Many cooks in the no-fault kitchen
The irony of the moment was not lost on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
There she was, taking a victory lap on a bipartisan plan to block law enforcement from keeping confiscated property from suspected drug dealers who were never convicted of a crime. Standing about six feet in back of her was the state House GOP speaker, Lee Chatfield, who worked with the governor and others to stop this “injustice,” as one lawmaker put it.
It was a moment to savor, though not for long, because hanging over the proceedings was a dark cloud.
It was the governor who recognized the elephant in the room.
“This is part of the frustration for our citizens on what happens under this dome,” she observed as she signed legislation that proves the D’s and R’s can work together.
So why not that same cooperation on revamping no-fault car insurance?
Yeah. Why not?
Turns out, no-fault is a tad more complicated than forcing the cops to turn over cars they took from some innocent person. For one thing, there are so many special interests trying to cook the no-fault soup that not everyone agrees on what ingredients to put in the pot.
And, for over 30 years, those governors and those legislators never brought this thing to a boil.
However, for the first time, the GOP House has passed a plan and the GOP Senate has, too. But, while they were boasting about all the money motorists would save, there was the governor suggesting “there are no guaranteed saving in these bills.”
There was chatter that the Republicans would just send this stuff to her and let her carry through on her veto threat. As the Democrats theorize, by doing so, the R’s would have a hammer to hit her over the head by telling citizens, “This governor had a chance to sign a plan that put money in your pocket, but she choose not to do it.”
Senate GOP Leader Mike Shirkey, when confronted with that scenario, pleaded not guilty: “There is no bone in my body that’s trying to do that.”
The governor and her followers are not so sure.
The Democrats have argued they want more time to negotiate all this, and it was unfair for the other guys to “jam” this through the process without more public input. The good-government types can appreciate that, but in the war of worlds with a citizenry clamoring for rate relief, it would not give two hoots about Republicans abusing the legislative process, which they contend they have not done. The drivers want the cash, and phooey on the committee process.
So, while the governor was waving her veto pen with one hand, she reached out with the other, suggesting negotiations commence, and the Senate GOP leader and the House GOP leader said, “we’re in.”
As this is put to paper, no one knows if serious talks produced any movement, let alone a bipartisan deal to break the no-fault logjam. They get good marks for talking, but, in the biz, they say talk is cheap. The motorists want solutions.
The back-and-forth is also influenced by which special interests are in whose corner.
The notion is that Republicans are in bed with the insurance lobby and the Democrats share a pillow with the health care industry and the trial lawyers. All of those groups, of course, help to bankroll the two parties at election time, and lawmakers keep that in mind as they craft a plan that will certainly offend somebody at the end of the day.
But it’s exactly that act of offending that is often the hallmark of a good proposal. If all sides are hacked off, then the “deal” is probably a good one and should be passed.
After all, at the end of the day, lawmakers are supposed to be doing your bidding, not the bidding of those groups who help them get elected.