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The week in Michigan politics


In this week in Michigan politics, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possibility for an emergency manager for Detroit, lawsuits against the state’s right to work law and funding for dredging the Great Lakes.

Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll be ready to move ahead with a state takeover of the city of Detroit. That's depending on the recommendation of a financial review that should wrap up in the next week or so. Detroit officials are trying to avoid a potential takeover, by taking a number of measures, including furlough days and hiring some outside firms to devise longer-term restructuring plans. Shockley wondered if there is anything Detroit can do to avoid a state takeover.

Lessenberry says there isn’t anything Detroit can do at this point. He says, “It’s like someone with stage 4 cancer saying, ‘I think I’ll stop smoking now’.  It’s too little and too late.”

Lessenberry adds, “The city is not financially able to get its own house in order. It can’t balance the budget; it has $12 billion or more in unfunded liabilities. And so the most likely scenario is that there will be an emergency manager who will sort this out and probably lead the city through some kind of a cushioned bankruptcy.”

Meanwhile in Lansing, unions are filing lawsuits against the state's right to work law that will take effect in late March. A second lawsuit was filed this week that says the right to work law can't apply to private-sector employees because it overreaches into any area controlled by the National Labor Relations Act.

Unions are taking two approaches with these lawsuits, Lessenberry says. One is to find a flaw in order to make part or all of it invalidated. Another approach is to have the Michigan Supreme Court or the US Supreme Court to say the law is unconstitutional, but Lessenberry says the second approach is highly unlikely to happen.

In other Lansing news, the Great Lakes have seen record low water levels recently and Governor Snyder said in his budget address that he would set aside 20 million dollars aside for dredging.  But some republican lawmakers think that is not enough and want to tap 30 million dollars in the state’s “rainy day” fund for emergency projects around the state.

Lessenberry says the problem is that barges are having a hard time getting into harbor because of low water levels. He says the governor doesn’t want to tap into the rainy day fund and adds, “it’s kind of odd that the governor in this case doesn’t seem to be in favor of his favorite model: relentless positive action.”

Christina began her career in radio at Michigan Radio while a student at the University of Michigan. She was a producer and researcher for The Todd Mundt Show, and then hosted Weekend Edition.
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