Lessenberry: It's time for experience in Lansing

Nov 10, 2010

Governor-elect Rick Snyder has begun to appoint his new administration in Lansing and there are some familiar faces among the new appointees. Snyder chose current Democratic Speaker of the House, Andy Dillon, to be the state's new Treasurer. Snyder also appointed Dick Posthumus, former lieutenant governor under John Engler, to be his senior advisor.



Michigan Radio's Senior Political Analyst, Jack Lessenberry, thinks Snyder's appointments have been sensible thus far. "Dick Posthumus was very conservative, but he had a good relationship with the legislature, really knew how it worked," says Lessenberry, "Certainly Rick Snyder needs somebody like that."



Regarding the appointment of Andy Dillon as Michigan Treasurer, Lessenberry says, "Dillon has a background both in business, as a venture capitalist, he has a law degree, and he knows the legislature, so he's probably very qualified for this position and it sends a bipartisan signal that the governor is willing to work with both parties."



Earlier this year, Andy Dillon's campaign to be governor ended when he lost in the primaries to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Some believe Dillon's moderate views are what lost him the nomination. By appointing Dillon to State Treasurer, Lessenberry says, "Snyder's trying to send a message that this isn't about partisanship right now, it's about getting it done. Everybody knows there's this huge deficit that's facing Lansing. There's no more stimulus. No more gimmicks that anybody can do about it."



Given the inexperience of both Snyder and much of the legislature, Lessenberry thinks it's important for the governor-elect to appoint people with experience in Lansing. He says, "The majority of the legislature is going to be absolutely new to their jobs. They're freshman. They don't really know what's going on, and Mr. Snyder's never been in the legislature, so he's sort of putting competence over ideology. It remains to be seen if that will hold once people actually get sworn in in January, but for right now, he's sending pragmatic signals."



In the legislature, both parties have been electing many of their caucus leaders for the House and Senate. The Republicans elected Jase Bolger Speaker of the House, while the Democrats chose Richard Hammel to be their minority leader in the House. Of Bolger, Lessenberry says, "He's somebody people like a lot. He can serve two more terms, so he can be there for four years." Richard Hammel is term limited to serving only two more years, meaning he could never be majority leader.



In the Senate, the Republicans chose Randy Richardville from Monroe to be their leader while the Democrats chose Gretchen Whitmer from East Lansing to lead their party. Whitmer was a likely Democratic candidate for Attorney General, but opted not to run in hopes of becoming leader of the Senate. Of Whitmer, Lessenberry says, "She's in a particularly frustrating position because there are only a dozen Democrats in the Senate, less than a third, and initially she'll have very little control over anything unless she makes common cause with Republicans on some issues."



The Republican leadership in the legislature will aim to either promote Governor-elect Snyder's agenda or promote their own agenda and work to get Snyder's support. Lessenberry thinks there may be a number of instances where Snyder's agenda and the agenda of the Republican leadership in the legislature don't coincide. "Some of the new Republican majority is more conservative than, as far as we can tell, Rick Snyder is," says Lessenberry, "And there may be some cases where Rick Snyder may need, especially in the House, some Democrats to pass some of his programs."



Whether the Republicans or Democrats agree or disagree with Snyder's agenda, the role of the leadership in the legislature is to get members of their respective parties to vote in accordance with the official party position. Come January, we'll see what new bedfellows are made by the shakeup in Lansing.