Rick Snyder

What a week it was.

Shouting and chanting filled the halls and rotunda of the State Capitol building on Thursday as Right to Work bills made their way into the state House and Senate. And, more protests are likely this week as the Legislature will take what are likely the final votes to send this so-called “right to work”-  or “freedom to work” bills as they’re known to some supporters and “right to work for less” if you’re on the union side – to the governor’s desk.

And Snyder will almost certainly sign them. This week, within the space of 72 hours, right-to-work went from “not on my agenda” to “on THE agenda” to Governor Snyder embracing the issue… even after months – years, really – of saying he didn’t want to take up such a divisive issue.

Here at It’s Just Politics, we’re wondering if it’s about time that the phrase “not on my agenda” has to be retired. The Governor has used the “not on my agenda” phrase before – over the issue of repealing the motorcycle helmet law and domestic partner benefits – and, yet, when these issues actually reach his desk: he signs them.

So, the question this week is: what changed in the Governor’s mind? What made him give-in? Was it simply a matter of inevitability? Right-to-work had just kind of taken on a life of its own after voters knocked down Proposal Two and a lot of interest groups were arguing that that could be interpreted as a referendum on “right-to-work” by Michigan voters; some Republican lawmakers took it as a sign that now was the time to try and introduce the issue. Maybe the governor just had to make the best deal he could once it became clear he was getting a right-to-work bill no matter what.

It certainly makes his life less complicated vis a vis a potential Republican primary in 2014. But it does complicate his general election prospects when this will almost certainly be used against him.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder's 'not on my agenda' talk seemed to keep right-to-work legislation at bay, continually saying the issue was too divisive.

He had a change of heart yesterday.

Now, Michigan is on the fast-track to becoming the 24th state to adopt a right-to-work law.

Right-to-work laws ban requirements to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Without compulsory payments in a closed union shop, unions stand to lose a lot of muscle.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the UAW's Bob King and other labor leaders tried to stop the legislation prior to yesterday's vote:

UAW President Bob King spent a lot of time in Lansing in recent days trying to prevent Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican leadership from introducing right-to-work legislation but came up short.

“Labor collectively felt like we put some really important proposals on the table about how we could work together … and about how can we de-escalate partisanship,” King told the Free Press today. “We are really disappointed that the governor and the Republican leadership chose the path that they did.”

In a separate piece, the Free Press reports that Snyder said the labor leaders didn't do enough, but he didn't provide specifics.

screenshot / LiveStream

We're updating this post on the legislature's effort to pass a 'right-to-work' law in Michigan.

A right-to-work law would outlaw requirements that workers pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Unions say these laws weaken their ability to bargain collectively with employers. Supporters of the law say it gives workers a choice.

Update 7:50 p.m.

The news conference has ended.

Here's the news conference with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders. They're unveiling their plans for 'right-to-work' legislation:

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Governor Rick Snyder and legislative leaders are talking about a possible replacement to the emergency manager law that was rejected by voters nearly a month ago.

The governor says he’d like to see it done before the Legislature wraps up its “lame duck” session.

Governor Snyder says a new law would have to respect voters’ decision that the old emergency manager law was too sweeping. 

Under one version being discussed, local governments in financial trouble could ask the state for an emergency manager – otherwise, they would face the prospect of federal bankruptcy.

MichigaMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder at a Univ. of Michigan basketball game.n Gov. Snyder gets cagey on subject of weight loss.
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Governor Rick Snyder is "staying positive" about the failed effort to set up a state-run health insurance exchange.

Under the national health care law, states can set up web sites where people can shop for insurance plans.

States that don’t will have to use whatever the federal government sets up.

Snyder wanted Michigan to set up its own exchange, but the effort died in the Republican-led state house. So I asked him…

"Are you bummed at all about the health care exchange at all?"

"I don’t get bummed about much, I’m a positive guy."

Snyder says he knew the state-run exchange might not have gotten set up in time to meet federal deadlines.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t come back and say here’s a whole series of reasons that really have value and bring it up again.

In the meantime, Snyder wants to cooperate with the federal government.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Legislature is wrapping up the first week of its “lame duck” session with lots of things to do – but everyone is wondering if Republicans intend to put “right-to-work” legislation on their end-of-the-year to-do list.

The halls and lobbies of the Capitol were packed with union members urging the Legislature to not take up a right-to-work bill in the “lame duck” session.

Additional State Police troopers were called in as a precaution.

Governor Rick Snyder said he would rather see lawmakers focus on things other than right-to-work.

World Resources Institute

Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder gave his “special address” on energy and the environment.

In it, he said it is impossible to ignore the connections between economics, energy, and the environment while talking about subjects like land management, invasive species, and urban farming.

Here are the highlights for those who missed it:

1) Pushing for more natural gas, says Michigan has safe "fracking"

In a section of his speech on Michigan’s energy future, the governor said he was bullish on natural gas.

With regard to the extraction and production of the gas, Governor Snyder suggested that Michigan has been safely hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for a long time.

In his address, Gov. Snyder said "hydraulic fracturing" and "horizontal drilling" have been around for decades.

...some have expressed concerns about what these technologies mean for Michigan’s environment. Neither fracking nor horizontal drilling is a new technology—they have been used in Michigan for many decades. None of the fracking that has been done in Michigan has resulted in a single water quality problem.

What might have been missed in the Governor’s statement is the distinction between hydraulic fracturing and horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Karpati Gabor / Morguefile.com

Soon, Michigan bicyclists might be able to pedal across the state on a new trail spanning both peninsulas.

Governor Snyder proposed the idea for the 599-mile path in his speech on the environment yesterday.

The trail would connect the state's existing asphalt, dirt, and gravel trails.

The route would wind from Belle Isle in Detroit, to the Mackinac Bridge and across the U.P. to Wisconsin.   

Ron Olson runs the state’s parks and recreation division.

He says obstacles to the plan include building paths on private lands and securing more funding.

"There is no yet-defined pot of money to be able to say, 'Well, we’re going to do this,'" he said.

Olson says he expects the funds to come from state and federal grants. He estimates the trail will be complete in five years.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Someone once said that Americans will do anything for the environment except read about it or spend money on it.

I thought of that yesterday, when the governor delivered the latest in his series of special messages, this one on the environment.

Rick Snyder said we had to make better use of the resources we have, and called, among other things, for better recycling and for Michigan to develop a strategic national gas reserve.

Pretty much everyone nodded politely at most of what the governor said,  though not when he appeared to endorse fracking, at least so far as natural gas recovery is concerned.

However, I would be surprised if anyone in the legislature was still thinking about, much less talking about, what the governor said about the environment a week from now. In fact, the governor’s main priorities seem to be elsewhere, at least for the lame duck session.

But something else is going on in the Capitol that could be highly beneficial to the economic as well as the natural environment: Transportation reform. More than a year ago, the governor proposed a high-speed bus system for Metro Detroit. It was, and is, a great and politically brilliant idea. More than a third of the population of Detroit has no access to reliable private transportation, meaning cars.

Governor Rick Snyder gave what his office calls a "special message" on the environment yesterday: Ensuring our Future: Energy and the Environment. He touched on all sorts of topics: renewable energy, brownfields, land and water, timber and mining and many others.

But his main point: you can’t separate economics from energy or the environment.

“There’s not two separate worlds. There’s not a world of just environment, nor a world of energy or economics. It’s a symbiotic relationship and they tie together,” he said.

Office of Governor Rick Snyder / Wikimedia Commons

Governor Rick Snyder covered topics ranging from urban farming to "fracking" in his special address on energy and the environment today.

He said the state should do more to deal with blight and encourage urban farming in cities with lots of vacant land.

The governor said too much abandoned property in Flint, Detroit, and other cities is going to waste when it could be put to a new use.

“And all I’ve seen in my two years as governor is a lot of discussion about right-to-farm, and urban farming,” said Snyder.

Photo courtesy of the Snyder Administration

Today, in what his administration called a “special message,” Governor Rick Snyder addressed Michigan’s pressing environmental and energy issues.

Gov. Snyder spoke with Cyndy about his speech and what he has planned for Michigan’s environment.

The first issue on which he spoke was hydraulic fracturing, or, as it's also known, fracking.

“A lot of it is getting the right facts out to people then working together to make sure we’re being sensitive about how drilling continues to evolve. Michigan has been doing fracking for over a decade and we’ve never had an environmental problem of any major magnitude,” said Snyder.

Snyder hopes that people look for responsible ways of fracking and aims to ensure that Michigan is leading the way to frack smartly.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley want the Legislature to enact a major tax overhaul before its current session ends in two or three weeks.

It would phase out Michigan’s tax on business and industrial equipment.   

It is widely agreed the tax discourages investment and is a particularly large burden on manufacturers.

The phase-out would take 10 years, with smaller businesses benefiting first.

Lieutenant Governor Calley said Michigan’s economy is still rooted in manufacturing.

“Eliminating this disincentive to invest will help improve our climate for job growth. Our whole state will benefit,” said Calley.

The holdup has come from local governments and school districts, which rely on that revenue.

David Lossing is the mayor of the city of Linden, near Flint, and president of the Michigan Municipal League. Lossing said there are still too many questions about this plan, and it could force many communities to cut services.

“We want to make 21st Century communities. We want to make these places where people want to live, want to shop, want to open a business, and so forth. If you throw us over the cliff, we’re not going to attract the businesses that we think we need to have to make us prosperous," said Lossing.

The plan would guarantee money for police, fire and other emergency services, but only if voters approve the plan in a statewide election. Other services could face cuts.

The state House Tax Policy Committee will hold a hearing on the proposal Wenesday.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder voices his opinion on the ballot proposals.
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HICKORY CORNERS, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder plans to deliver a special message to the state Legislature on energy and the environment this week.

The office of the Republican governor says he'll speak at 10:30 a.m. EST Wednesday at Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners, about 40 miles southeast of Grand Rapids.

Snyder in the past has used special messages to discuss his plans and goals in areas including health and wellness, public safety and education.

The governor's office says remote viewing locations will be offered at NextEnergy in Detroit, the Michigan Alternative Renewal Energy Center in Muskegon, and the Michigan Land Use Institute in Traverse City.

Snyder's office says his remarks also may be streamed online.

Stateside: Nolan Finley's call for Detroit City Council reform

Nov 26, 2012
Detroit City Council
Detroit City Council / Facebook

Nolan Finley is concerned about Detroit City Council.

In a recent Detroit News editorial, Finley claimed that Detroit Corporate Council Krystal Crittendon “must go.”  

Finley spoke with Cyndy about Detroit’s drastic need to reform its Council.

“The mayor has finally got the message that you have to cooperate or this won’t end well. City Council is still under the delusion that it has power and can escape the consequences of decades of bad management,” said Finley.

Gov. Snyder / Twitter

Governor Rick Snyder is in Canada today to talk trade and regional cooperation.

He's in Toronto to attend a conference on public-private partnerships. The former business executive and investor relies heavily on agreements with the private sector to meet his goals.

Snyder is expected to announce an agreement with other Great Lakes states on a Canadian trade office. Canada is Michigan’s biggest international trading partner.

The governor’s economic plans envision a thriving Chicago-to-Montreal trade zone with Michigan as a center point.
    
The governor will also meet with his Ontario counterpart, Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The subject of a new Detroit-Windsor bridge will be part of their discussion. Michigan voters just rejected a ballot question that could have hindered the project.

Before we get down to pure-politics this week, we want to first take a moment to remember former Michigan First Lady Helen Milliken, who just passed away. She was married to Michigan’s longest-serving governor, Bill Milliken, thus, making Ms. Milliken the state’s longest serving first lady. She was not a woman content to simply stand in the shadow of her husband’s accomplishments. She was part of that generation of first ladies, embodied also by Betty Ford, who made it clear that even though they were married to their husbands, they had their own opinions, their own causes, and their own accomplishments.

First Lady Milliken was an advocate for the arts, for environmental causes, feminism and abortion rights. She was an ardent enough activist in her own right that when Michigan environmentalists wanted to recognize environmental activism they named it the Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award. She exerted some influence in making those Bill Milliken’s priorities, as well, even though at times it put both of them at odds with the more-conservative elements of the Republican Party.

And, interestingly enough, this brings us to the current Republican administration. There are some tensions between Snyder-Republicans and the right wing of the Republican Party, especially the Tea Party. The Tea Party continues to send the message that it is not planning on going away, that it’s going to continue to push Republicans in the most-conservative direction possible. And we’re really seeing this play out with two particular issues right now in Michigan: health insurance exchanges and right to work.

The politics of the Exchanges

The health insurance exchanges are the online marketplaces where people and small businesses will shop for health insurance under Obamacare. Like Orbitz or Travelocity, but for health insurance. Basically, Michigan has three options: a state-run exchange, a federally run exchange, or some type of hybrid. Governor Snyder and a lot of business groups wanted a state exchange. But, all year-long, state House Republicans kept saying, “No, not yet.”

First House Republicans wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. When that didn’t go the way they wanted, they said the state should wait for the November election and see who’s elected president, with the idea that if Governor Romney was elected, then Obamacare would be repealed and the health insurance exchanges would be a moot point. But, as we know, that didn’t go the way they wanted either. And, now, they’re still dragging their feet, saying they still have more questions.

This has been a bad year for Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge. In January, he was thrown in jail overnight, for failing to comply with court orders to live up to an agreement he’d signed to finish a road project near his bridge.

It’s time for a post-mortem edition of It’s Just Politics and, as the saying goes, it’s time for political reporters to come down from the hills after the battle to bayonet the wounded. Are your blades sharpened?

All six of the state’s ballot questions were voted down with a majority of “no” votes. “No” was what the people who put Proposal One on the ballot wanted – voter rejection of the state’s super controversial emergency manager law. That was bad news for Governor Rick Snyder. Public Act Four was one of the first laws he signed as a big supporter of tough medicine for cities and school districts that find themselves in big financial trouble. The Governor’s chosen candidate for U.S. Senate, former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. His endorsement didn’t seem to do Mitt Romney much good in Michigan either. But still, he’s a happy guy… you can’t keep this nerd down.  

In fact, the Governor has five reasons to be happy: Proposals Two through Six went down in defeat, just as he wanted. It’s pretty interesting to note that after millions and millions of dollars were spent – on both sides of the proposals – that they all went down by pretty large margins. Proposal One made a race of it. But we just have to wonder if it didn’t get pulled down by the “just say ‘no’” campaign waged by Snyder, business groups, and many Republicans.

On the very top of the ticket, however, voters said “Yes” to Democrats. For the sixth time in a row, Michigan voted for the Democratic candidate for President. And, the Obama machine was just that – a machine. Data-driven, organized and relentless. Republicans thought they had a shot at Michigan – never happened. Meanwhile, as we mentioned, incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow won a third term in the U.S. Senate. The GOP thought they had a shot at the seat. Never happened.  Pete Hoekstra never seemed to recover after the China Super Bowl ad debacle. He won the primary, true, but his campaign never picked up steam.

Ballot campaigns would no longer be allowed to pay petition circulators based on the number of signatures they collect if a state house bill becomes law.

The measure was introduced just days after Michigan voters rejected all six proposals on the November ballot.

Republican state Representative Ken Horn said paying for signatures is an incentive for circulators to mislead voters.         

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says he’d like to see some changes in the rules for how petition drives put proposals on the ballot.

The governor is particularly critical of paying petition circulators for signatures.

Ballot campaigns spent at least $9.6 million on signature collection alone this year. Governor Snyder said that circumvents the idea of ballot campaigns as grassroots initiatives.

He opposes the five proposed amendments to the state constitution.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A giant tour bus outside the Grand Rapids hotel where Governor Rick Snyder spoke Monday says it all – vote yes on prop one and no on the rest.

Snyder, some business leaders and even an emergency financial manager will be on the bus for the four day tour. They’ll stop in towns throughout the state to discuss the proposals.

Governor Snyder says he’s trying to better inform voters about their options.

Next week, with just a week and a half to go before Election Day, Governor Snyder will board a bus to tour the state. The purpose of the trip: to focus attention on the Emergency Manager Law referendum and the five proposed amendments to the state constitution that you’ll find on the November ballot.

The Governor says he’s going all out, “I’m in campaign mode, to be open with you. I’m not running for office, as you know, right now… I’m setting up a schedule to say this is a campaign, because this is a campaign for Michigan’s future.” The governor is calling for a “yes” vote on Proposal One and “no” on the rest. This election has been called a referendum that will determine the success of the rest of his first term.

So, for us political junkies, it raises the question: can a governor, particularly one “in campaign mode,” really push the results of a ballot campaign in one direction or another. Typically, the answer is “no.” It’s often tried but usually a politician’s appeal or popularity does not rub off onto ballot proposals. Though they can gather a bit of media attention at first, endorsements are one of the most overrated political activities. The fact is, campaigns win or lose on the strength of message and organization. So, then, why do politicians engage in endorsements? Well, because politicians work with what they’ve got. A governor still has a platform, and it’s easier to sow seeds of doubt than to sell a ballot question. That’s why the governor is already working on a Plan B for a re-vamped Emergency Manager Law after the election, in case the EM Law is overturned.

Office of Governor Rick Snyder / Wikimedia Commons

Governor Rick Snyder says Proposal 2 should not be viewed as a referendum on whether Michigan becomes a right-to-work state that outlaws compulsory union membership.

Proposal 2 would guarantee collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.   

Governor Snyder opposes Proposal 2. He says it not only guarantees collective bargaining, but would be a sweeping re-write of labor laws as they deal with public employees.

“Proposal 2 could be devastating, in my view, of what it could do to the economic recovery in Michigan, but people need to make their own assessment of how to vote,” he said.

But he said rejecting the proposal would not convince him Michigan is ready to become a right-to-work state. 

“I don’t view it as just a green light to go ahead,” he said.

The governor has asked the Legislature to stay away from the right-to-work debate because it’s too divisive. But he has not said what he would do if the Legislature sent a bill to his desk.

One of the leading proponents of right to work in the Legislature says he won’t push the issue until he has the governor’s support.

Getting along with your neighbors isn’t always easy. So Governor Rick Snyder came up with a pretty simple plan to get townships, counties and cities to find new ways to work together; give them some kind of incentive, specifically, money.

Michigan Department of Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says these Competitive Grant Assistance Grants are incentives to get neighboring cities, townships and counties to work together in new ways.

You might say there was more than usual going on last night. There was the last game of the National League baseball playoffs, in which San Francisco completed a dramatic comeback to take on the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Meanwhile, on another channel, the Detroit Lions were blowing their Monday night football game.

And Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were locked in the final debate of the closest presidential campaign in years, this time arguing about foreign policy and the state of the world.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is focused on the Michigan ballot with two weeks to go before Election Day.

On Monday, Snyder appeared alongside Canadian consul general Roy Norton at a Canada-United States Business Association meeting town hall in Detroit.

Both men asked Michigan and Canadian business leaders to support the proposed New International Trade Crossing. And both urged a “no” vote on Proposal 6, which would require a statewide referendum on any new international crossings. He says he’s in “campaign mode.”

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit for the tenth time Monday to talk about the region’s mass transit future.

LaHood met with Governor Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing, and state lawmakers, and again made clear that the federal government is willing to put money into a regional transportation authority (RTA) for Detroit.

But Lansing hasn’t acted on bills to create an RTA to run that system.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."    

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Detroit Free Press reports that the United Auto Workers union - no friend to Governor Rick Snyder - is considering a deal with billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun - also no friend to the Governor.

The deal would involve Moroun helping the union pay for ads in support of Proposal 2, which would enshrine labor organizing rights in the state constitution.

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