Bill Schuette

Michigan Lawmakers Can’t Touch DNR Trust Funds

Attorney General Bill Schuette put the brakes on Sen. Casperson’s plan to rob the Department of natural Resources Trust Fund for the purpose of paving logging roads and dredging commercial harbors. In AG Opinion #7270, Schuette ruled that the fund is constitutionally protected from uses other than which it is designated.

Senator Thomas Casperson, along with Senators Patrick Colbeck and David Robertson, had introduced SB 214 of 2013, a bill that would amend Public Act 451 of 1994 to allow diversion of these funds to develop logging and mining roads and dredge lakes to support commercial traffic. (Democracy Tree previously reported the large campaign contributions Casperson has taken from logging and mining interests.) The amended language specified that the funds may be used for the “development and maintenance of trails and roads on state land…[to build] infrastructure directly related to natural-resource-based industries, including timber harvesting and mining…infrastructure on waterways including breakwaters and dredging”.

The non-partisan organization Michigan League of Conservation Voters reported the victory yesterday:

Attorney General Opinion 7270 concludes that NRTF dollars “cannot be used for the maintenance of existing public recreation facilities, such as maintenance dredging of existing harbors” (p.1). The opinion comes after Governor Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that found alternate funding for emergency dredging projects to address low water levels in the Great Lakes, rather than tapping the NRTF. Michigan LCV vocally supported the Governor’s action.

We saw leadership from Governor Snyder and the DEQ very early on this issue. Attorney General Bill Schuette has now ended this debate by sending a strong message that Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund is a unique, constitutionally-guaranteed promise to all Michiganders. It is not a political plaything.

Now all we have to do is stop Caperson’s bills to allow wolf hunting and to block the science of bio-diversity in Michigan public policy.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Documents Released on RTW Protest in Michigan

images[1]Questions where asked when Michigan State Police unleashed two platoons of troopers last December to take drastic measures, including arresting and spraying protesters and locking down the Capitol building for 4 1/2 hours during the contentious Right-to-Work debate.

Some of them have been partially answered this week, but the explanation is a weak one at best. As reported by the Lansing State Journal, documents filed in Ingham County Circuit Court reveal that State Police Captain Kevin McGaffigan ordered the lockdown based on communications with authorities in Wisconsin about their experience with protests at the Madison Capitol building. Claiming the measures where for the “safety” of the protesters and the the Capitol building itself. McGaffigan said the following:

 “Over the last year, the MSP has been in contact with authorities in the state of Wisconsin and discussed the protests that occurred at its Capitol building resulting in millions of dollars of property damage,”

Attorney General Bill Schuette admits that the Michigan State Police did not consult with his office or with lawmakers when reaching their unilateral decision to shut-out democracy. Schuette went on to say that the action was not a violation of the Open Meetings Act, an opinion that was supported by Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette the day after the protests.

Say what they will, it still sounds like the actions of a fascist government to this writer.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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U.S. Department of Education Checks-up on Michigan Public Schools

images[2]The Detroit Public Schools are being paid a visit today by Tony Miller, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. Department spokesperson Daren Briscoe told The Detroit News that the purpose of the visit is:

“…to assess the status of reform efforts to improve outcomes for Detroit’s public school students and to determine how ED can best provide continued support and technical assistance across a broad range of reform and management areas. He will meet with the leadership of the Detroit Public schools, the Education Achievement Authority, and the Michigan Department of Education.”

How nice…almost sounds like they’re coming for tea.

The Michigan powers-that-be must sense that their lawbreaking days are coming to an end.

And their crimes are many:

Detroit schools have been operating under Emergency Management since 2009, and under that authority have been decimated through cruel cut-back management schemes borrowed from the corporate world. Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, a former GM executive, further destroyed the district through his Education Achievement Authority plan in which he transferred the dead weight of the 15 lowest performing schools in DPS to a new state operated district. Last years’s legislation that paved the way for the wild proliferation of charter and cyber schools has further turned DPS into an educational ghost town.

Last August, on the same day Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law, was suspended as the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the certification of the petitions putting the law to a referendum vote in November, state Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit to suspend seven elected DPS board members on a technicality. This week Wayne County Circuit Court threw-out the case as so much hogwash. DPS school board legal counsel chararacterized the harassment as “a bogus lawsuit by the AG from the beginning. It just showed contempt for Detroit”.

Speculation swirls whether the various complaints of civil rights violations committed under DPS Emergency Management will be discussed at today’s “helpful” meeting. Included among them are the closure of so very many schools that are primarily serving minority communities, the transfer of those 15 low performing schools to the EAA, and the suspension of 180 high school students who staged a walk-out in protest of the poor quality of education in DPS.

This federal scutiny comes at a pivotal moment for the EAA. Certain lawmakers have been pushing hard for legislation that would codify the state-wide district into law so they may expand from 15 schools to 60 within five years — and obtain critical grant monies to keep afloat.

Federal government agencies rarely stick their noses in state operations, and when they do, the effort is typically flaccid at best. For two years the coalition that put together the petition drive to repeal the Emergency Manager law has been soliciting the assistance of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking him to investigate violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The petitioners have been met with…crickets.

Let’s hope today’s meeting is a productive one.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree
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