A guest post from Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer:
It’s been one week since more than 3,000 of you came to the Michigan capitol to speak out against Republicans trying to silence the voices of women during a debate on our healthcare. One week since we stood together and proudly spoke the word they were so afraid to hear on the floor of the House of Representatives. One week since we sent a message that while we didn’t start this war on women, we most certainly have the power to win it!
In that week since our rally with Eve Ensler, the reaction has continued to be overwhelming. More than 50 statewide newspaper editorials have supported our efforts, a petition calling on Speaker of the House Jase Bolger to apologize has grown to nearly 50,000 signatures and even conservative strategists are publicly calling the House’s actions “dumbfounding” and a “crazy way to respond” to women exercising their right to speak up.
While so many voices have spoken out against what happened, there has remained a disappointing silence not only from those responsible for it, but from Governor Snyder.
Our Governor ran on being a business person, a “tough nerd” who wasn’t afraid to make difficult decisions and put politics aside to focus on doing what’s best for our state and our people. Unfortunately, when it comes to standing up to his fellow Republicans as they pass damaging and divisive legislation while equating their treatment of female legislators to “giving a kid a timeout” (as Rep. Wayne Schmidt so eloquently put it),the “tough” nerd instead only stands silent on the sidelines.
As a former CEO, Governor Snyder should know better than most the damage this type of behavior can have on our state’s bottom line. It sends a message that Michigan would rather focus on political games than rebuilding our economy. It tells female business leaders to look elsewhere to grow jobs because we don’t recognize their value. Worst of all, it tells our young men & women that is what now defines their home state and encourages them to relocate elsewhere as they graduate and begin their careers.
All Governor Snyder had to do is tell the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives that this behavior cannot and should not be tolerated. That if Michigan is to truly recover through what he calls “relentless positive action” we cannot have our legislature make Michigan the laughing stock of the nation by regressing us back into debates we thought had been settled 50 years ago.
Unfortunately, all we’ve heard from Governor Snyder are excuses and refusals to answer questions about what’s happened. When confronted about it by reporters last week, he’d only say “I hope they do resolve it.”
I would suggest to Governor Snyder that as the leader of our state, it’s his job to make sure this issue is resolved, not to stand idly by and hope people stop asking him about it.
It’s time for the Governor to be the leader he promised to be on the campaign trail. It’s time for the Governor to finally show that his toughness is more than a slogan and tell Speaker Bolger that he needs to apologize. It’s time for the Governor to understand that if he expects us to believe in his “relentless positive action,” he cannot stand silent as his Republican Representatives act more like they’re in a fraternity house than the State House.
I hope you’ll join me in telling Governor Snyder that we expect better from him than to watch this happen and tell us that “I hope they do resolve it.”
Thank you again to all of you who came to the rally last week and to the thousands more of you that voiced your support online and throughout your communities. It was an amazing event for me to be a part of and one that I hope is only the beginning of a much larger effort to restore our voices in the Michigan legislature.
It’s not often you see the Senate Democrats arguing for one of Governor Snyder’s proposals on the floor of the Senate, but that’s exactly what happened today as the Senate debated legislation impacting the retirement plans of our public school teachers.
Senate Bill 1040 makes changes to the way Michigan’s retirement system works for public school teachers due to a long-term funding problem that could see the system essentially run out of money. Of course, this funding problem wasn’t actually caused by teachers (it just maybe has something to do with legislators diverting money out of it to plug holes in their budgets over the past 15+ years), but that isn’t stopping Republicans from blaming teachers for it as they make drastic cuts to the retirement plans our teachers have earned over a lifetime of hard work in the classrooms.
Nothing says “thanks for nothing” quite like telling our teachers you’re taking away their retirement check on their way out the door.
While Governor Snyder put forward a similar plan to what was passed today, his plan continued forward with a prefunded retirement system that ensures a certain amount of savings for the system. The legislation passed today, on the other hand, forces all new employees to switch to a “defined contribution” system, a plan that not only forces teachers to pay more to get less for their retirement, but actually will cost the state over $1.4 BILLION to implement while realizing only $300 million in savings.
Let’s do some quick math. $1.4 billion in costs – $300 million in savings = a total savings of negative $1.1 billion.
Yes, the Republicans actually passed a “savings” bill today that will cost the state over a billion dollars. And teachers will still suffer for it. Does this make any sense to you?
This plan didn’t make sense for us either, so our members took to the microphone to encourage Republicans to take another look at the original proposal from Governor Snyder and introduced an amendment that would rewrite the bill to use the Governor’s exact language. It wasn’t an effort to show we supported the Governor’s proposal, it was simply an effort to turn a terrible bill into … well … a less terrible bill.
Amazingly enough, Republicans shot down the idea. They wouldn’t go along with proposal their own Governor asked them to pass. Perhaps they thought it wasn’t punitive enough on teachers? Perhaps they just don’t want to listen to ANYBODY, even if it’s in their own party? Or perhaps they are trying to prove they’re better at attacking teachers than Governor Snyder is?
Regardless of the reason, the Republicans once again turned their back on bipartisanship today, even when we argued to use THEIR party’s plan. Apparently it’s just easier in the end for Senate Republicans to tune the entire world out, even their own Governor, than it is to work cooperatively to find solutions to the many problems that face our state. Unfortunately, as they do so, our hardworking teachers continue to pay the price for those mistakes.
Take a look at the statement made by Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer as she argues against this legislation today:
This past week, while debating the budget for the Department of Community Health, Republican Senator Howard Walker (R – Traverse City) added an amendment that would prohibit the department from enforcing the state’s smoking ban during certain types of charity fundraisers. This wasn’t an amendment created because charities from across the state have been asking for it, in fact it’s likely that the vast majority of charities would be opposed to it. Instead it was written to specifically allow smoking at an event in Sen. Walker’s own district so that he and his friends could sit around smoking cigars while the rest of us continue to follow the rules of the law.
Certainly, a 1-year state department budget seems like an inappropriate place to be making changes to statewide law like this, but it also shows once again the Republicans’ willingness to change the rules if and when they don’t like the results. They did it when they wanted to rewrite Oakland County’s district boundaries to benefit their party (news link) and even changed the rules of their own presidential primary when they didn’t like the outcome (news link).
What’s even more disappointing is that by carving out this exemption to Michigan’s smoking law, Republicans are opening the floodgates to further erosion of this law that is by all accounts working to both keep Michigan workers healthier and increase business at Michigan’s bars and restaurants.
If you think this is wrong, please take a moment to sign the petition at http://www.GOPsmokeout.com and send a message that no smoking means no smoking. Period.
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.
If you haven’t heard about the #mi2020 Scholarship, you’ve likely been hiding under a rock for the past couple of days. With $10,000 on the line, the competition is causing quite a stir. Here at the Senate Democratic Caucus, we’re pretty excited too. Not only does the competition have the potential to be the difference between pursuing and not pursuing a higher education for one special high school senior, it represents something much larger.
What the #mi2020 Scholarship will do for one Michigan student is what the Michigan 2020 Plan, to be introduced in bill draft form this week, could do for ALL of Michigan’s students. That’s right, roughly $10,000 per year toward a college education for all Michigan students who receive their high school diploma. For many, this will be the difference in whether they choose to pursue a higher education, or the dread that student loan debt represents will be simply too much to bear. The 2020 Plan could be the jumpstart that Michigan needs not only to come out of this recession, but to come out on top.
But we’ll get to all that when the time comes. In the meantime, we’d like to see ALL high school seniors in Michigan give us their best shot in a short video portraying why they, and perhaps many they know, would benefit from the 2020 Plan being enacted. Any high school senior can enter, whether they attend public school, private school or home school.
On the website, mi2020video.com, students and their parents can find all the information they need in order to enter the competition. Remember to focus on the 2020 Plan in your video, and the effect that the Plan being enacted (passed through the legislature) would have on your life. Not sure where to start? In the “How to Enter” section, and above in this post, you’ll find a sample video that we made to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t have access to some of the technologies you might need to create the video? Once you begin the registration process, you’ll come to a page where you can type in your zip code to find local libraries and other locations that may be able to help. We are also encouraging schools to get involved, and make IT resources readily available for students wanting to apply. This opportunity could result in a life drastically changed, will it be yours?