senate Republicans passed the anti-union and anti-Democratic EFM package of bills on Wednesday

The package will make it easier for financially troubled municipalities and school districts to be taken over by an emergency financial manager, and the bills give the EFM almost dictatorial like powers. The bills take the power and authority out of the hands of the people legally elected by the voters and places it in the hands of a person appointed by the governor and the Legislature, and it allows the EFM - which is why Republicans have placed the bills on the fast track - to terminate contracts negotiated with labor unions in good faith.

Rick Snyder’s proposed budget has deep cuts in school aid and revenue sharing, and that, combined, with falling property values, will guarantee more school districts and municipalities are in finical trouble and ripe for takeover and government expansion.

“This bill, along with the Governor’s proposed cuts to revenue sharing and to our schools, is going to create a race to the bottom, which guarantees many of our cities and schools are going to head into bankruptcy,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer.” How does this fit into the primary objective of jobs as job?”

The vote came on the very day that the Michigan Department of Treasury announced that more than 150 “student" are expected for the next Emergency Financial Manager training seminar slated for some time next month. Subscription only MIRS said “the course content in the two-day seminar will be expanded to include school districts along with local governments that might need what will be known simply as an "emergency manager" down the road.” Last month the two-day seminar graduated 65 people to go forth and shred union contr5ats and fire elected officials.

Like on Tuesday in the debate over third reading, a Democratic amendment to limit the salary of the EFM to that of the highest paid elected official in the state, the Governor at $172,000, failed. Seven Republicans crossed over to vote with the Democrats, resulting in a 19-19 tie, but the Lt. Governor broke the tie.

So far, the only job Republicans have created is that of dictator.

“I would ask the Governor and the Republican members of the Senate: Why are you okay with attacking the secretary who makes $35,000 compared—I would ask you, Governor, and the Governor you work for, and the members of your party: Why is it okay to challenge a secretary’s $35,000 a year job and have members in your cabinet who make $250,000 a year,” Whitmer said. “Why are you okay with attacking the firefighter who runs into a burning house, making $44,000 a year, risking their lives, and having a budget director making $250,000 a year? Why is it okay to attack a cop who ensures our community’s safety, making $46,000 a year, and not the emergency financial manager who can make upwards of $159,000 a year? Why is that okay?”

Yesterday saw 29 amendments floated, but the only ones passed were introduced by Republicans. After the defeat of the amendment limiting the pay of the EFM, Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, introduced an amendment saying that if the state is going to appoint an EFM and not limit the salary, the state should pay for the EFM. It only makes sense for struggling municipalities or school districts cutting the pay and firing trusted employees that live in the local community that the dictator from Lansing should be paid from Lansing. Predictably, it failed.

Many Democrats supported the idea of the early triggers that identifies early that a community may be in financial trouble and head off trouble early, but not the broad powers of an EFM. Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, introduced a substitute that retained all of the good points and got rid of the union-busting crap. But in the end, Republicans, like in Wisconsin, are more concerned with busting the unions.

“My concern is that, I think, we may be opening a can of worms, and we need to be very careful about these expansive powers that we are granting to emergency managers,” Hopgood said. “With this bill, as well as the budget and the laws and the stress that local communities and schools are experiencing currently, there is the concern that we are really balancing our budget through this bill on the backs of our employees, on the backs of our citizens who rely on the services for protection; in terms of our kids who are going to experience increased class sizes and schools that are closed.”

Because amendments were added to the main bill, it must now go back to the House for their concurrence.

Mar 9, 2011

GOP sneak attack proves union-busting had nothing to do with the budget

"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin," said Democratic Sen. Mark Miller in a statement after Wisconsin Senate Republicans pushed a provision stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights through the state Senate on Wednesday evening after finding a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats and the Open Meetings Act.

This simply proves what Democrats and the majority of Americans have been saying; this was just a trumped up way to bust the unions and had nothing to do with balancing the state budget.

According to MSNBC, because the union provision was part of a budget bill, Republicans in the Senate needed at least 20 senators present for a quorum, but by separating out the anti-union measure, Republicans did not need 20 senators to allow a vote on that piece.

The only good news is that a recall effort is underway for eight of the Republican Senators.

People are outraged and on noon on Thursday middle class and freedom supporters will rally at state capitols or your city halls all over the country. Shortly after the Republicans procedural scam, Wisconsin people gathered at the Capitol to protest this injustice. Tomorrow in Indiana, organizers are expecting the largest rally in Indiana history at the Statehouse to protest a rash of anti-worker bills under consideration. More rallies are being planned every day.

Al Franken is the speaker at Jeff-Jack Dinner

You will want to get your tickets early for the Michigan Democratic Party’s 2011 Annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner because the guest speaker is US. Minnesota Senator Al Franken.
The fundraising dinner will be held next month on April 16 at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Franken was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 in one of the most contested races in U.S. history that took more than five months to settle. Before running for the Senate, Franken spent 37 years as a comedy writer and actor on the Saturday Night Live,” the longest running TV show in history. The Harvard University graduate is also the best-selling author of multiple books, and he was the most popular host of Air America Radio before he left to run for the U.S. Senate.

Franken has also taken part in seven USO tours, visiting our troops overseas in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and Uzbekistan - as well as visiting Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait four times.

“We are excited and honored to have Sen. Al Franken as this year’s Jeff-Jack speaker,” said MDP Chair Mark Brewer said. “Sen. Franken has been a fighter for Democratic values and for working people during his two years in the Senate and played a crucial role in the health care debate by fighting successfully to limit insurance company profits. We look forward to meeting him and hearing him speak at our Jeff-Jack dinner in April.”

Racist show-me-your-papers’ law is bad for Michigan’s economy

You had to know this was coming with the crazy bills being introduced by Republicans all over the country, and an extremist rightwing Republican here in Michigan is set to introduce a racist show-me-your-papers’ law like they did in Arizona last year.

State Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, is apparently concerned about the huge illegal immigration problem here in Michigan, and this despite the fact that the Republicans are planning to cut revenue sharing to local governments, meaning they will be laying off more police officers, they get to take on a job of the federal government. Apparently, we are simply overrun with Canadians coming from across the border.

The law gives “local police officers authority to investigate, detain and arrest people for perceived immigration violations without the benefit of proper training, exacerbating the problem of racial profiling and raising concerns about the prolonged detention of citizens and legal residents,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). One main reason for the law in Arizona was voter about voter suppression, and Arizona has a history of minority voter suppression.

It’s unclear what Agema’s motivation is, other than to gain favor with the rightwing base, but what it will do is discourage job growth and burden police departments.

The Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) just released a report that says immigration is good for the economy and discriminatory bills like Agema’s hurt job growth.

Many immigrants are job creators. Immigrants are responsible for 33 percent of all high-tech startups, making Michigan third among all states in producing new high-tech business opportunities, according to the MLHS. In fact, in 2006, 22 percent of the international patent applications from Michigan listed a foreign-born resident as one of their key inventors, ranking Michigan 8th in the nation.

Because of that job creation, the purchasing power of immigrants is also on the rise. In 2009, the purchasing power of Michigan Asians and Latinos combined, totaled $17.5 billion, an increase of over 300 percent by each population since 1990.

The Republicans budget has huge cuts to higher education, even though experts agree that education is the key to Michigan’s recovery. During the 2008-2009 year, foreign students contributed $592 million to the local economy in tuition, fees, and living expenses. Forty four percent of all engineering master’s degrees and 62 percent of engineering doctorates are awarded to foreign-born students in the state.

Michigan’s economy could be negatively impacted by the passage of Agema’s Arizona-style immigration bill. Why live in a state where you could be pulled over for driving while brown?

Mar 8, 2011

Senate Republicans ignore the people and move anti-union and anti-Democratic EFM bills

LANSING – Despite thousands of workers packing the Senate gallery on Tuesday morning chanting “kill the bill,” the Senate Republicans ignored them and moved the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) package of bills to the third reading.

The bills can be voted on as early as Wednesday and sent to the Governor for his signature. The EFM package, House Bills 4214-4218, will make it easier for financially troubled municipalities and school districts to be taken over by an emergency financial manager, and the bills give the EFM almost dictatorial like powers. The bills take the power and authority out of the hands of the people legally elected by the voters and places it in the hands of a person appointed by the governor and the Legislature, and it allows the EFM - which is why Republicans have placed the bills on the fast track - to terminate contracts negotiated with labor unions in good faith.

Many of the financial challenges municipalities face are due to mandates and budget cuts not of their own creation, but rather those that were imposed on them by decisions made in Lansing. The Governor’s proposed budget cuts will push those barely hanging on over the edge, from financial stress to financial emergency.
Senate Democrats put up 17 amendments and two substitutes to the main bill to make it more transparent, but they all were defeated along mostly party lines, with the exception of one. Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, introduced an amendment that would not allow the EFM to be paid no more than the Governor, Michigan's highest paid elected official at $177,000 a year.

Amendments are voted on via voice vote unless the chair is not sure of the outcome or someone makes a request for a record roll call vote. The Chair, Sen. Make Jansen, R-Gaines Twp., said the Hunter amendment failed despite the obvious loud yes votes.
When a record roll call vote was called for, Republicans joined with Democrats and the amendment passed with a vote of 19-18. But about 45 minutes and 12 amendments later, the Senate Republicans moved to reconsider Hunter’s amendment, and it was then disapproved by a vote of 16-21, angering Democrats.

“We have an emergency financial manager in my community that makes $420,000, and this man will make a million dollars before he leaves,” said Sen. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit. “Are you really saying we can pay someone half a million dollars in a community that is financially strapped?”

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, was very angry, and even though the Senate Republicans tried to gavel her down, she made her point about the basic dishonesty of Republicans, saying they have no problem making millionaire EFMs with taxpayer money, but they want to break contracts with first responders negotiated in good faith.

“We were told you were going to open it back up because more people wanted to vote for it not to defeat it,” she said.

Mar 7, 2011

Senate Republicans give Snyder appointees a free pass

LANSING – Michigan Senate Republicans completely neglected their statutory duty of advise and consent, and none of Gov. Rick Snyder’s department heads will face a confirmation hearing.

The 60-day window expired on Monday, and not a single Snyder appointee had to face a Senate hearing. It’s even worse when you consider Snyder wants to give more power to the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) who can suspend union contracts and fire elected officials. That EFM, which can also be a corporation, is appointed by the State Treasurer, and the EFM has almost zero oversight.

That advise and consent duty was not ignored by the Republican controlled Senate when we had a Democratic Governor. In fact, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s appointees had a full public hearing, and at times faced some uncomfortable questions.

The Republican Senate did basically the same thing when Republican John Engler was the Governor, but they at least made an attempt, holding hearings in the first two years of his 12-year tenure. This Senate is not even pretending it’s being fair and doing their job.

Bob McCann, Senate Democratic communications director told subscription only Gongwer that the Senate's handling of the advice and consent hearing during Ms. Granholm's tenure was thorough and quick.

"It's disappointing that they would break with that tradition and essentially ignore one of the most basic components of a system of checks and balances that we have," McCann said in Gongwer. "Certainly background checks can give you cursory information about an individual. ... We need to be able to hear what their qualifications are and what direction they're looking to go in."

Rally on Tuesday to protest anti-worker and anti-voter bills

The Michigan AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers of Michigan (UAW) are organizing a pro-worker rally in Lansing on Tuesday March 8 to peacefully protest the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) package of bills.

The Senate is expected to take up Senate Bills 153-158 that will make it easier for financially troubled municipalities and school districts to be taken over by an emergency financial manager, and the bills give the EFM almost dictatorial like powers. The bills take the power and authority out of the hands of the people legally elected by the voters and places it in the hands of a person appointed by the governor and the Legislature, and it allows the EFM - which is why Republicans have placed the bills on the fast track - to terminate contracts negotiated with labor unions in good faith.

The package is moving at breakneck speed. Just two weeks ago the House approved House Bills 4214-4218 and 4246 along party lines, 62-47 with one Republican voting no on the House version of the bills. This appears to be a stealth way to accomplish the union busting that is going on in in Ohio and Wisconsin and end collective bargaining for public sector unions.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal that raises taxes on the most vulnerable and shifts taxes from corporations to kids and seniors will also place more school districts and municipalities into financial trouble.

It also includes deep cuts to revenue sharing to cities, villages and towns, and it will trim the fund from nearly $300 million to $200 million. It will surely cause local governments to lay off police and firefighters, and it will mean more municipalities will need an EFM.

The budget also calls for cutting some $420 per-pupil in public education funding. That will devastate school districts, sending many into deficit districts, meaning they will need an EFM.

The rally will begin at 9 a.m. at the Capitol steps, and the Senate will meet to take up the bills at 10 a.m. The rally is expected to last until 1 p.m.

Mar 4, 2011

Wisconsin Governor plans to start killing hostages

Wisconsin Gov. Scooter Walker is going to start killing the hostages at 4 p.m. today, Friday, in his quest to kill the public sector unions in Wisconsin.

Walker created a financial emergency by giving away huge tax breaks to corporations that supported him in order to get concessions from the public sector unions that did not endorse him in the election, but he is going even farther and wants to steal their civil right of collective bargaining and kill the unions.

Walker has refused to negotiate and Senate Democrats left the Capitol to stop the Senate from getting a quorum and passing his union-busting, so-called “budget repair bill.” Now Walker is threatening to begin issuing layoff notices to 1,5000 workers within 24 hours unless his measure was passed, and Senate Republicans authorizing police to round up their missing colleagues.

According to the Associated Press, Walker said he will issue layoff notices to 1,500 state workers on Friday if at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats didn’t return from Illinois to give the Republican majority the quorum it needs to vote.

Walker has tried to trick Senate Democrats into returning by lying and saying he was going to negotiate in good faith, but that trick was exposed in a prank call where he thought he was talking to rightwing billionaire David Koch, who is funding the union-busting efforts across the country, as well as the teabggers.

Leaving the Capitol to deny a quorum is as old as the country, and the father of the Grand Oil Party, Abraham Lincoln, once tried the same tactic.

Senate Republicans may have trouble in their illegal move to go after Senate Democrats with arrest warrants. According to the AP, “The Wisconsin Professional Police Association, a union representing 11,000 law enforcement officials from across the state, released a statement from its director Jim Palmer slamming the Senate Republicans’ resolution to go after the Democrats.”

“The thought of using law enforcement officers to exercise force in order to achieve a political objective is insanely wrong and Wisconsin sorely needs reasonable solutions and not potentially dangerous political theatrics,” Palmer said.

Walker has taken the extraordinary step of locking taxpayers out of their Capitol. It’s no wonder the majority of Americans support the workers in Wisconsin in poll after poll.

Mar 3, 2011

Americans do not support Republican union busting

Another day, another poll that shows Americans do not support Republican attempts to steal the civil right of collective bargaining from public employees.

A poll from NBC and the conservative Wall Street Journal discovered that Americans strongly oppose efforts to strip unionized government workers of their rights to collectively bargain. In fact, 62 percent of those surveyed said stealing those rights would be either “mostly unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable.”

That’s not to say the constant lies and attacks on teachers and public employees from Republicans have not been effective, and the poll also showed 68 percent of the respondents would like public employees to contribute more for their retirement benefits and 63 percent want these workers to pay more for their health care. This despite the fact that, for example, Wisconsin teachers have taken pay cuts for the past six years to keep their benefits, and they still are paying more for health care.

In Wisconsin, for example, a contract was made with public employees that is being broken, but they are still willing to make concessions.

It’s sad that Republicans are trying to bust unions and blame public workers for a recession created by Wall Street and made worse by tax giveaways to corporations already sitting on record profits, like in Wisconsin.

There is a good reason the growing inequality between the rich and the rest of us is turning the U.S. into a banana republic, and the richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976.

If Republicans are successful in breaking unions it will be even larger.

Conspiracy to start a riot may land Wisconsin Governor in hot water

The prank call last week to extremist Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin not only exposed that that he was just trying to bust the public sector unions by trying to take away their collective bargaining rights by creating a financial emergency, but he may now be in some legal trouble.

Walker thought he was talking to sugar daddy David Koch, one of the Koch brothers who has bankrolled teabaggers and is financing the current union-busting movement, but he was actually talking to a liberal blogger posing as Koch. During the 20-lovefest Koch/blogger suggested “planting some troublemakers” into the huge crowd of pro-worker protestors that have flooded into Madison, and Walker said he thought about it but decided against it because it “ would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems.”

In other words, Walker planned to hire interstate criminals to use felony violence against his constituents and state employees.

The Madison Police said that he found those comments “very unsettling and troubling,” and he wants an explanation from the Governor. The Governor is the man responsible for public safety in the state, and he is trying to start a riot.

“I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members,” Police Chief Noble Wray said in the Milwaukee Journal.” I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers.”

Even though Wisconsin has gotten most of the attention for its union-busting attempts, Ohio is also moving forward to take away civil rights. Rightwing extremist Republican Ohio Governor and former Faux News host John Kasich has been pushing to bust unions since he was elected.

On Wednesday the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate voted 17-16 to strip public workers of the civil right of collective bargaining, and it would also ban strikes and put the power of breaking labor impasses in the hands of local elected officials instead of impartial third party judges. Six Republicans had the good sense to vote against it, but it still squeaked by with just one vote.

The Republican controlled House is expected to approve it, but Democratic lawmakers said they would take it to a ballot referendum this fall.

Mar 2, 2011

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice ignores legal election with union busting decision

You had to know this was coming with the rash of Republican attempts at union busting, and yesterday new rightwing Department of Human Services director and former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan announced the state will stop collecting union dues from 16,500 private day care providers and will no longer fund the agency in charge of their union.

Despite the fact that a majority of workers voted in a legal election and it was upheld in the courts, Corrigan did the bidding for the rightwing think tank the Mackinac Center.

In 2009 child care workers organized the Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM) union, a joint venture between United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) certified CCPTM as the sole bargaining unit for all home-based child care providers receiving reimbursement payments from the Michigan Child Development and Care Program.

The Mackinac Center, and their allies in the conservative media and in the Senate GOP caucus, thinks it’s somehow illegal for a group of workers to vote to form a union, and the Mackinac Center filed a lawsuit claiming that because not everybody voted, the election is somehow invalid. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected that ridiculous claim, twice, so they turned to the Legislature where the anti-union Republicans were very receptive. Still, they failed there, so with the stroke of a pen Corrigan undid a legally sanctioned election and what she could not accomplish on the bench or in the Legislature.

I’m assuming the Mackinac Center, knowing they would never win in court, will drop their losing lawsuit, and it’s unclear if the union will file a lawsuit, hopefully they will. It’s nice to know that you can undo an election with a simple stroke of a pen, so I want to see the 2010 election in Michigan undone, too.

Mar 1, 2011

Anti-union EFM bills in Committee Wednesday

The big government bills that will bust public sector unions and disenfranchise voters will be up for a vote in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 2.

The committee will take up House Bills 4214-4218 that will make it easier for financially troubled municipalities and school districts to be taken over by an emergency financial manger (EFM), and the bills give the EFM almost dictatorial like powers. The bills take the power and authority out of the hands of the people legally elected by the voters and places it in the hands of a person appointed by the governor ad the Legislature, and it allows the EFM - which is why Republicans have placed the bills on the fast track - to terminate contracts negotiated with labor unions in good faith.

Last week the House approved the bills along party lines, with one Republicans voting with the Democrats, and the Education Committee is already taking up the bills. Just last week the Education committee also voted out, along party lines, the Senate version of the EFM bills, Senate Bills 153-158.

Despite thousands of pro-working people flooding Lansing last week protesting against the bills and the many anti-worker bills, the Republicans are pushing the bills through with very little debate and at break-neck speed.

The Senate Education Committee meets at 12:30 p.m. in room 100 of the Farnum Building, 125 W. Allegan St. The meeting, like all committee meetings, is open to the public.

(Photo courtesy of Phil Reid)