Tuesday, July 24, 2012


 The group responsible for monitoring Michigan's judges, the Judicial Tenure Commission, released a scathing report today on the conduct of Ottawa County's 58th District Court Judge Kenneth Post, charging him with three counts of misconduct. Post has 14 days to respond to charges of:
  • Failure to follow the law
  • Improper demeanor to counsel
  • Trivialization of court proceedings

He will then face the Commission in a hearing. Depending on the outcome of the hearing, he could be censured, suspended without pay, or even removed.

Official report here:

The conduct described in paragraph nos. 1 – 57 constitutes:

(a) Conduct which violates the 5th Amendment to the United States
Constitution, and Article I, Section 17 of the Michigan
(b) Conduct which violates the 6th Amendment to the United States
Constitution, and Article I, Section 20 of the Michigan

(c) Conduct which violates MCL 600.1701, addressing contempt.

(d) Misconduct in office, as defined by the Michigan Constitution of
1963, as amended, Article 6, Section 30 and MCR 9.205.

(e) Conduct clearly prejudicial to the administration of justice, as
defined by the Michigan Constitution of 1963, as amended, Article
6, Section 30 and MCR 9.205.

(f) Conduct which is prejudicial to the proper administration of
justice, in violation of MCR 9.104(1).

(g) Failure to establish, maintain, enforce, and personally observe high
standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the
judiciary may be preserved, contrary to the Code of Judicial
Conduct, Canon 1.

(h) Failure to be aware that the judicial system is for the benefit of the
litigant and the public, and not the judiciary.

(i) Irresponsible or improper conduct which erodes public confidence
in the judiciary, in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct,
Canon 2A.

(j) Conduct involving impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,
in violation of the Code of

k) Failure to respect and observe the law and to act at all times in a
manner which would enhance the public’s confidence in the
integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, contrary to the Code of
Judicial Conduct, Canon 2B.

(l) Failure to be faithful to the law, contrary to the Code of Judicial
Conduct, Canon 3A (1).

(m) Failure to be patient, dignified, and courteous to lawyers with
whom the judge deals in an official capacity, contrary to the Code
of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3A (3).

(n) Unnecessary interruptions of counsel during arguments, contrary to
the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3A (8).

(o) Conduct, which exposes the legal profession or the courts to
obloquy, contempt, censure, or reproach, in violation of MCR

(p) Conduct, which is contrary to justice, ethics, honesty or good
morals, in violation of MCR 9.104(3).

(q) Conduct that violates the standards or rules of professional
responsibility adopted by the Supreme Court, contrary to MCR

(r)Conduct that violates the 5th Amendment to the United States
Constitution, and Article I, Section 17 of the Michigan
Constitution, addressing a defendant’s privilege against selfincrimination.

(s) Conduct that violates the 6th Amendment to the United States
Constitution, and Article I, Section 20 of the Michigan
Constitution, addressing a defendant’s right to counsel in a
criminal proceeding.

(t) Conduct that violates MCL 600.1701, addressing contempt.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Zylstra: Expanding Medicaid is the Fiscally Responsible Choice for Snyder

A few weeks ago, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that individual states can decide whether or not to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage, the joint federal/state health insurance program, without jeopardizing their current Medicaid dollars as the Reform law originally held. Currently the State of Michigan pays approximately 36% of its own Medicaid funding, a 2 to 1 match, for its existing enrollees. Under the expansion, residents up to 133% of the poverty level would be covered, beginning in 2014, with zero initial cost to the State. In 2017, these percentages would change slightly every year so that by 2020, states would pay approximately 10% of its funding for the expanded population, a 9 to 1 match.

Governor Snyder has yet to speak about his intentions regarding the expansion, but will likely need to make a decision relatively soon. It will be an important decision, one where the access to quality health care for up to half a million uninsured Michigan residents hangs in the balance.  While the sticker price cost of coverage to the state in 2020 could be around $200 million, there are many offsetting incentives that should make the decision a relatively easy one, at least based on the fiscal impact.


The first is the fact that the State would see major savings, beginning in 2014, in the Community Mental Health (CMH) non-Medicaid line, as significant numbers of mental health patients served by CMH would become covered by Medicaid. The yearly savings from that change would be approximately $200 million or more. The initial 100% match rate, combined with the CMH non-Medicaid savings, would mean the expansion would lead to that level of net savings to the State beginning in 2014. Even after 2017, when matching levels drop, the 10% portion that correspond to the State of Michigan will still mean a roughly $180 Million savings.

The second is the MI-Child match  At present the State receives roughly a 75% match rate for the program. The Federal legislation would increase that match rate by 23% (capped at 100%) for all states beginning in fiscal year 2015. Michigan's annual cost for the MI-Child program would decrease by roughly $12 million in FY 2015 and in subsequent years.

There is one main disincentive for not participating, namely via Disproportionate Share (DSH) Payments. These are payments set aside for hospitals to help alleviate the costs of their uncompensated care. The Affordable Care Act begins to phase out these payments in 2014 with the thinking that if most Americans have some sort of health coverage, public hospitals would presumably see a reduction in unpaid bills and wouldn’t need the supplemental payments anymore. However, if a state opts out of the Medicaid expansion and therefore does not end up extending coverage to those living below the poverty line, the math changes. The unpaid bills do not disappear, but the DSH dollars do. Barring an act of Congress, those supplemental funds will be largely phased out by 2020.  In 2011, total Michigan DSH payments totaled $265 Million and it's quite conceivable that refusal of the expansion would mean the state would lose a large portion of that.

Looking at the above, there really is a big difference for Michigan to accept or deny Medicaid expansion funding. If Governor Snyder decides to go forward with it, the state could likely save more than $200 million per year from 2014 to 2020, at the same time increase access to Medicaid for a half a million residents. If he declined, the state, through its public hospitals, will continue to spend ever $200 million on uncompensated care, but now will not be reimbursed for that care. Hopefully, Governor Snyder can continue with the independence of mind that he recently showed with the veto of the Republican-sponsored voter-ID laws, and make the right choice for the hundreds of thousands of of Michigan residents who currently lack access to quality health care.

 Douglas Zylstra is a small business owner and the Vice-Chair of the Ottawa County Democratic Party. Connect with Doug on Facebook here

Monday, July 9, 2012

Zylstra: Snyder's Vetoes Prove He's No Pete Hoekstra

Governor Snyder allows the League of Women Voters to actually carry out a large part of their mission.

by Doug Zylstra
Vice Chairman, Ottawa County Democratic Party

Being the Vice Chair of the Ottawa County Democratic Party, and not generally agreeing with all that many Republican policies, I found myself in the unusual position in August of 2010 voting for not one, but two Republicans in their primary races. The first was Spring Lake resident Field Reichardt
, whom I believe would have made a great congressional nominee for the fall race against Holland Democrat Dr. Fred Johnson. The second was Rick Snyder, whom I thought to be a more moderate, less ideological and a generally more competent candidate than his main rival, Holland resident and former US Representative Pete Hoekstra.  Field, unfortunately, did not win his race-but Mr. Snyder of course, did, and convincingly. He then went on to defeat Lansing Mayor and the Democratic candidate Virg Bernero in the November general election.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Up until last Tuesday, outside of some helpful and interesting Dashboards, I hadn't really felt that I had got anything for my vote, and instead felt that Governor Snyder was basically governing the way a Governor Hoekstra would have, But Tuesday was the day that Governor Snyder finally redeemed a bit of his promise of being above politics by vetoing  a package of voter suppression laws—including SB 754 —passed by the state legislature -which would have expanded unnecessary voter ID requirements and imposed unfair requirements and restrictions on voter registration drives, all making it harder for eligible Michigan citizens to participate in our democracy.

Under Senate Bill 754, lawmakers wanted to require third-party groups like the League of Women Voters, who have been registering people to vote for decades, to get mandatory training by the Secretary of State's office or county election clerks.
Under the proposed law, new training, certification, and paperwork requirements would have made it more difficult for groups such as the League to conduct registration drives, resulting in fewer opportunities for citizens to register at locations such as schools, community centers, and churches.  According to national data, Hispanic and African American voters are twice as likely as white voters to join over nine million citizens who register through voter registration drives and, therefore, more likely to be adversely affected.

From Pennsylvania to Florida to Texas, the current trend has been for legislators and governors to pass laws whose main purpose is to suppress, not empower, American voters. With an estimated 51 million eligible Americans still not registered to vote, such laws represent a major step in the wrong direction. Previously, Governor Snyder had stated that he opposed laws that disenfranchise eligible voters, and yesterday, he carried that out.

Republican response in Michigan to Governor Snyder's veto has been unusually harsh. Ari Adler, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's spokesman, said in a statement that, "It is not unreasonable to expect that people handling voter registrations should receive some basic training, People who believe they are registering to vote should have confidence in the process so they know their registrations are being handled properly. Antics by unscrupulous groups such as ACORN have proven that protecting the voter registration process is vital if we hope to preserve the integrity of ballots cast by every eligible voter."

Aside from the fact that ACORN no longer exists and allegations that they and groups like them ever engaged in voter fraud have been repeatedly disproved, it really is telling that Michigan Republicans seem much more concerned that one or two people may have an incorrect registration form than that hundreds and thousands of Michigan citizens may be denied the ability to participate in our great democratic experiment.

Writing this on the day that we celebrate our independence and liberty, it really feels good that Governor Snyder has stood up for democratic participation and sent a clear message that voter suppression will not be tolerated. I hope other local elected officials, from all three of our state reps to our state senator who voted for this and the other suppression bills, will follow his example. In the words of  recent Secretary of State candidate Jocelyn Benson, ”This is a victory for every voter in this state, and a great nod to tomorrow’s holiday. Congratulations to all who worked to amplify peoples’ voices and emphasize the negative impact the vetoed portions of this package would have on our citizens and elections officials."


 Douglas Zylstra is a small business owner and the Vice-Chair of the Ottawa County Democratic Party. Connect with Doug on Facebook here