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Political roundup: How should Michigan remedy false unemployment fraud claims?

Jan 5, 2018

More than 40,000 Michigan residents were wrongly accused of fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits. The Legislature is considering laws to try to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.

The Governor and the Legislature are also trying to figure out how to do something beyond just restitution. Some of the people accused of fraud went bankrupt, lost homes, and suffered other consequences. The question is how far can, or should, the state go to make those people whole?

Ken Sikkema, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican Majority Leader in the state Senate, and Darci McConnell, a former journalist and current president and CEO of McConnell Communications, which operates as a communications strategist for state Democratic causes and clients, joined Stateside to discuss the debacle and the week’s other political news.

Listen above for the full conversation, or read highlights below.

On how the state government should remedy the fraud accusations

“I think government has an obligation to do whatever it can to try to make these people whole again,” said Sikkema. He cautioned, though, that not everyone would realistically be able to receive full compensation from the fiasco.

McConnell agreed, adding that the government could give victims a clearance letter that would clarify to others that the state erred in its fraud accusations. “That’s what’s really happened here: the domino effect that’s impacted their lives, their credit, their everything,” she explained.

On current efforts to extend conceal carry laws

Governor Rick Snyder has consistently argued for local control over concealed carry laws, but Republicans in the Legislature traditionally have resisted his calls, instead supporting statewide policy that would extend the laws into zones that are no-carry zones now. That includes daycare centers, churches, schools, and casinos. For both the Legislature and the courts, which are already hearing cases on local control, any change in the law will depend on the negotiation between Governor Snyder and the state Legislature, said Sikkema.

McConnell sees an inconsistency among Republicans in the Legislature, who have shifted from advocating local control on all issues to, in recent years, advocating for state control on issues like the minimum wage and development laws. “[It would] just be nice if they could make up their mind and be consistent,” she said.

On whether election year politics will affect the legislature

Sikkema was confident the election in November would affect how productive Michigan’s elected officials will be for the next 11 months. “The governor’s position’s up, the Senate’s up, the House is up. That’s going to drive legislative dynamics,” he said. Sikkema noted that growing divisions between the governor and Republicans in the Legislature would be a key fight in 2018.

McConnell predicted that both parties, especially Democrats, could experience some upheaval over warring factions. “You’ve got all these super competitive fields for some high-profile seats, both at the state level and at the congressional level,” she said. “And so are they going to be able to come together, perhaps in a way that they did in say Alabama, and be able to find some success?”

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