Gongwer News Service/Michigan Report


Information Pertinent to Legislative and State Department Activities Since 1906



With Republicans charging that she had violated her oath of office and Democrats charging she was the victim of partisan politics, as well as possibly racism and sexism, the Senate rejected the re-nomination of Dorothy Jones to the Board of State Canvassers on a party-line vote.

An eight-year veteran of the board, Ms. Jones is the first nominee of Governor Jennifer Granholm to be rejected for appointment, and the first gubernatorial nominee to be rejected by the Senate since late 1990.

Just minutes after the Senate voted 22-15 to disapprove her appointment, in a moment of serendipitous irony, in the Capitol's rotunda the Coldwater High School Choir sang a chorale from Mozart's "Requiem."

Ms. Granholm's spokesperson, Liz Boyd, said the governor "remains furious" at the Senate and that the administration rejects any claim by the Senate that Ms. Jones violated her oath of office in making the controversial votes she did last August that led to Senate Republicans to voting her out of her position.

The vote to reject Ms. Jones came in the midst of a series of other votes approving gubernatorial nominees to different university boards of control, all of which were approved unanimously, and, according to a Senate spokesperson, the positioning of the vote was intended to show that the chamber takes its advice and consent function seriously and that Ms. Jones' appointment was rejected because Republicans saw there was a problem with it.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema (R-Wyoming) argued that her appointment should be rejected because she had performed a "clear breach of duty and a breach of her oath of office."

Mr. Sikkema put particular stress on the idea that Ms. Jones' alleged breach was clear, using the word "clear" or its adverb no less than eight times in his comments.

The votes at issue dealt with certifying a proposal to constitutionally outlaw gay marriage and certifying Ralph Nader to the ballot as an independent candidate for president.   In both cases Ms. Jones and fellow Democrat Doyle O'Connor voted against the certification, and in each case the Court of Appeals ordered the issues to the ballot.

"I take no pleasure in doing this, but the Senate has a constitutional role.   This action is unfortunate, but it is clearly just," Mr. Sikkema said.

In retort, Senate Minority Leader Bob Emerson (D-Flint) said how the Democrats voted in August was not substantially different than how Republican members of the canvassers acted in 2002 when they voted against language on proposals going to the ballot on sentencing for drug crimes and for directing expenditures on the state's tobacco settlement revenues.

And when Mr. Sikkema said that Ms. Jones rejected the legal advice of the canvassers counsel, Mr. Emerson said that in 1999, when Ms. Granholm was attorney general, Mr. Sikkema said there was no requirement to abide by the attorney general's opinion.

Sen. Ray Basham (D-Taylor) raised hackles when he said that he "would never use the words racist and sexist, but one has to wonder."

Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) said the issue was a "no-brainer", that the Democratic actions last August were outside the law.   "It's pathetic what the state board did," he said, and he saved much of his anger for Doyle O'Connor, the other Democrat, saying he will gladly vote against his re-nomination.

Afterwards, Mr. Cropsey told a reporter that Mr. O'Connor should resign from the board.   And he blasted Ms. Granholm, saying her comments that Republicans were making the issue partisan were "hypocritical" since Democrats had tried to make a partisan issue out of the gay marriage proposal.

With Ms. Jones the only black member of the board, Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman (D-Detroit) asked why an African-American woman would be the first nominee rejected.

Following the vote, AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said all citizens should be concerned by the failure to approve Ms. Jones because she would not "blindly go along with the partisan agenda of the Michigan Republican Party during last year's presidential campaign."

As to whom Ms. Granholm will name to the board now, Liz Boyd, her press secretary, said the governor will put forth a new appointment but she was not sure when that would be or who would be named.


Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm and House Republicans continued their skirmish Thursday on whether the state made a promise to students who scored well enough on their middle school state tests to earn a college scholarship of up to $500 under the Merit Award program as Ms. Granholm seeks to block payment of those awards.

The governor has proposed revamping the Merit Award program, which primarily is known for the $2,500 scholarship that students can win for scoring satisfactorily on the high school test.   Ms. Granholm wants the program to become a $4,000 scholarship for those students who complete two years of post-high school education or training.

But Ms. Granholm has come under heavy fire from the House GOP over her proposal not to not pay out the middle school awards, which this year are scheduled to be awarded to the first batch of students who won them with their 2000 test scores in the seventh grade.   She has recommended the move to save $9 million toward closing a $770 million shortfall in the 2005-06 fiscal year between available revenues and existing spending.

Earlier this week, when asked if she was reconsidering her position on the issue, the governor said the state, beginning with the former Engler administration, never tracked the winners of the program and that no letters were sent out to winners.

But House Speaker Craig DeRoche (R-Novi), in announcing that the House Government Operations Committee would begin investigating the situation next week, said his office and other representatives have been receiving calls from students and parents of students this week that they, in fact, were given indications from the state that they had won the scholarship.

House Republicans said Thursday that students who scored sufficiently on the test have been showing them copies of their test scores, which include a disclaimer from the state that those scoring well enough will receive the money if they also score satisfactorily on their high school test.

Mr. DeRoche distributed to reporters a copy of a student's test score sheet that contains this statement: "Beginning with the graduating class of 2005, there will be an additional award of up to $500 for students who score in the top category on the seventh- and eighth-grade MEAP tests in these four subjects."   The statement goes on to remind students that they also must score well enough on the high school test to obtain the middle school award.

In the view of the speaker, students could simply compare their score to the standard required for the scholarship and know they had won.

"This is all about honesty, and it's about keeping words to our kids that aren't even old enough to pull the lever and vote for us or against us," he said.   "Clearly, in writing, the state sent out letters to all these kids."

Mr. DeRoche and Rep. Leon Drolet (R-Clinton Township), Government Operations Committee chair, also pointed to the test score containing a "Merit Tracking ID" number.

"How is possible that we have no way of tracking Merit Awards and who's been qualifying for them when we have Merit Tracking ID numbers?" asked Mr. Drolet, who said his office has received about a dozen calls from parents or students about the situation.

But Granholm press secretary Liz Boyd said the statement on the test score sheet "doesn't change anything" regarding the governor's comments that the state never promised the awards to students.   Winners of the high school award receive a congratulatory letter from the state notifying them of their scholarship, but no such letter has ever been sent out to those scoring sufficiently on the middle school test, Ms. Boyd said.

"No student got an individual letter that specifically said, 'You will get the Merit scholarship,'" she said.

But Mr. DeRoche chided that argument.   "If somebody wanted to say that this is not clear, I think that would be disingenuous to even a seventh-grader," he said of the statement on the test score sheet.

Ms. Boyd said the "Merit Tracking ID" number was placed on the score sheet by the former vendor who scored the test and is meaningless because no system was ever put in place to use it.   The Department of Treasury is taking steps to fix the problem with tracking middle school winners by putting together a database.

"It (the lack of tracking) illustrates just how little thought was given to the actual promise that was made.   One has to ask the question, 'What were they thinking?'" she said of the Engler administration.

Ms. Boyd said the governor awaits the House Republican plan to find the $9 million necessary to preserve the program.


The House will depart from the tradition of having the spending plans for each of the 15 departments or major budget areas placed into its own bill and instead use nine budget bills based on the "results" targeted from each budget.

Rep. Scott Hummel (R-DeWitt), in unveiling Thursday the indicators the House wants the state to use to determine whether it is achieving the results sought through its programs, said the House would use this new system.   It's part of the Legislature's use of the budget strategies espoused in "The Price of Government" - a model where the state writes its budget from scratch each year.

It's a move so heavily immersed in the process of moving a budget that it's enough to make even an insider's insider's eyes glaze over, but it will have critical implications for legislators on Appropriations committees and those who track the budget process.

"Our desire is to have nine bills - nine appropriations bills - crafted around the results," Mr. Hummel said.   "Logistically, it can be done. ... It's going to be more work."

Mr. Hummel said there were no real surprises to him in the indicators that groups of legislators labeled "results teams" came up with as part of a two-week brainstorming process because he had no expectations about what they would be.

Besides taking each spending item in the entire budget and reorganizing them around results instead of by department, Mr. Hummel said each of the Appropriations subcommittees would take turns on several of the budgets that overlap departments.

One of the major logistical issues involved with this approach is the expectation that the Senate will still use 15 bills under the traditional method.   How the two houses will reconcile legislation when it comes time for House-Senate conference committees is being worked on.

"I know there's some logistical issues," he said.

Rep. Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing, the top House Appropriations Democrat, preferred the phrase, "major logistical issues."   Ms. Whitmer questioned who will have the final say over budget bills if each subcommittee isn't in charge of writing each bill like it usually does.

Under the old system, that person was the subcommittee chair.

"I think it usurps chairs' authority and responsibility," she said.   "If I was a Republican chair, I would be wondering, 'Are you taking away my authority?'"

Ms. Whitmer also criticized Republicans in the Legislature for not acting on the current year Capital Outlay budget, which usually would have been enacted months ago.   Ms. Whitmer urged the Legislature to pass the bill before the body breaks for a two-week recess at the end of this month as a way to create jobs through the projects that would be funded.

Here are the indicators that the results teams chose for each of the nine results:


Legislation which Republicans say meets federal requirements to close down opportunities for businesses to shortchange the unemployment system but which the Granholm administration faults for failing to go far enough is poised to hit the governor's desk following House action Thursday.   The four-bill package is headed back to the Senate for what is expected to be fast action and the likely signature by Governor Jennifer Granholm despite her reservations.

The unresolved dispute centers on professional employer organizations that some businesses use to handle payroll and other human resources matters and whether businesses are avoiding State Unemployment Tax Assessments based on their actual ratings linked to employee firings and layoffs.

The bills came to an anti-climactic vote, with only three opposition votes registered on just one bill: SB 174.  The others, SB 171, HB 4414 and HB 4415, were passed unanimously.

Granholm administration officials have said the measures do represent an improvement over the current provisions and that they will continue to look for ways to deal with the PEO issue.   "I think we're getting there," Granholm spokesperson Liz Boyd said after the House vote.   "It's a good first step but we're still interested in addressing the PEO issue."

The administration estimates that 40 percent or more of the estimated $60 million to $95 million annually lost to the system that must be picked up by other businesses can be traced to PEOs.

But Rep. Leon Drolet (R-Clinton Township) said that was based on an unscientific survey.   "We're not opposed to looking at this issue over time," he said.   "But we shouldn't put additional burdens on business beyond what the federal government requires because of what might be happening."

PEO representatives say they have never been given proof of how they are being used to help companies avoid their taxes.

Rep. Morris Hood III (D-Detroit), one of those in opposition in the 105-3 vote on SB 171, said PEOs have agreed in 14 other states to break out accounts of each business client to ensure an unemployment rating remains assigned properly to each company.

The bills comply with federal requirements to ban SUTA dumping by January 1, a deadline which carried with it the threatened loss of $80 million in federal funds.

The legislation prohibits businesses from make changes in their structure - such as transferring payroll to another related business or acquiring another business with a more favorable unemployment rating - primarily for the purpose of reducing their unemployment taxes.   The unemployment insurance agency would be required to recalculate the tax rates of both companies when a business entity is transferred to another company which shares ownership, management or control.

The agency is to file annual reports with the Legislature regarding dumping, beginning with January 1, 2006.

PAYROLL:  A party-line 58-50 vote approved another bill requiring the state to use a private firm to handle payroll if the switch would save the state at least 5 percent in operational costs.  

Republicans who support the bill (HB 4237) said it is a risk-free way to look for ways to trim state spending since payroll would only be handed over to a private bidder who could offer lower costs.

State employer David Fink, who pegged payroll operations for the state at about $700,000 annually, said the systems have been recently upgraded and are running well, particularly in light of complexities related to banked leave time and mandatory furloughs that state workers experienced to cut civil service costs.   The payroll is also integrated with a broader system that handles employee benefits.

During floor debate, Rep. Alexander Lipsey (D-Kalamazoo) said, "This bill seeks to privatize a function everyone agrees is working pretty well."   And decrying it as bad public policy, he said the proposal ignores concerns about maintaining the privacy of state employees and assigning responsibility to accuracy of the records and fixing mistakes.

Bill sponsor Rep. Phil LaJoy (R-Canton) said, "We need to constantly look at areas of waste and what the state should and should not do.   This does not automatically privatize the payroll system; it would only happen if the conditions are met."

The bill would require the Department of Management and Budget to determine the true cost (defined as personnel, equipment, software, hardware, supplies, services, utilities, postage, rent, and other factors) of the system and solicit bids from private companies within 240 days of the bill going into effect.   Privatization would occur if bids are less than 95 percent of that cost and do include standards for security, accuracy and timeliness.


Visitors will still be able to find current inmates, probationers, parolees and escapees on the Department of Corrections' website, but those who have done their time will soon take more effort to find.

Corrections Director Patricia Caruso confirmed Thursday media reports that the department is planning changes to its Offender Tracking Information System that would limit Internet-based searches to those who are currently under the jurisdiction of the department.

Ms. Caruso said the information about the website change was released prematurely by someone not connected with the department or with the discussions over the change, and there is not yet a final plan for how the change would be implemented or when.

But she said the goal of the change was to provide accurate information to the public.   "It will continue to have all the information it does now about people under our jurisdiction," she said.   But she said the department was not keeping updated information on people who had been released from supervision and had no information on people who had never been placed under the state system.

Republicans said the change was an effort to be softer on criminals.   "(Governor Jennifer) Granholm needs to take control of her administration," said Michigan Republican Party Executive Director Jeff Timmer.   "Michigan is continuing to lose jobs as she looks one way, and now convicted felons will be allowed to roam untracked as she looks the other way. It seems like the ACLU is running Corrections while Granholm either doesn't get it or cannot manage the process."

Ms. Caruso bristled at implications that the American Civil Liberties Union's urgings, or even its positions on search system, had anything to do with the decision to make the change.

And, contrary to Mr. Timmer's assertions that the database provides criminal record information, Ms. Caruso said it only provides a partial picture of criminal activity, even for those who have been sent to prison.

"One of the pushbacks I've had is we're removing access for people who use it for good reasons like checking out a Little League coach," she said, adding that person may have been arrested for activities that would have bearing on such a role but not convicted or may have been sentenced for a different crime that did not place that person in prison.   In those cases, she said, the person running the check would be given a false sense of security that the person being researched had no criminal background.

Wendy Wagenheim with the ACLU of Michigan said the database also could contain errors that would generate unnecessary concerns about people.

Ms. Caruso admitted there could be errors in the data ("The law of averages would say there probably are errors," she said.   "People are entering the data.").   And the site includes a disclaimer indicating there could be inaccuracies.   But she said that was not a factor in deciding to change the online search.

She said people who need a correct criminal history on a person need to check with the State Police.   "The State Police keeps the official record," she said.   The new site, once completed, will have a link to the State Police criminal record site, which charges $10 per search.

Ms. Wagenheim said the change in the site could be a boon for ex-cons.   "It may end up reducing the recidivism rate if people are better able to get jobs, not have their name on a permanent scarlet letter list," she said.

Ann Parker, chief operating officer of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said it was legally hazardous to do any criminal background check on a prospective employee unless the findings could pertain to the position.

"Don't go looking for information that you cannot use in a legitimate hiring decision," Ms. Parker said, arguing that was what employers could be finding on the Corrections website.

But she also said she was not aware of any her group's members using the Corrections site as a criminal background check service.   She said those who needed to conduct background checks were more likely to have contracted with a company that provides that service than to try to do it themselves.

And Ms. Wagenheim said the move was not eliminating access to the information for those who needed or wanted to run a check.   "This isn't going to stop employment checks.   If you really need that information, you're probably willing to pay that," she said of the $10 fee for the State Police to conduct a criminal background check on a person.

The information will actually still be available through Corrections.   It will just require a phone call   (517-373-6391) rather than some keystrokes to collect.


The state paid out $18.3 million in lawsuit settlements and judgments in fiscal year 2003-04, up from $10.5 million the prior year, according to a report released Thursday.   Most of the increase was settlements in the Department of Transportation.

But the state easily covered those payments with the $297.68 million it collected from judgments and settlements in its favor.

Transportation had the largest amount of lawsuit-related payments at $10.77 million.   Most of that total, $7.5 million, was payment to a contractor (Rockwell Collins v. Department of Transportation) for redesign and location changes for the Intelligent Transportation System that were not covered under the original contract.   Another $1.5 million was paid out among 12 highway negligence cases.

But the report noted that the October 2002 Supreme Court decision in Adams v. Department of Transportation has significantly decreased the department's liability in highway incidents.   Payments since that decision, which affected FY 2000-01, have been between $1 million and $2 million a year, where only FY 1998-99 saw highway liability payments below $5 million in the preceding decade and six of those years topped $10 million.

The Department of Education was second in payments at $2.3 million.   The report said nearly all of that total, $2.29 million, was ongoing payments in the Berry v. Benton Harbor Area School District federal desegregation case.   Payments under that case phase out in FY 2005-06.   The remaining $12,000 was payment for a whistleblower claim.

The Department of Corrections was third at $1.67 million.   That largest portion of that, $936,456, was payment for an employment discrimination case, Graham v. Ford.  That and other employment discrimination cases represented $1.46 million of the department's lawsuit-related payments.

While the payouts were up last fiscal year, they were still far below some years in the mid-1990s.   Fiscal year 1997-98 saw the Durant special education settlement contribute to payouts of $236.1 million.   And $93.9 million in payouts for the Department of Natural Resources, mostly over the Nordhouse Dunes settlement, in FY 1995-96 brought the total that year to $114.5 million.

The Department of Treasury brought in the most revenue from lawsuits, collecting $270.5 million, most of that in tobacco settlement dollars.

Other significant collections were the Department of Environmental Quality with $13.35 million, most of that in reimbursements for environmental cleanup costs; the Department of Attorney General with $10.23 million, where $5.77 million also came from tobacco settlements; and the Department of Corrections with $1.74 million, all from cases filed under the Prisoner Reimbursement Act.


A federal transportation bill that makes some headway - but falls short of the goal - in providing equity to Michigan and other so-called donor states for increased return of their tax dollars was approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday on a vote of 416-0.   All states will benefit from a 25 percent increase in total funding for highways - worth about $200 million more a year for Michigan - compared to the prior federal transportation act.

The reauthorization bill, covering the next six years, calls for a minimum 90.5 percent return to states of their tax revenues, compared to a 95 percent level that Michigan leaders have been seeking.   That formula now applies to 84 percent of the money in the bill; the bill would raise that to 92.6 percent, a key "change in scope" the donor states welcomed.

Mike Nystrom, vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, said, "House approval of this legislation is a start in the right direction and we would hope the Senate and President are not far behind in tackling this critical issue.   This change in scope is critical for Michigan's economy and transportation industry."

U.S. House leaders say they will continue to work on raising the minimum guarantee to at least 92 percent when the bill reaches conference committee.  

"While passage of this bill is progress for the nation and our highway system, the key issue of donor state equity remains untouched in this version of the bill," Gary Naeyaert, a consultant who has specialized in transportation issues, said.


Michigan continued to have the second-worst unemployment rate in the nation in January as it tied with Mississippi at 7.1 percent for the second-worst percentage among the 50 states.

Alaska retained sole possession of the unwanted ranking at 7.4 percent, according to data posted Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

December data initially showed Michigan and Alaska tied for the worst rating, but subsequent revisions showed Alaska in December had an unemployment rate that was 0.1 percentage point higher than Michigan's.

Figures for other Midwest Great Lakes states in January: Illinois at 5.6 percent, Indiana at 5.4 percent, Minnesota at 4.4 percent, Ohio at 5.9 percent, Pennsylvania at 5.1 percent and Wisconsin at 4.8 percent.

Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate among the 50 states at 3 percent.


Two cases represented by attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Geoffrey Fieger will go forward before the full Michigan Supreme Court, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The unanimous three-judge panel turned down Mr. Fieger's attempt to force four justices to recuse themselves from hearing the cases because they had publicly indicated animosity for him and because they had each received campaign contributions from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which had filed briefs on behalf of the opposing party in one of the cases.

Chief Justice Clifford Taylor and Justices Maura Corrigan, Robert Young and Stephen Markman had rejected the Fieger motions that they recuse themselves in Gilbert v. DaimlerChrysler in September 2003 and in Graves v. Warner Brothers in October 2003.  

The appeals court, Chief Judge Danny Boggs and Judges Cornelia Kennedy and Boyce Martin, agreed with the U.S. district court that it did not have jurisdiction because it was a state court matter (Graves v. Ferry, USCOA docket No. 04-1207).

Mr. Fieger argued that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine cited by the court did not apply because the Michigan Supreme Court had not made its decision when the federal case was filed.   But the federal appeals court said the final decision by the state court rendered the federal court without jurisdiction because only the U.S. Supreme Court can handle appeals from state high courts.  

And it noted Mr. Fieger had sought an injunction, ultimately rejected, against a Michigan Supreme Court decision on the recusal motions to prevent Rooker-Feldman from applying.

"The district court also noted, and we agree, that once the Michigan Supreme Court decided the motions to recuse, this suit became a de facto appeal of those decisions, regardless of when the Plaintiffs filed the present action," the federal appeals court said.   "The Rooker-Feldman doctrine forbids this action."

The federal court said the case also fell under the Younger doctrine, which requires federal courts to give deference to state courts on state issues as long as the state proceedings allow constitutional issues to be raised.


With the Joint Capital Outlay Appropriations Subcommittee last week warning it would want answers when college building projects cost more than originally anticipated, college officials were on board Thursday to answer questions.

Officials from Northern Michigan University, whose reconstruction of Magers Hall had generated the controversy though the committee did approve the increased cost estimate, were on hand as they had been instructed to talk about the overruns.

But the president of St. Clair County Community College, along with the chair of the college's Board of Trustees, the architect for a building renovation, and the college's Sen. Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac), were also present to discuss a 40 percent cost increase in their building project.

In the case of the building at NMU - where construction has started, officials said - much of the cost overruns were accounted for in new energy code requirements and in material cost increases that both came into play after the initial designs were completed.

Using the new energy standards should save the university some $1.8 million over 20 years, officials said.

At St. Clair County Community College, where officials were seeking approval to boost the authorized cost for their building from $9 million to $13 million, officials said inflation since the original design, a change in the overall scope of the building and final design estimates for the mechanical systems were the culprits for the increases.   The subcommittee okayed the increase.


Michigan's population grew by an estimated 30,000 people from 2003 to 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but, like most the states, the population growth was mainly in adults.

In fact, the number of people 18 and younger in the state fell by slightly more than 10,000 people from 2003 to 2004, while those older than 18 grew by 40,000.

The state's median age in 2004 was 36.6, slightly above the U.S. median age of 35.9 for the same year, but four years younger than Maine, which had the highest median age at 40.6.

The state's total estimated population in July 2004 was 10.112 million, 78,000 people more than Michigan had in April 2000 at the last census.   Michigan ranks eighth among the most populous states, following California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, respectively.

In Michigan, in 2004, there were an estimated 2.533 million people under the age of 18.   There were nearly 7.6 million people older than age 18 in the same year.


U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert named Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) to be vice-chair of the Canadian Inter-Parliamentary Group Thursday.   The group is made up of member of the Canadian parliament and Congress, and it meets twice yearly to discuss issues between the two countries.  

"With our northern neighbor, I am eager to commence addressing our common concerns in the areas of trade, manufacturing, homeland security, and the Great Lakes, and, equally our areas of contention," Mr. McCotter said in a release.


Here are the dates and times that a large monument to the Ten Commandments, currently the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case, will be appearing in Michigan.   Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R-Portage), a candidate for governor, is organizing the tour.


WARD LOVES THE '80S: Rep. Phil LaJoy (R-Canton), meet Wallace Shawn.  Wallace who?   Mr. Shawn, better known to '80s movie buffs as "That guy who played the smart dude in 'The Princess Bride,'" bears a striking resemblance to Mr. LaJoy.

And what caused everyone on the House floor take note Thursday of this pressing matter?

Mr. LaJoy was concluding his remarks on the floor in favor of a bill he is sponsoring when suddenly he said it would be "inconceivable" (emphasis his) not to pass the legislation.   Anyone who has seen "The Princess Bride" immediately recognized the line as belonging to Mr. Shawn's Vizzini character in the film.   At several points in the movie, Vizzini sputters "Inconceivable!" in response to an unexpected turn of events.

House Republican staff burst into laughter, knowing Mr. LaJoy had apparently been put up to the gag by House Majority Floor Leader Chris Ward (R-Brighton).   Judge for yourself.

NEW MICHIGAN.ORG: The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Thursday it had redesigned its website, www.michigan.org.  The new site brings both business development and travel information onto the home page of the site.

"Our goal was to ensure that the information potential businesses and travelers want most is current and easy to find," said George Zimmermann, senior vice president of MEDC Travel Michigan and Business Marketing.   "Our new and improved Web site markets Michigan as the nation's top state to live, work and play."

INTERNSHIP WEBSITE: Students seeking internships and companies seeking interns now have a place online to find each other.   Governor Jennifer Granholm announced Thursday the creation of MiInternship as part of the Michigan Talent Bank.

In addition to providing a listing of available internships, the site also provides employers tips on selecting interns and students tips on landing an internship or a first job.

"For students, an internship today, leads to a job tomorrow.   For businesses, an internship allows companies to try out potential employees at a minimal cost.   And for the state, it means keeping more young knowledge-workers with jobs here in Michigan," Ms. Granholm said. "Now critical information to help Michigan students and businesses find each other is just a click away at the MiInternship website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

LAND'S AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: Secretary of State Terri Land appointed Ann Marie Stafford her director of public affairs.   Ms. Stafford will be charged with interdepartmental relations as well as working with constituent groups.

Ms. Stafford was most recently director of licensing in the Department of Community Health and had served as appointments director for former Governor John Engler and events coordinator for former U.S. Sen. Spence Abraham.

She replaces Jason McBride, who had moved to the House Republican Caucus in January.

FRITZ TO GOV'S OFFICE:   Leslee Fritz is moving from her post as communications director for the Senate Democrats to assistant press secretary to Governor Jennifer Granholm.   Ms. Fritz will succeed Mary Dettloff who now directs communications for the Department of Natural Resources.


The Department of Natural Resources Land Consolidation Hearing will meet Thursday, March 24 at 6 p.m. in Leelanau Township Fire Hall, 100 8th Street, Northport (Leelanau County).

The Department of Natural Resources Land Consolidation Hearing will meet Monday, March 28 at 6 p.m. in Jonesville High School, 460 Adrian Street, Jonesville (Branch and Hillsdale Counties).

The Department of Natural Resources Land Consolidation Hearing will meet Tuesday, March 29 at 6 p.m. in Room 141, Lyons Building, Southwestern Michigan College, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac (Cass County).


In an item in Wednesday's report on road reconstruction work in around the Capitol, it was incorrectly reported that portions of Capitol Avenue would be closed at Ottawa Street.   Those lanes will be closed at Capitol Avenue and Allegan Street.


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