Last night, in a ruling issued under the cover of night, the Michigan Supreme Court drove a nail into the coffin of Abraham Lincoln’s ideal of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The court’s 4-3 vote to throw out the rule of law and allow a grossly political and unconstitutional redistricting law to take effect shows that not only are our legislative and executive branches being run as political operations of the Michigan Republican Party, but that infestation of “party above people” ideology has sadly corrupted our judicial branch as well.
As I learned the news of the court’s split ruling I felt as though I should be shocked by their blatant shilling for the Republican Party. What I found alarming is that I wasn’t shocked at all. Instead, it sadly seems par for the course these days when our citizens expect no better from the people that are supposed to represent THEIR interests here in Lansing, but are instead focused on doing what’s best for themselves and their party.
This law upheld by the Supreme Court may be just the latest example of their partisan fueled agenda, but it is also perhaps the worst. It was a law rushed through the legislature late last year that changed the district boundaries of Oakland County’s commission to ensure the Republicans maintained control of it. During the debate, Republicans tried to argue it was somehow about saving money, though emails from Republican lawmakers obtained through FOIA revealed it to simply be the political power grab we all knew it to be.
“I guess it would also help to have (a) legitimate explanation as to why we waited until now, after redistricting plans have been submitted, to take these bills up,” said Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake Township) in an email to Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy), Oakland Clerk Bill Bullard and top Oakland official Gerald Poisson. “I’m thinking that we claim we were having trouble agreeing on how many seats the (Board of Commissioners) would ultimately have.”
Voters didn’t elect their officials to waste taxpayer dollars on partisan antics and games. Elected officials should be working on issues that support the common good and work to make the state of Michigan a better place for everyone. When obtaining power and locking it in place is the main priority of a caucus, the real issues fall by the wayside.
Even today, I read comments from some of the Republicans here in Lansing that called the court’s ruling “a win.” Unfortunately they forgot to ask the question, for who? It certainly wasn’t a win for Oakland County or for the state of Michigan. It wasn’t a ruling that was a win for democracy or a responsible government either. It was a win only for the Michigan Republican Party in their efforts to ensure they maintain control of Oakland County’s commission, against the will of the voters there.
It’s time that partisan antics be put aside, and that GOP legislators regain focus of that which they were elected to do. It’s time for them to understand that a win for their party is not a win for our state, and that a partisan ruling from a partisan court does not mean that their partisan law is any less offensive than it was before.
The people that elected them deserve far better.
In this year’s State of the State address, the Governor offered a lot less than he did last year in terms of smart, forward-thinking policies. My guess – this is probably a result of his failure to enact such proposals. A lot of the positives he took credit for, like the lowest unemployment rate since 2008 and the comeback of the auto industry, were the result of President Obama’s policies, not his.
Important proposals from last year’s address, such as universal access to preventative healthcare; prenatal through higher education support for Michigan’s students; and approval of the New International Trade Crossing all went unfulfilled in 2011. While he touched on some of them again this year, he failed to mention what he’ll do to ensure we see these changes this time around.
The items he highlighted as successes, like obliterating limits on charter schools and individual tax policies, were failures in my book. And the things he could have done on behalf of Michigan’s citizens, he either refused or could not do. Again, this year’s speech contained several positives, but the question remains if Gov. Snyder will be too constrained by his Republican counterparts in the Legislature.
The Governor reiterated his support for PA 4, the atrocious Emergency Manager law, claiming it is needed to help communities solve their own problems when, in fact, we know the opposite is true. He said he will focus on strengthening public safety, but his budget cuts to revenue sharing that municipalities rely on to provide those services flies in the face of funding police and fire protection. And he spoke about establishing a strong social safety net, amazingly ignoring the fact that his Republican colleagues passed – and he signed – the bills that dismantled support systems for Michiganders struggling in this economy, which include: elimination of the state earned income tax credit, drastic reductions in unemployment insurance, unrealistic parameters for obtaining worker’s compensation and much more.
The Gerber partnership on childhood obesity, creation of a regional transit authority and the establishment of a healthcare exchange, as prescribed by President Obama’s signature healthcare reform legislation, were three promising points in the speech.
I fully support keeping our children healthy. I have championed regional transit for four years in the Legislature and am glad to partner with Gov. Snyder on this economic development issue. And I couldn’t be happier to know that he is on board with President Obama’s healthcare reform initiative. I look forward to working with the Governor this year in passing the parts of his agenda that would help people, not his party’s wealthy benefactors. On the policies that I believe will harm the people of Michigan, I will continue to be a strong and vocal opposition leader.
Like many Michiganders, I watched the Governor’s State of the State address hoping to be inspired. I hoped to hear about policy objectives for 2012 that would highlight the Governor’s plan to finally move forward in a way that was bi-partisan, perhaps signify “shared sacrifice” to finally come from the 1%, and to actually create the jobs that were supposedly “Job One.”
Needless to say, I was disappointed. As were the many Michiganders watching from their homes, praying that this would be the year that we would actually see this “relentless positive action.” The Governor talked about jobs, sure. He talked about them long enough to ever-so-modestly take credit for the recent drop in unemployment, though curiously left out the details as to why that drop may or may not have occurred.
I shouldn’t leave out the fact that the Governor acknowledged that our veterans are without work. One minor detail he missed was that not only are they without work, veterans in Michigan actually have the highest rate of unemployment in the entire country. The Governor’s grand scheme to solve this problem? A suggestion – businesses should hire veterans. If this is the best we’ve got, we’re in trouble, folks. Fortunately, the Senate Democrats have come up with a plan to incentivize the hiring of veterans within small businesses. The plan would be mutually beneficial. Perhaps the Governor intends to work with the Senate Democrats in order to get this legislation passed? One can hope.
For someone who touts research and metrics so frequently, the Governor left out a lot of specifics. In the short amount of time that was spent actually talking about moving forward, the speech could be summed up in one word – “vague.” Perhaps the Governor was trying to play it safe, not stick his neck out enough that he could be called out on his misguidance. If Michigan is going to see real change, this is not the way to do it. We’re going to need to be bold, in a tangible way.
The Michigan 2020 Plan, introduced by Democrats last week, is a far cry from the ambiguity we’ve seen in this administration. The plan is bold, attainable, and could bring about massive change in the trajectory of this state’s economy.
Among the highlights is the fact that this plan would allow all students in Michigan who obtain a high school diploma to be eligible to have their college tuition paid for. The number one question – “Where will the money come from?” – can be answered simply. Not with a single cent of increased taxes for Michiganders. The funding would come from closing ineffective tax loopholes that have been carved out by lobbyists, as well as cutting costs within state contracts.
Moreover, while higher education can be viewed as a “feel-good” form of investment, the reality is it would also bring about real economic growth. Economists everywhere note that higher education is absolutely the key to a thriving economy, as witnessed in our own state’s Kalamazoo Promise program. According to a report from The Center for Michigan, “In the six years since the announcement of the Promise, the Kalamazoo region has outpaced the rest of the state on a wide range of economic metrics.” The report goes on to note the effects on salary, population, housing and more.
The bottom line is this – if we’re ever to see Michigan recover from rock bottom, we’re going to need to see real change. I hope that the Governor, along with the rest of his party, will see the value in a plan that is specific, measurable, attainable and most of all, the right thing to do.
In the world of politics, there are always going to be disagreements. One side can view a situation one way while the other sees it very different. When those disagreements are merely over how to move us forward from point A to point B, that’s one thing. When those disagreements are focused instead on hatred without concern over how they impact our state, they become something far more dangerous.
Today, Governor Snyder proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that his pro-business “nerd” persona was nothing more than an act. By signing HB 4770, a bill that bans public employers from offering domestic partner benefits, he has shown instead that that special interests and extremists within his own party are pulling his strings. Even worse, by acknowledging that the he still isn’t even sure of the legal ramifications of this bill, in particular whether or not this bill applies to Michigan’s public universities, he has shown that he’s willing to go along with their extremist agenda without regard for the consequences.
Banning domestic partner benefits does nothing to create jobs in Michigan and will instead discourage employers from locating here and drive away many of our talented workforce. This wasn’t a decision any business leader would make, it’s a decision only someone driven blindly by party politics would make.
Governor Snyder may have come into 2011 with a tremendous amount of support from the people of Michigan, but he spent much of the year turning his back on them. Perhaps it is then fitting that one of his last acts of 2011 will put to rest any doubt that if Rick Snyder ever were “one tough nerd,” he’s now only “one weak Governor.”