There’s a story in my family, that my mom tells, and it goes something like this: when my mom and her siblings were little, and they would start to cry, my Grandpa would look at them and say, “Why are you crying? I’ll give you something to cry about.” Now, I’m pretty sure he was joking. In fact, I don’t think he ever laid a hand on anyone in his life.
Now, I'm sure you're wondering, what does this story have anything to do with anything newsworthy in Michigan. Stay with me, I'll explain:
On Tuesday, voters in Michigan’s Genesee County recalled Republican state Representative Paul Scott. The recall was largely waged and funded by the Michigan Education Association (MEA). The powerful teacher’s union went after Scott because of his position as chairman of the House Education Committee. In that role, he supported new teacher tenure laws and cuts to state education funding. So, on Election Day, the MEA “won” – they got their guy recalled.
But, there’s a catch. With Scott gone, Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger got to choose a new chairman for the House Education Committee.
So, the question was, in retaliation for recalling a republican lawmaker, would Speaker Bolger retaliate against the MEA and replace Scott with someone the union really dislikes? In other words, was Speaker Bolger really gonna give the MEA something to cry about. And, the answer was yes. Speaker Bolger, just yesterday, announced that Representative Tom McMillin, a Republican from Rochester Hills, would become interim chair of the committee.
“If you didn’t like Representative Paul Scott, and what he stood for, and what he was trying to do, [then] State Representative Tom McMillin might give you something to cry about,” explains Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. Rep. McMillin is, “one of the most conservative members of the House Republican Caucus, he may be the most conservative member… he favors sweeping school choice [and] lifting the cap on charter schools. Both of which the teachers unions don’t like. If you were looking for one person that the teacher’s union would not want to fill that position: Tom McMillion would be the guy,” Pluta notes.
Just Like The Godfather
In my opinion, anytime you can compare political gaming to a scene in The Godfather, it’s a good thing. So, when I suggested to Pluta that the naming of McMillin as the interim chair of the House Education Committee was akin (ok, maybe NOT that sinister and gory) to when a horse head is left in Jack Woltz’s bed in The Godfather, Pluta responded with a laugh,“Yes, they have left a horse head in the MEA’s bed when they named Tom McMillin to be the chairman of the House Education Committee.”
So, What Happens Next?
Pluta notes that, with a new, even more conservative chairman, we could see more aggressive “right to teach” laws come out of the state House. That’s something that the MEA opposes. The MEA, for its part, “seems to be, sort of, hanging back. They’re looking more towards organizing for 2012… [they’re] hoping that maybe [the recall] has inspired the troops, that…they can go and make some changes on the political map and maybe recapture the state House of Representatives in 2012,” Pluta says.
Republicans, meanwhile, have not given up. “There is a retribution offensive underway… and they have targeted half a dozen Democratic legislators for recall… and they’re still going ahead with that, full-force, in hopes of getting those recalls, at least some of them, on the ballot on February 28th...,” Pluta says.