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Infections on Lansing’s opening day

It’s usually a day of celebration as the Michigan Legislature meets to begin the new year.

Newly elected members bring their families to the event, and, while no first pitch is tossed out, for politicians, the day is their opening day, and there is usually an air of anticipation and dedication to do the people’s business.

Only, this year, there will be none of that pomp and circumstance, and the air is polluted with political disagreements

Thank you, COVID-19, for sucking the life out of this event, too.

This year, along with flowers on their desks, there will be masks on some, but not all, faces. The new state House picks up where the old one left off, with a political divide over masking up and, of course, it’s along political lines. D’s with masks. R’s, not so much.

Not only is the coronavirus hanging over the procedures, something else nearly as ominous is also hanging there — i.e., the political virus from the events in the nation’s capital last week.

Just like the masks, the R’s and D’s are divided on that, too.

Last week the new state House Democratic leader, state Rep. Donna Lasinski, fired off a letter to the new House GOP speaker, Jason Wentworth, demanding that he discipline 18 house Republicans. She alleges they had an indirect hand in boiling the witches’ brew that flowed into the U.S. Capitol as demonstrations erupted with the whole world watching.

Rep. Lasinski asks the GOP leader to refuse to seat the 18 unless they strongly denounced their alleged role in all this.

Fat chance of that, and the speaker said so in so many words.

Lasinski opines that he still has time to change his mind, but it would be a shocker if he did, which means opening day will not exactly have an air of bipartisanship.

It’s a bad way to start, with bad feelings outweighing the normal joy of the day.

But wait, it gets worse.

One week before everyone returned, the new Republican chair of the state House budget committee sent a message to the governor, strongly hinting that the Republicans were not eager to have “meaningful discussions” with her about how to spend millions of dollars in new federal coronavirus relief money.

State Rep. Tom Albert linked those discussions to her bending to open more businesses, which she is unlikely to do in the face of rebounding virus data that suggests it’s getting worse, not better.

Can you say “second surge”?

The governor, not wanting to toss fuel on that potential fire, took some baby steps on the high road by not condemning the Republicans for that strategy but giving them the benefit of the doubt.

“I’m sure that the representative is not implying” that the badly need federal aid be withheld from the citizenry … I hope that is not what they are threatening,” she said, knowing full well that’s exactly what they were hinting at.

To put a point on it, she told the R’s that the millions in aid should not be held “hostage” when the people in this state are “struggling and the federal relief is necessary.”

The Republicans continue with their mantra that, if she just opened the economy up, some of that struggling would abate.

That is also the new Legislature making the same pitch that the old one did, and there’s been no bending by either side in the interim.

Add it all up, and neither party will be singing “Kumbaya” on opening day.

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