Granholm goes West while still staying put in Michigan

With ex-Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and former Attorney General Mike Cox announcing returns to private practice at Clark Hill and Dykema, respectively, an article in today’s edition of the Detroit Free Press reveals — by way of Politico.com — where former Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm is headed.

She and husband Dan Mulhern are going to teach this spring at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California-Berkeley. (They won’t be moving to the Bay Area, though, as the couple will continue to live in Lansing.)

They’ll collaborate on a book about her experience leading Michigan during one of its worst economic episodes. It’s planned for publication in September.

You also may see Granholm occasionally on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” as well as a speaking engagement here and there, as she and the former first gentleman signed on with Keppler’s Speakers Bureau.

She said she was not approached for a job by President Barack Obama’s administration, and doesn’t plan to run for office again, adding, “I’m done with that,” she said. “I’m ready for a new thing.”

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Granholm fills two judicial vacancies

Governor Jennifer Granholm has filled two judicial vacancies.

Jennifer Cass Barnes of Bay City has been named to the 74th District Court. Barnes replaces retiring Judge Scott Newcombe.

Barnes is a former legislative director for State Sen. Jim Barcia (D-Bay City), and the former enforcement attorney for Michigan Works!. She was also director for Bay County Friend of the Court and a public defender. Her term expires Jan. 1, 2011.

Granholm has also appointed Thomas K. Byerley of Dimondale to the Eaton County Probate Court.

Byerley’s appointment fills a vacancy created by the death of Judge Michael Skinner earlier this year.

Byerley was the State Bar of Michigan’s director of professional standards before moving to private practice with White, Schneider, Young & Chiodini . He’s a former manager of the Michigan Judicial Institute and has taught at Notre Dame and Southwestern Michigan College. His term expires Jan. 1, 2011.

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Proposed legal service tax could be nixed

Following the release of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm’s proposed 2011 state budget, Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem, has indicated that a substitute bill is being prepared that would exempt legal services from the 5.5 percent service tax rate in the plan.

Granholm’s budget called for an across-the-board 5.5 percent service tax on everything from dry cleaning to estate planning, along with a reduced sales tax of 5.5 percent.

As Michigan Lawyers Weekly reported in its Feb. 22, 2010, edition, small- and mid-sized attorneys were against the surcharge, and that the State Bar of Michigan was doing hard lobbying to quash the tax for attorneys.

Elizabeth K. Lyon, director of governmental relations for the State Bar of Michigan, said it was “a misery tax,” adding that “Legal services are no more discretionary than medical services, and if medical services are exempt, so should legal services.”

Apparently, Smith feels the same way.

Seven reappointed to Workers’ Compensation Board of Magistrates

Governor Jennifer Granholm has announced seven reappointments to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Magistrates.

The following were named to additional four-year terms on the board:

  • Michael T. Harris of Okemos
  • Timothy M. McAree of Rockford
  • Thomas G. Moher of Sault Ste. Marie
  • Melody A. Paige of Fenton
  • Paul M. Purcell of Saginaw
  • George J. Quist of Grand Rapids
  • Joy A. Turner of Grosse Pointe Park

All terms expire Jan. 26, 2013.

Workers’ compensation magistrates hear administrative claims for benefits and resolve disputes arising under the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act.

The board functions within the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.

Under the state constitution, the Michigan Senate has 60 days to disapprove the reappointments.

Sunshine websites: State AG’s new one eclipsed by governor’s?

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox held a press conference yesterday, featuring guest-star-consumer-advocate-via-telephone Ralph Nader, and supporting roles by House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche, (R-Novi), and Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, (R-Kalamazoo), to roll out a new section on the AG department’s web site called “Tracking Your Taxes.”

A press release from Cox’s office declared:

“that his office is the first in state government to create a page on the department’s website detailing the expenditures of the AG’s office, including contracts, salaries and wages, equipment and other spending.”

Cox also did a little trumpeting himself:

“Our office is a leader in defending Freedom of Information requests and Open Meetings Acts. Letting the sunshine in on state government expenditures is the next step in open government. The public has a right to see how their tax dollars are being spent. Our ‘Track Your Taxes’ webpage will let all Michigan citizens see how the Attorney General’s office puts their money to work.”

And Nader, after dishing up telephonic kudos to the AG, let it be known that he hoped Gov. Jennifer Granholm “follows his example and makes the full text of all Michigan state contracts available to the public via the Internet.”

But wait a minute.

“The governor long ago ordered all state contracting information to be available online, and it is,” the Associated Press quoted Granholm spokesperson Liz Boyd as saying.

It is, indeed. Right here.

Rusty Hills, Cox’s spokesperson, did some quibbling. From the AP’s dispatch:

“Cox spokesman Rusty Hills questioned the thoroughness of the list of contracts compiled by the Granholm administration. He said Cox’s list includes six pages of contracts for one department, while the state lists 16 pages for everything else.”

And as for the completeness of the AG’s “Track Your Taxes” website? Of the eight categories listed, clicking seven of them, “Building Occupancy,” “Contract Services,” “Supplies & Maintenance,” “Equipment,” “Information Technology,” “Insurance/Fringe Benefits,” “Rent,” “Salary & Wages” and “Travel,” returns only a figure representing spending for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2008.

According to the Associated Press, “Cox said that in a perfect world, he would like his site to be more interactive. But he noted it did not cost anything to create and his staff put it together quickly.”

The contract category that Hills mentioned has a spread sheet listing, but not the full text of the contracts, as Nader urged the governor to provide. Here, you can actually learn some details, such as

  • Ikon Office Solutions has been awarded a bunch of equipment leases.
  • The department has a one-year, $3,555 contract with insider newsletter Gongwer News Service.
  • Miller Canfield has a legal services contract for $343,559.50 ending in June 2008, with $43,233.72 left unspent at the end of last month.
  • Lucille S. Taylor, the wife of Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, has a legal services contract worth $24,500 through the end of September 2008, with $20,320 not spent at the close of the quarter.

Click here for more AG sunshine.