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Legislative successes and failures in 2015

Dec 17, 2015

Credit user cedarbenddrive/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the Michigan Legislature wraps up for the year we wanted to take a look back at 2015 with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

Sikkema and Demas agree that the list of legislative successes is short this year. Sikkema says:

It's not a long list but there are some on it. The big issue was the road package in the fall, but they also passed –after a struggle – teacher evaluation and third-grade reading. But it's not like the first couple of years of the governor's first term, where they had this tremendous agenda that they got accomplished. [This year] they did some things, but like I said, it's not a long list.

Demas says the Legislature left at least two important items unaddressed:

There's been a long-standing debate about energy policy in the state and we haven't gotten very far on that discussion. And, we're heading into an election year and it's a very dicey and complicated subject. I'm not sure we'll see much action on that. We also have a real crisis in Detroit Public Schools, which the governor, just frankly, could not tackle this year after he spent so much political capital on the roads. 

It's likely the Legislature will also have to address lingering issues associated with the Flint water crisis. Ken Sikkema is also co-chairing the Flint Water Advisory Task Force that’s doing the investigation as to what happened, why, and what needs to be done to prevent a recurrence. He says:

I will say in our first few weeks really of reviewing this, this is a very, very serious situation. Not just how did it happen and why, but going forward in terms of public health issues related to lead lingering particularly in young children. It is a very troubling situation in Flint and it adds to it because of the failure of government to protect the population.

However, Sikkema thinks Gov. Snyder may face political fatigue heading into 2016:

As governors start getting into their second term – as this governor is – two things happen. One thing is, you run into agenda fatigue, you kind of run out of big ideas. I think you’ll see that dynamic starting in 2016. The other things is that it gets more difficult to marshal the legislative troops as your lame duck status begins to take hold.

Hear our full conversation here: