Blogs > Skoop's Blog

In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recall Fall-out

     All of this is so counter to what Gov. Rick Snyder wants to do, that is creating a spirit of cooperation between R's and D's, that he blurted out the other day that recalls are not good for either party and therefore we assume the state, too.
     In about a week the voters in Genesee County will decide the fate of Rep. Paul Scott.  The second term Republican chairs the House Education panel and when he ran for office, the Michigan Education Association saw him as a breath of fresh air and endorsed him.
    Now the MEA is gagging for air.
    You see Mr. Scott rode herd on some education "reform" issues that the teacher's union did not like.  Rather than wait for the November 2012 election to take him out, the union shelled out close to $150,000 to get the job done now.
    Borrowing the law from physics, for every political action there is a reaction.  Hence the state GOP has now targeted six house Democrats and will go after even more regardless of what happens Nov. 8th to Mr. Scott.
    A Genesee County Democrat does not share in the drive to get even.  Sen. John Gleason denounces all recalls as bad for government and  demeaning to boot.  He's tried for years to make it tougher to recall any official but all those efforts failed.
    Maybe wobbly legislators are afraid to change the law for fear they could be recalled?
    One school suggests recalls are good for the democracy; but the GOP governor and the state Democratic party chair see little good in it.
    But no matter what happens with Mr. Scott, the anger, revenge, bitterness and travail will hang like a dark cloud over proceedings in the capitol.
    Bi-partisanship, which is always a dicey endeavor as the new governor has painfully discovered, is never easy.  This is hardly the elixcer Mr. Snyder needs to grow it now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Starbucks or Potholes

      Would you pay the equivalent of a Starbucks coffee and half a meal at McDonalds to help beef up the state's crumbling road infrastructure?
       The governor is about to find out.
       For the first time, Gov. Rick Snyder put his arms around a figure to fix those roads:  A hefty $1 to $1.4 billion a year.  That's billion with a big "B".
       And one of his suggestions is to bump up your annual license plate donation to the state.  In a vain attempt to soften the impact the governor's guys described it as "ten dollars a month."  But do the math:  That's an extra $120 a year  on top of what you are already paying.  That would raise a quick billion.
       The always upbeat governor notes, "Citizens will speak out loudly.  In the positive," he tells FOX2 news.
       Cizizens are likely to speak out but will it be positive?  And more importantly, how will lawmakers speak?
       If the anti-government and anti-tax crowd frames this as a tax increase, the governor begins this journey in a deep pot hole he may never get out of.
      Such is the harsh reality this newbie governor continues to confront.  He tried to build a bridge because it was the right thing to do and got push back from his own party.  Could he go 0 for two on this one?
       In his favor, motorists have generally said if the state is raising new dollars and the money is going for the roads, they can live with that. But times are tough and even though the governor says he is not squeezing motorists and only wants to talk about this plan, for many it will feel like a squeeze nonetheless.
      The road building lobby, which has not had an influx of fresh cash since 1997 was obviously overjoyed at the governor's $1.4 billion marker.
      And Mike Nystrom, who runs that lobby, had a nifty comeback for those motorists/lawmakers who don't like this.  Essentially it was:  Pay me now or pay me later."  He suggests drivers are paying more now for repairs to their battered autos that traverse the state, dodging potholes, everywhere.
      So maybe the next time you drive by a coffee joint and Mickey D's, you shouldn't go in.  The gov. needs those bucks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Bridge RPA This Time

        Even though he is only ten months into his first term, it was beginning to look like he would make it for the entire four years without uttering a single discouraging word.
       You know him.  Old Mr. Relentless Positive Action himself, Gov. Rick Snyder.  Well it finally happened.  293 days into the mission, he did it.  He was forced to confront reality and uttered the following: "Even though I'm a positive guy, today was a set-back."
       Egads.  Stop the presses.  (Do they still do that?)
       Not even he could put a positive spin on the events, or non-events, inside the GOP controlled senate committee that's been considering his Detroit-Windsor bridge bill for ions.  Because when they counted noses, and he needed four measly votes to move the project to the senate floor, Gov. RPA got two, count'em, two lousy Republican votes and one of those was under intense pressure from the Tea Party to vote no.
      Even the two Democrats on the panel who had been cuddling up to the GOP governor voted "pass" which is tantamount to a no vote anyway.
      So instead of moving the bridge out of committee, the bridge became a certified train wreck as the governor was stiffed by members of his own party for the second day in a row.
      Oh woe is he.
      "It's time for a cooling-off period," he tried to regain some positive ground, but there was precious little to stand on.
       How long would it take to get this project back on track?
       "Maybe a week, or two or longer," he offered without adding another dose of reality, "maybe never."
        Oh, this bridge will be built, the governor confidently believes.  But lawmakers may not help him build it. But he can do it without them.  Yet, and this comes as no surprise, hope springs eternal inside the Snyder inner circle that eventually lawmakers will agree with him that it is the "right thing to do."
        Right now it looks like he's the only one in the choir singing that tune.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peeling the Ficano Onion

     For eight years he had a front row seat to inner workings of the Bob Ficano administration.  And Phil Cavangh did not like what he saw or didn't see.
     Now a state lawmaker, the Redford Democrat is coming forth with the suggestion to the news media that there are other "transactions that should be looked into…I was troubled by many events."
     By now you have read that the Wayne County Executive Mr. Ficano is swimming in a swirling controversay that began with a $200,000 bonus to one of his appointees and now with the FBI sticking its nose in, no one is quite sure where are this will end…if at all.
     For you old timers out there, it is shades of the Eddie McNamara days when he ran the Wayne County government and there were all sorts of unproven allegations that he was engaged in some willful wrongdoing.
     Mr. Ficano says he has done nothing wrong and there is no hint of any impending charges, but Rep. Cavangh sat on the county Ways and Means committee and had a birds-eye view of the Ficano budgets.
     Sometimes the "view" was either fuzzy or blocked.
     "We would ask for the number of appointees, what their jobs were and what they were paid," he recalls.  But there were instances of "stonewalling" by the executive's office as commissioners were simply told to "trust our decisions."
      Cavanagh may be a trusting soul, but he was not comfortable when the auditor general was unable to "get documents" on various spending items.
      "I'm not declaring anything criminal," he explains but he urges the media to peel back more of the Ficano onion.
       One wonders if the odor could get any worse than it already is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Assume At Your Own Risk

   Never assume.  Repeat:  Never.
   Correspondents like to think they can figure anything out by piecing together this piece of info and that which leads to a logical conclusion.
    Such was the case when it came to the committee vote on the bridge between Detroit and Windsor.  All the stars appeared to be aligned and if you read the tea leaves, they showed the governor finally had the committee votes to send this puppy, after nine months of waiting, to the senate floor.
    Even the Senate Democratic leader bought into the assumption.  Just before the hearing she advised, "I do believe it will come out of committee."
    In her defense Sen. Gretchen Whitmer had every reason to believe it to be so…just like the capitol correspondents.
    Never assume.  Repeat: Never.
     Within minutes of her prediction the unpredictable happened.
      With one bang of the gavel, the bridge committee chair ended the hearing before it began.
     Sen. Mike Kowal informed the stunned audience of popular wisdom believers that as he walked in the door he was handed a new bridge bill which he was unable to read.
      "I'm not going to vote on something I have not read," he told the audience.
      Sen. Tupac Hunter, one of the Democrats who had fashioned a new compromise on a portion of the bill, sheepishly told the GOP chair that he could explain the changes.
      Mr. Kowall would have none of that.
      There's an age old rule around these parts:  If you want a bill out of a committee, never hack off the chair.
      You could color the Oakland County lawmaker "angry" which is an understatement to say the least.
      As for the future of the bridge?
      No one is assuming anything.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Uncommon Bed Fellows

    When is the last time the trial bar and the doctors were on the same side of an issue?
    Answer:  No one can remember if there was a last time.
    When is the last time the trial bar was divided?
    See answer number one.
    Normally when you mention the term "trial lawyer" in front of anyone wearing a white coat, duck.  Them is fightin' words.
    Mention the term "physician" in front of a trial attorney and watch their mouths salivate.
     But despite all that history, they are locking arms and battling the insurance industry over its efforts to "reform" the state's historic no-fault car insurance law.
     And the list of folks joining the docs and barristers is as long as your arm if you are Mike Jordan.  It's virtually everybody in the free world, including labor unions who are trying to gang up on the insurance guys.
     That lobby fears that if left unchecked, the no fault system will implode with cost over runs that will eventually destroy the system.
      The other side counters, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
     And back and forth they go as this "reform" is now out of a house committee and teed up for a showdown vote in that body.
     But there is another unusual twist to all this.  There apparently is a split in the trial lawyer ranks as the Sam Bernstein firm, maybe you've seen them on the telly, is working with the insurance folks.
     Come again?
     Yep.  The Bernstein's are with the insurance lobby but other elements of the trial bar are against the Bernstein's.  Mark Bernstein was even called in to explain to his compatriots why they should be on his side.
     Geez.  This is getting complicated.
     But yet it is all very simple as it all comes down to money and which side can make the most.
     Maybe somewhere in the debate, somebody will eventually talk about how this will impact you, the motoring public.

Friday, October 14, 2011

So Much for that MSU-UM Tradition

       The traditional gridiron battle between the Green and White and the Maize and Blue not only produces challenges for the two teams but Michigan governor's face some of their own.
       Governor's are just like all other elected officials; they want to please everyone but on this one weekend a year, whatever they do, someone will be upset.
       Which is why former Gov. Jennifer Granholm was a chicken.  She refused to choose sides.  Hey, she graduated from Berkely and Harvard so what did she care.
       Such was never the case with MSU grads/Governors Jim Blanchard and John Engler.  You knew exactly where they stood and while it may have cost them some votes here and there, their devotion to their alma mater was more important than the politics for them.
       Like wise with the current occupant.  Nobody has seen Gov. rick Snyder bleed, but if he did, most surely it would not be green or white blood.  It's just another reason for MSU fans not to like him.
       There's another thing that governor's abhor: Being booed in public.
        Years ago the governor would attend the game and sit on one side of the field for the first half and then in a grand ceremony, the governor would walk across the 50 yard line to take a seat on the other side just to give the illusion of fairness.
       Problem was, there were always some lugs in the stands who didn't like the governor and that always produced cat calls, and unsavory taunts.  The media would dutifully report all this and it was hugely embarrassing to say the least, if not a little humorous to everyone except the governor.
       Which is why they scrapped the tradition without fanfare.
        Now they will tell you they did it for security reasons.  After all parading the governor across the field, makes the governor a sitting duck, but more importantly from a political standpoint, who wants to be booed in public?
        No one.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ole Switcher-ru

      If at first you don't succeed, move the bridge to another committee.
      The governor continues to be stymied in his efforts to pry loose from a senate committee his blueprint to build a second span between Motown and Windsor.  What makes it a tad frustrating is that members of his own party are stiffing him and refusing to move the bill to the floor.
      Enter the senate GOP leader Randy Richardville to the rescue.  Look for him next week to quietly remove the measure from the senate Economic Development committee and redirect it to the senate committee that he chairs.  And it appears he has enough yes votes on that panel to get this stalled bridge to the senate floor.
      All this is kosher and Richardville has the authority to do it, but this does not mean they will be hauling in the steal beams to build this thing anytime soon.
      That's because the governor and Mr. Richardville have the same problem on the floor i.e. not enough GOP votes to pass it.  Depending on who is counting, there could be as little as three yes votes or upwards of eight or so, but certainly not the required twenty. 
      It's hard to get your arms around the total because some squeamish GOP senators don't want to declare their support for fear that would trigger those nasty TV commercials from the Ambassador Bridge folks.  They are spending mucho to block the competiting second span.
      Mr. Richardville was reminded the other day that he doesn't have the votes despite his prediction two weeks ago that he did.
      He noted it's been nine months since Gov. Rick Snyder embraced the bridge.  It was last January when the snow was flying.
      It's not snowing yet, but there's a good chance it may be by the time they get around to passing this thing…if they can.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Can't Make Him Answer

   For a guy who steadfastly professes to be a non-career politician, he has certainly adapted quite nicely to one of the traits of a career pol: Not wanting to answer tough questions.
    Don't kid yourself, Gov. Rick Snyder is one tough-cookie when it comes to bobbing and weaving away from controversial inquires.  Take the Right to Work question.
    The governor has said any attempt by businesses and Republicans to cut into union membership would be "divisive" and he wants no part of that.  Period.
    Up until now silly reporters have continued to ask for his position on the issue itself and like the career politician he says he is not, he declines to expand on his answer.
    So an even sillier correspondent tried to come in the back door the other day.
   "Governor.  Your position on not wanting to debate Right to Work is clear, but set aside for the moment the divisiveness of this debate and please answer this question:  Does RTW create jobs?
     Now recall that the governor is a data-driven guy who longs for all the answers he can gobble up before he makes a decision.  And the job creation aspect gets right to the heart of the Right to Work debate so surely he will wade right in with his analysis.
     "I think the issue is divisive," he says for the umpteenth time.
     "Let me press you on that.  Does it create jobs?"
     Double ha.
      "I'll just leave it at what I said," he stonewalls again.
      And in staying on message he concludes that "just talking about" the jobs angle is divisive in and of itself.
      Score it career politician: One.  Frustrated reporter: Zippo.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pulling a Fast One

    Just how stupid do you think they think you are?
    Read on McDuff.
    The headlines were just what state lawmakers wanted: Life-Time Health Care Benefits to End.  And if you were dumb enough not to  read anything more, you concluded that one of the bestest (sic) benefits ever was finally coming to and end: State legislators could be vested in a health insurance program after only six years in office.
     That's right, six years!
     Whatever happened to the legislative mantra that all benefits for public workers be tied to those in the private sector where getting vested in six years is only a dream?
     When the Michigan House took up this bill, the measure would have ended this benefit for 109 of the 110 members.  In the state senate 32 of the 38 senators would have been exempted from the law.  In other words they would keep their health care from the state until they turned 65.
     Well a curious thing happened as the House measure moved around the capitol rotunda and arrived in the Upper Chamber a.k.a. the House of Lords or the state senate.
      Instead of one representative keeping his benefits, the bill was changed to conclude 14.  And instead of 32 senators, the number was kicked up to 36.
      There must have been a reason for that and it was, many house and senate folks didn't want to lose what they had, so they wrote the bill to protect themselves.
      Welcome to Lansing.
       Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Soutfhield) was one of two senators who did not keep his health care.  He was asked if the measure was composed to protect some of his colleagues?
       "I wouldn't say that," he began to dance but quickly acknowledged the obvious, "Although it might look like it."
        Oh yeah.  He's got that right.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pete's Tune Changes

   In an attempt to beef up his lead over the other GOP U.S. Senate contenders, the Pete Hoekstra campaign got a little greedy.  It trotted out this news release the other day proudly announcing, "Hoekstra Signs Taxpayer Protection Pledge."
   Actually the release should have read, "Hoekstra Re-signs" the no-tax pledge as he actually signed it for the first time way back in August of 2010 when he was running for governor.
   Not only was the news release a tad misleading, it lead to a rehash of the fact that Mr. Hoekstra had done a somersalt on the issue or if your prefer, which the current Hoekstra campaign does not, he flip-flopped.
   An aide sheepishly concedes the point and good thing because there is proof all over the place that he once was against the no tax pledge before he was for it.
   During a FOX2 interview while running for governor, Mr. Hoekstra called it a "bad pledge" and asked directly if he would sign it, he offered, "No, I don't think so…signing pledges only gets you into trouble."
    But then signing them can too.
    Let's just say his position has been evolving.  During the first Gov debate on Mackinac Island in May of 2009, Hoekstra declined to take the pledge.
    But the next year, he was reversing himself sighting the lousy economy and the lack of reform in Lansing to justify his switch-eroo.
    All of this was ancient history and betya nobody remembered he did that, but now they do, because he brought it up.
    Isn't only a matter of time before his opponents try to exploit this.
    Points off for resurrecting an issue that was better left in the grave for some else to dig up.