When The Bell Tolls

August 15, 2007
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The Michigan House of Representatives approved a resolution supporting the Gun Lake Casino Class III gaming compact passed last Wednesday 63-41, but not without a not-so-subtle death cry from the casino opposition’s cadre of pocket legislators.

In the wake of the wildly successful Grand Opening of the Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, employing thousands of state income tax-paying residents in a roughly 70 mile area stretching from South Haven and well into Indiana, Rep. Fulton Sheen, R-Allegan County, whose jurisdiction holds the proposed Bradley Township casino, proposed an amendment to the resolution that would require a $10 toll per vehicle be assessed to enter into any sovereign nation that operates a casino and is entirely located within the state of Michigan.

The Sheen amendment was soundly defeated, 21-82, with roughly half of those voting against the resolution in general voting down the reservation toll. Local delegates Kevin Green, R-Wyoming, Glenn Steil, Jr., R-Kentwood, and Dave Hildenbrand, R-KentCounty, voted for it. Speaker Pro Tempore Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, the highest ranking state representative still opposed to the casino, voted against the toll and the resolution in general. The margin of victory was the highest of a tribal-state gaming compact in Michigan history.

The resolution marks the halfway point for the Gun Lake Tribe’s legislative battles, as tribe lobbyists now have to sway the Republican controlled Senate to make the same resolution. In recent weeks, the Senate leadership has said that it does not have any immediate plans to take up the resolution, and the opposition is already gearing up for a fight: State Senators Patty Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, and Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, both spoke against the compact at a House committee meeting recently.

Although the City Commission hasn’t officially rejected the offer from Third Coast Development Partners to buy two-thirds of the downtown public parking system, as commissioners never voted on the proposal, GRMAYOR George Heartwell said the matter “has been put to bed.”

Heartwell, who  won another term in last week’s primary election, told members of the Downtown Development Authority last week that only a “solitary voice on the commission” thinks the matter should be pursued while “six others say no.”

Hizhonor is one of the six and 2nd Ward Commissioner Rick Tormala, who lost his mayoral bid to Heartwell last week, is the solitary voice. Tormala told his peers a few weeks ago that he may be bringing them another proposal from ThirdCoast, this time an offer to lease the lots and ramps from the city. But time is running out for Tormala, who leaves office at the end of the year.

Prior to last week’s much-needed, but nearly not enough rain showers, Rockford City Manager Michael Young said the water business in his neck of the woods was, well, flowing very well, thank you. Young said his water department normally pumps 700,000 gallons of water daily during the cooler months but had been pumping 2 million gallons each day for a few very dry weeks as residents tried to keep their lawns green as brown doesn’t do it for them.

“We see water as a business, so we’re pumping it,” Young said. “Our aquifer can handle it.”

We think the city’s treasury can handle it, too.

“There is nothing going on in Lansing, so there is no reason to go there.”

GrandValley Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula uttered those words recently when he was asked if he had been putting on a lot of regular highway miles to keep up with the progress state lawmakers were making on the FY08 general budget.

Well, apparently legislators agree with Stypula’s assessment as they’re only making the drive to Lansing on Wednesdays in the month of August, even though something that should sort of resemble a budget is due by the end of September.

When Wyoming City Councilman Bill VerHulst learned of the once-a-week legislative sessions he asked, “Does that mean they’re a part-time Legislature?”

Kinda looks that way, Bill.

As Tom Reardon, executive director of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, told the Business Journal last week, periods of slow, steady growth for the contract furniture industry tend to “be a bit boring.” Not that there is anything wrong with that.

In his latest Office Furniture Industry Trends Survey, West Olive-based industry consultant Michael Dunlap is able to add a bit of zing to industry coverage. His quarterly report showed the second highest overall Industry Index Number in the survey’s three-year history, 58.49. This was a dramatic jump from the April index of 53.25, an all-time low.

Dunlap noted a surge in optimism from respondents in seven of the 10 categories, especially orders and backlog. Only raw material and employee costs, separate questions, and new product development (an all-time high in April) showed declines.

“Our interpretation is the industry is on very solid ground,” said Dunlap. “It’s just growing at a slower pace.”

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the American Justice Partnership are steaming over the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association plan to change its name to the “Michigan Association of Justice.”

“The people of Michigan will not be fooled by this slick attempt by pollsters and public relations strategists to recast the trial lawyers’ image,” said Wendy Block, director of state chamber’s health policy and humane resources division. “Removing the words ‘trial’ and ‘lawyer’ from their name is like putting lipstick on a pig.”

Dan Pero, president of the AJP, added these fighting words: “The Michigan Trial Lawyers Association now officially recognizes how unpopular personal injury lawyers are with the public. The public is sick and tired of personal injury lawyers suing everyone for everything so they can make money off the settlements.

**Small business owners interested in exporting will be able to get information on doing business in Canada at a free workshop run by the Michigan State University College of Law Institute for Trade in the Americas, and MSU’s Canadian Studies Centre. A session will be held Aug. 23 at CalvinCollege’s PrinceConferenceCenter. Go to tradingwithcanada.msu.edu to learn more.

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