Jase Bolger

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This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a bill aimed at protecting religious freedom, another that would cut off welfare payments to recipients who fail drug tests, and whether Michigan’s low gas prices will stick around.


The state House passed the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) yesterday and it’s fair to say it was a little dose of Republican Speaker Jase Bolger’s “here’s-how-bad-it-can-get-if-you-don’t-play-along.”

The RFRA was supposed to move in tandem with a measure that would add protections based on sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. That was a version that Bolger said he would accept, as long as there was a separate bill that would provide some cover for people who have religious objections to gay rights.

But LGBT advocates said there also should be explicit protections for transgender people. Bolger said he wouldn’t support that.

So, Bolger got the RFRA passed last night, without moving on the LGBT protections, showing the LGBT community just what can happen when you cross him.

Lame ducks?
Simone Walsh / Flickr

This is the last week the state Legislature is scheduled to meet before the November election. Lawmakers probably won’t take up any controversial bills until their “lame duck” session in December.

Supporters of legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law are still optimistic lawmakers will pass it before the end of the year.

“I’m pretty heartened by the openness that [state House Speaker Jase Bolger] has shown to us in having those discussions,” said Shelli Weisberg with the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union .

“But it’s going to be tough.”

Weisberg admits it would be a setback if the bill has to wait until 2015.

“I think it does make it harder to go into a new legislative session because we’ve got new members and we have to really put forth a whole new, kind of fresh education effort,” she said.

Gov. Rick Snyder says his top legislative priority before the end of the year is boosting funding for roads and infrastructure.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to relax term limits on state lawmakers.

Lawmakers could also approve bills to relax restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan during their lame duck session.

Democrats in Lansing are not waiting any longer to push civil rights protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

And the fact that Democrats are now out in front, signals this is no longer about adopting a policy, this is now political.

For several sessions, Democrats have introduced legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. But last year they were persuaded to wait by civil rights groups who at long last saw a policy success in their grasp. That’s if they could get a Republican to take the lead (because, of course, the GOP runs the show in Lansing).

This week, however, those hopes essentially fell apart as prospective Republican co-sponsors bailed, and GOP leaders put unacceptable conditions on taking up the bill.

Now, the sole, lonely Republican publicly backing LGBT rights in the civil rights law, says he has not given up. “We’re still working and talking with colleagues and educating,” said Republican state Representative Frank Foster. Interestingly enough, as we talked about last month on It's Just Politics, Foster lost his primary in August to a more socially conservative Republican. There's continued debate over whether or not  his loss was do in part because of his support for adding LGBT rights to Elliott-Larsen.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed House Speaker Jase Bolger's father to serve on the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees.

James Bolger is a retired Michigan State Police official who lives in Whitehall. The Kalamazoo Gazette says he'll fill the seat vacated when Trustee Michelle Crumm resigned.

Bolger will complete Crumm's eight-year term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Bolger earned a master's degree in public administration from Western Michigan.


So now that the Michigan Senate has approved a new, higher minimum wage, with bipartisan support (14 Rs, 10 Ds) no less, this is practically a done deal. Right?

Not so much. The headlines and stories that said it would “kill” the petition drive are speculative and premature.

This Senate bill is – at the bottom of it all – an effort to pull the rug out from under the ballot drive to raise the Michigan minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. It's a cause beloved by Democrats and progressives.

So why then did 10 out of 12 Senate Democrats go along with it? Particularly after some had already blasted the proposal as a gimmick and too paltry – especially for workers earning the lower tipped wage?

User: mattileo/flickr

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week, Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, examines the latest developments surrounding the Detroit bankruptcy case. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr spent two days in Lansing this week, trying to galvanize lawmakers to support a grand bargain to reinforce Detroit pensions while protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state is being asked to contribute $350 million, but House Speaker Jase Bolger has balked at the proposal.

Ken Sikkema emphasizes that because it is an election year, Speaker Bolger will have a difficult time getting full Republican support to contribute state money to help with Detroit’s financial woes, and that in order for a deal to proceed where the state will contribute financially, it will rely on bipartisan support.

“The speaker is walking a fine line here, between driving a hard bargain to show that Republicans actually got something in the way of more accountability so that this doesn’t happen again,” Sikkema explains. “Down in Detroit, the pieces are starting to fall into place to make this happen and the last big piece is state participation. But he’s never going to get full Republican support for this, particularly in an election year, it’s going to have to be a bipartisan vote.”

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Republican leaders in Lansing are not joining House Speaker Jase Bolger’s calls for unions to contribute to Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement.

Gov. Rick Snyder and several foundations have signed off on a complicated deal to protect retiree pensions and artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state’s contribution to the so-called “grand bargain” would be about $350 million, and state lawmakers would have to approve that money.

Bolger, R-Marshall, says it’s only fair for unions to contribute to the deal as well.

wikipedia

The organization championing the interests of Michigan’s local governments is withholding judgment on a proposal to fix the state’s roads.

Officials with the Michigan Municipal League say they’re cautiously hopeful about the plan Republican State House leader Jase Bolger unveiled last week.

Researchers are going to find out how well rubberized asphalt will resist potholes.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers will roll out a deal this afternoon on a spending package to fix Michigan’s pothole-filled roads.

The supplement funding bill is expected to include $200 million for local road agencies. Brutal winter weather has drained county and city road budgets.

State House Speaker Jase Bolger declined to give specifics about the compromise road bill this morning, except to say it will address the state’s immediate road problems.

A political controversy in Lansing that just won’t die is back: auto no-fault insurance. There is yet another Republican effort to muscle through an auto no-fault overhaul, this time being led by state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

There’s a lot in this proposal, released just yesterday, but one of the main things is a cap on the state’s currently unlimited medical benefits if you are injured in a crash. Under the Bolger plan, these benefits would top out at $10 million. Other parts of the proposal include limits on hospital fees and payments for in-home care, incentives to avoid litigation, and a guaranteed rate rollback in the first two years of coverage.

Essentially, there is something in this plan for all of the special interests that have a stake in the auto no-fault system – hospitals, insurance companies, trial lawyers – to dislike. But, Bolger says, bring it on.

On the show today, a surprising new study shows binge drinking is up among high school students, and that's not all. It's a rising problem across the Midwest.

 Then, a very personal story from a filmmaker who overcame being a bully, and how her mission to educate kids and parents resulted in a powerful film. And, we took a look at Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's visit to Detroit and what he learned while there. 

First on the show, As Detroit's troubles and "dirty laundry" have been aired out on a world-wide stage, there has been plenty of finger-pointing and judging of the city's leaders, employees, retirees and citizens.

But a new analysis from Michigan State University suggests we might want to hold up on judging Detroit and take a look at our own cities and towns.

That MSU report finds cities all around Michigan face the very same mountain of "legacy" debt that toppled Detroit.

Study co-author Eric Scorsone joined us today.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Late last month, on October 28th to be precise, the Speaker of Michigan’s House traveled from Lansing to Detroit. Not for a political meeting, or a dinner, or a ball game.

Jase Bolger (R-Midland) came at the invitation of a Detroit lawmaker to see for himself what people in Detroit face day-in and day-out.

And it would seem that what he saw and heard left its mark.

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley has written a series of columns about this apparent enlightenment of House Speaker Bolger, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Jase Bolger said he made some mistakes in plotting Roy Schmidt's party switch and recruitment of a patsy Democratic candidate to run against the newly-crowned-Republican. But he said he broke no laws - and after a year-long investigation - a grand-jury of one agreed. 

There will be no criminal charges in the election-rigging scandal that embarrassed state House Speaker Jase Bolger and cost another lawmaker his job. Judge Rosemarie Aqualina in Lansing says there’s no evidence any crimes were committed.

This wraps up a year-long inquiry based on a complaint filed by Democratic leaders.

The investigation focused on the leap by state Representative Roy Schmidt of Grand Rapids from the Democrats to the Republicans.

Bolger encouraged and helped arrange the party switch, which added one more vote to his House Republican majority.

This week, it’s another shenanigans edition of It’s Just Politics. Thanks to Jack Lessenberry for his explainer on the latest political mischief coming out of Detroit. It’s important to note this kind of political behavior is nothing new: Very crowded primary ballots with names that are very similar; recruited by opposing campaigns. Efforts to divide the vote can also take into account ethnicity, gender when one side recruits candidates with no hope of winning but, can maybe split the vote to sink another campaign come Election Day. No matter what you think of political games, they’re pretty normal.

Mike Duggan, former hospital CEO, prosecutor and problem-solver for the late Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara launched his Detroit mayoral write-in campaign after he was booted from the ballot after one his opponents challenged him for filing his nomination petitions before he was a city resident for a full-year. But a lot of experts were giving his write-in effort a pretty good shot at getting him into the two-person runoff this coming fall. He’s topping the polls and appeared to have a good shot at winning a spot on the November runoff.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's chief of staff is leaving to take a job in the private sector in northern Michigan.

Bolger on Wednesday announced that Suzanne Miller Allen will resign at the end of August. She's a long-time Republican staffer who splits her time between Lansing and Traverse City, an area her husband Jason represented as a state lawmaker from 1999 through 2010.

Allen also was chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and former House Speaker Paul Hillegonds.

This week on It’s Just Politics, we break down the breakdown over the Medicaid expansion. We’re thinking a bit about Mick Jagger right now (something along the lines of, “You can’t always get what you want") and Jagger might just have been singing that tune for Governor Snyder, who, yesterday, was once again denied by the Michigan Legislature. This time, by the state Senate, they left town, out-of-dodge for the summer apparently, without voting on an expansion of Medicaid.

The Medicaid expansion is the governor’s top policy objective at the moment and, so, Mr. Relentless Positive Action ain’t too happy. “I wouldn’t use the word ‘angry,’ but, obviously this is not my normal demeanor. What word you’d like to put on it, I’ll leave it to you.”

Peeved? Vexed? Splenetic. We’ll step away from the thesaurus, now, and breakdown this breakdown. First of all, Rick Snyder played a big part in creating this problem for himself. He and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley were both missing during some critical days of these negotiations. This was the final week of session before the Legislature’s summer break and, yet, face-to-face Medicaid negotiations were delegated while the governor went on a trade trip to Israel and the lieutenant governor was on a tour of the U.P.

Both of those trips were cut short as things melted down in Lansing, but precious time was lost. There are things only a governor can promise and he has to be in the room to do it. But, the governor may have set the stage for this impasse two summers ago when he signed into law the new legislative district maps; a lot of very safe Republican seats. When you do that, you also give outsize influence to the more extreme elements of your party. No wonder you can’t get Republicans to support you, governor. That’s how you set it up.

Wikimedia Commons

Michigan State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) could be opening the door to extending civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. That would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas such as employment and housing.

The state's civil rights act protects a variety of groups from discrimination. It includes protections for categories like race and age, but sexual orientation has yet to be included.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There’s a tentative budget deal between Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature’s Republican leaders.

It puts more money into savings, schools, and roads. But, it also delays decisions on some of the governor’s priorities.

A budget windfall will allow the state to sock away more in savings, provide a boost to schools, and come up with enough money to qualify for federal matching funds to pay for some road repairs.

But House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says it doesn’t solve the problem of how to come up with an additional $1.2 billion for roads.

“This provides a solid down payment on our transportation needs. However, that’s all it is. It’s not a full solution. This is a down payment,” said Bolger.

Road funding is especially difficult with a Legislature that’s been opposed to higher gas taxes and registration fees.

There’s also no arrangement to take federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Bolger says those discussions are ongoing.

“We’re going to continue our conservative budget based on existing sources,” he said. “We’re not going to plan for dollars or answers that aren’t there yet. So, Medicaid has not been answered.” 

The governor says Medicaid expansion under the federal healthcare law will save Michigan taxpayers money, but Republicans in the Legislature are not on board.  

Bolger says the governor and the Legislature are on track to get the new budget wrapped up by their deadline of June 1.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

That's the nugget in Tim Skubick's MLive column today on politicians' practice of being 'transparent' only when it's convenient.

Skubick writes about an effort to find out how much money has been spent on the one person grand jury investigating Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall).

Bolger was caught up in a potential election rigging scandal last year.

Skubick writes the information about the Bolger investigation was hard to get - at first:

Eventually that hard and fast, “I can’t divulge” stonewall turned into a little sunshine.

And two days after the original inquiry came, a one liner: The cost for two lawyers, Mike Ferency and John Smeitanka, was $28,362.44...

They’ve worked a combined total of 211.90 hours plus $2,046 in gas mileage and other expenses.

The one-person grand jury - Judge Rosemary Aquilina - was recently granted more time to investigate the scandal. Information about the scandal can continue to be collected through August 22 of this year.

gophouse.com

Republicans in the state House have introduced a bill to overhaul and expand Medicaid in Michigan.

Among other things, it would limit able-bodied adults to four years in the program.

The Republican-led state Legislature has balked at the idea of accepting money from the federal government to add hundreds of thousands of people to Medicaid.

House Speaker Jase Bolger says this is an alternative to that plan.

“If we are going to say ‘no’ to something, we must offer an alternative. We ask that all of the time from our colleagues across the aisle, and therefore we’re going to continue to live by that ourselves,” said Bolger.

The bill would also require the federal government to fund 100 percent of the expansion.

WKAR's Off the Record / YouTube

Not exactly.

Right after Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, R, made the "Adolf" comment about Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, he was challenged.

"Isn't that a little over the top?" asked "Off the Record" host Tim Skubick.

"Yeah, I want it to be!" replied L. Brooks Patterson.

Patterson was upset about how Bolger has handled the discussion around proposed changes Michigan's no-fault auto insurance law.

You can watch the exchange here:

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, the longtime bad boy of Michigan Republican politics, stirred things up again last Friday. Not for the first time, and probably not for the last.

If you don’t already know this, Patterson went on "Off the Record," the public affairs TV show, and referred to the Speaker of the House as “Adolf” Bolger.

There wasn’t any doubt who he meant. Brooks has never been subtle. In fact, he pulled out a pocket comb and held it up to his face in an imitation of a Hitler mustache.

That sparked a tremendous outcry. Before the day was over, the state Anti-Defamation League was denouncing Brooks Patterson for what they called trivializing the Holocaust by comparing his fellow Republican, Jase Bolger, to Adolf Hitler.

Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson is recuperating from serious injuries he suffered in an auto accident.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

One of Michigan’s most well-known Republicans has some harsh words for the state House GOP leader.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson appeared today on the Michigan Public Television show “Off the Record.”  Patterson said state House Speaker Jase Bolger has abused his power, and compared him to the leader of Nazi Germany.

Welcome to our “Anatomy of a Kerfuffle” edition of "It’s Just Politics." This week: a throw-down between Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger and state House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel. It culminated in the speaker yanking eight Democrats off their legislative committees. This was a big deal, a really unprecedented move and a classic example of the principle: it is better to be feared than loved.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each Thursday we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week, we look at clashes over the budget which led to House Speaker Jase Bolger removing eight Democrats from their committee assignments. Four were later given back those assignments after what Bolger called “positive individual meetings."

And Gary Peters announced his run for Senate. Who might Republicans choose to run against him?

Listen to the full interview above.

House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Jase Bolger / Facebook.com

A one-judge grand jury has granted itself more time to investigate a party-switch and election-rigging scandal that includes state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

The investigation was supposed to wrap up this week. Almost everything about the grand jury’s inquiry is secret.

In fact, the order extending the investigation was signed and filed 20 days before it was made public by the Ingham County Circuit Court.

Judge Rosemary Aquilina is looking into whether any laws were broken as House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Representative Roy Schmidt plotted Schmidt’s jump to the Republican Party last year and also to avoid any serious opposition when he ran for  re-election.

 A Kent County investigation found the episode was unethical, but not illegal. This inquiry was requested by state Democratic Party leaders.

The extension allows the grand jury to continue to call witnesses and subpoena records through August 22nd.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor Snyder chooses a Republican judge to replace Supreme Court Justice Hathaway

"Governor Rick Snyder has picked a Republican judge from Macomb County to fill a vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge David Viviano replaces Justice Diane Hathaway, who resigned in disgrace as she faced bank fraud charges," Rick Pluta reports.
 

Michigan moves forward with health care exchange

"A bill to set up a state website where people can shop for health insurance has passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature. A House panel Wednesday voted to accept more than $30 million from Washington to set up the health care exchange. It would be a partnership between the state and the federal government under the Affordable Care Act," Jake Neher reports.

Schmidt and Bolger case extended

A one person grand jury is extending an investigation until August into a political party switch scheme involving then Rep. Roy Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger. As the Associated Press reports,

"Representative Roy Schmidt's switch to the GOP last May came under scrutiny when he offered money to a political novice to run as a Democrat against him. Democrats say Bolger possibly conspired to obstruct justice, though a Kent County prosecutor said no crimes were committed."

This week’s It’s Just Politics is all about the dineros, somolians, greenbacks, dead presidents. In other words, it’s the budget-rollout edition… so, we’re talking moolah.

Governor Snyder delivered his budget proposal for the next fiscal year this week and the headline seems to be: Tough calls have been made; good times are head, but we’ve got to pay for it.

In his third budget proposal since taking office, Governor Snyder proposed more money for roads, harbors, schools, colleges and universities. And, more funds for early childhood education and law enforcement. This budget is all about investment: spend now to save later.

And, it’s interesting to take a look back and see what a difference a couple years can make. When Governor Snyder first took office he talked about how surprising it was to see folks in Lansing constantly asking for money for their departments, projects and programs; now the Governor is the one asking for some bread, coinage, clams. He might be asking nicely for more money but he’s going to also have to do some convincing. He’s got to sell his spending plan to fellow Republicans, the party that’s typically averse to so-called “revenue enhancements.”

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