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Republican Party leaders say opposition to the Affordable Care Act is their No. 1 campaign issue for the midterm election.

For months, the 50th anniversary 2015 Ford Mustang was cloaked in secrecy. But an upcoming car can't stay in the garage forever. It has to undergo rigorous testing, and that means taking it out in traffic to monitor its handling on roads across the U.S.

To keep the redesign out of the public eye before December, Ford completely covered the car with camouflage.

"Underneath that material is a whole science and art, all-in-one," says Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak. "They're creating a new exterior over the exterior."

Transcript

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

The North American International Auto Show opens to the public today. That's the fancy name for the Detroit car show. NPR's Sonari Glinton has been getting a sneak preview in the Motor City, hanging out with engineers and auto execs. And he's with us now. Good to talk with you, Sonari.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: It's good to be here, Lynn.

NEARY: Now, you've spent, I think, four days at the car show. What are the standouts?

Wikipedia Media Commons

Governor Rick Snyder issued his 2014 State of the State Address Thursday, January 17, 2014 and 89.1 WEMU carried it live as a partnership with Michigan Public Radio Network.  This is their coverage of the event and the Democratic response.  

SEE ALSO: Washtenaw County Lawmakers Respond to Governor Rick Snyder's State of State Address

An opportunity to hear Henry Belafonte's work first hand at the Ross School of Business keynote lecture during the University of Michigan’s 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium on Monday, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. in Hill Auditorium.

Budget surplus quells fears of cuts to school funding in Michigan

By Jake Neher

A state budget surplus is easing some concerns about funding for public schools in Michigan.

Last year, the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan warned recent funding increases for schools and early childhood programs might not be sustainable. It estimated they would create a $240 million hole in the state’s School Aid Budget.

Adam Zemke

State Representative Adam Zemke supports tax relief for Michigan residents, but not in the form being discussed in Lansing. 

The 55th district Democrat says he'd rather see the earned income tax credit restored than a cut in the state income tax. Zemke says that would better help Michigan's low-income families displaced by the state's fluctuating economy.

Zemke is also outlining his legislative goals for 2014, and education is at the top of the list.

Zemke says Michigan's most valuable resource is the talent of its residents. He has been calling for an increased focus on STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - in public schools.

House Dems

As Michigan's Republican legislators talk about using  a state budget surplus for an income tax cut, one local State Representative says she doesn't support the idea. 

52nd District Democrat Gretchen Driskell says she does not support a tax cut.  She says she doesn't see any reason to cut taxes at this point.

Driskell says Michigan's system for collecting revenue needs to be fixed before a tax cut in instituted.

SEE ALSO: Bolger, State House GOP Stands Firm Against Repealing Tax on Pensions

She says she thinks the tax cut proposal is more of an election year idea, and the surplus would be better used toward education.

Bolger, state House GOP stand firm against repealing tax on pensions
By Jake Neher

State House Republicans on Thursday formally unveiled their priorities for 2014 - and an election-year tax cut is near the top of the list.

The big question is, who will get that tax cut?

Democrats say it should be retirees. A couple years ago, the state stopped allowing people to exempt pension income from their taxes. Democrats say that policy unfairly burdened retirees and needs to go.

But state House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says he's not open to that idea.

"If you're going to tax income, all income should be treated the same," Bolger said.

"I would be very resistant to undoing the reform we did last time. That is a reform that makes our tax system more fair."

Many Republicans in Lansing favor reducing the state's income tax rate.

Bolger says improving Michigan's roads and bridges and overhauling the state's controversial auto no-fault law are also among legislative priorities in the new year.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan legislative budget experts say state government is taking in hundreds of millions of dollars more than expected eight months ago.

A report released Tuesday from the House Fiscal Agency in Lansing estimates Michigan collected $433 million more than projected in the last budget year and will collect about $327 million more this year.

The estimates are similar to ones given in December by the Senate Fiscal Agency. All told, lawmakers could have $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion more to work with than expected in May.

Legislators will meet Friday to get a consensus estimate on revenues. They're already talking about cutting taxes, though Gov. Rick Snyder has held off on calling for tax relief.

Next month, he will propose a budget for the fiscal year starting this October.

Hunters Miss Target for historic First Wolf Hunt

Dec 31, 2013
michigan wolf hunt
J.A. Vucetich and R.O. Peterson

  Hunters fall far short of killing 43 wolves in historic first hunt

By Jake Neher

The end of 2013 also marks the end of Michigan’s historic and controversial first wolf hunt. The state had allowed 43 wolves to be killed during the 46-day hunt. But hunters only killed a little more than half that amount.

“We didn’t even come close to that, obviously,” said Ed Golder with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “But it’s important to remember that was a ceiling, not a target.”

“Caveman Chuck” Coker / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Michigan pharmacies will be able to sell medical marijuana if feds reschedule

By Jake Neher

Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill into law Monday that clears the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan. But that’s only if the federal government reclassifies cannabis as a legal prescription drug.

Update at 6:15 p.m. ET. Chinese Icebreaker Gets Stuck:

The Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon became stuck in the ice itself as it tried to reach the stranded vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority tweeted:

Governor Snyder Signs Bills into Law

Dec 26, 2013

Devices that can be used to steal someone’s personal information when they use a credit card are now illegal in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation Thursday banning the sale, purchase, or use of so-called “skimmer” devices.

Proponents of the measure say skimmers can be installed relatively easily on ATMs and other credit card readers. Under the new law, offenders will face felony charges that could come with up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

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Michigan has done a poor job over the last decade making sure veterans collect all the benefits they’re entitled to. That’s according to a new report from the state Auditor General’s office.

The audit shows the Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (DMVA) has failed to adequately track the performance and spending of veterans’ agencies across the state. That includes organization such as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.

Governor Rick Snyder says it’s time for state lawmakers to set new energy goals for Michigan. He says those goals should include burning less coal and increasing renewable energy production over the next decade.

Snyder outlined a broad set of goals for energy policy between now and 2025 during a roundtable Thursday in Detroit.

State Workers Await Board Decision on Benefits

Dec 17, 2013
MPRN

State worker unions rally on eve of contract decision

By Jake Neher

Thousands of state employees could see their health benefits reduced Wednesday. That’s if a state board votes to approve a new contract.

Public employee unions couldn’t reach a contract agreement with the state this year, so the Michigan Civil Service Commission will vote on a compromise plan drawn up by an independent panel. 

Unions say it includes too many concessions while, at the same time, state officials are expecting a budget surplus.

State lawmakers have left Lansing for the holidays and won’t return until January 8th. But they already have a long list of things to do heading into 2014.  One of the big jobs they’ll face will be finding money to improve the state’s roads and infrastructure. 

  

Early this year, Governor Rick Snyder urged lawmakers to boost funding for roads by more than a billion dollars. But Snyder’s idea to raise the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees never won enough support in the Legislature – and neither did any other proposal.

Issues Ads Legislation headed for Governor's Desk

Dec 12, 2013

Bill doubling campaign contributions, shielding issue ad donors goes to Gov. Snyder

By Jake Neher

People who pay for so-called “issue ads” would be able to stay anonymous under a bill that has cleared the state Legislature. It would also double the amount of money people can give to campaigns and political action committees (PACs).

The state Senate gave SB661 final legislative approval Thursday.

It would also block Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s proposal that would require issue ads to disclose their donors.

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