It’s 8 o’clock. Do you know where your state lawmakers are?
Probably not in Lansing.
That play on an old TV PSA aside, many of the people you elected to make laws for you haven’t been here for a while, and don’t expect them all back any time soon.
Legislators last held session in June, then left for summer break. Some bills have been introduced since the usual Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday calendar picked back up after Labor Day, but it’s still crickets in the state Capitol.
Why? Well, they’re out campaigning. It’s only seven weeks till Election Day.
“Those folks are not super engaged on policy right now,” Adrian Hemond, CEO of consulting firm Grassroots Midwest, told MLive legislative reporters Jordyn Hermani and Alyssa Burr this week.
“They’re full on in an election mode, like they all have to run for their jobs right now.”
Republicans control both chambers, so they set the agenda. Neither House Speaker Jason Wentworth nor Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey responded for my colleagues’ story. But sources told them lawmakers will meet just a handful of times in September, then take off the whole month of October.
Democrats have been calling on Republicans for weeks to come back to the Capitol. Issues they want to discuss include tax cuts, health care, water infrastructure and abortion.
Read more: Taxes, water, abortion: Dems clamor for legislative action as GOP stays mum on priorities
“We have at least $7 billion, at least, dollars sitting on the balance sheet, and there are a lot of things we want to see Michigan invest in,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, noting a surplus in state funds partly due to federal COVID-19 money.
The longer these dollars are left in Washington, said House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, the longer “we’re leaving Michigan residents’ needs unmet.”
2. Tudor Dixon pitches $1 billion law enforcement funding increase
Speaking of campaigning, Republican governor candidate Tudor Dixon crisscrossed the state this week to lay out a big-money plan to help law enforcement and reduce violent crime.
She unveiled the proposals Tuesday standing outside the Grand Rapids Police Department, where MLive governor reporter Simon Schuster got the details.
Dixon’s campaign says the $1 billion plan over four years would “recruit and retain” more than 12,500 officers between local and state police, firefighters, paramedics and corrections officers.
Here’s the breakdown:
- $700 million for perks like stipends during training and free hunting licenses.
- $250 million for equipment, training and mental health support.
- $50 million for forensics lab expansions and finding fugitives.
Violent crime is indeed rising, according to Michigan State Police’s annual report last year (page 14). Since 2018 (the year Whitmer was elected) violent crime is up 8%, although property crime is down 18%.
Dixon will be highlighting four more pillars of her campaign in the coming weeks, her chief strategist told Simon. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told him the Democrat’s record is one of working across the aisle to help police “keep Michiganders safe.”
Simon was also in Grand Rapids the day before as the governor stood with “Republicans for Whitmer,” mostly former officeholders who announced their support. It reminds me of the lists of Republicans who backed Joe Biden instead of Donald Trump in 2020.
Read more: ‘Republicans For Whitmer’ group unveiled in bid for crossover support
To Dixon’s credit, though, she was endorsed this week by 22 Michigan county sheriffs, and one was a Democrat: Saginaw County’s William Federspiel.
3. Trump returning to Michigan for October rally with state candidates
Possibly Dixon’s most important endorsement came from former President Donald Trump, who continues to exert his influence on the midterms.
Trump held a rally in Macomb County in the spring, and we learned Thursday he’ll be back two weeks from now to drum up support for Dixon and the Republican candidates for attorney general and secretary of state: Matthew DePerno and Kristina Karamo.
In an announcement that called the trio “Michigan’s Trump ticket,” the ex-President’s team said he will rally at Macomb County Community College on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Interested in going? Here’s the full schedule.
Also regarding Trump’s influence in Michigan, here’s a trivia question: Who got his political action committee’s largest donation here? The answer is actually not a “who,” but a “what.”
While looking through campaign finance records, I saw Save America PAC donated a whopping $150,000 to a voter ID initiative, Secure MI Vote, in June. The proposal turned in signatures too late for the November ballot, but state law allows the GOP-led legislature to make it law without worrying about a Whitmer veto.
There’s more than a couple moving parts here, but if you’re curious to why Trump’s PAC would give that much money – 30 times the highest donation to any Michigan candidate – my story has some answers.
4. Slur for Native American women removed from over 30 Michigan landmarks
While vacationing around Michigan this summer, you may have visited a lake but never knew its name was an ethnic slur.
I’ll direct you to Alyssa’s story from Wednesday if you don’t know the word, but it’s the same word as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
This derogatory s-word for Native American women is now officially gone from more than 650 places nationwide, including 32 in Michigan. The renamed sites here are mostly lakes and streams.
“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long.”
Alyssa has more background on the word’s history and the name changes in her story, plus a full list and map.
5. Departing chief justice hopes for ‘younger and more diverse’ Michigan Supreme Court
Less than a week after writing opinions to get two major abortion and voting rights proposals onto the November ballot, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack says she’s retiring by the end of 2022.
Why would she leave just two years into an 8-year term? She told Simon this week she hasn’t lost enthusiasm; It’s just time to pass the torch.
Of the 115 justices in Michigan’s history, only 13 have been women.
“I think there’s a little bit of an obligation for those of us who are in positions like this for long enough to step aside and let younger people take the helm,” McCormack said. “If my generation — I’m now 56 — steps aside and lets a younger and more diverse group of leaders get to the table and lead, I really think that’s always going to be better for institutions.”
McCormack is leaving to be a leader at the American Arbitration Association. The person she’s replacing made almost $1 million in 2020, according to publicly available tax forms, a lot more than the $165,000 that McCormack and her fellow justices make.
There’s much more to learn about McCormack from Simon’s interview, but your fun fact for the week is that Mary McCormack, who you may know from “The West Wing” or “In Plain Sight,” is her sister.
Here’s a campaign ad she did for Chief Justice McCormack in 2012:
Enjoy the rest of your weekend! MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa suggests making it a beach day. 👀 🏖️
More from our team this week:
Michigan man at U.S. Capitol attack gets 5-year prison sentence
Will anti-LGBTQ rhetoric by some in Michigan GOP raise cash, incite base?
Abortion, the economy may play pivotal role in who controls Michigan’s House
Michigan lands $105M federal grant to remove Detroit’s I-375
Attendance rates drop 4% in Michigan schools compared to pre-pandemic numbers
GOP lawmaker’s candidacy called into question after voter registration snafu
Michigan House looks to bring state in line with federal insurance guidelines