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The week in Michigan politics: The EM for Detroit, Blue Cross overhaul, right to work

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss what's ahead for Kevyn Orr, the soon to be emergency manager for Detroit. They also talk about how some universities might face cuts after renegotiating labor contracts before the right to work law goes into effect later this month, and how the Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul will affect the majority of Michiganders in the state.

Detroit’s emergency manager

Kevyn Orr was named the emergency manager for Detroit last week. He’s a lawyer from Washington D.C. who helped Chrysler through bankruptcy. He also graduated from the University of Michigan with an undergraduate and law degree. However, reports indicate Orr had two tax liens against his Maryland home. Orr says the taxes went unpaid because of an oversight by an accountant he had hired, and he's now paid them. Shockley wondered how much of an issue that situation was for Orr’s reputation.

Lessenberry says the governor is still backing Orr and says, "It would probably be a disaster if some other shoe dropped and some other financial problem of Mr. Orr's were to turn up, but there's no sign of that."

Right to work and universities

"Right to work" is making headlinesagain. Some universities have been trying to get around the state’s right to work law that goes into effect next week by extending union contracts for several years. Now lawmakers are moving to cut funding to those universities by 15 percent over the matter.

Lessenberry is a faculty member at Wayne State, one of the universities threatened to get cuts. Lessenberry says Wayne State believes what they are doing is perfectly legal since the right to work law hasn’t taken effect yet.

Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul

Governor Snyder signed the Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaulthis week. This changes Blue Cross Blue Shield from a charity to a customer-owned nonprofit. Under the change, the insurance company will start paying state and local taxes and play by the same rules as its competitors.

Lessenberry says Blue Cross will be able to raise its rates without much interference under the change. He says, "Some people are worried that this is just sort of a transition half-way house on the way to Blue Cross becoming a for profit company."

Christina began her career in radio at Michigan Radio while a student at the University of Michigan. She was a producer and researcher for The Todd Mundt Show, and then hosted Weekend Edition.
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