Granholm signs utility theft bills

Last time I checked, these two things were already illegal.

From the AP:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A new state law aims at cracking down on energy theft from utilities in Michigan.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed bills Wednesday that make it a felony to illegally sell or transfer utility service. The penalty will be up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for a first offense.

The bills also create specific penalties for assaulting utility workers while on the job. The minimum penalty would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Penalties would stiffen if the assault resulted in injuries requiring medical attention.

Energy theft has become a larger safety and utility cost issue during Michigan’s economic downturn. Illegal hookups have caused fires and resulted in higher costs for those who have legal utility connections.

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Judicial candidates lose incumbency designation challenge

Just how important is the constitutionally and statutorily required incumbency designation on Michigan judicial ballots?

Consider this: Bill Ballenger, Lansing political pundit extraordinaire, and editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, has told me on several occasions that in Michigan, 95 percent of all incumbent judges in the last 20 years have been re-elected.

That gives incumbent judges almost a virtual lock in terms of job security (notable exception: former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor’s loss to Diane Hathaway in the 2008 election).

Mark Janer and Steven J. Jacobs, two candidates for the 74th District Court, know the incumbency designation is a powerful election tool. That’s why they went to court recently to argue that 74th District Court Judge Jennifer Cass Barnes, a very recent (June 1) Granholm appointee, shouldn’t be listed as such on the August primary ballot.

Former 74th District Court Judge Scott Newcombe decided to resign earlier this year, effective May 31. Janer, Jacobs and Barnes all filed timely petitions in April to be electoral candidates for the open seat, which was designated as a non-incumbent position.

On April 23, Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Barnes to fill the remainder of Newcombe’s term – which expired at the end of the year. Barnes took office June 1.

Janer and Barnes sued to prevent Barnes from receiving the incumbency designation. The argument presented to Bay County Circuit Court Judge Frederick L. Borchard, as recounted by the Michigan Court of Appeals in Janer, et al. v. Barnes, et al.:

[B]ecause Barnes filed nominating petitions to access the ballot as a non-incumbent, and because her appointment occurred after the deadline for incumbent judges to access the ballot, she is not entitled to the incumbent designation on the ballot.

Borchard dismissed the complaint, which sought a declaratory judgment, mandamus, and injunctive relief.

They fared no better in the COA. A per curiam panel consisting of judges Peter D. O’Connell, Donald S. Owens and Stephen L. Borrello ruled that

Const 1963, art 6, § 24 and MCL 168.467c(2) are unqualified mandates. They do not impose a time period in which an incumbent candidate must act in order to qualify for the incumbent designation.

Because the language is clear and unambiguous, judicial interpretation is not permitted, and the provisions must be enforced as written. …

The only requirement for the incumbency designation on the ballot is the incumbent status of the judge, which it is undisputed that Barnes now has attained. Accordingly, she is entitled to the incumbency designation.

And an almost certain win in August.

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Granholm to sign texting bill on Oprah

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will sign legislation with a little more pomp and promotion than usual.

Granholm signs into law the state’s texting-while-driving ban Friday during a broadcast of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Her appearance will be aired via satellite from Detroit’s Renaissance Center.

Granholm’s signing is one of many events at "No Phone Zone" rallies in Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., that are part of the broadcast.

Winfrey launched the campaign against distracted driving in January. She has sponsored a pledge on her website asking motorists to commit to not text or talk on phones while driving.

Texting will be a primary offense under Michigan’s law, meaning police can pull over motorists solely for using phones to send text messages.

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Granholm talks to CNN about Obama SCOTUS pick

Governor Jennifer GranholmGovernor Jennifer Granholm appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday to file a demurrer concerning her chances for a U.S. Supreme Court nomination.

But she was quick to advise the Obama Administration, according to CNN’s politicalticker…, that it “would be ‘wise’ to consider someone outside the usual suspects on the federal appellate courts.”

Granholm told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, “I think it’s a very wise move to consider experience that is not just from the judicial monastery.”

Who could she possibly be talking about?

The Michigan governor, whose final term ends this year, pointed to herself and Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor and current Homeland Security Secretary, as “people that have applied the laws that Congress enacts, that have seen their impact on people.”

“And, you know, for somebody to experience and see what everyday people are feeling and experiencing out there, I think is an important thing to consider,” she said.

“Now, whether that’s something that would trump judicial experience, etc. That’s obviously the president’s call. It’s safe to say that someone like me would be an unconventional nominee, at least in – in the recent appointments that have been made.”

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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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Not everyone thinks health care law suit is a loser

Michigan Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mike Cox has been drawing some heat for joining other state attorneys general in a Florida-based law suit that challenges the constitutional basis of the recently enacted federal health care law.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave him a scolding a while back. See, The Michigan Lawyer, “Who’s the Boss?”

There, I noted that some legal experts have opined that the suit “has about as much of a chance as a snowball in, let’s say, Florida. See, The Michigan Lawyer ‘Cox says he’ll challenge health care law.'”

I’m here today to tell you that Cox has marshaled some support for the idea that the suit has merit.

From Dawson Bell’s report in The Detroit Free Press:

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox’s legal challenge to sweeping federal health care legislation is a “serious constitutional claim” that has been too readily dismissed by law scholars and some politicians, a Georgetown University law professor said Tuesday.

Randy Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at Georgetown, said there is a realistic possibility the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately could invalidate several of the new law’s key provisions as congressional overreach. Barnett was invited by Cox to speak to reporters Tuesday.

Barnett said Congress has never before asserted the authority to require individuals to make a specific purchase or be fined — as the health care legislation would, under a mandate that all American citizens have insurance or pay a fee to the government. …

Barnett conceded that a majority of scholars across the country have expressed the view that courts will defer to Congress and President Barack Obama on the constitutionality of the health care law.

But he said he thinks that is because many of them have not closely read recent decisions by the court on the limits of federal power.

Scott Davis, reporting in The Lansing State Journal, also has a good take on the topic.

Group “non-threatens” 30 governors, including Granholm, to resign

LANSING (AP) — Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was among more than 30 governors who received letters from an anti-government group demanding they leave office within three days or be removed.

Spokeswoman Liz Boyd tells The Associated Press that a letter was received on Monday in the mailroom of Granholm’s executive office in Lansing. She said federal authorities told the Democratic governor in advance about the letter.

A federal intelligence note warns police that the Guardians of the Free Republics’ call to remove dozens of sitting governors may encourage others to act out violently. The group’s Web sites says it has a plan to "restore America" by peacefully dismantling parts of the government.

Boyd said Granholm did not see the "non-threatening" letter that was immediately turned over to the Michigan State Police.