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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bully for Them

It took over 30 legislative years to pass property tax relief and
17 years to lift the cap on charter schools which should happen soon.
So waiting 13 years to adopt an anti-bullying policy seems like an
overnight success.
But was it?
Sure the legislature finally passed a law that forces schools to
draft an anti-bullying policy within six months but the critics contend
it won't do much.
"We have failed the children of Michigan," lamented the senate
Democrat who's been trying since 2005 to get this job done.
Senator Glenn Anderson (D-Westland) wanted to force schools to
report their bullying cases to the state to determine if the law was
Senate Republicans killed it.
Senator Anderson tried to install a cyber-bullying provision to
cut into the Internet abuse that goes on.
Senate Republicans shot that down fearing it would make the bill
Ironically the senate GOP sponsor said he would have supported
the reporting requirement, but he feared inserting that would slow down
the process of getting the law on the books.
This from a GOP senate that left town for a two week hunting
break hours before the House finalized its version of the bill. Off to
the woods they went, leaving behind more students to be bullied.
Bully for the senators who obviously have their priorities
Even the senate Democratic leader confided, "It is not perfect,"
but a step in the right direction.
So the governor will sign this. Everyone will take a bow as
they boast about trying to protect those kids who are afraid to go to
school, or open an email, for fear the bully is lurking to attack them
once more.
Here's hoping it works.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Now What for Recalled Lawmaker?

Paul Scott is looking for work and a Flint radio station wants him
to be a talk show host.
He can't be that desperate, can he?
Republican Scott has the distinction of being the first legislator
to be booted out of office since 1983 and he's taking it well.
He's not into second guessing even though he lost his house seat by
a mere 230 votes which in a 24,000 vote election is pretty darn close.
His biggest challenge was not dealing with all the issues that were
raised by the Michigan Education Association and others, including the
senior pension tax, a hefty tax cut for business at the expense of the
schools, etc. etc.
No. He believes it was a "love affair" that Genesee County voters
have with labor unions that did him in.
Scott, in his only extended TV exit interview at, reveals
that he knocked on a lot of doors and got this response: "Paul. We
like what you are doing in Lansing but you know my family owes a lot to
the unions and we just have to support them."
End of story and end of Mr. Scott's three year career in the
Michigan House.
Well not quite.
The chances are very good he will run next year for his house
seat and in the meantime he will study for the bar exam in February.
In the meantime he reflects that he's enjoyed the last two weeks
because no lobbyists have been hounding him to do this or do that.
Thanks to the love of unions in his backyard, he can pretty much
do what he wants right now.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain has a Venus/Mars problem.
If female voters are from Venus they are staying there and not
flocking to Mr. Cain if the latest polling data is correct.
He gets an unimpressive 10% of the female vote compared to 34% that
Mr. Romney receives and the 21% Mr. Gingrich gets.
It gets worse.
Pollster Bernie Porn from EPIC-MRA asked women under 50 how they
felt about Mr. Cain. Let's just say he's not moving the needle as he
receives 20% of those; Mitt Romney gets 38% and Newt Gingrich does
worse than Cain, scoring a lousy 5%.
Cain's standing with women over 50 is nothing to write home about
either. Now it is Cain at 5%, Romney at 32% and the Newtser at 30%.
It's generally assumed that since women vote in larger numbers than
men, no candidate can depend on the men from Mars to hand them the
election although Cain has 58% of the male GOP members and 40% of GOP
Add all this up and you have a gender gap which continues to dog
the one time front-runner. It's difficult to ascertain how much of
this is traced to the allegations of sexual harassment which he has
steadfastly denied.
But when it comes to females and that issue, many men are presumed
to be guilty before they prove themselves to be innocent.
Of course, at this early read, you can't count anyone out but there
is one more group where Mr. Cain needs to turn things around.
Independent voters decide elections and with this group, the gender
challenge is also evident.
32% of independent men back him; 17% of the women.
Looks like he needs to send some flowers and candy to somebody.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Man-up Or Play It Safe

Newt! Newt! You silly goose.
Here is Newt Gingrich steadily and successfully climbing back into
the GOP race for president and he pulls a stunt like this.
During the 789th debate of the early political season, the former
House Speaker took a stance on immigration that will open the
floodgates of criticism from the far-right.
He suggested that if a person came to this country illegally
twenty-five years ago, established a family, paid taxes, went to church
and did all the things that "regular" Americans do, they should not be
booted out of the country.
He didn't use the word amnesty, but lots of other candidates on
the stage did. Any fool knows that the "A" word for the ultra's is as
incendiary as it gets. Yet Mr. G. took a stance, would not budge and
sort of lectured those who did not share his enlighten position that
the GOP was the party of families and ejecting someone who broke the
law a quarter of a century ago should not be held accountable for that
He get's style points for saying what he believes even though it
could cost him votes with the anti-amnesty crowd which is rabid.
Remember how they dumped on former President George Bush and former
U.S. Senator John McCain when they tried to work a new immigration law?
They took a hit and the Newster will, too.
In strong contrast, Mr. Play-It-Safe refused to embrace the
Gingrich gambit, but then what else is new with Mitt Romney? He did
not adopt the pro-family notion and apparently would be comfortable
expelling such a person who sneaked in here years ago. He did wax on
about how we have to "secure the borders" which is about as safe as it
gets, too.
Candidates have two choices when it comes to controversial issues
that could cost them votes: They can pander or they can stand-up, take
a risk and profess what they believe.
Maybe that's why Mr. Speaker is moving on up and somebody else is
stuck where he's been for months.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gov. to Ignore Lawmakers?

Gov. Rick Snyder has reason to be thankful for lots of stuff. The
rag-tag recallers didn't lay a glove on him. He got a bunch of stuff
checked off his Reinvent-Michigan check list and last week the
Supreme's said he could legally collect pension money from seniors
starting next year.
But one huge item will be missing from his festive table: The
Bridge which turned out to be a turkey of an issue. (Sorry, couldn't
Try as he could, he could not convince enough members of his own
party to win one for the Nerd. He got stiffed in the senate and the
issue never came up in the GOP House were opposition was just as strong
if not stronger.
But alas, one thing we have learned about this new governor is
that he does not like to lose and for every plan A, tucked in his vest
pocket is a plan B just in case the first one goes in the dumpster.
Stand-by for Bridge Plan B: And end-run around the legislature
whereby the governor gets the bridge without a legislative vote.
Who predicts such a move?
Try the GOP Speaker of the Michigan House for openers.
There is a "very good likelihood he will show us a plan" that
leaves lawmakers out of the equation, hints Rep. Jase Bolger.
Never mind that lawmakers get paid to make these tough decisions,
and keep in mind that the Speaker has shared his thoughts on the
end-run. Nonetheless there is nothing, short of court action, that can
stop the governor from ignoring lawmakers and doing it sans them.
(If that turns out to be wrong, please disregard this blog.)
With Mr. Bolger saying it "doesn't make any sense" for the House
to visit the bridge bill and with the Senate GOP leader declaring it
off the table, if he wants a bridge, the next move is up to Mr. S.
Nobody knows when he will pull this trigger, but if you are a
bridge-backer, be thankful you have an creative governor who knows how
to get what he wants.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stop Asking THOSE Questions

It's a good thing that political reporters have crusty exteriors
and are not worried about winning any popularity contests, because the
general public could give two hoots about them.
You want proof.
Did ya see the GOP presidential debate at Oakland University
earlier this month?
You knew candidate Herman Cain was going to get a question on the
sexual harassment chain around his neck and sure enough, twenty-one
minutes into the thing, there it was.
One of the reporters decided not to hit it head on but to come in
the from another direction. The question was phrased under the heading
of "Character."
Nice try. Some in the audience would have none of that. They
didn't like the issue, they didn't like the question and they sure as
heck didn't admire the correspondent for having the nerve to ask it.
Unfortunately that's what real reporters are supposed to do, but
that doesn't mean the audience has to like it or understand it.
Mr. Cain, of course knowing the question was coming, was ready
and slugged it out of the park as the crowd erupted in jubilation.
Undaunted, one of the panelists, now desperate to get something
out this exchange, left the Cain dry hole and tried to drill one with
Mr. Romney by trying to drag him into the dialogue.
The question was hardly out of the reporter's mouth when the
audience booed again confirming that the original boos were not an
Candidate Romney, of course, did not take the bait, and suggested
that Mr. Cain would address the issue and "he just did."
And with that, two minutes of debate time was eaten up, the
reporters sensing this was a waste of time, moved onto other issues.
So why the intense maligning of working journalists doing their
They don't provide enough space in this blog to get into that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Detroit Needs Lansing: Oh! Oh!

Now what?
The Mayor of Detroit needs help from Lansing to keep his city
from going in the dumper.
That puts current Gov. Rick Snyder right where all of his
predecessors have been over the last forty years.
Helping Detroit is not a new legislative theme but this latest
overture seems to have more urgency. Mayor Dave Bing claims his cash
flow problem will only get worse but the problem could be solved if the
state coughs up $220 million in back revenue sharing payments.
The immediate response from the governor was no response.
That was on purpose because the fate of that $220 mil is, at
this read, highly unlikely and there was no purpose in the governor
declaring that in his news release. Everybody knows it.
Anybody who has been in this town for more than five minutes
knows that the days of bailing Detroit out are long gone. Years ago
then Gov. Milliken forged a deal with then Mayor Coleman Young. The
Detroit Equity package funneled state dollars into a variety of city
services that were shared by folks all around the state.
After Mr. Milliken left office, Republicans systematically
dismantled the program to zero. And now Republicans control both the
house and senate and if the vote on that $220 million was held today,
it would go up in flames.
Lawmakers are likely to tell the mayor, if he bothers to show
up around here with his hand out, that the city must do some self-help
before it has even a hope of state help. The governor did not want to
say that either.
The ace the mayor has is this: If the state stiffs the city
and the city goes under, Mr. Bing can blame the governor and Lansing.
And you can bet the fingers up here will be pointing at the Mayor for
failing to do his job.
Nobody wants Detroit in the tank. The question is who will
step up to make sure that does not happen?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

They Compromised? Come On.

     Wonder of wonders.  Miracle of miracles.
      Democratic and GOP members of the Michigan legislature decided, at least on this one issue, that compromising was not a four letter word.
      Credit goes to the House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer for setting aside the usual partisan squabbling as they worked out an arrangement on the anti-bullying proposal which has been lacking bi-partisan cooperation for seven long years.
       Back handed credit should also go the senate Republicans who indirectly created the right atmosphere for the compromise with their clumsy attempt to grant a religious and moral exemption for bullying.
       Once that was added to the plan, even the house Republicans, who are sometimes tone-deaf to what the grassroots want, knew they could not join their senate colleagues and jump off that cliff. 
       The national furor over the religious exemption was palpable.  The state's top educator called it a "joke" which all served to bring Mr.Bolger quickly to the table to work with the D's on some other approach.
       When the dust settled, the house, with a strong bi-partisan vote, sent the measure to the senate where final approval is anticipated.
       To be sure, the D's did not get everything they wanted.  Some argued for a reporting requirement that would force local schools to report each bullying incident to the state.  Republicans rejected that.
       The D's wanted tighter language to regulate cyber bullying over the Internet. Once again the Republicans refused to put up enough votes.
       What did pass orders every school district, within six months, to develop guidelines to address this phenomenon which has seen 13 students killed over the last 13 years.
      "It's not pefect, but it's a step in the right direction," reflected Sen. Gretchen Whitmer who made mince meat of the senate Republicans for their religious exemption.
        No law can eradicate bullying but at least lawmakers found a way to compromise to do something about it.
        It is rare to see that these days even though citizens want to see more of it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Hunting We Will Go

    What's another two weeks after waiting seven years to get this done?
     At 4:30 p.m. last Thursday the Michigan House finished a watered down version of the anti-bullying bill which has been on again and off again for far too long.
     There was a strong bi-partisan vote as R's and D's finally got their act together to forge a compromise which is what the legislative process is all about.
     "It's not perfect but it's a step forward,"  noted the Senate Democratic leader who had worked long and hard with the House GOP leader to get this done.
      The only step left was for the senate to put its stamp on the measure and send it to the governor for his signature. 
      So the house bill heads to the senate that afternoon only to find the illustrious Upper House had adjourned at 2:20.
      Adjourned as in high tailed it out of town for a traditional two week deer hunting break.  Yeah.  You read that right.
       The senate will take it up after the break but how does this look?
      First of all, who in the heck gets two weeks off to go hunting in the real world?
      Secondly, who in the heck gets two weeks off to go hunting in the real world?
      "It's nothing new. It's been going on for years, probably hundreds of years," confides the GOP guy who runs the senate.
      Sen. Randy Richardville was rather sanguine about the whole thing conceding that he and his colleagues might take a P.R. hit for leaving and this was before he knew the bullying bill was coming over.
      He explains just because everyone is leaving town it would be "completely inaccurate" to say they are still not working.
       His Democreatic counter-part Sen. Gretchen Whitmer suggests just because it has always been that way, does not make it right.
      Now it is true that this anti-bullying stuff gives local school boards six months to develop a policy so it's not as if, all this would change over night.
      But there's the nagging appearance thing:  Some lawmakers go hunting instead of hanging around long enough to help school kids who are threatened at school everyday and fear for their lives.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Name is Rick Perry

   So what's the big deal about a GOP presidential candidate having a senior moment?  Hasn't everyone?
   Ask Rick Perry, the one time front-runner. The Texas governor can hardly claim that mantle this week after he fumbled around for almost a minute during a televised debate, painfully trying to remember which departments he would eliminated if elected.
   Chances are you didn't see it happen.  But in this viral age, where going to the bathroom shows up on the Internet, that does not mean he will skate away from this flub.
    It's already on You Tube at multiple locations and just wait until the late-night comics get done with him.  You can hear Letterman now:  Rick Perry needs a memory transplant.  Anyone dumb enough to donate?  Or Leno:  During the next debate, moderators will start with the easy questions for Gov. Rick Perry.  Like, what is your first name or who is buried in Grant's tomb.
   Some were quick to write him off completely but that is a stretch but here's the problem. From this point on, it will be the elephant in the room wherever he goes.
    Citizens will wonder, will he do it again?
    And almost certainly, it will happen again and then the media will begin to wonder if this guy is capable of residing in the oval office where a loss of memory can have live-threatening implications.
    Ah but it was so much simplier for politicians when the mass media was not around to turn your every foible into a liability.
    For his part Mr. Perry tried to laugh it off during the post debate spin session and at the very least he should get a thank you note from Herman Cain whose sexual harrassment challenges did not emerge as the lead debate story thanks to the forgetful Texan.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

You'd Never Do This

    Much of what transpires in Lansing defies logic but then that's why they call it politics and not an exact science.
    To wit: Being a member of the House and Senate earns you about $70,000 a year.  So why on earth would you spend more than that to get elected?
     Check this out.  There are 38 members of the state senate and five of them spent more than $70,000, of their OWN money to keep their seats.  Another nine spent darn close to that.
     This would be like going to a potential employer, who was willing to pay you $50,000 a year, and offering him or her $75,000 for the job.
     No logic there.
     Sen. John Papageorge (R-Oakland County) is on top of the Big Spender list having shelled out $125,000 from his savings account.  Next is former school superintendent Bruce Caswell who somehow scrapped together $116,000 and fifth on the list is conservative Macomb County Sen. Jack Brandenburg who coughed up 85 thousand smackers.
     The others were not nearly as generous with their own money but they are noteworthy nonetheless.  Oakland County Republican Mike Kowall appropriated $62,000.  Sen. Steve Bieda from Warren came in with $37,000 and part of the Rocca dynasty, Tory, dug into his wallet to the tune of $30,000 just shy of half of what he will earn.
     So what gives?
     No, they are not certifiable.
     Believe it or not many politicians do have a dominant gene for public service and want to make a difference; some have an ego; some love the power, some see this as a stepping stone to a better job; and some don't want to lose what they already have.
     Whatever the reasons, you must concede that most of you would never spend more than you will earn which is why you are in the private sector and not in Lansing.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Getting It Wrong Twice

    Growing up remember when your Mom advised you, haste makes waste; slow down and get it right.
   Apparently the speedy folks in the state welfare department are orphans.
    The social safety net crowd is up in arms over the state's mad dash to remove the needy from the welfare roles and to get them off the food stamp program, too.
    The leader of all this is Maura Corrigan recently of the Michigan Supreme Court with an admirable track record of helping children.
    Which is why some advocates for the needy are scratching their collective heads.
    Item:  The state legislature enacts an end to welfare benefits after 48 months.  Ms. Corrigan and company get caught by the courts for moving too quickly without adequate notification or due process for those about to be booted off. Under a court order, the department does a make good and finally gets it right the second time.
    Item:  Seeking to eradicate fraud which has plagued the food stamp program, Ms. Corrigan decides anybody who owns a car worth over $15,000 is obviously pretty well to do and therefore does not deserve food stamps.  Rumor has it she strolled into a welfare office and saw a Hummer out front which prompted the new policy.
    Let's dismiss that as folly because if it was true, it would hardly reflect the due diligence and logic that a former jurist might apply to running a department where the lives of individuals are on the line.
    The no car thing quickly circulates and the pro-needy folks were wondering how their clients will look for or get to work; What if they were given the car as a gift?  What if they lived in the car?  What if they bought the car when they were well off but have now fallen on hard times?
     All the "what if's' apparently escaped the "thinking" in the bowels of the  welfare department which found itself the subject of a question at a governor's news conference.
     Although he didn't cast aspersions on the policy, because Gov. Snyder is not an aspersion- caster by nature, he was asked if the decision should be changed.
     He advised that it was under review and since it had become a "typic of discussion," which was a polite way of saying there was consternation all over the joint, he awaited the results of that review.
     Several days later the quickly enacted car ownership miscue was just as quickly revised.
     Memo to Human Service Department:  See Mom's advice in paragraph one.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So Much for the Good News

   Well that didn't take long.  The after glow of Michigan being ranked number two in the nation on economic health, lasted less than 24 hours as the Mayor of Detroit went public with the bad news that his city might be headed for bankruptcy and an Emergency Manager might be required to avert that.
    Put the champagne back in the bottle.
    The last thing Gov.  Rick Snyder wants is his largest city swimming in red ink.  The national headlines and the predictable jokes from the late-night comedians would be so counter to the governor's goal of turning Detroit around.
    Yet the mayor was telling the media there is a $150 million gap in the budget and the city could run out of money by February.  So will the governor step in?
     Take this to the bank.  The governor will not unilaterally pull the trigger on an EM unless the Mayor pulls it first.  Under the new law, Mayor Bing must file a request with the state treasurer for a review of the books.  Andy Dillon is no stranger to the financial challenges in Motown.  After his review, then the decision on the need for an EM would be rendered by the governor.
     In the meantime, the president of the city council says there is no need for an outsider, even if it is Mayor Bing himself, to run the city.
     What's really going on here is pretty clear.  The mayor is rattling his saber and hoping all of his unions hear it.  So far he's been unable to secure enough union concessions to help balance the books.  An EM could do that with a stroke of a pen which is why labor unions are trying to block this new law with a petition drive and a possibile vote of the entire state.
     Perhaps the mayor figures if I threaten all this, the unions will give me what I want.
     Either way all this back and forth only underscores how fragile Michigan's economic situation is despite that glowing report from the Bloomberg News folks that the state is on the comeback trail.
     The trail will go over the cliff if the Detroit mess is not resolved one way or the other.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Governor the Road Fixer

   Here's a shocker.  The boys and girls in the legislature were not, repeat, were not falling all over themselves to get in line behind the governor's aggressive, and shall we say, expensive new infrastructure agenda.
   Oh sure they all agree with the gov that the roads, bridges, sewers, and other crumbling stuff is a mess and in dire need of repair.  But that is hardly a new story.  It's been rotting away for years and lawmakers have watched it rot without doing squat to stop it.
   So Gov. Rick Snyder thinks this time will be different.
   Oh my.
   He is just brimming with solid and logical reasons for finding more money, upwards of $1.4 billion, to get the job done. He contends the longer we wait, the more expensive it will be.  Or if that does not appeal to you, how about creating more jobs and lowering the unemployment rate.
   But when has logic ever translated into votes when lawmakers worrying about losing THEIR jobs if they place another financial burden on motorists?
    Sen. Tom Casperson, an R from the U.P. who runs the senate transportation panel, reports he's on board with the governor's notion that there is a "road funding" problem, but asked how he would vote on a hefty $120 hike in the license registration fee, he said he'd be a no right now.
    Sen. Jack Brandenburg, an R from Macomb County who runs the senate finance committee is just like Casperson.
    None of this bodes well for the governor who continues to embrace issues that Democrats can cuddle up to but members of his own party dive for the high grass.
    But the governor has just begun to sell all this, just like he did nine months ago on that little bridge between Motown and Hockey-land and you know how that story ended.