Jase Bolger

House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Jase Bolger / Facebook.com

State House Speaker Jase Bolger says lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should not overreact when it comes to the debate over gun control.    

Lawmakers have already introduced several gun-related bills since their new session started this month.

Many are reactions to recent massacres and the federal gun control proposals that followed.       

Bolger said he hopes discussions about guns will be civil as the bills make their way through committee.

At the Republican National Convention.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State House Republican leaders say they have no plans to scrap discussions about splitting Michigan’s Electoral College votes between congressional districts.         

Both Governor Rick Snyder and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville have said they’re not on board with the idea. Snyder says it would be better to consider changes closer to the next census, when congressional lines are re-drawn.

But House Speaker Jase Bolger said there’s no reason to wait that long.

The 97th Legislature of the state of Michigan began this week, having still not shaken off the hangover of last year, as Republicans forced through controversial issues like right-to-work during last month’s lame duck session. And, it’s probably fair to say that this is more than a double-aspirin hangover.

There are however, some efforts toward mending some of the very hard feelings leftover. “This past year has strained relationships,” state House Speaker Jase Bolger said on the House floor, “however, we can and should leave that past behind us.” Of course, that’s easy to say when you’re not the one still spitting the sand out of your mouth. But, Democrats and Republicans did negotiate for a peaceful opening day.

Yet, Democrats and unions have made it plain that forgive and forget is not in the cards.  They want the last two years, especially everything that happened in December, to be the main topic of conversation in Michigan politics for the next two years. And it certainly seemed like another thumb in their eye when the Michigan Economic Development Corporation paid for an ad in the Wall Street Journal touting Michigan as the nation’s newest right-to-work state under the banner of the very successful and super popular Pure Michigan brand. Democrats say it’s politicizing the brand and some marketing experts are even saying it might not have been the wisest choice.

gophouse.com

State legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle say they hope to put partisan wrangling aside in 2013.

State lawmakers began their new session Wednesday.     

All but two Democrats voted to re-elect Republican state Representative Jase Bolger speaker of the House. Traditionally, the speaker receives bi-partisan, unanimous votes during opening ceremonies.

Democratic House leader Tim Greimel followed another tradition by seconding Bolger’s nomination for the position.

JMR Photography / Flickr

Clergy from across the state are expected to rally in Lansing today, and to call on Gov. Snyder to veto legislation that could allow concealed weapons in schools and churches.

On Stateside yesterday, MPRN's Rick Pluta said Snyder is getting an earful from those opposed to the legislation. The Governor says he's looking carefully at the legislation.

Elisha Anderson and Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press report the bill is unclear on how schools and other public facilities could keep people from carrying concealed weapons if they wanted to, and that's what is giving the Gov. pause.

Matthileo / Flickr

This week we saw the wrap-up of the Legislature’s lame duck session. It was big and messy and there’s still a lot to sort out.  But clearly the biggest news, history-making, really, was that Michigan will become the nation’s 24th right-to-work state. Right-to-work is a loaded issue with passionate supporters and
opponents. Thousands and thousands of protesters turned out to try and make their voices heard. This will be an issue that resonates for a long time. It has huge cultural consequences. But, as always, on It’s Just Politics, we want to focus on the inside mechanics, the down-and-dirty politics.

And, some of the politics during lame-duck sure was down and dirty. One of the final actions of the Republican-controlled Legislature was to make it much harder to recall elected officials. Recalls are among the retributions being plotted by labor in the face of right-to-work. This could be a bit of a game changer before that’s even started. That should have state Senator Partrick Colbeck, a Republican from a swing district in western Wayne County, breathing a little easier. Colbeck was a big backer of right-to-work and is now considering a top recall target by Democrats.

Republicans also made sure their work won’t be the target of a referendum campaign by putting an expenditure in it. GOP lawmakers also did this when they passed a new emergency manager law this week. We’ve talked about this before on It’s Just Politics: how Republicans in this session have used this provision in the Michigan Constitution that’s meant to protect the state’s ability to pay its bills. But, it’s being used, time and again, to shield laws from the threat of voter-reversal through a referendum.

This week, after months – years, really – of saying right-to-work wasn’t something he wanted, that it was too divisive of an issue, Governor Snyder signed the legislation into law. To many, it seemed almost like it was forced on him. Particularly after One Tough Nerd had been a Hamlet on the question, “to be right-to-work or not to be right-to-work…?” This has many political observers wondering: was this just a Kabuki  dance all along? Was there always a plan to “do” right-to-work?

Meanwhile, compare the Governor’s apprehension with Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. Bolger, who just might be Lansing’s most-powerful politician right now, was *never* coy about the issue. No doubt about it: he wanted, pushed for, worked for right-to-work. And, how interesting it is that it was just a little over a month ago that Bolger was teetering on the edge of humiliation. House Republicans had mismanaged a couple of controversies (think the Roy Schmidt party-changing episode and “Vagina-gate”) and Bolger came close to becoming the first House Speaker in 20 years to lose his seat. But, he came back to Lansing after the election, seemingly unharmed,  and waged the battle over right-to-work.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

I-96 shooting suspect expected to be arraigned on more charges today

The 43 year old Wixom man was arraigned in Livingston Co. yesterday on several felony charges. Today, MLive reports Raulie Casteel is expected to face more charges in Oakland County:

It's been confirmed that Raulie Casteel, the suspected I-96 corridor shooter, will be arraigned on additional charges in Oakland County's 52nd District Court in Wixom today.

Court officials said the hearing is tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

MLive reports Casteel could face charge in all four counties the shootings took place in, and that federal officials are also considering charges because several shootings took place on an  interstate highway.

The race for Michigan's 1st Congressional District continues

The latest tallies show that 2,328 votes separate incumbent Congressman Dan Benishek (R) and his challenger Gary McDowell (D). Less than 1 percent of the total votes cast.

The 1st Congressional District represents people in Michigan's U.P. and parts of the northern lower peninsula.

From Interlochen Public Radio's Linda Stephan:

A spokesman for Gary McDowell (D) says the campaign will decide as soon as tonight whether to request a recount in the race for the 1st Congressional District. McDowell has not conceded the race – though incumbent Congressman Dan Benishek (R) has declared victory.

McDowell Campaign Manager Zack Knowling says the Democrat won’t concede until the official numbers are in from a state canvassing.

"This is a very close race and we believe we owe it to all the voters of northern Michigan to ensure every vote is counted," said Knowling.

There is no automatic recount for U.S. House races.  If McDowell wants a recount, he’ll have to pay for it: $10 per precinct.

Michigan State House votes on leadership

Representative Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) was narrowly re-elected last Tuesday and yesterday, members of the State House voted to keep him on as Speaker of the House for two more years.

Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) will take over as state House minority leader in January. Former House Minority Leader Richard Hammel (D-Mount Morris Twsp.) will not return next year due to term limits.

House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) eked out a narrow victory on Tuesday night winning over Democratic challenger Bill Farmer (D) by a mere 757 votes.

Democrats picked up more seats in the State House, but Republicans hold onto their majority, so Bolger, in all likelihood, will continue on as Speaker (House members will hold a leadership vote this afternoon).

Bolger is tweeting about the start of today's legislative session, the first session being held since the election:

gophouse.com

Despite losing a handful of seats in Tuesday’s election, Republicans have hung on to a small majority in the state House.

Democrats look to have picked up five seats, narrowing GOP control to eight.

Inside Michigan Politics Editor Bill Ballenger said Democrats had a chance to take control of the House.

“But apparently they squandered three-quarters of a million dollars trying to beat the speaker in a 57% Republican district out of some, I guess, personal vendetta about the Roy Schmidt party switch,” Ballenger said.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State House Speaker Jase Bolger spent today campaigning with Governor Rick Snyder.

Bolger is facing a potentially close vote next Tuesday in his southern Michigan state House district.

Jase Bolger has been dogged by allegations his office violated state campaign finance laws, when he helped facilitate a last minute party switch by a west Michigan state lawmaker earlier this year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

One of the most unusual political races this election is playing out in Grand Rapids. It’s the story, the saga that is the race for the 76th State House seat.

Back in May, there was a Democratic lawmaker who wanted to become a Republican. Switching political parties is not unheard of in Michigan, although it hasn’t happened since the 1990s.

State election officials have dismissed all but one of several complaints filed against state House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Representative Roy Schmidt.

The complaints of illegally using taxpayer resources were filed against the Republican lawmakers by Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer.

Bolger and Schmidt plotted Schmidt's switch to the Republican Party and tried to rig a re-election campaign by recruiting a fake Democrat to run.

More from the Detroit News:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Every Saturday Rina Miller talks with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about some of the biggest stories in the week's news. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was ordered to be in federal court this week, even though she asked someone else to speak on her behalf. Also, controversy surrounding Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R) brings up the question of whether Democrats can be competitive for the Speaker of the House’s seat in November. Plus, a Detroit scandal involving Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee creates head ache for Mayor Dave Bing.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Snyder likely to veto handgun bill

"Governor Snyder has indicated he will likely veto a bill that would change the state's gun sales law. The bill would eliminate a state background check requirement for sales made over the Internet or at gun shows. Those account for close to half of all gun sales," Sarah Hulett reports.

House speaker Bolger criticized for his company's tax history

"State House Speaker Jase Bolger is facing harsh criticism about his business record from a liberal advocacy group. Progress Michigan released documents alleging Bolger’s company, Summit Credit Service, failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes and fees between 1997 and 2000. The papers include liens from the Michigan Treasury Department, the state Unemployment Agency, and the IRS," Jake Neher reports.

Striking Detroit workers suspended and face firing

Thirty-four striking Detroit employees of the water and sewage department who went on strike this week have been suspended and face firing. It's illegal in Michigan for municipal workers to strike. Sarah Cwiek reports that, "City officials plan to largely privatize the water department over five years, and cut up to 80-percent of its staff."

House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Jase Bolger / Facebook.com

State House Speaker Jase Bolger is facing harsh criticism about his business record from a liberal advocacy group.

Progress Michigan released documents alleging Bolger’s company, Summit Credit Service, failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes and fees between 1997 and 2000.

The papers include liens from the Michigan Treasury Department, the state Unemployment Agency, and the IRS.

Bolger’s spokesperson, Ari Adler, said all taxes and fees have been paid in full.

“All of these issues were addressed more than 10 years ago. And now Speaker Bolger and his partners have a successful small business that is employing people in Michigan,” Adler said.

The Speaker is currently under investigation by a grand jury for allegations of election fraud in a separate matter.

There's little doubt by now you've heard, because it sure seems like everybody’s heard, Mitt Romney’s now-famous – infamous – 47 percent comment. It set the political grapevine ablaze this week with discussion and speculation that this is the gaffe that’s sunk the Romney campaign with 46 days to go until Election Day. Much like John McCain’s “Michigan moment” in 2008 when he pulled his campaign out of the state and everyone just kind of declared, "game over."

But there are still 46 days to go and Romney and many of his fellow Republicans are saying: Whoa, not so fast...  It ain't over til it's over. “A lot of folks would just as soon have this election be done now… The fact is elections are held on one day, November sixth, and not before," State Attorney General Bill Schuette, Romney's Michigan campaign manager, said this week.  It's a variation on the classic, "the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day.”

Redirecting the Message

Political campaigns are really about three things: one is identifying your voters, another is making sure your voters get out on election day and the third - which is especially critical to getting out your voters as well as persuading the ones who are undecided - is “messaging.”  Because in politics, “messaging” is a verb. So, for the Romney campaign, the question is, how to pull off that pivot, how to change the subject. And the message of the moment is, "Hey, everybody makes mistakes."

“Well, I think Barak Obama has made a lot of mistakes, too. When he said the private sector is doing just fine. That’s nonsense. When a small businessperson is successful, he said that person didn’t build it. We know that’s not true," Schuette explained, trying to create an equivalency between the two candidates and the two campaigns. Those are things the president said that – taken out of context, certainly – but still were missteps that Republicans have now turned against him. Republicans have also reached back to 1998 when President Obama was still a state senator in Illinois to something he said, that he believes in wealth redistribution, ignoring that he also said he believes in free markets.

Yesterday should have been a day of ultimate triumph for Michigan Republicans. Mitt Romney became the first native Detroiter in history to be nominated for President of the United States.

His wife Ann, another native Michigander, gave a very moving  nationally televised speech to the Republican National Convention, and celebration should have been the word of the day.

cncphotos / flickr

Every Wednesday Christina Shockley talks to Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what is going on in state politics. This week they talk about the one-person jury that is investigating election rigging allegations involving  State Representative Roy Schmidt and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. They also discuss the ballot campaigns that are now going to court to try to get on the November ballot, and what Michigan delegates are doing at the Republican Nation Convention.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

One-woman jury looks into Bolger and Schmidt allegations

Judge Rosemary Aqualina will be the one-person grand jury to look into whether state House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Representative Roy Schmidt broke any laws when they plotted to rig an election. Schmidt and Bolger plotted the Grand Rapids lawmaker’s switch to the Republican Party, and recruited a fake Democrat to appear on the ballot so Schmidt would avoid a reelection fight. 

54.5 mpg by 2025

The federal government has finalized new rules to require cars and trucks get an average 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. That's almost double what the fuel efficiency standards are today. However, the target is higher than the real-world average in 2025.  The average new car will get 45 miles per gallon, and the average truck will get 32 mpg.

Ban on adoption by unmarried couples challenge

The state of Michigan is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges a ban on adoption by unmarried couples. The lawsuit is led by two Detroit-area lesbians who are raising three children. State law says that April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse can't adopt them as a couple, an option available only to heterosexual married couples. DeBoer and Rowse say their civil rights are being violated. Detroit federal Judge Bernard Friedman will hear arguments Wednesday.

Thomas M. Cooley Law School

In Michigan, the Ingham County Circuit Court voted to empanel a one-judge grand jury to look into charges of illegal activities by State Representative Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) and House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall).

The investigation will look into whether any laws were broken when Bolger and Schmidt coordinated Schmidt's switch to the Republican Party and made an effort to set up a patsy Democrat in Schmidt's district to run against him.

More from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

Michigan GOP / file photo

Senate Minority leader Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer want a special investigation into the case of Democrat-turned-Republican State Representative Roy Schmidt.

The Kent County Prosecutor says Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger tried to “perpetrate a fraud” on voters. But he says they didn’t commit any crimes. You can read his full report that was released last month here.

But Whitmer isn’t so sure. She believes there’s evidence to prove that Schmidt and others conspired to commit perjury and obstructed justice.

“My biggest fear is that people just brush it off as, you know, one of those odious things that happens in the capitol and it’s just not the case. It is very serious,” Whitmer said.

Republican Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth said today he halted the investigation into Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Monroe) and Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) because he wanted the information about Bolger and Schmidt's scheme to be made public prior to the election.

If he continued with his investigation, the Detroit News reports, Forsyth said it could have continued beyond November.

Lead in text: 
Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Monroe) and Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) have both apologized for their role in setting up a "patsy" Democratic candidate to run against Schmidt. But there are calls for more than just an apology.
Politics & Government

We are now three days out from Tuesday’s Primary where there was a lot of attention paid to the state’s Republican Senate primary and various U.S. Congressional races. So, we thought it was time to give state lawmakers and their races a little love.

Primarily Speaking

In just about two thirds of these local races the primary pretty much determined who the winner will be in November. Because of the way the lines are drawn, most districts are decidedly Republican or Democratic. So, the primary settles the question three months before the general election.

That leaves just about a third of the races left; races that are really fought between a Republican and a Democrat… where incumbency, the strength of the national and statewide tickets and fights over issues and policy matter.

Can Democrats Win Back the State House?

Control of the state House is in play this year. In 2010, largely on the strength of a surge nationwide for Republicans, the GOP took a commanding majority – 64 to 46 – in the state House.  Out of 110 seats, Democrats need to turn at least 10 of them to win back control. That’s a lot. But we’ve seen dramatic swings in recent House elections. So, Democrats see it as tough, but do-able.

In the Thumb, Democrats lost the Republican primary. That’s because incumbent Republican Kurt Damrow ran into some problems and he had become such a liability that his local Republican Party kicked him out. Former Democratic Representative Terry Brown won’t have as easy a time against Dan Grimshaw.

In Grand Rapids, Democrats won the Republican primary when the badly damaged Roy Schmidt barely won re-nomination over a write-in opponent, but only on the strength of absentee ballots cast before the scandal over how he switched parties and tried to rig his own re-election by recruiting a fake Democrat broke into the news. Political-newcomer Winnie Brinks is the Democrat on the ballot. And, Schmidt’s name is toxic. Candidates typically love high name identification, but not this kind.

There was a continued drip, drip, drip of new details to emerge in the state Representative Roy Schmidt ballot scandal. The latest: a new set of text messages obtained by The Detroit Free Press and MLive.com from the Kent County prosecutor’s office.

"Dirty as hell"

One text is from Schmidt’s nephew to Matt Mozjak , the patsy who Schmidt recruited to appear on the ballot as a sham Democrat to ensure that he wouldn't have a real Democratic opponent once he made his jump to the Republican Party as a part of a scheme hatched with state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

In one of the texts, Schmidt’s nephew writes to Mozcak, “obviously my uncle is dirty as hell” and, “he’s got a lot of powerful [people] behind him.”

And it just keeps piling up on Schmidt.  The first state House Republican – Representative Ken Yonker, also from the Grand Rapids area – has endorsed a write-in opponent in the Republican primary. Schmidt has gone from a trophy for the House Republicans to a white elephant.

None of which, of course, is good news for House Speaker Jase Bolger, who continues to resist calls to step down as the top dog in the House. The pressure, however, has not reached anything close to critical mass.

Save me... from myself

So, what does a politician do when he's been caught in a political scandal? Well, how about introducing some legislation? House Republicans have drafted new election  reform bills. But Democrats are calling it hypocritical. “I find it fascinating that the speaker of the House is issuing press releases about election reforms because he’s the one who got caught," said Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum.

Election reform: The issue du jour

Now, Democrats have their own elections package and they say they’re coming up with more.  It appears the stage is set for a whole lot of election reform one-upsmanship in the state House. Bolger says only serious election reforms will be considered - he wants nothing that’s about scoring political points. But, Democrats say Republicans don’t have credibility on this issue.

Michigan House Republicans / gophouse.com

Democrats are pushing for the changes in the wake of a plot by State Representative Roy Schmidt and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger so Schmidt could switch parties and be re-elected as a Republican.

Earlier this month the Kent County Prosecutor issued a report on his investigation.

Vagina Banner
user lauralovemusic1960 / YouTube.com

Police in Marshall confirm they’re investigating what appears to be an instance of a protester trespassing and hanging a banner on the home of state House Speaker Jase Bolger.
    
A woman who calls herself Laura Love posted the 11-second video to YouTube that shows a banner hanging from a porch.

“‘Vaginas Are Revolting' in front of Jase Bolger’s house. I did that. Yeah.”

A Marshall police spokesman says a neighbor reported the incident last Thursday. The police now have the banner.

The woman in the video appears to be the same person who organized a protest the day before at the state Capitol. Her group of about a dozen people stood in the gallery of the state House, sang a song about vaginas to the tune of the Beatles’ “She Loves You,” clapped, and danced for several minutes before re-taking their seats. They were hoping to be kicked out, but no action was taken.

courtesy photo

A Grand Rapids business owner will challenge a party-switching state representative in the Republican primary on August 7th.

Bing Goei made the announcement at the headquarters of his floral business Friday morning.

Yesterday, the story of the day was the shocking revelation that the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Jase Bolger, had conspired with a party-switching colleague to try and perpetrate election fraud. Roy Schmidt, the Democrat-turned-Republican from Grand Rapids, tried to use campaign funds to pay a part-time student to put his name on the ballot.

House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Jase Bolger / Facebook.com

Democrats are calling for a special inquiry into whether House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Representative Roy Schmidt are guilty of ethics violations. A report by the Kent County prosecutor determined the two did not break any laws as they plotted Schmidt’s switch to the Republican Party, but the report says they did attempt to undermine the integrity of an election.

Their scheme included recruiting and paying a fake Democrat who would appear on the ballot against Schmidt. The idea was, the decoy would not campaign.   

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