MIRS Weekly Report

Michigan News And Capitol Report, Week Ending Friday, June 24th, 2022

Ad Buys Have Dixon, Rinke Catching Kelley 

The erratic race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is now a three-way tie among conservative commentator Tudor Dixon (15%), business executive Kevin Rinke (15%) and “America First” darling Ryan Kelley (13%), according to a new MIRS-commissioned poll conducted by Mitchell Research & Communications.  

Chiropractor Garrett Soldano comes in fourth in the close race at 8% with the Rev. Ralph Rebandt coming fifth with 3% in the poll of 588 likely Republican voters conducted Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The survey comes a week after EPIC-MRA released June 10-13 polling that showed Kelley at 17%, Soldano at 13%, Rinke at 12% and Dixon at 5%. 

The race recently shifted with Dixon obtaining the endorsement of the powerful DeVos political family, Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. That, combined with a rouhly $225,000 network ad buy in the Detroit media market for the last week, have caused her numbers to rise, according to Steve Mitchell of Mitchell Research & Communications.   

The ad, paid for by Michigan Families United, says Dixon is a “Michigan mom on a mission” who “will stand up to woke indoctrination of our kids." It also has her pictured with former President Donald Trump. The Rinke campaign ad on the zombie voting for Democrats is also running across Michigan. 

“Dixon has 28% of the vote in the Detroit market (called a DMA) but is in single digits in the other four major markets --- Grand Rapid/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek (5%), Flint/Saginaw/Bay City (8%), Traverse City/Cadillac (7%) and Lansing (8%). If her campaign had been advertising statewide and not just in Detroit, she would have a sizable lead now,” said Mitchell.   

Rinke gets between 11%-24% in the other top four media markets while Kelley gets about 15% across all of them. Rinke’s ads are why he is in second place in the Detroit market with 18%, while Kelley has only half that percentage (9%) in Detroit. 

“Dixon’s campaign has gained real momentum with the endorsements of the DeVos family from Grand Rapids as well as endorsements by Right-to-Life PAC of Michigan and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. If she is able to generate enough money, she should win the primary and take on a very tough opponent in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” Mitchell concluded. 

Meanwhile, the network ad spend for Whitmer in the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing media markets between her campaign and two independent committees between now and the end of the general election campaign season is up to $20 million, according to information provided to MIRS.  

MIRS reported last Wednesday that the Whitmer campaign is paying now for ad buys for the duration of the campaign season before slots get taken by other campaigns. 

 In other campaign news: 

 - End Citizens United / Let America Vote endorsed Whitmer Thursday as a governor who will keep Michiganders “safe, protect their voice and lower costs for working families. Gov. Whitmer's been a fighter for Michigan, taking on wealthy special interests and corrupt politicians and delivering for the people of Michigan.” 

 - Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy), Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton) and Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) are among the 21 who signed up to be among the leadership council for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Whitmer. 


Dems Make Case For Early MI Primary 

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D) and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II will make their case to a national panel Thursday as to why Michigan should have an early primary in the 2024 presidential selection process. 

Among those not in the delegation was Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was listed as "others worth mentioning" in the Washington Post's April ranking for top 10 Democratic presidential candidates in 2024. Earlier this month, she was mentioned with two other politicos by The New Yorker as someone who could "save the Dems." 

During Thursday's presentation to the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) Rules and Bylaws Committee, the Michigan delegation will argue that Michigan is a diverse battleground state where the electorate represents the "broad identities and experiences of all Americans." 

Michigan's bid to become an early primary state has ramped up over the last two weeks with the launch of MoveUpMichigan.com and the release of a new video narrated by Pistons legend Isiah Thomas. Additional supporters who have submitted letters to the DNC include the Michigan congressional delegation, the AFL-CIO, the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. 

Meanwhile, former Michigan Republican Party Chairs Rusty Hills and Saul Anuzis are adding their support to the idea. 

"Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada do not have some unique situation where they deserve to always be first," said Anuzis, who argues this is not a partisan issue. Instead, he said moving Michigan into the front of the primary line is good for the political system in this state. 

In their joint letter to the DNC, they contend political candidates should be in states that reflect the make-up of America. 

On that diversity front, Anuzis told MIRS, "There are very few states that have the manufacturing, the agricultural background and we have a very unique environmental issue with our Great Lakes."  

Plus, he said there is a very diverse population that makes "Michigan a truly representative state. Michigan is America." 

Moving Michigan up in the process brings more candidate and media attention. When the Michigan Republican Party bucked the system and unilaterally changed the date, it worked.  

"We're not always a battleground state. The year we were a battleground state, presidential candidates on both sides paid more attention to us and the years we are not, we're completely ignored." 

Even though the national GOP blocked Michigan from seating all of their convention delegates, Anuzis says it was worth it and "if I was on the GOP National committee, I would encourage them to do early here." 

For now, he and Hills will have to settle for a possible change from the other guys as there appears to be no GOP appetite to follow the D's down this path. 


Brixie: We Might As Well Order Governor To Tell Us Her Lunch Plans 

The 30-bill package that seeks to limit a governor's state of emergency powers advanced through the House Oversight Committee Tuesday afternoon with only the Governor’s lunch plans excluded from legislative oversight, said Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township).  

“We are dictating that the Governor notify us of everything, but I think there is one bill missing out of this package,” Brixie said. “And that’s the bill that says notify the legislature of what the Governor had for lunch today.”  

Brixie said the package, which includes legislation to limit the length of state of emergency declarations and notify the legislature when departments make decisions, is a prime example of micromanagement and overregulation.  

After she commented about notifying the legislature of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lunch plans, Rep. Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond) responded with his own quip that they should at least be informed when the Governor is out of state and Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II takes charge.  

But Brixie said that lack of trust between the legislature and the executive office is shown in the bills, which micromanage Whitmer and other state departments.  

“The idea that we’re worried about an insect infestation as found in the tree of a homeowner and feel compelled to create a bill about all of this is sending a message loud and clear,” she said. 

Brixie suggested several of her own amendments to the bills, including one that would tie-bar HB 6187, a bill to repeal emergency declarations regarding mineral wells, to HB 5289, the bill to repeal the 1931 statewide abortion law.  

The amendment was shot down, along with several others she introduced.  

One would tie-bar HB 6189, a bill modifying the denial of construction permits, with  

HB 4175 and HB 4176, which repeal right to work legislation.  

Brixie said the bills relate because they all deal with repealing some sort of license or permit.  

But Yaroch said they’re “not even in the same solar system.”  

Brixie also suggested a tie bar of HB 6190, a bill to repeal the Debt Management Act, with  

HR 260, which would create a committee to investigate former House Speaker Lee Chatfield.  

She said the connection between those two pieces of legislation is crime. 

HB 6190 allows the denial or suspension of a license to engage in a business of debt management after someone is convicted of crimes. HR 260 addresses Chatfield, who has since been accused of several crimes.  

The amendment also failed, but the package of bills moved out of the Oversight committee with recommendation. 


Greased Tobacco Package Blows Out Of The Senate 

Bills raising the state's legal age to buy tobacco, vapor and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21 years old passed the Senate Thursday, despite opposition from every anti-smoking and health organization that's weighed in on the topic.  

Proponents claim the bills are needed to put Michigan in compliance with federal rules, which raised the legal smoking age to 21 during the Trump administration. The rub is the bills are tie-barred to a bill that lowers the state's tobacco tax on lower-risk products.  

The health groups argue taxes on tobacco and similar products should be raised to pay for more enforcement. They claim Michigan is one of the nation's worst states in cracking down on retailers selling tobacco-related products to youths. 

The only group to testify in support of the bills during the process was tobacco products company Juul, which is owned by Altria. The Department of Treasury received some structural changes in the laws dealing with taxation that it requested, although health groups are concerned the changes could make it easier to order tobacco products remotely.  

SB 720 was unanimously passed Thursday and sent to the desk of the Governor, who sources say signed off on the intricate deal. 

The package that the Senate approved – SB 576 (28-10), SB 577 (29-9), HB 6108 (29-9) and HB 6109 (28-10) – was a tie-bar collection of five different bills.  

Unlike the House bills, the Senate bills were discharged out of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee without receiving hearings, signaling that the entire package is greased.  

"Michigan leaders should be protecting our kids and strengthening tobacco control policies, not weakening them and making them more affordable,” said Jodi Radke, Alliance co-chair and Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Director. “Senate Bill 720 is bad for Michigan kids and we strongly urge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to veto it.”   

Thursday's vote came the same day the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned some JUUL e-cigarette products from the market Thursday, according to CNN. 

While there is a new federal age standard on tobacco sales themselves, products associated with tobacco and vapor, as well as alternative nicotine products remain – in many ways – fair game for individual state jurisdiction.  

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, adolescents are distinctly at risk of developing nicotine addictions and experiencing long-term cognitive impacts of their use.  

Meanwhile, there is additional debate around the legislation's direct ties to potentially opening the tobacco industry up to more remote vendors, as well as the constitutional questions that come from raising the age.  

After federal reform was signed off by previous President Donald Trump in 2019, each state became expected to demonstrate compliance with the new tobacco sales age of 21 years old with an annual retailer violation rate not to exceed 20%, according to the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and Tobacco 21.  

Failure to keep up with the rate would result in a 10% drop in a state's block grant funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  

The years 2020 and 2021 were a grace period for retailers to gear up for the change. The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation relayed reporting from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that showed Michigan's statewide violation rate climbed to 42% between January 2021 and June 1, 2022.  

"In 2021, Michigan was awarded more than $155 million by SAMHSA," said Eastern Regional Director Shannon Quinby of the foundation in written testimony. "This means the state's federal funding is currently at risk unless it can bring these violation rates down."  

Quinby's testimony was delivered to the House Judiciary Committee on June 7, before HB 6108 and HB 6109 were voted out of the House on June 15 – HB 6108 was voted out 79-26 and HB 6109 was voted out 78-27. Immediate effect was  denied for SB 576 and SB 577 – meaning even if all the bills were approved, which would be necessary for anything to be activated, the legislation couldn't be implemented until 90 days after the end of the ongoing session period.  

In his no-vote explanation, Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Twp.) connected his concerns to the legislation to age and how it could potentially set a bad precedent for future property ownership, ownership of other materials and the consumption of other legal goods.  

"It's good to see a society moving away from smoking dominating it the way it did years ago," McBroom said on the Senate floor. "I can understand the passion to move the age to make it more difficult, but I think that we are treading dangerously on people's constitutional rights – particularly, on the rights of adults."  

Thursday's no votes included:  

- Sens. Betty Jean Alexander (D-Detroit), Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo), Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing), Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), Kim LaSata (R-Niles), Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), McBroom, Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), Jim Stamas (R-Midland) and Lana Theis (R-Brighton) voted against SB 576. 

- Alexander, Bumstead, Hertel, Hollier, LaSata, Lauwers, McBroom, Stamas and Theis voted against SB 577. 

- Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), Alexander, Bumstead, Hertel, LaSata, Lauwers, McBroom, Stamas and Theis voted against HB 6108.  

- Ananich, Alexander, Bumstead, Hertel, Hollier, LaSata, Lauwers, McBroom, Stamas and Theis voted against HB 6109.