MIRS provides comprehensive news and analysis of state government delivered in written reports detailing the activities of the House, Senate, Judicial and Executive branches of Michigan state government.
Michigan News And Capitol Report, Week Ending Fri., Oct. 12, 2018
Schuette, Whitmer Take Off Gloves In Spirited First Debate
The two skilled debaters quickly pivoted off of WOOD-TV moderator Rick ALBIN's plea for specifics to well-trodden, vague plans to fix roads and reduce auto insurance rates.
A question about a 38-second video clip of a seemingly flirtatious Schuette 30 years ago -- ridiculed on social media as "creepy" -- was quickly pushed aside by the GOP nominee as being a "Planned Parenthood, Democratic hit job." He moved swiftly into talking about Friday's news about how Whitmer's running mate let a dilapidated Detroit apartment building he purchased two years ago stain a neighborhood.
Whitmer linked Schuette and fellow "establishment" ally U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVOS almost as much as Schuette paired up former Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM and her "disciple," Whitmer.
Both repeatedly went back to the well on specific numbers. For Schuette, it was Whitmer passing three bills in her 14 years in the legislature. For Whitmer, it was that Schuette's Attorney General office seemingly ignored 15 complaints on Flint's foul water over a two-year span before he did anything about it.
For Whitmer, it was the nine lawsuits his office signed on to against the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
"He apparently didn't think eight lawsuits were enough. He filed nine," she said.
For Schuette, it was the 12 people who died in Flint from the drinking water and how he's holding the alleged culprits accountable with criminal charges.
Schuette returned to claiming Whitmer didn't do her job as Ingham County Prosecutor by not prosecuting Michigan State University serial sexual assailant Larry NASSAR. Whitmer called on Schuette to quit "weaponizing" the Nassar issue. She says she did her job and that being effective sometimes means not necessarily being recognized for doing the right thing.
"You can get a lot done if you don't care about credit," Whitmer said. "I know he doesn't understand that concept, but I do."
When it came to Healthy Michigan, Schuette said Whitmer is overstating her role in seeing the state's expanded Medicaid plan pass the Legislature.
"You worked with every Democratic colleague who wanted Obamacare, so that's really not strenuous activity," Schuette said.
Whitmer said that Schuette has "never done a darn thing to expand health care in Michigan." Rather, he tried to remove the Attorney General's authority for Medicaid and continues to fundraise off trying to destroy the ACA, often referred to as "Obamacare."
On the issues, neither necessarily broke new ground. Whitmer talked about raising $3 billion in new money for the roads. Schuette scoffed that this was code for Whitmer wanting to "raise your darn taxes” as part of her "economic collapse plan." His plans consisted of a Department of Transportation audit, road guarantees and more D.C. money.
Schuette described Whitmer as a "captive" of big insurance companies, a reference to a new line of Republican attack dubbed "Blue Cross Blue Whitmer" that keys in on the large amount of campaign contributions she's received from Blue Cross Blue Shield officials.
The Republican took a swipe at Whitmer for her support of the mutualization of Blue Cross Blue Shield, which phased out Medigap coverage. The Democrats turned around and noted that Schuette's running mate, Lisa Posthumus LYONS, and most Republicans supported the same bill.
Whitmer squeezed in a mention for her proposed two-year Michigan Opportunity Scholarships to community colleges. She called for expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Acts to the LGBT community because "bigotry is bad for business."
Schuette repeated an assertion that Whitmer supports eliminating the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and that he'll get rid of sanctuary cities. Whitmer running mate Garlin GILCHRIST's past support of Hamas, he said, was "extreme and shameful."
Whitmer thought these charges were rich coming from someone who buddies up to Ted NUGENT, who's had his own string of "anti-Semitic" and otherwise insulting comments.
At one point, Whitmer boiled down his position to, "Bill Schuette's plan is two steps: Get elected and figure it out."
Whitmer supports legalizing marijuana while Schuette is opposed.
On the environment, Schuette said while he was prosecuting people in Flint, Whitmer passed a bill about swimming pools. "That's the water she cares about, not the citizens in Flint," he said.
The two did agree on some issues. Whitmer and Schuette both vowed to bring back the income tax exemption on pension income (eliminate the pension tax) and protect medical coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
But with each consistently lobbing bombs at the other, the viewer was forced to wave off the smoke to see the similarities.
"Whitmer carried the day, no question," said Jen EYER of Vanguard Public Affairs. "She had a vision that she articulated with specifics to back it up . . . (Schuette) looked tired, not up to the task, robotic, canned. He repeated the same hits over and over again. He was kind of like a mannequin and his answers were not very convincing."
Matt RESCH of Resch Strategies saw it much differently. "Bill was on message, as he always is, and did a really solid job of bringing a contrast between him and Gretchen on every question . . . Whitmer was much less sure of herself than I expected she would be. This is her thing. And I've never understood her boasting about securing votes for Medicaid expansion while leading a caucus you could squeeze into a couple sedans."
Mitchell Poll Shows James Down 9; Stabenow Puts $3.2M On TV
Polling conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 showed Stabenow up 51 to 42 percent, Mitchell said at a Lansing press conference during which the U.S. Chamber announced its endorsement of James.
"The last publicly released poll had that margin at 18 percent. So that margin has been cut in half and there is room for improvement," Mitchell said. ". . . This shows that John James is in the game."
Statistician Nate SILVER would disagree. His FiveThirtyEight website now predicts Stabenow has a greater than 99 percent chance of winning the election and is projected to take 57.9 percent of the vote.
Wednesday's announcements come the same day the Stabenow campaign announced a reserve of $3.2 million in TV ad time over the next four weeks. In the third quarter, which ran from July 1 to Sept. 30, Stabenow raised $1.8 million and still has $3 million left in the war chest.
James counters he has strong fundraising numbers himself, from 60,000 donors.
"As we go down the home stretch, we will be able to compete and get our message out," he said.
Mitchell contended races across the country are tightening, including the race for governor, between Democrat Gretchen WHITMER and Republican Bill SCHUETTE. Whitmer's lead has been cut to eight points, 46 to 38 percent, he said.
"What we found is, as a result of the Brett KAVANAUGH nomination, that Republicans have really come home far more than they were prior to that nomination. So the Brett Kavanaugh effect that we have seen in polling all around the country has also come to Michigan," he said.
James said he is a supporter of Kavanaugh. A hearing was requested and conducted, he said, and an investigation was requested and conducted before the vote. And Kavanaugh has taken an oath to be impartial and fair, he said.
"We must believe accusers. We also must understand that the accused have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. I think my Republican and Democratic friends were greatly disappointed by the political gamesmanship that we saw in the United States Senate. It was a disservice to the United States of America. It was quite embarrassing. I would have voted for Justice Kavanaugh because we need a rule-of-law justice on the Supreme Court," he said at the press conference Wednesday.
Kavanaugh's hiring of four female clerks, including two African-American clerks, shows he has a commitment to diversity and inclusion, James said.
U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President Neil BRADLEY said his organization does not make endorsements lightly.
"In this instance, in the Michigan Senate race, it was a very easy call. We've had a front row experience with Senator Stabenow over two decades of service in Washington D.C. and over that period of time she scored a grand total of 37 percent -- which as you may recall from school is a failing grade, worse than a failing grade -- on issues that are important to the American business community," Bradley said.
He would not say whether that endorsement will come with additional assistance, like advertising or contributions.
"We don't talk about our plans until we actually unveil them in terms of political spending, for reasons that I think you understand. I will tell you we are very enthusiastic about the John James candidacy, more enthusiastic about the momentum that he is achieving," he said.
James says he's a candidate who understands the needs of business, veterans, farmers and the need for national security.
"Regardless of who is in the majority or who is in the White House, Michigan will be able to bring more resources back to the state and, objectively speaking, impartially speaking, that is a benefit for the state of Michigan, understanding that this is a benefit for farmers because the business of Michigan is business," he said.
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SFA: Redistricting Commissioners Would Make Nearly $40K
The report analyzes all three statewide proposals on the November ballot.
On Proposal 2, the redistricting commission constitutional amendment, the SFA said the language requires the 13 commissioners to earn equal to at least 25 percent of the Governor's annual salary, which is $159,300.
That breaks down to $39,825 per commissioner, or $517,800 total.
The SFA report also said if the salary is not “sufficient,” the state is required to “indemnify each commissioner for all incurred costs.”
In total, the proposal backed by Voters Not Politicians (VNP) would cost the state at least $4.6 million to implement, because the language requires the Legislature to appropriate funds for it equal to at least 25 percent of the General Fund (GF) budget of the Secretary of State's (SOS) office.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, that GF number was $18.5 million, meaning the absolute minimum was $4.6 million. The SFA report also notes the Legislature is required to appropriate the funds sufficient to enable the commission to carry out its work, leaving the door open to more funds if the initial appropriation isn't enough.
Here's what the SFA had to say on the other proposals:
SFA Predicts More Marijuana Tax Revenue Than Yes Campaign's Prediction
The SFA is projecting Proposal 1 will generate more tax revenue than the proponents of the proposal did in the analysis they paid for.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) released a study last week that predicted $520 million in combined tax revenue in its first five years, through 2024.
The SFA tally put the tax revenue total at $737.9 million, between FYs 2020 and 2023. That includes sales tax revenue and money generated from the proposed excise taxes. It also incorporates the required distributions of that revenue.
As for costs associated with Prop 1, SFA broke it down by state department.
For the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), it anticipated needing $2.5 million to pay new staff to help implement the recreational marijuana imitative.
For Treasury, it predicted $1.9 million in one-time costs for a new tax system, and $1.2 million in ongoing costs for support staff in the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).
Back in Treasury, the cost of additional support and staff due to the recreational marijuana business being “primarily cash-based” means anywhere from $1.75 million and $3.1 million in additional costs, based on the volume of sales.
The SFA predicted an indeterminate effect on the Michigan State Police (MSP) and a potential positive fiscal impact on state and local government because of potentially fewer felony arrests and convictions.
The report also said local governments could suffer a negative fiscal impact, if those local units prohibited marijuana establishments or had no establishments but had current medical marijuana provisioning centers, because those local units would lose the excise tax revenue tied to those centers.
Prop 3 Poses Indeterminate Costs On SOS
Proposal 3 would have some negative fiscal impact on the SOS, the SFA said, but that cost is indeterminate.
Yet, the SFA said some of the proposal's elements that would be enshrined in the constitution if approved -- Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting and straight ticket voting -- would not have a significant impact on the state.
Mailing absentee ballots to military service members overseas as well as doing post-election audits also wouldn't have a significant impact since the SOS already does these things, the SFA said.
The SOS noted costs for implementing automatic voter registration would depend on whether there's a mechanism for opting out, or if there's a change to the update or renewal form that is already mailed to all registered drivers or personal identification card, the SFA reported.
Dem-Connected PAC Putting $1.4M Into MI-8, MI-11; Slotkin Releases New Ad
In the 8th, the House Majority PAC's "Doors" ad frames incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike BISHOP (R-Rochester) as walking through a "revolving" door of jobs in which he pleases "special interests" within the insurance industry while he "slams the door on us." The ad will start in the Lansing media market on cable and broadcast as part of a $885,000 total buy.
Bishop consultant Stu SANDLER said the biggest special interest spending money in the 8th District is U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy PELOSI and the $3.2 million she's dumping into Slotkin's race.
"Slotkin gets recruited by Nancy Pelosi, gets staffed by Nancy Pelosi's DCCC, fundraises with Nancy Pelosi in California, supports Nancy Pelosi's liberal agenda, and then receives more than $3.2 million in spending from Nancy Pelosi's DCCC and House Majority PAC," Sandler said. "Slotkin is bought and paid for by Nancy Pelosi, but Elissa Slotkin will learn that the 8th district isn't for sale."
Meanwhile, the "That Same Year" ad that previously aired in Lansing began on cable and broadcast Tuesday in the Detroit market.
Over in the 11th, Republican Lena EPSTEIN is saddled with being President Donald TRUMP's co-chair in Michigan who allegedly supported the U.S. House's repeal and replace health care plan they claim "gut protections for pre-existing conditions."
The "Work For" ad began running Tuesday in Detroit with $544,000 behind it.
Meanwhile, less than 48 hours after Slotkin and Bishop sparred during a WDIV debate over whether Congressional Republicans' Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement included protections for those with pre-existing conditions, Slotkin is back on the air with her contention that it did.
In her own new 30-second TV ad, Slotkin features six Michiganders with pre-existing conditions and suggests that their health care and that of 300,000 of Bishop's constituents would have been in jeopardy had the Republicans' American Health Care Act been signed into law.
"I approve this message because, Mr. Bishop, the health of our families should be more important than partisan politics," closes Slotkin, looking directly into the camera.
The shot is similar to the closing of her first ad, where she told the camera that "gutting protections for pre-existing" was a "dereliction of duty and it's a fireable offense." The ad continues Slotkin's health care-related theme during this campaign.
During the Bishop-Slotkin debate on WDIV's Flashpoint, Bishop pushed back on this claim by saying his wife was born with a pre-existing condition - juvenile rheumatoid arthritis - and he would have never signed off on a bill that left people uncovered.
"It is first and foremost on my mind . . . When I voted for that bill, there is no way I would have voted for it if it didn't include protections for people with pre-existing conditions," he said, before preceding to haul out a copy of the bill and read it on air.
Under the bill, health status cannot affect premiums, unless a state asks for and receives a waiver - a condition of which is the state having other protections in place for those with pre-existing conditions. To obtain a waiver, states would have to establish programs to serve people with pre-existing conditions, according to the Bishop camp.
"No matter what, insurance companies cannot deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions," Sandler said. "Instead, Elissa Slotkin supports a risky government plan, which will cost billions of dollars, raise premiums, and end Medicare as we know it."
To that, Slotkin said the Republicans' offering still allowed those with pre-existing conditions to be priced out of the market. Prior to the passage of the ACA, she said her mother couldn't afford her health insurance when she lost her job in 2002 because she had had cancer years prior.
"That's not making it affordable," she said.
The independent fact-checking website Politifact wrote about the AHCA that "it would allow for people with pre-existing conditions to be charged more per year for their insurance coverage - possibly to the tune of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars more per year."
Bishop's point has been that insurance costs are high under the ACA, a reason why he supported efforts in Washington D.C. to reform it. Their answer in Congress was to steer these patients into high-risk pools to assist with any additional costs they might have incurred.
MIRS Monday Podcast
Also, the first gubernatorial and U.S. Senate debates are over. The MIRS team gives its impressions on what it saw with each race's two major-party candidates.