By Michael Gerstein
Last updated: 05/14/13 6:44pm
At least 400 fast-food workers protested ongoing low wages in a series of restaurant walkouts in Detroit last Friday, according to numerous press reports.
The unprecedented show of unity between some of the country’s worst paid employees comes amid similar protests across the country, and a proposal last month from Michigan Democrats to raise the minimum wage from $7.75 to $10 an hour by 2016, previously reported by The State News.
If passed, the law would require minimum wage increases in yearly increments until the target is met.
But the Democrat supported bill has the Republican super-majority to reckon with, in both the House and Senate.
Protestors and labor activists call for an increase of $7.25 an hour, bringing it to $15, which would offset rising costs of living and bring the minimum wage back to its previous buying power when first implemented.
Activists say the country’s slow economic recovery was fueled by low-wage work, according to media reports.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are at least 15,320 fast-food cooks in Michigan eking out an average of $18,720 a year. That data shows the state has one of the highest numbers of such workers in the nation.
By Kellie Rowe
Last updated: 04/08/13 8:55pm
College students aren’t the only ones ruffling each other’s feathers over the NCAA games.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced today he and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway have entered a “friendly championship wager” regarding the outcome of the NCAA tournament.
What’s on the line? A “Pure Michigan” food basket and a Meacham Country Ham.
The pair confirmed the wager prior to the start of the University of Michigan’s face off against University of Louisville tonight at about 9:30 p.m. in the final game of the tournament.
“I’m more than happy to make this bet with General Conway, because I’m confident he’ll be saying ‘Hail to the Victors’ when all is said and done,” Schuette said in a statement.
If Schuette loses and Louisville wins, he must send Conway a basket of products made in Michigan.
“Attorney General Schuette and I are both looking forward to an exciting game tonight,” Conway said in statement. “Personally, I think some gourmet items from Michigan would go nicely with a UofL victory.”
If Conway loses and Michigan wins, he must send Schuette a Meacham Country Ham from Conway’s father’s home county – Union County.
By Caleb Nordgren
Last updated: 03/25/13 5:33pm
When Chief Justice John Roberts — and the rest of the U.S. Supreme Court, of course — hears arguments regarding the Federal Defense Of Marriage Act, or DOMA, and California’s Prop 8, an extra set of eyes will be on him: Jean Podrasky, his cousin.
You might rightly ask why you should care that his cousin will be there.
Even as someone who does not follow the day-to-day activities of the Supreme Court, I would imagine seeing family members in attendance isn’t a terribly uncommon occurrence. What makes this instance interesting is Podrasky herself, as she is a lesbian.
This raises the obvious question: will Roberts be more likely to side with the liberal judges in favor of gay marriage because of his cousin?
There are two sides to this. One is her direct presence at the arguments. It would seem to prejudice Roberts just a bit if every time he looks up he sees his cousin disapproving if he seems to be leaning conservative or approving if he’s leaning liberal.
Of course, one would imagine Roberts wouldn’t have made it to the highest court in the nation if he could be influenced that easily.
But the second issue is more interesting, at least to me.
As a general rule, your position on the issue of gay marriage depends largely on who you know.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is a staunch conservative, but has said he supports gay marriage.
This easily can be attributed to his daughter, who is a lesbian.
So, by that logic, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suppose Roberts might lean liberal on this issue because of Podrasky.
Now, let’s suppose Roberts sides with the liberal judges in striking down DOMA and/or Prop 8.
Whether he does so because of his cousin or because of the arguments presented is irrelevant, for this purpose.
Opponents of gay marriage would cry foul because they would see him as biased. They might be wrong, but that won’t stop them.
It’s an interesting ethical question.
I hope Roberts swings liberal, myself, and I don’t really care why he does it.
But don’t be surprised to hear a lot about Podrasky if a liberal decision is handed down.
By Kellie Rowe
Last updated: 03/19/13 10:27pm
After the proposal was rejected in 2012, Michigan Democrats are hoping to bring back the Michigan 2020 Plan in full force, state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, announced Tuesday. news
The plan would award each high school graduate a grant to fund an education at a Michigan university or community college.
But some are concerned about where the funding for the plan will come from. State Democrats are confident the money required to fund the plan — an estimated $1.8 billion per year — can be raised by closing tax loopholes without raising taxes.
“The Michigan 2020 Plan is the best investment that can be made in Michigan’s economy and it does so without raising taxes one cent on our hard working families,” Whitmer said in statement Tuesday.
“It’s time to end the political excuses for not giving this plan a vote and instead send a message that Michigan can and will create the most well-educated workforce found anywhere in the world.”
All students, regardless if they graduated from a public or private school or were home schooled, are eligible for the grants and can use the money toward school expenses ranging from tuition to books.
There are 15 public universities in Michigan, including MSU.
The maximum amount a student can receive in a Michigan 2020 grant is the average cost of undergraduate tuition at a public university — about $10,617, according to Senate Democrats.
The Michigan 2020 Plan receives its name from the idea that high school students could have their college tuition entirely paid for by the state by 2020.
Check The State News Thursday for an article about the Michigan 2020 Plan.
By Kellie Rowe
Last updated: 02/28/13 6:12pm
Multiple law-related changes Thursday have garnered public attention, including laws involving health insurance, violence against women and voting rights.
In Michigan, the House approved changing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, or BCBSM, into a nonprofit mutual insurer by a 92-18 vote Thursday.
The company previously provided insurance to all patients regardless of health condition as an insurer of last resort and in return, it was exempt from paying state taxes.
If the new bill passes, BCBSM will be required to pay the estimated $100 million in taxes again.
MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel said in a previous interview changing BCBSM’s structure will foster competition among insurance companies.
As the insurance of last resort, BCBSM currently dominates Michigan’s insurance industry.
The House chose not to include controversial language regarding abortions — the reason Gov. Rick Snyder rejected the bill when it was introduced last year.
Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said the legislature chose not to add abortion coverage to the bill because parties failed to agree on proper language to protect unborn babies and their mothers.
He emphasized increasing the value of life and improving pre-natal care and adoptions in Michigan.
“I hope we showed people, through the final passage of this legislation, that these values are shared by many Michiganders, regardless of what political party they belong to,” he said.
In national news, the Supreme Court will hear a case involving sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
An Alabama county is attempting to redraw its voting district borders and lawmakers are concerned the Justice Department’s authority to monitor how the state redistricts could be an overreach of congressional powers.
The Voting Rights Act was introduced in 1965 to prevent states from gerrymandering and creating districts that would disadvantage black voters and politicians.
If the court rules in favor of the Alabama county, laws protecting against gerrymandering could be struck down.
The House also passed legislation Thursday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that expired during Congress’s last session before the chamber could reach a consensus, according to the New York Times.
The Senate passed the bill earlier this month and the House introduced provisions, such as excluding gay, bisexual or transgender people from protections against sexual abuse, to the bill last Friday that drew criticism from human rights campaigns and Democrats.
By Kellie Rowe
Last updated: 02/26/13 7:55pm
Although same-sex marriage is an issue most often favored by Democrats, some of the nation’s top Republicans are urging the Supreme Court to support it.
More than 80 members of the GOP party, including former governors, George W. Bush administration veterans and ex-Congress members, are expected to file a friend of the court brief asking the court to rule against Proposition 8, a bill in California banning same-sex marriage, according to USA Today.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights is organizing the brief, which will be filed before the court hears oral arguments in multiple gay couple cases scheduled to be reviewed March 26 and March 27.
The foundation already is challenging Proposition 8, which has already been struck down by two other lower courts.
Most of the 80 brief supporters are former lawmakers. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is the only politician currently serving a term in Congress listed as a supporter of the bill.
Recent surveys have shown East Lansing also is receptive to the idea of same-sex unions.
An MSU poll conducted by the university’s State of the State Survey in 2012 found 56 percent of the 1,015 Michigan adults surveyed supported same-sex marriages.
This year’s results show an increase from year’s past.
Two years ago, results from the same survey showed 51 percent of those surveyed said they supported same-sex marriage and 48 percent opposed.
Nationally, the Pew Research Center reports about 48 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage and 43 percent are opposed.
This is a definite increase compared to 57 percent who were opposed to same-sex marriage in 2001.
Millennials, which is a category of individuals born in 1981 or later, are the highest age group to accept gay marriage, according to Pew Research Center.
By Caleb Nordgren
Last updated: 02/04/13 6:24pm
Republicans in the House of Representatives issued a series of statements today criticizing the President Barack Obama for missing the deadline to submit his budget for fiscal year 2013, according to a CNN blog.
Now, as a journalist, I hear something about missing a deadline and immediately disapprove. Deadlines at a newspaper are kind of a big deal and missing one is a problem on a number of levels. That’s not what this is, though.
See, this is the fourth time in five years that the Obama Administration has missed this deadline, the blog said. And yet, you’ll notice that the government keeps on existing.
It can’t be that big a deal to miss the deadline if it’s been missed that often and the government still is functioning.
I’m reasonably certain that I’m coming off as pro-Democrat here. And while I am liberal, as a general rule, I’m not taking sides in this fight. It’s equally the administration’s fault for not submitting a budget when they’re supposed to.
Republicans have said Obama’s lack of a budget means he’s not taking the debt/defecit issue seriously. In response, they’re calling for a bill to be voted on Tuesday.
If passed, the president will be required to submit a plan to balance the federal budget within the next 10 years or submit a plan that explicitly details when the budget would be balanced, if it’s going to take longer than 10 years, according to the blog.
This is silly, if only because recent history suggests Republicans would reject any proposed plan by Democrats that balances the budget through spending cuts and tax increases.
And any plan the Democrats submit would include those things, almost necessarily.
In short, the 2012 election changed precisely nothing. Politicians still can’t agree on anything and will make any excuse to fight about it.
By Kellie Rowe
Last updated: 01/29/13 9:30pm
On Nov. 6, 2008 the U.S. elected its first black president, a historical milestone in social progress. This leaves room to wonder: What about the first female president?
Women vote at a higher rate, 22 countries around the world have women leaders, and some believe it is about time a woman becomes commander-in-chief, according to The Huffington Post.
Numerous media outlets have began speculating who will run for 2016 and a strong list of female candidates from both parties is emerging.
The post created a slideshow displaying a list of women who could possibly be up for the job.
1. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Clinton has several powerful positions under her belt: secretary of state, a U.S. senator and first lady with husband Bill Clinton. During the 2008 Democratic primary, she earned a presidential bid but did not progress in the race.
2. Sarah Palin
The Alaskan governor famously parodied by actress Tina Fey could be a strong contender for the 2016 presidency. Palin, a Republican, was selected to be run as Arizona Sen. John McCain’s potential vice president. Within the last week, she stepped down from her role as a Fox News contributor but continues to serve as a model of conservatism for many.
3. Condoleezza Rice
Although she has yet to run for an elected position, this Republican was the first black woman to serve as secretary of state and was President George W. Bush’s first national security advisor. Rice gave a powerful speech prior to former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Flor. this reporter actually was able to watch.
By Simon Schuster
Last updated: 01/24/13 7:36pm
On Thursday, a statement from North Korea laid the motives of the country’s totalitarian leadership bare: An unyielding regime growing increasingly desperate as U.N. sanctions tighten their stranglehold on the country’s already enfeebled economy.
The statement portrays North Korea’s intentions around their successful December 12 long-range rocket launch as peaceful, but now the country’s fledgling space program will “all orientate toward the purpose of winning in the all-out action for foiling the U.S. and all other hostile forces’ maneuvers.”
The statement is issued from a government that seems almost incapable of being conciliatory, even as U.N. sanctions continue to tighten.
It was issued a day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the rocket launch and extending sanctions.
North Korea views the idea of a nuclear arsenal as a figurative beachhead against western strong-arming, and as threats about striking the U.S. intensify, tensions continue to rise at an accelerating rate.
North Korea has vowed to strike at the “heart” of America, and with the benchmark of a successful long-range rocket test already reached, their threats gain that much more weight.
The looming question now is precisely how far the U.S. will allow North Korea to advance their dreams of global greatness before taking direct action.
Is a diplomatic solution still within reach, or will the international community fall back upon less delicate methods?
By Kellie Rowe
Last updated: 01/22/13 9:23pm
Ever wonder what happened to the dynamic GOP duo Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan after their loss on Election Day?
A number of news outlets reported shortly after Romney’s loss on Nov. 6, the Republican presidential nominee took his family to “the happiest place on earth.”
On Nov. 16, the former governor of Massachusetts was spotted with his wife, Ann, at showing of the final chapter of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, in California, according to TMZ.
A few days later, Romney was spotted with his wife, sons and grandchildren at Disneyland on Nov. 19.
As for the Republican vice presidential nominee, Ryan told Fox6 he was spending time decompressing with his family a week after the election. He only turned on the TV to watch football and a movie with his kids.
The Wisconsin representative wasn’t out for long. He and other House Republicans began work on a solution to the next fiscal deadlines in the coming months.
On Monday, Ryan was in the audience at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, claiming he was obligated to go.
He tweeted: “I congratulate President Obama on his inauguration, and I join the country in celebrating this American tradition.”
During his inaugural address Monday, Obama took a direct shot at Ryan’s political theory he emphasized during his campaign for the vice presidency that the U.S. is divided between “makers” and “takers,” and that social insurance programs reduce ambition.
“The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us,” Obama said during his address. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
The next day, Ryan made headlines, retorting that Obama misconstrued the Republican’s position on entitlements.
He told reporters it was “bittersweet” to attend the inauguration he had hoped to take part in himself.
However, news outlets reported Romney was nowhere to be found on inauguration day.
NBC reported a Romney aid told them it was “doubtful” he’d watch the ceremony and the Romney family had “no big plans” on Monday.