Lansing will be interesting this year
The 2017 legislative record goes into the Michigan history books as rather a ho-hum kind of year, but 2018 promises to be anything but.
For the Democrats at the top of their list: They have one more year of business guy Rick Snyder at the helm and then with any luck after eight long years of GOP dominance, the D’s hope to ride the anti-Trump wave back into the executive office and maybe gain control of the Michigan House. The latter is a bit of a stretch, but the former is clearly doable and both parties know it.
Lame duck Gov. Rick Snyder limps into the new year still with stuff to do, but he can forget about doing anything that even looks controversial. That’s because both the House and Senate are up for re-election this year and voting on goodies that could hack off the good voters back home is off the table.
Can you say “play it straight?”
The governor will put on his happy face during his final State of the State on Jan. 23 and there will be no hint that he’s eager to get out of dodge although his spouse is counting the days. The last thing the governor wants is for the legislature to consider him irrelevant to the process, but in 2018 it’s likely lawmakers will dedicate to him what they want to do and not the other way around.
The legislative process will be somewhat complicated because some of the key players are itching to get a higher paying job. Take House Speaker Tom Leonard who wants to be state attorney general. Some criticized him last year with being too focused on that and not enough on the GOP House agenda. It doesn’t matter if that’s true or not, the fact the buzz was making the rounds made the DeWitt Republican look like he was a tad self-serving. But then who in the process is not?
He would like to move on a new mental health package but his “pal,” and the term is used sarcastically, Sen. GOP Leader Arlan Meekhof is not likely to move it. You see Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, (R-West Michigan) is also running for the GOP AG nomination and Mr. Meekhof likes her over him so anything with a Leonard name on it is toast and will likely be sent to someone else.
We saw this happen when Mr. Leonard tried to run a no-fault car insurance package. Before the ink was even dry on the Speaker’s news release, Mr. Meekhof declared it “dead.” Not once. Not twice. But three times. And indeed when they counted the votes, Mr. Leonard’s package was just that — dead.
Adding more intrigue to the inside baseball game of legislating, you have Lt. Gov. Brian Calley who is hoping to beat current AG Bill Schuette for the GOP governor nomination. Both of them have supporters in the legislature but Mr. Calley has hacked off many lawmakers who use to think he was a pretty good guy, but when he suggested cutting their salaries to shreds and reducing the legislative year to three months, many of those friends burned their Calley for Governor bumper stickers.
This is especially bad news for the governor who, the last seven years, has relied heavily on Mr. Calley’s goodwill both both D’s and R’s to push the Snyder agenda. But now Schuette’s legislative backers don’t want to make Mr. Calley look good by passing the governor’s programs. Vice versa anything that Mr. Schuette might want out of the legislative could get nixed by the governor who wants to help Mr. Calley.
But as they say on the TV commercial, “Wait. There’s more.”
Looming over the 2018 election year is the aforementioned President Donald Trump who remains a huge “X” factor in all the Michigan races. Assuming he is still in the White House, and even his former Svengali adviser Steve Bannon thinks there’s a 30 percent chance he won’t be, will Republicans benefit from the president, or will he be the kiss of death for anyone who aligns with him?
Democrats have fingers and toes crossed that the perceived anti-Trump mood prevails thus creating the wave they need to win a bunch of contests. Republicans meanwhile have hopes that the recent tax cut will lure back into the fold all the female and independent voters who have abandoned Mr. Trump in droves.
Add all this up and next year at this time, the lead on this column will be, “2018 was anything but a ho-hum year.” Bet on it.