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Political roundup: GOP backs off cuts to education, municipal pensions during "strange" lame-duck

Dec 9, 2016

The lame duck session for the Michigan Legislature is a time when politicians in Lansing often push through unpopular or controversial bills. Remember the right-to-work law in 2012

This year has been no different as there have been a number of proposals that have been floated through the lame duck session. However, in an unexpected turn, four big ones have been pulled back, which surprised many observers, including Susan Demas and Ken Sikkema who joined Stateside for their weekly political roundup.

Sikkema summed up the interview pretty well by stating: "I find this lame duck session to be very strange."

The four big issues that were floated in Lansing this week were headlined by Gov. Rick Snyder's proposal that would have taken $425 million from the state's School Aid Fund and reallocated it elsewhere. According to Demas, this would have cut the already low per-pupil funding in the state by more than $200 per student. A Snyder spokesperson said the proposal was the right thing to do but it was the wrong time to do it. Sikkema and Demas were both surprised by the move. "Someone would have to explain to me why it's ever a good idea to cut funding to schools to fund other areas right now," said Sikkema.  The other issues that were shelved this week involved cuts to teacher pensions, a Dan Gilbert-backed bill that would give tax incentives to develop brownfield sites, and cuts to retirement benefits to municipal employees, which includes police and firefighters. That drew protests on the capitol steps in Lansing.  "It's a very hard argument to make that you should be taking away retirement benefits from people who put their lives on the line every day," said Demas.

She added that police unions have been very supportive of Republican politicians over the years, so this was a dangerous move by the GOP to go after their constituents. She also pointed out that the situation was made worse because some of the police officers were unable to testify against the proposal in Lansing because they were attending the funeral of Wayne State University Police Sgt. Collin Rose.   What was most surprising to Sikkema was the fact that the Republicans were unable to push the legislation through. "If you're going to float these big issues [in the lame duck session], you get them done," said Sikkema. "You've figured out a way ahead of time. You've anticipated the protests ... and you just do it." Listen to the full interview above to hear more about why Sikkema calls this a "strange" lame duck sessions and why Demas says this is the best time of year to try to get controversial legislation passed.

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