Ananich: Lyon should resign but not Sen. Johnson

Detroit News staff

Calls for Lyon to resign director post

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich on Wednesday called on state Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon to resign from the Snyder administration as he faces an involuntary manslaughter charge – but not a conviction – over a Legionnaires’ disease death prosecutors link to the Flint water crisis.

So is the Flint Democrat willing to say the same for embattled state Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, who is facing federal charges for alleged conspiracy to commit theft by hiring a “ghost employee” on his staff?

“I think there’s a difference between running a department and being elected by the voters,” Ananich said, drawing a distinction when asked by The Detroit News. “I think we need to make sure that the services and the employees who have to provide those services have a leader that’s focused on that.”

Johnson was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 11. Ananich and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, have agreed on new oversight requiring Democratic leaders to review and approve any office spending or staff decisions for Johnson while he heads toward trial scheduled in August.

“We’ve taken appropriate action to make sure that the public trust is taken care off when it comes to spending issues in the office,” Ananich said.

Proposal would have lawmakers vote from home

Michigan lawmakers would become more responsive to their constituents and lessen the influence of lobbyists if they were allowed to cast legislative votes from their home districts instead of at the Capitol, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s president argues.

Joseph Lehman unveiled the idea in early June at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference on Mackinac Island. Legislators would have more flexibility to divide their time between Lansing and their districts and change the dynamics of campaigning, lobbying and serving constituents, he said.

“Lawmakers presently go to where the lobbyists are, which is convenient for lobbyists,” Lehman said in a statement. “Under our proposal, lobbyists would more often have to come to wherever lawmakers spend most of their time.

“I would expect every election campaign to be filled with promises to spend more time in the district and less in Lansing.”

The Mackinac Center chief said he is recommending the move because of the advances in modern communications technology. Lehman acknowledged the state’s Open Meetings Act would likely need to be changed to accommodate lawmakers who attend hearings and meetings remotely.

Making legislative voting more geographically flexible “might build some trust” with voters and make them more open to changing the lengths of term limits, which are popular but are not producing the expected results of their supporters, Lehman said.

Recidivism down in Michigan from 2006 to 2015

The number of people returning to Michigan’s prisons from parole plunged 43 percent from 2006 to 2015, according to a new report from the Council of State Governments.

More than 2,000 people returned to prison in 2006 compared with 1,159 in 2015 while the total parole population dropped 16 percent during that same time period. The decline coincided with the Michigan Department of Corrections’ “Prisoner Reentry Initiative” that led to new policies designed to reduce recidivism.

It included a plan meant to assess a prisoner’s risks and needs, changes to health care, partnerships with to help with reintegration into the community and grant awards for prisoner career training programs.

“We gathered input and leveraged resources from across the state that went beyond just criminal justice to create reentry programs that are truly effective,” Corrections Director Heidi Washington was quoted as saying in the report.

“Thanks to our focus on ‘offender success,’ we improved and expanded job-training and education programs for people in prison while giving home the support services they need in the community to ensure a safe transition and long-term self-sufficiency,” she continued.

Read the report:

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Richard Burr, Michael Gerstein